Posted on: November 6, 2011 7:21 pm

Cam who?

NASHVILLE -- It's Cam Newton this, Cam Newton that.

Why doesn't anybody talk about Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton?

All he does is something Newton hasn't done much of: Win.

Dalton threw three touchdown passes Sunday against the Tennessee Titans to lead the Bengals to a 24-17 victory and up their record to 6-2 at the halfway point of the season.

Dalton was calm, poised and accurate against the Titans, showing why this team is a legitimate playoff contender. Dalton now has 12 touchdown passes on the season and seven interceptions.

The Bengals aren't asking him to win games, but when they fell behind by Sunday Dalton was able to rally them in the second half.

The defense did the rest. The Titans got the ball back twice in the final five minutes and the second time the Bengals forced a fumble by Jared Cook with 3:49 left to ice it.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 3, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 6:11 pm

Week 9 Matchups to watch: Peppers vs. Peters

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers vs. Eagles left tackle Jason Peters -- The Bears use Peppers at both end spots, but he is better on the right side. He will be matched against Peters, who when healthy is a top-tier tackle. Peters played a solid game against the Cowboys this week and now has to show on Monday night he can handle Peppers.

Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin vs. Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor -- Taylor did a great job against New England's Wes Welker last week in man coverage. Boldin, meanwhile, had his best game of the season against Arizona. I expect to see a lot of Taylor on Boldin in a battle of two physical players.

Dolphins left tackle Jake Long vs. Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali -- Hali abused San Diego's Marcus McNeil Monday night. He now has to face another top-level tackle although Long hasn't been as good as in year's past. If he has a tough day here, it's going to be problems for the Miami passing game.

Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer vs. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul -- Vollmer had problems with LaMarr Woodley last week and now gets to face one of the best young pass rushers in the league. Pierre-Paul is explosive and he has long reach that makes him even better at shedding tackles.  Vollmer has to be better than he was last week.

Rams defensive end Chris Long vs. Cardinals right tackle Brandon Keith -- Long dominated the Saints last week with three sacks. Keith struggled against the Ravens in pass protection. Long has to be licking his chops and might be ready for another double-digit sack game.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy vs. Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher -- McCoy is coming off an explosive game against the Cowboys, rushing for 185 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He keyed the Eagles victory. Urlacher has to be a big part of keeping him in check if the Bears are to put the Eagles in passing situations. He also has to be good against him in coverage.

Packers corners Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams vs. Chargers receivers Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson -- Floyd and Jackson are big receivers, but the Packers corners have good size. Floyd is iffy for the game with an injury. If he plays, the Chargers have to get Floyd and Jackson going against man coverage, something they didn't do against the Chiefs. If Woodson and Williams can hold up, the Packers will be able to throw a lot of looks up front at Philip Rivers.

Patriots receiver Wes Welker vs. Giants corners Corey Webster and Aaron Ross -- Webster is the Giants best corner, but he's had trouble with small, quick receivers in the past. That could put Ross on him more here -- or maybe even safety Antrel Rolle, a former corner. The Steelers did a good job on Welker.

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten vs. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor --Witten has to be a big part of the Cowboys offense if they are to get going after that horrible showing against the Eagles. But he will face a pair of young, up-and-coming safeties. Thomas runs like a corner. This will be a good battle to watch.

Titans running back Chris Johnson vs. Bengals defensive front -- Johnson is struggling big time this season, but he remains the team's starter. The Cincinnati defensive front is one of the best in the NFL. How they play will determine if Johnson can get out of his funk. 

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 9
Posted on: October 31, 2011 2:34 pm

Monday Musings: Redskins have offensive issues

The Washington Redskins have major offensive woes, and it might start with the guy who is running it. Is Kyle Shanahan, the son of the head coach, over his head? It sure looks like it. The Redskins are terrible on offense right now.

They were shut out by the Bills 23-0 Sunday and quarterback John Beck was sacked nine times by a Bills team that came in with four sacks.

The Redskins couldn't run it. They couldn't throw it. Beck held the ball. The line was whipped. And the end result was the first shutout in Mike Shanahan's coaching career.

"Obviously, it was a tough game," Mike Shanahan said. "I'm disappointed with the result, and especially the way we played on offense."

Shanahan was asked if was satisfied with the offensive execution. Yes, somebody asked that.

"You think I'm satisfied?" he asked. "We didn't score a point. Obviously, I am very disappointed in our execution."

The Redskins are 26th in scoring and 25th in yards per play. The rest of their offensive numbers are just as bad.

They've changed quarterbacks, and they have a lot of injuries on their line and at receiver, so there are reasons for the problems. But you have to wonder if the main problem isn't the guy calling the plays.

Kyle Shanahan didn't get along with Donovan McNabb. So McNabb was benched and then sent packing. Now Shanahan has Rex Grossman and John Beck, two guys he liked.

They aren't the answer.

Is he?

Time will tell, but it's hard to imagine the father firing the son.

---Buffalo's Andy Levitre is one of the best guards in the NFL. He is having a Pro Bowl season. Against the Redskins, he was asked to move from left guard to left tackle because of injuries. And he did a great job in the run game and in pass protection, except for one play where Brian Orakpo beat him around the edge. He is a mauler in the run game. He doesn't look like he would be, but he gets underneath the opposition and drives them off the football. Give this guy some props. He shows up every week on tape.

---Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril is going to become a rich man next spring. In a league where teams crave young pass rushers he will become a free agent after the season. The Lions will do everything they can to keep him, and could put the franchise tag on him, but if he gets to the market, look out. Avril had two strip sacks against the Broncos Sunday, returning one for a touchdown. He has five sacks on the season, but he's been better than that number would indicate. 

----Did the Lions players go overboard by "Tebowing" to celebrate plays? Tebowing is the Internet sensation where people send in pictures from anywhere imitating Tebow's prayer pose from game day. Lions players twice imitated the pose. Here's the thing: Tebow didn't start the craze. So it's mocking him for something he didn't start. I know it's just in fun, and players have to get tired of the hype for a bad quarterback, but it's not the kid's fault. It's the responsibility of the Tebow Cult that follows him.

---Six days after the Jacksonville Jaguars corners blanketed Anquan Boldin, he had a huge day against the Cardinals. Boldin caught seven passes for 145 yards, including five for 112 yards in the third quarter. The knock on Boldin is he can't run, which mean he has a tough time getting open. But he did a nice job of doing so against a not-so-good Arizona secondary.

---Should the Cardinals be worried about Kevin Kolb? I'd have to say yes. He had another bad game against the Ravens. Kolb threw for 153 yards with one touchdown and one interception.  For the season, he's completing 56.8-percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. His passer rating is 77.8. That's not quite the return on investment the Cardinals hoped to get when they traded for him.

----The Jaguars might not admit it, but they have to be concerned with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He has thrown for less than 100 yards each of the past two games and has completed 45-percent of his passes for the season. Gabbert's troubles are his mechanics. He doesn’t set his feet when he throws. He also has a tendency to feel pressure when it's not there and he doesn't step up into the pocket to avoid real pressure. Some in the organization think it's only a matter of changing the coaching staff, especially the way he's coached, to get him to improve. There's a feeling in the organization that he's not getting taught the proper fundamentals. Did losing quarterbacks coach Mike Shula to Carolina hurt? Shula has done a nice job with Cam Newton, so you have to wonder

---I've preached this over and over and over again: The Patriots lack deep speed. Somehow Tom Brady overcomes it. But he didn't against the Steelers. Brady threw for 198 yards and was sacked three times. The Patriots had just one pass play of 20 yards or more. New England has done a great job this season scheming around their lack of deep speed, but it showed up against Dallas and Pittsburgh. Where have you gone, Randy Moss?

---It seems every week here we take shots at the backs who got big contracts this off-season, Chris Johnson and DeAngelo Williams. Johnson had 14 carries for 34 yards against the Colts Sunday, while Williams had seven rushers for 26 yards. It was so bad for Johnson, who is averaging 2.8 per rush for the season, that Javon Ringer, who had 14 for 60 against the Colts, did the work in the fourth quarter. How many times can I say it: Don't pay backs. Ever.

---Hines Ward missed the Patriots game for the Steelers. One has to wonder if he gets his starting job back when he returns. Ward is the slowest of the four Steelers receivers and Mike Wallace, Emanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are all significantly ahead of Ward in yards-per-catch. This could be an interesting decision that needs to be made. If it were my offense, I'd sit him down and play the three speedy youngsters. If that happens, expect Ward to live up to his nickname: Wines (sic) Hard.

---The Bills had nine sacks against the Redskins, but they really lack a premier pass rusher. That is something they will definitely address in next year's draft.  Rookie Marcell Dareus is going to be a special player up front. He had 2 1/2 sacks from his nose tackle spot against the Redskins.

---What the heck was Rob Ryan thinking not attacking Mike Vick Sunday night? That soft zone he played was a disaster. You have to attack Vick in a big way. He didn't. Bad move. 

Posted on: October 30, 2011 6:35 pm

Gailey: You were spot on about Fitzpatrick

TORONTO -- Seven months ago, Buffalo Bills coach Chad Gailey sat at table at the NFL Owners meetings in New Orleans extolling the virtues of Ryan Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback.

Those of us at the table looked around in disbelief. I nearly choked on my bagel.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard kid who failed in two previous stop? That Ryan Fitzpatrick?

Now who's laughing?

The Bills, thanks to their dominating victory over the Washington Redskins here at the Rodgers Center in their annual trek north of the border, are 5-2 and in first place in the AFC East. 

Fitzpatrick is a big reason why. You look at him, the funky release, the dumpy body and a resume that until the second half of last season looked more like he should be playing up in Canada on permanent basis, and you wonder how he gets it done.

The Bills have now scored 20 or more points in each of their first seven games, which is something that not even the Jim Kelly-led Bills offenses did. Fitzpatrick didn't have to put up huge numbers against the Redskins, not with his defense playing so well and Fred Jackson running wild, but he did throw two touchdown passes. 

Did the Bills rush to give him that $59 million contact last week? I thought they could have waited, but after watching this team play for the first time I think they did the right thing.

Go ahead and laugh, Chan. You were right.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 27, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 9:08 pm

Week 8 Matchups to watch: Megatron vs. Champ

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson vs. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey --Bailey has done a great job in man coverage the past two weeks on Vincent Jackson and Brandon Marshall. Johnson is better than those two, so it will be an even bigger challenge for Bailey. Johnson was limited by double coverage last week against the Falcons, so expect help for Bailey.

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder vs. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton -- They won't face each other, but when two rookie first-round picks get together it makes for an interesting battle. Ponder did some good things in his first start and Newton has done a lot of good things in all of his. Neither team is great on defense, so this could be fun to watch.

Andre Johnson vs. Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox -- The Jaguars corners did a great job in man coverage against the Ravens. It was by far their best game as a duo. Now they get Johnson coming off a hamstring injury. How effective will he be? Will the Jaguars play man against him? That's dangerous if they do.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady vs. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu -- Brady owns the Steelers in part because he knows how to get Polamalu to bite on play-action and move him with his eyes. Polamalu is an aggressive player who can get too aggressive. Brady is the type of passer who will make him pay for it.

Dolphins left tackle Jake Long vs. Giants defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora -- Tuck is coming back off back and neck injuries and hopes to play. If he does, he gets a tough first foe. Long is one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the league. Tuck is a relentless pass rusher. Umenyiora is another speed rusher who will give Long troubles.

Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney vs. Titans left tackle Michael Roos -- These two have been going at it for years. Roos is one of the more underrated left tackles in the league. Freeney is an explosive pass rusher, but he has just 4 1/2 sacks this season. With the Colts offense not having the lead as much, he hasn't been the same player.

Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer vs. Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley -- Woodley had two sacks last week against Arizona and is playing at a high level after a slow start. He is a power pass rusher. Vollmer is hoping to play as he battles back from back surgery. If he plays, the question is how effective will he be. Will he be limited?  If he can't go, Nate Solder will start.

Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross vs. Vikings right end Jared Allen --Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 11 1/2 and he's playing at a high level. Gross did a nice job on Brian Orakpo last week, but Allen is playing even better than Orakpo. The thing with Allen is he never lets up. This is going to be an all-day fight.

Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo vs. Bills left tackle Demetrius Bell or Andy Levitre -- Orakpo had a tough time with Gross last week, but he did get a sack when he went unblocked. Bell is a solid left tackle, but he has a shoulder injury. If he can't go, it looks like Levitre, one of the NFL's best guards, will move to left tackle. Whoever plays there will have their hands full with Orakpo's speed.

Cowboys receivers vs. Eagles corners -- Dez Bryant and Miles Austin form one of the best outside receiving combos in the league. They are both capable of the big play. Their battles with Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel will be fun to watch. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles decide to play more man coverage against these two than they have for most of the season.

Category: NFL
Tags: NFL Week 8
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 11:50 pm

Ravens offense is offensive to watch

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Let's hold off on the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl talk.

How could anyone think that after watching their offense be so offensive Monday night?

The Ravens were shut down by the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 12-7 loss, didn't get a first down until there was 5:29 left in the third quarter and had a grand total of 16 yards at the the half and didn't score until the was 2:02 left in the game.

Jacksonville's defense is improved, but it's not that good.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco looked terrible the entire night, with happy feet and inaccuracy that made him look like the rookie passer, not Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

The Ravens defense kept Baltimore in the game, in part because Gabbert wasn't much better than Flacco, but the Ravens offense looked primitive. The Jaguars played a lot of man coverage on the receivers outside, loading up the box against the run.

The result was a horror show. The shock is the Ravens came in ranked fifth in the NFL in points scored.

Super Bowl?

With that offense, they might be lucky to make the playoffs. It's time Flacco takes the next step -- if he can.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:07 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:54 pm

Monday Musings: Slow down on blowing up the Colts

So it's time for the Colts to blow things up? Really? Are you kidding me? 

That's the perception around the league after the Saints beat the Colts 62-7 Sunday night in an embarrassing loss.

Those who think that do know that Peyton Manning isn't playing, right? I've said for years that Manning makes the Colts. Without him, they are awful.

That's why it's foolish to think it's time to blow out coach Jim Caldwell. The guy deserves a pass for this season.

There are those who say Bill Polian and son Chris Polian haven't done a good job either, that the roster is depleted.

I ask this: How many teams would take the Colts defensive ends, receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, tight end Dallas Clark and safety Antoine Bethea? How about all of them?

The Colts were so Manning-centric that this is the result of that. It's not bad coaching. It's not bad personnel.

It's not having Manning.

I'm not sitting here saying Caldwell is Tony Dungy. I think his game-management leaves something to be desired at times, but he gets a pass for this season.

What did people expect?

---There's a ton of talk coming out of Chicago and Minnesota about how the Bears need to pay running backs Matt Forte big money to keep him, much like the Vikings did with Adrian Peterson and the Titans did with Chris Johnson. One word: Don't.  All off-season we heard about how it was time for the Titans to pay Johnson. So far, it's been a major disaster. Johnson hasn't come close to a 100-yard game. He had 18 yards on 10 carries against the Titans Sunday and was booed by the home crowd. In evaluating Johnson's games, the interior of the line hasn't played very well. There is a lot of penetration. But he also doesn't seem to be playing with the same pop. Forte is having a great season, and he's a big part of the Bears offense -- getting 145 yards rushing against the Bucs -- but is he worth a long-term deal like the one the Titans gave to Johnson and the Vikings gave Peterson? I love Peterson, and I think the Vikings had to pay him, but here's a guess the end of that deal won't be good for the Vikings. Backs wear down. You can find replacements. It's not a tough position to play. Anybody want to pay Chris Johnson now?

---Raiders coach Hue Jackson should be mad at Chiefs coach Todd Haley. Why was Matt Cassel throwing late with a 28-0 lead? Why was he in there at all? Jackson waved his finger at Cassel after the game, and he should have. What if Cassel got hurt on that final drive? Coaches need to think a little more in those situations.

---Is Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh a dirty player? That's a bit harsh, but he plays hard and does push the envelope. Suh also isn't having a great year. He's getting doubled a lot, but even when he isn't he's an up-the-field tackle who has been trapped on a lot of big runs. Teams are using his aggressive approach against him. Suh is good, but he can be better.

---I like Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. Nice guy. But his time is coming to an end. It's never good when a coach starts blaming the media, which Sparano did Sunday, basically stating the media is trying to split his team. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross didn't meet with Sparano after the loss to the Broncos, but he usually doesn't after losses. Ross did talk with former Florida coach Urban Meyer before the game. Meyer was in town as part of the celebration to honor the 2008 Florida Gators national championship team. Could Meyer be the next coach of the Dolphins? If so, he better get a new offensive system. The one he had at Florida couldn't work.  The last time the Dolphins plucked an SEC coach who had won a national title from the college ranks, it was Nick Saban. How'd that work out?

---Jets fans will take up raving about Plaxico Burress and his three touchdown catches. But all three came from inside 5 yards. That's what he can do. He's big and can make plays like that over smaller corners. But he can't run anymore. That's obvious.

---Big props to Matt Ryan for bouncing back from that ugly bend of his lower leg to lead the Falcons to a important victory at Detroit. Ryan is a tough guy. He made a huge throw on third down after coming back to the field following a trip to the locker room. I still think the Falcons play better when they go up-tempo. That's something that bears watching after their bye week.

---Dallas rookie running back DeMarco Murray: Proof you can always find good backs. Murray was the sixth back taken in the April draft. He ran for a team-record 253 yards against the Rams Sunday. He also had a 91-yard touchdown run. Murray looks like he will be a bigger part of the Cowboys offense moving forward.

---Does any team use the throw-back-across-the-filed pass better than the Texans? Teams might want to work on that when they get ready to play them. The Titans got hit by it twice Sunday.

---Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is now second on the all-time receptions list behind Jerry Rice. That's amazing. A tight end isn't supposed to catch that many passes. But Gonzalez now has 1,104 catches. Congrats to one of the game's greats.

---The Vikings have to be happy with what they saw from Christian Ponder in his first start Sunday against Green Bay. Yes, he made some mistakes. But he made some of those big-boy throws you want to see. I just have one question: What took so long?

---How much longer does Matt Hasselbeck have with the Titans? Could it soon be Jake Locker time?

---Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a passer rating of 146.5 against the Vikings. That means he's the first player in NFL history with a rating of 110 or more in each of his first seven starts to open a season. Can anybody stop the guy?

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 23, 2011 5:00 pm

Get ready for more Tebow-mania

MIAMI -- Get ready for Tebow-mania, super-sized style.

For three quarters, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow looked lost, a how-not-to for playing quarterback. But then the Tebow magic suddenly appeared.

Somehow, with his team down 15-0, Tebow found a way to really the Broncos to tie the Miami Dolphins when he scored the 2-point conversion with 17 seconds left and then the Broncos won 18-15 on a 52-yard field goal by Matt Patter in overtime.

Tebow started the game 4-of-10, but threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in his first start of the season.

Was it pretty? No.

Will he ever be? No.

Can he win games? When the other team is as bad as Miami, yes. But let's not get carried away.

The fourth-quarter play might be the worst thing for the Broncos franchise.

Tebow isn't close to being a good quarterback.

But make no mistake about this: He can be good when he has to be.

Category: NFL
Tags: Tim Tebow
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or