Welcome to football in November, where the men start to separate themselves from the boys (and Brandon Weeden).
This is when the playoff picture begins to come into focus, which means we get to start asking questions like “Does the road to Super Bowl XLIX go through Arizona?” (Answer: “Yes,” because it’s being played at University of Phoenix Stadium) or “Are the (insert name of division leader here) for real?” – without people thinking we’re crazy. Kind of like how all the stores know it’s time to put up the Christmas decorations. It’s not OK, but it’s acceptable.
Week 9 snatched the crystal ball out of our hands and shook it like a snow globe, as the Patriots throttled the Broncos, the Cardinals took out the Cowboys and the Eagles turned to the Sanchise to remain in the hunt for the NFC crown. In short, things are getting exciting. Let’s pick some Winners and Losers.
Winner: Once Again…Tom Brady
The build-up to Brady-Manning XVI came with all the usual fanfare: High stakes, dramatic setting, ridiculous bloviation. And, once again, the payoff struck a familiar tone – Tom Brady came out on top.
Yes, the Ugg’ed One is now 11-5 against Peyton Manning, notching his latest victory over his rival by throwing for 333 yards and 4 TDs in windy and wintery conditions. This only adds to Brady’s impressive run over the last 5 games, throwing for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns. During the course of the game, the Pro-Pats crowd chanted “Brady’s Better,” which caused this NFL writer to really think about his stance on these two quarterbacks. On the one hand, Manning has every record known to mankind. On the other, Brady produces in the postseason and seems to have Manning’s number most of the time.
I’m torn. Which one is married to the Brazilian supermodel again?
Loser: The Travesty That is Brandon Weeden
If anyone wants to know how to cool off the hottest team in football, we’ve got the answer: Brandon Weeden.
In a battle for NFC supremacy, Weeden’s Cowboys got stomped by the Arizona Cardinals, and before he orchestrated a garbage-time scoring drive, the ‘Boys backup had thrown for 103 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. As awful as that is, it’s the stuff you won’t see in the box score that truly makes you appreciate Weeden’s horrible play.
In short, he was a straight momentum killer. He managed to snuff out two crucial scoring drives with turnovers, while simultaneously receiving all sorts of shade thrown his way from his receivers. DeMarco Murray’s 100-yard streak was also killed by the Cardinals’ defense, which figured out pretty quickly that the run was the only weapon Dallas had.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss Tony Romo (or Kyle Orton).
Winner: The Very Real Arizona Cardinals
Ho-hum. Another week, another Cardinals win. Bruce Arians and his efficient crew of silent assassins went into Dallas and took what was theirs – a victory. What makes this one so special? They can officially be called the best team in football, as they sit alone on top of the NFL mountain at 7-1.
Yesterday’s game wasn’t pretty, but the Cards did everything needed to get the win. They drove the football when it counted, made all the stops they needed, and put a screeching halt to DeMarco Murray’s 100-yard streak. Keep doing you, Cardinals.
Loser: Your New York Football Jets
The football gods hate the Jets so much they’re conspiring each week to find new ways to torture Rex’s free-falling squad.
This week’s display was a doozy. The Jets managed to block an Alex Smith pass, only to have the ball land in Anthony Fasano’s hands. Fasano, who was sitting on his ass, just plopped his way in for a touchdown. Turning a positive play into a dude scoring on you while literally sitting down might be the football gods’ finest work yet. Until next week.
Look who’s standing on the very edge of the playoff picture!
After last season’s embarrassment, the Dolphins are off to an impressive 5-3 start, and this week, they drew inspiration from head coach Joe Philbin, whose father passed away on Friday. Determined to win one for Joe, Miami shut down – and shut out – the San Diego Chargers 37-0. As crazy as it sounds, this should come as no surprise, because (fun fact!) the Dolphins are 14-1 against West Coast teams since 1991.
Ryan Tannehill did a fine job on Sunday, tossing for 288 yards and 3 TDs. Meanwhile,the Dolphins did an even finer job destroying any hope Philip Rivers had at claiming his first MVP trophy. Rivers threw for 138 yards, 0 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a fumble. Dude, those are Weeden numbers!
Loser: The 49ers
Things are not looking good for Jim Harbaugh and his khaki pants. The 49ers lost to the St. Louis Rams 13-10, dropping them to 3rd place in the NFC West at 4-4.
With 9 seconds on the clock, Colin Kaepernick went for the game-winning QB sneak on the 1-yard line, only to cough the ball up as he was crossing the goal line. The Rams came away the fumble, and the win, and this 49ers team continues to confound. Something’s amiss in San Francisco.