THE TOP STORYLINES:
Many of you laughed at Eli Manning earlier this year when he declared that he was in the same elite quarterback class as Tom Brady. Manning’s fantasy numbers from this contest (20/39 for 250-2-1) paled in comparison to Brady’s stat line (28/49 for 342-2-2), but Peyton’s younger brother secured the victory without Hakeem Nicks (hamstring/inactive) and Ahmad Bradshaw (foot/inactive). Maybe we should start calling E. Manning “Captain Comeback.” Did you know this was the fifth time in 2011 that he has rallied New York from a fourth-quarter deficit to win? The deficit was 20-17 with 1:36 left in the contest, and Manning hit Jake Ballard with a one-yard scoring strike to pull it out. The Giants (6-2) face a very tough matchup next week when they visit the upstart San Francisco 49ers (7-1).
As for New England (5-3), the Giants snapped their 20-game home winning streak. The Patriots also are coming off their second straight defeat and find themselves in a three-way tie atop the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and their Week 10 opponent, the New York Jets. Although New England’s defense played one of its better games of the season against the Giants, the Patriots offense struggled for the third straight week, looking predictable and pedestrian after dazzling the NFL during the opening weeks of 2011. The familiar faces – Wes Welker (9-136-0), Rob Gronkowski (8-101-1) and Aaron Hernandez (4-35-1) carried the load. However, two problems – a lack of a deep threat and the lack of a consistent rushing attack – will continue to hinder Brady and company.
The Green Bay Packers Run Their Record to 8-0, Holding Off the San Diego Chargers 45-38
So much for all the talk about the defending world champions becoming complacent or struggling after their bye week, looking ripe for an upset by a desperate-for-a-win San Diego Chargers team. The Green Bay Packers remain the NFL’s only undefeated team and remain the odds on favorite to notch another Lombardi Trophy. Aaron Rodgers picked up right where he left off in Week 7, carving up the Chargers by completing 21-of-26 passes for 247-4-0 and amassing 52 yards rushing in what was just another day at the office for him. Rodgers tossed scoring strikes to four different receivers: Jordy Nelson (5-105-1), Greg Jennings (6-46-1), Jermichael Finley (5-44-1) and James Jones (1-21-1).
The Chargers are reeling after losing their third straight contest. Two weeks ago, they blew an 11-point lead (twice) to lose to the New York Jets at New Meadowlands. A week ago, they had all but locked up a win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football when “The Phumble” happened. Although I did not expect San Diego to defeat Green Bay, Philip Rivers and company continue to squander potential victories with turnovers and numerous penalties.
Although Rivers is not the only Charger that is making mistakes – the team insists he is not playing hurt – his goofs are the most devastating. The San Diego triggerman completed 26-of-46 passes for 385-4-3 against the Packers, which was his best fantasy stat line of the season, but two of Rivers’ interceptions were pick-sixes. On a more positive note, Vincent Jackson treated his owners to a monster outing (7-141-3) and Antonio Gates played more like his Pro Bowl self (8-95-1).
Joe Flacco Leads a Last-Minute 92-Yard Touchdown Drive to Lift the Ravens Past The Steelers 23-20.
Flacco tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with just eight ticks left on the clock to stun the Pittsburgh Steelers and their loud contingent of fans at Heinz Field. I’ll reach into my huge bag of sports cliches and pull out this one: The Baltimore Ravens Sunday night triumph over the Steelers was…here it comes…
a statement game. Baltimore has swept the season series from Pittsburgh, joining the Cincinnati Bengals atop the AFC North with identical 6-2 records. Cincinnati has not played either Pittsburgh or Baltimore yet. Right now I envision the Bengals going 0-4 in those contests. In other words, I think the division is Baltimore’s for the taking. No, I wouldn’t write the Steelers off. Raise your hand if you want to see a Baltimore/Pittsburgh rematch in the playoffs.
Although it took Flacco 47 attempts to compile 300 passing yards, the Ravens aren’t complaining. Ray Rice compiled 86 total yards and one touchdown while Anquan Boldin (7-88-0) and Torrey Smith (5-71-1) were Baltimore’s top receivers. For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger racked up 330-1-1 while Antonio Brown (5-109-0) and Mike Wallace (4-68-1) were Roethlisberger’s top-two targets. Rashard Mendenhall accumulated 52 rushing yards and one rushing score in what has become a pass-heavy offense.
Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos Rebound From the Mile High Meltdown, Ripping the Oakland Raiders 38-24.
Tebow took a royal beating in the media last week after he played horribly during the Denver Broncos’ 45-10 loss to the Detroit Lions, but the critics are silent right now after he improved his record to 2-1 as Denver’s starting triggerman. As you probably suspected, Tebow barely kept the Oakland Raiders honest with his passing (10/21 for 124-2-0), but he tore them up with his legs (12-117-0), operating a college-style option rushing attack that helped the Broncos generate 298 rushing yards. Unlike two weeks ago, Tebow received some help from Willis McGahee (20-163-2) and a Broncos defense that didn’t allow Oakland to score in the final quarter.
By the way, Carson Palmer (remember him?) made his first start for what was a Darren McFadden-less offense (McFadden sat out with a foot injury). Palmer played much better than he did during a relief appearance two weeks ago, amassing a 332-3-3 stat line. With Denver cover corner Champ Bailey and a possible injury bottling up Darrius Heyward-Bey (0-0-0), who didn’t play many snaps, Palmer leaned on Jacoby Ford (5-105-1), but Heyward-Bey should be more involved moving forward. Palmer has tossed six picks in less than two games played, but the new Oakland triggerman should cut down on the turnovers once he becomes more comfortable in the offense. In case you’re wondering, new Raider T.J. Houshmandzadeh compiled 1-28-0.
The Resurgent New York Jets Pound the Buffalo Bills 27-11 to Jump Back into the Thick of the AFC East Race
I’m not trying to downplay what was a convincing New York Jets (5-3) victory, but I had expected this one to be much more competitive. The Buffalo Bills (5-3) offense never got on track against a Jets defense that forced three turnovers and stopped Buffalo on two critical fourth downs. After tallying just three points in the first half, the Mark Sanchez-led New York offense rolled in the second half, scoring 24 points. In the third quarter, LaDainian Tomlinson (5-18-1 and 3-30-0 receiving) tacked on the Jets’ first touchdown of the afternoon, and Santonio Holmes (3-29-1) scored a short time later. Fullback John Connor ran one in from one-yard out in the fourth quarter. Ryan Fitzpatrick (191-1-2) hit David Nelson with a seven-yard touchdown toss late in the fourth quarter and ran for a two-point conversion, but it was too little, too late. Fred Jackson amassed 18-82-0 and 3-38-0 receiving while Stevie Johnson compiled 3-84-0.