By: C.J. Doon
With :16 seconds on the clock and needing a touchdown, Tony Romo and the Cowboys lined up to take one last shot at the endzone. After falling behind by 23 points early in the second quarter, the Cowboys scored 24 unanswered points to take the lead. The Giants responded with two Lawrence Tynes field goals in the fourth quarter to go ahead 29-24. On a play that will define the season for both squads, Romo takes the snap, looks towards the endzone, and chucks a deep pass towards the back of the endzone. Dez Bryant strides towards the ball, leaps between two defenders, and…scores a MIRACLE TOUCHDOWN!!!
Except he didn’t.
After making the catch, Bryant lands on his backside gasping for breath, having thought he made the game-winning reception. Players mob the maligned third year receiver, and the crowd in Cowboys Stadium goes wild.
But not so fast, my friend! Replays show that Bryant’s fingers land inches out-of-bounds just before he comes down with the football. Miracle touchdown ruled incomplete. Comeback over. Ballgame over.
America’s Team now sits at 3-4 on the season, with losses to the Giants, Seahawks, Bears, and Ravens. Tony Romo, once heralded as the quarterback of the future for the ‘Boys, is now 34 with only one year remaining on his contract. He is the fifth oldest starting quarterback in the NFL, behind veterans such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and yet only has one playoff win to show for it. If the Cowboys decide to fire Jason Garrett this season, Jerry Jones may also consider finding a new quarterback for his new head coach.
Across the pond, the Patriots and Rams squared off in the annual NFL International Series game in London at Wembley Stadium. 86,000 fans were on hand to watch some football – excuse me, American football – and saw New England absolutely dismantle the hapless Rams. Tom Brady threw for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns on the afternoon, two of them to party-boy Rob Gronkowski. “Gronk” hauled in eight catches for 146 yards, and delighted the London crowd with his usual touchdown celebration antics.
It’s important to note that those were actual Brits cheering for a team called the “Patriots” that hail from Boston, Massachusetts. I’m disappointed in you, London. Where was the animosity, the anger, the chants? You could have at least flaunted a few Aston Martin’s in our faces, or even hollered about how you’re making ¢60 cents on the U.S. dollar. You make me sick…
In other news, it appears as if the countdown until “Tebow Mania: Part II” is ramping up in the Big Apple. The New York Jets were embarrassed at home against the Dolphins on Sunday, losing 30-9 in one of the ugliest games in recent memory. Mark Sanchez completed 28 of 54 pass attempts, threw one interception, and fumbled late in the first quarter with the Jets already trailing 10-0. Miami turned the fumble into a touchdown to go ahead 17-0, and never looked back. Loud boos and chants of “Tim Tebow” rained down from the stands after the play, a display that wide receiver Chaz Schilens took issue with.
“That chanting’s B.S. as far as I’m concerned,” Schilens said. “Mark’s the quarterback.”
That may be true for now, but how many games does Sanchez have to lose before Rex Ryan considers making a move at quarterback? Tebow is a lightning rod and a proven leader, and could become a hot commodity in fantasy land if the Jets decide to make a switch. Until then, Jets’ fans will have to live and die with Sanchez as their quarterback. And that means a lot of head-scratching interceptions.
Now, onto this week’s edition of Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em!
Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders – This may come as a surprise, but the Raiders are actually producing some big numbers on offense. Carson Palmer has thrown nine touchdowns on the season, and wide receiver Denarius Moore has been on the receiving end on four of those passes. The second year pro has caught a touchdown pass in four of the last five games, and in three straight overall. Moore and the Raiders take on the Buccaneers this weekend, who own the league’s 2nd worst defense against the pass. Look for Moore to continue his touchdown streak against a shaky Bucs defense.
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton’s sophomore slump has been all every football pundit has been talking about these days, and with good reason. However, the Panthers QB showed signs of improvement on Sunday vs. the Bears, until a disastrous pick-six late in the fourth quarter. Against the league’s best defense in terms of total yards allowed, Newton threw for 314 yards, while Steve Smith caught seven passes for 118 yards. This week, things will be much easier for the veteran receiver, as the Panthers take on the Washington Redskins. The Skins allow more than 300 yards through the air per game, and have surrendered 19 passing touchdowns on the year. Smith and the Panthers are posed to rack up big numbers through the air in a shootout vs. RG3 and the Redskins.
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers –The always reliable Heath Miller is coming off a nice game against the Redskins, where the veteran tight end caught four passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. This week’s tilt against the Giants should produce even bigger numbers for Miller, as tight end Jason Witten torched Big Blue’s secondary last week to the tune of 18 catches and 167 yards. Big Ben will need to go to the air to score points against the Giants’ defense, so Miller should see plenty of balls thrown his way on Sunday.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans – Johnson nearly eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the second straight game, finishing with 99 yards on 21 carries against the Colts. While that may be a sign of improvement, remember that this was the same Colts defense that allowed Shonn Greene to rush for 161 yards and three touchdowns two weeks ago at MetLife Stadium. This week, the Titans square off against the Chicago Bears, who have held opposing running backs to 77.9 yards/game this season, the lowest such mark in the NFL. Rashaad Jennings, Alex Green, and Mikel LeShoure are available in most leagues, and are solid replacements for CJ2K this week.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – “Matty Ice” was in MVP form on Sunday, throwing three touchdown passes on his first three drives last week to lead the undefeated Falcons to a win over the Eagles. The Falcons are now 7-0 and hold a commanding four game lead over the second place Buccaneers in the NFC South, which could mean they might be taking it easy this week. I’m not suggesting NFL players get complacent, but the Falcons certainly understand that they are virtually locked into the playoffs with 9 games remaining, and can afford to rest key players here and there. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are coming off a tough loss to the Giants, and will be playing to save their season on Sunday. The Cowboys’ defense held Eli Manning and the Giants explosive passing game to 192 yards through the air and one INT in a loss, and are ranked third in the league in pass defense. As good as Ryan has been this season, I think an inspired Cowboys team will prove to be too much to handle on Sunday.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, RBs, Buffalo Bills – Here’s the only thing you need to know: the Texans have not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season long. In fact, dating back to 2011, the Texans have not allowed a rushing touchdown in their last 11 games, including the postseason. While Spiller and Jackson have both been impressive this season – their combined point total is close to 17 per game – they don’t stand a chance against a historically impressive Texans’ defense.