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Tag:Mark Sanchez
Posted on: December 23, 2010 12:04 pm
 

Vick dominating holiday season jersey sales

Posted by Andy Benoit
M. Vick (US Presswire)
We all know Michael Vick’s popularity has surged in recent weeks – the Pro Bowl fan vote tallies tell us that. It’s one thing to vote for a player; it’s another to spend money on him. Below is perhaps the greatest piece of evidence that football fans (and perhaps only football fans) have not just forgiven Vick but have embraced him. Via Philly.com is a list of the 10 highest selling jerseys in the NFL during the holiday shopping season (i.e. the past four weeks). Three of those ten jerseys belong to Vick. Here's the list (courtesy of Philly.com): 

1. Michael Vick replica (jade)

2. Mark Sanchez replica team (green)

3. Michael Vick youth replica (white)

4. Hakeem Nicks replica team (blue)

5. Peyton Manning toddler/child (royal)

6. Eli Manning (blue)

7. Troy Polamalu (black)

8. LaDainian Tomlinson (green)

9. Michael Vick (black)

10. Troy Polamalu replica (black)

Jersey sales offer a different perspective on a player’s popularity than Q ratings and opinion polls. Generally, a person only shells out $100 for a jersey if they’re a hardcore fan of a particular team. That’s why four players from the big-market New York teams made the list. And it’s no surprise that Troy Polamalu, the star of football’s most popular team (aside from the Cowboys), is on there twice. Philadelphia is a big market, but it’s behind New York, Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth.

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Posted on: December 22, 2010 7:48 pm
 

Report: Jets Sanchez has tear in right shoulder

Posted by Will Brinson

Off-the-field, um, issues aside, the Jets may have bigger problems facing them as they try to make another playoff run -- Mark Sanchez reportedly has a slight cartilage tear in his right shoulder, even after undergoing an MRI that revealed "no serious injury" earlier this week.

The injury, however, likely won't keep Sanchez from playing on Sunday against Chicago, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, who also reports a source who indicates Sanchez will be "fine" for Sunday against the Bears.

"Whether I am [100 percent] or not, I'm in there," Sanchez said. "I'm playing. That's all there is to it. I got to be on the field. That's what I'm here for and that's what I'm going to do."

The Jets have experienced some distractions over the past few days. Although, regardless of the odd nature of the reported foot fetish vids involving head coach Rex Ryan, that's really nothing new for this team.

However, the possibility that Sanchez could be in any way seriously injured is a bit terrifying. Mark Brunell's available as a backup, of course, but given that Ryan didn't bench Sanchez amid a pretty bad slump, it's clear he'd rather stick with his youngster.

Mehta also notes he's been told Sanchez could play the rest of the season and the playoffs "without incident" despite the injury, but an ideal scenario would involve the Jets giving him as much rest as possible.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: December 20, 2010 5:15 pm
 

Sanchez, despite MRI, should be ready for Sunday

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Although Jets QB Mark Sanchez underwent a precautionary MRI today, coach Rex Ryan said that it won’t affect his starting status for next Sunday’s game vs. the Bears.

According to the Newark Star Ledger, Sanchez hurt his arm on the second offensive drive of Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, but he still managed to complete 19 of 29 passes for 170 yards and a rushing touchdown in New York’s victory.

"Any time it's your quarterback, you're going to make sure he’s OK," said Ryan, who also mentioned that Sanchez might be limited at practice this week. "The MRI showed it was a positive thing for us. He’ll be ready to play on Sunday. Will it limit him? I don’t know."

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Category: NFL
Posted on: December 20, 2010 2:11 am
Edited on: December 20, 2010 4:07 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 15

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) Miracle at the New Meadowlands

The Miracle at the Meadowlands – Herman Edwards’ last second fumble recovery and score in the Eagles’ stunning 1978 win at New York – will never be forgotten. But at the end of the day, that legendary sequence was more a consequence of Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka’s sloppiness than it was a great play.
D. Jackson (US Presswire)
The Miracle at the New Meadowlands was more about the brilliance of DeSean Jackson. There isn’t a more electrifying player in football than the third-year receiver from Cal. Jackson is what the Chicago Bears were hoping to get when they made Devin Hester a wide receiver; no player is as lethal on both offense and special teams. Not only does Jackson have long-striding speed and uncanny change-of-direction, but, as he showed after initially fumbling Matt Dodge’s line drive punt, he has t he acceleration of a Porsche.

Of course, after seeing the phrase “Matt Dodge’s line drive punt”, it’s hard to argue that sloppy play did not factor into the Miracle at the New Meadowlands, as well. During Jackson’s return, right before he alertly – though albeit unnecessarily – ran out the clock by running along the goal-line before taking it in, you could see Tom Coughlin throw his notepad to the ground in disgust. Coughlin then immediately ran onto the field and got in Dodge’s face.

But Coughlin should have been getting in GM Jerry Reese’s face. The bottom line question is, Why is Dodge even on the team? Yes, it’s easy for a sportswriter to look at the results and throw a punter – or, as Coughlin reminded everyone in the postgame press conference, a “young punter” –under the bus after an epically disastrous play, but anyone who has followed the Giants this season knows that Dodge’s lack of poise, hangtime and directional-ability have been major issues.

In fact, right before the punt, Troy Aikman commented about how Coughlin told the FOX production staff before the game that Dodge is not at a point in his career where you can ask him to kick a ball directionally. Wait a minute. Directional kicking…that IS punting. A punter who can’t kick directionally is the same as a quarterback who can’t throw or a shooting guard who can’t dribble or a striker who take a dive and fake an injury. If Dodge can’t handle directional kicking, he shouldn’t be in the NFL. The Giants have been learning that lesson the hard way this season – none harder than Sunday night.



2.) The buried stories

Whenever there’s a discussion about where the ending of a game ranks among all-time endings, the other storylines from that game inevitably get buried. We can’t let that happen with this Giants-Eagles classic. There are two storylines that HAVE to be examined.

First, the amazing Michael Vick. His fourth quarter alone chopped the defensive playbooks of Philly’s remaining 2010 opponents in half, as no team is going to risk playing man coverage against him again this season. With Giant defenders often turning their backs to the line of scrimmage and running downfield with the speedy Eagle wideouts, Vick was able to exploit rushing lanes that at times looked wider than the Jersey Turnpike. Vick, who finished with 130 yards on 10 carries, also created plenty of lanes himself. The Giants front seven swarmed the Eagles early on, but as the Giant pass-rush grew tired and the Eagles, trailing by 21 midway through the fourth, grew desperate, Vick was able to fall back on his instincts. What made him unstoppable in the fourth was that those instincts still involve keeping his eyes downfield and hitting the open receiver. That wasn’t the case four years ago. Vick killed the Giants with his legs Sunday, but his legs were deadlier because the Giants had to worry about his arm (and for good reason: Vick threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns). M. Vick (US Presswire)

The other story from this game: Andy Reid. Can you imagine the maelstrom of criticism Reid would face back in Philly this week if the Eagles had lost this game? He’ll still probably face the criticism – and deservedly so.

In the first half, backed up on their own 18 and with less than 30 seconds to play, Reid allowed his team to throw. Jeremy Maclin caught a quick slant but promptly fumbled, giving the Giants possession at the eight-yard line. It was the exact scenario that inspires most coaches to take a knee or run the ball in that situation. Even more bizarre than the awful decision to throw was that, just one play earlier, Philadelphia had run the ball in what appeared to be an effort to drain the clock.

It took New York one eight-yard pass to convert their golden opportunity into a touchdown and 24-3 lead (Hakeem Nicks beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson; Patterson had a nightmarish game that, unfortunately, will prevent most casual fans from recognizing that the fifth-year veteran has been stellar if not spectacular since becoming a starter for the first time last month).

Reid’s second blunder was not challenging the DeSean Jackson fumble early in the fourth quarter. Reid has always been one to roll the dice with his challenges – sometimes even when the odds of success are about as good as the odds of rolling snake eyes – but for whatever reason, he kept the red flag firmly in his grasp after that play, almost as if that particular flag was a personal keepsake item. FOX’s 47th replay of the Jackson fumble (and 17th replay in super slow motion, which everybody loves) confirmed what the first replay had shown: Reid should have challenged.



3.) The other New York-Pennsylvania showdown

Imagine how heartbroken the Big Apple would be had Ben Roethlisberger’s final two passes not been incomplete Sunday evening. The Steelers, trailing the Jets 22-17, had two chances to sling the ball into the end zone for a late fourth quarter win, but New York’s D finally regained its stifling nature at the most critical juncture.
M. Sanchez (US Presswire)
A win on the road against an AFC power halts all the worry about Rex Ryan’s club. This was a game that, aside from Brad Smith’s opening kickoff return touchdown return, was devoid of big plays. There were no turnovers or explosive completions. Rather, it was two teams fistfighting in snow flurries for 60 minutes (or, since we’re not counting Smith’s touchdown, 59 minutes and 48 seconds.)

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer protected Mark Sanchez with more bubble screens and quick-strike play-calls, and in turn, Sanchez responded with a solid 19/29, 170-yard performance. Crafty play-calling – like the fake handoff-Sanchez bootleg on fourth-and-goal late in the third, or the direct snap to LaDainian Tomlinson on third-and-six midway through the fourth – also helped the offense regain its rhythm.

A big part of the Jets rhythm, of course, is running the ball. They became the second team in 47 games to top the century mark against a Steelers run defense that has allowed an historic 63.4 yards per game this season. The absence of strong safety Troy Polamalu was certainly a factor. The Steelers give up roughly 1.5 yards more per carry when their superstar is out of the lineup. They also force an average of one fewer turnovers per game and surrender an extra 10 points. Overall, Pittsburgh has now lost seven of its last 12 without Polamalu.



4.) Told you so

The last two weeks we’ve talked about how there’s no reason to worry in Indy. Well…see? “Colts 34, Jaguars 2R. Mathis (US Presswire)4” is not a super accurate portrayal of the action from Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Field. If not for Mike Thomas’s conniving fake fair catch punt return for a score in the second quarter, this game probably would have ended up a blowout. (Can’t blame Thomas for being conniving on that play – if you can get away with it, then hey, by all means. Of course, the football gods didn’t seem amused. A little later in the game, Thomas botched a punt in which Indy’s new special teams playmaker Taj Smith ran into him before he could secure a fair catch. Thomas fumbled and the Colts recovered. However, the officials correctly ruled that Jacksonville cornerback Derek Cox had blocked Smith into Thomas. Thus, the fumble stood and the Colts got possession.)

Peyton Manning was surgical for a second consecutive game. He hit 29/39 for229 yards and two scores. His favorite target in the first half was Austin Collie, who caught eight balls for 87 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back after missing five weeks with a concussion. That Collie, a bourgeoning slot receiver, left in the third quarter after sustaining another terrifying concussion (he was knocked out going low for a ball over the middle – just like on the Week 9 play against the Eagles) is, at best, unfortunate and at worst, tragic. Only time will tell on Collie’s football future.

The Collie injury was the only true blemish on the afternoon for the Colts. The defense was simply too fast for the Jaguar offense. Maurice Jones-Drew was held to 46 yards rushing. David Garrard got hot for a series or two in the third quarter but had a costly interception to Antoine Bethea on an overthrown deep ball. Dwight Freeney may have turned in the most dominating zero-sack, zero-tackle performance in NFL history. And, on the other side of the ball, Donald Brown capitalized on gaping holes in the Jaguar defense, registering runs of 43 and 49 yards (a career high for Brown and season-high for the Colts).

Indianapolis is now 8-6 and still in control of its own destiny. Standing between them and a ninth consecutive postseason appearance are the 7-7 Raiders and 6-8 Titans.




5.) The Chosen One finally starts

As a contributor to a mainstream media outlet, I am required by law to preface all Tim Tebow stories with tT. Tebow (US Presswire)he following message:

Tim Tebow is a leader. He is special. He’s a warrior who loves to compete. He is young but already respected by teammates. He works hard and fights hard and loves the game. Coaches love him. But not as much as he loves them back. He is a high-character, team-first guy. And he’s not a quarterback…he’s a football player who happens to play quarterback. What a perfect human being.

So how was the miracle-working rookie in his first NFL start? Actually, not bad. Yes, the Broncos lost. But that was only because they gave up 264 yards on the ground (201 in the first half). Tebow himself was solid. In fact, he was solid enough for offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to be second-guessed: why didn’t McCoy let the rookie throw more? Tebow attempted just 16 passes, completing eight of them. The lefty showed surprising zip on the ball, particularly outside the numbers. And he exhibited fluid athleticism. Best of all was that there were no glaring glitches in his mechanics.

The conservativeness of Denver’s gameplan was best illustrated in the four quarterback draws that were called on third and long. Teams never call a quarterback draw on third-and-plus-five. Perhaps there were so many draws called because Tebow took a third-and-24 to the house for a 40-yard touchdown early on. The ex-Florida Gator is no Mike Vick, but it looks like his running ability will transfer well enough to the pro level after all.

There was one play in particular that ought to make Bronco fans optimistic about the future: on second and 11 at the Oakland 33, Tebow dropped back and lofted a deep floater to the back right corner of the end zone. The ball should have been picked off by either Stanford Routt or Michael Huff, but instead, it dropped into the arms of Brandon Lloyd, who was laying on the ground, barely inbounds. In short, the touchdown was a miracle sent from Heaven. (Or, at least it was a miracle once the officials reviewed it and reversed their initial ruling of incomplete pass.)



6.) The other ex-Gator who startedR. Grossman (US Presswire)

We could fill an entire week’s worth of Football Podcasts talking about the appropriateness of benching Donovan McNabb and then parading him out to midfield as a captain for the opening coin toss. At best, it was an awkward situation. Perhaps it was just a paperwork error. Can’t you just imagine Mike Shanahan seeing his captains walk to midfield and turning pale upon the realization that he forgot to have his secretary replace the McNabb file with the Cooley file (figure Cooley would be Washington’s new offensive captain, considering center Casey Rabach is too mediocre to wear the badge, Santana Moss is too self-centered and Rex Grossman is too Rex Grossmany).
 
The coin toss was the extent of McNabb’s on-field contributions – the rest of the day belonged to Grossman. Because seven previous years of creative turnovers, injuries and mental mistakes aren’t enough for the Redskins brass to gauge whether a player can be the long-term solution for their club, Sunday’s game was an audition for Grossman. He tied his career high with four touchdowns, but he also had three of his patented turnovers, including the one to Terence Newman that secured a loss in the final minute.

There was a stretch in the mid-to-late second half where Grossman was in command and digging his team all the way out of a 16-point hole, but too often when checking in on this game, viewers saw a quarterback jogging off the field looking unnervingly sheepish. But hey, no one is questioning the man’s cardio vascular endurance.



7.) Chiefs show something in Show Me State showdown


Okay, so Week 15 only confirmed that the NFC West would probably have trouble even sending one of its current four teams to a BCS bowl this year. The Seahawks benched quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the second half of their 34-18 loss to the Falcons. (By the way, kudos to Atlanta for going cross-country to get their third straight road win.) The 49ers almost benched their quarterback in a 37-7 loss to the Chargers Thursday night. And the Cardinals wound up goiJ. Charles (US Presswire)ng with their third-string quarterback, John Skelton, in their 19-12 loss to the previously 1-12 Panthers.

So maybe it’s not all that impressive that the Chiefs went into St. Louis and beat the “least awful” team of the NFC West 27-13. Except that it IS impressive. Matt Cassel played just 10 days after having his appendix removed. No longer carrying around that extra weight, Cassel seemed even more eager to run. He scrambled six times for 17 yards, showing no fear of contact whatsoever. The 17 yards left Cassel with 109 fewer yards than Jamaal Charles, who upped his yards-per-carry average to 6.4 on the season. That 6.4 would tie him with Jim Brown for the all-time single season record. Charles battled cramps throughout much of the afternoon. Fortunately, he’s only one of the heads in this monster backfield; Thomas Jones gained 62 yards on 22 carries.

More impressive than the Chief offense was the Chief defense. It gave up two long drives to open the game, though both ended in field goals. The rest of the day, rising young cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr stifled the Ram receivers. End Wallace Gilberry dominated in passing situations, recording three sacks and two hits on the quarterback. The stats don’t show it, but Tamba Hali played up to his Pro Bowl standard (too bad voters don’t see Chiefs games as often as they see Steelers games; the fifth-year pro is unlikely to beat out James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley).

This was virtually a must-win for the Chiefs. A loss would have dropped them to 8-6 and behind San Diego in the AFC West. The Chargers would have then had to beat Cincinnati and Denver to clinch the division title. As for the Rams, the loss keeps them in a first-place tie with their Week 17 opponent, Seattle. The loss also means that the 49ers are now the first team in NFL history to have a 5-9 record and still control its own playoff destiny. The NFC West: it’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.



8.) Quick Hits

**Cris Collinsworth summed it up best: it took 59 minutes, but Matt Flynn’s inexperience finally reared its ugly head Sunday night.

**The loss in Foxboro wasn’t all bad for the Packers, as they still control their own destiny. A R. Rice (US Presswire)win at home against the Giants next week puts them in the wild card driver’s seat. A byproduct of Flynn starting was that Green Bay was forced to conjure up a rushing attack. John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson were stellar, thanks in large part to a powerful front five.

**The FOX production team for the Falcons-Seahawks game passed along a statistical gem: as of halftime of Sunday’s contest, Matt Ryan has been blitzed 195 times, which is second most in the NFL. Against the blitzed, he’s been sacked five times, which is fewest in the NFL.

**Terrell Owens is out for the season after tearing his meniscus. According to Pro Football Talk, the Bengals seriously considered deactivating Owens for the final three games. They’re sick of his attitude. Owens won’t be in Cincy next year. Considering how things are ending there and how no other team wanted the guy when he was a free agent this past offseason, it’s possible that Sunday was the last game of Owens’ career.

**Randy Moss didn’t catch a pass (again), but he had an excellent block on Chris Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown run in the first half of Tennessee’s win over the team that I’m guessing Bill Cowher will coach in 2011.

**Have to admit, I didn’t get a chance to see the Lions-Bucs game (the NFL, for some reason, slotted 10 games in the early window and only three in the late window, making it impossible to keep up with every bit of the early action). Without yet reviewing the stories and stats, my guess is all the injuries are catching up to the young Bucs.

**It came in a losing effort, but linebacker Daryl Smith was all over the field for Jacksonville Sunday.

**The Ravens will be a tough out if the Ray Rice from Sunday continues to show up. The third-year pro has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, pressing too hard in an effort to live up to astronomical preseason expectations. Rice relaxed against the Saints, though, 153 yards rushing and another 80 through the air.



9.) My Pro Bowl ballot, offense


For some reason, the NFL ends Pro Bowl voting two weeks before the season itself ends. So, I was compelled to cast my Pro Bowl ballot before the December 20 deadline (voting closes at the conclusion of the Chicago-Minnesota game).
Below is my ballot, with explanations for players that I’m anticipating you might complain about.
*starter

Quarterback
AFC

Tom Brady, Patriots *
Peyton Manning; Colts
Philip Rivers, Chargers

NFC
Michael Vick, Eagles *
Drew Brees, Saints
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
 
Running Back
AFC

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars *
Arian Foster, Texans
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

If the Jags make the playoffs, MJD deserves serious MVP consideration. In addition to nearly 100 yards per game rushing, he’s arguably the league’s best all-around back in passing situations.)

NFC
Michael Turner, Falcons *
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
LeSean McCoy, Eagles

Would love to go with Steven Jackson, but McCoy’s drastic improvements as a pass-blocker and receiver are too hard to overlook.

Fullback
AFC
Greg Jones, Jaguars *

NFC
Ovie Mughelli, Falcons *

Wide Receiver
AFC

Andre Johnson, Texans *
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos *
Reggie Wayne, Colts
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs

T.O.’s numbers are too largely a product of coverage floated towards Chad Ochocinco. Santonio Holmes didn’t play quite enough games. Wayne has better numbers than Lloyd, but Lloyd was the tougher cover for defenders this season.

NFC
Roddy White, Falcons *
DeSean Jackson, Eagles *
Greg Jennings, Packers
Calvin Johnson, Lions

The Saints spread the ball around too much for me to choose Marques Colston over these other bona fide No. 1 receivers.

Tight End
AFC

Antonio Gates, Chargers *
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs

The rookie Moeaki is already one of the best all-around blockers in the NFL. That said, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight if you argued that Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis deserves the nod here.

NFC
Chris Cooley, Redskins *
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

Jason Witten is a warrior, but Cooley made more catches in critical situations. Gonzalez’s blocking has been crucial to Atlanta’s power run game.

Offensive Tackle
AFC
Matt Light, Patriots *
Joe Thomas, Browns *
Michael Roos, Titans

D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a tad too inconsistent as a power blocker. Too many times this season Ryan Clady hasn’t looked like himself. Marcus McNeil held out the first half of the year.

NFC
Chad Clifton, Packers *
Jason Peters, Eagles *
Rodger Saffold, Rams

Guard
AFC
Ryan Lilja, Chiefs *
Kris Dielman, Chargers *
Ben Grubbs, Ravens

NFC
Carl Nicks, Saints *
Todd Herremans, Eagles *
Chris Snee, Giants

Jahri Evans has been unusually mistake-prone this season. It doesn’t help that this is a great year for NFC guards. Davin Joseph deserves consideration, and I wouldn’t say Steve Hutchinson isn’t still viable.

Center
AFC
Nick Mangold, Jets *
Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers

NFC
Olin Kreutz, Bears *
Scott Wells, Packers

Shaun O’Hara is actually the leading vote-getter here, but he’s played barely one-fourth of New York’s games this season. This doesn’t mean that fans tend to be bias with their votes, does it?



10.) My Pro Bowl ballot, defense

Defensive End
AFC

Dwight Freeney, Colts *
Robert Mathis, Colts *
Jason Babin, Titans

Injuries hindered Mario Williams too much this season. The NFL Pro Bowl ballot lists Jets DE Shaun Ellis as a DT (which will probably cost him a trip to Hawaii).

NFC
Trent Cole, Eagles *
Justin Tuck, Giants *
Julius Peppers, Bears

Peppers hasn’t posted a ton of sacks, but the attention he’s drawn week in and week out is what has allowed the Bears defense to recapture its swagger. If you consider run defense and operating within the confines of a defensive scheme, Cole and Tuck are the two best all-around ends in the NFC.

Defensive Tackle
AFC
Haloti Ngata, Ravens *
Vince Wilfork, Patriots *
Richard Seymour, Raiders

NFC
Ndamukong Suh, Lions *
Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons *
Fred Robbins, Rams

Kevin Williams was unusually quiet for most of the first 10 weeks or so. Same goes for Jay Ratliff.

Outside Linebacker
AFC

Tamba Hali, Chiefs *
Cameron Wake, Dolphins *
Shaun Phillips, Chargers

I’ve been dreading this one for weeks because I figured at least one Steeler would get left off. Then I discovered that it’s not four OLB’s on the Pro Bowl ballot – it’s three. Ouch. No Terrell Suggs. No James Harrison. No LaMarr Woodley. All three are legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidates. But so are the three guys listed above. Take any of the six, you can’t go wrong.

NFC
Lance Briggs, Bears *
Clay Matthews, Packers *
Brian Orakpo, Redskins

Inside Linebacker
AFC
Lawrence Timmons, Steelers *
Ray Lewis, Ravens

Jerod Mayo deserves Pro Bowl honors, but the Patriots D is just a little too far behind the Ravens’ D. And there’s no arguing against Timmons. Another name to remember here: Stephen Cooper. His high presnap IQ and ability to take on blocks makes him key to San Diego’s top five run defense.

NFC
Brian Urlacher, Bears *
James Laurinaitis, Rams

Is it me or has Patrick Willis been unusually quiet down the stretch? Would love to go with Stewart Bradley, as well, but Laurinaitis does too much in coverage.

Cornerback
AFC
Darrelle Revis, Jets *
Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders *
Devin McCourty, Patriots

Brandon Flowers, Ike Taylor and Champ Bailey have been excellent, but these other three guys have been the lynchpins to their respective defenses.

NFC
Brent Grimes, Falcons *
Asante Samuel, Eagles *
Tramon Williams, Packers

DeAngelo Hall will likely get in because he’s a big market player with a lot of interceptions. But the truth is, teams are way, WAY too eager to throw at Hall. Charles Woodson is a great joker weapon, but Williams has been the best pure cover artist in Green Bay this season. If you argue for Aqib Talib, I won’t necessarily disagree.

Strong Safety
AFC

Troy Polamalu, Steelers *

NFC
Roman Harper, Saints *

Question for the NFL: why is there only one strong safety and free safety on the Pro Bowl roster? And question for all of you: why do you love LaRon Landry so much? He’s the centerfielder for a pass defense that ranked dead last in the NFC with him in the lineup. Harper is the key to a lot of the confusion Gregg Williams’ scheme creates.

Free Safety
AFC

Antoine Bethea, Colts *

NFC
Antrel Rolle, Giants *

Ed Reed is the best, but he missed the first six games. Bethea is the one constant in Indy’s perpetually banged up secondary.

Kicker
AFC
Rob Bironas, Titans

NFC
David Akers, Eagles

The Dolphins call on Carpenter a lot, but Bironas has been perfect from 40-plus yards this season. Plus Carpenter missed four field goals in Miami’s Week 15 loss against Buffalo.

Punter
AFC
Reggie Hodges, Browns

NFC
Donnie Jones, Rams

Return Specialist
AFC

Marc Mariani, Titans

Brad Smith is better returning kicks, but Mariani handles kicks AND punts.

NFC
Devin Hester, Bears

Leon Washington has the best numbers in the NFC, but no one alters field position like Hester.

Special Teamer
AFC

Eric Smith, Jets

NFC
Dmitri Patterson, Eagles

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: December 13, 2010 2:25 am
Edited on: December 13, 2010 4:41 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 14

Posted by Andy Benoit

Want more Week 14 review? Hit up our podcast

T. Brady (US Presswire)1.) Goodness!

For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots took center stage on the NFL’s headline game of the week and gave viewers an entire second half of garbage time. The garbage time is almost worth it, though, because watching the Patriots obliterate opponents in the first half has become like watching Picasso paint, Sinatra sing or Rosie O’Donnell eat. New England’s latest masterpiece took place at Soldier Field, where the Patriots were the only people who refused to be bothered by a little frozen rain. (You could almost hear the Bears saying down on the sidelines, “Hey what the hell? I thought we agreed beforehand that the weather was going to have a significant impact on this game!)

Tom Brady, the unquestioned MVP of 2010, has 19 touchdowns and 0 interceptions over his last eight games. Thanks in part to the frost-bitten fingers of the Bears linebackers, Brady has thrown 268 passes without an interception (18 behind Bernie Kosar’s all-time record). The last time Brady was this brilliant (2007), opponents at least knew where he wanted to go with the football (Randy Moss over the top; Wes Welker underneath). There’s no figuring out THIS version of Brady. A great illustration of this would be Deion Branch’s improbable 59-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half. Yes, that play was aided by the Bears’ coverage mistake, but Brady lulled the Bears into that mistake.

None of New England’s receivers or running backs would be surefire starters on a typical NFL team (not even slot master Wes Welker). But Brady has made viable weapons out of all of them. You already knew that, though. We all know that the Patriots are versatile and balanced. What we didn’t know is that a “versatile and balanced” formula can yield five straight games of 30 points-plus.

Even more surprising is that the Patriot defense has been nearly as dominant as the offense recently. The Pats have allowed just 10 points over their last two games. This season, the lineup has consisted of Vince Wilfork at nose tackle, Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker, Devin McCourty at cornerback and a mixture of players rotating at the other eight positions. The “fluidity” of the lineup made for ugly inconsistency at times early this season. But now Bill Belichick has broken-in his rookies and found niches for all his ancillary players. The Patriots rank near the bottom against the pass and on third down, but they also lead the AFC with 20 interceptions. Consider this proof that the best way to hide your weaknesses defensively is to play with a lead (something this club knows how to do).

 



2.) One game where the snow was too much

By now you’ve probably seen the footage of the snow crashing through the torn roof of the Metrodome. What’s the rule of political correctness with this one? Do we have to leave it at “Scary sight, lucky no one was hurt”? Or are we allowed to mention how cool it was? (Absolutely positively no pun intended.) Metrodome (US Presswire)

The Vikings may not be thrilled about the snow damage…right now. It turned their Week 13 home game into a glorified road contest. But in the big picture, you have to figure that a collapsed roof can’t hurt Zygi Wilf’s leverage for getting a new stadium.

When the history books are written, the Giants-Vikings game will probably be remembered for something other than the “awesome but only because nobody was hurt” Metrodome roof collapse: it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak is coming to an end. We include it in this piece – which is normally a review of Sunday’s action – because, predictably, during the hours of 7:00 am to 1:00 pm Sunday we got new Favre quotes and updates every three to four minutes. Even with no game being played, or perhaps because of no game being played, Favre was a dominant story Sunday. The last update was that Favre’s shoulder is a multi-week injury, and an extra 30 hours wouldn’t make that much of a difference in his recovery. Thus, it’s likely Favre sits. (Of course, Leslie Frazier refutes this, so perhaps yet another extensive Favre piece could be for naught.)

Obsessive compulsive Favre fans will find themselves dry-heaving if the legendary streak stops not on the nice round 300, but rather, on 297, which is not prime number but on first glance, sure looks like one. (If you’re counting playoffs, Favre’s streak is at 321.)
Whether you love Favre or love to ride around on your high horse and tell everyone how you can no longer stand the guy (even though you still watch all his games, perk up during the SportsCenter and Pardon the Interruption segments about him, listen to his press conferences and click on every Jenn Sterger story you Googler, errr, “happen to come across”), there’s no denying that the end of the streak is a big deal.

But you know what? It won’t be that big a deal for long. Peyton Manning, who at 34 years old has started all 205 regular season games of his career, needs to play six more years to pass Favre’s mark. No guarantees, certainly, but Manning will probably do that. If he does surpass Favre, the moment will feel like an enormous let down. Favre has battled bumps, bruises and full-on injuries his entire career. And, to everyone’s pleasure and chagrin, he’s always been very public about them (the Ed Werder reports throughout this past week confirm that). Manning, aside from a broken jaw in 2001 that most people don’t remember and a bursa sac issue late in the ’08 preseason, has never been hurt. That makes his streak far less sexy, even if its smoothness is yet another testament to his brilliance.



3.) Jags


The Jaguars-Raiders provided the best 60 minutes of action we got Sunday. The story of the game was once again the effectiveness of Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars rushing attack. MJD had 101 yards on 23 carries (his sixth consecutive triple-digit-yard rushing performance); backup Rashard Jennings – who, if you haven’t seen him, is essentially the AFC’s version of Ryan Torain – came in and capitalized whenever the Raiders showed signs of fatigue. One instance of this was Jennings’s 74-yard touchdown run that was part of Jacksonville’s 21-point third quarter.

Two of Jacksonville’s touchdowns were set up by big plays on special teams: Montell Owens’ recovery of Jacoby Ford’s kick return fumble in the third quarter and rookie Deji Karim’s 65-yard return late in the fourth. Jacksonville needed to make plays on the third side of the ball Sunday because, aside from a few effective play-action passes and drag routes to blossoming tight end Marcedes Lewis, David Garrard and the passing game had no answer for Oakland’s vastly underrated defensive line.

At the end, however, the Raiders looked like the 6-7 team they are when Jason Campbell was forced to make plays in obvious throwing situations. It’s too bad Campbell, who was asked to hand the ball off and get out of the way at San Diego a week ago, struggled down the stretch. He had been fantastic early on, completing 11 of his first 14 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He evaded the rush and consistently hit his second and third reads. But when the Raiders were compelled to be one-dimensional, Campbell began staring at the pass-rush and gyrating unnecessarily in the pocket. He took an awful sack on the second to last play of the game and then somehow topped that mistake by throwing in the middle of the field to Jacoby Ford, which caused the game clock to expire.
M. Jones-Drew (US Presswire)
At the end of the day, the better team won this game. With this victory, the Jaguars ensure that they won’t reproduce last season’s disappointing collapse (0-4 finish after 7-5 start) and they put themselves in position to clinch the AFC South with a win over Indy next week.

But don’t get too giddy, Jags fans. Your team’s defense has a glaring weak spot that Peyton Manning will ruthlessly attack. That weakness is named Sean Considine. The backup safety who already lacks speed in the worst of ways put on a tackling-missing clinic Sunday. If regular starting safety Courtney Green does not return from a separated shoulder suffered against Tennessee, the Jags are in trouble.



4.) Following up on the run

Last week we talked about how, lately, teams have been winning games by dominating on the ground. Nine teams in Week 12 and five teams in Week 13 outrushed their opponents by 150 or so yards. It's an interesting trend, and we promised we’d check in on the running game again this week. So how’d it look?

After San Diego got underrated inside linebacker Stephen Cooper back and predictably stifled the Brodie Croyle-led Chiefs offense. The Chiefs were held to just 48 yards rushing. The Chargers, meanwhile, racked up 207.

Kansas City still has the No. 1 rushing offense in football, though the Jaguars are less than eight yards per game behind them now. Jacksonville gashed Oakland for 234 yards (the Raiders, spurred by Darren McFadden’s ability to accelerate, rushed for 153 yards).
The Panthers totaled 212 yards against the Falcons, but of course, only the Panthers would know how to convert 212 yards rushing into a 21-point loss. The Cardinals got 211 yards, 79 more than the Broncos.

Overall, teams are continuing to win on the ground. Again, this isn’t to say that a rushing attack is more important than a passing attack. But the data does seem to say that a rushing attack is more important this year than last year. Of the top 10 rushing offenses in 2009, five made the playoffs. Of the top 10 rushing offenses this season, seven are playoff bound (the three that aren’t are Oakland, Minnesota and Houston).



5.) Changes needed in Cincy

Another week, another loss for the Bengals. This time it was on the road to a Pittsburgh team that Cincy played close on a Monday night back in November and beat twice in 2009. Terrell Owens once again expressed his frustration in the postgame press conference. The 36-year-old has actually been one of the few bright spots on the Bengals this season, but there are questions about whether he’ll be back once his contract expires after the season. Ditto head coach Marvin Lewis.
C. Palmer (US Presswire)
But the man whose future in Cincy needs to seriously be questioned is Carson Palmer. He is not the same player he was prior to his ’08 elbow injury, and he’s certainly not the same player he was prior to his ’05 knee injury. Palmer threw two more pick-six’s Sunday – one to his close USC friend, Troy Polamalu, and another to LaMarr Woodley. Like Palmer’s three previous pick-six’s this year, these were gimme interceptions resulting from a blatant misread.

Palmer insists that he’s healthy; perhaps he is. But his bizarre accuracy issues and decisions from the pocket suggest something is awry. More troublesome is that the Bengals have become a team that expects – and is expected – to lose each week. That’s partly the product of ownership’s willingness – nay, eagerness – to bring in every underachiever and character-flag guy under the sun. But it’s also a product of poor leadership. As the immensely-compensated franchise quarterback, Palmer shoulders a chunk of the leadership burden.
 
Insiders around the league complain that Palmer is too nice – that he’s too willing to turn the other cheek and endure an earful of criticism from teammates (i.e. Chad Ochocinco). The dynamic of the quarterback-receiver relationship in Cincy has become the most defining aspect of this team’s identity. And now we’re talking about the identity of a team that’s lost 10 straight.

The problem is Palmer is under contract until 2015, and it’s doubtful that owner Mike Brown, who has a reputation for caring more about dollars than victories, will be willing to take the bath he’d need to take in order to make a change under center.



6.) The Jets are “struggle-ling”

From one struggling USC quarterback to another, what’s up with Mark Sanchez? He was awful against Miami – and that’s putting it kindly. Sanchez completed 17 of his 44 passes Sunday, threw an interception (along with a handful of “near interceptions”) and fumbled four times (losing just one). His two early turnovers led to Miami’s only 10 points. Ten points wound up being three more than what was needed to beat a Jets team that has now gone nine straight quarters without an offensive touchdown.

Time to panic in New York? Yes and no.

We’ll start with the “no” first. The Jets, at 9-4, are two games up in the AFC Wild Card race with three to play. They hit a slump last season, still got in at 9-7 and went on to the AFC Title Game.

But the “yes” part is that the ’09 slump came earlier in the year, and from Week 1 through Week 17, the ’09 Jets were one of the league’s best rushing teams. The ’10 Jets seem to be hitting a wall on the ground. LaDainian Tomlinson looks more like what we thought he’d look like all along: a savvy third-down back but not a 20-carry-a-game star. Shonn Greene has been little more than a flaky flirt this season. After 17 yards on eight carries againsM. Sanchez (US Presswire)t the Dolphins, Greene has averaged fewer than four yards per rushing attempt in four of his last five outings (granted, this could be in small part because the Jets prefer to use his bruising body in short-yardage situations).

It’s not just the offense. Coming into Sunday, there were concerns about New York’s pass defense. As the NFL Matchup Show pointed out, teams are max-protecting against Rex Ryan’s complex blitzes more this season and finding ways to exploit the safeties and linebackers in coverage. However, it’s hard to gripe about the pass defense this week, considering the Jets held Chad Henne to 5/18 for 55 yards (those are his final stats – not first, second, third or fourth quarter stats).

But defensive dominance is only valuable if you have an offense that can at least control tempo. The Jets controlled tempo last season by running the ball some 60 percent of the time. This season, they’re running less than 48 percent of the time. In other words, they’ve hitched their wagon to their second-year Trojan horse, and now that Trojan horse is showing iffy footwork, jittery pocket presence and questionable decision-making skills under pressure. Sanchez is capable of bouncing back, but it looks like it will take more than a well-publicized lunch meeting with the head coach to make that happen.



7.) P.S. from Jets-Fins game


The late window of games was surprisingly futile Sunday. The Bears got devoured by the Patriots. The Seahawks went to San Francisco and pulled another one of their maddening inept masterpieces out of their…ears. The Rams looked like an upstart but overmatched club facing the defending World Champions on the road. The Chiefs gave the type of performance that had to make Matt Cassel, who was watching at home, sick to his stomach all over again. And, out of principle, I boycotted the Broncos-Cardinals game (the poor Sunday Ticket-less folks in my hometown of Boise, ID got stuck with this as their CBS afternoon game). So I have no idea what happened there, though I heard the Cards won by a lot.

The only late-window contest that was close was the Jets-Dolphins. And, let’s be honest, that game was only close because neither team knew how to play offense in a driving rainstorm.

But we can’t be sour about an entire late afternoon of football. So, in an effort to give a toast with a glass that’s half full (half full for these next few paragraphs, anyway…can’t be half full too long because we still have an NFC West story on the way), I present to you Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake. The former CFL superstar entered Sunday’s game with an NFL-best 12 sacks. He secured a Dolphins victory by increasing that total to 14 on the final two plays of the game.

Everyone has been touting Clay Matthews as the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year. But until Sunday at Detroit, the Packers outside linebacker had been somewhat quiet the past month-and-a-half (quiet for DPOY standards, that is). Wake has been a beast week in and week out. As quick as he is off the edge, the 250-pounder takes on blocks remarkably well. This vast array of skills has made him one of the premiere run-defending outside linebackers in the game (did you see the fourth down stop he had on Shonn Greene in the second half?).

Consider this bit here an effort to get Wake’s name where it belongs: in the forefront of the DPOY discussion.



8.) The NFC West: You’re kidding, right?


It looks like the NFC really is going to have a sub-.500 team in the postseason this season. The Rams and Seahawks both got dismantled Sunday, falling to 6-7. St. Louis is a young team; Seattle is just downright irritating. When they lose, they sure like to get their money’s worth.

Both the Rams and Seahawks will be underdogs in Week 15. The two square off for what could be a “win and you’re in” game in Week 17. (The league wouldn’t dare make that the Sunday night game, would it?)

We could debate all day about the merits of a 7-9 playoff team. There are two sides to the debate: the side that says “division title or not, you can’t let a sub-.500 team in and screw over a likely 10-6 team” and the side that says “a division title is a division title, let ‘em in – even if it means screwing over a likely 10-6 team.” The problem here is that, both sides can agree, a 10-6 team, or ever a worthy 9-7 team, is going to get screwed over.

The NFL needs to use common sense and change the playoff regulations after this season (the suggestion here is only guarantee a playoff spot to ABOVE .500 teams AND re-seed all playoff teams by record). If the league can’t find the motivation to fix this soon-to-be embarrassing mess on its own, maybe FOX can provide encouragement. The playoff games represent a significant chunk of the NFL television package’s value. It’s not fair that FOX, which forks over the GDP of a small country for the right to broadcast NFC games, gets stuck with a pathetic Wild Card matchup simply because the NFL refuses to amend its outdated playoff system.



9.) The Real McCoy

How is it that LeSean McCoy plays for one of the most prominent franchises in professional sports, records over 120 yards in offense four straight games yet does not come up in most discussions involving the top echelon of running backs in the NFC? McCoy was quiet throughout most of the first two-and-a-half quarters against Dallas Sunday night. Then, midway through the third, he burst up the middle for a 56-yard run (left guard Todd Herremans was spectacular all night, and particularly in getting to the second level on this play). In the fourth quarter, McCoy had runs of 13, 6, 12, 19, 13 and 6 yards. He finished with 16 carries for 149 yards, leaving him with 972 yards rushing on the season. L. McCoy (US Presswire)

Because he has become arguably the best screen pass weapon in the game, McCoy leads the Eagles with 67 receptions on the season (534 yards). Prior to DeSean Jackson’s 210-yard outburst – highlighted by an NFL-long 91-yard touchdown catch that was nearly as stunning as his fall-into-the-end-zone celebration was clever – Philly’s leading receiver in terms of yardage was Jeremy Maclin. In short, the Eagles are rolling behind Michael Vick and three bona fide stars with a combined four years of experience coming into this season. The key is that all four players have lethal speed, which forces defenses to play more zone. Safe but simple zone looks has given these young Eagles easier reads to make.

Speaking of Vick, if Andy Reid was displeased about the amount of hits he was enduring prior to this game, he must now be downright irate. That’s one thing the Eagles must be concerned about moving forward.



10.) Quick Hits

***Donovan McNabb once again looked pretty good running that super complex two-minute offense in Washington. When the Redskins botched the extra point snap (actually, the Redskins didn’t botch the extra point snap – only long snapper Nick Sundberg and holder Hunter Smith did), it marked the second time this season that McNabb’s successful two-minute drive at the end of regulation was ruined by the field goal unit. (The other was against the Titans in Week 11.)

***The game in Buffalo managed to be as poor as the weather. Would you believe it was two Jake Delhomme turnovers in the fourth quarter that helped seal the loss for the Browns?

***Two defensive ends who stood out in the Jaguars-Raiders game: Jeremy Mincey for Jacksonville and Lamarr Houston for Oakland. Both can pressure the passer but also play the run.

***Raise your hand if you had Andre Whitworth, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley in the touchdown pool for the Bengals-Steelers game.

***Did you see the way Dick LeBeau censured Polamalu after the safety inexplicably tried to pitch the ball back on his second interception? How many assistant coaches would grab a superstar by the pads like that and read him the riot act? And how many superstars would go up to that coach afterwards for an apology hug? It’s a special culture in Pittsburgh.

***I realize the Lions’ surprising win over the Packers probably deserves more than an afterthought mention in the quick hits like this, but really, what is there to say? I watched a majority of this game and I can tell you, in all honesty, nothing happened. Well, there was the Aaron Rodgers injury, of course. But we’ll be talking about that all week anyway. As far as everything else goes, this was a game in which neither team converted a third down until midway through the third quarter. The Packers lost because of unfortunate first half turnovers

***The Bucs front seven looked disinterested in run defense in the first quarter. Unable to shed blocks, the Bucs surrendered 121 yards to Ryan Torain (the most rushing yards in an NFL first quarter since Tiki Barber against the Raiders in 2005). Torain had just 51 yards the rest of the game, though.

***Somehow, the Redskins actually got more out of Albert Haynesworth this Sunday than they got in any other game since Halloween.

***The Saints got Pierre Thomas back after his nine-week absence with a left ankle injury. (Thomas had 39 yards on 12 carries against the Rams.) This team is rolling. Reggie Bush is once again healthy and in top form. Gregg Williams’ defense has been extra effective with safety blitzes in recent weeks. On Sunday, bourgeoning free safety Malcom Jenkins intercepted Sam Bradford (who, for a lot of this game, was rattled by New Orleans’ pass-rush) and returned it 96 yards for a game-swinging interception touchdown late in the first half. How is it that no one is really buzzing about the 10-3 defending World Champions?

***Good idea to paint the lines red on Chicago’s snowy field.

***The Chargers rediscovered their rushing attack Sunday (big time). Mike Tolbert had 66 yards on 16 carries. That was one more yard than rookie Ryan Mathews had on the same number of attempts. Darren Sproles, who came into the game with only 36 rushing attempts, produced 53 yards on six carries.

***Sean Smith is a somewhat limited cornerback in terms of fluidity and physicality, but he was tremendous Sunday. Smith was credited with four pass breakups, though it felt more like 12.


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: December 10, 2010 11:53 am
 

Hot Routes 12.10.10: Urlacher says Bears are best

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Brian Urlacher doesn't care for your precious "stats" and "win-loss records." He still thinks the Bears, even though they are 9-3 and the Patriots are 10-2 the best team in the country. "New England is the best team in the NFL, record-wise," Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune. "But I feel like we're the best team, period. That's why I say record-wise." Urlacher also made reference to the Eagles being the "best" team in the NFL when they visited Soldier Field and how well that worked out for them. In short, Sunday's matchup should be fun as hell.
  • Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez are having lunch together and apparently this is a big deal. If Sanchez doesn't return it means Ryan was REALLY mad about his performance against the Patriots. Or really hungry.
Posted on: November 24, 2010 12:02 am
 

LT could have landed in Minnesota

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Like everybody else in the free world, Brett Favre wouldn’t reveal to LaDainian Tomlinson in the offseason if he was coming back for his 20th season. The two exchanged text messages, because Tomlinson – free from a Chargers uniform – had Minnesota on his short list of destinations.

But Favre didn't make up his mind until midway through training camp, and Tomlinson soon forgot about the Vikings when he got to know Jets QB Mark Sanchez.

True story.

"When I looked at (Sanchez), I want to come here because of him," Tomlinson told the Newark Star Ledger.

"My thought process was, I can go with a guy that's lead his team to an AFC Championship as a rookie, got a great defense, great coaching staff or I could go somewhere where I don't know who's playing quarterback."

Ultimately, Tomlinson’s appearance in Minnesota most likely wouldn’t have saved the Vikings season. Instead, Tomlinson has found a new life with the Jets and now has a real chance to compete for a Super Bowl ring.

Funny how life works out sometimes (before this season, who would have picked Sanchez instead of Favre?).

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: November 22, 2010 3:57 am
Edited on: November 22, 2010 9:14 am
 

10 Stories worth your attention Week 11

Posted by Andy Benoit


1. Giants-Eagles: The hyped game that didn’t quite live up but was still fun

You know how college authorities realize they can’t prevent underage drinking so instead they settle for an extra vigorous crusade against drinking and driving? It’s a case of wisely fighting an important battle instead of trying to win an unwinnable war. Apply this concept to the anticipated media coverage of Tom Coughlin this week. It’s November and the Giants have lost two straight. Given the Giants’ history of late season stumbles – including last year’s 3-8 finish – you just know the New York press won’t be able to resist a hot-seat storyline these next few days. V. Young (US Presswire)

Since telling the New York media to not overreact to a negative Tom Coughlin storyline is like telling a college freshman not to drink, we’ll take the media’s keys by saying, “Okay, don’t try to create a hot seat by questioning Coughlin’s disciplinary tactics and relationship with players; if you MUST criticize Coughlin this week, criticize him for his clock management at the end of the first half and for not imploring defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to throw more blitzes at Michael Vick.”

Coughlin had all three of his timeouts with about 30 seconds left at the end of the half. Instead of using one of them, he let the Eagles run down the clock and attempt a field goal to end the half. As it so happened, the field goal was blocked. Had Coughlin used a timeout, the Giants would have had the ball near midfield with 20 seconds and two timeouts left. But even if the field goal wasn’t blocked, the Giants could have at least forced the Eagles to kickoff. You never know what happens from there (though with the way Will Blackmon handled kick returns in the first half, maybe you don’t want to know).

Regarding the blitzes – there wasn’t an Eagles fan in America who wasn’t breathing a sigh of relief every time the Giants rushed only four. Cris Collinsworth said throughout the broadcast that Vick and the young Eagles receivers needed to prove they understood their hot route assignments. But they didn’t fully have to. Vick was flustered nearly every time the Giants brought heat. He made a few plays, but he took even more hits. When he was successful – which was more often than not – he was standing back in a clean pocket.

At the end of the day, Philly played well enough to win. But since the New York media will start questioning Coughlin anyway, let’s hope they at least take one of these two sensible angles.


2. Peyton Manning Loses

The difference in the Colts-Patriots game was Peyton Manning’s three interceptions. Shockingly, all three were HIS fault. The first interception was an overthrow that landed in Brandon Meriweather’s lap.

On the second pick, as CBS’s bird’s-eye-view camera revealed, Manning read two deep coverage when, in fact, the Patriots played four deep. When tight end Jacob Tamme correctly read the coverage and cutoff his route, Manning threw it deep down the sideline to a wide open…Devin McCourty.
P. Manning (US Presswire)
Manning’s third pick was the coup de grace that prevented a potential game-tying field goal from Adam Vinatieri. Of the play, Manning said he got a good look but just did not properly execute the throw.

Of course, saying Manning lost the game is like saying Abraham Lincoln caused the Civil War: technically, you could argue it’s true, but come on. Aside from a small handful of throws, Manning was his usual ingenious self. And so was Tom Brady, of course. The man who legitimized the Bieber haircut was 19/25 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was surgical between the numbers, spreading the wealth to Wes Welker (who got his first touchdown in eight games), Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch. Brady now has 19 touchdowns and just four picks on the season for a passer rating of 100.6.

P.S. The common perception is that the Patriots have a backfield by committee. Nope. The Patriots have a traditional feature running back they really like. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has had 17 or more carries in three of the past four games. His 133 attempts are 77 more than third down back Danny Woodhead, who is the only other Patriot getting regular carries these days. Fred Taylor has been injured and Sammy Morris has been an afterthought. Green-Ellis is a smart runner with natural downhill momentum; Woodhead is a patient open field weapon. Together, they give the Patriots a classic NFL backfield.


3. Young no more

Whether they get rid of him now or after the season, Sunday, November 21, 2010 will ultimately go down as the day Vince Young threw the final straw on the camel’s back in Tennessee. Please, no more stories about Young maturing or getting his life together or harnessing his talents or whatever else so many people have wistfully said about the guy. This 27-year-old man taunted the home fans when they started booing him. This was actually an improvement from Week 1 of ’09, the last time a Nashville crowd booed Young. In that instance, Young quit on his team, got hurt and then disappeared the next day. V. Young (US Presswire)

After this 27-year-old man taunted the home fans, he injured his thumb. Word is, Young did not ask Jeff Fisher to go back in the game after the injury. FOX repeatedly showed shots of Young sulking on the sideline, even though the Titans were fighting in a fiercely close game.

After the Titans lost in overtime, this 27-year-old man threw his jersey AND shoulder pads (his shoulder pads!) into the stands, then abruptly left the team, but not before calling out his head coach in front of the rest of the locker room. This is the same 27-year-old man who missed meetings earlier in the season, got in a bar fight during the offseason and partied so hard this past spring that even callow Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was taken aback.

The most obvious sign that Fisher and the Titans are done with Young is that Fisher has said Young is not his starting quarterback right now, even though that might mean entrusting the job to rookie Rusty Smith until Kerry Collins (calf) is fully healthy. Did you see Smith, the sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic Sunday? He looked every bit like a sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic. Smith was so awful that even a pun involving his first name would be too complimentary at this point. If Fisher is willing to even risk putting Smith on the field again, you know he’s utterly fed up with Young.

If Young is not dismissed now, he’ll be dismissed after the season. After all, he’s scheduled to count $15.21 million against the cap (if there is a cap), which is about $15.21 million too much.


4. McNabb makes Kyle Shanahan look like a jackass

It was Kyle Shanahan who chose to bench Donovan McNabb against the Lions a few weeks ago (Mike Shanahan took the bullets as the messenger – the extremely ill-prepared-for-the-DC-media messenger). The reasoning behind it? Cardiovascular endurance and no understanding of the two-minute offense (which the Redskins spend zero time practicing, by the way).

Well, Sunday at Tennessee, McNabb’s Redskins were tied 16-16 with the Titans with 1:37 to play. Instead of asking Rex Grossman to put on a Superman cape he doesn’t own, Shanahan (either Mike or Kyle, it doesn’t matter) let their franchise quarterback go back out there and actually be their franchise quarterback. All McNabb did was complete 5/6 passes (the scorebook says 5/8, but that’s only because the NFL foolishly credits a spike as an incompletion) for 44 yards. It was a textbook two-minute drill that set up a potential 47-yard game-winning field goal.

Graham Gano happened to miss that kick. But thanks to three first downs resulting from three Titans penalties (including two personal fouls) on Washington’s second overtime possession, Gano got another crack at it. His successful 48-yard field goal gS. Moss (US Presswire)ave Washington a victory (albeit a Pyrrhic one, as seven Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Casey Rabach, got hurt) and a 5-5 record.
Afterwards, when asked about McNabb and the two minute offense, Mike Shanahan said, “"I guess we don't have to talk about that anymore".


5. Moss and Moss

There were two Moss’ playing wide receiver in the Redskins-Titans game. The little one did extremely well (six catches, 106 yards, one touchdown); the bigger one, eh, not so much.

It’s doubtful many people care to talk about how Santana Moss beat the Titans defense over the top on more than one occasion Sunday. What people want to talk about is how Randy Moss was blanked for a second straight game. Each person who has helped make Moss’ Titans jersey a top-seller these past three weeks has as many catches in that Titans jersey as Moss himself does.

Moss was targeted just four times Sunday. What was the issue? The same as usual: help coverage against Moss compelled the quarterback to look in a different direction. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall shadowed Moss and played well, but he had the luxury of shepherding the receiver inside to safety help all afternoon. Moss’ presence is still valuable – this special coverage was part of the reason Nate Washington had 117 yards on five catches – but the guess here is that he’ll probably want to catch a pass sooner or later.


6. The Raiders are back!

Lately we’ve been hearing all about how the Oakland Raiders are back. It’s true. The team that came into Sunday having lost seven straight after the bye extended the streak to eight in spectacular fashion. This wasn’t a case of the Steelers showing up and being the more focused team. And it wasn’t a case of mistakes costing the Raiders (heck, it was the Steelers who committed 14 penalties for 163 yards). No, this was simply a case of one football team being significantly better than another. R. Seymour (US Presswire)

The Steelers’ front seven thrived in its usual aggressive, downhill attack mode much of the afternoon. Every time Jason Campbell seemed to finally anticipate a jailbreak blitz, the Steeler linebackers would drop back into coverage. Every time Campbell anticipated a traditional rush, the Steelers would bring overloads off the edges. Each blitz seemed to be uniquely designed to exploit a particular mental weakness of Campbell’s (which explains why there were so many different blitzes). It didn’t help that Oakland’s No. 2 ranked rushing offense managed just 61 yards – only 14 of which came from Darren McFadden.

The highlight of this game, besides the fluid acceleration showcased by Rashard Mendenhall (his 59 yards on 23 carries seemed more like 115 yards) and besides Ben Roethlisberger’s 18 completions and three touchdowns (all of which seemingly resulted from him extending the play), was Richard Seymour’s ejection in the first half. The ejection came after the All-Pro defensive tackle’ got involved in his third scrum on the day. Seymour, incensed by something Roethlisberger whispered in his ear after a touchdown, turned around and struck a blow to the quarterback’s face (helmets were on). Roethlisberger immediately hit the deck in a reaction that was probably 20 percent Divac, 80 percent legit.

In what was a really nice touch, referee Tony Corrente announced that Seymour “ejected himself because of his actions.” Some might try to paint this as another classic installment of the Raiders-Steelers rivalry. Don’t get poetic. The Raiders-Steelers rivalry was three and a half decades ago. In today’s world, this was a matchup between a first-class organization and a no-class organization. Have the Raiders improved from “no class” standards this season? Perhaps, but we didn’t see it Sunday.


7. Heartbreakers

Last week, the Jets crushed the Browns’ hearts on a last second overtime touchdown. Minutes earlier, the Jaguars had crushed the Texans’ hearts on a hailmary. This week, the Browns’ hearts were re-crushed by those same Jaguars, while the Texans’ hearts, presumably still broken, were further shattered by those same Jets.

And so we have the Jets at 8-2 sitting atop the AFC East. And, believe it or not, the 6-4 Jaguars are atop the AFC South. That good looking young star quarterback for the Jets has now conducted three game-winning drives in the past three weeks, with the most impressive coming Sunday. Sanchez’s 42-yard sideline strike to Braylon Edwards was the product of a great throw and great play design against Houston’s two-deep man coverage (which is a terrible coverage to call in that situation because the corners are told to push the receivers toward the sideline, which helps the Jets when they don't have any timeouts). A seam route from a Jet in the slot held safety Eugene Wilson just long enough for Sanchez to unload the ball over the top; it was a classic case of offense simply defeating defense.

The following play brought about the touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, which struck yet another blow to all the Friar Tucks out there who claim that off-the-field character issues matter. (Only when they spill into the locker room or onto the field do they matter.)
Sanchez still isn’t reading coverages with great efficiency, but he’s obviously showing poise in crucial situations. His surprising surge (passing yard totals of 336, 299 and 315 the past three games) is what has New York in first place.

As for the Jaguars, it’s time to start asking if they’re for real. David Garrard still hasn’t gone out and singlehandedly won a game for them yet, but when you have a player like Maurice Jones-Drew, maybe the quarterback really can be average (MAYBE). Jones-Drew led all Week 11 rushers with 133 yards, and by now you’ve seen his five broken tackles on that magnificent 75-yard catch and run to set up the late go-ahead score against the Browns.


8. Saints go marching in

It was disappointing that New Orleans wasn’t able to build a bigger lead against Seattle Sunday. Some expected thD. Brees (US Presswire)e Saints to run the score up on Pete Carroll because, as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote, “I wouldn't be surprised if there's a sentiment among some on the Saints who think Pete Carroll left Bush out to dry when he returned his Heisman in September over the USC football scandal.” Bush and Carroll exchanged warm pleasantries before the game, but that was likely just the ultimate display of teeth-gritting diplomacy from Bush.

Oh well, Bush didn’t play anyway, as he’s still recovering from the fractured fibula (you wonder if the fact that New Orleans has to play again in four days had anything to do with the decision to keep him out one more game).

Fortunately, the Saints didn’t need Bush. Drew Brees was 29/43 for 382 yards and four touchdowns. (He did have two interceptions.) Five different Saints had over 35 yards receiving, including wideout Marques Colston (113 and two scores) and rising, long-armed third-round rookie tight end Jimmy Graham (five catches, 72 yards). The Saints offense clicked on all cylinders.

It’s likely that New Orleans will get a victory in Dallas on Thursday. A coaching staff’s preparation for a Thursday game is totally different than for a Sunday game, and we’re talking about a Sean Payton/Gregg Williams-led coaching staff versus the interim Jason Garrett/Paul Pasqualoni-led coaching staff. In that case, the defending World Champs will suddenly be 8-3.

As for the lowly Seahawks, they’re 5-5…and in firm command of the putrid NFC West.



9. The obligatory Vikings mention

We can save the Brett Favre-Brad Childress talk for another time (like, say, all other times for the rest of this week). All you really needed to see in this game was Greg Jennings’ touchdown catch early in the third quarter. The play was not only a masterful display of quarterbacking by Aaron Rodgers (four touchdowns, no picks on the day – though thanks in part to the buttery fingers of Husain Abdullah in the red zone), it was also a microcosm of Minnesota’s season.

Defensive end Jared Allen was unable to get around the single blocking of Packers left tackle Chad Clifton (a leading Pro Bowl nominee). With minimal pass-rush up front, Vikings cornerback Asher Allen became vulnerable late in his coverage against Jennings. Allen gave up separation on a slight double move, then failed to make the routine open-field tackle. The safety helping over the top, Madieu Williams, had no idea what angle to take in pursuit of Jennings. Waffling between a downhill angle and lateral angle, Williams eventually settled on an awkward cross between doing both and doing nothing, which resulted in him goofily attacking thin air. Jennings wound up walking into the end zone.


10. Quick Hits

**Please, nobody try to start a discussion that goes anywhere near the sentiment of, “Dallas has momentum under Jason Garrett – you never know, crazier things have happened.” No, crazier things have not happened. A win over the Lions does not make the 3-7 Cowboys special. And just in case you are a Cowboys fan who, for some reason, is still holding out hope, just know that your team faces New Orleans, Indy and Philly over the next three weeks.

**Raiders punter Shane Lechler brought a strip of smelling salt with him on the field bD. Revis (US Presswire)efore every punt Sunday. That’s what it takes to be arguably the greatest punter of all-time.

**The Chiefs lined up Mike Vrabel at wide receiver on one of their goal-line plays. Todd Haley must be shocked that defenses still don’t respond to Vrabel when he lines up in goal-line offense. Putting Vrabel at wideout was probably Haley’s way of pinching himself to see if this is real, if defenses still aren’t alert. (For the record, Cassel’s pass to Vrabel on that play was incomplete, as the wideout/linebacker had trouble getting off the jam of safety Kerry Rhodes.)

**Whoever suggests that Darrelle Revis has not been his MVP-caliber self this season is not paying attention. Two weeks after holding Lions star Calvin Johnson to one catch for 13 yards on four targets, Revis held Texans star Andre Johnson to four catches for 32 yards on nine targets.

**Why is the middle of the field brown and dead in San Francisco but outside the hash marks it’s green and luscious?

**The FOX crew working the Cardinals-Chiefs game had a heck of a good time telling viewers that Arrowhead Stadium was as loud as a jet engine Sunday afternoon. My beef with this is, whenever we get these decibel level comparison things, I never know how close to the jet engine we’re talking about. There’s a difference between a jet engine that’s in the sky or lifting off two runways over and a jet engine that is within arms length. So where, exactly, are we in relation to this make believe jet engine being talked about at all the noisy venues?

**For the record, I kept a close eye on both the Bucs-Niners and Cardinals-Chiefs games. The bits about the field color and the jet engine were the best either game had to offer.

**The Jets really missed right tackle Damien Woody Sunday (Mario Williams had a field day). Let’s hope the veteran’s MCL injury is not serious.

The Bengal defense’s heart will be seen on milk cartons across the southern Ohio and northern Kentucky areas Monday morning.

**Panthers second-year running back Mike Goodson rushed for over 100 yards for a second straight week. And against the Ravens, no less.

**Kudos to Ed Reed for pitching the ball to Dawan Landry for six points on Reed’s interception return. Why don’t more teams pitch the ball in return situations? It’s not like the offensive players-turned-would-be tacklers naturally know how to react to that….

**Just so we can touch on all 14 games from Sunday, I’ll pass along the most substantial note I wrote myself from the Falcons-Rams game: Matt Ryan is excellent throwing off of rollout motion.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com