Tag:Green Bay Packers
Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:36 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
We’re halfway through the season, and since so few of my preseason predictions will come true (seriously?!? The Rams to win the NFC West? Chris Johnson as the comeback player?), I’ve decided to give it another go in hopes that I don’t have to bring my prediction machine into the shop for a tune-up.
Aside from our new, guaranteed to be true picks (you can also check out our CBS expert chat from Wednesday in that link), I’m going out on a limb with this Top Ten with a Twist and giving you 10 predictions that I know in my heart of hearts WILL happen the rest of the season.
Because the great thing about working for a national website, as opposed to a newspaper that gets filed into the recycling bin as soon as you’re done reading it, is that there’s no way anybody will ever know if your predictions turn out to be crap. Oh, wait …
10. The Bills will fall apart: One of the league’s most surprising teams -- though Fred Jackson says you shouldn’t have been THAT surprised by it -- played perhaps its worst game of the season against the wrong opponent last week, losing to the Jets at home and falling into a tie for first place in the AFC East with the Jets and Patriots. Buffalo has to play both teams once more, and though Buffalo should finish with a winning record, that won’t be enough to finish ahead of New England and New York and make the playoffs.
9. The Lions won’t: Detroit’s success hasn’t been nearly as surprising as Buffalo’s, but the fact Detroit is 6-2 through the first half of the season isn’t something we’re used to seeing. But the Lions are legitimately a playoff team. They’re third in the league in points scored -- that can happen when your former No. 1 pick stays healthy (so far) and your top-notch wide receiver scores touchdowns by the bushel. The Lions, even though Ndamukong Suh hasn’t been at his best, still maintain a top-10 defense. Though the second-half schedule is tough, Detroit has a good chance of knocking off Green Bay (the two teams play twice), and if the Lions can stay ahead of the Bears, one wild card spot will be waiting for them.
8. New England will right the ship: The Patriots, despite losing their past two games and looking bad in the process, should still make the playoffs. So, from that aspect, they’ll be good enough. Just not as good as they usually are. That’s because their defense is a major problem (Albert Haynesworth, you’ll recall, was on the roster for eight weeks), and it’s unclear how New England will fix it. But the offense is good enough to survive the second half of their schedule. They won’t get a first-round bye, and they probably won’t survive wild card weekend. So, the season basically will be an abject failure in New England’s eyes.
7. The Colts will win a game (or two): Indianapolis will not be the second team in NFL history to go 0-for-16 on the year. Already, they’ve lost four games by eight points or less, and yes, even though that 62-7 loss to the Saints was ridiculous, Indianapolis (and quarterback Curtis Painter) is good enough to win at least one. It could happen this week vs. the Jaguars at home or at Jacksonville in Week 17, and a win against the Panthers is not completely out of the question. The point is: a team that plays the Steelers to within three points isn’t the worst team in the history of the league. Even if the Colts are the last winless team in the NFL this season.
6. Jim Irsay will break Caldwell’s firing on Twitter: Irsay has to be my favorite NFL owner of all time, simply because he gets the power of social media. Sure, most of the time he’s tweeting obscure lyrics from Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut album or pretending to look for Brett Favre in Hattiesburg, Miss., but Caldwell also will be the first owner in history to break the news on his own Twitter account that he’s firing his coach. John Elway has been great on Twitter as well, but Elway also has a boss. That’s not a problem for Irsay.
5. Tony Sparano will last the season: I don’t know if Jim Caldwell will make it to the season’s end with the Colts, but I’m thinking Sparano will do exactly that. The team is still playing hard -- and how about the Dolphins beating the crap out of the Chiefs in Kansas City last week? -- and though the talent is lacking in that organization (how much can be blamed on the departed Bill Parcells?), they still believe in Sparano. If the Dolphins can pull of another couple wins, hopefully owner Stephen Ross will let him last through the season. After the emasculation Ross put him through in the offseason, Sparano deserves that much at least.
4. HGH testing won’t be around in 2011: We told you about a month ago that the NFL’s HGH testing was a go and that it very well could start within that week. That was quickly disputed by the NFLPA -- which claims that nobody has explained to the union exactly how the tests will be conducted -- and here we are, nearly a month later, and nothing has happened. As NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman, “We have an agreement to test for HGH. What we don't have an agreement on is the process and the protocol to implement the test.” Considering the glacial pace at which the two sides moved when the 2011 season was at stake, I don’t expect the league to start testing until next season. If then.
3. Carson Palmer will be better than average: That’s not exactly a high bar to jump over, but considering he wasn’t even that in his final seasons for the Bengals, this would be an improvement. Palmer had a rough outing in his first action, replacing Kyle Boller in the second half of the Chiefs game, but he showed some of the Palmer of old, throwing three touchdowns (and three more interceptions) in the loss to the Broncos. Will Palmer be worth the two high-round draft picks the Raiders gave to the Bengals for him? Probably not, but Palmer will keep the Raiders in the playoff hunt.
2. Wade Phillips will save Gary Kubiak’s job: The Texans defensive coordinator is well on his way to doing exactly that for Houston’s head coach. Because, at this very moment, the Texans defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. You remember what they were last year, right? No. 30. Hiring Phillips might be the best move Kubiak ever made, and Phillips is repaying him by recreating a defense that will lead Houston to the playoffs and keep Kubiak safely employed.
1. Packers will win Super Bowl: I mean, who else is there?
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Posted on: November 9, 2011 8:37 am
Edited on: November 9, 2011 12:41 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
It's a scary thought, but we've moved to the middle (and past!) of the NFL season for every single team, nine weeks into the 2011 year. That means it's time for awards. (You can go back and check out our preseason predictions here.)
We'll also be chatting about said awards -- swing on by at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday to talk with Pete Prisco, Clark Judge, Ryan Wilson and Josh Katzowitz and myself about where your team stands and why certain people actually picked the Dolphins to make the playoffs.
Below you'll find our midseason awards -- Pete has his full breakdown here and Clark's full breakdown is here -- where there shouldn't be much explanation needed. "BFA" is "Best Free Agent" and "WFA" is "Worst Free Agent" addition (though Wilson decided he was going with "offseason acquisition" instead, sigh), ASST is Assistant Coach of the Year, and "DOH" is a pick we'd each like to have back.
Enjoy and join us at 1.
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Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 4:44 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.
Aaron Rodgers continued to Aaron Rodgers the Aaron Rodgers Award. At this point, it's surprising when he doesn't win.
Speaking of winning, the Packers got a huge help in their dubya thanks to safety Charlie Peprah, who picked two passes and picked up our Eye on Defense Award for Week 9.
Patrick Peterson ran his third punt back of the year, and that resulted in his second-straight Eye on Special Teams Award.
And Tony Sparano was tied for Lovie Smith for our Eye on Coaching Award, but we gave the tiebreaker to Sparano since, well, you know.
Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Charlie Peprah, Chicago Bears, Clark Judge, Denver Broncos, Eli Manning, Eye on Football Awards, Eye on Football Awards Week 9, Green Bay Packers, James Harrison, John Harbaugh, Josh Katzowitz, Julio Jones, Julius Peppers, Lovie Smith, Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, NFL Awards, NFL Awards Week 9, Patrick Peterson, Pete Prisco, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Wilson, Steve Weatherford, Tom Coughlin, Tony Sparano, Will Brinson, Willis McGahee
Posted on: November 7, 2011 2:21 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
The Chargers are struggling, obviously. At 4-4 after their loss to Green Bay, though, they're still in a position to win the AFC West, although figuring out exactly what is bothering quarterback Philip Rivers would probably be nice.
On Monday morning, Yahoo Sports Mike Silver pegged the blame on someone else -- Chargers general manager A.J. Smith. Silver argues that other general managers wouldn't grab much talent off San Diego's roster, and that includes tight end Antonio Gates, who was called "old and fat" by Silver's team source.
"It’s harsh to say, but he looks old and fat," the source told Silver about Gates. "He’s not beating people. We don’t have any speed, we’re soft on defense, and we put so much on our quarterback. When he was playing great, we could kind of get away with it. Now he’s not playing very well, and it’s all falling apart."
This is supposed to be an indictment (I think) of Smith's ability to construct a roster, but obviously it comes off as quite insulting to Gates. And it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, honestly.
Gates is older, at the age of 31. And he is slower, considering that he's dealing with plantar fascitis. Has he gained weight? Well maybe, but whatever, he's still been pretty productive thus far this season, catching 25 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.
At that pace, Gates will catch 772 passing yards over the course of the season. Just four tight ends since the merger have caught more than 775 passing yards in a season after turning 31. Tony Gonzalez did it three times, Shannon Sharpe did it twice and Mickey Shuler and Wesley Walls each did it once.
None of those guys played less than 15 games, either. Which is a nice way of saying that while the Chargers might be in trouble when it comes to their current roster construction, the quality of Gates play isn't the issue.
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Posted on: November 7, 2011 10:08 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 12:28 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Despite throwing four touchdown passes, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers still had a pretty rough day in San Diego's 45-38 loss to Green Bay Sunday.
Rivers threw three interceptions, two of which were returned by the Green Bay secondary for touchdowns, and the other which sealed the Packers victory. Adding salt to the proverbial wound was Rivers having to answer questions about his health, again.
"I appreciate everybody trying to come up with a theory and a reason but I’m not hurt," an exasperated Rivers said following San Diego's loss on Sunday. "I’ve thrown a handful of picks that I normally don’t throw and I’ll probably throw some more throughout my career and there won’t always be a reason why. I prepare, I give everything I’ve got, give our guys everything I’ve got, and they fooled me once today and the other one got tipped.
The one at the end, I wish I would’ve thrown it up high and deep and given Vincent a chance but I didn’t.
"Health is not an issue, it’s never been an issue on any interception I’ve ever thrown in eighteen years of football."
It's hard to blame Rivers for getting a little frustrated at all the questions about an injury that everyone seems to think he might be hiding -- the media seems determined to peg Rivers' struggles on the fact that he's hurt something.
The reality is probably closer to what Chargers owner Dean Spanos noted on Sunday after the game to NBC's Alex Flanagan.
"Sometimes you just have an off year," Spanos said. "That is what Philip Rivers is having so far."
Interestingly, Rivers isn't the only one struggling with interceptions this season -- Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Rivers have combined for a whopping 35 interceptions on the season. Those three quarterbacks threw 39 all of last year, with 22 of them coming from Brees.
That's not supposed to excuse Rivers play, because he's only thrown 11 touchdowns against his 14 picks. But assume Rivers is having a bad year.
And then add in the fact that he's dealt with injuries to Antonio Gates (which hurts his red zone and touchdown production) and several wideouts (hurting his timing with his weapons).
That adds up to a much more logical reason for his struggles than some mystery injury.
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Posted on: November 7, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 12:26 pm
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 BlueStop 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 < TebowThis 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 TrapBig 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-PackingWhen 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 SchoolyardDuring 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 LSUFirst 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.
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 WEEKOver/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
Chasing Andrew LuckColts (-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.
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.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Tate, Buffalo Bills, Carson Palmer, Denver Broncos, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Eric Decker, Green Bay Packers, Houton Texans, Joe Flacco, John Beck, Julio Jones, Kansas City Chiefs, Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Patrick Peterson, Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rex Grossman, Rex Ryan, Roy Helu, Ryan Fitzpatrick, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Sorting the Sunday Pile, St. Louis Rams, Tim Tebow, Todd Haley, Tom Brady, Tom Coughlin, Torrey Smith, Victor Cruz, Washington Redskins, Will Brinson, Willis McGahee
Posted on: November 3, 2011 10:13 am
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit
Eagles vs. Bears
You could make a strong case that both of these offenses are built around their star running backs. The Eagles have football’s No. 1 offense and lead the league with 179 yards rushing per game (20 more than Oakland’s No. 2 ranked ground game). Running back LeSean McCoy is second in the NFL with 754 yards rushing. The Bears’ 16th-ranked offense would likely rank somewhere in the mid-twenties if not for Matt Forte’s 672 yards on the ground and 419 yards through the air.
These are the best two running backs in the NFC not named Adrian Peterson. (And both are significantly better receivers than Peterson.) Two years ago, neither was very good. McCoy was a callow, unpolished rookie who could not always read basic defenses. Forte was an inexplicably sluggish runner averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. So what’s changed since then?
One noticeable improvement is in both players’ lateral agility. Though not as emphasized as speed, quickness or power, lateral agility is the most important attribute for an NFL back. It’s often the difference between college runners and pro runners. In short, lateral agility is a running back’s quickness and explosiveness when going left and right. It plays a central role in how he sets up blocks and creates his own space.
Unless you’re an incredibly gifted downhill runner playing behind a decent run-blocking front (ala Darren McFadden), lateral agility is vital in the NFL, where holes close quicker than a hiccup and defenses feature 11 world class athletes, most of whom can immediately diagnose about 90 percent of the run plays they see.
McCoy has the best pure lateral agility in the league. He had it as a rookie but just recently learned to implement it with timing and purpose. He can explode left and right behind the line or at the second level. Most laterally agile running backs, including Forte, have to be on the move in order to cut sharply. McCoy can do it from a standstill (which is why Philly is so fond of draws and delayed handoffs). Forte can occasionally do it from a standstill, though with his smooth, patient running style, he’s much more effective off motion.
On Sunday, keep a count of how many of McCoy’s and Forte’s touches are impacted by their east-west prowess.
Patriots vs. Giants
The key to the Giants’ upset of the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII was the pressure the Giants pass-rush put on Tom Brady. New York’s then-defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, brilliantly had his linebackers crowd and attack the A-gaps. That did a few things.
For one, it put extra defenders directly in Tom Brady’s line of vision, which would make any quarterback subtly feel a bit hurried. That hurriedness left New England without enough time to run Randy Moss on deep routes.
Another thing it did was force the Patriot running backs to stay in and pass protect. And because there were multiple defenders crowding the A-gaps, the Patriots focused their protection help inside, which left one-on-one mismatches outside for Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora.
Some things have changed in the four years since 18-1. Spagnuolo is now in St. Louis. Moss is retired. So is Strahan. The Patriots’ high-powered passing game has become horizontal instead of vertical. But despite the changes, don’t be surprised if the Giants once again crowd and/or attack New England’s A gaps this Sunday.
Teams like the Jets, Cowboys and Steelers have shown that the best way to pressure Brady is with bodies up the middle. The goal is not always to sack him – it can be to mentally preoccupy him with what’s going on inside. When Brady’s doing that, he seems to lose a little trust in stepping into throws and sensing his protection on the edges.
The Giants had great success with A-gap blitz concepts against the Dolphins last week. Mathias Kiwanuka is a potent defensive end who happens to play linebacker. He’s natural standing up over the center in nickel defense. Lately, end Dave Tollefson, himself a good athlete, has also been used as an A-gap blitzing joker. In these instances, the Giants don’t just rush the A-gaps, they also confuse offensive linemen and set up stunts and edge-rushes for Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
New England’s answer to New York’s A-gap attacks will be quick passes in the flats. Wes Welker is not a bad guy to turn to for that.
Chargers vs. Packers
Green Bay can take the lipstick off the pig that is San Diego’s defense. The No. 1 ranked defense from 2010 has been decent but not necessarily impressive under new coordinator Greg Manusky in 2011. A soft schedule has made it difficult to pass full judgment. The Chargers rank sixth in yards allowed, but they’ve faced the Vikings, Dolphins, Broncos, Jets and Chiefs (twice) – all inexplosive offenses.
The Packers have the most lethal offensive attack in football. It’s not just that Aaron Rodgers has been nearly flawless, or that his top five receiving targets would all be No. 1 or 2 targets on a typical team. It’s that the Packers have perhaps the best formation variation in the league. This, with their array of weapons, strongly tests a defense’s depth, intelligence and confidence.
Currently, the Chargers are vulnerable at cornerback. Antoine Cason appeared on the verge of stardom late last year, but the ’08 first-round pick has reverted to the baffling inconsistencies that marred his first two seasons as a pro. Cason normally plays the right outside. The Packers love to create one-on-one matchups for Greg Jennings by lining him up as the X-iso receiver on the left side (across from the right cornerback) in 1x3 receiver sets. It’s a matchup Rodgers goes to virtually every time.
With four receivers on the field, Cason will have to play. Marcus Gilchrest and Quentin Jammer are the outside starters; Dante Hughes is the slot nickel. The Chargers like to blitz Hughes and will likely align him across from the receiver furthest inside on the three-receiver side. Jammer plays outside on the defensive left. That leaves either Cason or Gilchrest, a second-round rookie, to face Jennings outside on the right.
This isn’t a fantasy column, but here’s a tip: if your opponent has Greg Jennings on his or her team, remove yourself from the trash-talking email thread this week.
So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 9 games.
Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Andy Benoit, Antoine Cason, Chicago Bears, Darren McFadden, Dave Tollefson, Green Bay Packers, Greg Jennings, Greg Manusky, Justin Tuck, Keep an Eye On, LeSean McCoy, Marcus Gilchrest, Mathias Kiwanuka, Matt Forte, Michael Strahan, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Quentin Jammer, Randy Moss, San Diego Chargers, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 5:17 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren Wednesday night to talk about the usual fare -- player safety, expansion and the like -- in addition to several issues worth mentioning here.
Van Susteren asked Goodell about the league's decision to fine Steelers safety Troy Polamalu for using a cell phone on the sidelines during a game (that's illegal), even though the call was to Polamalu's wife to let her know he was fine after suffering concussion-like symptoms.
Several days after it happened, head coach Mike Tomlin said Polamalu shouldn't be fined.
"[Troy] had a history of concussion-like symptoms and so forth in the past. [His wife] was concerned. In this era of player safety, you would think that common sense would prevail in regards to some of those things. It wasn't a personal call. He wasn't checking on his bank account. He was talking to his wife to let her know that he was fine, and that was it."
Common sense lost out to the unbending interpretation of the rules: Polamalu owes the NFL $10,000.
"Well, I think it's always a problem trying to have a rule that applies to everybody," Goodell began (you can view the interview here). "Troy's a wonderful young man and there was concern about his health and there are ways of us getting word to families when there is an injury, and to make sure they understand that the player is okay. But we also don't want to have all our players using phones on the sidelines for texting."
Goodell did concede that "When someone's injured and you're family, you want to speak to the individual. And you want to hear their voice. You want to make sure they're okay. And that's something that probably could've happened by taking him off the field and allowing him access to be able to call his wife."
The lesson? The rules apply to everyone … except, you know, when they don't.
Van Susteren, a long-time Packers shareholder, also asked the commissioner about whether the organization would sell more shares.
"I think so," Goodell said. "As you well know as a season ticket holder and an owner, they are trying to expand the stadium. They will add probably six or seven thousand more seats for fans, which I think there's a great demand for that. And as part of that, we will likely approve another issuing of the stock so you'll have a chance to buy some more."
Van Susteren warned that Goodell shouldn't get any ideas about putting a dome on Lambeau Field. "We take great pride in suffering through that snow and cold," she said.
"You're not going to hear that suggestion from me," the commissioner responded. "I also love to see football played in the elements. That's what the game's all about … and I think the experience of going up there in Lambeau in the elements is a great thing in football."
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