NFL Week 10 Recap

A wild and crazy Week 10 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the division-leading Browns, the resurgent (?) Seahawks, and the footballing catastrophe that is the NFC South.

John Grieshop/Getty Images

John Grieshop/Getty Images

Derek: The Browns are in first place, and sure looked like the best team in the AFC North after this weekend. Are you allowing yourself to dream, or are you still 100% on guard?

Will: You summarized life as a Browns fan in that question. Many among us are relentless optimists, many among us are pessimists–or realists, if you’re the sort who believes that pessimism is realism–and many wear both hats at once.

I am certainly dreaming of a playoff berth, but this season has honestly been a success already. The Browns’ six wins are the most they’ve had since 2007. They haven’t held a division lead this late in the season since 1995.

I would obviously love to see them end up with 10 wins and/or a division title, but I’m not necessarily expecting it. The Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals are all capable squads, regardless of how bad the latter two looked this week. It will be tough to get out of the AFC North, even with Josh Gordon’s return.

The best way I can put it is this: I haven’t looked at a single mock draft yet this season. That is a cool and unusual feeling.

You’ve gotta be feeling good after the Seahawks pasted the Giants. Are you ultimately feeling optimistic about Seattle getting their act together, or worried about the Arizona Cardinal Express?

Derek: Ehh. I wouldn’t say I feel any differently than I did after the Raiders game. The Raiders game wasn’t as close as the final score made it seem, and this game was a little closer than the final score made it seem. The Seahawks scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, and trailed at halftime. There was also some luck involved, as fumbles by Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch were both recovered by the Seahawks.

I was certainly happy to see the defense tighten up in the second half, since Odell Beckham was pretty much having his way in the first half. I was worried about Larry Donnell, since the Seahawks have had trouble with tight ends this year. He ended up being a non-factor. Earl Thomas made a game-changing interception in the 3rd quarter, which was a welcome sight. That’s the kind of play the Seahawks have come oh-so-close to making too many times this year, so it was slightly stunning to see them make such a huge play.

The offense is another story. Yes, I’m going to complain about the offense right after they set a franchise record for rushing yards. Russell Wilson is not throwing the ball well. He’s made some really inaccurate throws in the last three games. They were all wins, so it’s not like it’s hurting that much, but three games of watching him miss wide-open receivers is starting to wear on me. He destroyed the Giants with the read option, but not every team is going to fall for it as badly as they were. I don’t know if it was the rain or if he’s just in a mini-slump, but his passing performances have been disconcerting. People are blaming the receivers, and I think that’s stupid. He’s had open receivers, and he’s missing them.

The good news is, by all accounts, Russell lives and breathes football. Those throws probably bothered him about 10 million times more than they bothered me. He’s probably practicing right now.

I can’t stay mad at Russell.

Would you mind sharing your thoughts on Andy Dalton’s performance and Jeremy Hill’s post-game comments?

Will: I’d be happy to, with a nod to your Charlotte Hornets owner:

It was so fun. The Bengals looked how the Browns are supposed to. Dalton was legendarily bad. I’m going to bounce grandkids on my knee one day and tell them about the time that a redhead QB  went 10/33 and tossed three picks, and it wasn’t Brandon Weeden. Kudos are also due to Greg Little, who tried to make this his revenge game and wound up with one catch for eight yards.

And what the hell, Jeremy Hill? The rookie had a decent little game, running for 55 yards, but his team looked like an absolute disaster and lost by three touchdowns. I hope he doesn’t wear a size 14 shoe, because he put his foot all up inside his mouth. He’ll look a little less bad if the Bengals win the return matchup on December 14. Regardless, this was decidedly ungentlemanly behavior.

How did it look to an outsider?

Derek: I’m not going to spend too much time piling on Andy Dalton. I don’t think there’s much to add at this point. He was compared to Stan Gelbaugh in this article, who was the third string quarterback on the worst offense of all time. That’s all I’ve got.

Jeremy Hill is an idiot. The Bengals didn’t look like they belonged on the same field, and he doesn’t think the Browns were very good? Then maybe we should relegate the Bengals to the CFL.

I do wish more Browns players had made fun of him, though. I’m a huge proponent of deserved trash talk after a win. I don’t like trash talk before, I don’t like it during, and I don’t like after if the other players were good sportsmen. But if your opponent is running his mouth before, during or after the game and his team lost in embarrassing fashion? Yes! Rub it in his face! Mock him! Point out that his team should be relegated to the CFL! As far as I know, only Terrance West, Donte Whitner, and Spencer Lanning said anything. Those were nice, but I had hoped there would be an oasis of mockery from Browns players. Too bad.

Which Week 10 outcome surprised you most?

Will: It’s gotta be the Jets beating Pittsburgh. The Steelers have an ugly habit of losing to bad teams, which is something of which I will never tire. They lost to the Raiders and Vikings last year. The lost to the Raiders and Titans in 2012. They sometimes play like they know they’re one of the league’s marquee franchises, and playing against doormats is beneath them. Again I will never get tired of this.

It’s especially strange that this game was never really in doubt. The Jets took the lead early, and only a late heave from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant made it a one-score game. A look at Pro Football Reference’s win probability chart tells the tale:

Jets-Steelers Week 10 win probability

It was wonderful. What game turned out differently than you expected?

Derek: I was moderately surprised by the Jets game. The Steelers are the only team to lose to the Bucs, so as you said, they’re certainly capable of sinking to the level of their competition. The line was also curiously low, which made me think something weird was going to happen.

I was probably more surprised by the 49ers beating the Saints. The Saints were on a roll, beating the Packers at home and the Panthers in Charlotte. The 49ers have looked terrible and seemed to be in complete disarray. I could’ve seen the 49ers winning that game in San Francisco, but I thought the Saints were close to a lock in the Superdome. I couldn’t believe they didn’t pull that one out.

Speaking of which, what did you think of the call on the last play of regulation in the 49ers – Saints game?

Jonathan Bachman/AP

Jonathan Bachman/AP

Will: This is the first time I’ve seen it. I am not a fan. Graham pushed off a bit, but Perrish Cox definitely took a dive befitting our Wrasslin’ Wednesday column. I understand why the ref made the call, and really, it was a no-win situation. If he didn’t call pass interference, people would be kvetching the opposite way. Being a referee is like being the President. It seems like you have a ton of power, but really the job just means at least half of the interested parties will hate you.

What’d you make of it?

Derek: I’m torn. At regular speed, it looks like a defensible call. In slow motion, it looks like Cox is trying to sell Graham’s finisher. While acknowledging it’s difficult for me to put my 49ers hatred aside, I’ll say it’s a bad call. I’m not one to reward flopping, and unless Graham can bench press 3,000 pounds or Cox gets pushed over by a stiff breeze, that was a flop.

I’m more interested in what’s going on in Cox’s head at that moment. Many people who have been watching football a lot longer than I have said it was the first time they had ever seen offensive pass interference called on a hail mary. Surely Cox knows how unlikely it is that he gets that call. So why take that chance? Why not just play defense? Why sacrifice a good defensive position for the miniscule chance of getting a call in that situation? He (of course) says he didn’t flop, and there’s a chance he didn’t, but if he did I’d really like to hear him explain his thought process.

Will, the Atlanta Falcons (3-6) are one game behind the New Orleans Saints (4-5) for first place in the NFC South. Your thoughts?

Will: The NFC South is a dragster exploding at the starting line. The NFC South is Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. The NFC South is New Coke. The NFC South is Dajuan Wagner’s NBA comeback. The NFC South is my college GPA. The NFC South is Marvin Lewis getting tackled by his own player.

Like, people thought this division would be at least decent. I don’t understand how it’s so terrible. Can you make any sense of this?

Derek: No. I remember the 2010 Seahawks well. They won the NFC West with a record of 7-9. The 2014 NFC South, however, is totally different, because the 2014 NFC South has some allegedly talented players.

The quarterbacks who started at least one game for 2010 NFC West teams were Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, and Richard Bartel. These teams didn’t have a ton of talent. We all knew they weren’t very good before the season started.

This wasn’t supposed to happen in the NFC South. There were smart people predicting the Saints would be the top seed in the NFC and go to the Super Bowl. There were smart people who thought the Falcons would bounce back, since they were just a year removed from an appearance in the NFC Championship. There were smart people who thought the upgrade from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith was so significant that the Bucs would challenge for a wild card. There were smart people who thought people were underrating the Panthers after a 12-4 season, and they would also be back in the playoffs.

The 2010 NFC West had an excuse. People saw that debacle coming from a mile away. Nobody saw this coming from the NFC South. Their continued futility is perplexing.

Let’s move on to the awards! Who’s your Most Hungover Fan Base?

Will: I’m picking the Bengals, because Cincinnati is basically Kentucky, and Kentucky is moonshine country. And again, the Bengals looked how the Browns are supposed to. It was just an awful game for them, and at home, no less. It was clear early on that Andy Dalton would not give the Bengals a chance at victory, which freed up Cinci fans to hit the bottle hard for the final three quarters.

Derek: Strong reasoning. There are so many good choices this week. It’s tough to not pick the Bears again, but at this point they might just be perpetually drunk. The Bengals were a good choice. I could be talked into the Giants or the Saints. But I think I’m going to go with the Panthers.

Watching Monday Night Football was … a struggle. Watching Cam Newton last night reminded me of Dan Snyder playing for the Redskins on South Park. “Just stay down, for the love of God!” A Panther fan could not have remained sober during that.

As for Gentleman of the Week: I take Broncos guard Ben Garland. I think when a military man makes his NFL debut two days before Veterans Day, he is automatically the Gentleman of the Week.

Will: Yoo-Ess-Ay! Yes, that is a good and proud and noble choice. I confess that I poke fun at our mighty country’s nationalist tendencies from time to time, but Veterans Day is one upon which even I holster the snark for a minute.

For a minute, I said.

Anywho, my choice for Gentleman of the Week is one that would have been unthinkable circa 2007: Michael Vick. He was absolutely the most exciting player in the league for a few years, and one could argue that he’s still in the conversation now, if only as a legacy consideration. There have been other running quarterbacks before and since, but none that were so damn fast. I still pull for him despite his misdeeds, and his 67-yard touchdown pass was a reminder of his otherworldly talents. Kudos to him for hanging around the league for this long, and for leading the New York Jets to an actual football victory.

And less snarky kudos to our nation’s veterans. I know I couldn’t do that job. Thank you to those who can, and do.

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