Week 11 – 3 UP 3 DOWN
1. New York Jets– The sudden trend and bright spot of the New York Jets, is their passing game. More specifically second year QB Mark Sanchez having great success throwing to his weapons WRs Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. Last week the Sanchez threw for 315 yards with 3 TDs, including the game-winning pass to Holmes with 10 secs left. That TD was Holmes’ 2nd, to go along with his 126 yards. Edwards was able to tally up 86 yards and a TD. After starting this season just focusing on managing the game, and minimizing turnovers, the Jets have opened the playbook up for Sanchez to air it up. The Jets were even up 23-7 into the 4th quarter, and Sanchez still was throwing the ball, ending the game with 38 attempts. Another impressive aspect of this performance, is he completely outperformed last years leading passer in Houston Texans QB Matt Shaub. The once weak spot of the Jets, is now the only thing winning games for them (more on this in the DOWN section of the post).
2. Buffalo Bills – Down 31 – 14 at half, the Bills rallied back with 5 unanswered TDs to put the Bengals down, before they even knew what hit them. The Buffalo Bills have been having success putting up offensive points, but it was good to have that translate into their 2nd straight win, and 2nd win of the season. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has had no issues putting up big stats through the air the past couple weeks, with last week being no exception. Against the Bungles secondary, Fitzpatrick was able to throw for 316 yards, and match his career high of 4 TDs. Fitzpatrick has also found a new young weapon in WR Steve Johnson. In his 3rd season out of Kentucky, Johnson was able to gain 137 yards off 8 receptions, and score 2 TDs. Even forgotten #1 reciever Lee Evans has been emerging and racked up 72 yards last week. RB Fred Jackson has really helped to make the Marshawn Lynch trade an afterthought, and the injury of rookie RB CJ Spiller a non-issue, by rushing for over 100 yards, scoring twice. The Bill offense has really caught fire late in the season, but that also could be hurting them (more in the DOWN section)
3. San Diego Chargers – Echoing Chargers QB Philip Rivers comments and comments from everyone else talking about the Chargers win, they beat the Broncos in all 3 phases of the game (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams). QB Philip Rivers continues his MVP campaign with this division win. Although he threw a season low 233 yards….Yes, i said season-low…he did match his career high with 4 TD passes. WR Malcolm Floyd came back from injury to score a TD, WR Patrick Crayton enjoyed a 100 yard game with a TD before his injury, and Rivers even found oft-forgotten weapon RB Darren Sproles for a 57 yard TD catch. Also enjoying a big game was the Chargers’ defense. They surrendered an early TD from another top ranked pass team, and then buckled down and kept the Broncos offense from really exploding. FB-turned-primary-ball-carrier Mike Tolbert recorded another 100 yard game, with his 2nd start of the season. Tolbert was even able to contribute on the passing game, with the stat line of 2 catches for 42 yards, which as u guessed it also points to a issue for the Chargers, get the trend yet??(more on this in the DOWN section).
1. New York Jets – The whole team doesn’t end up in this Down section, because frankly the Jets are winning. I mention them in this down section however, because the strong points of this team are disappearing. Coming into the season the Jets defense was to be feared and the running game respected. Last week the Texans were able to garner much success on offense against this defense. This defense is not posting shut outs or anything close to it, and the blitzes are not creating sacks or turnovers. The most stable part of the Jets coming into the season is becoming more of a non-factor. Also not making an impact now, is the Jets running game, even after making success early in the year. Jets RB LaDanian Tomlinson, who everyone said found his fountain of youth, has seemed to misplace it again. He was only able to gain 36 yards on 12 carries, against a feeble Texans rush defense. It is not clear if Sanchez can keep up this success through the post-season, so the Jets need the factors they planned to rely on most, to step up.
2. Buffalo Bills – The Buffalo Bills are now 2-8 after defeating the Cincinnati Bungles on Sunday. Why would they be on the Down list then? The defense stepped up 2nd half, forcing numerous Cincy turnovers, and the offense exploded to post 5 TDs. If you watched the Bills last year however, the Bills started competing late in the season with Trent Edwards at QB for them. He impressed the Bills front office with his ability to move the ball for them. Current Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was the 2nd string QB, behind Edwards. Coming into the season Edwards won the starting QB job during an open competition against Fitzpatrick through training camp. Where is the winner, Edwards out now you ask? He was cut earlier this season by the Bills, who deemed him no longer worthy enough to even be a #2 on their roster. I say this to say, the Bills do not need to get caught up in this success of Fitzpatrick, whom couldn’t outright WIN the starting job, and forget they need to look toward a QB of the future near the top of the 2011 NFL draft. I do believe that Fitzpatrick’s success should count for something, but I also believe the Bills will be making a grave mistake thinking he is the answer to this franchise, just to have him flop next season all over again.
3. San Diego Chargers – Luckily for the Chargers, they land on today’s DOWN list due to a player not even on the field for them, yet they are still able to post wins. Rookie RB Ryan Matthews was supposed to come into this season as the lone ball-carrier, and help the team transition from the huge shadow that LaDanian Tomlinson’s legacy castes. I know Matthews was injured and unavailable for last weeks game, but he lands the Chargers on the “Down” list because when healthy he was unable to produce. FB-turned-primary-ball-carrier Mike Tolbert was able to post 100 yards games, and respectable rushing stats. This is without the speed and cutting ability that Matthews’ possesses. The straight hard-nosed, down-hill running of Tolbert has produced more success on the ground then Matthews. Even through the air, Tolbert has become more of a threat than Matthews was when he lined up in the back-field. It’s waaaay to early to start whispering bust in Matthews case, especially given the circumstances, but it definitely is a concern for the immediate future of the Chargers