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Tag:Washington Redskins
Posted on: November 7, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 9

Posted by Will Brinson



Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 9 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

1. Deja Blue

Stop me if you've heard this before, but on Sunday Eli Manning managed to mount a comeback and lead the Giants to a four-point victory over New England.

Manning's stats are spooky similar to his Super Bowl victory -- in Glendale he was 19/34 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, and on Sunday Manning was 20/39 for 250 yards, two TDs and a pick -- and the result was exactly the same, as the Giants came away with a signature win that contrasted the expectation for Tom Coughlin's team as the second half of the season begins.

Of course, there was also the whole issue of where Eli ranks in terms of quarterbacks, a debate that was fueled by Manning's comments before the season that he ranks in the same class as Brady. Following Sunday's game, Manning did his best to deflect any of that talk.


But here's the thing: despite Manning's frequency of being incredibly inconsistent, he might be on the list of top five quarterbacks in the NFL right now. We've been searching for a few weeks to find the name that would fill the void Philip Rivers left with his performance this year, and Manning might be that name.

He's now sixth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing yards per game, third in quarterback rating, seventh in touchdowns thrown, ninth in completion percentage and has only thrown six interceptions through eight games.

Manning is producing despite a slew of injuries to his defense, his wide receivers, and behind an offensive line that isn't elite by any stretch of the imagination.

Sunday was the 18th fourth-quarter comeback of Eli's career, and the fifth of this season. He could have another one too, if Victor Cruz hadn't bobbled a ball for a game-clinching interception against the Seahawks.

As my colleague Mike Freeman wrote Sunday, Manning simply outplayed Brady -- Eli was masterful against the Patriots on back-to-back touchdown drives in the fourth quarter during a game that went from a low-scoring affair to a thriller in short time, hitting Mario Manningham for a touchdown and then finding Jake Ballard in the end zone with just 19 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

It was all made that much more impressive after Eli's third quarter, no-look pick that gave the Pats all the momentum. For him to bounce back like he did on the road and sandwich a pair of touchdown drives around a would-be Brady comeback proves exactly what Manning said this summer.

He's in the same class as the best in the league, even if he won't tell you that.

2. Reality Bites

Every freaking year, the Jets, like leaves and and Pete Prisco's weekly picks, manage to turn in the right direction, get hot, and make a run. And despite some serious struggles in 2011, after a 27-11 blowout of Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Rex Ryan's crew find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with a critical division game against the Patriots in New York next week on the horizon.

The Jets haven't done much right this year, statistically speaking, and as they struggled through a three-game losing streak it looked like their identity of pounding the rock and stopping the run was starting to dissipate.

They've snuck out two wins this year (against the Cowboys and Chargers), they've beaten a pair of bad teams (the Dolphins and the Jaguars) and they've looked overmatched against better squads (the Patriots and the Ravens).

But on Sunday, the Jets handled the upstart Bills offense, limiting Ryan Fitzpatrick to 191 yards passing, Fred Jackson to 82 yards rushing and forcing three turnovers.

What we saw in Buffalo was the formula that's taken Rex Ryan to two-straight AFC Championship games. If it keeps rolling through next week against New England, there's going to be chatter about a third one.


3. We Want Rex?

I'm starting to feel bad for Redskins fans. Sunday's 19-11 home loss to San Francisco wasn't as embarrassing as Week 8's shutout in Toronto against the Bills, but the 49ers effectively manhandled Washington, and John Beck's 63.8 percent completion percentage is incredibly misleading, considering that he hit running back Roy Helu for 14 of those passes on Sunday.

That's how you end up with the tragedy of Helu breaking Art Monk's single-game reception record, as well as a dinky as all get out 5.2 yards per attempt. Shanahan defended the decision to turn Beck into Captain Checkdown by pointing out that the 49ers zone defense forced Washington to "methodically to move the football down the field and get first downs" which would be a viable excuse except the Redskins crossed midfield only four times the entire game.

No matter, as Beck will continue to get snaps for Washington going forward.

"Yeah, we’re going to stick with John," Shanahan said Sunday.

Of course, the other option is Rex Grossman, so it's not like Shanahan is being outrageously stubborn with his week-to-week decision making. The Redskins are terrible either way, and it's nearly impossible to imagine them finishing somewhere other than dead last in the NFC East.

But the difference might be that Grossman actually gives Washington a chance to win, even if the chance at going out in a flaming ball of train-wreck is amplified exponentially.

4. Raiders < Tebow

This past week, a funny little meme erupted over at another little sports website -- the "X > Tebow" craze was centered around all the attention Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow receives from the media. But perhaps "Raiders < Tebow" or "Carson Palmer < Tebow" might have been more appropriate, given that Tebow helped the Broncos roll their division rivals 38-24.

Or maybe the notion Wilson talked about earlier on Sunday, that Tebow's numbers aren't that different than Eli's to start his career, isn't that far off. Whatever, not many people saw this coming -- although at least one handsome expert did -- and few people would have guessed that Tebow would out-rush the Raiders all by his lonesome.

And he wasn't even the Broncos top rusher, as Willis McGahee's resurgent day, with 163 yards on 20 rushes and two touchdowns (scope his 60-yard scamper here), outpaced Tebow's 117 yards on 12 carries.

Tebow wasn't fantastic as a passer, going just 10 for 21 and and 124 yards, but he did have some bright spots, including a 27-yard laser to Eric Decker in the first quarter. And whether or not you care to believe Tebow will be a good quarterback is irrelevant after Sunday.

He hung in the pocket when he needed to, was more than just effective on the ground, didn't turn the ball over, took some monster shots from the Raiders, got bloodied and still managed to lead the Broncos to a win.

Not to get ahead of ourselves and make with the crazy talk, but Denver's just one game out in the AFC West now, thanks to everyone else in the division losing Sunday. If the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers continue to be consistently inconsistent and the Broncos get an all-around team effort like they did Sunday, well, weirder things have happened, right?

5. It's a Trap

Big props again go out to Tony Sparano, whose Dolphins team simply refuses to give up on a season that's already over -- on Sunday, Miami smacked down Kansas City 31-3 at Arrowhead to pick up their first win of the season.

But how the hell did the Chiefs get trapped by the most obvious trap game we've seen in a while? They were coming off a monster win at home against San Diego on Monday night, the Chargers had to deal with the Packers, the Raiders were playing in the division and KC has Denver next on the schedule; all Kansas City had to do was fend off a winless Dolphins team.

Seems simple, right?

"This was not the kind of performance we expected or wanted," Todd Haley said Sunday. "This was a very dangerous team that was playing a lot better than their record. It's hard to win in the NFL and they just did a better job than us."

That sort of vague talk is typical of an NFL coach coming off a loss. But here's where that sort of loss gets inexplicable: the Chiefs, left for dead by everyone three weeks into the season, stormed back into a tie for first in the AFC West with the win over San Diego. Games against the Dolphins and Broncos set Kansas City up nicely for a legit shot at repeating as division champs.

Instead, they're still in a three-way tie with the Raiders and Bolts, with the Broncos just one game back and looking feisty. After playing Denver, the Chiefs travel to New England and then welcome in the Steelers, while the Chargers get Oakland/Chicago/Denver and the Raiders get San Diego/Minnesota/Chicago.

Things are supremely easier over the next three weeks for whatever team wins between the Bolts and the Raiders next week, and it's hard to wonder how the Chiefs, in a tie for first despite a negative-seventy point differential, managed to blow such an easy shot at having first place all to themselves.

6. That's So Not Raven

For the first time under John Harbaugh, the Ravens swept the Steelers in the regular season and by virtue of their 23-20 win in Pittsburgh, have (again) secured the always-tenuous position of favorite to win the AFC.

There's still plenty of games left for Baltimore, but to sit at 6-2 with a pair of wins against their arch-rival, it's impossible not to peg them for the top spot in a wide-open conference.

As I noted in this space last week, there's reason to be concerned with the Ravens, because Joe Flacco doesn't always bring his A game and that's led to a rollercoaster ride for the Ravens this season, as well as plenty of criticism directed Flacco's way.

"Oh I don't know, I don't care," Flacco said when asked what he expected people to say about him on Monday. "We're excited we won the football game."

He shouldn't care, because Flacco was outstanding on the final drive for Baltimore, a 92-yard march that featured a number of drops from receivers, including a whiff of a touchdown catch from rookie Torrey Smith.

Five plays after the drop, though, Flacco fired right back at Smith, and the Ravens took the lead with eight seconds left. What was confusing about that play -- and the previous two plays before that -- is that the Steelers seemed fine leaving the end zone open for shots from Flacco, even though a field goal wouldn't have helped the Ravens as the clock ticked down.

Dick LeBeau doesn't make many mistakes, and the Steelers were short on defense because of injuries, but he might have made a few at the end of the Ravens game. And thanks to some excellent work by Flacco, it cost the Steelers the status of conference favorite.


7. Nit-Packing

When a team's 8-0, there's not a whole lot to complain about. Especially if that team, as is the case with the Packers, features a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers playing some of the best football we've ever seen.

But I agree wholly with what my colleague Clark Judge wrote on Sunday from San Diego, in pointing out that the Packers secondary has some serious problems. They allowed the Chargers to pile up 38 points in their win Sunday, and they did their part in the 45 points scored by the Packers when they took two of their three interceptions of Philip Rivers to the house.

"We're not going to turn a blind eye to the negatives that went on today," said coach Mike McCarthy. "But we're 8-0. That's the facts. And 5-0 on the road. That's huge. We're excited about that."

McCarthy's got plenty of reason to be excited, and there's still a good shot of the Packers going undefeated this year. (Friend of the blog RJ Bell of PreGame.com estimates a 17 percent shot of the Packers running the table based on the way Vegas looks at their schedule.)

But if Rodgers isn't firing on all cylinders, the Packers are more vulnerable than they were during their Super Bowl run last year. And all it takes in the playoffs is a single loss to erase anything that matters about an unbeaten regular season.

8. Cruise Control

Two teams that won handily on Sunday -- the 49ers and the Texans -- look like the biggest locks to win their division nine weeks into the season.

The Niners are still 7-1. That means they've got more wins in 2011 than the rest of the division combined. There's really no reason to think that anyone can remotely contend in either of these divisions.

San Francisco might not be the most explosive team on offense, and I think we'll see Alex Smith play more like, well, Alex Smith when they match up against the Giants and Ravens during two out of the next three weeks. But they almost look like they're locked in for 12 wins minimum at this point.

Houston's lead isn't as comfortable as San Francisco, but the AFC South is pretty weak too. Indy won't do anything of note this season outside possibly losing every game, the Jaguars can't do anything offensively and Tennessee's freefalling after a hot start.

Given that the Texans have an impressive defense, a passing game that will get Andre Johnson back and two guys who can rumble for 100-plus yards in Ben Tate and Arian Foster. If they can limit the wear and tear on Foster en route to taking that division, they'll be especially dangerous come the playoffs.

9. Down By the Schoolyard

During the 2011 NFL Draft, the Falcons swung a monster deal with the Browns to move all the way up to the No. 6 overall spot and select Julio Jones out of Alabama. We've seen Jones' freaky physical nature several times this year, but he's yet to really make his mark for Atlanta. Until Week 9 anyway, when Jones exploded for 131 yards and two touchdowns on three catches.

Jones is now only the second player in the NFL to catch two touchdown passes of 50 or more yards this season (one was 50 on the dot, the other an 80-yard score), with the other being Pierre Garcon ... of the Colts. Garcon had no such luck on Sunday as the Falcons eviscerated the league's worst team 31-7 in Indy.

So does this justify the draft-day trade for Atlanta? Well no. Of course not, even. But Jones ability to stretch the field -- his first catch, the 50-yarder was just flat-out mind-blowing, as Jones beat triple coverage and made a ridiculous adjustment to come back and snag the ball.

The second play was completely different but exactly what the Falcons love about Jones, as he caught a quick 10-yard slant and ended up in the end zone 80 yards and a couple of joystick moves later.

Granted it was just the Colts, but if Jones stays healthy and the Falcons figure out how to appropriately integrate him into the offense, they're going to become dangerous in the second half of the season.

10. Pretty Good Weekend for LSU

First there was the win against Alabama on Saturday (you may have seen this slugfest on CBS) and then there was alum Patrick Peterson blowing up an opponent for a touchdown return for the second-straight week. The Ravens were able to overcome Peterson's jock-dropping run to the house; the Rams weren't as lucky as Peterson walked them off in overtime to help provide the exclamation point for one of the better endings to a group of games I've seen in a long time.

Peterson's score (the second-longest punt return in NFL history at 99 yards) came, oddly, after he committed the unforgivable sin of catching the ball on his own one-yard line while returning a punt.

"I don't know what made me catch the ball on the one-yard line," Peterson told Peter Brown of Yahoo Sports after the game. "I saw the two players doing a great job on their gunners and saw the interior guys on the 20, so that's the main reason why I took a chance and the rest speaks for itself."

Though he's struggled playing in the secondary some, his production as a kick returner's more than making up for any immediate issues at cornerback. And Peterson's got a shot at entering some rarefied air -- with his return on Sunday, he tied Devin Hester for the most number of punt returns by a rookie since the merger with three.

At his current pace, he'll get another 20 or so looks at returning a punt for a teeter; one more to the house puts him in the record books. Although teams might just want to wise up and give him the Hester treatment by not kicking to him.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... The Colts were held to 10 first downs by the Falcons on Sunday, the fewest total by an NFL team since 2005.
... Roy Helu broke Art Monk's record for most receptions in a game by a Redskins with 14. That's just depressing.
... The Rams became the only team in NFL history to score exactly four points in one quarter.
... Chris Johnson crossed 100 total yards for the second time this season. It's embarrassing that this is impressive.
... The Cowboys are 2-0 when DeMarco Murray runs for 130 or more yards. Go figure right?
... Drew Brees is the first player in NFL history with 3,000 or more passing yards through nine weeks of the season, and the Saints are the first team in NFL history to have a tight end (Jimmy Graham) and running back (Darren Sproles) with 50 or more catches through nine weeks.
... Packers are now just the third Super Bowl champion to start 8-0 the following year, along with the 1990 49ers and 1998 Broncos.
... Seven NFL teams have won the same number of games (or more) than they won in 2010. The Panthers, Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Lions, 49ers and Texans are in that group.

Worth 1,000 Words



GIF O' THE WEEK

Over/under on number of times I watch Drayton Florence scare Mark Sanchez this week is set at 4,532,453. Via Bruce Arthur/CJ Zero.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Tony Sparano: If the Dolphins keep giving it their all, he could survive the season. But he's still done in South Beach.
  • Jack Del Rio: Made it to the bye, and he's got the Colts taking the heat off him. Maybe.
  • Mike Shanahan: Could the Redskins really lose out? Because I think they could.
  • Steve Spagnuolo: Peterson's return drove a dagger in what would have been a much-needed two-game winning streak.
  • Ken Wisenhunt: And his spot's cooler now because of it.
  • Jim Caldwell: I don't care what Irsay says.

Chasing Andrew Luck

Colts (-750): Absolutely the prohibitive favorite to lose out this season. RJ Bell says it's close to 16 percent they go 0-16.
Dolphins (-325): Showing too much spunk to get Stephen Ross the quarterback he wants.
Rams (-225): Easy schedule should keep them out of the top spot and racing for Justin Blackmon.
Jaguars (-225): Week 10! Jaguars! Colts! This is not our CBS game of the week.
Redskins (-125): Bet they regret those early season wins now.
Panthers (-100): The defense is bad enough to lose games, but it's hard to imagine them not sneaking out a few.

MVP Watch

It's all Aaron Rodgers all the way, folks. At 8-0, Rodgers has the Packers looking like the best team in the NFL in large part to the fact that he's playing quarterback at the highest level we've seen in a while. There's honestly no one even close, though a monster game from Matt Forte on Monday could change things a bit.
Posted on: November 5, 2011 8:55 pm
 

Theismann prefers Grossman over Beck

Theismann thinks Grossman gives the Redskins the best chance to win. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Redskins won three of four games to begin the season, all with Rex Grossman under center. The former first-round pick would start just once more, a four-pick effort against the Eagles in Week 6, before head coach Mike Shanahan replaced him with John Beck, who last started an NFL game in 2007.

Predictably, the results have been laughable; Washington's 0-2 with Beck under center and this does not sit well with former 'Skins quarterback and Super Bowl champ Joe Theismann.

“I just don’t agree with the decision to start John Beck,” Theismann said before the Redskins played the Panthers two weeks ago.

And those sentiments haven't changed. Appearing on Mike Wise's radio show Thursday, Theismann shared his thoughts on Beck (via the Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg).

“I think John’s inexperience has shown a little bit. John hasn’t played a lot of football; Rex has played a lot more football and I think is a little bit more comfortable with what they want to try and do.

“Remember, Rex, this is his third year in the system. He’s made some decisions that have hurt him. Some of the interceptions are not his fault and some of them are. That’s all shared. It’s like the 10 sacks last week against Buffalo. I think John has to shoulder responsibility for five of them, and the job up front by the offensive line and tight ends and route runners have to shoulder some responsibility."

It's worth pointing out that 'Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brought Grossman to the Redskins from the Texans where they worked together. That said, we're still talking about Rex Grossman.

And that leads us to this: despite Theismann's arm-waving, there isn't much difference between the two quarterbacks this season.

* Completion percentage: Grossman - 55.8; Beck - 58.8
* TD per pass attempt: Grossman - 3.6%; Beck - 1.2%
* INT per pass attempt: Grossman - 5.5%; Beck - 3.5%
* Passer rating: Grossman - 66.5; Beck - 69.9

According to Football Outiders' quarterback efficiency metric, Grossman ranks 29th behind Sam Bradford and Kyle Orton. Beck ranks 37th, ahead of only Tim Tebow and Blaine Gabbert (among QBs with at least 60 pass attempts through Week 8).


The San Francisco 49ers look to continue their impressive run as they travel to FedEx field to face off against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Who will come out on top? Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan break down this game.

So, yeah, if you're Shanahan, it doesn't really matter who you play. Just close your eyes and pick one because the outcome probably won't change.

Washington hosts San Francisco Sunday and if Beck gets off to another slow start Theismann thinks Rex should replace him (because, really, nothing screams consistency like swapping QBs ever few weeks).

“...If John struggles in this game, I think Mike’s almost obligated to go back to Rex," he told Wise. "You thought that John Beck would bring you some more versatility, you thought that he would bring you a little more [mobility to] the quarterback position, but it hasn’t really worked out that way with all the injuries.”

Ah, yes, the injuries. Cueing Grantland's Bill Barnwell:

"Washington is more susceptible to injuries than the average team because the depth behind their starters is so bad. Their 3-1 start before the bye, no surprise, was as a very healthy football team! Since then, injuries have riddled the offense, which is now down six of its expected starters from before the season."

It's almost as if Vinny Cerrato's ghost continues to haunt Redskins Park.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 11:57 pm
 

Washington's offense is in major disrepair

Kyle Shanahan's offense is not playing well this year (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The fact that the Redskins were shut out by the Bills on Sunday is not the fault of one man. It’s not only the fault of Mike Shanahan, whose team scored zero points for the first time in his career. It’s not only the fault of quarterback John Beck, who threw two interceptions. It’s not only the fault of the offensive line, which allowed Buffalo to sack Beck nine times and helped Ryan Torain to 14 yards on eight carries.

And it’s not only the fault of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But man, something has to change on this squad, and I’m not talking about going from Rex Grossman to Beck or vice versa. Fundamentally, it seems like something needs to change in order for Washington to have any shot at competing for an NFC East crown this year.

The Shanahans talk about wanting balance on offense, and on Sunday, they got it. The running game and the passing game stunk.

But what about Kyle Shanahan? Besides the obvious nepotism in play when his father hired him (though, to be fair, Shanahan was an offensive coordinator in Houston before he went to Washington, and the Texans were a top-five offense at the time) what good is he doing for the squad? The Washington Post’sMike Jones was wondering that exact thing.
The unit hit rock bottom, failing to score a point and producing only 178 yards -- the lowest output since 2007. And as was the case in many of the previous weeks this season, the offense was anything but balanced. Unofficially, Kyle Shanahan called 45 pass plays and nine rushing plays. Another three rushes came when John Beck took off scrambling on broken plays.

The Redskins generated only 26 rushing yards and 208 passing yards, and the team lost 56 yards as a result of nine sacks.

Despite the ineffective attack, (Mike) Shanahan said the offense struggles haven’t come as a result of poor scheme or play selection. (Mike) Shanahan said he is “pretty comfortable” with the offensive playcalling, and said, “I’m heavily involved with the offense.”

But the good news is that the players are defending Kyle Shanahan.

“We believe in this offense,” Torrain said, via Football News Now. “We believe in Kyle. We love Kyle out here working with us. We’re in this together. So, we’ve got to keep fighting and keep pressing.”

The Redskins offense is ranked 20th in the league this year after it finished 18th last season. But as long as Mike Shanahan is “pretty comfortable” with it, I guess all is well in the world. The fanbase, however, might not be.

Which is why we share this from the Washington Post’s Mike Wise, quoting Bobby Bowden: “If you hire your son, you better win all your games. Because he’s usually the first to get criticized. If you lose, people want to know why. They goin’ to think up a reason. And if they can’t think up a reason, they gonna go after your daggum’ son.”

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: November 1, 2011 11:54 am
 

Coach Killers, Week 8, Rob Ryan silenced

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. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Rob Ryan, Dallas defensive coordinator

Just a thought, but maybe Ryan should stop talking. Yes, we know, he's a maverick, he speaks his mind, he wears his heart on his sleeve -- and our favorite: he knows how to motivate his players.

But here's the thing: he's twice flapped his gums this season … and the Cowboys promptly loss. In Week 4, Ryan made some silly comments about the Lions' Calvin Johnson, then got the bright idea not to double-team Johnson on a decisive goal-line play. Predictably, Matthew Stafford threw a jump-ball to Megatron in the end zone. Touchdown. Game over.

It might be in Ryan's best interest to zip it. (Getty Images)
Ryan's remarks leading up to Sunday night's Eagles' game are well documented. So you'd expect that Dallas would show up if for no other reason than to defend their defensive coordinator's honor.

Nope, they couldn't even be bothered to do that. Instead, they were steamrolled by an Eagles team that had lost four of their first six games.  Philly rushed for 239 yards (including LeSean McCoy's 185) and Dallas watched them do it. Good news, though: Ryan takes responsibility for the D's no-show performance.

"The whole thing is I got outcoached by [Andy] Reid and their staff," he said late Sunday night. "I mean, it's ridiculous. I never gave our guys a chance. The whole [expletive] thing was on me. If I gave them any extra motivation, hell, I certainly never backed it up. I gave our guys a lousy plan. We had no chance, and it's all on me."

That's what you want to hear from an assistant coach who views discretion the same way he looks at a salad.

"Andy Reid was reading my mail," Ryan continued. "He kicked my ass. I've just got to go back and work harder. I've got to be smarter than this. That's all it comes down to. …

"Hell, if I don't say anything, then I don't really believe," Ryan said. "Hopefully, it will be the last time it ever happens. But whatever happened, it was all my fault."

It wasn't entirely Ryan's fault. He wasn't out there missing tackles and blowing assignments, but he makes himself an inviting target when he chooses bluster for silence. Rob: some free advice

Arizona offense, defense

The Cardinals are bad and they're showing no signs of getting better. It's one thing to have a poor outing -- it happens to every team every season -- but it's something else entirely to drop $63 million on a franchise quarterback who proves to be something (much, much, much) less than that. And worse: surrounding said quarterback with no offensive line to speak of and a defense that is equally suspect against the run and the pass.

So when the Cards went up 21 points in Baltimore -- thanks largely to their defense -- there was still an impending sense of doom because … well, these are the Cards. There is no lead they can't squander and that proved to be the case against the Ravens. So who was to blame? Where to start…

The secondary was three times called for pass interference, twice in the end zone, and none of the Cards' cornerbacks could stop Anquan Boldin in the second half. The offensive line has a lot to do with Kevin Kolb's erratic play, particularly tackle Levi Brown. You know, the guy Arizona selected with the fifth-overall pick in the 2007 draft ahead of guys like Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis. And unless the Cards can magically find a No. 2 receiver, Larry Fitzgerald is in for a long, frustrating season.

"I'm not stunned," Cardinals linebacker Paris Lenon said after the Ravens outscored them 24-3 in the second half. "It wasn't like they made a miraculous Hail Mary catch. They adjusted their game plan, and they executed, and we have to get better at finishing."

It's diconcerting that Lenon seemed unsurprised by the chain of events that led to the loss. Then again, he's seen the Cards play. Silver lining: head coach Ken Whisenhunt hasn't heard any jeers from disgruntled fans when he ventures out in public.

"Actually … hearing more positive things," he said. "I know there is a group that's very dissatisfied but I still get a lot of positive comments as well."

So there's that. Of course, if things doesn't change, Whisenhunt won't have to worry about what fans think.

New England secondary

It's wholly unfair to blame Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and the two other guys only recognizable to their close family and friends who were thrust into the Pats' secondary Sunday against the Steelers (Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams were their given names). It's almost as if head coach Bill Belichick was more interested in sending the message that no one player is bigger than the team … to spite his team.

Yes, the D stinks, but that's all on Belichick.  (Getty Images)
Last Friday, New England released their most productive cornerback, Leigh Bodden, reportedly because Bodden was unhappy as the team's No. 3 corner. A day later, the team placed rookie CB Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve. That means the Pats' already bottom-of-the-barrel pass defense was now worse. And the Steelers' offense, taking a page from New England's playbook, featured short and intermediate passes for 50 of their 80 snaps and the Pats were helpless to stop them. That led to one long Pittsburgh drive after another, a lopsided time-of-possession differential (40 minutes to 20 minutes), and ultimately, a convincing New England loss.

"You watch that tape and it’s nothing we want to represent us as a defense," Patriots safety James Ihedigbo said. "As a team, we watched that, and everyone had that look on their face, like, 'That isn’t us.' What we put on tape isn’t us. We’ll correct that, and come out next week ready to show how the New England Patriots play defense."

We don't doubt that the Patriots players work hard and are well coached. The problem: Belichick, the general manager, isn't nearly as good at his job as Belichick, the head coach.

Pats fan and Football Outsiders head honcho Aaron Schatz wrote about this Monday.

"The Pats haven't exactly done much with the defensive players they have drafted early. This is the biggest problem with this team. The late-season defensive improvement that was supposed to carry over from last year has disappeared instead, or even gone backwards. The idea was "young talent, will improve." Instead it's "young talent, barely playing." So many of these players never developed -- Terrence Wheatley is gone, Darius Butler is gone, Jonathan Wilhite is gone, Jermaine Cunningham is barely playing, Ron Brace hasn't played much and is still on PUP ... Belichick's defensive drafting has just been terrible the last couple years. Even Devin McCourty is sophomore slumping."

That doesn't mean the Patriots still aren't one of the NFL's best teams, or that they won't be in the playoffs, or that they won't get hot down the stretch. A decade's worth of games suggests those are all distinct possibilities. It's just that some of the shine is off the "In Belichick We Trust" meme after a series of poor drafts have left New England's defense in shambles.

"You had a makeshift secondary back there [against the Steelers] that didn't look like it knew what it was doing," ESPN analyst and former Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi said Monday. "If they continue to shuffle their starting lineup in the defensive backfield, expect this type of performance."

Washington offense, defense

If nothing else, the Redskins were consistent against the Bills Sunday. Consistently awful, but still. Washington was outplayed and outcoached in every phase and it was reflected in the 23-0 shellacking.

“That’s as bad as I’ve been involved with from an offensive side as an assistant or a head coach,” head coach Mike Shanahan said after the loss. “... To score no points, I don’t think I’ve ever had that since I’ve been a coach — assistant or head coach, college or professionally. So it’s pretty humbling to take that.”

Week 8 Recap
In recent weeks on the podcast, we've talked about how the Skins, despite the fast start, are destined for the NFC East basement. Yes, if the defense plays well, Washington will be in most games. But anyone who thinks that any combination of Rex Grossman and John Beck can lead an NFL team to the playoffs is either delusional or a horrible judge of character. Shanahan's track record suggests it's the former, but his detractors are happy to point out that his two Super Bowls came with John Elway under center in Denver.

Whatever, John Elway ain't walkin' through that door (he's got his own problems). And Sunday in Toronto, the Bills sacked John Beck nine times (you knew this was coming). When asked to explain what happened, Beck was at a loss.

“This is a tricky one to try to give answers for right now, because I kind of don’t have any answers right now,” he said. “I’m trying to figure that out myself.”

The reshuffling along Washington's offensive line obviously has a lot to do with it. And while that's a legitimate excuse, the 'Skins aren't the only team in the league affected by injuries and inconsistent play. The difference between playoff teams and also-rans is less about big-name players as it is about the depth behind them.

Owner Dan Snyder spent his first decade in Washington treating the Redskins like a glorified game of Madden. Plenty of stars and absolutely no depth behind them, and year after year, they'd miss the playoffs by miles. Consolation prize: they were annually crowned the offseason Super Bowl champs.

The takeaway: this is now Shanahan's mess. He's in his second season, he traded for -- and then traded -- Donovan McNabb, he got rid of Albert Haynesworth, and he made the decision to go with Grossman and Beck. But it's not just the offense. The defense stunk, too.

Bills' QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was clinical, completing 21 of 27 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Fred Jackson rushed for 120 yards and had another 74 yards receiving.

“Disappointment, shock, sadness — little bit of everything,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said afterward. “I don’t know what happened out there on that field. Definitely didn’t look like us. They had our jerseys on, but I don’t know.”

Hey, it's Halloween -- maybe they were zombies. Because the 'Skins sure looked like the walking dead Sunday. They're just going to have to find another non-holiday-related excuse the next time it happens.

Denver defense

It would be easy to just type "Tim Tebow" and move on. But the guy has taken more of a beating after Denver's 45-10 loss than he did at any point during the game. And the Lions sacked him six times, harassed him all day, forced fumbles, and added a pick-six for good measure.

But as bad as Tebow was -- and there's no disputing that he was abysmal -- Denver's defense might have been worse. Detroit's first touchdown of the game came on a blown coverage the likes of which has never been seen.


Titus Young redefines what it means to be open.

Titus Young was so wide open on that play that his biggest issues was having too much time to think about catching the pass.

"This week felt more like a reality check," cornerback Andre Goodman said. "Facing a good Detroit Lions team, we could gauge where we are, and right now, we're not a very good team."

Safety Brian Dawkins admitted that miscommunication with Goodman led to Young not having a defender within 30 yards of him.

It was straight downhill from there. Detroit's offense had three more scoring drives in the first half, then hit cruise control in the second half while the defense took care of the rest.

"Our record speaks for itself. I'm not trying to be negative about my team, I'm just speaking the facts," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "If we don't win, and we keep getting blown out, we're not a good football team."

Champ, we got some bad news for you.

"Whatever we think we're doing, we have to do it 100 times better," Elvis Dumervil added.

Better make it 1000 times better. Just to be safe.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 5:12 pm
 

Tashard Choice claimed off waivers by Redskins

Posted by Will Brinson

On Saturday, the Cowboys made the somewhat surprising decision to waive running back Tashard Choice, just a little over 24 hours before playing the Eagles on Sunday night. On Monday, the Washington Redskins claimed Choice off of waivers.

That the Redskins, at 3-4, were able to claim Choice, as first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, means a number of other teams, including Philadelphia, passed on the former Georgia Tech star.

But Washington, shut out Sunday against Buffalo in Toronto, has a clear-cut need for offensive help, and with Tim Hightower out for the year, a clear need at running back. Roy Helu and Ryan Torain combined for 24 rushing yards on 11 carries against the Bills Sunday.

Choice was waived/injured so he's not guaranteed to end up even getting playing time with the 'Skins. He's got a hamstring problem and a shoulder problem and, well, it's entirely possible he won't even pass his physical at his point in time.

But Washington, in a freefall from first place in the NFC East, is so beat-up on offense that they probably don't care.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 31, 2011 4:13 am
Edited on: October 31, 2011 4:29 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 8

Posted by Will Brinson



Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 8 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.



1. Denver Gets Tebowned
The past week was full of far too much talk about Tim Tebow, leader of men, winner of games and erstwhile quarterback-at-large. The Broncos quarterback even got his own meme -- Tebowing. And call me crazy, but I don't think any of this attention and chatter and one-knee posing sat to well with the Detroit Lions, who rolled into Mile High Stadium on Sunday and delivered a 45-10 beatdown on the Flying Tebows.

But it wasn't enough for Detroit, coming off two-straight losses with their playoff-contender status potentially wobbling, to simply sack Tebow seven times and limit him to 172 passing yards and 63 rushing yards, most of which was well after the Lions victory was in hand.

No, they made things personal, mocking Tebow's pose several times through the course of the game. First there was Stephen Tulloch Tebowing directly behind Tebow immediately after sacking Tebow.



It was a marvelous moment of meme-worthy irony that would make Xzibit proud. But it didn't end there. Tight end Tony Scheffler caught a pass from Matthew Stafford and busted out Tebow's "celebration" too.

Of course, the Lions aren't saying they were coming after Tebow -- after the game Tulloch said that "it's just fun, no disrespect" meant with his celebration, and that he even told Tebow as much. Tulloch had an even better point, though, when he was asked about all the hype that surrounds the former Florida Gator.

"It’s not his fault; it’s the media that gives him that hype," Tulloch said.

This is true, and it's really the most important thing to mention when talking about Tebow right now, because the debate as to whether or not he's good isn't a debate -- it's one-sided argument with some people using intangible and inconsequential analysis to try and support Tebow under center.

Tebow's failure to be a good quarterback isn't on him. I mean, ultimately, it is him that decides whether or not he succeeds, of course. But the only reason people are up in arms about his shortcomings as a quarterback is that too much is made out of whether not he can be a quarterback.

We saw this same thing happen with Cam Newton, who was the talk of every single NFL conversation during an offseason that featured furious debate about whether or not he could succeed. Now he's succeeding and Cam -- in terms of loud, screaming media scrutiny -- is on the backburner.

Yes, that's right. Cam's success made him less of a focus for the media. There's no one forcing themselves to doubt his ego and character in the face of folks who trump his athleticism and win-loss record. In short, it's the complete opposite of Tebow, who's continued lack of statistical -- if not empirical -- success still manages to generate a substantial amount of debate in the media.

Which is pretty unfortunate for him.

2. Steeling the AFC
For the first few weeks of the season, a lot was made of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their crumbling dynasty and "old" defense. As it turns out, Phil Simms was spot-on when he told Warren Sapp that his comments were a "tremendous over reaction." And if Sapp didn't believe Simms in Week 2, he should certainly believe him after Pittsburgh shredded New England 25-17.

The score doesn't tell the full story of this game, either, because the Steelers were certainly more than eight points better than the Patriots on Sunday. They held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game (their time of possession, 39:22, dwarfed the Patriots 20:38) and out-Pats-ed the Pats, as Ben Roethlisberger utilized all of his available options and a ball-control passing attack to keep the rock out of Tom Brady's hands.

Pittsburgh was dominant on defense too, even if the Steelers looked a little less devastating when LaMarr Woodley left with a hamstring injury that could keep him out against the Ravens on Sunday night in Week 9. Brady was fairly efficient, completing 24 of his 35 passes, but he only managed 198 yards, good for 8.25 yards per completion, more than five yards off his season average of 13.5.

So who's the best team in the AFC now? Well, it's not the Ravens at the moment. Even with Brady under center it's hard to give the Pats the nod with their secondary so depleted. And I'm not quite ready to shove all my chips in the center of Chan Gailey's table. Pittsburgh, though, if they can stay healthy on defense, showed Sunday exactly why they're probably the best bet to repeat their success in 2010.

3. Nine Times? Nine Times
It's pretty hard to believe that since Mike Shanahan became offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1985, he was never shut out by an opposing defense until October of 2011 against Buffalo ... in Toronto. (Can you imagine if he went back in time and told 1985 Mike Shanahan that? I'd definitely pay upwards of $5,000 for a YouTube of 85 Shanny's reaction.)

Then again, it's unfathomable that the Redskins head coach would come into the 2011 season expecting the duo of John Beck and Rex Grossman to lead Washington to the promised land. Because it's not happening. We talked about it last week and the story's still the same -- Beck and Grossman aren't going to get it done, but there's not a whole lot Washington can do to change that right now.

As Pete Prisco wrote Sunday from Toronto, the Bills no-name roster continuing to impress with All-Pro performances is the real story. But, really, again, how on Earth did Shanahan think that he'd end up winning this year with Grossman and Beck? And how can anyone be optimistic about Beck after he's thrown up stinkbombs against the Panthers and Bills who just aren't that good on defense?

Buffalo sacked him nine times on Sunday, and as Ed Rooney will tell you, that's too many.

I follow a lot of Redskins fans on Twitter (and also a lot of Bears fans, but I didn't realize that until they started getting all Fake Jay Cutler on me during the Panthers game), and it was borderline depressing to follow the game through that virtual medium on Sunday.

It's pretty clear that the quarterback situation is the direct result of this year's hopelessness amongst the D.C. faithful -- and can you blame them? When the option of benching your best quarterback is technically benching your backup so you can go back to starting Rex Grossman, you have a serious problem on your hands.

Unfortunately for Shanahan, neither the Colts or the Dolphins are going to trade him that top-overall pick. So here's hoping Matt Barkley really is good.

4. All Hyped Up
All season long, everyone's based the Eagles for their "Dream Team" nickname that was entirely inapplicable. So it seems only fair, after watching Philadelphia dismember Dallas 34-7 on Sunday night, to give credit where credit's due.

For starters, kudos to Andy Reid for clearly outcoaching Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan and running his record after a bye week to a ridiculous 13-0. Props to Michael Vick, who looked comfortable all night long en route to an incredibly efficient 21/28, 279 passing yard night. It probably didn't hurt him much that LeSean McCoy piled up 185 yards on 30 carries with a pair of touchdowns.

Of course, it probably didn't hurt him to get left tackle Jason Peters back on the field. Or for Philly to have an early 14-point lead, forcing Dallas to chase Vick and giving McCoy a ridiculous amount of space to get his joystick-like moves on.

This is precisely what the Eagles imagined for their team when the season began -- an athletic, big-play offense that's capable of exploding to the end zone at any moment and a defense that eliminates the opponent's passing game.

Considering that 68 of Reid's career wins (and one tie!) have come after Halloween over the course of his career, it's not crazy to think that the Eagles -- at 3-4 and now tied for both second and last place in the NFC East -- could end up winning the division.

5. Rams Over Saints
For the Rams sake, it seems like it might be smart to trot Tony LaRussa and the World Series champion Cardinals out to every home game.

But it was the Cards appearance, not LaRussa's wardrobe, at the Edward Jones Dome that inspired the Rams to rise up and knock off the Saints in a 31-21 shocker on Sunday.

"I think the Cardinals being here was great for the city," running back Steven Jackson said. "Whoever showed up today, regardless if the place was empty, today was the day.

"We came out with a mindset we were going to fight."

Because of the particular circumstances leading up to this game -- Sam Bradford out, Saints coming a 62-point outing, Rams being terrible, Al Harris being older than Rafael Furcal (no, really, it's true) -- there was zero reason to think St. Louis could cover the two-touchdown spread, much less win.

But Jackson was inspired, piling up 159 yards on 25 bruising carries. And the Rams defense was even better, limiting Brees from the start and sacking him six times. (Although I wouldn't be opposed to crediting them with just five sacks since Chris Long's third sack probably qualifies more as something you'd see in the WWE ring.)

There's no reason to get carried away and expect the Rams to start making a run in the NFC West, but take a look at their schedule. They've played some really tough teams to get to 1-6 and the schedule gets really, really, really easy from here on out, matchups against San Francisco, Cincy and Pittsburgh notwithstanding.

Or they could stop playing football and just sell tickets to see LaRussa try on Sam Bradford jerseys. I'd be fine with that too.

6. Bengals emerge
Ryan Wilson and I said before the season that the Bengals, by virtue of a puff-pastry-filled early-season schedule, could start out hot and win a few more games than anyone expected. They've done just that after a dominant 34-12 win in Seattle on Sunday moved them to 5-2.

Everyone is surprised ... except the Bengals. Naturally.

"To the people on the outside, they may be surprised and what not," cornerback Leon Hall said. "Every season we come in expecting to win. Just hopefully, we've got some big games coming up, so we execute in those games."

Hall's speaking to the widely-held belief that the Bengals will fade with  Baltimore and Pittsburgh showing up on the sked twice each in the second half of the season. That might be presumptuous, though, because this Bengals team is quietly becoming legit.

Beating the Seahawks doesn't exactly make them the Super Bowl favorites or anything, but their success is coming with a pretty simple formula that's been forgotten in this day of high-scoring NFL games: defense.

Lest you forget, the Jets made the AFC Championship game two years ago with a rookie quarterback, a stout running game and the best defense in the NFL. The Bengals aren't as good on the ground as the Jets (or even close really) and not as good on defense, but Andy Dalton's better than Mark Sanchez and A.J. Green's better than any of the receiving options the Jets had then.

Cincinnati's top-five defense will get a couple bigger tests soon in the form of the Steelers, the Ravens and a game against the Texans, but the Bengals also get the Titans, the Browns, the Rams and the Cardinals the rest of the way home.

Which means there's actually a decent chance they get to double-digit victories and one of the more shocking playoff berths we've seen in a while.

7. Ponder Wins the Weinke Bowl
The differences in Cam Newton and Christian Ponder are pretty obvious right? Their physical stature, their style of play, their respective hype coming out of college, their expectations once they were drafted ... all very different.

But they have one common thread -- they were both tutored by Chris Weinke, former Florida State and Carolina Panthers quarterback.

Ponder won their first matchup 24-21, thanks to a 31-yard honk by Olindo Mare at the end of regulation field goal that was setup by a penalty-flag honk on a holding call against Steve Smith after Cam Newton scrambled for a first down.

"I got a few texts saying already in the HD it didn't look too bad," Smith said of the official's call. "For a 70-year-old man gimping down the field, I guess that's what he saw."

Hilarious. And also probably a statement that will get Smith some kind of fine. From my vantage point, it was surprising, but not entirely unjustifiable to nail Smith with the yellow flag on the play. It shouldn't have mattered though, because as Newton pointed out after the game, the Panthers didn't do enough earlier in the game to take advantage of a game they should have won.

Once again, the problem really became that they can't stop anyone who resembles a physical running back. Adrian Peterson, who led the Vikings with 86 rushing yards and 76 receiving yards, is the definition of a physical running back, and he had his way with the Panthers defense, who let the Vikings convert seven of their 14 first downs (the Panthers came into the game ranking 29th in the NFL, allowing opponents to convert 45.5 percent of their third downs).

And when you can't stop the other team's offense and your own offense stalls out for several consecutive drives in the second half, it makes winning games hard. Newton was brilliant again, and even though the Panthers are losing, fans aren't exactly getting upset at it. The future is bright.

It's bright in Minnesota too, and it kind of makes you wonder what took Leslie Frazier so long to hand Ponder the reigns. Maybe he should have called Weinke and gotten his opinion first.

8. Fast Learners
Speaking of common threads, how about six of the top seven players in the 2011 NFL Draft coming from the SEC and making an immediate impact on the NFL as rookies?

Newton (Auburn), Marcel Dareus (Alabama), A.J. Green (Georgia), Patrick Peterson (LSU) and Julio Jones (Alabama) all hail from college football's best conference and all have put a serious footprint on the league through eight weeks. Hell, on Sunday, Newton threw three touchdowns, Dareus had 2.5 sacks, Green caught a(nother) touchdown, and Peterson returned a(nother) punt 82 yards.

To take it a step further, and move away from the SEC, it looks like this year's first-round rookies are going to be a pretty damn good crop. Ponder's clearly an upgrade for Minnesota, Ryan Kerrigan's been tremendous in Washington, Robert Quinn's coming on strong for St. Louis, J.J. Watt's a day-one starter for Houston, Aldon Smith is wrecking shop for San Francisco ... and so on and so forth.

It's early -- like eight weeks early -- but it's hard to find a slam-dunk bust in the top 10 of the draft like we've seen seen the past few years. We'll know more by season's end, but the point being is that it's an incredibly impressive performance by this rookie class on such short notice.

Or maybe the lesson is to just avoid drafting for need and grab anyone who played in the SEC.

9. Needing a New Nickname
Chris Johnson is often called "CJ2K" as an homage to his 2,006 yards rushing in 2009. His performance in 2011, coming off a contract dispute, is an insult to the letter K. And perhaps the number 2.

Certainly, it's insulting to Titans fans who had to watch him grind out 34 yards on 14 carries in Tennessee's 27-10 win over Indy Sunday.

Oh and speaking of insults, what's worse for Johnson? That Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Johnson reminds him of Hassy's old Seattle teammate Shaun Alexander, or that Mike Munchak is having him split carries with Javon Ringer?

"The running game hasn't been where we wanted it to be all year, so I guess they just trying new things," Johnson said.

I mean, does this guy care? Because it always seemed like he might care -- there are certain guys in sports that seem as if once they get paid, they're going to reduce the amount of effort they put forth. We saw this with Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins; everyone except Dan Snyder saw his lack of effort coming.

But Johnson always seemed motivated by people who questioned his ability to be a full-time NFL running back. Maybe he's still motivated and just isn't in game shape yet, but his refusal to take accountability for a holdout followed by a monster contract followed by what is easily the worst season by a running back in the NFL this year is disappointing to say the least.

10. Upset Sunday Gets Upset
The Rams taking down the Saints is obviously a big deal. Perhaps the biggest, considering the Rams were two-touchdown dogs at home. But the early goings of Sunday's action had a lot of potential for upsets, with the Ravens losing big to the Cardinals and the Giants struggling against the winless Dolphins.

Both New York and Baltimore came back to win, but the inconsistency they've both shown against mediocre teams this year is terrifying for their fans. The Ravens looked like they might lose to the Cardinal and Jaguars in less than seven days and the Giants aren't that far removed from getting beat by the Seahawks in their home stadium.

And there's one thing they have in common: inconsistent quarterback play.

Both Joe Flacco and Eli Manning are elite-level talents with big arms. Both guys are capable of great performances. But both guys are equally capable of shooting their teams out of games.

Ken Wisenhunt and Tony Sparano deserve credit for getting their undermanned squads ready to play. Particularly Sparano, since I refuse to believe that this scene didn't unfold in the Dolphins locker room before the game Sunday:



(Yeah that's right, I'm only one Teen Wolf reference away from the trifecta.)

Anyway, the point is that Manning and Flacco scare me. As Clark Judge noted, Manning's been great at times this year, but he's absolutely capable of doing what he did against the Seahawks and tossing three picks. Flacco's more concerning, of course, because he's shown zero consistency this season, and has tended to play down to the opposition (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Arizona are all good examples).

The upside of being inconsistent and talented, though, is that you can make big throws. And both guys did that late on Sunday to help their team win. They just need to show up with more regularity if they expect either squad to make it a deep run this year.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Reggie Bush recorded his second career 100-yard rushing game Sunday. Both of them came against the Giants.
... LeSean McCoy is now the only NFL player to score a touchdown in every game this season.
... Teams coming off a bye this week were 5-1. So much for that theory about being at a disadvantage.
... The Bills are the eighth team in NFL history to start a season 4-0 at home a year after starting the season 0-4 at home.
... Calvin Johnson joins Randy Moss (2007, Pats) as the only players since 1970 to record 11 touchdown catches in their first eight games of the season.
... Five times a team's come back from 20 points to win this year -- most in NFL history.
... Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan are the only quarterbacks with five 250-yard passing games in their rookie season.
... Drew Brees somehow kept his TD streak alive and now has a touchdown pass in 35 consecutive games. Johnny Unitas has the record at 47.
... Patrick Peterson joined Devin Hester and Craig Yeast as the only rookies with more than one 80+ yard return touchdown in a season

Worth 1,000 Words



Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Isane of the Week
"No one is "Tanking the season"...that's absurd conspiracy theory mumblings...Suck4Luck doesn't exist n Indy"

Suck for Luck counts as a pop-culture reference right? Whatever, at this point Colts fans want the team to finish dead last right?

GIF O' THE WEEK
I could watch fat men lateraling the football for hours.



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Tony Sparano -- Great effort from Miami, but they came up short. Again.
  • Ken Wisenhunt -- Tough to see that comeback by the Ravens and not get discouraged.
  • Norv Turner -- Unless he wins on Monday.
  • Mike Shanahan -- That 4-12 thing looks more realistic than it did last week doesn't it?
  • Jim Caldwell -- Charley Casserly said he's locked but I dunno.
Chasing Andrew Luck
Colts (-600): They're clearly the NFL's worst team in 2011 ...
Dolphins (-500): But they're in a harder division.
Cardinals (-300): Season. Unraveling.
Rams (-250): Hope!

MVP Watch
Aaron Rodgers somehow picked up some more space on his bye week -- Tom Brady's poor performance separates the Packers quarterback even further. Once again, though, we need to mention Fred Jackson as a viable MVP candidate (though he won't get votes). LeSean McCoy could get some run if the Eagles really get hot.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:39 am
 

Keep an Eye On: Week 8's finer points of analysis

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Giants vs. Dolphins
One of the more confounding issues with the Dolphins this season has been the decline of their pass-rush. After recording 39 sacks in 2010 (tied for 10th best in the NFL) Miami entered last week’s game against Denver with just eight. They wound up recording seven sacks in the game, but that was in part because of Tim Tebow’s inability to make quick reads or get the ball out.

The Giants’ reshuffled offensive line has been hit or miss in pass protection thus far (more “hit” than “miss”). At Arizona in Week 4, their brilliant protection practically won the game. But the next week it waffled against Seattle’s underrated D-line (Chris Clemons rather enjoyed facing left tackle Will Beatty).

The Dolphins have one of the game’s best all-around edge-rushers in Cameron Wake, the reigning AFC sack leader. His leverage and tenacity give him strength that’s much better than his size indicates. Wake has been oddly quiet in non-two minute situations this season, though he abused Denver’s somewhat lumbering right tackle, Orlando Franklin, last week.

Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie is more polished than Franklin but has slower feet. He’ll need help. On the other side, Miami may have an under-the-radar pass-rushing talent in Jared Odrick, who somewhat resembles a thicker Jason Taylor.

Ravens vs. Cardinals
The Ravens offense owes everyone a good performance after ruining one of our 17 precious Monday night games. They should be able to get on track against a Cardinals defense that has struggled to generate a consistent pass-rush despite aggressive blitzes from new coordinator Ray Horton.

The intrigue is on the other side of the ball. Roughly two months after the trade and $20-million-plus investment in Kevin Kolb, some Cardinal fans are actually wondering if the 27-year-old quarterback should be benched. That’s the kind of ridiculous thinking that those who don’t actually contribute any skin in the game can get away with. Ken Whisenhunt knows that he’d never get another coaching job if he were to bench Kolb for John Skelton.

Kolb hasn’t been great, but he’s hardly the problem. Arizona’s “non-Fitzgerald” receivers have not been able to get open. General manager Rod Graves may deserve some heat for letting Steve Breaston get away this past offseason, though Graves’ logic was understandable at the time. Third-round rookie Andre Roberts showed intriguing potential as a speedy slasher last season.

Roberts looked like a future starter, and he cost a fraction of what Breaston would have cost. So Graves banked on him. Roberts has responded by failing to reach 40 yards receiving in every game this season. The good-looking prospect prior to Roberts, Early Doucet, has been equally ineffective.

Teams can sometimes get away with having only one quality wide receiver, but not if their offensive tackles stink. And there’s no denying that Levi Brown and Brandon Keith – two heavy-footed lumberers with inconsistent technique – stink.

So far Kolb has been awful when throwing off-balance. It’s doubtful he’ll get to be on balance much against a staunch Ravens D.

Bills vs. Redskins
Don’t pick the Redskins this week. It’s a matter of principle, if nothing else. No team should have expectations placed on it after making a change at quarterback and losing its top wide receiver, running back, tight end, left tackle and left guard in a two-week span. This will look like a preseason version of the Redskins. How will they cope?

It helps that Mike Shanahan’s system runs more fluidly with John Beck than it does with Rex Grossman. Beck is smoother reading the field and much better at play-action rollouts and bootlegs than Grossman. Accuracy is a bit of a concern, however. As for the other injuries and replacement ...

RB Tim Hightower (knee – out for season) had found his niche in this zone-run scheme, but he’ll be missed most in the passing game. Ryan Torain is a decent upright power-runner with a spring in his step, but he can’t stick pass-rushers the way Hightower could.

WR Santana Moss (hand – out 5-7 weeks) was Washington’s only creator on offense. He could generate his own space and turn an underneath catch into a 60-yard scamper. Either Niles Paul or Anthony Armstrong will replace him. Both have flashed at times, but neither is completely trustworthy. And, unlike with Moss, defenses won’t have to even ponder the possibility of double coverage.

TE Chris Cooley (finger, knee – out for season) was trending down and losing his role to Fred Davis prior to get hurting. Davis can fill Cooley’s receiving shoes. But the Redskins are now down a good in-line blocker in the run game. With Cooley and Davis, Washington had the benefit of balancing its formation with a viable pass-catching tight end on each side. This often compelled defenses to stay in basic front seven looks. New backup tight end Logan Paulsen won’t command that kind of respect.

LT Trent Williams (high ankle sprain – out 0-4 weeks) has missed most of the last two games. Pretty easy to identify the impact of his absence: backup Sean Locklear is experienced but much slower than Williams all-around.

LG Kory Lichtensteiger (knee – out for season) was one of the unheralded heroes for this team down the stretch last year and prior to going down in Week 6. Center Will Montgomery moved one spot to the left to fill Lichtensteiger’s void. Montgomery is interchangeable that way, but his replacement in the middle, Erik Cook, a seventh-round pick in ’10, was a noticeable downgrade coming off the bench. He had issues snapping the ball and was overwhelmed by defensive tackle Mike Peterson on a few plays. The Redskins can only hope those were Cook’s jitters working themselves out.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:15 pm
 

Tim Hightower is lost for season with ACL tear

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Although losing to the Panthers was a big-time bummer for the Redskins on Sunday, the news got much worse on Monday.

We wrote Sunday night that the Redskins medical team believed running back Tim Hightower tore his ACL on Sunday, and Monday afternoon, coach Mike Shanahan confirmed the tear and that Hightower was lost for the season.

Without Hightower, who rushed for 321 yards and a touchdown on 84 carries this year, the Redskins now will rely on Ryan Torain and Roy Helu to take the bulk of the rushing attempts.

Shanahan also said receiver Santana Moss would miss five to seven weeks after undergoing surgery on his broken hand, and he said Rex Grossman, who's been stricken with pneumonia, will stay in the hospital for the next 48 hours.

"Our goal is to get John Beck's supporting cast playing at a very high level,” Shanahan said.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to 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