And the winner is … wait … a tie?
Vail, CO Colorado
The closest game in Week 11 was played between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals, a game that was expected to be significant only because it was Brian Westbrook’s chance for his best fantasy performance of the season.
Cincy had no chance to compete with the talented NFC East heavyweight Eagles, but it was the closest game played since 2002. Yes ladies and gentlemen, we had a tie in the NFL.
Clearly, neither team ever played well enough to win. The two teams converted just seven third downs in 38 tries, averaged a measly 4.2 yards per offensive play, and punted an astounding 21 combined times.
Donovan McNabb accounted for all four of the Eagles’ turnovers, throwing three picks and losing a fumble, while Westbrook put up just 60 yards rushing and 11 yards receiving in 75 minutes of football. I’m not sure what’s harder to believe: That the Bengals didn’t find a way to lose the game or that Donovan McNabb was unaware a game could end in a tie.
Either way, this game was simply an embarrassment to NFL football. For Cincinnati, it was just a continuation of an inability to win games. For Philadelphia, it was another missed opportunity to go with all of the disappointing losses the underachieving Eagles have gone through this year.
Most Impressive Team: Green Bay Packers
The Pack stomped all over Chicago’s supposed brick-wall run defense for 200 yards on the ground and recorded its seventh defensive touchdown of the season en route to a 37-3 victory over their NFC North rival Bears.
Best Offensive Performance: New York Giants
New York put up a respectable 30 points on 353 total yards, but what won the G-Men this award was their running game. Earth (Brandon Jacobs), Wind (Derrick Ward), and Fire (Ahmaad Bradshaw) backed up their trash-talk, putting up a total of over 200 yards rushing against Ray Lewis and a stingy Ravens defense.
Best Defensive Performance: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs held Adrian Peterson to a modest 85 yards rushing and allowed just 210 yards and 13 points while earning five sacks and forcing two turnovers.
Fantasy Stud of the Week: Matt Cassel, New England Patriots
Cassel briefly made New England fans kind-of-almost-forget-you-know-who by throwing for 400 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 62 yards on eight carries.
Rookie of the Week: Steve Slaton, Houston Texans
Slaton added to what has already been a fantastic rookie campaign, rushing for 156 yards on just 14 carries, including a 71-yard touchdown.
New York (Jets) (7-3) at Tennessee (10-0)
Each team enters off key divisional victories, with the Jets holding off the Patriots in overtime and Kerry Collins passing the Titans to victory over Jacksonville. Turnover-prone Brett Favre will have to be careful with the football against a defense that leads the league with 15 interceptions. This game should come down to the Titans’ ability to stop the AFC’s leading rusher, Thomas Jones. I just don’t think New York is actually a 7-3 team.
Carolina (8-2) at Atlanta (6-4)
Atlanta enters after its first home loss of the season, while Carolina has quietly amassed the second best record in the NFC. Both teams have very good running games as well as good defenses, but I believe Carolina’s defense is more stable. Expect Matt Ryan to show some of his inexperience and turn the ball over a few times to an opportunistic defense.
New York (Giants) (9-1) at Arizona (7-3)
This will be the Giants’ first time in Arizona since their triumph over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. They looked very good last week in a dominating victory over Baltimore, and seem ready to defend their title. Arizona is coming off a lackluster victory in Seattle where the Cards outgained the Seahawks by 262 total yards and won by just six points. But as Chris Berman would point out, strange things (Super Bowl shocker) have happened in Arizona in the past year. The Cardinals may just pull the upset.
Indianapolis (6-4) at San Diego (4-6)
In what may be the most intriguing game of the season thus far, two underachieving AFC powerhouses face off in attempt to salvage a season where things have not gone as expected. For as good as the Colts were expected to be, they could easily be much worse than 6-4, as they only have one victory by over six points, a 31-3 stomping of the Ravens in Week 6.
The Chargers’ season could just as easily have gone the other way, as none of their six losses have come by double-digits and three have come by two points or less. San Diego has had the Colts’ number in recent years, interrupting the Colts’ perfect season attempt in 2005 and winning both games between the two teams last year.
Still, the Chargers’ victories in those games have come largely due to a Shawne Merriman-led pass rush, which has managed only 22 sacks thus far this season. On the other side, the Colts may require the presence of safety Bob Sanders to hold back a LaDainian Tomlinson rushing attack if they want to win this one. Sanders is currently listed as questionable. When all is said and done, I expect both teams to look more like their 2007 selves and put on an absolute thriller.
Last week’s record: 3-1
Season record: 21-19