Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Week 7 postmortem

I went 8-6 this week in my picks. Sigh. My once-strong position in the standings is gradually ebbing away. The worst part of the weekend, however, was that I had to work Sunday afternoon, so I was forced to choose four games to TiVo, then had to try to block out all incoming NFL information over the course of the day. I kept the TV at my desk tuned to the Redskins-49ers game, but I actually put tape over the corner of the screen where Fox runs the "out-of-town" scores. I got home, and just my luck: I recorded four games, and I got all four wrong. Canned football sucks.

Kansas City over Miami: In an admirable display of evenhandedness, the league decided this time around to screw the road team in a hurricane-rescheduled game. Fouling the plan, the Chiefs came out loose and the Dolphins were so tight they squeaked. I never fell off the Miami bandwagon; the Dolphins threw me off.

Indianapolis over Houston: I mean, really.

St. Louis over New Orleans: Wow. Yeah, this week I'll agree that the Saints got jobbed. I suppose you could make an argument that Ernie Conwell didn't have control of that ball, but it probably wouldn't be a very convincing argument. I would have understood had Jim Haslett cursed Paul Tagliabue and all his ancestors at the postgame Q&A. But having been docked 20-large after last week's (not-as-justifiable) blowup, Haslett played it cool. The NFL Primetime guys said later that the "right thing to do" would have been, I think, for the game officials to rewrite the rules on instant replay right then and there. And I'm sure the Rams would have had no problem with that. I'm going to give the Rams props for coming back after falling behind by 14 early, because no one else is going to do it.

Washington over San Francisco: The Redskins hadn't put up 52 points in a game since Joe Gibbs was the coach. Most points by Washington in a game in the past 15 seasons:
56199111 ATL56-17
522005 7 SF 52-17
501999 2at NYG50-21
481999 8 CHI48-22
451991 1 DET45-0
The only thing I can think of to make this game more satisfying for long-suffering Redskins fans would be for the 49ers to have been denied those last 10 points in garbage time. I've said before that a blowout just has more power if the losers only make it into single digits. Also, if the 'Skins had held the Niners to 7, they'd have tied their team record for biggest margin of victory. Fun fact: San Francisco has now kicked field goals when behind by 28 and 45 points.

Seattle over Dallas: Of all the nailbiters this week, this is the one that falls in my favor? In a matchup of the NFC's two most inscrutable teams, always go with the home dog. It was nice to see Bill Parcells kick someone's ass, even if it was his receivers coach. Tangent: I thought Keyshawn Johnson was insufferable. Then I saw him being interviewed by Michael Irvin on ESPN, and I was reminded what insufferable really is.

Chicago over Baltimore: The Bears' best hope for success this year is to follow the model of the 2000 Ravens: plenty of defense, just enough offense. The key will be whether Kyle Orton can play the Trent Dilfer role. Sunday's line for Orton: 15-of-29 for 145 yards, one touchdown and -- most important -- no interceptions. Dilferrific! (The Sunday Ticket was made for games like these. The Washington and Baltimore markets overlap, so we get a lot of Ravens games here in the national capital area, and most of them are hideous.)

Arizona over Tennessee: There I go again. Write something negative about a team, a franchise, a player or whatever, then watch them win the following week. First the Vikings, then Eli Manning, then the Packers, now the Cardinals.

Atlanta over N.Y. Jets: Which of the three quarterbacks in this game went 11-of-26 for 116 yards, zero TDs, three interceptions and a 16.3 rating? Was it the widely mocked Brooks Bollinger? No? Was it the ancient Vinny Testaverde, who three weeks ago was famously unemployed? No? Well it certainly couldn't be the most electrifying player in the NFL.

Cleveland over Detroit: Here's the funny part: Jeff Garcia takes over for Joey Harrington and goes 22-of-34 for 210 yards. He runs for a touchdown, he avoids getting sacked, he doesn't throw any interceptions. His performance helps open up the run game, allowing Kevin Jones to have his best day since Week 1. And Detroit still scores only 13 points and needs a 50-yard field goal in the final minute to win. A win's a win, and good for the Lions, but don't get too excited.

Green Bay over Minnesota: I thought if Brett Favre was ever going to get a gimme in the Metrodome, this would be the week. Wrong again! Vikings fans: If this win helps bring about good feelings that somehow keep the organization from being torn apart and rebuilt from scratch, you'll find the definition of Pyrrhic victory here.

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh: Someone around here believed the hype, and it was me. Well, me and a lot of others. What's funny is that I picked the Bengals with such confidence, then watched the game expecting them to lose. Here's why: When the Bengals have first down on the opponents' 25, I rub my hands together in anticipation. When the Bengals have first down on the opponents' 15, I squeeze my eyes shut in dread. Two trips inside the 20 in the first 10 minutes of the game, and they get 3 points for it? Later in the day, Greg Gumbel would say, charitably, "The Bengals led early in this one ... " Yeah, well, so did the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. The Cincinnati defense didn't quit on the offense, but it would have been understandable if it had. The Bengals have been getting away with dreadful red zone performance most of the year. Not any more. (On another topic: Randy Cross, please speak less, say more. The babbling is getting unbearable. On Cincinnati's first series, when the Steelers challenged the Chad Johnson non-touchdown, Cross argued over and over and over that the ball looked like it was "moving" as Johnson slid out of bounds, and thus Johnson didn't have control of the ball. First of all, the ball didn't really appear to be "moving" -- but even if it was, "moving" does not equal lack of control. Anyway, as Cross was whaling away at this irrelevant point, the replay was clearly showing Johnson landing out of bounds, which went unremarked-upon until the referee nullified the TD because of it. Later, Cross rambled for a while about how he doesn't understand the passer rating system. Funny enough, Randy, I understand it. A lot of people do. They may not like it or believe in it, but they understand it. Game broadcasters are supposed to be experts. If I want uninformed commentary, I'll listen to myself talk, thank you.)

San Diego over Philadelphia: If Cincinnati threw its game away at the start, San Diego threw this one away at the end. Here's when this game was lost, and it was before the blocked field goal: Late in the game, the San Diego defense stuffed the Eagles on fourth down on the Philadelphia 30. The Chargers took over on downs in perfect position to ice the game with a touchdown. But Marty Schottenheimer, predictably, went to his famous prevent offense. You know, because he didn't want to run the risk of turning the ball over and giving up a touchdown. Rather than go for the throat, Schottenheimer played it safe. It's a strategy that worked so well in the playoffs. That meek play-calling cost the Chargers the game. And since it's pile-on-CBS day, why did the CBS camera linger on Nate Kaeding after the blocked kick? He just kicked the damn thing; he wasn't the one who let the Eagles' kick-block team come across like it was Oklahoma 1889.

Buffalo over Oakland: Uh, that Pyrrhic victory crack applies to the Raiders, too. I have no idea why I TiVo'd this one. I just had a feeling it'd be a good day for the Bills and I could watch smugly. As it turned out: Not so much. This game featured the Down and Distance Most Amusing Juxtaposition of Commentary and Performance: During the Bills' first possession of the second half, CBS(!) analyst Rich Gannon was relaying what Bills coach Mike Mularkey had told him about QB Kelly Holcomb: "He's got a good head on his shoulders." The next play, Holcomb skipped chances to throw the ball away and took an 18-yard sack at his own 12.

Denver over N.Y. Giants: Piss me off ...

SEASON: 64-38

Down and Distance's exclusive POW-R-'ANKINGS are the most accurate assessment of team strength available on the Internet, Ethernet, ARPANET or any other -net. Honed by master mathematicians, lauded by football enthusiasts, 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. Get it? Do you read me? Unlike with other, lesser ranking systems, no opinion is involved. None. It's hard-core science screaming to be heard in a parlor full of charlatans. Poseurs! Teams are ranked on a centigrade scale, with 100 representing the NFL's strongest team and 0 its weakest. (Key: WK7 = This week's ranking. WK6 = Last week's ranking. PWR = POW-R centigrade score)
11 Colts 100.001715Jaguars 53.65
23 Bucs 77.631820Lions 48.50
34 Steelers76.111924Raiders 47.35
42 Bengals 74.082017Dolphins 43.24
55 Bears 72.422122Rams 41.75
66 Seahawks70.612221Patriots 39.34
77 Chargers66.222319Bills 37.20
810Falcons 65.952426Cardinals35.73
918Redskins65.722523Titans 33.97
108 Giants 63.532625Browns 33.12
119 Packers61.512727Ravens 27.70
1212Eagles 60.682828Jets 25.30
1311Cowboys59.792929Saints 18.99
1413Broncos58.513030Vikings 17.91
1516Chiefs 56.88313149ers 4.59
1614Panthers54.693232Texans 0.00

Eliminated from Super Bowl consideration (what?): Texans, Titans, Packers, Saints, 49ers, Jets

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