Another week, another How'd They Do post. While we are slowly recovering from the mental heart attack I believe we all suffered this past Monday, Week 10 is almost around the corner. But it's never too late for a final look back at our past and next opponents!
Especially not in a week like this. How about that Cleveland game, huh? Pretty exciting stuff, until you think about it - the last team Cleveland beat came back angry at us, much to our dismay. Let's hope history does not repeat itself for a change. At the same time, the Ravens are legit, Miami has a QB controversy, and Oakland has won three straight. Enough for an exciting post? You bet! One minor housekeeping note: Life's catching up with me, so I will only analyze our last and next two opponents this time. Let me know in the comments if you would like to keep it that way, or rather go back to the three team format!
Pittsburgh's Next Two Opponents
When we meet: This Week (Week 10)
The Game: 14-34 away against the Cleveland Browns
The Standout: Tom Brady (by default): 19/36, 52.8% completions, 224 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 90.5 QB rating
Promising: Penalties - just 3 for 20 yards
Look the other Way: Rush Defense - allowed 230 yards for 5.2 yards/carry, a major reason why Cleveland held the ball for over 38 minutes.
What happened: Many had been saying that New England, despite an impressive 6-1, would eventually lose games because of its inexperienced defense. Well, it happened. The Browns ran all over the Patriots, and specifically Peyton Hillis carved up the defense for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. Impressive for a running back that was supposed to back up Jerome Harrison. Really, New England did not play like one of the AFC's favorite teams. When they got close to the goal line, a fumble put the game right out of reach again. Kudos though to Cleveland for winning its second game in a row with surprisingly little trickery. Colt McCoy, starting his third consecutive game, is proving to be a nice game manager, especially this early in his rookie development. And when you have the ball for only 21 minutes (and you are not Peyton Manning), you cannot expect to win a game against any team in this league.
Next Week's opponent: away against The Pittsburgh Steelers
What to look for: Alright, so we know that teams don't run against the Steelers, and we also know that Tom Brady is going to get his against a mediocre pass defense. It's the other side of the ball that makes this game particularly interesting. If New England's young defense performs like they did against the Browns, the loss of Max Starks shouldn't matter and we should be able to run and pass all over the Pats. But how often do quality teams repeat bad performances? I predict Mendenhall getting just about 100 yards, with a win depending on whether Ben has one of his good games or one of his headscratchers.
Last Game against the Steelers: November 30, 2008 - New England 10, Pittsburgh 33, in New England
The Standout last time: James Harrison - how about 9 tackles (7 solo), two sacks, and two forced fumbles (both recovered by the Steelers)? That sounds like an impact player to me.
Prediction: New England 20 - Pittsburgh 28
When we meet: In Two Weeks (Week 11)
The Game: 23-20 at home in OT against the Kansas City Chiefs
The Standout: Jacoby Ford (rookie WR) - 6 rec., 148 yards, 24/7 avg. Also 4 kick off returns, 39 avg., 1 TD
Promising: Darren McFadden - 17 rushes, 89 yards, 5.2 y/c. Also 4 receptions for 25 yards
Look the other Way: three way tie: fumbles (4, 2 lost), 3rd down completions (3/12, 25%), and penalties (15 for 140 yards)
What happened: Well, Kansas City's 7 game winning streak in Oakland didn't last. Although, for the longest time, it sure looked like it would. Up 10-0 at half time, Kansas City could do nothing but watch in the third quarter as rookie free agent Jacoby Ford heated up and torched the Chiefs on the opening kick off for a TD. And that was only the beginning; Ford had all of his 148 receiving yards in the second half, playing a major role in Oakland's come-from-behind win in overtime. Another reason was the defense, which held Kansas City's vaunted rushing attack (no. 1 in the league coming into the game) to just 104 yards - about half their season average. Curiously enough, Oakland has not lost since Jason Campbell returned from an injury three games ago. The lowly Raiders? All of a sudden, they don't seem quite so lowly anymore.
Next Week's opponent: Bye Week
What to look for: Playing a team after having the luxury of preparing for an extra week is always a treat - as we found out against the Browns a few weeks back. Oakland should use this week to prepare specifically for the Steelers' defense, developing a quick-striking passing attack and getting Jacoby Ford more consistently involved. Of course, much like you, I hope that they do it Al Davis style and just don't prepare.
Pittsburgh's Last Two Opponents (Before the Bengals Game)
When we last met: Two Weeks ago (Week 8); lost 10-20
The Game: 34-3 away against the Carolina Panthers
The Standout: Pass Defense - allowed just 68 pass yards with 4 sacks and 1 INT to 3 different QBs
Promising: Rushing Offense - 165 yards in 32 rushes (5.2 y/c), 1 TD
Look the other Way: Darren Sharper - just 1 tackle
What happened: Looks like the Saints are starting to roll again - but don't forget, this was against what I would now consider the worst team in football. Carolina looked terrible throughout, and got so desperate after starter Matt Moore was injured and backup Jimmy Clausen got overwhelmed they subbed in their third QB, rookie Tony Pike. Jonathan Stewart didn't help Carolina's cause by also getting injured, leaving little in the way of a dominant performance for the defending Super Bowl Champions. New Orleans allowed just 195 yards on defense, while more than doubling that total on their own with 408 yards. Carolina actually drew first blood, but after that it was all New Orleans with star QB Drew Brees at the helm and a surprising corps of back up running backs able to control the clock.
Next Week's opponent: Bye Week
What to look for: New Orleans is on a hot streak with two straight convincing wins. So is this bye week much needed rest or a momentum breaker? I think it's clearly the former. The Saints have overcome injuries and early struggles to only be a half game out of the best record in the league, and they have an elite quarterback directing the offense. For an experienced bunch like that, an extra week to prepare can be deadly. Add to that the injury list that might be significantly smaller in two weeks, and you have two compelling reasons why the Saints potentially losing their momentum should not be an issue.
When we last met: Three Weeks ago (Week 7); won 23-22
The Game: 10-26 away against the Baltimore Ravens
The Standout: Red Zone Defense - held the Ravens to just 1/7 (14%)
Promising: Third Down Completions - 6/12 (50%)
Look the other Way: Chad Henne - 22/34 (64.7% completions), 231 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 2 Fumbles
What happened: It was bound to end sooner or later. The Dolphins came into the game with an impressive 4-0 road record, facing the 3-0 home team of the Ravens. But this challenge proved too big; although the Dolphins stayed in the game for the first two quarters, Baltimore shut out Henne and his whales to pull away for the win. Ray Rice had a huge game, with 83 yards on the ground and 97 in the air. On the other side of the ball, I was surprised that Ronnie Brown, averaging a respectable 6 yards a carry, only got the rock 9 times. Either way, the real news came after the game when Linebacker Channing Crowder told the media that during a confrontation in the game, Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain spit in his face. The NFL has reviewed the allegation by now, and decided that no conclusive evidence of this event exists.
Next Week's opponent: At home against the Tennessee Titans
What to look for: Dolphins coach Tony Sparano just announced the other day that Chad Henne will feel the consequences of his dreadful performance against the Ravens. In his place, the QB will be Chad Hennington, the comeback player of the year 2008 who hasn't played since getting an injury early in the 2009 season. Personally, I think that Sparano is overreacting - Pennington is not getting any younger and Henne has had quite some good games in his stint as the starter. Either way, it will be interesting to see how much rust "the other Chad" shows after such a long time on the bench, especially against a Titans pass defense that ranks a disappointing 26th so far.
Last Game against the Titans: December 20, 2009 - Dolphins 24, Titans 27, in Tennessee
The Standout last time: Vince Young - 14/27 (51.9% completions), 3 TD, 1 INT. Also 2 rushes, 24 yards, 12 y/c
Prediction: Titans 21 - Miami 10
Upset of the Week
The Game: 34-14 at home against the New England Patriots
The Standout: Peyton Hillis - 29 rushes, 184 yards, 6.4 y/c, 2 TD. Also 3 receptions for 36 yards
Promising: Colt McCoy - 14/19 (73.7% completions), 174 yards, 0 TD but especially 0 turnovers
Look the other Way: TE Ben Watson - targeted 4 times but just 1 reception (for 24 yards)
What happened: see above. Cleveland pulled this off with dominant running and a rookie QB that made very smart decisions throughout the game. Who would have thought? Peyton Hillis, although running against a weak rushing defense, seems like a legitimate pro-bowler to me. Pretty impressive win by the Browns!
Next Week's opponent: At home against the New York Jets
What to look for: The Ryan twins have seemingly had a blast going at each other in press conferences leading up to the game. But who cares? Much more important to me was the way Braylon Edwards, traded by the Browns last season, denounced his former team. Add to that equation a Cleveland rookie safety that has quickly made a name for himself with hard hits... You know where I am getting at. On paper, Cleveland once again faces incredibly bad odds. But have they cared the last two times? New York barely won last week against the Detroit Lyons (thanks in large part to our old friend Santonio Holmes), and have generally looked shaky lately. Can Cleveland pull off a third straight win against a preseason favorite to win it all? We'll see!
Last Game against the Jets: December 9, 2007 - Cleveland 24, New York 18, in New York
The Standout last time: Jamaal Lewis - 21 rushes, 118 yards, 5.6 y/c, 1 TD
Prediction: Cleveland 20 - New York Jets 21
And how could I Forget? your German word of the week: Die ueblichen Verdaechtigen (say: Dee uh-blicken Fer-dec-ticken) - The usual Suspects