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Posted on: January 22, 2012 11:18 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 2:00 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Championship Weekend Podcast Recap below and don't forget to
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Super Bowl Storylines

We have less than two weeks until Super Bowl XLVI is played in Indianapolis, and you need to be prepared for a slew of recurring storylines that will come forth over the next 14 days. Some are good, some are bad. Here are the biggest ones:

1. Playing in Peyton's House
No. 2 on this list will be the most talked about early on, but the biggest story of this Super Bowl is that this matchup takes place in the House of Peyton Manning. Peyton carved out a legacy as a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback in Indianapolis, and now the Colts quarterback is sidelined, unsure of his future in Indy, as he watches his most hated rival (Brady) battle his little brother (Eli) for a Super Bowl victory in the Colts stadium.

There's no telling how much face time Peyton will have to put in for the Colts over the next two weeks, and it could very well be minimal, but he's the city's most famous athlete (by a WIDE margin) and it's hard to imagine that he can just go underground while two guys whose lives are so closely parallel to his own prepare to do battle on his field.

2. 2007, All Over Again
Not sure if you heard or not, but the Giants beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl. It was a pretty good game. A lot of the people who will play in this year's game played in that game. (The Patriots are so bitter about 2007 that they were likely rooting for the Giants against the 49ers, just to get revenge.)

This will be the predominant storyline, whether you like it or not, over the next two weeks.

3. Tom Brady's Legacy
Brady is one of four quarterbacks with three Super Bowl wins. Another one moves him out of a tie with Troy Aikman (three each) and into a tie with Terry Bradshaw and his boyhood hero Joe Montana as quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins.

There will be a discussion as to whether Brady warrants mentioning as the greatest quarterback of all-time if he wins a fourth Super Bowl. There will be plenty of chatter about how he matches up with Montana. And there will also be a discussion about what a second Super Bowl loss would mean to Brady: he could conceivably move to 3-2 in NFL championship games. That's not "bad" by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not 4-1.

4. Is Eli Better Than Peyton?
We mentioned Peyton Manning already, but this is one that's going to get a lot of discussion: Manning's clearly established himself as a top-five NFL quarterback this season and he's putting together a ridiculous playoff résumé that is forging his overall legacy as an NFL quarterback.

In terms of raw statistical production, it's not even a contest right now, as Peyton's career numbers crush Eli's career numbers. Really, it's no contest. But Eli's also five years younger and has a shot at picking up his second Super Bowl, something Peyton doesn't have. Siblings can certainly be happy for one another when it comes to their respective success, but it's also going to be rough for both Peyton and Eli to find out how many times "Is Eli better than Peyton?" can be asked in a two-week span.

5. Brady and Eli in the Same Class
And our final quarterback comparison that will go down over the next fortnight: Brady and Eli. They'll go head-to-head for the second time in a Super Bowl over the past five years and this one has special meaning, and not just because Eli beat Brady the last time around. It's also because Eli said prior to the 2011 season that he belonged in the "same class" as Brady.

That's what any competitor should say, but Manning's spent all season long proving that he does belong on the same stage as Brady. A second Super Bowl win -- both over Tom Terrific -- would give Eli the last laugh if anyone asks him the same question before the 2012 season.

6. Bill Belichick's Best Coaching Job?
There's already a good argument that the 2011 Patriots are Bill Belichick's best coaching job in his career. That's a reasonable argument considering the Pats locked down the top seed in the AFC and made it to the Super Bowl despite continually starting Julian Edelman in their secondary.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, lots of people will point out that because of the defensive deficiencies and a number of other issues that a win cements this New England team as Belichick's finest work. They might very well be right.

7. Chad Ochocinco
The always-controversial wideout's been quiet this year and he was inactive for Sunday's AFC Championship Game after leaving the team to attend the funeral of his father. And though Chad fell in line with "The Patriot Way" this year, he's still an erstwhile celebrity, and he'll command some serious media attention over the next two weeks. Will he play? Will he make an impact? Can he play? Should he play? And so on and so forth.

8. Giants Defense
There's several different layers to New York's Big D. First of all, they're using the same formula as 2007, with a relentless pass rush. Secondly, you have to pressure Brady to stop him. Third, they run their mouths at an incredible (and awesome, if you're in the media) pace, and there's a decent chance we get a guarantee from someone (ahem, Jason Pierre-Paul and/or Antrel Rolle).

They'll be the difference-maker in this Super Bowl, because stopping Brady typically means stopping the Patriots, if you can provide enough offense to put some distance between the two.

Winners

Sterling Moore: With the Patriots already starting wideout Julian Edelman, Moore was signed off the street in September after being cut from the Raiders pratice squad. In the biggest moment of his life, he made the biggest plays, knocking the ball out of Lee Evans hands to spoil a Baltimore touchdown and then swatting a ball away from Dennis Pitta on third down to force a game-tying field goal attempt from Baltimore.

Eli Manning:
Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history to win five road playoff games on Sunday night. That's not just impressive, it's amazing: road wins aren't easy to pull off in the regular season but coming from behind and making clutch plays and winning in impossible/unlikely situations is just becoming Manning's modus operandi at this point.

Joe Flacco
: It never seemed realistic that Flacco could "win" if the Ravens lost, but he managed to silence his critics in the loss on Sunday night. There were things he could've done better, for sure, and he missed a pair of deep balls to Torrey Smith that might have given the Ravens a win. But he also put the Ravens in position to -- at worst -- send the game to overtime. Others screwed the pooch, not Flacco.

Giants Defense: Who do you want to give the award to on this side of the ball? Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka all registered at least half a sack against Alex Smith and that's precisely the reason why it's believable for the Giants to take down the Patriots in the Super Bowl one more time.

Alex Smith: Yeah, yeah, he lost. But it doesn't matter, because Smith played in horrible conditions against an insane pass rush on the biggest stage, and he played well. Sure, he didn't complete 32 passes like Eli. In fact, he only attempted 26. And only 12 of those were completions. But the dude made some plays with his legs (six rushes, 42 yards), and two of his passes were beautiful shots to Vernon Davis for scores, and Smith kept the 49ers in this game until the end.

Oh, Billy. Billy, Billy, Billy. (Getty Images)

Losers

Billy Cundiff: Can I just type "Ray Finkle" 50 times and call it a day? Cundiff's lack of range -- he was one of six from 50-plus yards in the 2011 regular season -- forced the Ravens hand on offense and then Cundiff shanked a potential game-tying field goal with mere seconds left.

Kyle Williams: It's not Williams fault that Ted Ginn missed a game that featured a ton of rain. But that doesn't mean he can go out there and muff a pair of punts to give the Giants the ball on the 49ers side of the field. Williams set the Giants up for a touchdown in regulation and a game-winning field goal in overtime.

Lee Evans: As noted above, Evans had a ball knocked out from his hands that would've been a touchdown. But it's pretty clear that he got lazy on the play -- hold onto the ball and the Ravens probably play in the Super Bowl. I'm sure his four passes caught in the regular season makes up for it though.

Ed Hochuli's Review Explanations: Four score and seven years ago, Hochuli faced the camera and began explaining why something happened in football. It took him -- literally -- a minute to explain the new playoff overtime rules, and he might've actually used 100 words to explain a false start at one point. Go back to being a gunshow.

Twitter: Aren't you guys rich enough to buy a server that doesn't crash during big NFL games?

GIF O' THE WEEK

Man, Vince Wilfork is steamed.


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Posted on: October 25, 2011 7:03 pm
 

Colts put a quarterback on IR: Kerry Collins

Posted by Will Brinson

The Colts ended the season of a veteran quarterback on Tuesday, but it's not the one you might expect, as they decided to shut down Kerry Collins.

In addition, the team put fullback Chris Gronkowski on Injured Reserve and signed offensive guard Jamey Richard and offensive tackle Michael Toudouze to the active roster.

There's nothing shocking about the Colts calling off the dogs on the Kerry Collins era -- Curtis Painter's looked better than Collins did under center (no, really) since he took over, the team went out and signed veteran Dan Orlavsky and the Colts are now 0-7, which means they're getting close to being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

[Podcast: Should Bill Polian's Seat Be Warm?]

But it's remarkably strange that, given the same circumstances, they continue to leave Peyton Manning on the active roster.

Manning obviously hasn't played once this season, and we're now closing in on the two-month timeline that was reported for his return. Given where the Colts are in the standings, it's surprising that they continue to pretend he could return for them in 2011.

And even if he could, putting his future health at risk for an already lost season seems a bit foolish.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Ochocinco lost bet, quit Twitter for three weeks

Posted by Will Brinson

Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco hasn't tweeted since September 24. Lest you think this is normal, well, it's not -- Ocho used to fire out 40-plus tweets a day, and for him to go 12 days without any noise on Twitter whatsoever is disturbing.

As it turns out, Ocho isn't being forced off Twitter, per se, he just lost a bet, which probably involves his not-so-stellar play this season.

"Ochocinco hasn't tweeted because he lost a bet," Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald tweeted on Wednesday. "Twitter ban/lost bet last three weeks. Won't tell me the wager."

We checked with "Rap Sheet" on Twitter, and Ocho won't reveal who the bet is with either.

Or guess, because you care, goes something like this: there's was a bet between either Bill Belichick or Tom Brady and Ocho relating to number of catches against the Bills.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons. The Bills and Patriots played on September 25, one day after Ocho's last tweet. And Ocho had the most number of targets (four) that he's had all season, meaning you could jump to the conclusion, if you're inclined, that someone was trying to give him a fair shake of getting his hands on some balls.

He caught two passes for 28 yards, but dropped a critical pass in the Patriots loss, and that's not good enough to win any friendly bets. Or maybe he had a "don't drop any passes" or "run all your routes perfectly" bet going with Belichick.

Whatever, he's not talking about it, which means it's someone with authority and we probably won't see Ocho on Twitter until October 14 -- Rapoport says it's "retroactive," which is hilarious -- when the three-week stint is up.

So at the very least, we can rule out Tedy Bruschi.

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:03 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Peyton Manning will miss 2011 season ... maybe

Posted by Will Brinson

Peyton Manning will miss all of 2011 following the neck surgery that knocked him out thus far, Jim Irsay told Colts supporters at a Super Bowl breakfast on Monday morning.

We think -- Irsay hopped on Twitter shortly after the news surrounding his announcement and attempted to clarify the situation.

"I didn't say Peyton out 4season FOR SURE,keeping him on ActiveRoster n taking it month by month/Outside chance of return n December possible," Irsay tweeted Monday after the breakfast.

The news comes just a few hours after Pittsburgh put a painful dagger into Indianapolis' early season with a 23-20 win at the Colts Lucas Oil Field.

According to WISH-TV.com, Manning will not practice again until December of this season and "may not play again until 2012."

Heretofore, the Colts have declined to put Manning on Injured Reserve; they've said that they had no plans to do so until his full 2011 season was in jeopardy. And Irsay's tweet could be an indication that Indy will keep him off of IR for even longer, although it makes little-to-no sense to try and bring him back for what already appears to be a lost season.

This news is bad, of course, but it's also not that surprising -- the idea that Manning could come back and actually play again this season seemed far-fetched ever since the Colts confirmed his September surgery.

Recent reports that Manning traveled to Europe for stem-cell therapy before undergoing his September 8 neck procedure didn't help things and now we're right where we thought we'd be sans Manning: the Colts are struggling on a week-by-week basis to be competitive.

The good news, at least, is that they've admitted the need to monitor his health long term.

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Posted on: September 22, 2011 4:31 pm
 

Raheem Brock says he was tripped, to appeal fine

Posted by Will Brinson

We mentioned earlier Thursday that Raheem Brock was one of several defenders fined for a violation of "The Carson Palmer Rule" (hitting a quarterback below the knee; Tom Brady actually deferred the nickname).

Brock wasn't thrilled with his fine and tweeted on Thursday that he plans to appeal, primarily because he believes he was tripped into Ben Roethlisberger's leg on the play.

As you can see to the right (and yes, I'm aware it's not the zoom-iest of screenshots -- watch Brock fall into Ben's knee right here), Brock may have a case.

But the best part of this appeal? Brock might be emailing Commissioner Roger Goodell a link to an SB Nation article in which Brian Floyd of the local Seattle SBN site, breaks down exactly how Brock was tripped.

"Here's a snapshot of me getting tripped into the QB by the oline----> [Link] about to send this in to appeal this 15k fine!" Brock tweeted on Thursday.

The post is, for all intents and purposes, just the video of the play plus the picture you see to the right. But that's all Floyd needed in order to make the point here, because Brock wasn't intentionally going after Roethlisberger's knee.

When you see the replay of the hit, you can tell that Brock didn't maliciously go after Ben and that the back judge also didn't really have a great view when he threw the flag.

But the guys at the NFL office obviously had enough time to look at the play, and they decided to fine Brock anyway. So it'll be interesting to see whether or not they consider his appeal seriously.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 12:37 pm
 

Stem-cell therapy for Peyton, but no Colts game

Posted by Will Brinson


Peyton Manning continues to avoid the injured reserve list for the Colts, despite recent neck surgery that certainly puts his season in jeopardy.

He also will continue to avoid the public spotlight, as Manning won't be showing up for the Colts game on Sunday. Per Chris Mortensen of ESPN, Manning has "no plans to attend" the Colts home opener against Cleveland on Sunday, based on doctor's orders.

The medical experts believe that Peyton needs to "rest his body and mind" and sitting on the sidelines for Sunday's action against the Browns would absolutely be the opposite of that. Not only would Manning get harassed by the media, but he'd be the focus of roughly 5,463 camera shots during the game.

And, of course, he'd probably pop a vein in his neck just watching the Colts offense operate in poor fashion for the second-straight week. (Jim Irsay tweeted Saturday that everyone should "Eat drink and be merry ... 4 2morrow we die!!!!!" on Saturday -- a not-so-veiled reference to how much action Joseph Addai should see Sunday.)

Manning's Pain in the Neck
Manning did some "light therapy" recently but that's not nearly as interesting as some of the news that Fox Sports' Jay Glazer dropped Sunday morning.

"Manning, prior to surgery, actually flew to Europe for stem-cell therapy that's used overseas but not yet in the US," Glazer reported.

Think about that for a second: one of two things caused Manning to cruise across the pond and undergo a medical treatment that hasn't been cleared in America. It's either a) he was desperate to try and get ready for the season, or b) his condition is more serious than we thought.

The logical answer seems that he was hustling for the start of the season and a chance to be ready by Week 1, but it's also indicative of just how problematic Peyton's neck injury is for the Colts.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Colts can get out of Manning deal after one year?

Posted by Will Brinson

Peyton Manning is going to miss at least eight weeks. It sure seems like it'll be longer and it's hard to imagine that the Colts bring him back for part of season -- thereby risking serious long-term injury -- if they're not in serious contention come November or December.

But what about longer than that? Turns out, the Colts built a little safeguard of sorts into the five-year, $95 million deal that Manning signed at the end of July. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Colts incorporated a team option for a $28 million bonus that must be picked up five days before the start of the 2012 league year beginning.

In other words, Manning will get his full salary this season -- $23 million -- but the Colts could conceivably allow him to become an unrestricted free agent following this season if they decided not to pick up his option.

There's only one real scenario where this might happen, and that's if Peyton's recovery goes so poorly that he's on the verge of retiring because of potential life-threatening damage to his neck and/or spine should he continue to play football.

If Manning returns for the 2012 season -- as most doctors, both real and the unlicensed variety, ahem, believe he will -- you can bet that the Colts will be keeping him on the roster.

But it certainly warrants mentioning that they won't necessarily have to pay Peyton the full $95 million if he doesn't take another snap in his career.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 8, 2011 3:07 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 5:52 am
 

Peyton Manning undergoes surgery, out 2-3 months?

Posted by Will Brinson

Peyton Manning underwent a neck surgery known as cervical fusion on Thursday and will miss two to three months while he recovers. If that reported timeline is accurate, it's lines up perfectly, as we predicted earlier, with Mike Freeman's report that the Colts were prepping to lose Manning for half a season.

Of course, "two to three months" is all relative.

If it's two, that's half a season and you can see why Freeman's sources were concerned with that number. If it's three months, well, that's three-fourths of the season and any sort of delay in the recovery process would almost certainly put Manning out for the season.

However, though this is Manning's third surgery in the past 19 months, the team will keep him on the active roster, the Colts said.

Don't anticipate Indy confirming any timeline for Peyton's return, though. In fact, they confirmed that they will not be confirming that, although the team did acknowledge the surgery.

"As previously stated on Monday, Sept. 5th, Peyton Manning has undergone further testing and consultation with several specialists regarding his rehabilitation. The results of these tests and the consensus of the consultations was that further surgery was warranted," the Colts said in a statement released by the team. "Peyton has undergone this surgery today by having a single level anterior fusion. The surgery was un-eventful.

"This procedure is performed regularly throughout the country on persons from all walks of life, including professional football players. Two former Colts players had this same procedure last winter and have fully resumed their careers. Rehabilitation from such surgery is typically an involved process. Therefore, there will be no estimation of a return date at this time. We will keep Peyton on the active roster until we have a clearer picture of his recovery process."


The Manning surgery was originally reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who adds that "there is no word whether he'll be put on [injured reserve]." Mortensen also spoke with Archie Manning, the Colts quarterback's father.

"I think he's OK, probably because there's a little finality to this deal in terms of playing," Archie said. "He's been on the clock since May. He didn't make it. Obviously, it's a big letdown, but he can relax a little bit compared to the intensity of everything he has done trying to rehab."

Peyton's Progress

Will Carroll of Sports Illustrated paints an even bleaker picture, noting that "if reports of cervical fusion are correct, this is potentially career ending." Carroll also notes that "two to three months is unbelievably aggressive for [this] procedure."

For those wondering why the timeline for Manning has been so vague this week, Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network reports that Peyton "has traveled all over the U.S. trying to find a solution for his cervical problem, the latest recommendation resulted in surgery today."

If that's the case, it certainly makes sense that, as we said earlier today, no one with the Colts actually knew what the deal with Manning was, because he was out there trying to find out what -- if any -- options were available for him from other medical professionals.

The secrecy that's surrounded this entire process has been baffling, almost to the point where it's hard to fathom how we got here. So private, in fact, that even Peyton's older brother Cooper wasn't aware of what was going on with the quarterback's injury.

"[Peyton] values his privacy even within a very tight family like we have," Cooper told ESPN. "We've exchanged some short texts and I've given him his space. He's had a lot going on."

Cooper's not the only one who has sounded out of the know when it comes to Peyton's surgery -- Jim Caldwell didn't have much of an answer on Thursday when reporters inquired about a status update on Manning, shortly before news broke of the surgery.

Of course, Caldwell now has a much bigger concern: can the Colts win without Peyton. Our own Pete Prisco would tell you the Colts are "done" and he has a valid point about Peyton's ability to cover up other problems on the roster. Mike Freeman argues that we shouldn't "kill the Colts yet" because Kerry Collins is at least "not horrible."

And Collins isn't horrible. But he's not Peyton Manning. Which is the harsh reality the Colts will face -- for the first time since 1998 -- come Sunday.

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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