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Tag:Peyton Manning
Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:01 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 12:13 am
 

Peyton Manning not interested in Ole Miss job

Artist rendering of what Manning would look like as a slightly overweight SEC head coach.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

This much we know: Houston Nutt won't be coaching the Ole Miss football team after the 2011 season. Former Rebels signal caller and progenitor of the modern NFL quarterback, Archie Manning, is on the search committee to find the next coach.

Seems reasonable given Archie's legacy and his stature. Less reasonable, however: the calls for Peyton Manning to succeed Nutt. But that hasn't stopped fans from suggesting as much.

"I've gotten about 20 or 25 e-mails from people in that regard," Archie told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I passed that on to Peyton. He said, 'Just tell them that I'm 0-10 as an assistant for Indianapolis.'"

Incidentally, the oh-for-2011 start hasn't slowed Jim Caldwell any. In fact, Caldwell has applauded his team's hard work this year, which hasn't gone over well with owner Jim Irsay. (“We will never accept this kind of chronic losing. It’s an unwelcome visitor, that we will not tolerate,” Irsay said recently via Twitter.)

Manning has missed the 2011 season while he recovers from multiple neck surgeries. But unlike some players who choose to rehab away from the team, Manning has been seen on the sidelines and in the coaches booth during games. He's even helped with the game-planning. And once he's healthy, there's every reason to believe that he'll resuming his playing career. Even if the Colts go winless and draft Andrew Luck.

Meanwhile, Archie's search continues.

"I know a lot of people in football, you get names of possible coaches and you take them down," he said. "We'll turn the names we have over to the search firm and they'll have more names. …

"A proven name (as a head coach) is good," the elder Manning continued. "But at the same time, every head coach out there has been an assistant at one time. So it wouldn't be wise for us to look away from assistants. We're looking at everyone, even in the pro ranks."

Echoing the thoughts of our buddy MDS at PFT.com, we wonder if Jim Caldwell's name is on Archie's list.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:34 pm
 

Bill Polian doesn't blame Caldwell or Peyton

Caldwell, Polian

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For those of you who think that the Colts have fallen apart this year because coach Jim Caldwell is doing a lousy job or because Peyton Manning isn’t playing*, there’s at least one Colts official who believes you’re wrong.

That’d be team vice chairman Bill Polian -- who, himself, has come under much criticism for the team’s 0-9 performance this year.

*Somewhere close by, somebody truly believes Manning should be the league MVP this year, and that person is not necessarily incorrect.

Let’s take this point by point.

On the loss of Manning, Polian told NFL.com, “That's like saying New England is too reliant on Tom Brady. You rely on your stars. There's no credence to that theory."

Except for there’s one very easy counter to the Brady argument. Remember when Brady was out for just about all of 2008 with a knee injury? Yeah, his team didn’t go 0-for without him in the lineup. As I recall, New England went 11-5 without its star quarterback and won the AFC East.

On what Caldwell has accomplished in 2011, Polian said, “I think he's done a better job than he did in the Super Bowl year. He didn't have the adversity that year that he had last year and this year. Last year's team wasn't a playoff team, and he not only got it there, but came close to advancing. He's done. And he's done a magnificent job dealing with all the problems."

Is there even a response to that? Did Polian say that with a straight face? I mean, seriously? Caldwell has done a “magnificent job?” Obviously, Polian is in a better position to say that than just about anybody else, but if Caldwell has been magnificent this year, Tony Sparano has been freakin’ Vince Lombardi.

So, what is the problem as seen by Polian -- who, by the way, received a vote of confidence from owner Jim Irsay earlier this month?

"I think it's 70 percent that we're just not playing well, and we need to figure out why and get that fixed," he said. "And then, it's 30 percent talent at certain positions. At defensive tackle, it's injuries. At cornerback, perhaps it's talent, and it's definitely needing better depth. Beyond that, we just need to play better. … (But) I agree with (Bill) Parcells, when he says you are what your record says you are."

On that, I think all of us can agree.

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 11:47 pm
 

Would the Colts considering giving up on Manning?

ManningPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Peyton Manning visited his buddies in the press on Thursday, and he revealed that his rehab progress on his neck has slowed and that it still hasn’t fused. He didn’t say this, but you have to wonder if his career (and not just his season) is in doubt because of his neck problems.

Which leads us to an interesting point made by Manning when talking about his new contract (you’ll recall he signed a five-year $90 million extension in the offseason). Considering Manning is due a $28 million bonus in February, the Colts might have to make an awfully interesting decision about whether they should keep Manning around.

"It's a one-year deal with a four-year extension, if you will," Manning said, via the Indianapolis Star. "I wasn't healthy when I signed the contract and if I'm not healthy in February, I think it's fair for the Colts to be able to make their decision there.”

Manning said there wasn’t a timeline for his rehab and recovery, but he’ll have another “checkpoint” in December to see how his neck is healing. Manning said he’d like to practice this year -- he also said he’d like to play in a game, but there’s almost no chance of that happening -- and part of the reason for that is so the Colts can evaluate him.

"(The Colts have) a right to know where you are physically and what your health is,” Manning said. “Everybody has decisions to be made.”

Can you imagine the Colts releasing Manning if his progress isn’t going as rapidly as everybody would like? Well, think about this. What if the Colts have the first pick of next year’s draft where they could take Andrew Luck. You could say, “Well, that’d be perfect for Luck. Assuming Manning is healthy, Luck can sit at his feet for a couple years and learn how to be an NFL quarterback.” But what if the Colts don’t want to be on the hook for paying tens of millions of dollars to TWO quarterbacks?

Would they be willing to cut Manning loose in favor of Luck? It certainly is not out of the realm of possibility. Which is why Manning’s next checkpoint in early December will be so crucial -- for his own future and for that of his team.

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 5:33 pm
 

Saints turn in Bucs for misleading injury report

We'll have to see if Raheem Morris is as happy with Sean Payton as he appears in this picture (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

If you expected many NFL teams to play nice and be completely honest with their weekly practice reports and their Friday injury reports, you’re probably a little naïve. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been accused in the past of not listing those players who actually should be on the injury list or vice versa, and the Colts weren’t exactly forthcoming about Peyton Manning’s neck problems from last year (he wasn’t listed on the injury report at all).

Call it gamesmanship or, you know, cheating but if there was a league-wide investigation into how many teams misused their injury reports for their own gain, there’s a pretty good chance plenty of franchises would be found guilty.

And if another team thinks it can get ahead by turning in a future opponent to the NFL, it’s not out of the question that it will do exactly that.

Which brings us to Saints coach Sean Payton admitting Friday that he turned in the Buccaneers for their failure to make any mention of the sprained thumb suffered by quarterback Josh Freeman in the Bears game.

"Listen, I think when your quarterback's on NFL Network with a splint on his thumb, normally he's on the injury report," Payton said, via WWL TV. "At least take the splint off before you go on NFL Network, right?"

Funny about that: Freeman magically appeared on Tampa Bay’s injury list soon after, though Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris said the team had no worries about Freeman’s health and whether he could play this weekend.

"That's why we reported it, because the league asked us to,” Morris said, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “(Freeman) sprained it in the Chicago game, came in and practiced during the bye week, and didn't miss anything this week."

Considering the Saints and Buccaneers face each other this Sunday, we can’t wait to see the postgame handshake/fireworks show. Or the two could just laugh about it and chalk it up to the old, “Ah, whatcha gonna do?”

“It was probably a little gamesmanship,” Payton said. “But you gotta list those guys, the same way we do.”

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: November 4, 2011 11:41 am
 

Colts owner sticks by Jim Caldwell, Bill Polian

Caldwell and Polian are safe for now. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The NFL is a bottom-line business. Acts of kindness away from the field may make the world a better place but losing football will always get you fired. The Indianapolis Colts are currently 0-8, their personnel philosophy turned into a house of cards the moment Peyton Manning was sidelined with a neck injury. Manning has yet to take a snap in 2011 and there's a chance he won't. Two things have come out of this.

First, the Suck for Luck campaign is picking up steam, perhaps aided by the fact that Manning won't play forever, there's nothing wrong with having Luck sit behind Manning for a season or two before taking over, and if the Colts are going down in flames this season they might as well get something for it. Namely: their next franchise quarterback.

Second, questions about whether head coach Jim Caldwell or team president Bill Polian should lose their jobs. A few years ago, dumping Polian would've been unthinkable. But a series of questionable draft picks in recent years (Marlin Jackson, Anothony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh, Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes are often mentioned), coupled with the team imploding without Manning because there was no capable backup quarterback on the roster doesn't reflect well on Polian.

Owner Jim Irsay spoke to Caldwell's and Polian's future Thursday.

“When it comes to changes and Jim’s status and that sort of thing, it’s something that eight games going forward, more will be revealed," the Colts owner said, according to the Indianapolis Star. "This situation is always changing. But it’s really going to be always what’s best to give us a chance to win. I don’t have any predictions or any votes of confidence or anything like that. I don’t have any non-votes of confidence. At this point, continuity is a good thing if it makes sense in terms of winning.”

We're not sure Irsay could be more vague. It sounds like Caldwell will keep his job … unless he doesn't. The owner added: “I’ll say this: Jim Caldwell did one of the greatest coaching jobs in the last four games last year to get us to 10-6, to get us in a position to have a chance, a game we really thought we had a chance to win at home against the Jets."

Irsay was less cryptic about Polian.


Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons will travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to square off against the struggling Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Who will come out on top? Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan take a look at this upcoming matchup.

“I’m committed,” he said. “In [the Polian's] defense, it’s pretty radical after the successes we’ve had to start even talking about the question, in my opinion. If this is five or six years or losing; you’re talking about eight weeks. The great things we’ve done, there has been a tilted sort of perception when you win so much that it’s disappointing."

During last week's Pick-6 Podcast, we spoke to ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith about the Colts and he said this: "If I'm Irsay, I'm calling Caldwell and [the Polians] into my office and asking them 'Why shouldn't I fire you?'"

Seems like a fair question, although the real Irsay apparently has no plans to have that conversation.

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 2:37 pm
 

Manning's progress slow, manages to zing Simms

ManningPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Peyton Manning gave a surprise interview to the local press Thursday, and the conclusion to draw from the briefing is that the progress with his neck seems a little stagnated. Which obviously isn’t highly positive. And considering his neck still hasn’t fused, progress is going slowly for the Colts MVP (this year and every year, apparently).

"Not a whole lot to report,” he told reporters, including the Indianapolis Star. “Still waiting for the fusion to take place. That takes place, they thought, between two and three months. Still going slow with that.

“I still have some of the same issues I had before the fusion as far as the nerves and the regeneration. Still dealing with that, the idea being that this surgery gave me the most stability for the nerves to regenerate. That’s still a process there.”

Manning said there really isn’t a timeline to his recovery. Instead, it’s more like a series of checkpoints, the next of which occurs Dec. 1. That’s when he’ll be three months out of surgery, and doctors can determine his strength and conditioning. But for now, he can’t predict where he’ll be and when he’ll be there.

He does know this: he’d like to practice sometime this season.

“Well, the thing about it is the fact that I am on the active roster, if I were in a position, if I were cleared to practice and if I were at a strength level, conditioning level checkpoint that I were cleared, it’s the greatest venue to go out and see where you are on the practice field as opposed to having to grab a receiver off to the side and go out before walk-through or before practice,” he said. “If I was cleared and able to do that, it would be nice to be able to do that, to go out and participate in a team practice where everything is right there with you, even though you probably couldn’t do everything. So, that’s a hope and a wish.”

But as far as playing this year? You’ve got to think there’s absolutely no chance of it happening.

Manning’s sense of humor, though, is still there. You might recall that CBS/Showtime analyst Phil Simms said recently that Andrew Luck didn’t have an NFL arm. Naturally, reporters asked Manning about that, since the Colts, assuming they have the No. 1 draft pick next year, could take him as Manning’s eventual replacement.

“Yeah, I don’t talk to Phil. Phil doesn’t talk to me,” Manning said. “He did text me after that, saying ‘Hey, sorry to drag your name into this.’ I wrote back, ‘Phil I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He said, ‘Well on my show, Inside the NFL, I made this statement.’ I said, ‘Phil, I hate to break it to you, but I don’t watch your show, along with a lot of other people that I don’t think watch that show.’ Giving himself a little more credit than probably was merited.”

Ouch.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 9:14 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Halloween edition

Todd Haley's beard is scaring small children (AP).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Halloween is all about the scary and the freaky and the things that make you shiver in fear in the dead of the night*. The NFL will celebrate the holiday by giving us a Monday Night Football matchup of San Diego and Kansas City, certainly not as scary as last week’s Baltimore-Jacksonville game, and in return, we’re providing a special version of Top Ten with a Twist.

*It’s also about candy corn, but that’s neither here nor there.

In it, we celebrate those coaches, players and accessories that force us to scream in horror and hide underneath the covers. The NFL is filled with large, athletic men that could force you to quicken your pace if you met them in a dark alley. But even those players get frightened. Here are some of the men (and objects) that scare you as fans and scare them as players.

And with that, we wish you a Happy Halloween. Hope everyone survives the scariest night of the year.

10. Jason Babin’s tattoos: It’s more than the tattoos. It’s what the arms that hold the tattoos do to opposing quarterbacks. Namely, they sack them, nine so far this season. The tattoos don’t have a great backstory -- he sketched in a notebook during college, and he liked the tribal design so much that he got them inked on both arms, over his shoulders and across his back -- but they make look him look scary and badass. Reminds me of: Seth Gecko in From Dust Till Dawn.

9. Hank Williams Jr.: He obviously scared the crap out of ESPN executives who immediately excused him from his Monday Night Football services after he compared President Obama and the Speaker of the House playing golf to Hitler yukking it up with Benjamin Netanyahu on the links. Williams, a staunch conservative, even freaked out the Fox News’ morning show crew by his analogy. I’m sure his fans love him even more for his controversial take, but his actions forced ESPN to turn him away from its door without any candy. Reminds me of: The Wolfman.

8. Javon Ringer: This applies only to Chris Johnson, who seemingly has lost his No. 1 role as the Titans running back and is splitting carries with Ringer -- who’s actually out-classing the former 2,000-yard runner. If this keeps up, Ringer will take over Johnson’s starting spot, presenting a scary situation for Tennessee -- having to pay their backup running back $55 million (with $30 million guaranteed). Reminds me of: The Ringer.

7. Roughing the passer: Hardly anybody understands what should be called and what shouldn’t be. If a pass-rusher grazes the helmet of a quarterback, is that a blow to the head? What constitutes unnecessary roughness? I mean, you can still tackle the quarterback, right? And nobody is more skittish about the rules and their implications than the officials who have to make the calls and throw the flags. Since it seems like they don’t know what they should be calling, every time a quarterback is sacked, it’s a roll of the dice. I love the line from Bengals coach Marvin Lewis a few years ago when Justin Smith was called for a penalty against Tampa Bay’s Bruce Gradkowski, "I guess you have to cuddle them to the ground." Except the penalties are anything but cuddly. Reminds me of: Blair Witch Project (fear of the unknown).

Babin6. Ndamukong Suh: We don’t really need to explain why. Suh is a monster come to life whose primary mission (and what seems to sustain his soul) is to destroy quarterbacks. Like here with Andy Dalton. Or here with Jake Delhomme. Suh has spent much of his time lately telling people he’s not a dirty player. But he’s also meeting with Roger Goodell this week to figure out how he can get fined less. Hopefully, he doesn’t scare Goodell the way he scares opposing quarterbacks. Reminds me of: The Hulk.

5. Roger Goodell’s accounting books: Goodell decides the disciplinary fines and then collects tens of thousands of dollars a week for various infractions (from helmet-to-helmet hits to uniform malfunctions). The reason he’s so frightening: it’s all so random. Dunta Robinson should have been six figures for his hit on Jeremy Maclin, but instead, it was in the $40,000 range. Troy Polamalu shouldn’t have been fined for calling his wife from the bench to let her know he was OK after suffering a concussion, but instead, Goodell lifted $10,000 from him. Mess with a player’s money, and for the most part, you’ll have earned their fear. Reminds me of: Ebenezer Scrooge.

4. Peyton Manning’s shadow: This looms high over the city of Indianapolis, and it blots out the sun whenever the Colts are playing. It’s not that he’s trying to be such a scary dude -- he seems to be the consummate teammate even while he’s recovering from his neck surgery -- but his shadow has become a black hole for any chance of the team winning in his absence. It’s quite frightening to think that, all this time, the only thing saving the Colts from long-term irrelevance was Manning’s health. Reminds me of: The Blob.

3. HGH testing: Obviously, this is the biggest bogeyman of all, because the union is in no hurry to allow the NFL to draw blood and test for human growth hormone. The NFL says the tests are safe and reliable. The union says the tests are invasive and unproven. Who do we believe? Just like much of the lockout fodder that emerged from both sides, we have no idea. But it seems pretty clear that the NFLPA is worried about agreeing to the testing. As if there’s a man with a needle waiting inside the union’s closest, ready to spring out after lights out. Reminds me of: the scary dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

2. Tim Tebow’s throwing motion: After his performance vs. the Lions on Sunday (not to mention the first 55 minutes of the Miami game), it must be clear to anybody who can recognize NFL talent that Tebow doesn’t have what it takes to be a starting quarterback. We make fun of the guy, and I feel bad, because he seems like an absolutely great dude. But his motion is terrible, and his mechanics are flawed. Simply put, it makes us want to cry and go hide in the closet until it goes away. Reminds me of: John Moxon from Varsity Blues (true, not a horror movie, but still a scary portrayal of a Texas prep football player).

1.Todd Haley’s homeless look: Haley is sporting a winning beard, meaning he won’t shave again until the Chiefs lose, and it’ll be on display for Halloween. He looks like a combination of Artie Lang’s younger, skinnier (and more sober) brother and the crazed son of Kevin McAllister’s body-burying neighbor in Home Alone. And it’s beginning to scare small children. If the Chargers beat the Chiefs tonight, I think they’d be doing us -- and our kids -- a huge favor by forcing Haley to razor that thing off his face. Reminds me of: this guy from Hellraiser.

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Posted on: October 31, 2011 4:13 am
Edited on: October 31, 2011 4:29 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 8

Posted by Will Brinson



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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is pretty unfortunate for him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Worth 1,000 Words



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

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

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



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

MVP Watch
Aaron Rodgers somehow picked up some more space on his bye week -- Tom Brady's poor performance separates the Packers quarterback even further. Once again, though, we need to mention Fred Jackson as a viable MVP candidate (though he won't get votes). LeSean McCoy could get some run if the Eagles really get hot.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com