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Tag:Detroit Lions
Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:31 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Herzlich + Week 17 film room

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The holiday season's had us off our game when it comes to podcasting (you try talking into a microphone when you've got 14 family members screaming in the background), but we've got a long one to get you through your Friday right now.

Andy Benoit joins Will to break down the NFC East "championship game" on Sunday night and compare/contrast Eli Manning and Tony Romo.

Ryan then chats up Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich about his first year in the NFL, being in the thick of a playoff hunt and how his work with Gatorade prepared him for the NFL.

Then Will and Andy break down all the remaining big games and discuss whether the Bengals can upset the Ravens, if the Jets are actually worthy of the playoffs, if the Broncos deserve to get beat by Kyle Orton, if Cam Newton's first year is the best rookie season ever, and much more.

Finally, Wilson talks to Michael David Smith of PFT about the Lions finally making it back to the playoffs and the week that was in the NFL. It's a jam-packed, holiday bonus show.

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.



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Posted on: December 28, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 16



Posted by Will Brinson

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

Week 16 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Brees  Byrd Janikowski Schwartz
Judge  Brees  Grant  Akers Coughlin
Prisco Rodgers  JPP Seymour Coughlin
Brinson  Brees  Bills  Akers Coughlin
Katzowitz  Cruz  Mayo Seymour Coughlin
Wilson  Brees  Bills Janikowski Coughlin
One. More. Week. It's terrifying, isn't it? Anyway, before we get to that, let's hit up the (slightly delayed) Week 16 Eye on Football Awards.

On offense, only one voter steered away from record-breaker Drew Brees and there's definitely an argument for Aaron Rodgers. But Brees breaking Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season gave him the nod for the Eye on Offense Award.

On defense, the Bills defense as a whole picked up the Eye on Defense Award thanks to their evisceration of Tim Tebow and the Broncos.

Another record-breaker, David Akers, gets the nod for the Eye on Special Teams Award based on a tiebreaker in a three-way race with a pair of Raiders.

And Tom Coughlin nearly got the clean sweep for the Eye on Coaching Award with the way he handled his business against the Jets.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Don't like how the Saints did it but Brees still deserves credit for reaching it. The record is more about perserverance than anything else. Brees was told he'd never make it this far. He wasn't good enough. He's too short. His arm is weak and he proved so many people wrong. That's the best part of this story.
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
It's not the four touchdowns or the lopsided defeat of Atlanta that puts him here. It's breaking Dan Marino's record for single-season yardage. It took someone 27 years to make it. The least we can do is acknowledge him with this award.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Rodgers throws five touchdown passes against the Bears to lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs and get the No. 1 NFC seed for the Packers. Can we give him this award every week?
Drew BreesDrew Brees, QB, Saints
Didn't particularly like the way the Saints gunned for or celebrated the record, but that's on Sean Payton and Brees, and if the Falcons wanted to stop them, they should have. So give Brees his due credit for walking down one of the hardest-to-break records in sports.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Victor CruzVictor Cruz, WR, Giants
Cruz talked trash before Saturday’s Jets game and then backed it up with a 99-yard touchdown reception that was a marvel? It’s hard to believe that last season, Cruz was not even supposed to make the team. Now, he's one of the most exciting receivers in the game.
Drew Brees Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees broke Dan Marino's 27-year-old passing record and was even accused of running up the score in the process. The accomplishment along with the whining from the Falcons makes him worthy of the honor.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Jairus ByrdJairus Byrd, S, Bills
The Buffalo defender returned a Tim Tebow pick 37 yards for a score in a Bills blowout. I'll go ahead and resist the temptation to do a Tebow joke here. It's just really too easy at this point.
Larry Grant Larry Grant, LB, 49ers
He starts for the injured Patrick Willis and finishes with 11 tackles, second best on the team. None, however, was more important than the last -- with Grant forcing a Tarvaris Jackson fumble that sealed a San Francisco victory and, in all likelihood, a first-round playoff bye.
Prisco Brinson
Jason Pierre-PaulJason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
Pierre-Paul had two sacks, three quarterback hits and four tackles. He was all over the field in the Giants victory over the Jets, which was critical to Coughlin's team staying alive for the playoffs.
Jairus ByrdBills DST
The Bills handed Tim Tebow his first-ever four-interception game and returned two of the picks to the house in a surprise beatdown of the Broncos. That they did it a week after giving up 200 rushing yards to Reggie Bush is all the more impressive/shocking.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jerod Mayo Jerod Mayo, LB, Patriots
As bad as the Pats defense has been this year, you have to give credit to Mayo for making a difference in New England’s comeback win against the Dolphins. Mayo recorded 13 tackles and his first two sacks of the season to keep the Patriots alive for a No. 1 AFC seed.
Chris Kelsay Chris Kelsey, LB, Bills
This goes to the Bills defense, which intercepted Tebow four times (including two pick-sixes), but Kelsay had two sacks and was in the Broncos backfield all day.

Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
Kicked the game-winner against the Kansas City Chiefs to keep their postseason hopes alive. I remember when Janikowski was nothing but the source of fat jokes. Now he might be the best kicker in football.
David Akers David Akers, K, 49ers
Here's another guy who sets a single-season record, kicking 42 field goals ... with one game still to play. Akers had four in the 49ers' defeat of Seattle, with his last the game winner. I can't imagine where the 49ers would be without him. I know where Philadelphia is.
Prisco Brinson
Richard SeymourRichard Seymour, DL, Raiders
He blocked two field goals, including the potential game-winner on the final play of regulation against the Chiefs. Oakland won the game in overtime to keep their playoff chances alive.
Dan BaileyDavid Akers, K, 49ers
Andy Reid was off on Akers career -- the Eagles didn't want to pay the man and all he did was kick the most field goals in a single season in NFL history (42). The 49ers don't have the season they're having without Akers being so steady on the special teams end of things.
Katzowitz Wilson
Richard Seymour Richard Seymour, DL, Raiders
He was the Chiefs worst nightmare, blocking two field goals -- including the potential game-winner -- to keep Oakland in the hunt for a playoff berth and to eliminate KC. Even if his on-field temper gets him into trouble occassionally, the 11-year vet still has the ability to make big-time plays.
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
Janikowski's game-winner in overtime against the Chiefs kept the Raiders' playoff hopes alive and the kicker finally got his first Pro Bowl trip this week.

Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Jim SchwartzJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
He exercized the ghosts of the pathetic Matt Millen by getting the Lions in the playoffs. It's quite the achievement by Schwartz in a surprisingly short amount of time.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
After listening to Rex Ryan and the Jets talk all week, he and his club respond with a 29-14 defeat that puts them one win from the playoffs. Not only did Coughlin outlast the Jets, he survived a sideline collision that had him limping. The Giants take a cue from their coach: "No toughness, no championship."
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
With his team's season on the line, Coughlin led his team to a victory over the New York Jets. Coughlin has been good at getting his team ready for big games. He has another this week against the Cowboys.

Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, HC, Giants
The only guy involved with New York football who refused to talk any trash this week? Coughlin. He let his team do the talking for him on the field, knocking around the Jets enough to create questions for Little Brother, and giving the Giants a shot at a division title and a playoff berth.
Katzowitz Wilson
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
Whether he’s on the hot seat or not, Coughlin still managed to keep his team level-headed in the face of a torrent of trash-talk from the Jets in a city rivalry game. The Giants just have to beat the Cowboys in order to take the NFC East title. It seems like people forget how good a coach Coughlin is, but on Saturday, he taught Rex Ryan a lesson.
Tom Coughlin Tom Coughlin, HC, Giants
He began the week by proclaiming that "talk is cheap" only to listen as various members of the Giants called out the Jets. The difference between them and Rex Ryan's squad? The Giants backed it up Saturday. And if they beat the Cowboys in Week 17 they'll win the division.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 7:37 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 16: Cam's the GOAT

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Slightly condensed version this week as it's the holidays. No podcast, no picture of the week and only eight questions. Blame Mrs. Brinson if you're so inclined. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.

The Greatest Rookie Season Ever?

That's right. The greatest rookie season ever is precisely what Cam Newton's going to wrap up in Week 17 against the Saints a game of no real consequence when it comes to his legacy as the best rookie in NFL history.

There should be no argument that Cam's season, even without the final week, goes down as the greatest season by a rookie quarterback in history. He has the record for most passing yards in a season (again, with a week to go) by a rookie. He has the record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie. He has the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by any quarterback.

Of the seven rookie quarterbacks with 3,000 passing yards, Newton doesn't have the most passing touchdowns, but he doesn't have the most interceptions either. There shouldn't be any question that his rookie year is the greatest by any quarterback.

As far as other rookies go, you could argue for Eric Dickerson (more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 1983), Dick Lane (14 interceptions, two pick sixes for Night Train in 1952), Randy Moss (17 touchdowns and 1,313 receiving yards in 1998) or Lawrence Taylor (9.5 sacks -- before they were even counted -- in 1981) if you want.

But none of those guys dealt with the complexities of running an offense. None of those guys dealt with a lockout-shortened offseason. None of those guys performed the way they did under the intense scrutiny of 2011 Twitteratiland. None of those guys carried the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick who was supposed to save a franchise ... or cost a GM his job simply because no one was sure how good they'd be. None of those guys inspired the fierce debate that Newton did leading up to being drafted.

Cam's rejuvenated a franchise that was dead in the water and he might be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL right now. It's been a marvel to watch him perform and it's insane to think that there was a debate as to whether or not the Panthers should take him.

Winners

Matthew Stafford: The Lions are in the playoffs. That's worthy of "winner inclusion" all by itself. But the Lions were secretly facing a pretty bad situation, with the white-hot Chargers and the very good Packers over the next two weeks. 9-7 and getting snuck out of the playoffs wasn't out of the question at all. Until Stafford got his surgical precision on and shredded the San Diego secondary, going 29 of 36 with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford's next up for the "is he or isn't he elite" debate.

Pete Prisco
: Yes, my CBSSports.com colleague and former life coach (Pete doesn't know it, but I fired him when he suggested I not wear socks with my loafers). Prisco's the only guy that I know of who refused to budge off his negative stance of Tebow during the Broncos winning streak. There might be an argument that Pete's stubborn and you might be inclined to call him a "hater" but with the way that Tebow egged on Saturday, there are going to be a LOT of people ripping him over the next week. And Prisco's the only one of those people who's stood his ground the whole time.

Kevin Kolb:
The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday and that means Kolb avoided his worst possible nightmare. That would be "John Skelton marching Arizona to an improbable postseason run and the team deciding to bail on Kolb's albatross of a contract." Instead, Arizona now plays out the string and regroups for 2012, likely with Kolb as the starting quarterback for at least another year.

Matt Forte
: What's that, you say? Forte didn't play on Saturday. Oh, I know that. I also know that if the Vikings hadn't handed Adrian Peterson a monster contract before the 2011 season, things would be awkward right about now. Over the past month, the Bears have collapsed without Forte and Jay Cutler, meaning he's beefed up his leverage as an important player for the franchise and, with the Peterson injury, justified his rationale for wanting a new contract.

Jerome Simpson: Did you see his touchdown catch?

Turner's time might be up in San Diego. (US Presswire)

Losers

Norv Turner: A lot of credit goes to the Lions for the way they played on Saturday. Detroit is a very good team and a formidable opponent. But how can the Chargers not show up, especially knowing that the Broncos lost and that they were either a Bengals/Jets pair of losses or a Broncos loss in Week 17 away from making the playoffs? That's still not "controlling your own destiny" but out of everyone who was gifted an early Christmas present during the early games on Sunday, Turner and the Chargers were probably the luckiest. A 24-0 halftime deficit in the most critical game of the season isn't going to inspire any Spanos family members to keep their pink slips tucked away.

Jason Garrett
: No one's going to blame him for losing to Philly. That's what happens with Stephen McGee under center. But holy cow does Garrett have the hardest decision -- and the most scrutiny -- of his short career coming up over the next week. The Giants and Cowboys will play in Week 17, with a trip to the postseason and a division championship on the line. Tony Romo will almost certainly play, but will he be effective? Can Garrett gameplan in order to play to Romo's injury? Will he cough up a shot at the postseason? These are the ways we will judge him after next week's game. And by "we" I obviously mean "Jerry Jones and his potentially angry family."

Adrian Peterson
: AP's leg injury on Sunday was so brutal that I even feel like a jerk putting him in the "losers" section. But if you saw the horrific nature of Peterson's injury, you know precisely why he's not feeling like a winner right now. The Vikings announced after the game that it was a sprained knee but -- all due respect to Minnesota -- that's just not believable at all. The multiple reports that it's a torn ACL (and potentially worse) make a lot more sense. It's just sad that Peterson could miss significant time because he was playing in a meaningless game for a three-win team.

Rex Ryan: Ryan spent all week running his mouth about the New York-New York rivalry and when push came to shove, his guy Mark Sanchez fumbled on the Giants goal line and threw a "pass" to an offensive lineman that resulted in a safety in a devastating loss on Saturday. The Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo got torched by Victor Cruz (that's his name, right?) and Brandon Jacobs got to say "It's time to shut up, fat boy." That's just embarrassing. Oh, right, and the Jets lost control of their own destiny with respect to the playoffs. It wouldn't be nearly as mortifying if Ryan hadn't run his mouth all week.

Pipedreams: Just like San Diego, the Eagles were very much a longshot to make the playoffs. But I'm telling you, there was a chance. Then the Giants killed that chance (adding to their winner-y-ness) with a win over the Jets. That means Week 17 is no longer a dream scenario for fans of long shots, because both early-season favorites are now removed from any chance of a postseason berth. You don't have to root for the Eagles or Chargers. In fact, you can root against them. But if you don't like ridiculous storylines and clowning around with playoff predictors then we're not friends.

The Big Questions

 
The new Tebow narrative could be awkward. (AP)

1. What's the new Tim Tebow narrative?
No, but it's on life support (and Prisco wants to pull the plug!). Look, Tebow can still win against Kansas City in Week 17, or even lose as long as the Chargers beat the Raiders. But think about how quickly this narrative could be absolutely flipped on its head: if Kyle Orton, the man Tebow replaced, beats Tebow in Week 17 because Tebow can't win late, and the Raiders beat the Chargers and make the playoffs, the Broncos new narrative will be as chokers. No, really, it will. And that is nuts when you consider where we were just two weeks ago.

2. Why does Leslie Frazier keep playing guys who are hurt?
NO CLUE. But this is a story that's flown under the radar for the past few weeks and it culminated with AP's injury against Washington, as well as the concussion that Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder suffered on Saturday. The Vikings are 3-12 after winning on Christmas Eve, but they didn't even need Peterson or Ponder to put up points -- it was all Joe Webb against the Redskins. Of course, winning, at this point, should be secondary. Frazier's top priority should be the health of his franchise quarterback and running back. Instead, these guys keep getting trotted out with injuries late in a lost season. That's not the sort of thing that keeps a job safe for long.

3. Did Raheem Morris get fired on Saturday?

Almost certainly. The Panthers went out and walloped Tampa Bay 48-16 in Charlotte, meaning that the Bucs lost their eighth game in a row.  Worse than the losses is the way they've happened: over the last four games, the Buccaneers have been outscored 158-64. They've given up 40 points to the Panthers and Jaguars and have topped 20 points just once since their trip to London in late October when things really started to unravel. It's an embarrassing collapse down the stretch and it's hard to blame the Glazer family and GM Mark Dominik when (not if) they fire Morris.

4. Anyone else getting fired?
Gotta think that Turner's done in San Diego now and that Romeo Crennel's the only interim hanging around. I can't buy that Jim Caldwell's saving his job so I'd add him to the list too. But I think any questions about Chan Gailey can now be reserved for a while, given the way he dismantled the Broncos on Sunday.

5.  Why should Tom Brady be worried?
Because his offensive lineman are dropping like flies. And while the Patriots are going to continue being good because that's what the Patriots do, there's absolutely cause for concern in New England if Logan Mankins and Matt Light are hurt for any length of time. As you may be aware, this isn't a team predicated on playing any sort of defense, and if they can't protect Tom Brady, there's little chance of them advancing in the postseason.

5. How mad are the 49ers?
Furious. And it doesn't matter that they won, because they gave up a rushing touchdown to Marshawn Lynch. They might hold the record for most games without one, but you know they wanted to make it the entire season. They did not.

6. Am I going to have to watch Matt Flynn on Christmas night?
Not as much as you might have feared. The 49ers won against the Seahawks on Saturday, and that means Green Bay hasn't clinched the top seed yet. Which means that Aaron Rodgers will stay in the game against the Bears for the entire game, barring an absolute Packers blowout.

7. Was Simpson's catch the play of the year?
Yup, it sure was. Maybe not the "play of the century" or anything insane like people are saying, but it was an absolutely bananas catch and it deserves incredible props. Watch -- it's going to be the type of thing you talk with your relatives about on Christmas. That's the way you can truly judge the greatness of a play.

8. Should Ben Roethlisberger play next week?
No. There's just no need. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice handled the Browns just fine in Week 16, and Charlie Batch/Rashard Mendenhall can do the same in Week 17. Rest the guy, run the ball, cross your fingers that Cincy can summon the strength to beat the Ravens on the road and let Roethlisberger rest.

GIF O' THE WEEK

I mean duh. Did you notice I liked it?



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Posted on: December 23, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: December 23, 2011 12:38 pm
 

Report: Norv, Smith's jobs depend on last 2 weeks

Norv Turner could potentially save his job with a 2-0 finish to 2011. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

At the beginning of December, the idea that Norv Turner could survive into next season as Chargers head coach was borderline laughable. San Diego was 4-7, dead in the water for the playoffs and Turner was as good as gone. Over the last three weeks, though, things have changed -- and it appears Norv can save his gig.

In fact, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the jobs of Turner and GM A.J. Smith "hinge on results in the final two weeks."

Latest NFL News, Notes

Put simply, it sounds like the Chargers winning out -- they play at Detroit on Christmas Eve and then at Oakland on New Year's Day -- will save the jobs of Turner and Smith.

After the Chargers victory over the Ravens in Week 14 it appeared as if the tides were starting to turn in Norv's favor; Philip Rivers said "it would be crazy" to dump the coach and Acee reported that just getting to the Raiders game with a shot at the playoffs would "speak volumes" to team president Dean Spanos.


Spanos now believes, according to Acee's report on Friday, that the support provided to the team and Norv by the fans and players, respectively, indicate that things aren't that far away from being on the right track.

If the Chargers make the playoffs, Smith and Turner are likely safe. If they miss the playoffs, at least a 1-1 or 2-0 record is probably necessary to save their jobs, although it's worth noting that the two also appear joined at the hip moving forward.

"If Smith is retained, no one should think he will need a new head coach," Acee wrote Friday. "Sources inside and outside Chargers Park say Smith believes in Turner now as much as he did when he went out on a limb and hired him in 2007."

So the Chargers will play out the string and then Spanos will make a decision as to whether or not Smith remains; that decision will obviously affect whether or not Turner returns as well.

But if the Bolts can manage to close out the season 2-0, that decision could suddenly be a lot easier for Spanos, and easier on Turner and Smith.


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Posted on: December 23, 2011 9:12 am
Edited on: December 23, 2011 9:12 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Colts/Texans, Week 16 preview

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

The next-to-last week of the season is underway and after watching the Texans lose to the Colts, it promises to be a doozy. We break down what happened with the Texans, if they are in trouble, what this means for the Colts and Andrew Luck, and whether Reggie Wayne should stick around Indy.

Then we break down the Week 16 games, wondering whether Norv Turner can save his job with a win over the Lions on Saturday, if the Jets and Giants will ever shut up and just play football, if the Eagles fate is narrowly miss the playoff or if they're on a high-speed collision with the postseason, whether Chicago can use Kansas City's blueprint to beat the Packers and if Atlanta can upend New Orleans on Monday.

All that plus much, much more below.

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: December 22, 2011 10:01 am
 

Film Room: Lions vs. Chargers preview


Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

The Lions were that Feel Good team of 2011. Then they started shoving coaches after the game, hitting quarterbacks after the throw, fighting opponents after the play, stomping linemen after the whistle and meekly apologizing for it all after the fact. Thus, they’re now the team everybody wants to see get its comeuppance.

In some ways, they’re like the Chargers – a team that, over the years, has mastered the art of irritating casual onlookers. They haven’t done it with reckless hostility, but rather, perplexing underachievement. If the NFL were like college basketball, where Final Four appearances and division titles mattered, the Chargers would be a dynasty.


Instead, they’re the club that always falls on its face but somehow manages to sneak into the postseason…only to fall on its face again. At least during the regular season they get hot at the right time – this year looking like no exception.

Let’s breakdown these two irritating clubs.

1. Motion
The Chargers offense is perhaps the best in football at using presnap motion to dissect a defense and create favorable matchups. Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan recently took a page out of Norv Turner’s playbook.

After operating out of static formations virtually all season, the Lions created glaring mismatches by motioning Calvin Johnson into the slot against the Raiders last week. The results were extraordinary: Johnson, often working against Oakland’s backup safeties, had a career-high 214 yards receiving. Matthew Stafford threw for 391, with four touchdowns and no turnovers.

It might reason that the Lions will use more presnap motions this week, but that’s not a sure thing. If creating big-play opportunities were as simple as putting players in motion, Linehan would have had his players doing that long ago. But when you change your formation, the defense changes. When the defense is playing man, the changes are easy to read. But when the defense is playing zone, things become more complex.

With an inexperienced quarterback (Stafford will be making only his 28th start Sunday), fairly young tight end (Brandon Pettigrew), rookie wide receiver (Titus Young) and athletic but somewhat unrefined superstar (Johnson), Linehan may once again prefer to keep the Chargers defense – which usually plays to the situation, meaning zone on early downs and man on third down – as static as possible. The drawback with a static offense is it’s obviously easier for the defense to decipher, as there are fewer complexities in route combinations.

2. The running backs
Ryan Mathews has improved throughout his second season. He has the quickness, lateral agility and tempo-changing ability to create his own space or turn the corner. Physicality, down-to-down consistency, ball security and durability remain issues. In a pinch, the Chargers know they can fall back on the powerful, surprisingly versatile Mike Tolbert.

The Lions’ run game became an afterthought when rookie Mikel Leshoure’s Achilles tore in August. Statistically, things actually picked up on the ground for Detroit after receiving-oriented Jahvid Best went out with a concussion.

When healthy, Best’s replacement, Kevin Smith, has shown some suddenness and shiftiness, which makes him a good fit for this shotgun system. But overall, Detroit is unquestionably a pass-first team (28th in rushing yards, 31st in rushing attempts). That’s fine – as their 28 points per game (fourth best in NFL) attest.

3. Chargers O-line vs. Lions D-line
Figure San Diego must score 30 points to beat Detroit. That would have been dicey a few weeks ago when left tackle Marcus McNeill and left guard Kris Dielman first went down with injuries. But with left tackle Jared Gaither coming aboard and relieving helpless backup Brandyn Dombrowski, the front five has stabilized. Dielman’s replacement, Tyronne Green, has settled down in pass protection, and center Nick Hardwick has looked like his former Pro Bowl self.

Philip Rivers is arguably the best in the business at stepping into throws with defenders bearing down. He doesn’t need a clean pocket – just protection that can hold up for a seven-stop drop. The Chargers are up to the task, even if they’re facing the Lions’ high-octane front four. Last week, that front four was actually neutralized by a middle-tier Raiders bunch that had struggled mightily in prior weeks.

4. Rivers and his receivers
If Rivers is not under duress, he’ll throw for at least 325 yards Sunday. The Lions play some of the most basic Cover 2 and Cover 3 zones in football and simply don’t have the personnel to stay with Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd – especially with starting free safety Louis Delmas out.

Lions corners Chris Houston and Eric Wright are at their best playing off-coverage, where they can see a route develop in front of them and drive on the ball. The vertical nature of San Diego’s passing game, which is heavy on double moves, can be anathema to that brand of cornerbacking.

Inside, though Detroit’s linebackers can run, and though middle ‘backer Stephen Tulloch can play with depth in zone coverage, the Antonio Gates factor is still a major plus for the Boltz. Gates looks healthier than he has all season.



5. Screen game
Last week the Raiders became the latest team to successfully attack the Lions with screen passes. Because the Lions’ front seven defenders all play with their ears pinned back, offenses frequently use delay and misdirection tactics to coax them out of position. The faster a defender reacts in the wrong direction, the more daunting his recovery task.

San Diego regularly incorporates its running backs in the passing game (Tolbert and Mathews each have 47 receptions on the season). Expect several of the running back’s passes to be screens this week, especially early in the game when the Lions will, as always, will be amped up.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Rodgers tops Pro Bowl voting; Tebow third AFC QB

Aaron Rodgers led the way in all Pro Bowl voting.(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We've wondered whether or not Tim Tebow is a Pro-Bowl candidate before this year and the answer is probably "no." But that doesn't matter when it comes to Pro-Bowl voting, where Tebow was the third-highest vote getter among AFC quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers, named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Wednesday, was the top vote-getter among all NFL players, pulling in 1,581,982 votes from fans. Tom Brady was second among all NFL players with 1,454,311 votes. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski joined Brady in the top 10, via NFL.com:

Top-10 Pro Bowl Vote Getters
Player Position Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311
Drew Brees
QB Saints 1,188,893
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886
Ben Roethlisberger
QB Steelers 935,535
Adrian Peterson
RB Vikings 925,554
Mike Wallace
WR Steelers 923,073

So, yeah, breaking: the Patriots and Steelers are popular! Also popular? Tebow.

AFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Tom Brady
QB Patriots 1,454,311 Andre Carter
DE Patriots 511,693
Arian Foster
RB Texans 896,804 Haloti Ngata
DT Ravens 592,603
Vonta Leach
FB Ravens 149,801 Terrell Suggs
OLB Ravens 546,851
Wes Welker
WR Patriots 1,133,787 Ray Lewis
MLB Ravens 413,222
Rob Gronkowski
TE Patriots 936,886 Darrelle Revis
CB Jets 561,986
Michael Oher
OT Ravens 327,644 Troy Polamalu
SS Steelers 230,649
Logan Mankins
G Patriots 337,844 Ed Reed
FS Ravens 198,075
Maurkice Pouncey
C Steelers 376,457 Shane Lechler
P Raiders 228,782
Sebastian Janikowski
K Raiders 244,512 Joe McKnight
KR Jets 140,926

Once again, I'll point out that the Ravens and Patriots are popular (and also good at what they do), along with the Steelers. Brendon Ayanbadejo was the leading "special teams" vote-getter, with 106,515. On the NFC side, well, I hope you like the Packers:

NFC Pro Bowl Leaders by Position
Offense Defense
Player Pos Team Votes Player Pos Team Votes
Aaron Rodgers
QB Packers 1,581,982 Jared Allen
DE Vikings 784,527
LeSean McCoy
RB Eagles 962,824 Justin Smith
DT 49ers 525,578
John Kuhn
FB Packers 322,260 DeMarcus Ware
OLB Cowboys 581,554
Calvin Johnson
WR Lions 1,180,777 Patrick Willis
MLB 49ers 581,554
Jimmy Graham
TE Saints 725,612 Charles Woodson
CB Packers 763,198
Chad Clifton
OT Packers 392,106 Roman Harper
SS Saints 147,542
T.J. Lang
G Packers 327,740 Morgan Burnett
FS Packers 223,292
Scott Wells
C Packers 436,693 Andy Lee
P 49ers 161,812
Mason Crosby
K Packers 184,665 Devin Hester
KR Bears 268,293

For the NFC, Jarrett Bush of the Packers received the most special teams votes with 134,696. (And yes, I suppose I could have kick returners on the offense side, but I'm not trying to have my tables be all uneven. Oh no I'm not.)

Naturally, none of this means any of these guys are guaranteed to make the Pro Bowl -- the fan vote only counts as one-third of the total. The players vote is worth two-thirds. But there's a good chance that many of these guys will end up in the Pro Bowl.

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 5:58 pm
 

Pick-Six Podcast: MNF review, power outage, MDS

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Monday night was an interesting disaster in powering up a stadium and watching football wasn't it?

But not as big a disaster as the Steelers handling of Ben Roethlisberger -- we break down what happened in the game, how talented the 49ers are, whether Ben should've played, whether Alex Smith is Pro-Bowl worthy, and the crazy conspiracy about the power outage that's percolating on Tuesday.

Then Michael David Smith of PFT joins the show to break down the Raiders defensive woes against the Lions and whether or not Romeo Crennel should get the head-coaching gig in Kansas City.

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.
 
 
 
 
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