Posted: Wednesday September 27, 2006 12:40PM; Updated: Wednesday September 27, 2006 5:41PM
When a team is having a bad day and it comes from behind to win, I factor that in very heavily in my rankings. It's almost more of a plus than an easy victory against a nobody. In which games does this theory apply? Don't know. I haven't read that far ahead. I'm just trying to short-circuit the inevitable howling and whining that follows every set of these accursed things.
By now I'm sure you're sick of these lame little preambles, but my contract says that I can't just jump into the actual ratings. I have to let the readers down gently. Now that you've been let down, kindly tuck your napkin in and get ready for your weekly serving of gruel:
Jags are out, Bingos are in, neatly leapfrogging three other winners. They've got a serious motivational tool going for them: a shovel. No kidding, they take it with them to games. Each week a player gets designated as the transporter and keeper of the shovel. Against Pittsburgh it was tackle Willie Anderson. "At one point they had us covered in dirt," he explained. "We had to shovel it off our heads." Oh yeah, we're all really shoveling it at this point.
Can a cleverly crafted passing game and an improved defense hold up in Chicago on Sunday night? Well, I picked Seattle to win, but last week I got killed on my picks, remember? What I want to know is why Mike Holmgren let Shaun Alexander, who came into the Giants game with a bad foot, smack into the line late in the third quarter with the Hawks up 35-3. It's a tradition, I guess, a lunatic aspect of the game I'll never understand.
What do you do when a bigger team is slaughtering you on the ground? You run-blitz and tell the defensive backs to buckle up because they'll be in tight man coverage. Is that what the Colts did in the second half against the Jags? Kind of, I mean to a certain extent, which means, in sum, that I'm not really sure. Played harder, I guess. Prayed. Won the game.
So they won on a bad day and got dropped two spots, and this is after I promised it wouldn't happen. I mean I promised that less than five minutes ago. It's tough, I know, but I felt that I simply had to make room for the Bengals and the Seahawks. If you feel that you have been betrayed, kindly address an e-mail to your faithful narrator, and remember, the nastiest and most vicious have the best chance of getting through.
The return of Honest Doc. Last week I promised that a fall from a higher perch (which was inevitable because Indy played Jacksonville), coupled with a Chicago victory, one of the few games I called right, would get the Bears into the top five. One thing I hate is lying. Another is tapioca pudding.
First the bad news: Although they're skilled in hand-to-hand fighting, they're not really immune to screwups in the open field game. Now the good news: Did you see little Maurice Drew-Jones? I mean wow! How'd this rookie ever get past the first round?
The only team to hold its position after a bye (except for the Raiders, who don't count). That's because I like the Chargers, and not only that, I foresee a victory for them in Baltimore on Sunday. "Oh, God, no!" scream the San Diego fans. Fear not. I'm due for a hot week.
They went up on the Patriots 10-0 in the first half in Foxboro. Then the moment of truth arrived. Three third-quarter series gained them nothing. Jake Plummer, battling for his quarterbacking life, threw five incompletes in this period. So what happened? The defense stepped up big time and held Brady and the boys to four straight possessions that ended in punts, with only one first down allowed. And then the Broncos' offense put the game away. How'd Denver do it? For the answer to that, see New England, six spots to the south, which is my clever device to keep my readers from bagging this thing and rushing to watch Dancing with the Stars.
Brad Johnson is a solid old vet. He's a careful chap who can't stand mistakes. He's a true professional, but he's not the exciting gunslinger type who can bring a team back in a hurry. Not many of them are these days. It's the nature of the game.
Yeah, I watched ESPN's Monday-night telethon from New Orleans, and square as this might sound, I was one of the few people trying to make some sense out of the game. And what I realized was that the Saints will end up with a good record this year, mark my words, because they're playing on a surface that's built for them. I don't know if this is deliberate, or the luck of the Irish, but that soft footing in the Superdome plays right into the hands of a defensive backfield without speed. When I watched someone like Mike McKenzie matching the swiftest wideouts Atlanta could offer stride-for-stride downfield, I said to myself, "Self, this mushy field has given him new life." So what did the Saints do? They crowded the box and swarmed the Atlanta running game. That meant they had to go almost entirely man-to-man against the Falcons receivers, who aren't much good anyway, and the field made it all work for them. Will this work against someone with a big league pass and catch game? Yeah, I think so.