Ok, not a bad weekend of football in the NFL. In fact, I'd asy it was, overall, probably the best week sofar (this is Big Picture, of course; the fact that the Redskins lost is tragic & wrong - more on that later). Anyway, here were the big games:
The shocker of the week came in Dallas. The shock wasn't that the Cowboys won - it was one they HAD to win, after all, for reasons I explained in the primer. But the final score, 33-10, certainly raised some heads. Once again, the Eagles let their opponents get out to a large lead, USC-style, but this time they couldn't complete the comeback. Philly suddenly has questions in their secondary, once considered the best in the NFC, and their lack of a running game is as apparent as ever. With the other three teams in the NFC East so much better this season (so far), don't be too shocked if January rolls around and Philly isn't in the picture...
The Bengals lost on Sunday night at Jacksonville. This was their first loss of the season, and it was on the road against a tough foe, so we shouldn't read too much into it. This was a huge win for Jacksonville, who got buried at home two games ago by Denver, and are trying to make a playoff push this season. We'll be seeing a lot of these two teams on on Top 5 games lists this season.
Same, it appears, with the Redskins and the Broncos, who fought a thriller in Denver with the home team prevailing after the Skins failed to convert what would have been a game-tying two point conversion with just over a minute to go. For the Redskins, this loss was as impressive as their wins have been. The Broncos are by far the best team they have played this season (or are they? who knows after this weekend's Dallas/Philly game...) and hanging tough like that on the road showed that this is not just a team that has taken advantage of weaker competition. For the Broncos, this was a good win, and it sets up a big time showdown next weekend.
The Falcons were without Michael Vick, the Patriots were without a slew of people, but the two teams still played a classic in the Goeorgia Dome. Atlanta scored a TD and converted their game-tying 2 point bid late in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots did what they do...marched down the field and set up Adam Vintieri for the game winning figgie (although, is it just me, or are all of Vinitieri's game winners from like 20 yards away...I'm not saying it's not impressive that he hits them all, just that it's not that
impressive...). What does this mean? Who knows? It seems like Shaub is a good QB, but he's not Michael Vick. I guess we'll know more as the season goes on, as always...
Finally, the Monday Night Game lived up to it's billing (but was completely overshadowed by the Yankees losing to the Angels that night). The Steelers made a game-winning figgie drive of their own, after the Chargers scored the go ahead TD and failed on a 2 point conversion that would have put them up by three (2PCs were the theme of the week, aparently). So, in the past three weeks, the Patriots have won at Pittsburgh, the Chargers have won at New Englan, and the Steelers have won at San Diego. What does that mean? That you can not make sense of the football season. And that one game doesn't really mean much.
In other action, the Packers beat the living shit out of the Saints (bad karma, GB, running up the score on a team knocked around from place to place by a hurricane); the Titans triumphed over the god-awful Texans; the Ravens went on meltdown mode committing 21 penalties in a loss at Detroit; the Dolphins also went into meltdown mode, committing 18 penalties and five turnovers on the road at Buffalo; the Colts offense was surprisingly quiet again, but good enough to beat the 49ers and improve to 5-0; the Browns got a big comeback win at home against the Bears; the Panthers beat the Cardinals, despite another big passing day from Josh McCown; the Seahawks took control of the NFC West with a big win in St. Louis; and the Buccaneers suffered their first lost at the hands of Vinnie & the Jets.
Ok, College Primer...
Lots of good games this weekend. The best of the best are as follows:
5. Wisconsin/Minnesota - these are two very similar teams at this point in the season. Both have one loss, Wisconsin's coming last weekend to Northwestern, Minnesota's coming to suprising Penn State. Both schools have a win over "preseason top five" team Michigan, who has been a huge dissapointment. Both teams are curretnly vying for the Big Ten Title, and neither can afford a second loss if they want to keep that dream alive. There's also the matter of Paul Bunyan's Axe, the trophy which goes to the winner of this game, currently in the possession of the Badgers.
4. Louisville/West Virginia - the prohibitive favorites to win the Big East this season, both schools have a single loss, although West Virginia's came outside of conference play. Louisville abslutely needs this win, after embarrassingly losing their Big East debut against the Bulls of South Florida. For West Virginia, they've had to hear all season about how Louisville was going to walk into their conference and dominate, and they have to want to get in their shot at the Cardinals. Since the winner of this game likely goes to a BCS Bowl, this game has huge implications.
3. Colorado/Texas - Texas has been pounding their opponenets into submission ever since their thrilling win in Columbus early in the season. Colorado is certainly the best team they have played since then, and is trying to win the Big 12 North. For second-ranked Texas, with Virginia Tech, Florida State, Alabama, Georgia, and Penn State all playing so well behind them, every game is a must win if they want to stay in the National Title picture. For Colordao, a win here would be a huge feather in their cap, as well as make them the prohibitive favorties in their division (if they aren't already).
2. Florida/Louisiana State - quite simply, each team has a loss, each team has a conference loss. That means whoever loses is not only completely knocked out of the National Title picture, but out of the SEC Title picture as well. With such high expectations for each squad, this game is going to kill somebody's season. If LSU were to win this game, that would put Georgia up by two losses in their division (unless they lose a shocker to Vanderbilt).
1. Southern California/Notre Dame - perhaps this game shouldn't be ranked so high (the Trojans are 11 point favorites), but I'm tired of putting SEC match-ups at the top every week. OK, so that's a lie, but I do have high expectations for this match-up. If the Trojans have a weakness, it's their defensive backfield, and Charlie Weiss has been able to exploit secondarys so far this season. And the Irish have certainly been able to win match-ups like this in the past, even if it has been the distant past. I think we'll see 100+ points in this game. The question is, can Notre Dame get enough of those to make this entertaining?
Ok, my Top 25 heading into this week (and their opponents):
1. Southern California (@ Notre Dame)
2. Texas (vs. Colorado)
3. Virginia Tech (Idle)
4. Alabama (@ Mississippi)
5. Georgia (@ Vanderbilt)
6. UCLA (@ Washington State)
7. Penn State (@ Michigan)
8. Florida State (@ Virginia)
9. California (vs. Oregon State)
10. Texas Tech (vs. Kansas State)
11. Notre Dame (vs. Southern California)
12. Michigan State (@ Ohio State)
13. Louisiana State (vs. Florida)
14. Miami (FL) (@ Temple)
15. Florida (@ Louisiana State)
16. Ohio State (vs. Michigan State)
17. Wisconsin (@ Minnesota)
18. Nebraska (@ Baylor)
19. West Virginia (vs. Louisville)
20. Colorado (@ Texas)
21. Tennessee (Idle)
22. Auburn (@ Arkansas)
23. Minnesota (vs. Wisconsin)
24. Oregon (vs. Washington)
25. Boston College (vs. Wake Forest)
Should be a good one. Till Later...