Six Points: Easy pickings

Cris Carter
Yahoo! SportsNovember 1, 2004

I told you so.

I predicted that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be the first team this season to beat the New England Patriots. But I have to say it was more of a feeling than a prediction. Having played in the league and been on a Minnesota Vikings team that opened the season 7-0 in 1998, I'm more concerned about road games. And the Patriots were banged-up going into this game.

If you looked at the Patriots' results the last four games, they were in some dogfights. Eventually, that catches up to you. Plus, New England was going up against a Steelers team that was coming off a bye week.

Sure, the Steelers had the hot quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. But they have other weapons in receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress and running back Duce Staley. When you have talent like that and a dominant defensive line, the game is easier for a quarterback, even a rookie.

All those things were in consideration before I picked Pittsburgh to end New England's 21-game winning streak.

GO ROUTES
(Those who made great strides in Week 8)

1. Joey Porter. The one thing the Patriots do is give Tom Brady all day to throw. But Joey Porter played the best I've seen him play in a couple of years. Lining up as a defensive end instead of a linebacker, Porter was all over Brady in racking up three sacks and two forced fumbles.

2. Drew Brees. He looked brilliant in throwing for five touchdowns and completing 22 of 25 passes against Oakland. Drew Brees is gaining confidence every week. Combine that with the Chargers' running game, and people are going to forget that San Diego drafted Philip Rivers. Then again, San Diego could be setting itself up for a situation where it can trade Brees in the offseason.

3. Priest Holmes. He continues to amaze me as far as what he can do and how effective he is. His 143-yard (rushing), three-TD game was another dominant performance, and the Chiefs needed every yard of it because the Colts kept firing back at them. You knew Indianapolis was going to come back after the upset loss to Jacksonville last week, but Priest Holmes was the difference in this game.

FADE ROUTES
(Those who dropped the ball in Week 8)

1. Problematic Panthers. The Carolina Panthers developed a style of play that enabled them to win. That style is predicated on running the ball, eating up the clock, having the defense play solidly and staying in good field position with special teams. But Carolina can't do that anymore with all of its injuries. This team is in disarray, not from a locker-room standpoint, but with the way it was meant to win.

2. Jake Plummer. You look at his 499 yards, but the Denver Broncos were down by a lot when he gained those yards. He threw three interceptions, and all three were crucial. Jake Plummer doesn't make the brightest decisions with the football. For Mike Shananan, whom I believe has the brightest offensive mind in football today, it's more frustrating because he has put a lot of faith in Plummer as the quarterback. I do not believe that Plummer is the quarterback of the future for Denver.

3. Redskins and Republicans. There was bad news for both the Washington Redskins and the Republican Party. The Redskins' loss means that the White House will have a new tenant because the incumbent party has lost every presidential election since 1936 that immediately followed a Redskins home loss. The defeat also will have a lasting effect with the Redskins because they lose the same way every week and now sit in last place in the NFC East at 2-5.

QUICK HITCHES

  • I loved Terrell Owens' touchdown dance. It's nice that he's playing in the NFC and Ray Lewis is playing in the AFC; he won't have to face Ray in a long time. And it was a good impression of Lewis' pregame dance. It might rub a few people the wrong way – it's something I would never do – but it was creative. The Ravens had plenty of opportunities to stop him from doing it on Owens' 11-yard TD catch. All they had to do was tackle him.
  • I won't go as far as saying the Oakland Raiders don't want to play for Norv Turner. They just don't have the talent to win. It's hard for Turner because he was the last coach hired in the offseason, and it's difficult to put in your system and get the assistant coaches you want in that situation. Plus, it's hard coaching for Al Davis, based on all of the restrictions with his stranglehold on the organization. The Raiders are in a downward spiral, and it's going to last a couple of years.
  • The Houston Texans are here to stay. David Carr, who was outstanding against Jacksonville in throwing for 286 yards and a touchdown, is playing some unbelievable football. He's turning into a great leader. The Texans thrive on his ability to make plays. Also, the defense has improved since the start of the season to help Houston win four of its last five games in spectacular fashion.
  • The Indianapolis Colts' defense isn't good enough for them to win the Super Bowl. When you watch them week in and week out, you notice that their defense can't get stops in crucial situations. They were in perfect position to come back and beat the Chiefs, but the Colts simply can't stop teams at the end of games. You have to have a defense that can get stops to win a Super Bowl, and the Colts' defense just can't do it.
  • My hat is off to Keyshawn Johnson. He played a great game in the Dallas Cowboys' must-win against Detroit. He's really carrying the receiving corps with Terry Glenn being out for the season. The trade from Tampa Bay to Dallas has been great for Keyshawn.
  • The Minnesota Vikings had better get Randy Moss healthy.
  • Don't be surprised if Kansas City comes back to win the AFC West. The Chiefs can really score, and at least their defense is better than Indy's.
  • Looking ahead to Week 9, I expect Pittsburgh to give Philadelphia problems. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers beat the Eagles, too. But one thing Philly has going its way is this: It has T.O. What about Pittsburgh's secondary? Hey, none of those DBs are going to the Hall of Fame.