Resourceful Packers, struggling Jets, more Snap Judgments
The Jets looked a step slow for coming off their bye week and it proved costly
The injury-plagued Packers finally are living up to some of their preseason hype
Brett Favre took eight stitches to his chin after Myron Pryor knocked him out
Musings, observations and the occasional Week 8 insight as we take in an NFL Sunday chock full of both tricks and treats ...
After a close win at Denver two weeks ago, Rex Ryan bragged that his 5-1 Jets were the NFL's best team headed into their Week 7 bye. But he won't be making that case again this week.
New York apparently wanted at least one more week off from the looks of things Sunday in the windy Meadowlands. There wasn't a more surprising Week 8 outcome than Green Bay's 9-0 defeat of the sluggish Jets, and the ramifications of that result wound up changing the equations atop divisions in both the AFC and NFC.
The injury-plagued Packers, who finally are living up to some of their preseason hype, vaulted into sole possession of first place in the NFC North, improving to 5-3, a half-game better than 4-3 Chicago. In snapping their NFL-best five-game winning streak, the Jets lost at home for the second time this season and fell into second place in the AFC East, a game behind the resurgent Patriots (6-1), who beat Minnesota 28-18 in Foxboro.
New York's defense showed up to play, holding Green Bay's offense to just three Mason Crosby field goals. But quarterback Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense went cold, turning the ball over three times in Packers' territory and suffering New York's first shutout since mid-November 2006.
After having no picks in his first five games this season, Sanchez has two in each of his past two games, although neither on Sunday were really his fault. Packers cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson smartly wrested the ball away from Jets pass-catchers Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller on a pair of pivotal plays, and New York couldn't recover from its mistakes.
On Woodson's pick-pocketing of Keller in the third quarter, the Jets couldn't even challenge the call because Ryan had used both of New York's challenges in the first half and was out of bullets on the replay review front. Ryan also burned his team's three second-half timeouts too early, which hampered the Jets' late-game comeback efforts.
The Jets have winnable games at Detroit (2-5) and Cleveland (2-5) the next two weeks, so another winning streak might be about to start. But in a matchup that was at least a potential Super Bowl pairing, New York was out-played by a short-handed Packers team that showed more intensity and resourcefulness than the Jets.
For Green Bay, its modest two-game winning streak should grow to three with next week's Sunday night home game against the reeling Cowboys. At 6-3, and then getting their bye in Week 10, the Packers might be well-positioned to replicate their torrid second-half run of last year, when they went 7-1 and made the playoffs after a disappointing 4-4 first half.
In a game that featured both New York's Darrelle Revis and Green Bay's Charles Woodson, the best cornerback on the field Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J., was the Packers' Tramon Williams. That's right. Tramon Williams. The fourth-year veteran is having an outstanding season, and people around the league are starting to notice. Little wonder that Packers general manager Ted Thompson recently began trying to sign Williams to a long-term contract extension.
Williams had his third interception of the season on Sunday, and it was his third pick in the past four games. He also recovered a key Jets fumble to thwart another New York drive. Williams has started all eight games in a Packers secondary that has had to overcome an injury to rookie safety Morgan Burnett, and play without rehabbing veterans Al Harris and Atari Bigby (both of whom remain on PUP).
So far, even with Clay Matthews' standout season on the sack front, Williams has been Green Bay's most valuable defender.
After a week of everyone being focused on his left ankle, it wasn't that injury that drove Brett Favre to the bench in Minnesota loss at New England. It was that fourth-quarter shot to the chin delivered by Patriots defensive lineman Myron Pryor that knocked him out and put Tarvaris Jackson under center.
We only know Favre took eight stitches, but if it's just a laceration and not a broken jaw, it'll be interesting once again to see how Vikings head coach Brad Childress plays it. If he wants to start Jackson next week at home against Arizona, he'll have to make the case that Favre's cumulative health issues are too much for him to overcome at this point.
Because otherwise, Favre didn't play badly at all against the Patriots, certainly not poorly enough to be benched due to ineffectiveness. He was 22-of-32 for 259 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception that wasn't all his fault. As I suspected all week, Favre played and moved around well enough on his injured ankle. But now Favre has given Childress yet another potential reason to consider ending his NFL-record starting streak.
Your move, Chilly.
Are Vince Young and Kerry Collins going to wind up switching places all season long in Tennessee? Collins again took over for the injured Young in the fourth quarter, after Young left the game with a left ankle/heel injury that occurred in a non-contact situation.
Collins couldn't quite rally the Titans, who fell 33-25 at San Diego, and now Young gets his team's bye week to try to recover. One thing is clear: Tennessee missed receiver Kenny Britt on Sunday. Britt pulled his hamstring and left the game late in the first quarter. Britt had a career-best seven -catch, 225-yard, three-touchdown game last week in a win over Philadelphia.
Break up the Raiders. Oakland hung 59 points on Denver last week, and followed up with a 33-3 homefield beatdown of 4-2, NFC West-leading Seattle on Sunday. The Raiders bountiful offensive talent is finally stepping up, and at 4-4, Oakland is suddenly in second place in the AFC West, just 1½ game behind the first-place Chiefs (5-2).
Look out for the Darren McFadden-led Raiders in the season's second half. Maybe I knew what I was doing when I picked Oakland as my second AFC wild-card qualifier.
Should we really be all that surprised that Mike Shanahan yanked Donovan McNabb late in the Redskins' loss at Detroit?
OK, maybe opting for Rex Grossman over anyone is a bit of a shock, but the reality is McNabb's first season in D.C. has been far short of spectacular. He has seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions, with a passer rating in the mid-70s. Nothing special about those numbers, no matter how many NFC title games he has played in.
And it was McNabb's late interception in Washington territory that sparked Detroit's comeback 37-25 win, with the Lions scoring the game's final 17 points. It's bizarre to hear Shanahan explain the move by saying Grossman's grasp of the Redskins' two-minute offense is better than McNabb's, but I think Shanahan wanted to make the move and invented the reasoning to do so. And I guess now we know definitively why the Redskins haven't been hell-bent on trying to sign McNabb to a long-term contract extension. It could be a one-and-done in Washington for No. 5.
Go figure these rollercoaster 4-4 Redskins. They win at Philadelphia, beat Green Bay at home, and take down the Bears last week in Chicago. But they get killed at St. Louis and can't handle the 1-5 Lions on the road.
If you're a Lions fan, Sunday was maybe a turning point-type of day, because you could see the future. And it looks bright indeed. Quarterback Matthew Stafford returns to the lineup for the first time since Week 1 and throws four touchdown passes. Big-play receiver Calvin Johnson hauls down a career-best three touchdown catches en route to a nine-reception, 101-yard showing. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew catches Stafford's other touchdown pass, and rookie Ndamukong Suh contributes two of the Lions' six sacks and a 17-yard game-capping touchdown on a fumble recovery.
How's that for first-round impact, Detroit? All four of the Lions' stars of the game were drafted in the first round since 2007.