THE TOP STORYLINES:
The Green Bay Packers Notch Their First 10-0 Start Since 1962 By Outlasting The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-26
Although Aaron Rodgers and company didn’t look 100 percent sharp – they were coming off a Monday night game – the defending Super Bowl champions held off a scrappy Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) team thanks to a 40-yard Rodgers-to-Jordy-Nelson touchdown pass with 2:55 left to help secure the victory. Although he racked up 299-3-1 on 23-of-34 completions, a visibly frustrated Rodgers said during his post-game presser that he “didn’t throw the ball well.” Nelson continues to establish himself as the second option in the Packers’ passing attack, accumulating a team-best 6-123-2 against the Bucs. Tampa Bay contained Greg Jennings, limiting him to a season-worst 2-6-0 stat line. It’s amazing the Packers scored 35 points despite getting a combined 36 receiving yards from Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley. The running game also disappointed, but what else is new?
By the way, Green Bay’s first score in this contest came on a one-yard run by 337-pound defensive tackle B.J. Raji in the first quarter. Although “Refrigerator Raji” has a nice ring to it, Chicago Bears’ fans will be quick to remind us all that their Mike Ditka-led team originally gave the NFL William “The Refrigerator” Perry back in the 1980s.
The Buccaneers dropped their fourth straight contest, but, despite committing nine costly penalties and two turnovers, they gave the Packers all they could handle. Josh Freeman (28-of-38 for 342-2-2) and LeGarrette Blount (18-107-1) have been driving fantasy owners crazy with their respective inconsistent fantasy production, but they both turned in strong outings. Kellen Winslow topped all Tampa Bay pass-catchers (9-132-0) while Mike Williams (7-83-1) scored for just the second time this season.
Matthew Stafford Tosses Five Touchdown Passes to Rally the Detroit Lions to a 49-35 Victory over the Carolina Panthers
After watching Matthew Stafford toss two early picks, which is mainly why the Detroit Lions (7-3) fell behind 17-7, many had wondered if his injured index finger was far worse than the Lions had led us to believe. Would Detroit bench Stafford and hope Shaun Hill could rally them to a win? Nope. With a huge assist from the surprising Kevin Smith (16-140-2 and 4-61-1 receiving), Stafford silenced the critics that skewered him for a poor outing against the Chicago Bears two weeks ago, accumulating an impressive 335-5-2 stat line on just 28-of-36 completions. The Carolina Panthers (2-8) did a nice job of containing Calvin Johnson (5-89-0), but Detroit’s other receivers helped carry the load including Nate Burleson (7-63-1), Titus Young (2-14-1), Brandon Pettigrew (4-37-1) and Tony Scheffler (2-24-1).
Cam Newton continues to make his case for 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Despite some fears that Newton would struggle against a ferocious, opportunistic Detroit defense at Ford Field, the rookie held his own (22-of-38 for 280-1-4 and 7-37-2), but his four picks and the Panthers’ soft defense were obstacles that even the talented rookie could not overcome. Steve Smith (5-41-1) caught Newton’s lone scoring strike while Jonathan Stewart (6-87-0) led all Carolina receivers. DeAngelo Williams led the team in carries and rushing yards (10-73-0). The Panthers remain winless on the road this season.
The Vince Young-led Philadelphia Eagles Upset the New York Giants 17-10 To Keep Their Playoff Hopes On Life Support; The G-Men Fall Into a First-Place NFC East Tie With the 6-4 Dallas Cowboys
The last time we heard Vince Young’s name mentioned, he had punched a one-way plane ticket out of Tennessee by screaming at now-former Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher during a locker room tantrum after Fisher had benched him for poor play.
Fast forward to 2011: With Michael Vick (ribs) out, Young had to take the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles’ (4-6) offense and try to lead the team to a season-saving victory over the New York Giants (6-4) – without the services of Jeremy Maclin (hamstring/shoulder). After tossing three picks and struggling to move the offense for most of the game, Young helped the Eagles cobble together an 18-play, 80-yard drive in the closing minutes that culminated with the go-ahead eight-yard touchdown pass to Maclin-sub Riley Cooper. For the game, Young racked up 258-2-3 on 23-of-36 passing but amassed just 6-5-0 rushing. DeSean Jackson led all Eagles’ receivers with 6-88-0 while Cooper filled in more than ably for Maclin with 5-75-1. LeSean McCoy accumulated 23-113-0 rushing.
Young also received a needed assist from an inconsistent Eagles’ defense that decided to show up and play well in this contest. Victor Cruz’s 6-128-1 was the only notable offensive stat line from the Giants. Philadelphia contained Mario Manningham (1-4-0), Hakeem Nicks (3-69-0), Brandon Jacobs (12-21-0 and 3-11-0 receiving) and Eli Manning (264-1-1). Is this the start of yet another second-half swoon for the G-Men? During the last two seasons, the Giants started with a bang but finished with a whimper – much to the dismay of quite a few New York fans that think head coach Tom Coughlin has overstayed his welcome. The Giants’ next three opponents are the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.
The Baltimore Ravens Down the Upstart Cincinnati Bengals 31-24 to Move Into First Place In the AFC North
Last week I gave a shout out to the Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) for performing much better than expected this season, but it looks like the Bengals are the little brother in the AFC North while the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) and the Pittsburgh Steelers are the two big brothers. After losing to the Steelers 24-17 two weeks ago, Cincinnati lost a hard-fought 31-24 outing to the Ravens. The Bengals nearly overcame a 17-point deficit against a Ray Lewis-less Baltimore defense but failed on a fourth-and-goal attempt to score a tying touchdown in the final minutes. Although Andy Dalton played without top receiver A.J. Green (leg), the rookie triggerman went 24-of-45 for 373-1-3. Jerome Simpson stepped up in Green’s absence, leading all Cincinnati receivers with 8-152-0 while Cedric Benson amassed 15-41-2 on the ground.
While I’ll give Baltimore credit for rebounding after that embarrassing Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, I do have to make an observation: the Ravens play like world beaters at home, but they play like egg beaters on the road. Ray Rice compiled 147 total yards and two total touchdowns. Joe Flacco enjoyed a good game, completing 17-of-27 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns against one pick. Torrey Smith led all Baltimore pass-catchers with 6-165-1.
Other Notable Storylines:
Adrian Peterson Injured during the Minnesota Vikings’ 27-21 Loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Injured Jay Cutler Outduels Philip Rivers To Lead The Chicago Bears to a 31-20 Triumph over the San Diego Chargers. The Bears Win Their Fifth Straight Contest While The Bolts Lose Their Fifth Straight For the First Time Since 2003.
The Dallas Cowboys Slip Past The Washington Redskins 27-24 in Overtime To Share First Place in the NFC East; The Redskins Suffer Their First Six-Game Skid Since 1998.
The Buffalo Bills Drop Their Third Straight Game, Lose 35-8 To the Miami Dolphins.
The San Francisco 49ers Notch Win No. 9, Upend Arizona Cardinals 23-7
The Atlanta Falcons Hold off Jake Locker Comeback Bid, Down the Tennessee Titans 23-17
Tim Tebow Wins Fourth Start in Five Games, Sinking The New York Jets 17-13 With a Last-Minute Touchdown Run