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Tag:Troy Polamalu
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:56 pm
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Mojo-less NFLers

P. Rivers has struggled this season (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Where there’s a star football player*, there’s always a star football ready to fall. Sometimes, they get old overnight. Sometimes, they get satiated by a rich, new contract and lose the desire to stay hungry and work out as hard. Sometimes, their one shining season was a mirage and their talent wasn’t all that great in the first place.

*Or a football coach, executive, etc.

Earlier this season, we discussed the league’s most underrated players, the players you really should know about, and in this edition of Top Ten with a Twist, we examine the players who, for whichever reason, have fallen off the cliff. Not necessarily overrated players, but players who once were great -- or showed us the potential to be great -- but have fallen on hard times. Some of these selections still play at a very high level. That’s not the issue. The question is: are they as great as they were?

The trick for them is to rediscover what made them great in the first place, to rediscover their mojo. If they can.

10. Bernard Pollard: It was at the beginning of the 2010 season when I ranked Pollard No. 4 on my top-five safeties list, which led CBSSports.com film-watching guru Andy Benoit to write, “I like that you went with Pollard -- that shows you’re paying attention. Few people even know about the fifth-year pro.” And just two years later, after Pollard was jettisoned out of Houston, few people remember how effective he used to be. Now, he’s in Baltimore and he’s actually a starter, and really the only time he’s making news is when he’s being fined for illegal hits.

9. Logan Mankins: Once one of the best offensive guards around -- and still a top-notch player -- the contract dispute of the last two seasons seems to have taken something out of him (in August, he signed a six-year, $51 million deal). Though he emerged from last year’s holdout, in which he missed seven games, as a Pro Bowl player, he’s struggling a bit this season. He’s been whistled for more penalties, and he’s allowed more sacks than normal. Listen, he’s still one of the best guards out there, but New York’s Justin Tuck and Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley found success against him this year. That rarely happened in the past.

8. Andy Reid: Is it fair that Reid, after back-to-back 10-win seasons and a plethora of success during his 12-year Eagles career, is on the hot seat for the mess Philadelphia has become this year? Maybe not. But is Reid partially -- if not, mostly -- to blame for how the Eagles season has progressed? Yes. Bringing in high-priced free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha seemed like a great idea at the time, but some of those moves have fizzled. Moving former offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator has not worked out well. And at this point, it seems like a lock that the 3-6 Eagles will finish outside the playoffs. Should he lose his job? Probably not. Will he? Maybe.

7. Chris Johnson: True, he’s coming off his best game of the season (27 carries, 130 yards, one touchdown), but Johnson has been a major disaster this year. Which has to give heartburn to the Titans front office, which signed Johnson to a six-year, $55.3 million contract before the season. And with that, Johnson stopped producing. He stopped hitting his holes with big-time bursts, he stopped breaking tackles and he looked lackluster. It’s hard to imagine that a big, fat contract would have caused such an appetite loss for Johnson, but all we’ve seen out of him this year are two pretty good games and a whole lot of blame deflection.

6. Bill Polian: Has an executive’s talent-spotting reputation ever fallen as far and as fast as Polian this year? With the loss of Peyton Manning imploding the Colts, eyes have shifted to Polian as perhaps a reason why Indianapolis has struggled so badly this year. No quality backup quarterback and a bushel of questionable draft picks in the past few years have us wondering if Polian’s job is in danger (owner Jim Irsay has said it’s not). But man, did the talent of Manning shield our knowledge of Polian’s ability this entire time?

Polamalu5. Troy Polamalu: Some of my colleagues (cough, cough) love to rail on Polamalu as the most overrated player in the league. I don’t think he’s that at all. Polamalu still plays at a high level, and he’s still a guy you have to gameplan against. But to say he’s the same player he was five years ago is obviously untrue. He can still lay a mean hit on a receiver, but he struggles in coverage (as shown by his inadequate defense against an A.J. Green touchdown bomb last week), and he doesn’t have the speed of his youth. He doesn’t even have the speed of two years ago. Yes, he’s been hampered by injuries (he’s missed 13 combined games in the past two seasons), but he’s not the all-world safety anymore (though he’s smart and experienced, which certainly helps). That was proven correct in Super XLV when the Packers made him irrelevant all game.

4. Chad Ochocinco: We’ve over-analyzed Ochocinco to death on this blog, but man, it’s still kind of crazy that he has just 11 catches for 201 yards and zero touchdowns on the season. The guy used to be ultra-confident. Now, he’s slowly disappearing like Marty McFly’s family photo.

3. DeSean Jackson: You have to think that, with the statements Jackson has made about how protecting his health was his No. 1 priority this season and with the fact he overslept and missed a team meeting last Saturday and got himself deactivated on Sunday, Jackson is really, really interested in his new contract. Naturally, he wants to get paid, but I don’t think being tied for 71st in the league with 29 catches is going to attract a ton of positive attention.

2. Sam Bradford: This is a strange case. Bradford seemed on the verge of a breaking out in his rookie season last year, but he’s been a forgotten man this year. That’s probably because the Rams are a forgotten team and because he’s missed a few games because of an ankle injury. But his completion percentage is down this year (55.8 percent), his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a bit worse, and he’s lost twice as many fumbles (his offensive line and receivers are not helping matters at all). And it’s not just that Bradford has played worse; it’s that nobody nationally seems to be talking about him at all, good or bad. That’s just kind of strange for last year’s No. 1 overall pick.

1. Philip Rivers: He’s never had great form, but something about the Chargers quarterback seems off this season. His strange mechanics look even stranger, and Rivers leads the league in interceptions while his 4-5 San Diego unit is sinking in the AFC West. I’ve made the joke that, now that Rivers has six children, it's no wonder he’s had a tougher time. But in San Diego, this can’t be a laughing matter. Not when Norv Turner’s job is at risk and with the Chargers losing hope fast. I keep thinking Rivers can turn it around, but at this point, it’s tough to say if he will.

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Film Room: Packers vs. Buccaneers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


The Green Bay Packers are off to the best start of any Defending Champion since the ‘99 Broncos. With legitimate buzz about a perfect season getting louder, let’s look at some of subtle but important elements that make this team great.


1. Aaron Rodgers hidden traits
Through nine games, Rodgers is playing the quarterback position better than anyone has ever played it. No need to sit here and talk about his arm strength, accuracy, intelligence, mobility and “moxie” – all it takes are two eyes and a pulse for an observer to notice these things.

Besides, it’s the little things that set Rodgers apart. Things like….
  • Footwork: This past Monday night, Jon Gruden shrewdly pointed out that when taking a shotgun snap, the right-handed Rodgers keeps his right foot back. All other right-handed quarterbacks keep their left foot back. By keeping his right foot back, Rodgers is in position to throw the second he receives the ball. This is critical given how many quick slants and smoke screens the Packers throw. Rodgers’ footwork is not just unique in the shotgun. He’s incredibly crafty in how he angles his drop-backs ever so slightly to impact opposing pass-rushers’ path to him. It’s something you generally wouldn’t notice unless you have to play against him. Rodgers’ subtle footwork adjustments can be a tremendous help to Green Bay’s offensive line.
  • Presnap vocals: Rodgers recognizes defenses as well as any quarterback in the game and uses the snap count better than anyone. This Sunday, keep track not just of how many times Buccaneer defensive linemen jump offsides (Adrian Clayborn and Albert Haynesworth both had some issues with this last week) but how many times the linebackers and cornerbacks are baited into accidentally showing their hand. Rodgers is remarkable in the way he recognizes any flinch and mentally processes a defender’s initial move. Good dummy cadences allow him to do that.
  • Precision accuracy: Rodgers has the ability to succeed even on plays where the defense’s scheme defeats Green Bay’s offensive concept. His ball command is a big reason why. Most accurate passers simply hit the dart board; Rodgers routinely hits the bull’s-eye. He puts the ball not just on a receiver, but in the most favorable location for that receiver. This is why the Packers are the best in football when it comes to running after the catch. The last passer who threw with the quick release and velocity necessary for near-perfect precision was Kurt Warner. The difference between Rodgers and Warner is Rodgers exhibits this kind of accuracy in the pocket AND outside on the move (he’s the best movement passer in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger and Josh Freeman included).
2. Formation versatility
The Packers offense is a nightmare to prepare for. They have a bottomless trove of formations and personnel packages. They regularly use three different running backs, five different wide receivers and four different tight ends, with formations reflecting virtually every possible combination of those groupings.

And thanks to the versatility and potency of Jermichael Finley, defenses often can’t decipher whether it will be a run or pass formation until the Packers line up. Even then, it can be hard to decipher, as it’s not uncommon for Finley to shift before the snap. The Packers run a lot of the same plays but out of different formations.

This formation versatility allows Green Bay’s rushing attack to stay afloat. Talent-wise, it’s not a great ground game. James Starks and Ryan Grant are both methodical, gaping-hole runners who can’t redirect quickly or create their own space. It helps that they play with a strong, versatile lead-blocker in John Kuhn and behind stud right guard Josh Sitton and crafty center Scott Wells. H-back Tom Crabtree is also a positive factor in run packages.

But what really makes a difference is that the Packers are a threat to throw out of run formations. They have a viable screen game, they’re great in play-action and Rodgers is not afraid to go downfield even if there’s only one wideout in the formation (the first touchdown to Jordy Nelson in Super Bowl XLV is a great example).

The Bucs safeties struggled in run-pass recognition against the Texans last week. And their linebackers really struggled against the run (middle ‘backer Mason Foster is about as stiff as they come). Don’t be surprised if the Packers pound the Bucs on the ground and later throw the safeties a curveball with a downfield shot out of heavy personnel.

3. Receiver distribution

Receiver distribution can be explained with simple who-where-how questions: WHO are the receivers on the field, HOW do they line up and WHERE do they run? The “who” is always favorable to Green Bay. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley form the most formidable quintet in the NFL. All are fast, fundamentally sound and well-schooled in Mike McCarthy’s system.

It’s in the “where” and “how” that McCarthy doesn’t get enough credit. Along with Sean Payton, McCarthy is the best in the business at creating big passes through alignment and route combinations. The Packers create a lot of mismatches simply by lining certain players up in certain areas. They create even more mismatches by designing routes that work off one another.

The best example is their 3 x 1 receiver set (three receivers to one side, one receiver to the other). Greg Jennings is often the X-iso receiver (i.e. the receiver on the one-receiver side). From this formation, an outside route by Jennings all but guarantees one-on-one coverage (a safety over the top can’t cover enough ground quick enough to help outside; even if he could, the three receives being on the other side of the field usually demands that he be over there).

If Jennings runs an inside route, Rodgers has a one-on-one matchup to locate on the three-receiver side. He identifies these matchups almost instantaneously. And with the vast talent at receiver, the one-on-one matchup will almost always favor Green Bay. Defenses that try to nullify this by playing zone to the three-receiver side are punished by route combinations that work off one another by attacking the boundaries of the zones (i.e., that grey area where one defender’s zone ends and another’s begins).

McCarthy’s goal is to slow down a defender’s mental process just enough to give his quarterback time to strike. The second quarter touchdown pass to Jennings in Super Bowl XLV is a great example:


1. The play involved a formation shift, as Greg Jennings’ motion turned a 2 x 2 receiver set into a 3 x 1. This shifted the Steelers’ zone coverage from a Cover 2 to a man-zone scheme, with Ike Taylor playing man against the lone receiver (Andrew Quarless) outside and the rest of the defenders playing zone.

2. In this scenario, the backside safety (the safety furthest from the three receivers) is responsible for the 3 receiver (the receiver nearest the slot). That was Ryan Clark on the right side.

 

3. It was a great route combination by the Packers. The far outside receiver (Donald Driver) ran a hitch, which forced that cornerback to sit on the route. Because that corner had to sit, he could not help against the second receiver (Jordy Nelson), who was running a seam route downfield. Thus, the deep safety, Troy Polamalu, now had to worry about Nelson.


4. The problem was, Polamalu also had the receiver furthest inside (Jennings) screaming at him. Naturally, Polamalu froze for a split second, as he was mentally processing two different receivers racing into the edges of his zone. This created natural confusion with Ryan Clark, who was responsible for that inside receiver and had a lot of ground to cover. Clark had stayed in his original Cover 2 positioning a beat too long (an understandable mistake given Pittsburgh’s fondness for disguising coverage).

5. Rodgers recognized all this. It was exactly how the play was designed to work. The coverage was decent, but Rodgers’ arm was better. Touchdown.

4. The other side of the ball
Green Bay’s defense is as versatile as its offense. It’s a unit that has been inconsistent this season, but don’t think for a second that this group isn’t capable of winning a game on its own in any given week.

Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme can quickly morph into a 2-4-5 or 1-4-6 scheme, depending on the pass-happiness of the opponent (expect more 3-4 looks this Sunday, as the Bucs utilize a lot of base personnel on early downs). The flexibility of the defensive backs allows the Packers to disguise blitzes before the snap and alter coverages after the snap. These are two of the leading principles of Capers’ system.

Why other teams don’t simply mimic Capers’ effective, playmaking-oriented scheme is because of personnel limitations. Capers enjoys the rare fortune of having the four most critical weapons that a defense in today’s NFL can have: an interior clogger (B.J. Raji), an edge-rusher (Clay Matthews), a cover corner (Tramon Williams) and a versatile slot corner/safety (Charles Woodson). Star players make the role players around them better. The Packers D has stars at every level.

5. The Woodson factor
Matthews might be Green Bay’s most valuable defender simply because there isn’t another pass-rusher on the roster (or perhaps in the league) with his initial quickness and sheer speed. But Woodson has a far greater hand in what the Packers do schematically.

An elite cover corner early in his career, the 35-year-old veteran has morphed into more of a freelancing box safety, ala Troy Polamalu. This isn’t to say Woodson can’t still cover. His five interceptions this season – and outstanding performance playing bump-and-run outside in place of an injured Tramon Williams at Carolina in Week 2 – prove that he can. But he’s more dangerous in the box.

Woodson is an elite blitzer and run defender from the slot. He’s surprisingly physical. His greatest traits are his timing and the unique paths he takes in attack. Woodson recognizes offensive concepts quickly, not just in terms of where the play is going, but when it is designed to get there. He adjusts accordingly, which is why you almost never see him get blocked.

Woodson’s impact is not just felt through his own big plays, either. He is brilliant at getting to spots on the field that he knows will redirect the offense back into the teeth of the defense. A lot of times, the goal of Woodson’s blitz is not to get a sack, but rather, to simply force the quarterback to move into a vulnerable area that the rest of the defense is secretly attacking.

Guys like Woodson only come around every decade or so. They’re rare because it takes about 8-10 years for a player to master the game’s nuances. By that time, most players have declined athletically. The ones that don’t go to Canton.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 11 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 3, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 9:27 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: NFL Week 9 Film Room

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Week 9 of the NFL season is upon us and that means it's time to break down some film with Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit.

(You can read Andy's breakdown of Pittsburgh-Baltimore right here, as well as his breakdown of Tampa Bay-New Orleans right here.)

Andy and Will discuss whether or not the Steelers can be as effective defensively without their top linebackers, who's better between Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, what the Giants can learn from the Steelers' win last week as they prepare for the Patriots, whether or not we should sell the Saints and buy the Buccaneers, if we're worried about Philip Rivers and the Chargers, and if the Chiefs are playing a trap game this week.

All that, plus much, much more below.

Just hit the play button below to listen (and did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 2, 2011 10:51 am
Edited on: November 4, 2011 9:37 am
 

Film Room: Steelers vs. Ravens preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The greatest rivalry in today’s NFL is renewed Sunday night when Baltimore travels to Pittsburgh. Though both teams have drifted towards being pass-oriented offenses, these smashmouth defenses can still make this game the type of fistfight we’ve all come to love. Here’s a look at two of the league’s meanest, most successful defensive units.

1. Baltimore’s philosophy
The Ravens are not as geared towards Byzantine blitzes as they were during the Rex Ryan years. New coordinator Chuck Pagano is more inclined to use a four-man front in nickel and let pass-rushers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger use their strength/speed combination on the edges.

This isn’t to say Pagano won’t blitz; he still brings some heat with inside linebackers and slot corners. But he uses stunts and the dominance of Haloti Ngata to generate individual matchups for guys outside. This creates similar end results to what Dick LeBeau does with his zone blitzes.


2. Pittsburgh’s philosophy
The zone blitz’s basic principle is getting pressure on the quarterback without sacrificing bodies in coverage. About half the time a zone blitz is actually a zone exchange, which means four pass-rushers who are coming from untraditional spots (say three rushers on one side and just one on the other, for example).

A lot of Pittsburgh’s blitzes are determined by the offense’s receiver distribution. This is a versatile approach that requires smart, experienced defenders, particularly in the defensive backfield where the coverage is usually a matchup-zone concept. Matchup zones require defenders to pass wide receivers off to one another. The Steelers and Ravens both do this extremely well.

As for Pittsburgh’s blitzes themselves, the goal is not to get pass-rushers in clean – though that’s certainly nice when it happens – but rather, to get LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison in one-on-one matchups against running backs or tight ends. The Steelers do this by overloading their attack to one side of the formation or, sometimes, aligning both Woodley and Harrison on the same side. Doing this can compel an offense to keep its running back in to pass protect, which can be a nice way to nullify a dangerous receiving threat (like, say Ray Rice).

Of course, Woodley and Harrison are likely both out this Sunday. That’s huge, especially if Jason Worilds (an unknown but gifted second-year pro who is potentially the next great Steeler outside linebacker) remains on the shelf with a quad injury. Deepening the damage is that inside linebacker James Farrior is also out. Farrior is great at timing his blitzes in a way that jars blockers and creates one-on-one matchups for others.

3. The safeties
A lot of defensive schemes look good when there’s a future first ballot Hall of Famer at safety. Ed Reed is a ridiculously smart, ridiculously rangy free safety who takes chances that no other players could take. He’s a centerfielder who’s capable of swooping into the box. Troy Polamalu is a ridiculously smart, ridiculously explosive strong safety who also takes chances that no other players could take. Polamalu is a box defender who’s capable of flying back into centerfield.

As a quarterback you obviously have to know where these safeties are at all times. Usually this kind of knowledge can tip you off as to what the defense is running. But Reed’s and Polamalu’s range allows them to disguise and redirect their intentions after the snap. Thus, the main reason a quarterback must focus on them is simply to avoid a turnover.

Something to keep in mind: Reed and Polamalu allow their respective defenses to be great in different ways. But their defenses also allow THEM be great. Neither could freelance as much as they do if not for playing with trustworthy teammates who consistently execute their own assignments.

4. Defensive Lines
On a similar note, great defenses always control the trenches. So much of defensive schemes are built around defending the pass. But effective blitzes or coverage designs are rendered moot if the offense can ram the ball down your throat. The Steelers have a stalwart nose tackle in Casey Hampton flanked by active defensive ends who can occupy two blockers by playing with strong east and west movement.

This is critical because the congestion these players create allows the linebackers to attack the run cleanly. In case there’s any doubt about how important the ends are to Pittsburgh’s scheme, recognize that GM Kevin Colbert spent his ’09 first-round pick on Ziggy Hood and his ’11 first-round pick on Cameron Heyward.

The Ravens linebackers also attack the run cleanly thanks to a potent defensive front. Baltimore’s defensive front goes about things slightly differently, though. While Pittsburgh’s ends are more athletic and aim to create congestion via movement, Baltimore’s ends are more powerful and aim to create congestion via penetration.

The emergence of nose tackle Terrence Cody has been critical this season. Cody is a load with some burst. He struggles to hold ground against double teams, but at least he’s drawing the double teams. His doing so gives Chuck Pagano more freedom in the way he uses Haloti Ngata, the most destructive defensive lineman in football.



5. Unheralded superstars
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed command a lot of headlines – and understandably so. And Ngata, deservedly, gets more recognition with each passing week. But the best player on Baltimore’s defense may just be Terrell Suggs. Because the ninth-year pro has never led the league in sacks, people assume he’s merely a good player.

But Suggs’ sack numbers don’t show that he’s the best run-defending outside ‘backer in the league, playside or backside. And they don’t show how he physically wears down an opponent over the course of a game. Suggs moves like a gazelle but, when engaged in a phone booth, has the power of a rhino.

The Steelers also have a first-class star flying under the radar: Ike Taylor. It’s mind-boggling that the 31-year-old cornerback did not draw more interest on the open market this past offseason. Taylor often defends the opposing team’s top receiver man-to-man while the rest of the defense play zone.

Last week he held Wes Welker to six catches for 39 yards, which is remarkable considering Taylor is not too accustom to lining up over the slot. The week before, he held Larry Fitzgerald to four catches for 78 yards. Taylor often shows up on TV for the wrong reasons – penalties and dropped interceptions – but he shows up on film as the key to Pittsburgh’s coverages.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 9 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 1:02 pm
 

Polamalu punch vs. Patriots was illegal

Polamalu slapped a loose ball into the Patriots' end zone. Turns out: you can't do that. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The Steelers may have dominated the Patriots for 59 minutes and 41 seconds Sunday, but Tom Brady has a knack of pulling out improbable victories, and his history in Pittsburgh has been impressive. So when he took the field with 19 seconds left and the Pats trailing by six, the game wasn't over.

That became official some six seconds later, after defensive end Brett Keisel stripped Brady and Troy Polamalu knocked the loose ball into the end zone for a New England safety.

But here's the thing: when Polamalu sprinted from his centerfield position to make a play on Brady's fumble, he punched the ball a good 20 yards into the Pats' end zone. That's illegal. 


Polamalu's heads-up play was also against the rules.

Via the Associated Press: The rule states that a player may not bat or punch a loose ball in the field of play toward the opponent's goal line; a loose ball that has touched the ground in any direction, if it is in either end zone; or a backward pass in flight, which can't be batted forward by an offensive player."

The call is not reviewable by video replay, though neither Tom Brady nor the Patriots sideline complained at the time. And even if the penalty had been assessed, it would've been 10 yards from the spot of the infraction. Which means New England would've had the ball on their own 25-yard line with about 12 seconds on the clock and no timeouts.  

Given that the Pats don't have a deep threat on the roster, and Brady's longest pass to that point went for 23 yards to tight end Rob Gronkowski, we feel confident in writing that the outcome was unaffected. Plus, it afforded us the opportunity to see kicker Stephen Gostkowski drop-kick the ensuing onside kick clear out of bounds.

Polamalu was asked about the play after the game, and he channelled Costanza before answering.

"Whatever is going to get me in trouble, he said. "I'm saying the opposite."

Nothing to worry about, Troy. The NFL doesn't believe in frivolous fines.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 31, 2011 9:14 am
 

Top Ten with a Twist: Halloween edition

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

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 5:17 pm
 

Goodell explains Polamalu fine for cell call

No exceptions: players can't use cell phones on the sideline during games. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren Wednesday night to talk about the usual fare -- player safety, expansion and the like -- in addition to several issues worth mentioning here.

Van Susteren asked Goodell about the league's decision to fine Steelers safety Troy Polamalu for using a cell phone on the sidelines during a game (that's illegal), even though the call was to Polamalu's wife to let her know he was fine after suffering concussion-like symptoms.

Several days after it happened, head coach Mike Tomlin said Polamalu shouldn't be fined.

"[Troy] had a history of concussion-like symptoms and so forth in the past. [His wife] was concerned. In this era of player safety, you would think that common sense would prevail in regards to some of those things. It wasn't a personal call. He wasn't checking on his bank account. He was talking to his wife to let her know that he was fine, and that was it."

Common sense lost out to the unbending interpretation of the rules: Polamalu owes the NFL $10,000.

"Well, I think it's always a problem trying to have a rule that applies to everybody," Goodell began (you can view the interview here). "Troy's a wonderful young man and there was concern about his health and there are ways of us getting word to families when there is an injury, and to make sure they understand that the player is okay. But we also don't want to have all our players using phones on the sidelines for texting."

Goodell did concede that "When someone's injured and you're family, you want to speak to the individual. And you want to hear their voice. You want to make sure they're okay. And that's something that probably could've happened by taking him off the field and allowing him access to be able to call his wife."

The lesson? The rules apply to everyone … except, you know, when they don't.

Van Susteren, a long-time Packers shareholder, also asked the commissioner about whether the organization would sell more shares.

"I think so," Goodell said. "As you well know as a season ticket holder and an owner, they are trying to expand the stadium. They will add probably six or seven thousand more seats for fans, which I think there's a great demand for that. And as part of that, we will likely approve another issuing of the stock so you'll have a chance to buy some more."

Van Susteren warned that Goodell shouldn't get any ideas about putting a dome on Lambeau Field. "We take great pride in suffering through that snow and cold," she said.

"You're not going to hear that suggestion from me," the commissioner responded. "I also love to see football played in the elements. That's what the game's all about … and I think the experience of going up there in Lambeau in the elements is a great thing in football."


The New England Patriots will travel to Heinz Field to square off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan to preview this intense showdown. Watch the game on CBS at 4:15 PM ET.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 10:03 pm
 

VIDEO: Ward can't get enough of his dancing

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We all know Hines Ward can dance, and we all know that, when the time calls for it, he can deliver a bad-ass power bomb to his dance partner.

But what we didn’t know was that Ward can lead his dance partner with the best of them. Even if he happens to be dancing with another man.

Which is why we present to you an outtake of one of Troy Polamalu’s recent shampoo commercials. If you want to see Ward and Polamalu get down and if you want to see defensive end Brett Keisel (with an enormous, “not nearly as cool as the real thing” beard) show a little awkwardness, I’d advise you to click on the below video.

It’ll make you feel, um, groovy?



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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