Not talked about on the air on NFL Today
1. Jahvid Best -- There were reports this week that he was advised to shut it down for the year. Both he and his agent denied them and asked the Lions where they came from. Best may play next week, if not then the Lions have a bye. He should play after the bye.
2. Christian Ponder -- Leslie Frazier told me he made the change at QB because he believed they needed a spark and Ponder gave them a better chance to win than McNabb. The Vikings believe Ponder's mobility would lead to less sacks than McNabb. He also is more accurate than McNabb which should help move the chains to get more first downs. When I watched him on tape I thought he did a good job of recognizing the blitz and getting the ball out quick to the correct receiver.
3. Tim Tebow -- Denver told me they should have played him more in the preseason. I watched every throw he has made this year. He still needs to improve on his ability to react to the defense. He showed a lot of improvement in a number of areas. His accuracy, especially deep, had improved; his pocket poise was better. Also he looked quicker and faster than in college. Still, the best part of his game is his ability to scramble and make plays running and throwing the ball.
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4. John Beck -- I talked to Beck and when I asked him if Mike Shanahan had assured him he would be the QB for the rest of the season he said no. He said Shanahan told him that he believed in him, still believes in him and he was capable of being a starting QB in the NFL, so it was his time to show he can do it. I asked Beck if he was going to play cautious considering that Grossman was benched because of too many turnovers -- Beck said no. He said a QB has to take risks, calculated risks based upon the situation and personnel in the game. Mike Shanahan rated John Beck a high first-round pick when he came out of college and had him rated over any QB the Redskins could have taken when they drafted this year. QBs available when they drafted were; Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton -- also they passed on trading for Kevin Kolb because they thought Beck was better.
5. Carson Palmer Trade -- The Raiders right now are missing their first four picks for next year, but as they were making the Palmer trade they factored in picking up 3rd and 4th round compensatory picks for the loss of free agents Robert Gallery, Zack Miller and Nmadi Asomugha.
Thoughts from today's games:
1. Houston -- They rose to the occasion to beat Tennessee 41-7 to take the lead in the AFC South. The unsung part of this team is the offensive line. This group has played well all year. The Texans wanted to run the ball and throw on the inside of the Tennessee defense. They had success in both areas. On the defensive side of the ball, their first two draft choices continued to play well. Brooks Reed (2nd round) who replaced Mario Williams, in his second start produced 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 QB hurry. First-rounder J.J. Watt had 3 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss and 1 QB hurry. It is clear Houston is the class of the division and with the possibility of getting Andre Johnson back they have a chance to get a streak going. In fact, in their last 9 games they only play 3 teams with a winning record: Cincinnati (A), Tampa Bay (A) and Atlanta (H).
2. Denver -- I was disappointed in how Tebow played. I thought he was nervous. His fundamentals were bad. He was sacked 7 times. I will be interested when I watch the tape of the game to see how many of those sacks were his fault. One of the areas he needs to improve upon was reading the defense and reacting to it. You can't tell much from television, but my guess at this point is he had some troubles there. His accuracy was off too often. He got hot at the end of the game when they went to a no-huddle offense which simplifies the defenses and his reads. That may have been the reason for his success late in the game. In the no-huddle offense he was 8-12, while for the rest of the game he was 5-15 -- big difference. They may not have enough offense in with him to do that full-time. Also if teams know you are going to do it full-time they will disguise coverages better.
3. Oakland -- The Raiders lost 28-0, but two of the Kansas City touchdowns were interception returns. I have to believe that the trade disrupted their concentration this week and splitting the QB reps didn't help either QB. If you want to second guess the trade, I don't, just think of how many games they would win with Kyle Boller at QB. When you make a trade like this, it is for the long haul and you will have growing pains with it. Palmer is an accurate passer with a good touch. That accuracy did not show against Kansas City because of limited practice time. Obviously Palmer will improve with time and so will his "football condition". The Raiders will need to stay with their formula of being a physical running team, like they were with Jason Campbell.
4. Miami -- At this point Tony Sparano's decision to go for two points with a 12-0 lead has been second guessed by everyone I'm sure. I would not have done it and it probably cost him the game. It was a devastating loss for the Dolphins and only increases the speculation about his job. Firing Sparano during the season accomplishes nothing. Unless you have your successor on the staff, and my feeling is the Dolphins don't think they do. Then I wouldn't do it unless the team absolutely quit on Sparano or Sparano decided to quit on the team. One time in Washington we started 0-7 and finished that season at 6-10 and the next year we won the division, so you never know when things can turn around. Also what happens if you do change coaches and win a game or two? Is it worth it? Owner Steve Ross should see the season through with Sparano. He does not want to get a reputation of being a quick trigger on coaches, something he is fighting because of what happened last year when he showed interest in other coaches at the end of the season. I think Tony Sparano is a good coach and should be given the full season to be evaluated on.
5. New York Jets -- You clearly see the Jets of the last two years playing out their offensive formula in the last two games: run the ball and be physical up front. San Diego had trouble stopping the run in the past and didn't show it had improved much versus the Jets. Shonn Greene looked sharp. He is a physical north-south runner and that is what he showed on Sunday. The Jets also did a good job of getting the ball to Plaxico Burress in the Red Zone which is where he has a chance to be successful. They also got TE Dustin Keller more involved, targeting him eight times. They need to find a way to get the ball to Holmes more despite what coverages the defenses use to take him away. He was only targeted three times. The Jets are going into their bye with some momentum. After the bye they have home games with Buffalo and New England as well as a road game at Buffalo in their first four games. This will be their critical stretch of the season.
6. Tampa Bay -- Tough loss in London, England. They finished the game without four starters: RB Earnest Graham who only carried two times in the game, OC Jeremy Zuttah, MLB Mason Foster, and S Tanard Anderson. They were already missing starting running back LeGarrette Blount. Without Blount and Graham in the game the Bucs couldn't run the ball and only attempted to run it nine times. The Bucs are not going to win many games throwing the ball 51 times. The Bucs decided to spend the week in London preparing for the game, while Chicago came in on an overnight flight on Thursday landing Friday morning. There is no guarantee either way to assure a win as evidenced by what happened. It has been reported that the Bucs might play an annual game in London. As a GM, I would not be in favor of it. This is different than Buffalo playing in Toronto. They are close markets and there are fans who can attend games in both markets. You have to be careful about alienating the fans in Florida by taking a game away. I would also be against it because in talking to teams that do it, it cuts into your recovery time during your bye week which will always follow the game in London.
7. Washington -- I thought John Beck started slow Sunday which should be understandable and I don't think the Redskins were surprised by it. Beck hadn't started an NFL game since 2007. I thought he picked it up as the game progressed and it showed promise. Losing Tim Hightower and Santana Moss were huge setbacks in this game. Hightower had run for 88 yards when he went out. The Redskins remaining backs rushed for minus-6 yards. It was clear the game plan was to run on Carolina, with the running-against a weakness for them. The loss of Moss is big for the Redskins because he is clearly their best receiver.
8. Carolina -- They are finding themselves on offense. The running game is emerging the way they believed it would with 37 rushes versus 23 passes. Of those 37 rushes 10 were by Cam Newton. Their rushes totaled 175 yards which is very good against anybody but especially the Redskins who have a very good front seven. The Redskins planned to pressure Newton and were able to get four sacks, but they failed to contain Steve Smith which is the other part of the equation. He had 7 catches for 143 yards. Newton has a number of fine traits but one of his best is his accuracy on the deep ball which he displayed to Smith on Sunday. This team will continually improve throughout the season. Ron Rivera has done a good job of keeping them play with a lot of intensity despite the losses.
9. Chicago and Atlanta -- Both beat teams with winning records on the road which could prove to be important for tiebreakers in deciding who gets into the playoffs. Both kept up with their recent trend to emphasize the run over the pass. Julio Jones has a chance to be back when the Falcons play their next game against the Colts on November 6. To me this will be a test game for their team. Not that I think they will not beat the Colts but will they feel they have to get Jones more involved in the offense than Harry Douglas. As for the Bears, Matt Forte had another big day with 145 yards rushing and 38 yards receiving. This will be a tough negotiation at the end of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears don't have to franchise him because they can't get him signed.
10. Dallas -- Methodical win against the undermanned Rams. Romo was efficient and the Cowboys may have found a starting running back in DeMarco Murray who rushed for 253 yards. Murray was hurt earlier thids season and didn't get a chance to show what he could do. It will be fun to watch how he progresses throughout the rest of the season.
11. Green Bay -- They hit the bye week at 7-0 with no QB in the NFL playing better than Aaron Rodgers. They have a realistic shot at going undefeated. The breaks have to fall your way to do it, so we will see if that happens. I think the two teams that have the best chance to beat them are the Saints, who almost did it in the opener and the Eagles. You may be shocked by me saying the Eagles, but the teams with the best shot to beat them are teams that can score. Green Bay's defense is struggling. Teams have told me that their LBs are not playing well except for Clay Mathews and their secondary also is suspect. Even though Woodson had two interceptions against Minnesota, he undercut both routes because he had deep help. He can be beaten in single coverage. Since they will not play either of these teams in the regular season, it will have to be in the playoffs that they could possibly meet one or both of these teams.
Charley Casserly can be followed on Twitter @CasserlyCBS.