This week in: The NFL – Week 9 2012

Dez Bryant’s fingertips sneak out of bounds and cost the Cowboys a win over the Giants

The New York Giants went into last week’s game in Dallas having lost to their NFC East foes in the first week of the season, but had won all three of their previous trips to the new Cowboys Stadium and set about maintaining that streak by taking a 23-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes.  They were assisted by the Dallas quarterback, Tony Romo, who threw three interceptions in his team’s first four possessions, the last of which was returned for touchdown by Jean Pierre-Paul.  However, the Cowboys had plenty of time to come back and, by the end of the third quarter, they had come back through three touchdowns – including two for Romo, one passing TD and another with a rush – as well as a Dan Bailey field goal, to lead 24-23.  Two fourth quarter kicks by Lawrence Tynes had put the Giants back in front, but their five point lead looked to have evaporated in the final few seconds when Dez Bryant caught a 37 yard pass from Romo at the back of the end zone for an apparent go-ahead touchdown.  However, a video replay showed that two of the wide receiver’s fingers had crossed the line and were out-of-bounds and the pass was ruled incomplete.  Dallas could not get back into the end zone on three subsequent plays – the last of which ended in Romo’s fourth interception of the day – and New York held on to improve their record to 6-2 for the season and remain perfect in their division rival’s new stadium.

The Giants enjoy a comfortable lead at the top of the NFC East, as they sent the Cowboys to a 3-4 record with that defeat, putting them level with the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost 30-17 at home to the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.  Washington (3-5) are a further half game back, after they were held to 255 offensive yards and 12 points in their defeat by the Steelers.  That win moved Pittsburgh over .500 for the first time this season, a single game back of the Baltimore Ravens – who were on a bye last week – in the AFC North.  Also in that division, the Browns earned just their second victory of the season by beating the slumping San Diego Chargers – who have lost their last three fixtures – in a low-scoring affair, 7-6.

In the NFC North, the Chicago Bears only squeaked past the Carolina Panthers, 23-22 with a last-second field goal, after they had trailed by 12 going into the 4th quarter; the Vikings lost – 36-17 – at home to the Buccaneers and were caught in the standings by the Packers, who were far from impressive in defeating the Jaguars, 24-15 in Green Bay, but still got the win without injured wide receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson; while the Lions overcame the Seahawks, 28-24, with an 80 yard touchdown drive by Matt Stafford in the final five minutes.  That loss for Seattle put them at 4-4 for the year, but all of their defeats have come on the road and they have five home games to play in the second half of the season and they are currently tied for second place in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals, who lost for the fourth consecutive week, though they were spared a big audience for their 24-3 thrashing by the 49ers on Monday Night, as Superstorm Sandy took out the power for the lot of the northeast.

The other team in that division, the Rams, were in London for the sixth annual NFL fixture to be played at Wembley Stadium.  St. Louis took on the New England Patriots – which was the second appearance in Britain for the aptly named team from Boston.  Sam Bradford gave the Rams – nominally the home side for this encounter – an early lead with a 50 yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens, but that was all the scoring they would do, as Tom Brady threw four TDs and led to Patriots to a 45-7 win.  New England is a game ahead of Miami in the AFC East, after the Dolphins recorded a 30-9 road victory over the Jets, despite losing starting QB, Ryan Tannehill through injury on their second possession.  The rest of the fixtures in Week 8 saw the Saints give up a franchise record 530 yards of offense to the Broncos, with Peyton Manning throwing for 305 of those and three touchdowns, in a 34-14 Denver win; the Chiefs – who have not held the lead in regulation in any of their seven games so far this season (their one success coming in an extra period against the Saints) – were beaten at home by the Raiders, 26-16; and Andrew Luck led the Indianapolis Colts to a 19-13 win over the Tennessee Titans, with an 80-yard, touchdown drive on the first possession of overtime.

This week marks the middle point of the NFL schedule and so far in the NFC, the top two teams are the Atlanta Falcons, who have a home game this week against the struggling Dallas Cowboys; and the Chicago Bears, who are in Tennessee to face the Titans.  Arizona started the season with four victories, while the Packers lost three of their first five, but the two teams have had a reversal of fortunes since then and meet in Green Bay this Sunday, with the Cardinals currently a game back of their opponents in the Wild Card standings.  So far, Houston leads the way in the AFC at 6-1 and the Texans are at home this week against the Buffalo Bills; the Baltimore Ravens return to their former home, Cleveland, for their second matchup against the Browns of the year; and two teams who have surprised many by having a winning record this far into the season meet in Indianapolis, as the Colts take on the Dolphins.  The other games this weekend see the Giants host the Steelers; the Vikings have the daunting task on taking on the Seahawks and their fans in Seattle; the Broncos are in Cincinnati; the Panthers are up against the Redskins in Washington; Jacksonville plays Detroit; while two of the nationally televised games are between the 1-6 Chiefs and 3-4 Chargers on Thursday, and the underperforming Eagles and Saints in New Orleans on Monday night.

Predictions

Last week, 7-7; Season 61-56

Home teams in bold

Chargers -8.5 over Chiefs

Bengals +3.5 over Broncos

Ravens -3.5 over Browns

Packers -10.5 over Cardinals

Titans +3.5 over Bears

Colts +2.5 over Dolphins

Redskins -3.5 over Panthers

Jaguars +3.5 over Lions

Texans -10.5 over Bills

Buccaneers +1.5 over Raiders

Seahawks -4.5 over Vikings

Steelers +3.5 over Giants

Cowboys +4.5 over Falcons

Eagles +3.5 over Saints

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