Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:07 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:56 am

League gets it right with Harrison

Let's hear it for the NFL. It did the right and necessary thing by suspending Pittsburgh's James Harrison on Tuesday.

Harrison's hit on Colt McCoy didn't merit a suspension. It warranted a fine. But Harrison's series of incidents -- the fact that he's a multiple offender with illegal hits -- did qualify him for suspension, now more than ever.

Look, the NFL is trying to address head injuries and made it clear it will not tolerate blows to the helmet. So it fines players who do it, and sometimes they get the message, and sometimes they do not.

Harrison clearly did not. So that means the NFL must try something else to get his attention.

It just did.

Pittsburgh fans might see this as part of a grand conspiracy and their hard-hitting Steelers' defense, but they're wrong. Harrison and the Steelers have been warned again and again. And again and again they refuse to listen. That put the NFL in a position of having to respond -- basically, having to make it clear it means what it says -- so it just upped the punishment, and I'm all for it.

Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn't. But it had to be done.

I don't care what it means to Pittsburgh's playoff chances or chances of winning a division. I care what it means to the next guy James Harrison was going to clobber. Harrison didn't, and maybe he should have. The NFL warned him and notified him this was possible.

Harrison didn't listen. Instead, he dared the league to respond. So it did.

The NFL isn't trying to change his game. It's trying to change its game by keeping more players on the field, and what's so wrong with that? Nothing, that's what.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 11, 2011 7:23 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 7:24 pm

Broncos going to playoffs

The Denver Broncos are going to the playoffs.

With Sunday's dramatic overtime victory, the Broncos are in sole possession of first place in the AFC West with three weeks left and on track for a playoff spot. Two of their last three gamea are home, and their only road game is at Buffalo. That's the first thing. The second is that they hold the tiebreaker with Oakland.

The Broncos are on a six-game roll, and it's hard to imagine them unraveling now. Not after what happened here. They should've lost but they didn't, and I want to know what Marion Barber was doing when he ran out of bounds with under two minutes left. Denver didn't have a timeout, and  had he stayed in bounds the Broncos almost surely would've lost.

But they didn't. Tim Tebow came to the rescue, and stop if you've heard this before.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 7, 2011 12:18 pm

Tebow cause for delay in flexing

The reason there's been no announcement about the NFL flexing its games on Sunday, Dec. 18, is because of one guy. Tim Tebow, will you please come forward?

Apparently, CBS wants Tebow as badly as NBC, and that's understandable. The guy rejuventated interest in the Broncos and galvanized viewers so completely that every time he touched the ball in Denver's defeat of San Diego on Nov. 27 -- whether it was running, passing or just setting up in the pocket -- the crowd was buzzing.

People want to see Tebow, but it's where you see him that's at stake. CBS has New England at Denver scheduled for 4:15 that afternoon, with NBC ticketed for Baltimore at San Diego that evening.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the New England-Denver game is the more attractive, which is why NBC wants it. But so does CBS, and that's where the struggle begins.

Once I thought it was a slam dunk the games would be moved, but that changed this week. Now the battle for Tebow is on.

Maybe the league should hire federal arbitrator George Cohen to intervene. With no lockouts on the horizon he's available for work.

Anyway, an announcement is expected Wednesday, and no matter what happens someone won't be happy.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 4, 2011 4:13 pm

Yates is A-OK

No Matt Schaub, no Matt Leinart, no problem for the Houston Texans.

Playing with their rookie third-stringer, the Texans rode Arian Foster, the league's top defense and some sharp Yates passing for a 17-10 defeat of Atlanta that strengthens Houston's case for a playoff spot.

The Texans remain two games ahead of Tennessee with four weeks left, with Cinncinnati and Tennessee the only remaining opponents with winning records.

But Houston gets Tennessee here, and it already scored a 41-7 defeat of the Titans.

If there were a concern here it's with another hamstring injury to star wide receiver Andre Johnson,who bowed out in the second half. But the Texans survived without Johnson for six games. I have no doubt they will survive again.

This was a huge victory for Houston. It wasn't expected, but Yates made just enough plays to make it happen. That's a start toward Houston's first playoff appearance in franchise history.

Category: NFL
Posted on: December 2, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: December 2, 2011 2:05 pm

Eagles latest victim of bad scheduling

The Eagles' loss Thursday reiterates what I've been saying all along -- namely, that having teams travel two or three time zones on a short week is more than just a competitive disadvantage. It's downright wrong.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out it gives the home team given an enormous edge.

Nevertheless, that hasn't deterred the NFL. It has San Francisco travel to Baltimore for a Thursday game, and it loses; it has the Jets travel to Denver for a Thursday game -- after the Jets played Sunday night,  no less -- and they lose; now, it sends Philadelphia to Seattle with predictable results.

Granted, the Eagles are a mess and a loss waiting to happen no matter where they are. I get that. But I also get that going from one end of the country to the other for a Thursday night game is downright wrong, and the NFL should know it by now. The evidence is everywhere, with the 49ers, Jets and Eagles this year's casualties.

They are not the exceptions. They are the rule. In fact, according to the National Football Post, over the last 15 years there have been 13 instances where a team that played Sunday had to travel more than 1,500 miles for a Thursday night game. In all 13 cases, it lost.

That's not a coincidence, people. It's a trend that needs to stop.

I've been saying for months that the league should wrap Thursday games around byes, and it should. Have a team coming off a bye play its next game on Thursday -- meaning it would have 10 days before that game and another nine before the next. That way, no one holds an advantage because of travel.

Plus, it would work in the interests of player safety. You wouldn't have two teams playing two games each within five days.

"That's your opinion," one high-ranking NFL official told me.

He's right. It is. It's also a logical solution to a problem the NFL won't acknowlege.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 1:27 pm

Lucky Losers: Take Twelve

Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay can complain about his team's 0-11 start, saying it should (tick) off fans, but let's call like it is, people: 0-11 is the best thing that could've happened to this franchise.

Peyton Manning is not young. Peyton Manning is not healthy. And Peyton Manning hasn't played in nearly a year.

The window of opportunity is closing for Manning and the Colts, and something needs to happen ... and something is. The window of opportunity is going back up with each loss, with Indianapolis one step closer to Andrew Luck, the best collegiate prospect since ...well, since Peyton Manning.

CBS analyst and former Giants quarterback Phil Simms said this season that he hadn't seen Luck make "big-time NFL throws," and I didn't know what he meant. Then I watched Luck vs. Notre Dame last weekend, and I really don't know what he means. Andrew Luck is the top-rated prospect for many reasons ... one of which is that most people think he can make big-time NFL throws.

The question now, of course, is who gets the next best quarterback, and that would be Matt Barkley -- provided, of course, he declares himself eligible for the draft. St. Louis is seated comfortably behind Indianapolis, but there's a better chance of the Rams re-signing Kurt Warner. They already have their franchise quarterback, which means the line forms at the rear for all those interested in acquiring St. Louis' pick.

5. Carolina -- The good news: The Panthers won a game. The bad: Three of their last five opponents have winning records, with two of them (Houston and New Orleans) division leaders. The Panthers don't want a quarterback. They want defense. They want another receiver. They want something, anything, so owner Jerry Richardson doesn't have to drive the NFL "Play 60" bus next year.

Next loss: at Tampa Bay. The Bucs have been exposed, and I'm not talking about what happened with WTVT, Channel 13. Nope, the Bucs lost their last five, with coach Raheem Morris saying "no excuses and no explanations,"  so pay attention, physics majors: This may be the irresistable force vs. the immovable object.

4. Jacksonville -- Changing head coaches or owners won't change this team's direction. It stinks, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew said as much after its last loss, wondering how in the world it couldn't manage more than six offensive points. I don't know, either, but at least we won't have a head coach who keeps tells us his offensive coordinator doesn't know Jack.

Next loss: San Diego. This is the game ESPN draws for Monday Night Football. This is the game that sends you to HGTV. 

3. Minnesota -- Here's what is odd about the Vikings: Their record is dreadful, yet I never get the feeling they're one of the worst teams out there. Then I check the standings, and Brad Childress never looked so good. This is another team not in the market for a new quarterback, so Barkley shoppers, beware: The pick is for sale. Let the bidding begin.

Next loss: Denver. The Vikings lost five of their last six. Denver won five of its last six. I don't need to draw a picture.

2. St. Louis -- Granted, the first seven games were brutal, but how do you explain what's happened to St. Louis the past four weeks? They played Arizona (twice), Seattle at home and Cleveland and went 1-3 ... winning only when the Browns blew a last-second field goal. This isn't a team in need of a quarterback; it's a team looking for a life preserver. The Rams should be better than they are, and, yeah, I know, they lost a zillion defensive backs. But they also lost to John Skelton (twice) and Tarvaris Jackson. Maybe somebody should've told Steve Spagnuolo DON'T PUNT TO Patrick Peterson, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. The Rams will auction off this pick to the highest bidder, then turn those picks into receivers, offensive linemen, more receivers ... and someone to tackle Peterson.

Next loss: at San Francisco.

1. Indianapolis -- Now I know why Colts' fans are clamoring for Dan Orlovsky. He's the guy who quarterbacked the 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008, so why take chances with Curtis Painter when you have the sure thing? Just lose, baby. Hey, don't be too hard on the Colts. They chose the perfect year to bottom out. You draft Luck, sit him until Manning is ready to go or Luck is ready to play ... whichever comes first ... then return to the top of the AFC South again. Pure genius. So your team's not going to the Super Bowl this year, Indianapolis. Big deal. The Super Bowl's coming to you. The way I see it, nobody has it better this season than Indianapolis ... Nooooooobody.

Next loss: at New England. To quote that NFL sage and philosopher Barry Cofield, this could get "historically ugly."

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 29, 2011 11:05 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 11:11 am

Two games not enough for Suh

Ndamukong Suh got off easy. He deserved more than a two-game suspension.

Yeah, I know, he expressed remorse after the incident ... but it took him a day after the event to make the apology.

In the meantime, he not only committed an act so dirty that it got him tossed from the game; he defended himself, saying he was trying to regain his balance ... when the evidence showed he wasn't.

Suh's action was bad; his explanation was worse. In fact, it was only after he was condemned by everyone out there, including his own club, that Suh changed his story.

So he called commissioner Roger Goodell to apologize. Big deal. He also met with him this season to tell him he wasn't a dirty player, saying afterward that he had a better understanding of the rules. Then he goes out and steps on the arm of a Green Bay lineman ... on national TV, no less ... gets ejected ... and tells reporters at a post-game news conference that he did nothing wrong.

"I don't do bad things," he said then. "I have no intentions to hurt someone."


If I'm Goodell, I don't care what he has to say anymore. The guy has no credibility. Clearly, he doesn't understand that what he does ... or how he plays ... is not what the NFL has in mind. It fines him. It warns him. And it does no good.

So now it suspends him, only it could have taken a much stronger stance. When Albert Haynesworth stepped on Andre Gurode's face in 2006 he was suspended five games. Haynesworth's action was heinous, and it inflicted a gash so serious that took 30 stitches to close. A substantial penalty was necessary, and a substantial penalty was imposed.

But Haynesworth had no history like Suh. Yes, his action was reprehensible and more injurious, but Suh has a pattern of dirty play that has gone on too long. He told the commissioner he understood the rules, then went out and demonstrated that, no, as a matter of fact, he does not.

Apparently, nothing Goodell said at their meeting resonated with the guy. So sit him down and make him think about what can. I'm not sure that anything gets Suh's attention, but sitting him down for more than two games might have.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 27, 2011 7:27 pm

Dream over for Eagles

And so the Dream is over.

With Sunday's 38-20 loss to New England, the Philadelphia Eagles -- aka, "The Dream Team" -- all but bows out of the playoff picture, alive only by simple math.

But the Eagles are toast, and fans know it. Which is why they started chanting "Fire Andy!" in the second half, or while the Eagles' defense was busy missing more tackles.

The Eagles stunk on defense. They stunk on offense. They were outscored 38-3 after jumping to a 10-0 lead. And they couldn't keep Julian Edelman -- yes, that Julian Edelman -- from making big plays on defense.

But that's a familiar story here, where the Eagles are 1-5 this season, and it's a reason why disgruntled fans want a change. I don't know what Philadelphia does after this year, but I do know it must make significant changes -- and I'd start with a defense that kept letting this team down.

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is on the hot seat, but so is Reid -- basically because he's responsible for hiring him. When Reid made the move, switching Castillo from offensive line coach to defense, he thought it made sense. And it did ... until games began, and the club continued to surrender fourth-quarter leads.

Well, now it surrendered the season, and after the moves Philadelphia made ... after the money it paid ... someone will be held acountable for the team's failures. Fans have made it clear whom they nominate, and this is bound to get ugly.

Stay tuned.

Category: NFL
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