I was five years old in January, 1991. The Bills and the Giants were about to play in a huge, all New York Super Bowl. From Levy and Parcells to OJ Anderson and Thurman Thomas to even Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor, the game was loaded with stars of that decade and turned out to be maybe the greatest of the 41 to date. More importantly, I remember the game meant nothing to me, as my team was the New England Patriots and they lost 17 out a possible 16 games that season.
I mention this because on Sunday the seven and oh Indianapolis Colts host the eight and whoa Patriots in the latest battle of the unbeatens in NFL history. It looks to be a spectacular matchup. However, I did some digging, and after about eleven hours of research found out there are thirteen other pro football games this weekend! Wow! So let’s take a look at these strange and wonderful bonus games, or as I call them, “bonus games.”
San Francisco (2-5) at Atlanta (1-6)
Okay, you have no reason to watch this game. However, the Patriots have San Francisco’s first round pick, so if you like things that are decent and good, you will root for San Fran to win. If the Pats roll through the league and end up with a top 5 pick, only drafting Len Bias will stop them.
Cincinnati (2-5) at Buffalo (3-4)
Let’s try again. Buffalo, without field goal hijinks from Jason Elam and Nick Folk, would be 5-2. At home, they’ve made every game competitive if not dominated the opposition. Meanwhile, Cincinnati entered the year as an expected playoff team and has done nothing to prove the pundits. Marvin Lewis, whose team can neither stop the run nor the pass, and who built his reputation as a defensive genius, should lose his job, but I feel a more fitting punishment would be to coach the Bengals from 25 to life.
Denver (3-4) at Detroit (5-2)
Denver is 7th in yards and 27th in points per game. How? Well, for one, they are 4 for 9 on fourth downs, well below league average. A mere three of their 12 touchdowns are on the ground, an indicator of poor red zone performance. (Jason Elam has converted 12 of 15 field goals). Additionally, they have a turnover ratio of negative five. The Lions are 5-2. No stats, the Lions are 5-2. No analysis, the Lions are 5-2. No damned way, the Lions are 5-2.
Green Bay (6-1) at Kansas City (4-3)
The Packers may be the most one-dimensional 6-1 team in recent memory, and the Chiefs boast one good win (at a reeling San Diego squad by two touchdowns). There’s a good chance if KC holds on to win this game that the Packers and Chiefs will both be division champions at the end of the year. That may be more astonishing than any other anecdote on here, as the likely preseason favorites (San Diego and Chicago) were prohibitive Super Bowl favorites as well.
San Diego (4-3) at Minnesota (2-5)
In case you haven’t heard, the Minnesota Vikings have a rookie running back, Adrian Peterson, who as of the last two weeks is now the official offense for the Minnesota Vikings. Against Atlanta, he had 185 all purpose yards in victory. Against the Bears, an astonishing 361 all purpose yards in another victory. If Peterson is unleashed, the Vikings are competitive; when he’s not, they’re not. San Diego’s D allowed 30+ points in three straight losses earlier in the season; in their four wins, no more than 14. What’s to credit? Well, for one, they aren’t giving up 280+ passing yards anymore. Second, their aggressive DBs, among the leaders in INTs and passes defensed, are getting better on their gambles, but expect this to regress again unless the interior D ramps up the quarterback pressure.
Jacksonville (5-2) at New Orleans (3-4)
It’s not happening for New Orleans this season. That’s all I have to say about them. And Jacksonville is no better; their late season schedule is BRUTAL. They are at the Saints, Indy, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Houston. They host San Diego, Buffalo, and Carolina. Even giving them a gimme home game against Oakland, can they do better than 9-7? I say no. I still can’t believe they went 12-4 two years ago with a fairly similar team. Look it up. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.
Washington (4-3) at New York Jets (1-7)
Welcome back! Kellen Clemens will get the nod at quarterback this week for the j-e-t-s jets jets (no caps deserved) this week, possibly ending the New York career of Chad Pennington. As weak-armed QBs go, the Chad era has been a decent one. By the end of the year he’ll be five for five in 200+ attempt seasons with more touchdowns than interceptions. His short arm actually helped his remarkable 65% completion rate, second in NFL history only to Kurt Warner. In the end we all know the story; his lack of durability. Only in 2002 did we see Chad at 100%, where he threw for 3,120 yards with a 104.2 QB rating. A fracture/dislocation on his non-throwing hand in 2003 and a rotator cuff injury in 2004 permanently derailed his development. The 2005 repeated cuff injury was the nail in the coffin. For some reason, I think of Steve Avery.
Arizona (3-4) at Tampa Bay (4-4)
Tough times to be Matt Leinart. After his collarbone convinced him to , he has had to sit and watch Kurt Warner lead the team to half-decency, a guy who was already in the process of replacing him. Warner is a retread’s retread, a guy who was the second-turned-first option in the Arena League, with the Rams, the Giants, and now the Cardinals. Scary thought: there’s a chance (though a small one) that with an Arizona win this could be a preview of two potential playoff teams.
Carolina (4-3) at Tennessee (5-2)
The Panthers lead the NFC South, which may well be the worst division in football. They have a negative point differential and a quarterback controversy between a (next week) forty-four year old man and David Carr, human doormat. Each one of their wins (St. Louis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Arizona) have been over teams described as “wretched” at least once during this season. Meanwhile, Tennessee has the best run defense in the league anchored by Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth, in my opinion one of the five best defensive players in football this year. (I may be very alone in my opinion.)
Seattle (4-3) at Cleveland (4-3)
Cleveland has managed a winning record this season despite giving up an NFL worst 410 YPG (this is simple, but to break it down, that means there is a 305 yard passer and 105 yard rusher each game). Outside of Leigh Bodden they possess no standout defensive players, with a weak pass rush generating seven sacks all season long. On the interesting side, the Browns have had three punters this season. Who’s gonna kick? That’s alone a reason to watch. On the other side, Seattle fans must be ruing the potential end of Shaun Alexander’s career. In the 2005 season, he ran 370 times for 1880 yards and 27 rushing TDs. In the 17 games since, he has 1356 yards on 387 carries, finding the end zone only 9 times. Perhaps the presence of Steve Hutchinson and young Walter Jones meant more to the Seattle ball control offense than Alexander.
Houston (3-5) at Oakland (2-5)
Weird game, one that Oakland fans are hoping does not sell out. If too many people show up, CBS will force the area fans to watch it as opposed to that game in Indiana. Speaking of hoping, how about Houston hoping Andre Johnson comes back? In Houston’s first two games, Matt Schaub had a QB rating over 110, Johnson had 3 TD receptions, and the Texans were 2-0. Since Andre’s nagging knee injury surfaced, the team has nose-dived, and the crappy offense, even without a decent receiver, is 30th in team rushing, averaging barely three yards a carry and 80 yards per game.
Dallas (6-1) at Philadelphia (3-4)
Courtesy of espn.com:
The coach’s two sons got into separate legal trouble Jan. 30.
Garrett Reid tested positive for heroin and admitted having used it that day. He ran a red light in Plymouth Township and hit another car. Authorities found syringes with heroin and testosterone in his SUV.
In a separate incident that same day, Britt Reid pointed a handgun at another driver following a dispute. He pleaded guilty to a string of charges, including carrying a firearm without a license, a felony.
Britt Reid was sentenced to eight to 23 months in jail plus five years’ probation on gun and drug charges. He can apply for the special drug program after five months.
Garrett Reid was sentenced to two to 23 months in the county prison plus one year of probation. He told O’Neill that he would apply to the drug court program.
“I don’t want to be that kid who was the son of the head coach of the Eagles, who was spoiled and on drugs and OD’d and just faded into oblivion,” he said in court.
Additionally, authorities discovered 89 pills in Garrett Reid’s cell Thursday morning. They have a decent clue as to how he smuggled them in. GOOOOOOOOOOO EAGLES!
Baltimore (4-3) at Pittsburgh (5-2)
One game different, right? Pittsburgh opened in Vegas as a 9.5 point favorite. And you know what? There’s a hell of a reason. Pittsburgh is 3-0 at home, shellacking their opponents by at least three touchdowns in each game. Baltimore is 1-3 on the road, surviving only the wretched 49ers in a 9-7 slugfest. (I believe Nick Markakis hit a three run double off a tiring Barry Zito in the 4th quarter). The Steelers are the top ranked defense in the league; the Ravens are mediocre running and passing. With a win, Pittsburgh will be the consensus #3 in the AFC, a consensus #3 who has lost to Denver and Arizona.
True, these games may be shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. But that may be the ultimate result of a salary cap: rather than a nightmarish scenario where 32 teams are a mediocre 8-8, the teams that best use their financial resources rise to the juggernaut position while the teams that don’t, won’t. Enjoy the games.