Week 13 Recaps
NFL WEEK 13 RECAP
Anyone in/around the National Football League always likes to talk about the 'toughness' of a certain individual or team but does anyone have to look any further than last night's game to discover who's the mentally toughest team in the league?
Of course, that would be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Okay, so the Steelers' monumental 13-10 come-from-behind win against the 3-point home favorite Baltimore Ravens was never a real thing of beauty as it simply was a backyard slugfest for the better part of three hours but how many teams in the NFL could have generated enough big plays in the fourth quarter of a game that simply felt as if it was Baltimore's to win all night long and snap up an all-important win at the eleventh hour?
Think about it: The Steelers were stonewalled on a goal-line stand by the Ravens' fierce defense that yielded a mere 19-yard field goal by PK Shaun Suisham in the early stages of the final quarter and looked like all the world they weren't gonna get back into the red zone the rest of the night but there was S Troy Polamalu with a strip sack of Baltimore QB Joe Flacco that set up the game-winning touchdown on a QB Ben Roethlisberger-to-RB Isaac Redman 9-yard scoring strike with 2:51 left to play -- and then the vaunted Pittsburgh defense ended the suspense when Flacco aired a fourth-down incomplete pass at the Steelers' 31-yard line (and don't get us started as to why Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh didn't opt for a 50-yard field goal try with or without the wind playing a factor here).
Go through this year's NFL action after 13 weeks of play: Has any team won on the NFL road in a more grind-and-grit fashion than the Steelers did last night?
Well, it's true that Baltimore's 17-14 comeback win at Pittsburgh back in Week 4 play was a gut-check win -- so toch'e, right? -- but when the final standings are in come January 2nd, 2011 you will be comfortable in saying that the Steelers' win here on the first Sunday night in December was the most impressive 'tough' win of 'em all ... we're fairly confident you'll agree and if/when the Steelers wind up gunning for a seventh Super Bowl ring come early February, it's likely you'll remember this game too.
MORE NFL NEWS & NOTES
When you're writing down NFL marriages that 'went bad' this year, make sure the Donovan McNabb-to-the-Washington Redskins bit comes out on top of your list.
Okay, so we're not burying McNabb for the Redskins' ugly and non-competitive 31-7 loss at the New York Giants this past Sunday -- heck, Washington's early-game rush defense was the major culprit here in dropping Mike Shanahan's team to 5 up and 7 down but McNabb's 296-yard passing game was all window dressing as he didn't do anything when it mattered. The 'Skins fell into a 21-0 halftime hole and between McNabb not navigating the New Meadowlands Stadium winds right and his awful wide receiver crew dropping a slew of balls thrown their way, it was yet another disaster for the D.C. gang.
Folks, it marked the seventh time this year that Washington had scored 17 points or less (the amazing thing is the Redskins are 4-3 in these games) and save for a few moments here or there McNabb has been either a negative or a non-factor in most of the games.
Gee, wonder what he's thinking while the Philadelphia Eagles crank out high-scoring game after high-scoring game? ...
There are always lots of NFL players that have under-the-radar big games that don't always get noticed on the late-night highlight shows but let's pop a couple of guys into front-and-center mode here that starred in Week 13 tilts:
Chicago WR Earl Bennett didn't score any touchdowns in the Bears' hang-on-for-dear-life 24-20 non-cover win in Detroit but he hauled in seven passes for 104 yards -- that's 38 more receiving yards than Lions' do-everything WR Calvin Johnson had on this afternoon -- and no doubt the rapport that Bennett had with old Vanderbilt playmate QB Jay Cutler is paying big dividends these days. You haven't heard anyone complain about the quality of Chicago's wide outs in a while now, right?
Than there's St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson who scored the game's lone TD on a 27-yard gallop in the 19-6 win/cover at 3-point pup Arizona. Jackson finished the game with 28 carries for 102 yards (that's nine more carries than the whole Cardinals team had here) and he continued to be what the Fox announcers called him here -- 'old reliable'. Jackson's been in St. Loo for some really lean years (see 3-13, 2-14 and 1-15) but now he's an oft-overlooked member of this renaissance team that is 6-6 while heading into the final four weeks of play.
Geez, we feel like Jackson is owed some type of 'lifetime achievement awards' or something!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
The BCS folks caught a real break this year -- heck, we supplied the possible scenario last week saying a one-point or two-point loss by Auburn versus South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game might not have been enough to drop the Tigers below TCU in the BCS Standings but all that was averted when Cam Newton and Company steamrolled its way past the Gamecocks 56-17 last Saturday.
Yes, we're still trying to figure out how SC could have allowed that 'Hail Mary' touchdown pass that really cracked this game wide open -- but the fact is both Auburn and Oregon (over Oregon State) won easily and so they get trotted out on the evening of Jan. 10th for a winner-take-all scenario.
Even the critics of the BCS -- and we're among 'em -- must admit that this looks to be a real beauty of a matchup.But what about the other bowl matchups -- there were 34 others announced last night -- that fill out his holiday card?
Well, we've said it before and we'll say it again: Now that the BCS has its Championship Game in place every year, let's KO these silly conference tie-ins and instead make the remainder of the bowls a real potpourri of interesting matchups. We admit that having a Big 10 versus Pac-10 traditional duel in the Rose Bowl still turns us on but we understand that if a Pac-10 team -- such as Oregon this year -- is playing for the title there must be some modifications.
But check out how these other BCS bowls fell and most of 'em are not even great attractive matchups -- like who needs to see Connecticut play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl (and note the Sooners already are 17 1/2-point betting favorites)? Why not have given folks what they should have gotten here -- another Boise State vs. Oklahoma duel in the desert. Now, that would have been lots of fun. And who's getting all juiced up for a Stanford versus Virginia Tech battle in the Orange Bowl? Don't get us wrong -- the Techsters are #12 in the latest Associated Press poll while Stanford's #4 but if you are telling us we can put these powers anywhere on/around New Year's Day than how about something more meaningful like Ohio State vs. Stanford and maybe Virginia Tech vs. LSU.
Let's say the bowl folks 'got it right' with that Sun Bowl matchup of Notre Dame vs. Miami but that's what they should be doing with many of these other bowl tilts -- you watch to see how many one-sided pointspreads you're gonna see in the days ahead and you'll know what we mean.
One final note here: There's one regular-season college game remaining in the above-mentioned Army-Navy game but here's the up-to-date season spread stats not including any of the on-the-board pick 'em games:
College Football Betting Favorites are 354-313-11 for a .531 winning rate for chalk-eaters. How 'bout that?
NOTE: Catch our College Football Mid-Week Report in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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