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Tag:Donovan McNabb
Posted on: December 1, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Vikings to release McNabb, Bears next?

Chicago missed out on Orton. Could McNabb be next? (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, the Broncos released former starting quarterback Kyle Orton to give him a chance to catch on with another team now that the trading deadline had passed. On Thursday, the Vikings reportedly extended the same courtesy to Donovan McNabb, Minnesota's starter to begin the year who was replaced with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder in Week 7.

The Vikings were 1-5 when McNabb headed to the bench; they're 1-4 since with Ponder. There's a decent argument that Minnesota is virtually the same team before and after McNabb. Fair enough, but the biggest difference is that Ponder is gaining experience and has upside. With McNabb what you see is what you get. And, frankly, the last two seasons it's been hard to watch him at all.

According to Leslie Frazier, it was a mutual decision between McNabb and the team.

"He's been a true pro in every sense of the word," Frazier said. "He's a class guy. Always has been, and he's done a good job in spite of the fact he wasn't our starting quarterback.

"When you have a guy who has been this successful in this league, he has an idea how he wants his career to continue or not to continue. That played a role in making that decision," Frazier said.

But, hey, one man's trash…

In the NFL, competence is relative and there are several teams in the playoff hunt who are suddenly in need of a replacement-level quarterback. When Denver cut Orton, Chicago was an obvious landing spot. The Bears had just lost Jay Cutler to a hand injury and backup Caleb Hanie had yet to start an NFL game (that happened over the weekend and it didn't go well).

McNabb probably isn't as good as Orton but at this point in the proceedings, with just five games remaining in the regular season and Chicago's tenuous hold on a playoff spot, there's no time to be picky. The question, at its most basic, comes down to this: does McNabb give the Bears a better chance to win than Hanie?

If Lovie Smith and Mike Martz think so, they'll put in a waiver claim for him. If they don't, they'll pray that Hanie plays better and that Cutler's hand magically heals in the next few weeks.

But even if Chicago wants McNabb, there's no guarantee they land him. They also wanted Orton, but the Chiefs, by virtue of having a worse record, were awarded Orton off waivers. A similar scenario could play out again for McNabb's services.

This is bad news for Chicago but good news for McNabb, who hasn't been wanted since the Eagles traded him a few years ago. We're sure his confidence could use the boost.

Other teams that might be interested: the Texans, who just signed Jake Delhomme (!) to backup T.J. Yates and Kellen Clemens, and possibly the Cowboys, who put in a waiver claim for Orton last week.

UPDATE: The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans aren't interested. Put differently: they have more faith in Yates, Clemens and Delhomme. 


After an overtime win last week over the Chargers, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will travel to Mall of America Field to battle the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz take a look at this game.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 10:35 am
 

Shanahan going back to Grossman, will sit Beck

Grossman

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

At some point you have to wonder if the decision-making process of coach Mike Shanahan is one big reason the Redskins likely will finish the season last in the NFC East. Yes, the talent isn’t necessarily there, but the way Shanahan has handled his quarterbacks the past two seasons has been nothing short of disastrous.

On Saturday, colleague Will Brinson brought us the news that that Shanahan, after starting John Beck the past three games following a four-interception performance by Rex Grossman, had split the first-team reps at practice this week between Beck and Grossman.

Now, NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora is reporting that Shanahan informed the team over the weekend that he was going back to Grossman when the Redskins face Miami today.

While this quarterback controversy has continued since Donovan McNabb left for Minnesota -- and you’ll recall that Shanahan benched McNabb in favor of Grossman last year, leading to all kinds of problems in Washington -- Grossman and Beck, statistically, aren’t much different.

Beck has a better completion percentage (60.6 to Grossman’s 55.8), his quarterback rating is higher as well (72.1 as compared to Grossman’s 66.5), and the two have combined for eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The biggest disparity, though, is that the Redskins are 3-2 with Grossman starting and 0-3 with Beck (including the first shutout loss of Shanahan’s career).

While Beck won’t get the chance for revenge against the Dolphins -- he was originally drafted by Miami in 2007 before being cut two years later -- the Redskins can take solace in this fact: the last former University of Florida standout quarterback to start a game against the Dolphins, a guy by the name of Tim Tebow, walked out of Miami with a victory.

At this point, that’s as good a reason as any to make yet another quarterback switch.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 12:01 pm
 

McNabb thinks he should still be starting

McNabb, Ponder

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Donovan McNabb is adamant that he still has plenty of football left inside his 34-year-old body. He’s adamant that he gives the Vikings a better chance to win than Christian Ponder. He thinks he’s still got it.

Although he came off … I don’t know … slightly jerky (but in a polite way) during his interview that ran on the NFL Network on Sunday morning, McNabb is confident that he can still be a starting quarterback somewhere. Probably not in Minnesota, because why would the Vikings go back to McNabb when they’ve got the quarterback of the future who just took his job? But somewhere else maybe.

Yet what about the fact the team was 1-5 with McNabb starting as quarterback? Well, McNabb counters by saying he didn’t turn the ball over and that he was making plays. McNabb -- who, for the record, completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 1,026 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and zero lost fumbles -- also says he couldn’t do it all.

“Everyone focuses on my position,” McNabb told Andrea Kramer. “We should be sitting here, I’ll be honest, at about 4-3 or 5-2.  We had games that we should have won, but we just didn’t. Now is it the quarterback position?”

Well, it’s certainly not all on the quarterback position. And while McNabb was skeptical that Ponder could provide more of a spark than he would (this is where he came off a bit condescending in the interview), he also took offense that outsiders claimed his work ethic left something to be desired.

For example, when Michael Lombardi said the following: "McNabb is at a point in his career that he does not seem to want to put in the time, willing to show up late for meetings and practice, and expects to just play well. He failed to really grasp the offense in Minnesota (as he did in Washington), having trouble spitting the plays out quickly -- which meant the play sheet on his arm got bigger and bigger. It did not take long before McNabb's lack of commitment was seen by the older players, causing them to understand that a move had to be made."

And this: "And what I was told by people in the Vikings organization was that he's the last one in the building, he's the first one gone, he's not willing to put the time in, late for meetings, late for practice. So they have basically thrown up their hands and said we need to move on because ultimately that's not what we want in a quarterback. … If you go back and talk to people in Philadelphia they'll say there were questionable work habits."

McNabb was asked if he’d ever been late to a meeting. No, McNabb said. What about a team breakfast?

“Never,” McNabb said.  “But from just people from the outside listening, they’ll say, ‘Oh, you know, sources said that he’s not putting in that time to be a top tier quarterback.’  Well, just come to Minnesota.  Pack up your big jacket and your headwear, and come watch me.”

They’ll have to watch him in practice, though. Because, as we all know, McNabb won’t be doing anything except watching Ponder run the team McNabb thinks he should still be leading.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 12:59 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 4:28 pm
 

Vikings release WR Bernard Berrian

Berrian is looking for work after catching just nine passes this season. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It's been a tough month for Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian. He got into a Twitter spat with Minnesota state legislator and wounded war vet John Kreisel (and that led to this), he was inactive for two of the team's next three games, and Tuesday, he was released.

Berrian met with head coach Leslie Frazier Monday to discuss his future, and said that he wanted to remain with the organization, pointing to the pay cut he took this offseason as proof. That said, he admitted to having "no idea" about the team's plans for him.  Also on Monday, Frazier was noncommittal when asked about Berrian's role in Minnesota going forward.

“We’ll make a decision about how we want to handle things going forward,” Frazier said, according to the Associated Press, while declining to specify the reasons Berrian was benched against Green Bay Sunday. He added: “We’re going to have a little meeting of the minds, and see where we are.”

Where we are, it turns out, is without Berrian on the roster.

The Star-Tribune's Dan Wiederer writes that "The move brings to a close Berrian’s wildly inconsistent tenure with the Vikings and allows Frazier to move forward without a player that had caused him too many headaches this season."

Berrian should've known his days were numbered when on Monday backup quarterback Donovan McNabb called Frazier's decision to bench the wideout "kind of a shock," before calling him a "great" player and adding, “[Berrian's] been through it. He’ll bounce back for this week and be ready to go.”

We guess McNabb meant "ready to go pack up his locker and get on with the rest of his life."

For the season, Berrian has seven catches for 91 yards and no touchdowns.  The AP reports that, as a vested veteran, the Vikings must pay him all of his $1.9 million salary unless another team claims him.

Rookie wide receiver Stephen Burton was elevated from the practice squad to take Berrian's place on the active roster. Also, defensive end Cedric McKinley was released from the practice squad, leaving two open spots there.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 11:37 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 11:40 am
 

Report: McNabb showed up late, didn't know O

Did McNabb struggle with the offense in Minnesota, too? (AP)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder makes his first start today, replacing the eminently replaceable Donovan McNabb who, in just over a year, has been benched for a retread (Rex Grossman) and now a rookie. At some point, it isn't the situation, or the offense or the other players -- it's McNabb.

Whatever the reason for the falloff, the results have been the same the last two seasons: McNabb on the sidelines wearing a baseball hat and looking like he can't believe his luck. Well, if the report from NFL Network's Michael Lombardi is any indication, this has nothing to do with good fortune and almost everything to do with preparation.

"McNabb is at a point in his career that he does not seem to want to put in the time, willing to show up late for meetings and practice, and expects to just play well," Lombardi Friday. "He failed to really grasp the offense in Minnesota (as he did in Washington), having trouble spitting the plays out quickly -- which meant the play sheet on his arm got bigger and bigger. It did not take long before McNabb's lack of commitment was seen by the older players, causing them to understand that a move had to be made."

Lombardi reiterated this again Sunday morning on NFL GameDay Morning.

"Really, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Donovan hasn't really been putting the time in to be the great player. What happened in Washington -- the lack of work habits -- has now gone into Minnesota.

"And what I was told by people in the Vikings organization was that he's the last one in the building, he's the first one gone, he's not willing to put the time in, late for meetings, late for practice. So they have basically thrown up their hands and said we need to move on because ultimately that's not what we want in a quarterback. … If you go back and talk to people in Philadelphia they'll say there were questionable work habits."

And that leads to this: why would the Redskins give up a second-round pick -- in the division -- for a guy they knew wasn't willing to work? And worse: why would the Vikings do the same thing an offseason later?

"The reality of the situation," Lombardi said Sunday, "is that Minnesota knew this (about McNabb). Bill Musgrave, the offensive coordinator, and (Redskins head coach) Mike Shanahan have a relationship. Before Musgrave took (McNabb) on, they knew exactly what they were getting. They were hoping they could change him. They were hoping that he was going to rekindle his career. But essentially what happened in Minnesota is what happened in Washington."

For what it's worth, Kurt Warner, now working for NFL Network, talked to McNabb who told him that Lombardi's report was 'crazy.' Either way, he's now Ponder's backup.


CBS Sports' James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe, and Boomer Esiason break down the Monday night matchup in Jacksonville between the Ravens and the Jaguars.

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Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:30 pm
 

Report: Christian Ponder in as Vikings starter

Posted by Will Brinson

Even though the Vikings were down 29 points, Donovan McNabb was indeed benched for Christian Ponder on Sunday night in a loss at Chicago. Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said he'd announce his decision on who'll start going forward Wednesday, but his mind is reportedly already made up and Ponder will get the nod in Week 7 for the Vikings.

That's according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, who reports that Frazier "has made the change and notified those involved." This is a bit awkward considering McNabb said Monday that he expected to remain the starter.

The logic behind the move to Ponder is pretty simple: the Vikings aren't winning now whether McNabb or Ponder's under center, and McNabb simply isn't anything more than a one-year rental for Minnesota.

Ponder, on the other hand, is the theoretical future of the franchise, as my colleague Pete Prisco wrote on Monday morning. And Minnesota, already five games back of the division-leading Packers, needs to find out if Ponder can be as successful as they hope.

It's unlikely he'll turn around the Vikings season, but he did provide a spark to the offense Sunday, albeit against a prevent defense from the Bears.

And as I noted in Sorting the Sunday Pile, it sure sounds like the rest of the members of the Vikings offense are on board with plugging Ponder in and trying to see what they've got from the rookie out of Florida State.

It's the smart, logical move, even if it won't pay off immediate dividends in terms of games won. But then again, McNabb didn't appear to helping much either.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 8:59 am
 

McNabb still feels like the QB job is his

Has McNabb made his last start for the Vikings(US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It took Donovan McNabb's best outing of the year to usher in the Christian Ponder era. For a night, anyway. For the first five and a half weeks of the NFL season, there hadn't been a quarterback controversy in Minnesota (a least from head coach Leslie Frazier's perspective) but once Ponder entered a game in the fourth quarter, the conversation immediately switched from "Man, the Vikings are getting blown out of Soldier Field" to "We've seen this movie before and it doesn't end well for Donovan."

But nothing's official; for now, the depth chart remains unchanged. "We have to sit down on Monday and talk about a lot of things," Frazier said following the Vikings' 39-10 loss to the Bears. "We need to decide on what direction we want to go." 

McNabb, as he repeated at various points last season with the Redskins before he was eventually replaced by Rex Grossman (!), considers the job his. "I don't see it 'ending like this,' as you say. It's tough. You're 1-5 at this particular point. It felt like we did a lot of great things today. I guess we'll sit down and talk, but I still expect to be there (starting) next week."

And maybe McNabb should feel that way. After what can kindly be described as a horrible start to 2011 (his Week 1 numbers were particularly offensive), he went 19 of 24 for 177 yards Sunday night, and finished with a passer rating of 97.4, his best this season.

Ponder, the Vikings' first-round pick in April, played well enough to remain in the "Start him now" conversation (9 of 17 for 99 yards, 8 yards rushing), even though the Vikings might have a better chance to win with McNabb under center.

But when you're 1-5, winning is relative. If Minnesota makes the change at quarterback, it will be for the same reasons as the Panthers, Jaguars and Bengals: future success. (Although, miraculously, Cincinnati and Andy Dalton are 4-2 heading into their bye week.)

For now, Ponder's saying all the right things.

"I was very grateful for the opportunity that Coach let me go in," he said. "I thought I made some plays, thought I missed some plays, missed a couple throws. But I definitely had fun. It's always hard to have fun when you're losing that bad, but I was grateful and I definitely had fun."

As for why Frazier decided to pull McNabb for Ponder: "Just where we were in the ballgame, where the score was," he said. "Just wanted to get (Ponder) in there, let him take some snaps and get a chance to get a feel for the NFL tempo."

The Vikings head coach added: "I don't know if [McNabb's] all right with [the decision to take him out of the game] … but he understood"

If this season is anything like last season, it's something McNabb might have to get used to.

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Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 6

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

1. What's Your Deal?
By now, you've undoubtedly seen the little melee that erupted between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz following San Francisco's 25-19 victory in Detroit.

NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello confirmed to CBS Sports following the game that the NFL will look into the near-fight that went down, and I'd be pretty shocked if both coaches didn't get hit with some kind of fine. Though Harbaugh didn't do much that was noticeable on the video, he did admit following the game that he probably incited Schwartz' anger.

Schwartz, of course, chased Harbaugh down the field and had to be repeatedly pushed back from the crowd. No matter what Harbaugh did, it's hard to fathom that Schwartz behavior is remotely acceptable in the eyes of the league. And though Schwartz might have looked like the aggressor, the blame has to lie with Harbaugh on this one.

Looking ahead, this might not be a rivalry that dies quickly. Niners offensive lineman Anthony Davis, on his newly verified Twitter account, had a little trash talk of his own after the game.

"They talked s*** to us all week," Davis tweeted following the game. "We said nothin ... Came and kicked that a** ... its f***** football f*** classy.. Save classy for Mortons lol"

Steakhouse humor aside, it's worth mentioning Cliff Avril of the Lions saw Davis' tweet and pointed out that it was "real professional" -- Davis responded by pointing out that he "pancacked [Avril] on a passing play ... sooo uh just be quiet go home play with your kids."

So this shouldn't evolve into anything unpleasant in the near future at all!

What's fascinating about this whole thing is how people are defending both sides. Some folks think that Schwartz is an unhinged lunatic. Some think Harbaugh is an arrogant jerk. (Our own Mike Freeman noted on Twitter that Harbaugh's not making himself any friends around the league with his attitude.)

For me, it's hard to blame Schwartz for his reaction, given the way that Harbaugh behaved following San Francisco's victory:



Whatever, here's hoping they meet again in the playoffs. In the meantime, my top-five list for coaches I would pick for a steel-cage death match:

1. Jack Del Rio
2. Ron Rivera
3. Mike Tomlin
4. Jim Schwartz
5. Raheem Morris

Leave your picks in the comments.

2. Speaking of Coaches ...
You'll notice Sean Payton didn't make my top five. And he might not have even if he was healthy, but he certainly wouldn't be up there after the incident that took place on Sunday, when tight end Jimmy Graham came crashing into the sideline and blew up Payton's knee.

The Saints coach suffered a broken tibia and tore his the MCL in his left knee, which means he'll be knocked out of shape for quite a while.

"It's just one of those things, the play kind of got up on me quicker," Payton said Sunday. "I think the second part of the tackle seemed maybe all of a sudden. I mean, every once in a while you feel like you get pinned with the play and that's what happened."

Of course, Payton wasn't the only coach who was injured on Sunday in this game (think about that; seriously) -- Jimmy Lake, the Bucs defensive backs coach, tore his patellar tendon celebrating an interception celebrating, as Ryan says in the podcast above, Martin Gramatica style.

What I'm wondering is if Payton's injury might derail the Saints offense a little bit. Maybe that's a stretch, and he'll certainly have his hands all over the team's playcalling and management, but it doesn't sound like he'll be down on the field for a few weeks.

"I might have to be up in the press box for a few games," Payton said. "Because it’s a fracture, its different. If it’s the MCL you can have the brace, but the fracture on the outside means the weight-bearing part of it really changes."

Maybe it won't have any bearing -- with the Saints playing the Colts and Rams in the next two weeks, Drew Brees can probably manage the offense all by himself.

2. A Boy Named John
With Washington getting two weeks to prepare for the Eagles, and Philly looking very much like a punch-drunk boxer practically begging for a knockout shot, it stood to reason that the Redskins could take advantage of the Eagles porous defense and pick up a critical division win.

They didn't, and that's mainly because Rex Grossman turned into, well, Rex Grossman.

The 'Skins quarterback threw four interceptions -- three to Kurt Coleman -- and registered a couple of terrible interceptions that should have been picks. This led to him getting benched for backup John Beck.

“Well number one—we needed a spark," Mike Shanahan said afterwards. "John has been practicing very well the past couple of weeks and with four turnovers there we thought it was time to make a change and give John an opportunity to show us what he could do."

(Ed. Note: Week 6 review will be up early Monday.)

Beck, who's so fancy/awesome he dressed like a gas-station attendant for his post-game presser, isn't locked into the starting role yet, though, as Shanny refused to name next week's starter immediately following the game.

"I would never announce that right after a game," Shanahan said of his decision on who he'll start. "I would announce that later on in the week. We'll make a decision after looking at the film."

That's all fine and well, but who didn't see this coming? Because if the Redskins leading the NFC East after five weeks was the least likely thing in the entire world, then Grossman eventually imploding was on the opposite scale of predictability. And now this is quickly shaping up to be the second rendition of the Donovan McNabb-Grossman fiasco from last year.

On the bright side, it's less expensive?

"I want to play," Beck said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. "I want to be the quarterback. But I’m not the one that makes that decision, it’s coach, and they’ll make the best decision for the team ... What’s gonna happen next, I don’t know. But I’ll just do everything I can to be prepared if my number is called."

If it's me, I roll the dice with Beck, who seemed to at least provide a little spark to the team when he came on the field. It's not like he's been good this year, the Redskins defense has just kept Washington in games. And Grossman's now thrown three or more interceptions in seven of his 45 career starts. Which means 15 percent of the time that you put Grossman under center, there's a 15-percent chance he's going to hand the ball to the opposing defense multiple times.

3. Maybe Romo's Not the Only Choker?
For what feels like the fourth or fifth week this season, it's time to question Jason Garrett's playcalling for Dallas. With the game tied at 13 all and the Cowboys in the red zone, Garrett called a third-down shovel pass despite Dez Bryant sitting in single coverage.

The result was predictably predictable: the shovel pass didn't work and the Cowboys kicked a field goal to go up 16-13. Then, after forcing the Patriots to punt, Dallas ran three straight times (for negative-five yards) and the result was even more predictable: Dallas punted back to Tom Brady, giving him the ball down three points with 2:31 left on the clock.

If you've followed football at all for the last few years, you've probably already figured out what happened. Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, which is carve up a defense en route to just another routine comeback/last-minute win.

By the time he hit Aaron Hernandez in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Dallas had just 22 seconds remaining on the clock to move the ball far enough down the field to get a shot at a Hail Mary, which Tony Romo threw out of bounds.

On that last drive, by the way, Romo completed two passes for 31 yards. Throw those passes on the previous series and we're talking about a signature win for the Cowboys, against the best team in the other conference at their place.

Instead, we're left to wonder why Garrett continually plays, as my colleague Pete Prisco wrote, not to lose, instead of utilizing the weapons he has on offense in the proper way. And by "we" I mean "me and Jerry Jones."

"You'll always second-guess whether or not we should have tried to run a little offense down there instead of running it three times," Jones said after the game, per our Pats Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard. "We went conservative rather than try to get some points and it bit us."

Jones said that doing so in a regular-season game was acceptable, but it's not the type of thing that he'd like to see in the playoffs. Of course, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys making the playoffs if they can't figure out how to turn trips to the red zone into more than three points a pop.

4. Bollers and Pryors OH MY
Many a pundit's willing to point out that the Oakland Raiders, while a half-game back of the Chargers, are the best AFC West team through the first six weeks of the season.

This isn't that far off. The Raiders are pretty good. But despite winning 24-17 over Cleveland on Sunday, Oakland suffered a seriously detrimental injury on Sunday, as quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“I’m not going to let this football team blink," coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "We’ll miss Jason for a little while. I have no idea how long it will take [for him to recover]. We’ll see as we go. I know obviously he won’t be here next week. We’ll continue to press forward and get better."

That's the optimistic point of view. The pessimistic? Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor and Shane Lechler are now the top-three quarterbacks on Oakland's depth chart. Yikes.

So Oakland has a couple of options going forward. One, roll with Boller. (Again, yikes.) Two, let Darren McFadden carry the ball 50 times a game. (Not terrible, but it could cause some long-term issues in terms of his health.) Three, go out and get another quarterback.

A couple of names spring to mind immediately: Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, David Garrard and Carson Palmer. Garrard makes sense because he's openly said he wants to play for a contender and the Raiders, at 4-2, certainly fit the bill.

Orton, McNabb and Palmer seem like longer shots as trade possibilities, but the Raiders have about 36 hours to make a deal, and it's reasonable that the Broncos, Vikings and Bengals would be interested in getting something back for guys that are either going to ride pine the rest of the year or won't bother showing up.

5. Don't Forget the Defense



In this, the year of ridiculously silly offensive outputs in the NFL, it's easy to just gawk at high-powered offensive teams and assume they will end up winning the most games and doing the most damage in the postseason.

But we need to recognize the Ravens for the dirty work they're doing on the defensive side of the ball, suppressed their league-leading points-allowed total to 71 Sunday after casually shut down Houston in a 29-14 victory. Baltimore held 2010 rushing champ Arian Foster to just 49 yards on 15 carries, and limited Matt Schaub to 220 yards and a touchdown in a dominant defensive performance that should make some people take notice.

Ryan and I debated this audio-style, but I think there's a legitimate argument that the Ravens are the best team in the AFC and can contend for the best team in the NFL. Clearly -- quite clearly -- the Packers are the cream of the crop at the moment.

But anyone in the NFL can score these days. Few teams can stop the opposition from scoring. With Haloti Ngata serving as the lynchpin for the defensive line and wrecking havoc on opponents' offensive lines, and with a secondary that's surprising this year, and with Ray Lewis playing rejuvenated ball, the Ravens can do that.

They're lacking in offensive consistency more so than a lot of other teams around the league -- Joe Flacco alternating between awesome and terrible this season is pretty terrifying if you're a Baltimore fan -- but Ray Rice is so good right now that he can carry the Ravens when Flacco's struggling.

And if Rice isn't up for the task, the defense isn't afraid to take over either. Which separates the Ravens from most everyone else in the league.

6. Madden Up to His Old Curses Again
What the hell is going on in Cleveland? Because, one, the Browns aren't winning, so that's a problem. And two, Peyton Hillis has some serious drama surrounding him these days.

We've detailed the drama before (numerous times, actually), but Sunday took things to a whole new level. For starters, Hillis rushed just six times for 14 yards and then left with a hamstring injury, pulling up lame after taking a second-quarter screen pass from Colt McCoy only to have it negated by an illegal shift penalty.

After halftime, Hillis returned and appeared to be out for the game. This is fine, if it's because of injury. Except Hillis returned to the game ... and didn't get any carries. He blocked for McCoy and was on the field, but didn't rush the ball at all.

The Browns weren't exactly ground heavy during the game -- Montario Hardesty only had 11 carries for a meager 35 yards -- and McCoy ended up throwing 45 times (his lowest passing-attempt total on the year is now 32, which is also a bit disconcerting), but to see Hillis hurt but maybe not hurt enough to sit out the rest of the game especially after a controversial injury earlier in the year, well, let's just say that something ain't stirring the Kool-Aid in Cleveland.

7. Ponder This
Sunday night, Christian Ponder got his first real action for the Vikings in their 39-10 blowout loss Sunday night. I mentioned this when writing about the substitution, but you can't pin everything that's going wrong on Donovan McNabb.

He's not the guy refusing to block defenders, and he's not the guy allowing other teams to score 20-plus points in the second halves of games. But it's understandable that some of the players on the team might be a little interested in seeing what Ponder, who at least looked more, um, energetic than McNabb, can do.

"I'm not a coach, but this team definitely could use a spark wherever that may come from," wide receiver Percy Harvin said.

Again, McNabb hasn't been that bad. But the Vikes are 1-5, going nowhere in (arguably) the toughest division in football and need to find out if Ponder's their guy for the long term.

Because at this rate, they'll have another pretty critical decision about some talented young quarterbacks at the top of the 2012 draft as well.

For the Bears part, lets give credit to Mike Martz and Lovie Smith for learning that if you actually give Jay Cutler help to block pass rushers, you can produce offensively.

Except they learned this last year, too. Remember how the Bears stunk and Cutler looked like a candidate for serious brain damage through the first few weeks in 2010? And then the Bears started running the ball more and protecting Cutler? Yeah, maybe next year they'll remember before they're a quarter of the season in.



8. Down South in ... Tampa Bay?
The Saints were supposed to blow out the LeGarrette Blount-less Buccaneers this weekend and the Panthers were supposed to upset the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. And then I was going to spend a large chunk of this column talking about the Panthers secretly being the second-best team in the NFC South.

Well, apparently no one else in the entire world got the same memo I did (thanks a lot for not forwarding the revised copy, you big jerks), because the Panthers got handily dismantled 31-17 in Atlanta and the Bucs straight up took care of business in route to grabbing the division lead with a 26-20 win over New Orleans.

If you missed it, lemme fill you on why the Panthers lost: their defense is terrible. It's not bad coaching and it's not to mean to the guys in the lineup, but the best way for Tiki Barber to revive his career would be to just try and get a tryout with whoever's playing the Panthers in the coming week, because there's a decent chance he could scamper for a buck fifty against that fishnet of a rushing defense.

They'll get better in the future and there's no reason to question Ron Rivera's capability as a defensive coach, but if you can run the ball, you can kill the Panthers. After Cam Newton threw a terrible pick to defensive lineman Corey Peters, the Falcons got the ball up a touchdown with six minutes left to play. Eight plays later -- seven of them running -- they were up 14 points.

Everyone knew they were going to run and there still wasn't any way for Carolina to stop it. New Orleans is a different deal, though, because Blount's absence meant the Bucs would struggle (in their wins thus far, he'd done well, and in their losses he hadn't; it's science!). Instead, Earnest Graham piled up 109 rushing yards on 17 carries, Josh Freeman got loose with Arrelious Benn and the Saints found themselves in a 20-10 halftime hole that they couldn't ever climb out of.

In short, a motivated Tampa Bay team showed up, created turnovers and completely flipped our perspective on the NFC South.

9. Bungle in the Jungle
The Ravens, as noted above, are the class of the AFC North. And the Steelers are coming off a second-straight win in which their defense prevailed and Rashard Mendenhall and the running game looked good.

But it would be silly to discount what the Bengals have done this year, moving to 4-2 after a 27-17 win over Indy, especially considering most of the offensive production is coming from a pair of rookies in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Dalton's not lighting up the statistical sheet, per se, as he's averaging just 218.5 passing yards per game, and he's only found the end zone seven times. But four of those have been to fellow rook Green, and -- I'm as surprised to be writing this as you are reading it -- Marvin Lewis was write about his offense getting an upgrade during the offseason.

And the Bengals are benefiting from a soft schedule; they could realistically be undefeated, considering that their two losses were by a combined seven points. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they have the second-best defense in the league, allowing just 278.5 yards per game. That defense has

The schedule gets harder down the road -- multiple matchups with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh loom -- but there are four more games left where the Bengals will either be favored or basically a pick 'em. The idea that this team could win eight games as recently as September was, well, not there. The four they have now is probably what they'd have topped out in most preseason projections.

And now they're a reasonable contender for a Wild-Card berth if a few things go their way in the rest of their division matchups.

10. Things to Do In Denver on Your Bye
It's fascinating to me that a team like the Broncos could, somehow, manage to create a ton of noise about their team. On their bye week. Without really talking about Tim Tebow.

I mean, there was some Tebow talk this week, of course, but it wasn't out of control. Charley Casserly reported that the Broncos won't change their offense much for Tebow, and that's probably a good thing and/or not that surprising, since this is a John Fox offense.

Most of the noise centered around Denver's decision to start trying to ship every single talented veteran on the roster out of town. Brandon Lloyd wants gone, and it seems like he could be moved before Monday's practice (the team apparently doesn't think he can be on the same field as the coaching staff). Eddie Royal's on the block too and he's generating some interest; this makes sense since both player are rentals for the rest of the year.

Kyle Orton's situation is a little more interesting. He'll also be a free agent after this year, and one would think that he'd LOVE to get out of town since a) the coaches yanked him in Week 5 for Tebow despite acting like Tebow's worse than Brady Quinn, b) he'll be a free agent in the offseason and c) he's more reviled by the fans around Mile High than Carmelo Anthony during his "trade me to New York or else" run last year.

But the Broncos issued a statement on Sunday night denying rumors that Orton wanted a trade, so apparently he's content hanging around and playing -- ahem -- nursemaid to Tebow. Or he thinks the experiment will fail miserably and he'll be starting in a couple weeks anyway.

Regardless, Denver, you're 1-4. Spend the bye week getting better, not drawing attention to yourselves when you're not playing please.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Shane Lechler's first career pass attempt also produced his first career touchdown pass, when the Raiders faked a field goal in the third quarter against the Browns. Oddly enough, Lechler was the emergency quarterback, set to replace Kyle Boller who replaced the injured Jason Campbell.
... No one will talk about it because they won and because of Handshake Gate, but Jim Harbaugh threw a challenge flag on a scoring play. Huge gaffe, since those are all automatically reviewed. It cost him an unsportsmanlike conduct delay of game penalty.
... Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to post four-straight games of 350 or more yards passing.
... Packers are now just the seventh defending Super Bowl champ to start the next season 6-0.

Worth 1,000 Words


 
Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Little red light on the highway...big green light on the speedway...hey,hey,hey"

This one might seem meaningless ... unless you happen to be a Grateful Dead fan and recognize the lyrics to "West L.A. Fadeaway." In which case you, like me, are clearly one of the first people to realize that Irsay's moving the Colts to Los Angeles. Who didn't see that coming?

GIF O' THE WEEK

Big ups to @Jose3030 for pulling this clip of LeSean McCoy pulling an aggressive version of the Pillsbury doughboy poke on Eagles coach Andy Reid. There's so much that's perfect about it, from Reid's stomach jiggling to Reid's head snapping back to Reid being totally unprepared for the punch, to McCoy later tweeting an apology for doing it.



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Jack Del Rio -- He wasn't supposed to beat the Steelers, in Pittsburgh. And he didn't. But the Jaguars showed some life. Still hard to imagine he survives this season though.
  • Jim Caldwell -- In the words of the Talking Heads, stiiiiiiiiiiiiillllll waiiiiiiting ...
  • Tony Sparano -- He only lasts through 2012 if Steve Ross is waiting out Jon Gruden.
  • Steve Spagnuolo -- Another guy who wasn't supposed to win Sunday, and he's been ravaged by injuries. But man, how did we all think they'd win the division?
  • Jason Garrett -- Perhaps a bit early, but Jerry Jones is questioning his playcalling. That's never good.
  • Leslie Frazier -- He needs to go to Ponder now to keep his seat cool.
  • Ken Wisenhunt -- He's got the Cards practicing on their off day during their bye week. Might be feeling some pressure.
Chasing Andrew Luck
You'll notice a shifting of the odds this week -- we're no longer accepting wagers that return any money to you. Mainly because there are just too many crappy teams in the NFL right now.

Colts (-500): The Jaguars and Panthers sandwich their Week 11 bye, and besides a Week 17 date at Jacksonville, well, those are the only games that even remotely look winnable right now.
Dolphins (-350): Their schedule is also quite bleak. At least their fans are happy?
Rams (-250): Al Harris is one of their starting cornerbacks. This is not 2001.
Broncos (-225): They're doing everything in their power to deal away anyone with any talent. And this is different than the Josh McDaniels era how?
Vikings (-125): Minny still has Adrian Peterson? Guh that Bears game was depressing.

MVP Watch
Pretty clearly, there's only one choice: Aaron Rodgers. Guy's doing everything he did down the stretch in 2010 but now it's being spread out over the course of a regular season. If he keeps this up, the Packers will have as many losses as there are people who don't pencil his name in for the top MVP vote.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com