(Andy Dalton photo courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals)
(Jamaal Charles photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
The NFL loves to push parity, and I get it. Except there isn’t much parity this season, with six teams undefeated, 21 at or below .500 and preseason playoff favorites like Kansas City, New Orleans, Detroit and Baltimore DOA. Think about it: A month ago, Kansas City was a legit threat in the AFC West, New Orleans was a trendy favorite in the NFC South, Detroit thought it could push Green Bay in the NFC North and Baltimore was a Super Bowl favorite everywhere. Well, people, I got two words to describe their playoff aspirations now: Fork, please. The Chiefs are toast without Jamaal Charles. The Saints just plain stink. Same goes for winless Detroit. And Baltimore just bowed to Cleveland … at home, no less. You heard me: Cleveland, an opponent it conquered 13 of the previous 14 games. The NFL has become a two-tiered league of the very, very rich … and everyone else.
2. Maybe, just maybe that was a defining moment for Cincinnati. It’s not just that the Bengals beat defending NFC champion Seattle; it’s more about how they did it – climbing out from under a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit. No question, the Bengals are legit, but, nope, nothing matters until January when the Bengals try to win their first playoff game since 1991.
3. One big difference between this year’s Bengals and last year’s Bengals: Tyler Eifert. He’s healthy, and he’s a load.
4. I’ll have what Charles Woodson is drinking … or what Larry Fitzgerald is.
5. Here we go again. It’s another measuring stick for Buffalo, and it’s next weekend … at home vs. Cincinnati.
6. Best example of misleading statistics: Brandon Weeden. He completes an NFL-best 76.3 percent of his passes, which is pretty nice, huh? Not so fast. He has one touchdown and no wins his last three games – and just lost his 11th straight start. Memo to Jason Garrett: Make the change. Now.
7. This is why you gotta love Atlanta’s chances of staying undefeated through nine games, or until its Nov. 15 bye: The Falcons’ next four opponents are New Orleans, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and San Francisco – opponents with a combined record of 5-14.
8. Denver may be 5-0, but it’s hard to consider the Broncos a Super Bowl threat. Peyton Manning isn’t the same, which isn’t exactly news, with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions over his last nine regular-season games. But the Broncos can’t run, either. My question is: How long can these guys rely on a defense that clinched another victory … and this time the hard way: Without DeMarcus Ware?
9. OK, so five of Arizona’s next seven games are on the road. But so what?. First of all, the Cards are 2-0 as visitors this year, outscoring opponents 90-40. But, second, and most important, none of those five games is against anyone with a winning record. I know, Seattle is one of those stops, and the Seahawks lose at home about as often as Tom Brady is intercepted. But this just in: Arizona won there in 2013, the Seahawks’ only home defeat that season.
10. If I’m New Orleans, I’m taking all calls on Sean Payton. The guy’s been there nine years, and I remember what Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Walsh once told me: No coach should stick around one place longer than 10 years, and Payton is the proof. Once one of the league’s most successful coaches, he’s 8-13 the last season-and-a-half.
11. That was a huge victory for the Giants, now atop the NFC East, but let’s be honest: They have to be concerned with their fourth-quarter defense. Reason: They don’t have one.
12. Jim Tomsula: 1-4. Jim Harbaugh: 5-1. Just sayin.’
13. So Sam Bradford makes too many mistakes., but there’s hope, Eagles’ fans. Not only did your team produce a season-best 519 yards on offense (OK, it was New Orleans) but on their last seven drives, the Eagles produced … in order … field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, field goal, touchdown.
14. Memo to Detroit: Contact Tiki Barber and have him school Ameer Abdullah on ball security.
15. When do Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell start feeling the heat? Over the past three years, the two are 8-29, and, yeah, I’m big on continuity, too. But maybe, just maybe, somebody’s not doing his job here.
16. The more I watch the Baltimore defense the more I want to cast my Defensive MVP vote for Terrell Suggs.
17. Seattle has bigger problems than an offensive line on track to have quarterback Russell Wilson sacked 70 times. Its vaunted “Legion of Boom” defense just blew another fourth-quarter lead, this time a 17-pointer, and gave up 419 yards and 20 unanswered points in a brutal 27-24 overtime loss. So where’s the hope? The schedule. Seattle’s next three games are against, in order, Carolina, San Francisco and Dallas. The Panthers rank 13th in scoring, but three of their 12 touchdowns came via returns. Plus, the game’s in Seattle. The 49ers scored 10 points in their two games prior to Sunday, and Dallas? The Cowboys put up 26 points in their last two losses, with 20 of them vs. New Orleans, and appear on the verge of a quarterback change.
18. Looks like somebody heard DeMarco Murray.
19. That was a tough way to lose for Washington, but relax, Redskins’ fans. Your team demonstrated something in defeat that should keep it in the NFC East race: Resilience. Washington not only plays tough defense, this time but neutralizing Julio Jones, but its offense scored on all three fourth-quarter drives vs. Atlanta, including a game-tying 24-second series that proved Yogi was right: It’s never over until a Robert Alford interception.
20. Best thing about Tampa Bay’s victory wasn’t Doug Martin’s three scores. Nope, it was Jameis Winston’s clean sheet. The game marked his first NFL game without a turnover.
21. Instead of the NFL expanding instant replay, I have a suggestion to save time: Have officials know the rules. Period.
22. And speaking of rules … junk that stupid Calvin Johnson catch rule. I mean, Devonta Freeman scored on that third-down pass, OK?
23. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth was dead solid perfect when he said the 49ers should’ve double-teamed Shane Vereen on New York’s last drive. But they didn’t. So Vereen burns them for three catches and 51 yards, and the Giants are rewarded with what Eli Manning called a “special” victory — not to mention a victory lap. Their next four opponents are a combined 7-13.
24. The NFL celebrates “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” at the same time it welcomes back Greg Hardy. Don’t get me started.
25. Shame on Jim Caldwell. You’re down by 28 with 12 minutes left, and you’re kicking a 40-yard field goal? Really?
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAME
(Lovie Smith photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Bucs)
Cleveland QB Josh McCown. He throws for 459 yards in Baltimore, leads the Browns to their first win there since 2007 and you wonder where’s Johnny Football? Don’t.
Philadelphia DE Fletcher Cox. He sacked Drew Brees three times, forced two fumbles and had one fumble recovery. Oh, yeah, his two fumble recoveries led to 10 points, too.
Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith. He just won his first home game in Tampa in 11 tries.
Cleveland TE Gary Barnidge. You saw that touchdown catch. He’s so good with his legs three teams already contacted him to audition this week as a kicker.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler. He drives me crazy, too, but Consider that winning touchdown pass one of the plays of the year.
N.Y. Giants QB Eli Manning. He completes a franchise-record 41 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns — including a 12-yarder to Larry Donnell to complete a magical last-minute drive and make the Giants … yes, the Giants … the only team in the NFC East with a winning record.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF SHAME
(Matt Stafford photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)
Detroit QB Matt Stafford. As Dean Wormer might say: Benched in the third quarter while playing for a bottom feeder that five weeks into the season is playing out the string is no way to go through life, son.
Seattle DE Michael Bennett. He was penalized for repeated hits on Andy Dalton following a first-half interception, including one to the head. But why wasn’t he ejected? He should have been. Guaranteed, he’ll be hearing from 345 Park Avenue.
Baltimore defense. Once, it was the hallmark of the Ravens, but not anymore. In fact, the latest setback marked the third time this season the Ravens blew a fourth-quarter lead.
St. Louis QB Nick Foles. He throws four interceptions, including one in the end zone and the other at the Green Bay 4, and you can’t help but wonder: What did the Rams see in this guy?
Oakland PK Sebastian Janikowski. He hadn’t missed a field goal this season … then he missed two, including a 40-yarder that would’ve put the Raiders ahead in the fourth quarter.
THIS WEEK’S CANTON NOMINEE
Oakland DB Charles Woodson. So the Raiders lost. Big deal. They always lose to Denver. But Woodson, who just turned 39, picked off Peyton Manning twice – the first time in his 18-year career that he intercepted Manning — running his total to four interceptions in his last three games.
SUNDAY’S HALL-OF-FAME QUOTE
“Everybody wrote me off. Browns didn’t write me off. Didn’t write myself off. Wife and kids didn’t write me off.” – Cleveland QB Josh McCown.
0-9 – Blake Bortles on the road
1 – Seattle interceptions this season
1 – Seattle rushing TDs this season
3 – Straight Josh McCown games with at least 300 yards passing
5 – First-half sacks Sunday of Tom Brady
6 – Detroit turnovers vs. Arizona
8 – Devonta Freeman TDs the past three weeks
14 — Consecutive division road wins for Denver
23.8 – Nick Foles’ Sunday passer rating
28 – Second-quarter points for Arizona, the most in franchise history since 1949
64 – Career interceptions for Charles Woodson
519 – Eagles’ yardage vs. New Orleans