By Jonathan "Colonel" Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts pigskin primate
Think of the Cold, Hard Football Facts as the Jane Goodall of the gridiron. We Trolls observe each NFL game with the tender reverence for unlike species, such as athletes, that the famed British scientist displayed Sunday on 60 Minutes after the CBS late games.
The way we look at it, if Goodall really wants to revolutionize mankind's understanding of the lesser species, she should come watch us in action each Sunday. Here's what she might have learned this week:
1. A member of the San Diego coaching staff will be fired on Monday. It probably won't be head coach Norv Turner, because that's just too much of a disruption. But we're willing to bet your house on one of his staff getting the boot from GM A.J. Smith ASAP. The Chargers have made more mistakes through two months than Napoleon did on his march to Moscow.
On Sunday, in a 23-20 loss to the Patriots, the final blow was a 5-yard false-start penalty on lineman Louis Vasquez as the field-goal team lined up for a game-tying field goal. Instead of a 45 yarder, Kris Brown attempted a 50 yarder. DOINK!
Special teams coach Steve Crosby will likely be looking for work this week.
Despite Bill Belichick's controversial decision late in the fourth quarter to go for it on 4th-and-1 at midfield while up three points (note: punting's legal), and despite a 4-0 deficit in turnovers, the Chargers had another chance to win a close game and failed. Turner's value to San Diego's offense is enough to keep him on the payroll for the time being. But heads have to roll now.
2. History holds amazing coincidences that mere mortals cannot explain.
For example: in January 1919, more than 2 million gallons of molasses flooded the North End of Boston
and killed 21 people. In October 2010, the Raiders scored 59 points in the first three quarters of a game in Denver.
Yep. Just like we predicted the Molasses Flood in our 1919 real and spectacular human disaster picks, we knew the Raiders would go into the Mile High City and run for 328 yards and five touchdowns in a spectacular 59-14 win over the Broncos.
In any case, they'll be coming for Denver coach Josh McDaniels after this loss that dropoed the Broncos to 2-5 nad last place in the AFC West.
But we've got a question for Oakland coach Tom Cable as well: why did your team completely turn it off after three quarters? Sure, you're playing a rival and don't need to rub it in against a team you face twice each season. But you also haven't done anything really remarkable as a football team in a long time. Why not go for 73, the NFL record?
Why not give the franchise something to remember? Why not play ruthless, Raiders football? Just askin'.
3. No one goes in the tank like Chicago's Jay Cutler. Since the start of 2010, a QB has thrown 4+ interceptions in a game 38 times. The only two passers to do it three times are classic contemporary gunslingers Jake Delhomme and Cutler.
The Bears have plenty of problems on the offensive line (dead last on our Offensive Hog Index
). But throwing four picks to the previously toasty DeAngelo Hall is something that winning quarterbacks rarely consider.
Chicago's defense did everything in its power to win this one. It stopped 11 of 13 Redskins attemps on third down, forced three turnovers and scored a TD. But Cutler and the ridiculous imbalance of OC Mike Martz's attack led to a 17-14 loss to a 'Skins squad that inexplicably sports a 4-3 record.
Martz dialed up 44 dropbacks and 16 runs for a team that can't pass block.
Meeting rooms in Chicago are going to get ugly this week.
4. Carolina richly deserved its first win.
The Panthers defense has been borderline heroic considering the abject awfulness of its O the first five weeks. They came into the week allowing 4.7 yards per play (3rd in the NFL) and, shockingly, sported the mark of the beast as the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL (66.6 Defensive Passer Rating
On Sunday, in a 23-20 win over San Francisco, they actually looked like a professional team on offense.
Quarterback Matt Moore's 28 of 41 for 308 yards effort must have felt like the second coming of Johnny U for Panthers fans who hadn't seen anything resembling a passing game this season. As for the 49ers, perhaps the playoff talk can stop and the Mike Singletary evaluation can begin.
When you win the turnover battle 3-1 against a winless team and you lose, you're not even close to a playoff contender.
5. The Dolphins can blame lax officials and CBS for their loss to Pittsburgh. Miami suffered a nut-kicker 23-22 loss to the Steelers thanks to the most controversial call of the week. Ben Roethlisberger fumbled at the goal line deep in the fourth quarter while trying to run in for a score, with the Dolphins leading 22-20.
The official review said he fumbled before reaching the goal line. That part is not controversial. He clearly fumbled before reaching the end zone. But the officials never determined who recovered the fumble in the end zone. And CBS couldn't come up with a shot of the recovery, either. So the Steelers were handed the ball at the 1 yard line and booted what proved to be the game-winning field goal.
Miami can also blame its own two Achilles heels; they can't score in the red zone and their secondary is poor. Despite a ferocious pass rush, Miami came into the game with a 90.2 Defensive Passer Rating (23rd) and allowed Roethlisberger a rating of 132.0 on Sunday. And any time your kicker has more field goals (13) than extra points (10), you've got troubles.
6. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2010 NFC West champion Seahawks. Nine wins is going to be more than enough in the NFC West, and Seattle has to go only 5-5 to get there after their 22-10 win at home against the Cardinals on Sunday.
Seattle's schedule is fairly soft the rest of the way, but more importantly they are actually excelling at something – defense. Pete Carroll's USC teams produced a lot of offensive stars, so it's easy to forget that Carroll is a defensive coach first.
He's completely turned this team around: it was 5-11 last year. It's already won four of its first six games here in 2010. Defense has led the way: Seattle forced five turnovers Sunday, and in other games they've been unblockable rushing the passer.
Add an offense that has been pretty tidy with the ball, good special teams and an emerging RB tandem (Marshawn Lynch/Justin Forsett), and the NFC West might have a decent team left in December yet.
7. The Eagles were the latest team to fall short of the end zone vs. Tennessee. The old bend-don't-break defense is alive and well in Tennessee, which entered Week 7 No. 3 on our Bendability Index. The Titans have been especially Bendable against the Glamour Division, against whom they now sport a perfect 3-0 record.
The Eagles on Sunday picked up 21 first downs, forced three takeaways and faced goal-to-go three times. But they managed only one touchdown in their 37-19 loss at Tennessee.
In Week 5, a 34-27 win at Dallas, Tennessee allowed 511 yards and 25 first downs, but only three touchdowns.
In Week 3, a 29-10 win on the road against the Giants, it was 471 yards but just one TD allowed on defense.
In seven games this season, Tennesse has allowed just nine TDs, while forcing opponents to settle for 18 field goals. If the Titans keep it up, they'll be in the playoffs for sure after a 5-2 start.
But will their bubble burst? Tennesse's next four opponents are San Diego, Miami, Washington and Houston.
8. Things are getting weird in New Orleans. Things we didn't think we'd be saying: the New Orleans offense is letting down the defense, especially after a shocking 30-17 loss at home to Cleveland.
The New Orleans D played another excellent game Sunday, but the offense looked desperate. Cleveland's front seven dominated the Saints' protection, and Brees was as bad as he's been in a Saints uniform (four picks).
The Saints were flagged 10 times to Cleveland's four – at the Superdome – and just looked out of sorts. Brees has 10 picks in his last five games, as many as he had in the 19 games prior.
Is he hurt? Are they just too one-dimensional against a good D? Can the Saints' previously shaky defense still do its part until the O catches up?
Like we said. Weird.
9. The Bengals are done, and they can thank Roddy White. Cincinnati is 2-4 after its 39-32 loss at Atlanta. Playing in the tough AFC North, the Bengals basically must go 9-1 the rest of the way if they hope to crack the playoffs in the top-heavy AFC.
Not going to happen.
The Bengals can't run, they make too many mistakes, and the defense of 2009 has not returned in 2010. Oh, and they still have road trips to face the Steelers, Colts, Jets and Ravens. Over.
They also don't have Roddy White. The Atlanta wide out went up against the strength of the Cincy D – their cornerbacks – and ripped the Bengals to shreds (11 catches, 201 yards, 2 TD). In his last 16 games, White has 102 catches for 1,357 yards and 10 TDs, and that's as part of a run-first, conservative offense.
Atlanta's defense is shaky (5.8 yards per play allowed through six games). But at 5-2 the Falcons are in first place in the NFC South and at least a threat to make some noise in the playoffs.
10. Bills head man Chan Gailey can still coach offense. Buffalo's defense is beyond terrible. The team is now 0-6 after blowing a huge lead against Baltimore and losing 37-34 in overtime. The Bills may well lose 15 games this year. They are one of the rare teams that can be defeated in multiple countries thanks to our friends in Toronto.
But Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick boasts a 102.0 passer rating right now, second in the NFL only to Peyton Manning as we near the halfway point of the 2010 campaign. It's one of the true surprises of the season.
Fitzpatrick has been nothing but awful in his previous stints starting for Cincy and Buffalo. But he's been a one-man team thus far in 2010. His four starts have come against New England, N.Y. Jets, Baltimore (and yes, Jacksonville), and he's more than held his own.
Of course, it wasn't enough to pull off a great road upset in Baltimore, because that's just how it is for teams like Buffalo. But Fitzpatrick's sudden success is a tribute to Gailey's offensive innovation.