Tag:Larry Fitzgerald
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:46 pm
 

Report: Manning 'put out feelers' to Cardinals


Earlier on Thursday, I whipped up a little opus relating to the teams who have likely (maybe? definitely?) contacted Peyton Manning about his interest in their respective franchises.

One of those interested teams was the Arizona Cardinals. It appears, based on a report from Adam Schein of FOXSports.com, that the feeling is mutual. 

That's because, according to Schein, Manning "put out feelers" to the Cardinals about their level of interest.

Schein also writes that Manning is "very intrigued" about the possibility of playing with star wideout Larry Fitzgerald and that Manning "also likes Arizona's young, talented defense."

Additionally, Manning likes the idea of "bringing along [Reggie] Wayne as his wingman," which is something we've heard rumored before.

This all makes sense: these are the reasons I laid out when I listed the Cardinals as the No. 1, most-likely destination for Manning this offseason.

However, Arizona does have one problem: a tiny window with which to talk to Manning. Kevin Kolb is due a roster bonus of $7 million on March 17. That's 10 days from when Manning became a free agent and it's not as if the entire league has their quarterback situation sewn up.

Manning is a wanted man and he probably wants to see what various teams have to offer. Of course, those various teams also want to see what Manning has to offer. At some point in the next week or so, he has to throw for teams that are interested. (I mean, right?)

If that throwing session doesn't happen until free agency actually begins on March 13, the Cardinals will be in a tightly-squeezed situation that could be difficult to resolve.

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 7:43 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:20 pm
 

Where will Peyton Manning play in 2012?

Where will Peyton play in 2012? And will it feature Wayne? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Peyton Manning, by the end of the week, will no longer be a member of the Colts. It could happen as soon as Wednesday, but it's happening. It's the end of an era, and a new one is going to start soon.


But where? Manning is going to play somewhere and he's going to have his choice of a couple of nice spots. Let's break down where he might end up and why each of the potential landing spots does or does not make sense.

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona's always been my personal favorite landing spot for Manning, mainly because they did this same thing with Kurt Warner many moons ago and had great success. Also, you'd have to think they'd like to get out of having Kevin Kolb, and the Bidwell family isn't shy about grabbing big-name veterans.

Pros: Larry Fitzgerald. Also: Larry Fitzgerald. Did we mention Larry Fitzgerald? Seriously though, Fitz is one of the best receivers in the game and he's put up monster stats with mediocre quarterbacks. Arizona's got a defense that came on strong late last year. They play in a relatively weak division; regardless of San Fran's success in 2011, they would be the favorite to win the NFC West with a healthy Manning. Their running game is decent enough, especially if Ryan Williams can return. Reggie Wayne would make this offense hum too. Perhaps Arizona's biggest advantage? They have a domed stadium with natural grass.

Cons: Their offense line needs work, but that's where free agency and the draft comes in. They have a commitment to Kevin Kolb due on March 17, which means the window to land Manning is incredibly short. They can't risk whiffing on Peyton and coughing up Kolb.
Latest news at Peyton's place

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins also make sense for a number of reasons (see: below), but primarily because they've desperately craved a quarterback since Dan Marino left town. It's the worst-kept secret in the NFL that ownership wants to make the offense a little sexier to bump up ticket sales. Peyton would do that.

Pros: South Beach, where Manning has a condo, is very nice this time of year, provided "this time of year" means "always." The Dolphins have one of the best left tackles in the game in Jake Long to shore up Manning's blindside. Brandon Marshall and Davonne Bess, with the addition of Reggie Wayne and/or Pierre Garcon is a filthy receiving corps. Reggie Bush was a feature back last year, somehow, but would be even more effective playing out of a Peyton-styled offense. They have lots of talent on the defense and could compete right away with Manning. There is no quarterback to worry about replacing. They play the Dolphins in South Beach.

Cons: The division is one of the toughest in the NFL. Peyton would have to play Tom Brady twice a year (although that's awesome for the rest of us). Joe Philbin, the new head coach, comes from Green Bay which means he could be in love with Matt Flynn. That could potentially make it awkward for Manning if owner Stephen Ross is set on Manning and Philbin is not. The media is not afraid to swarm on people who move to South Beach -- just ask LeBron James.

Seattle Seahawks

Since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle, it's been assumed that at some point he'd make a play for a franchise quarterback. Thus far, the only plays he'd made are trading for Charlie Whitehurst and signing Tarvaris Jackson. Seattle still a "sleeper" for Manning, but landing him would absolutely represent the final piece in Carroll's "master plan."

Pros: The Seahawks need to improve a little at guard, but they've got a lot invested in an offensive line that played well late last year and could keep Manning on his feet. A Manning-less Cardinals team means the Seahawks would absolutely challenge for the division title. There is only Tarvaris Jackson to unseat. The Seahawks have a better defense than a lot of people want to give them credit for, particularly the secondary. Carroll and GM John Schneider are not afraid to be aggressive. Or enthusiastic. So that's a plus.

Cons: The offense weapons are not great. Sidney Rice is the top receiver. Marshawn Lynch just signed a big deal, although he'd theoretically be more effective with Peyton under center. Obviously Wayne/Garcon would be nice additions. Weather and the outdoors of Seattle are not a plus.

Washington Redskins

Peyton's been attached to the Redskins because Daniel Snyder likes to spend money on shiny things with big names. And he's got at doing it, so regardless of whether or not the marriage makes sense, it's entirely possible.

Pros: Straight cash, homey: if Peyton wants to make the most money without worrying about incentives, I gotta think Washington's his spot. Mike Shanahan is desperate, so he'd probably be willing to cede some control to Peyton. This Skins defense would've been much better if they hadn't had to deal with the anemic offense Washington trotted out last year. The running game is fungible, thanks to Shanahan and would help Peyton.

Cons: The Redskins lack offensive weapons, but could bring in Wayne and Garcon if they wanted to keep playing with Peyton. Does Shanahan's system, which involves rolling out quarterbacks, really fit Manning? I say no. The media scene in Washington, with all due respect to my colleagues, can be a bit of a trainwreck. There is tons of coverage of the tiniest stories there. Peyton will have to play his little brother Eli Manning twice a year. He can't possibly want to do that and/or compete with Eli for a division title annually. What happens if Robert Griffin III blows up and Peyton struggles -- will people question the decision not to trade up? That's a serious question.

New York Jets

Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum refused to kill off the rumors about Manning heading to New York and thusly, these rumors live on.

Pros: The Jets are seen as a contender, even if their defense took steps back last year. There are weapons: Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene are decent enough. Reports indicate the Jets might be willing to dump Holmes to land Wayne. The offensive line has some legit talent on it; center Nick Mangold particularly stands out. The Jets have gone the big-name veteran route before, trading for Brett Favre. The Super Bowl will be in New York in 2014.

Cons: It's New York, which means the scrutiny on Manning is going to be amplified a billion times more than anywhere else. Manning is not a "spotlight" guy. Peyton would have to share the city with his brother; though that might be OK from a "having enough space" perspective, do you really think that either one of them wants to hear a million questions about each other at every press conference. The Jets locker room was a disaster last year and there's no guarantee (none, says Rex Ryan!) that it'll be better this year. The Jets play the Patriots twice a year. The Jets don't have the greatest setup for weather/stadium when it comes to helping Peyton.

Kansas City Chiefs

This is where we go from "sleeper" status to "darkhorse" candidate; the Chiefs actually make a lot of sense from a personnel and situational perspective, but is it really a fit? I'm not so sure.

Pros: The Chiefs are a bounceback candidate in 2012, thanks to guys like Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles returning from injury. Charles, Moeaki, Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston create a formidable set of offensive weapons. They play the Colts in Arrowhead. Matt Cassel is the primary competition, but he's not a tremendous salary-cap burden in 2012.

Cons: Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel are Patriots guys. Is that considered the dark side? That's serious: could Peyton play for Patriots midwest or whatever you want to call the Chiefs? It really seems like a long shot. Crennel might actually have tampering charges filed against him.

San Francisco 49ers

If any team is "one guy away," it's the 49ers. And that's why you can't count them out. Plus, Peyton Manning replaced Jim Harbaugh in Indy, and Peyton Manning's getting replaced by Andrew Luck, who was coached by ... Jim Harbaugh. Stew on that one for a minute.

Pros: The 49ers are a stacked team, outside of quarterback and wide receiver. Vernon Davis is a freakshow target and this team has room for Wayne/Garcon. Their defense is one of the best in the NFL. They were a Kyle Williams fumble away from making the Super Bowl. They have no quarterback: Alex Smith is going to be a free agent too.

Cons: Harbaugh's gotten behind Smith the whole way and he seems genuinely convinced that Smith can be his guy long term. The 49ers would be throwing a lot of progress away if they went after Manning and he wasn't healthy, so there is a lot of risk here.

Houston Texans

Yeah, we're getting nuts. The Texans are a real long shot, especially with Matt Schaub under center. But Schaub's closing in on the end of his deal

Pros: This offense is loaded obviously. Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, one of the best offensive lines in the league, Owen Daniels, Ben Tate -- a lot of talent here. They get to play the Colts twice a year and this would be the ultimate spite move.

Cons: There's so much risk involved in doing this for the Texans, it's just too hard to fathom. They have T.J. Yates if Manning doesn't pan out, but they definitely thought they could win the Super Bowl had Schaub stayed healthy last year. No cap room.

Denver Broncos

Again, we are deep here people. Don't judge me. You know John Elway wants a "real" quarterback. And there are probably only one or two that could actually take the wind out of Tim Tebow's sails. Peyton is one of them.

Pros: See above; the Broncos want an under-center QB and Peyton would trump Tebowmania. (I think.) They have a talented defense. They play in a weak division.

Cons: The Broncos have an OK offense, with Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno.

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Posted on: February 12, 2012 12:29 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 12:53 pm
 

Can Big Ben and Haley co-exist in Pittsburgh?

Haley may not have been Roethlisberger's (or Tomlin's) first choice, but none of that matters now. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers have had a run on un-Steelers-like offseasons recently. From Ben Roethlisberger's legal entanglements to Hines Ward's DUI to to Rashard Mendenhall's tweets on foreign policy to James Harrison's guns-ablazin' interview in Mens Journal, it's always something.


Even though this offseason isn't yet a week old, the Steelers are in the news again, this time for forcing offensive coordinator into "retirement" (eight days later, Arians joined the Colts in the same capacity) and hiring Todd Haley as his replacement.

We spoke to Lance Zierlein of TheSidelineView.com about this new dynamic (Lance has special insights into the Steelers -- his dad was Mike Tomlin's offensive line coach in Pittsburgh from 2007-2009) and it basically came down to this: Roethlisberger's been given too much leeway by the organization, there are some things he needs to do to improve, and Haley could be the guy to do it.

Zierlein admitted that Haley's abrasive style will take some getting used to, and the hire is weird in the sense that Haley's only link to Pittsburgh is through his father, Dick, a longtime personnel guy with the Steelers. He has no connection to Tomlin or his coaching tree, and based on Tomlin's comments shortly after the season (he said he expected all his assistants back in 2012), Haley wasn't even on his radar until Arians was pushed out.

In Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Joe Starkey writes that Haley's addition is aimed at one thing: corralling Roethlisberger, who pretty much has had the run of the place since he arrived in 2004.

"How does Roethlisberger respond to getting slapped around a little?" Starkey asks. "The organization that granted him nearly unlimited power to play as he saw fit -- heck, to play when he saw fit after his ankle injury -- is trying to reclaim a portion of said power. And there is no delicate way to do that.

"So get your popcorn ready. It's either going to work to spectacular results or blow up in their faces. Applaud the high-risk, high-reward philosophy that has often served the Steelers well. Question their methods. Enjoy the cabaret."

This seems to be the widespread perception -- that Roethlisberger won't handle tough coaching well. But as Zierlein pointed out Friday, While Haley's style isn't buddy-buddy (he's had run-ins with players everywhere he's coached, from divas like Terrell Owens in Dallas to team leaders like Kurt Warner and Matt Cassel in Arizona and Kansas City), he's had a lot of success as completely different kinds of offenses, from the Cards' aerial assault to the Chiefs' run-heavy game plans.

And Haley's in-your-face style isn't all bad. In fact, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a huge Haley fan.

"I think Todd is a great coach," Fitzgerald said late in 2010 when Haley was leading the Chiefs to the AFC West title. He's fun to play for. "Everybody says he's a hard ass and this … but at the end of the day when Todd came in the locker room he'd give you the biggest hug. He wanted it so bad for us. He prepared so much and he pushed us. I remember after the NFC championship (victory over the Eagles in January 2009) he was in tears. Those moments are what I'll remember."

So maybe Haley isn't Roethlisberger's first choice or Tomlin's "guy," but he'll have plenty of weapons to work with. The Steelers' wide receivers are some of the best in the league, tight end Heath Miller is as good a blocker as a pass catcher, and Big Ben is a top-5 talent. There are worse situations to step into and be expected to succeed.

Ultimately, none of this matters. It'll come down to whether the Steelers' offense in 2012 is better than it was under Arians. That means scoring more points, being more proficient in the red zone, and having a more consistent running game. Do that, and people will gladly overlook how Haley comports himself on the sidelines. Fail and will be looking for work.

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Posted on: January 2, 2012 8:51 am
 

Cards overcome blood, fainting to beat 'Hawks

J. Feely celebrates his game-winning kick (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

While the Cardinals and Seahawks didn’t get much play Sunday -- and probably didn’t get many viewers, considering the Bengals, Broncos and Raiders were all fighting for playoff spots at the same time as Arizona in games that were close until the end -- give credit to Arizona for winning the 23-20 game in overtime to finish 8-8 on the season.

And give the Cardinals credit for being tough.

According to his father, Larry Fitzgerald Sr., Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (Jr.) suffered a lung injury at some point Sunday and was spitting up blood on the sideline, and as the Arizona Republic writes, quarterback John Skelton fainted before the game after he got his knee drained and then completed 22 of 40 passes for 271 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

But what was most impressive with the Cardinals this season was the way they finished the year, winning seven of their final nine games and giving the kind of effort that will ensure coach Ken Whisenhunt’s return next season.

"It's just exciting to see the fight in this football team," Whisenhunt said. "And to get that win was big for us."

Although the Cardinals didn’t have a shot at winning the NFC West this year -- not with the season the 49ers have had -- the way they ended 2011 has to be encouraging for next year.

"Football is much like life," Skelton said, via the Republic. "There are a lot of ups and downs, and you've just got to rebound and be able to stay on the straight and narrow. Sometimes the chips are down, (but) we have great guys on our team that know that even when the cards are stacked against us, we still have a shot."

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Posted on: December 23, 2011 10:39 am
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:34 am
 

Five questions (or more) with Andre Roberts

A. Roberts has helped Arizona win six of its past seven games (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

Andre Roberts is a second-year receiver for the Cardinals, but if you haven’t heard of him, that’s to be expected. Arizona has been ignored for much of the year -- that’s probably because of San Francisco’s ridiculous season -- and even when the Cardinals got hot and started their current streak (they’ve won six of their past seven games), Roberts wasn’t a receiver on which the average fan focused.

He’s no fantasy football hero, and with Larry Fitzgerald sucking up all the attention for the entire Arizona receiving corps (and deservedly so), Roberts has quietly put together an effective season as the team’s No. 2 receiver. Not bad for a Division I-AA player who planned on going into the accounting field if pro football failed him.

On the season, he’s caught 41 passes for 487 yards and two touchdowns, but in the past three games, he’s begun to record impressive numbers. In Arizona’s upset of Dallas in Week 13, Roberts lead the team with six catches for 111 yards. Against Cleveland last week, he reeled in another six catches for 60 yards. With Fitzgerald in the lineup, Roberts won’t be the THE star, but still, he’s established a niche for himself for a team that seems to have plenty of potential.

We caught up with Roberts this week, and during our discussion, we touched on why John Skelton has played well after taking over the quarterback spot for Kevin Kolb, why Victory Monday can be so sweet and why playing football at the Citadel wasn’t the easiest road he could have taken.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith

Nov. 4:
Bengals S Chris Crocker

Nov. 18: legendary coach Bum Phillips

Dec. 9: Jets DE Aaron Maybin

1. CBSSports.com: With the 49ers playing well, not a lot of people paid much attention to the rest of the NFC West. But you guys have won six of seven, and you’re still here. How’d that happen?

Andre Roberts: Just working hard after our losses. It’s easy to get down after having six losses straight (from Weeks 2-8). We kept working at it, we kept grinding away.

CBS: But the 49ers got off to such a fast start and left everybody else in the NFC West behind. Obviously, that’s not something you guys can control except when you play the 49ers. But on a mental level, how tough is it when the 49ers just keep on winning and pulling away in the division?

Roberts: For the most part, we just worry about us. You can’t worry about other teams. As for us and the other teams in the NFC West, it just makes us play harder. We have to compete with those guys in order to get in the playoffs.

2. CBS: But after beating Dallas and then San Francisco a few weeks back, that must have been a big thing for you guys.

Roberts: It was big for us. It was keeping our win streak alive. It’s really about the team we play every single week. We came out and worked hard. Just tried to do our best. Dallas is good and San Fran is a good team. We just worked hard and had a good time.

CBS: But everybody works hard. I could ask every guy in the NFL, and they all would say they work hard every single week. What’s different about the Cardinals lately?

Roberts: I don’t know, maybe Victory Mondays. If we win, we get Mondays off. We get a little more rest. I don’t know, it’s just something about our team. We have a resilience.

CBS: What do you guys do if you have a Victory Monday?

Roberts: For the most part, we come in and get treatment and work out. Hot tub and cold tub. But when we have a Victory Monday, we don’t watch film from Sunday. We don’t have to watch that until Wednesday. We still come in and work out and everything. But it’s just the feeling of having that day off; it’s us getting something from winning the game on the weekend.

A. Roberts has been Arizona's No. 2 receiver this year (US Presswire).3. CBS: You guys still aren’t out of playoff picture yet. You’ve already beaten Dallas and San Francisco. You have to win out and get a lot of help. It’s still a longshot, but you’re still here.

Roberts: Definitely, last year at this point of the year, we had no chance of making the playoffs. We’re really treating every game like a playoff game. In order for us to have the opportunity, we have to win out. We can win out and still not go, but that’s why we’re treating every game like it’s a playoff.

4. CBS: Kevin Kolb was obviously the big money free agent to come in, and for John Skelton, that must have been tough. Now, he’s had to take over for Kolb a few times because of Kolb injuries. How did John get through that and still manage to be effective when he has to play?

Roberts: He responded great to it. I’m sure he knew we were going to have a free agent come in. Kevin came in and we wanted him to start. But John handled it great. Like everybody else, he just works hard. He’s definitely a hard worker, and when you go about it like that, you’ll come out on the right side.

CBS: Was there a little bit more familiarity with John because you guys came into the league together and because he played some quarterback last year with you guys?

Roberts: It helped a lot with the familiarity of him and his ball and the way it comes at you and him knowing the playbook. I’m sure it helped him a lot. We didn’t have the offseason, but being able to see the defense and to read them in preparation to know routes we were running, it helps with the timing. 

5. CBS: You played at the Citadel. I want to know what that’s like -- with all the military exercises and the school and playing football on top of that. I don’t know how many guys in the NFL played at the Citadel, but I can’t imagine there are many. And I can’t imagine there’s anybody from VMI in the league. That has to be a tough existence in college.

Roberts: It’s really tough. At the Citadel, you have to deal with the military life and football and school. Most of the time you go to college, and you only have to worry about football and school. It can take a toll on you if you let it. That hardest year is that first year, when you’re introduced to it all. You come into football camp, and you go into school and everything is so new. It is tough.

The first-year guys everywhere have it rough. You don’t know the environment. You don’t know your teammates. You don’t know who your roommate is going to be, because our roommates weren’t football players but other people in the regular corps. All that stuff combined with classes and knowing what your major is, after the military exercises and then having to learn plays, it’s tough.

CBS: How did you do it?

Roberts: I had to fit in real quick. Football actually helps. It takes away some of the military duties. Football is a getaway and that’s how I used it. I used it to get my mind off school and military stuff. That what helped me the most.

CBS: I know both of your parents were in the military. Was that a route you were going to take if the NFL thing didn’t work out?

Roberts: I actually never wanted to go into the military. I went to a military college and my parents were military. I had a strict household growing up. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard, but I didn’t want to.

CBS: I read an interview with you when you were still in college, and you said that the only Division I offers you had were the Citadel and Coastal Carolina, and that since Coastal is by the beach, you didn’t think you’d be able to finish school. Is that true?

Roberts: I don’t know if I really needed the structure the Citadel gave me, but it helped me get through school and to grow up and to learn how to be a man. I didn’t know if I could have done that at Coastal.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 2:20 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 13

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 13 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.

 

1. Tebowtainment

Before diving into another Tim Tebow victory -- this time a 35-32 squeaker on the road in Minnesota -- let's go ahead and get you ready for the upcoming week of screaming talking head mania by offering up the Official Tebow Haters Stat Du Jour: opponent's victories!

As people will tell you over the next seven days, Denver's last five victories came against five teams five teams with a combined 25 victories. (Don't think I'm defending that, just know that I'm preparing you for it.)

You know why people are going to focus on that, as well as the Vikings two-win season and a miserable Minnesota secondary?

Because Tebow just won a game by being a -- gasp! -- traditional passer. Tebow went 10 of 15 for 202 yards and two touchdowns and only rushed the ball four times, one of which was was a lateral kneel to set up the game-winning field goal.

The result of Sunday's win is the most improbable of improbable situations: Denver being the favorite to land the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. With "just" the Bears, Patriots, Bills and Chiefs remaining on the schedule, Denver's in a better position than Oakland (losers Sunday, with the Packers, Lions, Chiefs and Chargers remaining) to make the postseason.

And if you're a Tebow hater, you better get your block button on Twitter ready, because things are about to get hairy when they get there. On the other hand, if you're a Tebow hater, what's your beef with a team that utilizes an opportunistic defense, a run-based offense that doesn't make mistakes and a quarterback who may or may not have mystical powers to win games?

I understand that people have to argue about something during the week, but are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?

2. You Just Iced Yourself, Bro

On Sunday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett took clock mismanagement to an entirely new level in Dallas' 19-13 loss to Arizona in overtime.

First off, Garrett iced his own kicker. Icing an opponent's kicker is a foolhardy move, because it really doesn't work all that well in the first place. But icing your own kicker? That's the stuff that Jim Mora rants -- and knee-jerk firings -- are made of.

Somehow, though, Garrett's ridiculous decision wasn't his worst move of the Cowboys loss. With over a minute remaining, Dallas facing a second and 20 and holding two timeouts, Tony Romo took the snap and completed a pass to Dez Bryant for nine yards. 30 seconds later, Romo took another snap and hit Bryant for 15 yards and a first down, then spiked the ball with eight seconds remaining on the clock.

No timeouts used, 53 seconds burnt and the Cowboys still needing Dan Bailey to kick a 49-yard field goal. Cue up icing of Bailey, and cue up a Kevin Kolb-led game-winning drive for the Cardinals in their first possession in overtime.

There's no need to dive into the hyperbole-filled world of "worst clock management ever," but suffice to say Wade Phillips is laughing his jolly ass off somewhere right now.

3. Yes We Cam ... But Maybe We Shouldn't

Sunday -- a 38-19 win for Carolina over Tampa Bay -- was a big day for Cam Newton. The Panthers won. (It's the most important thing, haven't you heard?) Newton won his first division game. Newton picked up his first winning "streak." And the rookie phenom had, arguably, his best game as a professional quarterback.

Newton went 12 of 21 for and only threw for 204 yards, but he had one touchdown through the air, no turnovers and managed 54 rushing yards on 13 carries and three rushing touchdowns.

That total, by the by, means Newton now holds the single-season rookie record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 13, leaving poor Steve Grogan with no other real historical notation to his name.

Here's the crazy thing though: Newton's just five touchdowns short of Eric Dickerson's record for rushing touchdowns in a season by any rookie. With four games to go, 18 or 19 is well within his sights.

Should it be, though? I say no, and that's coming from someone who's a conductor on the CamWagon and a Newton fantasy owner. Here's why: Newton hasn't learned how to avoid contact yet. He's getting a little better about avoiding shots, but watching him go into a headfirst horizontal spin has to make Jerry Richardson's heart skip a couple of beats.

On a day when you win by 19 points against a terrible rushing defense like Tampa's, especially when they don't have their starting quarterback, there's no reason why Newton has three more carries than DeAngelo Williams, who got $43 million this offseason.

Watching Cam break Dickerson's record would be fun, but not as fun as watching Cam stay healthy over the next decade.

4. Defining Swagger

For the first few weeks of the season, I'm pretty confident I pumped a lot of words in this space in the direction of the Detroit Lions because of their new-found attitude under coach Jim Schwartz.

A "swagger," if you will. Well, it's backfiring, and backfiring badly. Sunday was a perfect example, as the Lions piled up well over 100 yards in penalties -- most of them incredibly stupid and chippy -- during their 31-17 loss to New Orleans.

Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham preach a hard-nose brand of football, and that's great for a Lions team that's been pushed around and publicly mocked for more than a decade because of futility in every aspect.

But you can't give away games by trying to be tough. The Lions, for the first time in a looooong time, are in the middle of a playoff race, and other contenders (the Giants, the Bears, the Falcons, the Cowboys) are imploding all around them.

Did they learn nothing from Ndamukong Suh getting suspended for ridiculously dumb and violent on-field actions? Just go out and be tough without being dumb.

Having swagger doesn't mean having to be stupid.


5. Hibernation Time

Say what you will about Caleb Hanie, but the Bears had a shot at the playoffs even with Jay Cutler out. But after Matt Forte sprained his MCL in Sunday's 10-3 loss to Kansas City, that pipedream just went down the tube.

Hanie was 11 of 24 for 133 yards and three picks, Marion Barber carried the rock 14 times for 44 yards and anyone watching the game knew that it was going to take a Bears defensive touchdown to win that game.

The Bears got burnt because Kansas City hit a Hail Mary to Dexter McCluster at the end of the half, and as pointed out last week, Romeo Crennel really does deserve some love for the defensive schemes he's cooking up these days, but this is a Chicago team that looked like a legit Super Bowl contender just three weeks ago.

Since then, they've been absolutely snakebit with injuries to stars, and even if they're still technically "in" the NFC playoffs as of today, is that defense really going to shut out three of the next four opponents?

Or, put more a little succinctly: Chicago just lost to Tyler Palko. Goodnight, sweet Bears.

6. Next Man Up

Speaking of injuries to key players, can we go ahead and get love for the work Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips are doing in Houston?

Because as soft as the Texans schedule is, Kubes somehow managed to shock the world (well, some of us) by beating Atlanta 17-10 despite having T.J. Yates under center.

But what's new, right? The Texans, as Clark Judge noted on Sunday from Houston, have won without every single one of their stars and it's not just because this team gets to beat up on the cupcakes of the AFC South.

It's because they've got established a quality of depth on this team that allows them to succeed despite potentially debilitating injuries to critical players.

"Because we have a defense that's playing well," Arian Foster said after the game. "We have receivers that can make plays. [We have] a solid offensive line. We have running backs who can make plays. We have weapons around him to help [Yates]."

This steady diet of consistency and quality of depth is precisely why Houston hasn't -- and won't -- collapse under the weight of a run to the playoffs this year.


7. Rookie Wall

The BCS laid a couple of stinkbombs on Sunday that would actually make Jim Caldwell cringe, but the most important thing for us NFL types is that the college season is now over. Not because we want it to end, but now's a good measuring stick of the rookie wall.

The last time Andy Dalton, leading a surprising Bengals playoff run, played a game after the first weekend of December, it was probably on a month's worth of rest, because of the bowl system.

This year, Dalton gets four games in that stretch, with about six days in between each one.

And though the Red Rifle wasn't awful during Sunday's 35-7 loss to Pittsburgh, he was banged up and beat down enough that Bruce Gradkowski came in for mop-up duty.

As noted above, I'm all for keeping rookies safe. But there's got to be some concern that Dalton's entering an unknown area in terms of wear and tear on his body and mind.

It probably won't help that he gets a pair of elite defenses -- Baltimore and Houston -- over the next few weeks either.

8. Please Don't Punch the Zebras

Twice on Sunday we saw players -- Da'Quan Bowers of the Buccaneers and Brandon Pettigrew of the Lions -- make what could at best be called "incidental" contact with referees on the field.

Both Bowers and Pettigrew were involved in scuffles on the field and neither was going after the official, but when they were being pulled away from whatever mini-ruckus was taking place, both struck the official.

That's a 15-yard penalty and it should be an ejection. Only Pettigrew was flagged and neither was ejected. (Oddly, when Bowers lashed out, Brian Price was booted to the locker room by coach Raheem Morris.)

It's not an epidemic running around, but with some of the non-calls we've seen on violent plays this year, it's a little disappointing that the guys in stripes aren't making more of a concerted effort to look out for their own safety.

Expect fines for both guys, particularly if the league wants to ensure players aren't taking aggressive contact with the officials on the field of play.

9. Save Our Sparanos

My man Pete Prisco already broke down the odiferous nature of Oakland's 34-14 stinkbomb in Miami on Sunday, but there's something else at play here: is Tony Sparano saving his job?

Because the Dolphins are suddenly riding a hot streak (they've won four of their last five) that seemed impossible after an 0-7 start to the season. Not only are they no longer the worst team in the NFL, they might not even be the worst team in their division, what with the 5-7 Bills racing them back to the bottom.

Matt Moore looks like Matt Moore looked when Matt Moore was helping the Panthers win meaningless games late in 2009, and Reggie Bush looks like Reggie Bush looked when ... well, Reggie Bush hasn't ever looked like this. But he looks good.

The defense is stifling teams (I don't care how many starters the Raiders were missing), and Miami's got three winnable games on their schedule remaining, as they play the Eagles and Jets at home and the Bills on the road.

If Sparano gets this team to 7-9 by winning seven of their last nine, it really seems inconceivable that Stephen Ross could can him.

10. Utah, Gimme Two

If you're listening to the podcast -- and why aren't you listening and/or subscribing -- you probably heard us rant on the ridiculous nature of two-point conversion usage in football.

And if you're not listening, here's a synopsis: people are doing it wrong. A great example occurred during the Packers-Giants game on Sunday (eventually won by Green Bay 38-35). With 3:35 remaining, the Packers held a one-point lead when Aaron Rodgers hit Donald Driver for a ridiculous touchdown grab.

Up seven points, the Packers had two choices. One, kick the extra point (and go up eight). Or two, go for two and have roughly a 50-percent chance (the conversion rate for two-point conversions) of going up nine points.

An unsuccessful conversion would simply mean the Giants needed to go down and score a touchdown, same as before, except without having to score a two-point conversion afterward. (Same odds apply here for the Giants getting theirs, obviously.)

A successful two-point conversion, however, would put the Packers up nine points, which means the Giants would need to go down, score a touchdown, kick an extra point, recover an onsides kick and then get in range to kick a long field goal. The odds of this happening are a) much worse than the Giants scoring and getting a two-point conversion; or b) much, much, much lower than a coin flip.

For whatever reason, coaches -- and most fans -- don't understand the tremendous advantage being up two possessions present, as opposed to simply being up eight points. The reward (basically ending the game) substantially outweighs the risk (a tie ballgame), however.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... The Packers tied the second-longest winning streak in NFL history, and are just three shy of the 03-04 Patriots, who won 21 straight.
... Frank Gore passed Joe Perry as the 49ers all-time leading rusher, on a day when San Francisco clinched the division.
... Drew Brees became the first player in NFL history to record 4,000 passing yards in his team's first 12 games.
... Jimmy Graham became the first Saints tight end in history to top 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
... Hines Ward became the 19th player in NFL history with 12,000 receiving yards in his career Sunday.

Worth 1,000 Words


GIF O' THE WEEK

A combo GIF this week! Via SBNation, first we have Hakeem Nicks showing the world how to do the not-so-sissy strut:



And then Nicks following that dance up by doing ... this:


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Steve Spagnuolo -- On the bright side, there might be an opening for a defensive coordinator in Philly ...
  • Jim Caldwell -- You can't not fire your coach if he goes 0-16, right?
  • Andy Reid --  I still don't buy that Philly dumps him, but his seat is warm for sure.
  • Raheem Morris -- Losing to the Panthers, even without Josh Freeman, isn't helping Morris.
  • Norv Turner -- He can get off this list with a playoff berth. So, yeah, um, yeah.

MVP Watch

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers continued their pursuit of perfection, but for the first time all season, Rodgers didn't look totally ridiculously amazing. He was still really good, though. And no one was that much better -- Tom Brady's got a case building, I suppose, but Rodgers is winning in a walkaway, barring something silly happening over the next four weeks.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 9:20 am
Edited on: December 2, 2011 12:27 pm
 

Teammate thinks Jackson is '[messing] around'

Jackson isn't interested in talking to reporters about the current state of his game. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The big story this morning isn't that that Marshawn Lynch has come out of nowhere to be one of the league's best running backs this season. Or that "the plan" Pete Carroll referred during training camp really does include Tarvaris Jackson, who has played well in recent weeks.

DeSean's forgettable season
Instead, as is often the case anytime the Eagles play, the big story is DeSean Jackson, the mercurial wide receiver in the last year of this rookie contract who plays with all the urgency of a shorts and t-shirt minicamp workout. Following Philly's latest loss, a 31-14 effort against the Seahawks on Thursday night, Jackson admitted that he's "frustrated with losing," but when one of his teammates was asked if Jackson was completely in the game he said, "No, he's [messing] around." 

If the plan is to sleepwalk through the current season for his current team and alienate the 31 others that might've had interested during free agency then mission accomplished, DeSean.  Otherwise, we have no idea what Jackson's doing and his "plan," unlike Pete Carroll's, is not only ill-conceived but it's going to cost him a lot of money.

Against the Seahawks, Jackson finished the game with four catches for 34 yards. Alone those numbers don't mean much. Without watching you might think that the Seahawks double-teamed Jackson, or that maybe the game plan was to feature LeSean McCoy. And at times, both were true. But Jackson's performance is mostly about his apparent unwillingness to … well, try.

"Actually there were quite a few plays called for him," head coach Andy Reid said. "They were making an effort to double him and move a safety in."

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote Friday morning about Jackson staring into oblivion while quarterback Vince Young tried to talk to him on the sidelines.

"If that's what they saw, that's what they saw," Jackson said of the cameras, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I don't have to sit here and answer them questions. My teammates know what it is."

And during pregame warm-ups, Jackson was hanging out with the defensive ends as the other wide receivers worked together.

"I'm not answering none of that type of question," said Jackson. "If you're going to ask something about the game, do that. . . . Next question."

Two weeks ago, Jackson told NFL Network's Michael Irvin that he's in the Larry Fitzgerald-Calvin Johnson range when it comes to his worth. Fitz makes $15 million this season, Megatron almost $9 million.

"I think right in that range," he said at the time. "Maybe top-5 in the NFL. ...My playmaking skills and abilities, my punt returns, and the ability to get the ball and score on any play. I mean, Fitzgerald, he's a special receiver -- don't get me wrong -- but he doesn't play special teams so that adds an extra edge to it."

In theory, yes. In practice, Fitzgerald has been just as dangerous on special teams this season as Jackson. And much more consistent at wide receiver, and that's with John Skelton throwing him passes.

NFL Network's Marshall Faulk got it right two weeks ago: "Showing up to any meeting late is definitely not a good way to handle (things) when you want money from a team."

Not showing up at all is even worse.

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Posted on: November 20, 2011 11:22 am
 

DeSean Jackson wants to be paid like a top-5 WR

Jackson was shocked he was benched for missing a special-teams meeting. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Maybe it was an attempt to distract us from the train wreck that has become the Eagles' 2011 season. Or maybe head coach Andy Reid thought so little of the Arizona Cardinals, last Sunday's opponent, that he didn't think Philly would need DeSean Jackson. Or maybe Reid really did bench Jackson to send him a message after he overslept for a special teams meeting.

Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that Jackson was caught off guard by the decision, and more than that, it's clear that the Eagles' most dynamic player, who happens to be in the last year of his rookie deal, wants a new contract. And that's really the underlying theme to all this.

In an interview that aired Sunday morning, Jackson spoke with NFL Network's Michael Irvin about the last seven days, as well as his future in Philly.

"Being late to a meeting is unacceptable, of course," Jackson said. "I understand that but I've never been a problem, never been a distraction."

Irvin asked Jackson if it was customary for a player to sit out a game for missing a team meeting. "I've never seen coach Reid do anything like that. I've never seen him bench anybody for missing a meeting. … But I'm one of the star players on this team so I'm held accountable more than others."

Jackson is making $600,000 this season and it's no secret that he'd like a new contract. There was some speculation that last week's benching could mean that the Eagles might be willing to let him walk in the offseason.

"Hopefully, (the benching) doesn't have too many (implications for a new contract). The punishment was what it was, I accepted it, me and coach Reid talked as men so I think that in his mind and my mind we're moving on."

So given that guys like Larry Fitzgerald average $15 million a season, and Calvin Johnson makes almost $9 million this season, what does DeSean Jackson think he's worth?

"I think right in that range," he said. "Maybe top-5 in the NFL. ...My playmaking skills and abilities, my punt returns, and the ability to get the ball and score on any play. I mean, Fitzgerald, he's a special receiver -- don't get me wrong -- but he doesn't play special teams so that adds an extra edge to it."

That's a fair point, but similar to Peyton Hillis' contract situation in Cleveland, Jackson could've gone about this differently.

"Showing up to any meeting late is definitely not a good way to handle (things) when you want money from a team," NFL Network's Marshall Faulk said Sunday morning.

And you really can't put it any simpler than that.

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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