Sunday, November 17, 2013

NFL Eleven Ups The Controversy

For Week Eleven of the NFL season there are eleven takes, but it is the twelfth that will be talked about for a long time.


1 - The AFC South is a one-team show - What makes Tennessee's loss to the Colts more galling is the Titans did what usually would be enough to win.   I'm reading a lot of Titans fans wanting to fire coach Mike Munchak, never mind that instability doesn't create winning, Munchak has his guys fighting down to the bitter end (not that many NFL coaches can honestly claim that), and the issues the Titans face ultimately have to do with Jake Locker's injuries - if he were playing I'm confident the Titans would have won.   It makes Ryan Fitzpatrick doubly maddening because he doesn't deliver enough to win yet delivers numbers worthy of a winner.  

The Jaguars and Texans have fallen off the map, and someone needs to explain why Case Keenum was benched for the inept Matt Schaub in Houston's loss to the Oakland Raiders (it's pretty interesting Andre Johnson was yelling at him after his botched last-gasp throw).  

It's obvious the Colts are for real and they are on their way to yet another AFC South title.

2 - San Diego again cannot deliver against a beatable opponent - Amid all the absurdity surrounding the Miami Dolphins they get the win thanks to inability to deliver the knockout blow by San Diego.   The Chargers have now fallen out of any realistic hope of a playoff spot and the prospect of salvaing an 8-8 record looks iffy.

3 - The Packers are toast - When they fall behind, they fail.   And the Packers can't get good quarterbacking out of their guys with Aaron Rodgers out.

4 - The Lions still haven't cleared to the next level - Blowing a winnable game against the faltering Steelers showed the Detroit Lions have not closed in on elite status yet.  The good news is they still lead the NFC North (tied at 6-4 with the Bears but holding the season-sweep tiebreaker).

5 - The Eagles are - slowly but steadily - becoming a force - They'd lost their first four home games but won five of their six road games.   Now they've won at home and their schedule the rest of the way bodes well for a 10-6 finish or better.

6 - The 49ers are falling out of the race - The roughing penalty on the Niners may be disputable, but it also illustrated that Jim Harbaough's squad can no longer hang with Seattle and may not be able to hang for a wildcard spot.  

7 - The Saints keep on keeping on in the NFC - New Orleans faces three games left on its schedule to be worried about - the two Carolina games and going to Seattle, but if anyone can shoot down the Seahawks at Son Of The Kingdome it's New Orleans.  

8 - The Falcons have to consider replacing Matt Ryan - It sounds blasphemous given Matt Ryan's superb overall career, but his play this season has been terrible even if statistically it still looks good.   Getting wasted by the Bucs was embarrassing for the Falcons.

9 - The New York Jets......well, are the New York Jets - The Jets can become the first team to ever finish 8-8 without a streak passing one game on either side of the ledger (win loss win loss win loss win loss win loss is their record after ten games).   How fitting to beat Baltimore, lose to the Dolphins, beat Oakland 45 years after The Heidi Game, lose to Carolina, beat Cleveland and then lose to Miami again.  

10 - Kansas City cannot hang with Denver's explosive offense - The Chiefs played the Broncos tough but they showed Alex Smith does not have the ability to hang with Peyton Manning or a bad Broncos defense.

11 - The Cardinals just won't go away - With Carson Palmer playing mediocre football the Cards are 6-4 and an outright winning record seems inevitable.  


But it is the Monday Night Game that will be controversial for a while.    By all accounts the final pass by Tom Brady drew a pass interference flag that was mind-bogglingly overturned by Clete Blakeman.   To that point the game had been exactly what the Patriots-Panther rivalry has been - a bitterly close contest where Superbowl XXXVIII was its apex.   It is impossible to agree with assertions that the ball was uncatchable.

This is not about the Panthers, for they keep proving they are a team that can win the Superbowl.   The Patriots certainly made multiple errors in this game (notably foolish acts by the likes of Logan Mankins and Aqib Talib, locked in a vicious showdown all night with Stevonne Smith, and yet another Stevan Ridley fumble) but they erased a 10-3 gap, outscored the Panthers 17-7 for a lengthy stretch, and even after the Panthers scored the Patriots pulled off clutch plays to get to the Panthers 18.   If the game had ended in a tie that probably would be the appropriate outcome.  

The two words that come to mind here are Ben Dreith and the bogus penalty that gave the 1976 Oakland Raiders a playoff win over the Patriots.   Some compare it to the replacement refs call against Green Bay in 2012 but the analogy is laughable; people (especially the media) wanted to hate the replacement refs from the beginning and would have agreed with Seattle in another context.   The analogy that fits here is Ben Dreith.

But it says a lot about the Patriots that this organization won't fall apart because of incompetent ownership fighting against coach Chuck Fairbanks like that latter-1970s squad ultimately did after the Ben Dreith game; instead the Patriots will refocus - especially with Peyton Manning's Broncos coming to Foxboro next Sunday Night - and fight to win.   

Who knows, the Patriots and the Panthers may get a Superbowl rematch ten years after their epic battle in 2003's AFC-NFC World Championship Game.

No comments: