NFC East does not disappoint
Vail, CO Colorado
Sunday night’s much-hyped NFC East showdown between Philadelphia and New York lived up to expectations. As with any NFC East battle, a physical game was guaranteed, and the Giants’ running game was happy to oblige. New York’s trio of Earth (Brandon Jacobs), Wind (Derrick Ward), and Fire (Ahmad Bradshaw) rushed for 219 total yards on the ground, led by its third-year back, Jacobs, who had 126 yards.
While their ability to rush the ball allowed the Giants to hold the ball for almost 40 of the game’s 60 minutes, turnovers kept the contest close. Though each team turned the ball over twice, Philadelphia took advantage of New York’s few mistakes, turning both turnovers into touchdowns. The Giants managed just six points of two turnovers.
Ultimately, the Giants’ victory came down to stopping stud running back Brian Westbrook, who failed to convert on third and then fourth down and short with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Monday night madness
Monday night’s matchup featured two teams that have often found themselves bottom dwelling in recent years. The Cardinals, who entered 5-3, fell behind early and trailed 21-13 at half. After making a slight push in the third to cut the lead to 24-20, Arizona seemed unable to construct one more drive to win the game.
Luckily for the Cards, San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill was more than willing to hand the game away. Hill turned the ball over three times in the second half, all in his own end or during critical San Francisco drives. Arizona even took two interceptions for touchdowns, though both were called back for defensive penalties. Even after the Cards finally pulled ahead, 29-24 in the fourth, it appeared they would allow San Francisco to retake the lead as the Niners drove to the Arizona one-yard-line with 52 seconds remaining in the game. But amazingly enough, San Francisco used 25 seconds to spike the ball and stop the clock, and ran undersized backup running back Michael Robinson to the 1-yard line as time expired. This bizarre ending showed once again why these two teams have been the laughingstock of the league over the past decade.
Most impressive team: Atlanta Falcons
The Matt Ryan-led Falcons allowed over 500 yards to the explosive Saints, but buckled down when it mattered, forcing three turnovers and earning a key 34-20 victory over a challenging NFC South opponents.
Best offensive performance: New York Jets
The Jets put up a monstrous 47 points, including 40 in the first half, and cruised to victory while holding the ball for 37 minutes.
Best defensive performance: Baltimore Ravens
Though they allowed 355 total yards of offense, the Ravens gave up just 14 points and forced four turnovers, while earning a safety as well.
Fantasy stud of the week: Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos
With an undrafted rookie fullback forced to be the lead running back for Denver, Cutler threw all over Cleveland for a career high 447 yards as well as three touchdowns.
Rookie of the week: Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos
Royal caught six balls for 164 total yards including a 93 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Denver (5-4) at Atlanta (6-3)
Both teams managed key victories last week and enter this week ready to put together a string of victories. Denver was forced to sign former Bronco Tatum Bell to start at running back after placing a third running back on injured reserve last week. Atlanta is coming off a sound victory over New Orleans in which they intercepted star quarterback Drew Brees three times. I expect a high scoring game with quite a few turnovers that comes down to the wire.
Minnesota (5-4) at Tampa Bay (6-3)
This game will feature two teams with very good defenses and suspect offenses, so turnovers should be plentiful. I look for both Adrian Peterson and Earnest Graham to get a lot of carries in a low scoring game that should be decided by which defense can put the most points on the board.
San Diego (4-5) at Pittsburgh (6-3)
The Chargers enter after a tight victory over the lowly Chiefs, while the Steelers are coming off a frustrating loss to Indianapolis. Each of these teams has a tendency to be inconsistent, but the Steelers have been much closer to living up their label as an AFC powerhouse than San Diego. If the Chargers come to play, this will be a very exciting game to watch that should go down to the wire. If not, they could get trampled.
Dallas (5-4) at Washington (6-3)
Both teams are desperate for victories to keep pace in easily the NFL’s best division, chasing the 8-1 New York Giants. The Cowboys will be looking to Tony Romo to return strong from a pinkie injury to revive an offense that has been atrocious in his absence, averaging just 14 points per game. Washington will likely be without star rusher Clinton Portis, so Ladell Betts figures to get a lot of touches. DeAngelo Hall will make his Redskins debut, rekindling what has been a great rivalry between Hall and stud receiver Terrell Owens.
Last week: 2-2
Season predictions record: 18-18
Davey DeChant, a senior at Battle Mountain High School, breaks down the NFL.