My intro this week centers on the sad, sad state of the NFC Wild Card race. Think about it:
At 7-4, the Bears are in a good position, but with Caleb Hanie at quarterback, they're not finishing any better than 9-7.
Also at 7-4, the Lions have lost 4 of their last 6 and still have tough matchups with the Saints, Raiders, and Packers remaining.
After three straight losses, the Giants are crumbling earlier than usual, and face the Packers this week. Sounds like four in a row.
With the Packers undefeated, the Saints destroying the Giants, the Cowboys winning four straight, and the 49ers having the opportunity to clinch this week, the contrast is stark.
And yet, with all that, the Eagles are 4-7 and not at all poised to make a run at this wide-open Wild Card spot. Sigh...
TITANS 23, BUCCANEERS 17
TRIUMPH: Chris Johnson had his second 100-yard game in the past three weeks, rushing 23 times for 190 yards in the Titans win. However, a note: Johnson’s three 100-yard performances have come against defenses currently ranked 28, 29, and 30 in terms of run defense. He has averaged just 35 yards per game in the other 8 games.
TRAGEDY: Aside from last week in which he left the game with an injury, Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck had averaged 250 yards and just under 2 touchdowns per game prior to this week’s 160-yard, 1-TD, 3-turnover game. If CJ2K returns to mediocrity in the coming weeks, we can expect Hasselbeck to continue chucking the ball effectively.
TREND: I don’t really have a stat for this, but LeGarrette Blount leapt over a defender again!. The closest thing I have to a stat here is that if you Google Legarrette Blount jumps, three different occasions show up as YouTube results, and none of those is the one above.
TRAIL MIX: The Bucs have lost 6 of their last 7 games, dropping to 4-7, but they may be the best 4-7 or worse team in the league: each of those last 7 games was against a team with a winning record (49ers, Saints twice, Bears, Texans, Packers, Titans).
REDSKINS 23, SEAHAWKS 17
TRIUMPH: Roy Helu had 23 carries for 108 yards and 7 receptions for 54 yards in this contest. He had not had more than 10 carries or 74 yards this season, and both of those numbers came in Week 2. Mike Shanahan is a tricksy hobbit when it comes to running back touches (no Redskins running back has led the team in rushing more than 4 times this season), and Washington’s leading rushers had combined for 131 yards in the previous four games, so I wouldn’t expect much going forward.
TRAGEDY: The Seahawks entered this game with a top 10 rush defense and the ‘Skins had a bottom-five rush offense, and yet Washington managed 110 yards and over 4 yards per carry from its running backs (I’m choosing to disregard Rex Grossman’s 5 rushes for -1 yard).
TREND: Unless you play fantasy football, I bet you didn’t know that Marshawn Lynch has a touchdown (rushing or receiving) in each of the last seven games in which he’s played. Not only that, but he has averaged over 110 yards per game since Week 9 after averaging 44 yards per game prior. But wait, there’s more! Seattle’s next two games are against the improved-but-phoning-it-in Eagles and a Rams defense that has allowed two 200-yard rushing games in the past month.
TRAIL MIX: It’s a Redskins game, so there’s gotta be a Sexy Rexy update in here somewhere. The bad: Grossman has turned the ball over at least twice in 7 of the 8 games he has started this year. The good: he still has scored more fantasy points than Sam Bradford, last year’s rookie of the year and many pundits’ pick for a breakout player this season.
SAINTS 49, GIANTS 24
TRIUMPH: Mark Ingram led the Saints in carries, yards, and touchdowns with 13, 80, and 1. This was mostly due to the Saints having the luxury of running the clock out at the end of the game, as Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are normally more involved in competitive games.
TRAGEDY: Fantasy-wise, every prominent Saints skill player had at least 6 fantasy points in this game – except Robert Meachem, who wasn’t even thrown to. Dude!
TREND: Including this game, the Saints are 3-0 against the Giants since Drew Brees arrived in 2006, winning by an average score of 42-19.
TRAIL MIX: Eli Manning completed 21 consecutive passes in the second half en route to a 400-yard day. Two notes on this: bet you either didn’t know or forgot that Donovan McNabb holds the record for most consecutive completions, with 24 over the span of two games. Another note: in the 2006 matchup between these teams, Drew Brees and Eli Manning combined for 206 passing yards, with 55 of them coming on a Manning-to-Burress touchdown that represented the only time the Giants got into Saints territory.