Snap Judgments for Week 9 (cont.)
Obviously Lane Kiffin was the problem in Oakland. If this isn't rock bottom for the Raiders, I can't fathom what it would look like otherwise. Not only was Oakland shut out 24-0 at home by the Falcons, the Raiders totaled just 77 yards of offense for the entire game -- their lowest total since 1961. Atlanta had 453 yards. And the Falcons owned decent advantages in both time of possession advantage (45:15 to 14:45) and first downs (30-3).
The Raiders were also the first team since the 1992 Colts to go an entire half with minus-yardage offensively. They finished the first half with minus-2 yards of offense, compared to Atlanta's 309. That vertical passing game that Raiders owner Al Davis loves to wax poetic about? No so much on Sunday. Oakland was held without a passing first down.
If Tom Cable isn't the answer, who has the stomach to take on the Raiders coaching job at this point?
The Raiders offensive ineptitude wasn't the only quirky stat(s) coming out of the AFC West on Sunday. The Broncos, whose running game was once the NFL's gold standard, totaled all of 14 yards rushing on 12 carries in their loss to Miami. Denver did manage 306 yards through the air. So much for balance.
If you happen to think that a healthy Tony Romo would have made all the difference in that butt-kicking that the Giants administered to Dallas, you're either not paying attention or you're a delusional Cowboys fan. Romo or no Romo, Dallas is just not a very good team right now, and that's why they're in last place in the rugged NFC East. Maybe the bye week will change something about a Cowboys season that continues to slide away, but I'm seriously starting to doubt it.
I still can't get over how well Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are playing. I think it bears noting that both the Falcons and Ravens have reached the midway point of their seasons at 5-3, an ultra-impressive accomplishment for a pair of teams that start rookie quarterbacks and combined to go just 9-23 a year ago.
Not counting New England's Sunday-nighter at Indy, the AFC East has to be the most improved division in football this season. Last year, the three teams that weren't the 16-0 Patriots combined to go just 12-36, with Buffalo at 7-9, the Jets at 4-12 and the Dolphins at 1-15.
But this season, those three teams are a combined 14-10, with the Bills and Jets both at 5-3, and the Dolphins 4-4. The AFC East is an impressive 5-2 against NFC teams.
Speaking of the NFC East, the entire division is 23-10, with Washington's home game against Pittsburgh still to come in Week 9. Every team in the division has at least five wins. No other division in the NFL has all of its teams owning five or more wins.
Even a remarkable 23-point second quarter wasn't enough for Detroit this week. If you're keeping score, the Lions are now 1-15 since starting last season with that mirage of a 6-2 getaway. When will it be time for Bill Ford Jr. to clear his throat at another Detroit Economic Club meeting and discuss head coach Rod Marinelli's future?
No wonder Minnesota tried to trade for Texans backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels last offseason. Houston's No. 2 nearly beat the Vikings on Sunday in the Metrodome, after taking over for the injured Matt Schaub at halftime. Rosenfels was a crisp 21 of 29 for 224 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception in the Vikings' 28-21 win.
But you think maybe Houston will ever win a road game? The Texans, who just won three in a row at home, dropped to 0-4 away from Reliant Stadium this season.
After back to back losses to AFC North also-rans Cleveland and Cincinnati, the 3-5 Jaguars look destined not to rise above mediocrity this season. What has happened to Jacksonville's defense? The Bengals entered Sunday ranked dead last in total yardage (229.0 yards per game), and the proceeded to hang up 312 yards and three touchdowns on the Jags.
When Cedric Benson can come back from the NFL dead to run for 104 yards and a touchdown against your defense, you know you've underachieved. And don't look now, but having helped 0-8 Cincinnati to its first win of the season, the Jaguars now travel to 0-8 Detroit next week, where the winless Lions are the last team in the league without a taste of victory.
How ridiculously deep is Kansas City at running back? Who needs Larry Johnson? When the Chiefs backup rusher Kolby Smith went out with a sprained knee in the second quarter after gaining 46 yards on 10 carries, rookie Jamaal Charles stepped in and wound up running for 106 yards on 18 attempts.
That's positively Bronco-esque. At least back in the day when Denver was a running back factory.
Ah, when Chad Johnson scores (twice, no less), the whole world seems to be a happier place. The man is transparency personified. If he's getting his stats, all is well.
I know Tyler Thigpen was wide open, six yards behind the nearest Bucs defender, but that was still one heck of a touchdown throw by Chiefs receiver Mark Bradley. On the run, Bradley hit Thigpen between the numbers from 37 yards out. (Did I really just write Tyler Thigpen was wide open? These gadget plays are getting out of hand.)
Now that they've drubbed the resurgent Rams on the road, the Cardinals should have a cakewalk to their first division title since 1975, when they were still in St. Louis. Arizona is 5-3, 2-0 in the NFC West, and faces just three teams that currently have winning records in the season's second half -- Giants at home, at Philadelphia, at New England.
Even better, the Cardinals still have four division games left in the NFL's weakest division. They have San Francisco at home next week, followed by a trip to Seattle. St. Louis and Seattle must also still make the journey to Arizona.
Anyone else happen to think Chris Berman and the rest of the ESPN NFL Countdown crew went well past a tad overboard on their show's presidential election theme? Nobody does overkill like the Worldwide Sports Leader, where the rule Sunday seemed to be why use one political cliché' when 12 will do?