Tag:Peyton Hillis
Posted on: December 24, 2010 11:14 am
 

Week 16 NFL Podcast Preview

Posted by Will Brinson

It's a holiday bonanza of a podcast today, as Andy and Will break down every game on the weekend schedule, handle Rex Ryan's foot fetish and also welcome special guest Greg Cosell of "NFL Matchup" to talk about some of the bigger issues in the league today (MVP candidates, emerging trends, underrated coaches and possible Pro Bowl snubs).

Afterward, they discuss whether they'd rather have David Garrard or Donovan McNabb long-term, whether Ray Lewis will let Peyton Hillis go off again, why Tony Sparano's on the hot seat, what the Seahawks will do for a quarterback and which teams out of the Giants, Packers and Colts will keep their playoff hopes alive.

All those issues handled (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: 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

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Posted on: December 12, 2010 1:28 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2010 1:49 pm
 

Hillis crosses 1,000-yard rushing mark

Posted by Will Brinson

It's almost a shame that there's been so much craziness in the NFL this year, because one of the best stories to come out of 2010 -- the emergence of Peyton Hillis as a stud running back -- has gone under the radar a little bit.

But make no mistake, he's having a monster year. And on the Browns first drive Sunday against the Bills, Hillis because just the third player in Browns history to rush for 1,000 yards and 11 TDs in a season, joining Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly in some pretty elite company.

The other amazing thing is that Hillis is a white running back. And that sounds silly, but there hasn't been a 1,000 yard Caucasian rusher in the NFL since 1985.

As Michael Wilbon recently said, it doesn't matter what your skin color is, if you're a minority in sports at a certain position, and you achieve an amazing goal like that, you should be celebrated. Although don't tell Hillis that.

"I’m a human just like everybody else is a human," Hillis said recently. "I don’t think race really matters. Guys on this team look at me as a person, not as an image or a race."

Perhaps even crazier with Hillis, though, is that he was a fullback at Arkansas with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and went completely unnoticed (relative to them) when it came to prospective studliness in the NFL.

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Posted on: November 9, 2010 1:48 pm
 

Is the Hillis trade the worst in DEN history?

P. Hillis was a trade that Cleveland can benefit from. Denver? Not so much (Getty) Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For those who think, “Worst trade ever,” when they reminisce about the Broncos swap of RB Peyton Hillis to the Browns for QB Brady Quinn (yep, much to Josh McDaniels’ chagrin, that actually happened), the Denver Post has some good news for you.

Well, “good news” might be stretching it. But Mark Kiszla does lend some perspective on a few of the worst trades in Broncos history. In effect, Kiszla writes the Hillis-Quinn deal won’t go down as the absolute worst thing ever.

But he has to go quite a ways back to make his point.

The three trades he remembers:

The trade of CB Willie Brown to the Raiders. Brown eventually made the Pro Football HOF. This occurred in 1967.

In 1968, Denver rid itself of Curley Culp, because they weren’t sure what position he should play. Kansas City figured it out, made him a nose guard, and thus, began the 3-4 defense that continues to be so in vogue.

In 1979, the Broncos traded Lyle Alzado to Oakland for Rulon Jones. Both went on make meaningful impacts on their new teams, but Alzado won a Super Bowl title with the Raiders. Jones did not.

For the record, the Post also has a poll on the website that asks which of those four should be considered the worst trade in team history. With 60.1 percent of the vote, Hillis for Quinn is the winner so far.

So, Mazel Tov to McDaniels for that.

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Posted on: November 8, 2010 3:03 am
Edited on: November 8, 2010 3:27 am
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 9

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) The common sense approach for Jerry Jones

Out of principle, I’ve been trying to avoid Dallas Cowboy stories at all costs these past few weeks. I’ve also been buying into the idea of keeping Wade Phillips around for the remainder of the season just because, well, the Collective Bargaining Agreement issues do W. Phillips (US Presswire)complicate matters, and promoting someone from Phillips’ staff to the top position on an interim basis doesn’t pack much punch.

But what happened in Green Bay can’t be ignored. Thus, I’m writing a Cowboys story – an opinionated Cowboys story – that should cover the thousands of other Cowboys stories you’ll read this week. Here it goes:

It would be wrong to say the Cowboys quit Sunday night, as “quitting” would imply they actually got started at some point. The problems for this team are as numerous as they are obvious. Based on the way Jon Kitna seems to be received by teammates, you’d swear Dallas’ 52 other players are all atheists. The only way Kitna could be ignored any further is if Andre Gurode simply stopped snapping him the ball. Beyond Kitna, the running backs appear to be forbidden from pass blocking. The only time Dallas’ defense looks the least bit complex in the presnap phase is when a linebacker or safety lines up in the wrong spot. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick has been particularly awful all season, though at least he hasn’t mortgaged his heart and self respect the way Mike Jenkins has (what kind of tackling effort was that on the James Jones touchdown???).

We could go on forever, but the point is, this team has crossed the threshold of pathetic, and because of that, Jerry Jones needs to fire Phillips. Yes, a head coaching change at this point is complicated, but I’ll take complicated over helpless any day. For the rest of this season, replace Phillips with Dave Campo, a fiery motivator with some head coaching experience. Don’t promote Jason Garrett – he may be just as big a part of the problem. Over these next eight games the former NFL backup quarterback needs to prove he’s still worthy of being an offensive coordinator in this league. The overly-simplistic system, lack of identity in the ground game and inconsistency of key players suggest he’s not. (By the way, have we ever seen a hot young head coaching candidate cool as quickly as Garrett? Those two 6-2 teams playing this Thursday night were both turned down by Garrett at one point.)

The second the game clock reads 0:00 in Week 17, Jones needs to offer a contract to Bill Cowher. Cris Collinsworth made a great point during the broadcast: when the Cowboys have had a no-nonsense disciplinarian head coach (i.e. Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells), they’ve prospered; when they’ve had a “players’ coach”, they’ve floundered. Go get Cowher. He’ll instill toughness, he runs a 3-4 scheme and, though maybe not a top echelon personnel guy the way Johnson and Parcells were, he’ll ultimately improve the roster.

Cowher wants to coach; it’s amazing he’s still available after four years. Jones got lucky there. If for some reason Cowher is hesitant to get back in, Jones should offer him $10-12 million a season. He should be willing to give up part of his power, too. Sure, if there’s a lockout, Cowher may not get to instill his modus operandi on the team until August, which would be a problem. But that problem pales in comparison to the one that is the status quo.



2.) Childress sets a new standard for buzz kill
B. Favre (US Presswire)
We’ve all made a joke that falls painfully flat. It’s a terrible feeling. The ensuing silence makes the air around you feel thick, and when you try to backtrack or play it off, the nightmare only intensifies. No matter what your politics, in that moment you find yourself marveling at the courage it must take for someone like Vice President Joe Biden to face the world every day.

Biden at least specializes in the foot-in-mouth variety of failed jokes. That’s the harmless kind. The other kind of failed joke is the one that derives from spite and pettiness. The room falls silent on these jokes because everyone knows that there is an uncomfortable hint of truth behind it. That’s what happened when Brad Childress said in his postgame press conference, “I'm not going to stand here like Brett Favre and tell you I need compassion, I need a hug. I'm all right."

(Crickets)

Why – why?! – say that? Now, instead of talking about how Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards and led an incredible two-touchdown comeback in the final four minutes against Arizona, we’re talking about how the quarterback and head coach still don’t like each other.

And it’s not just the Favre storyline that takes a backseat. Percy Harvin played on a bad ankle and was fantastic (nine catches, 126 yards). Adrian Peterson (15 carries, 81 yards and a touchdown, plus four catches, 63 yards and another touchdown) showed late in the game why he has reclaimed his spot as the league’s best running back. Jared Allen, with 2.5 sacks and six hits on Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson, quieted all his naysayers (which even those naysayers were glad about, considering everyone agrees that Allen is a great guy and fun to root for). If the Vikings beat the Bears next week, they’ll welcome the Packers to the Metrodome in Week 11 with a chance to get within one game in the NFC North.

THESE are the storylines that should be highlighted this week. But thanks to Chilly’s chill-hearted joke, we get another week of drama in Minnesota.

3.) What the Hillis happened in Cleveland?

You wonder if the Trap Game is simply a law of nature. If any team would be immune to it, it’d be the Patriots. But sure enough, with showdowns against the Steelers and Colts on the horizon, Bill Belichick’s team came out flat as board Sunday in Cleveland. It was apparent right from the start that the Trap Game law was in affect. Trailing 3-0, rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski signaled for a fair catch on the ensuring kickoff, then, for some reason, though “eh, never mind”, and let the ball bounce to the turf. After a scrum, the Browns came away with possession, leaving a short field for football’s new giant-killer, Colt McCoy (actually, the tongue is not ALL THE WAY in cheek calling McCoy a “giant killer”, considering that the rookie is 2-1 as a starter and has beaten the Patriots and Saints).

New England’s socialistic ball control offense never came close to mustering enough firepower for a comeback. The story of the day, however, was on the other side of the ball. Fullback turned tailback Peyton Hillis rushed for a career-high 184 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. He also caught three passes for 36 yards. By now, you’ve probably heard about eight or nine different people refer to the 240-pounder from Arkansas as a battering ram. Indeed, Hillis seems to perk up at the point of contact.

The Browns have a meat and potatoes offense and, thanks in large part to Rob Ryan, one of the best-coached defenses in the NFL. The talk about Eric Mangini getting fired is clearly preemptive. Credit Mike Holmgren for giving the one-time wundercoach a vote of confidence over the past several months. Mangini is capitalizing on the tough lessons he learned early in his career.



4.) Poor BillsR. Fitzpatrick (US Presswire)


It’s hard to feel sorry for a professional football team, but goodness, how can you not want to see the Bills get off the snide? After back-to-back overtime losses, Chan Gailey’s club went to Canada to clear its mind and play before a crowd that, we’re guessing, literally does not know how to boo. (By the way, only 50,746 people showed up for the game, which is fine with the Bills, as they’ve already been paid $78 million for the whole Canadian home games arrangement. The Rogers Communications executives, on the other hand, aren’t thrilled with the low attendance, though they recently said they’d like to extend the deal past 2012. In fact, they might even try to negotiate with the Buffalo community an even split for Bills home games, which means the Bills would become the divorce children of the NFL.)

Aside from two interceptions and a few ground balls, Ryan Fitzpatrick played well Sunday. So did his new favorite receiver, Steve Johnson. The third-year pro from Kentucky surprisingly won the starting job opposite Lee Evans in training camp. After catching 11 passes for 145 yards against the Bears, Johnson leads the Bills with 30 receptions for 409 yards on the season. He’s a humble, try-hard guy, which makes him an embodiment of this entire club.

But this is still a club that fell three points short Sunday. Since a city change didn’t do the trick for the Bills, how about a temporary name change? Given this team’s heart and tenacity, I propose the Buffalo Anti-Cowboys.



5.) Charlie Whitehurst makes his debut; quarterback controversy in Seattle?


Hahaha, uh, no. Let’s move on.



6.) Colts-Eagles…..annoying?

The Colts are 5-3. The Eagles are 5-3. The Eagles just beat the Colts. That means the Eagles should be above the Colts in the power rankings, right? Sure – whatever, we can have that debate later in the week.

Regarding Sunday’s Colts-Eagles game itself, I can’t get over how maddeningly choppy this game was. Did anyone else notice the utter lack of rhythm? It was one of those games where you have to keep checking the top of your television screen because you can’t remember what the score is and you have absolutely no idea how much time is left in the quaA. Collie (US Presswire)rter.

Forget trying to sort out what, exactly , happened in this game – at the end of it, all I could think about was how pissed off the hardcore 60 Minutes fans must have been. The 60 Minutes announcement – you know, the “For those of you expecting to see 60 Minutes, you’re watching the NFL on CBS. 60 Minutes will be seen in its entirety immediately following this game, except on the West Coast, where it can be seen at its regularly scheduled time” – is something we’ve all come to associate with the ending of what are usually exciting games But when Jim Nantz read the CBS announcement during this game, there was still 13:47 left in the fourth quarter. Thus, the 15 million or so people who plan their Sunday evenings around the news magazine program had to wait 40 minutes for their show. And you know the type of person who is hardcore 60 Minutes fan is also the type of person who thinks football is a ridiculous waste of time. Those people had to be seething waiting for this choppy game to end.

Why was this game so choppy? For one, it was loaded with injuries, including a scary one for Colts receiver Austin Collie that delayed the action for several minutes. (More on this shortly.) Two, the game began with a 62-yard run by LeSean McCoy and an interception by Asante Samuel. This gave the Eagles 10 quick points, which many people did not notice because a couple of the early window games were still finishing up. Thus, when you finally got into watching the game, you instantly felt behind. Finally, Peyton Manning was brilliant at times, but he threw 21 incompletions. That’s a lot of clock stoppages.

If you were to go back and edit out some of the commercials and obnoxious (and scary) injuries from this game, you’d see that it was actually a pretty good contest. A few key notes:

***Michael Vick was every bit as superb as his numbers suggest. Vick was 17/29 for 218 yards and a touchdown, along with 74 yards and another touchdown on 10 runs. You forget how much more fun football is when Number 7 is a star.

***The Eagles were able to get pressure on Manning, sacking him three times and forcing him to redefine his pocket on several occasions.

***Jacob Tamme will be claimed in every fantasy football league across America this week (if he wasn’t already). Dallas Clark’s replacement posted Dallas Clark-like numbers Sunday: 11 catches, 108 yards and a touchdown. The surprisingly-lithe third-year pro was targeted 17 times.

***Jim Caldwell made a mistake in the way he utilized his timeouts on Philly’s final drive. Caldwell should have used his first timeout after DeSean Jackson’s 11-yard run on the drive’s first play. Instead, Caldwell used his timeout after Philly’s next first down play. His thinking was, he’d then still have a timeout to use after the second down play and third down play. That’s exactly what happened, so all was well. But Caldwell still should have used his timeout right away. If you need to save clock, then start saving clock ASAP. If Indy had, say, recovered a Philly fumble on the second down play, they would have had 40 seconds more left on the clock. The odds of that scenario playing out are small, yes, but they’re still greater than zero.

***Regarding the hit on Austin Collie, it’s understandable that the Eagles disagreed with the personal foul call. It wasn’t a helmet-to-helmet shot, and it’s debatable whether Collie was even defenseless anyway. That said, some of the Eagles could have shown more respect in arguing the call while Collie was still down. Upon seeing the replay on the big board, Asante Samuel jumped up and down and actually ran around Collie’s motionless body on his way to getting in an official’s face. Come on, Asante.



7.) Indy’s uniformsP. Manning (US Presswire)

Jim Nantz noted that the Colts wore throwback uniforms for only the second time in franchise history. It’s kind of hard to wear throwbacks when your current uniforms are basically already throwbacks. It doesn’t get much blander that then blue and white in Indianapolis. Given that they employ the most marketable player in the league, it’s actually amazing the Colts have not done some modern redesign to their jersey and brand. Yes, the horseshoe logo and understated color scheme has tradition, but most of that tradition is tied up in Baltimore. (And the people of Baltimore hate the Colts anyway.)

The only other time the Colts have worn throwbacks was Thanksgiving ’04 at Detroit. Those uniforms were basically the same as the modern unis, except that the white helmet had the horseshoe on the back, not the side. The significance here is that those helmets were white. On Sunday, Indy’s helmets were blue. Why does that matter? Because, ostensibly, this marked the first time in Peyton Manning’s entire football career that he took the field for a meaningful contest in a helmet that wasn’t white. Manning has worn a white helmet as a Colt. He wore a white helmet at Tennessee, and his Isidore Newman high school team wore white helmets. Sunday, he got to wear blue.



8.) No joke by The Bay

The Raiders are for real, given that reality in this case is a solid but not spectacular 5-4 record. Winners of three-straight for the first time since 2002, Oakland held the first-place Chiefs to just 104 yards on the ground. Coming into the game, Kansas City had rushed for over 200 yards in each of its previous three outings.

Fourth-round rookie Jacoby Ford (2010 Scouting Combine best 4.28 forty time) had six catches for 148 yards, including two crucial long grabs late over the middle right in front of Chiefs star corner Brandon Flowers. (Give credit to Jason Campbell, who on both plays showed fantastic pocket poise and accuracy.) Ford also took the second half opening kickoff back 94 yards for Oakland’s first score.

There were plenty of unusual interruptions in this game due to confusion among the officials. Jeff Triplett crews are usually great crews, but every once in a while Triplett and his men will have a few bumbling moments. One hiccup came on the overtime coin toss. The Chiefs called heads and won, but Richard Seymour thought they called tails. This wasn’t nearly as bad as the Jerome Bettis-Phil Luckett ’98 Thanksgiving game, but still, the NFL could put an end to this silly risk of coin toss controversy by having the home team always be heads and the away team always be tails. What’s the point of having players call heads or tails?



9.) Fine, I missed an extra point; so Suh me!
N. Suh (US Presswire)
Do not let anyone tell you that the difference in the Jets-Lions game wound up being Ndamukong Suh’s missed extra point. Football is way too complex for that. If Suh makes that third quarter extra point, the Lions are up 14-10, rather than 13-10, which changes the play-calling and, subtly, the mindset of everyone involved. It would have been a totally different game; who knows how it would have played out?

The difference, or differenceS, in the Lions-Jets game were Matthew Stafford’s shoulder injury (it’s very concerning just how easily that part of his body gets hurt), LaDainian Tomlinson’s six catches for 47 yards (seemingly all of which came at a convenient time for the Jets), Santonio Holmes’ big 52-yard catch-and-run in overtime (amazing how significant one missed tackle can be, huh?) and Darrelle Revis’ All-World performance against Calvin Johnson (the Lions star receiver caught one pass for 13 yards and was targeted just four times).

The Jets have some work to do offensively, but the good teams find ways to win even when they’re not clicking on all cylinders.

10.) Quick Hits

***Sticking with Lions-Jets, I wish someone would force Jahvid Best to change his number. Tiny running backs with explosive speed and quickness shouldn’t wear 44, it just doesn’t look right.

***As expected, the smashmouth Falcons were able to run the ball down the Bucs’ throats all afternoon Sunday. Michael Turner had 24 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

***In his first game back since suffering a week 6 concussion, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson did not look at all eager to stick his nose in there and be physical. Not saying the Falcons have another Bryan Scott situation on their hands (remember Bryan Scott, the rising safety for Atlanta who got a concussion and, for the next year or two, was noticeably afraid of contact?). But Robinson’s lack of aggressiveness was plain to see.

***This seems like a perfect segue into ripping Mike Jenkins one more time for his pathetic tackling effort (or non-effort) on the James Jones touchdown. Seriously Mike. What. Was. THAT?

***Nate Burleson got flagged for celebrating a touchdown by kicking the ball into the stands a few weeks ago. When he scored Sunday, Burleson did a wind up to boot the ball again, only this time he intentionally missed it. Clever. (P.S. Burleson had seven catches for 113 yards this game.)

***How about Ray Rice racking up 97 yards on seven receptions?

***Safety Chris Harris spent some time at linebacker for the Panthers. It’s a little surprising they didn’t try him at quarterback.

***When was the last time we saw two teams score fumble recovery touchdowns on kickoff coverage on the same day? Talk about the ultimate lucky touchdown. The Cardinals got one from Michael Adams and the Packers got one from Nick Collins on a fumble that would have been ruled down by contact if the Cowboys had been able to challenge.

***Hope you enjoyed watching Nick Collins, by the way, because if the NFL is true to its word about cracking down on illegal hits, the Packers safety should be suspended a game for his shot on Roy Williams. That hit was almost as egregious as Brandon Meriweather’s hit on Todd Heap. (True, Meriweather was not suspended, but that was likely only because the hit occurred the week before the NFL issued the harsher punishment for violating the rule.)

***I didn’t watch the Chargers-Texans game, but in seeing the highlights and scanning the box score, it’s looking like I might have to learn how to say the name Seyi Ajirotutu. Dammit all.


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Posted on: November 7, 2010 2:40 pm
 

Browns surprisingly lead the Pats

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You rarely can write this, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick is getting outcoached and his New England squad is getting outclassed by an inferior team. On this occasion, Browns coach Eric Mangini, Belichick's former assistant, is the one who’s making New England look bad, and Cleveland leads 17-7 at halftime.

How did it happen? Browns RB Peyton Hillis had a big first quarter – 62 yards and a touchdown – and rookie QB Colt McCoy, making just his third start, is effectively efficient.

And two trick plays have confused the Patriots.

The first: On a fourth-and-one at mid-field, the Browns lined up in a power-run formation. McCoy made a presnap gesture, and suddenly, Cleveland split four wide. Then, as New England scrambled to cover the quartet of receivers, McCoy went straight ahead for the QB sneak and the first down.

The second: Midway through the second quarter after the Patriots had pulled to within three points, the entire offensive line, minus the center, stood as McCoy hiked the ball. Unbeknownst to New England, Chansi Stuckey was hiding behind right guard Billy Yates.

After the snap, McCoy faked to Joshua Cribbs on the end-around. Instead, he stuck the ball into Stuckey’s arms, and he dove for the pylon in the corner of the end zone for the 11-yard TD.

Meanwhile, the Patriots run game (36 yards) has been irrelevant, and Tom Brady hasn’t looked sharp. New England has been a good second-half team this year, but the Patriots have some work to do to get back in this game.

And just because it’s a cool stat: McCoy is the only QB in NFL history to start his first three games against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. And how did that go for him? Respectable loss to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. A big win against New Orleans’ Drew Brees. And so far, so good vs. New England’s Brady.

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Posted on: November 2, 2010 3:29 pm
 

Top Ten With a Twist: New Faces

L. Tomlinson has been one of the most impressive players in the NFL this season (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Some arrived via free agency. Some were left on the garbage pile and only had one or two teams show interest. Some didn’t have much of a choice if they wanted to continue playing NFL football. And some were highly-touted rookies who commanded humongous signing bonuses and who have lived up to their end of the bargain.

Today, we spotlight the top-10 players who are performing brilliantly in their first year with a new team. We’re talking about rookies, we’re talking about free agents, we’re talking about those whose careers were left for dead.

All of the following have impacted their new teams in many ways and all have made the front offices who signed them seem clairvoyant in the process (though, in the case of a couple players, the decision to add them wasn’t exactly brain surgery). So, here’s to those who have found a new lease on life (or a new burgeoning career) with their new team.

10. Jason Babin, DE, Titans: The career-high sack total for Babin, a seven-year veteran, was five coming into this season – set in 2006 while in Houston. This year, through eight games, he’s got seven. So, what happened this season, especially after recording just 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year with the Eagles? According to Babin, it’s just been a matter of getting more playing time. OK, if you say so.

9. Colt McCoy, QB, Browns: Aside from any rookie QB not named Sam Bradford, McCoy has done pretty darn well as a first-year signal-caller. He’s only played the past two games for Cleveland, but he’s hitting 63.5 percent of his passes for a touchdown, two picks and a QB rating of 76.5. OK, he’s not great, but he’s been light years ahead of Jimmy Clausen and Max Hall. Plus, he’s coming off a win against the Saints.

8. Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals: You still have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Owens. He’s the kind of player who, often times, doesn’t put out special effort to knock down a bad pass so the opponent doesn’t pick it (this happened at least twice last week), but he’s also still the kind of player who can rack up a team-leading 45 catches for 629 yards and five touchdowns. Ultimately, it was probably the right move for Cincinnati to sign him. In three weeks, though, that might not be the case.

7. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers: Pittsburgh’s first-round pick beat out Justin Hartwig at the beginning of the season for the starting center role, and Pouncey has performed well thus far. He’s really helped glue together a Steelers offensive line that had major questions raised about it coming into the season.N. Suh has begun to dominate the opponent's offensive line for Detroit (Getty).

6. Dez Bryant, WR/PR, Cowboys: One of the bright spots in Dallas this year. We knew Bryant was going to be a good one, and he has not disappointed, catching 29 passes for 349 yards for three touchdowns (Roy Williams, by the way, is 22 for 327 and five, respectively). But he’s been downright electric while fielding kicks, returning two punts for touchdowns and averaging 16.5 yards per punt, second in the NFL for those who have at least 10 returns.

5. Thomas Jones/Ryan Torain/Peyton Hillis, RBs, Chiefs/Redskins/Browns: Yes, I’m cheating a bit here, listing three players in one spot, but that doesn’t take away from how well these guys have played – and how unexpected their production has been. The Jets figured they didn’t need Jones any more, but he’s rushed for 538 yards through seven games with the Chiefs. Torain has replaced Clinton Portis pretty well, and Hillis (460 yards, five touchdowns) has been the biggest surprise at all (he certainly has surprised Denver coach Josh McDaniels, who let go of Hillis after last season).

4. Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins: Marshall has typical diva receiver tendencies, but he’s been one of the best players in the league so far this season. After Marshall was traded away from Denver (ahem, McDaniels), he’s done nothing but produce in Miami, ranking fourth in the league with 47 catches for 588 yards. The one disappointing stat: he’s only recorded one touchdown.

3. Earl Thomas (Seahawks)/T.J. Ward/Ndamukong Suh, S/S/DT, Seahawks/Browns/Lion: Sigh, again I’m cheating. But considering all these first-year players are vying for defensive rookie of the year honors, it makes sense to lump them all together. Thomas has proven that he’s one of the most instinctual players in the league with four interceptions, tied for third-best in the NFL. Ward took some heat for the nasty hit he put on Cincinnati’s Jordan Shipley, but his big-hit ability has helped lead him to 60 tackles (fourth-most among safeties). And Suh is living up to his lofty billing, blowing up interior offensive linemen and recording 6.5 sacks. He’s going to be a monster for as long as he steps on the field.

2. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: I’m not sure most of us could have expected Bradford, the No. 1 pick from last year’s Draft, to play so well a mere eight games into this pro career. He’s completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,674 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The numbers don’t look fantastic, but you have to take into account his poise and his savvy and the fact he doesn’t have a big-name receiver upon whom he can lean. Plus, he’s got the Rams, one of the worst NFL teams coming into the season, at the 4-4 mark. He has been pretty outstanding. Not bad considering he missed most of last year at Oklahoma with the shoulder injury.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets: Somehow, Tomlinson has found the fountain of youth. It wasn’t in San Diego apparently. Perhaps it was in New Jersey the whole time. On the season, Tomlinson has gained 544 yards and five touchdowns and has taken Shonn Greene’s job away from him. He has been perhaps the most surprising player in the league this year. He’s definitely been the No. 1 new face.

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Posted on: October 25, 2010 4:27 pm
 

Hot Routes 10.25.10 Week 7 box score tidbits

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit

Yet another story lost in the Favre hoopla Sunday night: the Vikings finished with 196 yards rushing that game.

Randy Moss had just three catches Sunday, which was three more than Donald Driver. Driver’s streak of 133-straight games with a reception is over. (For what it’s worth, Drive was playing with a bum quad.)

Carson Palmer lost Sunday, but we’re guessing that his fantasy owners won. Palmer’s final numbers: 36/50 for 412 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. C. Palmer (US Presswire)

Jordan Shipley, in his first game back since suffering a concussion after T.J. Ward’s vicious and dirty hit, caught six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.

John Abraham caused some problems for the Bengals. It wasn’t an utterly dominant performance, but Abraham recorded two sacks Sunday and consistently pushed the pocket.

The Bears were just 2/10 on third down against the Redskins. That means they had three times as many turnovers as third down conversions.

Ryan Torain ripped off 125 yards on 21 carries. The Bears were playing without injured outside linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle).

Bears guard Chris Williams finally got off the snide, catching his first pass of the season for a gain of four yards. (Without seeing the play, the guess here is that the ball was either tipped, or Cutler was remarkably errant on an attempted smoke screen to DeAngelo Hall.)

Albert Haynesworth was a menace for most of the afternoon. He finished with a sack and two tackles for a loss.

The Titans won despite getting just 66 yards out of Chris Johnson’s 24 rushing attempts.

Jeremy Maclin was targeted 14 times but finished with just five catches for 42 yards.

The Chiefs gashed the Jaguars for 236 yards on the ground. At one point, Thomas Jones ripped off a 70-yard run and Jamaal Charles came in and punched in the goal-line score.

Dwayne Bowe scored two touchdowns for a second week in a row.

For the Jaguars, some guy named Courtney Greene started at safety and led the team with 12 tackles. (Because Greene started at safety, we’ll assume this means he’s about to be cut.)

It took Big Ben all of two games to get back into 300-yard passing form. Roethlisberger threw for 302 yards against the Dolphins.

The Steelers held Ronnie Brown to 14 yards on nine carries.

The official box score lists the Steelers have having four fumbles, with two lost and one recovered. That leaves one fumble unaccounted for. Does anyone, by chance, know what happened there?

Colt McCoy won his second start as a pro, but he contributed only 74 yards through the air in doing so.

Peyton Hillis rushed for 69 yards, which was enough by one yards to beat out punter Reggie Hodges to be the Browns’ leading rusher Sunday.

Saints safety Darren Sharper had two tackles in his first action of the season.


Scott Fujita returned to New Orleans and posted 11 tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss, an interception and a pass deflection.

The Rams scored 17 points in the second quarter at Tampa but zero in the other three quarters.

LeGarrette Blount headlined the Bucs backfield with 11 carries for 72 yards. Cadillac Williams, who caught Josh Freeman’s winning touchdown pass, had just 12 yards on four carries.

Matt Moore was 28/41 for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (which, granted, was an ugly one returned by Ray McDonald for six points). All in all, that’s a mountain-moving quarterbacking performance for the Panthers.

Steve Smith had four catches for 50 yards in his first game back from an ankle injury (which he tweaked in the third quarter, by the way), but it was David Gettis who wore the receiver hat for the Panthers. The sixth-round rookie had eight receptions, 125 yards and two touchdowns.

Joe Flacco was just 16/31 against the Bills, but he did throw three touchdowns and no interceptions. None of those TD’s went to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The former Pro Bowler was targeted just twice and finished with no catches.

Steve Johnson and Lee Evans both went over 100 yards for the Bills.

Ray Lewis: 15 tackles, one sack, one huge fumble force and recovery.

Max Hall and Derek Anderson combined for 12/33 passing

The Cardinals lost four fumbles at Seattle.

The Raiders pretty much embarrassed the Broncos in every statistical way imaginable.

Four the Patriots 15 first downs Sunday were a result of a Chargers penalty.

San Diego rushed for a measly 38 yards on 19 attempts.

Journeyman Antwan Barnes posted two tackles for a loss and two sacks for the Chargers.


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