Week fourteen is almost in the books, and we’ve got our first two teams clinching post season play in the NFL. Philadelphia has punched its ticket and New England not only punched its ticket, but also established themselves as the top team in the AFC. Perhaps now they’ll get a little respect? Two feet of snow couldn’t stop them from winning this weekend. As for a fantasy spin, 37 players will make this week’s story, but out of that number, eight are defenses. I thought I was in trouble when my opponent’s running back this week was the top receiver (LaDainian Tomlinson), but I can’t really feel as badly as someone who was up against Clinton Portis. Every year there is one week where a single player outscores an entire team, this is that week and Portis is that player. Then again, Jeff Garcia owners all over the place are kicking themselves, but how could you start the guy based on the last couple of weeks? Hopefully those Michael Vick owners had the gnads to put him in the starting lineup this week. Those that did (self included) enjoyed a great Sunday night performance. Ain’t fantasy football grand! While most people won’t admit it, there is a ton of luck involved, hopefully you had some this week (and I can get a scooch more tonight!).
On a side note, like most football nuts, I flip from game to game to game to game to game…you get the idea. Is it me or is announcing at an all time low? And it’s not just one team, it’s just about everyone. Nearly every game suffers from things such as: announcers calling out the wrong player, no one in the broadcast booth actually seeing what happened on the field then guessing (incorrectly!), blatant plays (like an incomplete pass) being called a great catch, trying to be the first guy in the booth to predict what the flag on the field is for (just stop!), saying the same saying over and over and over again when it didn’t make sense the first time, and in general fighting, disagreement, and the creating of an uncomfortable atmosphere (like when you’re over your significant other’s house and their parents are fighting right in front of you)…just makes you want to watch the games in silence. Is it just me? These guys are making a living calling a football game and just aren’t getting it done. In any case, let’s (finally) get into the games….
at Baltimore 31, Cincinnati 13
One of the many games on this weekend that would go a long way to determining who would and wouldn’t be making the playoffs, and in this one, Baltimore re-established itself as the team to beat in a near complete dismantling of what had been a white hot Cincinnati team. All you need to know in this one is that Jamal Lewis (180 rushing yards, 3 TD) ran wild and the Baltimore D (5 turnovers, 6 sacks) was dominant. Only Peter Warrick (11 catches for 90 yards, TD) gets a mention in a losing effort.
San Diego 14, at Detroit 7
Someone had to win this game, and the Chargers were more than happy to do just that. LaDanian Tomlinson (9 catches for 148 yards, 88 rushing yards, 2 TD) could not be contained out of the backfield as Doug Flutie (244 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) was wise to find him early and often as San Deigo holds on for the road win. The Lions mounted a comeback, but Joey Harrington (208 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 int) had his heave at the buzzer denied, sending the home faithful home unhappy.
at Green Bay 34, Chicago 21
Chicago has been on fire the past few games, and they worked their way into the playoff picture. This was a game that could keep them going, or knock them out. When they raced to an early 14-0 lead, it looked like they’d build on their past success. Then Green Bay decided to play their game. With the help of Ahman Green (80 rushing yards, TD) and Ryan Longwell (4 FG, 2 PAT), the Packers scored the next 34 points. With the score 19-14, it was the GB D (5 turnovers, 3 sacks, return TD) that helped build the momentum, picking off a pass and taking it to the house. Chicago never got close after that, only getting a late kickoff return for the final margin. Marty Booker (5 catches for 115 yards, TD) the only Bear to make the story in a losing effort.
at Jacksonville 27, Houston nil
When word came down early on Sunday that David Ragone would be playing for David Carr, and Tony Hollins would be playing for Domanick Davis, you knew that Houston was going to have a problem. The Texans were unable to mount much of anything, as Fred Taylor (163 rushing yards, TD) did much damage offensively. The Jacksonville D (3 turnovers, 3 sacks, pitched shutout, 124 yards allowed) also chipped in and as you can imagine, there is nothing to see here for Houston.
at Minnesota 34, Seattle 7
What was supposed to be a close game between two playoff hopefuls, turned out to be a rout for the home team. Randy Moss (8 catches for 133 yards, 2 TD) hooked up for a couple of long touchdowns with Duante Culpepper (274 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 int) as the Viking offense was like hot butter on a breakfast toast. Even the 29th ranked Minny D (3 turnovers, 3 sacks, 7 points allowed, return TD) came thru strong in this one, shutting down what had been one of the top offenses in the league. Nothing to see from Seattle, let’s move on.
Tampa Bay 14, at New Orleans 7
Essentially facing elimination with one more loss, the Bucs finally displayed the prowess that brought them the Lombardi Trophy last year. The Bucs scored twice just before the half, including a nice catch by Warren Sapp on offense, and they hold on for the win. The D (3 turnovers, 7 sacks, 7 points allowed) was again the leader, stifling the Saints attack, limiting New Orleans to only the mention of Joe Horn (9 catches for 118 yards) here.
Washington 20, at New York Giants 7
Battle of two teams fading into the sunset, with perhaps both having new head coaches next season. An uninspiring offensive display by both teams, the only real impact on the game was that Kerry Collins left with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return. The Redskin D (3 turnovers, 6 sacks, 7 points allowed) the only fantasy entity to get a mention here. Eww.
at Philadelphia 36, Dallas 10
Much like the Cincinnati/Baltimore game, this was a matchup of the upstart and the power of the division, and like in that game, the power prevailed. Though the two teams were tied at 10 at the half, Donovan McNabb (248 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 int) and Correll Buckhalter (115 rushing yards, TD) made sure the Eagles got up in the second half and they never looked back. Dallas was unable to get anything going, and as a result, they lose the game and like many teams this week, suffer the sting of not having any fantasy players in this week’s story. Philadelphia becomes the first team in the NFC to clinch a playoff berth.
at Pittsburgh 27, Oakland 7
This week’s games are either feast or famine. Either two solid teams were matched up, or, well, two not so solid teams were up against each other. If Raider coach Bill Callahan was hoping that calling his team “dumb” would fire them up, he was sorely mistaken. Jerome Bettis (106 rushing yards, TD) ran wild and once the Steelers got up in the second half, Oakland put up little effort in the defeat. No Raiders to mention here.
Indianapolis 29, at Tennessee 27
One of the top games on the afternoon, as both these teams were desperately fighting to win the division so they wouldn’t have to go on the road as a wildcard team. In the end, Indianapolis did what Tennessee usually does to teams – controlling the clock on the way to the close win. And close it was. The game took a turn just before the half, after Mike Vanderjadt (5 FG, 2 PAT) clicked to make the score 10-9, the Titan special teams went bad. Eddie Berlin fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and despite working with a short field, the Tennessee D held strong, forcing another kick that put the Colts up 12-10 at the half. Opening the second half, the Colts had the ball and they drove the field, Edgerrin James (95 rushing yards, 2 TD) doing the honors from the two yard line. Enter Eddie Berlin, again fumbling the ensuing kickoff. Yet once again, despite the short field, the Colts had to settle for a field goal. Justin McCareins fielded the next kickoff, and much to the delight of the home crowd, he held onto the ball and Steve McNair (235 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int, 1 rushing TD) and the offense got to touch the ball again. They didn’t disappoint as they got a field goal of their own. On the Colts next possession, the offense again was clicking, which included one of the best catches ever seen by Marvin Harrison (10 catches for 124 yards). A diving catch made with only one hand, yet he was able to twist his body in midair so that he hit the ground in a way that he wouldn’t lose the ball. Spectacular. After James hit paydirt again, Tennessee was able to get their offense on the field and once again they were successful, McNair getting it done in the air, then taking in the two point conversion on his own to close the gap to eight points with about nine minutes to go in the game. Three punts later, McNair battling sore legs, got his team in the endzone again with less than two minutes left, however, this time, the conversion was no good. Yet it wasn’t over, the Titan D AGAIN held, forcing the punt with less than a minute to go. But wouldn’t you know, fumblitis in the kicking game reared its ugly head as McCareins coughed up the punt and that was that.
at Buffalo 17, New York Jets 6
Will the real New York Jets please stand up? A great game last week, then they turn around and go into Buffalo and mail in a stinker. Travis Henry (169 rushing yards, TD) had a career day (Willis Who?) as the Bills were never threatened in this one. The Jets offense apparently flew south as there is no one to mention. Zzzz.
at Denver 45, Kansas City 27
A tough division battle featuring two of the top backs in the league. Priest Holmes (77 total yards, 2 TD), Trent Green (397 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 int, 1 rushing TD) were able to keep pace in the first half, but the second half was a different story. After scoring twice from eleven and one yard out, the second half was Player of the Week Clinton Portis (218 rushing yards, 5 TD) scoring from 59 yards out. Clinton Portis scoring from 28 yards out. Clinton Portis scoring from 53 yards out to salt it away. With the win, the Broncos move into the sixth and final spot in the playoff chase, and can claim to be a team that controls its own destiny from here on out. With the loss, the Chiefs fall into a tie for the top record in the league, and at this time, they’d lose out on the tie breaker. They simply had no answers for Portis in the second half. Dante Hall (11 catches for 124 yards) also gets a mention here in a losing effort.
at New England 12, Miami nil
Let it snow, let is snow, let it snow. I live 15 minutes from the stadium, so when they said two feet of snow fell, they were being conservative. Three feet was a closer estimate, and with the howling winds (blizzard conditions at times), drifts of four feet and higher were not uncommon. Props to the fans that went to the game in just deplorable conditions. It snowed so hard, for so long, so close to (and during) the game that 17000 of the seats in the stadium could not be shoveled out. Parking lots couldn’t accommodate the cars, just a crazy scene. As for the game, those that did get in were rewarded. As you can imagine, the conditions made this one a field position battle, and that it was. The Pats got a field goal early for the only first half score, a half that actually featured no turnovers. Late in the third quarter, the Dolphins finally got something going, but the Patriot D (3 turnovers, 5 sacks, 134 yards allowed, pitched shutout, return TD), specifically Rodney Harrison in this instance, sacked Jay Fiedler forcing a fumble that New England would recover to end that threat. Starting off the fourth, the Miami D forced a fumble of its own, but the offense couldn’t get it going. On their next possession, starting on their own four yardline, the New England D again game up big, intercepting a Fiedler offering and waltzing into the end zone, setting off a celebration of snow throwing in the stands that was something to be proud of – just tossing it up in the air like confetti. Classic scene. Later in the quarter, Miami was once again pinned deep and New England was able to tack on a safety for the final margin of victory. No offensive player from either team gets a mention in this hard fought game.
at San Francisco 50, Arizona 14
After coming back from injury, Jeff Garcia (252 passing yards, 4 TD, 0 int, 2 rushing TD) hadn’t looked good and the talk of Tim Rattay being the man was getting louder. I think we can squash that for now, though it is always nice to take out some frustration on the Cardinals. The Niners scored early and often, then scored some more in an absolute romp. Kevan Barlow (154 rushing yards, TD) and Terrell Owens (7 catches for 92 yards, 2 TD) also get a mention here in victory. Anquan Boldin (9 catches for 123 yards, TD) did well in the loss, but it clearly was no where near enough to overcome.
At Atlanta 20, Carolina 14 (overtime)
Welcome back, Michael Vick (179 passing yards, 141 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD). Vick took what had been a tight defensive struggle and singlehandedly won the game for Atlanta. He accounted for 53 of 56 yards all on his own, including the last few in scoring to tie the game in the third quarter. Inspired by the return of their leader, the Falcon D (3 turnovers, return TD) got stingy and it was Atlanta that had a chance to win in regulation. Vick was again doing it all, running and passing with time winding down. Perhaps going for the end zone one last time before attempting a field goal, Vick was intercepted and overtime was the call. The Panthers got the ball first and they must have had thoughts of clinching their division with a game winning drive. Three plays later, Jake Delhomme’s pass was picked off and 32 yards later the defense was the hero in scoring the winning points, finally giving Atlanta a win at home.