By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Colonel of Truth

Ten things we learned from an NFL Sunday complete with 10 close games, two blowout wins for last year's NFC title game participants, and the worst clutch coaching performance since ... ever?

1. A Jerry Jones 24/7 webcam Sunday would have been the highest rated show on TV.

Imagine getting an uncensored, uncut videolog of Jones’ day Sunday. The fist pumps. The cocky asides “We’re gonna beat these g-d Patriots!” The muttering when coach Jason Garrett played it incredibly safe to kick a field goal and go up three late in the game (“Come on,  defense, let;s go.”) The rising redness of the face when Garrett made no effort to try and get a first down with the clock ticking on that field goal lead (“Another run? Goddammit! WHERE’S MY SCOTCH!?”). The grim, apoplectic silence in his luxury suite when the Patriots marched down the field like it was 7-on-7s and scored the winning touchdown.

And then, who knows? Was he furious? Making late-night coaching booty calls to Jimmy Johnson? Trying to show leadership by taking the high road before smashing his cell phone against the back wall of a bathroom? Ordering some unfortunate role player to be released and forced to get his own ride out of Massachusetts?

Put that on Pay-Per-View, Jerry. It’ll make you a few bucks. But money, as you’re finding out, doesn’t buy wins on Sunday when the coach and quarterback are playing scared. Jones might have bristled at the strong personalities of Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells, but his teams reached their potential then, too. This team seems destined not to, and it all points back to the man with the big ego, big checks, and big problems.

2. The NFC South is a brand-new ballgame.

With a win Sunday and a Panthers upset of Atlanta, New Orleans would be sitting on a two-game lead in the division and printing up playoff tickets. Instead, they’re tied with Tampa and have the Falcons breathing down their neck and assumedly poised to play their best ball of the season. Oh, and Sean Payton broke his leg. Oh, and Drew Brees is starting to show the strain of being asked to throw 40 times every Sunday (six INTs in three weeks).

But this could be a bit of false hope for the Falcons and Bucs. Neither team has outscored opponents on the season (Tampa -32, Atlanta -12), and the Saints have games against Indy (home), St. Louis (away) and Tampa (home the next three weeks). Still, there’s hope and pathos in equal amounts in all three cities, and that’s more than you can say in Carolina.

Still, the Panthers have treated its fans to the most enjoyable 1-5 start imaginable – in fact, fan satisfaction might be higher in Charlotte than in Tampa, New Orleans or Atlanta. If you’re a Panther fan, you had already written the season off in August and been told that Cam Newton was going to be a bust. Instead, you’re getting a great game every week, are still in position to add a stud in next year’s draft, have fantasy gold if you picked Newton and Steve Smith, and could be an NFC power in two years.

3. No one had a better Sunday than the Philadelphia Eagles.

It would have been a perfect day had the Bills beaten the Giants in Jersey, but all in all the Eagles will take a win over the Redskins and a loss by the Cowboys.

Philly didn’t exactly play perfect football in Washington, but they forced four interceptions and took the kind of must-win October road game that playoff runs are made of.  The offense had been doing its job despite the 1-4 start, and on Sunday the defense finally chipped in – 42 rushing yards allowed, four turnovers forced. Most of the “dream team” money went to the defense, and first-year boss Juan Castillo might have slept through the night for the first time in two months.

The Eagles now get a bye week, followed by three home games in which they’ll be favored (Dallas, Chicago and Arizona). They’re only two games behind the Giants (and technically the Redskins, although that ship is sinking fast). The Cowboys seem to be destined for 8-8, and now the Eagles have a manageable task ahead: win eight of their last 10, and they’re in the playoffs. It’s doable.

4. Jim Schwartz better get ready for more drama.

The Schwartz-Harbaugh fight (Jim vs. Jim!) is already old news as of Monday morning thanks to a relentless news cycle, although a couple of more viewings are more than welcome. Nothing beats good old fashioned coach-on-coach crime.

But the excitable Schwartz had better keep himself in check, because this Lions team is going to need a steady hand to make the playoffs. There’s no question that Detroit is improved. But the Lions aren’t going to win the division, and there are a host of legit competitors in the NFC for the two wild-card spots. The NFC West won’t be playing in that sandbox, but the NFC East and South could easily have two 10+ win teams by the time it’s over.

Can the Lions go 5-5 the rest of the way? Three of their five wins were in the “could go either way” ballpark – and even a single loss was enough to give that queasy feeling to Lions fans that know it’s never too early to panic. And Detroit’s last six games? host GB, at NO, host MIN, at OAK, host SD, at GB.

Ah, but they’ll always have September.

5. Andre Johnson is unreplacable.

The Texans are a step closer to fulfilling their destiny – which is, apparently, to never make the playoffs even when it’s more or less handed to them.

Without Johnson, they are just not a good team. In the 12 games he’s missed from 2007-2010, they’re 3-9, with only two games of 30+ points in that mix. On Sunday, the Texans only scored one offensive touchdown against Baltimore, and as a result are a half-game back of Tennessee in the AFC South.

For a team to lose by 15 points despite winning the turnover battle 2-0 – and scoring a defensive touchdown – is a pretty fair indictment of how far Houston is from elite without Johnson. Only two teams in 2010 lost games by 14+ while being +2 in turnovers, and throughout history it’s something that happens extraordinarily rarely. About as rarely as the Texans winning a key game. The Gary Kubiak face? Significantly more common.

6. If Eli Manning doesn’t throw a pick, the Giants win the game.

This applies to most NFL quarterbacks, but it seems like Manning doesn’t have too many of the no-mistake efforts he had in the win over Buffalo.

Over his career, he’s got 41, to be exact, out of 117 games including playoffs (35.1 percent). Compare that to Aaron Rodgers (56 percent), Tom Brady (46.2 percent ) and brother Peyton (41.4), and you can see what’s made Eli just a little bit subpar compared to the cream of the crop – especially since he isn’t usually asked to do as much as those top guys.

But the Giants are 32-9 in those games where Manning doesn’t get picked, and 23-5 since the start of 2007. Sunday against Buffalo, he needed to be perfect – the Bills’ offense was very strong, and the Giants really couldn’t find much running room for much of the day. As a result, the Giants are 4-2, and didn’t let the Seattle loss derail them – a problem the Giants had last year, when their six losses came in three tidy packs of two in a row.

7. The Fox ticker is an affront to technology.

It was a Fox doubleheader day at the Colonel’s house, and at approximately 2:30 p.m. EST the ticker at the bottom of the screen was kind enough to inform all in attendance that R. White had two catches for 21 yards for Atlanta in the Falcons-Panthers game. Appreciate the update.

By the time that game was a final, the ticker hadn’t changed: R. White, 2 catches for 21 yards. OK, we get it. It kept cycling, around and around, throughout the entire late game: R. White, 2 for 21. And again. And again. By the time the second game was over and bonus coverage had been shown, the R. White 2 for 21 stat was still all the information the viewer got from the ticker. 

Does FOX not have enough in their gajillion dollar football budget to hire a kid for minimum wage whose job it is to let us know, say, ANYTHING ELSE about an NFL game? Perhaps how Michael Turner or Matt Ryan did? Or Cam Newton? Or anyone but R. White and his $#^&%* two catches and 21 yards? In an era where it’s easier than ever to get this information, not having it on the main network feed his embarrassing.

Just asking.

8. If the Broncos, Colts, Vikings, Jaguars and Rams are going to be shopping veteran defensive players, the Patriots and Packers need to be buying.

If you had to pick two teams to square off in the Super Bowl, you’d have to pick Green Bay-New England based on their overall bodies of work and their quarterbacks.

But they are both still giving up an awful lot of yards – the Patriots are still last in yards per play allowed (6.6) despite a better effort vs. Dallas (5.6), and Green Bay is 25th at 6.1. Some of this is a reflection of fourth-quarter rallies by beaten opponents, but on Sunday the Packers yielded 424 yards to the visiting St. Louis Rams – and that’s not good.

The five  teams listed above should all be trying to trade every player over 30 in the last year of their contract, and Green Bay and New England need to take a cue from baseball and rent themselves a guy or two. A fourth-round
pick is valuable for the future, but not as much as it is on the field now for a team with Super Bowl goals.

9. Defenses are starting to figure it out.

Only one game went over 50 Sunday (Giants 27, Bills 24), and the 20.5 PPG average Sunday was pleasingly, well, average.

The average team was scoring 22.8 PPG through the first five weeks, up from 22.0 in 2010, and even in Week 5 nine games went over 50.

With the defenses waking up – and teams’ average starting field position after kickoffs back about six yards from last year’s numbers – expect more of the same.

10. Yes, the Raiders and Bengals are 4-2. But now what?

When Kyle Boller gets in the game and you still win, it’s a good thing. In case you missed Boller’s last 10 starts as a Raven and a ram, here’s how they ended: in defeat. As in, all 10 of them. If David Garrard isn’t signed by the end of the day, either Garrard or the Raiders are crazy (both possible, based on Garrard’s post-release comments and the Raiders’ recent history).

The Raiders held Cleveland to 3.9 yards a play Sunday, a huge step forward for a defense that had been dominating on the line but struggling in the back. They are built to win with running and defense – more now than ever – so it was a sight for sore eyes to see the other half of their foundation strong. Adding Garrard is the only move now.

As for the Bengals, there’s a massive amount of hope. The last time a rookie quarterback and a rookie receiver have come into the league together and played as well  as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green?  You’d have to go back to the 1971 Patriots, when Jim Plunkett and Randy Vataha contended for the Pro Bowl from the same draft class. Cincy can only hope that Dalton and Green don’t follow the Plunkett-Vataha path – neither player ever did it for New England again.

All the Bengals need to be good is for “The Red Rifle” to just keep being solid (84.3 rating) and the resurrected defense will keep them in games. That said, with two games against the Steelers and Ravens still on tap, Cincy seems more likely to be .500 than in the playoffs, but that’s a lot more than anyone expected in August, when 3-13 seemed like the most likely outcome.