Posted on: October 16, 2011 4:39 pm

49ers prove a point

It's official: San Francisco is legit.

Not only did the 49ers beat previously unbeaten Detroit; they won their third straight road game ... and they won it in the last two minutes. More importantly, they overcame a raft of stupid penalties to score the victory.

Once upon a time the 49ers didn't know how to close games. But they won in the fourth quarter in Cincinnati. They won in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia. And they just pulled another one out of the hat in Detroit.

Alex Smith will get credit for the win -- with his TD pass to Delanie Walker the difference -- but this one  belonged to the 49ers' defense. It thwarted Detroit again and again, including the Lions' possession immediately after the Walker score when they couldn't pick up a first down.

San Francisco not only is the best team in the NFC West; it's becoming one of the best teams in the NFC.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 14, 2011 3:18 pm

How many times must Brown say, 'No?'

I see where Cincinnati owner Mike Brown reiterated he has no plans to trade disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer before next week's deadline. Well, of course, he doesn't. He's told us that a thousand times already.

Besides, it makes no sense.

As I've pointed out again and again, if Brown were to trade Palmer he sets a precedent for every unhappy Bengal. Basically, if you don't like the situation, demand to be traded ... and invoke the name of Carson Palmer while you're at it.

I've asked people close to the organization if Brown might relent and agree to deal Palmer a year from now -- figuring that getting something is better than nothing -- and I was told he might. But it would have to be the right deal.

In other words, this is not a fire sale. Brown doesn't want to trade Palmer unless he's offered a deal he can't refuse.

That's basically it, and it's hard to fault the guy. He paid Palmer big bucks, and Palmer took the money and now decides he want to run  ... somewhere, anywhere but Cincinnati. But the Bengals first have to agree to trade him, and they will not

If he'd been smart he would have worked behind the scenes and told Brown he'd play another season but wanted out in 2012. But he didn't. Now he's out of football and out of luck. Mike Brown holds all the cards here, and he's not playing.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 12, 2011 5:44 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 5:52 pm

Curry's exit highlights 2009 misses

So the Seattle Seahawks pulled the plug on linebacker Aaron Curry, shipping him to Oakland after only two-and-a-half seasons. Well, that tells me one thing, and what it tells me is that the top of the 2009 first round was one of the worst in recent draft history.

Curry was part of that draft. In fact, he was the fourth pick overall. And he did ... what? Got himself shipped to Oakland where maybe, just maybe, the Raiders can get something out of him that Seattle could not.

I'm not sure what the problem was in Seattle, other than one coaching staff and administration drafted a player that their successors never embraced. But what I am sure of is that the 2009 draft had more misses than hits near the top of the board ... and the envelope, please.

The No. 1 overall pick was Matthew Stafford, quarterback of the unbeaten Detroit Lions. Until this season, he seemed like an injury waiting to happen. Now he's the quarterback the Lions expected. Score that one a bull's eye.

At second we have St. Louis tackle Jason Smith, who recently was benched during a game. The Rams have him on the right side, and while he's a starter he's not a top offensive lineman. As one NFC executive put it, "He's not great, he's not bad, but he catches flak because he should be more than he is as the second pick of the draft."

I'd say that just about nails it.

In the third spot is Kansas City's Tyson Jackson, who hasn't made a dent since joining the Chiefs. He has one career sack. Then there's Curry. In the fifth spot is New York Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez, and I don't care what you think of his ability; the guy is 4-2 in the playoffs and went to the conference championship game twice in his first two years.

Not bad.

But the curve turns downward as we move to Cincinnati offensive tackle Andre Smith at the sixth spot, Darrius Heyward-Bey at the seventh, Eugene Monroe at the eighth, B. J. Raji at 9, Michael Crabtree at 10 and Aaron Maybin at 11. Of that group, there's one bona- fide star, and that's Green Bay's Raji -- a legitimate Pro Bowler for years.

But the others are nothing more than adequate, with Maybin a wash-out at Buffalo and a fringe player now with the Jets.

Fortunately, the roll call improves as we move down the board, with budding stars like Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman, Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin, Washington's Brian Orakpo and Houston's Brian Cushing tapped by the 20th choice. But the top of this board? Pee-you.

Curry's trade just confirmed what we already knew -- there were a lot of blanks fired early in the round. The 2009 NFL draft? It wasn't a good one for people who needed it to be.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:53 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:45 pm

Tebow move the only one for Denver to make

The Broncos' move to Tim Tebow is a no-brainer, unless, of course, you're Brady Quinn. Say, wasn't he the second quarterback on the depth chart?

Yeah, well, no matter. He's not signed through next season. Neither is Kyle Orton. But Tim Tebow is.

So now that the season is going south, why not find out about the one quarterback linked to 2012? I mean, sooner or later you have to get a read on the guy, right? It might as well be sooner.

Look, I don't know if Tebow can play at this level, but I know what I saw Sunday ... and what I saw is what coach John Fox saw: A spark. So it might have been the result of the Chargers being unprepared for a quarterback who is vastly different from Orton, I don't know. But, frankly, I don't care.

The Broncos need a lift. Tebow gave them one Sunday. So why not give him a chance to give them one again?

Maybe it happens, and Tebow becomes the player Josh McDaniels envisioned when he made him a first-round draft pick. Then again, maybe it doesn't. Maybe he craters the next month and does nothing for the team, himself and his legions of supporters.

So what? At least you've gotten a read on the guy; at least you know where you're going with him, and that could be nowhere. But better to find out now.

I mean, what do you have to lose? Another game? Big deal. You learn something invaluable in the process. You learn where you must go next at the most important position on the field.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:33 pm

Lucky Losers: Take Five

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the poorest of them all? St. Louis. Nope, Miami. Correction: Indianapolis. All are winless, which means all are contenders for Andrew Luck. Except my guess is that St. Louis makes a run at respectability the second half of the season.That would leave, yep, Miami and Indianapolis in a stretch run that, for the time being, is too close to call. All I can say is that now I know why the Dolphins keep Tony Sparano. The more he loses the more Miami has a chance to win Luck. Who says Stephen Ross doesn't know what he's doing?

5. Jacksonville. The Jags can't beat Carolina. They can't beat Cincinnati. And now they can't beat the schedule. Look at their next three games: At Pittsburgh, Baltimore and at Houston. That's three more losses. Then there's a Nov. 6 bye that could have special meaning for beleagured coach Jack Del Rio. I don't know that he makes it, but I do know that I give the guy credit: He went for the future when he started quarterback Blaine Gabbert, knowing he could be sacrificing this season ... and maybe, just maybe, himself. The club will be better in 2012 for rushing Gabbert on the field. But Del Rio? Maybe not.

Next loss:  at Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is gimping, the defense is slow and the offensive line can't block. Steelers win by 20.

4. Arizona.
I can't believe I have them here, but then I can't believe they just got smoked by Minnesota, either. These guys were supposed to challenge for a division that, suddenly, looks like it's all San Francisco again. Of course, Kevin Kolb was supposed to solidify the quarterback position, too, but he's caught in a spin cycle that won't quit. People tell me the offensive line is getting the poor guy killed. I just know that he's not making the plays he's supposed to make, with one TD pass and five interceptions the last three games. You saw what happened when quarterbacks struggled here last season. Let's not make this an encore, fellas.

Next loss: Pittsburgh. The Cards earn the week off with the loss to Minnesota and don't play until Oct. 23 ... when they follow Jacksonville into the Valley of Death. Life is not fair.

3. Indianapolis.
So the Colts nearly beat Pittsburgh.They nearly beat Tampa Bay, too. And they nearly beat Kansas City, shifting in reverse to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now they play three straight road games -- at Cincinnati, at New Orleans and at Tennessee -- to keep their record clean. Owner Jim Irsay insists Peyton Manning could still play this year, but why? I mean, it makes no sense. Give the ball to Curtis Painter, and hope for ... well, hope for the worst. Three consecutive road games is a start. Just lose, baby.  

Next loss: at Cincinnati. These two split their last six, but look closely: Cincinnati always wins the odd-numbered year. It's 2011. Say good night, Curtis.

2. Miami.
People ask where's the best home for Luck, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out it's here. The Dolphins need a quarterback like Texas needs water. Chad Henne's not the answer. Besides, he just took a pass on the season, which means Matt Moore steps in at quarterback. That makes it a Matt Moore-Curtis Painter race to a photo finish, and you have to like Miami's chances. Indianapolis keeps playing it close with opponents, which means sooner or later it breaks through. But these guys have been down this road before, going 1-15 in 2007, so they're ... well, they're experienced at stinking. Looking for an edge? These guys have it.

Next loss: at New York JetsThree Jets' receivers now happy with the schedule.

1. St. Louis. People ask what happens if the Rams wind up with the first pick, and I tell them to relax. They won't. Yeah, their first seven games are brutal, and they probably go 0-7. But they'll recover. They're too good not to. And if they don't? Well, then they make the easy decision and trade away the first pick for a zillion choices, all of which they turn into wide receivers. When you have Sam Bradford, you give him franchise wide receivers. The Rams haven't. Instead, he's surrounded by the Santa Clara volleyball team. St. Louis has a franchise quarterback. It doesn't need another. So the choice is simple: Make someone else the Lucky Loser, and trade the pick.

Next loss: at Green Bay. Someone in the league office must hate these guys.

So who are the top players in the draft class? Check out our NFL Draft prospect rankings.
Category: NFL
Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 1:57 pm

Houston, you have a problem

The loss of Mario Williams is a devastating blow to Houston's playoff hopes. You don't lose a player of that caliber without repercussions, and Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense was built on Williams' ability to rush the passer.

Still, there's the question: Who's going to beat the Texans in the AFC South? The only competition is Tennessee, and the Titans got drilled Sunday by Pittsburgh. It's a two-team race, and Houston still is the choice ... though the gap just narrowed.

Rookie Brooks Reed replaces Williams, and while he played decently vs. the Raiders (he had four tackles and two hits on quarterback Jason Campbell) he's no Mario Williams. It's a setback for Houston, but I don't know that it's a setback from which the Texans can't recover.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:43 pm

Raiders' win could launch them

Just when it looked as if the Raiders might blow another game, safety Michael Huff intercepts a pass in the end zone, the lead is preserved and the win is guaranteed.

Just win, baby.

Playing for the first time after the loss of their owner, Al Davis, the Raiders made just enough plays to push themselves to 3-2 -- which is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, they beat a non-division team. What's more, it was the leading team in the AFC South and a club that could ... should ... make the playoffs.

More important, they may have launched themselves into the bright, blue yonder. Look at their schedule and maybe you'll agree: They next play Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver -- all at home -- and it's not unimaginable to believe they could win all three. Especially after what happened here.

Where the Raiders blew an earlier road game in Buffalo, they found a way to win here. Where they didn't have the right stuff down the stretch, they did here. Where they wondered if they were legit, they know now.

So they survived a scare. They won. Somehow, I don't think Davis would've complained.

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 9, 2011 12:10 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:22 pm

Raiders remember Davis

I haven't seen the Oakland Raiders this season, but I suspect the team doesn't always gather at midfield prior to pre-game calisthentics and have a team huddle. It did Sunday, with defensive lineman Richard Seymour among those in the middle. Players jumped up and down, then reached toward the middle of the huddle before breaking.

It is the beginning of what should be an extraordiinary afternoon for the Raiders, playing their first game without Al Davis. The club is dressed in its disctinctive white jerseys, with black numerals, and there doesn't appear to be anything commemorating Davis on their uniforms. But there are black decals on the backs of their helmets -- with the word "Al" inscribed in silver, according to reports.

There is also expected to be a moment of silence prior to the game, in memory of Davis.

Davis' death is the back story to a game that is important to both sides, but more meaningful for the Raiders now that Davis is gone. Oakland is 2-2 and a 6-1/2-point underdog here, but there are people who believe the emotional fallout from Davis' death may propel the Raiders to the upset.

Oakland can only hope. The club seems to be improved from last year when it was 8-8, but it must demonstrate it can cut down on penalties and beat non-division opponents -- both of which it has not this season. The Raiders lead the league in penalties, and they're 1-2 agaiinst non AFC-West opponents.

This is a critical test, and the timing is extraordinary. They may need something extra to push them over the top, and the emotional response to Davis' death could be that something.


Category: NFL
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