They were some real eye-openers Sunday afternoon, none more so than the Cincinnati Bengals. With their 18-12 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bengals have moved to 7-2 on the year, but more importantly control the AFC North. They’re a combined 4-0 against the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens this year, and enter a very easy stretch in their schedule. With the way their defence is playing, they should be able to keep the division lead for quite a while.
Two teams have done an excellent job turning their seasons around – the Carolina Panthers and the Tennessee Titans. Carolina moved to 4-5 with a tough win over Atlanta, thanks in large part to Jake Delhomme. The embattled quarterback was dreadful earlier this season, but has been able to right his game enough to get some wins. Sunday afternoon he threw for just under 200 yards and two scores. With wins in four of their last six (and they should have been able to capitalize against New Orleans last week), the Panthers are still in the race for an NFC wildcard spot.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has won three straight games with Vince Young back under centre. Chris Johnson has rushed for just under 500 yards in those three wins, and their defence seems to be restoring some of its swagger from last season. Word of caution to their next opponents: the Titans are out to show their 0-6 start was a fluke. Word of caution to Titans fans: the three wins have come against Jacksonville, San Francisco, and Buffalo.
Maybe it was just a case of looking past a weak opponent, but the New Orleans Saints need to be careful. I’ve watched the team four weeks in a row now, and I haven’t been impressed with their performance in any of the contests. A narrow five point win over the St. Louis Rams, a game in which the Rams deserved a better fate, tells me that Head Coach Sean Payton needs to get his team better prepared for games. As I’ve said before, come playoff time, the Saints aren’t going to go far if they keep allowing inferior teams to stay in the game.
The Dallas Cowboys had a great opportunity to open up a two game lead in the NFC East, and went out and had a pathetic outing versus the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys offensive statistics may look adequate, but most of their effectiveness came in garbage time when the Packers were up 17-0. The ‘boys didn’t convert a third down until the fourth quarter, and Dallas running backs managed only 45 yards on 11 carries. So much for Tony Romo’s November magic.
I know they’re still three games over 500, but this is the Denver Broncos team I thought I’d see. I give full marks to Kyle Orton for finally throwing the ball over 20 yards (he did it twice!), but even with Orton going down, they have to beat the Washington Redskins. With three straight losses, the Broncos are now tied with the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
TWO POINT CONVERSION
– I know the games generate a lot of revenue for specific markets, but can’t the league switch the Monday nighter if it looks like a dud? I’m sorry, but Baltimore @ Cleveland just doesn’t rev my engine as a Week Ten matchup this season
– Josh Freeman had another nice outing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Count me as surprised. Freeman actually leads the Bucs on scoring drives – a nice change from the quarterback play they were getting earlier in the season