The Monday tavern

We have now entered the second half of the season, and what a way to start it -- the Patriots facing the Colts on Sunday night in Indy. This will be like Ali-Frazier. It will be a heavyweight fight on the field and the NFL’s version of chess off the field. The build up for these kinds of games make you wish the week would just fly by.

Here’s a look at…..

The Sunday best

I love the fact the NFL and Fox Sports honored the men and women fighting for our country in Afghanistan as we prepare for the Marines’ birthday on Tuesday and Veterans Day next week. We owe a great sense of gratitude to everyone involved there.

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner throws five touchdown passes against a defense formerly known as the Monsters of the Midway, the Chicago Bears. Warner has made the 2009 Arizona Cardinals road warriors this year with their impressive 4-0 road record.

Speaking of the Cards, head coach Ken Whisenhunt is clearly in charge of his team and is going to play the players who practice and prepare for the games. Not playing Anquan Boldin let everyone inside the locker room know who the boss is.

Jim Caldwell, the head coach of the Colts, has gone through the first eight games of the season undefeated. The offense has been outstanding, but the defense, in spite of all the injuries, has been remarkable at preventing teams from scoring. The changes Caldwell made to the defensive staff have paid dividends.

Bengals corners Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, two of the best in the NFL at their positions, shut down the Ravens’ passing attack. Both should be in the Pro Bowl this season. Hall had his fourth interception in as many games.

Before the past two games, running back Michael Turner of the Falcons had not looked like his former self. But Sunday, he was sensational against a very physical Washington Redskins defense. Turner has 317 yards rushing and three touchdowns the last two games.

Welcome to the win column, Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Bucs. They gained their first win of the season, beating the Packers while starting their first-round pick, quarterback Josh Freeman, in his first game. The Bucs scored 21 fourth-quarter points to rally and upset the Packers in the most surprising win of the day. I’m sure many of Green Bay’s staff members are amazed and bewildered.

The Sunday funnies...

Does everyone, with the exception of the Raiders and Redskins, gain 400 yards on the Kansas City defense? In six of the eight games they’ve played, the Chiefs have allowed more than 400 yards of offense. Tamba Hali is having a great year, but no one knows it except the tackles he faces each week.

Baltimore’s defense could not get off the field Sunday, playing 40 minutes and allowing the Bengals to amass 369 totals yards. The Bengals proved that Cedric Benson’s last outing was no fluke as he joined former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis as the only players to rush for 100 or more yards twice against the Ravens in the same season.

Green Bay’s lack of offensive line talent is becoming a huge problem. Aaron Rodgers does hold onto the ball too long, but he was sacked six times yesterday and 37 times already this season. Last year, he was sacked only 34 times. It’s hard to win in the league when the protection is bad.

Houston had its chances, but penalties gave the Colts six extra first downs. The Colts are good on offense without any help, but they were deadly with the little help the Texans provided.

The Panthers have themselves to blame for letting the Saints off the hook. They got too conservative and should realize that the only way to beat the 2009 version of the Saints is too keep trying to score, not call runs on third and long.

Detroit might be the best first-half bad team in the NFL. The Lions can get a lead on teams, but they lack so much talent they can’t play consistently well for 60 minutes.

On the lookout…

When the Titans have Cortland Finnegan back in their secondary, they’re a much better team. Finnegan is like a ball magnet and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. His balance is always exceptional, and he’s always ready to make a play.

He takes a ton of heat when things go bad, but Tony Romo has played well since the bye week, and his November numbers are outstanding. In his last 13 November starts, he’s 13-0 and has thrown 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

The Chargers won yesterday with only 226 yards of offense and 22:13 time of possession. They found that their defense can make plays, and with the re-emergence of pass rushing linebacker Shaun Phillips, who has five sacks in his last three games, they have improved.

The Dolphins are going to keep getting spread formations and stacked receivers until they learn to play a little more zone and get some more speed on the field, especially in the middle of their defense. Like the Giants, the Dolphins are a size/speed team that lacks some explosive players.

Off the beaten track

Titans quarterback Vince Young has come back to his starting role as a different player. He’s poised, he’s taking the plays the defense presents, and he’s making much better decisions. He looks to have learned from his time on the bench.

Peyton Manning was 26 of 40, 242 yards, with one touchdown and an interception in the first half against Houston. That’s the most passes by anyone since Rich Gannon had 41 attempts against the Steelers in 2002.

Dolphins wildcat update: 10 plays, 7 yards, TD (Note: This does not include plays in which Pat White is the QB; the Dolphins consider wildcat plays to be only those involving direct snaps to a RB). The past three weeks, the Dolphins’ wildcat has had 31 carries for 41 yards. It’s dying a slow and very painful death.

Three-step dot drops...a dot dot dot thought...

…Since Bears head coach Lovie Smith is running the defense this year, does that mean he might have to fire himself this offseason? This defense is really bad fundamentally, scheme-wise and personnel-wise.

…When a team is expected to win and doesn’t, changes happen. Everyone seems to be all over Rod Turner, the Bears offensive coordinator, but they’ve been down 62-10 in the two of their last three games at the half. Hard to play good offense when you’re behind by that much.

…It took five interceptions and a missed field goal by the Lions for the Seahawks to win at home Sunday. At home -- where the multi-personality Seahawks are normally very good. But they’re not a good team right now and must think about how they can rebuild this roster quickly.

…What happened to the Giants’ offensive line? Eli Manning was sacked five times yesterday and 10 times in the last three games.

…Every time the Titans give the ball to someone other than Chris Johnson, the opposing defense can breathe a sigh of relief. I have never seen a player since Barry Sanders who can makes everyone else on the field look slow.

…The Ravens might want to give thought to having a tryout for kickers this we ek. Steven Hauschka missed a 38-yarder, making him 7 of 11 beyond 30 yards.

…I’m not sure how New England wide receiver Randy Moss can get single coverage in any game. Yesterday against Miami, he proved that when he’s singled he can dominate a game. Getting beaten by the Patriots is one thing; single-covering Moss is another.

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