MARCH MADNESS SPECIALS - KEY RELEASES PLUS SCORE PREDICTIONS THRU THE FINAL 4. DETAILS HERE
Oh So Close…But Pats Keep Rolling
From the Thursday night nominations for referees with the greatest room for improvement to the winner for the coach with the worst-ever use of a sideline timeout call on Monday Night, that was one excellent weekend of football.
When a game is singled out like the Green Bay at Dallas contest, left to stand alone as a mid-week cure for those still suffering from a post-Thanksgiving Day football hangover, it is bound to be subjected to greater scrutiny and criticism by fans and media than the massive assortment of games spread throughout the weekend. Players and coaches take most of the hit and there is no question that Mike McCarthy has received some flak for his game management in the loss, but once in a while the refs deserve the round of boos that they are going to get anyway and the John Parry-led crew that kicked off Week 13 was no exception.
The call on the catch by Terrell Owens that seemed a lot more like an Al Harris interception comes down to a judgment call. That’s what refs are paid for and sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they don’t but it usually evens out over time and we can accept that. But if someone can argue that popcorn does not qualify as a prop, used in an illegal end zone celebration by our man TO, then we may have missed the section in the rule book that lists butter as part of the uniform.
Green Bay took just its second loss of the season but remain in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 spot in the NFC playoff pool and if nothing more, at least Packers fans got a rare chance to see backup QB Aaron Rodgers in action for just the second time this season. During Brett Favre’s phenomenal streak of 269 straight starts, the NFL’s Iron Man has only failed to complete a game due to injury seven times. Good for Favre, but tough for a perennial clipboard holder and the fans that are left to wonder what life after Brett will be like.
Favre was named 2007 Sports Illustrated Sports Man of the Year this week, adding to his trophy case, and early reports seem to indicate he will be back for start No. 270 this weekend when the Pack play host to the Oakland Raiders. The more important names to look for in the injury reports, though, are corner back Charles Woodson and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.
Looking ahead to the Raider matchup, Oakland has put together its second two-game win streak of the season with victories over a pair of division rivals. With rookie QB JaMarcus Russell entering the mix last weekend, the Raiders have enough depth at the skill positions on offense to assure they will score some points. Green Bay’s lack of depth on defense stands out as unquestionably the largest weakness on the team and they will need to have those starters back as the playoffs get closer.
- Now take a look back at the fourth quarter during the Baltimore and New England game on Monday Night. The anticipation that filled the air in Maryland and the suspense that the entire football world was feeling as the Patriots lined up on fourth-and-one made for a playoff-like atmosphere. The snap, the tackle, the stop – and the Ravens are going to win!
The what? Who called a timeout? Shave a point off the ‘Team Chemistry’ ratings this week when handicapping the game between Baltimore and Indianapolis. The expressions and reactions on the field of Raven defenders after D-Co Rex Ryan called that last second timeout paint a picture of tension this week in team meetings and on the practice field. As the hope of a playoffs becomes slimmer by the day, this type of distraction often contributes more towards despondency than it does team building and on a short rest week, Indy could have all the advantage they need to chalk up another win.
- It is worth noting that New England is the sixth team in league history to start the season 12-0. Three of the first five went on to win championships.
Good luck with all your plays this week.
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