Two teams this week had wins that, on their surface, appear far less significant than, for example, Denver beating Green Bay.  But in reality, the Bengals grind-it-out 16-10 win over the Steelers to remain unbeaten is the exact kind of game Cincinnati would have lost in previous years.  Andy Dalton only has two career wins over Pittsburgh.  But the Bengals are itching to prove that this year will be different in the postseason, and one way to do that is to have them be different in the regular season.  Don’t discount being able to win a close one against a historically tough foe.

Similarly, Minnesota hadn’t won in Chicago since 2007.  I don’t care how bad the Bears look, that kind of futility over time transcends records and talent.  The Vikings took a big step forward on Sunday and let’s face it.  A team like Minnesota doesn’t miss the playoffs because they couldn’t manage a split with mighty Green Bay, but they could miss the playoffs if they drop one too many gimme games against bad teams like the Bears just because it’s what they always did in the past.  Good job Vikes.

This Week’s Sucked And Won

Ted Ginn Jr., WR (CAR):  Ordinarily Ginn, a player who has always been a return specialist and deep threat only receiver, would never wind up on this list but there were slim pickings this week.  And let’s face it:  Carolina’s lack of quality receivers creates an opportunity for a player like Ginn, who despite his limitations is a 9 year NFL veteran.  Did he learn nothing in all that time?  Targeted 10 times, the most of any Panthers receiver, Ginn caught just 2 passes.  True to form, one was a huge gainer, but if he could play just a little better, imagine how much better the Panthers offense would be.

This week’s catch of the day came courtesy of the Ravens’ Steve Smith, who moved into 10th place on the all time receiving list, passing Cris Carter.  Making the moment even more bittersweet was the fact that it may be the last time we see Smith in action.  The 36 year old had planned to retire at the end of the year, and will now miss the rest of the season with a  torn achilles.  Whatever he decides, God Speed!

Shocking realization of the week

In the shootout to end all shootouts, the Giants and Saints set the record for most TD passses in a game with 13, including 7 by Drew Brees, which tied an existing NFL record.

While experts around the league speculate about just how costly the loss of LeVeon Bell will be to the Steelers down the stretch, the Rams have quietly gone 3-1 since Todd Gurley became their feature back, including a win at Arizona.  The team’s only loss came at Green Bay.  With the Rams’ maybe best in the league D-line and punishing running game behind Gurley, this will be a team that NO ONE will want to face in the playoffs.  Teams that run well and play D can basically beat anyone on a good day.

This Week’s Great But Lost

Philip Rivers, QB (SD):  This is becoming an old story but Rivers once again far outshone his team, completing 75% of his passes for over 300 yards, 3 touchdowns and a passer rating of 126.1.  If his team was 6-2 instead of 2-6, we’d be talking about Rivers as a potential MVP.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

No one to throw to?

Although they still have plenty of work to do, the Buccaneers 3-4 record, including wins at New Orleans and Atlanta, is no fluke.   This team is #11 in offense and #12 in defense, and while they are still a team that misses opportunities and makes mistakes, these are things that maturity and coaching can correct.  Best of all, you have to admit that the Bucs decision to pick Jameis Winston has a “so far so good” quality to it, as Winston looks very much like an NFL quarterback whose best days are both yet to come and scary to contemplate.

Thursday Pick:  Cleveland (+12) @Cincinnati (5Dimes)

Yes, the Bengals have a significant home field advantage, but perhaps a little less so against the Browns, who came here and won just last year.  In fact, the last time the Bengals swept the season series from Cleveland was 2011.  The Bengals could also be just a little flat after that hard fought win vs. Pittsburgh.  I like Cincinnati to win this game, but giving 12 points to a divisional opponent doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I think the Browns can stay close enough in this one to cover the number.

LATE NOTE:  As you can see, I was all set to take the Browns in this game.  Maybe out of no more than superstition, I still will, but after learning that Johnny Manziel is starting this game in place of Josh McCown, I don’t like either side at all and would leave as a “watch only” football experience.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Cleveland Browns 17


“If you see me standing up here, that usually will tell you something, if somebody else is up here at some point in time. . .so the questions that you have are a waste of time. OK?” – Lions coach Jim Caldwell, deflecting questions about his job security after his team’s 1-7 start.

“We weren’t going to be afraid to utilize our guys.” – Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, referring to his team’s taking on the Jets’ defense head on, in particular WR Amari Cooper going up against shutdown CB Darrelle Revis.

“We’re a family.  One team.  One heartbeat.” – Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston, praising the Buccaneers sense of team unity.

“Whether it was his fault or not, he’s going to put it on himself.” – Colts OT Anthony Castonzo, on QB Andrew Luck.  For the record, it’s on Andrew Luck, whether he puts in on himself or not.

“I haven’t had my ass kicked like that in a long time.” – Packers coach Mike McCarthy, on his team’s suffocating loss to the Broncos.

“Football is supposed to be fun.” – 49ers coach Kevin Tomsula.  The 49ers are 2-6 and just benched their starting QB.

“I wish they were all Joe Thomas.” – Browns GM Ray Farmer, on some of his less-than-ideal first round picks.

“It was a clean hit. LeVeon is a friend of mine.  I didn’t intentionally mean to hurt him. It’s football. He’s going to come back strong.” – Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict on the tackle that ended Steelers RB LeVeon Bell’s season.

“We could have been better.” – Giants QB Eli Manning on the Giants’ offensive performance vs. the Saints.  The Giants O scored 42 points and Eli threw for six touchdowns.

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