Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Week 4 postmortem

I went 11-3 this week in The Writers' Picks, my best showing of the year at 79% correct. Were it not for botched replay reviews in Cincinnati and Tampa, a missed field goal in Washington and a late decision to play defense by Carolina, I could have gone 7-7. And not just me. What I got right and what I got wrong:

New Orleans over Buffalo: The Saint Anthony Saints were playing their first real "home" game, against the increasingly feeble Bills. That makes for an easy pick. Buffalo's biggest highlight was also the Down and Distance Ultimately Meaningless Play of the Day: Terrence McGee's 81-yard kickoff return to end the first half. McGee probably covered 120 yards, north-to-south and east-to-west, before being brought down at the Saints' 5 yard line by -- well, by his own guys, really. Remember that year Carolina won its first game and lost the next 15?

N.Y. Giants over St. Louis: Oh sure. The week I stomp on Eli Manning with both feet is the week he goes All-World. The pass that put New York up 24-7, threaded between two Rams and dropped right on Plaxico Burress' shoulder, was astonishing. But what put this game away was the Rams' fumble on the Giants' 6 halfway through the third quarter, when they were down only 10. Yes, you have to get crafty when the field gets short -- but if you get fancy, you lose the ball, then the game: Botched pitch-lateral-reverse-thingee, Giants take over, Manning to Shockey for six.

Indianapolis over Tennessee: About damn time.

Cincinnati over Houston: I certainly wasn't going to pick Houston here, but a Texans win wouldn't really have surprised me. Yes, the Bengals were high and the Texans were low. But the Bengals have the Jags on national TV next week, while the Texans had two weeks' rest. Cincinnati was just asking to get caught looking ahead. That's why I didn't make this game my Best Bet. As it happened, I think the Bengals were looking ahead. They certainly weren't looking sharp. They nearly lost, thanks to a buffet of supid penalties (including a comical 24-yard grounding call on Carson Palmer, which led to 3rd and goal from the Houston 40), but they got a big boost from a botched replay review. With 3:20 left, Cincinnati recovered a David Carr "fumble" at the Houston 35. Though the replay appeared to clearly show that the fumble was in fact an incomplete pass, the ruling on the field stood and Cincy won. That's no way to win a Best Bet! Which leads me to ...

Tampa Bay over Detroit: This was my Best Bet. Tampa was 3-0 and looked impressive doing it. Detroit was 1-1 and looked awful. So of course this one went down to the wire, with Joey Harrington letting it all hang out in a bid to save the game. And his career. Detroit scored the "go-ahead touchdown" with 20 seconds left. Though the replay appeared to clearly show that Marcus Pollard caught the ball and got one butt cheek inbounds (one cheek = two feet), the TD was overturned on review and the Bucs went to 4-0. That's the way to win a Best Bet!

Washington over Seattle: This one played out as expected. I say a lot of cruel things about the Redskins, but their defense is for real. Washington isn't going to score 20 points -- not in regulation, at least -- but neither will most of their opponents. Just like last year. Of course, if Josh Brown makes that kick, we're having a different discussion and half of D.C. is calling for the Jason Campbell era to begin.

Atlanta over Minnesota: The Vikings' rebound lasts all of one game. I think we all saw that coming. Michael Vick gets injured. I think we all saw that coming, too. But I never imagined he'd get hurt because he stayed in the pocket. Matt Schaub ain't much in relief, but against Minnesota, not much is more than enough. Meanwhile, my wife has declared Alge Crumpler her favorite player. Because his name is Alge Crumpler.

Baltimore over N.Y. Jets: Every bit as hideous as expected.

Oakland over Dallas: The Raiders were by far the best winless team in the league. Dallas, meanwhile, had surprised the Chargers, had taken an ill-timed nap against the Redskins and had barely survived the 49ers. The Cowboys were making their third trip to the West Coast in four weeks, and they were facing an Oakland team that was angry -- as angry as Bill Parcells is now, probably. Easy call.

Philadelphia over Kansas City: I just had a feeling. The Eagles have been banged up, and the Chiefs are always tougher than leather at Arrowhead. But the Eagles have had the eye of the tiger since Atlanta. When they were down 24-6, you would have thought it was over. But that's the difference between KC and Philly. When the Chiefs went down by three scores on the road on Monday night, they packed it in. When the Eagles went down by three scores on the road on Sunday, they got it going on. It couldn't have helped the Chiefs to see their fans streaming out when they still were in the game.

Carolina over Green Bay: So far, these are two teams going nowhere, but the Packers appeared to be getting there faster. Until the fourth quarter, when John Fox decided to race 'em.

New England over San Diego: A pattern was forming, and I missed it. Week 1: Cool and confident, New England comes from behind and beats Oakland. Week 2: The Patriots are humiliated in a bumbling loss to Carolina. Week 3: Cool and confident, New England comes from behind and beats Pittsburgh. Week 4: The Patriots are humiliated in a bumbling loss to San Diego. I guess the Pats will bounce back against the Falcons, then let Jake Plummer hang 55 on them. Back to this game: I couldn't help but notice Matt Cassel under center for the final series. If his last pass hadn't been intercepted for a TD, Tom Brady might have been suiting up for the Bills next year. Don't think it wouldn't happen.

Jacksonville over Denver: Week 1: Unsure what to do, I went with the Jaguars only because they were at home. They beat Seattle, though not very impressively. Week 2: More sure of what to do, I pick the Jags to lose, and they do, but impressively, taking the Colts to the last play. Week 3: Totally unsure of what to do, I pick the Jaguars to lose in New York. They win, though not very impressively, especially considering the Jets ran out of functioning QBs. So this week, with Jacksonville coming off a dramatic victory and playing at home against a Broncos team that I suspect (but can't prove) is hollow, I cast a confident vote for the Jaguars. And they get their brains beaten in.

San Francisco over Arizona: ¡Los Cardenales son peores que aparecen! I finally give up on the Cards, and look what happens. Ted Nolan, now can Alex Smith start?

SEASON: 38-22

Down and Distance's exclusive POW-R-'ANKINGS are the most accurate assessment of team strength available on the Internet or any other -net. The formula behind them predicted 10 of the last 15 Super Bowl winners -- and 14 of the last 15 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the POW-R-'ANKINGS system. Unlike with other, lesser ranking systems, no opinion is involved. None. It's hard-core science in a parlor full of poseur magicians. Teams are ranked on a centigrade scale, with 100 representing the NFL's strongest team and 0 its weakest. (Key: WK4 = This week's ranking. WK3 = Last week's ranking. PWR = POW-R centigrade score)
12 Colts 100.00179Jaguars46.30
21 Bengals 96.331815Rams 40.95
33 Steelers 86.771922Raiders39.75
45 Bucs 75.262018Patriots36.74
54 Eagles 73.402124Packers35.26
612Falcons 69.062228Saints35.19
711Chargers 66.842325Browns29.81
810Giants 64.862420Bills29.27
T9T6 Dolphins62.822530Cardinals27.59
T9T6 Bears 62.822621Titans25.94
1119 Broncos 56.392723Jets25.40
128 Seahawks56.152829Lions23.59
1313 Redskins55.762926Vikings21.78
1417 Panthers51.613031Ravens20.03
T1514Chiefs 47.95312749ers19.93
T1516Cowboys 47.953232Texans0.00

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