by Robert Ferringo - 11/16/2005
In our beloved National Football League, touchdowns scored via defense or special teams can be a gambler's best friend - or worst enemy. They're Instant Momentum, and generally can snap a dormant squad to life, or suck the will out of a confident underdog. Nowhere was this phenomenon more apparent than Week 10, which saw a ridiculous 10 touchdowns scored via "non-conventional" means.
Entering last weekend, total touchdowns scored by special teams or defenses were down almost 20 percent from the previous two seasons' totals. In 2003, there were 116 touchdowns tallied by either punt or kick return, INT or fumble return, or blocked punt or field goal return. In 2004, that number bumped up to 118. Through half of the season in 2005, there had been only 49 miscellaneous scores.
Then Week 10 hit, and there was more alternative scoring going on than at a Gang of Four concert. The prime example of this trend occurred during Minnesota's victory over New York. The Vikings won 24-21 despite only 162 total yards and no offensive touchdowns. They scored punt, kickoff and interception returns while claiming their first road win of the season.
These plays may seem like anomalies, but I would expect to see more of that sort in the coming weeks in order to meet the seemingly stable statistics from the past two years. These game-changing scores can never be accounted for, but here's to hoping that you're on the right side of the ledger when they occur.
Without further ado, here are some of my nonsensical ramblings from Week 10:
-- Even I suggested that this was a wild week in the NFL. It may have seemed that way because of two high profile upsets (Atlanta and New York) and some last-second victories. However, favorites were 8-5-1 ATS so it wasn't really a mind-bending weekend.
That being said, the MNF game was out-of-control. I suppose Dallas is even now for their collapse against Washington Ah, Football Karma.
-- At this point, Shaun Alexander is my Most Valuable Player. I understand that LaDainian Tomlinson (192 carries, 835 yards, 4.3 average, 15 TD's, 3 passing TD's) is the flashy choice and I'm not trying to take anything away from him. But Alexander (208, 1,114, 5.4, 17) is just destroying people.
-- You see what I'm saying about Buffalo's defense at home? They're generally very solid in Orchard Park. Even J.P. Losman looked like a decent quarterback in Upstate New York, as the Bills picked up a nice victory over a flustered Chiefs team.
Unfortunately for Bills backers they don't play at home every week. I bet they lose by 40 out in San Diego.
-- Cody Pickett, rodeo clown, finished 1-for-13 with 28 yards for San Francisco on Sunday in blustery Chicago.
-- Kudos to John Gruden. He obviously read all the gushing reviews that Dick Vermeil had received after his bold maneuver in Week 9, and Chucky wanted some Media Love. Gutsy call by Gruden, and a vintage Alstott run.
The Redskins didn't lose that game because of Alstott's controversial conversion. And they didn't lose because of an asinine penalty. No, they lost the game on 3rd-and-2 at their own 20 with 2:35 to play. One first down ends the game, and all 68,000 people in the stadium knew that the Skins were going to run. If Gibbs had just called some play-action and hit the tight end on a short out they would have wrapped that game up. Instead, the timid play once again cost a club dearly.
-- Philadelphia dominated Dallas by running the ball (their 181 rush yards was a season high). However, they turned away from the ground game in the last four minutes, and the result was McNabb's fatal interception. This situation is the opposite of what I suggested for the Redskins to do because everyone knew the Skins were going to run.
-- The team that impressed me the most in Week 10 was Denver. They overwhelmed Oakland in The Black Hole. The Broncos led 13-0 at the half, and 23-0 at the end of the third quarter. I feel they still have a stumble or two left in them, but this is a very sound football team.
-- Pittsburgh fourth-string running back Verron Haynes would be starting on 10 teams in the NFL.
-- With each one of Chicago punt return Bobby Wade's three (yes, THREE) fumbles, I found myself drifting closer and closer to the brink of total, murderous insanity.
Also, the most underappreciated part of Nathan Vasher's record-setting 108-yard return was the catch he made on the missed field goal. That snag was Edmonds-esque.
-- Speaking of murderous insanity, what's worse: the fact that we have secret torture chambers in Iraq and Eastern Europe, or the fact that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney seem so hell bent on keeping them going/hidden?
People should be up in arms about the suspension of habeas corpus for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. That concept is over 800 years old and the one thing that keeps The Machine from grabbing depraved lunatics like myself, locking us up, and throwing away the key.
-- The average score of the Vikings four road games entering Sunday's tilt in the Meadowlands was 33-9.
I still have a feeling that Minnesota will make a run at a playoff slot. There's entirely too much talent there to not win some games, but discipline and game planning are still two huge question marks. The Vikes have won two in a row, and after this Monday's game in Green Bay they play five of their last six on turf (four of which are at home).
-- How are folks so enamored with Tampa Bay's Chris Simms? Yes, he looked good while tossing three touchdown passes against Washington, but just a couple of weeks ago he was getting beat by the 49ers. Besides, Gus Frerotte (360 yards) and Kurt Warner (359 yards) each had big games this weekend, so what does that tell you?
-- That's what Mike Vick-Mexico gets for referring to Packers legend Brett Favre as "Brent" - twice - during media sessions last week.
Also, whoever Atlanta cornerback Jason Webster is guarding is going to have a big day. The word is definitely out on that guy.
-- Is it just me, or have there been even more "horse collar" tackles this year? I thought that was a penalty. Is it just because they made a big deal about it during the offseason, that I notice it more now?
-- Dom Capers was clearly the Wuss of the Week. Houston was 2-6 entering its match up with undefeated Indianapolis. The Texans trailed 28-14 and faced a 4th-and-2 at the Colts 6-yard line with just a shade over a minute left in the third quarter. Instead of saying, "Screw it, what do we have to lose!" and going for it, Capers opted for the field goal. Instead of sending a message to his boys that they were going to play for a win, he played it safe. HEY DOM - YOUR SEASON AND CAREER ARE BOTH OVER! Maybe, I don't know, try playing for the win?
-- Thus far the general consensus is that the NFC North is the worst division in football. Here's the combined record of each division:
NFC South - 21-15
NFC East - 21-15
AFC West - 20-16
AFC North - 19-17
AFC South - 18-18
NFC North - 16-20
NFC West - 15-21
AFC East - 14-22
Looks like there are two worse divisions. Also, the NFC is currently 20-17 SU against their AFC counterparts.
-- I guess we have to give Joey Harrington some credit. The guy went 21 of 31 for 231 and three touchdowns. I think I'd be more impressed if it wasn't at home against the Cardinals though.
Oh, and fantasy geeks everywhere were cursing Roy Williams' name on Sunday. Three TD's is nice, but he had been left for dead a month ago.
-- I really like Greg Jones running the ball for Jacksonville. I'm not saying the Jags don't need Fred Taylor, but just watching a bruiser like Jones gave me a different perspective on that offense.
Also, Matt "X-Factor" Jones has now caught a touchdown pass in three straight games for the Jags. I'm calling it right now that in 2006 he has an Antonio Gates-type year.
-- In a nod to the new documentary about Wal-Mart that's out in theaters, here are some "Fun Facts" about your neighborhood Hyper-Mega-Conglomerate-"Discount"-Super Store:
1) At 1.6 million employees, they are the world's largest private employer.
2) They made $256 billion in revenues last year, and $9 billion in profit.
2) They are China's eighth largest trading partner (the top seven are all countries).
3) Despite making billions, the company offers health benefits worse than those of Afghani warlords.
4) They have one of the largest class action lawsuits (sexual discrimination) in history pending against them.
5) Their CEO H. Lee Scott made $23 million last year. Their average full-time American worker comes in at around $14,000 a year.
6) Through tax breaks, financial bailouts, environmental damage and welfare for workers, I'd be willing to bet that every dollar that you "save" shopping there actually costs you two dollars in tax money.
-- Why do the Bears even have No. 1 draft picks? Their last three have been Marc Columbo (career is over due to leg injuries), Rex Grossman (blown out his knee - twice), and now Cedric Benson (strained ligaments, out at least one month). Someone call Robert Stack. We need an Unsolved Mysteries on this.
-- Did anyone else catch Joe Theisman outwardly rooting for Tommy Maddox during the Sunday night game with Cleveland? At one point, before a red zone play, I heard Joe T. encouraging Maddox with a "C'mon Tommy". Ah ESPN, a bastion of journalistic integrity. What with mock GM interviews to try to get Steve Phillips hired out in L.A., and Michael Irvin supporting his "friend" T.O, and, oh, never mind.
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