The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a weekly NFL primer. Nothing is sacred, not the players, not the coaches, and certainly not the betting lines.
Took a little bit of a break for Thanksgiving, you know how it goes. Ate some turkey, and apparently some crow. This much I've noticed: every time I put a team in the "The Good," they come out completely flat that week, and the weeks after. Case in point, the Pittsburgh Steelers. After I called them a model franchise, they go out and lose to the Jets! Worst loss of the season? Possibly. You may also recall, I called the NYG good. What a hex, they looked horrible against Miami in London, and continued their woesome ways through Eli, getting owned by the worst secondary in the league. From now on, I shall try to hex teams that I do not like on purpose. With great power, comes great responsibility.
The Good: Easy - Green Bay at Dallas.
Sorry, now I ruined the game for everyone. Good thing they'll never know because they can't see the game; it's on the NFL network.
This is the first matchup of 10-1 teams since 1990, I learned that from ESPN! But really, I'm excited not be able to watch this game. Maybe we'll get a few questions answered about both teams. Green Bay only lost one game this year, and in a calendar year (Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving) they've got a ridiculous 14-1, that's better than the Patriots people! I've watched this Packers team, and they sure as hell don't seem like a collection of individuals that is a football juggernaut. I think we've all agreed that Dallas is a pretty good team by now, so with that said this is a great litmus test for the Packers and the rest of the country. Exactly how good is this Green Bay team? For the entire year they plain-as-day could not run the ball, but in the last 5 games, they're averaging over 100 yards rushing. They seem to throw the ball a million times a game, yet Favre has thrown less interceptions than he has in his entire career (22TD - 8INT), but there's still 5 games to go (his low, by the way is 13). I can't name a single player on their defense that I would put in Pro Bowl, and yet they're in the top half in almost every single defensive category. So, is there really something behind this GB team, or are they doing it with smoke and mirrors?
On the other hand, Dallas does look to be a realistic juggernaut. And even though they have been the most hated team in the '90s (and loved at the same time) because of their success, they are the lone hope to cease the Patriots' Sherman's March to The Sea campaign through the NFL. Tony Romo is playing lights out on and off the field. He's throwing touchdowns to TO in the stadium and he's throwing touchdowns to the likes of Sophia Bush, Carrie Underwood, and Jessica Simpsons in the bedroom. Really, everything is coming up aces in Dallas. Their offense looks to be nearly unstoppable, TO looks coachable, the defense is playing lights out, and they're dominating their opponents.
And because of all that, I talked myself into this being a horrible mismatch on the field. Dallas looks to be too good at every position, so I'll take them to win big, 17 points big. This is of course a weak attempt to confuse the Gods of Irony to bring us a highly competitive game.
The Bad: Arizona Cardinals Losses.
As a Browns fan, I know how you feel, the two of you that are indeed Arizona Cardinals fans. We've had "The Drive" and "The Fumble" and if you throw in the Cavs there's also "The Shot." So, I know where you're coming from when you find a way to lose. Nine of their 11 games have them either winning (5) or losing (4) within one score. This has to eventually take a toll on your health; I know I lost at least two years off my life watching some Cardiac teams.
Last week, the Cardinals were able to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Leading by four points with about three minutes to go is a time where you should be able to hold a lead. Not only that, but they lost it on a 40+ yard scramble by Frank Gore. Gore is no scrub, he's a good back, but there's no reason he should run undaunted into the endzone. It doesn't end there, after that even, they had a last chance to win, down by three with some 7 seconds to go on the San Francisco 1 yard line - a fade doesn't work. But they don't know a fade to their first, second or even third receiver. It was to their fourth.
Overtime, salvation. With an easily makeable field goal, pretty boy Niel Rackers misses a chance to win in OT by clearly hooking it as soon as it was off his foot, what a choke job. But huzzah, the defense holds and 49ers have to punt only to have brilliantly educated, and always high-looking Steve Breaston not fair catch the ball within the 10 and not do anything with it. After a penalty, they are at their own 1. Of course, common sense states that in this situation, run the ball to get some breathing room, or have a quick slant so that you're not standing in your own endzone. But no, seven step drop for Kurt Warner, admiring the scenery of his primary receivers being covered causes him to get sacked and fumble the ball in the endzone. Ball game, you may all go cry now. Three chances to win, all wasted, and not for the first time this season. It was so painful to watch I cried, and I'm not even a fan, just for empathy's sake.
The Ugly: Eli Manning's performance.
I marveled at the Giants earlier this season when they reeled of 6 wins in a row. Their defensive line was playing amazing football and Eli Manning was managing the game well. He didn't force it, he made key throws, and didn't put the team in a precarious situation.
This cannot be said of his game against Minnesota. Eli Manning completed 21 of his passes in that game for the low low price of 43% completion, and that's rounding up people. And you know all that stuff about precarious positions? Well, he didn't do much of that either, since a good majority of his four interceptions went directly for touchdowns without the defense awkwardly trotting on the field at all. That's really forward thinking for your teammates.
But Christ, four interceptions including back-to-back picks into the waiting hands of defenders. I get it, players have bad games, sometimes the opposition just has your number and all. Minnesota? Not so much. They have one of the worst rated secondaries (last in passing yards allowed) in all the league, and yet they could cover the receivers and pick of passes without nearly breaking a sweat. What is wrong with this picture? That was an ugly, disgusting game by Eli that even had Tom Coughlin searching for superlatives (ha!) that don't include swear words. He of all, was speechless.
Mind you, this is not Eli's first go around with atrocious performances. He's been less than stellar to say the least this entire season. He's got nearly as man INT as TD (16-15), and a completion percentage of under 60%, if we round up. And like clock work, the Giants are crumbling in the second half of the season.
Tony Romo: Too many women, too little time [The Big Lead]