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NFL Stock Watch: Jim Irsay comments slap in Manning's face

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

You buying or selling? Stock Watch takes you through the highs and lows of the NFL each week. Send questions, complaints and stock tips to Twitter @WillBrinson.

Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis on Sunday night was supposed to be joyous for everyone involved. And somehow, with just a few flippant quotes, Jim Irsay's managed to sour the whole thing.

Spice might be a more appropriate word for the rest of us -- the drama surrounding Manning's matchup against the Colts is getting cranked up by the day. But an emotional day for Manning might be a little bittersweet now with Irsay taking potshots at Manning's playoff ability and lack of Super Bowl rings.

"We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay said before flashing his Super Bowl ring.

Irsay then went on to directly compare Manning to Tom Brady -- " Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three [Super Bowl rings" -- as if he's unaware just how close those two remain when debating the greatest quarterback of this generation.

Irsay's long considered Manning "family" and he sold his son down the river with the same lame argument you hear from Manning bashers in the general public. It's one thing for Jack Smith sitting in a barstool in Indianapolis to rip Manning for being a regular-season superstar or accuse him of choking in playoffs. For Irsay to accuse him of that? Downright treasonous.

"You make the playoffs 11 times, and you're out in the first round seven out of 11 times," Irsay said. "You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). "Mostly, you love this."

Another flash of the ring, like Irsay thinks there's something other than a Super Bowl title that drives Manning. Peyton didn't go through four neck surgeries and the emotional toll of his Indy departure just to pile up regular-season stats in Denver. Suggesting that is a slap in the face to his work ethic and the way he approaches the game.

It's beyond plain ignorance of statistics. (The idea that Manning's Colts didn't close because he put up too many points is almost as ridiculous as the idea that Tom Brady hasn't been consistent.)

And it's definitely beyond naive, especially when you remember this isn't the first time things have gotten personal between Irsay and Manning.

Irsay knows better. He has to. And somehow he didn't.

Bull Market

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers -- Because of concerns over speed and the health of his knee, Allen fell to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Whoops. Well, for everyone but San Diego anyway. The Bolts scooped up Allen and he's turning into a potential No. 1 receiver for them, stepping up quickly as a rookie once guys like Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd went down.

Allen's a smooth route runner and possess excellent hands, both of which he flashed when catching a 22-yard touchdown pass on Monday night. Allen's biggest source of run is injuries but his biggest source of motivation is probably getting passed on in the draft.

“I think so,” Allen said. “A lot of teams didn't want to take a chance on me because of my knee. I wasn't really concerned about my knee, but it happened, so I just try and keep playing ball."

Philip Rivers wholeheartedly approves.

A.J. Hawk, LB, Packers -- With Clay Matthews down and out for a few games, the Packers need someone to step up on the defensive end of thing. Enter Hawk, who had a mammoth game against the Ravens on Sunday. Not only did Hawk manage to sack Joe Flacco three times Sunday -- he had three sacks in all of 2012 -- but he also had 10 total tackles and did it all while calling the defense.

Ron Rivera, HC, Panthers -- It remains to be seen whether or not the Panthers keeps his current aggressive streak going, but over the last three games he's been tossing the dice much more often on fourth down.

“It's about trying to make a statement,” Rivera said this week. “And it's probably also honestly one of the things that I've learned. Sometimes you play by the book and you miss opportunities. It's been an enlightening situation for me. One of the things that I want to try to do is to make sure we are in the best position to win. And the other realization is kicking field goals is obviously not good enough."

"Riverboat Ron" -- as I've taken to calling him -- has seen the light and the light's treating him well. As Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer pointed out, getting aggressive on fourth down is a confidence play for his quarterback. And Cam Newton needs that confidence. It breeds success for the third-year quarterback and it showed against the Vikings. The Rams are a different animal, but back-to-back wins this early in the season -- not to mention a .500 record -- for Carolina would be a big step for a regime thought to be on the way out the door.

Joseph Fauria, TE, Lions -- The Lions tight end probably only scored three times on five catches because I dropped him in the CBS office league. (Did Ed Dickson have a good game? I didn't really see anything about him ...) But he could be a nice target going forward as well, particularly in the red zone.

Matthew Stafford clearly trusts him down there, Calvin Johnson is seeing serious double coverage and Reggie Bush doesn't really have the space to operate. He should see plenty of looks in the end zone the rest of the year.

Bonus: he's is a dancing fool.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars -- Here's an amazing stat. Justin Blackmon, despite only playing in two games because of his four-game suspension for DUI, is still on pace for 1,956 yards. Through his first two games of the season, the former Oklahoma State product is averaging 163 yards per game receiving for the Jaguars (to go along with a 67-yard touchdown). His first game (136 yards) was mostly a by-product of that long touchdown, though he had four more catches. In Week 6, though, he put up massive numbers against the Broncos, catching 14 balls for 190 yards. Chad Henne loves this guy, as he should.

Bear Market

Jim Irsay, Owner, Colts -- See: above

Matt Cassel, QB, Vikings: Cassel had one week with which to save his job. And he didn't do enough to warrant saving against Carolina. It's possible Cassel gets another week at the helm of the Vikings this coming Sunday, but the more likely scenario is that Josh Freeman is handed the rock and told to figure things out on the fly. Cassel managed to complete 74 percent of his passes against the Panthers (really) but he also threw three picks and it took him 44 attempts to get to 241 yards. That's horribly inefficient. There's no guarantee Freeman will be better but Monday night against a bad Giants defense might set up for a pretty strong debut for the former Buccaneers quarterback.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints -- The All-World Saints tight end was held without a catch on Sunday ... and he still leads the NFL in receiving yards. So let's be clear: he's not suddenly someone you don't want to own in fantasy. But he did get shutout by Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty in the Saints loss to the Patriots as Bill Belichick continued his run of wrecking shop on opponents' No. 1 options.

Graham's dealing an injury as well, which could -- should? -- scare Saints fans. The good news for Graham is he gets a bye week at the perfect time. The better news for the Saints? There aren't many teams who can just throw one corner on Graham and expect him to struggle. It'll be interesting to see if that's how teams try to cover him from here on out though.

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs -- Now look. Smith hasn't had to do much. The Chiefs are also, at 6-0, undefeated. So it's nitpicking here. But he's been a bigger game manager than he was with the 49ers in 2011. But he's completing just 56.5 percent of his passes and averaging just 6.16 yards per attempt. It's especially concerning since Smith is throwing 36 times a game. You don't give up two second-round picks so a guy can do that at such an inefficient rate.

Tavon Austin, WR, Rams -- Has Austin been here before? It sure feels like it. Back before the season began Jeff Fisher talked about the Rams (at the time) "haven't shown" their plans for the rookie wide receiver. Well, either Fisher was bluffing or this is a serious long con. As Fisher noted after the game -- and confirmed by Pro Football Focus -- the Rams weren't in "11" personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wideouts) very often so Austin couldn't hit the field much. But that still doesn't explain the complete lack of use for a guy they traded up to get and, by most accounts, one of the most explosive playmakers in this rookie class. At least Cordarrelle Patterson is returning kicks.

 
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