Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Denver Broncos
Posted on: December 27, 2011 11:45 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 16: Is Sanchez the answer?

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

By Ryan Wilson

Mark Sanchez - Jets

Is Sanchez in NY's future? Rex says yes. (AP Photo)
With each passing game, Sanchez confirms what everybody already suspected (even if Rex Ryan won't admit it publicly): he's an average NFL quarterback. There are worse fates (he could be Tyler Palko or Caleb Hanie), but Sanchez's success is contingent on the formula the Jets had working during the 2009 and 2010 seasons: ground, pound and a stifling defense.

In 2011, the rushing attack and the vaunted defense has been inconsistent, New York has fallen behind, and Sanchez hasn't been able to get the Jets in the end zone late in games. The result: eight wins against seven losses -- the latest coming Saturday against the Giants -- and the very real possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in Rex Ryan's tenure as head coach.

“They were definitely the better team this year,” Ryan said after the 29-14 loss to the Giants. “Clearly, I was wrong. I will take the responsibility. It is on my shoulders and it should be. That’s just the way it is.”

That's what Ryan has to say -- the buck stops with him, after all -- but he's not calling offensive plays. That falls to Brian Schottenheimer, who dialed up 59 (fifty-nine!) pass plays. Sanchez completed just 30 attempts (51 percent), threw one touchdown vs. two interceptions and was sacked five times. By the end of the day, he looked out of sorts and out of confidence.

It's so bad that we're again hearing murmurs that Sanchez may not be the longterm answer at quarterback for the Jets, sentiments that come up a half-dozen times each season. CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman writes Monday that Schottenheimer's job is probably less secure than Sanchez's at this point.

"The inevitable Sanchez microscopic exam started immediately after that Giants loss. The site Profootballtalk.com reported the Jets were having doubts about Sanchez. The New York Post loosely reported that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might be coaching for his job this week. The latter, I’m told by someone I trust, is more likely the truth."

Wherever reality lies -- and Rex has both Mark and Brian's back-- the point remains: Sanchez has yet to prove that he's a capable NFL quarterback. He thrives as a complimentary piece within a system but he's not the guy you want trying to bring the team back from a late-game deficit. Maybe he'll evolve into that player someday, but through nearly three NFL seasons, he's more game manager than game winner.

Tim Tebow - Broncos

After seven wins in his first eight games as Denver's starting quarterback, Tebow has now dropped two in a row and the Broncos are 8-7. A Week 17 win gives them the division crown and a home playoff game, but that will likely be against the Steelers or Ravens.

For now, though, the big issue is if defenses have figured out how to stop Denver's option attack and whether the offense has an answer to it.

The Bills, with nothing to play for after having lost seven in a row, intercepted Tebow four times (returning two for touchdowns). And while Tebow's numbers are troubling (13 of 30 for 185 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs and 3 sacks) he wasn't the same guy who was manhandled by the Lions back in Week 8. That Tebow looked confused all afternoon; this Tebow struggled with the Bills' scheme but wasn't overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. That scheme, by the way, wasn't some complicated Dick LeBeau zone blitz concoction. It was a stout four-man rush with seven men in coverage (including a quarterback spy). Tebow wasn't allowed to run for large chunks but was forced to stay in the pocket and win the game with his arm. Obviously, he couldn't do it.

Now the Broncos have a week to work out the kinks and hope everything's clicking should they make it into the postseason. Because if they don't … well, God help us because we're going to spend the spring and summer wondering who will be Denver's starting quarterback in 2012. And, really, nobody wants that.

Phillip Taylor - Browns

Taylor's gaffe was costly. (Getty Images)
Saturday's loss isn't entirely Phil Taylor's fault. The 2011 first-round pick wasn't solely responsible for the Ravens jumping out to a 17-0 lead. But it was his offsides penalty late in the fourth quarter with Cleveland trailing 20-14 that guaranteed the Browns would lose their fifth straight and remain winless in the AFC North this season.

After stuffing running back Ray Rice on third down, Baltimore faced a fourth-and-2 at the Browns' 37-yard line with just under two minutes to go in the game. The Ravens' options: attempting a 55-yard field goal, going for it on fourth down or punting. After a timeout, Baltimore's offense took the field, presumably to draw the Browns offside and keep the drive alive. Cleveland's defensive coaches warned players of as much … moments before Joe Flacco hard-counted and  coaxed Taylor into jumping early. First down Ravens, game over.

"It was the first hard count and we stayed onside. The second time, I just jumped," Taylor told The Associated Press. "Of course you feel bad but you just got to move on."

For the Browns, that means moving on to Week 17 where they will face the Steelers in a game Pittsburgh would like to win, even if it means doing so without starter Ben Roethlisberger, who was injured the first time these teams met in Week 14. (If the Ravens lose to the Bengals and Pittsburgh prevails in Cleveland, the Steelers would win the AFC North and get a first-round bye.)

Flacco, who has taken his share of criticism this season, was shocked Taylor fell for the hard count (it's the NFL equivalent of falling for the "pitcher fakes to third before throwing to first" routine in baseball).

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in position for that to happen," Flacco said. "It’s never worked.”

There's a first time for everything, especially when you're facing the Browns.

Early Doucet - Cardinals

Poor Early Doucet. He was attacked by the seldom seen Paul Brown Stadium turf monster at the worst possible moment, and instead of hauling in possibly the easiest touchdown pass of his career, he was instead picking himself off the field as the ball skipped out of the end zone incomplete.

The specifics: facing 4th and 5 from the Bengals 17-yard line with 1:16 to go and trailing 23-16, Cardinals quarterback John Skelton threw to what appeared to be a wide open Doucet. Except he tripped and fell, as did Arizona's dwindling playoff hopes.


Turf monster avoids the pass interference call despite tripping Early Doucet.

It gets worse: the father of teammate Larry Fitzgerald called Doucet out, first on Twitter ("Doucet bombed this year he drops to many passes not a dependable No.2. Needs to work harder at his job. He dropped 5 TDs this year.") then to ESPN.com's Mike Sando.

“I just know that Larry invited him to come and work out with him this summer and some guys take initiative and do it, some guys don’t,” Larry Fitzgerald Sr. said. “But with the lockout, I thought he would have worked on it a little harder. That is me. People criticize me because they think I talk too much. That is just how I see it.”

On Monday, the Arizona Republic's Kent Somers wrote that "from previous conversations with Doucet and coaches, the Cardinals were happy with Doucet's off-season work. He was rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, and the Cardinals approved of his program. Receivers coach John McNulty complimented Doucet on reporting to training camp in shape."

Not to worry. Fitzgerald Sr. says he "wasn't picking on" Doucet. “I track when he drops the ball in critical situations. They use Larry the way they are going to use him, so they know others are going to be singled [in coverage]. The Ravens game, he dropped one on the goal line. I remember other games. Now that they’re out of the playoffs, I’m putting it out there.”

Can't wait to hear what Senior thinks about Kevin Kolb and/or John Skelton.

LeGarrette Blount - Buccaneers

Like Phil Taylor, it's unfair to point to Blount and say, "Yep, it's all his fault." But head coach Raheem Morris thought enough of Blount's performance to call him out after Tampa Bay's latest no-show performance, this time against the Panthers. On the Bucs' very first offensive play, Blount muffed the handoff from quarterback Josh Freeman. When an NFL team struggles with something as basic as a handoff it's probably time to hit the reset button. Which is exactly what will happen to Morris shortly after the season ends, and possibly to plenty of names currently on the roster, Blount included.

"To not get that play executed on the first play of the football game is unacceptable,'' Morris said according to the Tampa Tribune. "You're obviously not ready to play. I'm not ready to give up on him (Blount), but you can't let your team down that way.''

Blount was just as frank when asked about the play and the subsequent benching.

"It happens. Whenever you feel like something is not going your way, you've got to look somewhere else. If a back's been giving up the ball the whole season, you've got to find someone else to do the job. It was a miscommunication. We fumbled the ball.''

Meanwhile, veteran cornerback Ronde Barber, wholly unimpressed with the Bucs' defense, says that the same team that won 10 games last season is now full of players looking out for themselves. Such is the destiny for four-win clubs.

"That was an embarrassing performance, really, in the run game," Barber said after Tampa Bay allowed 270 yards rushing. "It's frustrating to watch because you know what the problems are. It looks like guys want to do their own thing. You've got to believe the guy next to you is going to do his job. … They didn't even need [Steve Smith] today. That just shows how far they've come and how far we've gotten away from what we used to be.''

(To be fair, the Panthers did have Cam, who has come so far, so fast, he's already ascended to one-word-name status). Which is why when we see the Bucs in 2012 they'll look nothing like the team that limped to the finish in 2011.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 10:47 am
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 16: Defenses are catching on

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

First, the good news: the Broncos control their destiny. At this point in the season, that's all you can ask. Despite dropping their second game in a row in convincing fashion, Denver remains atop the AFC West, and if they beat the Chiefs Sunday, they're division champs, which will earn them the right to face either the Steelers or Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.

For now, though, the Broncos have to fix an offense that has developed a reputation this season with Tim Tebow as its starter of long stretches of ineptitude highlighted by improbable late-game comebacks (one that included a six-game winning streak). Two weeks ago, Denver was 8-5 and coming off an overtime win against the Bears. Now, after getting thoroughly outplayed by the Patriots and the Bills, the questions have returned. Namely: can Tebow be an NFL quarterback and the related: have teams figured out how to stop him and the college offense the Broncos now feature?

Too early to say on the former, but almost certainly yes on the latter.

A week after New England worked to contain Tebow in the pocket and forced him to win the game with his arm, Buffalo perfected the game plan. The Bills usually rushed four, dropped seven into coverage, made sure Tebow didn't break the pocket for long runs, and made him squeeze throws into tight windows, often with disastrous results.

Coming into the game, Tebow had three interceptions. By the time it was over, Tebow had thrown four more, two of the pick-six variety, and he looked flustered all afternoon.

"I think [defensive coordinator Georgge] Edwards did a great job as far as giving us different keys based on what personnel they had in the game and what type of plays they were gonna run," said Bills cornerback Drayton Florence, via the Buffalo News. "When they got in a regular set [two receivers, two backs], it was more traditional runs. When they got in two tight ends, it was more of the option game. So I think our defensive ends did a great job of being aware of that and knowing how they were going to attack us. …

"They just tell Tebow to go out there and run around and make something happen," Florence said. "Early in the game they were running the ball because they didn't have to throw it. He's just using his athletic ability, sort of like Michael Vick was doing early in his career. Just give him one side of the field to read. If it's not there, make something happen and scramble."

Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard added: "We were able to say ... when we're man to man, one of the backers lock the running back and the other one spies the quarterback. mean, it worked to perfection today. They were flushing him, and myself or Nick would go and wrap and contain. It was just a good day all-around."

So now the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments begin in earnest. Which Tebow will show up in Week 17, and God willing, the playoffs? No idea.

But don't mistake the Bills' game plan for Tebow reverting to the form that had him embarrassed by the Lions back in October. He continues to improve, even if incrementally. The problem: as defenses become more comfortable recognizing and attacking the Broncos' option scheme, Denver will need to find ways to adapt. And that will mean using Tebow in more conventional ways. Can they (he) do it? Well, we'll find out, won't we.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"First and foremost, I want to thank my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Isn't it great that no matter what, win or lose, we have a chance to celebrate my lord and savior's birth tomorrow. That's pretty cool. It's something I'm very excited about, celebrating Christmas. It's going to be a lot of fun." - Tebow's opening remarks during his post-game press conference.

"We knew if we could make (Tebow) one dimensional by stopping the run, there was no way we were going to allow him to come out and throw the ball and beat us with his arm." - Bills safety George Wilson

"“We knew [facing Kyle Orton] was a possibility. So, here it is. We have to go out there and play well. It was best for the team, bottom line. We made that decision knowing this was a possibility. Now we have to do it.” - Broncos executive VP John Elway last Saturday


                                                   Audio-Visual



Moving pictures evidence that the Bills confused Tebow all day.


Broncos QB Tim Tebow throws four interceptions in a 40-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Frame-by-frame breakdown of Tebow's first interception. (In case it's not clear, you'll have to click on the individual images to get the larger view.)

Tebow's first interception of the game came late in the third quarter with the Broncos trailing 23-14. The Bills showed a single high safety (frame 1) pre-snap. After the snap, they dropped seven in coverage and rushed four. It was a five-receiver route. At the top of Tebow's drop, the three deep receivers were all covered (frame 2). Tebow rolled right to avoid the rush and with no running lanes due to good containment (frame 3), he forced a pass 25 yards downfield into triple-coverage (frame 4).


                                                   Eye on Tebow



Buffalo Bills' Chris Kelsay (90) and Arthur Moats (52) sack Denver Broncos' Tim Tebow (15) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our
RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 10:02 pm
 

Is Brian Dawkins' career in jeopardy?

B. Dawkins is having neck troubles that could derail his career (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

As Tim Tebow-infatuated as everybody in the NFL seems to be (in good times and bad), sometimes we have to point out how much the Broncos improving defense has contributed to keeping him in games in order to win them late.

On Saturday, vs. a Bills team that’s taken a huge nosedive in the second half of the season, the Broncos proved that if the defense isn’t good, Tebow has no shot at winning. And one reason for the Denver defensive no-show was because Brian Dawkins had to leave the game with more neck troubles.

As the Denver Post points out, there are concerns that his neck issues ultimately will end his 16-year career.

“I don’t want to talk about the neck,” Dawkins said after the Bills 40-14 rampage was complete.

But how can we NOT talk about the neck, especially if it’s going to derail a top-notch career and put the Broncos playoff potential in a perilous place? Dawkins didn’t play last week, and the Patriots dominated. Dawkins didn’t play much Saturday, and Buffalo dominated. The trend might not be coincidental, especially because Dawkins is still effective against the run.

Dawkins said he didn’t know if he could play next week in the regular season finale against the Chiefs for the right to go to the postseason. But there is this: without Dawkins, the Raiders chances to win almost certainly decrease.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 16: Cam's the GOAT

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Slightly condensed version this week as it's the holidays. No podcast, no picture of the week and only eight questions. Blame Mrs. Brinson if you're so inclined. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.

The Greatest Rookie Season Ever?

That's right. The greatest rookie season ever is precisely what Cam Newton's going to wrap up in Week 17 against the Saints a game of no real consequence when it comes to his legacy as the best rookie in NFL history.

There should be no argument that Cam's season, even without the final week, goes down as the greatest season by a rookie quarterback in history. He has the record for most passing yards in a season (again, with a week to go) by a rookie. He has the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie. He has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.

Of the seven rookie quarterbacks with 3,000 passing yards, Newton doesn't have the most passing touchdowns, but he doesn't have the most interceptions either. There shouldn't be any question that his rookie year is the greatest by any quarterback.

As far as other rookies go, you could argue for Eric Dickerson (more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 1983), Dick Lane (14 interceptions, two pick sixes for Night Train in 1952), Randy Moss (17 touchdowns and 1,313 receiving yards in 1998) or Lawrence Taylor (9.5 sacks -- before they were even counted -- in 1981) if you want.

But none of those guys dealt with the complexities of running an offense. None of those guys dealt with a lockout-shortened offseason. None of those guys performed the way they did under the intense scrutiny of 2011 Twitteratiland. None of those guys carried the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to save a franchise ... or cost a GM his job simply because no one was sure how good they'd be. None of those guys inspired the fierce debate that Newton did leading up to being drafted.

Cam's rejuvenated a franchise that was dead in the water and he might be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL right now. It's been a marvel to watch him perform and it's insane to think that there was a debate as to whether or not the Panthers should take him.

Winners

Matthew Stafford: The Lions are in the playoffs. That's worthy of "winner inclusion" all by itself. But the Lions were secretly facing a pretty bad situation, with the white-hot Chargers and the very good Packers over the next two weeks. 9-7 and getting snuck out of the playoffs wasn't out of the question at all. Until Stafford got his surgical precision on and shredded the San Diego secondary, going 29 of 36 with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford's next up for the "is he or isn't he elite" debate.

Pete Prisco
: Yes, my CBSSports.com colleague and former life coach (Pete doesn't know it, but I fired him when he suggested I not wear socks with my loafers). Prisco's the only guy that I know of who refused to budge off his negative stance of Tebow during the Broncos winning streak. There might be an argument that Pete's stubborn and you might be inclined to call him a "hater" but with the way that Tebow egged on Saturday, there are going to be a LOT of people ripping him over the next week. And Prisco's the only one of those people who's stood his ground the whole time.

Kevin Kolb:
The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and that means Kolb avoided his worst possible nightmare. That would be "John Skelton marching Arizona to an improbable postseason run and the team deciding to bail on Kolb's albatross of a contract." Instead, Arizona now plays out the string and regroups for 2012, likely with Kolb as the starting quarterback for at least another year.

Matt Forte
: What's that, you say? Forte didn't play on Saturday. Oh, I know that. I also know that if the Vikings hadn't handed Adrian Peterson a monster contract before the 2011 season, things would be awkward right about now. Over the past month, the Bears have collapsed without Forte and Jay Cutler, meaning he's beefed up his leverage as an important player for the franchise and, with the Peterson injury, justified his rationale for wanting a new contract.

Jerome Simpson: Did you see his touchdown catch?

Turner's time might be up in San Diego. (US Presswire)

Losers

Norv Turner: A lot of credit goes to the Lions for the way they played on Saturday. Detroit is a very good team and a formidable opponent. But how can the Chargers not show up, especially knowing that the Broncos lost and that they were either a Bengals/Jets pair of losses or a Broncos loss in Week 17 away from making the playoffs? That's still not "controlling your own destiny" but out of everyone who was gifted an early Christmas present during the early games on Sunday, Turner and the Chargers were probably the luckiest. A 24-0 halftime deficit in the most critical game of the season isn't going to inspire any Spanos family members to keep their pink slips tucked away.

Jason Garrett
: No one's going to blame him for losing to Philly. That's what happens with Stephen McGee under center. But holy cow does Garrett have the hardest decision -- and the most scrutiny -- of his short career coming up over the next week. The Giants and Cowboys will play in Week 17, with a trip to the postseason and a division championship on the line. Tony Romo will almost certainly play, but will he be effective? Can Garrett gameplan in order to play to Romo's injury? Will he cough up a shot at the postseason? These are the ways we will judge him after next week's game. And by "we" I obviously mean "Jerry Jones and his potentially angry family."

Adrian Peterson
: AP's leg injury on Sunday was so brutal that I even feel like a jerk putting him in the "losers" section. But if you saw the horrific nature of Peterson's injury, you know precisely why he's not feeling like a winner right now. The Vikings announced after the game that it was a sprained knee but -- all due respect to Minnesota -- that's just not believable at all. The multiple reports that it's a torn ACL (and potentially worse) make a lot more sense. It's just sad that Peterson could miss significant time because he was playing in a meaningless game for a three-win team.

Rex Ryan: Ryan spent all week running his mouth about the New York-New York rivalry and when push came to shove, his guy Mark Sanchez fumbled on the Giants goal line and threw a "pass" to an offensive lineman that resulted in a safety in a devastating loss on Saturday. The Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo got torched by Victor Cruz (that's his name, right?) and Brandon Jacobs got to say "It's time to shut up, fat boy." That's just embarrassing. Oh, right, and the Jets lost control of their own destiny with respect to the playoffs. It wouldn't be nearly as mortifying if Ryan hadn't run his mouth all week.

Pipedreams: Just like San Diego, the Eagles were very much a longshot to make the playoffs. But I'm telling you, there was a chance. Then the Giants killed that chance (adding to their winner-y-ness) with a win over the Jets. That means Week 17 is no longer a dream scenario for fans of long shots, because both early-season favorites are now removed from any chance of a postseason berth. You don't have to root for the Eagles or Chargers. In fact, you can root against them. But if you don't like ridiculous storylines and clowning around with playoff predictors then we're not friends.

The Big Questions

 
The new Tebow narrative could be awkward. (AP)

1. What's the new Tim Tebow narrative?
No, but it's on life support (and Prisco wants to pull the plug!). Look, Tebow can still win against Kansas City in Week 17, or even lose as long as the Chargers beat the Raiders. But think about how quickly this narrative could be absolutely flipped on its head: if Kyle Orton, the man Tebow replaced, beats Tebow in Week 17 because Tebow can't win late, and the Raiders beat the Chargers and make the playoffs, the Broncos new narrative will be as chokers. No, really, it will. And that is nuts when you consider where we were just two weeks ago.

2. Why does Leslie Frazier keep playing guys who are hurt?
NO CLUE. But this is a story that's flown under the radar for the past few weeks and it culminated with AP's injury against Washington, as well as the concussion that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder suffered on Saturday. The Vikings are 3-12 after winning on Christmas Eve, but they didn't even need Peterson or Ponder to put up points -- it was all Joe Webb against the Redskins. Of course, winning, at this point, should be secondary. Frazier's top priority should be the health of his franchise quarterback and running back. Instead, these guys keep getting trotted out with injuries late in a lost season. That's not the sort of thing that keeps a job safe for long.

3. Did Raheem Morris get fired on Saturday?

Almost certainly. The Panthers went out and walloped Tampa Bay 48-16 in Charlotte, meaning that the Bucs lost their eighth game in a row.  Worse than the losses is the way they've happened: over the last four games, the Buccaneers have been outscored 158-64. They've given up 40 points to the Panthers and Jaguars and have topped 20 points just once since their trip to London in late October when things really started to unravel. It's an embarrassing collapse down the stretch and it's hard to blame the Glazer family and GM Mark Dominik when (not if) they fire Morris.

4. Anyone else getting fired?
Gotta think that Turner's done in San Diego now and that Romeo Crennel's the only interim hanging around. I can't buy that Jim Caldwell's saving his job so I'd add him to the list too. But I think any questions about Chan Gailey can now be reserved for a while, given the way he dismantled the Broncos on Sunday.

5.  Why should Tom Brady be worried?
Because his offensive lineman are dropping like flies. And while the Patriots are going to continue being good because that's what the Patriots do, there's absolutely cause for concern in New England if Logan Mankins and Matt Light are hurt for any length of time. As you may be aware, this isn't a team predicated on playing any sort of defense, and if they can't protect Tom Brady, there's little chance of them advancing in the postseason.

5. How mad are the 49ers?
Furious. And it doesn't matter that they won, because they gave up a rushing touchdown to Marshawn Lynch. They might hold the record for most games without one, but you know they wanted to make it the entire season. They did not.

6. Am I going to have to watch Matt Flynn on Christmas night?
Not as much as you might have feared. The 49ers won against the Seahawks on Saturday, and that means Green Bay hasn't clinched the top seed yet. Which means that Aaron Rodgers will stay in the game against the Bears for the entire game, barring an absolute Packers blowout.

7. Was Simpson's catch the play of the year?
Yup, it sure was. Maybe not the "play of the century" or anything insane like people are saying, but it was an absolutely bananas catch and it deserves incredible props. Watch -- it's going to be the type of thing you talk with your relatives about on Christmas. That's the way you can truly judge the greatness of a play.

8. Should Ben Roethlisberger play next week?
No. There's just no need. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice handled the Browns just fine in Week 16, and Charlie Batch/Rashard Mendenhall can do the same in Week 17. Rest the guy, run the ball, cross your fingers that Cincy can summon the strength to beat the Ravens on the road and let Roethlisberger rest.

GIF O' THE WEEK

I mean duh. Did you notice I liked it?



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 4:23 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Broncos gives Raiders hope in AFC West

Tebow has hit a rough patch in recent weeks. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA



All the Broncos had to do was go to Buffalo and beat a team on a seven-game losing streak. Instead, Denver, who headed into the weekend as the favorites to win the AFC West and host a playoff game, were blown out, 40-14, in front of a sparsely attended get-together that was blacked out locally.

Losses happen -- it's the NFL -- but there's plenty to be concerned with if you're the Broncos: the defense was out of sorts all afternoon and the Bills would've scored more if not for Dave Rayner missing two field goals. And then there's Tim Tebow. It was in the 30s in Buffalo at kickoff, the coldest weather Tebow has ever faced as a starter (seriously), and he looked uncomfortable all day. We don't think it was the weather, just Tebow experiencing the ups and downs of a second-year NFL quarterback.

Despite all the concerns about his ability to throw the football, Tebow had been successful, in part, because he minimized turnovers. Against the Bills, he had four interceptions and a fumble. Those are Tyler Palko numbers, and the result confirmed as much.

Now the Broncos are 8-7 and they'll host the Chiefs next Sunday to determine their postseason fate. With Oakland beating Kansas City in overtime Saturday, Denver needs a victory next week to win the division. If they lose and the Raiders defeat the Chargers, Oakland would be AFC West champs.

So, yes, there's much to be decided.


Jairus Byrd and Spencer Johnson returned Tim Tebow interceptions for touchdowns to help the Bills snap a seven-game skid and seal a 40-14 win over the Broncos on Saturday. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms recap all the action from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:37 am
 

Tebow makes first cold-weather start in Buffalo

Denver players get in the holiday spirit on the charter plane. No word if Tebow will be wearing a Christmas sweater underneath his pads today. (via @D_Brut30)
By Ryan Wilson

The Broncos play in Buffalo Sunday where temperatures will be in the in the low 30s with a chance for flurries. Pretty mild for the region this time of year. But for Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida and played in Gainesville, at the University of Florida, it will be the coldest game he's started in his tackle football career -- going back to his high school days.

"I've never worn sleeves, but I've been wearing sleeves in practice this week to try to get used to that," Tebow said according to the Denver Post's Jef Legwold and Tom Kensler. "I won't wear a glove, maybe on my right hand, but not on my (left) hand. I don't plan to, anyway."

Tebow thought he had played in lower temperatures in college when the Gators faced the Gamecocks in South Carolina. Turns out, it was in the 50s at kickoff before the mercury fell into the 40s by the time it was over.

"He's practiced out here for almost two years now, so I think he's had his share of inclement weather," Broncos coach John Fox said. "I don't foresee that being a problem."

A Denver win coupled with a Raiders loss against the Chiefs would secure the AFC West and most likely a home playoff game against the Steelers in the wild-card round. The Bills, meanwhile, are expecting an empty stadium (local blackouts are in effect), which is what happens when you're on a seven-game losing streak.


Follow all the Week 16 action live: Inactives | Scoreboard

1 p.m. ET games:
CLE-BAL | DEN-BUF | TB-CAR | ARI-CIN | OAK-KC | MIA-NE | NYG-NYJ | STL-PIT | JAC-TEN | MIN-WAS

4 p.m. ET games:
SD-DET | PHI-DAL | SF-SEA



For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 10:49 am
 

Sarah Palin approves of Tim Tebow's message

Sarah Palin is digging what Tim Tebow is preachin'. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've been sitting here wondering what the Tim Tebow saga's missing. It's not a Saturday Night Live skit -- we've got plenty of those. It's not over-hyping from the media; we've got that. (And, yes, guilty. Whatevs.)

Perhaps it's a lack of opinions from prominent, low-end long-shot Republican Presidential candidates? No, Rick Perry already took care of that. OK, so the Tebow saga isn't missing anything other than some quiet time. But Sarah Palin commented on Tebow recently and gosh darnit, it's just too quotable to leave it alone. Sorry in advance.

"Oh you know I am so pro-Tebow," Palin said on Fox News. "You know, he is unashamed of his savior, Jesus of Nazareth. He knows that Jesus is going to rock your world when you give it all over to him and he's bold about it. And he knows that the son of God should be honored and praised and Tebow does that and I respect it."

First of all, let me just say that, you know, I get a real kick out of transcribing Sarah Palin quotes. Secondly, "Jesus will rock your world" would go well on a stenciled, tie-dyed t-shirt from Wings.

Or, alternately, it could be the celebration/slogan of "Not-Quite-Evil Tebow," the NWA Hulk Hogan version of Tim that will evolve when John Elway turns his back on the quarterback in 2017, only to have Tebow take over for the Los Angeles Jaguars who moved to the AFC West just a year before.

Wait, what are we talking about again?

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:02 am
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 15: Learning experiences

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

By Ryan Wilson

Here's the deal with the new (old)-look Denver Broncos offense: there is virtually no margin for error. The run-heavy, read-option strategy works so well because a) the defense keeps games close, b) the offensive line is playing out of its mind, c) Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee might be the best backs-by-committee in the league, and d) Tebow doesn't turn the ball over.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Patriots he had just two interceptions and three lost fumbles all year. By the time New England left Denver with a 41-23 win, the Broncos had three turnovers -- all in the first half -- and that, coupled with a Tom Brady-led offense capable of capitalizing off said turnovers, proved to be the difference.


Tebow finished 11 of 22 for 194 yard, and added another 93 rushing yards on 12 carries, including two rushing touchdowns. Unlike the Lions game in Week 8 (the last time the Broncos lost, by the way), where Tebow looked thoroughly confused (and, incidentally, a week before the Broncos went all in on read-option football), the second-year quarterback continues to get better. And, really, that's all you can ask of your 24-year-old former first round pick: show improvement from one week to the next and do it while helping the team go 7-2.

But there are also signs that opposing defenses are beginning to get a bead on the offense that made Tebow a Heisman trophy winner in college. The question now, with two games left in the regular season and the Broncos trying to old onto the AFC West lead: Can Tebow's mastery of option football be enough to overcome its potential flaws? It's one thing for an opponent to know how to stop Tebow, it's something else entirely to actually pull it off.

The Patriots defense, among the worst in the league, was able to slow Tebow but they certainly didn't stop him. They were also the beneficiaries of Tom Brady's right arm (and, if we're splitting perfectly coiffed hairs, his legs -- he had a rushing touchdown for the first time all season).

As it stands, the Broncos are 8-6, a game up on the Chiefs and two games up on the Chargers, with two games to go. If they win in Buffalo and at home to Kansas City, they win the division. Otherwise, we'll have to rely on the nerds down at the nerdery to figure out the possible playoff scenarios.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



"The core of what New England did was force Tebow to stay in the pocket and throw. Since he still possesses the accuracy of a malfunctioning Scud missile he was relegated to 11 completions and no throwing touchdowns," - CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman.

"Tebow mania, meet Brady Brass, and kindly kneel down and kiss the ring," - Yahoo.com's Michael Silver

"Personally, that's what I took that as. Because of the build-up between Tebowmania vs. Brady, I think he took that personally. And football is a personal game. I don't blame him for taking it personal. It was our job to keep him out of the end zone so he doesn't spike the ball." - Broncos cornerback André Goodman, explaining Brady's Gronkwoskian spike after scoring a touchdown.

"We did have things going pretty well early. We scored on our first three possessions, but then we put the ball on the ground, and that's something you can't do against a great team. You know Brady is going to make his plays. We've got to hang onto the ball. That's my fault, and I'll get that straight. With the turnovers, we were playing from behind a little bit.'' - Tim Tebow

"He's gotten better every week. Six or seven weeks ago people said that he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but I think he does that. I think he can do that. I don't think that's why we lost the game tonight.'' - Broncos head coach John Fox


                                                   Audio-Visual



This is what makes Tebow Tebow-tastic:


Tim Tebow eludes several Patriots defenders to run for a 9-yard touchdown on the Broncos' first possession of the game.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's this…


Tim Tebow tries to extend the play but fails as the Patriots defense sacks the QB for a 28-yard loss.

For a glimpse at how Tebow has improved, here's a simple passing play from early in the game:

With the running game working so well early, the play-action fake (to #35 Lance Ball in this case) froze the linebackers, creating a window for Tebow to hit favorite target Eric Decker on a post pattern. As soon as the inside linebacker turns his head to drop into coverage, Tebow throws the ball at his left ear, finding Decker in the hole in the zone created by the run fake. He wouldn't have made this throw two months ago. 

"I feel like we've gotten better throwing the ball,'' Tebow said after the game. "We were able to do a lot of what we wanted to early, throwing the ball. We were right in groove, and we were able to do some good things. Then we got behind and were pressing a little bit.''

So how did the Patriots slow Tebow (other than by the "our offense is our best defense" strategy)?:

ESPN's Merril Hoge pointed this out Monday: New England hit Tebow repeatedly and on Tebow's only fumble of the game, which came on an option play (he could either keep it or pitch it wide left to RB Lance Ball), DE Mark Anderson had one job: run straight at Tebow and don't worry about anything else. That singular focus put him in the backfield before Tebow could get any closer to the line of scrimmage. It limited not just his time to make a decision, but his options. Tebow should've kept the ball; instead Anderson knocked it lose. Expect the Bills and Chiefs to do this too.


                                                   Eye on Tebow



Quite possibly the best incompletion in tackle football history. (Getty Images)

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our
RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com