Gibberman: Week 9 thoughts and observations
The Arizona Cardinals are at the half way point of their 2009-10 campaign and they are the toughest team in the entire NFL to get a good read on. This week they demolished the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field 41-21. Quarterback Kurt Warner looked like an MVP candidate, Larry Fitzgerald played like the best wide receiver in the league, and the defense put a whooping on Bears QB Jay Cutler. This was following a week against the Carolina Panthers when they were embarrassed at home and looked as bad as they did against the Philadelphia Eagles/New England Patriots last year.
At the mid-point the Redbirds are 5-3, 4-0 on the road and 1-3 at home, there is not one person that covers the Cardinals or a fan of the team that ever would expected the road wins to out number the home wins eight games into the season. Looking at the schedule they have a legitimate chance to go 8-0 away from University of Phoenix Stadium; the remaining games are @ St. Louis, @ Tennessee, @ San Francisco, and @ Detroit. The toughest game out of that group is against the Titans who have won two straight games since inserting Vince Young as the starting quarterback. The four home games the Cardinals have left are Seattle, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Green Bay. The Vikings game is clearly the toughest out of that group and the Packers contest looks much easier after watching them fall apart against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. If the Cardinals did any worse than 6-2 in the second half of the season I would consider it a disappointment.
A quick note on Anquan Boldin being upset at how Head Coach Ken Whisehunt handled him not dressing today; Q take it as a compliment, the coaching staff knows that you are such a competitor that they didn’t want to have to deal with you trying to talk them into playing. The team won 41-21 and the week off gives you an opportunity to get fully healthy going into the stretch run.
Time to hit the Week 9 12-Pack:
1. The New Orleans Saints improved to 8-0 with another come from behind victory against the Panthers. The Saints are starting to show cracks in their armor and will be vulnerable once the playoffs come around. For the third straight week New Orleans’ defense could not stop the run; Panthers 182 yards – 4.7 yards per carry, Atlanta Falcons 161 yards – 6.7 yards per carry, Miami Dolphins 137 yards -4.6 yards per carry. They were able to come away with wins in these games because they forced three turnovers in each game. At some point during the playoffs the Saints will come across as team that will play ball control and protect the football which will not allow the Drew Brees and company to push the tempo of the game. I see the Saints season coming to a disappointing and premature end.
2. The most important game on the Week 9 schedule was the San Diego Chargers traveling across the country to take on the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. The Chargers came up with a dramatic come from behind win as Phillip Rivers led the Bolts on an eight play, 80-yard drive with only two minutes and seven seconds left on the clock. The Giants had a chance to put the game away after a Terrell Thomas interception put them at the five-yard line with less than four minutes left in the game. New York had to settle for a field goal not putting the game to bed. If the Broncos lose to the Steelers on Monday Night Football, San Diego will only be one game out of first place. The G-Men fell two games behind the first place Dallas Cowboys.
3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers guaranteed that the NFL would not have an 0-16 team this season when they upset the Green Bay Packers 38-28 in their throwback jerseys from the Sam Wyche years. The bigger story from this game is the disappointing season the Packers are having. A trendy pick to reach the Super Bowl in the pre-season (what sort of idiot would do something like that?) are now 4-4, lost the Favre Bowl twice, and are now a long shot to reach the playoffs. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers hasn’t been able to transition to the three-four defense as smoothly as originally believed and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has great numbers, but for the second straight year it has not translated to wins.
4. America’s team is starting to hit its stride. After a disappointing 2-2 start the Dallas Cowboys have strung together four straight wins including a W over a potential playoff team in the Atlanta Falcons and their battle for first place Sunday Night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Before the Week 9 rumble for first place the last time the Cowboys and Eagles were on the field together resulted in a Eagles 44-6 stomping that sent Dallas home to watch the playoffs. In that game Tony Romo turned the ball over three times, Sunday Night Romo threw for over 300 yards, only turned the ball over once, and hit Miles Austin for the go ahead TD in the fourth quarter. Tony’s extra work during the week with WR Roy Williams paid off as they connected five times for 75 yards. The teams meet again at Jerry’s Palace the last week of the regular season.
5. The Cincinnati Bengals continue to be the surprise of the NFL as they shockingly swept the Baltimore Ravens. The next time I give my MVP rankings Bengals running back Cedric Benson will be replacing Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. Nothing against Palmer, but it is clear that Benson is the engine that makes the Bengals offense go. Against Baltimore Cedric grinded out 117 yards on 34 carries. This Bengals team is for real and they have the formula for a team that can have success going into the winter when the weather starts to have an affect on the game; good running game, strong armed quarterback who can play through dismal conditions, and a dominating defense (never thought I would ever write that when describing the Bengals defense).
6. After a one year hiatus the New England Patriots have regained their title as the class of the AFC East. For those who thought New England’s offense only clicked in their previous two games because they played the Titans and Buccaneers think again. The Dolphins don’t have what I consider a great defense, but they are a difficult team to get into an offensive rhythm against because of their ball control offense. That did not stop Tom Brady from ripping off over 300 yards and leading the Pats to 27 points. New England has a playoff spot locked up and is now fighting for home field advantage.
7. Another solid performance for Titans quarterback Vince Young. The former Texas Longhorn is 2-0 in his two starts and has not turned the ball over. With their terrible start and a tough AFC the Titans will not be able to get themselves back into the playoff race, but they can have an impact on who gets into the tournament in both conferences with games against the Texans, Cardinals, Colts, and Chargers. Tennessee will be a fun team to watch down the stretch.
8. If the Houston Texans ever want to be considered a legitimate NFL franchise they are going to have to find a way to win a game like the one they dropped to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday afternoon. The Colts snuck past the Texans 20-17 when Texans kicker Kris Brown missed a 42 yard FG as time expired. Ironically Brown nailed a 56 yarder as time expired in the 1st half. Houston has a bye next week then has two division games at home against the Titans and Colts. If they want get an AFC Wild Card spot it is imperative that they win both of those games.
9. I talked a little bit about the Cowboys-Eagles game earlier from the Cowboys perspective, now its time to take a look from the Eagles point of view. I thought Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid had a forgettable 4th quarter. He lost two timeouts in the second half on failed challenges and made a questionable decision to settle for a David Akers field goal with less than five minutes left in the game. The Eagles never saw the ball again as the Cowboys were able to run out the clock.
10. Matt Stafford had a typical game for a rookie quarterback as he struggled against the Seattle Seahawks with five interceptions. Detroit fans need to be patient with the rook, he has an incredible amount of talent and even with all the picks he showed flashes of what he can become. Stafford displayed great chemistry with rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Give him some time to figure it out with wide receiver Calvin Johnson and I still believe the Lions have the pieces to develop into an excellent offensive team in the near future.
11. Halfway through the NFL season we can lock in five playoff teams. The New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, and New Orleans Saints will all be participating in the dance unless they have some sort of catastrophic injury.
12. Haven’t talked about my fantasy football teams much here (I have four and yes I know that is two to many), but this week I went head to head with Jon Bloom the host of the Jon Bloom Show on Saturday’s from 9 AM-12 PM, which I produce. I pummeled him thanks to running backs Chris Johnson and DeAngelo Williams. I started off the year struggling in this particular league, but my team is coming on strong down the stretch. I am looking forward to the chance to embarrass Bloom again in the playoffs.
Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew…seven receptions, 70 yards, and one TD. That was Pettigrew’s first touchdown of the season and he is starting to show the versatility that made him a first round pick.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy…McCoy did his best Brian Westbrook impression with the starting running back out with a concussion. LeSean had 115 total yards including leading the team in receiving yards. With Westbrook nearing the end it looks like they will have a seamless transition to McCoy when they are ready to let Brian go.
Week 10 Look Ahead
Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers…This is an unofficial playoff elimination game.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers…If the Bengals win this game that will mean they went 4-0 against the Steelers and Ravens.
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers…If the Packers lose this game their playoff hopes go down the drain.
Philadelphia Eagles @ San Diego Chargers…The Bolts look to take down their second straight NFC East opponent this time in the friendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium.
New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts…This has become the rivalry that has defined the NFL. Enjoy it while you can Tom Brady and Peyton Manning won’t be going head to head forever as both are entering the later stages of their careers.