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Tag:LaDainian Tomlinson
Posted on: January 20, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: January 20, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Steelers vs. Jets: 7-Point Championship Preview

Posted by Josh Katzowitz



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As a bonus, enjoy our playoff podcast preview:



1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 13-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 2, AFC, 13-4)

For the second-straight season, the Jets somehow have risen from a Wild Card team to a squad that will play in the AFC championship game with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Last year, they fell to the Colts. This year, though, they’re riding a big hot streak, having knocked off Indianapolis and then the formerly-invincible Patriots, and they’re looking for their first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are coming off a nice come-from-behind victory against the Ravens last week. Like the Jets beating the Patriots, Pittsburgh exerted a ton of energy, rallying to beat their biggest rival for the second time this season. There’s been some talk about emotional letdowns, especially on the Jets side, but this one is for a Super Bowl berth. An emotional letdown, like Jets coach Rex Ryan would say, is impossible.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



Both AFC games last week were great matchups and featured great results. It’ll be hard for this one to top those. Maybe I’m the one who is emotionally let down, but 3.5 Mora Faces is the max rating.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets secondary vs. Steelers WRs

Last week, the Jets shut down the Patriots WRs. New England couldn’t create separation, and at times, QB Tom Brady was stuck holding the ball for 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 seconds before having to scramble because his receivers simply could not get open.

The Steelers will have to do a better job than that. Assuming Jets CB Darrelle Revis – who has dominated Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne and New England’s Deion Branch so far in the playoffs – matches up against WR Hines Ward, don’t expect Ward to have much of an impact. In the Steelers Week 15 matchup against New York, Ward was targeted only three times and caught two passes for 34 yards.

That means the speedy Mike Wallace will have to be the game-changer for Pittsburgh. He’s had a big season, catching 60 passes for 1,257 yards and 10 TDs in the regular season. We assume Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, also a rather speedy fellow, will attend to him. Thing is with Cromartie: sometimes he’s great, like last week, and sometimes he’s very beatable, like with Colts WR Pierre Garcon two weeks ago.

Hell, Cromartie might be the biggest factor of all. Especially if Ben Roethlisberger tries to avoid Revis and, instead, targets Cromartie. Hey, at least Cromartie didn’t call Roethlisberger an a------.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

If Revis makes Ward somewhat irrelevant in the passing game, the Steelers WR still can be a nuisance on the field. Ask Bart Scott about that this video, featuring Ward’s greatest hits.



5. The Jets will win if ...

They can get big-time production from both running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Tomlinson, after a swoon in the second half of the season, has run well the first two rounds of the playoffs, and Greene has rushed for 77 and 70 yards in the two games. If Greene can inch closer to the 100-yard mark and Tomlinson can average about 5 yards a carry, that would keep the ball out of the hands of Rashard Mendenhall and Roethlisberger for much of the game and bring the Jets a win.

6. The Steelers will win if ...

They can pound and pressure Mark Sanchez for much of the day. Yes, Sanchez threw three touchdown passes last week, but he still has struggled – for the past two weeks – with his accuracy. The Steelers have plenty of defenders (ahem, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley) who can harass Sanchez and make him have to release the ball too early. Which certainly won’t help his aim.

7. Prediction: Jets 20, Steelers 17
Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:44 pm
 

Hot Routes 01.18.11: Celebration motivation

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • If you want to see George Atallah and Kevin Mawae discuss the labor situation live on the internets, you can do so here.
  • CBSSports.com's Bryan D. Fischer talks to the NCAA's Julie Roe Lach about compliance and agents. If you don't think this affects the NFL, you're not thinking.
  • And because I think you should really, really read this, I'm linking another CBSSports.com article. Deal with it. (But, no seriously, if you haven't read Gregg Doyel's take on the Aaron Rodgers saga, you need to do so right now.)
Posted on: January 16, 2011 9:27 pm
 

Jets make good on their trash-talking vs. Pats

C. Pace forces a fumble on T. Brady in New York's win (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Are the Jets classless? Maybe, depending on what part of the country you reside. Is Rex Ryan a buffoon who is little better than a carnival barker? Perhaps, though you can’t deny the guy is one hell of a coach as well. Was it possible for the Jets to beat the Patriots on two weeks of rest at Gillette Stadium? Absolutely not.

Until, of course, the Jets took the field this afternoon and confused New England’s offense while out-toughing the Patriots defense.

So, the final question is this? Are the Jets, for the second straight season, heading to the AFC championship game? The answer a resounding yes.

Some people will point to the fact New England hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2007 AFC championship and will proclaim that the Patriots are a team full of chokers. But that’s simply not accurate.

After a week of trash-talking, the Jets backed up their woofing and came through with the 28-21 win. It was the Jets playing extraordinarily well and forcing the Patriots into a game of unease and inconsistency. It was the Jets and not New England

You might not like Ryan or the Jets. But you have to admit that their showing today was one of the best clutch performances of the season by anybody.

“Everybody else never believed in us; we believed,” Ryan told reporters at his postgame news conference. “We worked too hard to get back here. We felt we were the better team. Clearly, that Monday night game (when the Patriots won 45-3), we weren’t, but I knew if we played the way we were capable of playing, we could beat them.”

The Jets defense today completely confused Tom Brady, who was unsure of himself throughout the game and finished 29 of 45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and the first INT in his last 360 attempts. Honestly, those stats make him look better than he played, because he had a tough time.

The New York defensive backs were dominant against the Patriots receivers, and the Jets defensive line blasted through the New England front five for five sacks. The Patriots, simply put, never got in sync. Which Brady admitted afterward.

“They spun the dial pretty good on their pressures and coverages,” he said. “We felt like we were fighting hard to gain yards.”

Said Ryan: “We felt we had a good plan. But the plans are useless without great plays from your players. Our guys bought in. They did a great job. It was total effort there on defense, from the pass rush to the second level to the deep guys.”

While Jets QB Mark Sanchez was still a little underwhelming – his inaccuracy in the first half, much like the opening two quarters of the Colts game last week, was stunning – he managed the game well enough (he's also led his team to the AFC championship twice in his only two seaons, so bully for him). And he got help with a wonderful fourth-quarter TD catch from Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone (one knee equals two feet!), and the running game with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson was more than solid.

After the game, Patriots WR Deion Branch told reporters that some of the Jets were classless, and yeah, Jets WR Braylon Edwards didn’t come off so well when he told the NFL Network, “Nobody gave us a chance. Everybody who was on the Patriots’ jock, take that.”

But after the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Ryan shared a long hug at the middle of the field. On this day at least, Ryan didn’t have to kiss Belichick’s rings. On this day, his was the better team.

“We talk because we believe in ourselves,” Ryan said. “That’s where the talk comes from. There’s a huge amount of respect we have for New England. That’s a great franchise. But we’re not afraid of anybody. Maybe people take it the wrong way, but we don’t try to bad-mouth an opponent. But we don’t fear anybody. We came here on a mission. We’re trying to win a Super Bowl.”



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Posted on: January 13, 2011 1:24 am
Edited on: January 13, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Patriots vs. Jets: 7-Point Divisional Preview

Posted by Andy Benoit



CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. As an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:



1. New York Jets (No. 6, AFC, 12-5) @ New England Patriots (No. 1, AFC, 14-2)

The regular season’s undisputed champion begins the final chapter for a fourth Lombardi Trophy by hosting the preseason’s self-proclaimed undisputed champion. The Jets are responsible for one of the Patriots’ two losses on the season (Week 2 at the New Meadowlands), though revenge was already administered by the Pats in that 45-3 November Monday night thumping.

Still, you can bet the Patriots will come out focused and hungry (or with something to prove or with a chip on their shoulder or whatever hollow cliché you prefer). These AFC East foes both know their opponent and, after the Jets stifled the Colt offense by refusing to blitz Peyton Manning, are capable of debuting a freshly-minted, never-before-seen gameplan for this decisive rubber match.

2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking



On the field, the Patriots are the most interesting team in football once again. Off the field, the Jets are, so it's a near-miss Five Mora Face ranking.

3. Key Matchup to Watch: Jets run offense vs. Patriots run defense

In that Monday night thrashing, Tom Brady carved up the Jets by exploiting their iffy nickel and dime backs (Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery). Confident and fond of his defense as he may be, Rex Ryan knows that the best way to slow Brady this time will be to keep him off the field (just like the Jets did during the second half against Manning).

You control the ball by running. The Jets stayed on the ground 38 times for 169 yards at Indianapolis. Of course, there is a considerable difference between running against the undersized Colts front seven and running against the oversized unit of the Patriots. Normally, the Patriots prefer to align Vince Wilfork in the opponent’s favorite run gap. Against the Jets, that would mean putting the “325-pounder” at left defensive end. Of course, the Jets may be less inclined to follow their usual “run to the right” formula now that tackle Damien Woody is on IR.

For matchup purposes, Bill Belichick may be tempted to put Wilfork outside so as to capitalize on the mismatch against Woody’s replacement, Wayne Hunter. Hunter is a superb athlete but he hasn’t always shown consistent raw power. However, Mike Wright and Ron Brace’s trips to injured reserve depleted New England’s depth up front. Veteran end Gerard Warren has been a decent starter alongside rotating rookies Brandon Deaderick (seventh-round pick), Kyle Love (undrafted) and Landon Cohen (undrafted), but with these men starting, the Patriots have been less variegated with their front-three looks.

If Wilfork remains at nose tackle, expect the Jets to run away from him – i.e. outside. Because tight end Dustin Keller is a glorified slot receiver (not unlike New England’s Aaron Hernandez), Brian Schottenheimer may be inclined to bring Robert Turner off the bench for more six-man offensive line formations. Even if the Jets can win in the trenches, their running backs still must make plays against the athletic Patriot linebackers. Usually Nick Mangold is at the second level to help pave a path, but Wilfork will give him more to deal with than most nose tackles.

Beating New England’s linebackers is a tall order for the Jets runners. LaDainian Tomlinson is coming off his best career playoff game, but neither he nor Shonn Greene has the quickness and elusiveness to make a beast like Jerod Mayo miss.

4. Potentially Relevant Video

For all the denigration of the Jets after the Sal Alosi episode, you might want to take a look at this seven-year old video of Bill Belichick’s crafty sideline ploy against Marvin Harrison.



5. The Jets will win if ...

Mark Sanchez (the franchise’s all-time winningest postseason quarterback, believe it or not) is more accurate than he was last week. That’s not all, of course (not even close). New York must bog down in the red zone (figure they won’t be able to prevent Brady and company from racking up yards between the 20s) and shift field position at least twice (via special teams or a forced turnover).

6. The Patriots will win if ...

Brady gets in his usual rhythm working out of the shotgun spread (a formation that naturally limits the presnap disguises that Ryan’s defense is built around).

7. Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 20



Posted on: January 2, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: January 2, 2011 11:48 am
 

Week 17 AFC Inactives

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

First, those who ARE active: Browns RB Peyton Hillis, Steelers S Troy Polamalu, Ravens TE Todd Heap

And those who are INACTIVE:

A whole mess of Jets starters, including CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and RB Shonn Greene.

A whole mess of Patriots starters, including LB Tully Banta-Cain, WR Deion Branch, TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Wes Welker.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: He missed three practice this week with a bad knee.

Dan Connolly, G, Patriots: Hasn't been seen since his amazing near-TD kickoff return with a head injury.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals: For a guy who might be playing his last game with Cincinnati, this is a quiet way to go out.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: December 23, 2010 12:04 pm
 

Vick dominating holiday season jersey sales

Posted by Andy Benoit
M. Vick (US Presswire)
We all know Michael Vick’s popularity has surged in recent weeks – the Pro Bowl fan vote tallies tell us that. It’s one thing to vote for a player; it’s another to spend money on him. Below is perhaps the greatest piece of evidence that football fans (and perhaps only football fans) have not just forgiven Vick but have embraced him. Via Philly.com is a list of the 10 highest selling jerseys in the NFL during the holiday shopping season (i.e. the past four weeks). Three of those ten jerseys belong to Vick. Here's the list (courtesy of Philly.com): 

1. Michael Vick replica (jade)

2. Mark Sanchez replica team (green)

3. Michael Vick youth replica (white)

4. Hakeem Nicks replica team (blue)

5. Peyton Manning toddler/child (royal)

6. Eli Manning (blue)

7. Troy Polamalu (black)

8. LaDainian Tomlinson (green)

9. Michael Vick (black)

10. Troy Polamalu replica (black)

Jersey sales offer a different perspective on a player’s popularity than Q ratings and opinion polls. Generally, a person only shells out $100 for a jersey if they’re a hardcore fan of a particular team. That’s why four players from the big-market New York teams made the list. And it’s no surprise that Troy Polamalu, the star of football’s most popular team (aside from the Cowboys), is on there twice. Philadelphia is a big market, but it’s behind New York, Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: December 20, 2010 2:11 am
Edited on: December 20, 2010 4:07 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 15

Posted by Andy Benoit

1.) Miracle at the New Meadowlands

The Miracle at the Meadowlands – Herman Edwards’ last second fumble recovery and score in the Eagles’ stunning 1978 win at New York – will never be forgotten. But at the end of the day, that legendary sequence was more a consequence of Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka’s sloppiness than it was a great play.
D. Jackson (US Presswire)
The Miracle at the New Meadowlands was more about the brilliance of DeSean Jackson. There isn’t a more electrifying player in football than the third-year receiver from Cal. Jackson is what the Chicago Bears were hoping to get when they made Devin Hester a wide receiver; no player is as lethal on both offense and special teams. Not only does Jackson have long-striding speed and uncanny change-of-direction, but, as he showed after initially fumbling Matt Dodge’s line drive punt, he has t he acceleration of a Porsche.

Of course, after seeing the phrase “Matt Dodge’s line drive punt”, it’s hard to argue that sloppy play did not factor into the Miracle at the New Meadowlands, as well. During Jackson’s return, right before he alertly – though albeit unnecessarily – ran out the clock by running along the goal-line before taking it in, you could see Tom Coughlin throw his notepad to the ground in disgust. Coughlin then immediately ran onto the field and got in Dodge’s face.

But Coughlin should have been getting in GM Jerry Reese’s face. The bottom line question is, Why is Dodge even on the team? Yes, it’s easy for a sportswriter to look at the results and throw a punter – or, as Coughlin reminded everyone in the postgame press conference, a “young punter” –under the bus after an epically disastrous play, but anyone who has followed the Giants this season knows that Dodge’s lack of poise, hangtime and directional-ability have been major issues.

In fact, right before the punt, Troy Aikman commented about how Coughlin told the FOX production staff before the game that Dodge is not at a point in his career where you can ask him to kick a ball directionally. Wait a minute. Directional kicking…that IS punting. A punter who can’t kick directionally is the same as a quarterback who can’t throw or a shooting guard who can’t dribble or a striker who take a dive and fake an injury. If Dodge can’t handle directional kicking, he shouldn’t be in the NFL. The Giants have been learning that lesson the hard way this season – none harder than Sunday night.



2.) The buried stories

Whenever there’s a discussion about where the ending of a game ranks among all-time endings, the other storylines from that game inevitably get buried. We can’t let that happen with this Giants-Eagles classic. There are two storylines that HAVE to be examined.

First, the amazing Michael Vick. His fourth quarter alone chopped the defensive playbooks of Philly’s remaining 2010 opponents in half, as no team is going to risk playing man coverage against him again this season. With Giant defenders often turning their backs to the line of scrimmage and running downfield with the speedy Eagle wideouts, Vick was able to exploit rushing lanes that at times looked wider than the Jersey Turnpike. Vick, who finished with 130 yards on 10 carries, also created plenty of lanes himself. The Giants front seven swarmed the Eagles early on, but as the Giant pass-rush grew tired and the Eagles, trailing by 21 midway through the fourth, grew desperate, Vick was able to fall back on his instincts. What made him unstoppable in the fourth was that those instincts still involve keeping his eyes downfield and hitting the open receiver. That wasn’t the case four years ago. Vick killed the Giants with his legs Sunday, but his legs were deadlier because the Giants had to worry about his arm (and for good reason: Vick threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns). M. Vick (US Presswire)

The other story from this game: Andy Reid. Can you imagine the maelstrom of criticism Reid would face back in Philly this week if the Eagles had lost this game? He’ll still probably face the criticism – and deservedly so.

In the first half, backed up on their own 18 and with less than 30 seconds to play, Reid allowed his team to throw. Jeremy Maclin caught a quick slant but promptly fumbled, giving the Giants possession at the eight-yard line. It was the exact scenario that inspires most coaches to take a knee or run the ball in that situation. Even more bizarre than the awful decision to throw was that, just one play earlier, Philadelphia had run the ball in what appeared to be an effort to drain the clock.

It took New York one eight-yard pass to convert their golden opportunity into a touchdown and 24-3 lead (Hakeem Nicks beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson; Patterson had a nightmarish game that, unfortunately, will prevent most casual fans from recognizing that the fifth-year veteran has been stellar if not spectacular since becoming a starter for the first time last month).

Reid’s second blunder was not challenging the DeSean Jackson fumble early in the fourth quarter. Reid has always been one to roll the dice with his challenges – sometimes even when the odds of success are about as good as the odds of rolling snake eyes – but for whatever reason, he kept the red flag firmly in his grasp after that play, almost as if that particular flag was a personal keepsake item. FOX’s 47th replay of the Jackson fumble (and 17th replay in super slow motion, which everybody loves) confirmed what the first replay had shown: Reid should have challenged.



3.) The other New York-Pennsylvania showdown

Imagine how heartbroken the Big Apple would be had Ben Roethlisberger’s final two passes not been incomplete Sunday evening. The Steelers, trailing the Jets 22-17, had two chances to sling the ball into the end zone for a late fourth quarter win, but New York’s D finally regained its stifling nature at the most critical juncture.
M. Sanchez (US Presswire)
A win on the road against an AFC power halts all the worry about Rex Ryan’s club. This was a game that, aside from Brad Smith’s opening kickoff return touchdown return, was devoid of big plays. There were no turnovers or explosive completions. Rather, it was two teams fistfighting in snow flurries for 60 minutes (or, since we’re not counting Smith’s touchdown, 59 minutes and 48 seconds.)

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer protected Mark Sanchez with more bubble screens and quick-strike play-calls, and in turn, Sanchez responded with a solid 19/29, 170-yard performance. Crafty play-calling – like the fake handoff-Sanchez bootleg on fourth-and-goal late in the third, or the direct snap to LaDainian Tomlinson on third-and-six midway through the fourth – also helped the offense regain its rhythm.

A big part of the Jets rhythm, of course, is running the ball. They became the second team in 47 games to top the century mark against a Steelers run defense that has allowed an historic 63.4 yards per game this season. The absence of strong safety Troy Polamalu was certainly a factor. The Steelers give up roughly 1.5 yards more per carry when their superstar is out of the lineup. They also force an average of one fewer turnovers per game and surrender an extra 10 points. Overall, Pittsburgh has now lost seven of its last 12 without Polamalu.



4.) Told you so

The last two weeks we’ve talked about how there’s no reason to worry in Indy. Well…see? “Colts 34, Jaguars 2R. Mathis (US Presswire)4” is not a super accurate portrayal of the action from Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Field. If not for Mike Thomas’s conniving fake fair catch punt return for a score in the second quarter, this game probably would have ended up a blowout. (Can’t blame Thomas for being conniving on that play – if you can get away with it, then hey, by all means. Of course, the football gods didn’t seem amused. A little later in the game, Thomas botched a punt in which Indy’s new special teams playmaker Taj Smith ran into him before he could secure a fair catch. Thomas fumbled and the Colts recovered. However, the officials correctly ruled that Jacksonville cornerback Derek Cox had blocked Smith into Thomas. Thus, the fumble stood and the Colts got possession.)

Peyton Manning was surgical for a second consecutive game. He hit 29/39 for229 yards and two scores. His favorite target in the first half was Austin Collie, who caught eight balls for 87 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back after missing five weeks with a concussion. That Collie, a bourgeoning slot receiver, left in the third quarter after sustaining another terrifying concussion (he was knocked out going low for a ball over the middle – just like on the Week 9 play against the Eagles) is, at best, unfortunate and at worst, tragic. Only time will tell on Collie’s football future.

The Collie injury was the only true blemish on the afternoon for the Colts. The defense was simply too fast for the Jaguar offense. Maurice Jones-Drew was held to 46 yards rushing. David Garrard got hot for a series or two in the third quarter but had a costly interception to Antoine Bethea on an overthrown deep ball. Dwight Freeney may have turned in the most dominating zero-sack, zero-tackle performance in NFL history. And, on the other side of the ball, Donald Brown capitalized on gaping holes in the Jaguar defense, registering runs of 43 and 49 yards (a career high for Brown and season-high for the Colts).

Indianapolis is now 8-6 and still in control of its own destiny. Standing between them and a ninth consecutive postseason appearance are the 7-7 Raiders and 6-8 Titans.




5.) The Chosen One finally starts

As a contributor to a mainstream media outlet, I am required by law to preface all Tim Tebow stories with tT. Tebow (US Presswire)he following message:

Tim Tebow is a leader. He is special. He’s a warrior who loves to compete. He is young but already respected by teammates. He works hard and fights hard and loves the game. Coaches love him. But not as much as he loves them back. He is a high-character, team-first guy. And he’s not a quarterback…he’s a football player who happens to play quarterback. What a perfect human being.

So how was the miracle-working rookie in his first NFL start? Actually, not bad. Yes, the Broncos lost. But that was only because they gave up 264 yards on the ground (201 in the first half). Tebow himself was solid. In fact, he was solid enough for offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to be second-guessed: why didn’t McCoy let the rookie throw more? Tebow attempted just 16 passes, completing eight of them. The lefty showed surprising zip on the ball, particularly outside the numbers. And he exhibited fluid athleticism. Best of all was that there were no glaring glitches in his mechanics.

The conservativeness of Denver’s gameplan was best illustrated in the four quarterback draws that were called on third and long. Teams never call a quarterback draw on third-and-plus-five. Perhaps there were so many draws called because Tebow took a third-and-24 to the house for a 40-yard touchdown early on. The ex-Florida Gator is no Mike Vick, but it looks like his running ability will transfer well enough to the pro level after all.

There was one play in particular that ought to make Bronco fans optimistic about the future: on second and 11 at the Oakland 33, Tebow dropped back and lofted a deep floater to the back right corner of the end zone. The ball should have been picked off by either Stanford Routt or Michael Huff, but instead, it dropped into the arms of Brandon Lloyd, who was laying on the ground, barely inbounds. In short, the touchdown was a miracle sent from Heaven. (Or, at least it was a miracle once the officials reviewed it and reversed their initial ruling of incomplete pass.)



6.) The other ex-Gator who startedR. Grossman (US Presswire)

We could fill an entire week’s worth of Football Podcasts talking about the appropriateness of benching Donovan McNabb and then parading him out to midfield as a captain for the opening coin toss. At best, it was an awkward situation. Perhaps it was just a paperwork error. Can’t you just imagine Mike Shanahan seeing his captains walk to midfield and turning pale upon the realization that he forgot to have his secretary replace the McNabb file with the Cooley file (figure Cooley would be Washington’s new offensive captain, considering center Casey Rabach is too mediocre to wear the badge, Santana Moss is too self-centered and Rex Grossman is too Rex Grossmany).
 
The coin toss was the extent of McNabb’s on-field contributions – the rest of the day belonged to Grossman. Because seven previous years of creative turnovers, injuries and mental mistakes aren’t enough for the Redskins brass to gauge whether a player can be the long-term solution for their club, Sunday’s game was an audition for Grossman. He tied his career high with four touchdowns, but he also had three of his patented turnovers, including the one to Terence Newman that secured a loss in the final minute.

There was a stretch in the mid-to-late second half where Grossman was in command and digging his team all the way out of a 16-point hole, but too often when checking in on this game, viewers saw a quarterback jogging off the field looking unnervingly sheepish. But hey, no one is questioning the man’s cardio vascular endurance.



7.) Chiefs show something in Show Me State showdown


Okay, so Week 15 only confirmed that the NFC West would probably have trouble even sending one of its current four teams to a BCS bowl this year. The Seahawks benched quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the second half of their 34-18 loss to the Falcons. (By the way, kudos to Atlanta for going cross-country to get their third straight road win.) The 49ers almost benched their quarterback in a 37-7 loss to the Chargers Thursday night. And the Cardinals wound up goiJ. Charles (US Presswire)ng with their third-string quarterback, John Skelton, in their 19-12 loss to the previously 1-12 Panthers.

So maybe it’s not all that impressive that the Chiefs went into St. Louis and beat the “least awful” team of the NFC West 27-13. Except that it IS impressive. Matt Cassel played just 10 days after having his appendix removed. No longer carrying around that extra weight, Cassel seemed even more eager to run. He scrambled six times for 17 yards, showing no fear of contact whatsoever. The 17 yards left Cassel with 109 fewer yards than Jamaal Charles, who upped his yards-per-carry average to 6.4 on the season. That 6.4 would tie him with Jim Brown for the all-time single season record. Charles battled cramps throughout much of the afternoon. Fortunately, he’s only one of the heads in this monster backfield; Thomas Jones gained 62 yards on 22 carries.

More impressive than the Chief offense was the Chief defense. It gave up two long drives to open the game, though both ended in field goals. The rest of the day, rising young cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr stifled the Ram receivers. End Wallace Gilberry dominated in passing situations, recording three sacks and two hits on the quarterback. The stats don’t show it, but Tamba Hali played up to his Pro Bowl standard (too bad voters don’t see Chiefs games as often as they see Steelers games; the fifth-year pro is unlikely to beat out James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley).

This was virtually a must-win for the Chiefs. A loss would have dropped them to 8-6 and behind San Diego in the AFC West. The Chargers would have then had to beat Cincinnati and Denver to clinch the division title. As for the Rams, the loss keeps them in a first-place tie with their Week 17 opponent, Seattle. The loss also means that the 49ers are now the first team in NFL history to have a 5-9 record and still control its own playoff destiny. The NFC West: it’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.



8.) Quick Hits

**Cris Collinsworth summed it up best: it took 59 minutes, but Matt Flynn’s inexperience finally reared its ugly head Sunday night.

**The loss in Foxboro wasn’t all bad for the Packers, as they still control their own destiny. A R. Rice (US Presswire)win at home against the Giants next week puts them in the wild card driver’s seat. A byproduct of Flynn starting was that Green Bay was forced to conjure up a rushing attack. John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson were stellar, thanks in large part to a powerful front five.

**The FOX production team for the Falcons-Seahawks game passed along a statistical gem: as of halftime of Sunday’s contest, Matt Ryan has been blitzed 195 times, which is second most in the NFL. Against the blitzed, he’s been sacked five times, which is fewest in the NFL.

**Terrell Owens is out for the season after tearing his meniscus. According to Pro Football Talk, the Bengals seriously considered deactivating Owens for the final three games. They’re sick of his attitude. Owens won’t be in Cincy next year. Considering how things are ending there and how no other team wanted the guy when he was a free agent this past offseason, it’s possible that Sunday was the last game of Owens’ career.

**Randy Moss didn’t catch a pass (again), but he had an excellent block on Chris Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown run in the first half of Tennessee’s win over the team that I’m guessing Bill Cowher will coach in 2011.

**Have to admit, I didn’t get a chance to see the Lions-Bucs game (the NFL, for some reason, slotted 10 games in the early window and only three in the late window, making it impossible to keep up with every bit of the early action). Without yet reviewing the stories and stats, my guess is all the injuries are catching up to the young Bucs.

**It came in a losing effort, but linebacker Daryl Smith was all over the field for Jacksonville Sunday.

**The Ravens will be a tough out if the Ray Rice from Sunday continues to show up. The third-year pro has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, pressing too hard in an effort to live up to astronomical preseason expectations. Rice relaxed against the Saints, though, 153 yards rushing and another 80 through the air.



9.) My Pro Bowl ballot, offense


For some reason, the NFL ends Pro Bowl voting two weeks before the season itself ends. So, I was compelled to cast my Pro Bowl ballot before the December 20 deadline (voting closes at the conclusion of the Chicago-Minnesota game).
Below is my ballot, with explanations for players that I’m anticipating you might complain about.
*starter

Quarterback
AFC

Tom Brady, Patriots *
Peyton Manning; Colts
Philip Rivers, Chargers

NFC
Michael Vick, Eagles *
Drew Brees, Saints
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
 
Running Back
AFC

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars *
Arian Foster, Texans
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

If the Jags make the playoffs, MJD deserves serious MVP consideration. In addition to nearly 100 yards per game rushing, he’s arguably the league’s best all-around back in passing situations.)

NFC
Michael Turner, Falcons *
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
LeSean McCoy, Eagles

Would love to go with Steven Jackson, but McCoy’s drastic improvements as a pass-blocker and receiver are too hard to overlook.

Fullback
AFC
Greg Jones, Jaguars *

NFC
Ovie Mughelli, Falcons *

Wide Receiver
AFC

Andre Johnson, Texans *
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos *
Reggie Wayne, Colts
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs

T.O.’s numbers are too largely a product of coverage floated towards Chad Ochocinco. Santonio Holmes didn’t play quite enough games. Wayne has better numbers than Lloyd, but Lloyd was the tougher cover for defenders this season.

NFC
Roddy White, Falcons *
DeSean Jackson, Eagles *
Greg Jennings, Packers
Calvin Johnson, Lions

The Saints spread the ball around too much for me to choose Marques Colston over these other bona fide No. 1 receivers.

Tight End
AFC

Antonio Gates, Chargers *
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs

The rookie Moeaki is already one of the best all-around blockers in the NFL. That said, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight if you argued that Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis deserves the nod here.

NFC
Chris Cooley, Redskins *
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

Jason Witten is a warrior, but Cooley made more catches in critical situations. Gonzalez’s blocking has been crucial to Atlanta’s power run game.

Offensive Tackle
AFC
Matt Light, Patriots *
Joe Thomas, Browns *
Michael Roos, Titans

D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a tad too inconsistent as a power blocker. Too many times this season Ryan Clady hasn’t looked like himself. Marcus McNeil held out the first half of the year.

NFC
Chad Clifton, Packers *
Jason Peters, Eagles *
Rodger Saffold, Rams

Guard
AFC
Ryan Lilja, Chiefs *
Kris Dielman, Chargers *
Ben Grubbs, Ravens

NFC
Carl Nicks, Saints *
Todd Herremans, Eagles *
Chris Snee, Giants

Jahri Evans has been unusually mistake-prone this season. It doesn’t help that this is a great year for NFC guards. Davin Joseph deserves consideration, and I wouldn’t say Steve Hutchinson isn’t still viable.

Center
AFC
Nick Mangold, Jets *
Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers

NFC
Olin Kreutz, Bears *
Scott Wells, Packers

Shaun O’Hara is actually the leading vote-getter here, but he’s played barely one-fourth of New York’s games this season. This doesn’t mean that fans tend to be bias with their votes, does it?



10.) My Pro Bowl ballot, defense

Defensive End
AFC

Dwight Freeney, Colts *
Robert Mathis, Colts *
Jason Babin, Titans

Injuries hindered Mario Williams too much this season. The NFL Pro Bowl ballot lists Jets DE Shaun Ellis as a DT (which will probably cost him a trip to Hawaii).

NFC
Trent Cole, Eagles *
Justin Tuck, Giants *
Julius Peppers, Bears

Peppers hasn’t posted a ton of sacks, but the attention he’s drawn week in and week out is what has allowed the Bears defense to recapture its swagger. If you consider run defense and operating within the confines of a defensive scheme, Cole and Tuck are the two best all-around ends in the NFC.

Defensive Tackle
AFC
Haloti Ngata, Ravens *
Vince Wilfork, Patriots *
Richard Seymour, Raiders

NFC
Ndamukong Suh, Lions *
Jonathan Babineaux, Falcons *
Fred Robbins, Rams

Kevin Williams was unusually quiet for most of the first 10 weeks or so. Same goes for Jay Ratliff.

Outside Linebacker
AFC

Tamba Hali, Chiefs *
Cameron Wake, Dolphins *
Shaun Phillips, Chargers

I’ve been dreading this one for weeks because I figured at least one Steeler would get left off. Then I discovered that it’s not four OLB’s on the Pro Bowl ballot – it’s three. Ouch. No Terrell Suggs. No James Harrison. No LaMarr Woodley. All three are legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidates. But so are the three guys listed above. Take any of the six, you can’t go wrong.

NFC
Lance Briggs, Bears *
Clay Matthews, Packers *
Brian Orakpo, Redskins

Inside Linebacker
AFC
Lawrence Timmons, Steelers *
Ray Lewis, Ravens

Jerod Mayo deserves Pro Bowl honors, but the Patriots D is just a little too far behind the Ravens’ D. And there’s no arguing against Timmons. Another name to remember here: Stephen Cooper. His high presnap IQ and ability to take on blocks makes him key to San Diego’s top five run defense.

NFC
Brian Urlacher, Bears *
James Laurinaitis, Rams

Is it me or has Patrick Willis been unusually quiet down the stretch? Would love to go with Stewart Bradley, as well, but Laurinaitis does too much in coverage.

Cornerback
AFC
Darrelle Revis, Jets *
Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders *
Devin McCourty, Patriots

Brandon Flowers, Ike Taylor and Champ Bailey have been excellent, but these other three guys have been the lynchpins to their respective defenses.

NFC
Brent Grimes, Falcons *
Asante Samuel, Eagles *
Tramon Williams, Packers

DeAngelo Hall will likely get in because he’s a big market player with a lot of interceptions. But the truth is, teams are way, WAY too eager to throw at Hall. Charles Woodson is a great joker weapon, but Williams has been the best pure cover artist in Green Bay this season. If you argue for Aqib Talib, I won’t necessarily disagree.

Strong Safety
AFC

Troy Polamalu, Steelers *

NFC
Roman Harper, Saints *

Question for the NFL: why is there only one strong safety and free safety on the Pro Bowl roster? And question for all of you: why do you love LaRon Landry so much? He’s the centerfielder for a pass defense that ranked dead last in the NFC with him in the lineup. Harper is the key to a lot of the confusion Gregg Williams’ scheme creates.

Free Safety
AFC

Antoine Bethea, Colts *

NFC
Antrel Rolle, Giants *

Ed Reed is the best, but he missed the first six games. Bethea is the one constant in Indy’s perpetually banged up secondary.

Kicker
AFC
Rob Bironas, Titans

NFC
David Akers, Eagles

The Dolphins call on Carpenter a lot, but Bironas has been perfect from 40-plus yards this season. Plus Carpenter missed four field goals in Miami’s Week 15 loss against Buffalo.

Punter
AFC
Reggie Hodges, Browns

NFC
Donnie Jones, Rams

Return Specialist
AFC

Marc Mariani, Titans

Brad Smith is better returning kicks, but Mariani handles kicks AND punts.

NFC
Devin Hester, Bears

Leon Washington has the best numbers in the NFC, but no one alters field position like Hester.

Special Teamer
AFC

Eric Smith, Jets

NFC
Dmitri Patterson, Eagles

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: December 13, 2010 2:25 am
Edited on: December 13, 2010 4:41 pm
 

10 stories worth your attention Week 14

Posted by Andy Benoit

Want more Week 14 review? Hit up our podcast

T. Brady (US Presswire)1.) Goodness!

For the second week in a row, the New England Patriots took center stage on the NFL’s headline game of the week and gave viewers an entire second half of garbage time. The garbage time is almost worth it, though, because watching the Patriots obliterate opponents in the first half has become like watching Picasso paint, Sinatra sing or Rosie O’Donnell eat. New England’s latest masterpiece took place at Soldier Field, where the Patriots were the only people who refused to be bothered by a little frozen rain. (You could almost hear the Bears saying down on the sidelines, “Hey what the hell? I thought we agreed beforehand that the weather was going to have a significant impact on this game!)

Tom Brady, the unquestioned MVP of 2010, has 19 touchdowns and 0 interceptions over his last eight games. Thanks in part to the frost-bitten fingers of the Bears linebackers, Brady has thrown 268 passes without an interception (18 behind Bernie Kosar’s all-time record). The last time Brady was this brilliant (2007), opponents at least knew where he wanted to go with the football (Randy Moss over the top; Wes Welker underneath). There’s no figuring out THIS version of Brady. A great illustration of this would be Deion Branch’s improbable 59-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half. Yes, that play was aided by the Bears’ coverage mistake, but Brady lulled the Bears into that mistake.

None of New England’s receivers or running backs would be surefire starters on a typical NFL team (not even slot master Wes Welker). But Brady has made viable weapons out of all of them. You already knew that, though. We all know that the Patriots are versatile and balanced. What we didn’t know is that a “versatile and balanced” formula can yield five straight games of 30 points-plus.

Even more surprising is that the Patriot defense has been nearly as dominant as the offense recently. The Pats have allowed just 10 points over their last two games. This season, the lineup has consisted of Vince Wilfork at nose tackle, Jerod Mayo at inside linebacker, Devin McCourty at cornerback and a mixture of players rotating at the other eight positions. The “fluidity” of the lineup made for ugly inconsistency at times early this season. But now Bill Belichick has broken-in his rookies and found niches for all his ancillary players. The Patriots rank near the bottom against the pass and on third down, but they also lead the AFC with 20 interceptions. Consider this proof that the best way to hide your weaknesses defensively is to play with a lead (something this club knows how to do).

 



2.) One game where the snow was too much

By now you’ve probably seen the footage of the snow crashing through the torn roof of the Metrodome. What’s the rule of political correctness with this one? Do we have to leave it at “Scary sight, lucky no one was hurt”? Or are we allowed to mention how cool it was? (Absolutely positively no pun intended.) Metrodome (US Presswire)

The Vikings may not be thrilled about the snow damage…right now. It turned their Week 13 home game into a glorified road contest. But in the big picture, you have to figure that a collapsed roof can’t hurt Zygi Wilf’s leverage for getting a new stadium.

When the history books are written, the Giants-Vikings game will probably be remembered for something other than the “awesome but only because nobody was hurt” Metrodome roof collapse: it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak is coming to an end. We include it in this piece – which is normally a review of Sunday’s action – because, predictably, during the hours of 7:00 am to 1:00 pm Sunday we got new Favre quotes and updates every three to four minutes. Even with no game being played, or perhaps because of no game being played, Favre was a dominant story Sunday. The last update was that Favre’s shoulder is a multi-week injury, and an extra 30 hours wouldn’t make that much of a difference in his recovery. Thus, it’s likely Favre sits. (Of course, Leslie Frazier refutes this, so perhaps yet another extensive Favre piece could be for naught.)

Obsessive compulsive Favre fans will find themselves dry-heaving if the legendary streak stops not on the nice round 300, but rather, on 297, which is not prime number but on first glance, sure looks like one. (If you’re counting playoffs, Favre’s streak is at 321.)
Whether you love Favre or love to ride around on your high horse and tell everyone how you can no longer stand the guy (even though you still watch all his games, perk up during the SportsCenter and Pardon the Interruption segments about him, listen to his press conferences and click on every Jenn Sterger story you Googler, errr, “happen to come across”), there’s no denying that the end of the streak is a big deal.

But you know what? It won’t be that big a deal for long. Peyton Manning, who at 34 years old has started all 205 regular season games of his career, needs to play six more years to pass Favre’s mark. No guarantees, certainly, but Manning will probably do that. If he does surpass Favre, the moment will feel like an enormous let down. Favre has battled bumps, bruises and full-on injuries his entire career. And, to everyone’s pleasure and chagrin, he’s always been very public about them (the Ed Werder reports throughout this past week confirm that). Manning, aside from a broken jaw in 2001 that most people don’t remember and a bursa sac issue late in the ’08 preseason, has never been hurt. That makes his streak far less sexy, even if its smoothness is yet another testament to his brilliance.



3.) Jags


The Jaguars-Raiders provided the best 60 minutes of action we got Sunday. The story of the game was once again the effectiveness of Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars rushing attack. MJD had 101 yards on 23 carries (his sixth consecutive triple-digit-yard rushing performance); backup Rashard Jennings – who, if you haven’t seen him, is essentially the AFC’s version of Ryan Torain – came in and capitalized whenever the Raiders showed signs of fatigue. One instance of this was Jennings’s 74-yard touchdown run that was part of Jacksonville’s 21-point third quarter.

Two of Jacksonville’s touchdowns were set up by big plays on special teams: Montell Owens’ recovery of Jacoby Ford’s kick return fumble in the third quarter and rookie Deji Karim’s 65-yard return late in the fourth. Jacksonville needed to make plays on the third side of the ball Sunday because, aside from a few effective play-action passes and drag routes to blossoming tight end Marcedes Lewis, David Garrard and the passing game had no answer for Oakland’s vastly underrated defensive line.

At the end, however, the Raiders looked like the 6-7 team they are when Jason Campbell was forced to make plays in obvious throwing situations. It’s too bad Campbell, who was asked to hand the ball off and get out of the way at San Diego a week ago, struggled down the stretch. He had been fantastic early on, completing 11 of his first 14 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He evaded the rush and consistently hit his second and third reads. But when the Raiders were compelled to be one-dimensional, Campbell began staring at the pass-rush and gyrating unnecessarily in the pocket. He took an awful sack on the second to last play of the game and then somehow topped that mistake by throwing in the middle of the field to Jacoby Ford, which caused the game clock to expire.
M. Jones-Drew (US Presswire)
At the end of the day, the better team won this game. With this victory, the Jaguars ensure that they won’t reproduce last season’s disappointing collapse (0-4 finish after 7-5 start) and they put themselves in position to clinch the AFC South with a win over Indy next week.

But don’t get too giddy, Jags fans. Your team’s defense has a glaring weak spot that Peyton Manning will ruthlessly attack. That weakness is named Sean Considine. The backup safety who already lacks speed in the worst of ways put on a tackling-missing clinic Sunday. If regular starting safety Courtney Green does not return from a separated shoulder suffered against Tennessee, the Jags are in trouble.



4.) Following up on the run

Last week we talked about how, lately, teams have been winning games by dominating on the ground. Nine teams in Week 12 and five teams in Week 13 outrushed their opponents by 150 or so yards. It's an interesting trend, and we promised we’d check in on the running game again this week. So how’d it look?

After San Diego got underrated inside linebacker Stephen Cooper back and predictably stifled the Brodie Croyle-led Chiefs offense. The Chiefs were held to just 48 yards rushing. The Chargers, meanwhile, racked up 207.

Kansas City still has the No. 1 rushing offense in football, though the Jaguars are less than eight yards per game behind them now. Jacksonville gashed Oakland for 234 yards (the Raiders, spurred by Darren McFadden’s ability to accelerate, rushed for 153 yards).
The Panthers totaled 212 yards against the Falcons, but of course, only the Panthers would know how to convert 212 yards rushing into a 21-point loss. The Cardinals got 211 yards, 79 more than the Broncos.

Overall, teams are continuing to win on the ground. Again, this isn’t to say that a rushing attack is more important than a passing attack. But the data does seem to say that a rushing attack is more important this year than last year. Of the top 10 rushing offenses in 2009, five made the playoffs. Of the top 10 rushing offenses this season, seven are playoff bound (the three that aren’t are Oakland, Minnesota and Houston).



5.) Changes needed in Cincy

Another week, another loss for the Bengals. This time it was on the road to a Pittsburgh team that Cincy played close on a Monday night back in November and beat twice in 2009. Terrell Owens once again expressed his frustration in the postgame press conference. The 36-year-old has actually been one of the few bright spots on the Bengals this season, but there are questions about whether he’ll be back once his contract expires after the season. Ditto head coach Marvin Lewis.
C. Palmer (US Presswire)
But the man whose future in Cincy needs to seriously be questioned is Carson Palmer. He is not the same player he was prior to his ’08 elbow injury, and he’s certainly not the same player he was prior to his ’05 knee injury. Palmer threw two more pick-six’s Sunday – one to his close USC friend, Troy Polamalu, and another to LaMarr Woodley. Like Palmer’s three previous pick-six’s this year, these were gimme interceptions resulting from a blatant misread.

Palmer insists that he’s healthy; perhaps he is. But his bizarre accuracy issues and decisions from the pocket suggest something is awry. More troublesome is that the Bengals have become a team that expects – and is expected – to lose each week. That’s partly the product of ownership’s willingness – nay, eagerness – to bring in every underachiever and character-flag guy under the sun. But it’s also a product of poor leadership. As the immensely-compensated franchise quarterback, Palmer shoulders a chunk of the leadership burden.
 
Insiders around the league complain that Palmer is too nice – that he’s too willing to turn the other cheek and endure an earful of criticism from teammates (i.e. Chad Ochocinco). The dynamic of the quarterback-receiver relationship in Cincy has become the most defining aspect of this team’s identity. And now we’re talking about the identity of a team that’s lost 10 straight.

The problem is Palmer is under contract until 2015, and it’s doubtful that owner Mike Brown, who has a reputation for caring more about dollars than victories, will be willing to take the bath he’d need to take in order to make a change under center.



6.) The Jets are “struggle-ling”

From one struggling USC quarterback to another, what’s up with Mark Sanchez? He was awful against Miami – and that’s putting it kindly. Sanchez completed 17 of his 44 passes Sunday, threw an interception (along with a handful of “near interceptions”) and fumbled four times (losing just one). His two early turnovers led to Miami’s only 10 points. Ten points wound up being three more than what was needed to beat a Jets team that has now gone nine straight quarters without an offensive touchdown.

Time to panic in New York? Yes and no.

We’ll start with the “no” first. The Jets, at 9-4, are two games up in the AFC Wild Card race with three to play. They hit a slump last season, still got in at 9-7 and went on to the AFC Title Game.

But the “yes” part is that the ’09 slump came earlier in the year, and from Week 1 through Week 17, the ’09 Jets were one of the league’s best rushing teams. The ’10 Jets seem to be hitting a wall on the ground. LaDainian Tomlinson looks more like what we thought he’d look like all along: a savvy third-down back but not a 20-carry-a-game star. Shonn Greene has been little more than a flaky flirt this season. After 17 yards on eight carries againsM. Sanchez (US Presswire)t the Dolphins, Greene has averaged fewer than four yards per rushing attempt in four of his last five outings (granted, this could be in small part because the Jets prefer to use his bruising body in short-yardage situations).

It’s not just the offense. Coming into Sunday, there were concerns about New York’s pass defense. As the NFL Matchup Show pointed out, teams are max-protecting against Rex Ryan’s complex blitzes more this season and finding ways to exploit the safeties and linebackers in coverage. However, it’s hard to gripe about the pass defense this week, considering the Jets held Chad Henne to 5/18 for 55 yards (those are his final stats – not first, second, third or fourth quarter stats).

But defensive dominance is only valuable if you have an offense that can at least control tempo. The Jets controlled tempo last season by running the ball some 60 percent of the time. This season, they’re running less than 48 percent of the time. In other words, they’ve hitched their wagon to their second-year Trojan horse, and now that Trojan horse is showing iffy footwork, jittery pocket presence and questionable decision-making skills under pressure. Sanchez is capable of bouncing back, but it looks like it will take more than a well-publicized lunch meeting with the head coach to make that happen.



7.) P.S. from Jets-Fins game


The late window of games was surprisingly futile Sunday. The Bears got devoured by the Patriots. The Seahawks went to San Francisco and pulled another one of their maddening inept masterpieces out of their…ears. The Rams looked like an upstart but overmatched club facing the defending World Champions on the road. The Chiefs gave the type of performance that had to make Matt Cassel, who was watching at home, sick to his stomach all over again. And, out of principle, I boycotted the Broncos-Cardinals game (the poor Sunday Ticket-less folks in my hometown of Boise, ID got stuck with this as their CBS afternoon game). So I have no idea what happened there, though I heard the Cards won by a lot.

The only late-window contest that was close was the Jets-Dolphins. And, let’s be honest, that game was only close because neither team knew how to play offense in a driving rainstorm.

But we can’t be sour about an entire late afternoon of football. So, in an effort to give a toast with a glass that’s half full (half full for these next few paragraphs, anyway…can’t be half full too long because we still have an NFC West story on the way), I present to you Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake. The former CFL superstar entered Sunday’s game with an NFL-best 12 sacks. He secured a Dolphins victory by increasing that total to 14 on the final two plays of the game.

Everyone has been touting Clay Matthews as the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year. But until Sunday at Detroit, the Packers outside linebacker had been somewhat quiet the past month-and-a-half (quiet for DPOY standards, that is). Wake has been a beast week in and week out. As quick as he is off the edge, the 250-pounder takes on blocks remarkably well. This vast array of skills has made him one of the premiere run-defending outside linebackers in the game (did you see the fourth down stop he had on Shonn Greene in the second half?).

Consider this bit here an effort to get Wake’s name where it belongs: in the forefront of the DPOY discussion.



8.) The NFC West: You’re kidding, right?


It looks like the NFC really is going to have a sub-.500 team in the postseason this season. The Rams and Seahawks both got dismantled Sunday, falling to 6-7. St. Louis is a young team; Seattle is just downright irritating. When they lose, they sure like to get their money’s worth.

Both the Rams and Seahawks will be underdogs in Week 15. The two square off for what could be a “win and you’re in” game in Week 17. (The league wouldn’t dare make that the Sunday night game, would it?)

We could debate all day about the merits of a 7-9 playoff team. There are two sides to the debate: the side that says “division title or not, you can’t let a sub-.500 team in and screw over a likely 10-6 team” and the side that says “a division title is a division title, let ‘em in – even if it means screwing over a likely 10-6 team.” The problem here is that, both sides can agree, a 10-6 team, or ever a worthy 9-7 team, is going to get screwed over.

The NFL needs to use common sense and change the playoff regulations after this season (the suggestion here is only guarantee a playoff spot to ABOVE .500 teams AND re-seed all playoff teams by record). If the league can’t find the motivation to fix this soon-to-be embarrassing mess on its own, maybe FOX can provide encouragement. The playoff games represent a significant chunk of the NFL television package’s value. It’s not fair that FOX, which forks over the GDP of a small country for the right to broadcast NFC games, gets stuck with a pathetic Wild Card matchup simply because the NFL refuses to amend its outdated playoff system.



9.) The Real McCoy

How is it that LeSean McCoy plays for one of the most prominent franchises in professional sports, records over 120 yards in offense four straight games yet does not come up in most discussions involving the top echelon of running backs in the NFC? McCoy was quiet throughout most of the first two-and-a-half quarters against Dallas Sunday night. Then, midway through the third, he burst up the middle for a 56-yard run (left guard Todd Herremans was spectacular all night, and particularly in getting to the second level on this play). In the fourth quarter, McCoy had runs of 13, 6, 12, 19, 13 and 6 yards. He finished with 16 carries for 149 yards, leaving him with 972 yards rushing on the season. L. McCoy (US Presswire)

Because he has become arguably the best screen pass weapon in the game, McCoy leads the Eagles with 67 receptions on the season (534 yards). Prior to DeSean Jackson’s 210-yard outburst – highlighted by an NFL-long 91-yard touchdown catch that was nearly as stunning as his fall-into-the-end-zone celebration was clever – Philly’s leading receiver in terms of yardage was Jeremy Maclin. In short, the Eagles are rolling behind Michael Vick and three bona fide stars with a combined four years of experience coming into this season. The key is that all four players have lethal speed, which forces defenses to play more zone. Safe but simple zone looks has given these young Eagles easier reads to make.

Speaking of Vick, if Andy Reid was displeased about the amount of hits he was enduring prior to this game, he must now be downright irate. That’s one thing the Eagles must be concerned about moving forward.



10.) Quick Hits

***Donovan McNabb once again looked pretty good running that super complex two-minute offense in Washington. When the Redskins botched the extra point snap (actually, the Redskins didn’t botch the extra point snap – only long snapper Nick Sundberg and holder Hunter Smith did), it marked the second time this season that McNabb’s successful two-minute drive at the end of regulation was ruined by the field goal unit. (The other was against the Titans in Week 11.)

***The game in Buffalo managed to be as poor as the weather. Would you believe it was two Jake Delhomme turnovers in the fourth quarter that helped seal the loss for the Browns?

***Two defensive ends who stood out in the Jaguars-Raiders game: Jeremy Mincey for Jacksonville and Lamarr Houston for Oakland. Both can pressure the passer but also play the run.

***Raise your hand if you had Andre Whitworth, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley in the touchdown pool for the Bengals-Steelers game.

***Did you see the way Dick LeBeau censured Polamalu after the safety inexplicably tried to pitch the ball back on his second interception? How many assistant coaches would grab a superstar by the pads like that and read him the riot act? And how many superstars would go up to that coach afterwards for an apology hug? It’s a special culture in Pittsburgh.

***I realize the Lions’ surprising win over the Packers probably deserves more than an afterthought mention in the quick hits like this, but really, what is there to say? I watched a majority of this game and I can tell you, in all honesty, nothing happened. Well, there was the Aaron Rodgers injury, of course. But we’ll be talking about that all week anyway. As far as everything else goes, this was a game in which neither team converted a third down until midway through the third quarter. The Packers lost because of unfortunate first half turnovers

***The Bucs front seven looked disinterested in run defense in the first quarter. Unable to shed blocks, the Bucs surrendered 121 yards to Ryan Torain (the most rushing yards in an NFL first quarter since Tiki Barber against the Raiders in 2005). Torain had just 51 yards the rest of the game, though.

***Somehow, the Redskins actually got more out of Albert Haynesworth this Sunday than they got in any other game since Halloween.

***The Saints got Pierre Thomas back after his nine-week absence with a left ankle injury. (Thomas had 39 yards on 12 carries against the Rams.) This team is rolling. Reggie Bush is once again healthy and in top form. Gregg Williams’ defense has been extra effective with safety blitzes in recent weeks. On Sunday, bourgeoning free safety Malcom Jenkins intercepted Sam Bradford (who, for a lot of this game, was rattled by New Orleans’ pass-rush) and returned it 96 yards for a game-swinging interception touchdown late in the first half. How is it that no one is really buzzing about the 10-3 defending World Champions?

***Good idea to paint the lines red on Chicago’s snowy field.

***The Chargers rediscovered their rushing attack Sunday (big time). Mike Tolbert had 66 yards on 16 carries. That was one more yard than rookie Ryan Mathews had on the same number of attempts. Darren Sproles, who came into the game with only 36 rushing attempts, produced 53 yards on six carries.

***Sean Smith is a somewhat limited cornerback in terms of fluidity and physicality, but he was tremendous Sunday. Smith was credited with four pass breakups, though it felt more like 12.


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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