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Tag:Jay Cutler
Posted on: December 7, 2011 8:02 pm
 

Cutler: Favre would've come back for right price

Cutler thinks Favre might come back if the money was right. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

It's been about 24 hours since we last wrote about Brett Favre, the Wranglers wearin', gunslinger who hasn't played in an NFL game in 12 months. He released a statement Tuesday night suggesting that won't change anytime soon.

"In spite of reports about playing with various teams, I'm enjoying retirement with my family and have no plans to play football."

To which we added: "Hopefully, this is the last we speak of Brett Lorenzo Favre's possible return to the NFL (although somehow we suspect it won't be)."

We suspected right. On Monday, there were reports that Favre would consider joining the Bears, who lost starter Jay Cutler to a broken thumb. Backup Caleb Hanie has been wholly unimpressive as Cutler's replacement, throwing six interceptions and going winless in two games. Chicago said they weren't interested in Favre (or Donovan McNabb), and Favre promptly released the statement saying he's happy in his post-football career.

That should be that. But this is Favre, where "retired" sometimes means "I'll be back in a bit" and "no" means something much less definitive.

We really do think Favre's NFL career is over, but not everyone's convinced. CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote Wednesday morning that "When Favre says he wasn't interested in the Bears job, he wasn't quite telling the entire story. He was definitely interested, I'm told, but when the Bears made it known the interest wasn't eventually reciprocated, then Favre made his public statement about not wanting to play."

What Freeman hears jibes with comments made by Cutler, who happens to share an agent (Bus Cook) with Favre. During an appearance on the Waddle and Silvy Show radio show, Cutler said he had spoken to Cook earlier this week.

"He didn't really expect Brett to come back," Cutler said. "Brett probably would have came back, but I'm sure it would have to be a very, very high number money-wise, and it would have been interesting.

"[Favre's] a West Coast (offense) guy. That's the reason he went to the places he went, Minnesota, and he was the entire time in Green Bay. So for him to jump in this system and try to orchestrate this offense would have been difficult for him."

Favre made about $25 million during his two seasons in Minnesota (never mind his earnings from the previous 18 years in the league). We'd like to think that money wouldn't be a motivating factor at this point in the proceedings.

Either way, we're with Freeman when he writes: "I think we have finally reached a Favre finality. At least, that seems to be the sentiment around the NFL. Teams are finally done with Favre. They no longer think his talent matches the accompanying headaches."

So we'll say it once more, this time with feeling: "Hopefully, this is the last we speak of Brett Lorenzo Favre's possible return to the NFL."

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Posted on: December 6, 2011 7:24 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 7:23 am
 

Favre denies return report; Bears not interested

Brett Lorenzo Favre: still retired. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Perhaps there will come a time when an injury to an NFL starting quarterback won't reflexively lead to media inquiries about whether Brett Favre would be interested in the job. Sadly, we are not yet at that point. Never mind that Favre is 42 years old and has stated on several occasions going back to this summer that he ain't coming back.

(UPDATE: Favre released a statement Tuesday night. "In spite of reports about playing with various teams, I'm enjoying retirement with my family and have no plans to play football," he said.)

Of course, Favre brought this on himself with the annual "I'm not really retiring" press conferences. And now it's his burden to bear for the rest of his days. It also explains why he's been linked to the Dolphins, Texans and most recently the Bears.

On Monday, a report surfaced that Favre would listen if Chicago called. On Tuesday, a source told ESPN that the Bears have no interest in Favre despite losing Jay Cutler to a broken thumb and subsequently going 0-2 with backup Caleb Hanie.

"That's our group," head coach Lovie Smith said Monday of Hanie, Josh McCown and Nathan Enderle, the three quarterbacks currently on the roster. "We're going to make improvements with our group. We're not looking on the outside. We won't have a quarterback tryout or anything like that."

Hopefully, this is the last we speak of Brett Lorenzo Favre's possible return to the NFL (although somehow we suspect it won't be).

Last week, there was speculation that Donovan McNabb could join the Bears after being released by the Vikings. That didn't happen either.

“If [the front office] feels like [McNabb] can help us win games, then that's the number,” defensive back Corey Graham said, via CSNChicago.com. “But as of right now, we actually believe in Caleb. We've seen him do a lot of great things in practice and things of that nature, so we believe in what he can do. Yeah, it's been a rough couple of games for him, but I'm pretty sure he can bounce back and I'm pretty sure he can be OK for us.”

And Devin Hester, during a Monday radio appearance, said that signing McNabb would be a "waste of time" because of the intricacies of Mike Martz's offense and with only four weeks left in the regular season.  

To recap: if Chicago is going to make the playoffs it won't be because of a late-season acquisition of a veteran quarterback. It will be because Hanie played much better over the final month of the season than he did the previous two weeks.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:57 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 2:15 pm
 

Report: Brett Favre would listen if Bears called

Posted by Will Brinson



And so it begins: a report out of Chicago Monday indicates that Brett Favre "would listen" if the Bears, dealing with serious deficiencies on offense, came calling.

Mike C. Wright of ESPN Chicago cites a "source familiar with the quarterback" who said Favre "would listen if the Bears made a pitch." Wright also adds, however, that it's "highly doubtful" that the Bears would call and that, as of the report, Chicago had not contacted Favre.
Week 13 Recap

That backs up what Bears coach Lovie Smith said on Monday when addressing the offensive issues following a sprained MCL injury to running back Matt Forte that could sideline the Bears two best offensive players -- quarterback Jay Cutler and Forte -- for the rest of the regular season.

"That's our group," Smith said of his quarterbacks. "We're going to make improvements with our group. We're not looking on the outside. We won't have a quarterback tryout or anything like that."

On the heels of back-to-back three-interception games from Caleb Hanie, the Bears were tied to plenty of rumors surrounding free agent Donovan McNabb. (Wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester believes that would be "a waste of time.")

The upshot to either Favre or McNabb is that they have more experience (and, hopefully, skill) than Hanie. The downside is that they don't know Mike Martz' offense, and getting either up to speed wouldn't be the easiest of tasks.

Additionally, each one would bring a touch of drama to the situation, as you might expect.

The more likely scenario is that Chicago does what Chicago does, which is try to win games with defense and special teams. But the Bears are still in the playoff hunt, and Favre will, apparently, never go away. So let's not rule anything out completely just yet.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 10:28 am
 

Hester: Signing McNabb would be a 'waste of time'

Posted by Will Brinson

With the Bears falling out of a playoff spot (if it ended today) during Sunday's action, and with Matt Forte suffering an injury that could end their playoff chances, it's not unreasonable to think that Chicago might consider signing free-agent quarterback Donovan McNabb.

In fact, at least one report out of Chicago has the Bears considering the move on Monday. However, it doesn't sound like the type of thing that would make wide receiver/returner Devin Hester particularly happy, as he called the idea "a waste of time."

"It’s going to be tough right now to pick up a quarterback that hasn’t played in the Mike Martz offense," Hester said on Mike and Mike in the Morning, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. "This is a difficult offense to run, so as far as a quarterback who hasn’t played in the offense, right now it’s going to be a waste of time."

Alternately, the Bears could, you know, not run Mike Martz' offense. It's not working for Hanie, who's got six interceptions in his two games as a starter, and it's probably not a surprise. Teams don't win by suffering injuries and then stuffing quarterbacks into particular offenses just because they're on the depth chart. Teams overcome adversity by running a maleable gameplan that changes to fit the strengths and weaknesses of whoever's under center.
Week 13 Recap

This should be self-evident to Martz and the Bears based on Jay Cutler's performance through the first five games of the season against the next five games of the season, when Martz stopped making him take seven-step drops on every single play.

There's also the matter of whether McNabb can still be an effective NFL quarterback in any offense. If Christian Ponder and Rex Grossman both look better than McNabb, is he really more prepared to step in and succeed than Caleb Hanie?

Maybe, but maybe not. And the fact that he definitely doesn't know the offense is probably reason enough to scare the Bears away. But with the way their grasp on a playoff spot appears to be slipping, don't be surprised by anything.

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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: December 1, 2011 10:43 am
 

Martz blames execution not call for Hanie INT

Martz has been calling screen passes for 20 years, Hanie just didn't execute it properly against Oakland. (AP)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Before Caleb Hanie made his first NFL start last Sunday, replacing Jay Cutler in the lineup when the Bears faced the Raiders, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who coached the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis earlier this century, said that he wouldn't ask Hanie to be Kurt Warner in Chicago's offense. (That didn't go without saying?)

Not surprisingly, Hanie looked like an inexperienced quarterback against the Raiders. He would occasionally flash potential, but he also threw three first-half interceptions, the last coming with Chicago deep in Oakland territory. The sequence led to a Raiders field goal and a spot in this week's Coach Killers (Hanie's delayed fake spike to end the game helped, too). The play -- Hanie rolled right and threw a screen pass across the field to his left -- is a lot to ask of a young quarterback. CBSSports.com MLB blogger Matt Snyder, a huge Bears fan, was apoplectic after the play. Not because of Hanie per se, but because Martz would think Hanie was capable of pulling it off. On Wednesday, Martz was asked about the decision.

“I’ve done that for 20 years, and it’s never anything but a good play really,” Martz said, via John Mullin of CSNChicago.com. “We didn’t execute it very well. The ball got tipped. So when you throw a screen and the ball gets tipped. . . . Screens aren’t hard. It’s just something that happened. No, I’m not aware of [any criticism for the play call]. I didn’t think twice about that call. I thought it was OK.”

To be fair, that wasn't your garden-variety screen pass (you can view it here). And while Cutler (and Warner) might've had little trouble executing it, Hanie, who had a grand total of 14 attempts and eight completions prior to Sunday's game, could've benefitted from a more conservative play call.

Just ask Cutler.

“We’ve just got to be really careful what kind of situations we put [Hanie] in,” Cutler said. “Mike’s got be careful with that. We don’t really know what Caleb’s comfortable with; Caleb doesn’t know what he’s comfortable with. He hasn’t run a lot of these plays, hasn’t run a lot of this stuff in the offense in game situations, in high-pressure situations. We’ve just got to take care of him.”

In theory, yes. But Martz is the same guy who, for the first month of the season, thought it was a swell idea to let Cutler stand in the pocket all day with little protection and take a beating. That strategy finally gave way to more Matt Forte, quicker throws from Cutler and -- wait for it -- more wins.

Can Martz adapt the Bears' offense to fit Hanie's strengths? Sure. The only question is if he'll get around to it before it's too late and the season's lost.

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Kristin Cavallari, Jay Cutler engaged ... again

Posted by Will Brinson

Jay Cutler might miss the rest of the regular season because of a hand injury, but he'll probably be plenty occupied over the next few months anyway, as he and former fiance Kristin Cavallari are engaged, again.

The couple originally got engaged way back in April, but called the dogs off for reasons as yet unknown. (Or perhaps possibly known, but confidentially classified under: Beeswax, none of ours/yours.) Now, they're back together, according to Cavallari on Twitter.

"This time its official..Jay and I are engaged again :)," Cavallari tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.

Rumors abounded about the the Bears quarterback and his ex-ladyfriend getting back together when Cavallari began flirting on Twitter with a fake Cutler account, Cutler retweeting her jokingly and later wishing her "good luck babe" on Dancing With the Stars. (FYI if you're looking to scare an elderly person during the holiday season, just read that last sentence to them.)

Cutler, for what it's worth, also heard the news via Twitter.

“Yeah, I just heard about that," Cutler joked to reporters on Wednesday when informed of Cavallari's tweet.

Cutler also said no date has been set yet. May I suggest some time after February?

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:38 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 12

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

 
(Ed. Note: Monday's podcast will be up around lunch due to some travel/family stuff.)

1. Run Like Hell -- Er, Heck

Every week, Tim Tebow takes the field as the Broncos quarterback, and every week everyone sits around and snarks at the Broncos running the ball an obscene number of times. Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory in San Diego featured Tebow toting the rock a ridiculous 22 times.

Just for some historical perspective, Tebow's now the only player in post-merger NFL history to attempt 20 rushes and 10 passes in a single game.

People rip the guy for ruining the quarterback position, or not playing it in a "real" way, but everyone very conveniently ignores three factors. One, he can make throws -- a pair of touchdown strikes to Eric Decker in the past two weeks were the difference between 2-0 and 0-2. Two, Tebow simply doesn't turn the ball over. Only 22 quarterbacks since 1970 have finished the year with 250-plus passing attempts, less than five picks and less than five fumbles. Tebow could be No. 23. (Aaron Rodgers could be No. 24.)

And most importantly, the Broncos have a strong running game with Willis McGahee, and an even stronger defense that no one wants to give credit to. If someone else, like a Brad Johnson-type, is quarterbacking this team, the defense gets all the credit. Because it's Tebow, that's the focus.

That's just how it is, and that's fine. After all, Tebow's now beaten every single AFC West rival this season on the road. He is a story. He is the story.

But maybe -- with all due acknowledgement of the silliness involved in "clutchability" -- it shouldn't be all that surprising that Tebow and the Broncos bested Norv Turner and the Chargers in the fourth quarter and overtime. Eking out victories from teams willing to hand over a win thanks to silly mistakes is the modus operandi of the 2011 Broncos, and giving away wins with silly mistakes is what Turner's Bolts teams do best.

San Diego's now last (!) in the AFC West and the only bright spot to this season, outside of Ryan Mathews emerging as a viable feature back if he can stay healthy, is the likelihood of Turner being shipped out of town following this season. You can like or dislike Turner all you want, and he's turned Philip Rivers into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but this Chargers team needs some fresh blood.

Denver's one game back of the playoffs thanks to holding a tiebreaker over the Jets, and they've got the tiebreaker over the Bengals too. A game-managing quarterback plus a running game plus a stout defense has had success in the NFL before.

So if you're still hating on Tebow, just quit and enjoy the ride.

2. Bear Down, Again

Ignore for a second the fact that Bears starting quarterback Caleb Hanie doesn't even know how to properly spike the ball at the end of the game. And ignore that he finished 18 of 36 with three interceptions on the day in Chicago's 25-20 loss to Oakland Sunday.

Because the Bears are still going to make the playoffs. Or, at least, they can.

As noted last week, Chicago's still got a very Chicago formula for making it to the postseason, with Devin Hester on special teams (kudos to Hue Jackson and Shane Lechler for avoiding him Sunday) and a defense that sacked Carson Palmer four times Sunday and limited the Raiders to just a single touchdown.

That type of play will go a long way against opponents like the Seahawks, Vikings, Chiefs and Broncos, all of whom are on Chicago's schedule the rest of the way in. And a quick look at our 2011 NFL Playoff Race Tracker reveals that only two worthy teams in the NFC will actually be shut out of the postseason (the Lions and the Giants are currently odd men out).

I'm not a huge fan of moral victories, especially when an actual loss reveals just how poorly your backup quarterback can play. And don't get me wrong -- Hanie has plenty of flaws and won't make things easy for Chicago the rest of the way. But if you're the Bears, you have to believe Sunday's showing means a playoff berth is still possible.

3. T.J. Yates: An All-Time Great

The case of T.J. Yates is a weird one. Thanks to a (likely) season-ending injury to Matt Leinart, Yates appears to be the de facto starter in Houston and, as Pete Prisco pointed out in his grades column, next in line to suffer a nasty injury as a result of the football gods really not wanting the Texans to smell success.

But you know what makes Yates' case even weirder? He's probably the most successful NFL quarterback in North Carolina Tar Heel history, despite being a rookie, having never started a game and despite having accumulated his career passing numbers -- 8/15 for 70 yards and no touchdowns -- on Sunday in backup duty.

That's because the only other option for "top NFL quarterback in UNC football history" is Scott Stankavage, who played in four games over two NFL seasons with the Broncos (three in 1984) and the Dolphins (one in 1987) and managed to complete 32 percent of his 25 attempted passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. (In fairness, Yates is also one of only two UNC quarterbacks drafted since the merger, which is insane.)

His entire career wasn't as successful as Yates' Sunday afternoon in Week 12.

4. "Fire Who?"

The fans want it, as evidenced by the Eagles crowd raining "Fire Andy" chants on the field amid New England's 38-20 shellacking of Philly.

"The way we played, I can understand," Reid said afterward.

It's never easy to sympathize with any supporter of Philly sports, mainly because they're too vitriolic in their reaction. (There's a reason the battery-throwing, Santa Claus-booing stereotype exists.) And it's real easy to laugh at the Eagles plight, especially after they "won the offseason" with a ton of free-agent moves and name-brand signings.

But suggesting that the Eagles should dump Reid is silly, especially when there's a smarter path to success.

1) Fire Juan Castillo. This is coming anyway, you gotta think, and it's not that unreasonable. 2) Re-work the defensive scheme. Hire someone who can take the incredibly talented defensive group Philly has and actually utilize them properly. 3) Dump DeSean Jackson. He's ridiculously talented, but Jackson's got the look of a guy who's wrecking this locker room with contract and attitude problems. (Or maybe, as Clark Judge wrote Sunday, he's a symptom of a larger problem. Either way, he's not helping and he's not happy.) 4) Draft/trade/sign linebackers, safeties and offensive linemen in the offseason and actually address weaknesses.

This isn't an "easy" solution, of course. But this Eagles team has too much talent and Andy Reid's got too much success in Philly to simply blow everything up because the Dream Team experiment went awry in the first season.

He's also inherently tied to Philly's franchise quarterback, Michael Vick. One more bad year from both guys and it might be worth discussing a change, but just because Philly fans are naturally angry doesn't mean Eagles management should have a naturally knee-jerk reaction to 2011.

5. Why So Serious?

There's no reason to sit here and get in an uproar over Stevie Johnson's touchdown celebration against the Jets, in which he mocked Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes by pretending to shoot himself in the leg and then crash a plane. (Besides, Bob Costas' "get off my lawn" Sunday night halftime rant took care of that.)

I like the move, because it's a big-time slap in the face to the Jets, the Bills need some swagger, and as long as you back up your trash-talk, do what you want.

The problem with Johnson's TD is that as soon as he pulled off a celebration mocking a pair of wideouts on the other team, his game went in the toilet. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)

Look, I think Johnson's an awesome talent and a great dude and if I'm in charge of meting out discipline, someone who landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sunday is washing Johnson's white t-shirt collection, just because his celebrations are hysterical.

But if you're going to publicly mock a colleague for literally shooting himself in the foot, you can't turn around and spend the rest of the game figuratively doing the same thing to yourself and your team, which is precisely what Johnson did when he egged on a would-be game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter:



That's exactly why I refuse to get all amped up about whether what he did was right or wrong. Johnson will almost certainly be fined by the NFL. Johnson will -- as Mike Freeman's already noted -- be subject to league-wide and public scorn. And, most importantly, his team lost because after his premature celebration, the Jets wideouts were substantially better than Johnson was.

6. Shananigans

There's no chance that any other football journalist or fan or couch-bound pundit knows as much about managing a football team as Mike Shanahan. The man has two Super Bowl wins. Enough said.

But why on Earth did it take so long to get Roy Helu touches?

The Redskins rookie running back rumbled for 108 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught seven passes for 54 yards in Washington's surprise 23-17 comeback victory in Seattle Sunday.

This would be shocking, but Helu already set the franchise record for receptions in a game three weeks ago, and averaged five yards per carry more than Ryan Torain two weeks ago, so giving him the rock seemed obvious to everyone ... except Shanahan.

Seattle's rush defense is one of the best in the NFL (3.5 yards per carry allowed going in and coming out of the loss), so it's not like Helu was carving up the Panthers or Colts here.

The obvious reward for his impressive game on the ground and remaining Rex Grossman's most reliable target is a much-deserved, one-carry afternoon next week against the Jets. Don't say I didn't warn you, fantasy owners.

7. 0-Fer

The Colts became the first NFL team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, just minutes before the Rams were booted as well, thanks to their 27-19 loss to Carolina in Indy Sunday.

Everyone knew they were already eliminated, of course, and everyone knows they'll land the top-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the big question is, can the 2008 Detroit Lions keep their bottles of Andre on ice for the time being?

Probably not -- Indy looks like a pretty good lock to finish the season at 0-16, based on their remaining schedule.

First up in Week 13 is New England (in Foxboro) and there's no reason to spend time wondering if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will get trapped against a one-time arch-rival in a free "kick 'em while they're down" game. They won't. At Baltimore in Week 14 should be a lock for a double-digit blowout too. The Ravens have stumbled against bad teams, but not at home, and no one's had a defense as bad as Indy.

Tennessee (Week 15) and Houston (Week 16) at home shouldn't present challenges for Indy when it comes to losing either, considering that both teams appear to have capable rushing attacks. Even if Chris Johnson still looks like he's wading through a giant jar of jelly when he hits the hole, he's been effective against bad rushing defenses this year.

That leaves at Jacksonville in Week 17, and which isn't even their best chance at being favored (read: getting more than a 50 percent chance of winning from Vegas). That will be Tennessee, but the Titans will still be favored by at least three points in Indy, like the Panthers were.

And none of the remaining teams on the schedule have a defense nearly as bad as the Panthers, which means there's a 60-plus percent chance Indy goes winless this year. At least.

8. Rookie of the Year Race

Fortunately, we get to honor a Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. Because otherwise, we might have a big old heated argument about who the most deserving rookie in 2011 is. Last week, I threw my [substantial only in the literal sense] weight behind Andy Dalton leaping past Cam Newton for the top rookie, but now I'm not so sure.

That's not because Cam went bananas in a win on Sunday so much as it was Dalton only beating the Browns because he's got another rookie -- wideout A.J. Green -- on his team, who might secretly be the best option for the award on the Bengals roster.

Cincy remained in playoff contention -- they're currently the No. 6 seed -- thanks to Green making big catches to set up scores all day.

On the defensive end of things, Von Miller continued to state his case for ROY honors with 10 total tackles and another sack. And what about Patrick Peterson, who returned a fourth punt return for a TD on the year? Dude's defensive improvement is underrated so far this year, especially in a tough situation, and it'll be interesting to see how his game-changing impact on special teams will rate for voters -- three of his teeters have, literally, been game-winning scores.

9. A Quarterback League

Watching the Chiefs stifle the Steelers for much of the Sunday night game -- eventually won by Pittsburgh 13-9 -- was picture proof of how important having a good quarterback really is. Matt Cassel might have struggled against the Steelers defense, but Tyler Palko was absolutely miserable, going 18/28 for 167 yards and three picks.

The same can be said for Jacksonville, who knocked Matt Leinart out against Houston, but couldn't muster any sort of offense because no one would respect Blaine Gabbert, much less McCown.

Teams that don't have a good quarterback can still win by playing smart and running the hell out of the ball, but the Jaguars and Chiefs are great proof as to just how quickly a team can fade out relevancy as a result of lacking substantial skill under center.

The Jacksonville and Kansas City defenses have put their respective offenses in decent position to win games over the past couple of weeks, but an inability to move the ball resulted in a pair of losses for each squad. (Romeo Crennel's defensive scheming against Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger was particularly impressive, and even more depressing when you think about how badly it was wasted.)

Which is precisely why it's impossible to be too bullish about the playoff chances for teams like the Texans and the 49ers.

10. And the Oscar Goes To ...

Jerome Simpson for the flop of the NFL season. And maybe NFL history? It's hard to even call this a "storyline," because it's not. There's no epidemic of flopping hitting the NFL and Christian Ronaldo isn't going to be defecting any time soon.

But Simpson's flop, which you can watch here, is just too amazing to ignore.

Oh yes, and the Bengals snuck one out against the Browns, holding onto their sixth seed in the playoffs. They've got the look of a team that isn't quite ready to quit trying out this possible pipe dream of a postseason run, but if they play like they did against the Browns when they get the Steelers, Texans and Ravens over the next three weeks, it's hard to imagine them sneaking in with three 6-5 teams (Titans, Jets, Broncos) hanging out on the fringe.

And that flop wouldn't be nearly as pretty as Simpson's.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Percy Harvin's 104-yard kick return that didn't produce a touchdown on Sunday was the longest non-scoring play in NFL history.
... Peterson is also the only player in NFL history with four punt return touchdowns of 80-plus yards or more in a season.
... And the Rams-Cardinals game was the first in NFL history to feature an 80-plus yard punt-return TD from each team.
... Cam Newton is just the fourth post-merger quarterback to rush for 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Steve Grogan, Kordell Stewart and Daunte Culpepper on that list.
... Chris Long recorded his 10th sack of the season, meaning he and dad Howie are just the second father-son combo to record double-digit sacks in a season in their career, along with Clay Matthews and his dad, Clay Matthews.
... The Bengals overcame a 10-point halftime deficit for the third time this season, tied for the most in NFL history, along with the 2011 Lions.
...

Worth 1,000 Words



GIF O' THE WEEK

There might be a better option, but watching Tim Tebow hit his X button two seconds too early and then get laid out is pretty entrancing.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Norv Turner: Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes "no playoffs = no more Norv." So, probably no more Norv.
  • Jim Caldwell: If they go 0-16 and draft a new franchise quarterback, how can they carry over the same staff? They can't right?
  • Steve Spagnuolo: He just lost back-to-back games to Seattle and Arizona. Talk about a free-fall.
  • Jack Del Rio: It's a good rule of thumb that if you're flopping your first-round rookie for a McCown brother that your job is in trouble.
  • Tony Sparano: Even if he keeps winning, you gotta think Stephen Ross goes window shopping this offseason.

Chasing Andrew Luck

The Colts have all but locked up the Luck sweepstakes, and with the remaining schedules, we might as well take the numbers off the board. Congratulations for ruining a mini-feature in this column by Week 12, Curtis Painter. You jerk.

MVP Watch

Speaking of jerks, "tanks for nuthin'" Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has one more holiday game left -- a Christmas showdown with the Bears. And the Packers could still lose a game and maybe come back towards the Patriots (if Tom Brady stays hot?), but he's all but sewn up this award pretty early in the season.

 
 
 
 
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