The Jags put on a show against Oakland. What else did Rob Doster learn from Sunday?
A Very Brady Christmas
The Patriots are heading into the heart of the Christmas season on a colossal roll. Over their last two games, the P-men have outscored the Jets and Bears by a combined 81–10. They haven’t committed a turnover since Nov. 7. You read that right. The Patriots have played five consecutive games without a turnover. Most impressive of all was the way that New England marched into Chicago, into snow showers whipped into a blinding froth by the gale force winds off Lake Michigan, in front of a hostile crowd, against a Bears team that had won five straight, and utterly humiliated the home team in every phase — running, passing and returning the ball at will. Tom Brady may be playing the best football of his Hall of Fame career; in his last eight games, Brady has thrown 19 touchdown passes and no interceptions to make an eloquent case for another MVP award. I’m not quite ready to hand Bill Belichick the Vince Lombardi Trophy just yet, but the gap between the Patriots and the rest of the NFL is starting to resemble the Grand Canyon.
NFL: Nauseating Football Lately
The greatness of the Patriots aside, don’t expect the NFL to load much 2010 game film into a time capsule as a showcase for future generations to enjoy. Not even the voice of John Facenda could salvage some of the bad football we’ve seen this season. Enjoy this holiday sampler: In Detroit, the Lions and Packers played a 7–3 game that featured five turnovers. Over in Buffalo, the ball appeared to have been dipped in grease, as Cleveland put it on the ground five times, losing two, in a comical 13–6 loss to the Bills. In the New Meadowlands, the quarterbacks combined to go 22-of-62, and the best hit was applied by Jets assistant Sal Alosi. Washington botched its tying extra point attempt with nine seconds to go in a 17–16 loss to Tampa Bay. Cincy’s Carson Palmer threw two horrendous pick-sixes in a 23–7 loss to Pittsburgh. Must I go on?
At least the Jags and Raiders put on an entertaining display, even if it didn’t include much defense. The two AFC up-and-comers played a throwback AFL-style shootout, replete with big plays, poor pass coverage and bad tackling. The Jags put up 31 second-half points, and they needed them, as they allowed 476 yards to the Raiders in winning for the first time in franchise history when allowing 30 or more points. The game was a showcase for emerging Raider Darren McFadden, who rushed for 123 yards and two scores and caught three passes for 86 yards and another score. The Jags are a win at Indy away from essentially clinching the AFC South; it would be their first division title since 1999.
Matt Cassel for MVP?
The Chiefs’ quarterback proved his worth to the team by missing yesterday’s game with the Chargers. In Cassel’s absence, the Chiefs “offense” was beyond putrid, amassing 67 total yards and mounting no drive of longer than 30 yards. Without an air threat from backup Brodie Croyle, the normally powerful Chiefs running game couldn’t get untracked. It’s time to give Cassel his due as the key to the surprising Chiefs’ 8–5 record. He’s thrown only four interceptions this season, none in his last four games, a span during which he’s tossed 11 TD passes.
Don’t Discount the Champs
The Saints have been an afterthought for much of the season, but they’re not going to go quietly. New Orleans has won six in a row and sits at 10–3 after yesterday’s 31–13 win over the NFC West-leading Rams. The key to any hopes of repeating, though, could be the final drive for homefield advantage. The Saints have difficult games upcoming against the Ravens, Falcons and Bucs as they attempt to overtake Atlanta in the race for homefield. This isn’t a vintage Saints team — Drew Brees has thrown at least one interception in nine straight games and has already tied his career-high with 18 this season — but they’re showing the character of a champion.