compiled by Doug Farrar
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 2008. 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.
San Diego Chargers 24 at Kansas City Chiefs 10
Mike Tanier: This was basically the LaDainian Tomlinson show. Just who plays for the Chiefs anymore? Fourteen months ago I could rattle off their whole starting offense. Now I don't know the linemen, don't know the backup receivers. Is 89 still Jason Dunn? Their offense without L.J. is a series of seven-step drops and sacks, with the occasional 12-yard pass to Gonzo, who remains amazing.
Jacksonville Jaguars 25 at Indianapolis Colts 28
Aaron Schatz: Great example in this game of how teams often don't specifically match up their best cornerback against your best receiver. Pretty much the whole day, Rashean Mathis was on Anthony Gonzalez with Brian Williams on Reggie Wayne. I don't think any of us thinks Williams is better than Mathis, but Mathis is the left cornerback and Williams is the right cornerback and the Jaguars don't often deviate from that.
David Garrard and Peyton Manning were both completely on in the second half, except for one throw each, where each one had a single red zone interception. Neither defense could stop either offense. With Tony Ugoh and Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark back, the Colts are fine, even without Marvin Harrison. Reggie Wayne made some great catches on one side. On the other side, they kept crossing Gonzalez and Clark to rub a defender off and create an open man, usually Clark, and the Jaguars were just completely confused as to who was supposed to cover who. The only problem really left for the Colts offense is Charles Johnson. Again he struggled today, this time playing right tackle instead of left tackle. The Jags got a lot of pressure on Manning, and it was generally coming from that side. We were all so high on Johnson after he played well in the Super Bowl, but looking back, I think that was less about Johnson being a hidden gem and more about just how much the Bears pass rush declined late in the year without Tommie Harris.
As for the Jags, Garrard was hitting tiny windows on throw after throw. If I have not said it enough, he is excellent and we were just completely, totally wrong about him -- although I don't think anybody expected him to play this well. On the ground, Fred Taylor and MJD were twisting away from Colts defenders -- although unlike last year, the Colts at least stuffed the Jags' running backs at the line a few times so it wasn't insane.
Because the two offenses were playing so well, I think Jack Del Rio made a mistake in kicking away with 2:40 left and hoping his defense could stop the Colts and get the ball back. I think you have to try the onside kick. If you fail at the onside kick, well, you're stuck ... hoping the defense can stop the Colts and get the ball back.
Two announcing notes:
1) Listening to radio to start the game, driving back from taking the leaves to the compost heap, whoever was doing the radio broadcast said something about Paul Spicer having 29 hurries. I've complained about this before and I will complain again. Where the hell does that number come from? If somebody is out there tracking hurries, other than the FO game charting project, why won't they share it with the rest of us? And whoever is tracking this -- STATS, Elias, the Jags coaches, whoever -- what the hell do they count as a hurry? The FO game charting project has Spicer with five hurries through 8.5 charted games. FIVE.
2) Will someone explain to me why Jim Nantz constantly says "he gets the handle" instead of "he gets the handoff?"
Michael David Smith: The ref gave Jacksonville a free timeout by allowing Del Rio to throw his challenge flag, take the time to have his offense regroup and decide what to do on fourth down, and then say he didn't want to challenge the spot of the third down play. If a coach throws his flag and then decides he doesn't want to challenge, it should be a timeout. Otherwise, why not just throw your flag every time you want to take some time to make a decision, then once you've got the right play called, tell the ref you've changed your mind and no longer want to challenge?
Does anyone know the rule on this? I just don't understand how it's possible that a coach can stop the game any time he wants by throwing a challenge flag and then saying he changed his mind.
Doug Farrar: I've seen officials tell coaches that they should pick up their flags because what they wanted to challenge was unchallengeable (saving them a wasted timeout), but never a coach getting away with picking it up himself.
Vince Verhei: I don't think it's a matter of the referees telling coaches to pick up their flags. I think, by rule, the refs are not allowed to do anything other than tell the coach the play is not reviewable, here is your flag back. This does not change your main point, that this rule could be exploited by coaches to get free timeouts.
Aaron Schatz: Actually, along the same lines, I was shocked that Del Rio didn't challenge that early Garrard fumble on the basis of the tuck rule. I thought it was clear that Garrard's arm was going forward, no matter who recovered the fumble.
Ned Macey: On that play, I thought it was the old empty hand play, but conceivably his arm had just started going forward on the back. I always forget the rules on challenges -- does the ref look at the whole play or just what was challenged? Along those lines, on the Utecht "incompletion" in this game, did Dungy ask for that or did he originally hope for a down-by-contact which was my initial hope? Or does the ref look at both?
It is weird to watch a Jacksonville team whose offense is better than their defense. When the Colts got the ball after the kickoff at 2:30, I was pretty confident they could get a first down, but if they had punted, I would have been pretty worried about holding out the Jaguars.
The Colts miss Dwight Freeney. They'll be fine in the regular season against Baltimore/Oakland/Tennessee/Houston, but any team that likes to throw the ball down the field (i.e., Pittsburgh or New England) will have a field day. Once the Jaguars realized Mathis was playing right defensive end, the pass rush disappeared. (The loss of Raheem Brock didn't help.) Garrard had all day and could hit eight- to 15-yard passes at will.
I just want to point out that the Jaguars have had serious injury problems this year as well. Garrard, Brad Meester, and Mike Peterson off the top of my head, plus the Marcus Stroud suspension. Reggie Hayward went out early in this game, which certainly hurt their pass rush (which came exclusively with the blitz.)
Ditto on Aaron's mention of Mathis staying on the defensive left side. If you play a zone defense, then maybe not moving your cornerbacks makes sense, but the Jags were playing a good deal of man, and Mathis eliminated Gonzalez, while Wayne destroyed them.
At the same time, after watching T.O. on Thanksgiving, I must mention that the numbers of the Colts receivers must be decreased by their insistence on lining them up in the same spot on 95 percent of the plays.
Finally, the Colts rub plays included a blatant pick by Dallas Clark (I believe) caught on film. Look for the offensive pass interference sometime in the next two weeks (a la Randy Moss now being called for offensive pass interference on every jump ball).
Mike Tanier: I saw London. I saw France. I saw Joseph Addai's ripped pants. And became blind.
Buffalo Bills 17 at Washington Redskins 16
Sean McCormick: Just caught one pass play where Chris Samuels took Aaron Schobel and drive-blocked him into the middle of the field. On a passing play. That's something you don't see everyday.
Ryan Wilson: Wow. With eight seconds left and Rian Lindell facing a 51-yard field goal to win it, the Skins called a timeout. And then they did it again. That's a 15-yard penalty, first down. Lindell striped the 36-yarder. Man.
Sean McCormick: Joe Gibbs looking absolutely clueless. Rian Lindell had to kick a 51-yarder to win the game. Gibbs calls timeout (the kick was good). When Lindell lined up for the second attempt, Gibbs called another timeout. Which is illegal. 15-yard unsportsmanlike, and Lindell nailed the 36-yarder to win.
Aaron Schatz: In Gibbs' defense, nobody on the Washington sideline has been thinking clearly all week, and with good reason. This sucked. Everyone outside of Buffalo was rooting for the Skins today. At the same time, I know how the Bills must feel. What happened to Sean Taylor is not their fault, and it isn't like they're supposed to go out there and lie down to create a feel-good story.
Mike Tanier: So the Redskins ran their first play in honor of Sean Taylor with 10 men on the field? The result was a 22-yard run by Fred Jackson. I don't know what to think. Maybe if both teams decided to run 10-on-10 for one play, I could see that. What if it turned into a 60-yard touchdown? Some things are much more important than football, but once the whistle blows and the game is actually being played, maybe the tributes should be limited to things that don't affect the outcome of the game. Especially when your team still has playoff hopes.
Doug Farrar: I'm inclined to give the Redskins a complete and total pass for anything they may have done wrong in this game, and I think it's absolutely shameful that the NFL can't somehow reschedule their Thursday night game. The Redskins have to bury their teammate on Monday, fly from Miami back to Washington, get one full day of practice, and do this all over again on a short week? Really? A league that has no trouble uprooting two teams and sending them to Europe on behalf of Roger Goodell's mission to convert the world to American football can't get the logistics together to move this game, which a great many people won't see because it's on the NFL Network and called by the worst broadcaster in sports history, to Saturday night? Are you freakin' kidding me?
Ryan Wilson: I agree about rescheduling the Redskins' Thursday night game, but I don't know how Joe Gibbs couldn't know the rule about calling consecutive timeouts. Obviously, it's been a very trying week, but that's just jaw-dropping.
San Francisco 49ers 14 at Carolina Panthers 31
Doug Farrar: You know, it's a shame when a player as good as rookie linebacker Patrick Willis has to play on the worst team in football. Willis has had 17 solo tackles in each of his last two games. You can see what Mike Nolan was talking about when he compared Willis to DeMeco Ryans at the Senior Bowl.
Detroit Lions 10 at Minnesota Vikings 42
Michael David Smith: My favorite pregame show stat: The Vikings are 3-0 in games in which Tarvaris Jackson throws a 60-yard touchdown pass. I guess that means the Brad Childress strategy of telling Jackson before games, "Don't throw any 60-yard touchdown passes" was a mistake.
Mike Tanier: If they complete a bomb from the 41-yard line, Childress will say, "Crap crap crap!"
Ned Macey: The Lions are going to be accused of "fading," but it is almost exclusively their schedule. Against teams in the top half of the DVOA rankings, they are 3-2 at home. Their other three wins are two wins over Chicago (25th in DVOA) and at Oakland (29th). The only disappointing result of this 0-4 second half is losing a winnable game against the Giants. Otherwise, they've been playing mediocre teams on the road (who've beaten them all year) and the much-better Packers at home.
Vince Verhei: The highlights of this game came up on NFL Gameday as I was editing Audibles late Sunday night. I don't even know how to describe what I saw Adrian Peterson do over and over again. It's like he was playing Madden and the Lions were playing 10-Yard Fight. And the offensive line was opening big gaping holes so Peterson could gain good yardage before making a single cut. And I think Lions fans must now know what it was like for other teams to play against Barry Sanders.
Aaron Schatz: Wait... Barry Sanders had holes to run through?
New York Jets 40 at Miami Dolphins 13
Sean McCormick: Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is in a play-calling rut -- he invariably calls a run after any big pass play. Defenses have caught on, and those runs have to be averaging one yard at best.
The Jets are pulling out a lot of gadget plays when they get in the red zone. Their first touchdown came off a play where Kellen Clemens motioned out of the backfield and the ball was snapped directly to Leon Washington, who ran a quarterback draw for a touchdown. Later they lined up Brad Smith as the quarterback in the shotgun and ran him off tackle, and they scored a second touchdown by lining up Smith as a back in the shotgun and bringing him underneath the coverage to be the primary receiver on a play action bootleg. Miami is having a lot of trouble with the motion and the tricky personnel packages.
Miami's defense, on the other hand, is having a lot of success with their blitz packages. They're overloading one side, usually the left, and getting at least one blitzer in clean. Part of the problem is that Clemens doesn't read the blitz very well. Miami tipped a corner blitz just before the snap, but Clemens didn't see it, and he was looking the wrong way at the snap. It resulted in a sack. The one time Clemens did see the blitz and adjusted the protection, his blockers let him down, as Chris Baker got caught looking for pressure up the middle and let a guy come clean off the edge, which forced a fumble that Miami returned for a touchdown.
Finally, Brian Schottenheimer makes the call to counter the blitz. Miami overloaded left, but Clemens rolled right on a designed rollout and then pitched a shovel pass to Leon Washington, who had two blockers in front of him and no defenders anywhere. It put the Jets on the three-yard line and resulted in the touchdown that salted the game away.
Atlanta Falcons 16 at St. Louis Rams 28
Bill Barnwell: I just want to note that Chris Redman is in for the Falcons. That's Chris Redman, who I stick a joke about getting up to a 98 in my Madden 2000 franchise in for every book because I thought he'd basically become an assistant coach. He's five-for-five for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Sean McCormick: Redman looked OK in the preseason, honestly. Of course, so did Joey Harrington.
Bill Barnwell: Oh, I've always liked Chris Redman and thought he deserved more of a chance after his 2002 season (1.4% DVOA).
Michael David Smith: Harrington has looked OK in the regular season, too. The Falcons' offensive DVOA sucks because they can't run and because of the games Leftwich has played, not because of Harrington.
Sean McCormick: I don't disagree. It was just such an easy line...
Benjy Rose: Redman actually looks great out there. Of course, it's easy to look great when the defense gets no pressure. Amazing that the Falcons can win this thing. Rams are pretty much giving the Falcons this game.
Well, OK, Redman throws an interception. So much for that.
Doug Farrar: I have to ask those who watched this game: What was it about St. Louis' offense or Atlanta's defense that made Gus Frerotte look like Peyton Manning in the first half and, well, Gus Frerotte in the second half? I saw his line at the end of the first quarter, and he'd thrown one incomplete pass and two touchdowns.
Benjy Rose: I would say a combination of good protection/no pressure and just real nice accurate passing. He threw a great deep ball.
Vince Verhei: Just like we have said about Grossman and Griese in Chicago: There is no Lewis Sanders. There is no Chris Houston. There is only "Atlanta Falcons cornerback who is not DeAngelo Hall." Houston happened to be the starter today, and he got lit up by Torry Holt again and again in the first half. In the second half, the Falcons figured out, hey, we'd better give Houston some help, and when Holt beat Houston on a slant, Chris Crocker jumped the route for an easy interception. I think the extra help boosted Houston's confidence, because he played better on short routes, breaking up a few passes.
Chris Redman was not really that much better than Joey Harrington. The Falcons fell behind because Houston had a bad first half, because Roddy White fumbled, and because Harrington was handing off to Warrick Dunn. They came back because the defense played better, because White held onto the ball, and because Redman got to hand off to Jerious Norwood. Redman's interception, down just one score in the fourth quarter, was a brutal throw. It was an overthrow to Michael Jenkins, landing softly into the arms of O.J. Atogwe, and even if Atogwe hadn't been there, it's likely that the corner covering Jenkins would have picked it off. Jenkins had no chance to make the catch.
Seattle Seahawks 28 at Philadelphia Eagles 24
Doug Farrar: Great read and interception by Lofa Tatupu on Philly's first play from scrimmage. He pulled back into coverage and A.J. Feeley lost sight of him on a quick slant to L.J. Smith. I have to think that Feeley was throwing to a zone, because Tatupu and Deon Grant had a high-low on Smith. On the subsequent touchdown, the Seahawks went shotgun from the Eagles' two-yard line and handed to Shaun Alexander. I would bet that in the nine years Mike Holmgren has been Seattle's head coach, you've never seen him call a shotgun draw play in a goal-to-go situation like that. This is not a coach who likes the shotgun in the first place.
Conversely, a wonderful play call by the Eagles on Correll Buckhalter's touchdown run on the next drive. Brian Westbrook went on a fake reverse left, the defense followed, and Buckhalter zipped by Patrick Kerney, Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu because none of the three defenders knew which way was up. I remember seeing the Saints run a similar play successfully very early in the season when they had Deuce McAllister, with Reggie Bush in Westbrook's role and McAllister getting the ball.
Uh -- OK. Feeley throws a quick slant to Greg Lewis on Philly's third drive, Tatupu plays the same coverage and gets virtually the same interception. Guys, I think you might want to scrap that play until next week.
Mike Tanier: Didn't Lofa have a bunch of interceptions in the Monday Night game two years ago? He has to rank among the all-time Philly killers.
Doug Farrar: He has eight career picks, and four are against the Eagles. The one against the Eagles in 2005 was memorable because he scored and punched the goalpost like Ken Norton, Jr., used to. Norton was one of Lofa's coaches at USC and recommended him very highly to Ray Rhodes, who was Seattle's defensive coordinator when Tatupu was drafted.
As much as Shaun Alexander looked good on that touchdown run, I'm still not convinced that he's the answer for the Seahawks anymore. He doesn't fit this particular offense at all. He's a patient runner who makes plays as they develop over time -- as such, he's heavily dependent on a great offensive line. I'm not breaking any news when I say that the Seahawks haven't had anything near a great line since Super Bowl XL ended. Maurice Morris isn't going to make anyone forget the 2005 version of Alexander, but he can make one cut and go before the gaps fill up. He can head out wide and be a legitimate threat one-on-one against a linebacker. He can catch a screen pass, for heaven's sake. I think he's a better stopgap for the Seahawks, as far as they go this season, before they draft their next running back in the 2008 draft. And at least two offensive linemen. And sign Alan Faneca. And ask Alex Gibbs if he's doing anything.
Mike Tanier: Alexander had a few decent runs but looked pretty bad overall. He was too easy to bring down, ran laterally, didn't finish his runs. He had a couple of nice cutback runs on plays where I think most decent runners would have found space.
Doug Farrar: Because when you talk about running backs... Hoo, boy. Brian Westbrook probably won't get any MVP votes in a very crowded field, but I don't see too many players who do more for their team. He came into this game leading the league in combined rushing and receiving yards, and I give him as much credit for Buckhalter's touchdown as Buckhalter himself. His long punt return late in the game gave the Eagles a real chance to win before Lofa Tatupu put on his invisible suit and intercepted his third pass. Westbrook doesn't get the acclaim he deserves. People are aware that he's good, but I don't think most people understand just how much he does. Because if they did, you'd hear his name at least half as much as you hear about Donovan vs. A.J.
Mike Tanier: You know who I don't want to see play football anymore? L.J. Smith. He didn't have a terrible statistical game, but he missed some opportunities to haul in catchable balls that would have made a difference. I am tired of seeing him fall down after every catch. His production can be measured in Inches After Catch. This is a contract year, I think, so hopefully I won't see him in Philly next year. He's not terrible; he just seems like a guy we've been settling for four years while Chris Cooley, Jason Witten, and Jeremy Shockey make a difference for the other teams in the division.
Cleveland Browns 21 at Arizona Cardinals 27
Doug Farrar: Two words for the Cleveland Browns: Check. Down. Derek Anderson had better take off that Charlie Frye jersey, because he's playing like crap early on. There was a pick-six to Rod Hood in the first quarter, then a fumbled snap that Arizona recovered, then a deep throw to Braylon Edwards into triple coverage which he overthrew right to Hood again. The only way to get the ball to Edwards with that coverage would have been to drop it from a helicopter. After losing Adrian Wilson and Eric Green for the season in the same week, Arizona's secondary is playing very well, even with all the free gifts.
Wow -- Jamal Lewis scored on a screen pass at the end of the first half by jumping OVER Rod Hood. He got hit in midair by Gerald Hayes, and he's going to feel that one tomorrow. They showed Hood on the sideline, and he had Reche Caldwell eyes. Couldn't believe what had just happened.
Aaron Schatz: "Reche Caldwell Eyes" is, like, my favorite Kim Carnes song EVER!
Mike Tanier: I can't believe I got beaten to the Kim Carnes reference.
Doug Farrar: Another turnover for the Browns late in the third quarter when Josh Cribbs calls a fair catch on a punt, trips over his own teammate, and fumbles the ball off his fingertips. If you want to do any damage in the playoffs, you can't keep giving to the ball to a team that started the game without their best receiver (Larry Fitzgerald) and ended it without their 1A guy as well (Anquan Boldin, who came up lame off the line of scrimmage with three minutes left in the third quarter). There's no question that the Browns have the talent to make an impact in the postseason, and it's just as sure that they need to straighten things up before they get there.
David Lewin: This game was horribly officiated. Braylon Edwards was indisputably down by contact on that touchdown. I am at a complete loss as to why the ref declined to overturn the play. Then, on the last play of the game Kellen Winslow caught a touchdown that would have won the game and was forced out before he could come down and the ref decided to completely ignore this fact. Unfortunately, force-outs are not reviewable. I don't like the idea of something not being reviewable.
I think that when a ref goes under the hood they should have only one goal: MAKE THE RIGHT CALL! If that means overruling an incorrect judgment call, so be it.
Doug Farrar: Yeah, it's difficult to understand how out-of-bounds is reviewable but force-outs aren't. Is the NFL worried that if too many judgment calls are overturned, people will start to question the competence of officials? And how many times has that ship already sailed?
Stuart Fraser: I think the NFL's logic is that force-out is pretty much an entirely subjective call, and a review would just be replacing one subjective opinion with another. Which I kind of follow.
Ned Macey: The lack of a force-out call was terrible. Winslow was clearly falling backwards before a safety hit him. The fact that Cleveland should have won the game despite four turnovers is a little embarrassing for Arizona, but they'll take it -- especially without Fitzgerald and Boldin. Steve Breaston made his first big catch since the 2005 Rose Bowl.
Big day for Edgerrin James, who is quietly on his way to a 1,200-yard, eight-touchdown season. Someday, I hope Edge and Harrington are on the same team so MDS and I can always add comments about how awful their o-line/receivers are when they invariably score nine points per game.
New York Giants 21 at Chicago Bears 16
Aaron Schatz: Joe Buck said that Jeff Feagles is the best punter in the history of the NFL at cornering a punt out of bounds and preventing a return. Really? Is that actually supported by any stat, or even any poll of NFL experts? Or is it the kind of subjective thing an announcer says with no basis in fact, because he wants to further the Devin Hester storyline?
Michael David Smith: I thought what Buck was saying is that Feagles has the most punts inside the 20 in NFL history. I'm not sure if that's an official stat, and if it is how long it's been kept, but if true it says more about Feagles' longevity than it does about his ability to effectively kick away from Hester today.
Mike Tanier: Punts inside the 20 have been kept since the 1970s at least. Punting stats were strangely ahead of most other NFL stats for most of my lifetime. That being said, doesn't Feagles lead all punters in just about every counting stat?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 at New Orleans Saints 23
Mike Tanier: The McCown brothers threw for five touchdowns this week. I will be hiding under my bed if anyone needs me.
Aaron Schatz: I have no explanation for Oakland's McCown, but Mike, you yourself could throw for five touchdowns against New Orleans as long as you had Joey Galloway to catch them.
Stuart Fraser: McCowns: 33-of-58 for 454 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT
Mannings: 36-of-56 for 483 yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTs
Fortunately, Peyton's four touchdowns prevent the Manning brothers from being definitively outproduced by the McCowns, at which point we could state with some confidence that Ragnarok was, in fact, upon us. As it is, the end times appear to have been staved off.
Cincinnati Bengals 10 at Pittsburgh Steelers 24
After Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor lists his college as "Swagger" in the TV introductions...
Aaron Schatz: Hey Tanier, don't you teach part-time at the University of Swagger? Was Ike Taylor ever in one of your classes?
Mike Tanier: Graduated Maxima Cum Laude.
Stuart Fraser: But probably dropped the diploma at the graduation ceremony.
In abridged form, my commentary on the Steelers so far would be "Gah."
1) No pressure on Palmer
2) Also, no coverage of receivers not named Chad Johnson. We already know Ike Taylor can cover Chad Johnson.
3) Ben Roethlisberger has yet to throw a pass where the receiver wanted it. There have only been two completions, and Hines Ward was stretching for both of them.
4) Willie Parker isn't who you want running absent nice large holes.
4a) No holes.
4b) and Najeh Davenport joined the injury list before the start of the game.
5) Interior linemen (on both sides of the ball) keep getting stupid penalties.
6) Daniel Sepulveda probably meant to kick that with more forwards and less sideways.
Fortunately, the Browns lost. Unfortunately, the Steelers have the Patriots next week.
The first half summed up pretty much everything about the Pittsburgh Steelers this year, offensively. The offense is now completely dependent on Roethlisberger. He comes out overthrowing everybody, the Steelers spend the entire first quarter backed up against their goal-line; then when he finally finds his radar, two touchdown drives materialize. Atypically, the pass protection has been fairly good. This might be something to do with Heinz Field's current condition, since the Steelers can't generate much of a pass rush either. Or it could just be Pittsburgh having a down game and the Bengals being the Bengals.
The defense is hard to evaluate, because Carson Palmer is struggling to throw the ball accurately (except for on the first drive). The pass rush is not getting a huge amount of pressure; even on the plays that have got to Palmer, it's been outstretched hands rather than solid hits. Normally that means the secondary will get carved up; that this hasn't happened yet is mostly on Palmer.
Stat that has to appear on an NBC graphic eventually: Home teams are on a six-game losing streak (three in 2005, two in 2006, one this year) in Steelers-Bengals clashes.
Ned Macey: I think this game makes it pretty clear that Pittsburgh has the best defense in football. The national stage, and the Bengals' poor record, will lead to a consensus that the Cincy offense is poor/Palmer is struggling. Coming into today, they were fifth in offensive DVOA with a higher rating than they had last year. Palmer has too many picks because he presses, but he was ahead of Romo and Manning in DPAR (if slightly behind them in DVOA). This is a damn good offense, particularly with Chris Henry healthy, and the Steelers are killing them.
Stuart Fraser: I don't think Palmer is playing well. To be sure, the Steelers aren't making it easy for him -- the receivers are generally covered, and the running game is only rarely successful. But he's generally got time to throw (though less so as the game has gone on and the situation has forced the Bengals into more passes), and the receivers often do have a step on the defensive backs. Palmer would have to be playing very well to be completing 60 percent of his passes tonight, but he can do better than the 40 percent he's actually doing.