Posted on: February 23, 2009 2:51 pm

Combine notes: 2/23

I watched the defensive linemen and linebackers work out at the combine (via NFL Network). Here are my notes:

- The two studs of this day were Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest) and Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas). Orakpo came up with a hamstring tweak late in his workout and couldn't finish, but he looked great in the drills and of course he looked great in school. Same for Curry. Both should be Top 10 picks.Orakpo's upper body is awesome and he's got great speed to go with it. The comparisons to DeMarcus Ware are already rolling in. I'm wondering how small his feet are, though ...

- I liked what I saw from Kyle Moore (DL, USC) and will investigate him further. Smooth 40 run, which is a blend of explosiveness and burst to go with speed.

- Michael Johnson (DL, Georgia Tech) also looked fluid and solid, but it was expected that he would have a monster combine (4.66 in the 40). Many folks are questioning his heart. I could see this guy landing in New England and becoming an animal. He's really gifted physically, but that's just part of the puzzle.

- Aaron Maybin (PSU) has had a good combine too, but seems like a tweener ... he's trying to put on weight (15 pounds in 3 months or so). He might just wind up being a pass-rush specialist and third-down player.

- B.J. Raji (Boston College) is a big piece of meat. Didn't run the 40 well but did display good burst off the snap and quickness and quick, quick feet, which is more important for a big man.

- The other big man I really liked was Terrelle Taylor (Michigan). He's big and very strong. Perfect space eater, maybe a nose tackle. Not sure on that. 

- All of the USC players did well ... which makes me wonder if they were well-prepped for this event. I mentioned Kyle Moore ... Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and the other linebacker, Kaluka Maiava, did fine. Rey Maualuga hurt his right leg on his first 40-yard dash and couldn't finish his workout, but he should still be a first-round pick.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out when Aaron Curry would go off the draft board. The Chiefs would be nuts to pass on him at No. 3 as he could be a sack machine and a run stuffer for them, lining up all over the field. Scott Pioli won't pass on his versatile talents ... but I think the Rams might also take a long look at him as their defense has struggled and Steve Spagnuolo could really pull off some crazy schemes with Curry and DE Chris Long in his arsenal.

Bottom line: Curry will be playing ball in Missouri in 2009.

Posted on: February 5, 2009 10:27 am

Franchise, transition tags are here

The NFL's two-week window for clubs to place either the franchise or the transition tag on a free agent has begun, and it ends in two weeks, just about when the NFL Combine gets into full swing.

That said, expect minimal tag action until right before the Combine.

For those of you who aren't aware, these tags allow clubs to have a chance at keeping their best free agents. Only one player can receive one tag each offseason.

The transition tag gives the club a right-of-refusal on a free agent if he signs a contract elsewhere. However, the club guarantees him the salary of the Top 10 players at his position for one season of work in exchange for that right. If the player signs elsewhere, the club can either match the contract he received or let him go. If that happens, the club gets NOTHING as far as compensation. This tag is rarely seen each offseason.

Here's what a player would be guaranteed for 2009 if hit with the transition tag:

CB $8,374,000
DE $7,777,000
DT $5,450,000
LB $7,480,000
OL $7,744,000
P/K $2,264,000
QB $12,440,000
RB $5,925,000
S $5,130,000
TE $4,065,000
WR $8,393,000

The franchise tag is far more common. It also gives the club a right-of-refusal on a free agent if he signs a contract elsewhere. However, the club guarantees him the Top 5 players at his position for one season of work in exchange for that right. If the player signs elsewhere, the club can either match the contract he received of let him go. But if they let him go, they receive TWO FIRST-ROUND PICKS from the club that signs him!

And since you see that the salaries are nominally higher for the franchise tags than the transition tags, it only makes sense that the clubs use the franchise tags so they can receive some compensation.

CB $9,957,000
$ 8,991,000
$ 6,058,000
$ 8,304,000
$ 8,451,000
$ 2,483,000
$ 14,651,000
$ 6,621,000
$ 6,342,000
$ 4,462,000
$ 9,884,000

So who might be franchised this offseason? Here are some hunches:

Raiders: Nnamdi Asomugha

Buccaneers: Antonio Bryant

Patriots: Matt Cassel

Bengals: T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Ravens: Ray Lewis

Giants: Brandon Jacobs

Panthers: Julius Peppers

Chargers: Darren Sproles

Cardinals: Kurt Warner

One player who won't be tagged: Titans DT Albert Haynesworth, who was franchised last year and hit a performance bonus that keeps him from being tagged this year.

We'll continue to keep you posted on those who receive the tags in the next two weeks.


Posted on: January 30, 2009 12:41 pm

Goodell presser

Here's the run down of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's press conference ...

- He began by calling the NFL an "unpredictable" league, saying that as a good thing. Of course, no one knows that better than the Fantasy Football playing public. It's part of the reason why we play and why we watch football.

- He expects 75 percent of the NFL's franchises to not raise ticket prices in 2009, citing the economy.

- On the topic of a shared stadium between the 49ers and Raiders in the Bay Area, Goodell believes that the idea is worth exploring.

- On the topic of the relationship between the NFL and the Canadian Football League (CFL), Goodell pointed out that the CFL told the NFL they didn't want to have a strengthed relationship, but the NFL is always willing to talk with the CFL about any kind of agreement. Goodell considered the Toronto games a great success.

- Goodell made some news by announcing that the league is looking into having Super Bowl L, the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, in Los Angeles, where it all began at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. And that's whether or not the NFL has a franchise in Los Angeles. I think that's pretty cool.

- The Lions will have a Thanksgiving Game in 2009, but Goodell didn't rule out taking the Thanksgiving Game away from them (or the Cowboys).

- The NFL will keep its blackout policy in spite of the tough economic times. I predict a record number of blackouts this year, especially in Detroit and Oakland, and possibly St. Louis and Buffalo.

- Goodell all but dismissed the idea of two NFL teams in Chicago (which is smart since NO ONE in Chicago would betray the Bears for some expansion club).

- A London reporter cited a league source that the NFL could have a franchise in London in 10 years. Goodell didn't seem to like that, asking twice for the source's name (albeit in a joking manner).

- The NFL wants the Vikings to remain in Minnesota, but "they need a new stadium" to do so. Their lease at the Metrodome is expiring soon.

- The NFL also wants the Saints to remain in New Orleans, but their deal with the state of Louisiana is expiring. Goodell thinks that if the Superdome can show it is a first-class stadium, they can get a Super Bowl in the early 2010s.

- Goodell doesn't anticipate a change to the OT rule, noting that the percentage of teams winning on the first possession of OT winning 47 percent of the time, up from 30 percent back in the day.

- Goodell confirmed a $123 million salary cap in 2009.

- No one asked Goodell about the potential changes to the NFL schedule, preseason or regular season.

After the press conference, Goodell said more on NFL Network:

- Goodell is confident that there will be no work stoppage in 2011, essentially saying that the league and its players have a good thing going and that everyone recognizes that.

- On the topic of Michael Vick, Goodell said he won't consider any action on Vick until all of his legal woes are behind him. From there, he wants Vick to show remorse for his actions -- not just to him and the NFL, but to the world. Vick has to figure out a way to turn this huge negative into a positive. If that happens, Goodell will begin reconsidering him.





Category: NFL
Posted on: January 15, 2009 10:50 am

Fantasy Huddle: Ed Reed

I make no secret about being an alumni of The University of Miami, and as such, I make no secret that I tend to follow Hurricanes players throughout their careers. So you won't be surprised when I tell you that my favorite player in the NFL today is Ravens safety Ed Reed.

Reed is widely considered to be not only one of the best safeties in the NFL, but one of the league's top defenders. He's the type of player you can learn from by just watching him. But by talking with him, you can also gain some insight. Reed took a conference call with the media before the Ravens' AFC Championship Game at the Steelers -- here are some of the highlights that might interest you as a Fantasy Football owner.

Every time Willie Parker goes up against the Ravens, he's slammed. He's never scored on the ground against you guys, never had a 100-yard game. I know you guys are good vs. the run against everybody, but what is it about your defense that makes life tough on him?

"The front seven. The front seven are doing a great job. It's not just with Willie Parker, it's just with running backs in general. They take pride in stopping the run -- <i>we</i> take pride in stopping the run, but it's a totally different game now. Willie Parker is looking a lot healthier. He's running the ball a lot tougher, a lot harder. So, we've definitely got to step our game up."

And with that in mind, how did you guys rebound after the Giants game where they ran on you?

"The way you've seen us rebound to get to this point."

You go up against Joe Flacco in practice all the time. Can you tell us when you saw him transform from a bright-eyed college passer into an NFL quarterback? When did it happen?

"Just when I first saw Joe Flacco in mini-camps, when I saw him throw the ball, knowing that Joe can throw. He can throw the ball. When I first saw him in training camp, man, he threw his first ball, I already knew what we had in him. And it was just a matter of time, like I always said, just a matter of time of him developing into the guy he wanted to develop into. And, he still has a long way to go."

So who's the next Ravens offensive player who we should know about?

"Shoot man, Le'Ron McClain. You already know about that guy. (Offensive guard Marshal) Yanda, who got hurt. And we've got some young receivers who haven't been playing (Marcus Smith, Justin Harper) or who are on practice squad (Edward Williams, Ernie Wheelwright). If they continue to grow, they definitely could be some show-stoppers."

What's your take on McClain getting this role in the offense and taking advantage of it?

"It's just a tribute to the team, how guys step in and step up when their number is called."

And Willis McGahee has dealt with it well. He's still getting his carries and doing pretty well with them. 

"Yeah, of course. That just goes to show his heart, full of team chemistry. He's going to do whatever it takes. It's no different than Edgerrin James down in Arizona. Willis took advantage of the time he had off because he was hurt. He was playing with a lot of injuries early on in the season, and that was being pointed out in a negative way, but he took advantage of that, and now he's doing the things that he needed to do on the field."

Is there a difference between this defense and those from the past?

"Nothing has changed with this defense. If you go back and look at the past couple of years, nothing really has changed. Guys go down, guys are in, guys step up. It's the same mold. Nothing has changed with this defense."

Your defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, is a candidate to be a head coach in a number of places around the NFL. How would you describe him as a coordinator, and do you think he'd make a good head coach?

"After the season is done, we'll see (about) that. I think Coach is a hell of a coach, what he brings to the table. He's definitely tradition-oriented and can step in anywhere right now and lead a franchise. But that's not on me. That's up to GMs to make that decision. But as a defensive coordinator, we already know what Rex Ryan brings to the table."

You guys aren't surprising many people as the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, and one of the most underrated elements of the postseason is momentum. How important is momentum to have on your side in the playoffs?

"Momentum is always huge. Momentum is always huge. That's why you play the game accordingly, and hopefully it stays on our side."
Posted on: December 30, 2008 4:09 pm

My 2008 PFWA ballot

I'm in my first year as a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, and as a member, I've been given the opportunity to vote for special awards and all-pro teams, with Pro Football Weekly tallying the ballots and publishing the PFWA's cumulative results (it will be in their Jan. 11 edition, online at their site on Jan. 12).

Here's how I voted:

Special Awards

Overall NFL MVP: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers

Offensive MVP: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers

Defensive MVP: James Harrison, LB, Steelers

I value this award, and the opportunity to name a player as MOST VALUABLE is not taken lightly.

So why did I go with Williams over Peyton Manning?

For starters, the stats were more impressive with Williams. Manning was sixth in passing yards, fifth in touchdowns thrown and was the key to the Colts going 12-4, though he had his fair share of bad games. Williams had his bad games too, but his team also finished 12-4. Williams ended the year ranked third in rushing yards and first in total touchdowns with 20. 20!!!! When we see Peyton Manning throw for 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns, we kind of shrug and say "well, we expected that." What did we expect from Williams? Maybe five or six touchdowns and 1,000 total yards. Also, when we see the Colts in the playoffs, we know that the guy to stop is Manning. When we see the Panthers in the playoffs, we know for sure that the guy to stop there is Williams. And no one has been able to stop him for the last two-thirds of the year!

Both players carried their teams for much of the year. Both teams would be out of the playoffs if either guy went down. Manning pretty much met expectations, and that's pretty darn good considering the state of his team. But Williams was electric, unstoppable and dominating for much of the season. Those superlatives outweigh what Manning did this year in my mind.

Coach of the Year: Mike Smith, Falcons

Real tough call here with Tony Sparano, but the Falcons' tougher schedule and weaker defense was the deciding factor.

Comeback Player of the Year: John Abraham, DE, Falcons

Overall NFL Rookie of the Year: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots

Most Improved Player of the Year: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers

Executive of the Year: Thomas Dimitroff, GM, Falcons

Assistant Coach of the Year: Mike Mularkey, offensive coordinator, Falcons

I swear I'm not from Atlanta. I simply found myself really liking what the Falcons did this year.

All-NFL Team


Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Colts
Running back: DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Running back: Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Wide receiver: Andre Johnson, Texans
Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson, Lions
Tight end: Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs
Center: Kevin Mawae, Titans
Offensive guard: Justin Blalock, Falcons
Offensive guard: Travelle Wharton, Panthers
Offensive tackle: Jammal Brown, Saints
Offensive tackle: Ryan Clady, Broncos

I really appreciate the offensive linemen I chose. In the case of Brown, he was the anchor of an offensive line that allowed 11 sacks, the second fewest in the NFL. That's with the Saints passing more than any other team in the league. The Broncos allowed the third-least sacks, and Clady allowed half a sack all year. Not bad for a rookie left tackle on a passing team.


Defensive end: John Abraham, Falcons
Defensive end: Justin Tuck, Giants
Defensive tackle*: Kevin Williams, Vikings
Defensive tackle*: Albert Haynesworth, Titans
Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
Outside linebacker: James Harrison, Steelers
Middle linebacker**: Jon Beason, Panthers
Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Packers
Cornerback: Chris Gamble, Panthers
Safety: Ed Reed, Ravens
Safety: Michael Griffin, Titans


Placekicker: John Carney, Giants
Punter: Sam Koch, Ravens
Kickoff returner: Leodis McKelvin, Bills
Punt returner: Johnnie Lee Higgins, Raiders
Special teams: Sean Morey, Cardinals

Why Sam Koch? Simply put, he was toward the top of all of the punting stats, and the field position game was key to the Ravens success this year.

All-Rookie Team


Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Falcons
Running back: Matt Forte, Bears
Running back: Chris Johnson, Titans
Wide receiver: Eddie Royal, Broncos
Wide receiver: DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Tight end: John Carlson, Seahawks
Center: Jamey Richard, Colts
Offensive guard: Mike Pollak, Colts
Offensive guard: Chilo Rachal, 49ers
Offensive tackle: Jeff Otah, Panthers
Offensive tackle: Ryan Clady, Broncos


Defensive lineman: Jason Jones, Titans
Defensive lineman: Chris Long, Rams
Defensive lineman: Sedrick Ellis, Saints
Defensive lineman: Cliff Avril, Lions
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Patriots
Linebacker: Curtis Lofton, Falcons
Linebacker: Bryan Kehl, Giants
Cornerback: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cardinals
Cornerback: Brandon Flowers, Chiefs
Safety: Tyrell Johnson, Vikings
Safety: Chris Horton, Redskins


Placekicker: Garrett Hartley, Saints
Punter: N/A
Kickoff returner: Leodis McKelvin, Bills
Punt returner:  DeSean Jackson, Eagles
Special teams: N/A

I'd love it if you guys would give me YOUR ballot. You comment on it here in the blog for all to see, including me. Let's have some smart debate over these picks.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 5, 2008 10:35 am

Rivered by Rivers?

Count me among the throng of Fantasy analysts who expected Rivers to be a dud in Week 14. And, count me among those in the Fantasy playoffs that benched Rivers.

I took a look at the game last night and dug into Rivers' outing. Before I start, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been a HUGE Philip Rivers supporter for a long time. I studied and scouted him while he was at N.C. State and have thought the world of his skills. And yes, even with that statement, I thought he'd have a light night vs. Oakland.

First drive: The Chargers called all of two pass plays -- one was the 46-yard deep ball to Vincent Jackson down the right sideline where he somehow came down with the ball in double coverage, and with a defensive pass interference call on Nnamdi Asomugha (the stats counted because the Chargers declined the penalty). The second pass attempt was a busted play where Rivers threw out of the end zone.

Four runs and two passes for San Diego. Let's keep track of this.

Second drive: JaMarcus Russell fumbled on a sack and the Bolts got the ball back on the Raiders 12. Three runs later, LT's in the end zone.

Through this point, the Chargers have called seven runs and two passes.

Third drive: A looooong drive by San Diego that started at their own 4 and got backed up to their own 1. It was helped along by a Raiders unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Tommy Kelly and by the fact that San Diego had only one third down on the entire drive! Why? Because they ran silly against the Raiders. In addition to the 11 called running plays on the drive, Rivers scrambled on two plays (his third run on the drive was a dive on fourth-and-1). Counting Rivers' scrambles, which were likely passing plays that dissolved, the Chargers called four passes on the drive.

Touchdown play: The play call was a delay screen to Darren Sproles, who caught it near the line of scrimmage and sped into the end zone. Nice play by Sproles.

So we're at 18 runs and six passes. That's exactly a 3-to-1 ratio. You tell me how they've chosen to attack the Raiders.

Fourth drive and touchdown play: A little bit of deja vu. After an LT run and an incomplete toss, Rivers on third down threw a perfect deep ball down the right sideline to a wide open Vincent Jackson (on the other side of the field from Nnamdi Asomugha, by the way), who caught the ball and easily scored. 59-yard pass play. Great pass by Rivers.

19 runs, eight passes.

Fifth drive: A three-and-out as the Chargers tried the run three times and finally the Raiders wised up and stuffed them.

22 runs, eight passes. This is what we were expecting, and this is why we suggested Rivers as a sit for Week 14.

Sixth drive: The Chargers get great field position on the Raiders 37 following a JaMarcus Russell interception. Inside of two minutes, the Chargers predictably go into pass-frenzy mode as most offenses do with 2:00 to play. Rivers struggles, connecting on one of five pass attempts, with three of the attempts deep balls. Only one run play on the drive, which ends with a field goal.

23 runs called, 13 passes called through one half of play.  Rivers is 5-of-11 passing, but he's got 149 yards and two touchdowns. While we can definitely deduce that the Chargers wanted to run the ball like mad, they also had the deep ball as part of their repetoire.

Seventh drive: A run-run-pass three-and-out.

25 runs called, 14 passes called.

Eighth drive: Another Chargers drive that stalls, this time at midfield. On this drive, we get a real good idea of who Rivers has confidence in as he attempts to connect with Vincent Jackson on three of his four tries. But also note that San Diego came out on this drive running, giving LT the first two touches before Rivers hit Sproles on a screen for a first down, then hit Jackson on the next play to change up the play calling. The drive stalled when Rivers missed on two passes, one deep down the right sideline to Mr. Jackson (notice any trends lately?). This was a good attempt by the Chargers' staff to mix up the play calling a little bit.

We're up to 28 runs called, 18 passes called.

Ninth drive: The Chargers continue to change things up when on the first play of the drive they go after Asomugha with Chris Chambers with a deep pass down the left sideline, but it's not complete. The mixing up worked because Tomlinson rushed for nine yards on the next play. Through a series of penalties, the Chargers got backed up into a first-and-20 and Rivers couldn't complete a pass, watching the drive end on a run on third-and-20.

Counting a LT run on a play that was nullified by a penalty, we're up to 31 runs vs. 22 passes called.

10th drive: The Chargers get the ball at midfield after the Raiders turn the ball over on downs and revert back to running, probably because they wanted to grind down the clock, get their bell cow back some carries and just otherwise take it easy. One run by Rivers was on a shotgun play that was likely a pass and will be counted as a pass.

Touchdown play: This is what grinds my gears -- the Chargers, as predicted, run all over the place, then on a lousy screen from Rivers, Sproles turns on the afterburners and finds the end zone. Second screen pass TD for Rivers on the game.

Our count is at 36 runs and 25 passes called. And now the score is at 34-7 -- a blowout. Normally when that happens, you see a lot more running ... and that was accounted for in our pregame prognosis for Rivers.

So if you're not a football purist, your count ends here with the 36/25 run-pass playcall ratio.

11th drive: Three runs by Jacob Hester. Chargers punt.

12th drive: Four runs by Jacob Hester and the game ends.

Final tally: 43 runs called by the Chargers vs. 25 passes called. This is what we expected.

Now here's something completely unexpected and something truly tough to explain:

Rivers completed 10 passes! That's it.

Vincent Jackson had half of them.

Running backs accounted for four of them, all on short screens.

Chris Chambers, Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson had NONE of them. Chambers was thrown at three times. Gates was thrown at twice. Tomlinson was off the field on many passing downs. 

While we are all mad/disappointed/disgusted/thrilled
our opponents benched Rivers, the reality is that we made a pretty decent choice on the surface. If I had told you that the quarterback you were going to start was going to hear his number called 25 times out of 68 plays and complete just 10 of his passes, you would have started anyone else.

That said, feel free to use the space below to explain why you started Rivers, or why you're angry about benching him. Go ahead, let us have it.

It's just one of those games where a quarterback throws a touchdown on 30% of his completions. Happens all the time.

Posted on: November 28, 2008 10:10 am

Breaking down Westbrook's Thanksgiving night

I watched the Cardinals-Eagles game twice, once live and again on DVR, checking out how Brian Westbrook was able to cut up the Cardinals. Like a good handful of Fantasy Football owners out there, I sat Westbrook in my league. Forty points on my bench, and I need to win this week to get a high playoff seed.

Before I break down Westbrook's performance, let's look at why he was a risky play in Week 13. For starters, he had been playing very poorly over his last four games, totaling 61 carries for 186 yards (3.0 avg.) and 14 catches for 74 yards (5.3 avg.) and no touchdowns. This was attributed to knee and ankle injuries slowing him down, and it was obvious watching him in the games before Week 13 that such was the case. And like the rest of the players who played on Thanksgiving, he was going on three days rest. The Cardinals defense was also stronger against the run than the pass, yielding 22 passing touchdowns this season vs. eight on the ground. And, Arizona had allowed one 100-yard rusher all year.

So making the case to call Westbrook a must-start was tough considering these facts. We did refer to him as a "middle-end No. 2 Fantasy RB with obvious upside" in his player analysis days before the game and never called him a must-bench. Obviously, if you did bench him, you did because you had someone else who was healthier and had a better matchup. That makes sense, and it's normally good Fantasy management. Realistically speaking, the only semi-reasonable excuse you could give to call Westbrook a must-start is that "he's a stud and you never ever sit your studs." Of course, if you had used that brilliant analysis in any of Westbrook's previous four games, you looked like a fool. But I digress ...

The primary reasons for Westbrook's success were because the Cardinals didn't defend the run as aggressively as they did the pass, and in conjunction with that, the Eagles' offensive line was highly functional and able to push Arizona's front seven around. Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback Donovan McNabb also deserve some high praise as they were also big reasons for Westbrook's success.

First drive: Philadelphia went dink-and-dunk, which is common with west-coast offenses, and Westbrook had a hand in it. He had four carries on the 12-play drive and helped set the table for easy second- and third-down conversions with good gains. The Cardinals did a nice job closing in on him once he got past the line of scrimmage, but he routinely was able to scoot through nice-sized holes carved out by his offensive line.

First TD: An awesome play call where McNabb goes back to pass and then shovels it to Westbrook, who made the rest of the play elementary from 5 yards out. I am a big fan of the shovel pass because when the quarterback takes from center, it looks like a pass, and the defense adjusts. But the shovel pass is essentially a glorified handoff, and it fools the defense that's already on its heels and not ready to stop the run.

Second drive: Philadelphia capitalizes on a Kurt Warner interception and rides Westbrook into the end zone. Westbrook gets all but two of the yards on a 41-yard drive against a tired Cardinals defense that had already been on the field for 8:47 of the game.

Second TD: Standard goal-line draw. Nothing out of the norm here, and a solid call.

Third drive: Eagles don't use him at all and go three-and-out. I imagine that someone asked someone else over the Eagles' headsets "And we didn't let Westbrook touch the ball ... why?"

Fourth drive: Philly makes up for the last drive with five runs (four by Westbrook) in their first six plays to get them into the red zone. The lone pass in those six plays was a 20-yard hook-up from McNabb to Hank Baskett on an out route that was good for 20 yards and called on a first-down, catching the Cardinals off guard. Again, excellent play calling.

Third TD: If you saw this play, you knew Westbrook was going to score even before he waved his hand in the air indicating he was wide open. The Cardinals blitzed McNabb while playing zone coverage in the end zone, but they left Westbrook all alone in the right flat from two yards out. McNabb threw a lob that Westbrook easily reeled in. He could have crawled like a baby into the end zone, that's how open he was.

So at this point, Westbrook had three touchdowns and 75 rush yards and 7 receiving yards on two touchdown catches. Mighty impressive output through 1 1/2 quarters of play.

Fifth drive: Westbrook gets one touch and the Eagles pass exclusively inside the 2:00 warning to set up a field goal. It's 24-7 at the half.

Sixth drive: One touch, 4 yards for Westbrook on a three-and-out series. Remember what happened next when the Eagles did this in the first half, dontcha?

Seventh drive: Not as much Westbrook as you might expect (four total touches on the 11-play drive) as McNabb was able to throw short routes and let his receivers do much of the work (DeSean Jackson is perfect for the Eagles' offense).

Fourth TD: Again, a standard 9-yard run. Handoff wasn't odd or anything, and Westbrook got to the end zone before the Cardinals could tackle him.

Eighth, ninth and 10th drives: The Eagles scale back Westbrook's production, holding him to three runs for 8 yards and one catch for 13 yards in 13 offensive plays.

Westbrook's night was over after the Eagles took a 48-20 lead and he didn't participate in the team's last two series.

What is amazing about Westbrook's game is that you never would have guessed he ran for 110 yards or had 22 carries by watching the game. His longest run was for 17 yards and he had just two carries for more than 10 yards. So there was no break-away run, just a lot of pounding and grinding and digging in for yardage. His offensive line really deserves a game ball -- not only did they spring him like they did, but McNabb was sacked one time during the game. Westbrook didn't look perfect -- he likely left some yards on the field, but the team's use of him near the end zone and throughout the first half was a very positive sign.

The good news for Westbrook owners: Now the running back will have as many as nine days to rest up and get his body ready for the rest of the season. This is exactly what he needs.

The bad news for Westbrook owners: The Eagles play at the Giants in Week 14. Even with Westbrook's incredible history before this season, the expectations have to be somewhat in check ... don't they?
Posted on: November 25, 2008 3:42 pm

Fantasy & Reality: The Day After

Ever since I was able to get fan feedback from my weekly Fantasy & Reality column, I've wanted to post emails I received and answer them. Time was always an issue, along with picking out emails and editing them, etc. But I finally have a little time this week and wanted to post some responses to my post-Week 12 column. In case you missed it, stop reading and check it out here.

On to the emails.

Dave, your words: What GM in their right mind would give him even $5 million a year guaranteed to be their franchise quarterback? First, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. Second, why don't you ask Ted Thompson who gave Aaron Rodgers $10 mil a year and Rick Smith who gave Matt Schaub 8 mil a year. Both were unproven and had never started a game before. Anyway, I think any GM in his right mind would pay Cassel $10 mil a year if they want to win, never mind $5 mil. Cassel can throw the ball with the best of them. I don't know who in their right mind pays you to give your loose opinion. You are a mallot with no idea. You should be giving your opinion on video games and gigabytes!

-- Corey

First of all, Corey, at the end of your email, are you calling me a large wooden hammer?!

Seriously, you make some good points about the other quarterbacks who got paid without making an NFL start (though Rodgers didn't receive his wealthy contract extension until after starting a few games and doing well). And I don't doubt that SOME NFL general manager will overpay for Cassel's services next season. But it wouldn't be me, and it wouldn't be any GMs, past or present, that I know. Not one rational GM will recognize that in spite of Cassel's success, he was a backup and former seventh-round draft pick first.

Finally, I did say that Cassel wouldn't get more than $5 million guaranteed a year. So if he were to sign a four-year deal, I'd be surprised if the guaranteed money was north of $20M.

People who think Cassel is better than Brady clearly have never watched the Patriots play or know anything about football. First of all, the other guy who threw 400 yards in back to back games most recently is Billy Volek ... where is he now? Statements like this piss me off. He's had two good games recently and yeah he's doing similar to Brady in his first year, but Brady was throwing to David Patten and Troy Brown while Cassel is throwing to Randy Moss, a top 5 receiver of all time, and the best slot guy in the league in Wes Welker, and a better o-line and a more experienced hall of fame coach. Even though it is the same coach, experience obviously goes a long way. I think if you make stupid statements like that, you deserve to be knocked out. Not you, your co-worker.

-- Joe B.

I think the co-worker in question, who will never be named in fear of Joe coming to knock him or her out, was considering the whole picture. Cassel would cost less to keep long-term than Brady and was throwing just as well as Brady, if not better. However, I agree that there is no argument that Cassel, on his best two days, is still not in Tom Brady's league.

But nevertheless ...

<style type="text/css"></style> Die Hard Pats Fan here. I think we keep Cassel and trade Tom to San Fran for a first-round pick and Patrick Willis. Tom grew up going to San Fran games, his kid is out there, he's almost 32 with a rebuilt knee and three super bowl rings. Matt is only 26, he is much more mobile than Tom and I think he is just as smart.

-- Ken (Go Pats)

So I suppose there are a few Patriots fans that would like to cash in Brady. If I'm Scott Pioli, I probably wouldn't listen to offers for Brady unless I had reason to believe he wouldn't heal properly from his knee surgery. Furthermore, if I'm trading away a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, I'm going to want more than a middle linebacker and a first-round pick. This is precisely why Brady won't be traded UNLESS the Pats are trying to give him away.

I disagree with your assessment on Michael Turner. Not that what you said was not true, but you are focusing on the wrong issue. Michael Turner is only good when he plays at home. He only has two 100+ games away from home, and for me, in a TD-only league, has scored only one TD away from home. Anyone who expects Turner to produce in Weeks 14 and 16 will be foolish. Luckily, my Week 14 opponent has him!

-- Ben

I think it's not that easy with Turner. A lot of his challenging matchups have come on the road, but he's also had some easy ones (at Green Bay, at Oakland) and he has been stifled at home (vs. Chicago). I think the easiest way to classify Turner is that he's a good running back with the ability to be a great running back when the matchup is favorable. Not sure I can justify sitting him anymore.

Has CBS ever considered doing a writer vs. amateur fantasy league? I'm sure you and Jamey are always getting this question. I'm also sure there are a lot of guys like me who think I could hang with the big boys. I guarantee a weekly story on how some amateurs are squaring off against the pros would be a HUGE hit. Each year, you could have a few amateur league keepers to compete the next year, and then invite in some newbies. I've sold myself. This is the next great idea. That's the marketing director in me thinking.

-- Ryan Boyer

Whenever we consider new content on the site, the first thing we think about is, "How will this benefit the reader?" That said, we've run celebrity Fantasy Football leagues with NFL on CBS guys as well as the 10-team NFL Player Fantasy Football League last year (featuring winner Steven Jackson). Sadly, they didn't garner a ton of attention, so I doubt a "fans vs. analysts" league would be any better.

If I am wrong and anyone wants to READ and follow a league like this (and not participate in), please comment below.

I have lost nearly a whole head of hair due to the Giants' kicking situation. Why would they keep jerking us around when Carney can't kickoff past the 20-yard line? Why haven't one of the geniuses at fantasy football been on top of this problem? It's driving me nuts !!!!


David Wenner
Wow. Never seen an email so animated over a kicker before! Here's what I think is going on with the Giants: I think they want to dump Lawrence Tynes, but they owe him a debt of gratitude for kicking a game-winner at Green Bay last season to put them into the Super Bowl, which they won. John Carney's kickoffs might be weak, but he's been golden at field goals, something Tynes hasn't been. My best advice is to either be ready to roll with Carney or just pick up another kicker.

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