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Revisiting the Weekend

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Revisiting the Weekend

It was a pretty good weekend. Although I only went 2-2 in my predictions, I’ll take an even record over a losing one any day. My record stands at 12-7 so I feel pretty good about my smarts. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next week though because there’s at least six great games that should be focused on but before we get there, revisiting last weekend is a must. There were four five-star matchups including two blowouts and two great finishes. In case you missed anything, here it is:

 

Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens

What I predicted …

Ravens 24-21

What I said would happen …

“Baltimore’s defense is no longer elite but given two weeks to scheme around what isn’t working, they should be up for the challenge against a non-imposing offense in Denver’s. The Broncos have had two weeks to prepare also which makes this game a toss up. A fourth straight loss would be devastating for the Ravens while a loss for Denver would still equal first place in the AFC West. Expect Baltimore to play their best game of the season.”

What actually happened …
Baltimore won 30-7 and the Ravens’ defense came out fired up after a few subpar games and played their finest ball of the season. The Ravens limited Denver to 200 total yards and 66 rushing yards. Baltimore running back Ray Rice continued his breakout campaign with another fine performance: 84 rushing yards, 24 yards receiving and one touchdown. The return of left tackle Jared Gaither limited the Broncos to only two sacks and sophomore QB Joe Flacco posted a 109.2 passer rating.

My reactions …
The Ravens played outstanding defense. The Broncos came in undefeated but Baltimore took their offense apart piece by piece. The Ravens took away Denver’s short passing game and sat on their run game and Broncos’ QB Kyle Orton couldn’t beat them deep. Even though the Ravens’ offense scored 23 points against the Broncos’ stingy defense, Ray Lewis and company was much more impressive.

If Baltimore can continue to impress on the defensive side of the ball, they’ll be right there in the AFC’s final four just like they were last season.

Even with their smack down on Sunday, the Broncos (6-1) are still in first place of the AFC West but they must beware of the San Diego Chargers (4-3) who have won two straight. The Broncos’ schedule will get tougher with upcoming games against the Giants, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and another game against the Chargers so the margin of error is slim.

Sunday’s loss was a huge wakeup call for the Broncos because division leaders shouldn’t get dominated against third-placed teams. Denver is still a quality team but their upcoming schedule will be the telling card in predicting how far the Broncos will go. Stay tuned.

 

NY Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

What I predicted …

Giants 26-17

What I said would happen …

“The Giants defense could probably win this game singlehandedly as long as Eli Manning doesn’t turn the ball over and keeps the offense flowing. Philadelphia gets the game at home which will give them a boost but after watching their offensive line get destroyed by the Raiders and Redskins, it’s hard to pick them against what they’ll see against New York”

What actually happened …

Philadelphia won 40-17 and Manning turned the ball over twice and Philadelphia capitalized. The Eagles obliterated the Giants and gave them their second embarrassing loss in three weeks. Philadelphia jumped on the Giants from the start of the game and led 30-7 at the half. Eagles’ QB Donovan McNabb exposed the Giants’ secondary with three touchdown passes and posted an outstanding 146.7 passer rating.

My reactions …
Aside from their disappointing loss against Oakland, Philadelphia has played extremely well with McNabb at the controls this season. Sophomore wide receiver DeSean Jackson is clearly the best receiver of his ‘08 draft class and might be the best in the division. The scary thing is Philadelphia continues to play well with a patchwork offensive line and a hobbled Brian Westbrook.

The Eagles are scheduled to get both Westbrook and injured left tackle Jason Peters back for the playoff stretch run and will be extremely dangerous around late November-December with all their guns firing.

The Giants are in trouble. After feeding on the Oaklands, Kansas Cities and Tampa Bays of the league, New York has been smacked around the past few weeks by some of the NFL’s stronger teams. If the Cowboys don’t turn the ball over four times in their week two meeting with New York, the Giants would 4-4 on the season and 0-4 against teams with a winning record.

Injuries have really crippled the Giants’ secondary this year and they get the high-flying Chargers at home next Sunday. The pass rush hasn’t been the fierce unit we’ve come to respect and Manning hasn’t played well since his diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.

The Saints, Cowboys, Eagles and Vikings are the top four teams in the NFC now. The NFC West winner gets an automatic playoff bid and the Packers, Bears and Falcons still linger. With all that being said, the possibilities of New York missing the playoffs this year are strong and could happen if the Giants don’t get things rectified.

 

Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

What I predicted …

Packers 28-24

What I said would happen …

“Sunday’s game could be a shootout and believe that Rodgers or Favre would love nothing better than to go toe-to-toe with one another. Green Bay’s offensive line was terrorized by the Vikes’ front seven the last time the two teams met, sacking Rodgers eight times. Green Bay’s left tackle Chad Clifton could return after sitting out the past few games but his status remains unclear. Regardless if he returns or not, Green Bay should have a better system in place to protect Rodgers after the disaster against Minnesota a few weeks ago. If the Packers can keep Rodgers upright, Minnesota will be in trouble”

What actually happened …

Minnesota won 38-26 and the Packers couldn’t keep Rodgers upright. Favre threw four touchdown passes against his former team and the Vikes jumped out to a 24-3 lead. Even though Rodgers put on a heroic comeback, leading his team within 20-24 at the bottom of the third quarter, his offensive line singlehandedly sabotaged him and the Packers’ hopes, allowing six sacks on the day.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson totaled 141 yards and Favre passed for another 244 yards. Minnesota held Green Bay to three points in the first half and came up with big stops in the second half although the Packers mounted a furious comeback.

My reactions …

The Vikings will get a week off to rest and prepare themselves for a crucial home-field stretch run. At 7-1, Minnesota is having their best season since the Randy Moss and Chris Carter days. Sunday’s win gave the Vikings a clean sweep of the Packers and they’ll come out of their bye with three consecutive home games against teams with a combined 7-14 record.

If complacency doesn’t set in, Minnesota could be 10-1 before they know it. Minnesota has been playing with a purpose this season because they know Favre’s years are limited. The defense is playing at a high level, rookie returner Percy Harvin has given the special teams a huge spark and the offense is averaging over 30 a game. Things couldn’t be better in Minnesota.

You can bet that Green Bay (4-3) will dedicate next April’s draft to getting some guys on the offensive line and a few pass rushers. That’s not to insinuate that the Packers’ season is over by any means but Green Bay will be hard pressed to go far this post season when they can’t protect their quarterback. Rodgers has been sacked 31 times in seven games this season and has been dropped at least five times in four games so far.

The Vikings have sacked Rodgers a ridiculous 14 times in two games and considering the top teams in the NFC all have strong pass rushes, Green Bay will find the going tough unless they drastically improve their offensive line. Stay tuned.

 

Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

What I predicted …

Saints 40-24

What I said would happen …

“Atlanta can score with the best of teams but their secondary is their biggest Achilles heel. For a team as talented through the air as the Saints are, that could spell disaster for the Falcons and their chances to pull off the upset. If Atlanta wants to win this game, they’ll have to put the ball into running back Michael Turner’s hands and keep the Saints off the field. Anything less than 25 carries from Turner and Falcons’ defense will get exposed for a second straight week”

What actually happened …

New Orleans won 35-27. Atlanta played extremely well against New Orleans and had their chances late in the game to win but turnovers killed them. Saints QB Drew Brees passed for 308 yards and threw two touchdown passes. The Falcons’ Turner ran hard against New Orleans, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan threw an interception at the Saints’ one-yard line with nine minutes remaining in the fourth and New Orleans responded with the game winning touchdown on the ensuing drive.

My reactions …

The Saints continue to pile up the wins. The offense was already dangerous but their defense has scored five times already this year, making New Orleans a dangerous two-way team. Running backs Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush give New Orleans a dangerous running game and receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey give them superior athletes out wide. The Saints and Vikings appear to be on a crash course for a 1 vs. 2 matchup in the NFC title game and as of right now, that would be the biggest game of the year.

Even though the Saints’ defense has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games, they have to be alarmed with the number of points they’ve been giving up. As long as the offense keeps it moving, everything is fine in the Big Easy but… Stay tuned.

Atlanta has nothing to hold its head down about. The Falcons took on New Orleans toe-to-toe for 60 minutes and the fact that they’ll get the Saints in Atlanta for the next go around is definitely a heads up for the Falcons. The defense didn’t play terrible but asking any defense to contain the Saints’ offense at this point in the season would be too much right now.

Atlanta has lost two straight games to the Cowboys and Saints but will get Washington at home next weekend and a chance to right the ship. Ryan hasn’t played well in his last two games but he still remains one of the better QBs in the league. If Turner can continue to churn out the yards, Atlanta should challenge for second in the NFC South.

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