Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Week 13 recap

Late heroics by the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens pushed Down and Distance to an improbable 14-2 record in this week's picks. We're still trying to determine which was more exciting: the three TDs by the Seahawks defense or the five field goals by Texans kicker Kris Brown. We're leaning toward Brown, because the Seattle D could have had four TDs but came up three yards short. I mean, show a little effort out there, guys. What I got right, and what I got wrong:

Minnesota over Detroit: Yeah, Joey Harrington was the big problem in Detroit. The Lions have now placed their fate in the hands of 36-year-old china doll Jeff Garcia, whom we remember from Week 9, when he gave up a game-ending interception in OT against the Bears. With the cool-headed veteran Garcia at the wheel, Detroit's going to get this ship turned around, right, matey? Problem is, when a ship's already halfway to the ocean floor, you're just not going to get it going the other way. Down 14-3 late in the first half, the Lions had first down on the Vikings' 8 yard line. If they could punch it in, they'd be right back in it. Not only did Our Saviour proceed to throw three straight incomplete passes, on third down he threw the ball away even though the pressure had yet to reach him, he had room to run and even a sack would have left the Lions well within FG range. Then, down 21-16 late in the game, the Lions had the ball on the Vikings' 46. Though it was only second down, though there was still a minute to play, though the Lions were moving the ball well on the drive -- they'd already advanced from their own 7 -- Our Saviour uncorked a panicky, needless Hail Mary that came down into Viking hands. Thank God Harrington wasn't playing! Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you're looking to Jeff Garcia to be your X-Factor, your season is doomed. On the Minnesota side, quarterback Brad Johnson has celebrated his return to stardom by getting himself a Private Pyle haircut, and wide receiver Koren Robinson has somehow succeeded in making the good people of Seattle even angrier.

Chicago over Green Bay: Another remarkable display by the Bears defense to balance out utter ineptitude by the Bears offense. Picking Green Bay here would have been reasonable: The difference in the game proved to be two bad throws by Brett Favre, not anything Kyle Orton did. Orton ain't even Dilferrific anymore, and that hurts. The Down and Distance '85 Bears vs. '05 Bears Season Tracker has been updated. See latest results here.

Indianapolis over Tennessee: I don't know whether I could pick against the Colts in any game for the rest of the year. However, I also don't know whether I could pick the Colts as a Best Bet in any game for the rest of the year. See, the law of averages is leaning hard against my fortress of arrogance, and the walls are creaking and squeaking. Take this game: Indy may be looking ahead to San Diego and Seattle, and Tennessee has long been a thorn in Peyton Manning's side, and blah blah blah. Even when the Colts are coasting, they score five touchdowns.

Tampa Bay over New Orleans: Ugh. Went quickly, at least.

Carolina over Atlanta: Might want to just pick the home team in every NFC South matchup for the rest of the year. Except when that home team is the Saints.

Baltimore over Houston: Bam! Bam! Bam Bam Bam! What? Oh, I was just pounding the last nail into Dom Capers' coffin. All done. Bam! Bam Bam! What? No, now I'm working on Brian Billick's coffin. You didn't think a last-minute, 16-15 win over the Texans was going to save his job, did you?

Jacksonville over Cleveland: Is it cause for concern that the David Garrard-led Jaguars beat the Browns by only 6? Jacksonville's nine wins have been by 12, 6, 3, 6, 7, 27, 3, 7 and 6 points, so: No, not really. The Jags play just about everyone close. By the way, the benching of Browns QB Trent Dilfer, combined with the writing all over the wall outside Billick's office in Baltimore, makes it clear that the Ravens' Super Bowl victory has moved from the recent past to the distant past.

Miami over Buffalo: The last time I saw hair like J.P. Losman's, it was on a classmate at an editing seminar in 1991. Her name was Naomi. For the first quarter of Sunday's game, Losman and the plucky Bills appeared to forget that they were on the road, and they wound up leading 21-0. And for the first three quarters of the game, the Dolphins appeared to forget that they were at home against the Bills, and they wound up trailing 23-3. Eventually, however, everyone got on the same page. The Bills fell apart, and the Dolphins gave Sage Rosenfels ("He has a great big heart," my wife reminds us) a story to tell his grandchildren.

New York Giants over Dallas: For a Great Big Important Game, this was just crappy. The Giants even look like the 1984 Patriots in their home uniforms now. Those aren't throwbacks. They're throw-ups. And they've got Eli Manning so distracted, he couldn't hit the open man all day. Watching this game taught me that Roy Williams is just going to keep on horse-collaring people and no one's going to do anything about it.

Arizona over San Francisco: Looking at my Sunday Ticket schedule, I see this was the only Fox game this week that wasn't offered in HD. I wonder why. With Alex Smith starting for the 49ers, this pick was automatic. That's not really a dig at Smith; he's still learning to be a pro quarterback, and all his teammates are still learning to be pro everything elses. If it's any consolation, here are Sunday's stats for the last five No. 1 overall draft picks, all of them quarterbacks:
A. Smith, SF 16-241850350.1L
E. Manning, NYG12-311520227.8W
C. Palmer, CIN 22-3822730101.4W
D. Carr, HOU 17-371650147.7L
M. Vick, ATL 17-351710239.1L
Looks like a lot of Chosen Ones were stinking up the league there (but there I go kissing Palmer's ass again). As for the Cardinals: What kicker had a worse week than Jay Feely? Arizona's Neil Rackers, who seemed on pace to set a batch of scoring records before tearing a muscle in practice. Ouch.

New England over New York Jets: Best Bet. The Jets defense gets thumbs-up for holding the Patriots to six points in the first half. But the offense has to do its part and come up with more than three. Didn't.

Washington over St. Louis: It's the 5-6 Redskins vs. the 5-6 Rams in ... the ... zzzzzz. Clinton Portis for a touchdown! And now ... the .... zzzzzz. Hey, Ryan Fitpatrick ... He's ... really ... zzzzzz.

San Diego over Oakland: As Paul Maguire would say: "You wanna talk about why the ESPN Sunday night crew is by far the worst team on NFL broadcasts?" In the first quarter, the boys in the booth observed that Chargers corner Quentin Jammer was giving Randy Moss a 10-yard cushion on every play. Mike Patrick suggested that Raiders QB Kerry Collins should just keep throwing 10-yard hitches to Moss until Jammer played him tighter. Joe Theismann responded that Collins would do that, except: "Remember, it's only his second year with Norv Turner. I think that this offense will evolve that way." Collins has now been Turner's quarterback for 28 games. If he doesn't get the system now, he never will. But whatever. The important thing is that no one argued the point that Collins will grow in Turner's offense next year. Then, in the fourth quarter, Maguire said of Collins' salary-cap situation: "There's a lot of money (that) has to go out to this guy. I just don't see him coming back to the Raiders next year." What the?

Seattle over Philadelphia: Flipping through the dictionary, I can't seem to find the right words for Monday night's performance by the Eagles. Embarrassment. Travesty. Abomination. Scourge. That's it! Scourge. Three weeks ago, Donovan McNabb ended Philly's season by throwing an interception that was brought back for a TD. The Eagles liked the results so much, it appears they put it in the playbook. I've never seen a stadium go from full to empty in the middle of a game like that. With more than 20 minutes left, the Linc was a tomb, and Al Michaels and John Madden were spinning yarns to pass the time.

Pittsburgh over Cincinnati: If I have to miss a pick, this was a nice game to be wrong about. It's not that I'm a Steeler (Steela) hater (hayta) -- I like Ben Roethlisberger, really. But the Pittsburgh Steelers have become the NFL's Atlanta Braves, and I'd prefer not to have to watch them disintegrate in the playoffs yet again. It'd just be refreshing to see someone else crowned Miss AFC North. But you make picks with your head, not your heart, and in my head the Bengals had given me no reason to think they could beat the Steelers. I never said my head was right. A lot had happened since the Steelers steamrolled the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 7, the most important of which was the Bengals' wild 45-37 loss to the Colts two weeks ago. That game taught the Bengals that they could hang in with the league's best, and they came into Heinz Field on Sunday expecting to win. Faced with a choice of getting into a defensive battle with the Steelers or getting into a shootout, they went after the shootout. In the first meeting, Pittsburgh made the Bengals play the Steelers' game. In this game, Cincinnati forced the Steelers to play the Bengals' game. That's why they won. (An aside: This game featured this week's Down and Distance Amusing Indicator of How the Game Is Really Played. Hines Ward, running an end-around, had the ball stripped out of his hands at the Bengals' 25. The customary scrum formed as half a dozen guys leaped on the football and started rasslin. Cincinnati safety Ifeanyi Ohalete had his back to the play the whole time and could not possibly have seen what had happened or who had leaped on the ball first. Nevertheless, when he turned around and saw the pile, he immediately started signaling Bengals' ball. I laffed out loud. None of these guys ever have a clue who's got the ball. They just start pointing.)

Denver over Kansas City: I suppose it was inevitable that after all the talk about how Denver may really be better than Indianapolis, the Broncos would go out and lose their next game. As the Bengals did with the Steelers, the Chiefs showed the value of a) getting ahead of the Broncos early, and b) forcing them into a shootout. I wrote a few weeks ago that the Denver running game allows Jake Plummer to be the best quarterback he can be: one who doesn't have to throw a lot. If you can force Plummer to throw a lot of passes, you can force him into errors, which is what happened Sunday. But just as this game showed other teams how Denver can be beaten, it also showed the Broncos how they can be beaten. Expect these matters to be addressed. Trick-Play-That-Wasn't-Really-a-Trick-Play of the Day: Inside the K.C. 10 yard line, Denver put Bradlee Van Pelt in at QB and moved Plummer to the wideout position. The Chiefs were so busy trying to figure out what Plummer was up to that they let Van Pelt take a QB draw untouched into the end zone.

SEASON: 132-60

Down and Distance's exclusive POW-R-'ANKINGS are the most accurate assessment of team strength available on the Internet, Ethernet, ARPANET, Aqua Net 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? I mean, spaceships go to the moon with wider error margins than this. If Galileo or Copernicus had had science like this on his side, he'd have been Pimp No. 1 for all time. Unlike with other, lesser rating systems, no opinion is involved in formulating these rankings. None. Teams are ranked on a centigrade scale, with 100 representing the NFL's strongest team and 0 its weakest. (Key: W13 = This week's ranking. W12 = Last week's ranking. PWR = POW-R centigrade score)
11 Colts 100.001722Patriots37.65
26 Seahawks 78.451819Dolphins 37.18
32 Bears 76.631921Browns 32.48
44 Chargers 75.592018Raiders 31.30
57 Panthers 72.672120Rams 30.99
65 Giants 71.182225Vikings 27.88
73 Broncos 68.202317Eagles 27.24
88 Bengals 66.442426Cardinals26.90
912Jaguars 61.052524Lions 26.63
1010Cowboys 59.072623Titans 22.99
119 Steelers58.112727Bills 22.58
1213Chiefs 55.302828Ravens 14.90
1311Falcons 55.152929Saints 9.77
1414Bucs 53.073030Jets 0.61
1516Redskins46.29313149ers 0.19
1615Packers 42.933232Texans 0.00

Teams eliminated this week* from Super Bowl championship consideration (what?): Steelers, Cowboys, Falcons. Teams previously eliminated: Texans, Titans, Packers, Saints, 49ers, Jets, Bills, Ravens, Browns, Vikings, Cardinals, Dolphins, Raiders, Lions, Eagles, Rams, Redskins.
*Though the Patriots have posted five losses, they've proved they can win the Super Bowl with an 11-5 record. So they get a pass for now.

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