It was another interesting Sunday in which we learned about a few division leaders, saw another spectacle involving the Titans and saw Jay Cutler throw four touchdowns and no interceptions on a day in which Peyton Manning threw four interceptions and just two touchdowns.
Here are my Monday Musings, starting with Philadelphia.
1. Things are never as good or as bad as they seem, and that rule definitely applies to the Eagles. If you had any question about who the MVP on the Eagles’ defense was, you learned today that Asante Samuel is that guy. He changes the entire makeup of the game, both with his interceptions and by altering the way the offense approaches the game. Philadelphia still had plenty of opportunities to win though, and showed that it’s still a young team that is maturing. DeSean Jackson’s maturation better happen in a hurry, or the Eagles might be in trouble when it matters most. Things don’t come easy in December and January, and Jackson hasn’t responded well to in-game adversity.
2. Take your pick for MVP between the following four quarterbacks:
Player A: 2,703 yards, 23 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 66.3% completions, 105.8 rating, 1 rushing touchdown for a 9-2 team.
Player B: 3,362 yards, 23 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 66.2% completions, 104.9 rating for a 6-5 team.
Player C: 2,715 yards, 19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 64.7% completions, 94.4 rating for a 9-2 team.
Player D: 3,050 yards, 20 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 63.4% completions, 106.0 rating, 5 rushing touchdowns for a 7-4 team.
Their identities are revealed at the bottom of the article.
3. From the outside, Jeff Fisher certainly seems to be losing the handle a little bit in Tennessee. If anyone can get it back, it’s Fisher, but with Vince Young throwing his pads into the stands last week and Cortland Finnegan instigating a fight with Andre Johnson this week, it’s escalating in a hurry. By the way, I hope somebody in Houston had the wherewithal to yell “Scoreboard!” at Finnegan as he exited the field down 17-0 in the fourth quarter, having been burned for a touchdown and beaten up by Johnson. In a moment of pure genius, Finnegan smiled and waved to the crowd. Those two teams meet again in Nashville on December 19, by the way.
4. The NFL can certainly be a cruel league. The Titans have outscored their opponents 257-218, but find themselves a game below .500 at 5-6. Tennessee is chasing a Jacksonville squad that has been outscored by an astonishing 54 points, 294-240, but finds itself leading the AFC South at 6-5.
5. I’m still not sold on the Falcons, but I’m getting closer. They gutted out a 20-17 win over the Packers, who came into the day tied with the Bears for the top-ranked scoring defense. I’d say the 9-2 Falcons need to win a key game on the road before I’m impressed, but they may not play a tough, critical road game from here on out. Atlanta does have three straight away from home starting next week in Tampa Bay, but trips to Carolina and Seattle shouldn’t be too difficult. Then the Falcons host the Saints and Panthers to close out the season. With two gimmes against the hapless Panthers, it’s hard to imagine the Falcons not getting home field in the NFC.
6. Speaking of hapless, the NFC West needs to be disbanded. 11 weeks into the season and the division can’t field one winning team? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if the Big East deserves to lose its automatic spot in a BCS bowl game, the NFC West should lose its automatic spot in the playoffs. Right now, two 7-4 teams (Tampa Bay and Green Bay) are on the outside looking in, while St. Louis has the fourth seed with a 5-6 record. The NFC West combined has 16 wins. Six of them are within the division, so somebody had to get them. Against the rest of the league, the division is 10-20.
7. Stevie Johnson may have had the quote of the week after as bad of a drop as you’ll see, in the end zone during overtime against the heavily favored Steelers. “I’ll never get over it. Ever,” Johnson said.
The good news for Johnson is that the drop actually helped the Bills in the long run. At this point, they are in hot pursuit of the number one overall draft pick, just one game behind the 1-10 Panthers.
8. Randy Moss hasn’t played on the winning side of a game since October 17th. The wideout, who has suited up for the Patriots, Vikings and Titans this year, has lost five straight games. The Patriots have gone 6-1 since the trade. Moss is 4-7 overall this season, while his teams are a combined 14-8 without him. Perhaps most impressive, Moss has four catches in three games for the Titans, who have dressed four different quarterbacks in that stretch: Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Rusty Smith and Chris Simms, who dressed today and was inactive as the third quarterback. Moss was also an integral part of the end of Brad Childress’s tenure in Minnesota, likely witnessed the beginning of the end of Brett Favre’s career, may have witnessed the end of Vince Young’s time in Tennessee, and who knows what will become of Jeff Fisher if the Titans struggle down the stretch. Quite the season for Randy.
9. The Giants win today just might have saved Tom Coughlin’s job at the end of the year. Another late season collapse could have been costly in a city that doesn’t have much patience with its teams, even though Coughlin led the Giants to an unlikely Super Bowl win just a few years ago. With New York trailing Jacksonville 17-6 at halftime in East Rutherford, you had to wonder if it was the beginning of the end. A third straight loss would have dropped the Giants to 6-5 with a difficult schedule remaining. Instead, New York is tied atop the NFC East with Philadelphia, who they host on December 19.
10. Donovan McNabb continues to have an unimpressive season in Washington. Imagine the outcry in the nation’s capital if McNabb struggles enough that the Redskins opt to release him after the season after giving up two draft picks to the division rival Eagles. McNabb has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions just once all season, and has three multi-interception games but just one multi-touchdown game. McNabb’s quarterback rating of 76.0 is the lowest since his first full year as a starter in 2000, and he has tossed just 11 touchdowns while serving up 13 interceptions. The veteran has never thrown more picks than touchdowns in a season, and was the second-least intercepted quarterback in NFL history prior to this season. McNabb’s next interception will set a career high, while he’s just three fumbles away from his career high with seven so far. Is it another case of Andy Reid and the Eagles cutting ties at the right time? It just may be.
Those four MVP candidates from above were: A – Tom Brady, B – Philip Rivers, C – Matt Ryan and D – Michael Vick’s numbers projected over 11 games instead of the 7 that he’s started. I don’t think Vick deserves to be in the MVP mix, barring a torrid finish to the season, but it’s interesting to see how his numbers project.
For what it’s worth, I’d give Brady the slight edge over Ryan at this point in time, with Rivers in need of at least four wins in the last five games to contend.
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Topics: Andre Johnson, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Cortland Finnegan, Donovan McNabb, Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Jeff Fisher, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, New York Giants, NFC West, Philadelphia Eagles, Philip Rivers, Randy Moss, Stevie Johnson, Tennessee Titans, Tom Coughlin