Patriots

Alphabet NFL Preview: Week 10

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Alphabet NFL Preview: Week 10

Week 10 is here. The Pats are back in action, and the Alphabet's as strong as ever.

Here's your proof:

A is for ALL IN THE FAMILY

Im kicking off this weeks preview with the GiantsBengals game, and for no other reason than that I spent way too much time researching the following piece of information:

This Sunday, Cincinnati will become only the third team in NFL history to play back-to-back games against the Manning brothers.

The first time was in 2004 Elis rookie season when the Ravens played the Giants and Colts in Week 13 and 14. The second time was in 2006, when the Titans played the Giants and Colts in Week 11 and 12. Here in 2012, the Bengals lost to Peyton and the Broncos last week, and on Sunday, theyll host Eli and the Giants.

So, what do you think? Half an hour well spent, right?

Manning and Andy Dalton both come into this one under pretty brutal circumstances. Elis thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three of his last four starts (by comparison, he was 200 in all 16 games last year). Meanwhile, Daltons dropped four in a row, and recently became the first quarterback in Bengals history to throw an interception in eight straight games (take that, Akili Smith).

All things being equal, and despite playing on the road, you have to think that the Giants still have the edge here. Not to be so obvious, but theyre just a better team. And if thats the case on Sunday, you better believe that Ill be the first person to point out that: The Bengals are now the only team in NFL history to be swept by the Mannings in consecutive weeks.

(Actually, Darren Rovell will probably beat me to it by a few minutes. And then celebrate by kicking back with a nice, tall glass of Chihuahua piss.)

B is for BABYGATE

So, it looks like Charles Tillmans wife has been flagged for a delay of game . . . and thank God. I mean, as fun as it was to listen to everyone argue in circles about whether a guy should be allowed to support his wife and witness the birth of one of his children, Id say that there are a few far more interesting storylines surrounding Sundays BearsTexans game.

Ill get to those a (very) little later in the column, but before we move on, I just want to say that its a little unfair and ridiculous that everyone made such a big deal about Tillman this week, yet not one person has taken a second to give Andy Reid credit for coaching the entire season while pregnant with twins.

C is for COLLEGE REUNION

First off, shout out to Rex Ryan for losing all that weight in the offseason and escaping the punch line of that last joke. Now, lets get to Sexy Rexys quarterback.

Im not exactly sure why Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum continue to stand by Mark Sanchez. Right now, the best guess is that its either a not-so-subtle Eff You to Woody Johnson or some kind of Sandy-inspired dementia. But whatever the reason, Sanchez is still their man, and its hard to imagine a worse scenario than what old No. 6 will walk into on Sunday.

For starters, hes playing in Seattle, in front of the craziest, most effective crowd in the NFL. Next, hes up against the No. 3 ranked Seahawks defense (On serious note: Im devastated that Richard Sherman didnt change his Twitter tag to Dirty Sanchez this week). And finally, the man in charge of crafting Seattles game plan just happens to be the one man who knows the ins and outs of Sanchezs game better than anyone in the league: His college coach, Pete Carroll.

Granted, knowing Carroll, hell probably feel bad and throw his old quarterback a bone (or at least a firm, but playful, pre-game butt-slap). Then again, knowing Sanchez, hell probably take that bone and serve up a pick six.

D is for DRESS REHEARSAL

The biggest game in the AFC this week will actually take place in an NFC stadium: Chicagos Soldier Field. Texans vs. Bears.

At this point, Houstons obviously established itself as a certified Super Bowl contender. They boast the leagues No. 2 ranked offense, No. 4 ranked defense and legitimate playmakers on both sides of the ball. Still, theres an air of uncertainty surrounding Gary Kubiaks squad.

Unlike their AFC rivals New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Denver (which hasnt achieved anything as a unit, but has plenty of guys who have been there) theres no real track record of success in Houston. Even last year, they backed into the postseason (out of the pathetic AFC South) and then drew a perfect Wild Card match-up with the Bengals before falling to Baltimore in the divisional round. And that was all without Matt Schaub, whos still never taken a snap in the playoffs. Bottom line: Despite the 7-1 start, a lot of questions remain as to what the Texans are really made of.

Sunday afternoon on the road, in a nasty stadium, against the nastiest defense in the world Houston has the perfect opportunity to flex their muscles and silence the doubters

Or accentuate those lingering questions with a highlighter the size J.J. Watts neck.

E is for EIGHT IS ENOUGH

I figured the number would be a little higher, but the Falcons enter Sundays ginormous game in New Orleans as only the 15th team since 1978 (when the schedule moved to 16 games) to start the season 8-0. Of course, it hasnt been the most impressive 8-0 the Broncos are the only plus-.500 team that Atlantas beaten, and that was back when Peyton Manning was human but come on, what more can you ask for? They didnt make the schedule. All theyve done is win.

On the other hand, the Saints have yet to beat anyone with a winning record, and despite last weeks inspiring win over the Eagles, theyre still on pace to absolutely murder the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season. That defense rocks bigger holes than Michael Strahans smile.

Ill tell you what, though: I like the Saints here. They might be a long shot to make the playoffs, but theyre still alive, and its hard to believe theyll let their season swirl down the toilet at home against their biggest division rival. For New Orleans, this is a playoff game. And seeing how the Falcons already have the division wrapped up, I dont see how theyll manage to match New Orleans desperation and intensity. If Mike Smith can get his boys up for this one, he has my non-existent vote for Coach of the Year. Unless . . .

F is FEEL GOOD STORY

Speaking of Coach of the Year, would it be unheard to give this years award to a guy who was only on the sidelines for three games?

Yes, it would be. But try convincing me that Chuck Pagano doesnt deserve it. Go ahead. Ill wait . . .

Listen, I dont want to trivialize anything thats going on over Indianapolis, but this really is a Disney movie come to life. You can see the billboard already. Youve got Robert Downey Jr. as Chuck Pagano; a chubby Bruce Willis as Bruce Arians; a beefed up Jesse Eisenberg (or maybe Ryan Gosling if Eisenberg cant throw a football) as Andrew Luck; Anthony Mackie as Reggie Wayne; and Philip Seymour Hoffman stealing the show with the most perfectly bizarre Jim Irsay impression this side of Jim Irsay. It will be amazing.

But nothing can touch the real thing. And now that Paganos officially on the path to kicking this cancers ass, you cant help but enjoy every second of it.

G is for GUARANTEED VICTORY

Heres one thing we know for sure about Week 10: With Philadelphia and Dallas set to face off at The Linc, either the Eagles (losers of four straight) or Cowboys (losers in four of their last five) are guaranteed to get back on track.

Just for fun, how about adding a little WWE twist to this one? Make it a Retirement Match. If the Cowboys win, Andy Reid has to hang them up. If the Eagles win, Jason Garrett says good bye. Come on, it's a no-brainer!

Then again, it might make for some serious confusion after Tony Romo and Michael Vick combine for five overtime turnovers and the game ends in a tie. In that case, we might as well just implode the stadium.

H is for HAMSTER

Or, the Muscle Hamster. Or, just Doug Martin: The breakout start of the last two weeks, and the last guy in the world that any team (NFL or fantasy) wants to see on the schedule until further notice.

This week, its the Chargers who must contend with the 5-foot-9 freak of nature, and you know what? They look reasonably poised to do so. Through eight games, San Diegos the NFLs fourth ranked rush defense, and over that time theyve held Darren McFadden to 32 yards, Chris Johnson to 17 yards and, last Sunday, held Jamaal Charles to 37 yards.

Still, at this point, Martin is not of this Earth, and you can be sure that hes been the source of many sleepless nights this week at the Turner household.

And by sleepless nights, I mean that Norv was passed out on the couch by 7:30, in front of a half-eaten Hungry Man and re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show.

I is for INVISIBLE EMERGENCE

OK, not quite invisible, but slightly lost in the Doug Martin bonanza is the fact that Josh Freeman found the keys to his DeLorean and revved that thing back to 2010. (Waste of time travel if you ask me, but Buccaneers fans dont mind.)

As I type, Freemans thrown as many touchdown passes this season (16) as Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, fewer interceptions (5) than Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and, over the last four weeks (during which the Bucs are 3-1), hes thrown 11 touchdowns, only one interception and averaged 314 yards a game.

And guess what? Freemans still only 23.

In other words, hes the same age as Andrew Luck.

J is for JUSTIFIED
Terrell Suggs shocked the world this season when he returned to the field less than six months after ACL surgery. But after reading this quote, I wondered if T-Sizzle might also have an undiagnosed tear in his brain:

"I don't fear any quarterbacks, but I'm always worried when I play Carson Palmer," Suggs said this week, leading up to Sunday's RaidersRavens game. "I'm very aware of the talent. I know he can make every throw. If you ask me, he's very highly underrated. He's definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in the league."

Out of curiosity and sheer confusion, I checked in on Carson's numbers, and here's what I found: In 13 career starts against Baltimore, Palmer is a ridiculous 9-4, with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has as many wins over the Ravens as he does against the Browns. By comparison, in 13 starts against Pittsburgh, Palmer's only 5-8.

OK, so maybe Suggs is on to something. Maybe he actually has a reason to be worried about Carson Palmer?

Either way, with Oakland's backfield so decimated by injury that they reportedly brought Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen in for workouts this week, the Raiders will need every ounce of Palmer's arm to have any chance of stealing a win in Baltimore.
K is for KO'D

Believe it or not, Romeo Crennel's fool-proof plan to save the Chiefs season (by changing the wording of various signs in the locker room) didn't pan out. As a result, Crennel took a long look in the mirror this week, and decided to fire himself. Not as head coach, but from his previous dual role as defensive coordinator. (Gary Gibbs takes over for the rest of the season).

Sadly, this won't be the last time Crennel faces the firing squad this season. He'll almost certainly be relieved of his head coaching duties during the offseason, or maybe even before.

And that raises an obvious question: Isn't it time for Romeo and Bill Belichick to finally stop pretending that they don't need each other?

L is for LOADING THE BOX
For most of this season, the most impressive aspect of Adrian Peterson's dominance has been the fact that he's less than a year removed for tearing his ACL. But these days, I think the bigger story is that he's leading the league in rushing despite playing for a team with absolutely zero semblance of a passing game.

Last week, he ran for 182 yards against vaunted Seahawks, while Christian Ponder threw for only 63 yards. Two weeks earlier, he ran for 153 yards against the Cardinals, while Ponder threw for 58. We've reached the point where stopping Adrian Peterson is literally the only thing opposing defenses need to worry about, and there's still nothing they can do to stop him.

This week, Peterson's degree of difficulty bumps up a few notches as Minnesota hosts the Lions, and will very likely do so without the services of Percy Harvin.

Translation: Expect AP to go for 150 yards and at least two scores.

M is for MAYBE NEXT YEAR

Inspiring words from Mike Shanahan after the Redskins pathetic Week 9 loss to the Panthers:

"You lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come. I'll get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at," he said. "Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."

In related news, Washington's only two games out of the playoff race with seven games left to play. But hey, I guess it's never too early to get a jump start on the offseason. Maybe this is a good time to start messing around with few new running backs?

N is for NERVE DAMAGE

This week, Calvin Johnson cited lingering nerve damage as a explanation for his recent slew of drops, and I don't know about you, but I liked it a lot more when we could pretend that Megatron wasn't human. His season of mortality is more depressing than the end of Step Mom No, wait. Not Step Mom. I mean, it's more depressing than something a lot more manly than Step Mom. I've never even seen that movie. Definitely not more than five times.

Anyway, Megatron's in Minnesota this week, where he'll resume his quest to rediscover the end zone against a Vikings team that ranks a respectable ninth in passing yards allowed, but a vulnerable 19th in passing touchdowns.

O is for OUT WITH OWEN

Probably one of the most underrated developments in Sunday's BearsTexans tilt is the status of tight end Owen Daniels. While Andre Johnson is the most high-profile target in Matt Schaub's arsenal, this year, Daniels has been the most reliable.

As of today, Daniels is still a game time decision, but even if he plays, expect him to be very limited. In turn, Matt Schaub will be, too.

P is for POOR BUD
There are few things in life that make you feel worse than letting down the elderly. Whether it's a grandparent, a real veteran professorprofessor or that guy old guy who used to give you candy at the playground. With that being said, the entire Titans organization had to feel this week after what their 89-year-old owner had to say after last Sunday's embarassing loss to the Bears.

"In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans," Bud Adams told the Tennessean. "We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish today."

Man, almost brings a tear to my eye, and I didn't even play. Here's hoping the Titans can put a smile on old Bud's face this week against the Dolphins.
Q is for QUALITY CORNERBACKS

DISCLAIMER: Pats fans might want to cover their eyes (or dip their head in a vat of acid) in lieu of reading this section.

One of the unsung storylines of the Broncos season has been the play of their secondary. Even more, that aside from Champ Bailey their secondary is being fueled by the power of two undrafted free agents.

According to STAT LLC, former draft day losers Chris Harris and Tony Carter have been thrown at a combined 59 times this season have allowed only 23 receptions. In fact, out of 103 cornerbacks that have been targeted at least 15 times this season, Carter has the lowest completion percentage (28 percent).

Wonder where the Broncos managed to find a guy like Carter? He was cut by the Pats in July of 2011. (I'll hold on while you take another acid dip).

Anyway, with Bailey locking down Steve Smith this Sunday in Carolina, expect Carter and Harris to continue shining against a Panthers offense (aka Cam Newton) that's thrown fewer touchdown passes than anyone in the league.

R is for REPLICATION
Bargain basement cornerbacks are well and good (well, unless they play for the Pats), but the thing I'm looking forward to most about the BroncosPanthers game is watching Von Miller make good in his promise to imitate Cam Newton's Superman celebration after every sack.

So keep an eye out for that, and don't worry if you miss it the first time. The next four or five should be just as entertaining.
S is for SKULKING

That's the Steelers right now. They're skulking. They're lurking. They're lying in wait.

Its really been a pretty strange season in Pittsburgh. They started 2-3, with two bad losses to the Raider and Titans. Theyve endured all kinds of injuries on defense, and their back field has been a revolving door. But suddenly, capped off by last weeks enormous win over the Giants, the Steelers are back to 5-3 with a cupcake on tap against the Chiefs on Monday night.

In the words of Teddy KGB: "Hanging around, hanging around. Kid's got alligator blood. Can't get rid of him . . . and definitely never want to run into him in a dark bathroom."

T is for THEORY
Here's one for you: I'm guessing that an offense that only managed to score seven points against the Patriots swiss cheese defense might have some trouble finding the end zone against a 49ers team that's giving an obscene 12.9 points a game on the season.

But that's just a theory.

The good news for Sam Bradford is that Sunday should bring the return of his binky Danny Amendola. The bad news is that there's also a pretty good chance that, before the end of the game, Dashon Goldson will have broken that binky in half.

U is for UPSET SPECIAL

The Upset Special fell to 2-3 on the season after the Cowboys choked away their chance last week against Atlanta. This Sunday, well, I already made pick. And once again, I'm going against the Falcons. Final Score: Saints 38, Falcons 21.

V is for VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

I don't claim to be an expert on the art of running an NFL franchise, but here's one thing that I know, and firmly believe: If you ever find yourself using a first round pick on a quarterback, and then decide to immediately throw him into the fire, surrounded by a crappy team with inept coaching, you then have to and I mean HAVE TO publicly threaten that quarterback's job during the Bye Week. It's only fair.

Clearly, new Browns CEO Joe Banner agrees:

"It's right to put Brandon on the list of important things we have to figure out and we have seven games left to do that," Banner told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's an extremely important question for this organization to get right ... You can't win big without a great coach and a great quarterback."

Yeah, I know. Weeden wasn't Banner's pick. But it really doesn't matter. As owner, it's your responsibility to ruin a rookie quarterback's confidence. That's why you pay the big bucks.

W is for WAIT FOR IT . . .
I haven't mentioned the PatsBills game at all, but don't worry. That's coming in a post a little later on today. In the meantime, here's a quick prediction: Bill Belichick will look disheveled.

X is for X-FACTOR

Hey, if Romeo Crennel is serious about improving his team's defense, there's pretty decent defense mind who's recently out of a job in LA . . .

But seriously, a 16-game season feels like a much better fit for Mike Brown than a full 82-game slate. Plus, with all the players wearing helmets, no one will ever know if one of them is shooting you a Death Stare.

Y is for YOU'RE ALMOST THERE
The end is in sight. Let's all pop one Aquib Talib's adderall and get through this last letter together.

Z is for ZEBRAS

And now let's wrap things up with a quick trip down memory lane: Remember the replacement refs?

OK, that's enough. And that's all for this week.

Enjoy the games.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

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Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.

MORE PATRIOTS:

“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”

Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September. 

Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:

Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout." 

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

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Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

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