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NFL Quick-Hits: 10 Observations from Week 6

1. As it turns out, the AFC is pretty mediocre.
Sunday was a horrible day for AFC enthusiasts. New England allowed Russell Wilson to complete another desperation heave to the end zone, Green Bay smacked around Houston, and the Ravens lost two more stars on defense. Now that the dust has settled, it’s fair to wonder if the AFC isn’t that good. The top of the NFC packs more punch than the “best” teams in the AFC and even the teams with losing records like New Orleans, Dallas, Detroit and Carolina are dangerous. Granted, the Texans are going to be fine. They ran into a very motivated Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night and they got torched, but they’ll bounce back. The Patriots are still going to win the AFC East because they won’t lose to the Jets, Dolphins or Bills in head-to-head games. Baltimore should win the AFC North because Cincinnati and Pittsburgh can’t gain any traction and we’ll find out who is the class in the AFC West tonight when the Chargers host the Broncos. But it became apparent yesterday that the NFC has better talent from top to bottom this year.

2. The Falcons are perfectly flawed.
It’s certainly understandable if you don’t view the Falcons in the same light as you have other unbeaten teams at this point in a NFL season. On Sunday the Raiders out gained Atlanta 474 to 286, held the ball longer (36:26 to 23:34), and intercepted Matt Ryan three times in the first half. The Falcons can’t run the ball effectively, they can’t stop the run, and the play of their offensive line has been inconsistent. But it says something when a team is outplayed and yet still finds a way to win. The Falcons have yet to play their best game and they’re 6-0 heading into their bye. They believe that if there’s enough time on the clock, Ryan will pull victory out of the jaws of defeat like he has the past two weeks. It’s almost become routine to watch him lead fourth quarter comebacks and yet there’s nothing routine about what he’s been able to accomplish. Granted, he’s aided by a gluttony of offensive weapons and a defense that continues to make big plays. But when the chips are down it’s Ryan who has to make the crucial decisions and thus far, flawed or not, he and the Falcons have been perfect.

3. The Ravens are in trouble.
Heading into Week 6, the Ravens ranked 23rd against the pass and their run defense had sprung a leak. And that was before they lost emotional leader Ray Lewis to a torn triceps and top cover corner Ladarius Webb to a season-ending ACL injury on Sunday. Because Pittsburgh and Cincinnati can’t get out of their own way, Baltimore is in good shape to win the AFC North. But the Ravens were already without Terrell Suggs so the losses of Lewis and Webb are crippling. Now more than ever this has to become Joe Flacco’s team. He played fine in the Ravens’ 31-29 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday but the time has come where he needs to elevate the play of those around him. A few weeks ago we were talking about Baltimore’s offense finally being a strength. Now that injuries are piling up on the defensive side of the ball, there better be a lot of truth to that statement or the Ravens will become directionless awfully quick.

4. The Packers are far from done.
‘Here we go again’ likely spilled out of the mouths of some Green Bay fans when Aaron Rodgers missed James Jones on a possible 40-plus yard touchdown on the Packers’ opening drive last night. With injuries piling up on both sides of the ball, it had become reasonable to talk about the Packers missing the playoffs this year. But after Rodgers threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns (three of which landed in Jordy Nelson’s hands) in a very Rodgers-like performance, you realized Green Bay isn’t going anywhere. This is still a very dangerous team and the Pack put every NFC team on notice last night. If their offense starts firing on all cylinders again, they’ll quickly erase their 2-3 start and put themselves back in position to win the NFC North. They’ve already beaten Chicago once and Minnesota doesn’t have the weapons to keep up in a shootout. If the Pack were able to do what they did against a stout Houston defense, troubling times are ahead for opposing defensive coordinators.

5. The Eagles’ latest loss wasn’t solely on Vick.
Due to another multi-turnover day, Michael Vick will once again take the heat in the Eagles’ 26-23 loss to the Lions on Sunday. But his offensive line didn’t do him many favors, as he absorbed a number of big hits in the pocket. Brent Celek also dropped a potential touchdown and Vick’s 70-yard score to Jeremy Maclin should have been enough for the Eagles to escape with a victory. But because Philadelphia’s pass defense couldn’t stop Matthew Stafford on the Lions’ final drive of regulation, the Lions forced overtime, where they eventually won. Look, Vick has to play better. He can’t keep turning the ball over and expect that he’ll put together a last-second drive to win the game in the end. That puts too much pressure on his teammates, his coaching staff, and his defense. But it takes an entire team to underachieve as badly as Philadelphia has. With the amount of talent that they have on both sides of the ball, they shouldn’t be losing games in which opponents like Detroit keep handing them opportunities to win. Criticize Vick all you want, but Andy Reid and everyone else in midnight green deserve to be ripped, too.

6. The 49ers still have a very big crutch.
The 49ers are a very good football team. They play good defense, they can run the ball, and Alex Smith has emerged as a quarterback that you can win with. But in their 26-3 victory on Sunday, the Giants proved that the Niners still have one very big problem: They lack explosiveness. This isn’t a team will strike for many big plays so when they get down by multiple scores, they’re in trouble. They’re so used to playing with a lead and grinding opponents down that they’re lost when they trail by two touchdowns. When defensive lines are able to pin their ears back and get after Smith, San Francisco’s offensive line becomes very average. And while the Niners did well to add more playmakers to their receiving corps, they still seem to be lacking. Granted, because of their running game and defense, the 49ers won’t find themselves in many situations like they did on Sunday. But considering Atlanta, New York, Green Bay and Chicago can all beat you through the air, Jim Harbaugh has to be concerned with what he saw yesterday.

7. Time to pump the breaks on Minnesota.
If you just look at Christian Ponder’s stat line (35-of-52, 352 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), one could argue that he played well. But you wouldn’t come to the same conclusion if you actually watched his performance. He missed open receivers, he became overly reliant on the checkdown, and he threw one of the worst interceptions that you’ll ever see from any quarterback, airmailing a receiver open in the flat in the second half. Granted, he and Percy Harvin kept the Vikings in the game in the fourth quarter. But thanks to three turnovers and some shoddy defense, Minnesota suffered its first loss of the season. Granted, this defeat doesn’t prove that the Vikings are pretenders. This isn’t an overly flawed team and there’s no shame in allowing RGIII to school you both on the ground and through the air. But if the Vikings want to keep pace with Green Bay and Chicago in the division, this is a game they should win.

8. It was only a matter of time in Arizona.
The wheels have inevitably come off the Arizona Cardinals. Heading into Week 6 the Bills had been outscored 97-31 the previous two weeks and yet found a way to beat the Cardinals 19-16 in Arizona on Sunday. Granted, let’s give Buffalo its due. Those players could have quit on Chan Gailey but clearly they united by staying on the West Coast this week and now they return to Buffalo with a respectable 3-3 record. But nobody believed Arizona was a legitimate playoff contender and the Cardinals have been exposed the past two weeks. Kevin Kolb has proved he’s one tough son of a bitch while taking a pounding served by his own offensive line. But it was only a matter of time before he was seriously injured and now the Cardinals might have to go back to John Skelton. With games against Minnesota, San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta coming up, Arizona should be knocked out of postseason contention by mid-November.

9. KC Fans: Welcome to the Brady Quinn experience.
For those Chiefs fans that cheered when Matt Cassel was knocked out of last weeks’ game, you deserve every bit of Brady Quinn. Cassel may not be the answer at quarterback for Kansas City, but neither is Quinn, who threw for just 180 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs’ embarrassing 38-10 loss to the Bucs. Granted, his two interceptions weren’t all his fault. The first pick was dropped by tight end Steve Maneri and the second was striped from Dexter McCluster. But Quinn has never been very accurate, he continues to display poor footwork (which dates back to his days at Notre Dame), and his average pass went for just 4.7 yards. Due to his inability to find a reliable starting quarterback (and backup QB for that matter), you have to wonder how much longer GM Scott Pioli has in Kansas City.

10. Weeden continues to get better.
Even in the Browns’ loss to the Giants last week, you could see that rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was getting better. He finally picked up his first NFL win on Sunday, as Cleveland knocked of Cincinnati, 34-24. Weeden completed 17-of-29 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He once again struck for a big play, hitting Josh Gordon for a 71-yard score in the first half. He needs to do a better job limiting the turnovers but there’s a lot of gunslinger in the 28-year-old rookie, who continues to get better each week. Heading into Week 6 the Browns seemed destined to claim the top pick in next year’s draft. But don’t be surprised if Cleveland picks up its second straight win when it travels to Indianapolis next week. The Browns are better than what their record would indicate.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Steelers’ kicker Jeff Reed cited for public intoxication

Steelers kicker’ Jeff Reed is a big fan of exposing himself publicly it seems.

From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Steelers kicker Jeff Reed was given a citation for public intoxication and disorderly conduct around 9 p.m. last night outside of McFadden’s bar on the North Shore, according to Pittsburgh Police.

Earlier this year, Mr. Reed, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and criminal mischief after police said he damaged a paper towel dispenser and harassed employees at a Sheetz convenience store in New Alexandria in February.

In that incident, witnesses told police that Mr. Reed, 30, went into the store bathroom and then became infuriated that there were no towels in the dispenser. He began banging on the dispenser and hurling profanities at employees, even after leaving the store.

Well, at least this time no towel dispensers took the brunt of Reed’s actions.

I wonder what this ass clown does after he screws up in a game. Liiiike…when he choked not once, but twice in a loss to the Bears earlier this season.

It’s official: Mark Sanchez is a rookie.

Mark Sanchez learned a valuable lesson on Sunday: In the NFL, things can always go from bad to worse.

Three weeks ago, Sanchez threw thee interceptions and fumbled once in a 24-10 loss to the Saints. One of those interceptions was returned 99 yards for a touchdown by Darren Sharper and the fumble produced a TD for New Orleans as well. It was the first time that the Jets’ quarterback looked like the rookie he is.

Yesterday, Sanchez completed just 10 of 29 passes for 119 yards and finished with a career-high five interceptions in a 16-13 overtime loss to the Bills. He missed open receivers, he often threw into double coverage and at times, looked absolutely hopeless.

But guess what? That’s going to happen with a rookie quarterback. When Sanchez led the Jets to a 3-0 start and beat the Patriots in Foxboro, everyone was ready to anoint him the next Joe Namath before he even had four games under his belt. But now that he’s playing like the love child of J.P. Losman and Joey Harrington, nobody should be ready to throw in the towel – especially the Jets.

At least for the time being, Rex Ryan has to stick with Sanchez and ride him through the good and the bad this season. Sanchez was bound to struggle and now that he is, the first thing Ryan needs to do is make it known that the rookie is still his quarterback. Sanchez’s confidence is shaken right now and the last thing he needs is Kellen Clemens breathing down his neck.

The Jets are going to find out what kind of quarterback they have over the next couple weeks. They play the Raiders next Sunday and host the Dolphins before their bye in Week 8. If Sanchez can lead the Jets to two victories, then he can build some confidence going into the off week and into the second half of the season. If he fails, then Ryan can reassess the situation in the bye and go from there.

It’ll be interesting to see how Sanchez responds to Sunday’s performance. Ryan Leaf tanked after two strong performances his rookie year, while Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions but rebounded to be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

Which way will Sanchez go?

The Eagles should be ashamed

I don’t care that the game was in Oakland. I don’t care if it was just an “off day.” I don’t even care that they lost their starting left tackle. The Eagles should be freaking embarrassed that they lost to the Raiders on Sunday.

Philadelphia found out how important Jason Peters is to its football team in Oakland’s shocking 13-9 win over the Eagles in Week 6. Donovan McNabb was sacked six times and was never allowed to set up and throw. And when he did have time to set his feet, McNabb was either off line or his receivers weren’t open, which is amazing considering the Raiders were without Nnandi Asomugha, who didn’t see the field much after suffering an eye injury.

I understand this was just one loss and the Eagles will bounce back, but it’s inexcusable to lose to the Raiders when you’re supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. This was the same Oakland team that was accused of going through the motions after the Giants routed them in New York last week. Yet Philadelphia gained just 283 yards of offense and was 2 of 16 on third downs – against the Raiders.

It’s vital that Peters returns to health for the Eagles because if Oakland can generate a consistent pass rush, then the Giants and Cowboys will too.

It’s only right to give the Raiders some credit though. They looked like a JV team last week and instead of throwing in the towel they came out this week and fought hard. At times, JaMarcus Russell even looked like a NFL quarterback, which is shocking given just how bad he looked a week ago.

Big Ben shreds the Browns

The Pittsburgh Steelers are far from perfect, in fact, they might be the best imperfect team in the NFL, if that makes any sense. But as long as they have Ben Roethlisberger under center, they’re going to have a chance to win most on most Sundays.

The Steelers beat the Browns 27-14 on Sunday in a sloppy game that had little to no flow to it. Both teams combined for eight turnovers and Cleveland didn’t even total 200 yards of offense. Yet through all the muck, Big Ben was 23-of-35 for 417 yards and two touchdowns while helping Pittsburgh gain 543 yards of total offense.

Rothlisberger absolutely shredded the Browns’ secondary, connecting with Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller and Mike Wallace with regularity on plays that gained 25-yards or more. He also rushed six times for 11 yards and once again kept plays alive with his mobility in the pocket. I realize shredding a Browns secondary that is susceptible to giving up big plays isn’t a monumental event for a quarterback, but it’s hard not to appreciate how good Big Ben looked on Sunday.

Tom Brady and Petyon Manning are known for putting their teams on their shoulders and leading them to victory. He’s usually not brought up in the same discussion, but Roethlisberger is definitely on Brady and Manning’s level when it comes to that ability. Granted, he’s often aided by how good Pittsburgh’s defense is, but there’s no denying that he’s an exceptional quarterback. And more times than not, he covers up how flawed the Steelers truly are.

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