NFL Hangover - Week 9 Wrap Up

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NFL Hangover - Week 9 Wrap Up
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Well, I finished 2-1 on my picks for the week, which is decent, but I still can’t believe the Cowboys pulled it off.

Quick Observations from the Couch
As always, these are a few thoughts that rattled around my head as I watched the following games.

Texans (17) – Colts (20)
With the Colts missing three quarters of their starting secondary to injuries, they still managed to keep the Texans offense in check. Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark hooked up more in the first half than Paris Hilton at a sailor convention, resulting in 11 catches for Clark by the mid point. The Texans played better defense in the second half, but the Colts came up with a big interception and Kris Brown reverted to his old Steelers form by missing a late field goal.

The Colts stay undefeated and get ready for their annual showdown with New England next week. Could someone please explain the NFL scheduling loop hole that allows these two to meet every year? As a Colts fan, I’d rather we played the Browns.

Dolphins (17) – Patriots (27)
Early in the game, the Fins looked to have the Pats number again. They grabbed a quick INT and even scored off a pass from the Wildcat in the second half. They couldn’t keep Brady and Moss down for long though as the Patriots came roaring back in the second half, drawing quite a few pass interference calls and eventually breaking through on a couple big plays.

Miami is just good enough to hang with elite teams, but not quite good enough to put them away. The Patriots are looking more dangerous every week and it was only a matter of time before they got the better of the Dolphins.

Ravens (7) – Bengals (17)
Does anyone else think the Bengals corners sound like a folk music group, Hall & Joseph? Ok, it’s just me. Either way, they are shutting receivers down this year and they kept it up against the Ravens. Leon Hall jumped a Derrick Mason slant route in the first quarter so quickly that he almost broke his own ankles. Cedric Benson is showing great patience on his runs and has topped 100 yards for the second straight time against the Ravens.

I don’t think the Bengals are a lock for the division title just yet, but they seem to be giving the rest of the division fits. They have a huge game versus the Steelers next week, which could decide the division.

Panthers (20) – Saints (30)
The early DeAngelo Williams touchdown run was amazing. I could feel the hearts being ripped out of Superdome fans through my TV. When Brees was stripped of the ball and the Panthers went up 14-0, it almost didn’t seem real. And it wasn’t.

At one point during the second half, commentator and former head coach, Brian Billick commented that “Jake Delhomme’s balls just seem a little hot”. Yup, you read that correctly. Sure, he was talking about Delhomme putting too much power into a finesse throw, but I’m sure there’s a better way to say it.

New Orleans once again displayed an amazing ability to score quickly when they’re behind and to get some key defensive plays when they need it. They are clearly the best team in the NFL right now.

Chargers (21) – Giants (20)
Just as I predicted, the Chargers pulled it off. Yes, I know they were supposed to win by eight, but just let me gloat a little. I think it’s safe to say that the Giants are officially reeling. But then again, they deserved to lose. They have an offense with a ton of talent and refuse to use their weapons properly. I would love to hear Tom Coughlin’s explanation for taking Brandon Jacobs off the field on 3rd and 1, then running the slightly built Ahmad Bradshaw up the gut, only to get stuffed. As a general rule, any time you have a 264 lb running back who averages 4.6 yards per carry over his career, you should use him on short yardage plays. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but just trust me. This is just more proof for Bill Simmons’ Madden theory. No Madden player would ever pull Jacobs in that situation.

Once the Chargers finally remembered that Eli looks like a deranged squirrel when he’s blitzed, they shut down the passing game. They sacked him when the game counted and got the ball back to Rivers for that great touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson.

Cowboys (20) – Eagles (16)
Donovan McNabb looked terrible in this game. The first INT wasn’t his fault, but he was erratic with his throws and never once looked comfortable in the pocket. If it weren’t for a few electrifying plays by LeSean McCoy, the Eagles would have been behind much earlier.

I liked the play design on Tashard Choice’s first quarter touchdown, with an unbalanced line and a direct snap. The formation was completely overloaded to one side, but they snapped it quickly, ensuring that they followed the Sports Opinionated OBP Rules. If Choice had waited too long, the direction of the play would have been obvious.

Both defenses played outstanding and managed to get pressure on the quarterback, but the big difference in the game was quarterback accuracy. Romo would hit Roy Williams with a back shoulder throw and McNabb would just throw 3 feet behind DeSean Jackson.

With the game tied at 13, I think Andy Reid made a pretty poor decision. The Eagles went for it on 4th down from the 45 yard line. I like when a coach goes for it from the 35, because it’s still quite a long FG, but the field position they give up isn’t too bad if they get stuffed. Giving the ball back on the 45 yard line is ridiculous.

Finally, the slant-and-go route by Miles Austin on the game-winning touchdown was an absolute thing of beauty. Great players find a way to affect the game and Austin did just that after being held without a catch until the fourth quarter.

Steelers (28) – Broncos (10)
I was thoroughly impressed by both defenses in this game. They both get good pressure on the quarterback and provide very solid coverage.

The main difference was the run defense. While Mendenhall busted the run game open, the Steelers defense held the Broncos under 30 yards on the ground.

After 14 of the first 17 points scored in the game were by the defense, the Pittsburgh offense responded beautifully. Ben Roethlisberger led an 80 yard drive culminating in a touchdown to Hines Ward for a 14-10 lead.

The Andre Goodman interception on the goal line and the Polamalu interception were both momentum shifting plays and both due to the quarterbacks just missing their throws. Big Ben threw his behind Ward and Orton overthrew a wide open Brandon Marshall.

The touchdown from Ben to Wallace, was exactly the type of play I mentioned during my picks column. Roethlisberger just has a knack for buying that extra second before he finds a receiver downfield. It’s incredibly difficult to defend and the Steelers have perfected it. It’s actually the same type of play John Elway used to make.

Scouting Around the League
Here are a few other items of note from this week’s action.

Has there ever been an active player and former coach get into a clash on the field before DeAngelo Hall and Mike Smith? If you haven’t seen the incident, here it is. Does anyone else think Smith would win this fight?

Congratulations to the Buccaneers for getting their first win of the season, possibly uncovering their quarterback of the future and rejuvenating a jersey that reminds me of puke.

Michael Turner’s line against the Redskins was 18 rushes for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. Welcome back to the land of elite fantasy backs Mr. Turner.

Jason Campbell is not as bad as the media makes him out to be. I’d rather have him as my quarterback than Michael Vick, that’s for sure. The Redskins, however, are worse than most of us think.

With the Colts getting ready to meet the Patriots, their nemesis, once again next week – I think this week my stomach is queezy from something other than a hangover.

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