Tag:Chicago Bears
Posted on: December 1, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Vikings to release McNabb, Bears next?

Chicago missed out on Orton. Could McNabb be next? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, the Broncos released former starting quarterback Kyle Orton to give him a chance to catch on with another team now that the trading deadline had passed. On Thursday, the Vikings reportedly extended the same courtesy to Donovan McNabb, Minnesota's starter to begin the year who was replaced with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder in Week 7.

The Vikings were 1-5 when McNabb headed to the bench; they're 1-4 since with Ponder. There's a decent argument that Minnesota is virtually the same team before and after McNabb. Fair enough, but the biggest difference is that Ponder is gaining experience and has upside. With McNabb what you see is what you get. And, frankly, the last two seasons it's been hard to watch him at all.

According to Leslie Frazier, it was a mutual decision between McNabb and the team.

"He's been a true pro in every sense of the word," Frazier said. "He's a class guy. Always has been, and he's done a good job in spite of the fact he wasn't our starting quarterback.

"When you have a guy who has been this successful in this league, he has an idea how he wants his career to continue or not to continue. That played a role in making that decision," Frazier said.

But, hey, one man's trash…

In the NFL, competence is relative and there are several teams in the playoff hunt who are suddenly in need of a replacement-level quarterback. When Denver cut Orton, Chicago was an obvious landing spot. The Bears had just lost Jay Cutler to a hand injury and backup Caleb Hanie had yet to start an NFL game (that happened over the weekend and it didn't go well).

McNabb probably isn't as good as Orton but at this point in the proceedings, with just five games remaining in the regular season and Chicago's tenuous hold on a playoff spot, there's no time to be picky. The question, at its most basic, comes down to this: does McNabb give the Bears a better chance to win than Hanie?

If Lovie Smith and Mike Martz think so, they'll put in a waiver claim for him. If they don't, they'll pray that Hanie plays better and that Cutler's hand magically heals in the next few weeks.

But even if Chicago wants McNabb, there's no guarantee they land him. They also wanted Orton, but the Chiefs, by virtue of having a worse record, were awarded Orton off waivers. A similar scenario could play out again for McNabb's services.

This is bad news for Chicago but good news for McNabb, who hasn't been wanted since the Eagles traded him a few years ago. We're sure his confidence could use the boost.

Other teams that might be interested: the Texans, who just signed Jake Delhomme (!) to backup T.J. Yates and Kellen Clemens, and possibly the Cowboys, who put in a waiver claim for Orton last week.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans aren't interested. Put differently: they have more faith in Yates, Clemens and Delhomme. 


After an overtime win last week over the Chargers, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will travel to Mall of America Field to battle the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz take a look at this game.

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:43 am
 

Martz blames execution not call for Hanie INT

Martz has been calling screen passes for 20 years, Hanie just didn't execute it properly against Oakland. (AP)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Before Caleb Hanie made his first NFL start last Sunday, replacing Jay Cutler in the lineup when the Bears faced the Raiders, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who coached the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis earlier this century, said that he wouldn't ask Hanie to be Kurt Warner in Chicago's offense. (That didn't go without saying?)

Not surprisingly, Hanie looked like an inexperienced quarterback against the Raiders. He would occasionally flash potential, but he also threw three first-half interceptions, the last coming with Chicago deep in Oakland territory. The sequence led to a Raiders field goal and a spot in this week's Coach Killers (Hanie's delayed fake spike to end the game helped, too). The play -- Hanie rolled right and threw a screen pass across the field to his left -- is a lot to ask of a young quarterback. CBSSports.com MLB blogger Matt Snyder, a huge Bears fan, was apoplectic after the play. Not because of Hanie per se, but because Martz would think Hanie was capable of pulling it off. On Wednesday, Martz was asked about the decision.

“I’ve done that for 20 years, and it’s never anything but a good play really,” Martz said, via John Mullin of CSNChicago.com. “We didn’t execute it very well. The ball got tipped. So when you throw a screen and the ball gets tipped. . . . Screens aren’t hard. It’s just something that happened. No, I’m not aware of [any criticism for the play call]. I didn’t think twice about that call. I thought it was OK.”

To be fair, that wasn't your garden-variety screen pass (you can view it here). And while Cutler (and Warner) might've had little trouble executing it, Hanie, who had a grand total of 14 attempts and eight completions prior to Sunday's game, could've benefitted from a more conservative play call.

Just ask Cutler.

“We’ve just got to be really careful what kind of situations we put [Hanie] in,” Cutler said. “Mike’s got be careful with that. We don’t really know what Caleb’s comfortable with; Caleb doesn’t know what he’s comfortable with. He hasn’t run a lot of these plays, hasn’t run a lot of this stuff in the offense in game situations, in high-pressure situations. We’ve just got to take care of him.”

In theory, yes. But Martz is the same guy who, for the first month of the season, thought it was a swell idea to let Cutler stand in the pocket all day with little protection and take a beating. That strategy finally gave way to more Matt Forte, quicker throws from Cutler and -- wait for it -- more wins.

Can Martz adapt the Bears' offense to fit Hanie's strengths? Sure. The only question is if he'll get around to it before it's too late and the season's lost.

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Kristin Cavallari, Jay Cutler engaged ... again

Posted by Will Brinson

Jay Cutler might miss the rest of the regular season because of a hand injury, but he'll probably be plenty occupied over the next few months anyway, as he and former fiance Kristin Cavallari are engaged, again.

The couple originally got engaged way back in April, but called the dogs off for reasons as yet unknown. (Or perhaps possibly known, but confidentially classified under: Beeswax, none of ours/yours.) Now, they're back together, according to Cavallari on Twitter.

"This time its official..Jay and I are engaged again :)," Cavallari tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.

Rumors abounded about the the Bears quarterback and his ex-ladyfriend getting back together when Cavallari began flirting on Twitter with a fake Cutler account, Cutler retweeting her jokingly and later wishing her "good luck babe" on Dancing With the Stars. (FYI if you're looking to scare an elderly person during the holiday season, just read that last sentence to them.)

Cutler, for what it's worth, also heard the news via Twitter.

“Yeah, I just heard about that," Cutler joked to reporters on Wednesday when informed of Cavallari's tweet.

Cutler also said no date has been set yet. May I suggest some time after February?

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:38 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 12

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 10 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

 
(Ed. Note: Monday's podcast will be up around lunch due to some travel/family stuff.)

1. Run Like Hell -- Er, Heck

Every week, Tim Tebow takes the field as the Broncos quarterback, and every week everyone sits around and snarks at the Broncos running the ball an obscene number of times. Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory in San Diego featured Tebow toting the rock a ridiculous 22 times.

Just for some historical perspective, Tebow's now the only player in post-merger NFL history to attempt 20 rushes and 10 passes in a single game.

People rip the guy for ruining the quarterback position, or not playing it in a "real" way, but everyone very conveniently ignores three factors. One, he can make throws -- a pair of touchdown strikes to Eric Decker in the past two weeks were the difference between 2-0 and 0-2. Two, Tebow simply doesn't turn the ball over. Only 22 quarterbacks since 1970 have finished the year with 250-plus passing attempts, less than five picks and less than five fumbles. Tebow could be No. 23. (Aaron Rodgers could be No. 24.)

And most importantly, the Broncos have a strong running game with Willis McGahee, and an even stronger defense that no one wants to give credit to. If someone else, like a Brad Johnson-type, is quarterbacking this team, the defense gets all the credit. Because it's Tebow, that's the focus.

That's just how it is, and that's fine. After all, Tebow's now beaten every single AFC West rival this season on the road. He is a story. He is the story.

But maybe -- with all due acknowledgement of the silliness involved in "clutchability" -- it shouldn't be all that surprising that Tebow and the Broncos bested Norv Turner and the Chargers in the fourth quarter and overtime. Eking out victories from teams willing to hand over a win thanks to silly mistakes is the modus operandi of the 2011 Broncos, and giving away wins with silly mistakes is what Turner's Bolts teams do best.

San Diego's now last (!) in the AFC West and the only bright spot to this season, outside of Ryan Mathews emerging as a viable feature back if he can stay healthy, is the likelihood of Turner being shipped out of town following this season. You can like or dislike Turner all you want, and he's turned Philip Rivers into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but this Chargers team needs some fresh blood.

Denver's one game back of the playoffs thanks to holding a tiebreaker over the Jets, and they've got the tiebreaker over the Bengals too. A game-managing quarterback plus a running game plus a stout defense has had success in the NFL before.

So if you're still hating on Tebow, just quit and enjoy the ride.

2. Bear Down, Again

Ignore for a second the fact that Bears starting quarterback Caleb Hanie doesn't even know how to properly spike the ball at the end of the game. And ignore that he finished 18 of 36 with three interceptions on the day in Chicago's 25-20 loss to Oakland Sunday.

Because the Bears are still going to make the playoffs. Or, at least, they can.

As noted last week, Chicago's still got a very Chicago formula for making it to the postseason, with Devin Hester on special teams (kudos to Hue Jackson and Shane Lechler for avoiding him Sunday) and a defense that sacked Carson Palmer four times Sunday and limited the Raiders to just a single touchdown.

That type of play will go a long way against opponents like the Seahawks, Vikings, Chiefs and Broncos, all of whom are on Chicago's schedule the rest of the way in. And a quick look at our 2011 NFL Playoff Race Tracker reveals that only two worthy teams in the NFC will actually be shut out of the postseason (the Lions and the Giants are currently odd men out).

I'm not a huge fan of moral victories, especially when an actual loss reveals just how poorly your backup quarterback can play. And don't get me wrong -- Hanie has plenty of flaws and won't make things easy for Chicago the rest of the way. But if you're the Bears, you have to believe Sunday's showing means a playoff berth is still possible.

3. T.J. Yates: An All-Time Great

The case of T.J. Yates is a weird one. Thanks to a (likely) season-ending injury to Matt Leinart, Yates appears to be the de facto starter in Houston and, as Pete Prisco pointed out in his grades column, next in line to suffer a nasty injury as a result of the football gods really not wanting the Texans to smell success.

But you know what makes Yates' case even weirder? He's probably the most successful NFL quarterback in North Carolina Tar Heel history, despite being a rookie, having never started a game and despite having accumulated his career passing numbers -- 8/15 for 70 yards and no touchdowns -- on Sunday in backup duty.

That's because the only other option for "top NFL quarterback in UNC football history" is Scott Stankavage, who played in four games over two NFL seasons with the Broncos (three in 1984) and the Dolphins (one in 1987) and managed to complete 32 percent of his 25 attempted passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. (In fairness, Yates is also one of only two UNC quarterbacks drafted since the merger, which is insane.)

His entire career wasn't as successful as Yates' Sunday afternoon in Week 12.

4. "Fire Who?"

The fans want it, as evidenced by the Eagles crowd raining "Fire Andy" chants on the field amid New England's 38-20 shellacking of Philly.

"The way we played, I can understand," Reid said afterward.

It's never easy to sympathize with any supporter of Philly sports, mainly because they're too vitriolic in their reaction. (There's a reason the battery-throwing, Santa Claus-booing stereotype exists.) And it's real easy to laugh at the Eagles plight, especially after they "won the offseason" with a ton of free-agent moves and name-brand signings.

But suggesting that the Eagles should dump Reid is silly, especially when there's a smarter path to success.

1) Fire Juan Castillo. This is coming anyway, you gotta think, and it's not that unreasonable. 2) Re-work the defensive scheme. Hire someone who can take the incredibly talented defensive group Philly has and actually utilize them properly. 3) Dump DeSean Jackson. He's ridiculously talented, but Jackson's got the look of a guy who's wrecking this locker room with contract and attitude problems. (Or maybe, as Clark Judge wrote Sunday, he's a symptom of a larger problem. Either way, he's not helping and he's not happy.) 4) Draft/trade/sign linebackers, safeties and offensive linemen in the offseason and actually address weaknesses.

This isn't an "easy" solution, of course. But this Eagles team has too much talent and Andy Reid's got too much success in Philly to simply blow everything up because the Dream Team experiment went awry in the first season.

He's also inherently tied to Philly's franchise quarterback, Michael Vick. One more bad year from both guys and it might be worth discussing a change, but just because Philly fans are naturally angry doesn't mean Eagles management should have a naturally knee-jerk reaction to 2011.

5. Why So Serious?

There's no reason to sit here and get in an uproar over Stevie Johnson's touchdown celebration against the Jets, in which he mocked Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes by pretending to shoot himself in the leg and then crash a plane. (Besides, Bob Costas' "get off my lawn" Sunday night halftime rant took care of that.)

I like the move, because it's a big-time slap in the face to the Jets, the Bills need some swagger, and as long as you back up your trash-talk, do what you want.

The problem with Johnson's TD is that as soon as he pulled off a celebration mocking a pair of wideouts on the other team, his game went in the toilet. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)

Look, I think Johnson's an awesome talent and a great dude and if I'm in charge of meting out discipline, someone who landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sunday is washing Johnson's white t-shirt collection, just because his celebrations are hysterical.

But if you're going to publicly mock a colleague for literally shooting himself in the foot, you can't turn around and spend the rest of the game figuratively doing the same thing to yourself and your team, which is precisely what Johnson did when he egged on a would-be game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter:



That's exactly why I refuse to get all amped up about whether what he did was right or wrong. Johnson will almost certainly be fined by the NFL. Johnson will -- as Mike Freeman's already noted -- be subject to league-wide and public scorn. And, most importantly, his team lost because after his premature celebration, the Jets wideouts were substantially better than Johnson was.

6. Shananigans

There's no chance that any other football journalist or fan or couch-bound pundit knows as much about managing a football team as Mike Shanahan. The man has two Super Bowl wins. Enough said.

But why on Earth did it take so long to get Roy Helu touches?

The Redskins rookie running back rumbled for 108 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught seven passes for 54 yards in Washington's surprise 23-17 comeback victory in Seattle Sunday.

This would be shocking, but Helu already set the franchise record for receptions in a game three weeks ago, and averaged five yards per carry more than Ryan Torain two weeks ago, so giving him the rock seemed obvious to everyone ... except Shanahan.

Seattle's rush defense is one of the best in the NFL (3.5 yards per carry allowed going in and coming out of the loss), so it's not like Helu was carving up the Panthers or Colts here.

The obvious reward for his impressive game on the ground and remaining Rex Grossman's most reliable target is a much-deserved, one-carry afternoon next week against the Jets. Don't say I didn't warn you, fantasy owners.

7. 0-Fer

The Colts became the first NFL team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, just minutes before the Rams were booted as well, thanks to their 27-19 loss to Carolina in Indy Sunday.

Everyone knew they were already eliminated, of course, and everyone knows they'll land the top-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the big question is, can the 2008 Detroit Lions keep their bottles of Andre on ice for the time being?

Probably not -- Indy looks like a pretty good lock to finish the season at 0-16, based on their remaining schedule.

First up in Week 13 is New England (in Foxboro) and there's no reason to spend time wondering if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will get trapped against a one-time arch-rival in a free "kick 'em while they're down" game. They won't. At Baltimore in Week 14 should be a lock for a double-digit blowout too. The Ravens have stumbled against bad teams, but not at home, and no one's had a defense as bad as Indy.

Tennessee (Week 15) and Houston (Week 16) at home shouldn't present challenges for Indy when it comes to losing either, considering that both teams appear to have capable rushing attacks. Even if Chris Johnson still looks like he's wading through a giant jar of jelly when he hits the hole, he's been effective against bad rushing defenses this year.

That leaves at Jacksonville in Week 17, and which isn't even their best chance at being favored (read: getting more than a 50 percent chance of winning from Vegas). That will be Tennessee, but the Titans will still be favored by at least three points in Indy, like the Panthers were.

And none of the remaining teams on the schedule have a defense nearly as bad as the Panthers, which means there's a 60-plus percent chance Indy goes winless this year. At least.

8. Rookie of the Year Race

Fortunately, we get to honor a Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. Because otherwise, we might have a big old heated argument about who the most deserving rookie in 2011 is. Last week, I threw my [substantial only in the literal sense] weight behind Andy Dalton leaping past Cam Newton for the top rookie, but now I'm not so sure.

That's not because Cam went bananas in a win on Sunday so much as it was Dalton only beating the Browns because he's got another rookie -- wideout A.J. Green -- on his team, who might secretly be the best option for the award on the Bengals roster.

Cincy remained in playoff contention -- they're currently the No. 6 seed -- thanks to Green making big catches to set up scores all day.

On the defensive end of things, Von Miller continued to state his case for ROY honors with 10 total tackles and another sack. And what about Patrick Peterson, who returned a fourth punt return for a TD on the year? Dude's defensive improvement is underrated so far this year, especially in a tough situation, and it'll be interesting to see how his game-changing impact on special teams will rate for voters -- three of his teeters have, literally, been game-winning scores.

9. A Quarterback League

Watching the Chiefs stifle the Steelers for much of the Sunday night game -- eventually won by Pittsburgh 13-9 -- was picture proof of how important having a good quarterback really is. Matt Cassel might have struggled against the Steelers defense, but Tyler Palko was absolutely miserable, going 18/28 for 167 yards and three picks.

The same can be said for Jacksonville, who knocked Matt Leinart out against Houston, but couldn't muster any sort of offense because no one would respect Blaine Gabbert, much less McCown.

Teams that don't have a good quarterback can still win by playing smart and running the hell out of the ball, but the Jaguars and Chiefs are great proof as to just how quickly a team can fade out relevancy as a result of lacking substantial skill under center.

The Jacksonville and Kansas City defenses have put their respective offenses in decent position to win games over the past couple of weeks, but an inability to move the ball resulted in a pair of losses for each squad. (Romeo Crennel's defensive scheming against Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger was particularly impressive, and even more depressing when you think about how badly it was wasted.)

Which is precisely why it's impossible to be too bullish about the playoff chances for teams like the Texans and the 49ers.

10. And the Oscar Goes To ...

Jerome Simpson for the flop of the NFL season. And maybe NFL history? It's hard to even call this a "storyline," because it's not. There's no epidemic of flopping hitting the NFL and Christian Ronaldo isn't going to be defecting any time soon.

But Simpson's flop, which you can watch here, is just too amazing to ignore.

Oh yes, and the Bengals snuck one out against the Browns, holding onto their sixth seed in the playoffs. They've got the look of a team that isn't quite ready to quit trying out this possible pipe dream of a postseason run, but if they play like they did against the Browns when they get the Steelers, Texans and Ravens over the next three weeks, it's hard to imagine them sneaking in with three 6-5 teams (Titans, Jets, Broncos) hanging out on the fringe.

And that flop wouldn't be nearly as pretty as Simpson's.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Percy Harvin's 104-yard kick return that didn't produce a touchdown on Sunday was the longest non-scoring play in NFL history.
... Peterson is also the only player in NFL history with four punt return touchdowns of 80-plus yards or more in a season.
... And the Rams-Cardinals game was the first in NFL history to feature an 80-plus yard punt-return TD from each team.
... Cam Newton is just the fourth post-merger quarterback to rush for 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Steve Grogan, Kordell Stewart and Daunte Culpepper on that list.
... Chris Long recorded his 10th sack of the season, meaning he and dad Howie are just the second father-son combo to record double-digit sacks in a season in their career, along with Clay Matthews and his dad, Clay Matthews.
... The Bengals overcame a 10-point halftime deficit for the third time this season, tied for the most in NFL history, along with the 2011 Lions.
...

Worth 1,000 Words



GIF O' THE WEEK

There might be a better option, but watching Tim Tebow hit his X button two seconds too early and then get laid out is pretty entrancing.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Norv Turner: Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes "no playoffs = no more Norv." So, probably no more Norv.
  • Jim Caldwell: If they go 0-16 and draft a new franchise quarterback, how can they carry over the same staff? They can't right?
  • Steve Spagnuolo: He just lost back-to-back games to Seattle and Arizona. Talk about a free-fall.
  • Jack Del Rio: It's a good rule of thumb that if you're flopping your first-round rookie for a McCown brother that your job is in trouble.
  • Tony Sparano: Even if he keeps winning, you gotta think Stephen Ross goes window shopping this offseason.

Chasing Andrew Luck

The Colts have all but locked up the Luck sweepstakes, and with the remaining schedules, we might as well take the numbers off the board. Congratulations for ruining a mini-feature in this column by Week 12, Curtis Painter. You jerk.

MVP Watch

Speaking of jerks, "tanks for nuthin'" Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has one more holiday game left -- a Christmas showdown with the Bears. And the Packers could still lose a game and maybe come back towards the Patriots (if Tom Brady stays hot?), but he's all but sewn up this award pretty early in the season.

Posted on: November 27, 2011 10:32 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 10:33 am
 

Martz won't ask Caleb Hanie to be Kurt Warner

"I've said my whole career you have to be pragmatic," Martz said when asked about Chicago's offense. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Great news for the guy responsible for keeping things going in Chicago now that Jay Cutler is on the shelf with a broken thumb: offensive coordinator Mike Martz won't intentionally design plays to get Caleb Hanie continuously clobbered Sunday against the Raiders.

Specifically, Hanie won't be asked to do in this version of Martz's offense what Kurt Warner did a decade ago in St. Louis when Martz was the coach there. The obvious response: Well, no kidding.

But we're not talking about putting up Warner-ian type numbers. We're talking about the offensive philosophy of throwing the ball all over the yard and making the quarterback the centerpiece of the offense.

"The things we were doing in St. Louis — get it out quick, things happen so quick — we'd never ask him to do that kind of stuff," Martz said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This revelation seems like a no-brainer, but remember that it took Martz about a month to admit to himself that, to paraphrase Rick Pitino, those "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams aren't walking through that door. So instead of trying to fit the Bears' run-first offense into the old Rams' pass-first schemed, Martz finally relented, acknowledged that Chicago's pass protection had some issues, and started showcasing the offense's strengths: namely Matt Forte and Cutler's ability to throw well from a moving pocket and when he's allowed to get the ball out quickly.

And the results have been beyond impressive. Chicago's now 7-3, second in the NFC North, and in great shape for one of the two wild-card spots. This assumes, of course, that the Bears -- and Martz -- continue to do what they do well now that Hanie's under center. And that starts with Forte. That means having Hanie rely on the running game, but also screen passes, too.

"I've said my whole career you have to be pragmatic," Martz said. "People don't believe you when you say it. You have to find the strengths, what's working for you. In the off week I had a chance to reflect on my approach, make sure I wasn't putting our guys in a position where they weren't going to have as much success as they can."

Nobody would've believed Martz had he said that back in September. Now it's hard not to.

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 4:17 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 5:22 pm
 

Chiefs claim Kyle Orton off waivers

Orton, Tebow

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Kyle Orton and the Bears won’t be reunited after all. Rapid Reporter Bob Gretz has confirmed an ESPN report that the Chiefs have claimed him off waivers from the Broncos.

Which makes perfect sense for Kansas City. Considering Matt Cassel is out for the season and Tyler Palko wasn’t great (but not completely terrible) last Monday against the Patriots -- he went 24 for 37 for 230 yards, three interceptions and a 48.3 rating in a 34-3 loss -- the Chiefs obviously feel like Orton gives them a chance to compete for the AFC West title.

Where they’re competing against (surprise!) the Broncos for a potential division championship. The two squads will face each other Jan. 1 in Kansas City in a contest that could have major playoff implications, especially if Tim Tebow continues to lead Denver to wins and Orton can reinvigorate the Chiefs. Entering this week, the Raiders are 6-4 to lead the AFC West, but the Broncos are 5-5 and are followed by the 4-6 Chiefs and Chargers.

The Tebow, Orton eras begin ...
So, basically, the entire division is up for grabs.

For those who wonder if Orton would decline to travel to Kansas City to fulfill his obligations, I think you can safely close the door on those thoughts. Don’t you think he would vastly enjoy ruining the Broncos season for his new team’s own benefit?

Yet, that’s also what makes this transaction strange. The Broncos must have known there was an awfully good chance the Chiefs would claim Orton -- I mean, John Elway probably watched that Monday night game and saw what Palko means to that team , right? -- if they waived him. Since Orton will be a free agent after this season, there’s a decent chance he’ll sign elsewhere in the offseason, and that means the Chiefs could win a compensatory draft pick* if they lose him.

*Can you imagine if the Chiefs beat the Broncos, expose Tim Tebow, win the AFC West and THEN get a mid-round draft pick for him?

On the Denver side, Tebow, who knocked Orton out of the starting quarterback role, seemed happy for his former colleague.

"Congratulations to him,” Tebow said, via the Denver Post. “That’ll be fun to play him the last game of the year."

But won’t Orton have a big advantage in knowing what kind of offense the Broncos run and the signals they use? After all, Orton ran that offense for the first five games of the season.

"Obviously he knows it pretty well, so he could probably give away a few things,” Tebow said. “But I think we’ll be OK.”

The Bears and Cowboys also made waiver claims on Orton, meaning that even if the Chiefs didn’t win him, Orton would be traveling to Dallas now based on the waiver order. What’s interesting about the claim made by the Cowboys -- who obviously have a starting quarterback named Tony Romo but have a backup in Jon Kitna who has a balky back -- is that it smells like Dallas claimed him simply to block Chicago from getting him.

That’s because the two teams will battle for one of the NFC wild card spots, and the Cowboys know as well as anybody that Chicago would have a better chance of accomplishing that if it played Orton instead of Caleb Hanie.

Meanwhile, the Bears announced that Jay Cutler underwent thumb surgery Wednesday and should begin rehab “within the next few days.” Chicago will still have Hanie starting this week and the forseeable future, though the team also announced that it’s signed Josh McCown to a one-year deal Wednesday. Not quite as exciting as landing Orton. But it’s something, I suppose.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 6:31 pm
 

Reports: Texans out on Orton, Bears interested

OrtonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Since the Broncos made the big news of the day by giving Kyle Orton a huge break waiving former starting quarterback Kyle Orton, speculation has run rampant on Twitter about the next chapter of Orton’s career journey.

The two most popular choices are the Bears and the Texans, although the Chiefs, who would have waiver priority over Chicago and Houston, also would make sense.

Well, according to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain, you can count out the Texans for making a claim on Orton.  Writes McClain: “Texans aren't interested in Orton. if (injured quarterback Matt) Schaub learns Wednesday he needs surgery, they'll sign one of vets they brought in for tryouts Monday.”

The Tebow era officially begins...
Among the group of veterans who performed for Houston’s staff were Jeff Garcia, Trent Edwards, Kellen Clemens and Brody Croyle. While you’d think Orton would be a better choice than any of those signal-callers, the Texans apparently are content to see how Matt Leinart will fare.

The Bears, though, might have real interest. The Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure confirms the speculation that the Bears will make a claim on Orton, though Orton doesn’t have any experience in offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s system. Also, as the Trib's Brad Biggs points out, since the Bears are 30th in the waiver order, they could not bother making a claim and then try to sign him to their own deal if nobody else has taken him already.

And CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge makes this point: “Both need him, but Chicago really needs him. I mean, whom would you trust -- Caleb Hanie or Kyle Orton? Orton not only has been with the Bears; he helped lead them to the playoffs. Teammates loved him then, and they will love him again ... because he's a quarterback who can win and who has won. I'm not so sure about Hanie.”

The waiver deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m., so for now, all we’ve got is speculation. And who knows? The team which is first on the waiver wire, the Colts, are in desperate need of a quarterback as well.

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Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:32 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 11

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 11 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Gronk  Wright Clemons H-baugh
Judge  Smith  Willis  Cards  Reid
Prisco  Smith  Kelly  Pilares  Reid
Brinson  Smith  Miller  Bailey  Reid
Katzowitz  Smith  Miller  Bailey  Reid
Wilson  Smith  Miller  Pilares  Fox
Week 12's in the books and that means it's time to hand out some hardware -- this week provided some pretty unexpected returns for various players.

Kevin Smith is the big winner, as his 200-plus yards from scrimmage netted him a nearly unanimous Eye on Offense Award victory. Of course, he's probably just happy to be back in the NFL.

Von Miller picked up the Eye on Defense Award, which is a surprise, because most of America believes the Broncos are only winning thanks to Tim Tebow.

And Dan Bailey edged out Kealoah Pilares of the Panthers for the Eye on Special Teams Awards, because tie goes to your team winning. (Yes, I'm as surprised that I broke the tie away from a Panther as everyone else.)

And Andy Reid, the much-maligned coach of the Eagles, picked up the Eye on Coaching Award. Winning a game with Vince Young at quarterback will do that for you.

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
It's Gronk's world; we're all just squirrels, trying to get a nut. His stats are borderline insane and he's on an historic scoring pace. More importantly, his athletic skill remains the most impressive thing about his story. He gets open despite teams knowing the football is going his way and it's because of his route running and speed. It's a remarkable thing to see.
Kevin SmithKevin Smith, RB, Lions
He's out of football. He's out of work. He does nothing until Detroit calls. Then he suits up, runs for 140 yards and two touchdowns, scores again on a catch and the Lions overcome another 17-point deficit. OK, so it was against a leaky defense. I don't care. Smith was the right guy at the right time for the Lions and should be recognized. Now he is.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Kevin Smith Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
Smith ran for 140 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns and another receiving touchdown. Not bad for a guy who was signed off the street the week before.

 

Kevin SmithKevin Smith, RB, Lions
Maybe we should just make this the "RB facing the Panthers" award, because whoever plays Carolina goes off. Still, that shouldn't discount Smith coming off the street to pile up more than 200 total yards and three touchdowns in an emotional return to the NFL that sparked a Lions win.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Kevin SmithKevin Smith, RB, Lions
For a guy who was out of the league three weeks ago because of ACL problems, this was a welcome showing for the Lions who were in desperate of a boost against the Panthers. His 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries was nice, but his 61 yards on four catches were the icing. He was as surprising as he was awesome.
Kevin Smith Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
Three weeks ago, Smith was out of work. But his 140 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards and three touchdowns give the Lions something they desperately need: a threat in the running game. (Disclaimer: Chris Johnson ran for 140 on the Panthers last week and you saw him Sunday. So maybe we should hold off on Smith-Sanders comparisons just yet.)
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Major WrightMajor Wright, SS, Bears
Wright picked off a pass for the third straight game on Sunday, this time against Phillip Rivers in the end zone. Wright's pick ended a drive that could have gotten the Chargers right back in the game.
Patrick Willis Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers
He's an All Pro, and he proved why against Arizona: An INT, a FF, a team-high seven tackles and a team-high three pass deflections. Willis is one reason the 49ers are running away with the NFC West. Their defense isn't just good; it's scary good, leading the NFL in points allowed.
Prisco Brinson
Tommy KellyTommy Kelly, DT, Raiders
Kelly had two sacks and was a force in the middle of an Oakland defense that knocked Adrian Peterson out of the game and proceeded to dominate Minnesota in all aspects of Sunday's game.
Von MillerVon Miller, LB, Broncos
The bespectacled Miller doesn't get the hype of his offensive counterpart Tim Tebow, but he should, because he's the real reason the Broncos are suddenly rolling. He forced a fumble against the Jets, recorded a team-high 10 tackles (nine solo) and registered (another) 1.5 sacks.
Katzowitz Wilson
Von Miller Von Miller, LB, Broncos
Remember when Miller was benched from Denver’s 4-3 base defense for lacking discipline? Yeah, neither do we. Miller is one of the leading candidates for defensive rookie of the year, and against the Jets, he showed why, recording 10 tackles (three for a loss), three QB hits, 1 ½ sacks and a tipped pass. He is as scary as we thought he might be.
Von Miller Von Miller, LB, Broncos
The storyline coming out of last Thursday's game was Tim Tebow's 95-yard drive. The MVP of that game, however, was rookie linebacker Von Miller. He had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and was hitting Mark Sanchez all night. He also sports Urkel glasses, which we wish he'd wear during the game.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Chris Clemons, DB, DolphinsChris Clemons
Not a household name for sure and there may be better candidates but his blocked punt led to a Miami touchdown. It was the first Dolphins score on a blocked punt since 1990. The play was symbolic of this mini-Dolphins resurgence. Everything is going right for them now.
Calais Campbell Cardinals FG Unit
The Cardinals blocked two David Akers' attempts in two quarters, and that's not easy. Calais Campbell had one, and it's the second time in two weeks he got his hand on a kick. So Arizona lost. Don't blame these guys.
Prisco Brinson
Kealoah PilaresKealoah Pilares, WR/KR, Panthers
Pilares returned a kickoff 102 yards against the Lions, the Panthers first return touchdown of the year, and first in a long time. It gave them a good lead, but, of course, it didn't hold up.
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
What ... do ... you ... know ... about ... pressure, DAN? Sorry, I couldn't help myself. But Bailey does know a thing or two about pressure, because he drilled a game-winning field goal in overtime to help the Cowboys win their third straight game, in a tough environment in DC.
Katzowitz Wilson
Kealoah Pilares Kealoah Pilares, WR/KR, Panthers
Who’s that you ask? Oh, well, that’s just the rookie from Carolina who returned a Lions kickoff 102 yards for the touchdown. Considering the Panthers special teams haven’t exactly been a team strength, this was a nice exception. (Ed. Note: First CAR kick return since 2003!)
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
Bailey doesn't provide Hester-like excitement but he did something Redskins kicker Graham Gano couldn't Sunday: converted both his attempts, including a 39-yarder to beat Washington in overtime. He got that opportunity because Gano missed a 52-yarder on the previous series.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickJim Harbaugh, HC, 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are a shocking 9-1 and can actually clinch the division this week. Even if the NFC West is the worst in football that's an impressive feat. Harbaugh is doing some remarkable things with the 49ers.
Andy Reid Andy Reid, HC, Eagles
The Eagles' playoff hopes were supposed to go off life support with another loss, this one with Vince Young at quarterback vs. the first-place New York Giants. But they found a way to win, and credit Reid. He's won with backups before. He's trying to do it again. And he just did. 
Prisco Brinson
Andy ReidAndy Reid, HC, Eagles
Reid got his team to beat the Giants on the road with Vince Young. If you can beat a good team on the road with Young, you have to take this honor this week.
Andy ReidAndy Reid, HC, Eagles
The Eagles season might still be shot (it likely is), but kudos to Andy Reid for figuring out a way to beat the Giants while playing Vince Young at quarterback. This team had every right to give up (especially after Young's third pick) but still managed to find a way to win.
Katzowitz Wilson
Andy Reid Andy Reid, HC, Eagles
He’s taking his fair share of crap this year -- and for good reason -- but the way he used backup Vince Young in place of Michael Vick was impressive. Mostly, because he trusted Young to make the plays the Eagles needed. I’m not sure that’s a winning strategy every week, but Reid didn’t try to hide Young. Instead, Reid played to Young’s strengths and won.
Hue Jackson John Fox, HC, Broncos
Maybe Fox would still be Carolina's head coach if he had Jimmy Clausen run the read-option instead of a conventional pro-style offense. After committing to building the Broncos' offense around Tebow, Denver is 3-0, including Thursday's "mind-numbing for 55 minutes and Tebow-tastic for the final five" win over the Jets. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com