Snap Judgments (cont.)
Unlike last year, when the Texans played some of their best ball and mounted a season-ending four-game winning streak after being knocked out of realistic playoff contention, there will be no such late-season Band-Aid applied to Houston's record this year. The Texans have now dropped three in a row and seven of eight since starting the season a promising 4-2.
Looks to me like the Texans have decided to mail it in from here on out, judging from that stinker of a 31-17 loss at Tennessee, where Houston trailed 24-3 at halftime. The Texans woeful pass defense even made the Titans look potent through the air, giving up 164 yards and two Kerry Collins touchdowns in the first half. Maybe that Monday-night heartbreaker at home against Baltimore was the final blow Houston could endure this season without giving up hope.
None of this can be good news for embattled Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, whose job security has to be an issue that Houston owner Bob McNair must soon address -- one way or another.
That is one heck of a lumberjack beard sported by Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick these days. He looks like one of the Smith brothers on a bottle of cough syrup. I honestly don't know how he buckles his chin strap around that bird's nest. But it doesn't seem to throw off his passing, because Fitzpatrick and Buffalo went down to Miami on Sunday and handed the Dolphins yet another loss on their home field.
How else could Miami's playoff hopes die this season but with a loss at home? The Dolphins dropped to 7-7 and out of the AFC playoff picture with a 17-14 loss to visiting Buffalo. Miami is now a staggering 1-6 at home this season, and 6-1 on the road.
When does a little heat start building under the fanny of head coach Tony Sparano in Dolphin-ville? He led Miami to that surprising 11-5 record and an AFC East title as a rookie head coach in 2008, but including their playoff loss to Baltimore at home that January, the Dolphins are a mediocre 14-17 ever since.
At first glance, it seems remarkable that the reliable Dan Carpenter missed all four of his field goal attempts in Miami's loss. Before Sunday, Carpenter was 28-of-34 on the season, and in his first two years in the NFL, he failed on only four field goals attempts in 2008 and three in 2009. That's just 13 misses in 2¾ seasons.
But I'm willing to cut the guy a little slack, given that his four attempts in this case were from 48, 61, 53 and 48 yards. No chippies there.
Does anyone anywhere think Mike and Kyle Shanahan have handled the latest Donovan McNabb benching the right way? The Shanahans were almost universally savaged by the talking-head set on the Sunday network pregame shows, and you can definitely sense the honeymoon is over for Mike Shanahan in D.C.
Between the clumsy way Mike Shanahan explained the first McNabb benching in Detroit, to the perception that Shanahan was at times needlessly trying to embarrass Albert Haynesworth this season, Shanahan's comeback season in the NFL hasn't been the smoothest of rides.
That said, you can't really knock the results of Washington's decision to start Rex Grossman over McNabb. Chicago's one-time Super Bowl starter tied his career high with four touchdown passes and he threw for 322 yards in the 33-30 loss at Dallas.
But Good Rex was of course offset at times by Bad Rex. He threw two awful interceptions, including one that ended Washington's frantic comeback hopes on the game's final play.
If it gets any better than that Lance Moore touchdown catch of a deflected pass in the extreme back left corner of the end zone in Baltimore, I haven't seen it. How Moore even ended up in position to grab that pass, which was intended for fellow Saints receiver Marques Colston, is a mystery.
One by one, the improving Lions are really starting to exorcise some ghosts. Beating the Packers last week ended Detroit's long losing streak within the NFC North, and winning at Tampa Bay 23-20 in overtime Sunday gave the Lions their first road win since Oct. 28, 2007 -- an NFL-record run of 26 road losses in a row.
After so many near-misses this season, Detroit is starting to learn how to close out a game. A few weeks back, I predicted the Lions would finish the season strong and carry some of that momentum over into 2011, using their fast finish as a springboard to great success next season. Who knows? I might even be correct this time.
Bucs rookie receiver Mike Williams had another big game, catching a team-best six passes for 96 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Even though the TD came in a losing effort, I would imagine it hurts the Lions and their fans all the more when a guy named Mike Williams scores against them. Even if it's not, you know, that Mike Williams.
Carolina beat Arizona for only its second win of the season on Sunday -- and got away with it. Every win is potentially costly to the Panthers (2-12) in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes (if he declares for the NFL), but they got a break when the Bengals beat the Browns 19-17 in the blacked-out Battle of Ohio in Cincinnati.
The Bengals are now 3-11, and snapping their 10-game losing streak kept them one game better than Carolina, but that means they're No. 2 in terms of draft slot. If that trend holds, the Bengals will be out of Luck.
Hard to believe, but it was less than two years ago that Carolina and Arizona met in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, a Cardinals' upset victory that turned out to be Jake Delhomme's Waterloo. The teams met again in Charlotte, but this time, rather than Delhomme and Kurt Warner, the starting quarterbacks were Jimmy Clausen for the Panthers and John Skelton for the Cardinals. Bit of a drop-off for both franchises, eh?
Not a bad effort at all by Denver's Tim Tebow in his first career NFL start, in the loss at Oakland. But passing just 16 times for 138 yards and rushing for 78 yards probably isn't a blueprint that will get it done for you every week at quarterback. Tebow did make some big plays, though, running for a 40-yard touchdown and throwing a 33-yard score to receiver Brandon Lloyd.
I suppose that's about what we all should expect from Tebow, who made his name running the ball at the University of Florida every bit as much as he did throwing it.
If we're talking about strictly the most valuable player in the league, how can you argue that anyone means more to his team than Matt Cassel does to the Chiefs? We saw what they were without him last week at San Diego, when Kansas City produced just 67 yards of offense in a 31-0 loss.
But in Sunday's 27-13 Chiefs' win at St. Louis, Cassel helped keep his club in first place in the AFC West, throwing for 184 yards and a touchdown just 11 days after having surgery to remove his appendix.
With Cassel back, the Rams (6-8) couldn't just key on the Kansas City running game like San Diego did. The result was the Chiefs (9-5) rumbled for 210 yards rushing, with Jamaal Charles leading the way with 126 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries.