Sunday September 25th, 2011

Let’s face it: While there’s nothing better than NFL Sundays, it can be a little intimidating keeping up with what’s going on in every game. You can analyze the box scores or scan Twitter, but we’ll make it even easier. Here you’ll find the most important points from every game, so you’ll be prepared no matter what comes up at the water cooler Monday morning. We’ll be updating throughout the games, so keep checking back.

49ers 13, Bengals 8 (box score | recap)

1. It's hard to say where either of these teams will end the season -- San Francisco definitely has a shot at a division title in the crummy NFC West -- but this was about as awful a game to watch as you'll get.

2. Alex Smith managed to top 200 yards passing and, more importantly, avoided throwing any picks. But other than Vernon Davis, he doesn't seem to have a whole lot of options at his disposal. He still needs to play better, but he also needs some help.

3. Andy Dalton got off to a strong start -- 5-of-6 on a drive that resulted in a field goal (the only points in an ugly first half) -- but, as rookies tend to, he struggled to stay consistent since then. A mediocre game from Cedric Benson did not help.

Bills 34, Patriots 31 (OT) (box score | recap)

1. Maybe losing Aaron Hernandez was a big deal for New England after all. Either way, expect plenty of teams to fire up the film of Buffalo's defense picking off Tom Brady four times. The Bills simply played opportunistic football on defense, which might be all you can ask against the Patriots' offense.

2. There may not be a more underrated set of receivers in the entire league than what Buffalo has put together. Donald Jones topped 100 yards Sunday, while Stevie Johnson and David Nelson combined for 14 catches. Add in Fred Jackson coming out of the backfield and emerging tight end Scott Chandler, and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has tons of options.

3. That said, New England's pass defense continues to be a concern. Despite intercepting two Fitzpatrick turnovers, the Patriots gave up nearly 400 yards through the air and had no answers in the second half.

Saints 40, Texans 33 (box score | recap)

1. The Saints stole a game they shouldn't have won. The Texans dominated them in the first half, but couldn't put enough points on the board. The Saints repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, but continued to power through a game with four lead changes, all in the second half.

2. The Texans couldn't capitalize in the red zone. Houston thoroughly outplayed the Saints between the 20s, but weren't able to cash in enough from up close. Those lost points proved to be the difference.

3. Johnathan Joseph is paying off. The big upgrade for the Texans' secondary caught Drew Brees' first interception of the year. It was Joseph's second; the corner is rewarding the Texans for the big payday they gave him.

Giants 29, Eagles 16 (box score | recap)

1. Just like last week in a loss to Atlanta, the Eagles had to turn to backup QB Mike Kafka after a Michael Vick injury. This time, Vick broke his right hand in the second half. Kafka immediately threw an interception, leading to a put-away touchdown from the Giants.

2. The Eagles' secondary did not play as advertised. Eli Manning passed for an unbelievable 11 yards per attempt, a staggeringly high rate, especially considering the Giants' injury woes. Beyond his 254 yards and four touchdowns, the Eagles couldn't get a stop when needed and lacked the intimidation or playmaking of a supposed top unit.

3. Who needs Mario Manningham or Domenik Hixon? Victor Cruz made a big splash for the receiver-scarce Giants, catching two huge touchdowns, one with an incredible tackle-breaking run after the catch, the other a jump ball.

Browns 17, Dolphins 16 (box score | recap)

1. Give Colt McCoy some credit. He had a crummy Sunday going, only to rally the Browns late and hit Mohammed Massaquoi for the game-winning TD. Cleveland should be thrilled to see him respond like that.

2. Daniel Thomas had his second straight strong game in Miami's backfield, running the ball well and catching a TD pass. The Dolphins' decision, then, to use Reggie Bush late in the game didn't make a lot of sense.

3. Joshua Cribbs needs to keep getting the ball for the Browns. He turned in a dynamic performance in Week 2 and followed that up by making a terrific leaping grab in the end zone Sunday.

Titans 17, Broncos 14 (box score | recap)

1. The Titans signed Matt Hasselbeck because they felt he had something left in the tank. He showed again Sunday that they might have been onto something, leading a late TD drive to push Tennessee past Denver.

2. Even with Hasselbeck playing well, the Titans might need to put Chris Johnson's picture on milk cartons soon. He has been an absolute non-factor this season and Sunday was no different with 21 yards on 13 carries. He did make four catches for 54 yards.

3. Kyle Orton probably didn't win over any Denver fans Sunday, despite two TD passes. He threw a bad pick in the first half, then wrapped up the game with another INT after Hasselbeck completed his rally.

4. Kenny Britt had to be carted off the second quarter -- while he was trying to gain some yards after a catch, his knee buckled as he spun out of a tackle. Britt dropped to the ground in obvious pain and fumbled in the process.

Lions 26, Vikings 23 (OT) (box score | recap)

1. Detroit may have solidified its spot as a contender by erasing a 20-0 lead in the Metrodome, a place it hadn't won in 13 years. But Minnesota is in a total tailspin. The Vikings have imploded in three straight second halves and already face a near-insurmountable deficit in the division.

2. The Lions still can't run the football, but they did work Jahvid Best into the passing game in the second half on a 60-yard screen to set up a touchdown. Detroit's offensive line was ripped to shreds in the first half by Minnesota, but the Lions adjusted and gave Matthew Stafford time to throw in the final two quarters and overtime.

3. Percy Harvin had a big 39-yard run in the first half and was a key part of Minnesota's offense early, but he sat out almost all of the second half due to what FOX reported during the game as "stomach issues."

Panthers 16, Jaguars 10 (box score | recap)

1. Forget about the 800-plus yards Cam Newton threw for in his first two games combined -- Sunday was a more impressive step forward. Newton had a miserable day against Jacksonville's defense and had trouble finding a groove, but still managed to lead a clutch go-ahead scoring drive late. He topped that march off by hitting Greg Olsen for a touchdown.

2. On the other side of the ball, Blaine Gabbert had the type of game you'd expect from a guy making his first start. He took a safety on his first possession, threw a TD pass to end the first half and tossed an INT, ultimately falling short.

3. Maurice Jones-Drew is aiding Gabbert a lot more than the Panthers' ground game has helped Newton. MJD topped the 100-yard mark in the fourth quarter, while Carolina's set of back was stuck in the 50-yard range once you took out Newton's rushing efforts. – Tom Mantzouranis contributed to this post.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.