First and 10: Jets pull off miracle at the Meadowlands, more analysis
Once again we're left asking are the Jets lucky or good. Now that they've pulled out three dramatic wins in a row and improved to 8-2, you have to argue they're pretty good. Quarterback Mark Sanchez showed he can handle the moment with another dramatic game-winning drive, which was capped by a long bomb to Braylon Edwards and a short TD pass to Santonio Holmes with only :10 remaining. Darrelle Revis also showed why his holdout was such a big deal, helping limit Houston's Andre Johnson to four catches for 32 yards. The Texans made an admirable comeback effort, with 20 fourth-quarter points, but they have to be the worst finishers in the NFL.
If there was any lingering doubt about whether the Vikings had any fight left in them, it's gone after this home loss. And, believe it or not, the season got worse for Brett Favre, who not only played poorly, but got in a visible quarrel with the coaching staff on the sideline. Favre threw his weekly back-breaking pick when Minnesota was driving to tie the score at 10-10 the end of the half. He got into it with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell afterward, and the Vikings basically laid down for the rest of the game. Brad Childress could probably get away with ending Favre's consecutive start streak with only minimal resistance from Vikings fans. Meanwhile, no one can question Green Bay GM Ted Thompson's decision to hand over the reigns to Aaron Rodgers, who completed 22-of-31 passes for 301 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. He should also be part of ongoing MVP conversations.
The Chiefs jumped out to 6-4 mark and took over the lead in the AFC West in large part because of an easy schedule; they don't get any easier than this one. The Cardinals drop to 1-5 away from home and have lost their last five road games by an average of 21.6 points. But, give the Chiefs credit for not letting last week's 49-29 loss to the Broncos derail them. Kansas City improved to 5-0 at home and has three more games at Arrowhead (Denver, Tennessee, Oakland). If the Chiefs win out at home, they'll probably have enough wins to capture the division.
The Raiders just ran into some bad luck this week, facing an angry Steelers defense after last week's loss to New England. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau kept Oakland's offense off balance all afternoon and allowed the offense to build an early lead and relax. Pittsburgh's defensive stars James Harrison (two sacks, INT) and Troy Polamalu (INT) came up with the big plays. The Steelers travel to Baltimore in two weeks for what could be the game that determines the AFC North winner.
The Bills have to be one of the most exciting 2-8 teams in league history. You can't count out Ryan Fitzpatrick, no matter how bad a start. The Buffalo quarterback threw two picks early, and then came back with four touchdowns in the come-from behind win. Cincinnati looked like it was going to roll early, with slumping running back Cedric Benson finally getting off to a hot start. But they blew a 28-7 second-quarter lead because of mental mistakes and porous defense.
Despite throwing two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, the Panthers' Brian St. Pierre did an admirable job for a guy who was a stay-at-home dad earlier in the week and had thrown only five NFL passes. At least St. Pierre kept the Panthers in the game until the end, when the Ravens simply wore them down. Once again, Baltimore doesn't come up with style points, but does what is has to against a wounded opponent.
The streaky Jaguars pulled out another close game and now lead the AFC South, now that the Patriots defeated the Colts. Remember, the Jags currently hold the tie-breaker over the Colts by virtue of their earlier win. Maurice Jones-Drew had 132 yards rushing and 87 yards receiving and made the big plays down the stretch to lead Jacksonville. Cleveland rookie Colt McCoy had another nice game, completing 17-of-28 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. McCoy's shortcoming is his inability to connect with the receivers, as running back Peyton Hillis and tight end Evan Moore were his two main outlets.
Give the Redskins a lot of credit for not giving up after their embarrassing loss to the Eagles on Monday night. They beat a Titans team that simply does not lose to NFC opponents. The overtime win takes a lot of pressure off Mike Shanahan after all the drama over the last month. The Titans had a costly personal foul on the Redskins' final drive. That's no surprise, because Tennessee flirts with the rules all game long when it comes to big hits with what some people would call "dirty" play.
After the Cowboys beat the Giants last week, owner Jerry Jones was careful to make sure he wasn't ready to anoint interim head coach Jason Garrett the future man in charge. Jones probably wanted everyone to remain calm because he knew there was no way the Lions were going to come into Dallas and win this week. Despite its talent, Detroit continues to unravel on the road, where it hasn't won since 2008. The Cowboys took advantage of a quirky 97-yard punt-return touchdown by Bryan McCann, solid play by Jon Kitna and an improved running game to win.
The Vikings and Cowboys are still vying for title of biggest disappointment of the season, but the Texans and Bengals aren't far behind -- both loaded with talent at the skill positions, but failing to play with discipline when it matters. The Texans fell to 4-6 after starting out 3-1 and are on track to miss the playoffs once again. Coach Gary Kubiak will probably take most of the blame, but GM Rick Smith also deserves some heat for not making more moves to help the defense. The Bengals appeared to make good moves, since the Terrell Owens acquisition paid off on paper, in the offseason. But, despite the big names, Cincy doesn't seem to go all out for coach Marvin Lewis. The 49ers are in this conversation as well, although they could still win the NFC West, so you can't write them off yet.