Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Week 8 in the former East Germany

Remember last week's dismal 6-7 record? No way we can sink lower than that! This week: 6-8. Heh. We'll get into the particulars in a second, but first let's note the most remarkable thing about this weekend's games. At one point Sunday, there were two Iowa State alumni on the field playing quarterback: Sage Rosenfels of the Texans and Seneca Wallace of the Seahawks. The only other schools with two QBs getting real* playing time this weekend: Arizona State, with Jake Plummer (Broncos) and Andrew Walter (Raiders); and Southern California, with Carson Palmer (Bengals) and Matt Leinart (Cardinals). Yes, USC, which has produced three Heisman Trophy winners and two national championships since 2002, had as many QBs on the field as Iowa State, which last year lost the game formerly known as the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl. (*"Real" means Brian Griese's garbage time with the Bears doesnt count.)

Let's do it.

Green Bay 31, Arizona 14: The Packers are going nowhere in a great green hurry, but at least they're having a little fun humiliating the downtrodden on the way there. Like Romeo Crennel in Cleveland and Brian Billick in Baltimore, Cardinals coach Denny Green scapegoated his offensive coordinator after a recent embarrassing loss. Unlike Crennel and Billick, however, all Green got was this lousy sweat-stained T-shirt and another embarrassing loss. The Cardinals' total collapse against the Bears a couple weeks back is getting more watershed-y all the time.

Chicago 41, San Francisco 10: There's no better cure for the nearly-got-our-asses-kicked-by-Arizona blues than to haul the 49ers into the boys' room and stick their heads in the toilet. And you can always count on the Niners to ratchet up the pathos even further. Last year against the Eagles, the 49ers were down by four touchdowns in the third quarter -- and kicked a field goal. Sunday against the Bears, the 49ers were down by six touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- and kicked a field goal. The only unanswered question is whether 49ers.com will try to slip in a reference to "outscoring opponents in the second half" when it puts together the season recap. I'll be watching.

N.Y. Giants 17, Tampa Bay 3: Every time Jermey Shockey drops a pass, an angel gets his wings.

Kansas City 35, Seattle 28: We're halfway through the season, so it's as good a time as any to quote myself and a bunch of other blogtards: "The Super Bowl losers' curse ends with this year's Seahawks." I'm paraphrasing there, but that's the gist of it. Yeah, Hasselbeck and Alexander are hurt. So what? It's always something with these ... defending conference champions. But forget Seattle. The Kansas City Chiefs -- starring Damon Huard in the role everybody else made famous -- are 4-3 and in as good a position as anyone to claim that sixth playoff spot that know-nothings like me were so willing to award the Jets. No one builds a winner and then destroys it quite like Herm Edwards.

San Diego 38, St. Louis 24: San Diego just keeps improving. So does St. Louis.

New England 31, Minnesota 7:Fifteen rushes, forty-three passes. What is this, the Indianapolis Colts? It took a few weeks for Tom Brady and his receivers to find a rhythm, but now they have one, and it appears to be a bossa nova. The newspapers in the Twin Cities must have been full of stories about the Vikings' new tougher-than-leather defense, because that defense went into the Metrodome on Monday night and topped off their underpants on national TV. (I absolutely love defecating-in-the-pants references! At least one a week!) I've said it many times before: No one reads their own press clippings like the Minnesota Vikings. Trust Bill Belichick to not just identify an opponent's weakness, but identify a weakness that can't be corrected during the game. Who knew the Vikings were helpless against the underneath passing game? Besides him, I mean.

Jacksonville 13, Philadephia 6: You don't have to live under a tarp at Alltel Stadium to know what's coming. I call quarterback controversy! With Byron Leftwich under center, the Jaguars have lost to the no-account Redskins and the account-in-default Texans. With David Garrard subbing for an injured Leftwich on Sunday, the Jaguars "dominated" the Eagles, in Philadelphia. Thus Garrard -- say it with me -- "just knows how to win." Hmm. Here's Garrard's line Sunday: 10-of-17 for 87 yards, no TDs, no INTs; 8 rushes for 36 yards. By comparison, here's inveterate loser Donovan McNabb's line from the same game: 18-of-34 for 161 yards, no TDs, no INTs; 5 rushes for 37 yards. If McNabb's receivers had simply done a better jobs of catching the passes he put on their palms, it would be McNabb who just knows how to win. But they dropped those passes, so McNabb doesn't just know how to win. Who does just know how to win? I guess Fred Taylor and, to a lesser extent, Maurice Jones-Drew. I put the word dominate in quotes above because I heard the word used at least a dozen times in relation to Jacksonville's performance against the Eagles. But how dominant can a team be putting up just 13 points? And the Eagles played the Jaguars to a draw for the final 51 minutes of the game. That's dominance? This is not to say Jacksonville didn't deserve to win. For the third game in a row, the Eagles left their very pretty skirts on until the middle of the fourth quarter. That's no way to go through a season.

Tennessee 28, Houston 22: I'm losing the will to live. No, wait, I'm losing the will to care. That's right. Sorry.

Atlanta 29, Cincinnati 27: I'm going to have to apologize to Michael Vick and his fans at some point. Let's see ... The Falcons play the Lions next week and the Browns after that. You can't exactly praise a guy for carving up those turkeys. Ooh, here we go: Nov. 19 against Baltimore. If Vick chews up the Ravens the way he chewed up the Steelers and Bengals, I'll have my fat ass on the bandwagon right next to the driver. Except my son is supposed to be born on or around the 17th, so I might not be able to watch. Sorry, Mike! As for the Bengals? Eh. The aroma of 8-8 is starting to get mighty pungent. That must be what a fluke smells like when you leave it out too long.

Baltimore 35, New Orleans 22: Oh crap. Up to Sunday, Ravens coach Brian Billick had spent eight years pissing away the "offensive genius" reputation he built on the backs of other people. Just when it seemed he had peed himself into a corner with another anemic offense in Baltimore, he cut Jim Fassel's throat and assumed play-calling duty himself. And the Ravens promptly went out and had their highest-scoring game of the year. Does it matter that 14 of the 35 points came from the defense? Does it matter that the Saints' offense outscored the Ravens' offense? Does it matter that the Ravens benefited greatly from Reggie Bush entering the declining phase of his career? (He does everything fast!) No. All that matters is that Billick looks right this week, and if there's one thing that Billick and his smug little smile and his round little sunglasses and his receding little hairline can tell you, it's better to look right than to be right. Right?

Cleveland 20, N.Y. Jets 13: Did Jets tight end Chris Baker catch the tying touchdown on fourth down with a minute left, as Jets fans assert? Was he pushed out of bounds? Did the Jets get screwed by replay rules that say force-outs are judgment calls that can't be reviewed. Oh God, could I care any less? We said last week (in not so many words) that the Jets' path to the playoffs was clearly laid out before them, freshly paved with shit the color of the Cleveland Browns. If you're not man enough to win a gimme against the Browns, you can't be helped.

Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 13: There is nothing -- nothing -- I can say that hasn't already been said about this game. (Which, funny enough, was exactly the same thing we said about Tampa's win over Philadelphia last week and Chicago's over Arizona the week before.) Having demonstrated that they can win the Super Bowl from the sixth seed, the Steelers are now out to prove that they can do it without even making the playoffs.

Indianapolis 34, Denver 31: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Peyton Manning is suddenly clutch? I've got all sorts of papers and media guides and scouting magazines printed on low-grade stock here, and none of it says anything about clutch. The comeback, or whatever it was, was a real ring-a-ding-ding, but I'm less focused on the 34 points the Colts scored against their perennial donkey boys than on the 31 the Broncos were able to hang on their supposed betters. If they'd have just taken the ball out of Jake Plummer's hands completely and just run straight at the Colts, they'd have likely won. Because Indianapolis couldn't stop the run with an electrified fence. Whichever way it sorts itself out, it's starting to look like these boys could meet -- oh God, not again -- in the playoffs. A win's a win, and the Colts will take it, but I do have to wonder about the celestial wisdom of it all. Last year Indy started out 13-0, and as much as they deny it, the fact of their losslessness got inside their collective head and rotted it from the inside out. Maybe it would've been better to lose this one? You know: Get all of Denver puffed up about how "This Is The Year The Broncos Finally Beat The Colts." Then playoff time comes around, and the Broncos are so giddy for another crack at the Colts that they eat their own gun against some other team. The Ravens or someone. Hey, it happened to the Colts last year. It still could happen to the Colts this year. They do play the Patriots, in Foxboro, this weekend.

Dallas 35, Carolina 14: (Remember, Tom Brady didn't win the game in which he replaced Drew Bledsoe, either.) Something funny happened on the way to the Cowboys' implosion. Bill Parcells finally got the cap off the Sambuca and started kissing his charges up one sideline and down the other. This game was sphincter-tight until Carolina achieved the perfect balance of recklessness (long passes thrown by Jake Delhomme) and fecklessness (long passes dropped by Keyshawn Johnson) and churned it into 25 rich, buttery fourth-quarter points for Dallas. I hadn't seen a game turn into a blowout so suddenly since ... well, since the first quarter of the Bears-Niners game.

SEASON: 70-44
(2005 through Week 7: 74-42)

Down and Distance's exclusive KA-POWER RANKINGS are back for their second year. The product of a simple formula, the rankings have predicted 10 of the last 16 Super Bowl winners. Further, 14 of the last 16 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the KA-POWER RANKINGS system. 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. Don't like where your team is ranked? Blame science. (Key: WK8 = This week's ranking. WK7 = last week's ranking. POW = KAPOW-ER centigrade score)
11 Bears 100.001716Rams 33.61
22 Chargers 75.571822Packers 25.14
34 Patriots 73.781919Seahawks 23.54
45 Ravens 62.992017Panthers 23.44
58 Cowboys 56.772120Jets 22.59
63 Broncos 55.642221Redskins 21.81
711Giants 52.6723T25Browns 18.58
86 Colts 52.512424Dolphins 12.49
912Jaguars 50.1725T25Lions 12.05
107 Eagles 50.062623Cardinals10.76
119 Saints 43.142729Texans 9.07
1213Falcons 42.602828Bills 8.05
1315Bengals 39.792931Titans 5.98
1414Steelers39.293032Raiders 5.06
1510Vikings 34.803127Bucs 4.88
1618Chiefs 34.31323049ers 0.00
Teams eliminated this week* from Super Bowl championship consideration (what?): Texans, Buccaneers, 49ers. Teams previously eliminated: Raiders, Titans, Lions, Dolphins, Cardinals, Redskins, Browns, Bills.
*Though the Steelers 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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