Tag:Gary Kubiak
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: November 30, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Film Room: Texans vs. Falcons preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Two quality playoff opponents from the Southern divisions square off Sunday. Frankly, this game was a lot more intriguing before Matt Schaub’s injury. If he’s healthy, we’re talking about the Texans as Super Bowl contenders. Now, with T.J. Yates expected to start, we’re talking about them as mere playoff contenders.

Of course, the Texans might argue that their first-ranked defense and third-ranked rushing attack can still sail the ship. Their Week 13 matchup versus Atlanta will put that theory to its first major test.



1. State of Houston’s No. 1 defense
After four years of changing schemes and coordinators, the Texans finally got it right by hiring Wade Phillips. Phillips is running the same defense he did in Dallas: a 3-4 alignment with a lot of 4-3 gap-penetrating principles. As he did with DeMarcus Ware, Phillips keeps his best pass-rusher on the weak side of the formation to help command one-on-one edge matchups.

With Mario Williams hurt, that pass-rusher is third-year pro Connor Barwin. Barwin can get after the quarterback, but Houston’s best all-around outside linebacker is second-round rookie Brooks Reed. Reed is fantastic at setting the edge and taking on blocks in the run game, and every down he brings the insane energy that all of Houston’s front seven defenders bring.

The same can be said about Reed’s fellow rookie, J.J. Watt. The powerful, long-armed first-rounder from Wisconsin has become nearly impossible to block one-on-one, both against the run and pass. In recent weeks, so has veteran Antonio Smith, a tenacious, crafty veteran who knows how to steer the action in ways that create opportunities for teammates (Smith was crucial to Barwin’s four-sack effort at Jacksonville last week).

A wrinkle Phillips has frequently used in Houston that he used only occasionally in Dallas is blitzing his inside linebacker. The incredible speed, burst, timing and innate playmaking instincts of Brian Cushing has likely been the motivation for that.

Good as this Texans defense – and especially the deep, high-octane front seven – has been, you could argue that it’s fool’s gold (it wouldn’t be a super strong argument, but it also wouldn’t be completely ridiculous). The Texans have held their last five opponents to under 14 points, but those opponents have been the Browns, Bucs, Titans and Jaguars (twice).

Those teams all have a paucity of receiving talent, which Houston’s secondary – bolstered by the magnificence of free agent pickup Jonathan Joseph – has easily exploited. Virtually all of Houston’s seven sacks at Jacksonville were coverage sacks.

The Texans defense will face its first true test in a month and a half this Sunday.

2. Falcons passing game
The past two weeks, the Falcons have broken off from their usual heavy two backs/two tight end formations to operate out of three-receiver sets. That could just be how they prefer to attack vanilla, zone-based 4-3 defenses (which their last two opponents, Tennessee and Minnesota, both run). Or, it could be a response to losing fullback Ovie Mughelli (on injured reserve with a knee). We’ll know more after we see how the Falcons choose to go after the Texans Sunday.

The prediction here is Atlanta will stay in three-receiver sets. Harry Douglas is getting very comfortable in his slot role. Roddy White and Julio Jones are hard to double-team when they’re lined up on the same side of the field (which is easier for them to do in three-receiver sets). And no defense yet has found a way to defend Tony Gonzalez in the short seam areas out of these three-wide alignments.

What’s more, Matt Ryan is most comfortable when audibling at the line of scrimmage. He loves to get to the line early and move his targets around. Three-receiver formations spread the defense and paint a clearer picture for the fourth-year quarterback.

3. Atlanta’s run game
The Falcons are still built to run the ball. That will be the case as long as they continue to trot a large but unathletic offensive line out on the field. Michael Turner, who has a surplus of patience but deficit of speed and quickness, is best equipped to run behind lead-blocking fullbacks and tight ends.

However, he’s proven capable of consistently gaining 4-6 yards out of single-back sets. Those formations usually put a defense in its nickel package, which gives Turner more opportunities to use his power against a defensive back instead of a linebacker. The Falcons can also run draws and delays with emerging lightning bug Jacquizz Rodgers when lining up three-wide.

The Texans don’t mind playing in their nickel, in part because the linebacker who comes off the field, DeMeco Ryans, has not been dazzling this season, and in part because they have relatively firm-tackling defensive backs (Glover Quin, in particular).

4. Houston’s run game
If last week’s Jaguars game is any indication, it’s fallacious to think the Texans can survive their quarterback woes by simply riding their top-ranked ground game. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are both dynamic enough runners to move the chains against an eight-man box (Foster, in fact, is the best all-around runner in the AFC; his fluid but powerful hips and tempo-changing aptitude leave him not far from Adrian Peterson’s level).

The Texans zone-blocking offensive line is cohesive and moves well at all five positions (center Chris Myers is having the best season of the bunch). But as we saw last week, it will be a tough go if that eight-man box is not at least a little bit concerned about getting beat through the air.

So much of Gary Kubiak’s offense is predicated on play-action and rollouts. Houston’s fleet tight ends and Andre Johnson give this method its venom. Overall, the system is intricate but actually puts few heavy demands on the quarterback (arm strength and pocket toughness, two critical attributes, are less significant). But a respectable quarterback is still vital because those play-action and rollouts also set up a lot of Houston’s ground game (namely the stretch handoffs).


5. Atlanta’s defense
Mike Smith started sprinkling more blitz concepts and disguises on his defense last season, but lately, he’s drifted back to execution-based schemes (i.e. fairly vanilla zones that rely on defenders being fundamentally sound and physically outperforming their opponents).

The Falcons could be more traditional if free agent pickup Ray Edwards weren’t so disappointing at defensive end. Edwards was supposed to bring a bookend pass-rushing prowess across from John Abraham. Instead, he’s been less explosive than last season’s underrated starter, Kroy Biermann.

Biermann, like Abraham, is a sinewy, versatile athlete. That’s important because the Falcons do a lot of zone exchange pass-rushes (this is rushing a linebacker on one side and having the defensive end on the other side drop into coverage; the idea is to confuse the quarterback into throwing a hot read into traffic). Speedy but strong linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been a standout presence in zone rushes (and, for that matter, in general run defense).

In the secondary, left cornerback Brent Grimes is assertive and trusted with most of the solo assignments. Big-money right corner Dunta Robinson plays too far off the receiver to be considered anything more than “solid”. The Falcons frequently interchange their strong and free safeties. No. 1 safety William Moore is a thumper when healthy. In the last three weeks that Moore’s been out, replacement James Sanders has been serviceable as a third-level run defender. No. 2 safety Thomas DeCoud has been a liability in coverage.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 13 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 8:53 am
 

Report: Texans to sign QB Jake Delhomme

Delhomme could be Houston's newest quarterback. (Getty Images/AP/US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Texans placed quarterback Matt Schaub on injured reserve last week. On Sunday, they lost backup Matt Leinart to a broken collarbone. Instead of going through the rest of the season with backup to the backup, T.J. Yates, Houston will signed veteran Jake Delhomme after a Tuesday workout, NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports.

The Texans had already signed former Jets second-round pick Kellen Clemens after losing Schaub for the season. Delhomme becomes the latest addition to the new-look Houston quarterbacks now that they're without Leinart (who also appears headed for injured reserve).

Delhomme spent seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers and led them to the 2003 Super Bowl (they lost to the Patriots) and the 2008 NFC Divisional game (another loss, this time to the Cardinals). The Browns signed Delhomme to be their starter in 2010, but injuries and an unwieldy contract led to his release after the season.

There was some speculation that he might be in demand as a mentor, perhaps reuniting with John Fox in Denver to help groom Tim Tebow (turns out, Tebow doesn't need any help).

And earlier this season, the Dolphins were reportedly interested in signing Delhomme (he passed).

At 8-3, the Texans are the AFC's top team. And despite losing its Nos. 1 and 2 signal callers, should have little trouble making the playoffs. That said, the expectations once they get there were pretty much dashed when Leinart followed Schaub to IR.

The Texans are in their 10th year of existence and have never qualified for the postseason. They're only winning campaign came in 2009 when they went 9-7. Seventh-year head coach Gary Kubiak was in danger of losing his job after last year's disappointing 6-10 effort, but he was retained. And right up until they lost Schaub, Houston was considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 12

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 12 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Brees  Ravens Peterson  Payton
Judge  Brees  Ravens Peterson Harbaugh
Prisco  Brees  Barwin Peterson   Fox
Brinson  Brees  Suggs  Lechler Harbaugh
Katzowitz  Wells  Barwin  Raiders Harbaugh
Wilson  Wells  Suggs Peterson Kubiak
Week 12's over and the NFL's playoff picture is getting a little more clear. Maybe. Whatever, it's time to hand out awards.

Offensively speaking, there's a great case for either of our nominees this week. Beanie Wells had a dominant performance against the Rams, but, hey, what have you done for me lately? Well, Drew Brees played on Monday and he carved up the Giants.

Defensively, everyone was on board with either Connor Barwin or some form of the Ravens defense -- given that Terrell Suggs was t-sizzling all day long against the 49ers, he gets the nod. (But it was definitely a team effort.)

Patrick Peterson got in the record books this weekend and, I believe, he's now the all-time winningest Eye on Special Teams player in Eye on Special Teams history, with as many awards as he has punt returns over 80 yards this season.

As far as the Eye on Coaching award goes, well, John Harbaugh kicked the mess out of his little brother in front of the entire family on Thanksgiving. That has to count for something right?

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Wait. This is a question? Did you people see Drew Brees? The only quarterback right now in the same stratosphere with Aaron Rodgers is Brees and dare I say it...they are playing on the same level. Brees, Brees, Brees, Brees. One more time. BREES!
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
He didn't just dissect the Giants' defense; he shredded it, throwing so accurately and maneuvering so expertly he looked as if he was running a 7-on-7 drill. I feel for Brees. In any other year he'd be the NFL MVP. In any other year, the Saints might be a slam dunk for the Super Bowl. In any other year, he wouldn't have to go to Green Bay to get to the top.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
I was there to see Brees' performance on Monday night in New Orleans against the Giants, and was it impressive. He threw four touchdown passes and ran in for another. Brees is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
There's really nothing better than a quarterback performing a clinical dissection of a defense, and that's precisely what Brees did on Monday night, becoming the first quarterback to throw for 350 yards, four passing touchdowns and rush for another score in a beatdown of the Giants.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Beanie WellsBeanie Wells, RB, Cardinals
There were some, including myself, who were pretty confident we’d never see a stat line like this (27 carries, 228 yards, one TD) from Wells. But, after the Cardinals used a second-round pick on running back Ryan Williams, Wells seems extra motivated this season. And after hurting his knee in the fourth quarter Sunday, he returned and busted out a 53-yard run.
Beanie Wells Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals
The Cardinals thought so much of Wells, their 2009 first-round pick, that they selected running back Ryan Williams in the second round of the 2011 draft. Williams went down with a season-ending injury in training camp and Wells has finally emerged as a top-flight back. He rushed for 228 yards against the Rams, more than 50 coming after what looked like a serious knee injury.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Terrell SuggsTerrell Suggs, LB, Ravens
Another easy choice given the way Baltimore's defense performed on Thanksgiving night. They sacked San Francisco's Alex Smith nine times and shut down the 49ers' running game. Now, I think the 49ers are extremely overrated, but that was still an impressive performance.
Terrell Suggs Baltimore Ravens, DST
The Ravens sacked San Francisco's Alex Smith nine times, clinching an important victory in their drive to win their division. I might nominate Terrell Suggs for this award because of his three sacks ... except teammate Cory Redding had 2.5 and Haloti Ngata had two. Nope, this one goes to Chuck Pagano and his entire defensive unit.
Prisco Brinson
Connor BarwinConnor Barwin, DE, Texans
Barwin was all over the field for the Texans on Sunday, getting four sacks against the Jaguars last week. With Mario Williams gone, Barwin has emerged as a top pass rusher for the NFL's top-rated defense.
Terrell SuggsTerrell Suggs, LB, Ravens
Alex Smith likely spent Thanksgiving night in full-body heat pack, giving thanks that he actually managed to survive against the Ravens defense, which sacked him nine times on Thursday night. Suggs picked up three of those en route to terrorizing Smith all night in a dominant defensive effort.
Katzowitz Wilson
Connor Barwin Connor Barwin, DE, Texans
This was the kind of production the Texans have salivated about when they drafted the former tight end/University of Cincinnati basketball player in the second round in 2009. Against the Jaguars, Barwin dominated with a franchise-record four sacks and 10 tackles. Barwin now has 6.5 sacks in the past three games.
Terrell Suggs Terrell Suggs, LB, Ravens
I'm not sure if the 49ers' offensive line was tired from the short week or the constant barrage of pressure, but by the second half of their Thanksgiving night game against the Ravens, they had no answer for Baltimore's four-man pass rush and Terrell Suggs in particular. Suggs had three sacks and the Ravens sacked Alex Smith nine times.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Patrick PetersonJohnny Knox, WR, Bears
Peterson is quickly becoming one of the most feared weapons in football. I think he's surpassed DeSean Jackson as a return specialist and is Devin Hester-light. He's immensely talented and I get the feeling we'll be talking about this guy for years.
Patrick Peterson Patrick Peterson, CB/KR, Cardinals
OK, it's  time to start asking the same question here that we pose with Devin Hester: Why in the world punt to this guy? I mean, he already beat St. Louis in one game with a return. So the Rams let him do it again. He has four returns for touchdowns, and that's enough for me. Someone, anyone, start kicking the ball away from him.
Prisco Brinson
Patrick PetersonPatrick Peterson, CB/KR, Cardinals
He returned his fourth punt for a touchdown this season last Sunday against the Rams, tying an NFL record. All four have been 80 yards or more. Amazing.

 

Shane LechlerShane Lechler, P, Raiders
Anyone who can keep the ball out of Devin Hester's hands deserves some recognition, and Lechler did just that, limiting the specialist to seven yards on two returns. He also gets credit for kicking the punt of a lifetime, as he boomed a net 60- and gross 80-yard bomb.
Katzowitz Wilson
Sebastian Janikowski Shane Lechler/Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders
These two were the co-MVPs in the Raiders win against the Bears, with Janikowski kicking a franchise-record six field goals and Lechler winning the battle against Devin Hester, including an 80-yard (!) punt. Lechler and Janikowski are the only two players from the last Raiders playoff squad, and these two, if they keep playing like this, will lead Oakland back again.
Patrick Peterson Patrick Peterson, CB/KR, Cardinals
Peterson is the new Devin Hester: teams are going to have to give serious consideration to just not kicking him the ball. Or, at the very least, the Rams need to have that conversation. Peterson has twiced returned punts for touchdowns against St. Louis, and twice it was the difference in the game. Peterson has taken four punts to the house this season and there's still five games to go.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Sean PaytonSean Payton, HC, Saints
Can't stand Payton. He's a phony, abusive of the local media, and overall a very nasty man but damn he can coach. He picked apart not a great Giants defense but a solid one. Made it look like child's play. It was amazing to watch. You rarely see a team so totally dissected.
John Harbaugh John Harbaugh, HC, Ravens
He beat an opponent that won its four previous games in EST, was a field goal in overtime from being unbeaten, but he beats his younger brother, too. Trust me, this was a huge hurdle for Baltimore, which has one winning opponent (Cincinnati) on its schedule ... and that's the season finale. Winning the division is crucial to the Ravens, and they just took a big step in that direction. Who's got it better than Harbaugh and the Ravens? Noooooobody!
Prisco Brinson
John FoxJohn Fox, HC, Broncos
Say what you want about the read-option, but Fox has created a winning environment with Tim Tebow and that crazy offense. They have turned into a playoff contender, thanks to that big win at San Diego in overtime.
John HarbaughJohn Harbaugh, HC, Ravens
Even though the game was in Baltimore, the matchup didn't look good for the Ravens. But John took Jim out in the backyard and sicked his defense on lil' bro's QB at Thanksgiving. The result? A dominant defensive effort that put the Ravens in the AFC driver's seat.
Katzowitz Wilson
John Harbaugh John Harbaugh, HC, Ravens
He knocked off his brother’s squad on Thanksgiving, and at the same time, he exposed some major flaws in the 49ers roster. John Harbaugh’s teams have been wishy-washy as hell this year, but if the Ravens can beat one of the NFC’s best with relative ease, you have to figure that Baltimore will be a force in AFC playoffs.
Gary Kubiak Gary Kubiak, HC, Texans
The 7-3 Texans were supposed to beat the 3-7 Jaguars, but Houston began the game with backup Matt Leinart, and by the final whistle, third-stringer T.J. Yates was the starter. The Texans are currently the No. 1 team in the AFC but barring some Tim Tebow-inspired magic, this could be the high point of their season.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Schaub gives T.J. Yates his seal of approval

T. Yates looks to be Houston's starting quarterback for the foreseeable future (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Now that Matt Leinart is unofficially done for the season after cracking his left collarbone Sunday, it appears the Texans are going to take their chances with fifth-round pick T.J. Yates as the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

My colleague Will Brinson wrote a little about him in this week’s Sorting the Sunday Pile, but aside from Yates, who was 8 of 15 for 70 yards in relief of Leinart, holding the title of the best quarterback ever to emerge from UNC, we know very little about his ability to start in the NFL.

But considering the other Texans options, where else could they turn for a starter? Probably not Kellen Clemens, who was signed last week. Probably not Sage Rosenfels, who somehow has become a candidate to be claimed by Houston on waivers despite being placed on the Reserved/Non-Football Illness list with the Dolphins last month. And definitely not tight end Owen Daniels, who was actually the emergency backup to Yates on Sunday after Leinart left the game.

For now, it seems like Yates is the only man standing. And that’s OK by original starter Matt Schaub.

“T.J.’s been with us now for quite a while,” Schaub said on KILT in Houston, via sportsradiointerviews.com. “He’s been in our meetings; he understands our system. Obviously, you don’t want to give him an incredible amount of new stuff. … At the same time, we have enough guys in this locker room that have played enough football and they’re solid players. We’ve got some talent on our team and they’re going to have to pick up their play. We’ve dealt with injuries now all season. It seems like a broken record, but that’s what we’ve done and there’s something special about this team.”

And Yates is the guy that can continue that special season?

“T.J., for being a rookie, he’s probably picked this offense up to the point where he can function in it well, faster than anyone I’ve seen, including myself,” Schaub said. “That’s a big credit to him, because this is not an easy offense to pick up. … I, personally, have a ton of confidence that he’s going to go in there and play very well.”

After the game, Gary Kubiak talked about how Yates plays the game fast and that he has all the starting quarterback characteristics. Yet, Kubiak also acknowledged that he's barely taken any reps. Which means the Texans don’t really know what they have with Yates. For good or for bad.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 3:37 pm
 

Andre Johnson expected to return this week

Johnson

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It sounds like the long-awaited return of Texans receiver Andre Johnson will come this week -- just in time for Matt Leinart to replace the injured Matt Schaub at quarterback for the rest of the season.

That’s what coach Gary Kubiak said today when he shared the news that Johnson practiced with no problems.

“He took all his reps with the team,” Kubiak told reporters. “All systems should be go this weekend."

If that’s the case, it’d be the first time since Johnson injured his hamstring in Week 4, and it’d be welcome news for a Texans squad trying to figure out how it’ll survive the rest of the season without Schaub.

In other Texans injury news, safety Danieal Manning, one of the reasons Houston’s defense has become such a strong unit this season, returned to practice for the first time since breaking his leg in Week 7.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 10, 2011 11:36 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Second-half predictions

Green Bay is being predicted to win the Super Bowl (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We’re halfway through the season, and since so few of my preseason predictions will come true (seriously?!? The Rams to win the NFC West? Chris Johnson as the comeback player?), I’ve decided to give it another go in hopes that I don’t have to bring my prediction machine into the shop for a tune-up.

Aside from our new, guaranteed to be true picks (you can also check out our CBS expert chat from Wednesday in that link), I’m going out on a limb with this Top Ten with a Twist and giving you 10 predictions that I know in my heart of hearts WILL happen the rest of the season.

Because the great thing about working for a national website, as opposed to a newspaper that gets filed into the recycling bin as soon as you’re done reading it, is that there’s no way anybody will ever know if your predictions turn out to be crap. Oh, wait …

10. The Bills will fall apart: One of the league’s most surprising teams -- though Fred Jackson says you shouldn’t have been THAT surprised by it -- played perhaps its worst game of the season against the wrong opponent last week, losing to the Jets at home and falling into a tie for first place in the AFC East with the Jets and Patriots. Buffalo has to play both teams once more, and though Buffalo should finish with a winning record, that won’t be enough to finish ahead of New England and New York and make the playoffs.

9. The Lions won’t: Detroit’s success hasn’t been nearly as surprising as Buffalo’s, but the fact Detroit is 6-2 through the first half of the season isn’t something we’re used to seeing. But the Lions are legitimately a playoff team. They’re third in the league in points scored -- that can happen when your former No. 1 pick stays healthy (so far) and your top-notch wide receiver scores touchdowns by the bushel. The Lions, even though Ndamukong Suh hasn’t been at his best, still maintain a top-10 defense. Though the second-half schedule is tough, Detroit has a good chance of knocking off Green Bay (the two teams play twice), and if the Lions can stay ahead of the Bears, one wild card spot will be waiting for them.

8. New England will right the ship: The Patriots, despite losing their past two games and looking bad in the process, should still make the playoffs. So, from that aspect, they’ll be good enough. Just not as good as they usually are. That’s because their defense is a major problem (Albert Haynesworth, you’ll recall, was on the roster for eight weeks), and it’s unclear how New England will fix it. But the offense is good enough to survive the second half of their schedule. They won’t get a first-round bye, and they probably won’t survive wild card weekend. So, the season basically will be an abject failure in New England’s eyes.

7. The Colts will win a game (or two): Indianapolis will not be the second team in NFL history to go 0-for-16 on the year. Already, they’ve lost four games by eight points or less, and yes, even though that 62-7 loss to the Saints was ridiculous, Indianapolis (and quarterback Curtis Painter) is good enough to win at least one. It could happen this week vs. the Jaguars at home or at Jacksonville in Week 17, and a win against the Panthers is not completely out of the question. The point is: a team that plays the Steelers to within three points isn’t the worst team in the history of the league. Even if the Colts are the last winless team in the NFL this season.

Sparano6. Jim Irsay will break Caldwell’s firing on Twitter: Irsay has to be my favorite NFL owner of all time, simply because he gets the power of social media. Sure, most of the time he’s tweeting obscure lyrics from Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut album or pretending to look for Brett Favre in Hattiesburg, Miss., but Caldwell also will be the first owner in history to break the news on his own Twitter account that he’s firing his coach. John Elway has been great on Twitter as well, but Elway also has a boss. That’s not a problem for Irsay.

5. Tony Sparano will last the season: I don’t know if Jim Caldwell will make it to the season’s end with the Colts, but I’m thinking Sparano will do exactly that. The team is still playing hard -- and how about the Dolphins beating the crap out of the Chiefs in Kansas City last week? -- and though the talent is lacking in that organization (how much can be blamed on the departed Bill Parcells?), they still believe in Sparano. If the Dolphins can pull of another couple wins, hopefully owner Stephen Ross will let him last through the season. After the emasculation Ross put him through in the offseason, Sparano deserves that much at least.

4. HGH testing won’t be around in 2011: We told you about a month ago that the NFL’s HGH testing was a go and that it very well could start within that week. That was quickly disputed by the NFLPA -- which claims that nobody has explained to the union exactly how the tests will be conducted -- and here we are, nearly a month later, and nothing has happened. As NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman, “We have an agreement to test for HGH. What we don't have an agreement on is the process and the protocol to implement the test.” Considering the glacial pace at which the two sides moved when the 2011 season was at stake, I don’t expect the league to start testing until next season. If then.

3. Carson Palmer will be better than average: That’s not exactly a high bar to jump over, but considering he wasn’t even that in his final seasons for the Bengals, this would be an improvement. Palmer had a rough outing in his first action, replacing Kyle Boller in the second half of the Chiefs game, but he showed some of the Palmer of old, throwing three touchdowns (and three more interceptions) in the loss to the Broncos. Will Palmer be worth the two high-round draft picks the Raiders gave to the Bengals for him? Probably not, but Palmer will keep the Raiders in the playoff hunt.

2. Wade Phillips will save Gary Kubiak’s job: The Texans defensive coordinator is well on his way to doing exactly that for Houston’s head coach. Because, at this very moment, the Texans defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. You remember what they were last year, right? No. 30. Hiring Phillips might be the best move Kubiak ever made, and Phillips is repaying him by recreating a defense that will lead Houston to the playoffs and keep Kubiak safely employed.

1. Packers will win Super Bowl: I mean, who else is there?

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 8:06 pm
 

Andre Johnson won't play -- once again

JohnsonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

For the fifth straight week, Texans receiver Andre Johnson won’t play, but according to coach Gary Kubiak, he’s getting ever so much closer. Which is basically what we’ve been hearing the past couple weeks (about a month ago, Johnson said he wanted to return in two weeks).

“He’s very close,” Kubiak said in quotes released by the team. “I know ya’ll are tired of hearing that, but he is very close, but he will not go this week.”

Asked if Johnson had a setback this week with his hamstring, Kubiak said, “No, I wouldn’t say that at all. I just think that was as hard as we’ve pushed him and there’s obviously levels you have to reach to get back on the field and when he got pushed Monday, the response was, ‘No, not yet.’ So, we backed off him, but today he was excellent. The spirits are back up and he’s in a great mood, felt good about what happened today. We’ll get there.”

Kubiak wouldn’t say if Johnson would be ready for next week, but Johnson's reaction to Monday's workout wasn't very encouraging.

“We kind of had a little setback from our Monday workout,” Johnson said. “I have been sore for a couple days. I went out and ran today, so it felt pretty good.  … It was more of just soreness. It had got pretty sore, probably a little sorer than it’s ever been, so they gave me a couple days rest. Went back out there today, did some running, did some things on the bungee cord, felt pretty good, so we’re just going to keep working. Just like everybody else, I wish this process could be a lot faster than what it’s been, but like I said, I’m going to just keep working through it and just try and stay positive.”

In other news about injured standout offensive weapons for AFC teams who are west of the Mississippi, Raiders running back Darren McFadden will miss Oakland’s game Sunday, Hue Jackson said today. Michael Bush will start in his place.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com