Dumb plays abound; the Cowboys collapse; icing doesn't work; how West Coast teams are screwed

How Cyd and Jim saw Week 7.

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News Flash: Cowboys just aren’t that good. I think Jim and I were just about the only ones who didn’t buy the preseason or early-season hype surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. Why? Leadership. In the NFL, buying the best talent available hasn’t turned into a championship in a long, long time. If that was a recipe for success, we’d be talking about a Washington Redskins dynasty, not a New England Patriots dynasty. You have to build good teams in this league, not buy them. Jerry Jones tried to buy himself a Super Bowl, and it is coming crashing down quickly.

Some of the Cowboys will try to point to Tony Romo’s absence as the reason they lost. But Brad Johnson wasn’t out there missing tackles while Steven Jackson ran for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns. Right now, the Cowboys are tied for eighth place in the NFC and are a full game out of a playoff spot.

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Stupidity: I saw a lot of stupid football Sunday, but two teams stood out – the Colts and the Vikings.

Let’s take the Vikings first: They allowed 48 points to Chicago in a 48-41 loss, but 17 of those came from dumb special teams play. The Bears scored on a blocked punt return for a TD (on a play where Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe would have been better off falling on the ball instead of trying to punt) and on a punt that hit a Viking player and rolled into the end zone for a Bears TD.

The dumbest, though, came at the end of the first half, when the Bears lined up for a 53-yard field goal. It quickly became a more makeable 48-yard attempt when a Viking player jumped offsides. Of course, the kick was good. Why would any player jump in that situation, when it’s such a long kick?

Is it time to panic in Dallas? Absolutely. My guess is that Jerry Jones will take a drastic measure this week. Something to get the team’s attention. Will he fire head coach Wade Philips? That might be a big step in the right direction.

And neither are Brett and the Jets. Can we please stop hearing about how Brett Favre is this magical player who can single-handedly put a team on his shoulders and win the Super Bowl? He was never that and he never will be. Sure, he could carry a team for a game or two or three. But, he has long had games like he had Sunday against the Raiders in which he looked lost. His final QB rating for the game was 47.8, but he played much worse. He had three possessions in overtime and couldn’t muster a point. In those three possessions, he was 1-for-4 for 17 yards and a sack. On 3rd & 12 on their final possession, Favre inexplicably decided to run with the ball, leaving them 7 yards short of a first down and fumbling the ball out of bounds. That was the last time he touched the ball. All of this was facing one of the worst pass defenses in the League.

Favre isn’t terrible, by any stretch. But I’m just tired of hearing how amazing he is and how he is some unstoppable force that has guaranteed the Jets a playoff spot. The commentators for the game continually said things like “The Raiders don’t want to give Favre another shot.” Why? Because he sucked? Because they dominated him almost the entire game? Favre isn’t the player he used to be, the Jets made a mistake trading for him, and they will be sitting him in January. And when January comes around, they will look back at this game as the one that blew their chances.

The Triplets are no more. For the last two years, the three best teams in the AFC have been the Patriots, Colts and Chargers. This year, they’re a combined .500, all of them are giving up at least 20 points per game, and after Monday Night, it may be that none of them have a winning record. All of them can point to injuries as a big reason for their downward spiral: The Patriots’ Tom Brady, the Colts’ Bob Sanders (among others), and the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman.

“Over” at halftime. The Vikings visited the Bears this week, and a Colts-Patriots game broke out. 51 points scored in the first half, 89 total points for the game. Between two teams with crappy offenses and solid defenses. If you look closely, 14 of those points were off defensive touchdowns, and another TD was a 6-yard drive after an interception. But still, the people who bet the over were mighty happy with this one.

My Top Five

Two teams I’ve left off my Top Five: Pittsburgh and the New York Giants. The Steelers’ wins have come over teams that are a combined 10-22, and none of them have a winning record. The Giants have had an even easier schedule; Aside from their Week 1 win over the Redskins (and the ‘Skins were still in preseason mode at that point), their wins have cover over teams that are a combined 5-21, and they lost to a 2-4 team. When either of these teams gets a big one, they’ll jump back in. But for now, I’m simply holding judgment.

1) Tennessee Titans. The League’s only undefeated team continues to dominate the lines with a great rushing game and solid pass and run defense.

2) Carolina Panthers. After the Titans, there are a bunch of question marks. But I like the Panthers because of their balance. Yeah, that loss at Tampa Bay was ugly. No doubt. But I like what I’ve seen from the Panthers.

3) Buffalo Bills. I had thought they’d lose to the Chargers. But that was a real “statement” game for the Bills. With a compromised pass D, they shut down LT and limited the gains in the passing attack. Big kudos to them.

4) Washington Redskins. I’m afraid they peaked in Weeks 2-5, so they could fall of the list fast. But, the rest of the NFC East still has to come through DC.

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’ve done it with two starting quarterbacks so far this season, they’ve got a top-10 rushing attack and a top-10 defense. Hats off to the job Jon Gruden is doing down there.

The Colts were equally stupid. They committed 12 penalties for 110 yards in their 34-14 embarrassment at Green Bay; it was the most penalty yards a Tony Dungy-coached team has ever allowed. At least two penalties fell into the “what were they thinking?” category. The first came after Green Bay kicked off out of bounds following an early touchdown. Colts ball at the 45, right? Nope – Jamie Silva had a need to take a cheap shot at a Packer player, so it was 15 yards against Indy.

The second came courtesy of cornerback Tim Jennings in the third quarter, after the Colts forced Green Bay to punt for the first time. But Jennings, no brain surgeon, got a delay of game penalty for trying to induce the Packers offsides. He did this on a punt, when all he had to do was stand there and let them kick the ball. The five yards gave Green Bay a first down and led to a Packers field goal. It was one of four penalties Jennings committed.

In neither game were the stupid plays the only reasons for the loss, but they exemplified why the Vikings (3-4) and Colts (3-3) are struggling this season. Stupid teams are unfocused teams and shoot themselves in the foot constantly.

Streak ends: The loss was the Colts’ first in October since 2004.

Who’s No. 1? I can’t remember a season with less consistency. Teams like Green Bay can lose one week at home to Atlanta (with a rookie QB), then blow out a team like the Colts. The Redskins can win at Philadelphia and Dallas, but lose at home to then-winless St. Louis. Miami beats the Patriots and Dolphins in consecutive weeks, then allows the punchless Ravens to ring up 27 points.

This is especially true in the AFC, where the Colts have been mediocre, but whose 3-3 record has them well within the playoff hunt; the same holds for the 3-4 Chargers, struggling but still not out of it. Tennessee, on the other hand, is 6-0 but has only played one team (Jacksonville) that has even a .500. The Colts-Titans game next Monday will tell a lot about both teams.

Panic time in Big D: The Dallas Cowboys, playing without Tony Romo, got hammered by St. Louis, 34-14. The loss was bad enough, but I was surprised by how easy the Rams made it look, falling behind 7-0, then scoring 34 straight points. At 4-3, the Cowboys have lost three of their last four and people are already calling for Coach Wade Phillips to be canned.

Wrote Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News: Phillips “shouldn’t be left in place to come up with more excuses as to why a team with so much talent is heading towards the bottom of the NFC East. There is no way to truly deliver a message of urgency to a collection of players and a coaching staff without, figuratively, cutting off the head.”

Wow. After three opening wins, ‘Boys fans were checking out hotel rooms in Tampa in early February. Then Terrell Owens started whining; Pacman Jones got suspended; running back Felix Jones, punter Matt McBriar, safety Roy Williams and Romo got hurt and suddenly the team is in free fall.

Unfair advantage: The NFL needs to do something about West Coast teams playing early Sunday games at 1 p.m. in the Eastern time zone (10 a.m. West). It’s a major disadvantage to West Coast teams, whose players have to adjust to an abnormally early start time for their body clocks. This season, the four West Coast teams (Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle) are a combined 0-6 in the 1 p.m. Eastern slot. The Bills have been especially fortunate, hosting three West Coast teams in Buffalo (San Diego, Oakland and Seattle) at 1 p.m. and winning all three.

An easy solution would be to simply start these games at 4 p.m. Eastern and I see no reason why it can’t be done. On Sunday, West Coast teams San Diego and San Francisco played at 1 p.m. Eastern, while a game between two Eastern teams (Cleveland at Washington) started at 4 p.m. Next week, Oakland plays at Baltimore at 1 p.m., while Cleveland at Jacksonville (two Eastern time zone teams) play at 4 p.m. This makes no sense and has always bedeviled teams traveling west to east to play early. I am surprised this has never been fixed, since the NFL is always moving games around to start at different times.

Ice the ice: Coaches should immediately stop the tactic of calling a time out at the last second to try and ice a field goal kicker; it doesn’t work any more. I recall at least three times where the first kick was missed, and the second (legit) one made, but the capper came Sunday in Oakland.

The Raiders led the Jets, 13-10, and the Jets lined up for a last-second 52-yarder from the erratic Jay Feely. His kick hit the uprights and the Raiders had a win … oh wait, Raiders coach Tom Cable called a timeout right before the kick and Feely was true on his second attempt. The game went into overtime and, luckily for Cable, his team won it on a 57-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

The late field goal time out is no longer effective, since it allows a kicker a free practice kick. If he nailed the first, he knows that the same stroke will mean success a second time; a miss and he knows how to adjust. Plus, the timeout is just plain annoying from a viewing standpoint.

Feely told Billy Witz of the New York Times that the timeout did him a favor.

“I heard the whistle before I started,” he said. “It helps the kicker tremendously. I hear the whistle, so I can hit it right down the middle and see it draw. So the next one, I hit just inside the right upright.”