By John Jastremski
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The best reality TV show better known as the National Football League once again delivered its fair share of thrills, chills, surprises and disappointments. I continue to preach week in and week out that you can’t predict this league, yet I try to do so anyway. Typical JJ, not taking his own advice!
The Cards kept rolling despite losing their quarterback for the season, the 49ers saved their season, the hapless Jets stunned everyone by beating the Steelers and like Hootie & Blowfish once said, “The Dolphins make me cry!”
What else is new?!
So What Did We Learn This Week?
The Cincinnati Bengals Have A QB Problem
For those of you who read last week’s column, I apologize for my sucker bet of the week. I told you, the Cincinnati Bengals would win comfortably on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. Boy, was I wrong.
The main reason I was wrong: the horrific quarterback performance of Andy Dalton.
Dalton played the worst game by a QB that I’ve seen all season long, and trust me, that’s saying something. I’ve seen all of Geno Smith’s starts this year. The Red Rifle was anything but on Thursday night.
Ten for 33, 86 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Hide the women and children!
I’d love to tell you, don’t freak out after one bad performance, but it’s time for panic in Cincinnati. Here’s why: Andy Dalton is not getting better.
The fourth-year quarterback has not played good football this season. His numbers are way down compared to a year ago.
And what bothers me the most? When stage gets bigger, Dalton folds up like a cheap suit.
In prime-time and playoff games, Dalton’s numbers are more horrific than an episode of “The Walking Dead.” In 11 such games, he has a record of 2-9 and has thrown eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
I’ve seen Dalton crumble over and over again. That is why I specifically said over the summer, it was a monumental mistake for the Bengals organization to hand Dalton a massive contract extension.
Yes, I understand that the contract allows the Bengals to get off relatively easy after the 2015 season, but that’s the problem.
This is a win-now football team; the Bengals have been in the playoffs the last three years, but they haven’t won a playoff game.
Why not let Andy Dalton play out his rookie contract, make him earn the big money and then decide to hand him the big contract? Or dare I say — win a playoff game!
The Bengals dropped the ball in the offseason and I think Andy Dalton’s poor play will be the biggest reason why they are not a playoff team in 2014.
Motown’s Newest Artist: Matty Stafford & The Comeback Lions
The city of Detroit has seen its fair share of talent over the years. The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & the Supremes, and now there’s a new group that has taken the city by storm.
Matty Stafford & the Comeback Lions.
The Detroit Lions — specifically quarterback Matthew Stafford — have had a flair for the dramatic this season. Once again that was on full display Sunday in a come-from-behind victory over the Miami Dolphins.
With the Lions down 13-10 late in the fourth quarter, Stafford led his team right down the field with a series of beautiful throws. He threw a game-winning touchdown pass with 30 seconds remaining that brought back shades of Brett Favre with the sidearm strength and precision.
Sunday’s comeback was par for the course for the 7-2 Lions.
In each of the last three weeks, Detroit trailed late in the fourth, but have been able to find new and innovative ways to win.
Consider that in 2013, the Lions had a lead in the fourth quarter in their final seven games — and were able to win only one of those matchups.
What a difference a year makes!
Stafford has had a reputation over the years for being a “gunslinger” and at times has been careless with his decision making. However, his fearlessness and aggressiveness throwing the football has been a great asset for the Lions.
He’s not afraid to make the tough throw into the tight window and it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s been at his best in crunch time. It also certainly helps to have a fully healthy Calvin Johnson and the underrated Golden Tate as his pair of wideouts.
I’m very impressed with the Lions. The talent has always been there, but you notice a difference in this edition compared to Detroit team of years past.
The physicality of their stout defense and the calming influence of Jim Caldwell has made this a much better football team in 2014.
They have some tough games ahead and are no lock to be a division champion, but I fully expect to see the Lions back playing in the month of January.
Lunchpail Chiefs At It Again
Watching the Kansas City Chiefs is not usually a thing of beauty. The Chiefs have a very rugged, tough-minded style about them that has translated very well over the last two years.
On Sunday, they were able to do something they hadn’t been able to do in the Andy Reid/Alex Smith era: win a game in which they trailed by double figures.
In a critical matchup in the AFC, the Chiefs rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter, defeated the Buffalo Bills 17-13 and improved to 6-3 on the year.
Once again, it was not a pretty performance. They only put up 278 yards of total offense, but it was good enough. Here’s why: the Kansas City Chiefs don’t beat themselves.
Week in and week out, they win the turnover margin.
It’s a simple formula for success. Run the football with Jamaal Charles, let Smith make the right decisions at quarterback and get after the opposing QB. Kansas City has been able to do all of these things at a high level after an 0-2 start to the season.
I figured after a crazy differential in turnover margin, combined with the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, that 2014 would be a season of regression for Andy Reid and Alex Smith in Year 2.
Since that heartbreaking loss in Denver back in September, the Chiefs have won six of seven.
The Chiefs are on their way to do something they haven’t done in over 20 years: make the postseason in back-to-back years.
Who said it has to be pretty?
JJ’s Studmuffin Of The Week
Jaiquawn Jarrett – Safety – New York Jets
I’m a sucker for a good comeback story. Jarrett’s way back into football is quite remarkable. He was a second-round pick for the Eagles back in 2011 and never developed. Mike Tannenbaum, in essentially his last act as Jets GM, signed him on the final day of the 2012 season.
Sunday against the Steelers, Jarrett was given an opportunity to play over first-round pick Calvin Pryor at safety and delivered in a big way.
Ten tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and two interceptions. Did he swap bodies with Ed Reed in his prime on Sunday?
I’ll be perfectly honest, this guy did not know much of anything about Jarrett before Sunday’s game against the Steeelers, and I’m sure the same could be said for a lot of the folks watching the game on Sunday.
In a lost season, the Jets can only hope Jarrett can provide some help to a depleted and porous secondary.
Charlie Brown Of The Week
The Chicago Bears
It’s amazing how embarrassing the Bears have become. After allowing 51 points to the New England Patriots two weeks ago, the Bears gave up 55 points to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.
It was so pathetic, Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns before halftime. I hope many of you decided to watch “Homeland” and “The Newsroom” a little earlier. Sadly, I did not. I sat through and watched nearly every minute of one of the worst efforts you will see all year.
Rodgers is all-world, but six touchdowns before the half ends? Totally unacceptable, Chicago.
The talent on defense is not there, but what’s more disturbing is the lack of passion that you see from Chicago all across the board.
The Bears totally quit on Marc Trestman in consecutive weeks and look like a team that is trying to get its coach fired.
Game Of The Week
Detroit (7-2) at Arizona (8-1)
There are so many good games coming up this week, but this one really caught my eye. The winner of this game can make a case that they are the best team in the NFC and maybe the best team in football.
Although both are in very good shape at the moment, that can change in a hurry because of the loaded nature of the NFC.
The Cardinals have been unbelievable, but now they will have to do without Carson Palmer for the rest of the season. Drew Stanton has played well in relief, but is he ready for one of the best defenses in the league?
You won’t hear any “woe is me” talk from Bruce Arians. He’s already on record of saying the Cardinals can still get to the Super Bowl even with Stanton playing quarterback. Talk about a bold take!
Stanton has been waiting for an opportunity for a very long time. Now he gets his chance.
JJ’s Sucker Bet Of The Week (0-2)
Seattle +1.5 at Kansas City
I promise y’all. Third time will be the charm!
Defending champs, getting points, seems too good to be true right?
It is. The Chiefs are playing excellent football. They won’t make mistakes, they’ll get to Russell Wilson and Arrowhead will be rocking.
I love the Chiefs come Sunday.
JJ’s Lock Of The Week (2-0)
San Francisco -4 at NY Giants
The 49ers were on the verge of seeing their season come apart at the seams. I believe this is a team that’s about to get on a run after their win in overtime last week over the Saints.
They are about to get a lot healthier on defense with the return of Aldon Smith and possibly Patrick Willis. That’s very bad news for the New York Giants’ mediocre offensive line.
Here’s the question you should ask yourself getting ready for Sunday: How in the world can you trust the Giants after what you’ve seen the last month? They can’t stop run, can’t get to the quarterback and can’t run the football.
Giants are a mess, and the 49ers are ready to make their move.
John Jastremski was the winner of Fantasy Phenom in 2011 and can be heard on his program, “JJ After Dark,” on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. (This week: Saturday 2-6 a.m. on CBS Sports Radio and Sunday 3-6 a.m. on WFAN.) Follow him on Twitter — @john_jastremski.
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