Not unlike how the Giants always draw the Packers on their off-day, the Redskins seem to always catch New York at a bad time. The G-Men played one of their sloppiest games in recent memory. While they did not commit any turnovers, they did get flagged nine times (for the first time since 2010). Their run defense turned out to be painful to watch; they were allowing an average of 6.7 yards per pop. Despite fumbling once, Alfred Morris had a nice game when he rushed for 124 yards. While the ‘Skins defense left a little bit to be desired, they did well enough to only surrender one touchdown. That is pretty impressive when facing the New York Giants.
For the majority of this game, the Giants dominated in time of possession. They were piecing together long drives whereas the Redskins were concluding their drives rather quickly. Eli Manning was precise and made some good throws. Of course, it helps out when the offensive line can keep his jersey clean for an entire four quarters. On the one sack he did take, it almost appeared as though he thought a whistle blew. He seemed lethargic when pressure was right in his face on that particular play. Anyways, New York moved the ball well. The only problem is that they had to settle for a field goal four times (one was missed). That has been the story of the year for these guys: they move the ball with ease inside of the twenties, and then their drives sort of stall out right around the red zone. They also committed a lot of penalties that forced them to play from second and third and long situations. It does not matter how good of an offense a team has, they will not overcome constant obstacles such as 3rd and 14 or 2nd and 20.
The brilliance of RGIII showed during the final quarter of play. He ran the ball phenomenally all game, but in the final frame Griffin was lights out. He was reading the defense well, making spectacular play action fakes, and keeping plays alive like a champion. Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul were duped into the play fakes and crashed quickly at times. That is when Griffin broke contain and made big plays. His execution of the four minute drive was perfect- he stayed in bounds on a scramble he had, he handed the ball to Morris after assigning him the correct hole to run into, and he made a beautiful play fake to Morris and threw the ball over the top to Pierre Garcon, which essentially ended the game. Kyle Shanahan deserves a lot of credit for the game-plan he put together for this one. He and the Redskins offense were one step ahead of New York for the entire game. Washington won this game because of superior play-calling combined with a sloppy effort from the Giants.
This win was huge for the Redskins. With it, they make the leap to 3-1 within the division and now have a 6-6 record overall. This puts them only one game behind the Giants (at 7-5) who own a 2-3 division record. Also, New York could just as easily be 0-5 within the division had it not been for a couple of breaks in their games vs. Dallas and the first match-up with Washington. The ‘Skins draw Baltimore next week in a game that will be very difficult to predict. As they play, the Giants will be making preparations for a late-window game against the New Orleans Saints. This will not necessarily be a must-win game for them, but it is certainly one the G-Men would like to have with the Redskins and Cowboys breathing down their neck in the NFC East.
Very quickly, let’s examine the Monday night game between the Redskins and the Giants. Washington has been playing well lately. They have won two straight against NFC East opponents and came very close to beating the Giants the first time around. Now they get a second crack at the defending Super Bowl Champions, this time in their backyard. New York looked impressive last week against Green Bay after looking very flat versus Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Eli Manning keeps pin-balling back and forth between elite and non-elite status. Their running game is sort of hit or miss these days and the defense is still suspect to giving up big plays. The Redskins are going to try and run the ball down the Giants’ throat and settle for some hard play-actions. The key for New York will be containing RGIII in the pocket and getting some pressure on him. The G-Men should be able to do so and will win this game because of the duress that Robert Griffin will be under for a majority of this game.
New York 27, Washington 16
This game turned out to be just another day at the office for the Eagles; they play well through the first 55 minutes, and then they cough the ball up on a potential game-winning drive. What’s worse is they let Morris Claiborne return the Bryce Brown fumble for a touchdown. If they had tackled Claiborne and held the Cowboys to a FG, then it would have been a 34-27 game; only a one score deficit. As is the case with everything else in the Philly season, anything that can go wrong will. Their best player on the defensive side of the ball, DeMeco Ryans, left early with an injury. Their defense played very poorly all night long; they could not get off the field on third down (which is something that has been plaguing the Eagles since Todd Bowles has taken over as defensive coordinator. Tony Romo played well again and passed Troy Aikman on the all-time Dallas Cowboys passing TDs thrown list. That is pretty darn impressive. Luckily for him it came in a winning effort.
Nick Foles deserved better than to lose this game. He played brilliantly. There were maybe two or three bad decisions he made- one almost leading to an interception and one poor choice on the two point conversion. Other than that, he showed intelligence beyond his years at the quarterback position. He was checking into the right plays at the line of scrimmage, making solid throws, sliding in the pocket to avoid pressure, and showing patience while letting the play develop in front of him. These are all things that the great quarterbacks can do. He resembled Tom Brady in this way. The Eagles played one of their best games of the year. Their offensive line was great (only allowing one sack and blocking well for the running game), their offense was smooth and they only had to punt the ball twice all game, and they committed one penalty for five yards all night long. All and all this was a pretty solid effort. So why did they lose the game? It was because of their defense.
Tony Romo was having a field day. He was finding his guys wide open, and was getting decent enough protection to do so. The reason why this Eagles defense is not respected anymore is because they are simply not forcing turnovers. They don’t have an interception during the Todd Bowles era, and they are just not getting pressure. These corners are giving up big plays into the middle of the field and Romo was picking them apart. If the Eagles made one or two third down stops in this game, then they would have won. The Cowboys converted 9/14 third downs (64%). And on one of those failed conversions they went for it on fourth down and got it. So the Eagles defense really only stopped the Cowboys four times on those third down conversions. Protection was also a strong point for the ‘Boys. Their offensive line held together pretty well and Dallas was able to run and pass the ball with great balance. They won this game because of balance up-front.
Looking ahead, Eagles fans have reason to be optimistic. Nick Foles is turning out to be a great young prospect and Bryce Brown had another impressive game (outside of his costly fumble). Once LeSean McCoy gets back, Brown will be a great spell option that opposing defenses will have to pay great attention to. Next week the Eagles fly to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers in what should be a high scoring game. Dallas will go to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in a very important game for both teams. Next week should tell a lot about both of these teams.
The Bengals pick up a much needed victory in a close game out on the west coast. AJ Green’s and Ben Jarvus Green Ellis’s good performances were key in this victory. They now can keep pace with the Steelers whom they will meet again in Week 16. The Bengals need to win a game down the road that most do not think they can win. That is their problem as they try to return to the playoffs for the second year in a row. If they want a wild card spot, a win over Pittsburgh is a necessity and a win over Baltimore in Week 17 is almost as important. Their other two games come against NFC East teams in Dallas and Philadelphia. The road to the playoffs will not be easy for Cincy, but if they get in then they will have earned it. And maybe this will be the game that the Chargers finally decide to can Norv Turner… probably not, but his job security is not in good standing. If the Eagles get rid of Andy Reid, then he will most likely find himself donning the powder blue next year, should the Chargers decide to go that route. They will need to win out to go to 8-8 and that may be the only way that Norv stays on the San Diego bus.
The Browns are building quite a bit of momentum with this young team that they have. They now have won three of their last five and their second in a row. Also, 4-8 is not a horrible record for them considering they started off 0-5 to begin the year. Brandon Weeden played alright, throwing for 364 yards, a career high. Carson Palmer had another typical Carson Palmer game; a ton of yards in a losing effort. The Raiders hardly got a chance to run the ball since they trailed early on in the game. Oakland Raiders fans have got to be demoralized. They came within a game of winning the AFC West last year, and most thought the team was on its way to making things right and finishing a season with a winning record. It seems as though they took a huge step backwards this year in disappointing fashion. (It’s okay, they are not alone.) Cleveland may be on its way to seeing a team that can make a playoff run in the next couple of years. They are a good young team with a solid defense and a workable offense. There could be light at the end of the tunnel for Browns fans.
Charlie Batch plays out of his mind as the Steelers go on the road and shock the heavily favored Baltimore Ravens. For a majority of the game, it looked like the Ravens defense was going to be too much for Pittsburgh to overcome. They were unable to run the ball at all (save the one Dwyer rushing TD) and Batch did not look like he had what it took to bring his team to a win. Obviously this diagnosis was wrong. Once Heath Miller got involved in the second quarter, this offense looked completely different. There were guys running open down field and big plays were made pretty frequently by the Steelers. Batch ended the game by hitting on his last eight throws and driving his team for the game winning FG as time expired. Talk about impressive. Antonio Brown goofed when he fumbled the ball as he was about to run in for a score in the third quarter. Also, Mike Wallace was absolutely wide open in the back of the end zone and Charlie missed him. However, those mistakes did not end up costing Pittsburgh as they played great game overall.
The deciding factor in this game ended up being the timeouts that Baltimore had wasted in the third quarter. One was burnt trying to get a play together and the other was lost on a questionable challenge from John Harbaugh. The third timeout was taken late in the fourth quarter when an injured Raven had to be taken out of the game; an injury timeout. Not a single one of the timeouts were taken with the intent purposes of conserving time on the clock, and that is why the Ravens lost this game. They simply ran out of time. Speaking of running out of time, it seemed like Joe Flacco was being hurried a lot in the pocket. His throws were rushed at times and the pressure caused him to unleash some throws that ended up being much too high for his receivers. Ray Rice ran the ball with authority, but Baltimore may have spelled him with Bernard Pierce too much. Now, Pierce is a great young talent and an excellent spell for Rice but the Ravens almost forgot about Ray down the stretch. He carried the ball only 12 times in the whole game. Cam Cameron may have been a little too aggressive in this one.
There was really no reason why the Ravens should not have won this game. They played better on offense, and on defense they did a much better job of containing the run game. But Todd Haley called a masterful game that fit Charlie Batch’s skill set perfectly. Batch delivered the goods as well, making only a couple of bad throws. A lot of his incompetions turned out to be drops as well. Anyways, the Steelers can feel very good about this win. They should have Roethlisberger back next week as they eye a run at the postseason. A division crown, although unlikely, is not out of the question yet for them. However, the final four games are all winnable for Pittsburgh. It will not be shocking to see them end the 2012 season with an 11-5 or 10-6 record. As for the Ravens, they need to win three of their next four if they want a shot at a first round BYE. A win over Denver in Week 15 may be just what the doctor ordered for Baltimore.
The Denver Broncos become the second team in the AFC to clinch its division (behind New England). Also, with this win over the Bucs, Atlanta clinches their division. The Peyton Manning show lives on in the Mile High City. The Broncos have won their seventh straight and are now beginning to look like they may not lose until the postseason (if they even do lose again). This was a rough loss for Tampa Bay. Neither Josh Freeman or Doug Martin had a big game, which just goes to show just how good this Denver defense is. The Buccaneers had a nice opportunity to pick up a game on Seattle and Chicago in the wild card race with a win. As of right now, the Bucs seem to be the only other player in on the race. Minnesota may not be able to make any noise because of their difficult remaining schedule. Von Miller had another outstanding game, with a sack, a forced fumble, and a pick-six. He left the game late with an injury, but it did not look too bad. Anyways, the Broncos are looking like they might actually be the best team in the AFC. They have improved a lot since their loss to the Patriots, and the Week 15 game against the Ravens in Baltimore will tell a lot about what teams will earn a first round BYE in the American Football Conference.
In a way, this is a feel-good victory for the Chiefs. Obviously the Jovan Belcher incident was the main storyline heading into this game, but the Chiefs can now feel good about a complete team win. They did not turn the ball over for the first time all season. Brady Quinn played well also, throwing two touchdown passes. Cam Newton played pretty well too. He did not turn the ball over and threw three touchdown passes. The Panthers do not typically lose when they don’t turn the ball over. That is why this game is especially surprising. The Kansas City running game was what won them the game. 158 yards on the ground is nothing to shake a stick at. Peyton Hills found paydirt early and the Chiefs really outplayed another team for the first time since Week 15 last season when they beat the Packers. This was an important win for Romeo Crennel after he witness the shock of the season go down right in front of him Saturday morning. It is good that he was able to rally his team together for a win. It speaks volumes for him as a head coach, and as a guy in general. The Panthers really need to think about what area they want to address this off-season. Perhaps picking up a running back in the draft will be a great idea for this team that has an up and coming defense, as well as a franchise quarterback with a decent corps of wide receivers.
Once again the Texans find themselves victorious as they go over the Titans in Tennessee. Matt Schaub looked impressive and so did Arian Foster, as the two of them played another solid game. The Titans did a nice job weathering the storm because this game was 14-3 very early on. The Texans now pull even with the Falcons with an 11-1 record to lead the NFL. Their true test will be the two games against Indianapolis and the one in New England later this month. The Titans may be in need of another quarterback if Jake Locker does not turn things around quickly. Maybe this will be another landing spot for Michael Vick if the Eagles cut ties with him. Just saying…
Greg Zeurlein may be the best young kicker in the NFL. His two field goals from 50 yards out proved to be the difference in a very close game that almost ended in a tie (again!!!). Sure, he missed one from 50+ yards out, and he was in a slump from that distance (missing four of his past seven), but he finished the game the way one is supposed to. His 53 yarder at the end of regulation and the 54 yarder in overtime were both nothing short of amazing. St Louis really knows how to play within the division. They are now 4-0-1 against the NFC West, and really could be 5-0. Their defense did a heck of a job against Colin Kaepernick and the all of the sudden explosive 49ers offense. Allowing only 339 yards and 13 points is pretty darn good, considering the fact that this team has been rolling on all cylinders. Jeff Fisher deserves a lot of credit for toughening this football team up and making them relevant in the NFC. They may not win every game, but they will be a force to reckon with. This game could end up being a signature win for this young Rams team. It will not amount to anything, but it will give them a ton of confidence heading into next year when they play some of the elite teams in football.