1. Denver's Josh McDaniels has got to go. It's bad enough not to win. But he's embarrassed the organization and the owner who hired him on and off the field. Start with that 5-16 record over his last 21 games, then add "Golden Gate," and it's hasta La vista, baby. Yeah, I know, people say he didn't view videotape of the 49ers' practice in London, didn't condone it and that the Broncos turned themselves in. But the bottom line is this: The head coach is responsible for what occurs on his watch, which means McDaniels has some 'splaining to do. This case has so many questions begging to be answered it would be a heckuva lot easier if Denver just called everything off and admitted what we already know: That McDaniels is in over his head.
2. I don't care if he was provoked, and I don't care that he apologized. Houston's Andre Johnson must be suspended at least one game for brawling with Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan. The Richard Seymour incident does not serve as a precedent because Seymour shoved Ben Roethlisberger, and that was that -- over and out. This was more like a WWE contest that wouldn't end, with Johnson swinging for the fences. Sorry, but that can't be allowed. Sit him down.
3. Aaron Rodgers' goal-line fumble underscores a big problem with the Packers: They don't have a running back they trust in critical short-yardage situations. When they had second-and-goal at the 1, the Packers called on Rodgers. He got nothing. So when it was third-and-goal, they went to him again, and you know the rest. I know Indianapolis went to last season's Super Bowl with the league's 32nd-rushing attack, but the Colts at least had the threat of a running game with Joseph Addai. The Packers don't.
4. Congratulations to Minnesota's Leslie Frazier. He got smart. He did what Eric Mangini did three years ago when Brett Favre was struggling with the Jets and, basically, took the ball out of his hands -- relying more on his backs and less on Favre to win. The result? While Favre didn't throw for many yards and produced no touchdowns, he had no interceptions -- only the second time that happened this season. The other game was a 24-21 defeat of Dallas, the Vikings' last win, and take the hint, Brett: Less can be more.
5. Um, that makes Randy Moss 1-6 since he left New England -- with 17 catches, two touchdowns and no impact. Yep, he's a difference-maker, all right, only for all the wrong reasons. But this is what I don't get: If the Titans aren't going to throw at Moss why did they pick him up in the first place? The more I see of this guy the more respect I have for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
6. Say good night to the Oakland Raiders. I know it's unlikely, but I wouldn't rule out another 5-11 finish. They lose next weekend at San Diego. Then they lose at Jacksonville, lose Dec. 26 to Indianapolis and lose the season finale in Kansas City. Their lone hope for their first season in eight years without 11 or more losses? Try a Dec. 19 date vs. Denver. It's in Oakland.
7. If I'm Buffalo, I live with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback at least for the short term and go in another direction early in the draft. Fitzpatrick should have had a third straight victory Sunday, and he would have if Steve Johnson held a perfectly thrown TD pass in overtime. If he's good enough to beat Pittsburgh, he should be good enough to keep.
8. Memo to Eric Mangini: Please, please, puh-leeeze, sit down Jake Delhomme. I don't care that he just beat Carolina ... because he didn't. The Panthers beat themselves. Delhomme makes too many mistakes for anyone -- let alone Cleveland -- to win. In four successive plays he had as many turnovers (3) as rookie Colt McCoy in five starts. The more I see of Delhomme the more I realize how much the Browns need McCoy.
9. Credit the Giants' defense for saving Sunday's game and maybe, just maybe, Tom Coughlin's job. I mean it. A loss there would have been Big Blue's third straight and raised a zillion questions about his team's ability to finish another season. Instead, the Giants' 'D' stuffs David Garrard and the Jags on the last series before recovering the game-ending fumble, and, suddenly, the Giants are on top of the NFC East again. Go ahead and exhale, Tom. You need it.
10. I never considered it, but there's the possibility that a collision with owner Bud Adams is exactly what Jeff Fisher wants. A source I trust voiced that opinion, and it makes sense if you think Fisher wants out of Tennessee. He knows Adams is a big fan of quarterback Vince Young, so what better way to an exit than to take on the teacher's pet? Just throwing it out there.
11. I'll tell you why home-field advantage is critical to the Falcons: Because Matt Ryan can't lose there. Sunday's win makes him 19-1 at the Georgia Dome, and dome teams flop when going outside to qualify for a Super Bowl. The Falcons are 1-2 in the Great Outdoors this season and were torched in Philadelphia ... by Kevin Kolb, not Michael Vick. Need I say more?
12. That's Rusty Smith, with the emphasis on rusty.
13. Here's something I heard that makes sense: If you see four or fewer head coaches fired in January, it's a signal that the league's owners expect a lockout. If you see eight or more fired, it will tell you there will be no work stoppage of any kind.
14. I hereby submit the name of Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe for Comeback Player of the Year consideration. A year ago the Chiefs were so down on their wide receiver I wasn't sure he'd be back. Now he leads the league with 14 TD catches, including seven in the past three games. You know why the Chiefs are so dangerous? You're looking at him.
15. Tell me Peyton Manning is the same without his security blanket, tight end Dallas Clark. He's not. With Clark, he had 13 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions; without, he has 9 touchdowns and nine interceptions, including seven in his last two starts. Oh, yeah, where he was 4-2 with Clark, he's 2-3 without him.
|Randy Moss is making very little impact for the teams -- a 1-6 combined record -- he's joined since leaving New England. (AP)|
1. Peyton Hillis as an under-the-radar MVP. He runs. He catches. He blocks. And he scores a zillion TDs. If the Browns were better, Hillis would have support as a darkhorse MVP. I'm serious. The guy hasn't started every game this season, yet he has 11 touchdowns -- joining Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly as the only Browns to run for that many in one season ... and the season ain't over.
2. Sam Bradford. The Rams quarterback is the runaway winner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and just produced his first 300-yard and three-touchdown performances of his career -- the first of many. "He was incredibly accurate," Denver defensive end Justin Bannan said. "He looked like a seasoned vet." Congrats to GM Billy Devaney and the Rams for having the guts ... and the smarts ... to take Bradford when others questioned an injured shoulder. In less than a season, the Rams have the best quarterback in their division.
3. Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger on the sidelines. He has more important concerns than who quarterbacks his offense, and showing up Sunday was an example of the courage and commitment that make him one of the game's most valued assistants.
4. Jay Cutler the past four games. Nope, I'm not sold on the guy and never will be. But he's playing better now than ever, with four straight victories -- the first time since the Bears' 2006 Super Bowl run they won four in a row.
5. Atlanta up at halftime. Under Mike Smith the Falcons are 24-1 when leading at the half.
Five things I don't
1. The NFC West. Make St. Louis this week's favorite. All I know is that whoever wins Monday's San Francisco-Arizona game is a game out of first place. Pathetic. If you can play .500 ball you win this division.
2. Aqib Talib jawing at officials after the Bucs' loss to Baltimore -- telling one of them, according to the St. Petersburg Times, that "I'll [hit] you in the [bleeping] mouth." That's no way to treat your elders, Aqib. Somebody needs to tell Talib to sit down and shut up, and if it's not his head coach then it's the NFL commissioner.
3. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy's failure to challenge Tony Gonzalez's ... um ... fourth-down catch on the Falcons' scoring drive late in the first half. Gonzalez trapped the ball, but nobody in the coaching booth called down to notify McCarthy. Big mistake. Green Bay would have gotten the ball, and Atlanta would not have gotten a go-ahead TD.
4.Michael Vick playing under control. I swear, he looked like an ordinary pocket passer against Chicago. Credit the Bears' defense for shutting him down, but Vick seldom looked to run or throw on the move -- and it's his running that makes him so effective.
5. Mangini's decision to go for the first down on fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 25 early in the fourth quarter. He was up by one, which meant a field goal puts him ahead by four. But Mangini passed and opted for a Hillis run ... which was stopped. There was no reason to believe Carolina could score a TD ... not then there wasn't ... so Cleveland blew an opportunity to put the Panthers away -- and it almost cost the Browns the game.
And one that doesn't surprise me
Vincent Jackson's calf injury, sidelining him for all but two plays of Sunday night's game. When you miss all of training camp and most of the season, you don't step into the lineup and suddenly make plays. Darrelle Revis learned that the hard way, and he didn't miss half as much time as Jackson. Only Revis wanted to play. I'm not so sure about Jackson, even though he had a marvelous week of practice -- largely because of the ill will between him and the club's management. Afterward, coach Norv Turner said Jackson suffered what he called strained calf, saying "he's pretty sore," which means the Chargers probably get as much out of Jackson in the coming weeks as they have this season.
Just asking but ...
• Seattle or St. Louis?
• Baltimore or Pittsburgh?
• The Jets or New England?
• Chicago or Green Bay?
• New Orleans or Atlanta?
2 -- First-half first downs for Tennessee
5 -- Chicago plays of 30 or more yards
6 -- 100-yard rushing games for Michael Turner
7 -- Peyton Manning interceptions the past two weeks
8 -- Straight seasons with at least 60 catches for Andre Johnson
12 -- Straight games with a Ryan Fitzpatrick TD pass, the best Buffalo streak since Doug Flutie in 1999
16 -- Rushing yards for Oakland
0-3 -- Buffalo in overtime this season
0-4 -- Tampa Bay vs. opponents with winning records
My top five
1. New England
3. N.Y. Jets
My bottom five
Next weekend's three best games
Atlanta at Tampa Bay ... Last gasp for Bucs
Pittsburgh at Baltimore ... It's all about first in the AFC North
N.Y. Jets at New England ... It's all about first in the AFC East