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Tag:Eric Mangini
Posted on: December 17, 2010 2:59 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 3:39 pm
 

NFL Honorable Mentions: 2010's top stories

CBSSports.com is counting down the top 10 stories in all of sports of 2010. Here are the top 10 stories from the NFL that just barely missed the cut.


10. The Breakout Backs
Honorables
It was a swing year in fantasy football, as the over-valued running back position turned out a pair of new stars in the AFC: undrafted Arian Foster for the Texans and former Broncos seventh-round pick Peyton Hillis. Both players have well over 1,000 yards rushing and rank first and second in touchdown runs (entering Week 15, Foster has 13 and Hillis has 11).

Foster and Hillis share two things in common: a) both got their opportunity because their team’s second-round rookie running back got hurt prior to the season (the Texans lost Ben Tate to an ankle injury and the Browns lost Montario Hardesty to a knee) and b) both have an ideal skill set for their team’s system. Foster, a powerful yet fluid one-cut runner who thrives downhill, is tailored for Houston’s zone-blocking scheme. Hillis, a thundering steamroller who plays strictly north and south, was made for a power scheme.

Another running back who was undrafted and has blossomed unexpectedly in 2010 is New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The third-year pro is tied with Hillis for second in the league in rushing touchdowns and needs a little over 200 yards in the final three weeks to reach the millennial mark.

While we’re at it, there’s another Patriots running back who was undrafted and meets “breakout” status for 2010: Danny Woodhead (insert obligatory mention about his 5’7” size here). Woodhead, who was released in the preseason by the Jets, has done a masterful job filling the third down role of Kevin Faulk.  -- Andy Benoit


9. The Slowing Carousel



Labor negotiations have slowed the degree to which coaches have been canned in 2010. Yes, that's a terrifying thought, considering the number of gigs at risk this late in the season coupled with the coaches already fired so far this year. (John Fox and Marvin Lewis are the two most obvious "winners" when it comes to uncertain labor issues helping a coach keep a "good" job.)

In fact, the tides might have turned enough to warrant saying both gentlemen are in a worse position because of the labor strife -- they have to coach out abysmal underachievers and, sadly, hope to find some (ahem) luck at the top of the draft.

It won't matter for that pair of lame ducks, though, because their contracts are running out. On the other end of the spectrum are Wade Phillips, Brad Childress and Josh McDaniels; three coaches whose performance was so putrid that it warranted a midseason change.

Of course, neither of the first two were surprising. In fact, the only shocker involved with Wade and Chilly getting canned was the success that Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier had afterwards.

Actually, check that -- it's also surprising that McDaniels would hire the same guy who operated the video camera during SpyGate! Which, perhaps, makes it less surprising that Pat Bowlen was less willing to sit around and wait for his newly-minted head coach to mature and suddenly found himself paying not just Mike Shanahan, McD, Eric Studesville but someone else next year. This is outrageously ironic given the lack of success that Mike Singletary (the quintessential interim coach) had in 2010, guiding the 49ers to a sub-.500 record (it seems like a fair guess at this point) in the weakest of the weak divisions, the NFC West.

Singletary said as late as Week 15 that he didn't worry about a) early season performance or b) his job security, and, well, that may say all you need to understand about why he won't land a head coaching job again.

Of course, Lovie Smith is casually guiding his team to a playoff berth and himself towards a blatantly misguided extension from Jerry Angelo, so maybe this would be a good year to take a step back and evaluate whether or not it's worth really judging a particular coach until 2011 gets nearer.

Rest assured, that's exactly what a number of owners will do. -- Will Brinson


8. Revis and the Jets

In this day and age of video games and fantasy football, it takes a special kind of greatness for a cornerback to become THE story in the NFL for an entire summer. Darrelle Revis has this special kind of greatness. As the first true shutdown corner football has seen since Deion Sanders, Revis has been by far the most important player on Rex Ryan’s vaunted defense. Without him, the Jets don’t make their run to the AFC Championship in January ’10, and they don’t enter September ’10 as one of the league’s leading Super Bowl contenders. So it’s no wonder that Revis’ contract holdout captured the headlines this past summer.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Revis was holding out for a New York market team that happened to be featured on the über-popular HBO reality series Hard Knocks. The Jets training camp became a top 10 story in and of itself simply because we’ve never seen such transparency and personality from an NFL club. And we’ve never seen such star power or controversial new talent. The Jets are developing Mark Sanchez, the game’s first Mexican-American franchise quarterback, before our very eyes. They signed top Q-rating veterans and future Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor. And, they unapologetically acquired gifted but questionable stars Braylon Edwards (in ’09), Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.

All of this goes against the typical nature of the conservative NFL. But this, along with the aforementioned Super Bowl aspirations (which stemmed largely from the boastful Jets themselves, is why Jets regular season games landed in a featured television slot 10 times in 2010, including six in primetime. -- Andy Benoit


7. Looming Lockout

The NFL is the most popular sport in this land. This much is obvious. It doesn’t take a genius to come up with that conclusion, not when advertisers have to spend $20 million per 30-second spot in the Super Bowl (that might be a slight exaggeration) and not when the NFL ratings continue to climb every Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night.

So, would the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association really be dumb enough to shut down the 2011 season, even partially? Wouldn’t commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith realize that a lockout could potentially kill – or, at the very least, assault – the momentum of popularity? Wouldn’t they realize that sending the 2011 season to whatever dimension the 1994 World Series exists now would be a terrible, terrible move?  

Of course, they do. But the allure of money to be made and money to be spent keeps the two sides far apart. As the expiration of the CBA comes ever closer in March, the pressure will increase. Goodell said the other day that he thought a deal could be worked out by the end of the postseason, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the spring and summer without a new agreement in place. 

It’d be short-sighted, and it’d be stupid. But it’s also very possible.  

Anybody up to watch a good game of soccer?  -- Josh Katzowitz


6. So Many Second Chances

No, we're not talking about Antonio Cromartie, thanks for asking.



And yeah, maybe that's inappropriate.

But what's the old line? "Shame on me for expecting you to hang out in a terrible situation the first time and shame on you for expecting me to believe that you would legitimately stop putting yourself in terrible situations after getting in trouble the fifth or sixth* time?"

Maybe that's paraphrasing things a bit, but there are only so many chances one individual is afforded, and it seems, all asterisk jokes aside, that Ben Roethlisberger -- in trouble twice -- has maximized his chances. (The motorcycle thing doesn't count in the scope of what we're asked to judge here.)

On the front, Roethlisberger is the classic case of why the personal conduct policy is absolutely necessary -- a young man, wealthy beyond his means, cutting loose above and beyond his scope of responsible behavior in a town that doesn't understand how to handle him. Allegedly.

There's plenty of reason for people to find disgust with him, but it's about second chances here, people.

Is the world supposed to be annoyed with someone who can't fully summon their talent because they're too busy doing whatever they do in Milledgeville, Georgia? Absolutely.

Should the general public become disgusted when whatever behavior a certain talent was involved in leads to legal allegations in the same town? Naturally.

But is it only fair if the same youthful talent -- who heretofore had only developed as a person ON the field -- somehow finds a different, perhaps more mature path and ends up getting judged differently?

Hell yes it is. Hate on second chances all you want, but the eerily parallel dichotomy between Roethlisberger and Vick at least warrant giving pause to the fact that sometimes second chances are only afforded when we want them to be. -- Will Brinson


Haynesworth 5. Coup De Faill

Face it, part of the reason you watch sports is to see the inevitable downfall. It’s why Tigers Woods was so compelling, why you watched Larry Holmes dominate Muhammad Ali, why you followed Michael Jordan when he played minor league baseball. And you watch NFL football (partially) to see the same thing.

Which is why the decline of Albert Haynesworth this year was so noteworthy, why the Vince Young blowup continues to make news, why a backup WR in Randy Moss continues to attract attention.

The downfall of Haynesworth has been the biggest train-wreck of the season. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan deactivated him for four games before deciding to suspend him the rest of the season. Haynesworth has been out of shape, he’s been insubordinate and now he’s out of a job. Thankfully, he can fall back on those tens of millions of dollars.

Young’s downfall was sudden, as quick as it took to walk out of a locker room full of teammates, but depending on Bud Adams’ inclination, he unbelievably might return to the team (surely, coach Jeff Fisher wouldn’t be around any longer if that’s the case). Meanwhile, Moss believes he’ll still get paid big bucks next year, despite a season in which he’s played for three teams and has had his least productive year ever.  

All of it has made for great viewing. -- Josh Katzowitz


4. The McNabb Trade

D. McNabb's five-year deal doesn't seem all that great today (US Presswire).

There are a million different angles a person can take in describing the significance of the Easter Day McNabb trade. For starters, the trade meant the dismissal of the decade-long face of one of the NFL’s most preeminent franchises. Few athletes have ever been as polarizing in a town as McNabb was in The City of Brotherly Love. And no athlete has ever been so polarizing simply by going about his business. McNabb never exhibited a controversial personality, yet his career in Philly was littered with controversy. It required a world of class for McNabb to take it all in stride for 11 years. That classiness was appreciated and returned by the usually-ornery Philly faithful, who gave their former quarterback a standing ovation when he returned to town as a member of the hated Redskins in October.

That’s another key facet of this story: McNabb wasn’t just traded – he was traded to a division rival. Never before had a franchise quarterback been dealt within the division.

To be brutally honest, the trade has become a symbol of why the Eagles, counting this year, have eight more playoff appearances than the Redskins since 2000. The Eagles have always parted with veterans a year too soon rather than a year too late. We thought McNabb was an exception to this rule, but sure enough, he has just another testament to it (14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, completion percentage of 60.0 through Week 14). The 34-year-old was tossed to the bench in mid-December, becoming the latest aging Pro Bowler to come to Washington only to fizzle out.

The Eagles were only comfortable dismissing McNabb because they had their signalcaller of the future already on the roster. Of course, little did they know that signalcaller would be not Kevin Kolb, but Michael Vick, the Comeback Player, MVP candidate and headline story of 2010. -- Andy Benoit


3. The Old Croc Slinger

It was the story everyone loved to pretend to hate: Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre. Did you get sick of him? Maybe on the surface. But deep down, you were never sick enough to ignore him. And that’s why he stayed in the news.

Favre’s 2010 essentially began and ended in pain. He suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the NFC Championship loss to the Saints and, 11 months later, had his consecutive starts streak end at 297 thanks to a bad shoulder. In between the ankle and shoulder was a thigh, elbow and foot injury. Each injury brought about an additional slew of reports, 99.9 percent of them speculative.

It’s the very concept of speculation that has become the defining characteristic of Favre’s public image. There was speculation about whether he’ll retire or come back. (Once again, 2010 gave us plenty of those stories, too. Remember Favre’s “this is it” texts to teammates during the summer? The workouts at Oak Grove high school? The Brad Childress visits to Mississippi? The more fruitful Jared Allen-Ryan Longwell-Steve Hutchinson surprise visit at the last minute?) There was speculation about his relationship with Brad Childress (it was poor, at best). And, for the first time since his substance abuse issues in the 90s, there was speculation about Favre’s character and private life.

The Jenn Sterger ordeal never took on the life of Tiger Woods’ scandal, but that was only because Favre, for the first time in his career, wasn’t willing to publicly address a topic in his patented stream-of-conscious manner. In the end, Favre admitted to placing calls to Sterger but denied sending lewd photos. The NFL investigated but, with the year winding down, the story seems to be fading away. Oddly enough, it helped Favre that, by the time the Sterger story came out, people had grown tired of hearing his name in the news.



People may have been tired of Favre, but they weren’t sick of him. It’s doubtful that he’ll be part of the top 10 NFL stories of 2011, but it's not inconceivable. The year ahead will still carry speculation about a possible comeback (don’t count on Favre biting this time), speculation about what Favre will do next (a lot of people will say broadcasting, but Favre’s never had that kind of persona) and, perhaps most intriguing of all, speculation about when Favre will return to Lambeau Field to make amends with the fans and accept his number being retired. -- Andy Benoit


2. Injury Du Generation

This space perhaps should have been dedicated solely to Steelers LB James Harrison and James Harrison alone. He’s racked up $125,000 in fines this year after illegal hits on Browns WR Mohammad Massaquoi, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and Saints QB Drew Brees. He’s also been quoted as saying he’s not trying to injure players, but instead, he’s only trying to hurt them (or was it, he’s trying not to hurt them, but to injure them instead?).  

Either way, it seems like concussions in the NFL have risen (there’s really no way to tell if this is true; only that the diagnosis of concussions might have risen), and in actuality, it seems like every player in the NFL this season has suffered at least one concussion. Even after the Dunta Robinson/DeSean Jackson collision forced the NFL to announce that it was going to enforce the penalties against illegal hits, the concussions have continued.  

But that’s not the scariest part of this whole scenario. The scariest part is what an examination of Chris Henry’s brain found in June. Though he played in the league only five years before he died last season, his brain showed signs of significant brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head.  

While it’s great that people like Chris Nowinski are making a concerted effort to educate the public about the dangers of concussions and continued head injuries, nothing is likely to change. The players don’t want rules-makers messing with the game, they don’t want to change their tackling technique, they just want to hit people and hit people hard. Many fans agree. Which, of course, is easy to do when you’re not the one who is getting smashed on the field every week.

This problem, I fear, will continue until the end of time.  -- Josh Katzowitz


1. First-Place Second Chance



There's a reasonable argument that Michael Vick's current situation is the most compelling redemptive story we've seen in sports.

Ever.

And yeah, I'm sorry that it requires the age-old tripe that is the one-line semi-paragraph to describe what Vick did, but, well, he tortured dogs and somehow returned to the good graces of America. Or at least the majority of America and/or those that buy their Nissans from Woodbury, New Jersey.



That's less than half a joke. Take a step back and look at what Michael Vick did, compare it to what any "sports villain" has done in the past 50 years (versus their redemptive story, natch) and, pretty please, find a comparable. Josh Hamilton is the closest thing there is and even he dealt with sins beyond the level of self-indulgence. That's not to say that we should applaud someone who manages to jerry-rig an engine to drive a broken car more than we should applaud someone who happens to repair the tires on a four-wheel flat.

It's just that if you're going to gauge a level of success by figuring out where someone ends relative to where they started and award bonus points for where they went in between (which, folks, unless you've stopped paying attention for the last several hundred years, is the "American Dream"), then it's very, very difficult to root against Michael Vick.

And also why he was nearly the most compelling story of 2010. -- Will Brinson

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our
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Posted on: December 10, 2010 2:55 pm
 

5 questions (or more) with Troy Brown

T. Brown spent 15 years in New England and won three Super Bowl rings (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Since retiring from his 15-year NFL career, spent entirely with the Patriots where he won a Pro Bowl berth in 2001 to go with his three Super Bowl rings and his club record for most career receptions, Brown has delved into media work on the radio and on TV. He helps cover New England for WEEI and Comcast SportsNet, and he’s made national news a few times this season, including last month when he made scathing remarks about Ravens LB Terrell Suggs.

Brown has been working with Captain Morgan in the company’s pursuit of the One Million Poses challenge, which is trying to drum up $1 million for various charities. For more information, click here for the Facebook page.

We caught up with Brown this week, and we discussed Tom Brady’s MVP candidacy, the difference between Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan, and why the branches on Belichick’s coaching tree haven’t been so impressive in NFL head coaching jobs.

Previous Five Questions (or More):

Dec. 3: Panthers QB Brian St. Pierre

Nov. 19:
Former coach/author Mike Gottfried

Nov. 12: 49ers LB Takeo Spikes

Nov. 5: former WR, current NFL analyst Keyshawn Johnson

Oct. 29: Chargers LS Mike Windt

Oct. 22: Bengals WR coach Mike Sheppard

Oct. 15: Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong

Oct. 8:
Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich

Oct. 1: Kent Babb of the KC Star

Sept. 24: Texans WR Kevin Walter

Sept. 17: former Bengals, Titans DT John Thornton

Sept. 11: Seahawks RB Leon Washington

1. CBSSports.com:
As a former Patriots player, you must have loved what happened on Monday when your men beat up on the Jets 45-3.

Troy Brown: They seem to be the team in the NFL, and watching that beating makes Patriots fans feel good.  I was disappointed in the game. I was expecting to come there and see a good football game, though I expected the Patriots to win it. I didn’t think it would be that bad. I thought the Jets would show up a little more than they did after all the talking they did during the week. Obviously, no one on their team showed up. The coaches didn’t show up, the players didn’t show up, and it showed.

2. CBS:
It’s an interesting dichotomy I think between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. I was reading a column the other day that talked about how much Ryan wants to make it a rivalry. How much he talked and tried to get Belichick’s attention. And then after it was over, Belichick made it seem like it was a preseason win. What do you think about the approach these two coaches take when dealing with each other?

Brown:
One guy seems to be pretty confident in his abilities to lead his guys, and the other guy is trying to create some hype around his players. It backfired. The Patriots didn’t show any interest in talking about who’s the best team. When there was no response from the Patriots (after the Jets’ trash-talking), the Jets seemed to get frustrated. Maybe they didn’t have to worry about the Jets, because from watching them on film, they saw some weaknesses. They knew as long as they went out and played well, they could beat these guys.  I think the Patriots were inside of their heads.

3. CBS:
What’s it like playing for Belichick? Whenever anybody from the Patriots is interviewed on TV, they talk like him and don’t say anything. Belichick can come off condescending in public, but obviously, his players love playing for him and they feed off him.

Brown: That’s what you have to have in anything, in any business. Everybody has to be on the same page in order to be successful. You can’t have half the guys telling the media one thing and the other guys saying something else and the coach saying something completely different. That’s what you have in New York and Minnesota. It becomes chaotic. It’s about winning. Not talking trash.

If you’re a person that does his job and you come to work prepared to do your job, it’s easy to play for him. A lot of the people who have had problems with him didn’t come to work to do their job and didn’t want responsibility. Those are the guys who have problems with Belichick and with (Bill) Parcells. For me, it was easy. It seems that he plays mind games with you, but do your job. If you know you job and you work at your craft, it’s not hard.

CBS: But you look at Belichick’s coaching tree – guys like Josh McDaniels, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, and even Charlie Weis at Notre Dame – and these guys haven’t done much as head coaches in the NFL. Why is that?

Brown:
The biggest problem is that a lot of those guys, they change their persona to be like Bill’s all the way. You still have to be yourself. They changed who they were. You also have to realize that Bill Belichick is in charge of most everything here. Romeo Crennel didn’t even hire his own staff in Cleveland. It’s kind of tough to coach a team and be successful if you can’t hire your own staff.

4. CBS: There’s been so much talk this week about Tom Brady being the leading candidate for the MVP this season, especially with the way he played against the Jets (editor’s note: You can still check out the Top Ten With a Twist list for non-Brady MVP candidates). You think he’s the MVP at this point?

Brown:
If my vote counted, he should with everything he’s done. He’s the guy who’s gotten better and better this year, even after the Randy Moss trade. He seemed to get stronger after he got used to playing with his new crew. You have to give it to him for winning 26 games in a row at home.

CBS:
That is pretty amazing. It’s funny. After his knee surgery, he didn’t have a great year by his standards and I think people questioned whether he had lost his elite status. I guess he hasn’t.

Brown: He didn’t have a horrible season last year. If you compared that to his seasons before, he may have had a subpar season, but if you look at everybody else in the league and compared him to them, he didn’t have a bad season. When you come back from knee surgery like that, most guys aren’t the same until that following year, so it wasn’t a huge concern because they’re usually better the second year. But he may have had to get confident and more comfortable with the guys around him.

5. CBS:
I know you do some media work in the Boston-area during the season, working for WEEI and Comcast. How is it as a former player to now be a part of the media?

Brown: It’s difficult at times having to talk about your old team and not be biased toward them and be critical of guys you played with. It was a little tough at first. But for the most part, the players understand. They know you have to have thick skin and be able to take criticism. That’s pretty much it.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: November 23, 2010 11:49 am
Edited on: November 23, 2010 11:56 am
 

Delhomme could start for Browns with McCoy hurt

Posted by Will Brinson

Thought Colt McCoy is secretly only 2-3 as the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns (and we thought he was such a winner, sigh), there hasn't been much discussion of who's taking snaps in Browns Town.

Actually, that's because McCoy's been really good so far, and has taken some tough losses -- including one against the Jaguars this week, that saw him injure his ankle.

And that injury might just open the door for Jake Delhomme to nab his starting job back, according to Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Eric Mangini told the press that the $19 million man is "back to 100 percent, or as close to 100 percent as anyone is." Because McCoy "definitely" sprained his ankle, it seems pretty unlikely that Mangini would force the possible franchise savior into the lineup during a lost season when he's already suffering from an injury.

But it's also unlikely he's too terribly concerned with letting Delhomme earn his hefty paycheck by trying to help Mangini keep his job in Cleveland. And yes, if Delhomme started it would be against the Carolina Panthers, who are currently paying him $12 million. Which is either way too much money for the potential rights to Andrew Luck (if the Panthers lose the game) or far too high per interception (the 50/50 scenario where Jake chunks four picks and the Panthers win). 

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 16, 2010 1:20 am
 

F&R NFL Approval Matrix, Week 10

Posted by Will Brinson

Our affinity for graphs and charts and purty pictures knows no bounds, so (with a nod to the smartypants at NY Mag), we present the NFL Approval Matrix. Suggestions, complaints and intellecutual property lawsuits may be directed to us on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).

Click to embiggen.


Posted on: November 15, 2010 1:56 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2010 2:00 pm
 

NFL Week 10 Podcast Review

Posted by Will Brinson

Week 10 is in the books and, well, hopefully everyone is sufficiently confused as to what's going on in the NFL at this point. So Josh and I hopped on the old podcast machine to try and make some sense of what's going on.

For instance, has Jason Garrett already saved his job? Are the Giants and Steelers in trouble because of offensive line injuries? Why isn't anyone talking about the Falcons as the top team in the league? Should the Bills be celebrating at this point? Did Eric Mangini make a mistake by not playing for a tie? Do you ever want to see Tom Brady angry again? 

All those questions answered (plus, much, much more) below -- just hit the play button below and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .
Posted on: November 15, 2010 1:41 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 1:04 pm
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 10

Posted by Will Brinson & Josh Katzowitz

1. Garrett does Dallas

Perhaps the weirdest thing about a really weird Week 10 in the NFL was the Dallas Cowboys' not just winning, but flat-out dominating the New York Giants en route to a 33-20 thrashing of the team everyone thought was the NFC's best just a week ago.

But what could have possibly changed in just one week to take the Cowboys from the definitive punchline of the 2010 season and turn them into a dangerous spoiler machine?

"The difference is the freakish disasters that have defined our season didn't happen tonight for us," Jon Kitna said afterwards.

Well, yes, there's that. But where's the Jason Garrett love?!?!? After all, if he can do this in just one week, imagine what he could do in a whole year with a gigantic contract! (At least that's the argument he's likely pushing to Jerry Jones for the rest of this week.)

Garrett clearly makes the Cowboys a better team right now than Wade Phillips did -- simply based on effort alone -- but whether or not he's the long-term answer as a coach for Jones' organization is going to require more than just four quarters of impressive play from the Cowboys.

But Cowboys fans probably shouldn't bask in the glow of a dominating win against a division opponent -- continued success in a lost season will make Garrett all but a lock for the full-time job in 2011, and that would be a shame, particularly with so many excellent coaching candidates out there after the season.

One thing's for sure, though: whoever coaches Dallas next year and beyond is going to have a very special talent in Dez Bryant. The rookie wideout, whose play this year has to make Jones feel less horrible for passing on Randy Moss so many years ago, continued to light up the stat sheet against the Giants. (WB)

2. Dolphins QBs get tossed into the blender

Entering Sunday’s game, the Dolphins knew exactly where they wanted to go with their quarterbacks. Coaches had determined they needed to replace starter Chad Henne with backup Chad Pennington, and though this couldn’t have been easy for Henne, he took his demotion with class and professionalism.

That lasted all of two plays before Pennington dislocated his shoulder and left the game with a ton of money in hand (not the same hand that’s connected to the shoulder he just dislocated. The other hand, obviously). That’s because he got a $3.25 million bonus to play those two snaps (it was an escalator in his contract that had to do with him playing as the starting quarterback), so hey, good for him.

Next up was Henne, who soon left with a knee injury.

That leaves the Dolphins with one healthy quarterback, Tyler Thigpen. All we’ve heard since he was elevated to starter is how unorthodox of a signal-caller he is but, at the same time, how effective he can be. Apparently, he burns the Dolphins first team defense in practice all the time while running the scout team. Apparently, he’s innovative and, if he can limit his mistakes, he could be a real force. That said, 24 hours ago, he was nothing better than a third-string quarterback.

And to be fair, for all of Thigpen’s attributes, he’s 1-10 all time as an NFL starter.

Miami now will have to shop for at least one other quarterback to back up Thigpen, and the Dolphins probably will add two this week. JaMarcus Russell is apparently one option, as is Sean Canfield, Tom Brandsteter, Todd Bouman, Jeff George, Vinny Testaverde, and hell, I don’t know, Randall Cunningham (only Russell, Canfield, Brandsteter and Bouman are legit, by the way). (JK)

3. Do NOT make the Patriots angry



The debate surrounding the Patriots over the past week was "trap game v. crumbling dynasty." Could the Patriots really be looking that far past a former assistant on Bill Belichick's staff in Eric Mangini? Could Randy Moss have been more important than we thought to Tom Brady's success?

Yes and no are the answers to those questions -- and we can all justifiably hop back on the Pats bandwagon after they dismantled the Steelers on Sunday night behind a monster Brady performance that saw him throw for 350 yards, three touchdowns and rush for another. (Interestingly, all three were to rookie Rob Gronkowski and this was Brady's first game over 300 yards this season.)

Belichick may plan well (22-2 after a bye) and New England may never lose back-to-back games (23-3 following a loss), but not many people saw this coming, even if it was in Pittsburgh, where Brady's consistently ripped owned the Steelers franchise and stomped on the collective heart of the fanbase every time he gets a chance (6-1 against them for his career).

This isn't to say that there shouldn't be any hesitation to crown the Pats the best team in the NFL, because there should be. Their defense is still really young (though it's maturing), and there absolutely questions about the offense, but, really, what you should worry about is not playing them when they're angry. "

And if you saw Brady screaming at his offensive lineman, crunching forward for three yards, slamming the ball once he got in the end zone or referring to the game as "emotional" at least 30 times afterwards, you know the Pats played and practiced angry this week. (WB)

4. What else can go wrong in Minnesota?

Wait, wait, don’t answer that. If there is an answer to that, we don’t want to know the answer.

And we’re not even talking about Percy Harvin’s migraines and Sidney Rice’s hip and Bernard Berrian’s groin and John Sullivan’s calf and Adrian Peterson’s ineffectiveness Sunday and … so on and so on.

We’re talking about how Brett Favre somehow came up with another injury he can fight through (he told ESPN that he’s been having shoulder pains that might be related to biceps surgery he had in 2008) and how he threw three interceptions Sunday to go with a fumble and a QB passer rating of 44.5. Not coincidentally, Minnesota lost 27-13 to Chicago to fall to 3-6 on the season.

But obviously, Favre still thinks his squad can make the playoffs. Right, Brett?

"If I had to gauge today I would say no," he said. "I'm not writing us off. But guys are in that locker room as we did right after the game [saying], 'We've got to find a way to turn it around' – all the cliches that go with it, as you would expect. 'We've got to pick it up. We've got to find a way to win.' And I say yes to all of those.

"Can this team make the playoffs? Yes, I'll say yes to that. Will we make the playoffs? I have no idea. No idea. And for anyone in our locker room to think beyond next week, or really beyond today ... we will be watching the playoffs. That's probably a better guess than us making the playoffs. And that's just being honest."

The truth does, in fact, hurt. Whether Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was being completely honest about coach Brad Childress’ continued employment – he told ESPN that he wasn’t considering getting rid of Childress – we’ll just have to wait and see. But you can’t like the sour attitude that continues to waft through Childress’ locker room. Honest or not. (JK)

5. The AFC West just got wilder

The Oakland Raiders cruised into their bye with a three-game winning streak, but it was reasonable to think the Kansas City Chiefs could put some distance in the AFC West standings thanks to a matchup against the defensively incompetent Broncos.

Then a funny thing happened -- Denver watched how the Raiders beat KC the week before, stacked the box early against Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, and blew out Todd Haley's squad early and often. Late too, for that matter; Josh McDaniels' decision to keep his starters in the whole game didn't exactly sit well with Haley, who refused to shake hands after the game.

What was the long-term outcome of this game? Well, for starters, the AFC West is wide open now. Oakland and KC are both 5-4 and in first, but looming LARGE are the San Diego Chargers at 4-5 and just one game back.

The Bolts are even more terrifying for that division because by the time the second set of divisional games get underway, they'll be in possession of a fully-loaded weapon, as Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson and Legandu Naanee all (should) return sooner than later. 

What might be most weird about this is, given that all eight divisions are completely up in the air at this point, the Chargers might once again represent the team most likely to run away with their division. If they can win their remaining four games against AFC West foes (home-and-home against Denver, home game against Kansas City, home against Oakland), there's a pretty good chance they close the season 6-1 and cruise to another title.  (WB)

6. What else can we say about Palmer?

He’s not just average at this point in his career. He’s worse than average. Carson Palmer showed that again in the Bengals 23-17 loss to the Colts. His stats actually don’t look too bad (31 of 42 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions). But Palmer, as he’s been the past two seasons, is sometimes so inaccurate, it actually feels like a joke. Surely, he can’t be that off. He must be joshing us.

Yet, he threw another pick-6 Sunday, and against a Colts defense missing most of its key players, he simply wasn’t good enough. He’s also not getting enough help from his teammates, particularly Terrell Owens, who seems to quit on a route at least once a game. Too far out of his reach – which, to be fair, happens quite a bit with Palmer – and Owens doesn’t bother going after it or knocking it away from the defender who’s usually ready to make the interception.

Palmer apparently had a pain-killing injection put into his shoulder before the game – the same shoulder that caused him to miss practice Wednesday and Thursday – and it seems clear Palmer isn’t healthy. Perhaps, he hasn’t been healthy in quite a while. Those are the whispers that follow him around, and though he’s always quick to deny that he has long-lasting pain, that could explain why he’s fallen so far from being an elite quarterback to being one that has dropped below the average line. (JK)

7. When playing not to win works



Pretty sure I'll feel like a jerk suggesting this, but the Browns should have played for the tie on Sunday. And yeah, maybe Herm Edwards won't agree, but when Cleveland dialed up a pass on first down with 1:35 remaining in overtime, and Colt McCoy missed Ben Watson, it ended up costing the Browns the game (and, no joke, a chance to at least get back near the playoff race) because they left the Jets 24 seconds on the clock after a punt to their own 37-yard line.

Now, McCoy had already led an amazing drive to close out regulation, so it's fine putting the game in his hands. But in that situation, you really can't play "just to win," because the risk-reward of having to march 60 yards just to have a shot at a game-winning field goal doesn't pan out. Run the ball with Peyton Hillis twice, and maybe play action on third down. Otherwise you end up losing just like the Browns did. (WB)

8. There's a new Smith in town

When we talked to 49ers LB Takeo Spikes recently about his team, he brought up, with no prompting, how quickly the team had taken a liking to QB Troy Smith.

"Just with Troy’s presence," Spikes said. "He’s a guy who’s not only confident in his abilities but he makes everybody feel confident about themselves and what he’s about to do when we step on the field."

You could really see that against the Rams. Smith threw for 356 yards and a TD on just 17 completions, and as the game entered the second half, he looked completely in control and command. This is not how he looked when he was in Baltimore. Maybe it’s something in that San Francisco air. Or maybe it’s the Rice-A-Roni. (JK)

9. Bills get off the schneid

The Bills have been so close on so many different occasions.

They kept New England in sight before falling 38-30 in Week 3. And after taking their bye in Week 6, the heartbreaks really began to pile up.

In Week 7, the Bills gained 505 yards and scored four touchdowns – and took a 24-10 lead against Baltimore, no less – but the game turned for good in overtime when Ravens LB Ray Lewis lifted up Buffalo Te Shane Nelson (not unlike Patrick Swayze hoisting Jennifer Grey into the air) and stripped the ball away. Four plays later, Baltimore kicked the game-winning field goal.

In Week 8, Buffalo forced overtime AGAIN, and AGAIN, the opponent crushed the Bills souls in the final period. Early in overtime, Bills K Rian Lindell actually kicked the 53-yarder that would have given the Bills the win, but Chiefs coach Todd Haley had called timeout just before the snap. On the retry, Lindell hit the upright and it was no good.

And last week, not even a trip to Toronto could change the Bills fortunes. Despite Buffalo leading 19-14 in the fourth quarter, the Bills allowed (of all people) Bears QB Jay Cutler to throw the go-ahead TD pass with 6:41 to go. The Bears could not respond and fell 22-19.

But Sunday … ah, Sunday. A blessed, glorious victory.

So, Buffalo, how did it feel beating the Lions 14-12? This Associated Press lede should tell you the story:

Elated and relieved, guard Eric Wood could not contain himself as he skipped toward the Buffalo Bills’ locker room door.

“Holy cow! We won a game!” Wood yelled, his voice echoing in the tunnel at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

So, yeah, it felt pretty good. Buffalo can thank RB Fred Jackson, who rushed for a season-high 133 yards and scored both touchdowns. And despite the fact Lions QB Shaun Hill led a furious comeback in the final minutes, the Bills defense cracked down during the two-point conversion and Hill was forced to throw it out of the back of the end zone.

Here’s hoping the Bills enjoy this victory. Lords knows they’ve earned it. (JK)

10. Quick Hitters:

****We had two overtime games this week. In an unbelievable upset, CBS’ Gus Johnson wasn’t calling either game. His game actually was decided on a last-second Hail Mary, which allowed him to be at his best while not having to put any extra (unpaid) time into his shift.

****As a result of the Bills winning, the Panthers look like they're in prime position for the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It'll be the first time in franchise history Carolina selects first overall -- the closest they came was No. 2 in 2003, which netted them Julius Peppers instead of David Carr. That worked out okay.

****The Lions are 8-1 this season! Against the spread. Which is actually pretty impressive and probably indicative that they're better than their record indicates. So, that's something, right?

****Amazingly, the 49ers had three of their touchdowns called back because of penalties. And they were impressive touchdowns, too. Unfortunately, they’ve gone to that almost-touchdown heaven in the sky, never to be seen or heard from again.

****Speaking of San Francisco, the team was 0-for-11 on third-down conversions until Rams S O.J. Atogwe was called for pass interference in overtime. Two plays later, the 49ers kicked the game-winning field goal. Who said you have to convert third downs to win?

****Shonn Greene was expected to get more carries this week and he did, making the most out of the 20 times he toted the rock (his second-highest total of the season) and giving a good indication that the's prepping to turn into more of a workhorse for the Jets.

****Know what's weird? People just refuse to talk about the Atlanta Falcons as the best team in the NFL. Even though they have a record to match. That is all.

****Mario Manningham and Ramses Barden looked sharp in the loss to the Cowboys, just proving how deep and talented that WR corps of the Giants is -- if Steve Smith misses significant time, it's obviously problematic, but New York can still score.

****Randy Moss said he had a "bad" day/game in his debut for the Titans. And he's correct, but it was odd that he didn't try and blame someone else, merely pointing out he'd do what was necessary in order to help the team win. But that's usually what he does after his first week in a new location. If this keeps up and the Titans aren't winning, things could change. Quickly.

****Pete Carroll's playcalling is so freaking bizarre. It's one thing that the Seahawks simply can't run the ball without Russell Okung healthy (they can't), but it's another to be chunking the ball left and right across the field with little-to-no time remaining. Oh, and his decision to QB sneak in the red zone resulted in a broken bone for Matt Hasselbeck. It's really going criminally underrated because they're having some success this year. 

****Brandon Marshall's temper flared up again Sunday, as he got upset after making a catch and threw the ball into the stands, drawing a penalty. Given that he might be catching passes from JaMarcus Russell soon (no, no seriously), there's a pretty good chance we could be seeing an epic meltdown at some point. 
Posted on: November 14, 2010 10:07 am
Edited on: November 14, 2010 10:10 am
 

Hot Routes 11.14.10: Too severe a penalty?



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

- Mike Klis of the Denver Post writes the Broncos penalty on LB D.J. Williams was too severe. Klis talks to a psychologist who suggests Williams might have a sickness – as in an addiction to alcohol perhaps. Maybe so, but that doesn’t excuse Williams allegedly driving drunk and putting everybody on the road at risk.

- It doesn’t appear that Seahawks T Russell Okung will play today because of a left ankle injury. Combine that with the high ankle sprain he suffered before the season began, and you’ve got a first-round pick who’s basically played six quarters this season. That’s probably less than coach Pete Carroll would like.

- You know how Eagles coach Andy Reid is 12-0 in games immediately following a bye week? Well, Saints coach Sean Payton hopes some of that magic can rub off on him.

- Rookie Jets CB Kyle Williams will take over much of the nickel cornerback snaps that had been reserved for Drew Coleman. Considering Wilson was on the bench for much of last week – and the past few games in general – he must have impressed somebody quite a bit.

- Yikes! Browns coach Eric Mangini makes a fat joke regarding Rex Ryan. Ryan kids that he’s been wobbled by the insult. Everybody feels good about themselves, because both Ryan and Mangini are skinnier than they once were.

- It’s been a whirlwind week for CB Jason Allen. First, he lost his starting job to Sean Smith in Miami and then the Dolphins released him. Now, he’s with the Texans, and considering how bad Houston’s pass defense has been, he could get playing time immediately.

- If you have Giants C Shaun O’Hara on your fantasy team – ahem, a fantasy team in which you play individual offensive linemen – it might be wise to bench him for the next few weeks. Because he ain’t playing any time soon.

- What a genius idea. Serving subpoenas by deception and taking advantage of a region’s love for the Steelers.

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Posted on: November 13, 2010 3:27 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 8:40 pm
 

Week 10 injury news and analysis, part II

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Patriots at Steelers


It was big news Friday when Tom Brady was listed as probable with a right shoulder on New England’s injury report (everybody in the Northeast let out a HUGE exhale). But he also was spotted limping Friday, and he declined to comment to the media about why. This obviously would be a problem if he’s called upon to move around in the pocket or to scramble.

In other New England injury news, RB Fred Taylor is listed as questionable with his turf toe injury. He was limited in practice all week, but the team also might want to hold off inserting him into a game before he’s completely healthy. He hasn’t played since Week 3.

UPDATE (8:38 p.m.): New England has downgraded three players to "out." That includes OG Stephen Neal, RB Fred Taylor and DE Myron Taylor. None of them will play Sunday.

Steelers DE Brett Keisel has missed three straight games because of a hamstring injury, and he’s doubtful again this week. He was supposed to start last Monday vs. the Bengals, but he re-aggravated the injury in warmups. OG Chris Kemoeatu also is doubtful after spraining his knee in Cincinnati. It sounds like Ramon Foster will take his place in the starting lineup.

LB James Harrison was a late addition to the injury report with back spasms. He’s listed as questionable.

Titans at Dolphins


The big question mark for Tennessee obviously is QB Vince Young. I wrote earlier today that it doesn’t sound like he will play , and that means Kerry Collins would get the starting nod.

WR Kenny Britt is out with a hamstring – potentially for the rest of the regular season – but that’s where Randy Moss is supposed to come in and perform.

For Miami, a couple backups (CB Tyrone Culver and WR Roberto Wallace) are questionable, and although some of the team’s most important players (T Jake Long, LB Karlos Dansby, S Chris Clemons and TE Anthony Fasano) are on the injury list, all of them are probable and should play.

Jets at Browns

One of the stranger stories of the week was Browns LB Marcus Benard who collapsed in the locker room Thursday and was sent to the hospital for tests. He didn’t practice Friday and is questionable to play. But Benard, who leads the team with 4 ½ sacks, wants to be out there, and it’s certainly possible Cleveland could allow him to do so.

Meanwhile, Cleveland QBs Jake Delhomme (ankle) and Seneca Wallace (ankle) are both questionable, but at this point, it’s hard to see how coach Eric Mangini could insert either given the way Colt McCoy has played the past three games.

The Jets are pretty healthy. CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring), LB Calvin Pace (foot) G Matt Slauson (knee) and T Damien Woody (knee) are on the injury list, but all are listed as probable.

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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