A recap of Week 13 in the NFL – three of Sunday’s games was decided on the final play of regulation, or overtime. We’ll start with those.
PACKERS 38, GIANTS 35 — Our “Game of the Day” will no doubt get some votes for “Game of the YEAR” when all is said and done. Green Bay and New York combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense. Let’s jump right to crunch time. Trailing by eight in the final minute, Eli Manning threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks. The Giants made the two-point conversion to tie the game, but then Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got the ball at his own 20 with 0:58 left on the clock. It only took two big plays for him to lead his team into field goal range. Mason Crosby kicked the game-winning, 30-yard field goal, as time expired, and yes, the Packers improved to [12-0]. Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, while Manning tossed three.
CARDINALS 19, COWBOYS 13 (OT) – What a wild ending in Glendale, Arizona, and one that will be talked about a lot in Dallas for the next few days. With 0:07 remaining, Dan Bailey was lining up for a game-winning field goal attempt. A timeout was called to ice the kicker. But, the stoppage was called by Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. Bailey’s kick, which went through the uprights, did not count. He had to try it again, and came up short. Arizona got the ball to start overtime, and Kevin Kolb hit Larod Stephens-Howling, who danced through the Cowboys’ defense and into the end zone for a 52-yard, game-winning score. And it’s all because Jason Garrett iced his own kicker, wow!
BRONCOS 35, VIKINGS 32 – Don’t look now, but Denver is now tied for first place in the AFC West. And once again, Tim Tebow led his team from behind. He threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Then after the Broncos picked off Christian Ponder with less than two minutes remaining, they marched down the field and Matt Prater kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired. Tebow is now [6-1] as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.
TITANS 23, BILLS 17 – Chris Johnson is finding his groove. He ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns in Tennessee’s victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Johnson has rushed for over 100 yards in three of his last four games.
CHIEFS 10, BEARS 3 – While this was hardly the best game of the day, it may have featured the play of the day or maybe it was just Kevin Harlan’s voice that made it special. The only touchdown of the contest came on the final play of the first half, when Tyler Palko’s “Hail Mary” pass landed in the arms of Dexter McCluster. Chicago suffered a significant blow when Matt Forte left the game with a right knee injury.
DOLPHINS 34, RAIDERS 14 – Here’s the upset of the day. In Miami, the Dolphins made it look easy against the first-place Raiders. Reggie Bush ran for 100 yards and a touchdown. Miami scored two touchdowns within 20 seconds of each other in the third quarter.
PATRIOTS 31, COLTS 24 – They love Rob Gronkowski in Foxboro, Massachusetts, as the tight end scored three more touchdowns, giving him 13th touchdown receptions on the season. His other score was a rushing TD on a lateral. The Pats built a big lead, and then hung on as the Colts scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis is now [0-12], while New England is [9-3].
STEELERS 35, BENGALS 7 – This was a statement game for Pittsburgh. At Heinz Field, Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, as the Steelers swept the season series from Cincinnati, who is now [0-3] against the two teams ahead of them in the AFC North, (PIT and BAL.)
PANTHERS 38, BUCCANEERS 19 – This was all about Cam Newton. Carolina’s rookie quarterback rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another at Raymond James Stadium. Josh Johnson started at quarterback for Tampa Bay in place of the injured Josh Freeman. The Bucs, who at one time were [4-2], and in first place, have lost six in a row.
JETS 34, REDSKINS 19 – At FedEx Field, the Jets kept their playoff hopes alive by rallying for 21 points in the fourth quarter. Mark Sanchez found Santonio Holmes for the game-winning touchdown with 4:49 to play. Washington has lost seven of its last eight.
TEXANS 17, FALCONS 10 – It doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback for Houston; the Texans keep on winning. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates played mistake-free football, and Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan’s last-second pass in the end zone fell incomplete.
49ERS 26, RAMS 0 – We have our first division winner. San Francisco wrapped up in the NFC East with an easy victory at home over St. Louis. Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes, while Frank Gore ran for 73 yards, and became the franchise’s career rushing leader.
RAVENS 24, BROWNS 10 – Neither a driving rainstorm nor Cleveland’s defense could slow down Ray Rice. The Baltimore running back broke loose for a career-high 204 yards, as the Ravens remained in first place in the AFC North. They own the tiebreaker over the Steelers.
If the Ravens are going to be deemed one the best teams in the NFL, then they need to beat the 49ers on Thanksgiving.
Baltimore has struggled this year against under performing squads like Arizona, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, but has somehow managed to defeat Pittsburgh twice. The Ravens defense continues to impress and has held opponents to roughly 25 points per game and 344 offensive yards, as well as bailed out quarterback Joe Flaccotoo.
San Francisco’s offense has averaged roughly 26 points and 323 offensive yards per game, while quarterback Alex Smithhas recorded 13 touchdowns and is on pace to match his career high from the ’09 season, (18 TDs). Running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunterhave combined for seven rushing scores and 1,154 yards on the ground, so expect the 49ers offense to challenge a Ravens unit that will most likely be without linebacker Ray Lewisfor the second straight week.
Finally, this matchup will also mark the first time in league history that two brothers, who’re head coaches, will face-off against one another.
FUN FACT – If San Francisco wins this holiday clash, it’ll be the first time the 49ers reached 10 wins since the ’02 season.
Prediction – Expect both squads to come out of the gates with loads of energy, but once it’s all said and done, I expect the Ravens to give their home crowd an early holiday present – their eighth win of the season. Baltimore 20 – San Francisco 14
We are just over a month into the 2011 NFL season. Most teams have played five games, while a few have played four due to byes.
Here’s a look at the biggest surprises – and disappointments – through the first month:
DETROIT LIONS [5-0] – The Lions are THE story of the league right now. A lot of the so-called experts thought they’d be improved over last year, but this? They’ve averaging over 31 points per game. Matthew Stafford has thrown 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions, while nine of those strikes have gone to Calvin Johnson. Their defense is middle-of-the-pack (12th), but the offense has more than made up for it. Detroit and Green Bay are the only two unbeatens remaining. Guess who the Lions host for their annual Thanksgiving game? Could both teams still be perfect on November 24th?
BUFFALO BILLS [4-1] – The AFC East is not a New England Patriots or New York Jets division anymore, at least for the moment. Buffalo is averaging over 32 points a game. The Bills have come back from huge second-half deficits twice to win, against Oakland and New England. Running back Fred Jackson is almost halfway to 1,000 yards already. This is a fun team to watch, but the question is can the Bills keep it up? We shall see.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS [4-1] – How about the job head coach Jim Harbaugh is doing out west? Behind a strong running attack led by Frank Gore, and a solid defense, San Francisco has an early two-game advantage in the NFC West. And based on how the competition has looked so far, the ‘Niners definitely have to be considered the favorites in that division right now. Next week, they go to Detroit. Before the season began, who thought that would be the marquee game on the Week 6 schedule?
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES [1-4] – We can only imagine what sports radio must be like In Philly these days. The Phillies get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, and now the Eagles have lost four straight after a season-opening win against the winless St. Louis Rams. There is a lot of talent on this team, but they’ve been doomed by mistakes. Quarterback Michael Vick has been picked off seven times and lost three fumbles, while head coach Andy Reid remains on the hot seat. He’s turned seasons around before, but this may be his biggest challenge yet.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS [1-4] – They finally broke into the win column last Sunday against Arizona, but it’s a rough opening act for the Vikes. They blew a 17-0 lead and lost to Tampa Bay. Then the next week, they blew a 20-0 lead against the Lions. Both of those games were at home. Adrian Petersonis just about halfway to 1,000 yards and has found the end zone six times, three of them coming against the Cardinals. Maybe he should be getting the ball more?
1.) St. Louis Rams [9-7] – Is this the year the Rams return to the playoffs? Quarterback Sam Bradford showed tremendous progress last year, coming up just short of a division title. He appears to be the best quarterback in what’s shaping up to be yet another weak division. Defensive end Robert Quinn, the team’s first-round draft pick, should help bolster the pass rush.
2.) Arizona Cardinals [8-8] – This is Kevin Kolb’s team now. And the Cards will take anything as an improvement over last year, when they were near the bottom in passing yards and rushing yards. Larry Fitzgeraldmade waves during the offseason when he signed an 8-year, $120 million contract. But Arizona needs a lot more help on both sides of the ball to be a contender.
3.) Seattle Seahawks [6-10] – A lot of people are still wondering how the Seahawks not only won the division last year, but also won a playoff game. But this year will be different. Matt Hasselbeck is gone. Tavaris Jackson is the starter. Just how effective will he be? Does he have enough help around him to carry the load? They used their first-round pick on offensive tackle James Carpenter. There are just too many holes that this team needs to fill, and Seattle did not do a good job of filling them during the offseason.
4.) San Francisco 49ers [5-11] – A lot has changed in San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh is the coach. There are new offensive and defensive coordinators. Alex Smith gets another shot to be the starter at quarterback. He hasn’t done much in the pros, and there’s no reason to believe that will change in 2011. Fortunately they have Frank Gore at running back. Expect to see a lot more carries from him.