Monday, November 7, 2011

Where is the Fitzmagic of Yesteryear?

Only two weeks removed from a terribly boring weekend and a scheduling nightmare in which no NFL game featured a matchup between two winning teams, we were treated to one of the best days of football that anyone could ask for. I was fortunate enough to watch three straight games between contending teams. The day started with a thud, as the 4 and 3 Jets put together a dominant defensive effort to shut down Fred Jackson and the Fitzmagically delicious Buffalo Bills. The day got even better when Tom Brady threw hissy fit after hissy fit as the Giants defense - fueled by strong play across the defensive line - stymied the Dreamboat and his crew of not-so-merry men. It was only fitting that the Sunday Night matchup between two fierce AFC North rivals turned into an epic. The Ravens victory, covered in the previous article, was a fantastic cap to a great day of football.

Much like Hogwarts, Revis Island does not allow any magic on premises.

The Jets-Bills game did not live up to its top-flight billing (I made a pun!) as the two-score difference separating the teams at the end of the day does not adequately convey the Jets' dominance throughout, but it was a close one for a half. The Jets offense continues to be incredibly frustrating and difficult to watch. After leading the team on a 15 play, 87 yard drive which took more than ten minutes off the clock, the Sanchize managed to overthrow Dustin Keller in the back of the end zone, landing a pass firmly in the welcoming arms of Bills' free safety Jairus Byrd. The Jets could not find the end zone until an LT touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter. Although Tomlinson only gave the team a 13-0 lead, it felt like more than enough in a game in which the defense is this dominant. Although FJax was able to rip off 4.6 per carry, the Jets containment came from the same place it always has this season: the secondary. Fitzpatrick completed fewer than half his passes, and finished with a QB rating of 51.9, boosted a large degree by a touchdown drive that took place in garbage time, with the Bills trailing by 24 points with only 3 minutes remaining. While the score and some of the stats did not betray the magnitude of this blowout, the Jets managed to control the ball for 38 of the game's 60 minutes. This was an important win for the Jets, who won their first road game of the season and their second in division.

As good as the Pats-Giants game must have felt for Giants fans, it must have been maddening. How does one team manage to both lose to the Seahawks at home and beat the Patriots at Gillette? This Giants team has proven that it will play to the level of its competition, winning 4 games by 4 points or fewer thus far. The contrast between this game and the Seahawks game was astounding. Despite playing without their best running back (Bradshaw) and their best wide receiver (Nicks), Eli managed to work with what he did have and he did just enough to squeak out a win. When that Giants defensive line is at full health, they are a daunting matchup for anyone. The Patriots offense had not been shutout for the first half of a game in 783 years, but the Giants D managed to do just that. The team's build can be incredibly successful when they are clicking. They have four players who can consistently get to the quarterback and win one-on-one matchups in Kiwanuka, Tuck, Umenyiora, and Pierre-Paul. It is impossible to know which Eli Manning will show up on any given Sunday, but if the right one does, this is a team that can make a push deep into the playoffs.

This spectacular day of football really highlighted how much parity there is in the AFC. As it stands, there are no undefeated and no one-loss teams in the conference. In fact, the Ravens and the Bungles (SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?) are the only two loss teams in the AFC. There is a pack of good teams assembling just behind these frontrunners, as there are now 5 three-loss teams and 4 four-loss teams. Two of these three-loss teams will meet next Sunday, when the Patriots visit the Jets in a game which will determine the AFC East's division leader. Belichick and Brady are famously good at bouncing back from losses, and so it will be fascinating to see if they can bounce back from consecutive losses while playing on the road against a division rival.

With the presence of an undefeated team in the Packers and a one-loss team in the 49ers, the NFC has not seen as much parity. However, outside of the NFC West, every other division is still somewhat close.

While plenty of intriguing storylines remain, it is tough to imagine a regular season slate of games that are more entertaining than those which took place on November 6th, 2011.

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