Each week in the NFL, there are players that impress and players that distress. One week a certain quarterback might toss four touchdowns and run around with his finger in the air while the next he's laying on his back, holding his face-mask as the other team returns one of his three interceptions for the game-winning score. With that in mind, here's our new feature, Studs and Duds :
Drew Brees, QB NO (26-30, 320 yards, 3 TDs) -- Brees is slowly become the elite of the elite at his position, carding his fifth game in six weeks with at least 320 passing yards. The Purdue graduate is basically picking apart opposing defenses week in and week out and is on pace to eclipse Dan Marino's single season passing yardage record set in 1984. After the game, new head coach Tom Cable of Oakland said, "You have to use him as a model if you are the Oakland Raiders." Now 3-3, Brees will face an exposed Panthers defense next week and then host a Chargers secondary that gave up 350 yards to Jay Cutler in Week 2. Needless to say, don't expect his numbers to drop.
Andre Johnson, WR Hous (10 receptions, 178 yards, 1 TD) -- After catching just five balls in the last two games, Johnson welcomed Matt Schaub back with open arms, making some of those "how can one do such a thing" catches that Texans fans would salivate over the rest of the season. Johnson's offensive output helped Houston get over that nasty 0-4 hump and put that "other" Texas team in a place we all thought would come a lot earlier in 2008.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jack (22 rushes, 125 yards, 2 TDs) -- The Jaguars needed one of the Jones running backs to step up, and Maurice ended up being the guy to do so. Before Sunday, Jones-Drew had four games where he rushed for 13, 17, 32 and 7 yards total, so this performance on the road against Denver was much needed. Also, fantasy owners around the country that have been blessed with such talent as Tom Brady, Chad Johnson, and Jones-Drew cracked a tiny grin for the first time in this roller coaster of a season, similar to those "Monday Night Football" commercials with the guy and the copier.The Five Fantastic Finishes
-- Sitting at a sports bar in Denver, I had the unique ability to see all of the five finishes unfold with fans of all teams involved sitting around, you know, the American way. Matt Ryan had proved all game he is more than a rookie but that pass to set up the winning field goal was Brady-esque. The Cardinals weren't going to lose to the Cowboys, winning a game with a blocked punt-turned touchdown for the first time in the history of football. Minnesota eked by a Lions team still looking for their first win, even if they looked comparable to the struggling Vikings. Schaub broke some ankles with a nasty cutback for his quarterback sneak victory dash. Finally, the Rams (the Rams!) beat the Redskins for their first "W," proving the theme to the '08 NFL season is there are zero dominate football teams and most likely putting to rest all suicide pools still motoring along in just the sixth week.Duds
Joe Flacco, QB Balt (241 yards, 3 INT, 4 sacks) -- In his first start since being named the starter for the rest of the season, the rookie laid another egg. Facing an Indianapolis defense that had given up 23 points or more in three of the team's first four games, Flacco looked about as comfortable as a teenager with a pregnancy test, throwing bad passes and ducking and tucking when the pressure collapsed. The Ravens have lost three straight games and Flacco now has seven interceptions to his lone touchdown. Troy Smith, how are those tonsils feeling?
Cowboys Specials Teams -- Guys, did your Southwest flight get delayed or something? From the opening kickoff to the final blocked punt, the Dallas specials teams was abysmal sans the field goal kick from Nick Folk to send the game into overtime. J.J. Arrington's 93-yard kick return was a tone setter, but what stage of sleep was the left side of the line dozing off to when they let the Sean Morey run basically untouched through the line and end the game? I will now predict the next week of soundbites coming out of Big-D -- "grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble."
The Post-Brady Patriots -- I asked a simple question during the Sunday Night Football live chat, "Does losing one player really make THIS much of a difference?" The responses were mixed but mostly people answered, "Yes, when that player is the quarterback." Watching Matt Cassel attempt to drive that offense was like putting a 5-year-old behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler with 13 different gears and anticipating a road trip. No matter the inexperience and just flat lack of talent we see from Cassel, the rest of the team doesn't look that good either, from secondary to special teams. The Patriots are still a solid 4-2 but if that game was any indication, it might be an even colder winter in the Boston area than normal (well, that is if you don't count the Celtics championship and the fact that the Red Sox could win the Series again. Yeah, just look past those things.)
Richie Incognito, G, St. Louis -- No matter if you were wrongfully accused, anything that leads to a unsportsmanlike penalty when your team is in desperate need of their first win is absolutely unacceptable. Trying to run out the clock to set up a chip shot field goal for Josh Brown, Incognito was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for taunting. Maybe it was the wrong call in that situation, but you cannot get caught up in something like that with the game on the line. That would be almost as stupid as a bench-clearing brawl in a NLCS game.