This Week In: The NFL – Thanksgiving 2013 and Updated Power Poll

Brady consoles Manning after beating him for the 10th time in 14 meetings
Brady consoles Manning after beating him for the 10th time in 14 meetings

In the biggest matchup in the NFL for Week 12, Tom Brady led his New England Patriots team to victory over Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, despite having been 24-0 behind at half-time.  On a cold windy night in Massachusetts, Manning was far from his best despite throwing two touchdown passes, as he completed only 19 of his 36 throws for 150 yards.  Nevertheless, even when he was far from perfect, the veteran quarterback did still lead the Broncos on a 80 yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drive to force overtime after New England had scored 31 consecutive points.  In the extra period, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick opted to give possession to Denver despite having won the coin toss, instead choosing to have the wind in their favor for overtime.  That proved to be a correct decision, as New England prevented their opponents from scoring on two separate possessions and then, with under two minutes to go Brady, moved them into field goal position and the 31 yard kick from Stephen Gostkowski inflicted just the second defeat of the year on the Broncos, while ensured the Patriots moved to 6-0 on the year at home.  Had he missed, it could have seen the first time in more than 40 years that there were two ties in the NFL on the same day, since Green Bay and Minnesota ended up even after Matt Flynn had led the Packers on a late comeback to help them recover a 23-7 deficit.  During the extra 15 minutes, both sides hit field goals to make the final score 26-26 and it marked the first time since the change in overtime rules that both teams had scored and the game had ended up tied.

Earlier in the day, the Cowboys looked like they were going to have yet another collapse in a crucial game, as they let a 21-6 third quarter advantage slip away against the Giants, but Tony Romo drove the team down the field in the final few minutes to set up the winning field goal as time expired, ending New York’s run of victories at four and moving Dallas into a tie for first in the NFC East with the Eagles, who were on their bye week.  Meanwhile Green Bay’s tie put them to within a half game of the top of the NFC North, as both Detroit and Chicago lost their fixtures, against Tampa Bay – who have now won three in a row after starting the season 0-8 –  and St. Louis respectively.  Last season, when Chuck Pagano was absent from getting treatment for leukemia, it was Bruce Arians who filled in and helped get the Colts to the playoff, but in his new role as head coach of Arizona, he masterminded a game plan that saw his new team beat his former charges, 40-11.  The so-called “Chuck Strong” movement of last year saw Indianapolis rally when their head coach was sick, but in Houston this year the opposite as happened, as the Texans slumped to a new low by losing at home to the Jaguars while Gary Kubiak is recovering from a mini-stroke he suffered during their game against the Colts three weeks ago.

Elsewhere in Week 12, the Saints had a narrow 17-13 Thursday night victory over the Falcons to move to 9-2; the Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 27-11 victory in Cleveland; Kansas City lost for the second consecutive game, as the Chargers prevailed in a shootout, 41-38; Cam Newton led a late touchdown drive to give the Panthers their seventh consecutive victory, 20-16 over the Dolphins; Baltimore beat the Jets 19-3; San Francisco returned to winning ways following three straight losses, beating Washington 27-6 on Monday night; and the Titans came out on top in Oakland, 23-19 against the Raiders.

This week, there are three Thursday games as Detroit and Dallas play their traditional home fixtures on Thanksgiving, this year they face the Packers and Oakland respectively; then in the evening, Baltimore and Pittsburgh face off in a matchup that will probably end the postseason hopes of whichever team loses.  On Sunday, the marquee matchup is the second game in two weeks between the Chiefs and Broncos, who both have 9-2 records and will be playing for the lead in the division when they meet in Kansas City.  On Monday night, home field advantage is at stake for the Saints and Seahawks in their fixture in Seattle – though New Orleans will need to hold off a challenge in the South from the Panthers, who play Tampa Bay the day before, if they want to avoid ending up as a wild card.  It will be a somewhat tricky fixture for the Seahawks as well, despite their 10-1 record and having won their last 13 home games, they have also had yet another player – cornerback Water Thurmond – suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy; while Brandon Browner, who plays in the same position as Thurmond, is expected to be banned for a year for the same offense.  Even before the latter’s fate is known, it means that 6 Seahawks players in the last two years have been suspended for failing drug tests, perhaps suggesting that their success this season has been thanks to performance enhancers, rather than the yoga regime that was lauded before the season in ESPN The Magazine. Continue reading

This Week In: English Football – Honors Even on Merseyside and A Game I Will Not Talk About

Chelsea's top scoring striker this season, Romelu Lukaku wracks up his seventh goal for Everton during his loan spell
Chelsea’s top scoring striker this season, Romelu Lukaku wracks up his seventh goal for Everton during his loan spell

In the most exciting game of the weekend – and perhaps the best one so far in the Premiership this season – Everton and Liverpool shared six goals and the points following an exhilarating derby at Goodison Park.  The Reds had taken an early lead through Phillipe Coutinho, but that advantage was wiped out in the 8th minute by Kevin Mirallas, only for Luis Suarez to give his side the edge once again when he curled a free-kick into the bottom corner, threading the ball through a gap Steven Pienaar had left on the end of the Everton wall.  Ten minutes before half-time, the Toffees should have been reduced to 10 men when Mirallas went in on Suarez with his studs up and caught the Uruguayan in the thigh – most likely an act of retaliation for a tackle in the derby last season that left the Belgian on the sidelines for several weeks.  However, referee Phil Dowd chose to brandish only a yellow card and it was Mirallas’ hard work following up a Romelu Lukaku free-kick that enabled the ball to come back into the area for the on-loan striker from Chelsea to equalize in the 72nd minute; then the same combination worked again from a corner to give Lukaku his seventh goal of the season and the home team a 3-2 lead.  Nevertheless, Everton were not able to enjoy their first Merseyside victory in over three years, as substitute Daniel Sturridge gave the visitors from across Stanley Park a point with a flicked header from Steven Gerrard’s cross.  In all, it was a fair result as both teams had multiple chances to score more, but Liverpool will be particularly disappointed not to have taken all three points as, when they were 2-1 up, Joe Allen had a simple opportunity to extend their lead after hard work from Suarez had put him one-on-one with the keeper, but the Welsh midfielder put the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

That was not the only other high-scoring match of the Premiership weekend, as on Sunday there was another involving one of the Manchester clubs – nope, not that one, I am not talking about that game – as United were held to a draw in Cardiff.  The champions had taken the lead through Wayne Rooney in the first half but, like Mirallas the previous day, the England striker should not have been on the pitch to effect the game as he should have been dismissed for kicking out petulantly at Jordon Mutch in the 7th minute.  Despite the setback, Cardiff were not overawed by the occasion and got back onto level terms through former Red Devil Fraizer Campbell, only to concede again just before half-time when Patrice Evra headed in a corner kick.  David Moyes’ side then held onto the lead up until injury time at the end of the match, but were forced to settle for only a point when Kim Bo-Kyung headed in  Peter Wittingham’s free-kick, though Rooney could still have won it for the visitors before the end, but he opted to attempt a pass when through on goal instead of finishing himself and gave the ball straight to Cardiff keeper, David Marshall.  The draw leaves United seven points behind the leaders, Arsenal, who beat Southampton 2-0 at the Emirates on Saturday, with both goals being scored by Olivier Giroud, though the Frenchman will not have had an easier brace.  His first was a gift from the Saints goalie Artur Boruc, who inexplicably attempted to take the ball around Giroud instead of booting it clear, then slipped and left the Arsenal striker with an open goal; and the second came via a penalty spot after Per Metersacker had his shirt pulled at a corner by Jose Fonte.  Somehow Southampton, who have the tightest defence in the Premiership so far this campaign, have also conceded two of the most ridiculous goals: that opener for Giroud on Saturday; and the 13 second strike by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic a few weeks ago.  That wind-assisted shot from Begovic is now only the joint fastest so far this season, as there was an equally quick opening goal at the Etihad on Sunday scored by Jesus Navas – but I am not saying anything more about that game.

Continue reading

This Week In: English Football – A Bumper Weekend in the Premiership

Ronaldo's self-confidence received a much needed boost with his displays for Portugal
Ronaldo’s self-confidence received a much needed boost with his displays for Portugal

After yet another two-week break for internationals – which saw France, Croatia, Greece and Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal become the last four European nations to qualify for next year’s World Cup – the Premiership returns this weekend with one of the best group of fixtures I can ever remember.  There are Merseyside, Black Country and London derbies; first in the table faces third; two of the top five from last season play each other; and the reigning champions of the top two divisions square off.  A fortnight ago, although the fixture list had not looked quite so exciting before the games were played, there were several surprise results and a couple of very entertaining games.

Perhaps the biggest upset came at the Stadium of Light, where lowly Sunderland won for the second time in three games under their new manager, Gus Poyet, as they beat Manchester City 1-0 through a Phil Bardsley goal.  Despite the disparity in the two sides starting positions in the table – not to mention the amount each has spent on transfer fees over the last few years – the result actually should not have been too much of a surprise: it was not only the fourth away defeat of the season for City; they had also lost by the same scoreline on their previous three visits to Sunderland.  There was more joy in the northeast for Newcastle, who soaked up lots of pressure in their match at Tottenham, but crucially scored the only goal of the game through Loic Remy to claim all three points from White Hart Lane, leaving Andre Villas-Boas’s men to head into an international break with another costly home defeat, just as they had done against West Ham back in October.

In the game that had received the biggest billing – but was far from the most entertaining – Manchester United became the first team to beat Arsenal in the Premiership since the opening day, as former Gunner Robin Van Persie scored against his old club once again and gave David Moyes’s men a narrow 1-0 victory that brought them back to within five points of the top.  At Stamford Bridge, Steve Clarke – the former assistant to Jose Mourinho and now manager at West Brom – saw his team recover from 1-0 down to take a 2-1 lead away at Chelsea, but they were denied all three points when the home side were awarded a controversial penalty in the final minute when Ramires was adjudged to have been brought down by Steven Reid and Eden Hazard converted the spot kick.  The points were also shared in South Wales as a result of a late penalty, as Swansea had come all the way back from a 2-0 half-time deficit against Stoke to go 3-2 in front in the 86th minute, but Charlie Adam converted from 12 yards to give the visitors a much-needed point. Continue reading

This Week In: The NFL – Week 12 and Playoff Picture Update

In his second season, Russell Wilson has the Seahawks in poll position in the NFC
In his second season, Russell Wilson has the Seahawks in poll position in the NFC

In the final weekend before Thanksgiving, the last four teams not to have had a bye yet all take a break from action, meaning that by Turkey Day, everyone will have five games left in the race to either make the playoffs, or obtain as high a pick in the draft as possible to enable the rebuilding process to begin (cough, Jacksonville, cough).  With the final part of the season upon us, it is a good time to evaluate who look likely to make the postseason, the teams that are still in contention and those that can make early plans to take a vacation in January.  Let’s start with the NFC:

North

Current Standings: 1. Detroit Lions 6-4; 2. Chicago Bears 6-4; 3. Green Bay Packers 5-5; 4. Minnesota Vikings 2-8

Joe Flacco and the Ravens struggle to control the ball in a muddy Chicago
Joe Flacco and the Ravens struggle to control the ball in a muddy Chicago

If not for Aaron Rodgers getting injured, this division would have been an easy win for the Packers, who have lost their last three since their quarterback was injured in the first drive against the Bears.  On Sunday, they were unable to stop the Giants from winning their fourth in a row and if Number 12 is not back by Thanksgiving – when Green Bay plays the early game in Detroit – then the season will likely be over.  The Lions remain favorites for the division, though a costly 37-27 loss in Pittsburgh last week means that they are only a single win ahead of the Packers and are tied with the Bears, who won the craziest game of the season against Baltimore last Sunday.  Early on in the game, the Ravens took a 10-0 lead but there was then a two-hour delay due to a storm system in the region that saw more than 70 tornadoes touched down in the Midwest and Soldier Field in Chicago took a battering from wind and rain.  However, when the weather cleared slightly, Josh McCown was able to lead the Bears to a famous 23-20 overtime victory, one that he had assured his teammates before the final drive that they would be telling their grandchildren about one day.   Minnesota are the only franchise out of playoff contention in the North and it was no surprise that they lost 41-20 in Seattle in Week 11.

South

Current Standings: 1. New Orleans Saints 8-2; 2. Carolina Panthers 7-3; 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-8; 4. Atlanta Falcons 2-8

Both the Saints and the Panthers had controversial wins last weekend that moved each of them closer to the playoffs and setup a fascinating two games series between them as they face each other in Weeks 14 and 16, matchups that will determine who will not only take the division title, but may well enjoy a first round bye in the playoffs as well. New Orleans claimed victory over the 49ers after a penalty was called on Ahmed Brooks from a personal foul after he had strip-sacked Drew Brees – a call that gave the home team a new set of downs and allowed them to tie the score with a field goal, then claim the win via another kick by Garrett Hartley.  On Monday night, Carolina held off a late drive by New England to win 24-20, though the Patriots believed their should have been a pass interference flag on Tom Brady’s final throw, which would have given them another shot at the end zone but the officials did not call a penalty and the Panthers won for the sixth time in a row.  After an 0-8 start, the Buccaneers are now tied with the Falcons at the bottom of the division following their 41-28 dismantling of Atlanta in Florida last Sunday.

East

Current Standings: 1. Philadelphia Eagles 6-5; 2. Dallas Cowboys 5-5; 3. New York Giants 4-6; 4. Washington 3-7

Much has been made of the improvement that Philadelphia have made with Nick Foles under center instead of Michael Vick, as he is a less error-prone quarterback which is definitely an advantage in the high-pace of Chip Kelly’s offense, but the teams that they have beaten in the last three weeks have been substandard.  First they racked up 49 points against the Raiders in Oakland, then defeated the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers in Green Bay, before last weekend ending their 10 game home losing streak, but it was against a woeful Washington team.  Dallas were on a bye last week which will give them longer to think about how poor their defense was against New Orleans, but they have a very important four day stretch coming up where they face the Giants at MetLife Stadium, before hosting the Raiders on Thanksgiving – if the Cowboys can be at 7-5 by the time the Pumpkin Pies are being finished across the nation, then they will have ended New York’s improbably comeback from 0-6 this season and will be favorites to claim the NFC East title for the first time since 2009.

West

Current Standings: 1. Seattle Seahawks 10-1; 2. San Francisco 49ers 6-4; 3. Arizona Cardinals 6-4; 4. St. Louis Rams 4-6

If you had said at the start of the season that with six weeks to go, Arizona and San Francisco would be tied for second place in the West, it would be assumed that there would have been an injury to Colin Kaepernick, who looked almost unstoppable in the 49ers playoff run in January.  However, their loss in New Orleans last week combined with the Cardinals 27-14 victory over the Jaguars means that both franchises are fighting for a wild card berth, while the Seahawks romp to the division title and they stayed perfect at home for 2013 with the aforementioned win over the Vikings.  St. Louis had a bye last week so had an extra seven days to savor their 38-8 success in Indianapolis the previous Sunday, but the Rams are out of the playoff hunt.

Wild Card

Currently, the Panthers hold the 5th seed and the 49ers the 6th in the NFC, but San Francisco is tied with Arizona and Chicago; plus Dallas and Green Bay are only a single game back.  If the Giants were to go 5-1 down the stretch and end 9-7, there is an outside chance they could claim a postseason berth even if they cannot usurp both the Cowboys and the Eagles in the East, however, their final run of fixtures includes the game against Dallas this Sunday, hosting Seattle and a trip to both San Diego and Detroit, so it is hard to see them doing any better than 8-8, more likely 7-9 or worse. Continue reading

This Week In: The NFL – Week 11 and Updated Power Poll

Mike Glennon led Tampa to their first win of 2013 against the Dolphins
Mike Glennon led Tampa to their first win of 2013 against the Dolphins

In a week of surprises in the NFL, perhaps the biggest was the Panthers extending their winning streak by beating the 49ers in San Francisco by a score of 10-9, with Carolina holding Colin Kaepernick to just 91 passing yards and 16 rushing.  It marked only the second time the 49ers had been beaten at home this year, but the other team who had prevailed there, the Colts, lost in Indianapolis 38-8 against the St. Louis Rams, who were propelled to victory by rookie Tavor Austin, who had two receiving touchdowns for 57 and 81 yards; and also returned a punt 98 yards for another score.  The other big shock of the weekend was that the two previously winless teams from Florida – the Buccaneers and Jaguars – both recorded their first “W” of the season, after beating the Dolphins and Tennessee Titans respectively.  Following that defeat for Miami, it was probably a good thing that Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito had both already left the team, since who knows what kind of bullying the former would have experienced at the hands of the latter, after a loss to 0-8 Tampa Bay.

At the top of the NFC standings, the Seahawks continued their march towards the number 1 seed by winning it Atlanta 33-10, a defeat that leaves the Falcons on 2-7 and almost certain to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009.  Just behind Seattle in the race for home field advantage are the Saints, who racked up 49 points in their Sunday night rout of the Cowboys in New Orleans, dropping Dallas to 5-5 for the year.  They still have a share of the lead in the NFC East however, alongside the Philadelphia Eagles who took advantage of the absence of Aaron Rodgers to beat the Packers 27-13, with Green Bay also being forced to replace their backup quarterback after the first series, as Seneca Wallace had to exit the game with a groin injury.  For Philadelphia, Nick Foles has thrown 16 touchdown passes and no interceptions this season, but strangely enough the team is 5-1 in their last six away fixtures, but have lost their last 10 at home.

Elsewhere, the Ravens gave up a last minute hail mary touchdown to the Bengals, but rallied to beat Cincinnati 20-17 in overtime; Calvin Johnson had two touchdown receptions but the Lions still needed to foil a two point conversion at the end of the game to prevent the Bears forcing an extra period; the Giants, who started 2013 0-6, won their third straight against Oakland and get to face Green Bay’s third string quarterback this weekend; San Diego hit Peyton Manning hard, but could not stop the Broncos from moving to 8-1; the Bills were beaten in Pittsburgh, 23-10 by the Steelers; Wade Phillips took charge of Houston while Gary Kubiak recovered from a mini-stroke, but the Texans lost in Arizona, 27-24; and Washington came inches away from tying their Thursday night game against the Vikings, but Santana Moss had one foot out of bounds and so Minnesota won for just the second time this year.

Power Poll

As always, the working behind this poll can be found in the first post found here.  

(Last week’s position in brackets)

1. (1) Kansas City Chiefs

2. (2) Seattle Seahawks

3. (8) New Orleans Saints

4. (5) Denver Broncos

5. (=6) New England Patriots

6. (3) San Francisco 49ers

7. (9) Detroit Lions

8. (4) Indianapolis Colts

9. (=6) Cincinnati Bengals

10. (17) Carolina Panthers

11. (14) Arizona Cardinals

12. (10) Green Bay Packers

= (12) New York Jets

14. (11) Chicago Bears

15. (16) Dallas Cowboys

16. (13) Miami Dolphins

17. (18) Cleveland Browns

18. (20) Buffalo Bills

= (26) St. Louis Rams

= (22) Philadelphia Eagles

21. (15) Tennessee Titans

22. (24) Baltimore Ravens

23. (21) San Diego Chargers

24. (23) Houston Texans

25. (27) New York Giants

26. (28) Atlanta Falcons

27. (29) Pittsburgh Steelers

28. (19) Washington

29. (25) Oakland Raiders

30. (30) Jacksonville Jaguars

31. (32) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

32. (31) Minnesota Vikings

Week 11 Predictions

Last week, 6-8; Season, 76-70

Home teams in bold

Colts -3.5 over Titans

Buccaneers +1.5 over Falcons

Bills -1.5 over Jets

Ravens +2.5 over Bears

Bengals -6.5 over Browns

Lions -2.5 over Steelers

Raiders +6.5 over Texans

Washington +3.5 over Eagles

Cardinals -6.5 over Jaguars

Chargers -1.5 over Dolphins

Packers +6.5 over Giants

Seahawks -13.5 over Vikings

Saints -3.5 over 49ers

Chiefs +8.5 over Broncos

Panthers -2.5 over Patriots

This Week In: English Football – Arsenal Beat Liverpool, Face United – Plus Concussions

Aaron Ramsey celebrates his goal against Liverpool with Giroud and Gibbs
Aaron Ramsey celebrates his goal against Liverpool with Giroud and Gibbs

Last weekend, Arsenal faced Liverpool in the late game on Saturday in a fixture that pitted the top two teams in the Premiership against each other, a throwback to the late 80s and early 90s when these two clubs battled each other for the league title year after year.  This time around, there was little in the way of a contest between the sides, as Arsenal ran out comfortable winners, prevailing 2-0 thanks to a goal in each half from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, a result which saw the Gunners extend their advantage at the top of the table to five points.  They hold that lead over three clubs: Liverpool, who will have been particularly disappointed that the previously potent partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge offered little goalscoring threat in their toughest match of the season; Chelsea, who suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat away at Newcastle United; and Spurs, who earned a credible 0-0 draw away at Everton, though their blank in front of goal means they have scored only 9 times in their opening ten Premiership fixtures.

The flip side of that coin is that Tottenham have also kept 10 clean sheets in that time, the first time in their history they have achieved such a feat, though the one at Goodison Park proved to be controversial as their goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, was allowed to play on after he had been knocked out by a collision with Romelu Lukaku’s knee.  Watching the game live, it seemed incomprehensible that Lloris would be able to stay on the pitch, let alone be given the okay to do so by the medical team, since the whack he took to the head looked very serious and he required several minutes of treatment.  Since the incident, many people have criticized the club and – in particular – manager Andre Villas-Boas for keeping the French goalkeeper

In the battle between Lukaku's knee and Lloris' head, somehow the latter won
In the battle between Lukaku’s knee and Lloris’ head, somehow the latter won

on the field, especially as more and more is being learned about the dangers of concussions.  However, what has to be remembered is that Lloris himself was insisting he wanted to play on – something that draw a round of boos from the usually excellent Everton home support, who will hopefully feel a little bad at their reaction in hindsight – and he appeared to suffer no further ill-effect from the incident.  While concussions are a very serious topic (one that I covered here) and athletes in many different sports, including football/soccer, need to be protected, that is not achieved by overreacting to an event that ended with the players wanting to stay on the field and having done so, proved he was clearly with it by making a couple of crucial saves that earned the draw for Spurs.  Obviously the result is not as important as Lloris’ health, but in this instance, it was not a choice between one or the other and the hypocritical reaction of many in the press – who have ignored the effects of head injuries for so long in sport, but are now wanting to jump on the bandwagon – does nothing to further the worthy cause of protecting athletes.

One person who will want to forget the weekend of footballing action will be Chris Hughton, who took his Norwich side to the Etihad where they caught Manchester City on a rampant day, as the 2011/12 champions racked up seven goals against the Canaries.  The race for the next manager to lose his job in the Premiership could come down to Hughton and his former boss at Tottenham, Martin Jol, as the Dutchman’s position became more precarious with a 3-1 home defeat against Manchester United, who had the three points wrapped up well before half-time.  Sunderland’s winning run came to a half at 1, as they had more men sent off in first half stoppage time (two) at Hull than they did shots on target (one), although to be fair, it was a Black Cats player who scored the only goal of the game, but unfortunately for Carlos Cuellar, it was into his own net.  In a shock to exactly nobody who has ever watched him play before, one of the men dismissed for Sunderland was Lee Cattermole, the seventh time he has been shown a red card in a Premiership fixture.

Last weekend also saw the first ever all Welsh game in the top flight of the English league system and it was the home team, Cardiff, who took all three points thanks to a second half header from Steven Caulker.  However, the Bluebirds – who have been rebranded into red home kits – should be deducted a point for failing to take advantage of one of the most fun things that can ever happen in football – an outfield player going in goal.  Such a scenario used to happen more frequently when I was younger, since substitutes were limited to just two players and nobody ever had a reserve keeper, so any injury or sending off would see a defender, midfielder or striker being forced to don the gloves.  With it being so rare, it was a shame that when Swansea had used up their three substitutions and were thus forced to put their right-back Angel Rangel in goal following Michel Vorm’s late dismissal for a professional foul on Frasier Campbell, Cardiff only tested him from the resulting free kick, then took the ball into the corner to waste time and did not take potshots at Rangel.  Maybe the home supporters will just be happy to have taken three points and leapfrogged their rivals in the table, but for a neutral like me it was such a disappointment to see that opportunity wasted. Continue reading

This Week In: The NFL Week 10 and Updated Power Poll

Brett Favre looks better in jeans commercials than Seneca Wallace did in the NFL
Brett Favre looks better in jeans commercials than Seneca Wallace did in the NFL

On the first drive of Green Bay’s Monday Night matchup against their divisional rivals the Chicago Bears, the Packers season was rocked by an injury to Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked on third down and left the game due to a fractured collarbone on his non-throwing arm.  As a result of his absence, Green Bay – who have already lost Jermichael Finley for the year, as well as major players like Clay Matthews, James Jones and Randall Cobb missing time – lost to Chicago and their backup quarterback, Josh McCown, who performed well in the place of Jay Cutler, who has been out with a groin strain.  The 27-20 loss the Packers means that there is now a three-way tie in the NFC North between themselves, Chicago and Detroit – who were on their bye week – with all of them currently on 5-3, but Rodgers being out for at least three weeks could see Green Bay drop out of postseason contention all together.  With Seneca Wallace – who has not won an NFL game since 2010 – as the only other quarterback on their books, the Wisconsin team need to find another option under center.  I hear that Brett Favre is not doing much nowadays, maybe it is time to bring back the gunslinger – just kidding, he can go and be Minnesota’s fifth starting QB of the year, as the Vikings have now dropped to 1-7 following their 27-23 loss in Dallas last Sunday.

The biggest news of the week in the NFL was the loss of two offensive linesmen for the Miami Dolphins – rookie Jonathan Martin, who opted to leave the team; and veteran Richie Incognito, who stands accused of bullying Martin and has been suspended while the claim is investigated.  The culture of hazing young athletes is hardly anything new, but if reports are true then Incognito not only crossed several lines, but obliterated them like he was a hateful version of Jackie Robinson, knocking down barriers of good taste.  Before all of this was revealed, the Dolphins finally won for the first time since week 3, as they beat the Bengals 22-20 thanks to a safety in overtime, the first win for the state of Florida in the NFL in their last 14 attempts.  The Buccaneers failed to make it two in a week for the Sunshine state however, as they allowed a 21-0 lead to slip away against the Seahawks, who improved to 8-1 with a 27-24 victory, also in overtime.

Kansas City moved to 9-0 for the first time since 2003, as they won in Buffalo 23-13 against the Bills, though they also had to come from behind and the game turned on a 100 yard interception return for the Chiefs by Sean Smith four minutes into the third quarter.  Perhaps the biggest upset of the week came in New Jersey, where the Jets beat the Saints 26-20, mainly thanks to Chris Ivory who rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown to inflict just the second defeat of the season on New Orelans.  Elsewhere, the Chargers lost in Washington in overtime, after a late touchdown was overturned and they failed to get the ball in from only a few inches out and had to settle for a field goal, giving Robert Griffin III the chance to win it for the home team in the first possession of the extra period; Tennessee prevailed 28-21 in St. Louis; Nick Foles became only the seventh man in NFL history to throw for seven touchdowns, achieving the feat in the Eagles 49-20 victory in Oakland;  the Browns beat the Ravens 24-18 in a matchup of current and former Cleveland franchises; the Patriots posted 55 points in their win over the Steelers, who managed 31 themselves; Carolina heaped the misery onto Atlanta with a 34-10 defeat of the Falcons; and Andrew Luck led Indianapolis to another comeback, as they overturned a 24-6 third quarter deficit to beat the Texans.  There was more worrying news for Houston however, as their head coach Gary Kubiak was hospitalized at half-time during the game after collapsing on the field; an incident that came just a day after John Fox – who holds the same position with the Broncos – was treated for a heart attack and it was announced he would be missing significant time away from the team. Continue reading