Baker’s Dozen: NFL Week 11

Week 11. The Week before one of the better football weeks of the year, football on Thanksgiving Thursday, where I usually sit on my living room couch in my Joe Namath jersey screaming at Mark Sanchez who has thrown yet another dumb interception. Fortunately, that’s for next week, since the Jets played this past Thursday, so I’ll be able to relax and enjoy myself on Thanksgiving for a change.

Back Week 11, where I sat in my Namath jersey in my desk chair Thursday night, screaming at Sanchez for throwing yet another dumb interception. But I’m not the only one miserable after Week 11. The Bears Super Bowl hopes came crashing down with the loss of quarterback Jay Cutler, DeSean Jackson probably lost his job in Philly after this season (although I’m sure Dallas won’t mind taking him off their hands), and in typical Redskins fashion, their kicker, Graham Gano missed a 52-yard field goal attempt in OT, putting the Cowboys and kicker Dan Bailey in good position to kick a 39-yard field goal and win the game 27-24.

At least Colt’s fans can breathe a sigh of relief-they didn’t lose a game for the first time in ten weeks.

1. Tebow does it again. This one is personal. I’ve been riding the Tebow bandwagon since he replaced Kyle Orton in Week 5, but not once did I think Tebow would be able to pull of his magic against MY New York Jets. With all theoretical biases and conflicts of interests aside I’ll say it again, the guy just wins in everything he does. Tebow was largely ineffective against the Jets stout defense throughout the first 56 minutes of their Thursday night game. After drawing first blood off a 37-yard Matt Prater field goal in the first quarter, Tebow and the Broncos went on nine straight drives of six plays or less that ended in a fumble or a punt.

The Broncos trailed 13-10 with 5:54 remaining after a Nick Folk field goal for the Jets. This mark signaled that it was that time again, ‘Tebow Time’. Tebow capped off a twelve play, 96-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run, leaving Mark Sanchez and the Jets with the ball with under a minute. I’m not a fan of what John Fox and John Elway are doing with Tebow and the offense, but it’s somehow worked in every game but one. They play conservative the majority of the game and when the opportunity presents itself they let Tebow do what he does best. The only problem is if they get in a situation like they did against the Lions, Tebow is pretty much set up to fail.

2. Michael Bush Steps up again. Bush got the start for the second straight week over the injured Darren McFadden, and performed admirably, rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. It was a step down from his performance the week before where he rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries, but still impressive nonetheless. Although he was a stud in college at Louisville, Bush slipped to the 4th round in the draft due to injury concerns. Bush will become a free agent after this season after signing a one-year deal to stay with the Raiders in June. Bush will likely get a nice payday next year, and possibly receive offers from teams in need of a running back such as the Browns, Packers or the Redskins.

3. The Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills are the NFL’s versions of the 1998 Lindsey Lohan movie ‘The Parent Trap’…………………………………………………….. These two teams have suffered a bit of a role reversal as of late, similar to what separated identical twins Hallie and Annie suffered after meeting at summer camp. The Dolphins have won three straight and the Bills have lost three straight. What has changed you ask? Well, Miami realized they weren’t as bad as they thought they were after putting a 31-3 beat down on the then-surging Chiefs in Week 9, while the Bills realized they’re not as good as they thought they were after being beat down by the then-surging Jets in Week 9. It’s also worth considering that the Dolphins have only allowed a total of 20 points over their three game win streak while scoring 86. The Bills have allowed a total of 106 points over their three game losing streak, while scoring only 26. These very similar yet opposite scenarios capped off with the Dolphins 35-8 victory over the Bills in Miami on Sunday. I just hope that Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Moore don’t try to set up Chan Gailey and Tony Sparano after the season.

4. The Bengals have me thinking they’re no longer pretenders. You might find it a bit odd that I’m showing faith in the Bengals after losing two straight games, but there’s some interesting logic behind it. The two losses came to their division rivals, first the Steelers and this week the Ravens, who were each coming off big losses of their own (Steelers lost a close game against the Ravens and the Ravens were caught off guard by the Seahawks). The Bengals lost each game by seven points, and had ample opportunities to win the games.

Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton did struggle a bit in each game and was knocked on his back repeatedly, but he didn’t give up and he kept firing downfield. Dalton may not have the strongest arm or all of the ideal football intangibles, but he’s an excellent game manager, has a great football IQ, and does an impressive job at commanding the attention and respect of his teammates. With Dalton managing games and the defense playing spectacular as of late, the Bengals have truly proved to me that although they may not be Super Bowl contenders this year, they definitely are no longer pretenders in my book.

5. Torrey Smith needs to cut his hair. Torrey Smith had another big day Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, catching six passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, but Smith likely would have scored another big touchdown if it weren’t for his dreadlocks. Smith caught a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in the second quarter and it looked like he would have an easy touchdown before being brought down from behind by Bengals cornerback Adam Jones after gaining 28 yards. At first glance, it looked like Jones made a horse-collar tackle on Smith, but upon review Jones merely grabbed Smith’s dreadlocks from behind and yanked him down, which according to NFL rules is legal. Smith likely would have easily scored a 69-yard touchdown on the play if not for his long dreads. It will be interesting to see if Smith ties them up for now on during games to avoid it from happening again.

6. The Cleveland Browns offense is horrendous. Ok, so they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars this past weekend 14-10, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve only scored more than 17 points in two of their ten games this season. Not exactly what you would a recipe for success in the NFL. They lost three consecutive games where they scored 12 points or less in each loss, before coming out with a win on Sunday. The teams leading rusher, Chris Ogbonnaya, who has come in to replace the injured Monterio Hardesty, who was starting in place of Peyton Hillis, has only 285 yards on the ground. Their leading receiver is rookie second round draft pick out of North Carolina Greg little, who is averaging only 43.8 yards per game and has not recorded a touchdown. It’s beyond me how this team has somehow managed to have a 4-6 record, especially in the division they play in.

7. Jason Witten has jets. The Cowboys tight end scored a key 59-yard touchdown against the division rival Redskins on Sunday. Witten has never been known for his speed, but he somehow outran three members of the Redskins secondary, including speedster and Pro-bowler DeAngelo Hall. Witten never has and never will be known for his speed, but as they say “every dog has their day”, and Jason Witten just had his.

8. Packers avoid ‘Blount Force Trauma’. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Tampa Bay Buccanneers 35-26 on Sunday, but won the game in a fairly unimpressive fashion. The Bucs hung in with the Packers all afternoon as they rode the tails of second year running back LeGarrette Blount, who broke tackles from practically all eleven Packers defenders en route to a 54-yard rushing touchdown and finished the game with 107 yards. Tampa Bay’s running game was firing on all cylinders, but the Packers running game appeared to be their Achilles heel.

Their leading rusher on the day, James Starks, finished with 38 yards on eleven carries. Aaron Rodgers was the team’s second leading rusher with 28 yards on five attempts. Obviously a lot of the Packer’s struggles in the running game can be attributed to their success passing the ball and them being forced to run the ball to finish off games while teams focus trying to stop the run. The Packer’s do have eight rushing touchdowns on the year which is not terrible, but what’s more telling is the fact that the teams running backs have only contributed four of those, three coming from fullback John Kuhn and Starks has one as well. The other four have been scored by Rodgers, backup quarterback Matt Flynn, and defensive tackle B.J. Raji. The Packer’s have been successful in outscoring teams this season to the point where their running success hasn’t mattered much, but in the final stretch of the season and the playoffs, they as a team really need to improve running the ball in case Rodgers starts to struggle.

9. Lions come roaring back. Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Kevin Smith, who was playing in his second game after re-signing with the Lions, the Lions overcame a 24-7 second quarter deficit by going on a 42-11 run. The run was sparked by Stafford, who finished the game with 335 yards and five touchdowns, who threw a three-yard touchdown to rookie Titus Young. Kevin Smith kept the pressure on, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns along with 61 yards and a touchdown reception. It was a heartfelt moment for Smith, who was cut by the team in the preseason because of his recurring knee injuries, but was resigned by the team with Jahvid Best out after suffering another concussion.

10Early’s punch was a little too late. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Early Doucet slapped the helmet of San Francisco 49ers defensive back Dashon Goldson in the fourth quarter of Sundays matchup. Goldson retaliated and was ejected from the game. Unfortunately for Doucet, the Cardinals were already down 23-0 at that point and went on to lose 23-7, falling to 3-7 on the season. Frustration is setting in in Arizona.

11. Bad News (for the) Bears. The Chicago Bears played well on Sunday, decisively beating the San Diego Chargers 31-20. After the game, reports came out that Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb in the win. The injury came after Cutler tried to make a tackle on Chargers cornerback Antoine Cason after throwing an interception early in the fourth quarter. Cutler played through the injury, leading the Bears on a near eight-minute drive, leaving the Chargers with less than two minutes remaining to make up an eleven-point deficit. Cutler played through the injury to the delight of Bears fans who ripped him after sitting out of last years playoff game against the Packers after suffering a knee injury. Unfortunately, Cutler will have surgery on the thumb and will likely miss the remainder of the regular season. Hopefully Lovie Smith has Kyle Orton’s number on speed dial.

12. VY finally let his play do the talking. After signing with the Eagles in the off-season, Vince Young gave the new look eagles the title of “Dream Team”. Things haven’t worked out so well for the eagles as they sit at 4-6, trailing the division leading Cowboys and Giants. The Eagles faced a must-win game on Sunday night where they faced the Giants, but were without starting quarterback Michael Vick, who was nursing a ribs injury. Young did have his struggles throughout the game, throwing three interceptions, but he stepped up when it mattered most, leading the Eagles on a 78 yard drive down the field, capped off by an eight yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. The Eagles went on to win 17-10 after an Eli Manning fumble and a 67-yard dagger of a run by LeSean McCoy. Young talked the talked, and finally had the opportunity to walk the walk in what people are saying was his “try-out” for next season.

13. The injury bug has hit quarterbacks this season. So far, only 16 teams have had the same starting quarterback throughout the entirety of the season, meaning 16 teams have changed their quarterback or had/will have a different starting quarterback for at least a game this season. Four of these changes have been due to poor quarterback play (Vikings- McNabb/Ponder, Jaguars- David Garrard/Luke McCown/ Gabbert, Redskins- Grossman/Beck, and Broncos- Orton/Tebow), six have been due to minor injuries (Seahawks- Jackson/Whitehurst, Titans- Hasselbeck/Locker, Cardinals- Kolb/Skelton, Rams-Bradford/Feeley, and Eagles- Vick/Young), and six have been due to season ending injuries (Colts- Manning/Collins/Painter, Bears- Cutler/Hanie, Chiefs- Cassell/Falco Palko, Texans- Schaub/Leinart, Dolphins- Henne/Moore, and Oakland- Campbell/Palmer). I’m not sure if some of these injuries can be attributed to the lockout in any way or they’re all just due to really bad luck. Anyways, I’m hoping for Orton to land with Bears and in a wild turn of events somebody signs Brett Favre, along with Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. C’mon Kansas City.

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