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Tag:Oakland Raiders
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:46 am
 

Hue Jackson still has love for Ochocinco

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Oftentimes, when I hear the name Hue Jackson, I don’t think of him as the Raiders head coach. Instead, I think back to the time a few years ago when, after Chad Ochocinco’s collision with Browns cornerback Leigh Bodden left him with a concussion, he kept calling out for Jackson in the Bengals locker room.

Eventually, Jackson -- then the receivers coach in Cincinnati -- appeared by Ochocinco’s side, and even though Ochocinco was clearly out of sorts (it was an uncomfortable moment inside the locker room that day for those of us who were trying to interview Ochocinco), it was also obvious how much Jackson means to Ochocinco.



And after talking to the Patriots media corps this week, it’s also obvious how much Ochocinco means to Jackson.

Chad Johnson's my son," said Jackson, via CSN New England, who didn’t mean it in the literal way. "I know you guys probably have a hard time with him. He's kind of colorful. But he is a tremendous young man. I really adore him but I won't on Sunday."
 
"I helped raise that young man in Cincinnati. He played for me, he did wonders for me and he is a tremendous competitor and a doggone good football player."

Ochocinco, who will reunite with and play against his former coach Sunday, hasn’t been very good this year, dropping what could have been the game-winning touchdown last week vs. the Bills and recording only five catches for 87 yards in the first three games.

He’s also seemingly undergone a personality transplant. While in Cincinnati, he was playful and obnoxious and self-centered in the locker room. Really, he was like a child. But in New England, he’s been more even-keeled and less fun. Whether that’s a byproduct of the Bill Belichick regime or because he’s struggling with the playbook and with his game, it’s unclear. But for now, it looks like Ochocinco isn’t the same player (or person) in New England as he was in Cincinnati.

"When you tend to have success and things have gone for you the way his career has gone up to this point, it's hard when you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Jackson said. “But one thing I know about him, he's going to continue to work. He'll do everything that's asked of him. He's a tremendous pro. Eventually, it will come off right for him. I just don't want it to happen this week."

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Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Where could Les Miles land in the NFL?

Posted by Will Brinson

When the CBSSports.com NFL newsletter landed in my inbox Wednesday, I thought there had to be some kind of mistake. After all, the topic was Les Miles, and he has nothing to do with the NFL, except that he coaches guys who will end up playing there.

As it turns out, my man Mike Freeman's excellent 10-Point Stance column was about Miles and how he's the "most intriguing coaching prospect" that one team exec has "seen in a long time." WUT?

Les Miles? Really? Because, um, yeah, that doesn't make sense.


Whatever, Miles is wacky but he wins a lot, so at some point, NFL teams will be interested. Let's run through some of the usual suspects -- teams who stink this season and/or teams that are always considered possibilities for head-coaching candidates -- and discuss whether or not they're viable candidates.

Miami Dolphins: Tony Sparano's seat is arguably hotter than anyone else in the NFL right now and he's got games coming up against the Chargers and Jets. Not being 0-5 would be an accomplishment if that tells you anything about where this season is going for the Fins. There's a good chance he doesn't make it through the season. So would Miles work?

Well, Stephen Ross wants to add some spice to Miami's public persona, and Miles would definitely do that. But is he gonna sexy up the offense? I'm not so sure -- LSU currently ranks 98th in the NCAA in passing yards and 48th overall in rushing yards. In 2010, Miles' team totaled 2,023 passing yards, which is like a September for Tom Brady. The most passing yards while Miles has been at LSU came in 2007, when Matt Flynn led the team with 2,407 yards and the Tigers totaled 3,154 yards for the season.

Oh, and there's this little bit of history -- remember the last time the Dolphins decided to go out and hire a championship-winning coach from LSU? That worked out superbly for them, and I can't imagine that there's a whole lot of love in South Beach for the Tigers coaching tree.

Kansas City Chiefs: There's a pretty good chance Todd Haley's gone by the start of next season, but is this the spot for Miles? Perhaps not -- after all, Scott Pioli's likely to get one more chance at hiring a coach he wants, and you can all but bet that he'll go off the Belichick tree.

Miles doesn't fit that role and it makes no sense for Pioli to really put his neck on the line by trying to bring in a college coach who isn't necessarily guaranteed to buy into his personnel system.

Dallas Cowboys: This isn't to even suggest that Jason Garrett's on the hot seat. He's not. But as Freeman wrote, people think Miles might be the "next Jimmy Johnson," and he coached in Dallas.

So did Miles, though he showed up to Big D after Johnson was gone and only coached tight ends there.

Still, Jerry Jones is always a guy that people associate with "big names" and he's the last guy to have success with a college coach who jumped up a level.

Oakland Raiders: Hue Jackson's doing a great job by the bay, but if a name is out there, he's going to get mentioned with Oakland, because that's how these things work. Plus, you never know if 2011's rendition is going to fall off a cliff or not. They are, after all, the Raiders.

But Miles has tremendous job security at LSU right now, and as we mentioned in the Miami section, he doesn't exactly fit the mold of what Al Davis wants in terms of chunking the ball down the field. Although he does coach in the SEC, so maybe the speed correlation works.

Indianapolis Colts: OK, so we've figured out that Miles isn't going to be a great offensive guru or anything, right? Well, this might actually make sense -- there's little in the way of requirement to be an offensive savant in Indy, as long as the Colts can squeeze three or more years out of Peyton Manning. He runs the system and Jim Caldwell just stands there.

Miles' biggest hair-pullers come on the offensive end of things in crunch time, and it would be a non-issue with Manning on the field. Additionally, he'd make the Colts substantially better on special teams and on defense, right off the bat, even if the personnel might need some revamping. He's a Michigan man and born in Ohio -- Indianapolis is less than a five-hour drive from both.

The Colts will be coming off a terrible season after 2011 and that means better resources to invest in future talent; Indy's a team that could nab the first-overall pick in the draft and somehow still remain a decent team.

Would it be a departure from the modus operandi of the Colts? Definitely, but there's a good opening to bring in a fresh face for 2011, and they seem to have less chance of having Miles' quirky traits, lack of offensive ingenuity and poor clock management implode on them than anyone else.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 3:36 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 3

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.

Week 3 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Fitzpatrick Colts  Knox  Gailey
Judge  McFadden Bills DBs  Bailey  Gailey
Prisco   Romo  Allen  Bailey  Coughlin
Brinson  McFadden  Freeney  Bailey  Gailey
Katzowitz   T. Smith  Freeney  Bailey  Schwartz
Wilson   Welker  Freeney  Bailey  Jackson
Week 3's over and everything in the NFL is clear, apparent and obvious. Like, for instance, that the Lions and Bills are really good. I mean, who didn't see that coming, right? Anyway, it's award time for us.

Offensively speaking, there were plenty of performances that inspired us this week, but Darren McFadden of the Raiders and his 171 yards against the Jets warranted enough consideration to sneak out the award. (And with good reason.)

It was a losing defensive effort that picked up the hardware this week, as Dwight Freeney's efforts inspired enough voters to cast something similar to his name in the ballot and pick up the award. What does it say about the state of defense in the NFL, by the way, that we had three voters cast for either multiple players or an "entity"?

Dan Bailey ran away with the Eye on Special Teams for the second week in a row after his six (six!) field goals against the Redskins gave the Cowboys a victory on Monday night. You can only make the kicks your team gives you and Bailey did just that.

As far as the Eye on Coaching award goes, well, Chan Gailey wins ... again! What kind of world are we living in, huh?

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Ryan Fitzpatrick Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills
He deserves to win every award ever invented. Offensive award, defensive, Nobel, a Pulitzer and throw in an Emmy. It is true the Bills intercepted Tom Brady four times, a rarity, like when all of the planets in the solar system are aligned. It's clearly Fitzpatrick, despite Buffalo's defense prowess, who is driving this team and did so against New England. They'd lost 15 straight games to the Pats. Fitzpatrick's accuracy, skill and guts powered the Bills in what was the best performance -- period -- of the week.
Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Raiders
If this guy stays healthy, the Raiders stay at or near the top of the AFC West. He seems to run at a faster speed than everyone else, and last weekend the New York Jets were that everyone. It takes a lot to impress Jets' coach Rex Ryan, and he seemed overwhelmed by Oakland's running game -- with McFadden the first one through the door with 171 yards, two TDs and an average of 9 yards a carry. We always knew he could be special; what we didn't know ... and still don't ... is if he can stay on the field.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Tony Romo Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
I know his numbers weren't great, but did he ever tough it out against the Redskins. He played with a broken rib and punctured lung and made some tough throws. He took some shots, but kept on going. Not only that, he was playing with a bunch of backups.  Still doubt this guy?
Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Raiders
If there was any question about Run DMC leading the league in rushing, he answered it Sunday, by rolling over the Jets with 171 yards on just 19 carries. He's piling up yards at a terrifyingly efficient clip (6.4 YPC) and deserves to be in the discussion as the best back in the NFL.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Torrey SmithTorrey Smith, WR, Ravens
The Ravens were looking to get off to a fast start vs. the Rams. And behind the play of rookie Smith, who had yet to record a single statistic in a game before Sunday, that’s exactly what they did. Smith caught three touchdowns in the first quarter, and overall, he had five catches for 152 yards to help get the Ravens offense back on track.
Wes Welker Wes Welker, WR, Patriots
It's rarely the case that a Patriots wide receiver has 16 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns and New England still loses. But when Tom Brady throws four interceptions and Chad Ochocinco drops what should've been a touchdown pass, that's exactly what happens. The lesson? No lead is too large for the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills to overcome.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis Colts, DST
I'll avoid more Bills slurping and go an unusual route--the Colts.I know. Very weird. Yet in a game which the Colts truly had no chance to win due to the absence of Peyton Manning that Indianapolis defense played brilliantly minus a play or two. They stripped a sloppy Ben Roethlisberger twice and picked him off. They were the only reason Indianapolis was in the game late.
Drayton Florence Buffalo Bills Secondary
The Bills' secondary had three of the team's four interceptions vs. Tom Brady and fueled the team's comeback from a 21-0 hole. Incredible. Nobody spots Brady 21 points and wins. Only Buffalo just did, ending a 15-game losing streak. Drayton Florence's go-ahead TD was the big blow, but defensive backs George Wilson and Leodis McKelvin had crucial interceptions, too. Do you believe in miracles? Brady had four interceptions all of last season; he had four on Sunday.
Prisco Brinson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
I know his team didn't win, but he was a force all day. He had three sacks and was spent the game in the Lions backfield. He also made some nice plays against the run.
Dwight FreeneyDwight Freeney, DE, Colts
Don't tell Freeney that the Colts only upside to this season is nabbing Stanford's Andrew Luck -- in a game that the Colts weren't supposed to even be in by the fourth quarter, he dominated up front and gave Indy a shot at its first win of the year with two sacks, a forced fumble and total disruption.
Katzowitz Wilson
Dwight Freeney Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts
Freeney dominated the Steelers offensive line, recording two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He almost single-handedly kept Indianapolis in the game and forced the Steelers to kick a last-second field goal for the win. Too bad Freeney can't play quarterback.
Dwight Freeney Dwight Freeney & Robert Mathis, DE, Colts
They spent Sunday night meeting on Ben Roethlisberger, combining for three sacks and two fumbles that resulted in 10 Indianapolis points. You could make a case that Freeney and Mathis are just as deserving of offensive honors, too.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Johnny KnoxJohnny Knox, WR, Bears
I know, I know. The spectacular return didn't count because of a phantom hold. A really phantom hold. Such a phantom hold it insults the word phantom. But the fake-out kick return by the Bears was such delicious subterfuge and Knox was king actor selling the fake completely. It was a wonderfully designed play that worked. Did I mention the phantom holding call? One other thing: I think Knox could be one of the top three special teams players in football if he got more opportunities.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
He did the only scoring in the Cowboys' come-from-behind defeat of Washington Monday night, with a 40-yard field goal to win the game. Bailey wasn't the story of that game; Tony Romo was. Not sure how he gutted his way through another victory, but it wouldn't have been possible if Bailey weren't there to punctuate the drives that Romo began.
Prisco Brinson
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
He made six field goals, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter, to tie a rookie record. Well done.
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
The last place you want to kick as a rookie is in Dallas, where there's been a revolving door of kickers for a while now. But Bailey doesn't care and he gets my nod again this week as his leg carried the Cowboys to a crucial victory when they clammed up in the red zone.
Katzowitz Wilson
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
With Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo getting very little help from his wide receivers and his offensive line, Bailey provided all of Dallas’ points in its win against the Redskins and set an NFL rookie record with six field goals in a single game. Bailey is now 9 of 10 on the season.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
For the second time in as many weeks, the Cowboys rookie kicker earns the nod. He was 6 for 6 on field-goal attempts against the Redskins and accounted for all of Dallas' points.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickChan Gailey, Bills
He ended a brutal losing streak to New England but Gailey has done more than that in Buffalo. He's made the Bills relevant and the Bills haven't been relevant since the invention of barbecue wings.Buffalo hasn't had a winning record since 2004 and the last time the Bills made the playoffs was the late 1990s. Gailey isn't a great coach but he's solid. If he can steer the Bills into the playoffs he will have done one of the great coaching jobs of the past decade and making the postseason begins with their win over the Patriots.
Mike Munchak Chan Gailey, Bills
He wins in a photo-finish with the Lions' Jim Schwartz, and for this reason: Somehow, some way, he convinced his players that they weren't dead meat after falling behind by 21 points to Tom Brady and the big, bad New England Patriots. They'd lost 15 straight to these guys, for crying out loud, so there was every reason to quit. But they didn't. Now the question: Are these guys for real? I don't care. I just care that Gailey accomplished what no one in Buffalo has been to accomplish in years.
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, Giants
When his team looks to be down, facing a lot of adversity, Coughlin always gets them to respond. They went into Philadelphia as 9-point underdogs and dominated the Eagles. That's why Coughlin is a top-tier coach.
Mike MunchakChan Gailey, Bills
We joked after Week 1 that Gailey deserved the award since it was his only shot of winning. Um, whoops? Gailey's masterful coaching job with the Bills has them undefeated and if the first two weeks weren't convincing enough, a 21-point comeback against the Patriots certainly should be.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz Jim Schwartz, Lions
What can you say about the Lions’ resiliency after falling behind by 20 points at halftime to the Vikings only to force overtime and win? Whatever it is, Schwartz’s coaching -- the adjustments the staff made and the fact it settled down the players -- can't go overlooked.
Hue Jackson Hue Jackson, Raiders
The Raiders first-year coach out-Rex Ryan'd Rex Ryan Sunday, forcing critical turnovers and relying on well-timed gadget plays to outlast the Jets.



Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:44 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 9:47 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 3

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. Podcast is coming tomorrow -- this week's edition of SSP is brought to you in tardy fashion by the Ford Fusion that hauled your writer home at 3:00 a.m. ET Sunday.

Group exercises are, for the most part, ridiculous. I trust you! You trust me! How groundbreaking.  

But play along for 30 seconds and repeat after me: "the Bills and Lions are undefeated."

Haha, but no seriously. This is happening. The idea that bad NFL teams become good and the idea that good NFL teams become bad isn't shocking. It shouldn't be. It won't ever be absolutely mind-blowing, because this is what happens in today's NFL -- some teams get good, some teams get bad and some teams just happen to become the first team in NFL history to mount consecutive comebacks of 18 or more points.

Parity is what drives this league. No one doubts that, no one thinks that's weird, and no one should. There'll be some regression to the mean, and it'll probably happen to the really good teams who are only really good through a few weeks. When it does, please don't act like it's any weirder than what went down in a b-a-n-a-n-a-s Week 3 of NFL action.

1. Young guns
Two of the top three passers from Sunday's action -- Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford -- are excellent examples of the young crop of quarterbacks that are blossoming early in 2011.

Questions surrounded both Flacco (Can he beat the Steelers?) and Stafford (Can he stay healthy?) and, three weeks into the year, they're answering their critics. Flacco struggled against the Titans in Week 2, but the Ravens did a fantastic job of bouncing back from a subpar Week 2 to point out to everyone that they're elite.

I watched the games Sunday with my NBA counterpart, Matt Moore (yes, the link's ironic, thanks, I know), and at halftime of the Vikings early beatdown of Detroit, he pointed out that the Lions bandwagon was derailing.

He was correct at the time, but the Lions stormed back on the strength of Stafford's arm, winning in overtime to move to a surprising 3-0.

If Stafford stays healthy and Flacco keeps developing like he has thus far this year, we're going to be re-ordering the list of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and both these guys will be joining the upper echelon sooner, rather than later.

Look, the list of truly "elite" quarterbacks will continue to feature the names you know: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning.

Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are also there, but we're seeing a new "generation" of quarterbacks starting to come into their own, as guys like Flacco, Stafford and other recently-drafted quarterbacks really start to generate some press.

And it's happening in a year when passing attacks are at an all-time high, which is only going to make the game better.

2. What do you know about pressure, Tom?

There's an ample number of awesome young quarterbacks in the NFL right now, but two very familiar names -- Brady and Brees -- are tops in the league when it comes to passing. Brady in particular is lobbing up some pretty ridiculous numbers right now; he leads the league in passing yards with 1,327, the most by a quarterback through three weeks in NFL history.

Only 22 people in the history of football have thrown for more than 4,500 yards in a single NFL season. 14 of those have happened in the past 10 years. (As we've noted, it's a passing league.)

So can Brady break Marino's record? Well, yes, he most certainly can. Remember that Marino, during his record-setting season, didn't surpass 400 passing yards in a single game until Week 5.

He's on pace for a stupid 7,077 yards for the season, although we have to assume he'll regress off that pace a little bit.

Just for fun, though, let's imagine Brady completes his schedule by passing for the exact same number of yards that his remaining opponents have allowed per game through three weeks. (Yes, there are several problems with this calculation, but just play along.)

Based on the remaining 13 games and the teams' respective yards per game allowed via the pass, Brady would pile up another 3,072 yards, which would give him a total of 4,399 yards for the season.

Conversely, Brady "only" needs to average another 289 yards per game to match Marino's record from 1984. That's not easy, per se, but it's certainly possible. And given how badly New England's own pass defense has been this season -- they're dead last in yards allowed -- it may be required too.

3. Hit the Snooze Button

Look, this is a world where Eli Manning is criminally undervalued -- the man referred to himself as "elite," tried to prop up his game, and everyone wanted to trot him out to the guillotine. No big deal though, you guys, because Eli doesn't need to show up and throw beautiful passes to Brandon Jacobs for 40-yard touchdowns. (Pardon the interruption, but FTC rules require that I write "OH GOD" in big letters again at this juncture so you'll be aware that the Apocalypse is coming soon to a city near you, by the way.)

The Giants are, somehow, not terrible. And while I might be [metaphorically] drunk on Tom Coughlin's team having watched them play in a Giants bar, it's pretty damn hard not to be impressed with what they've done this year. Last week's win over St. Louis was the single-worst blowout victory I've ever witnessed and, no, that is not a compliment.

This Sunday was an entirely different ballgame. Despite the face that actually fielding a defensive roster should be an impossibility, the Giants showed up to Philadelphia, generated a ton of pressure on Michael Vick, and barnstormed their hated division rival en route to a win that gives the NFC East more of a jostle than a trip to Sterling Archer's tumbler.

Let's move past the Giants, though, because they're the same thing that we knew they were, we just undervalued the properties they own. The Eagles are in much worse trouble than New York, simply because everyone assumed that if you have a really talented but sometimes injured quarterback and combine him with a marquee-worthy defense that secretly sucks up the middle, you don't have to worry about the rest of your problems.

Then the season happened, and the Eagles, as it turns out, have a terrible offensive line and a pretty bad combination of linebackers and safeties. Vince Young's belief that this is the "Dream Team" was fun to mock in the offseason, but it's downright comical at this stage.

Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha drew the headlines in the offseason, and DeSean Jackson plus LeSean McCoy make any team a viable threat to win any week just based on offensive explosiveness. But just like the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia Eagles offseason signings might have masked some serious positional-skill issues that will only become more exacerbated when depth starts creeping in.



4. A Hue-gh Win
The only way that the weird scene of a rookie Raiders coach dominating a third-year, Super Bowl-guaranteeing guy is if, well, the Raiders won. And they did. And people predicted it -- this actually happened. The absolutely weirdest thing is that it somehow managed to go Hue Jackson's way, as opposed to Rex Ryan's.

With a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass and in classic New York-style, Derek Jeter-fashion and the Jets shortened the lead to seven points. It had all the stink of a Ryan win, which is, frankly, a compliment. You can't lose well in the NFL -- just ask Cam Newton! -- and people will question your every move. But if you win and you're not that good at it, it's OK.

Jackson's got Oakland doing some fun, funky things on offense right now, as if Darren McFadden's pump-faking a throw nine yards in front of the line of scrimmage while running an option end-around of sorts doesn't make that obvious.

He's an aggressive attacker, and can do creative things with all the speed that the Raiders have drafted in recent years, but Jackson also knows that using Oakland's physicality and letting McFadden do what McFadden does best -- pile up yardage by the ton -- is how Oakland can remain a viable playoff contender all season long.

5. Ponder This
Are the Vikings that bad or are the Lions that good? The answer is likely the second one, but the Vikings aren't that bad, and it's not fair to say that just because they choked away a trio of halftime leads.

Here's the thing that people will miss -- the Vikings are a not good team in the middle of a rebuilding project they don't know about.

There are problems with the Vikings. Adrian Peterson is an epic talent somehow surrounded by an aging cast parading as a group of guys that are, in the NFL environment, "making a last run." The truth of the matter is that Peterson is the definition of sublime when it comes to running backs, and the rest of the Vikings just aren't that good.

On the bright side, at least they didn't do the double disservice of trading up for a quarterback AND trading further picks for a veteran who is, despite his reputation, quite clearly a one-year rental.

Which is where things get problematic -- I asked Rich Gannon last week if he thought the success of Newton and Dalton cranked up the pressure on teams like the Vikings, who drafted Christian Ponder this past year, to play their rookie.

"I don't think so," Gannon said. "I don't think the plan in Minnesota will change unless they continue to lose and all of a sudden that whole process will be expedited. I think there's more pressure now, certainly moreso now than there was 10 years ago to develop that position and have a guy play right away and be successful. Days of what they did even with Aaron Rodgers, I don't know if we're going to see as much as that. I think they're paying these guys so much money that it's like, let's get these guys on the field.

"The problem is they're not always ready to play."

And that might be the case with Ponder in Minnesota, especially if he looks as overwhelmed as he did during the preseason. On the other hand, if Ponder steps in and looks even remotely good after/if this season's lost for Minnesota, it'll do wonders for the scrutiny on Leslie Frazier.

6. What about the Packers?
Detroit won, so we shouldn't discount them for the sake of chatting about the Vikings. But the real NFC North story is the Packers, who dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning by double digits against their biggest rival for the first time in three years.

Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, all to Jermichael Finley, and this is precisely why everyone should be very scared of Green Bay again in 2011.

Finley is an absolute terror who is nearly impossible to defend near the goal line and, really, anywhere else on the field. The Packers won the Super Bowl without him, of course, and if he's healthy this year, Green Bay's offense is only going to be more difficult to defend than it was in 2010.

What's interesting is how Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have done a fantastic job of making sure that Greg Jennings and the other wide receivers stay incorporated, though Finley's obviously a much bigger part of the passing game than he was last year.

Jenning really struggled early on in 2010 and only blew up after Finley went down (and after he'd made mention he wasn't thrilled with how many targets he was getting). The transition to the 2011 version of the offense featuring Finley's been much more seamless, and that's reason to fear the Packers again this season.

They're the defending Super Bowl champion and arguably the best team in the NFL right now, and yet, why aren't we talking about them much?

7. Not running away from anyone now
There's very little sympathy for Kenny Britt around the NFL. Dude racked up more tickets this summer than "my friend" at college piled up.

Aside from that clown's reputation, it's important to note that when stupid people do stupid things a stupid amount of time, we take notice. Britt drew tons of attention this summer for his off-field antics, and he should have. Somehow he skated out of a suspension, but karma appears to rolled his way, as he'll likely miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL.

Britt shredded his knee on a screen pass, fumbled the ball, and carted off the field in a Week 3 win against the Broncos.

The worst part about this saga is that Britt somehow had the "Dwayne Bowe circa 2010" look about him, making plays, looking like a top NFL wide receiver, and generally wrecking the same havoc on the NFL that he wrecked on the legal system this summer.

Without him, the Titans offensive gameplan is an entirely different ballgame, especially considering that the corpse of Chris Johnson can't do a whole lot without providing more than three yards a carry. Look, Matt Hasslebeck deserves tons of praise for doing what he's done with what he's had to do while, um, doing what he do.

That being said, this is a Titans team that's begging to lose it's offensive identity in 2011. The biggest curiosity they face isn't so much "how the hell are the 2-1?" so much as it's "how they hell are they scoring points at a pace to make them less terrible than the Chiefs?"

Between the two questions, one is substantially better, and one question -- hint: it's about Kansas City -- is one you don't want everyone asking about your team. Yet Tennessee continues to survive. Maybe that's the way Mike Munchak's regime will win, and that's fine.

But expecting an exact repeat of Jeff Fisher's reign just because Munchak worked for Fisher but didn't necessarily retain all the offensive firepower seems like a stretch.

8. The Camwagon
As you probably know by now, when the word "Cam" gets dropped, it's time for some bragging. Well kudos first go to me for predicting that Cam Newton wouldn't have the monster game everyone expected when he beat -- yes, Cam won! -- the Jaguars on Sunday.

Before you strain your elbow giving some much-deserved pats, though, you should know that I have a weather app on my iPhone.

Speaking of weather, if someone tells you that Newton won a game, make sure you point out that he did it in the most terrible fashion ever. The Panthers might have come out victorious, sure, but did he throw for 400 yards? And was there a double rainbow? No sir there was not.

Ergo, the only answer is that Cam is absolutely terrible at controlling the weather and therefore not a winner. This is actually a thing that someone at your office will probably try and say.

Here's the truth though: Newton was really bad on Sunday, horribly inaccurate with his passes and very much looking like a rookie. The Panthers won 16-10, but they should have won 60-10, even with the weather. Blaine Gabbert, in his first career start, gifted Carolina a safety in his first career drive, and the Panthers somehow never managed to capitalize the opportunity.

Then all of a sudden there was a monsoon in Charlotte, the exhibition matchup became a legitimate great game and Newton was in danger of "not being able to step up." Or something. Everyone will find an excuse. Know this, though -- the Jaguars are a sneakily decent-sounding 1-2 and they're a terrible team. This is despite the career-high 185 yards (through the first two weeks anyway) that Maurice Jones-Drew has compiled.

Another nice day from MJD and a start from Gabbert masked what should have been one really team blowing out another much worse team. Jack Del Rio, this last sentence is for you, sir.

9. Just Wing It
Enjoy saying this now, because there's a strong chance you'll never say it again: "The Bills nearly left too much time on the clock when they scored." Fred Jackson streaked for the end zone to put Buffalo up a touchdown (Again! Against the Patriots!) and give Tom Brady a shot at what Tom Brady does.
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Instead, instant replay ruled Jackson down, the Bills got the ball just shy of the Patriots end zone, and were able to melt the clock down before kicking a game-winning field goal. The really wonked out thing here is that the scoring replay change was perfect for Buffalo.

We've watched enough football to know what happens if you hand this Brady character the pigskin with two minutes remaining and down a few points, right? Watching Brady eviscerate a pass defense en route to a comeback win is still exciting and thrilling and something everyone should do before they die, but it's borderline cliche.

Instead, the Bills flipped the narrative on us, won the damn game and are the leaders at the two-thirds of one-quarter mile-marker for the 2011 NFL season in an AFC East division that didn't have a single bit of prediction promiscuity at the top.

Yes it is early and yes we've seen the Bills storm out of the gates hot before, but there's something afloat in Buffalo's water these days and it's not Spalding's Baby Ruth bar.

10. Houston, We Have … No I'm Sorry I Can't Make That Joke
While we're taking a magical ride on the jump to conclusions mat, let's go ahead and assume that the Texans are terrible at defense and that they are much closer to the 2010 abomination we know, understand, love and play fantasy people against than they are the 2011 would-be division winners.

Except that's silly.

It's not silly to point out that there are a lot of teams who cannot "stop the pass" -- quotations are necessary here because in case you're not reading this regularly, the NFL woke up and decided to chunk the ball down the field with collective regularity.

Arian Foster missing is not the problem, of course. It's still defense for Houston, who appeared on the verge of justifying the Wade Phillips 3-4 hype before coughing up 40 points to New Orleans. But before we freak out and judge this team let's again remember that it's Week 3, again remember that this is Drew Brees commanding a very efficient and very dangerous offense, and let's, most importantly, remind ourselves that it's a baby-stepping process.

Houston wasn't becoming an elite defense overnight, and much less so in a lockout-shortened season. Losing to the Saints is tough, but they're still taking this division, and once they're playing against rookie quarterbacks, it will probably be on the strength of their offseason signings on defense.

While we're here, and because it's too important for muffed punts, Darren Sproles is the most important offensive signing of 2011's free agency. Yeah, I'm doing the knee-jerk thing, but this guy is making a difference in the Reggie Bush role for Sean Payton's offense.

The awkward thing is that he's just flat-out better than Bush at every facet of the game. That's not to rip Reggie, who probably needed to move on anyway, but it's an important reminder that sometimes it's not signings with the big, bold lights that really make the difference once people start playing football.

Pop-culture referencing Jim Irsay tweet that's sure to drive Colts fans insane of the week
"After 9 days,I let the horse run free..cause the desert had turned 2 sea"

Irsay's referencing "Horse With No Name" by the band America. Except he decided to do so a day after refuting his own statement that Peyton Manning wasn't playing this season.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
- A Fox Sports bar in the Charlotte airport made the decision Sunday night to shut off their televisions because a bunch of airport patrons were crowded around the outskirts of the restaurant, watching the Colts-Steelers game. It was the most obstinate, pig-headed display of customer service I've ever seen.
- If you go to New York City and need a good spot to watch some football, the Cornerstone Tavern in Manhattan is pretty freaking fantastic. Good food, nice beer selection and tons of televisions. Also, it's like the unofficial place for Florida Gators to go, so there's that.
- Alex Henery has been a bright spot for the Eagles, by the way. Kid comes in as a rookie, replacing a legend like David Akers, and is producing on some crucial kicks.

Worth 1,000 Words


Hot Seat Tracker
So here's something fun -- Sportsbook.com has odds for the first NFL coach to be fired. We'll include them in parentheticals.
  • Tony Sparano (-120): Sparano's 0-3, the Dolphins can't seem to score and Chad Henne isn't progressing as we thought he might after the first week. Losses at the Chargers and the Jets over the next three weeks make him the favorite to get canned first.
  • Todd Haley (+180): A decent effort against the Chargers on Sunday at least should give Haley a bit of comfort that he can hold onto his job. Plus injuries are a nice excuse.
  • Jack Del Rio (+350): Speaking of nice excuses, the weather in Charlotte on Sunday really helped out Del Rio, because it gave the Jaguars a chance to win against the Panthers. Jacksonville recovered five (!) fumbles and still couldn't pull out a win.
  • Leslie Frazier (+400): Yeah, I was as surprised as you to see him here and I'm only including him because Sportsbook did. Oh, right, and because the Vikings have been outscored like 6,456 to six in the second half so far this season.
  • Jim Caldwell (+1000): It's hard to imagine the Colts canning Caldwell if he continues to keep games close, having lost Peyton Manning. There's  no reason for a midseason firing unless there's a particularly viable candidate out there.
  • Random note: It's just crazy that Tom Coughlin was in this spot less than seven days ago. Oh NFL, you're so nuts.
Chasing Andrew Luck (All odds mine)
Dolphins (1/2): They're almost assuredly going to be 0-5 through six weeks. That should be good for morale.
Chiefs (3/1): Somehow they've already played the easy portion of their schedule!
Colts (2/5): What to watch here is whether or not Indy thinks Peyton Manning can play more than two or three years.

MVP Watch
I'm sticking with my boy Matthew Stafford for now -- hard to argue with him considering the Lions are undefeated, he's second in the league in passing touchdowns (nine), fifth in passing yards and has only thrown two picks. Obviously Tom Brady's a good choice but if the season ended today, he'd get the Offensive Player of the Year award and Stafford would get my nod for MVP. Aaron Rodgers is certainly in the conversation as well.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Sanchez's love of hot dogs motivate Raiders

Are the Raiders using Mark Sanchez's eating habits as bulletin board material? (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


Remember back in the mid-2000s, when Rodney Harrison would invent flimsily constructed reasons for why no one in the league respected the Patriots? It was an absurd notion, and surely Harrison knew this. But by saying it into a microphone somehow made it true, at least long enough for the New England locker room to buy into the idea and take it out on their next opponent.

The predictability (it seemed to happen almost every week) and lack of originality ("We get no respect!" has been done a time or two) quickly made it annoying. Well, there are no such concerns with the 2011 Oakland Raiders, who face the Jets this Sunday.

Apparently, they're still smarting from the 38-0 whuppin' New York put on them back in 2009. And while getting shutout at home is one thing, the idea that a rookie quarterback would come into their house and enjoy a delicious hot dog while the game was still being played is, well, unconscionable.

That's right: the Raiders are using Mark Sanchez's in-game snacking habits as motivation this week.


"Coach showed that to us," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said, according to the Oakland Tribune. "It was just a reminder. We're going to remind him of that during the game."

Kelly's kidding (we think). And even if he isn't, head coach Hue Jackson seemed unconcerned.

"I hope we can make it more interesting for him so he doesn't have to eat hot dogs," Jackson said. "Hopefully we can take the mustard and the relish and the onions and all that and put it away and play a little football." Asked if he would use the issue as motivation, Jackson said, "I can't let all my secrets out. The guy had a hot dog. Was it Der Wienerschnitzel? I don't know. It looked to be pretty good the way he was eating it. So I'm sure we'll have some fun this week."

No word yet on what Jets head coach Rex Ryan thinks about all this but we'll venture a guess (naughty language alert).


The New York Jets are in search for their third win as they prepare to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Who will come out on top? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:05 PM ET.

* via Shutdown Corner

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 11:15 pm
 

Bills continue to be pleasant surprise

D. Nelson caught the game-winning TD pass in Buffalo's win (AP).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

One of the biggest surprises of last week was the Buffalo Bills. They dominated the Chiefs on the road, winning by 34. They got wonderful quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick (if you saw him as Carson Palmer’s backup in Cincinnati, that was downright shocking), and they showcased one of the underrated running backs in the league with Fred Jackson.

But these are, after all, the Bills, and even though they were at home vs. the Raiders, it seemed like a pretty good bet that Buffalo would return to normalcy. And after falling behind 21-3 at halftime, that’s exactly what I thought had happened.

Coach Chan Gailey had made the organization better, but he’s not a miracle worker. It’s not like the Bills’ stay at the top of the AFC East would last more than a week. And then Fitzpatrick went to work. And so did Jackson. And so did Buffalo’s offensive line.

And when Jason Campbell’s last-second Hail Mary attempt was intercepted in the end zone by Da’Norris Searcy, the Bills’ comeback attempt was complete. This week, Fitzpatrick went 28 of 46 for 264 yards, three touchdowns and an interception; Jackson rushed 15 times for 117 yards and two scores; and Buffalo’s stay in the AFC East penthouse will last at least another week.

"That was an amazing gut-check by our football team,” coach Chan Gailey said after the game. “What they did coming out of halftime was amazing. I was really proud of it.

While last week was a laugher the entire way in Kansas City, this week’s performance was even more impressive.

After falling behind by 18, the Bills had five offensive possessions in the second half. They scored five touchdowns. It’s not like the Raiders shriveled up; they kept answering with touchdowns of their own, but eventually, Buffalo got the lead. Only to give it back, which set up the last drive, perhaps the most impressive of the game.

After Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell -- who had a pretty good game in his own right -- hit Denarius Moore for a 50-yard touchdown to give Oakland the 35-31 lead with 3:41 to go, the Bills didn’t panic. They went back to work, and Fitzpatrick started targeting David Nelson.

Already, Fitzpatrick had completed three passes to Nelson -- who recorded 10 catches for 83 yards (both career highs) and a score -- on the final drive, and on third and 10 from the Oakland 15 with 27 seconds to play, Fitzpatrick found him again for a nine-yard gain, setting up the fourth and one with 18 seconds remaining.

Then, Fitzpatrick let Nelson win the game for him. With Nelson lined up on the left side of the line, he took advantage of a busted Oakland coverage (both Raiders defenders shadowed the slot receiver on Nelson’s inside), Nelson worked his way to the post and caught a wide-open 6-yard touchdown to seal the come-from-behind win.

It was, according to Rapid Reporter Mark Ludwiczak, the result of smart play-calling. According to him, the same play was used earlier in the game, but instead of Fitzpatrick throwing the ball to Nelson, he went to tight end Scott Chandler in the slot instead.

This time, of course, Fitzpatrick went the other way.

“I think they were all keying on (Chandler)," Nelson said. "They saw the similar play and I just slipped right underneath."

The Bills have done the same thing, slipping underneath the radar thus far. At 2-0, they’re still a surprise, and if they can actually compete with the likes of the Patriots and the Jets, that would be an even bigger shock. But there’s no question that the Bills have a different attitude this year. And if they can blow out one team and make a nice comeback on another, who’s to say Buffalo can’t continue to surprise all year long?



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Posted on: September 16, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 2:28 pm
 

Raiders Sebastian Janikowski charged with battery

Days after tying an NFL record, Janikowski was charged with battery. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


UPDATE: Saturday, 9/17, via CBSSports.com's Rapid Reporter Eric Gilmore -- Raiders CEO Amy Trask’s statement regarding a report by the Contra Costa Times that Sebastian Janikowski has been charged with misdemeanor battery and false imprisonment against a woman: “This incident occurred over a year ago. Sebastian was not arrested, we were aware of this matter and this is not news.”

-------

In the Monday night season opener against the Broncos, Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record when he converted a 63-yard field goal. On Friday, the Contra Costa Times reports that Janikowski was charged with misdemeanor battery and false imprisonment against a woman that allegedly took place last year, according to Walnut Creek Superior Court documents.

While circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear, the alleged victim, Syrena Nicholson, alleges that the Raiders kicker "did unlawfully violate (her) personal liberty" and "did willfully and unlawfully use force and violence upon (her) person" on September 24, 2010, in Walnut Creek, a town of approximately 64,000 located 16 miles northeast of Oakland.

According to the Times, attorneys for both parties were in court Thursday for a pretrial conference. A trial date hasn't been set but charges against Janikowski could result in a maximum of 18 months in jail and a $33,000 fine.

More details via the Times:
Janikowski, 33, a native of Poland, was arrested four times between 1998 and 2000, during his time at Florida State University -- three times in connection with barroom altercations. He pleaded no contest to one charge, was acquitted on another and charges were dropped on the third.

He also was arrested for underage alcohol possession, to which he pleaded no contest and paid $215 in court costs.

The Raiders selected Janikowski in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft. Shortly before reporting to training camp, he was arrested in Tallahassee, Fla., for possession of the date-rape drug GHB. He was acquitted in 2001.

He was arrested for reckless driving in June 2002, and for DUI four months later. He pleaded no contest to the latter and received three years probation. In 2003 he was arrested after a fight outside a Walnut Creek restaurant. The charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
The Raiders were traveling to Buffalo for Sunday's matchup with the Bills and were no immediately available for comment.

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 9:24 am
 

Terrelle Pryor's appeal hearing coming Thursday

Posted by Will Brinson

Late last Friday, word leaked out that Terrelle Pryor was asking the NFLPA to join in on his appeal and that such an appeal could come as soon as this week. Well, that's happening, and it appears as if Pryor will have his appeal heard on Thursday.

That's according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network who also notes that Pryor "is hoping for an expedited decision."

Indeed, Pryor will probably get a speedy ruling -- Roger Goodell and the league can't be thrilled about Pryor deciding to reverse course and appeal, even though it appeared he wouldn't when the NFL finally let him into the supplemental draft.

However, as we've written numerous times, there is substantial pressure on Pryor to make sure he appeals.

If he doesn't, then the floodgates are wide open for suspending NCAA athletes who turn pro with suspensions and other punishments hanging over their heads.

That Pryor will ultimately end up serving the five-game suspension -- and he will -- isn't a great precedent for the NFLPA. But looking the other way while the league suspends Pryor and not contesting the decision would be a disastrous precedent to establish.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com