Posted on: November 23, 2011 4:24 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 4:33 pm

Chicago second city again

Curses, curses, curses. The Chicago Bears' plans to add Kyle Orton were derailed Wednesday when Kansas City claimed the veteran quarterback.

The good news for Orton is that he can start again and even play against his ex-teammates (Jan. 1). And the bad? He's not going to Chicago, and that's disappointing for Orton and the Bears.

His addition made too much sense not to happen ... except that Kansas City got in the way. With the Chiefs ahead of Chicago in the waiver process, their claim was accepted first ... which means the Bears will stick it out with Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown, whom they just signed as his backup.

Dallas reportedly also put in a claim for Orton.

The move means Orton goes to a club that just lost Matt Cassel for the season and started Tyler Palko this week. If you watched Palko and the Chiefs vs. New England, you know why they'd be interested in making a change at the position.

But the Chiefs are all but out of the playoff picture, so the move to Orton is insignificant -- or, it's insignificant compared to what could've happened in Chicago. Orton quarterbacked the Bears three seasons ago and was extremely popular with teammates, some of whom are still there.

He could've stepped in tomorrow and quarterbacked that offense. Instead, he's going to Kansas City, where the Chiefs try to put the brakes on a three-game skid. Too bad. It all seemed so perfect.

Well, look at this way: Orton still could play in Chicago. The Chiefs move to Soldier Field Dec. 4 to take on the Bears.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 23, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 5:01 pm

Jackson gone? So are Bills' hopes

What did the Buffalo Bills do to deserve this punishment?

They lose offensive linemen. They lose wide receivers. Now, according to the Buffalo News, they've lost star running back Fred Jackson for the season, with the club putting him on IR, and that's not a shame. It's a fatal blow.

Jackson was having an MVP-like year, and without him the Bills' slim playoff hopes vanish.

The guy could do it all. He leads the team in rushing. He's third in receptions. He leads Buffalo in touchdowns and is second in the league in yards from scrimmage. In short, he's the complete package and a primary reason the Bills got off to a jack-rabbit start.

But losing him means losing about 40 percent of your offense, and you tell me where the Bills find it.

They don't. Instead, they lean that much harder on Ryan Fitzpatrick, a quarterback who not only lost his last three starts but has two touchdowns and seven interceptions in that time.

The Bills need Jackson like Levi needs Strauss. Without him, they're toast.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 22, 2011 5:59 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 7:30 pm

Orton to Chicago? Bears can only hope

Thank you, Denver.

That should be the memo Chicago sends out in the wake of the release of quarterback Kyle Orton because where we didn't know where the Bears would turn a day ago we might now.

Welcome back, Kyle Orton. His return to the Bears makes too much sense not to happen -- provided, of course, the Bears are the only ones in line.

That's another way of saying that Chicago isn't the only club interested in a quarterback. Houston lost Matt Schaub, and Kansas City just subtracted Matt Cassel. If the Texans and Bears put in waiver claims on Orton, Houston would get him based on its strength of schedule.

Both need him, but Chicago really needs him. I mean, whom would you trust -- Caleb Hanie or Kyle Orton? Orton not only has been with the Bears; he helped lead them to the playoffs. Teammates loved him then, and they will love him again ... because he's a quarterback who can win and who has won.

I'm not so sure about Hanie.

Anyway, where I thought the Bears were in trouble without Jay Cutler, they won't be if they can land Orton. As I said, it makes too much sense not to take place.

Reports out of Denver indicated that Orton and his agent spoke to the Broncos about a possible release after the Cutler injury, with the idea that Orton would move to Chicago. So why would the Broncos budge? Well, let me ask you this: Don't you find it more than coincidental that Denver released him the week the Bears play the first-place Oakland Raiders?

Denver needs help to catch Oakland, and maybe Orton is the guy to lend it -- provided the Bears acquire him. Anyway, if it happens Orton could ... and should ... keep the Bears in the thick of the playoff picture.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:52 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:58 am

Lucky Losers: Take Eleven

There's something intriguing about how the 2012 draft is beginning to shape up, and, no, it has nothing to do with Indianapolis. The Colts are in line to take Andrew Luck, they've hinted they'll take Andrew Luck and they absolutely, positively will take Andrew Luck.

But look at the jockeying that's going on behind them. The next four clubs all start first-or-second-year quarterbacks, which can only mean one thing -- it could be a bull market for trades.

If you want Landry Jones or Matt Barkley -- provided, of course, they declare themselves eligible for the draft -- you better get in the top five, and right now that group is stocked by clubs that not only have young quarterbacks but quarterbacks who were high first-round draft picks.

So if you're, say, Washington, or someone desperate for a new passer, it's not too early to formulate a game plan. And it goes like this: Start putting together a draft package to appeal to one of these guys in April ... or hope they discover winning ... or do what you've been doing all fall -- which is lose -- and Stink Starkley for Barkley or Plunge Grandly for Landry.

[See who the top NFL Draft prospects are]

5. Jacksonville -- Misery loves company, and there's no better example than what Jack Del Rio did in Cleveland, burying his offensive coordinator after another loss. Head coaches aren't supposed to do that, but Del Rio won't be head coach much longer. The Jags stink, and so did Del Rio's explanation of Jacksonville's play calling. I would've gotten the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew, too, but that's why there are offensive coordinators. Del Rio hired Dirk Koetter. He must have confidence in him. So don't hang the guy out when things don't go as planned. It's your team, Jack. At least it will be for six more weeks. Then you'll have plenty of free weekends to spend with David Garrard.

Next loss: Houston. Matt Leinart isn't the problem. The league's No. 1 defense is.

4. Minnesota -- I feel for Leslie Frazier. He's a good man, he's a good coach and he's trying to raise the Titanic. But you know whom I feel for more? Brad Childress. Yep, he's the guy the Vikings cashiered less than a year after they extended his contract. Reason: He couldn't win. Well, this just in: Frazier can't, either. In fact, the Vikings' record now is worse than when Childress was booted, only now Adrian Peterson is gimping around in a protective boot. Great. It's almost enough to make you wish for the return of Timberwolves' basketball. I said almost.

Next loss: at Atlanta. The Falcons are 23-6 at home under Mike Smith. Good luck, guys.

3. Carolina -- I love watching Cam Newton weave through defenses, toss darts to Steve Smith, then mug for fans, pumping his chest when he's in the end zone. The man is an icon. No, he's an entertainer. Nope, he's 2-8. Maybe someone should tell him to cut the histrionics until he wins or stops throwing four interceptions against Detroit, whichever comes first. Yeah, he has talent. Yeah, he's fun to watch. But he's also raw and immature ... and no more successful than Jimmy Clausen/Matt Moore last year. People love him because he can run, scramble, make big throws and big plays, which is great if you're into fantasy football. Me? I want someone who knows how to win. Look at it this way, people: Carolina reject Matt Moore has more victories (3) than Newton in four fewer starts.

Next loss: at Indianapolis. Not really. If he can't  win here, Carolina should sentence him to a week of solitary with the Panthers' defense.

2. St. Louis -- Someone the other day asked if the Rams would trade Sam Bradford if they had a shot at Luck, and it's a good question. The answer is probably no, but what happens if there's a coaching change? I mean, what happens if the Rams hire someone who covets Luck and not Bradford? Unfortunately, we'll never know and not because the Rams are improving but because Indianapolis is not. The Colts are locked on Luck, which means St. Louis plays for second -- and that's not a bad thing, especially when you have Bradford. The Rams can sit where they are and take the next best player out there, or they can mortgage the pick for a raft of choices they can turn into offensive linemen and wide receivers. Yep, it's good to be bad.

Next loss: Arizona. One suggestion: Don't punt to Patrick Peterson.

1. Indianapolis -- People talk about what a great year the Packers are having, but my admiration is for the Colts. They almost always win division championships, except when they don't -- and then they win the best quarterback to come along since ... well, since Peyton Manning. Talk about continuity. People tell me situations like what happened in Green Bay with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers can't happen anymore ... that they're aberrations ... but you're looking at one, folks. Manning deserves more than just MVP consideration this fall; he should be Executive of the Year, too. Because his loss put the Colts in the position they're in now, and the position they're in now goes something like this: You trade one season of hardship for 10-15 of prosperity. Don't tell me Bill Polian isn't a genius.

Next loss: Carolina. See Newton's laws of motion.
Category: NFL
Posted on: November 20, 2011 11:27 pm

Unlikely heroes key Eagles' upset

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Eagles shouldn't have won this game, but they did ... with an unlikely hero.

Will Vince Young please step forward?

After throwing three interceptions the backup quarterback led an 18-play that consumed nearly nine minutes and ended with a Young touchdown pass to Riley Cooper.

I'm not surprised. I'm shocked. Then again, coach Andy Reid has done more with less in the past, winning a division title with backups Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley.

He won Sunday not just because of Young but because of a defense that, until now, has been as unreliable -- particularly in the fourth quarter. While the Eagles blew a fourth-quarter 10-3 lead, they didn't blow a 17-10 one -- though they tried. After the Giants drove to the Eagles' 21 late in the fourth period, defensive end Jason Babin forced an Eli Manning fumble, and that's why we're here, folks.

I'm not sure this game didn't tell us more about the Giants than it did the Eagles. All I know is that Philadelphia is not officially dead. Not yet it's not.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: November 15, 2011 5:20 pm

Lucky Losers: Take Ten

The thrill is gone. Indianapolis hasn't clinched the No. 1 draft pick, but if you watched the Colts lately you know the polls are about to close.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I mean, if you're not going to have Peyton Manning you might as well have Andrew Luck, right?

People ask how anyone could repeat what happened in Green Bay, with Aaron Rodgers replacing Brett Favre, and I tell them to call Bill Polian. The Colts' vice chairman all but admitted the Colts are going for broke when he said he has Peyton Manning's approval to choose a quarterback high in the draft.

Gee, I wonder whom he had in mind?

Polian will be scouting at Stanford this week but insisted "it has nothing to do with any choice we've made." Yeah, sure, and if you believe that I'll sell you tickets to the Knicks this weekend.

Anyway, the race is on for Landry Jones ... provided, of course, he declares himself eligible for the draft. Or maybe it's Matt Barkley. I'd like to see both stay in school for another year, but the teams below don't. Yeah, I know, St. Louis isn't in here, but I'm confident the Rams won't be among the bottom feeders when this is sorted out -- not because they play with Sam Bradford but because they play in the NFC West.

5. Washington. No one out there needs a quarterback more than these guys, and I'm surprised Mike Shanahan hasn't contacted Brian Griese yet. Or maybe Bob Griese. Someone, anyone is better than what they have now, and what they have is an offense that can't run, can't pass and can't score. In Washington, that's what is called a balance of trade deficit. Shanahan thought he could make a player out of John Beck, but he must have been thinking of Jeff Beck. So now it's back to Rex Grossman, and fasten your seat belts, Washington. "There's no guarantee that we can win another game," defensive tackle Barry Cofield told the Washington Post. "It could get ugly. It could get historically ugly." Don't say you weren't warned.

Next loss: Dallas. When he faced these guys late last season, Grossman threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns ... and lost, just as he lost in Dallas in September.

4. Minnesota.
I liked how the Vikings were operating with Christian Ponder. Then I watched Monday Night Football. Now I wonder if we can call on Dr. Gregory House to do the operating. Man, oh, man, do these guys need help.  They won't have a shot at Luck, but they could at Jones or Barkley. Still, they're invested in Ponder, so look for them to spend a high draft pick on an offensive lineman or defense. Or look for them to trade it for a cluster of draft picks to spend on offensive linemen and defense. The Vikings think they have a franchise quarterback in Ponder. They better know by next April.

Next loss:
Oakland. Just lose, baby.

3. Carolina. 
Unless Matt Millen takes over as GM, the Panthers aren't drafting another quarterback. What they should do is take a high pick and mortgage it for a package of draft choices in return ... then spend every one of those choices on defense. The Panthers can win with Cam Newton; they can't win a defense that leaks like the Andrea Doria.

Next loss: at Detroit. Nick Fairley and Cam Newton hold Auburn reunion in Panthers' backfield.

2. Miami.
I swear, the Dolphins can't win for losing. Or is it they can't lose for winning? Anyway, they've blown their shot at Luck by winning their last two games and acting like an honest-to-goodness pro franchise. Not only did they smoke Kansas City at Arrowhead, they blew down the odds by beating anybody at home. So it was Washington. There are no Barry Bonds' asterisks here. Nevertheless, I'm sure they can pull together for the stretch run south, and here's why: Of Miami's last six games, five are against opponents with winning records. The exception? Philadelphia ... and it's in Miami. Hallelujah, there goes that homefield disadvantage again.

Next loss: Buffalo.
Injuries mounting for Bills. Dolphins working on Sun Life win streak of one. Tony Sparano home still on market. Some things shouldn't change.

1. Indianapolis.
Earlier this year someone asked if Polian was such a genius that he somehow manuevered the Colts into the position they are now. I laughed then. I'm not laughing now. The Colts are a team on a mission, and the mission is not only possible; it's downright responsible. You do what you do for the good of the franchise. Forget those stories about the Colts canning coach Jim Caldwell. The guy should get an extension for setting up Indy the next 10-15 years. The last time I saw a race this easy to call Secretariat was running the Belmont. Admit it, people: The game is over. All together now: "You're number two ... you're number two ..."

Next loss:
Carolina ... in two weeks. No truth to the rumor Polian will take his team during the bye to work out at Stanford.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 14, 2011 7:27 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 6:40 am

QBs ailing, and so are their clubs

There were three starting quarterbacks hurt this weekend, with two expected to be lost for the rest of the season. That would be Houston's Matt Schaub and Kansas City's Matt Cassel, with Philadelphia's Michael Vick expected to miss at least a week with two broken ribs.

My question is: How will their losses affect the Texans, Chiefs and Eagles? The answers are right here.


The Texans are in command of the AFC South and headed to the playoffs for the first time in their history. Losing Schaub will not change that. That's because they have the running game and defense to take the heat off their new quarterback. It's also because they play in a division where there's no competition. What Leinart will be asked to do is not screw things up. He doesn't have to win games for the Texans. Arian Foster or Ben Tate or the league's No. 1-ranked defense can do that. He just can't lose them, which means no stupid mistakes.

Long-range prognosis: Not good. The Texans make the playoffs, but they don't go far. Once, I thought they were a cinch for one of the two first-round byes. Now, I can't see it happening.

Kansas City

With hand surgery next for Cassel, the Chiefs almost surely are stuck with Tyler Palko the rest of the season ... which means you can kiss those long-shot playoff hopes goodbye. Look, the Chiefs weren't going anywhere with Cassel anyway, but at least there was hope because ... well, because they made it to the playoffs with him a year ago. But there have been too many significant injuries and too many turnovers for Kansas City to pull a repeat of last season. With Palko they'll have trouble running or passing, which means that defense that couldn't stop Tim Tebow is under more pressure than ever. Hasta la vista, baby.

Long-range prognosis:  Bad. These guys were on the critical list anyway. Now, they're headed for life support. Look for them to start setting in the AFC West, with last place a real possibility.


The Eagles always knew that Vick could be an injury waiting to happen, and that injury is two broken ribs. Nobody officially rules him out of Sunday's game with the Giants, but get real: I'd be shocked if he played. I remember Steve Young suiting up for a playoff game with two broken ribs, and he lasted exactly three snaps. He said he couldn't breathe. Plus, the pain was overwhelming. Yeah, I know, Tony Romo somehow managed this year, but his game is entirely different than Vick's. Nevertheless, he did the improbable. Romo doesn't get near the credit he deserves for courage. Anyway, without Vick, the Eagles turn to either Vince Young or Mike Kafka, and, I'll be honest, they have a better shot with Kafka. Young looks lost on the field. Kafka at least looked decent in relief vs. Atlanta. Whoever it is, the Eagles have a problem.

Long-range prognosis: 
Grim. The Eagles can't afford another defeat. They're already two back of the Giants and Cowboys and running out of time. Neither Kafka nor Young is the threat Vick is, which means the offense goes back to LeSean McCoy right, LeSean McCoy left and LeSean McCoy up the middle. At least with Kafka there's the threat of a passing game; with Young, no such luck. Vick's injury could not have happened at a worse time. Not only are the Eagles floundering; they take on the first-place Giants next. Do you believe in miracles?

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 14, 2011 6:42 pm

Loss of Schaub will hurt Texans later

The loss of Matt Schaub won't derail the Houston Texans from making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but it eliminates them as a Super Bowl contender ... and I think you know why. I don't trust Matt Leinart any more than you do.

Or any more than the Arizona Cardinals did. They chose Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall over Leinart a year ago, and tell me that doesn't speak volumes about their trust in his ability. Essentially, the team that made him a first-round draft pick told us it didn't think it could win with him.

So why can Houston? Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, the Texans don't have to rely on Leinart. They have Arian Foster and Ben Tate to grind out yards as running backs, and if you think running the ball doesn't work, rewind the tape of Denver's defeat of Kansas City. Second, they have the league's No.-1 ranked defense, and it always helps when the new quarterback doesn't have to play from behind. Last, they're in the AFC South, and there's nobody out there who can catch these guys.

Tennessee? Yeah, sure. The Titans were waxed by Houston, 41-7 ... at home no less.

But that's where the good news ends. Once you reach the playoffs quarterbacks usually take over, and when it comes to guys like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in the AFC you're not going to go far relying on Leinart. Joe Flacco has been to the playoffs in each of his first three years. Mark Sanchez has been to the conference championship game in each of his two seasons. Oakland's Carson Palmer is better. San Diego's Philip Rivers is better.

Heck, everywhere you look on the AFC landscape there are better options at quarterback. The Texans have done a remarkable job holding together without wide receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker Mario Williams, and I don't see them falling apart now. But once January rolls around, having Matt Leinart won't be enough to get them where they want to go.

I don't doubt that he can win games. He can. And he has. I just don't think he can win big games.

Category: NFL
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