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NFL Week 10 Primer

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes over the middle against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of their NFL football game in New Orleans, Louisiana September 26, 2010. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Saints @ Falcons, 1:00PM ET
What a game this should be. The Saints are averaging over 30 points per contest this season but they’re just 2-3 on the road and their defense has struggled all season. On the flip side, the Falcons stumbled out of the gates but they’ve now won three in a row, including back-to-back games on the road. While the Atlanta offense is starting to hit its stride, it’s been the play of the defense that has fans most excited. Second-year player Sean Weatherspoon is a stud in the making and the rest of the defense feeds off his energy. That said, if the Falcons can’t generate a rush using only their front four, Drew Brees will pick them apart. This will be a great test for both teams.

Raiders @ Chargers, 8:20PM ET Thursday
Thursday night football starts tonight with a matchup between two teams desperately trying to break free from each other in a mediocre AFC West. On paper, the Chargers are the best team in the division but as usual, they’re underachieving and find themselves in a three-way tie with the Raiders and Chiefs. Heck, even the 3-5 Broncos are only one game out of first place. This is a game San Diego has to win. Carson Palmer has thrown six interceptions in his first two games since arriving to Oakland and Darren McFadden once again won’t play because of a foot injury. It’s time for Philip Rivers to shake out of his season-long funk and lead the Bolts to a big divisional victory.

Patriots @ Jets, 8:20PM ET, Sunday
Does it get any better on Sunday night this week? The Patriots are coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time since legs were the major form of transportation while the Jets have won three in a row and are looking for revenge after losing earlier this season in New England. I would have to think that New England won’t lose three in a row but Rex Ryan’s defense is playing championship caliber football right now. Fans will be treated to a plethora of great matchups this weekend but this one might take the cake.

Steelers @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET
It’s time to find out what Cincinnati and Andy Dalton are all about. The last time a good defense came to town, Dalton and the Bengals managed just 8 points in a 13-8 loss to the 49ers in Week 3. Now they’ll have a ticked off Pittsburgh team marching into Cincinnati on Sunday, looking to take out their anger on the upstart Bengals. How relentless do you think James Harrison will be this weekend? It’ll be interesting to see if Dalton and Co. can defend their home turf and send Pittsburgh into a two-game tailspin.

Giants @ 49ers, 4:15PM ET
What a great matchup this should be. In all five of their last five victories, the Giants rallied in the fourth quarter to win, which includes their 24-20 upset of the Patriots last Sunday. And after beating New England, Tom Coughlin’s team can’t afford to sit back and not play well against a San Francisco team that is itching to prove it can beat the best teams in the NFC. Even though both teams can score, I think this game has the makings of a defensive struggle. The Niners have played well defensively all season and with Frank Gore hobbled, the Giants’ pass rush could give Alex Smith fits.

Lions @ Bears, 4:15PM ET
Revenge will be on the mind of the Bears when they host a Lions team this Sunday that crushed them on Monday Night Football earlier this season. Chicago is also at a small disadvantage though. While the Lions should be fresh coming off their bye week, the Bears had a short week of rest following their win in Philadelphia on Monday night. It’ll be interesting to see if this game proves to be a small letdown for Chicago, even though it’s a huge divisional game.

Bills @ Cowboys, 1:00PM ET
This is one of many games on the Week 10 schedule that should give us a glimpse into how good certain teams really are. People have been waiting for the Bills to come crashing back to earth and their brutal effort last week against the Jets may have been the beginning of Buffalo’s freefall. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense could do nothing against a stingy New York defense, and they won’t have it any easier this Sunday with DeMarcus Ware breathing down their necks. If the Bills can notch a big road win, then they’ll prove that they’re at least planning to be competitive until the end. But if they lose, their road record will drop to 1-3 and the seed of doubt will continue to grow.

Texans @ Bucs, 1:00PM ET
The Texans have a great chance to keep rolling and continue to create space between them and the Titans in the AFC South if they can beat a reeling Bucs team this weekend. Shame on the Tampa Bay front office for thinking that it could rest on its laurels after winning 10 games last season. They figured they could win with the same exact team as they had a year ago and not spend any money this offseason (even though they had more cap space than any team in the league). The Bucs lack explosive plays offensively and if the receivers don’t stop underachieving, this team will continue to lose. That said, Houston has been known to take a dive in the second half seasons so if Tampa comes to play this weekend, there’s no reason the Bucs can’t get back on track with a win.

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 9 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws against the New England Patriots third quarter at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on November 6, 2011. The Giants defeated the Patriots 24-20. UPI/Matthew Healey

- It’s not surprising that the Giants gave the Patriots all they could handle today in Foxboro. It’s not even all that surprising that New York won 24-20 despite the fact that New England never losses consecutive games under Bill Belichick. For whatever reason, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have Belichick and Tom Brady’s numbers. But if you were asked before the game which quarterback would pull off a great fourth-quarter comeback to lead their team to victory, most people wouldn’t have said Eli. (Even when you consider how many fourth-quarter comebacks the G-Men have already tallied this season.) People scoffed when Manning said he considered himself to be in the same class as Brady back in August. Whether you think he does or not, consider that he has the best fourth-quarter passer rating of any quarterback in the league this season and that his Giants are 6-2 when everyone thought they’d be looking up at the Eagles in the NFC East standings right about now. He’s also been the winning quarterback the past two times the Giants have played the Patriots, so the whole “does Eli belong in Brady’s class” conversation is rather moot at the moment. It’s all about wins, losses, and…nope, that’s about it.

- The Chiefs were due for a letdown. While they had won four in a row heading into Week 9, they seriously lack offensive explosion now that Jamaal Charles is out for the year and they would have lost to the Chargers on Monday night had Philip Rivers not decided to break out his best Rex Grossman impression late in the fourth quarter. That said, I don’t think anyone woke up this morning thinking, “Yeah, today is the day the Dolphins get their first win behind Matt Moore’s three touchdown passes and stingy defensive play.” I actually thought Miami would keep things close but 31-3? For the first time all season Tony Sparano will get a good night of sleep.

- The Rams pulled off the upset of the year last Sunday when they knocked off the Saints at home. So naturally they went out today and lost to an Arizona Cardinals team that started John Skelton at quarterback. St. Louis was given every opportunity to notch back-to-back victories for the first time all season and it screwed the pooch instead. The special teams unit was an absolute disaster in the fourth quarter and in overtime, as the Rams had a game-winning field goal blocked and missed four tackles on Patrick Peterson’s electrifying 99-yard punt return in OT. When his team played that brutal schedule to open the year, at least Steve Spagnuolo had an excuse for losing. There’s no excuse to lose to the John Skelton-led Cardinals when the game was practically in the bag.

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Should Colts take a flier on JaMarcus Russell?

In his recent “2 Minute Blitz” video, Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz suggests that the Colts should take a chance on JaMarcus Russell. Kravitz lists the lack of options that the team has behind Peyton Manning and the possibility of Russell “seeing the light” while learning in a great organization as some of the reasons why the former No. 1 overall pick would be a fit in Indy.

On the surface, the idea isn’t as far-fetched as some may think. Curtis Painter did nothing in his limited time last year to suggest that he could be a capable backup for Manning, nonetheless someone that the Colts could actually count on to win a came if Peyton were ever to get injured. (Throw on game film of Painter’s effort against the Jets last year if you disagree.) Plus, Manning and Russell are polar opposites, so maybe JaMarcabust could learn something from the hardest working quarterback in the game.

That said, I’m one who believes that Russell will never get it. I think he wanted to parlay his junior season at LSU into a big payday in the NFL and that’s exactly what he did. With the backing of Al Davis, I think he knew he could do whatever he wanted and the checks were still going to come in the mail. I don’t think he wants it, nor do I think he ever will want it.

If the Colts did sign him, I wouldn’t pooh-pooh their decision because Russell could stand to learn a lot from Manning. He needs to be in that kind of structured environment if he ever has a shot to make it in the NFL. In fact, Indianapolis might just be the best spot for him.

But at the end of the day, a person can be in the right situation and still not change for the better. It would be up to Russell to make fundamental changes to improve his work ethic and I just don’t think he has the will, desire or dedication to do that.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Colts hand away perfect season, lose to Jets

The Indianapolis Colts just answered the question of whether or not an undefeated season is more important than resting their starters: It’s not.

By benching Peyton Manning early in the second half on Sunday, the Colts surrendered their chance at a perfect season and subsequently lost to the Jets, 29-15. It was Indy’s first loss since October 27 of 2008.

After the game, head coach Jim Caldwell noted that a perfect season was never the Colts’ ultimate goal – a Super Bowl is. Some may argue that the Colts have an obligation to the fans (and to the Ravens, Broncos, Steelers, etc.) to leave Manning and the starters in, but what would have happened if Manning snapped his ACL in a meaningless (meaningless for Indy) game late in the season? What’s the point of going 16-0 or 15-1 and watching Curtis Painter lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs?

I felt bad watching Manning on the sidelines, I really did. He’s a warrior and a competitor and the guy wants to be in every game. That’s why he wins and that’s why the Colts have had so much success over the past couple years.

That said, he can be mad on the sidelines all he wants because at least he’ll be healthy in three weeks when Indianapolis is playing for a chance at a Super Bowl. An undefeated season would have been great, but in one week nobody (not even Colts fans) are going to give a crap. This might be a story for the media, but it’s not to the Colts franchise. Again, in a week, nobody will care about this so hopefully the mainstream media doesn’t make an issue of it over the next week.

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