Tag:Oakland Raiders
Posted on: October 19, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Report: Carson Palmer to start for Raiders Sunday

Posted by Will Brinson



The Carson Palmer era is underway already -- the newly-acquired quarterback will reportedly start for the Raiders this Sunday.

Palmer was traded from Cincinnati to Oakland on Tuesday for a pair of early-round picks (at least a 2012 first-rounder) and Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Wednesday that the Raiders will give Palmer the start against the Chiefs in Week 7, just five days after acquiring him.

[Should Palmer start Sunday? Chat Live Now!]

The decision to roll with Palmer is interesting, albeit not shocking. As we've covered before, the quarterback depth chart for the Raiders, sans Palmer, looks like this: Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor, Shane Lechler. (And as we've said before: Yikes.)

Palmer to the Raiders

Palmer's familiar with Hue Jackson's scheme as he worked with Jackson in Cincinnati, and Palmer will get three days to work with the first-team offense. Additionally, the Raiders have a guy that's arguably the best running back in the NFL in Darren McFadden leading the NFL's second-best rushing attack, as Oakland averages 160 rushing yards per game.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, surrender 119.6 rushing yards per game (21st in the NFL).

Ultimately, the Raiders decision hinges on this: does Palmer, with a limited playbook and only five days to get integrated with their team, give them a better chance to win against Kansas City than Boller does?

Jackson clearly believes that he does.

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Posted on: October 19, 2011 9:27 am
 

Hue: Palmer 'greatest trade,' maybe starting?

Posted by Will Brinson



Now that Carson Palmer day is over and he's finally found a home in Oakland, it's time to solemnly reflect on the importance of this deal and wonder whether or not Palmer can step in and start for the Raiders right away.

Or we could break down Hue Jackson calling it the "greatest trade in football." What?

"We were able to put together what I think is probably the greatest trade in football, in my opinion," Jackson said. "Obviously, I think everybody knows that we needed to go out and address our quarterback situation."

OK, look it was a great trade. And I don't mean "we bamboozled a team and got superb value" great, or "the biggest names in football involved blockbuster" great. I mean "where the hell did that come from and man that's crazy but they gave up WHAT?" great. That's great for the media and fans and blowing up everyone's Tuesday, but I'm not sure it's great for the Raiders.



We'll know that when Palmer gets on the field. Which leads us to wonder when, exactly, that will happen. Because Jackson was asked Tuesday if Palmer could start as early as Sunday versus the Chiefs, but declined to give an answer.

Palmer to the Raiders

"You think I’m going to tell you that right now?" Jackson said to reporters on Tuesday. "You know me a little bit better than that. OK, you do try. All you guys try; I’m not going to let that out of the bag just yet but you guys be ready for anything from me. I think you know that.

"We’ll see as we continue to move through the week exactly where we are."

This weekend is a perfect time for the Raiders to have an impossible decision -- the Chiefs are 2-3, thanks to wins against the Colts and Vikings, are now just 2-3, and need this game badly to get back into the AFC West race.

Playing Kyle Boller will benefit them, and they'll probably end up getting to play against him -- expecting Palmer to be ready to start five days after being traded to Oakland just seems too crazy to be real.

But we also said the same thing about the Raiders trading for him in the first place.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:21 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Podcast: Breaking down the Carson Palmer trade

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The NFL trade deadline is usally a real stinker. Not this year -- the Raiders made an uber-aggressive play to pick up Carson Palmer from the Bengals and try to make a postseason run.

In exchange, they gave up a 2012 first-round pick and a conditional 2013 first-round pick (we have since learned it's a first-round pick only if the Raiders win at least one playoff game) to get a quarterback not named Kyle Boller.

Below, we break down what the Bengals got in return, if Oakland overpaid, who won and lost the deal, if Palmer makes the Raiders Super Bowl contenders, whether Al Davis would have approved of the deal, what this means for the Broncos and Kyle Orton.

Then Michael David Smith joins the show to break down Week 6 of NFL action and talk about the Lions first loss of the year.

Just hit the play button below to listen (and did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.


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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:12 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Carson Palmer trade: Winners, losers

Posted by Will Brinson



On Tuesday, Oakland shocked the world by dealing two first-round draft picks -- a 2012 first-rounder and a 2013 conditional first-rounder -- for Carson Palmer, retired Bengals quarterback.

Though the Raiders success will determine the long-term winners in this deal, we're prepared to make some knee-jerk reactions right now anyway.

(Ed. Note: We'll have a live chat with Pete Prisco, Mike Freeman, Clark Judge, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and Josh Katzowitz starting at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow -- set a reminder below and join us.)


WINNERS
Mike Brown -- I've been on record as saying Brown was a fool for letting Palmer get older without getting something in return for him, despite the fact that he's had ample opportunities to get a significant bounty -- see: the Cardinals overpaying for Kevin Kolb -- in return for someone who refused to play for his team. But this? This is highway robbery. This is Brown pulling off something no one saw coming and making his team better in the long run. Kudos to him for this.

Carson Palmer -- Guess Mike Brown *technically* caved to his demands huh? Sure, Brown would have been a damn fool to pass up what the Raiders gave, but Palmer's now released from the control of Brown and the Bengals and he gets to play football again. Plus, he's doing it for a team that's a contender, a coach he likes and knows, and he has a pile of weapons available that don't spend their time away from the field filming VH-1 shows.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore -- Put quite simply, they're not going to spend the rest of the year getting speared over the middle and/or trying not to have their ankles broken by a bunch of short-hoppers from Kyle Boller.


Hue Jackson -- Not because he gave up two first-rounders for Palmer. That was dumb. But it appears that Jackson's got the trust of everyone in the Raiders organization, since they just let him peddle the future of the franchise (two first-rounders) for a 31-year-old quarterback.

Jordan Palmer -- Guess who will "earn a backup job with the Raiders" come 2012? Yup, Carson's little bro (who, by the way, I loved at UTEP) is a lock to be holding Kyle Boller's clipboard next season.

LOSERS

Jason Campbell -- He's now most likely played his final snap as a Oakland Raider and that means Campbell will be moving on to yet another offensive coordinator on yet another team. Few first-round quarterbacks have gotten as raw a deal as Campbell in terms of how they've been handled; ironically, he only needs to land in Cincinnati to hit the trifecta of dysfunctional franchises.

Oakland's Next General Manager -- The Raiders' first pick will likely be a compensatory pick near the third round in 2012, thanks to letting Nnamdi Asomugha leave for Philly. But their technical first pick right now is a fifth-rounder. Which means that whatever GM steps into fill Al Davis' shoes better really like a) not working in April and b) Carson Palmer.


Carson Palmer -- Yes, the classic winner and loser move! But hear me out: though Palmer is, as I wrote above, now released, he's also no longer getting to play golf every day and get drunk at USC tailgates on Saturdays. And yeah, he's in a position to make a run at the playoffs, but if he stinks in Oakland, things are going to get awkward for him with the fans and management. There's a lot of pressure.

Palmer to the Raiders

San Diego Chargers -- They're currently 4-1 and the rest of the division was about to be starting Matt Cassel, Tim Tebow and Kyle Boller ... respectively. Without the Raiders making a move, the Chargers were going to waltz to a division title. Now they've got some stiffer competition -- if Palmer can get back his old mojo, Oakland could absolutely challenge for the AFC West crown.

Denver Broncos -- What the hell did they want for Orton exactly? You can't call the Raiders and say "give us a fourth-rounder and he's yours?" Wouldn't Oakland have done that in a heartbeat versus the deal they needed to get a 31-year-old Palmer who costs way more and isn't just a one-year rental? Are the Broncos actually going to play Orton? What is going on there? I thought Josh McDaniels left.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:18 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:57 pm
 

Bengals trade Palmer to Raiders for 1st rounders

Posted by Will Brinson



One of the names I mentioned in Sorting the Sunday Pile for the Raiders in their search to replace Jason Campbell was retired Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer. But even though the Raiders were reportedly trying to get Palmer, it seemed a highly unlikely end result, given the stubborn nature of Cincy owner Mike Brown.

But Oakland found a way to pry Palmer away from the Bengals, dealing a 2012 first-round draft pick and a 2013 conditional first-round pick to the Bengals for the no-longer-retired quarterback. Reports indicate that the 2013 conditional pick is a first-round pick only if Oakland wins at least one playoff game.

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman confirms that the trade -- as originally reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports -- is a done deal. Glazer noted that Hue Jackson's close relationship with Brown -- Jackson was the former wide receivers coach in Cincinnati -- helped grease the wheels.

What likely helped grease the wheels more? The first-round draft pick that the Raiders gave the Bengals ... because they had to. As Ryan noted yesterday, the Raiders aren't exactly stocked with draft picks these days, having already given up their second-, fourth- and seventh-round picks in trades, and used their third-round pick on Terrelle Pryor.

Palmer to the Raiders

In other words, the Raiders only had one real pick of value in 2012 to give up, and they were apparently willing to move it in order to make themselves a contender for the remainder of the year.

More than anything, though, Mike Brown deserves a tremendous round of applause for absolutely crushing this scenario with Palmer. He called the quarterback's bluff, refused to deal the quarterback, landed a new franchise guy in Andy Dalton, and then when a team got really desperate, received two first-round picks in exchange.

The conditional pick is likely something that involves the Raiders making the postseason and/or riding Palmer to the Super Bowl; at least one would hope anyway. Otherwise, Oakland has, once again, undervalued draft picks.

It's worth noting, though, that the Raiders are anticipating a slew of compensatory draft picks in 2012, because free agents Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery and Thomas Howard all departed the Bay Area.

Also worth noting: Jason Campbell's time as a Raider is now finished, for all intents and purposes. He's a free agent after this season and given the committment Oakland gave to Palmer plus Campbell's injury, it's hard to imagine him playing another snap for Oakland.

They are, at least now, all in on Carson Palmer.


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Posted on: October 17, 2011 5:13 pm
 

With Garrard out, Orton could be option in OAK

GarrardPosted by Josh Katzowitz

The options for the Raiders to solidify their quarterback position in the wake of losing Jason Campbell for the season with a broken collarbone is dwindling, but the Denver Post is reporting that another might have appeared quite quickly if the Broncos decide to trade Kyle Orton to Oakland.

It seems quite clear that Bengals owner Mike Brown is refusing to trade his former star Carson Palmer, and now, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer has the report that David Garrard -- who’s just been kind of hanging around after the Jaguars surprisingly cut him in the preseason -- needs immediate surgery on a herniated disk in his back.

But the Denver Post, via the Contra Costa Times, is reporting that an unnamed source has said the Broncos would be willing to trade Orton to the Raiders for a draft pick. Which makes sense if Denver is willing to go all-in with Tim Tebow (and at this point, why not?).

The news on Garrard is somewhat surprising, since we all kind of figured Garrard was just sitting back and waiting for the exact right offer to come to him.

Garrard supposedly could have gone to Miami after Chad Henne suffered a season-ending injury, but instead he declined, because as a Miami Herald source pointed out, “he simply didn't feel like playing right now. Garrard apparently talked to the team and showed no great desire to play. He is, according to this version of the story, quite content sitting out this season, spending time with his family, and hitting free agency next March.”

So, what now? Well, if Oakland could get Orton for a relatively cheap price, it probably should go for it. Even if it means the Raiders basically would be sitting out the 2012 draft.

But in order not to play Kyle Boller or Terrelle Pryor – or, for that matter, punter Shane Lechler – that might be worth it.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: October 19, 2011 12:15 am
 

Report: Raiders trying to trade for Carson Palmer

Can the Raiders convince Mike Brown to trade Carson Palmer? (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Good news: the Raiders have won two in a row, three of four, and at 4-2 are a half-game behind the division-leading Chargers in the AFC West.

Bad news: Oakland lost starting quarterback Jason Campbell for the season Sunday when he broke his collarbone against the Browns.

Worse news: for now, Kyle Boller is the Raiders' quarterback. Behind him (in random order because, really, you don't want to see either under center for any length of time … which is saying something when the other option is Kyle Boller): punter Shane Lechler and rookie Terrelle Pryor, just off a five-game suspension.

Those choices, coupled with Oakland's early season success, have them scrambling for alternative plans. According to Yahoo.com's Jason Cole, that includes making a concerted effort to convince Bengals owner Mike Brown to trade quarterback Carson Palmer, who opted to sit out the season instead of return to Cincinnati for another year of clown college. (Turns out, the jokes on Carson; the Bengals are 4-2 and seem to be doing quite well with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton.)

After Sunday's game, the Raiders "hit the phones quickly after the game Sunday, hoping to get the 'retired' Palmer, who has been pushing for a deal since early in the offseason," Cole writes. "In fact, Palmer politely asked Brown again this week for a trade, according to a source close to the situation. So far, no go. In all likelihood, Brown will continue to stonewall. Brown has never been a guy to give in to demands, even when they are logical. Bengals fans probably remember the package of draft picks, including at least one first-rounder and another pick that likely would have become a No. 1, Brown once turned down for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco."

(That's the same Chad Ochocinco, by the way, who was eventually shipped to New England for a fifth- and sixth-rounder, and was on the field for just seven snaps Sunday in the Patriots' comeback win over the Cowboys. The point: there's no reason to think that Brown will budge.)

Compounding matters: the perception is that Brown, were he to ship Palmer, wouldn't send him to a possible playoff team. Raiders owner Mark Davis could try to sweeten the deal but, as Cole notes, the organization is without second-, third- or fourth-round picks in 2012 because of previous moves.

Cole suggests that Oakland "would do well to offer Cincinnati a third-round pick in 2013 that could increase in value to a second- or even first-round pick if Palmer performed well either this year or in 2012."

Other options include convincing David Garrard to come out of semi-retirement because after that, it's slim pickins' on the free-agent quarterback market. Earlier this month, when the Dolphins lost Chad Henne for the season, they settled on Sage Rosenfels after failing to sign Garrard. The other quarterbacks they put through the paces? Kellen Clemens, JP Losman, Jim Sorgi, and Charlie Frye.

But even if the Raiders somehow convince Brown to deal Palmer, or talk Garrard into returning to football, there's still the issue of learning the offense. As we saw with Kerry Collins and Indy, that's more than a two-week endeavor. Oakland's best bet might be to stick with Boller in the short term, rely on the running game and the defense, and pray they can land Palmer or Garrard and give one of them enough time to learn the system before throwing them on the field.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 6

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 6 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

1. What's Your Deal?
By now, you've undoubtedly seen the little melee that erupted between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz following San Francisco's 25-19 victory in Detroit.

NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello confirmed to CBS Sports following the game that the NFL will look into the near-fight that went down, and I'd be pretty shocked if both coaches didn't get hit with some kind of fine. Though Harbaugh didn't do much that was noticeable on the video, he did admit following the game that he probably incited Schwartz' anger.

Schwartz, of course, chased Harbaugh down the field and had to be repeatedly pushed back from the crowd. No matter what Harbaugh did, it's hard to fathom that Schwartz behavior is remotely acceptable in the eyes of the league. And though Schwartz might have looked like the aggressor, the blame has to lie with Harbaugh on this one.

Looking ahead, this might not be a rivalry that dies quickly. Niners offensive lineman Anthony Davis, on his newly verified Twitter account, had a little trash talk of his own after the game.

"They talked s*** to us all week," Davis tweeted following the game. "We said nothin ... Came and kicked that a** ... its f***** football f*** classy.. Save classy for Mortons lol"

Steakhouse humor aside, it's worth mentioning Cliff Avril of the Lions saw Davis' tweet and pointed out that it was "real professional" -- Davis responded by pointing out that he "pancacked [Avril] on a passing play ... sooo uh just be quiet go home play with your kids."

So this shouldn't evolve into anything unpleasant in the near future at all!

What's fascinating about this whole thing is how people are defending both sides. Some folks think that Schwartz is an unhinged lunatic. Some think Harbaugh is an arrogant jerk. (Our own Mike Freeman noted on Twitter that Harbaugh's not making himself any friends around the league with his attitude.)

For me, it's hard to blame Schwartz for his reaction, given the way that Harbaugh behaved following San Francisco's victory:



Whatever, here's hoping they meet again in the playoffs. In the meantime, my top-five list for coaches I would pick for a steel-cage death match:

1. Jack Del Rio
2. Ron Rivera
3. Mike Tomlin
4. Jim Schwartz
5. Raheem Morris

Leave your picks in the comments.

2. Speaking of Coaches ...
You'll notice Sean Payton didn't make my top five. And he might not have even if he was healthy, but he certainly wouldn't be up there after the incident that took place on Sunday, when tight end Jimmy Graham came crashing into the sideline and blew up Payton's knee.

The Saints coach suffered a broken tibia and tore his the MCL in his left knee, which means he'll be knocked out of shape for quite a while.

"It's just one of those things, the play kind of got up on me quicker," Payton said Sunday. "I think the second part of the tackle seemed maybe all of a sudden. I mean, every once in a while you feel like you get pinned with the play and that's what happened."

Of course, Payton wasn't the only coach who was injured on Sunday in this game (think about that; seriously) -- Jimmy Lake, the Bucs defensive backs coach, tore his patellar tendon celebrating an interception celebrating, as Ryan says in the podcast above, Martin Gramatica style.

What I'm wondering is if Payton's injury might derail the Saints offense a little bit. Maybe that's a stretch, and he'll certainly have his hands all over the team's playcalling and management, but it doesn't sound like he'll be down on the field for a few weeks.

"I might have to be up in the press box for a few games," Payton said. "Because it’s a fracture, its different. If it’s the MCL you can have the brace, but the fracture on the outside means the weight-bearing part of it really changes."

Maybe it won't have any bearing -- with the Saints playing the Colts and Rams in the next two weeks, Drew Brees can probably manage the offense all by himself.

2. A Boy Named John
With Washington getting two weeks to prepare for the Eagles, and Philly looking very much like a punch-drunk boxer practically begging for a knockout shot, it stood to reason that the Redskins could take advantage of the Eagles porous defense and pick up a critical division win.

They didn't, and that's mainly because Rex Grossman turned into, well, Rex Grossman.

The 'Skins quarterback threw four interceptions -- three to Kurt Coleman -- and registered a couple of terrible interceptions that should have been picks. This led to him getting benched for backup John Beck.

“Well number one—we needed a spark," Mike Shanahan said afterwards. "John has been practicing very well the past couple of weeks and with four turnovers there we thought it was time to make a change and give John an opportunity to show us what he could do."

(Ed. Note: Week 6 review will be up early Monday.)

Beck, who's so fancy/awesome he dressed like a gas-station attendant for his post-game presser, isn't locked into the starting role yet, though, as Shanny refused to name next week's starter immediately following the game.

"I would never announce that right after a game," Shanahan said of his decision on who he'll start. "I would announce that later on in the week. We'll make a decision after looking at the film."

That's all fine and well, but who didn't see this coming? Because if the Redskins leading the NFC East after five weeks was the least likely thing in the entire world, then Grossman eventually imploding was on the opposite scale of predictability. And now this is quickly shaping up to be the second rendition of the Donovan McNabb-Grossman fiasco from last year.

On the bright side, it's less expensive?

"I want to play," Beck said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. "I want to be the quarterback. But I’m not the one that makes that decision, it’s coach, and they’ll make the best decision for the team ... What’s gonna happen next, I don’t know. But I’ll just do everything I can to be prepared if my number is called."

If it's me, I roll the dice with Beck, who seemed to at least provide a little spark to the team when he came on the field. It's not like he's been good this year, the Redskins defense has just kept Washington in games. And Grossman's now thrown three or more interceptions in seven of his 45 career starts. Which means 15 percent of the time that you put Grossman under center, there's a 15-percent chance he's going to hand the ball to the opposing defense multiple times.

3. Maybe Romo's Not the Only Choker?
For what feels like the fourth or fifth week this season, it's time to question Jason Garrett's playcalling for Dallas. With the game tied at 13 all and the Cowboys in the red zone, Garrett called a third-down shovel pass despite Dez Bryant sitting in single coverage.

The result was predictably predictable: the shovel pass didn't work and the Cowboys kicked a field goal to go up 16-13. Then, after forcing the Patriots to punt, Dallas ran three straight times (for negative-five yards) and the result was even more predictable: Dallas punted back to Tom Brady, giving him the ball down three points with 2:31 left on the clock.

If you've followed football at all for the last few years, you've probably already figured out what happened. Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, which is carve up a defense en route to just another routine comeback/last-minute win.

By the time he hit Aaron Hernandez in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Dallas had just 22 seconds remaining on the clock to move the ball far enough down the field to get a shot at a Hail Mary, which Tony Romo threw out of bounds.

On that last drive, by the way, Romo completed two passes for 31 yards. Throw those passes on the previous series and we're talking about a signature win for the Cowboys, against the best team in the other conference at their place.

Instead, we're left to wonder why Garrett continually plays, as my colleague Pete Prisco wrote, not to lose, instead of utilizing the weapons he has on offense in the proper way. And by "we" I mean "me and Jerry Jones."

"You'll always second-guess whether or not we should have tried to run a little offense down there instead of running it three times," Jones said after the game, per our Pats Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard. "We went conservative rather than try to get some points and it bit us."

Jones said that doing so in a regular-season game was acceptable, but it's not the type of thing that he'd like to see in the playoffs. Of course, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys making the playoffs if they can't figure out how to turn trips to the red zone into more than three points a pop.

4. Bollers and Pryors OH MY
Many a pundit's willing to point out that the Oakland Raiders, while a half-game back of the Chargers, are the best AFC West team through the first six weeks of the season.

This isn't that far off. The Raiders are pretty good. But despite winning 24-17 over Cleveland on Sunday, Oakland suffered a seriously detrimental injury on Sunday, as quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“I’m not going to let this football team blink," coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "We’ll miss Jason for a little while. I have no idea how long it will take [for him to recover]. We’ll see as we go. I know obviously he won’t be here next week. We’ll continue to press forward and get better."

That's the optimistic point of view. The pessimistic? Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor and Shane Lechler are now the top-three quarterbacks on Oakland's depth chart. Yikes.

So Oakland has a couple of options going forward. One, roll with Boller. (Again, yikes.) Two, let Darren McFadden carry the ball 50 times a game. (Not terrible, but it could cause some long-term issues in terms of his health.) Three, go out and get another quarterback.

A couple of names spring to mind immediately: Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, David Garrard and Carson Palmer. Garrard makes sense because he's openly said he wants to play for a contender and the Raiders, at 4-2, certainly fit the bill.

Orton, McNabb and Palmer seem like longer shots as trade possibilities, but the Raiders have about 36 hours to make a deal, and it's reasonable that the Broncos, Vikings and Bengals would be interested in getting something back for guys that are either going to ride pine the rest of the year or won't bother showing up.

5. Don't Forget the Defense



In this, the year of ridiculously silly offensive outputs in the NFL, it's easy to just gawk at high-powered offensive teams and assume they will end up winning the most games and doing the most damage in the postseason.

But we need to recognize the Ravens for the dirty work they're doing on the defensive side of the ball, suppressed their league-leading points-allowed total to 71 Sunday after casually shut down Houston in a 29-14 victory. Baltimore held 2010 rushing champ Arian Foster to just 49 yards on 15 carries, and limited Matt Schaub to 220 yards and a touchdown in a dominant defensive performance that should make some people take notice.

Ryan and I debated this audio-style, but I think there's a legitimate argument that the Ravens are the best team in the AFC and can contend for the best team in the NFL. Clearly -- quite clearly -- the Packers are the cream of the crop at the moment.

But anyone in the NFL can score these days. Few teams can stop the opposition from scoring. With Haloti Ngata serving as the lynchpin for the defensive line and wrecking havoc on opponents' offensive lines, and with a secondary that's surprising this year, and with Ray Lewis playing rejuvenated ball, the Ravens can do that.

They're lacking in offensive consistency more so than a lot of other teams around the league -- Joe Flacco alternating between awesome and terrible this season is pretty terrifying if you're a Baltimore fan -- but Ray Rice is so good right now that he can carry the Ravens when Flacco's struggling.

And if Rice isn't up for the task, the defense isn't afraid to take over either. Which separates the Ravens from most everyone else in the league.

6. Madden Up to His Old Curses Again
What the hell is going on in Cleveland? Because, one, the Browns aren't winning, so that's a problem. And two, Peyton Hillis has some serious drama surrounding him these days.

We've detailed the drama before (numerous times, actually), but Sunday took things to a whole new level. For starters, Hillis rushed just six times for 14 yards and then left with a hamstring injury, pulling up lame after taking a second-quarter screen pass from Colt McCoy only to have it negated by an illegal shift penalty.

After halftime, Hillis returned and appeared to be out for the game. This is fine, if it's because of injury. Except Hillis returned to the game ... and didn't get any carries. He blocked for McCoy and was on the field, but didn't rush the ball at all.

The Browns weren't exactly ground heavy during the game -- Montario Hardesty only had 11 carries for a meager 35 yards -- and McCoy ended up throwing 45 times (his lowest passing-attempt total on the year is now 32, which is also a bit disconcerting), but to see Hillis hurt but maybe not hurt enough to sit out the rest of the game especially after a controversial injury earlier in the year, well, let's just say that something ain't stirring the Kool-Aid in Cleveland.

7. Ponder This
Sunday night, Christian Ponder got his first real action for the Vikings in their 39-10 blowout loss Sunday night. I mentioned this when writing about the substitution, but you can't pin everything that's going wrong on Donovan McNabb.

He's not the guy refusing to block defenders, and he's not the guy allowing other teams to score 20-plus points in the second halves of games. But it's understandable that some of the players on the team might be a little interested in seeing what Ponder, who at least looked more, um, energetic than McNabb, can do.

"I'm not a coach, but this team definitely could use a spark wherever that may come from," wide receiver Percy Harvin said.

Again, McNabb hasn't been that bad. But the Vikes are 1-5, going nowhere in (arguably) the toughest division in football and need to find out if Ponder's their guy for the long term.

Because at this rate, they'll have another pretty critical decision about some talented young quarterbacks at the top of the 2012 draft as well.

For the Bears part, lets give credit to Mike Martz and Lovie Smith for learning that if you actually give Jay Cutler help to block pass rushers, you can produce offensively.

Except they learned this last year, too. Remember how the Bears stunk and Cutler looked like a candidate for serious brain damage through the first few weeks in 2010? And then the Bears started running the ball more and protecting Cutler? Yeah, maybe next year they'll remember before they're a quarter of the season in.



8. Down South in ... Tampa Bay?
The Saints were supposed to blow out the LeGarrette Blount-less Buccaneers this weekend and the Panthers were supposed to upset the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. And then I was going to spend a large chunk of this column talking about the Panthers secretly being the second-best team in the NFC South.

Well, apparently no one else in the entire world got the same memo I did (thanks a lot for not forwarding the revised copy, you big jerks), because the Panthers got handily dismantled 31-17 in Atlanta and the Bucs straight up took care of business in route to grabbing the division lead with a 26-20 win over New Orleans.

If you missed it, lemme fill you on why the Panthers lost: their defense is terrible. It's not bad coaching and it's not to mean to the guys in the lineup, but the best way for Tiki Barber to revive his career would be to just try and get a tryout with whoever's playing the Panthers in the coming week, because there's a decent chance he could scamper for a buck fifty against that fishnet of a rushing defense.

They'll get better in the future and there's no reason to question Ron Rivera's capability as a defensive coach, but if you can run the ball, you can kill the Panthers. After Cam Newton threw a terrible pick to defensive lineman Corey Peters, the Falcons got the ball up a touchdown with six minutes left to play. Eight plays later -- seven of them running -- they were up 14 points.

Everyone knew they were going to run and there still wasn't any way for Carolina to stop it. New Orleans is a different deal, though, because Blount's absence meant the Bucs would struggle (in their wins thus far, he'd done well, and in their losses he hadn't; it's science!). Instead, Earnest Graham piled up 109 rushing yards on 17 carries, Josh Freeman got loose with Arrelious Benn and the Saints found themselves in a 20-10 halftime hole that they couldn't ever climb out of.

In short, a motivated Tampa Bay team showed up, created turnovers and completely flipped our perspective on the NFC South.

9. Bungle in the Jungle
The Ravens, as noted above, are the class of the AFC North. And the Steelers are coming off a second-straight win in which their defense prevailed and Rashard Mendenhall and the running game looked good.

But it would be silly to discount what the Bengals have done this year, moving to 4-2 after a 27-17 win over Indy, especially considering most of the offensive production is coming from a pair of rookies in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Dalton's not lighting up the statistical sheet, per se, as he's averaging just 218.5 passing yards per game, and he's only found the end zone seven times. But four of those have been to fellow rook Green, and -- I'm as surprised to be writing this as you are reading it -- Marvin Lewis was write about his offense getting an upgrade during the offseason.

And the Bengals are benefiting from a soft schedule; they could realistically be undefeated, considering that their two losses were by a combined seven points. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they have the second-best defense in the league, allowing just 278.5 yards per game. That defense has

The schedule gets harder down the road -- multiple matchups with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh loom -- but there are four more games left where the Bengals will either be favored or basically a pick 'em. The idea that this team could win eight games as recently as September was, well, not there. The four they have now is probably what they'd have topped out in most preseason projections.

And now they're a reasonable contender for a Wild-Card berth if a few things go their way in the rest of their division matchups.

10. Things to Do In Denver on Your Bye
It's fascinating to me that a team like the Broncos could, somehow, manage to create a ton of noise about their team. On their bye week. Without really talking about Tim Tebow.

I mean, there was some Tebow talk this week, of course, but it wasn't out of control. Charley Casserly reported that the Broncos won't change their offense much for Tebow, and that's probably a good thing and/or not that surprising, since this is a John Fox offense.

Most of the noise centered around Denver's decision to start trying to ship every single talented veteran on the roster out of town. Brandon Lloyd wants gone, and it seems like he could be moved before Monday's practice (the team apparently doesn't think he can be on the same field as the coaching staff). Eddie Royal's on the block too and he's generating some interest; this makes sense since both player are rentals for the rest of the year.

Kyle Orton's situation is a little more interesting. He'll also be a free agent after this year, and one would think that he'd LOVE to get out of town since a) the coaches yanked him in Week 5 for Tebow despite acting like Tebow's worse than Brady Quinn, b) he'll be a free agent in the offseason and c) he's more reviled by the fans around Mile High than Carmelo Anthony during his "trade me to New York or else" run last year.

But the Broncos issued a statement on Sunday night denying rumors that Orton wanted a trade, so apparently he's content hanging around and playing -- ahem -- nursemaid to Tebow. Or he thinks the experiment will fail miserably and he'll be starting in a couple weeks anyway.

Regardless, Denver, you're 1-4. Spend the bye week getting better, not drawing attention to yourselves when you're not playing please.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Shane Lechler's first career pass attempt also produced his first career touchdown pass, when the Raiders faked a field goal in the third quarter against the Browns. Oddly enough, Lechler was the emergency quarterback, set to replace Kyle Boller who replaced the injured Jason Campbell.
... No one will talk about it because they won and because of Handshake Gate, but Jim Harbaugh threw a challenge flag on a scoring play. Huge gaffe, since those are all automatically reviewed. It cost him an unsportsmanlike conduct delay of game penalty.
... Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to post four-straight games of 350 or more yards passing.
... Packers are now just the seventh defending Super Bowl champ to start the next season 6-0.

Worth 1,000 Words


 
Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Little red light on the highway...big green light on the speedway...hey,hey,hey"

This one might seem meaningless ... unless you happen to be a Grateful Dead fan and recognize the lyrics to "West L.A. Fadeaway." In which case you, like me, are clearly one of the first people to realize that Irsay's moving the Colts to Los Angeles. Who didn't see that coming?

GIF O' THE WEEK

Big ups to @Jose3030 for pulling this clip of LeSean McCoy pulling an aggressive version of the Pillsbury doughboy poke on Eagles coach Andy Reid. There's so much that's perfect about it, from Reid's stomach jiggling to Reid's head snapping back to Reid being totally unprepared for the punch, to McCoy later tweeting an apology for doing it.



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Jack Del Rio -- He wasn't supposed to beat the Steelers, in Pittsburgh. And he didn't. But the Jaguars showed some life. Still hard to imagine he survives this season though.
  • Jim Caldwell -- In the words of the Talking Heads, stiiiiiiiiiiiiillllll waiiiiiiting ...
  • Tony Sparano -- He only lasts through 2012 if Steve Ross is waiting out Jon Gruden.
  • Steve Spagnuolo -- Another guy who wasn't supposed to win Sunday, and he's been ravaged by injuries. But man, how did we all think they'd win the division?
  • Jason Garrett -- Perhaps a bit early, but Jerry Jones is questioning his playcalling. That's never good.
  • Leslie Frazier -- He needs to go to Ponder now to keep his seat cool.
  • Ken Wisenhunt -- He's got the Cards practicing on their off day during their bye week. Might be feeling some pressure.
Chasing Andrew Luck
You'll notice a shifting of the odds this week -- we're no longer accepting wagers that return any money to you. Mainly because there are just too many crappy teams in the NFL right now.

Colts (-500): The Jaguars and Panthers sandwich their Week 11 bye, and besides a Week 17 date at Jacksonville, well, those are the only games that even remotely look winnable right now.
Dolphins (-350): Their schedule is also quite bleak. At least their fans are happy?
Rams (-250): Al Harris is one of their starting cornerbacks. This is not 2001.
Broncos (-225): They're doing everything in their power to deal away anyone with any talent. And this is different than the Josh McDaniels era how?
Vikings (-125): Minny still has Adrian Peterson? Guh that Bears game was depressing.

MVP Watch
Pretty clearly, there's only one choice: Aaron Rodgers. Guy's doing everything he did down the stretch in 2010 but now it's being spread out over the course of a regular season. If he keeps this up, the Packers will have as many losses as there are people who don't pencil his name in for the top MVP vote.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com