Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.
Shortened Audibles this week, as much of the FO staff was celebrating the holiday. There will be no Audibles Monday to discuss the two Sunday games. In-game discussion of the Sunday games can be found here.
One more note: Audibles usually mentions which games are being covered later this week in Any Given Sunday and Every Play Counts, but those are undecided at this time. I believe EPC will be the second annual "under the radar free agents" column. For AGS, we're trying to decide between the day's biggest upset (CIN-BUF) and the one that involved two teams that still have playoff possibilities (DAL-CAR), plus there is the possibility of a win by the Packers, Ravens, or Jets.
(OK, maybe not the Jets.)
Atlanta Falcons 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 (OT)
Aaron Schatz: Oh, apples. Oh, tasty, delicious apples.
Bill Moore: Tampa Bay eventually won, but what's the point of kicking a field goal on first down, if when you muff the snap you don't down the ball and call time out? At that point, Atlanta's defensive line was a mental mess and Tampawas running all over them. My impossible-to-substantiate thought is that Tampa would have scored a touchdown on the first drive. And Russ, can you give Sheppard a quick primer on how to hold the ball in OT?
Russell Levine: I spent the day shuttling around to parents and other relatives, and only saw TB-ATL on TiVo tonight. I'm glad I broke down about 4:30 and checked the score. I couldn't have taken that one live. What a bizarre game -- with the most bizarre moment coming when Jim Mora took a cell phone call on the sidelines with TB about to punt from midfield at the two minute warning of OT. He was trying to find out how a tie would affect Atlanta in the playoff chase, but nobody had the answer. So they went for the win, went three and out, and gave Tampa the ball back with a minute to go at midfield.
I have to say though that I was actually pretty impressed with Vick today. He showed good command, avoided the killer mistake, consistently broke off 7-8 yard runs when pressured, and even protected himself some times. He still takes too much punishment, but he's at least showing some concern for his body. He also would have had his first three-TD game of his career had Roddy White held on to a perfect deep post in the second half. I'm not convinced that Vick is never going to grow as a passer. He's still very young in age, if not NFL experience, and I still think he can round out his game.
Aaron Schatz: They've got to get him out of this timing pattern offense and let him heave it long again. He needs to play in the New York Giants offense.
Bill Moore: One more note: Listening to the color commentary of Brian Baldinger is painful (not Joe Thiesman painful, but up there). I think he talks just to hear himself talk. He adds so little value to the "color."
New York Giants 20 at Washington Redskins 35
Bill Moore: Eli Manning blocks about as well as I do. And for those that don't know, that's not good.
Aaron Schatz: It's very hard to pay attention to two games at once, which is what I was trying to do with this and SD-KC. I will say that the Giants blew it covering Santana Moss in a variety of interesting ways. The first touchdown was a screen. I usually hate those naked WR screens because the wideout immediately gets tackled by three guys. But Moss avoided the first defender and then offensive lineman Dennis Dockery got out in front and blocked Gibril Wilson away from getting anywhere near Moss, enabling him to get the touchdown. Good job, Dockery.
On the second Moss touchdown, Will Allen turned around with absolutely no idea where the ball was and Moss came down with it and was gone. Allen seemed to be involved in blown coverage on the third touchdown also. Do people realize that no other Washington wide receiver caught a pass in this game? You're supposed to force Washington to throw to the other receivers instead of Moss, not the other way around.
And did everyone enjoy the play where Jeremy Shockey turned to the ref to whine about a flag, and the Washington defender had picked off the ball with Shockey even noticing and so he made no effort to tackle him whatsoever? I think Shockey and Plaxico Burress would rather be thespians than receivers.
San Diego 7 at Kansas City Chiefs 20
Aaron Schatz: They showed a stat midway through the second quarter that Kansas City had passed the ball every single time Larry Johnson was not in the game. They really do have to teach him to block next year so that they can leave him in on passing downs and not signal what they are doing quite so blatantly.
Michael David Smith: Saying KC always passes when Johnson is out of the game is like saying a team always wins when it rushes more than its opponent -- it's true, but it confuses the cause with the effect. The Chiefs always pass when Johnson is out because they don't have a good backup running back, not because Johnson is terrible at blitz pickup. I've watched him pretty closely on blitz pickup since that Whitlock column, and he's really not as bad as people make him out to be. Sure, he's no Walter Payton or Eddie George or Corey Dillon, but he's OK. Trust me, I'm the last person to minimize the importance of blocking, but the idea that he's awful at it has been really overblown.
Aaron Schatz: Good point. I should add that I've joked twice at the FOXSports.com power rankings about San Diego as champions of Super Bowl XLI and the Chargers are clearly a leading contender. The young defenders will be a year more experienced, they can go get help in the secondary, they can trade Rivers for something useful. The Chargers should aim to finish third, not second, to get a schedule with Baltimore and Buffalo instead of Pittsburgh and Miami. Baltimore will be in total rebuilding mode and Buffalo's chances of returning to contender status aren't anywhere near as strong as Miami's.
Dallas Cowboys 24 at Carolina Panthers 20
Bill Moore: Julius Peppers and the Panthers got screwed on the roughing the kicker call that cancelled a missed field goal. It looked pretty clear to me that the ball glanced off Peppers ribs. The ball appeared to change directions, and it looked like his shirt moved.
Buffalo Bills 37 at Cincinnati Bengals 27
Michael David Smith: What does Buffalo do about its quarterback situation in the off-season? It's pretty clear that the offense is a lot better with Kelly Holcomb than with J.P. Losman. I'm guessing Buffalo is going to have a new coach in 2006, and that coach isn't going to want to have Losman as his starter.
Cincinnati's defense is going to cause the Bengals a real problem in the AFC playoffs. They just have too many guys who get run over.
Jacksonville Jaguars 38 at Houston Texans 20
Michael David Smith: David Garrard needs to learn how to throw to Ernest Wilford. If you hit him in the hands, he drops it. If you make him work to get the ball, he catches it. I'm serious. This goes back to college with him -- he just doesn't catch the easy passes. He's like a basketball player who has a higher three-point percentage than free-throw percentage.
San Francisco 49ers 24 at St. Louis Rams 20
Michael David Smith: The St. Louis defense didn't seem like it wanted to play today. It wasn't so much that the 49ers looked good as that the Rams looked like they were doing just enough to still call themselves professional football players.
Ned Macey: I'm not sure how many Rams games you've watched this year, and I didn't watch today, but all year they have receivers running free and running backs gaining huge yardage before ever being touched. 0-2 against SF is just a joke.
Indianapolis Colts 13 at Seattle Seahawks 28
Aaron Schatz: Are they trying to get James over 400 carries so he'll go blow his ACL again next year? 13 carries today makes 360 for the season. I wonder if Indianapolis is just running him into the ground this year, already planning to let him leave in free agency.
Seeing Jim Sorgi run the stretch handoff play is just weird. I honestly have nothing else to say about this game. I apologize to the Seattle fans who wanted a big report.
Ned Macey: I don't know what the numbers are this year, but a year ago Harrison was infinitely better in the red zone than Wayne who was better everywhere else on the field. Based on their touchdown totals and my own observations, that seems to be the case again this year, and the two drives they had Manning in they marched down and failed to punch it in. The second time, Wayne dropped a sure first down, and then on third down he was covered in the end zone.
I cannot believe they had Edge in that long. He continued to be completely ineffective as he has been the last few weeks. If he is even active next week, the Colts are making a mistake. The man needs a couple weeks off.
Detroit Lions 13 at New Orleans Saints 12
Michael David Smith: Two of the players I thought were among the few Saints playing well this year were the reasons Detroit managed a win. Roy Williams beat Mike McKenzie several times. Shaun Rogers looked really impressive against LeCharles Bentley.
The funny thing about Harrington and Garcia is that Harrington is better at all the things that a veteran like Garcia is supposed to be good at, like clock management and recognizing blitzes. Neither played well, obviously, but it's pretty silly for a team playing only to develop its young players to have started Garcia the last three weeks. I would still like a chance to see Dan Orlovsky. What would it hurt?
This was the first game since before Thanksgiving that a majority of the Lions actually looked like they were trying. Of course, when you're trying hard and you need a last-second field goal to beat the Saints, you've got serious problems. It was nice to see Charles Rogers back to his usual self, never got open a single time all game, but he did have a false start penalty. Not sure who that imposter was in his uniform last week.
Oakland Raiders 3 at Denver Broncos 22
Michael David Smith: Jerry Porter and Randy Moss look like all of their routes are very halfhearted, just sort of jogging around out there.
Philadelphia Eagles 21 at Arizona Cardinals 27
Michael David Smith: So do you think that talk about the greatness of Ryan Moats might have been a bit premature? By the way, Sean Landeta has to be the Special Teams Player of the Week. The guy turns 44 in two weeks and he was absolutely booming them today.
Aaron Schatz: Worst-rated punter in the league last year. I wonder if the thin Arizona air has a smaller Denver-like effect. That might help explain Rackers as well.
Pittsburgh Steelers 41 at Cleveland Browns 0
Ryan Wilson: I'm in tropical upstate New York for Christmas, and in addition to not being able to actually see the Steelers, I attended church with the in-laws at 3:30 meaning, that I couldn't even listen to the game on the internets in its entirety. That said, nothing like getting home and finding out Pittsburgh squeaked out a 41-0 win. Which can only mean I should go to church more often.