The Arizona Cardinals season was like a car tilting back and forth on a cliff and the weight was slowly shifting to the side hanging off. Then the Arizona Cardinals defense saved the season with Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie’s interception for a touchdown and then stopping the Houston Texans three times on the 1-yard line to close out the game. The Cards snuck past the Texans 28-21 to improve their record to 2-2 as they pulled within a half game of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West who got smoked by the Atlanta Falcons.
Even though the Cardinals won, Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt should be very worried about his team. If it wasn’t for some questionable play calling by Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan this game would have came down to whoever won a coin toss. It boggles my mind that Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson wasn’t on the field for any of the three plays from the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter. I guess they must have been looking the other way on Johnson’s second touchdown when he dragged the entire Cardinals defense into the end-zone with him, they were much better off with their 20th string TE on the field!
If the Redbirds lost and fell to 1-3 the season would have been over. All three loses would have been at home and three of the next four games are on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, and Chicago Bears, all very tough places to get wins. The catastrophe situation was avoided this week, but if Coach Whisenhunt doesn’t get the Cardinals to play a complete 60 minutes and snap out of the funk they have been in all season they aren’t going to have a chance to defend their NFC Championship in the playoffs.
Now let’s hit the Week 5 12 Pack:
1. The Cincinnati Bengals found a way to win late in the fourth quarter for the third straight game and this time it gave them sole control of first place in the AFC North. They defeated the Baltimore Ravens 17-14 and the formula for victory has not changed. They play great defense (didn’t score a touchdown this week ruining their 2 week streak) and Palmer makes big plays with less than two minutes in the fourth quarter. This week the Bengals were aided by two huge Baltimore penalties one was for Ray Lewis drilling Chad Johnson who was defenseless and the other was a defensive pass interference on cornerback Frank Walker on 3rd and 16 which resulted in a 1st down. After the game Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis gave the game-ball to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer whose wife Vikki died on Thursday night. CBS had a camera in the Cincy locker room allowing us to see Coach Zimmer speak and the team rally around him; it was an incredibly surreal scene.
2. The Denver Broncos have made me take my foot and not only stick it in my mouth, but shove it completely down my throat. Head Coach Josh McDaniels has the Broncos playing great football and this week he led them to a 20-17 victory over his mentor Bill Belichick. Seeing McDaniels celebrate with pure joy and emotion after the game was an awesome scene (NFL players take note, unplanned spontaneous celebrations are way better than stupid dances that you practice looking at yourself in a mirror…Chad Ochocinco you’re an exception, do your thing), it took five weeks, but I am finally on the bandwagon. The Broncos have a good running game led by rookie Knowshown Moreno, explosive WR’s in Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley, and Jabar Gaffney, and a fantastic defense. Right now the Broncos are 5-0, but they are not out of the woods yet. The next two weeks are both on the road; Monday Night against the San Diego Chargers and at the Baltimore Ravens. After that they have the Pittsburgh Steelers home, @ Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and New York Giants at home. If they can get through those games 2-4 that will put Denver at 7-4 with two games left against Kansas City and one against the Raiders, that is 10 wins and a playoff berth in the AFC.
3. There was one name I intentionally left out of that Broncos section and that is because I am going to talk about him here. Kyle Orton’s performance through five games has been as efficient as any QB in the NFL. While Peyton Manning is a couple levels above in the MVP race I have the two QB’s of the teams discussed in #1 and #2 of the 12 pack as the next two candidates. Carson Palmer I place second because there is nothing more valuable than leading game winning drives in the 4th quarter. Kyle Orton is tailgating Palmer; Orton has only thrown one pick and has seven touchdown passes. His numbers don’t jump out at you, but do not get it twisted, Orton is what makes this Broncos offense go. Rounding out my top five are New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees at #4 and New York Giants QB Eli Manning at #5.
4. The Indianapolis Colts annihilated the Tennessee Titans 31-9. The Colts who are usually a class first organization had an out of character moment late in the game Sunday Night. Already up 28-9 late in the 4th and with the Titans waving the white flag (brought in Vince Young for Kerry Collins) the Colts continued to pass the ball to pad Peyton Manning stats. I would have had no problem if a Titan took a couple extra steps and put their helmet right between the 1 and 8 on Manning jersey. It kinda would have been like protecting your player in baseball game, it has to be done the right way. You don’t go after a QB’s knee or head, but you let them know running up the score is not appreciated. I guarantee if Tony Dungy is the Colts head coach and not Jim Caldwell this doesn’t happen.
5. Great idea for an office pool, which NFL Head Coach gets canned first? You can get Tom Cable (Raiders), Dick Jauron (Bills), Eric Maningi (Browns), Gary Kubiak (Texans), Jim Zorn (Redskins), or Wade Phillips (Cowboys). When I am reaching in the hat for a name I am praying that I snag Wade Phillips, he would have been gone this week if they lost to the Chiefs.
6. Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings showed maturity by taking care of business against the hapless St. Louis Rams. Their next three games pits the Viks against the Ravens, Steelers, and Packers. If the Vikings keep winning and Favre continues to put up the type of numbers he has, I will have no choice, but to include him in the MVP conversation. Let me add it really pains me to say that, I can’t stand Favre.
7. Rookie wide receivers typically struggle in their first year at the NFL level. That’s what makes how this year’s rookie class is performing even more incredible. Two WRs who went in the first round and were supposed to struggle adjusting to the NFL route tree have thrived; Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles and Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin. Indianapolis Colts WR Austin Collie is making Colts fans ask Harrison who, 21-year-old Kenny Britt the youngest player in the NFL has been one of Kerry Collins favorite targets, Julian Edelman has allowed the Patriots to tell Joey Galloway to sit at home, Mohammed Massaquoi is the #1 target on the Cleveland Browns (when Derek Anderson only completes 2 passes that isn’t saying much I know), and Mike Wallace has caught at least two balls in every game for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That is an enormous amount of rookie WRs contributing to their teams and the funniest part of it all, the top two wide receivers taken Darius Heyward Bay and Michael Crabtree have not done a thing.
8. I can’t remember a year that had so many dreadful teams. You couldn’t pay me to go watch the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams, or Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is 8 out of 32 teams and I was being nice not throwing the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans to the list. That is way too many crappy teams because in weeks like today when only the Bills and Browns played each other we get stuck with a bunch of bad games.
9. Since it went on while football games were going on I’m throwing it in. What a pleasure it was watching Jonathan Papelbon help the Boston Red Sox get eliminated from the MLB playoffs. The Yankees-Angels ALCS is going to be a battle.
10. The Atlanta Falcons came out and made a statement Sunday afternoon by trampling the San Francisco 49ers 45-10. The “Dirtybirds” reestablished their running attack with Michael Turner finishing just under 100 yards and 3 TD’s. When they run the ball that opens up things for QB Matt Ryan and WR Roddy White, White went off for over 200 yards receiving. The Falcons needed a game like this to get their confidence up; I can’t wait to see them face off against the New Orleans Saints on November 2nd.
11. I’m breaking out the fashion critic again. Not only was the Broncos-Patriots game a great game, but what fantastic jersey’s both team’s wore. The Pats uni’s with the little red/blue guy on the helmet are classic and I loved the Broncos yellow and brown gear. The Denver jersey’s made me think of the real old school NFL jersey’s when they used to wear leather helmets, one of my all time favorite throwbacks. The Kansas City Chiefs pulled out their Dallas Texans uniforms; I was indifferent to them, nothing special. The Cardinals busted out white on white’s which were OK, but not spectacular. The Rams went with the Jim Everett old school blue and yellow, absolutely loved them. At some point this season I want to see the New York Giants jersey’s from the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Boomer Esiason 1980’s Bengals uniform, and the Thurman Thomas 1990’s Buffalo Bills look.
12. The NFL world was introduced to Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin on Sunday. While Terrell Owens is in Buffalo struggling, Austin stepped in for the injured Roy Williams and saved Wade Phillips job. He had two touchdowns including the game winner in OT and 250 yards receiving. While I was impressed with Miles performance, it was against the Kansas City Chiefs, if he follows it up with a solid game against the Atlanta Falcons next week more credit will be bestowed.
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin had two touchdowns including the first of his career and Colts WR Austin Collie had his 3rd TD reception in two weeks.
The Detroit Lions cannot afford to lose WR Calvin Johnson for an extended period of time. He is the centerpiece off the offense and need him and Matt Stafford to work on their chemistry so they can start building a foundation for the future.
The Seahawks are a completely different team when Matt Hasselback is healthy. He is clearly the engine that makes the Hawks offense go.
Week 6 Look Ahead
A much better slate of games next week.
Baltimore Ravens @ Minnesota Vikings – Can the Ravens offense get back on track or will the Brett Favre magic continue.
New York Giants @ New Orleans Saints – The battle NFC supremacy.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks – If the Cards win they are tied for first place with the San Francisco 49ers.
Chicago Bears @ Atlanta Falcons – Battle of the QB’s Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan
Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers – The Chargers look to hand the Broncos their first loss and stay within striking distance in the AFC West.