Tag:Joe Flacco
Posted on: December 16, 2011 8:29 pm
 

Finley: Media's Tebow coverage 'disturbing'

FinleyBy Josh Katzowitz

You might have noticed that for the past, oh, two months or so, we’ve gotten a little Tim Tebow crazy on the Eye on Football blog*. That’s because, well, the dude is 7-1 as a starter, because he’s so hated and so loved at the same time, because he’s a leader of men, a winner (via Clark Judge) and a terrible quarterback (via Pete Prisco).

*Not that we’re any different than the rest of the football-loving world.

Me, I love the storyline, because it grows more improbable each week. Sure, if a network is devoting hours a day to Tebow coverage, yeah, that’s a bit much. But it’s a fun ride, and in our view, we’re having a blast with the view Tebow is providing (and what happens, pray tell, if the Broncos actually beat the Patriots on Sunday?).

That said, others NFL players aren’t quite as pleased at how much coverage Tebow has received since taking over for Kyle Orton in Denver.

Take, for instance, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (by the way, a guy who doesn’t seem to mind a little attention). Finley told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, should be receiving the attention that Tebow has gotten this year.

“I sit at home, start watching TV and all I’m seeing is Tebow,” Finley said. “That’s kind of disturbing. We have a guy here that’s breaking records every week and you have a guy in Tebow that’s saying ‘God’ every word and he gets coverage. Of course I love my faith and God but come on man.”

Also, this:

Flacco“He’s telling everybody what they want to hear,” Finley said. “You see him and he’s patting everybody on the back saying, ‘You’re going to make this catch. I promise because God said,’ And he makes it happen. Stuff like that. It confuses people. People that don’t know the game outside of the fans, of course they’re going to hype it up. But guys that see a good player and a good quarterback, they know what kind of guy he’ll be down the road when he gets exposed. Everybody who knows the game knows what kind of player Tebow is going to be.”

That could be, and like Finley implies, Rodgers is light years ahead of Tebow (and probably light years of where Tebow ever hopes to be) when it comes to playing quarterback. But let’s face it: the Packers have gotten plenty of coverage this year, and you can’t turn on a football game without seeing that Discount Double Check commercial starring Rodgers as a dancer and a robot.

Finley, though, isn’t alone in his critique of the media coverage surrounding Tebow. Like CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson told you the other day, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is offended by all the Tebow love as well.

"I like Tim, but you have a tendency to want to, I don’t want to see Tim do bad, but look what happens after he wins a football game," he said. "If you watched SportsCenter [Monday] it was Tim Tebow then something else, Tim Tebow then something else, and Tim Tebow then something else. When we beat the Steelers, were we on TV? No. I couldn’t even find a Baltimore Ravens highlight. I think that’s kinda the way it is around Baltimore. We don’t always get our respect but you gotta deal with it and go out there every week and just win football games.”

Funny thing about Tebow: he just wins games and he always doesn’t get the respect. So, when you think about it, Flacco and Tebow are kind of in the same situation. Except nobody knows what the hell Flacco-ing is.

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 9:19 am
 

Pick-Six Podcast: Week 15 preview + Thurs review

By Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Thursday night's scorcher of a game between the Jaguars and Falcons kicked off Week 15's action, and the guys wonder whether Atlanta is getting hot at the right time, if Jacksonville has any hope and just how awesome Shahid Khan's mustache is.

Then they turn their attention to the rest of the week's slate, debating who's in more trouble if they lost Saturday between Raheem Morris and Jason Garrett, why Rick Perry is talking about Tim Tebow, how much trouble Sam Hurd is in and why he did the things he allegedly did, whether the Broncos can actually upset the Patriots, if the Eagles can make a run, why Joe Flacco is whining about Tim Tebow's media coverage and much, much more.

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 15, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 12:49 am
 

QB Joe Flacco says media disrespects Ravens

Flacco invokes Dangerfield as he wonders why the media doesn't respect the Ravens(Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Joe Flacco was "The Situation" for Halloween last year. Next October he should go as Rodney Dangerfield (or perhaps Rodney Harrison during his days with the Patriots) because he thinks nobody respects the Ravens, currently 10-3 and atop the AFC North with a bead on a first-round bye in the playoffs.

During an appearance on WNST radio in Baltimore earlier this week, Flacco chuckled about irrational fans and talked about what he perceives to be unfair coverage of the Ravens. (He even manages a Tim Tebow reference!). Via SportsRadioInterviews.com:

“Yeah (fans reacting and sometimes overacting to wins and losses is) pretty hilarious. I mean, everyone reacts week to week and I mean most people really have no idea what really went on in the game and how everybody played and what was supposed to be happening," Flacco said.

"I can look at an NFL game and say ‘hey this is what I thought should have happened’ but I can be way off base because I don’t know what they game planned for the week and things like that. It’s funny to see all these things."


Flacco then wondered why Tebow gets more national media attention than the Ravens.

"I like Tim, but you have a tendency to want to, I don’t want to see Tim do bad, but look what happens after he wins a football game," he said. "If you watched SportsCenter [Monday] it was Tim Tebow then something else, Tim Tebow then something else, and Tim Tebow then something else. When we beat the Steelers were we on TV? No. I couldn’t even find a Baltimore Ravens highlight. I think that’s kinda the way it is around Baltimore. We don’t always get our respect but you gotta deal with it and go out there every week and just win football games.”

Surely, Flacco doen't "want to see Tim do bad," because that's just asking for trouble. Look what happened to the Bears after Lance Briggs said he'd be "pissed" if Chicago lost to Denver, and that while Tebow "is one heck of a football player … we’re going to have to stop that crap.” The Bears, up 10 with less than three minutes to go, lost in demoralizing fashion.

Of course, the Ravens don't face the Broncos this week, they travel to San Diego. And if they win there, they'll pretty much have the division title sewn up. If they lose, however, and the Steelers beat the 49ers on Monday night, Baltimore would drop to the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff race. And guess who their likely opponent would be in the wild-card game? Yep, the Tim Tebow All-Stars.

Flacco then suggested that the media doesn't treat the Ravens fairly.

"I just think we’re disrespected as an organization when it comes to the media. We’re not a very big market, the bottom line is we don’t need a lot of help because we have a great fan-base every week and we win football games," he said. :We’re not a losing football team that needs to be out there in the media and be talked up like we are all-world."

We hope Flacco isn't referring to Tebow. Philip Rivers we get -- the Chargers have been a mess this season -- but besmirching Tebow's name, even indirectly, is dangerous.

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Posted on: November 29, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Coach Killers, Week 12: beware of untested QBs

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Steve Johnson, Bills

First things first: we have absolutely no issue with Stevie Johnson's touchdown skit. Up till the moment he fell to the ground, at which point it became a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration. Prior to that, it was original and funny, two things we could use more of in the staid environs of Roger Goodell's NFL.

We can't take our eyes off the cousin Eddie-inspired dickie.
In fact, the biggest travesty -- outside of the way Johnson played on the final drive -- was the mock incredulity and sanctimony from folks who found the dance offensive (Looks at Bob Costas, who we've taken to calling "Sprockets" after that black mock turtleneck number from Sunday night) because Johnson was making fun of Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the leg three years ago.

Here's the thing: Plax shot himself in the leg three years ago. It's not like Johnson was making fun of someone with a special-needs child, or a cancer survivor. He was clowning a dude who carried a gun to a night club, and inadvertently put a bullet in his thigh.

Oh, he also served nearly two years for the incident, on concealed weapons charges.


Buffalo Bills WR Stevie Johnson mocks Plaxico Burress' gun incident during a touchdown celebration against the New York Jets on Sunday.

To recap: Johnson's TD dance: hilarious. Getting a 15-yard penalty: not hilarious. Dropping a perfect pass from Fitzpatrick on the Bills' last drive, one that would've given the Bills the lead: unacceptable, especially if you're going to mock the opposition.

Johnson apologized immediately after the game, which doesn't change the final score.

"I was just having fun, and part of having fun ended up being a penalty and a touchdown for the Jets," he said. "It was a stupid decision by myself."

Head coach Chan Gailey, doing everything in his power not to blow a gasket with the cameras rolling, said "I think it was wrong. I told him so. What I hate is that game is remembered for his one action rather than a lot of good things he did in the game. I told him where I stand on it, and he knows exactly."

When asked about possible sanctions against Johnson, Gailey added: "If I were to discipline everybody (for dumb mistakes), there wouldn't be any players or coaches out there. Everybody makes mistakes."

On Monday, ESPN's Merril Hoge went so far as to suggest that Gailey should cut Johnson for his selfish behavior. That ain't happening because despite Johnson's horrible timing, as ProFootballTalk.com's Michael David Smith pointed out on Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, Johnson is one of the few players who made Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis look human in coverage.


Burress, for his part, seemed unaffected by Johnson's end zone interpretive dance.

"I've seen worse, and I've heard worse," said Burress, who spent nearly two years in an upstate New York prison. "So, it doesn't bother me at all. The result I'm looking at is we won the football game ... and he turned around and dropped three wide-open balls to lose it for his team."

Curtis Painter, Colts

At this point, 11 games into the season and still searching for their first win, we're probably piling on. But the Colts don't have to be oh-fer-'11. Not only did they look like a proper football team against the Panthers Sunday, they had a legitimate chance to win an actual football game.

And then Curtis Painter, unable to get out of his own way, derailed those plans with two ill-timed throws -- both interceptions -- during a four-minute span late in the fourth quarter with Indianapolis trailing by eight points.

The first pick came at the Carolina four-yard line with four and a half minutes to go. After the Colts' defense forced a three-and-out, Painter led an 11-play drive that ended with another interception, this time in the Panthers' end zone with 35 seconds remaining.

It's impossible to imagine a scenario that would have Indy sitting at 0-11, even without Peyton Manning. And yet here we are. Painter Bears little of the responsibility for the organization's current predicament; that falls squarely at the feet of Bill Polian and Chris Polian, the architects of the current roster. That doesn't make the latest loss any easier to take.

"I don't know what you can call beyond frustrated," defensive end Robert Mathis said, via the Indianapolis Star.

And head coach Jim Caldwell, who could be looking for work after the season, leaned on feel-good bromides to get him through the latest defeat.

"You can't complain after the ballgame's over," he said. "You've just got to find a way to make it happen. …One of the things you'd like to do is give yourself a chance to win, that you're there at the end and it's just a matter of a play made here or there. I think we did that, but our goal is to win."

If you say so, Jim. We're guessing in your end-of-year meeting with owner Jim Irsay, aspiring to win won't be enough.

Caleb Hanie, Bears

There were certainly worse performance in Week 12, but the absolute worst play, in our estimation, had to be Hanie's delayed fake spike with seconds on the clock and the Bears trailing by five points. The thing is, a delayed fake spike isn't like your run-of-the-mill spike to stop the clock. Turns out, it's intentional grounding. Either you can fake the spike and throw the ball (made famous by Dan Marino), or, you know, actually spike it and stop the clock.

                                           HOW TO vs. HOW NOT TO PROPERLY EXECUTE THE FAKE SPIKE


‘‘We didn’t have any fakes or anything like that,’’ Hanie said afterwards. ‘‘That was just my fault." Forced into duty after Jay Cutler broke his thumb against the Chargers, Hanie also threw three first-half interceptions, which lead to this post-game observation. "It's just not a good time to have a learning experience."

Not helping Hanie's chances for success: offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the man who said he had no intentions of asking Hanie to be Kurt Warner (we thought that went without saying). Martz, it turns out, also had no intentions of crafting a game plan for an inexperienced backup.

Our good buddy Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com's Eye on Baseball blogger and diehard Bears fan, was pretty worked up with Hanie's third interception. Not because it happened near the Raiders' end zone, or that it resulted in three Oakland points before the half, but because Martz had Hanie sprint right before throwing a screen pass to his left across the field. It's not an easy play for veterans well-versed in the offense, never mind a kid making his first NFL start.

Tyler Palko, Chiefs

One word to describe Palko's play the last two weeks: mesmerizing. Clearly, we don't mean that in a "Stop what you're doing, Devin Hester's about to return a punt!" way. More like "Stop what you're doing, spectacular train wreck ahead." And Palko didn't disappoint. He's left-handed, and his throwing motion is reminscent of Tim Tebow's. The difference? Tebow has eight touchdowns to one interception. Palko has six picks in two games. Tebow also has better arm strength and is more accurate.

Tebow also doesn't blame his intended target whenever a pass invariably finds the unintended target, which is exactly what Palko did on three separate occasions Sunday night against the Steelers. It's one thing for a receiver to run the wrong route, or for miscommunication to lead to mistakes. But you watch these throws (here and here) and tell me how anybody but Palko is at fault.

But it was the Chiefs' final offensive play that proved to be the worst. Trailing 13-9 and with about 30 seconds to go, Kansas City was driving. And then Palko happened. Yep, another pick, this time to Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis. After the play, NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth thought Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe quit on the play.

You can judge for yourself below, but here's what we're thinking: the ball was so horribly off-target that Bowe went up, realized that he had absolutely no chance to get a finger on it much less catch it, and decided to protect himself. We have no problem with that. Bowe's career shouldn't hinge on the erratic whims of Palko's arm. As NFL Network's Deion Sanders pointed out Sunday night, Palko's the type of quarterback the opposing team make sure gets to the game. "You send a limo for him," Primetime said.


Palko's third and final interception Sunday night. Yep, that was his fault, too.

Facial Hair Fails

This has absolutely nothing to do with job security, but we noticed a sudden influx of mustachioed NFL players (or in Ricky Stanzi's case, hippies) over the weekend. (Click photos to see our best guess at their inspirations.)


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Posted on: November 24, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Who can compete with Green Bay? Not 49ers

A. Smith was sacked nine times by Baltimore (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

So, what did we learn today from the Thanksgiving games? No. 1, Green Bay is clearly the best team in football (as if we didn’t already know that), and No. 2, at this point, there doesn’t seem to be anybody in the NFC who has the ability to keep the Packers out of the Super Bowl.

Listen, the 49ers, who fell 16-6 to Baltimore, are a great story, and what Jim Harbaugh has done this year for them has been amazing. Quarterback Alex Smith has had one of the biggest career turnarounds this season. Frank Gore is still one of the best running backs in the league, Patrick Willis is one of the best linebackers and Justin Smith is one of the most underrated defensive ends.

But as a challenger to the Packers, San Francisco still has big problems. The 49ers offensive line was porous, allowing nine sacks, and their offense wasn’t in the least bit dynamic. And they’ve still got Smith leading the team. Sure, he’s been solid this year, but he also threw a bad interception in the end zone at the end of the first half that killed a promising drive and then got caught intentionally grounding the ball with 1:28 left to go in the game.

And once the Ravens went up 13-6 on a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Dennis Pitta, the 49ers simply didn’t have the capabilities to make a comeback. Yes, the 49ers had a short week and had to travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and that couldn’t have been easy. But if you were looking for that something special out of the San Francisco squad, it was certainly hard to spot.

So, you can count the 49ers out of the NFC title race.

As my colleague Ryan Wilson pointed out earlier today, Ndamukong Suh might have cost the Lions the game against the Packers (and perhaps their season?). At the beginning of the game, Detroit played Green Bay evenly, but the Lions top player lost his cool by trying to stomp (literally!) on his opponent and Detroit showed it's not up to playing an entire game vs. the defending Super Bowl champs.

So, you can count out the Lions.

The Cowboys? They played a Dolphins team at home, and really, they should have won by double-digits. Yes, Miami is vastly improved these past couple weeks, but Dallas is supposedly one of the better teams in the NFC. The Cowboys shouldn’t be struggling with the Dolphins so much that they needed a last-second field goal to win the game.

So, you can count out the Cowboys.

Well, who CAN compete with the Packers? The Saints? Maybe, because they’re probably the second-best team in the conference right now. The Bears? Not with Caleb Hanie running the show? The Giants? Eli Manning is having a wonderful season, but their defense has been hit hard by injuries.

Anybody?

Hell, maybe the 49ers actually could give the Packers a hard time if they were to play. After all, Ray Rice said the 49ers were the best team the Ravens have faced this year "by far." He must have been talking about the defense only.

But for now, we’re not sure if anybody in the NFC actually is good enough to play with the Packers. And now we only have eight weeks left to find out if that kind of team actually exists.

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:17 am
 

Keep an Eye on: Thanksgiving preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


Lions vs. Packers
The nice thing about having a defense built around your four-man front is that when facing a seemingly unstoppable passing attack, you don’t have to concoct a complicated gameplan and hope that your speed-oriented defenders can somehow give the performance of a lifetime. Because an erupting front four, by nature of alignment, can cut off the lifeline of any pass play by flooding a quarterback’s face, you can stick with your traditional zone concepts on the back end.

This is the standard, obvious approach for the Lions. And really, it’s their only prayer for upsetting the undefeated Packers. The Lions selected Nick Fairley in the first round because they knew that with Ndamukong Suh already inside, they would have at least one favorable one-on-one matchup on every passing down. Those visions have started to play out in recent weeks, as Fairley, in limited reps, has shown uncommon quick-twitch burst for a man of his size.



A way teams have lately combated (or tried to combat) Detroit’s interior quickness is with draws and misdirection runs and screens (think receivers running ghost reverses during a handoff or quarterbacks faking the action one way and going to a ballcarrier the other way). The idea is to let the defensive tackles take themselves out of position with their quick penetration and to get Detroit’s incredibly fast-flowing linebackers going in the wrong direction.

This approach, however, is not conducive to Green Bay’s personnel. The Packers are good at screen pass execution, but none of their running backs have the initial quickness or speed to execute delay-type plays. Thus, expect the Packers to combat Detroit’s inside pass-rush by spreading the field and putting Aaron Rodgers in three-step drops.

Normally, offenses spread the field to stretch the defense and make it easier for the quarterback to recognize blitzes and coverage concepts. That’s not necessary against a basic zone scheme like Detroit’s. But what spreading the field still does is create more space for the defensive backs to cover. Detroit’s defensive backs have improved this season, but they’re still not dynamic or deep enough to contain Green Bay’s receiving corps in large open areas.

Final note: much of Aaron Rodgers’ presnap brilliance derives from his use of dummy snap counts. However, those won’t be relevant if the Ford Field crowd is as loud as expected. The Packers may want to consider going hurry-up. They know they won’t be able to communicate vocally anyway, so they likely installed a bunch of hand signals in practice this week. They’re prepared.

What’s more, they know that a hurry-up can swing momentum and take the crowd out of it, plus it would prevent the Lions from rotating their defensive linemen -- a tactic they rely heavily on.

Cowboys vs. Dolphins
Both teams come in riding a three-game win-streak, thanks largely to the play of their quarterbacks. Tony Romo has posted passer ratings of 113, 148 and 112 his last three outings. Matt Moore has posted 133, 75 and 147.

Romo is having, by far, the best season of his career. He’s been accurate, poised in the pocket and sound in his decision making. These are the effects of his improvements. What analysts don’t focus on often enough are the improvements themselves.

Romo is doing a better job at diagnosing defenses in the presnap phase and adjusting his protections in response. Consequently, postsnap, he’s not surprised by blitzes, plus he’s recognizing coverage shifts and how they impact his receivers’ route combinations. These had been Romo’s areas of weakness.

As for Moore, he’s been steady, but the Dolphins would be foolish to think they don’t still need to look for a quarterback after this season. Lately Moore has often thrown out of base personnel, which means he’s been going against base defenses. That’s fine, but it won’t be as easy against the Cowboys, whose base personnel includes a versatile superstar in DeMarcus Ware and superb pass-defending linebacker in Sean Lee.

Dallas has the resources to take away Dolphins underrated receiving fullback Charles Clay, and Rob Ryan is willing to mix things up no matter what personnel he has on the field. Remember, Moore has only had half a week to study Ryan’s multitude of defensive looks.



Ravens vs. 49ers
Because Ray Rice is averaging less than nine carries per game in his team’s three losses this season, there’s the assumption that the Ravens must run the ball in order to win. But last week against Cincinnati, the Ravens won on the strength of their passing attack. They got 104 yards rushing on 20 carries from Rice, but 59 of those yards came on one run.

Overall, the sustaining element that a run game is supposed to provide simply wasn’t there. The Ravens struggled in short-yardage -- though not on the goal-line, where Marshal Yanda stood out and where Rice has been effective all season -- and could not pound on the ground when trying to protect their fourth quarter lead.

There’s still hope for the run game this season. Aside from overrated left tackle Bryant McKinnie, Baltimore’s front five is adequately suited for this zone-blocking scheme -- especially now that left guard Ben Grubbs is back. Rice and Ricky Williams are smart runners, and Vontae Leach is a top-three fullback.

That said, don’t expect a breakout this week. San Francisco has the best run defense in pro football (by a wide margin, in fact). The brilliant play of inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman is the primary reason why.

Willis and Bowman pose additional issues for the Ravens. Against the Bengals, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron compensated for the lackluster run game by calling play-action rollouts for Joe Flacco. That forced the Bengals linebackers to be decision-makers and pass defenders – which they’re capable of, but not simultaneously. Willis and Bowman won’t be manipulated like this. Both hunt up coverage assignments extremely well and both have the athleticism to cover Baltimore’s underneath mismatch creators, Rice and Ed Dickson.

The Ravens’ best chance at offensive success Thanksgiving night is to go max protect and take downfield shots with Torrey Smith and Lee Evans. Their best chance at overall success is to protect field position and wait for their defense to make a big play in a low-scoring game.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 2:15 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 12:23 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 11

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.

 

1. Bear Down

The only thing surprising about Chicago's 31-20 victory -- their fifth-straight win -- over the Chargers was that the Bears let San Diego keep it that close. But not all is good news in Chicago right now, as multiple reports indicate that quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb during Sunday's game, may need surgery and could be lost for the season.

At a minimum, Cutler's likely to miss six weeks, so let's assume he's done for the regular season. So can the Bears still make the playoffs? Well, surprisingly, yes, but it obviously won't be easy.

If the Bears beat three of their final six opponents (we'll guess the Vikings, the Seahawks and the Chiefs) they'll finish 10-6. No one from the NFC West will cause any damage and it looks like Chicago just has to fight off the Giants or the Cowboys, the Lions and the Falcons.

They've got the tiebreaker over Atlanta, although right now the Bears lose out to the Lions because of division record. (Fortunately for them, Detroit has to play Green Bay twice.)

And Chicago has a formula for winning games without a ton of offense. The Bears defense knows how to score and Devin Hester can alter the outcome of a game every time he stands back to return a kick. The passing game should all but disappear, however.

Which means that Chicago will lean heavily on a below-average offensive line and ... Matt Forte.

Perhaps they should reconsider their stance about paying him after all.

2. Little Giants

Everyone always expects the Giants to swoon late in the season (because it's something they do, which is fair I suppose) but this year looked different after New York's win over New England two weeks ago and a tough loss in San Francisco last week.

Until Sunday night, when the Giants coughed up a 17-10 loss to the Vince Young-led Eagles anyway.

"This is as big a disappointment as we have had around here in a long time," coach Tom Coughlin said Sunday.

It should be, because things aren't going to get easier for Coughlin's squad any time soon. They face the Saints in New Orleans next week and then welcome the potentially undefeated Packers to New York in Week 13 before squaring off against the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 14.

That's about as big a nightmare as a schedule can be for an NFC East that just kicked itself out of the playoffs, and the Jets still loom, as does a second matchup with Dallas.

The Eagles wanted to give away this game too. DeSean Jackson had a ridiculous taunting penalty that (also somewhat ridiculously) resulted in a loss of 50 yards for the Eagles. Vince Young had three terrible picks. LeSean McCoy never really got going (53 yards on 22 carries before his final 60-yard run to end the game). Riley Cooper was the top receiver.

But the Giants wanted it less, and couldn't get any offense going, as receivers egged on easy passes and the offensive line got no push. Some of the playcalling was suspect, and it put the Giants in a pretty untenable position late in the game.

Which is probably fitting since that's where their 2011 season stands as well.

And even though it's OK to anticipate a Giants swoon, let's hold off on talking about the Eagles running the table just quite yet, please. We were here three weeks ago when they handled the Cowboys too.


3. Missing Pieces

One look at Cincinnati's 31-24 loss to Baltimore, and it's pretty clear how much the Bengals missed wide receiver A.J. Green and cornerback Leon Hall.

Andy Dalton got a shot at boosting his Rookie of the Year stock on Cincy's final drive, but came up short when the Ravens defensive line stepped up in a big way in their own red zone. Dalton missed Andrew Hawkins on first down, was busted for intentional grounding on second, threw incomplete to Jerome Simpson on third and was sacked by Pernell McPhee on fourth. One has to wonder how the goal line playcalling changes if Green's in the game.

On defense, the previously stout Bengals unit was gashed by the Ravens own rookie, Torrey Smith. Smith notched six catches for 165 yards, one touchdown and a number of different catches where he was wide open but made some fantastic grabs on throws from Joe Flacco that was a bit off.

There were three big plays that stand out for Baltimore's passing game: a 35-yard touchdown catch by Anquan Boldin (he was wide open), Smith's 38-yard TD (also wide open) and a 49-yard bomb that Smith reeled in near the goal line, where he just torched Nate Clements (watch below).


It's clearly not a coincidence when a team loses its best cornerback and subsequently gives up a bunch of big passing plays the next week.

And lest we leave this game without pointing out the obvious, the Ravens won once again when Ray Rice was productive and got more than five carries. That's not a coincidence either.

4. Silent Bob Strikes Back

Three weeks ago, Kevin Smith was unemployed, sitting at home, doing nothing. Or signing himself to various Madden rosters, which is even more depressing. On Sunday, he piled up 201 all-purpose yards, revived the Lions rushing attack, and was the catalyst in a 49-35 comeback win for the Lions over the Panthers that kept Detroit at the forefront of the NFC Wild Card race.

It's an awesome story, and Smith deserves all the love he's getting from analysts and all the love he got from the Detroit sideline every time he scored on his three touchdowns.

Three questions stand out to me with respect to Detroit's playoff hopes. 1) Can they avoid early deficits? 2) Can Smith sustain this success? 3) Did Matthew Stafford get healthy at halftime?

With no running game and an injured Stafford, the Lions look like the walking dead against Chicago last week. It was much of the same story in the first quarter against the Panthers, as Stafford threw two picks, looked terrible and the Lions mustered less than 10 yards on four rushes. But a Keiland Williams fumble with 2:30 left in the first quarter gave way to Smith, and he started off his second-chance Lions career with a 43-yard run and followed it up with a 28-yard touchdown catch on the next play.

If Smith is the answer -- and I'm not completely sold yet, but only because a one-legged homeless guy off the street could put 100 yards on that Panthers defense -- and Stafford's healthy, the answer to question No. 1 should be "yes."

We'll find out when Detroit plays Green Bay (twice) and New Orleans over the next six weeks whether they can avoid needing comebacks to win. If they can, there won't be a question about whether or not the Lions are playoff-worthy.

5. More Like a Tropical Storm

For 149 consecutive weeks of NFL action, a former Miami Hurricane has scored a touchdown. Consider that there are 17 weeks in each NFL season, and it works out to more than eight and a half years since a Hurricane failed to score in the NFL. That's bananas.

And yet we sit here, heading into Monday night's Patriots-Chiefs matchup and no member of "The U" has scored in Week 11. (Yes, this is considerably ironic since the 'Canes announced Sunday they wouldn't accept a bowl bid.)

Complicating matters for fans of Miami is the fact that it's pretty unlikely that a Hurricane will score on Monday night. There are only two players left that went to school in Coral Gables: Allen Bailey, a rookie defensive end for the Chiefs who's played in nine games, started none and recorded four tackles, and Vince Wilfork, veteran defensive tackle for the Pats who's inexplicably got two interceptions this season.

Wilfork's the best bet to score, but it'll almost certainly have to come on a fumble in the end zone or a red-zone interception. We've already seen Wilfork try to take on to the house this season, and it didn't work well.

So if you see Bill Belichick trot Wilfork out in a goal line formation during a late-game blowout, you know why. Of course, that alone would totally be worth seeing "The U" continue to tout itself as a producer of fine athletics.

Perhaps the craziest part of Miami alums not scoring? As pointed out Monday by my colleague Bruce Feldman, ex-Cane Kellen Winslow scored a touchdown but it was called back because he pushed off a defender. That defender was Sam Shields ... also a Miami alum.

6. The Jermaine Gresham Rule

I understand that Gresham actually fell victim to the "Calvin Johnson Rule" but he might deserve his subsection at the very least if/when the NFL addresses this disastrous rule.

See, the rule got the nickname when Calvin Johnson lost possession in the end zone. But that's the key -- he was in the end zone. Johnson caught the ball there and then lost it there. (Watch here at the 2:20 mark.)

Gresham, on the other hand, actually crossed the plain with possession. He had his feet in-bounds.

If he was a running back, we wouldn't have this issue, right? I'm pretty sure we wouldn't. Because possession would've been established (vis-a-vis the handoff, etc).

Technically, the officials got the call right, because Gresham lost possession as he fell to the ground, and he didn't make a "football-related move" inside the end zone.

But if you are in possession of the ball and cross the plain with said possession, that should be a done deal, right there. That's the reason why the goal line extends in hypothetical perpetuity. If a running back dives into the end zone over a big pile of people and fumbles after the ball's crossed the plain, it's a touchdown.

But if a wide receiver crosses the plain with possession of the ball, gets a freaking foot into the end zone and then doesn't maintain control all the way to the ground -- even if he had possession before he got into the end zone! -- it doesn't count?

Come on. That makes no sense. Let's fix it, please.

7. Chris Johnson Is 'Back,' Alright

Over the last week, I was repeatedly blistered by people who didn't believe me when I said that Chris Johnson was not "back" to his CJ2K form, despite a 130-yard rushing effort against the Panthers.

I watched that game closely, and what stood out to me was that Johnson's effort and burst and general running ability didn't mesh with the statistics he produced.

After Sunday's 23-17 loss to Atlanta, well, there's no question that Johnson's 2011 season remains lost. The Titans leading rusher in Week 11 was Matt Hasselbeck (one carry, 17 yards). Matt Ryan had a higher yards-per-carry average than Johnson. There were nine -- NINE! -- quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Johnson in Week 11, and it was almost ten as well as two on his own team:


If you take out Johnson's "long" run of the day, he finished with seven rushing yards on 11 carries. That's just flat-out embarrassing and any opponent with a modicum of rush defense can shut him down and make him ineffective.

That's really quite a shame, too, because Hasselbeck's renaissance season would be a lot more interesting with a rushing attack.

And while I'm doing rookie Jake Locker a disservice by not pointing out how good he was in backup duty for Tennessee, it's not as big a disservice as Johnson is doing to the team and the rookie quarterback who might have to overcome one of the most-talented backs in the NFL getting paid and totally disappearing from relevancy.

8. Moore Please

There's a fun little debate about whether the Dolphins, on a three-game winning streak that seemed unfathomable just, um, three weeks ago -- or the Bills -- on three-game losing streak after holding with the AFC East lead as late as the middle of October -- are the bigger story after Miami knocked Buffalo around 35-8.

But maybe the bigger story is the convergence of these two teams on a metaphorical NFL elevator, with the Dolphins trying their best to get out of the lobby and the Bills falling like Dennis Hopper rigged their ride.

To me, it might just be more about these two teams playing closer to what we expected. Buffalo's early-season run was an awesome storyline, but it was unsustainable, particularly with the loss of Eric Wood at center and Kyle Williams on the defensive line. Add in defenses figuring out that the Bills don't have a legit deep threat, and it's no surprise that they're not winning anymore.

Although considering the ridiculous amount of money they handed Ryan Fitzpatrick, they'd probably like to see something resembling offense. At least there aren't a ton of great quarterbacks in this upcoming draft class!

The Dolphins will likely be taking a quarterback at some point in the upcoming draft, but the question is how high they'll be picking, and that largely depends on how sustainable Matt Moore's current level of play under center is. Well, history tells us it's actually possible for him to succeed the rest of the way in.

In 2009, while playing with the Panthers, Moore stepped in for Jake Delhomme and closed out a lost season with a shocking 4-1 record for Carolina that saw him average 16 of 25 passing (62.7 percent) for 198 yards and two touchdowns per game. And that was in a John Fox offense, no less.

Don't expect him to backdoor the Pro Bowl or anything, but don't be surprised when the once-hapless Dolphins keep playing spoiler because Moore keeps streaking.

9. Best Draft Class ... Ever?

I've noted in this spot a couple times in the past few weeks that the 2011 NFL Draft class is one of the best we've seen in a long time, and maybe, dare I say, ever.

The first seven picks of the draft have been outstanding thus far into the season, and that doesn't even factor in Andy Dalton or DeMarco Murray, who might be the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year honors.

Well, two more guys made their mark on Sunday for this class.

Jake Locker entered the game for an injured Matt Hasselbeck against the Falcons on Sunday, and proceeded to nearly lead the Titans to a comeback, completing nine of 19 passes for 140 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Atlanta was up 23-3 at the time, so it's not like they were playing their opening-game defense, but Locker looked darn good in relief duty and the Titans should be excited, even though Hasselbeck will remain the starter.

Prince Amukamara, who the Giants took at 19th overall when he fell past Houston, made his first start on Sunday and also picked up his first career interception, while generally looking like a veteran against the Eagles. And yes, it still counts as an interception, even if Vince Young threw it.

10. Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

Early in the season, the Thanksgiving games contained only a little bit of drama, thanks to the Harbaugh family reunion in Baltimore. But suddenly we've got three of the best games in the NFL taking place on Thursday, and one of the most memorable Turkey Day slates we've seen in a while.

All six teams playing on Thursday won on Sunday and, collectively, those six teams are on a 26-game winning streak this season.

The Lions and Packers square off with Detroit getting its first shot at ending the Packers undefeated season, the Cowboys have a shot at really generating some separation in the NFC East as they host the inexplicably hot Dolphins and the Ravens/49ers square off to determine who gets all the pie at the Harbaugh household.

It's a collection of three fantastic games and it's almost enough to make me boycott my family's lunch-time festivities away from electronics. Thank goodness for DVR. And 200-person pot-luck lunches.

MUFFED PUNTS

Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Cam Newton set the rookie record for rushing touchdowns on Sunday (twice, technically) as he's got nine on the season now.
... Aaron Rodgers is just the second quarterback in history to throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in his team's first 10 games; the other was Tom Brady in 2007.
... 2011 is the first season in NFL history to feature three quarterbacks with 3,000 yards and 20 or more touchdowns through 10 games, as Rodgers, Drew Brees and Brady all met the criteria this year.
... The Dolphins became just the third team in NFL history to win three straight games after losing their first seven or more games.
... After Keloah Pilares' TD return, six 100-yard kick returns have happened so far in 2011, which is one short of the NFL record.
... The Lions became the first team in NFL history to record three comebacks of more than 17 points in a single season on Sunday.

WORTH 1,000 WORDS


GIF O' THE WEEK

No Michael Vick and too many Vince Young interceptions make Andy Reid go something-something.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Mike Shanahan: Six losses in a row for the Redskins, who showed some promise by only losing in overtime. Or something.
  • Norv Turner -- The Chargers keep collapsing and there's nothing promising about their schedule. Three games against Jacksonville, Denver and Buffalo have to mean 2-1 at worst, or it might be time for Turner to move on.
  • Todd Haley: If the Pats whip the Chiefs on Monday night while the Raiders and Broncos keep winning, his seat just gets warmer.
  • Jim Caldwell: The Colts were upset by their bye. What can I say?
  • Steve Spagnuolo: I don't really understand the heat, but it's there.
  • Tom Coughlin: Also don't understand this heat, but let's just go ahead and get out front on this before the fans do.

Chasing Andrew Luck

Colts (-1000): Haha, but no really, they were upset by their bye. Do you see?
Vikings (+125): See: below.
Panthers (+150): The Colts have to win two games.
Rams (+250): Again, it would require the Colts winning games.
Redskins (+300): If only they hadn't won three games early.

MVP Watch

Despite playing -- ahem -- "poorly," Aaron Rodgers is still the clear-cut favorite to win the MVP at season's end. I'm not sure what it would take to derail him, but I think it's probably an injury and an injury only. Tom Brady's got a shot to come from the outside because he's Tom Brady and the Pats schedule stinks, but if the Packers go undefeated, he won't have a chance. Meanwhile, I still like Tony Romo to get darkhorse candidacy by Week 14. Maybe we should just talk about the other awards.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:42 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 8:30 pm
 

NFL fines Flacco $7.5K for horse-collar tackle

If the NFL has a fine schedule why were Polamalu and Flacco given different fines for the same offense? (Getty Images/AP)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

No one, it seems, is immune to the the long arm of the NFL law responsible for handing out punishments to weekly rules-breakers. The latest unlikely target to end up in the league's crosshairs: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was fined $7,500 for his horse-collar tackle on the Seahawks' David Hawthorne last weekend.

Only knowing this, you might think, "Good. The league doesn't consider quarterbacks, its most prized possession, above the rules."

Sort of. For starters, Flacco gets fewer roughing-the-passer calls than almost every other quarterback in the league. So it's not like he's Tom Brady or Drew Brees when it comes to officials giving him the benefit of the doubt

But then there's this: Flacco's fine was half what the NFL fined Troy Polmalu for his horse-collar tackle on Ravens running back Ricky Williams. And before you note that the league punishes repeat offenders more heavily than first-timers, the Polamalu-on-Williams crime took place in Week 1.

It seems like the NFL is arbitrarily handing out fines. "But the NFL has a fine schedule," you might point out. "One that explicitly lays out how much players can expect to fork over for every infraction." 

Well let's take a look. Under the heading "Player Safety Rules and/or Flagrant Personal Foul (including, without limitation)" is the following:
Horse Collar Tackle: $15,000 / $30,000
We take this to mean that a first offense will cost you $15,000 and subsequent offenses will cost you $30,000.

So why was Flacco fined $7,500?

A league source tells CBSSports.com that Flacco was a first-time offender, and the minimum fine for first-time offenders is $7,500. While it may have been Polamalu's first fine of the season, he had been fined previously. Flacco had not.

Here are the two penalties:


Polamalu horse-collars Williams during Week 1.


Flacco horse-collars Hawthorne during Week 10.

The story here isn't that one player was fined more than another for the same offense, it's that the league appears to haphazardly assign punishments. We've said it countless times before, but here goes, once more: if the idea is to reduce personal-foul penalties, shouldn't the sanctions be transparent and crystal clear? Because otherwise, no one knows what's deemed legal and what isn't and you end up with situations like, say, this (and this).

Put another way: the league views Flacco's offense to be as egregious as what Browns guard Shawn Lauvao did to Brian Cushing last week. Lauvao was fined $7,500 for head-butting Cushing, which opened up a blood-gushing gash on the Texans linebacker's face.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com