Sunday, November 11, 2007

Week 10: Can Jim Sorgi play left tackle?

After two astounding weeks in which we went 23-4 in the picks league, Down and Distance crashed back to earth with a 6-8 showing, missing twice as many games this week as we had in the previous two weeks combined. Yowza. I find consolation in the fact that everybody else at the top of the standings did pretty poorly, and we remain just two games out of the lead.


Philadelphia 33, Washington 25
Just about every week I make some crack about the Redskins' inability to score more than 20 points, but it's a real problem, and it's been one since Steve Spurrier was the coach. Numer of games that Washington has scored the following point totals (numbers for 2007 are projected based on 9 games):

2006 943
You're not going to win Super Bowls playing like that. You may make the playoffs, as was the case in 2005, but to do so you need a better defense than the Redskins have now -- and the Redskins have a good defense now. When you take into account this mental block that exists at three touchdowns, the events in the latter portion of Sunday's game make a lot of sense. Leading 22-20, the Redskins sacked Donovan McNabb deep in his own territory and forced a fumble. Two plays later -- Clinton Portis rushes of 9 and 8 yards -- they were on the Eagles' 7. Thanks to a Philadelphia penalty, they would have six chances at the end zone. Results: 1-yard run; 1-yard run, incomplete pass, with a defensive-holding penalty that gave them a new set of downs at the 3; 2-yard run; 1-yard loss; false start that pushed them back to the 7; 4-yard run; field goal. Fittingly, the 'Skins are averaging 19.7 points a game. Once upon a time, Joe Gibbs-coached teams averaged 30. One last thing about this game: Why did I not hear the broadcast crew -- or anyone on ESPN -- elaborate upon the fact that when the Redskins were trailing 26-25 with two and a half minutes left, they clearly let Brian Westbrook score a touchdown untouched? It was certainly the right call, I believe, because it got them the ball back in what was still a one-possession game, but it certainly would have been nice for the crew to point out. Kenny Albert made an opaque reference to the Denver-Green Bay Super Bowl, in which Mike Holmgren ordered the Packers' defense to let the Broncos score a TD to keep them from running out the clock and kicking the FG, but that was 10 years ago. I'm assuming people talked about it in D.C., but those people live to rehash every last second of every Redskins game.

Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 28
This game showed the difference between a team that's "there" and one that's not quite "there" yet. Even after playing a miserable first half, the Steelers didn't believe they were out of it -- and the Browns didn't believe it either. Cleveland has a really good thing percolating here. The questions is whether a quality loss like this -- and the likely 8-8 or 9-7 record with which they'll finish the season -- spurs them to rededicate themselves to "taking it to the next level," or lulls them into thinking that everything's fine and that they're going to kick ass next year. Which way will they go? Romeo Crennel should watch Marvin Lewis carefully, then not do whatever it is that Lewis is doing.

Buffalo 13, Miami 10
I've made it perfectly clear what I think about games that end 16-13 or 13-10. Such a score, almost by rule, indicates that the game was unwatchable. Only two good things came out of this turkey: 1) The game had the coolest score of the day -- Miami 3, Buffalo 2 -- for eleven minutes in the third quarter. 2) In the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon found Marty Booker open over the middle and put the ball right on his hands. Booker dropped the pass, and his momentum carried him onto the Buffalo sideline. Sitting on the bench (like always) was Bills receiver Sam Aiken, who looked up at Booker, smiled broadly and held his hands out, pantomiming the act of catching and holding onto a football. No one commented on it, but it was hilarious.

Green Bay 34, Minnesota 0
The world has truly flipped upside down when a team's fans can look onto the field, see Brooks Bollinger playing QB, and say, "Oh, thank goodness." Unlike, say, the Chargers, the Packers appeared to understand that there's just one way the Vikings can beat you, and if you key on No. 28 for the whole game (or for as long as he plays), Minnesota won't score a damn point.

Chicago 17, Oakland 6
Rex Grossman doing his little victory strut after beating the Raiders was the saddest thing I've seen in a while.

Seattle 24, San Francisco 0
I just get depressed when I see Alex Smith getting abused back there in the pocket. At one point, a Seattle defender grabbed his jersey and spun him around so hard that you could see his bare skin underneath. It was like when Charlie Brown gets hit by the line drive and all his clothes fly off. As this was the Monday night game, here are a few of the dead horses beaten by Tony Kornheiser: Seattle lost Super Bowl XL; Mike Nolan had to fight the NFL for the right to wear suits on the sidelines in honor of his pop, who just passed away; Shaun Alexander isn't playing well. On that last point, TK showed just how clueless he's become when Ron Jaworski expressed surprise that Mike Holmgren told them in the production meeting that, because of Alexander's struggles, he was switching to a pass-first offense -- then actually went to a pass-first offense. What Jaworski was saying was that Holmgren rarely reveals what he's really going to do. He'll throw up a smoke screen even in those off-the-record-until-game-time meetings. Kornheiser, of course, totally missed the point and started haranguing Jaworski: You're sur-PRISED that they're passing so much? What, did you ex-PECT them to keep giving the bawl to Alex-ZAN-der? Shut the fuck up.


St. Louis 37, New Orleans 29
Even when you know it's a trap game, it's still a trap game.

Denver 27, Kansas City 11
Every week, I try to check in with as many games as possible, even if it's just for one series or one red-zone possession. But every week, there's always one game that falls through the cracks entirely, either because nothing interesting seems to be happening (as can be determined from in-game updates, and the NFL Snap channel on DirecTV) or because the matchup itself just seems ugly. Denver-Kansas City, once such an attractive game that it was a perennial prime-time contender, is now one of those ugly games. Which is why I know nothing about it ... except that for about five minutes of the second quarter it had the second-coolest NFL score of the day: Kansas City 5, Denver 3.

Atlanta 20, Carolina 13
Joey Harrington can play John McClane in the next Die Hard. That little bastard bleeds slow. You can't kill him.

Jacksonville 28, Tennessee 13
As Vince Young regresses at the speed of light, maybe someone could enlighten me: Are we ever going to see a QB come out of college with a reputation as a runner, then, when he gets to the NFL, keep running -- but also work hard to develop the right throwing mechanics? Is it even possible? That was Michael Vick's problem. He could really run, and he could really sling the ball, but he flat-out refused to try to merge the two skill sets into an unstoppable package. As a result, teams playing the Falcons said, "We're going to make Vick beat us with his arm." And he couldn't do it. Just like Young can't do it now.

Cincinnati 21, Baltimore 7
Cincinnati's Shayne Graham kicked seven field goals in this game to provide all of the Bengals' scoring. Here's how the team said thanks: At game's end, with the Bengals inside FG range at the Baltimore 31, they chose to run out the clock rather than give Graham a shot at an eighth, and record-tying, kick. Nice. Something tells me that if Chad Johnson had needed 10 more receiving yards on the final drive to reach some kind of milestone, the team would have figured out a way to make it happen. As for the Ravens, here's an essay question: Who is more finished in Baltimore -- Steve McNair, or Brian Billick? Provide examples.

Arizona 31, Detroit 21
I finally come around on Detroit, and I get burned just one week later. I should have known: The Lions pounded the living shit out of Denver? Oh, that's not going to go right to their heads. No way.

Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 20
This pick is, I think, the result of a mental block on my part. Entering 2007, the Cowboys had been bad-to-mediocre for so long that it has taken a long time to tame that part of my brain that whispers "not for real ... not for real ..." about the 7-1 (and now 8-1) Cowboys. Of course, that very same part of my brain was whispering the very same thing about the Giants and their six-game winning streak. But the game was in the Meadowlands, so I figured I'd go with the home team.

San Diego 23, Indianapolis 21
By the end of the first quarter, it appeared that Indy's season was just about done. It still looks that way, but the final three quarters indicated that San Diego's season is also done. Think about it. The Colts came into Qualcomm Stadium without their No. 1 and No. 3 wide receivers, their No. 1 tight end/slot receiver/H-back, their starting left tackle, and two out of three starting linebackers. Over the course of the game they also lost their backup left tackle and their top pass rusher. They spotted the Chargers an early 23-point lead as the kick-coverage teams shat themselves and Peyton Manning threw four interceptions in, essentially, the first quarter. With all of that on their side, plus a downpour that turned the field into a swamp, the Chargers still would have lost had Adam Vinatieri not missed two field goals, including a chip shot in the final two minutes. (Mr. Clutch, my ass.) Both teams will likely still make the playoffs, but don't expect them to go deep, because the Colts are dealing with catastrophic injuries for the first time since Edgerrin James blew out his knee in 2001, while the Chargers are ... coached by Norv Turner rather than Wade Phillips (bet you thought I was going to say Marty). As the game neared its end, the broadcast-network star-fucking machine was all greased up, and NBC urged us to stay tuned to see Andrea Kremer interview LaDanian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman. Of course she'd interview them. I mean, LT carried the ball 21 times for 76 yards! And Merriman had three tackles! Who else would she talk to? Darren Sproles? All he did was run back two kicks for touchdowns. Antonio Cromartie? He only intercepted a Hall-of-Fame quarterback three times.
SEASON: 94-50 (65.3%)
(2006 through Week 10: 86-58, 59.7%)
(2005 through Week 10: 94-50, 65.3%)

Down and Distance's exclusive KA-POWER RANKINGS are back for their third year. The product of a simple formula, the rankings have predicted 10 of the last 17 Super Bowl winners. Further, 14 of the last 17 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: W10 = This week's ranking. WK9 = Last week's ranking. POW = KA-POWER centigrade score)
1 1Patriots 100.001717Saints 38.32
2 2Steelers 89.461819Texans 37.77
3 3Colts 82.161912Vikings 36.63
4 5Packers 75.812025Bengals 35.84
5 4Cowboys 72.252124Bills 35.00
6 8Seahawks 64.922226Bears 34.96
7 6Titans 55.372321Panthers 32.44
8 7Giants 54.632420Raiders 31.29
9 9Chargers 53.942522Chiefs 28.49
1010Bucs 53.532623Ravens 28.06
1113Jaguars 52.182728Falcons 25.18
1214Eagles 48.142827Jets 21.18
1311Lions 46.422929Dolphins 20.02
1415Browns 42.593031Broncos 15.98
1518Cardinals 42.463132Rams 6.11
1616Redskins 39.14323049ers 0.00
Teams eliminated this week from Super Bowl championship consideration (what?): Ravens, Chiefs, Panthers, Saints. Teams previously eliminated: Dolphins, Rams, Jets, Falcons, Bengals, Texans, Raiders, Bears, Vikings, 49ers, Broncos, Cardinals, Eagles.

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