Any Given Sunday
Posted Nov. 12 at 12:50 AM
A quick whirl around the league at the highlights and lowlights of the games I paid the most attention to on Sunday…
Random Thought: You don’t have to have played football at any level beyond Pee-Wee League or maybe mud football on the college green to know what a tough game this is, so you have to cut people some slack when they screw up. That said, you hate to watch great players cost themselves touchdowns on miscues, like Larry Fitzgerald stepping out of bounds halfway into what should have been an 80-yard TD a week ago, and Steve Smith fumbling a sure touchdown through the end zone for a touchback on Sunday. The game is too hard already to make it any harder. Anyway….
Vikings-Packers: Watching Adrian Peterson get helped off the field after suffering a knee injury made for an interesting internal debate: Was I more upset as a fantasy owner of Peterson, who is counting on him to lead me to a fantasy title in my main league, or as an NFL fan, who was looking forward to seeing him break both the rookie rushing record and possibly the all-time rushing record (both held by Eric Dickerson)? I think I was actually more upset as an NFL fan. At this writing, it’s unclear how serious the injury is, but as a football fan, more than a fantasy owner, I hope the guy’s OK.
Aside from that, you somehow KNEW that after the week the Vikings had – docking Troy Williamson a game check for missing a week to attend his grandmother’s funeral, then backing off that stance after intense media and public scrutiny/criticism/horror – the football game wouldn’t turn out too well for them. I’m not saying there was any karma involved, but getting shutout 34-0 by your longtime rival (for the first time ever) and having a sure interception turn into a touchdown for the other team when your defenders run into each other, even leaving out the Peterson injury, does make you wonder. Among other things, you wonder which of the Vikings’ three quarterbacks really deserves to start a game next week – or any week.
As for the Packers, well, less than two years removed from a 4-12 season that got Mike Sherman fired and almost sent Brett Favre into retirement, they’re a pretty good team. Compared to the rest of the NFC, they’re a great team, one of only two or three in the conference that deserve those accolades. What’s funny is the score could have been even worse: Favre overthrew an open Driver for a touchdown; Driver, Greg Jennings and Koren Robinson failed to come up with possible touchdowns prior to field goals, and a pretty good Vikings defense – that maybe was busy thinking of their own grandmothers rather than playing hard for coach Brad Childress – couldn’t stop the Packers at any point during the game. The first player to rush for 100 yards against the Vikings this season: Ryan Grant. Who’da thunk it? Then again, you watch Grant put his head down and fight for yards after he gets hit, and it doesn’t look so crazy after all.
Eagles-Washington: Philadelphia needs to hire a member of the local media to write negative columns about Donovan McNabb every week. (Maybe they already have.) It’s a virtual certainty that if there’s a week where McNabb takes an inordinate amount of heat for his play, he’ll come out with one of his best games of the season the following week. Granted, McNabb had a lot of help. Two of his 4 TDs were to Brian Westbrook, who tends to do most of the work himself. A third was a poorly thrown prayer that Reggie Brown made one of the best catches on you’ll ever see, somehow plucking it out of the air behind him and loping into the end zone. It was impressive. Of course, the concern with McNabb is he’s had a tendency, this year at least, to follow up a great game with a poor one, like his dismal games against the Giants and Cowboys following stellar efforts against the Lions and Vikings. Most likely McNabb won’t have to do much next week, home against the winless Dolphins – No. 30 against the run.
As for Washington, we often talk about players getting some extra motivation from facing their former teams. Few, however, could have foreseen James Thrash scoring 2 TDs against the Eagles, and this after no Washington wide receiver had caught a touchdown all season. That’s what we call an outlier game, and it probably won’t happen again. Washington needs to hope they don’t commit as many costly penalties as they did yesterday, or their playoff hopes definitely won’t get any brighter the rest of the way. From a fantasy standpoint, you have to be impressed by Clinton Portis. Committee with Ladell Betts? No. Portis is currently No. 3 in the league in rushing, while Betts has more than three carries just once in his last five games.
Broncos-Kansas City: Would Denver have a winning record but for Travis Henry’s lengthy, drawn-out appeal of his drug suspension? That’s a question you have to ask after the team has looked much better in every respect without him on the field, both in an overtime loss to the Packers (that they probably should have won) and Sunday’s win over Kansas City, in which undrafted rookie Selvin Young rushed for 109 yards. The Broncos have a history of getting top performances out of unheralded running backs, of course, but Young is different than last year’s rookie performer Mike Bell. Unlike Bell, Young actually showed a lot of talent in college, but couldn’t stay healthy. He’s healthy now, and he might help some teams win fantasy titles this season – assuming Henry’s appeals process finally runs its course. One more note on Denver: I saw defensive tackle Sam Adams in there on play. The guy definitely weighs more than his listed 350 pounds. He looked he swallowed a keg.
As for Kansas City, the Damon Huard era probably came to an end Sunday, not because Brodie Croyle looked particularly good in relief, but because at least with Croyle, there’s a chance he’ll get better the rest of the way. (And for Kansas City, “the rest of the way” will probably begin with a butt-kicking in Indianapolis this week, followed by 4-5 more losses en route to a 6-10 season no matter who the quarterback is.) The moment that sticks out from this game, sadly, was a play on which Priest Holmes, the NFL’s single-season touchdown record-holder not so long ago, got trapped in the backfield on a carry near the goal line and ended up losing a whopping 14 yards. Just a reminder that we all get older, and maybe you can’t go home (or Holmes) again.
Jaguars-Titans: A defensive tackle as an MVP candidate? That was the main thing to take from this game, where the Titans were without run-stuffer Albert Haynesworth and it showed, as their top-ranked (entering the game) run defense got demolished for 166 yards. Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jones all got in on the action – which of course is bad news going forward, since it sure looks like the fullback Jones will now be taking some carries away from the top two backs. Jones was lined up alone in the backfield for a short rushing touchdown, opportunities that had been going pretty much exclusively to Jones-Drew, but as we mention in this week’s Factoid, Jones-Drew also got some short-yardage and goal-line opportunities yesterday (and converted all of them), so it’s too soon to say that will continue. It does, however, look like Jones will have an expanded role in the offense. On the bright side, Jones-Drew rushed for 101 yards and scored anyway – a great day, really, for this entire rushing offense.
Remember the Titans’ Vince Young as an up-and-coming fantasy star? We’re not going to blame the Madden Curse, just the fact that it was easier for Young to pile up big numbers when his team was playing from behind every week. It’s no coincidence that Young’s best game of the season by far (his first with even 200 passing yards) came with the Titans trailing most of the game. Haynesworth might be the team’s MVP, but his dominant defensive presence appears to be Young’s kryptonite. People can now dust off all the stories they wrote about whether Michael Vick would become an accurate passer and do a search-and-replace to insert Young’s name. This season is serving as a reminder that while Young may one day be a top fantasy option, he’s not there yet. In his defense, he actually threw the ball fairly well (for the most part) yesterday; if the team can find some quality receivers – better than offseason acquisitions like David Givens and Eric Moulds – he could be fine.
Bills-Dolphins: Yes, I actually watched a lot of this game – no need to thank me. There are paltry enough fantasy options here that I can probably run through the key elements in just a few sentences. Lee Evans got open for a touchdown but J.P. Losman badly underthrew him. Rookie runner Marshawn Lynch continues to impress with his nose for the end zone – he’s fought through tacklers on several of his touchdown runs this year, as well as an impressive second effort on a critical two-point conversion Sunday. The Patriots might run wild on the Bills next week; Jesse Chatman sure did yesterday. And rookie receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is going to score on a return one of these days. He had an impressive one Sunday where he simply accelerated past would-be tacklers approaching from the side, but it was all for naught (called back on a penalty). OK, moving on.
Cowboys-Giants: Gotta talk about Jeremy Shockey for a moment here. Some people hate the guy, either because he went to Miami, dated Paris Hilton or is simply a bit of a loudmouth. (Some people love him for the same reasons, I guess.) In any case, watching the guy play football, you see what a great player he is. Not because he caught 12 passes and did a nice job of getting open for a touchdown yesterday, although that helps. No, Shockey’s most impressive play was a block that enabled Brandon Jacobs to convert a key third down, leading to a Reuben Droughns touchdown. (Can we talk about the irony that after he spent the early part of his career vulturing touchdowns from Tiki Barber, Jacobs is now having touchdowns vultured from him by Droughns? That’s nuts.) Anyway: Great player, Shockey. Some will wonder why he doesn’t play like that every week. I’ll wonder why the offense doesn’t do a better job of getting him the ball that often.
As for the Cowboys, well, it’s officially time to stop doubting undrafted Tony Romo. Two weeks in a row he’s gone on the road to face tough defenses with tough pass rushes in tough places to play (Philadelphia last week, the red-hot Giants yesterday). Romo’s combined numbers for the two games: 40 of 53 (75%) for 571 yards and 7 TDs. I’m convinced. Not much else to say here, except that Dallas sure looks like the No. 1 seed in the NFC – we’ll find out for sure when they host the Packers a couple of weeks from now – and as long as Romo, Terrell Owens and Marion Barber remain healthy, it’s going to be difficult to knock them off. For all this talk about the AFC’s superiority, at the moment it’s only clear that one team, the Patriots, are significantly better than the NFC’s best two or three teams.
Colts-Chargers: I can’t believe there used to be a time where there were no Sunday night football games. Thank heavens we’ve moved past those dark ages. As always, I finished my Sunday watching this game, and you’ve probably heard the salient details: Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison didn’t play, Peyton Manning got picked off 6 times, the Chargers returned two kicks for touchdowns, and Mr. Clutch himself, Adam Vinatieri, shanked a 29-yard field goal that would have won the game. Reggie Wayne was huge; he’ll continue to be so until Harrison returns.
Anyway, the major thing I took from this game is that if the Chargers can win with virtually no offense to speak of, Manning can throw 6 interceptions, and Vinatieri can botch a pair of field goals to cost the Colts a win, anything really can happen in the NFL. The 9-0 Patriots can lose a game, the 38-year-old Brett Favre can win another Super Bowl, Kevin Jones can score a touchdown despite rushing for negative yards. Any given Sunday, you just never know.
Andy watches as many games as he can each Sunday. If you do the same, feel free to add your own observations from the previous day’s games below.
Posted by Duane Stay | Nov. 14 at 08:07 AM
Childress has become the anti-christ in Minnesota. If Culpepper starts for the Raiders this Sunday you can expect a big Raider day. Culpepper was a popular team mate and the Vikings will make sure he does well this Sunday! Childress has lost the locker room and the players along with the fans can't get rid of him fast enough!
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