Halfway through the season and we’re right where we started. Okay, maybe the Cowboys, Bills and a few other teams have sucked their way out of contention but well over 20 teams still have a chance at playoff contention. The top of the heap has no separation — there’s no ’07 Patriots or ’09 Colts and Saints running towards destiny. Instead, a bunch of flawed contenders trade big wins with shocking losses.
The Philadelphia Eagles exemplify this schizophrenic season, although some of this has to be pinned on their quarterback exchange. With Michael Vick back behind center this week and DeSean Jackson back running all over the field, the Eagles took out Peyton and the Colts. The game wasn’t without controversy as Peyton floated one over the middle for Austin Collie in the second half, leading to this devastating hit and fumble:
Of course in an effort to go along with Roger Goodell and the No Fun League’s paternalistic crackdown on defensive hits, Philly was assessed a 15 yard penalty. Yes, this hit was brutal and Collie probably lost a year off his life because of it, but the rules are the rules. You can’t throw flags and fine people hard earned cash just because the result looks ugly.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the Giants and Saints took big steps back towards the Super Bowl with road blowout wins. Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks ended Seattle’s hopes to be taken seriously by putting up 40 points on the West Coast. The Saints meanwhile had an even easier time of it against the hapless Panthers, as the Saints D held the Panthers to under 100 yards passing. Of course, New Orleans still has to navigate the NFC South, where they find themselves a game and a half behind the Falcons. Atlanta beat a frisky Tampa team in the Georgia dome thanks to a 100 yard game from a rejuvenated Michael Turner. After proclamations of greatness, I guess coach Raheem Morris will have to settle with the Bucs being the third best team in the division.
Some teams in the league’s second tier missed opportunities to get themselves to the top of the division. Detroit proved they weren’t quite ready to be taken seriously by allowing the Jets to come back for an overtime victory. The Lions roared to a lead behind two Matt Stafford touchdowns, but lost a point when injured kicker Jason Hanson was unable to come out for the extra point. Instead the Lions trotted out the 307-lb Ndamukong Suh.
Laces out. The lost point, as well as a bonehead late hit penalty on Julian Peterson allowed the Jets to drive for a game tying field goal at the end of regulation. One Santonio Holmes run and catch later, and New York was jetting back to Jersey with a W. The Lions loss hurts more because division foes Chicago and Green Bay took care of their own business.
– At 3-5 and in a tough division, the Browns aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. But Peyton Hills, Josh Cribbs and a hungry, young defense will give plenty of teams headaches. Last week, the Saints. This week, the Pats suffered the shock and surprise served by the scrappy Cleveland squad.
– A Cee-Lo Green f*ck you to Jim Nantz for getting his panties in a bunch after the Collie hit. It’s no surprise that Nantz, the ultimate company man, parroted the league’s NFL talking points, but I prefer my football with a little less hypocrisy.
– Baltimore righted the ship to take care of the Dolphins at home. Ray Rice and a flurry of field goals were more than enough as the Baltimore defense clamped down.
– The strangest subplot of 2010 continues as the Raiders not only played in a big game, but won it with a gusty OT performance. First place is next.