What a fourth week. I don't know about you, but I needed about 24 hours to just calm down after yesterday. I mean 3-1 is awesome, and I would have taken that in a heartbeat, no questions asked. But losing in the final minute against Baltimore? Come on, that's just cruel! Anyways, I said I was going to talk about the teams that matter to us. Unfortunately, that includes the Ravens, so brace yourself - the Steelers have to be included at least a little bit. But let's stop the introductions and jump right into it.
The Standout: Haloti Ngata - 11 tackles (8 solo), 1 Sack
Promising: T.J. Houshmandazeh - 3 receptions, 49 yards (16.3 avg.), 1 Game-Winning TD
Look the other way: If I had to pick one? Turnovers - one INT to Ike, and two fumbles (one lost)
What happened: Do I really have to? Alright... The Ravens showed up big time on Sunday. Their defense was sharp, the offense moved down the field when it needed to, and the Special Teams was rock solid in coverage and pretty good in kickoffs and punts. Also, the WR depth these birds added finally paid off, as all three had good if not very good games. What pained me the most? A tie between the Douche TD and the Ray Lewis interception - come on, was that really necessary? But I was by far the most impressed by Ngata, who racked up 11 tackles. Think about it, he plays the same position that Aaron Smith plays and we often reason that what No. 91 does for us is great, but doesn't show up in the stats sheet. Well, not so for Mr. Ngata. This guy is a beast. Anyways, I don't want to talk about it anymore. Grudgingly, I admit that the Ravens played a damn good game.
Team Temperature: Nothing better to heat up the temperature than a win against the Arch Rivals
Next Week's opponent: At home against the Denver Broncos
What to look for: Interesting. A secondary that was thought to be suspect but has held its own in the last couple of week faces a quarterback that was thought to be a mere stop-gap but leads the league in passing right now. Just a fluke? Nothing better to find out than both of them matching up. Additionally, Baltimore's running backs are nicked up against a suspect Denver rush defense. Baltimore is the favorite and should win if their backs are healthy, but in my book this will be closer than people think.
The Name: Cleveland Browns
The Standout: Peyton Hillis once again - 27 carries, 102 yards, 3.8 y/c, 1 TD. Longest run: 24 yards while running the clock
Promising: Matt Roth, OLB - 6 tackles (5 solo), 2 sacks
Look the other way: Red Zone efficiency: Just 1/4 (25%)
What happened: Are my sore eyes deceiving me? Could these Browns be more than the pushover they have been for years? For the second game in a row, against a divisional opponent in a division that is as physical as any in the NFL, the Browns looked promising. Only this one, they came out on top, beating Cincinnati in a game they led in the first quarter and never looked back. The one sore spot seems to be giving up yardage to No. 1 receivers - after getting stymied by Boldin last week, all TO did was scorch the secondary for 222 yards and a TD. Aside from that though, this game could be something for Cleveland to build on. Hillis looks like he is here to stay, and Wallace seems to be a better game manager than Del-Interception-homme. Pretty impressive, good job Cleveland.
Temperature: Shave your puppy! It's getting warm under all this sun shining on the Browns right now
Highlight Reel: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
Next Week: At home against the Atlanta Falcons
What to look for: So the most suspect part of this Cleveland team is the secondary, right? Along come Matty Ice, Tony Gonzales, and Roddy White, chomping at the bits to take advantage of just that. Not that they are the best passing offense in the NFL, but they certainly are not too shabby. Plus, they have won three in a row after losing their opener to our Stillers. Another challenge for the Browns, but if they keep up what they did these past couple of weeks, they might just have a shot
The Name: Cincinnati Bengals
The Game: 20-23 at the Cleveland Browns
The Standout: I hate to say it, but: Terrell Owens - 10 receptions, 222 yards (22.2 avg.), 1 TD, 8 of Cincinnati's 10 longest plays from scrimmage
Promising: Carson Palmer - 25/36 (69% completions), 371 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 121.4 Rating, BUT lost 2 fumbles
Look the other way: Clutch plays - field goal missed, defensive holding penalty to give the Browns a 1st down with 4 minutes to go and Cleveland running the clock, allowing 24 yard run with no timeouts left just before the 2 minute warning.
What happened: Kudos are given to Cleveland above, but to be honest, this game was kind of strange. The clutch plays could have turned the game around, but by just looking at the stats, Cincinnati should have won this one. They finally get a big game from Palmer and TO, total over 100 yards more than the Browns, hold Cribbs in check, have an equal 3rd down percentage and the same number of first downs. But as I don't need to tell any of you guys, Football isn't won on the stats sheet. So Cincinnati can gloat about Palmer and TO finally gelling all they want, they lost against the worst team in this division. Their pass rush might have contributed, combining for just 1 sack, 3 QB hurries, and 3 knock downs. In 31 drop backs, that is just not enough. This defense, hailed by so many as the next best thing, needs has not found its true identity yet.
Team Temperature: Losing against the Browns? That's gonna get you down there in Fahrenheit. 15 degrees and earmuffs.
Highlight Reel: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
Next Week: At home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What to look for: Tampa Bay got the beat down against us last week, but had a week to rest up. This team still has more wins than losses, with both wins coming against teams that held their own this week (Carolina lost by 2 at New Orleans, Cleveland won against Cincinnati). If Cincinnati isn't the favorite in this one my grandma has a beard (and believe it or not, she doesn't), but one intriguing match up for me is the battle between the ageless Ronde Barber and Terrell Owens.
The Upset: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Game: 31-28 at home against the Indianapolis Colts
The Standout: David Garrard - 17/22 (77.2% comp.), 163 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 127.7 Rating. Also 5 rushes, 44 yards, 8.8 y/c, 1 TD. Honorable mention to Josh Scobee, who hit a 59 yard game-winning FG as time expired the first time he was called on all day
Promising: 3rd Down percentage: 9/13, or 69%
Look the other way: Mike Sims-Walker - 0 receptions, targeted only once. Jacksonville literally looked the other way.
What happened: To be quite honest, I would have picked Cleveland right here. But the upset for me has to be out of the division, and Jacksonville's big win is right up there with Cleveland. Garrard finally showed what he is capable of again, having a good passing day and a very nifty run on his TD. When you have a running back like the bowling ball Jones-Drew, performances like this will win you games. This game was extremely entertaining, with both teams going back and forth and never allowing the other to put consecutive points on the board. Peyton did what he does best, but against an absolutely mistake-free and steady offense, it wasn't enough. Nice win for the Jaguars, who move even to the Colts at .500 for second place in the AFC South.
Temperature: Maybe no shorts-weather, but definitely T-Shirts
Next Week: At the Buffalo Bills
What to look for: This should be the perfect opportunity for David Garrard to prove that last game wasn't a fluke and he is back to his 2007 form. The Bills are 0-4 and have lived up to the expectations this season - to be the worst team in the NFL. They rank at or near the bottom of nearly every defensive and offensive category, and already have a QB controversy on their hand. If I were a betting man, as long as the stretch isn't ridiculous this would be my sure pick for the week.
German Word of the Day: Auferstehung (say: ouf-err-shtay-ung) - resurrection