Before we begin, I would just like to take a moment of silence in remembrance of the 2011 Eagles.
And that is the last you will hear of them today. Besides, there were plenty of interesting games played yesterday that I can discuss that involved teams with playoff aspirations, including, the Denver Broncos?
BRONCOS 17, CHIEFS 10
TRIUMPH: Dexter McCluster had 1/3 of the Chiefs' receptions in this game and led them in receiving yards, while also being second on the team with 8 carries and 45 yards (for a total of 14 touches and 93 yards). He did his best Jamaal Charles imitation, but I have to say that this game is probably the upper bound of his productivity.
TRAGEDY: The mercurial Dwayne Bowe had yet another of his trademark "Where in the World is Dwayne Bowe?" games, grabbing just two passes for 17 yards. While he has had quite the breakout the last two years, he has still had 6 games (out of 25 since the start of last year) with a stat line of 2 / 17 or worse, including a zero-catch game against the Broncos last year.
TREND: The Broncos have been running a college-style option offense the last two weeks, similar to many college teams, which led to Tim Tebow throwing just EIGHT passes in this game, completing two (more on that below). The Broncos have run 76% of the time the last two weeks, which is perilously close to the prototypical triple-option offenses of the Navy Midshipmen (84% run) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (82% run). Although their next opponent, the Jets, have been uncharacteristically average against the run this year, the fact that this offense is so one-dimensional should make next week's game a blowout.
TRAIL MIX: Tim Tebow’s statline in this game: 2-8, 69 yards, 9 rushes, 43 yards. Just as a point of comparison: Dan Orlovsky (of being-totally-inept fame) and Tyler Palko (whom I had never heard of, and therefore you shouldn’t have) both had more completions, and they averaged just 4 minutes of game time. Tebow played every snap. And while it seems like I’m piling on Tebow, you can’t argue with the fact that the Broncos are 1 game out of the division lead, Tebow has a 7/1 TD/INT ratio this season, and despite the abysmal statistics, he still tied for the 8th best fantasy performance among quarterbacks this week.
BEARS 37, LIONS 13
TRIUMPH: Former Hammer of God Marion Barber appears to have a very similar role with the Bears that he did with the Cowboys a couple of years ago, taking goal line duties and serving as the 4th quarter run-out-the-clock guy. The Bears were winning 34-6 with 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, so Barber’s 13 carries to Matt Forte’s 18 shouldn’t bother fantasy owners any, especially given his 2.1 yards per carry and the fact that Forte ended up getting a goal line touchdown instead of Barber.
TRAGEDY: With the Lions drafting two consensus top-five talents on the defensive line in the last two years (Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley), you’d think they’d get more than 5 sacks in two games against a Bears offensive line that allowed 56 sacks (3.5 per game) last year.
TREND: In the Bears’ last two games, Earl Bennett has 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown, while the rest of the Bears have 16 catches, 155 yards, and a touchdown. People tend to overemphasize the fact that Bennett and Cutler were teammates at Vanderbilt (they were teammates for one year), but you have to respect the increased role Bennett seems to have.
TRAIL MIX: Here’s an example of numbers lying: if I told you that Jay Cutler would go 9-for-19 with no touchdowns and Matt Forte would have under 70 total yards while Matthew Stafford threw for 329 yards, you’d probably say that Stafford had a great day and the Lions won. Oh, did I forget to tell you that Stafford acquired those yards on 63 attempts? Or that he threw 4 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns?
COWBOYS 44, BILLS 7
TRIUMPH: Tony Romo was 18-19 for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half, with all three touchdowns coming before the 12:00 mark in the second quarter. Not only that, but Romo attempted just 7 passes in the second half, and none in the fourth quarter. He completed 88 percent of his passes after not having 80% completions in a game since 2007.
TRAGEDY: Seriously, how did the Cowboys have the best run defense in the league three weeks ago? Fred Jackson had 114 yards on just 13 carries, which actually hurts the fact that the Cowboys have allowed 179 yards per game the last three weeks after allowing 70 yards per game in the six games prior.
TREND: Ryan Fitzpatrick’s NFL quarterback rating each month has declined from 103.5 to 92.4 to 48.9 from September to November, and this degradation runs parallel to the Bills team falling out of playoff contention. This trend doesn’t come as a surprise, as Fitzpatrick’s quarterback rating declined monotonically from 92.4 to 71.7 from September to December last year. It seems like Fitzpatrick doesn’t much like the cold, which doesn’t seem like a great trait for the quarterback of a team from Buffalo, NY.
TRAIL MIX: The Cowboys’ offense is bottom-five in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (under 40 percent). Not only does that mean that this game could have been even more out of hand, but it also means that their kicker, Dan Bailey, is a fantasy stud. Aside from the game in which the Eagles simply dominated the ‘Boys, Bailey has kicked at least two field goals in each of the last 8 games, with at least three in five of them. He has more fantasy points than top-ten receivers AJ Green and Dwayne Bowe!