Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 1:05 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
The world is a far better place when there are clear and distinct delineations between who is a winner and who is a loser. Since actual football records only do so much of that for us, let's dive into who's winning and who's losing a quarter of the way into the 2011 NFL season.
BUT FIRST -- we need to talk. No, seriously, let's chat -- starting at 1:00 pm ET on Wednesday. You can tell Pete Prisco his Power Rankings are awful, ask fantasy questions or just yell at me for not including [insert your favorite player's name here] in the winners list below. Either way, come on by.
Carolina Panthers: Yes, the Panthers are 1-3 and that is not what you would call winning. But this season, thanks solely to the early emergence of Cam Newton, is already eleventy billion times better than 2010, when the Panthers went 2-14. In fact, I'd argue that Carolina could lose out the rest of their schedule -- and they could! -- and it would be a better season than last year, when they despondently limped to the worst record in the NFL. There are plenty of arguments to be made against Newton's performance thus far (namely: he's posting some garbage-time stats and he's made plenty of rookie mistakes), but there's little doubt that Carolina landed themselves a franchise quarterback, and did so at a very reasonable cost.
Detroit Lions: This is a case where the record actually does match up with the placement. Matthew Stafford could go here, as he's proving himself to be a potentially elite quarterback. So could Calvin Johnson, who's vaulted himself into the pole position when it comes to wide receivers in the NFL. And so could Jim Schwartz, as he's clearly the best "new" head coach in the NFL. Which is why the organization as a whole gets the nod, since they've somehow managed to justify the hype and make the early Thanksgiving game -- a Packers-Lions matchup -- more meaningful than it's been in years.
Ryan Fitzpatrick/Fred Jackson: The oft-overlooked offensive duo that drives the Buffalo Bills are in full-on resurgence mode early in the season, with Jackson sitting at fourth in the NFL in rushing yards being the most obvious example. Fitzpatrick's been pretty spectacular himself even if his total passing yardage only ranks him 13th in the NFL. Passing yards can be misleading anyway -- he's thrown nine touchdowns to three interceptions and completed 63.4 percent of his passes. Most importantly, the Buffalo Bills are 3-1, something no one saw coming. They were so hot at one point this season that Fitzpatrick was impossible to book for an interview this season and both he and Jackson are working their way towards new, big-money contracts.
Matt Hasselbeck: Mentioned it in Sorting the Sunday Pile, but Hasselbeck is seeing a serious return to dominance as a result of his move to Tennessee. He's got 1,152 yards in just four games -- last season he barely crossed over 3,000 in 14. His average yards per pass is all the way up to 8.9, and his passing yards per game, 288, is currently the highest of his career. It helps to play for a coach that puts an emphasis on the offensive line, of course, and is willing to keep blockers at home in order to make sure Hasselbeck doesn't get touched and is able to throw the ball deep.
Darren Sproles: Arguably "the Saints" could be on this list ... just for landing Sproles. Has a guy ever fit what Sean Payton wants to do better than the diminutive Kansas State-star-turned-Chargers specialist? We used to think that Reggie Bush was the king of Payton's offensive scheming, and he did fit what the offensive guru loves to do, but Sproles, with better big-play burst, is the perfect addition to the already explosive Saints.
Gary Kubiak: First of all, kudos to the Texans for correctly playing the 2011 offseason. We've said this before, but they failed to draft for secondary help, which seemed weird, but now looks genius, especially since they went out and signed Johnathan Joseph in free agency. He's been a difference maker for Houston, and not just because he represents better value than Nnamdi Asomugha already. Kubes, on the other hand, is sitting at 3-1 and has a pretty clear path to a division title, the Titans success notwithstanding. Obviously the Texans aren't locked into the 2011 playoffs just yet, but their chances are looking pretty good right now, and that'll do a lot to justify his return for this season.
Matt Forte: Another topic in this past week's SSP, Forte is mauling defenses this year -- even if they are the Panthers! -- and forcing the Bears to pay him this offseason. For whatever reason, Chicago believed that Forte wasn't worth the cash and didn't pony up before 2011 began. That's fine, and that's their prerogative. But if they want to keep him, Forte's success this year is going to make it expensive.
NFL Fans: In just a few hectic weeks, fans of football went from "OMG, we might not get football at all this year" to "OMG, football is more exciting to watch than at any period of time, ever." We've seen scoring cranked up, we've seen incredible storylines (Lions, Bills, oh my), we've seen incredible comebacks (four 20-pointers in the last two weeks) and we've seen no truly noticeable ill effects of the missed offseason. If there are any complaints, it might be the new kickoff rules and the lack of consistency on replays. The former everyone who's not over now will be over by the end of the year, and the latter can be fixed. It's a good time to be an NFL fan.
Todd Haley: That Haley ended the quarter-season mark on a high note, with a victory over Minnesota, is a good thing. Otherwise the Chiefs might be starting at an 0-4 start and his seat would be somehow be hotter. It's really an unfathomable dropoff from winning the division in 2010. Haley's been victimized by a lot of key injuries -- Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles all went down for the year -- but things weren't all that good with the win against Minny, as Haley managed to get in a screaming match with Matt Cassel.
Tony Romo: It amazes me that Romo can't do anything right. Or, maybe, he can't avoid whatever he does being scrutinized to the nth degree. After Week 1, when he threw a terrible pick against the Jets that cost him the game, he was a goat. Then he injured his ribs against the 49ers, led the Cowboys to victory and he was a hero. Then he played with busted ribs against the Redskins, overcame his entire team stinking the joint up and morphed into a different person that we knew. Then came the Lions loss. Romo tossed back-to-back picks that Detroit took to the house and everyone hopped off the "I heart Romo" bandwagon and back on the "Choker" train. It's not fair to Romo because it's not all his fault, but none of that matters to anyone that applies the labels.
Ben Roethlisberger: For years, the Steelers have managed to succeed despite a porous offensive line. That's mainly because Roethlisberger's strength is keeping a play alive by being a physical beast. But even he's struggling to fight through the Steelers inability to block, and suddenly Pittsburgh's in a precarious position at 2-2 with Roethlisberger banged up. Of course, he missed time for non-injury reasons last year, and he also suffered through injuries and the Steelers line was also terrible last season. Still, it's hard to fathom Roethlisberger staying healthy if he keeps getting destroyed at this rate.
Kyle Orton/Donovan McNabb: Because quarterbacks seem to be succeeding at an earlier stage than ever before, there's immediate cries for the next guy any time a veteran struggles. Orton and McNabb, neither of whom is putting up great numbers thus far in 2011, are the best examples because of the two guys -- Tim Tebow and Christian Ponder, respectively -- who sit behind them. Both Orton and McNabb are slightly under 60 percent in terms of completion percentage this season, and while neither one is lighting up the scoreboard with touchdown passes and passing yardage, it's important to remember that one (Orton) is running a John Fox offense and the other (McNabb) is on a team with Adrian Peterson.
Juan Castillo: The Eagles shipped out Sean McDermont because Jim Johnson's shadow was too much to overcome. And then they brought in Castillo, who coached Philly's offensive line for 12 years. Yes, that's offensive line. Given that the Eagles added both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason, it looked like it might not matter. But Castillo's new-age "don't tackle" defense hasn't gone over well against an opponent yet, and the Eagles find themselves 1-3 primarily because they simply can't stop anyone. Sure, they're tough to pass on ... unless you have a good tight end. And if you don't, and you happen to have a decent power running game, you don't even have to worry about it.
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Tags: Blaine Gabbert, Buffalo Bills, Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Chan Gailey, Chicago Bears, Christian Ponder, Dallas Cowboys, Darren Sproles, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Donovan McNabb, Fred Jackson, Gary Kubiak, Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jim Schwartz, Juan Castillo, Kansas City Chiefs, Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel, Matt Forte, Matt Hasselbeck, Matthew Stafford, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Munchak, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, NFL Winners Losers, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sean McDermont, Sean Payton, Tennessee Titans, Tim Tebow, Todd Haley, Tony Romo, Will Brinson
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:44 pm
Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson
National Choker's Day is over, and it's time to break down a hefty slate of Week 4 NFL action. Joining us as always for the "the Detroit Lions are still somehow undefeated" talk is Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
Before MDS hops on, though, we break down whether or not Madonna is a good choice for the Super Bowl halftime show, wonder if the Steelers offensive line can keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy through the season, debate whether Tony Romo's a choker or not, question if the Eagles can make the playoffs and Matt Hasselbeck's rejuvenation.
We also break down which teams with winning records are contenders and which are pretenders.
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.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:36 pm
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 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.
1. The bandwagon rolls on
On Sunday, the mojo disappeared for the Lions and they fell 24 points behind the Cowboys in Dallas, until Tony Romo decided to drag Detroit back from a lockjob of a defeat with a pair of pick-sixes that sparked a rally in which Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for two touchdowns and the Lions stunned Dallas 34-30 at Jerry Jones' palatial estate.
There are two ways to look at this. One, Romo is a choker again (more on that in a second) and Dallas stinks. Or, two, the Lions are very much for real. I'm inclined to believe the second narrative. So is Cowboys fan LeBron James.
I'm including this mainly because I find it absolutely hysterical that Ohio native James is a Cowboys fan. I'm sure it has nothing to do with bandwagons. But I'm also including it because James is right -- the Lions do "got swag right now."
This was mentioned after Week 2, when the Lions slammed a beatdown on the Chiefs, and it makes sense to mention now.
That's primarily because the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980 and became the fourth team to start a season 4-0 a year after starting the season 0-4 since 1990. (The impressive nature of that turnaround aside, what a statement on the NFL's parity, huh?)
Take it back even further, and count preseason games and the Lions are on a 12-game winning streak, and once, again, appear to develop some of this attitude from their head coach.
"I'm glad the third best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team," Jim Schwartz said after the game.
Naturally you'll recall that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some comments about the skills of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin versus Calvin Johnson before the game.
Schwartz' comments are a straight burn, of course, but it warrants mentioning that Dez did look otherworldly earlier in the game. But Megatron did some dirty things on his two touchdowns to the Dallas defensive backs. On the first catch, he went up in triple coverage and grabbed a ball that probably never should have been a score.
And on the second -- and most important -- score, Johnson scored when he was isolated in single coverage against Terrence Newman. Based on Ryan's theory, Newman's practice against Bryant and Austin should have prepared him for a one-on-one matchup at the goalline.
Unfortunately, Megatron's the biggest freak of nature in the NFL, arguably the best wideout in the league and slicing up some well-deserved humble pie for Ryan after the Lebowski look-a-like tried to put him in man coverage.
2. Hands on Necks
Obviously the Cowboys loss is going to be classified as a chokejob. And it should -- there's no way to classify it as anything other than that, especially when Romo packaged a pair of touchdowns and mailed it the Lions way.
"The games turn, obviously, on turnovers," Romo said. "It's the most important stat in the game. That's why you protect the ball. That's my No. 1 job and I didn't do a well enough job of that today."
The weird thing about the loss is that Dallas is now 2-0 in games where they were "gritty and tough and found a way to win" and 0-2 in games where "Romo peed his pants and threw terrible picks." Or something like that.
The point is that, yes, the Cowboys choked, but it wasn't even the worst choke on Sunday. And perhaps only the third worst -- Dallas was at least playing a very dangerous team in the Lions and even if the game was at home, we've seen Detroit do this before.
There's no real excuse for Buffalo, who was leading 21-3 against the Bengals on Sunday, to lose on a last-second field goal by Mike Nugent. Sure, it was in Cincy and, sure, it was the Bills and we should have seen something coming after buying in so heavily. But losing like that to a Bengals team with a rookie quarterback is just bad news Bears.
And yet it wasn't even the most embarrassing choke of the day. The Eagles deserve some, um, credit for their inability to hold off the 49ers in a home game where they led 23-3 as late as midway through the third quarter.
The Bills and Cowboys can at least hang their respective hats on records that aren't below .500. The Eagles have no such excuse and it's becoming increasingly clear why "offseason winners" isn't always such a nice thing to say about teams in the NFL.
3. Super Bowl champs remain under the radar
Thus far, the Packers have beaten the Saints, the Panthers, the Bears and the Broncos. It's not exactly a murderer's row of great NFL teams, but it's not the four-worst teams in the league either.
And they've looked outstanding on offense, compiling a league-high 148 points en route to a 4-0 record, and giving plenty of folks justification for selecting the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2011.
Yet ... no one wants to talk about the success they've had this year.
This is partially because of the other storylines that are permeating the NFL this season, and partially because after last season's late run, we've come to expect this out of Aaron Rodgers and his outstanding teammates.
"Trust me, we don't have it all figured out as a football team," Mike McCarthy said Sunday. "We're 4-0, but we're very in tune with what we need to improve as a team."
The biggest issue is defense, clearly. While the Packers have arguably improved their running game from last year (James Starks looks like a legit back for their system, especially when it comes to melting the clock with a lead), the defense isn't the championship-winning caliber that showed up in the playoffs last year.
Both Kyle Orton and Cam Newton posted big numbers against Green Bay, and though there were some fantastic moments from the defenses in those games, it's difficult to justify any claim that the Packers defense is better this year than it was last year.
Having said all that, this team did a pretty good job of gelling at the right time last year, and they're off to a much better start in 2011. We should all take notice.
4. Hope you sick people are happy now
2011 has been a tough go for anyone who supports Arian Foster, whether it be Texans fans, fantasy owners or just, you now, nice people who care about other humans.
Fortunately, those people got some good karmic returns for their Foster love on Sunday, as he and the Texans took some punches from the Steelers and punched right back, eventually beating Pittsburgh 17-10 on Sunday afternoon. As my man Mike Freeman points out, everything about the win at Reliant Stadium on Sunday goes against the typical stereotype of Texans football.
More on that in a second, but first, Foster. When Gary Kubiak said he was going to bring Foster back against the Steelers, I thought he was insane. After all, the Steelers are (well, were) a top-10 rushing defense.
But Foster looked fantastic. He broke long runs, he showed tremendous burst through holes, when he got around the corner he was able to cut back upfield and pick up big yards and in general he looked like the 2010 version of himself.
"I go into every contest thinking that I'm the go-to guy," Foster said. "When the flow of the game starts going, we need certain things, and you've got to be there for your team."
Hamstrings are tricky, of course, and there's no guarantee that Foster's going to roll to another rushing title or anything. Plus, the Texans offense sputtered a bit (OK, a lot) after Andre Johnson left with a hamstring injury that really looked like a knee injury in the second quarter and that could be problematic going forward.
But at least for now, there's reason to think that the Texans offense can hop back up on Foster's back and ride him to a division title.
5. Sunday night monstrosity
The Ravens opened up on fire to begin the Sunday night game against the Jets, jumping out to a 27-7 lead before eventually winning handily. But, um, well, you see ... that was ugly.
Real ugly -- Joe Flacco limped his way to a 10 for 31 performance that generated 163 passing yards and an interception.
It would have been the ugliest performance on the field, but Mark Sanchez took full advantage of Nick Mangold's absence, and fumbled four times, three of which were lost, two of which were taken to the house by Ravens defenders and also threw a pick-six.
Things got so bad that, at one point, Rex Ryan called a timeout just to scream at the officials. It actually seemed to work, or it at least confused the Ravens and Cam Cameron, who took a 20-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the second quarter and desperately tried to let the Jets back in the game.
That didn't matter, but it didn't make the performance of Sanchez, Flacco and their respective teams any worse or weirder. There were five defensive and special teams touchdowns in total during the game, most in NFL history and Sanchez' final pass (he finished 11 of 35, ugh) went off the heel of a defender.
What perplexes me isn't the Jets struggling, because, frankly, they were kind of due to regress a bit. I'm sure they'll start getting better, and they might start stopping the run (although I'm sure Cameron won't figure that out!) and running the ball better. They almost always do, just in time to claw their way into the playoffs.
The bigger concern is how the Ravens came out in Week 4, continuing the metronome-like performance for Flacco through a few weeks. At times (against the Steelers and the Rams) he's looked like an elite-level quarterback. And at others (Sunday and against the Titans), he's looked absolutely lost.
If he wants to truly "make the jump," he's going to need to find some consistency.
6. Goin' out east
There was no shortage of different predictions for the team that would win the NFC West. Well, except for the Seahawks. No one predicted that. The typical favorites were the Rams and Cardinals, mainly because of their quarterback play.
The 49ers should have gotten more love, but Alex Smith held them back, and Jim Harbaugh, in his first stop as an NFL head coach, is showing exactly why. His team managed to storm back against the Eagles on Sunday and move into first place in their division, with a firm command of the typically crappy NFC West.
San Francisco's 3-1, the Rams are 0-4 and the Seahawks and Cardinals are 1-3.
None of the teams out there have, unsurprisingly, looked very good. And the 49ers are the only squad with a positive point differential, which should tell you just how bad this division is. Again. But maybe Harbaugh is the difference -- look no further than his decision to house his team in Ohio for half a week in between their Week 3 game against the Bengals and Sunday's win in Philadelphia.
"Thanks Youngstown, you've been good to us," Harbaugh said in deference to Ohio. "That's as good a win as I can ever remember being a part of. I'm really proud of our players. They never flinched in a tough environment here, and there was no moment or circumstance that made them nervous in this ballgame. We kept fighting, made adjustments -- a great team victory for us."
Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards, and Alex Smith played pretty inspired football, going 13 of 17 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in just the second half.
It's a surprising turnaround for a surprising team that stunk the joint out last year. Given the dearth of talent for Seattle, Arizona's inability to close out, and St. Louis' rough schedule ahead, Harbaugh might have this team -- surprisingly -- poised to take over their division.
7. Remember the Titans
Unless Tennessee has something to say about that anyway -- Mike Munchak picked up his third-career win on Sunday afternoon as the Titans vaulted themselves into a first-place tie with Houston in the AFC South
On The NFL Today, Charley Casserly mentioned that Matt Hasselbeck was drawn to Tennessee because of two things: Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback with strong line play, and Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback's ability to throw deep by leaving in more blockers.
This has paid tremendous dividends for Hasselbeck, who's eighth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns, third in yards per pass and first in pass plays of 40-plus yards.
"We thought he had a lot left in the tank from watching him in the playoffs last year," Munchak said. "We didn't bring him here to retire quietly. We brought him here to do exactly what he's been doing."
And he's casually doing all of this while playing for a team that doesn't have a viable No. 1 wide receiver because of Kenny Britt's season-ending injury last week.
Chris Johnson finally managed to get going a little bit in the Week 4 win over Cleveland, and provided the Hasselbeck can stay healthy (which is somewhat of a stretch, but possible), the Titans might be the surprise playoff team that no one's talking about.
8. Pay the man!
Just like 2010, Mike Martz refused to run the ball until the Bears met up with the Panthers early in the season. And just like 2010, Martz got enough criticism for his playcalling that he ran the ball a ton against Carolina. And just like 2010, Matt Forte went HAM.
Last year it was 166 rushing yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. This year it was a career-high 205 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in the Bears 34-29 win.
This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, the Bears are 9-0 when Forte rushes for 100 yards or more. Yet ... they don't like to run. Two, the Panthers defense is absolutely terrible. I could put up a hundo on them, and it shouldn't be too huge of a shock to see him go key largo against Carolina's beat-up defense.
That being said ... three, Forte wants a new contract, has wanted a new contract but can't get the Bears to even talk to him about getting more money.
The result, predictably, is a running back who appears to be playing with a great deal of intensity and a desire to be highly productive. Of course, for all of Forte's success against the Panthers, there wasn't that much to love about the way Chicago played. Just don't tell Lovie Smith that.
"We’re not apologizing at all about this win," Smith said. "We feel really good about it."
They shouldn't, even if this year suddenly looks like last year in terms of figuring out to run the ball and not get Jay Cutler killed. Cam Newton did a lot of damage to the Bears defense, though he made some rookie mistakes, and the Panthers were able to run pretty easily on Chicago.
Anyone can score on the Panthers, and do it at will, given the lack of depth they have on the defensive side of the ball right now. That being said, it sure does seem like the Bears might have saved themselves some money if they'd gotten Forte some cash before the season rather than waiting.
As my college football colleague Tom Fornelli likes to say, "Pay the man, Chicago."
9. Review Controversy
Could the NFL's current replay system be any less controversial? As you likely know, all scoring plays are reviewed by a booth official. That sounds simple, but it's not at all -- we've already had plenty of problems with plays that seemed like obvious needs for reviews that weren't scrutinized further by the officials.
Sunday, we saw two more examples. First, there an issue in the Chiefs and Vikings game.
With 5:01 remaining, Michael Jenkins caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. It appeared, pretty clearly, that he only got one foot inbounds. Fox didn't show any replays of the catch, and the officials at the game never reviewed it. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because the Vikings lost.
But it could have mattered and there wasn't anything Todd Haley or the Chiefs could do to get the play looked at. If Haley had thrown a challenge flag, he'd have been flagged for a delay of game penalty.
Another less controversial instance occurred during the Packers-Broncos game when Aaron Rodgers rushed for his second touchdown of the day on a third down. Rodgers was ruled down at the one-yard line, though replays showed he broke the plane of the goal line.
Mike McCarthy challenged and the Packers were given a touchdown that locked in their win against Denver. Here's the problem: "a scoring play" is only defined as a play in which the officials subjectively rule that a touchdown has happened. If that subjective ruling occurs, then the play is automatically reviewed.
If it doesn't happen, coaches are required to use a challenge.
I realize that the league can't challenge every single play that gets close to the end zone, but it seems to me that these two plays aren't that different. Something was botched by the refs and the booth wasn't available to make sure the right call was locked in. Ironically, in the non touchdown scenario, the coach has more freedom to help out his team with a red flag.
Even if the booth doesn't believe that a call should be looked at by the ref -- and in a close game like that, who's hurt by double-checking? -- there should be an option for a coach to take a stab at having a call overturned as well, if he's really adamant about what happened.
And, of course, there's the whole mess that went down in Arizona with Victor Cruz giving himself up and/or pulling the old stumble-->fumble disaster combo.
That actually seems like it was interpreted correctly, as it relates to the rule book.
"Official shall declare ball dead when a runner declares himself down by falling to ground or kneeling and making no effort to advance," reads Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1(e) of the NFL Rule Book.
In other words, it's a subjective call by the guys who look like zebras. If they believe Cruz gave himself up, then he gave himself up and that's the end of it.
10. Maybe they ARE the NFL's Heat
Whenever something good or bad happens in sports, reporters inevitably ask athletes how they feel. No, I don't know why it happens all the time either, but it rarely produces a good result.
It got a decent reaction out of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday, though, as he expressed a high level of frustration at the fact that the Eagles just choked away a huge lead against the 49ers -- at home, no less -- that eventually led to a 24-23 loss to San Francisco.
"Do I really have to explain how I feel right now sitting here at 1-3?" Vick asked. "It's frustrating. It's tough. I can't put that in words. I take sole responsibility. Maybe it's a lot of things I can do better. And I gotta figure it out.
"It's frustrating. I'm not going to continue to use that word, but, yeah, it's tough."
That's the thing with the Eagles, though. It's not all Vick's fault.
Is some of it? Sure, of course. But he was 30 of 46 for 416 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. A bigger problem is that he led the team in rushing, with 75 yards on eight carries. When you have a weapon like LeSean McCoy, it seems silly not to utilize him more.
Then again, the lack of a good push from the offensive line causes that too.
And when you can't stop other teams from running the ball, none of it really matters. Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards on just 15 carries and Kendall Hunter picked up 38 on nine.
The Eagles might have some really, really talented players at a couple positions, but they're also really, really weak at other positions, and their depth just isn't that impressive at all.
So, come to think of it, maybe they're more like the Miami Heat than any of us could have ever known.
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Ronnie Brown thinking? He's not even a quarterback, so trying to throw the ball while being tackled at the goal line doesn't even work as a random logical excuse.
... Johnathan Joseph had two -- TWO! -- touchdowns nullified by stupid penalties by the Texans. First there was the ridiculous block in the back by Danieal Manning when Joseph took a blocked punt to the house to end the half. And then there was the pick six he grabbed to close out the game that was negated by a J.J. Watt penalty. Welcome to Houston!
... Speaking of picks, Vince Wilfork now has two on the season after his second career INT against the Raiders.
... Just for trolling purposes: Nnamdi Asomugha only has one interception on the year.
... In one of the more insane things ever, Rex Ryan used a first-half timeout on Sunday night just to yell at the officials.
Worth 1,000 Words
Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"I woke up in a So Ho doorway ... a policeman knew my name."
"Who Are You" is actually a pretty good thing to ask the Colts quarterback, no?
GIF O' THE WEEK
Hot Seat Tracker
We have a new entrant in the usual suspects who are searching for the answer to their franchise woes -- the St. Louis Rams! Heretofore unlisted in this space, the Rams are 0-4 and now squarely in the hunt for Luck, even though they could get to 0-7 and somehow still win their division, based on how easy their schedule is.
What I find fascinating about this is that the Rams and Vikings, my two current faves for Luck, both drafted a "franchise quarterback" in the past two years. Would the Rams consider acquiring Luck if they got the No. 1 overall pick again? Or is Sam Bradford just that much better? Would both they and the Vikings just absolutely trade the pick to whoever was desperate enough for Luck? Because I'm not so sure.
Vikings (2:1) -- Can't imagine they actually feel like Christian Ponder's better than Luck. Right?
Dolphins (2:1) -- As AJB points out below, Miami definitely deserves inclusion here. My bust. Was too worried about Sparano's job.
Rams (3:1) -- So spicy if they get it.
Colts (3:1) -- They'd be the favorites if/when they lose to Tampa on Monday.
Broncos (4:1) -- Stanford, everyone!
Panthers (5:1) -- Fairly confident that the Panthers would acquire some assets for that pick.
Eagles (10:1) -- Andy Reid does love quarterbacks ...
Stafford, my leader up to this point, did some nice things Sunday. But after Rodgers did the dirty things -- six touchdowns! -- that he did to Denver and helped propel the Packers to 4-0, it's hard not to sit up and take notice and admit that right now he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Calvin Johnson, Carolina Panthers, Charles Woodson, Chicago Bears, Chicago Bears, Chris Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Dez Bryant, Gary Kubiak, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars, James Starks, Jay Cutler, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Irsay, Jim Schwartz, Joe Flacco, Johnathan Joseph, Juan Castillo, Kansas City Chiefs, Leslie Frazier, Lovie Smith, Marion Barber, Mark Sanchez, Matt Forte, Matt Hasselbeck, Matthew Stafford, Miami Dolphins, Michael Jenkins, Michael Vick, Mike Martz, Miles Austin, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan, Ronnie Brown, San Francisco 49ers, Sorting the Sunday Pile, SSP, Tennessee Titans, Todd Haley, Tony Romo, Tony Sparano, Vince Wilfork, Will Brinson
Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:44 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 9:47 am
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. Podcast is coming tomorrow -- this week's edition of SSP is brought to you in tardy fashion by the Ford Fusion that hauled your writer home at 3:00 a.m. ET Sunday.
Group exercises are, for the most part, ridiculous. I trust you! You trust me! How groundbreaking.
But play along for 30 seconds and repeat after me: "the Bills and Lions are undefeated."
Haha, but no seriously. This is happening. The idea that bad NFL teams become good and the idea that good NFL teams become bad isn't shocking. It shouldn't be. It won't ever be absolutely mind-blowing, because this is what happens in today's NFL -- some teams get good, some teams get bad and some teams just happen to become the first team in NFL history to mount consecutive comebacks of 18 or more points.
Parity is what drives this league. No one doubts that, no one thinks that's weird, and no one should. There'll be some regression to the mean, and it'll probably happen to the really good teams who are only really good through a few weeks. When it does, please don't act like it's any weirder than what went down in a b-a-n-a-n-a-s Week 3 of NFL action.
1. Young guns
Two of the top three passers from Sunday's action -- Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford -- are excellent examples of the young crop of quarterbacks that are blossoming early in 2011.
Questions surrounded both Flacco (Can he beat the Steelers?) and Stafford (Can he stay healthy?) and, three weeks into the year, they're answering their critics. Flacco struggled against the Titans in Week 2, but the Ravens did a fantastic job of bouncing back from a subpar Week 2 to point out to everyone that they're elite.
I watched the games Sunday with my NBA counterpart, Matt Moore (yes, the link's ironic, thanks, I know), and at halftime of the Vikings early beatdown of Detroit, he pointed out that the Lions bandwagon was derailing.
He was correct at the time, but the Lions stormed back on the strength of Stafford's arm, winning in overtime to move to a surprising 3-0.
If Stafford stays healthy and Flacco keeps developing like he has thus far this year, we're going to be re-ordering the list of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and both these guys will be joining the upper echelon sooner, rather than later.
Look, the list of truly "elite" quarterbacks will continue to feature the names you know: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning.
Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are also there, but we're seeing a new "generation" of quarterbacks starting to come into their own, as guys like Flacco, Stafford and other recently-drafted quarterbacks really start to generate some press.
And it's happening in a year when passing attacks are at an all-time high, which is only going to make the game better.
2. What do you know about pressure, Tom?
There's an ample number of awesome young quarterbacks in the NFL right now, but two very familiar names -- Brady and Brees -- are tops in the league when it comes to passing. Brady in particular is lobbing up some pretty ridiculous numbers right now; he leads the league in passing yards with 1,327, the most by a quarterback through three weeks in NFL history.
Only 22 people in the history of football have thrown for more than 4,500 yards in a single NFL season. 14 of those have happened in the past 10 years. (As we've noted, it's a passing league.)
So can Brady break Marino's record? Well, yes, he most certainly can. Remember that Marino, during his record-setting season, didn't surpass 400 passing yards in a single game until Week 5.
He's on pace for a stupid 7,077 yards for the season, although we have to assume he'll regress off that pace a little bit.
Just for fun, though, let's imagine Brady completes his schedule by passing for the exact same number of yards that his remaining opponents have allowed per game through three weeks. (Yes, there are several problems with this calculation, but just play along.)
Based on the remaining 13 games and the teams' respective yards per game allowed via the pass, Brady would pile up another 3,072 yards, which would give him a total of 4,399 yards for the season.
Conversely, Brady "only" needs to average another 289 yards per game to match Marino's record from 1984. That's not easy, per se, but it's certainly possible. And given how badly New England's own pass defense has been this season -- they're dead last in yards allowed -- it may be required too.
3. Hit the Snooze Button
Look, this is a world where Eli Manning is criminally undervalued -- the man referred to himself as "elite," tried to prop up his game, and everyone wanted to trot him out to the guillotine. No big deal though, you guys, because Eli doesn't need to show up and throw beautiful passes to Brandon Jacobs for 40-yard touchdowns. (Pardon the interruption, but FTC rules require that I write "OH GOD" in big letters again at this juncture so you'll be aware that the Apocalypse is coming soon to a city near you, by the way.)
The Giants are, somehow, not terrible. And while I might be [metaphorically] drunk on Tom Coughlin's team having watched them play in a Giants bar, it's pretty damn hard not to be impressed with what they've done this year. Last week's win over St. Louis was the single-worst blowout victory I've ever witnessed and, no, that is not a compliment.
This Sunday was an entirely different ballgame. Despite the face that actually fielding a defensive roster should be an impossibility, the Giants showed up to Philadelphia, generated a ton of pressure on Michael Vick, and barnstormed their hated division rival en route to a win that gives the NFC East more of a jostle than a trip to Sterling Archer's tumbler.
Let's move past the Giants, though, because they're the same thing that we knew they were, we just undervalued the properties they own. The Eagles are in much worse trouble than New York, simply because everyone assumed that if you have a really talented but sometimes injured quarterback and combine him with a marquee-worthy defense that secretly sucks up the middle, you don't have to worry about the rest of your problems.
Then the season happened, and the Eagles, as it turns out, have a terrible offensive line and a pretty bad combination of linebackers and safeties. Vince Young's belief that this is the "Dream Team" was fun to mock in the offseason, but it's downright comical at this stage.
Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha drew the headlines in the offseason, and DeSean Jackson plus LeSean McCoy make any team a viable threat to win any week just based on offensive explosiveness. But just like the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia Eagles offseason signings might have masked some serious positional-skill issues that will only become more exacerbated when depth starts creeping in.
4. A Hue-gh Win
The only way that the weird scene of a rookie Raiders coach dominating a third-year, Super Bowl-guaranteeing guy is if, well, the Raiders won. And they did. And people predicted it -- this actually happened. The absolutely weirdest thing is that it somehow managed to go Hue Jackson's way, as opposed to Rex Ryan's.
With a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass and in classic New York-style, Derek Jeter-fashion and the Jets shortened the lead to seven points. It had all the stink of a Ryan win, which is, frankly, a compliment. You can't lose well in the NFL -- just ask Cam Newton! -- and people will question your every move. But if you win and you're not that good at it, it's OK.
Jackson's got Oakland doing some fun, funky things on offense right now, as if Darren McFadden's pump-faking a throw nine yards in front of the line of scrimmage while running an option end-around of sorts doesn't make that obvious.
He's an aggressive attacker, and can do creative things with all the speed that the Raiders have drafted in recent years, but Jackson also knows that using Oakland's physicality and letting McFadden do what McFadden does best -- pile up yardage by the ton -- is how Oakland can remain a viable playoff contender all season long.
5. Ponder This
Are the Vikings that bad or are the Lions that good? The answer is likely the second one, but the Vikings aren't that bad, and it's not fair to say that just because they choked away a trio of halftime leads.
Here's the thing that people will miss -- the Vikings are a not good team in the middle of a rebuilding project they don't know about.
There are problems with the Vikings. Adrian Peterson is an epic talent somehow surrounded by an aging cast parading as a group of guys that are, in the NFL environment, "making a last run." The truth of the matter is that Peterson is the definition of sublime when it comes to running backs, and the rest of the Vikings just aren't that good.
On the bright side, at least they didn't do the double disservice of trading up for a quarterback AND trading further picks for a veteran who is, despite his reputation, quite clearly a one-year rental.
Which is where things get problematic -- I asked Rich Gannon last week if he thought the success of Newton and Dalton cranked up the pressure on teams like the Vikings, who drafted Christian Ponder this past year, to play their rookie.
"I don't think so," Gannon said. "I don't think the plan in Minnesota will change unless they continue to lose and all of a sudden that whole process will be expedited. I think there's more pressure now, certainly moreso now than there was 10 years ago to develop that position and have a guy play right away and be successful. Days of what they did even with Aaron Rodgers, I don't know if we're going to see as much as that. I think they're paying these guys so much money that it's like, let's get these guys on the field.
"The problem is they're not always ready to play."
And that might be the case with Ponder in Minnesota, especially if he looks as overwhelmed as he did during the preseason. On the other hand, if Ponder steps in and looks even remotely good after/if this season's lost for Minnesota, it'll do wonders for the scrutiny on Leslie Frazier.
6. What about the Packers?
Detroit won, so we shouldn't discount them for the sake of chatting about the Vikings. But the real NFC North story is the Packers, who dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning by double digits against their biggest rival for the first time in three years.
Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, all to Jermichael Finley, and this is precisely why everyone should be very scared of Green Bay again in 2011.
Finley is an absolute terror who is nearly impossible to defend near the goal line and, really, anywhere else on the field. The Packers won the Super Bowl without him, of course, and if he's healthy this year, Green Bay's offense is only going to be more difficult to defend than it was in 2010.
What's interesting is how Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have done a fantastic job of making sure that Greg Jennings and the other wide receivers stay incorporated, though Finley's obviously a much bigger part of the passing game than he was last year.
Jenning really struggled early on in 2010 and only blew up after Finley went down (and after he'd made mention he wasn't thrilled with how many targets he was getting). The transition to the 2011 version of the offense featuring Finley's been much more seamless, and that's reason to fear the Packers again this season.
They're the defending Super Bowl champion and arguably the best team in the NFL right now, and yet, why aren't we talking about them much?
7. Not running away from anyone now
There's very little sympathy for Kenny Britt around the NFL. Dude racked up more tickets this summer than "my friend" at college piled up.
Aside from that clown's reputation, it's important to note that when stupid people do stupid things a stupid amount of time, we take notice. Britt drew tons of attention this summer for his off-field antics, and he should have. Somehow he skated out of a suspension, but karma appears to rolled his way, as he'll likely miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL.
Britt shredded his knee on a screen pass, fumbled the ball, and carted off the field in a Week 3 win against the Broncos.
The worst part about this saga is that Britt somehow had the "Dwayne Bowe circa 2010" look about him, making plays, looking like a top NFL wide receiver, and generally wrecking the same havoc on the NFL that he wrecked on the legal system this summer.
Without him, the Titans offensive gameplan is an entirely different ballgame, especially considering that the corpse of Chris Johnson can't do a whole lot without providing more than three yards a carry. Look, Matt Hasslebeck deserves tons of praise for doing what he's done with what he's had to do while, um, doing what he do.
That being said, this is a Titans team that's begging to lose it's offensive identity in 2011. The biggest curiosity they face isn't so much "how the hell are the 2-1?" so much as it's "how they hell are they scoring points at a pace to make them less terrible than the Chiefs?"
Between the two questions, one is substantially better, and one question -- hint: it's about Kansas City -- is one you don't want everyone asking about your team. Yet Tennessee continues to survive. Maybe that's the way Mike Munchak's regime will win, and that's fine.
But expecting an exact repeat of Jeff Fisher's reign just because Munchak worked for Fisher but didn't necessarily retain all the offensive firepower seems like a stretch.
8. The Camwagon
As you probably know by now, when the word "Cam" gets dropped, it's time for some bragging. Well kudos first go to me for predicting that Cam Newton wouldn't have the monster game everyone expected when he beat -- yes, Cam won! -- the Jaguars on Sunday.
Before you strain your elbow giving some much-deserved pats, though, you should know that I have a weather app on my iPhone.
Speaking of weather, if someone tells you that Newton won a game, make sure you point out that he did it in the most terrible fashion ever. The Panthers might have come out victorious, sure, but did he throw for 400 yards? And was there a double rainbow? No sir there was not.
Ergo, the only answer is that Cam is absolutely terrible at controlling the weather and therefore not a winner. This is actually a thing that someone at your office will probably try and say.
Here's the truth though: Newton was really bad on Sunday, horribly inaccurate with his passes and very much looking like a rookie. The Panthers won 16-10, but they should have won 60-10, even with the weather. Blaine Gabbert, in his first career start, gifted Carolina a safety in his first career drive, and the Panthers somehow never managed to capitalize the opportunity.
Then all of a sudden there was a monsoon in Charlotte, the exhibition matchup became a legitimate great game and Newton was in danger of "not being able to step up." Or something. Everyone will find an excuse. Know this, though -- the Jaguars are a sneakily decent-sounding 1-2 and they're a terrible team. This is despite the career-high 185 yards (through the first two weeks anyway) that Maurice Jones-Drew has compiled.
Another nice day from MJD and a start from Gabbert masked what should have been one really team blowing out another much worse team. Jack Del Rio, this last sentence is for you, sir.
9. Just Wing It
Enjoy saying this now, because there's a strong chance you'll never say it again: "The Bills nearly left too much time on the clock when they scored." Fred Jackson streaked for the end zone to put Buffalo up a touchdown (Again! Against the Patriots!) and give Tom Brady a shot at what Tom Brady does.
Instead, instant replay ruled Jackson down, the Bills got the ball just shy of the Patriots end zone, and were able to melt the clock down before kicking a game-winning field goal. The really wonked out thing here is that the scoring replay change was perfect for Buffalo.
We've watched enough football to know what happens if you hand this Brady character the pigskin with two minutes remaining and down a few points, right? Watching Brady eviscerate a pass defense en route to a comeback win is still exciting and thrilling and something everyone should do before they die, but it's borderline cliche.
Instead, the Bills flipped the narrative on us, won the damn game and are the leaders at the two-thirds of one-quarter mile-marker for the 2011 NFL season in an AFC East division that didn't have a single bit of prediction promiscuity at the top.
Yes it is early and yes we've seen the Bills storm out of the gates hot before, but there's something afloat in Buffalo's water these days and it's not Spalding's Baby Ruth bar.
10. Houston, We Have … No I'm Sorry I Can't Make That Joke
While we're taking a magical ride on the jump to conclusions mat, let's go ahead and assume that the Texans are terrible at defense and that they are much closer to the 2010 abomination we know, understand, love and play fantasy people against than they are the 2011 would-be division winners.
Except that's silly.
It's not silly to point out that there are a lot of teams who cannot "stop the pass" -- quotations are necessary here because in case you're not reading this regularly, the NFL woke up and decided to chunk the ball down the field with collective regularity.
Arian Foster missing is not the problem, of course. It's still defense for Houston, who appeared on the verge of justifying the Wade Phillips 3-4 hype before coughing up 40 points to New Orleans. But before we freak out and judge this team let's again remember that it's Week 3, again remember that this is Drew Brees commanding a very efficient and very dangerous offense, and let's, most importantly, remind ourselves that it's a baby-stepping process.
Houston wasn't becoming an elite defense overnight, and much less so in a lockout-shortened season. Losing to the Saints is tough, but they're still taking this division, and once they're playing against rookie quarterbacks, it will probably be on the strength of their offseason signings on defense.
While we're here, and because it's too important for muffed punts, Darren Sproles is the most important offensive signing of 2011's free agency. Yeah, I'm doing the knee-jerk thing, but this guy is making a difference in the Reggie Bush role for Sean Payton's offense.
The awkward thing is that he's just flat-out better than Bush at every facet of the game. That's not to rip Reggie, who probably needed to move on anyway, but it's an important reminder that sometimes it's not signings with the big, bold lights that really make the difference once people start playing football.
Pop-culture referencing Jim Irsay tweet that's sure to drive Colts fans insane of the week
"After 9 days,I let the horse run free..cause the desert had turned 2 sea"
Irsay's referencing "Horse With No Name" by the band America. Except he decided to do so a day after refuting his own statement that Peyton Manning wasn't playing this season.
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
- A Fox Sports bar in the Charlotte airport made the decision Sunday night to shut off their televisions because a bunch of airport patrons were crowded around the outskirts of the restaurant, watching the Colts-Steelers game. It was the most obstinate, pig-headed display of customer service I've ever seen.
- If you go to New York City and need a good spot to watch some football, the Cornerstone Tavern in Manhattan is pretty freaking fantastic. Good food, nice beer selection and tons of televisions. Also, it's like the unofficial place for Florida Gators to go, so there's that.
- Alex Henery has been a bright spot for the Eagles, by the way. Kid comes in as a rookie, replacing a legend like David Akers, and is producing on some crucial kicks.
Worth 1,000 Words
Hot Seat Tracker
So here's something fun -- Sportsbook.com has odds for the first NFL coach to be fired. We'll include them in parentheticals.
Dolphins (1/2): They're almost assuredly going to be 0-5 through six weeks. That should be good for morale.
Chiefs (3/1): Somehow they've already played the easy portion of their schedule!
Colts (2/5): What to watch here is whether or not Indy thinks Peyton Manning can play more than two or three years.
I'm sticking with my boy Matthew Stafford for now -- hard to argue with him considering the Lions are undefeated, he's second in the league in passing touchdowns (nine), fifth in passing yards and has only thrown two picks. Obviously Tom Brady's a good choice but if the season ended today, he'd get the Offensive Player of the Year award and Stafford would get my nod for MVP. Aaron Rodgers is certainly in the conversation as well.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Christian Ponder, Dan Marino, Darren McFadden, Detroit Lions, Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Fred Jackson, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Houston Texans, Hue Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jermichael Finley, Joe Flacco, Kenny Britt, Leslie Frazier, Matt Hasselbeck, Matthew Stafford, Michael Vick, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sorting the Sunday Pile, Tennessee Titans, Tom Brady, Will Brinson
Posted on: September 26, 2011 4:36 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
It was speculated over the past 24 hours that Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt would miss the rest of the 2011 season with a torn ACL -- Mike Munchak confirmed that news at his press conference on Monday, calling Britt a "special guy."
"It is very unfortunate for all of us," Munchak said.
In the meantime, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that the Titans will bring in Donnie Avery and Buster Davis as potential replacements.
The news is a huge blow to the Titans, who've been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season, partially because of Britt's explosive ability as a receiver.
Davis is expected to workout for the Titans in Nashville on Tuesday and Avery is visiting with a different team (potentially the Panthers) on Tuesday, but could end up
Davis and Avery are capable receivers, and Nate Washington is currently third in the NFL with 21 catches on the season. But Britt's athletic ability and developing rapport with Matt Hasselbeck (who's the third-rated passer in the AFC and seventh in the NFL in passing yardage, by the by) can't possibly be duplicated.
His absence is a tremendous loss for Tennessee, who found themselves claiming Randy Moss on waivers the last time this happened.
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Posted on: September 9, 2011 3:25 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
There's been a lot made about some of the clothes that NFL players received from Reebok to honor the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.
That's primarily because guys like Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and Bears linebacker Lance Briggs tweeted out pictures of their gear (Briggs is seen to the right) and essentially said they didn't care if they got fined, they were wearing the gear during Sunday's games.
Very good news comes from the NFL, then, as the league informed the clubs that players could wear the gear honoring the tragic circumstances of September 2011.
"NFL confirmed to clubs this morning that players may wear special shoes/gloves from NFL licensees for Week 1 games," tweeted Michael Signora, the NFL's VP of Football Communications.
Of course, that doesn't mean that anyone can go out and buy red, white and blue shoes and throw them on for Sunday's action. Presumably Reebok will need to ship the gloves and shoves to the players (or the players can request them I would guess) and then and only then may they be worn.
And Hasselbeck's picture of the back of his shoes which are, I think the same as Briggs. But he gets the best shot of "Never Forget" on the cleats.
Per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Hasselbeck will donate his shoes after the game to Team Red, White and Blue, a charity that assists wounded veterans and their families.
Hopefully, many other players will follow his lead and help to drum up charity work after showing their support for those that were senselessly taken from the world and for those that gave their lives to help others.
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Posted on: September 6, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 10:50 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
David Garrard was stunningly released on Tuesday afternoon by the Jaguars, and, this might not come as "news," but he was as surprised as everyone else.
According to his agent, Al Irby, he was "shocked" even, because they believed Garrard was starting Week 1 for Jacksonville.
"Been assured that the job was his this year," said Al Irby, Garrard's agent, said, per Tania Ganguli of The Florida Times-Union. "That's why we're all shocked, and so was he. This had to be a last minute decision, that's the only thing I can say. I don't think these guys would purposely tell me one thing and [do another]."
Perhaps the most logical reason for waiting so long to release Garrard? The Colts situation at quarterback -- though it stinks to wait so long for Garrard to get on the open market for his own personal reasons, he might have been a nice fit for the Jags division rival Indy.
"The system's going to do what it's going to do," Irby said. "He has gotten some calls, they know there's some interest. David can still play it's obvious. He knows he's gonna have options and he's gonna just sit back and let the offers come in and make a decision."
There are still plenty of teams that need quarterback. The 49ers brought in Josh McCown due to their concern with Alex Smith as a starter, and wouldn't that be a potentially ironic landing spot given that Luke McCown took over as the starter for Garrard?
The Panthers are rolling with Derek Anderson as their backup, and the Carolina quarterbacks coach Mike Shula had some serious success with Garrard when he coached in Jacksonville from 2007-10. Seattle's quarterbacks coach, Carl Smith, was Garrard's offensive coordinator in Jacksonville for two years, from 2005-06.
The Ravens (Tyrod Taylor) and Raiders (Kyle Boller) could both use a capable backup. Tennessee might be interested at the right price to help protect the need to shove Jake Locker into a starting role if Matt Hasselbeck gets hurt.
So it's not surprising to hear that teams are inquiring about Garrard's availability. The only question is whether it's too close to the start of the season for another team to really make the investment in Garrard worth the cost.
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Posted on: August 31, 2011 5:53 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
It's something. And at this stage of the proceedings, with the regular season barely a week away and the Titans' offense in dire need of a playmaker, any indication that Chris Johnson could return to Tennessee with a new contract is reason for optimism.
On Wednesday night, the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt is the bearer of potentially good news (via Twitter, naturally):
"Now for Johnson's contract news, and it's better. Sources say there has been positive movement for the 1st time between Titans and Johnson."
Pretty vague, yes, but it's certainly better than the headline we saw exactly a week ago: "Titans, Chris Johnson end meeting without deal."
And since the Titans have made it clear that they won't trade Johnson, there was only one of two ways this standoff would end.
One, Johnson could remain on his couch, as the Titans began the season with a rookie quarterback a play away from taking the field, only willing to budge if the team made him one of the league's highest paid players. Or two, the two sides could continue to negotiate a new contract, one that would pay Johnson somewhere between what the top NFL player pulls down and what the top running back makes.
For now, at least, the latter scenario appears to be prevailing. Whether it continues is contingent on, well, money.
We talked about it on Wednesday's Pick-6 Podcast, but why are talks heating up now, days before the season opener? It's not like the Titans didn't know games started on September 11. Or that their offense, as currently constituted, features Matt Hasselbeck and not much else. (Kenny Britt is working his way back into shape and Johnson, obviously, is resting comfortably at the crib.)
On the other hand, Johnson knows the offense and if Tennessee really does plan to back up the Brinks truck (we've gone on record at least a dozen times but, yeah, we're against it), there's no need to have him hurt himself in training camp or preseason games.
Whatever happens this much is certain: the Titans' offense is better with Johnson. How much better … well, that remains to be seen. Don't forget, Tennessee was 8-8 and 6-10 the last two seasons.
On the upside: Johnson hasn't yet told the organization to "STFU" so the two sides are still communicating. And for now, that's a good thing.
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