Week 10 produced a lot of interesting results, but none more than a little game in Indianapolis that NBC kindly reminded us was the "Rivalry of the Decade" a thousand times.
I'll let you know now that the recap for that one will be more of a rant than a recap.
San Francisco (4-5) def. Chicago (4-5), 10-6: Most fans know that Jay Cutler has been labeled as a "gunslinger." We know that he won't hesitate to take risks, but these games are becoming too much of a norm. Two of the picks were not his fault, but two were also in the red zone.
Interceptions in the red zone are bad enough, but two in one game is unacceptable. He now has 17 picks through nine games. The Bears knew what they were getting with him, but somebody in that organization needs to tell him that punting and kicking field goals isn't always a bad thing.
Tennessee (3-6) def. Buffalo (3-6), 41-17: Buffalo kept this close, but their defense let them down in the fourth. Chris Johnson continued his tear through the league and suddenly the Titans have won three straight. They won't make the playoffs, but this is a nice rebound, especially for Vince Young.
New Orleans (9-0) def. St. Louis (1-8), 28-23: This was certainly closer than most thought it would be. The Rams gave the Saints all they could handle and a little more. Saints' fans could look at this one of two ways: They won without their A-game or they barely eked a game out against a bad team and it's becoming a trend. Either way, the Saints are still undefeated.
Miami (4-5) def. Tampa Bay (1-8), 25-23: The Bucs have looked like a different team with the rook under center. Granted, it's only been two games, but they are clearly playing better. Miami was able to engineer the game-winning drive, but both teams can come out of this happy with themselves.
Minnesota (8-1) def. Detroit (1-8), 27-10: This game's final score is a tad deceiving as it was a little closer than the score shows. Nonetheless, it was still an impressive performance by the rested Vikings. It is also very clear that the Lions are making progress.
Jacksonville (5-4) def. New York Jets (4-5), 24-22: The Jets continue to find ways to lose. For the first few weeks of the season, the Jets' defense was great—not so much anymore. Maurice Jones-Drew continued his terrific play running all over the Jets.
On the other hand, Jones-Drew stopping on the one-yard line was completely idiotic. Apparently it was a coach's decision, but that doesn't mean it's a good one. Doing that when you're winning is smart, not when you're trailing.
Cincinnati (7-2) def. Pittsburgh (6-3), 18-12: After a very impressive performance, the Bengals now have the inside track to the AFC North crown and also a first round bye with New England's loss. They showed how good their defense is, playing a bend-but-don't-break style.
Pittsburgh did not play a bad game, but they were unable to convert in the red zone (as was Cincy, but they had the kickoff return). They also went away from the running game, which Bruce Arians has a tendency of doing. For Rashard Mendenhall to have fewer than 15 carries is asinine. The Steelers can still win the division, but Cincy will have to slip up, which isn't looking likely right now.
Washington (3-6) def. Denver (6-3), 27-17: Things seemed to be moving along fine for Denver until Kyle Orton got hurt. Now Denver finds itself in an unsettling position. A month ago, they were sitting on top of the world. Now, they're in trouble with San Diego looming. Chris Simms didn't play well, although some of that can be attributed to rust.
Nonetheless, the Broncos have work to do before their showdown with the Chargers next week.
Carolina (4-5) def. Atlanta (5-4), 28-19: This was the best Jake Delhomme has looked in a long time. He was efficient and he led his team to a victory over a good team. Carolina has quietly gotten back into the playoff race, while Atlanta lost a game they probably should have won. Losing Michael Turner is just salt in their wounds.
Green Bay (5-4) def. Dallas (6-3), 17-7: This wasn't necessarily about Dallas playing bad, but Green Bay's defense playing terrifically. This was basically a shutout in a game the Pack needed. The past few weeks haven't been very kind to them and beating a good team in this fashion is a good way to get back on track.
For Dallas, this should only be a minor setback, although it will test their mental toughness.
San Diego (6-3) def. Philadelphia (5-4), 31-23: Andy Reid will never win a Super Bowl if he keeps calling games like this.
Once again, Reid fell in love with the pass, slinging the rock over 50 times. San Diego jumped out to a big lead because Philly couldn't punch it in and the hole was too deep for Philly to get out of, despite the comeback.
Indianapolis (9-0) def. New England (6-3), 35-34: Bill Belichick is a great coach. I don't care for him, but he's great at what he does. However, his choice to go for it on fourth down late in the game was one of the worst in-game decisions I've ever seen.
Belichick said he did it because he was going for the win. That's a lie.
He did it because Peyton Manning has put the fear of God into his heart. Belichick had no confidence in his defense stopping Manning, despite the fact that they had played relatively well for most of the night.
First of all, if you're going to run the play, don't make it a two-yard route. If it's a four or five-yard route, there is no dispute as to whether or not Kevin Faulk's forward progress warranted a first down.
Secondly, the minute Belichick made his decision, he took the game out of his defense's hands. Yes, they still could have stopped Manning & Co., but when Indy came out onto the field for their final drive, their victory seemed almost inevitable.
Indy was moving the ball a lot better in the fourth than they had for the first three quarters, but it's ridiculous to give Manning the ball with 29 yards between himself and victory as opposed to 70 or 80 yards.
The Pats were the best team on the field, but their coach took the game out of his players' hands with an idiotic decision.
If these two teams meet again before February, it will be in Indianapolis and this one call will undoubtedly give the Colts a little bit more confidence.
Baltimore (5-4) def. Cleveland (1-8), 16-0: Cleveland has one of the worst offenses I've ever seen. This was pretty ugly and their offense only added to that. This was an important win for Baltimore with the Colts, Steelers, and Packers coming up in the next three weeks.
Top 12 Teams (Last week's ranking)
- New Orleans Saints (1): They are living dangerously, but good teams can afford to do that. Next week: at Tampa Bay (1-8)
- Indianapolis Colts (2): Great teams find ways to win when they are outplayed, which is exactly what Indy did against New England. Next week: at Baltimore (5-4)
- Minnesota Vikings (4): This is shaping up to be a great month for the Vikes as they'll be able to take it easy next week. Next week: vs. Seattle (3-6)
- Cincinnati Bengals (6): They will go undefeated in the AFC North. Think about that for a little while. Next week: at Oakland (2-7)
- New England Patriots (5): Normally, I'd drop a team after a loss, but they were clearly the better team in Indianapolis. Next week: vs. New York Jets (5-4)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (3): This will be a setback for the Steelers if they continue to shy away from the running game like they did against the Bengals. Next week: at Kansas City (2-7)
- Arizona Cardinals (7): There was nothing impressive about their victory, but they didn't lose, so they stay put. Next week: at St. Louis (1-8)
- Dallas Cowboys (8): They stay in this spot by default, although their loss wasn't a bad one. Next week: vs. Washington (3-6)
- San Diego Chargers (NR): I don't know if they are the ninth-best team in the league, but I couldn't leave Philly here and all the teams from 10-12 who played last week lost. They have a huge game next week. Next week: at Denver (6-3)
- Philadelphia Eagles (9): Again, I don't know if they deserve this spot, but I don't feel comfortable moving the Texans up two spots without playing. Next week: at Chicago (4-5)
- Houston Texans (12): They took Indy to the limit two weeks ago, but the real test will be how they play after a tough loss. Next week: vs. Tennessee (3-6)
- Atlanta Falcons (10): This is their first bad loss of the year. Like Houston, how they rebound will be important. Next week: at New York Giants (5-4)
Team to Drop Out of the Top 12
Denver Broncos: If Kyle Orton's injury keeps him out of next week's division showdown, they may witness their playoff hopes fade very quickly. They need to stop the bleeding immediately.
That will put a bow on this week. Since the NFL feels the need to put another meaningless game on Thursday, picks will be in that afternoon. As always, check them out if you have a few to spare.