Each Sunday, 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 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 at New York Giants 17
Al Bogdan: The wind is gusting like crazy in NYC, and reports suggest it's even worse out in the Meadowlands. This is something that NY special teams players have talked about for years, that later in the season, the Meadowlands becomes an incredibly tough place to kick in because of the strong and strange wind patterns in the stadium. Do we have any numbers that would support or refute this idea of the Meadowlands being especially tough on kickers later in the year?
Aaron Schatz: To answer Al's question, I went to my historical sheets for kickoffs, punts, and field goals and looked only at kicks by VISITING kickers where the home team was NYG or NYJ. With my current weather adjustment, the "trendline" for kicking value week to week is flat on kickoffs and punts, and only very slightly downhill on field goals. In other words, the impact of the weather at the Meadowlands seems to be no different than Foxboro, Philly, Chicago, Buffalo, etc.
Al Bogdan: The first game I've really had a chance to watch completely in weeks has been awful in the first half. The wind has made this game nearly unwatchable. Anything thrown outside of the hash marks or more than 10 yards downfield is pretty much uncatchable. Plaxico had two very good catches on bad Manning throws. The touchdown was on an Eli Manning jump ball special that was only a foot over Burress' head (as opposed to the two thrown to him before that which were overthrown by at least two feet apiece). He had another nice catch where he had to come back on a ball that was hung up in the wind.
New York's defense has dominated Tampa's offensive line. The Bucs haven't been able to open up holes for Cadillac Williams to run through, and Gradkowski hasn't had any time to find receivers downfield. Kiwanuka is off to a great start, and Fred Robbins continues to play well in the middle. When Gradkowski has had time, he's been hurt by a number of drops. Could the weather have anything to do with this? The Giants have had a number of tough drops as well, but the notable ones were by Jeremy Shockey, who has been known to drop a pass or two in his lifetime.
Nice play in the second quarter where Ronde Barber stopped his brother from getting his first touchdown of the year.
Russell Levine: Just got back from the Giants game. However bad the wind looked on the field, it was worse in person. Neither team could do much of anything in conditions like that.
Still, I didn't like Gruden's gameplan, throwing 50+ passes with a rookie QB in those conditions in a game they never trailed by more than two scores. The nadir came when he tried a play-action pass on fourth-and-a foot deep in Giants territory with the game still in doubt.
Tampa protected Gradkowski better as the game went on, but I think a lot of that had to do with the tiring Giant D-line that was without its regular rotation because of injuries.
Gradkowski's numbers were bad, but they would have been marginally mediocre had either Michael Clayton or Joey Galloway been able to hold on to some well-thrown deep balls.
Al Bogdan: Tampa's defense did a good job of pressuring Manning early in the second half, but when they stopped getting past the New York line later in the game, Eli was able to find holes in the zone to keep a nice drive alive to seal the game in the fourth quarter.
Arizona Cardinals 14 at Green Bay Packers 31
Bill Barnwell: Earlier I saw that the (mythical?) CBS Fantasy Guru was recommending Edgerrin James over Reuben Droughns (who's playing the Jets) because "James could break out this week."
With what? Are the gold fronts going to give him an allergic reaction suddenly or something? It's not like the Packers rush defense is anything special, but still. Amazing.
(Later, after the game...)
Bill Barnwell: Hey! Edgerrin James had a day that remotely approached replacement level! 24 carries for 84 yards! Too bad Matt Leinart went 14-for-35. Imagine what the Cardinals could do if their skill position players all had a good day.
Tim Gerheim: Uh, what, win a game against somebody better than the 49ers?
Aaron Schatz: Yes, Jamal Lewis goes in that category too. 31 carries, 109 yards. 3.5 yards per carry. I believe Shannon Sharpe referred to this as "a great day running the football."
Atlanta Falcons 29 at Cincinnati Bengals 27
Michael David Smith: Sometimes when I watch Michael Vick do something good, like his long touch pass on the first series against Cincinnati, I just think, "Why can't he do that more often?" I think when a guy has the talent to make great plays, but he doesn't do it often enough, coaching is often the problem.
Jacksonville Jaguars 13 at Philadelphia Eagles 6
Aaron Schatz: The Philadelphia run defense looks awful. Fred Taylor just scored the first Jacksonville touchdown on a counter which Philly bit on so hard that Taylor had a gap three yards wide. The other thing that made the play was a great lead block by Derrick Wimbush on Matt McCoy.
Also, Dan Dierdorf made a good point. We've been down on Taylor for a couple years, and I think we all feel Maurice Jones-Drew is better at this point. But there was an early run where Taylor very patiently waited for his blockers to set up before he turned on the juice to run forward. Dierdorf said, "With age comes wisdom," and there may be something to that argument.
Oh no. Game break. Chicago orange jerseys. Must resist urge to vomit. Gack ... gack...
Tim Gerheim: I actually like the Bears in orange. But maybe I'm just conditioned because of the Texans' "Battle Red" jerseys, which they seem to do well in.
Michael David Smith: OK, I like Ed Hochuli as much as the next guy, but when he turns on his microphone to say there's no roughing the punter penalty because Philadelphia's snap touched the ground, and CBS shows a replay showing the snap never coming close to touching the ground, maybe Greg Gumbel shouldn't describe that as a great explanation.
Mike Tanier: At 1:55 PM EST, I witness my first Eagles first down. I am not a happy dude.
Aaron Schatz: Again today, we see botched screens, just like I mentioned when writing about Denver two weeks ago. This time it was Philadelphia. The RT and RG weren't even close to getting over in front of Buckhalter, and McNabb threw it to him with Nick Greisen sitting on top of Buckhalter, immediate tackle, loss of 6 yards. That's just a terrible decision by McNabb, and that's the other half of this problem teams have with screens this year. Not only are the blockers having an awful time setting up, but the quarterbacks are throwing to guys when the blockers have had an awful time setting up, and that means lost yardage when an incomplete would have been better.
Mike Tanier: Yeah, but look at Donovan's responsibility on that play. It looked like a double screen, or at the very least, McNabb is supposed to set up the screen to the right by looking down to the left. He has to turn and throw to Buckhalter more or less immediately. Shawn Andrews has to block Greisen on that play, and the whole offensive line has to convincingly fake their pass blocks. I only saw the replay, but I get the impression that defenders were drifting along with the blockers instead of pursuing McNabb.
Bill Barnwell: The Bills really struggle with this. J.P. Losman threw an entirely blind screen last year where he looked left and then threw the ball immediately as he turned right, and hit a defensive lineman in the leg where his receiver should have been. I think that's one of the reasons why the Bills took Losman out last year -- screens were a bigger part of their offense last season and Losman simply couldn't handle them.
Mike Tanier: A decade ago, the Packers could execute screens knowing that the defensive linemen would sell out on the pass rush and the linebackers would get hammered. Nowadays, every team has some zone blitz plays in their defensive playbook, and every lineman has a little experience in pass coverage and knows that he has to be ready for a screen. Offenses may just have to be more creative when it comes to setting these things up.
Ned Macey: A week ago, Houston beat Jacksonville by throwing quick passes underneath. I turn on this game near the end of the first quarter, and everything is a long-developing deep pass for the Eagles again. In the Eagles' defense, they almost hit a big one to Reggie Brown that was just overthrown.
By the way, what is the Jacksonville defense's variance?
I've spent the past two years describing the Jacksonville offensive line as pedestrian, mediocre, and every other word that means the same thing. Now I'm starting to believe they've developed into a pretty solid unit. Meester is solid, and Barnes is developing well.
If Pasquarelli is to be believed (Del Rio wants to play Garrard), then my theory is that Del Rio can justify having the world's most conservative game plan. When Leftwich is in, they feel obliged to throw the ball down the field (and, if Simmons is to be believed, wildly ineffectively). Everything here is under 10 yards with 25% screen plays.
Aaron Schatz: Philadelphia's bad luck and karma is getting paid back in full in this game. Unfortunately, it's not in the way they really wanted. They're lucky to only be behind 10-3 when Jacksonville has completely dominated this entire game.
Kyle Brady is a much better blocker than George Wrighster, I think. There were two straight plays on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 where Wrighster really didn't block anyone. I'm not sure why you toss a TE into the FB position on fourth-and-1 when he's not your better blocker.
Mike Tanier: I am an Eagles fan. Every week, I watch my team spot a lead to their opponent, then attempt a frantic comeback in the second half. Every week, it seems like the quarterback leaves the tunnel a little flat and that the first 20 scripted plays really needed a rewrite. Every week I see a few dropped passes or blown routes early in the game, then I see the defense get tired and make mistakes late because they either have been on the field too long or are inexperienced at key positions.
But I will keep my chin up. I was hoping to see 10 wins and a playoff appearance this season. That's still possible now that everyone is healthy (at least Westbrook didn't get hurt this week). It seems like every aspect of the team needs a tweak, but nothing is irrevocably broken. But I think everyone involved with the Eagles needs a week off, including the fans.
Aaron Schatz: You gotta love this league, where Jacksonville can get flattened by Houston one week and destroy Philadelphia the next. And already it has started: David Garrard just wins. Boomer Esiason said on CBS postgame that Garrard was the reason they won the game, and they just play better with him in there. Unbelieveable. Garrard threw for 87 yards. They ran all over a Philly defense that bit on every misdirection and completely forgot how to wrap up tackles, and the defense was all over the Eagles who couldn't hold onto any passes, and Garrard is the reason they won. Sure.
Once again, the Eagles with the mind-boggling two-minute drill today. Why on earth were the Eagles passing the ball in the middle of the field, or taking their time to get up to the line instead of spiking the ball on first down to get some time to prepare for the next play? At least he was smart enough to kick the field goal before trying the onside kick instead of hoping for a touchdown first.
Seattle Seahawks 28 at Kansas City Chiefs 35
Doug Farrar: Bad sequence for the Seahawks on Tony Gonzalez's catch on third-and-7 from the KC 28 with 14:10 left in the first quarter. Huard throws to Gonzo over the middle, where he is covered by Kelly Herndon and Ken Hamlin instead of Julian Peterson, which would seem to be the better matchup. Nobody can tackle him after the catch, but Hamlin apparently throws Gonzalez to the ground after the play is apparently whistled dead and gets the 15-yard flag. Kansas City gets a field goal on the drive. I didn't hear a whistle and Gonzalez was still going forward in the grasp of several players when Hamlin did his little wrestling toss. Given Gonzalez's ability to pick up yards with guys all over him (especially DBs), I'd say it was a questionable judgment call to blow that dead when he was still upright -- if that's what actually happened.
In the first quarter, Walter Jones and Jerramy Stevens got nailed on consecutive false start penalties. Someone must have told Pete Morelli that he throws the fewest flags in the league.
Here's a horrific set of stats for Seahawks fans: Since Shaun Alexander has been out, Seattle ranks last in rushing plays, rushing yards and rushing first downs. They weren't great with him this season with that depleted line, but they're horrid without him.
Right now, backup fullback Josh Parry is a far better blocker than Mack Strong. Some have speculated that Strong's problem this season has been those around him, but Parry is chipping AND getting out in pass patterns in a way that Strong just isn't. I have seen far too many rushing plays die behind Strong this season.
Little-known fact about Washington native Damon Huard: When he was waived by Cincinnati in 1996, he came back to Seattle and worked for Football Northwest, the organization that helped keep the Seahawks out of L.A. with a new stadium after Paul Allen agreed to buy the team.
Julian Peterson just wasted Larry Johnson and Jordan Black on the sack/fumble that gave the Seahawks their first touchdown. Chad Brown may have been Seattle's all-time best free agent acquisition ... until now.
Bill Moore: I just turned on the TV, and Larry Johnson is having another productive week. Johnson stepped out of bounds with a first down on the 1.5-yard line after five runs in the drive for 37 yards. Seattle did an excellent job of stuffing him twice, with LBs Bentley and Peterson penetrating the line of scrimmage to stop him from leaping over the pile. However, you aren't going to keep him out of the end zone from that distance three straight times. He powered his way (with strength as opposed to leaping) for his second touchdown on the day.
Doug Farrar: There was fear that with the Chiefs' own O-line troubles, Gonzalez's stats would suffer this year, but he doesn't get enough credit as a willing blocker. He did a nice job on Peterson on Larry Johnson's 38-yard first quarter run. That said, Seattle's defense is giving up far too many big plays this season without the help. This was among the best of the red zone defenses in the NFL last year, and they currently rank 31st.
I don't know who's calling Seattle's defense right now, but I wish they'd return the 2005 version of John Marshall back to us. The cornerbacks are playing so far off the line, and the Seahawks are playing the most base, vanilla zone I've seen since 2004 from this team. Huard and Larry Johnson are just picking it apart.
Seneca Wallace is putting some nice things together when he has time to -- his mobility is a plus (geez, he's fast when he pulls it down) but he's really trying to stay in the pocket and read his progressions. He just pump-faked the Chiefs out of their 22 shoes and threw a pretty ball to Deion Branch, who one-handed it in the air and kept control before going out of bounds as he was turning around, down to the KC 3-yard line with 6:08 left in the half. Just an amazing play by Branch.
Note to NFL quarterbacks: If you are facing the Seahawks, and you have third-and-long, just heave the ball over the middle. Your guy will have 20 yards of open space all around him. Trust me.
Toward the end of the first half, Kansas City is just ripping off chunks of yardage. On Grandmama Larry's second TD of the day, Lofa Tatupu completely whiffed on a tackle. Damon Huard threw for 165 yards in the first half with a groin injury.
Remember the NYG-KC game last year when Tiki Barber ran for about 500 yards, and 400 of them were based on the worst tackling you've ever seen from the Chiefs? This is the worst tackling I've seen since then, and I don't understand it. This Seattle defense has more talent than last year -- they re-signed Rocky Bernard, signed Julian Peterson, didn't really downgrade in the secondary, drafted Kelly Jennings, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill are a year older -- but the defense has been getting worse each week. It's partially scheme and partially technique, but I'm starting to form question marks about the overall effort, which takes me back to 2004. Not at all good.
Total Garo Yepremian moment here. KC holder, punter Dustin Colquitt, throws a floober (called a fumble on the review) on a bad field goal snap, which is batted and returned 60 yards for a touchdown by Kelly Herndon. Why do people who should never handle a ball throw it on plays like this? You're up 13 at the end of the third quarter, big guy. What the hell are you thinking?
When rookie LG Rob Sims was in the game, the offense seemed to go better. Mike Holmgren re-inserted Chris Spencer at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and Seneca Wallace was sacked almost immediately. The difference? Sims was a guard at Ohio State, while Spencer is a converted center who played some guard at Ole Miss. The Seahawks have been upended over and over this season by their inability to assess the guard position. They undervalued Steve Hutchinson horribly, overrated Floyd Womack almost comically, were quite cavalier about Spencer's ability to slip in problem-free next to Walter Jones, and now they're relying on a rookie. A good rookie, but still...
Mike Tanier: A floober? Is Colquitt the Absent Minded Professor?
Doug Farrar: He was on that play!
Michael David Smith: Ty Law drops what would have been a game-clinching interception, then falls down to allow Seattle to score the go-ahead touchdown. Not a good series for him.
Ned Macey: When Ty Law is considered for the Hall of Fame, this series won't be on his highlight film. That could have been the easiest interception of his career. When he fell down, I think there was a pump-fake and maybe Law wanted to make up for the missed interception.
Bill Moore: Interesting: According to the announcers, Seattle gave comments during the week that felt they could challenge Ty Law in man-to-man coverage. That probably goes against common wisdom, but it is similar to things we have said since last year. Wallace just pump faked to Darrell Jackson, which caused Ty Law to fall down. Jackson was so wide open that he was able to camp out under the poorly thrown bomb and bring it in for a TD (to take the lead). It's probably not what Seattle game-planned, but it does highlight why Law spent so long on the FA market last year. This play was moments after Law dropped a gift INT.
Doug Farrar: Law got zapped on that pump fake, as well.
I like what I have seen from Wallace. He made his share of mistakes -- overthrowing deep balls, throwing early/late in quick routes -- and he was telegraphing all the way on the Surtain interception, not to mention the one that Law dropped. You can tell that he's practiced that little rollout and throw to the right about 5,000 times. He does need to realize that going out of bounds is the best way -- the guy's 5'11", 193, and his backup is Gibran Hamdan. Who? Exactly.
Bill Barnwell: Who?!? Try the charter member of the NFL Europe Hall of Fame, young man.
Mike Tanier: Never get too caught up in a quarterback's first start.
Bill Moore: KC's Jared Allen got an essentially game-ending INT, and rather than getting down decided he wanted to run for glory. One problem: Deion Branch stripped the ball before Allen went out of bounds. This isn't Monday morning QBing: I couldn't believe he was running with the ball. Key heads-up play by Branch. Seattle, down by eight, is trying to tie the game with 2:00 left.
Doug Farrar: Pete Morelli seemed to make the right call in overturning the ruling on the field that Deion Branch didn't tear the ball away from Jared Allen after Allen intercepted Seneca Wallace. If Seattle's defense showed the kind of determination that Branch didâ€¦
Seattle was in that game more than they should have been, thanks to Ty Law's butterfingers and banana peel feet, not to mention Colquitt's ill-advised shovel pass. The problem for Seattle is their defense, and what to do about it. This current defense will keep the Seahawks out of the playoffs -- and it should be the thing that gets them in, from a talent standpoint. Michael David Smith wrote in PFP 2006 that Seattle should see a defensive upturn as the offense regresses. There is no reason, from a personnel standpoint, that this shouldn't be happening.
Tim Gerheim: That Deion Branch strip of Jared Allen was an amazing play. It was like the perfect storm. Both players were falling out of bounds as it happened, but they both had both feet in bounds while the exchange was taking place. If either one were out of bounds, the turnover wouldn't have counted. It wasn't ruled a fumble on the field, but it was possible to tell for sure from replay that Branch got it only because you could see the ball in his left arm. He originally stripped it with his right, which Allen was still basically holding as they both fell out of bounds. But since the ball was visibly in his left arm, you knew he and not Allen had it. It's also pretty amazing that they had a camera angle that could catch that along the sideline. And of course there's the matter of the inexplicable interception return to begin with. It's more likely, I would reckon, for every one of the things that happened not to happen. For them all to happen the unlikely way, all at the same time, more or less independently, is amazing.
Baltimore Ravens 35 at New Orleans Saints 22
Ryan Wilson: Reggie Bush is on fire. He fumbled on the Saints' first possession near midfield (the Ravens eventually scored on a McNair five-yard QB draw), and he just threw a pick in the end zone on a halfback option to kill a nice New Orleans drive.
Doug Farrar: Wow. Could the "Keep Choppin' Wood" award be decided this early in the day?
Ryan Wilson: McNair just threw a ball directly at two Saints defenders -- both of whom whiffed on it -- and Todd Heap gets a touchdown surprise with seconds to go in the first half. Man, this Billick guy really is a genius.
Mike Tanier: I hear Billick has two "tip drill" plays to Clayton drawn up just for this week.
Ryan Wilson: The Ravens defense is manhandling the Saints. Brees, pressured in his own end zone, throws a pick-for-six. Reggie Bush has been off his game all day and he just tried to bounce a running play outside for a three-yard loss. As Dick Engberg so aptly noted, this is the difference between the Pac-10 and the NFL.
Tim Gerheim: Believe it or not, I called that pick-six. I go to the sports bar on Sundays with some Saints fans, and their fatalism had set in hardcore by the time that drive began. "Saints are coming back to earth" and the like. They responded to the Ravens' downing a punt at about the two-yard line by essentially rolling their eyes knowingly, and I said, "This drive has pick-six written all over it."
The bloom is also off the Reggie Bush rose for those guys. His interception in the end zone was the beginning of the end of their optimism.
Aaron Schatz: DVOA 1, my gut 0.
Ryan Wilson: And the Marques Colston legend grows. He's got a 53-yarder today and just scored a TD on a 47-yarder.
Aaron Schatz: I had Reggie Bush in our staff loser league. He had to go and pull the f%^&in' penalty after I was so psyched about that interception getting me -2 points.
San Francisco 49ers 10 at Chicago Bears 41
Doug Farrar: Does anyone know the NFL record for points scored in the first quarter? I know the Bears scored a franchise-record 24 against San Francisco.
Michael David Smith: The record is 35 by the Packers over the Browns in 1967.
Mike Tanier: The Bears took a 24-0 lead before the Niners executed their 8th play from scrimmage.
Aaron Schatz: See, now, if the 49ers came back from this, THAT would be the greatest comeback in NFL history. That would blow the Monday night Chicago comeback out of the water.
Mike Tanier: The score was 34-0 before the Niners got their second first down. This is Troy Aikman's fault. He wrote another "Norv Turner is a great coach" apology this week in The Sporting News.
Tim Gerheim: The first half of this game was like one of my better days on Tecmo Super Bowl.
Will Carroll: And the Bears D doesn't appear to miss Mike Brown (despite Tanier giving me some stats that showed up on this week's Fantasy Show). Is anyone seeing any effect there?
Jaws raved about Alex Smith last week, but I'm not seeing any change. He's still yippy back there.
Mike Tanier: Lets wait until the Bears face an NFL team to see the effects of Brown's loss.
Tim Gerheim: I was watching the game in a bar, so I have no idea what any of the commentators ever said. Did they explain why they were constantly coming in and out of commercial with shots of pigeons on the field? I know I saw more pigeons than 49ers points; I might have seen more pigeons than Bears points. Why was this supposed to be interesting to me, beyond just being totally weird?
Houston Texans 22 at Tennessee Titans 28
Bill Moore: David Carr has been lifted for Sage Rosenfels. Ouch!
Bill Barnwell: Was Carr hurt or was he benched? His numbers aren't that bad....
Bill Moore: Three turnovers including two fumbles led to Carr being pulled from the game. In similar fashion to Tony Romo's game entry last week, Rosenfels' first pass was picked off by Pac-Man Jones on the sideline. Oh, the misplaced love for the backup quarterback!
Ned Macey: Good thing I told my wife to pick up David Carr to replace an injured Hasselbeck in fantasy football. Ned Macey, fantasy guru.
By the way, the Titans seem to have gotten their defense together the last few weeks. If they finish 5-11, will Jeff Fisher be fired? If so, how many teams will fire their coach and hope to pick Fisher up?
Mike Tanier: According to Florio at Pro Football Talk, Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder are going to arm-wrestle for Fisher's services at the end of the year.
Doug Farrar: Meanwhile, Sage Rosenfels goes 18-of-25 for 186 yards and three TDs after replacing David Carr. Huh? And who had Owen Daniels in their league?
Bill Moore: Ned, your lack of guru-ness beats my forgetfulness. I forgot to replace Hasselbeck with my backup -- Michael Vick. Whoops.
Al Bogdan: I'm going to top you all this week when I lose with Larry Johnson in my lineup. I also dropped Owen Daniels last week.
Aaron Schatz: I'm sorry, but Houston lost. Clearly, all Sage Rosenfels knows how to do is lose.
Tim Gerheim: It's bittersweet as a Texans fan to watch Sage Rosenfels give the Texans offense a big lift. It's nice to see the offense get a lift, but the implications are horrifying. Is David Carr actually no good? Was it a mistake to pass on Vince Young or (god forbid -- I just don't like him) Matt Leinart? Are we going to be in the Brady Quinn derby? Is it going to be another half-decade before we have a chance to be a really good team? Are we the Cleveland Browns? Are the hopeless, hapless Texans not buried in our past with Charley Casserly and Dom Capers?
Here's something I didn't understand at the time. The Texans were trying to come back, and they scored to make it 28-22 with about 2:00 left. They went for two. Why? If they get it, it's 28-24 and you still need a touchdown. Sure, if the Titans get a field goal, you're only down seven. But that doesn't matter for a couple reasons. One, you have to onside kick it anyway (and the Texans did). If the Titans get the ball with two minutes, you lose whether they get a field goal or not (and that's what happened). Two, if you go for one and make it, and the Titans get a field goal, you're down eight, and can still tie with a TD and two-point conversion. The only think I can imagine is that the Texans were thinking about kicking deep if they made it, since then it wasn't so bad if the Titans moved the ball and got a field goal. We'll never know, because they missed the two-point try. It didn't actually hurt anything, but it mystifies me.
Pittsburgh Steelers 13 at Oakland Raiders 20
Ryan Wilson: I liken Roethlisberger to an old television set. If it's a little fuzzy, you hit it once and it works great. You hit it again and it's back to being fuzzy. He's got two interceptions in the first quarter -- one returned for a TD. I think it's safe to say he's currently a little fuzzy.
Michael David Smith: When was the last time you saw Randy Moss do something really impressive? From what I've seen of this game, he just isn't getting open, and he missed what should have been a relatively easy catch that would have given Oakland a first down on a third-and-long.
Michael David Smith: It's time to bench Roethlisberger.
Aaron Schatz: Seriously, Andrew Walter has 51 passing yards and has been sacked something like five times. I'm not watching that game but WHAT THE HELL?
Ryan Wilson: MDS is right. Roethlisberger just threw his fourth pick, this one for a 100-yard TD return. The rest of his throws have been awful. I mean, they've been so bad that somewhere, Tommy Maddox is saying, in between giggling uncontrollably, "Now that's an awful interception." I'm not sure why you even rush Ben back for this game, especially after Batch has proven to be a more than adequate backup. Thank god for the Arizona Cardinals; at least the Steelers won't be the first team to lose to the Raiders this year. At this point, it's moral victories.
The Steelers couldn't run against the Raiders for the same reason they couldn't run against the Falcons last week. Both teams had eight and nine guys standing around the line of scrimmage preferring to let Roethlisberger beat them through the air. Last week, Ben/Batch picked apart the Falcons' secondary; this week ... not so much.
Bill Moore: I thought Oakland was toast when Parker scored the screen TD. It was so typical of a bad team. Parker was headed towards the sideline -- shuttled by Raiders defenders. It appeared to me that the Raiders said, "Ok, he is going out of bounds," and let up. Parker cuts back in and takes it another 10-15 yards into the end zone.
I've said this before, but DirecTV's Red Zone Channel is just plain AWESOME. It cuts out commercials and special teams, and it jumps between games at the most exciting points. It's solid football if you aren't emotionally tied to one game.
Indianapolis Colts 34 at Denver Broncos 31
Aaron Schatz: Maybe I'm just noticing it when it doesn't work, but I keep seeing quarterbacks find the holes in the Cover-2 defense whenever the offensive line is not overwhelmed by the pass rush. It seems like everybody Jake Plummer throws to is open. I have no idea how the Cover-2 can defend that post-corner that David Kircus ran. If the deep safety bites on the post, the corner is wide open. Even if the safety sees the corner, isn't the safety behind Kircus, leading to an easy grab?
Bill Barnwell: It's a risky throw, though, since an underthrown ball is prime interception material. That being said, the corner route and the curls behind the MLB but in front of the safeties are the two weak points of the Cover-2.
Will Carroll: The Tampa-2 allows the Colts (and many teams) to get away with poor corners. They don't have to think or be able to stay man-for-man with guys. The fact that the Colts are way down the depth chart and losing speed with every injury is being shown here.
Aaron Schatz: Agreed. Doesn't explain why Leinart was able to pick apart the Bears' Cover-2, but you are absolutely right on the Colts.
Will Carroll: Leinart has seen it. I would guess that colleges play a lot more zone. They don't have the athletes in most cases to cover the talent differential that we see. USC had essentially a pro team out there, so I'm guessing Leinart saw a ton of zone. I'd also say that the lack of film on Leinart probably hurt the Bears.
Michael David Smith: I like how Phil Simms condescendingly told Jim Nantz the Plummer fumble wasn't a reviewable play ... right before they reviewed it.
Aaron Schatz: Denver has now given up its first and second red zone touchdowns of the season. Hard to blame the defense for that second one, though. You aren't supposed to start a defensive drive on your own 12-yard line.
Bill Moore: Have you ever seen a feature back (or co-feature, like Mike Bell is today) "vulture" a couple touchdowns like Bell did from Cecil Sapp today? Sapp busted two long, unexpected runs to the 1-yard line only to have Bell leap in.
Aaron Schatz: Somewhere in America, Roc Alexander is feeling vindicated. "See, I don't suck that bad -- Peyton Manning does the same thing to EVERY Denver cornerback not named Champ Bailey!"
Unless the Broncos re-signed Alexander this week and gave him Darrent Williams' jersey. Which is possible. Given the current score of Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 6, I can believe anything is possible. For all I know, somebody replaced Jake Plummer with a pixie from magic land.
Ned Macey: Tommy Maddox should call Roc Alexander and the two of them should share a beer. When was the last play Manning even bothered to look at Harrison/Bailey?
Aaron Schatz: This game has turned into a battle to see which is more powerful, the Peyton Manning offense, or the colossal power of suck eminating from the galaxy-sized Hoover that is the Indianapolis run defense.
Ned Macey: Everyone is going to be coming out with the Mike Bell is better than Tatum Bell thing, but as we said all week, the Colts are susceptible up the middle. Tatum likes to run outside and is hesitant running up the middle. No surprise to see Mike having a big day.
Ok, I think Peyton's un-clutch rap is undeserved, but did Simms just call him one of the most clutch players in history?
Russell Levine: I could be wrong, but I think Simms was referring to Vinatieri.
Bill Barnwell: I am watching the ESPN Gamecast of the Broncos-Colts game and when Elam just kicked the field goal to tie it, a little message came up that said FIELD GOAL!
They should've gone all out and had the Tecmo Bowl graphics for it, too. Now that would be worth my ESPN Insider money.
Mike Tanier: The Colts just look so calm and collected during their two minute drill. They line up so quickly. The play is disseminated so quickly. They were able to execute short passes over the middle and even a running play with two minutes to go without ever wasting a second of clock. It seemed like every play had a purpose.
By the way, the Broncos have a lineman named Pears. Are they now shopping for players from the Harry and David catalog? Will they find a running back named Moose Munch?
Aaron Schatz: I will say that at no point during this game did I say, "Wow, the Broncos really miss Matt Lepsis." They seemed to often have two guys on Freeney, so the new LT had help, but Pears was fine in general.
Tim Gerheim: I didn't see much of this game, but I caught Freeney on one play and it made me laugh out loud. He was double-teamed, essentially an inside guy and an outside guy. He executed two straight spin moves to the inside, and all he managed to do was disengage from the outside guy and wind up right in front of the inside guy. Probably dizzy. Then Jake Plummer threw the ball. It was high art.
Ned Macey: Some readers seemed to get annoyed with our whole rock/paper/scissors thing, but I think it is important in a larger context. The point is that match-ups matter. Looking at this admittedly from the Indianapolis perspective, they are consistently able to score points on a Denver defense that has been just as good as the Patriots defense. Denver can't get pressure from their front four, and without pressure from your front four, you can't beat the Colts. Manning, Harrison, and Wayne are just too good. If you rush three and cover with eight or get pressure, then a strong secondary can make them look very average.
The Patriots were able to do this when they had a strong secondary. Given the current state of New England's pass defense, they may not have the people necessary to execute a good gameplan (see last year's game). This is a long way of saying New England's defense is demonstrably weaker than Denver's this year, but I would suspect the Colts are under 30 points next week.
Aaron Schatz: You want some inside runners who are going to pound on the Colts all day? I give you Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. My god. I mean, the Colts might as well sign up Linda Lovelace, because otherwise their linebackers could not possibly suck any more than they did today.
New York Jets 13 at Cleveland Browns 20
Bill Moore: Third-and-3 from the 7. The Jets split Pennington out wide with rookie WR Brad Smith in the shotgun. This wasn't Peyton Manning walking the line to throw people off, it was Pennington as wide receiver. Smith ran a QB draw. What exactly was Mangini trying to do? They announcers claimed the Jets were trying to get the defense off-balance and get the linebackers to vacate their positions behind the line. Why would they do that? Makes no sense. Seems like Mangini trickery for trickery's sake.
Al Bogdan: Replay question for everyone. If the game is broadcast in HD, do the refs get to see the replay in HD for challenges? The reason I ask is that unfortunately I'm watching the Cleveland-Jets game, which CBS chose not to broadcast in HD. Josh Cribbs, the Browns return man, just whiffed on a punt, which the Jets recovered. The call on the field was that Cribbs missed the ball, but from the replay, it was tough to tell either way. Maybe if it was in HD, however, it would have been clearer. Potentially game changing play that may have been ruled differently had the game be broadcast in HD.
Why wouldn't CBS broadcast this one in HD anyway? I know it's the Browns and the Jets, but it is being broadcast in the NYC area, which has a decent number of potential viewers. What game did they choose to broadcast in HD instead of this one? Houston-Tennessee?
Bill Barnwell: Bill: Jets ran that play last game too. It doesn't do anything or work, ever, really.
Al: I seem to recall someone saying the replay booth wasn't HD-enabled.
Will Carroll: Replay is not HD enabled. And the reason the game is not in HD is that CBS doesn't have enough HD production trucks. They have them on order, but no one has all the ones they want. Exceptionally expensive.
Aaron Schatz: The Jets-Browns game makes DVOA look as smart as the Eagles-Jaguars game makes DVOA look stupid.
Bill Moore: The Jets got screwed. Don't get me wrong, the rules are the rules, and it's a split second decision. However, they got screwed. It's their own fault. They made so many mistakes during the game to eventually put themselves in a position in which they could get screwed. So it goes.
Aaron Schatz: Explanation for those of us watching IND-DEN?
Bill Moore: Sorry, I presumed by this point, many would have seen the highlight.
Seven minutes to go, Pennington threw a terrible interception. Browns were unable to do anything with it, and punted away. From the 47, Pennington completes passes to get them to the 30. One short pass and two incompletes later and its fourth-and-4 with 1:06 left. Pennington threw a pretty good pass to Baker leaping one yard deep in the end zone in the front right corner. Kamerion Wimbley and the safety drill Baker in the air and knock him out of bounds. He clearly flew 2+ yards in the air before landing out of bounds. The ref fails to call pushed out, and it's not reviewable. Game over.
Dallas Cowboys 35 at Carolina Panthers 14
Bill Moore: Al Michaels: â€œThere are certain positions in American sports [that are legendary]: Centerfield New York Yankees, Center Boston Celtics, Quarterback Dallas Cowboysâ€? Uh, can anyone even name a Center of the Celtics since Robert Parish retired?
Aaron Schatz: Worth noting that rookie safety Pat Watkins not only did not start tonight, but is completely inactive. Fear the wrath of the Tuna.
Ian Dembsky: I hate to use a joke that's been used before, but it seriously seems like Dallas is auditioning Bill Parcells for Weekend at Bernie's 3. Has he actually reacted to anything? False starts, turnovers, questionable calls by the officials ... he just stares into space like Art Shell.
Now Keyshawn, Steve Smith, and DeShaun Foster all have key drops on perfect passes. I wonder if they were watching the Tampa Bay receivers earlier today.
Aaron Schatz: Curious what the rest of you think of Romo. He does look pretty good in there, definitely fewer mistakes than Bledsoe and more composure in the face of a pass rush.
Doug Farrar: New Carolina special teams coach: Santonio Holmes.
Romo does look better; he seems to understand the time his line gives him in a way that Bledsoe never will.
As I just finished writing that, Jake Delhomme went through a very Bledsoe-like progression -- held onto the ball too long, threw late to his first read into double coverage, and got intercepted. All he needed was a star on his helmet and cement feet.
Ian Dembsky: I love what I see from Tony Romo. He gets the ball to T.O. and Jason Witten. He moves around to avoid the rush. He runs on key third downs. He has pretty nice touch on the ball.
This is the first game T.O. went over 100 yards this season; how can that be? Jason Witten has shown tons of life when he's been absent all season, mainly due to having to stay in to block for Bledsoe. Now he's tearing it up all over the field. Things are looking up in Big D.
Bits 'n' Pieces
Ian Dembsky: Aaron, I remember you wondering why defensive players were shooting free throws after sacking the QB. After interviewing Michael Strahan for NFL Gameday, Michael Irvin reports that he asked about the hoop shooting, and Strahan indicated it's to represent that they're "ballin." Glad that's cleared up.
Michael David Smith: Is it just me, or are announcers way too forgiving of receivers who drop passes? It seems to me that if your job is NFL receiver and you get both hands on a ball, you have to catch it. But today I think I've heard five different announcers blame the quarterback for a drop by saying the ball wasn't perfectly on target. Some day I might write a long piece about my theory that receivers' hands are getting worse as teams are paying far too much attention to speed and height when drafting and nowhere near as much attention to the simple question of whether the guy can catch the ball.
Bill Moore: Well sadly, that may actually be true.
Bill Barnwell: I'm with MDS on this one. I've been very vocal in my criticism of Chris Chambers; he's gone through five or six quarterbacks with terrible numbers when it comes to advanced metrics along with a catch percentage that's really low.
This year, he was supposed to finally have a good quarterback, and even if Harrington and Culpepper aren't an upgrade on Fiedler, Feeley, and Brian Griese, Chambers has -3.4 DPAR, a -4.6% DVOA, and is the 73rd-ranked receiver out of 74 that qualify. He's caught 43% of his passes.
We give DeShaun Foster flak for being a guy who shows up in highlight reels but isn't successful consistently, but Chris Chambers is the same player.
Ned Macey: MDS, I think you answered your own question about the drops. The best hands in the world don't matter if you can't get open. That's why I think our catch percentage is such a valuable stat. I think it is closely comparable to a baseball defender. If he has better range but makes more errors, he is likely more valuable. A receiver needs to make plays, and the occasional drop can be easily offset by the ability to get open more often.
Chris Chambers sadly is not open all that often and still drops the ball.
Later This Week
Any Given Sunday: Raiders over Steelers
Every Play Counts: Baltimore linebackers