Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:56 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Where there’s a star football player*, there’s always a star football ready to fall. Sometimes, they get old overnight. Sometimes, they get satiated by a rich, new contract and lose the desire to stay hungry and work out as hard. Sometimes, their one shining season was a mirage and their talent wasn’t all that great in the first place.
*Or a football coach, executive, etc.
Earlier this season, we discussed the league’s most underrated players, the players you really should know about, and in this edition of Top Ten with a Twist, we examine the players who, for whichever reason, have fallen off the cliff. Not necessarily overrated players, but players who once were great -- or showed us the potential to be great -- but have fallen on hard times. Some of these selections still play at a very high level. That’s not the issue. The question is: are they as great as they were?
The trick for them is to rediscover what made them great in the first place, to rediscover their mojo. If they can.
10. Bernard Pollard: It was at the beginning of the 2010 season when I ranked Pollard No. 4 on my top-five safeties list, which led CBSSports.com film-watching guru Andy Benoit to write, “I like that you went with Pollard -- that shows you’re paying attention. Few people even know about the fifth-year pro.” And just two years later, after Pollard was jettisoned out of Houston, few people remember how effective he used to be. Now, he’s in Baltimore and he’s actually a starter, and really the only time he’s making news is when he’s being fined for illegal hits.
9. Logan Mankins: Once one of the best offensive guards around -- and still a top-notch player -- the contract dispute of the last two seasons seems to have taken something out of him (in August, he signed a six-year, $51 million deal). Though he emerged from last year’s holdout, in which he missed seven games, as a Pro Bowl player, he’s struggling a bit this season. He’s been whistled for more penalties, and he’s allowed more sacks than normal. Listen, he’s still one of the best guards out there, but New York’s Justin Tuck and Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley found success against him this year. That rarely happened in the past.
8. Andy Reid: Is it fair that Reid, after back-to-back 10-win seasons and a plethora of success during his 12-year Eagles career, is on the hot seat for the mess Philadelphia has become this year? Maybe not. But is Reid partially -- if not, mostly -- to blame for how the Eagles season has progressed? Yes. Bringing in high-priced free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha seemed like a great idea at the time, but some of those moves have fizzled. Moving former offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator has not worked out well. And at this point, it seems like a lock that the 3-6 Eagles will finish outside the playoffs. Should he lose his job? Probably not. Will he? Maybe.
7. Chris Johnson: True, he’s coming off his best game of the season (27 carries, 130 yards, one touchdown), but Johnson has been a major disaster this year. Which has to give heartburn to the Titans front office, which signed Johnson to a six-year, $55.3 million contract before the season. And with that, Johnson stopped producing. He stopped hitting his holes with big-time bursts, he stopped breaking tackles and he looked lackluster. It’s hard to imagine that a big, fat contract would have caused such an appetite loss for Johnson, but all we’ve seen out of him this year are two pretty good games and a whole lot of blame deflection.
6. Bill Polian: Has an executive’s talent-spotting reputation ever fallen as far and as fast as Polian this year? With the loss of Peyton Manning imploding the Colts, eyes have shifted to Polian as perhaps a reason why Indianapolis has struggled so badly this year. No quality backup quarterback and a bushel of questionable draft picks in the past few years have us wondering if Polian’s job is in danger (owner Jim Irsay has said it’s not). But man, did the talent of Manning shield our knowledge of Polian’s ability this entire time?
5. Troy Polamalu: Some of my colleagues (cough, cough) love to rail on Polamalu as the most overrated player in the league. I don’t think he’s that at all. Polamalu still plays at a high level, and he’s still a guy you have to gameplan against. But to say he’s the same player he was five years ago is obviously untrue. He can still lay a mean hit on a receiver, but he struggles in coverage (as shown by his inadequate defense against an A.J. Green touchdown bomb last week), and he doesn’t have the speed of his youth. He doesn’t even have the speed of two years ago. Yes, he’s been hampered by injuries (he’s missed 13 combined games in the past two seasons), but he’s not the all-world safety anymore (though he’s smart and experienced, which certainly helps). That was proven correct in Super XLV when the Packers made him irrelevant all game.
4. Chad Ochocinco: We’ve over-analyzed Ochocinco to death on this blog, but man, it’s still kind of crazy that he has just 11 catches for 201 yards and zero touchdowns on the season. The guy used to be ultra-confident. Now, he’s slowly disappearing like Marty McFly’s family photo.
3. DeSean Jackson: You have to think that, with the statements Jackson has made about how protecting his health was his No. 1 priority this season and with the fact he overslept and missed a team meeting last Saturday and got himself deactivated on Sunday, Jackson is really, really interested in his new contract. Naturally, he wants to get paid, but I don’t think being tied for 71st in the league with 29 catches is going to attract a ton of positive attention.
2. Sam Bradford: This is a strange case. Bradford seemed on the verge of a breaking out in his rookie season last year, but he’s been a forgotten man this year. That’s probably because the Rams are a forgotten team and because he’s missed a few games because of an ankle injury. But his completion percentage is down this year (55.8 percent), his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a bit worse, and he’s lost twice as many fumbles (his offensive line and receivers are not helping matters at all). And it’s not just that Bradford has played worse; it’s that nobody nationally seems to be talking about him at all, good or bad. That’s just kind of strange for last year’s No. 1 overall pick.
1. Philip Rivers: He’s never had great form, but something about the Chargers quarterback seems off this season. His strange mechanics look even stranger, and Rivers leads the league in interceptions while his 4-5 San Diego unit is sinking in the AFC West. I’ve made the joke that, now that Rivers has six children, it's no wonder he’s had a tougher time. But in San Diego, this can’t be a laughing matter. Not when Norv Turner’s job is at risk and with the Chargers losing hope fast. I keep thinking Rivers can turn it around, but at this point, it’s tough to say if he will.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:46 am
Edited on: November 16, 2011 2:48 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Whenever you hear that a quarterback was calling plays during a team's two-minute drill, that's usually pretty impressive. It's even more impressive if that quarterback is on the other team, as Kevin Kolb was on Sunday when Arizona beat Philly 21-17.
Kolb, according to an interview he gave on the radio Tuesday afternoon, was alerting the Cardinals defense as to what plays the Eagles were running on offense near the end of the game.
"During the two-minute drill, you almost feel guilty," Kolb told 94 WIP, per Sheil Kapadia of Philly.com. "Mike’s sitting there giving the signals, and I’m standing there on our sidelines, screaming at our corners, 'Hey it’s a go ball, hey he’s running a screen, hey he’s running a slant.'"
Oddly, after pointing out that he knew all the Eagles plays (on a day when the Eagles stunk it up on offense, no less), Kolb then pointed out that it probably didn't make a difference.
"How much of an effect do I really have?" he said. "I’m screaming to one guy. He may hear me, he may not. Luckily for us at that point, the crowd was pretty dead and some of our guys could maybe hear it."
Maybe it wasn't all Kolb, and certainly injuries to Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin, plus the absence of DeSean Jackson, caused the Eagles offense to slow down significantly. But even then, it's pretty odd that Vick sputtered as much as he did -- 16 of 34, 128 passing yards, two picks, no touchdowns -- against a below-average secondary on a team that happens to feature the last guy to take starting snaps for the Eagles.
Or maybe Kevin Kolb's just a defensive genius. If that's the case, Andy Reid should hire him this offseason.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 12:43 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
It was a rough Sunday for the Eagles, as they lost at home to Arizona 21-17. The defense was bad, DeSean Jackson was missing for disciplinary reasons, and Michael Vick looked horrible.
But Vick's apparently got a good excuse for his poor play -- Andy Reid told reporters on Monday, via our Eagles Rapid Reporter Kevin Noonan, that Vick suffered a couple broken ribs against the Cardinals and that he could miss time going forward.
"We'll see," Reid said when asked if Vick would play Sunday.
According to Reid, Vick suffered the injury on the second play of the game against Arizona. If that's the case, it's not hard to see how -- Daryl Washington came off the edge, basically unblocked, and laid into Vick's side after the quarterback threw a completion to tight end Brent Celek.
The hit obviously affected Vick over the course of the game, even if he didn't disclose it following the loss yesterday.
"I wasn’t accurate today," Vick said Sunday, per Noonan. "I never really got comfortable and that can’t happen. I have to find a way to get it done."
It's kind of hard to imagine that the Eagles would play Vick on Sunday; though there's an argument to made that their season hangs in the balance right now, there's also an argument to be made that the Eagles season is over.
The Giants sport a ferocious pass rush (they're first in the NFL with 30 sacks this season) and trotting Vick out against the Giants could expose him to further injury, even if he wears a flak jacket or some other protective device. In other words, the upside for putting Vick under center just isn't there, even if the downside involves Vince Young running the offense.
In other Eagles news, Andy Reid believes he's still the coach to lead Philadelphia.
"I am," Reid said when asked that question Monday.
Reid also said Juan Castillo would continue to call the defensive plays for the Eagles and that no change was coming on that end of things.
And DeSean Jackson is still a starting wide receiver, per Reid, who said the team addressed his status and laid it all on the table. That's a good thing, because several players, including Vick, lamented the loss of Jackson to the team's offense yesterday.
"Any time you don't have one of your premier players, one of your go-to guys, it does [hurt]," Vick said. "But we have to respect the decisions that were made. We wish it never had to come to that, but it is what it is and you still have to go out and win the football game."
To sum up: it's a complete and utter mess right now in Philadelphia and despite the Eagles not being mathematically eliminated yet, things don't appear poised to make a turn for the better.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:55 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 10:18 am
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. Houston We Don't Have a Problem"Who's the best team in the AFC?" -- that's a question I got asked a couple of times on the radio this past week, and I pointed out each time that we shouldn't be sleeping on the Texans. Following their 37-9 pimp-slapping of the Bucs in Tampa, I doubt I'll be the only one saying that this week.
Yes, they play in one of the NFL's worst divisions and, yes, they have a ridiculously cake schedule this year. No, Matt Schaub is not "elite." Yes, the Ravens have beaten them this year.
I don't expect people to stop using those arguments to knock down the Texans. That's fine -- but people need to realize that Houston is as complete a team as there is in the NFL.
They can run: Arian Foster and Ben Tate are the most dangerous backfield combo in the NFL, Derrick Ward's a nice third option and their offensive line is criminally underrated. (All three guys scored Sunday against the Buccaneers.) They can pass: pan Matt Schaub all you want, but he's thrown just three picks in the six games since losing Andre Johnson, and when Johnson returns after the bye he'll only get better. They play defense: after ranking 30th in total yards allowed in 2010, the Texans find themselves as the stingiest defensive team in football through 10 weeks of the 2011 season.
The Texans rank third in the NFL with 14 interceptions. That's one more than they had in all of 2010. And their point differential (107) currently tops the league.
Heading into Week 10 the Texans were the only team to rank in the top 10 of Football Outsiders efficiency metrics on offense, defense and special teams. The Steelers could join them in that distinction after this week, but thanks to an absolutely dominant game in Tampa Bay, there's zero chance the Texans will see their stock fall.
Look, it's perfectly OK to expect the Texans to figure out a way not to make the playoffs. It's what they do. But it's not like they're working on some fluky formula here. Their offense won't slow down, particularly with Johnson returning, and their defense, despite losing Mario Williams, really appears to be gelling.
And because the division's so terrible, there's a distinct chance the Texans clinch their first AFC South title before Christmas.
2. The Only Stat That Matters ...If I told you that Tim Tebow would go two of eight passing on Sunday while Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno left the game early with an injury, you'd assume that a) the Chiefs rolled the Broncos and b) Tebow got benched. You would not assume what actually happened, which is that the Broncos beat Kansas City 17-9 to hand the Chiefs their second-straight inexplicable victory.
And what's weirder, that Tebow was 0-fer at halftime, missing on all five of his passing attempts? Or that he only attempted three more passes in the second half? Or that his second completion was a straight-up NFL throw that resulted in a 56-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker?
Or maybe that Broncos coach John Fox was clearly overjoyed to beat a division rival with an offensive gameplan that probably caused the NFL's marketing arm to set fire to the highlight reel within 15 minutes of the final whistle.
"It's just a mindset. It's a low-risk offense. It's not an indictment on Tim Tebow or whoever our quarterback is," Fox said. "It's just whatever is working for us. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We tried to possess the ball and keep our defense fresh."
That sounds kind of ridiculous, and I guess it is. But we're talking about John Fox here -- he's not exactly an offensive innovator, much less someone who cares in the slightest how many passing attempts his quarterback has, particularly if the team wins.
But hey, there's a precedent for this kind of game -- it's the 27th quarterback time since the merger that a team's won a game despite having a quarterback who completed two or less passes on eight or more attempts. The parameters are weird, and the list is weirder, especially because several of the quarterbacks weren't the only guy to take snaps for their team. Most interesting (to me) are a pair of names on the list with Tebow: Kyle Orton ... and John Elway.
Tebow's not the same quarterback as the man in charge of his future, but he's now 3-1 since taking over as the Broncos starting quarterback. He's improving, Denver's figuring out how to design offensive schemes around his specific skillset, and they're turning what looked like a lost season into an interesting little run in a weak AFC West.
3. Texas Is Big Enough for Two TeamsIt really is nuts how much the NFL playoff picture can change in a matter of weeks. Or days. Or hours -- the Cowboys entered Sunday morning two games back of the Giants for the NFC East lead with the potentially resurgent Eagles hot on their heels. Less than 12 hours later, after a 44-7 whipping of Buffalo? Dallas is one game back of the Giants, the Eagles look done, and it's like the Cowboys season was never in jeopardy.
"We needed a game like this," Jason Witten said. "This needs to be the foundation of what lies ahead for this team."
"A game like this" equates to what might be the best game of Tony Romo's career. The oft-maligned quarterback was 23 of 26 for 270 yards and three touchdowns, and the only reason his numbers were suppressed is Dallas 28-7 halftime lead. Romo attempted just seven passes in the second half and set the Cowboys franchise record for completion percentage, hitting 88.5 percent of his passes.
Could it be a coincidence that Romo got rid of his flak jacket for the first time since his broken ribs in Week 2? Maybe. But over the course of the next few weeks, it probably won't look like it, because the Cowboys go to Washington, play Miami and travel to Arizona before hosting the Giants on December 11.
Given that the Giants play the Eagles, the Saints and the Packers in that same time frame, don't be surprised if we're approaching that Week 14 matchup throwing out terms like "division-leading Cowboys" and "darkhorse MVP candidate Romo."
Things change, because this is the NFL. But watching the Cowboys bounce back over the past two weeks, and knowing that Romo's now 17-2 in November (his .895 winning percentage in the month is the highest of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era), it's hard not to think they're getting hot at the right time.
4. Bold But BadMike Smith's decision to go for it on a fourth-and-inches on his own 29-yard line in overtime will be analyzed a lot over the next seven days, because it giftwrapped a 26-23 victory for New Orleans Sunday. And, most importantly, it put the Falcons way behind the eight ball for a shot at the NFC South title, as they're now two games back of the Saints.
Atlanta's still in decent position for a wild card berth, and I'm OK with the call Smith made, even if, like my man Pete Prisco, I probably wouldn't have made the call. (This is hindsight creeping in -- I hated it at the time.) The Saints are terrible against the run (a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry allowed), handing the ball to Drew Brees in overtime is the football equivalent of suicide, and Michael Turner is the perfect back for that situation.
My beef is with the playcall, which was precisely the same play that Atlanta used on fourth and one with six minutes left in the third quarter. Witness what the Saints defense looked like then:
Obviously New Orleans is playing to stop the run, but they're not selling out. They got no penetration, and they're certainly wary of the possibility that Matt Ryan could roll out, or that Turner could cut outside to try and pick up the first down.
The second time around, in overtime, that wasn't the case.
As you'll recall, Gregg Williams called a timeout right before Atlanta broke the huddle not in punt formation for this second try. Do you think he might have pointed several Saints defenders in the direction of where Michael Turner might be running with the ball?
Judging by the relative positions of said Saints defenders in the two pictures above, that seems like a pretty reasonable assumption.
And I understand that Turner's a bowling ball and that the Falcons have Smith's back on this and they appreciate his confidence in them picking up a half-yard or less in such a situation.
But knowing that you showed Williams this exact same play less than an hour ago, you have to be more creative with the playcall, especially when there's a division title on the line.
5. Deja Vu All Over AgainAfter the Patriots lost to the Giants in Week 9, there was a weird feeling of deja vu. You should have that same feeling right now, because after New England pummeled the Jets 37-16 in New York, every single "the Patriots are dead" column from the past week is totally pointless.
Making the premature eulogizing of the Patriots even more irritating is the similarity between 2010 and 2011.
Last year, the Patriots lost their second game of the season when the Browns shocked them 34-14 in Week 9 in Cleveland. The loss of Randy Moss meant that the Patriots couldn't get vertical and ergo/therefore/henceforth the Pats were dead men walking. Naturally, Tom Brady waltzed into Pittsburgh on November 14, went 30 for 43 for 350 yards and hit Rob Gronkowski for three touchdowns.
On Sunday (Week 10! November 13!) Brady waltzed into the New Meadowlands and carved up Rex Ryan's defense, going 26 of 39 for 329 yards and hitting Gronkowski for two touchdowns.
In case you forgot, Brady closed out last year in pretty good fashion -- he didn't throw an interception for the rest of the year, the Pats didn't lose another game and finished 14-2, and Brady became the first-ever unanimous MVP winner in NFL history.
My point is this: though the Patriots defense might stink, Tom Brady is still on the roster. It's not as if the defense in 2010 was all that good; they finished 25th overall in the NFL last year. But the Pats went 14-2 because Brady played at an unholy level with essentially the same offensive personnel he's got now.
In other words, Expecting the Patriots to lose three-straight games -- they haven't since 2002! -- was about as smart as writing off Belichick and Brady after what went down last season.
6. Run This Man!I planned on taking screenshots of all the commenters who ripped me for picking Seattle to upset Baltimore and posting them here. But there were too many of them. And they were all too vulgar.
Plus, I'm sure everyone who called me names will be back to apologize later anyway.
But really, should we be surprised at this point when the Ravens fail to win after refusing to utilize Ray Rice, clearly the best offensive weapon on their team?
No, no we should not.
Rice's usage and subsequent success (or lack thereof) isn't a direct correlation with the win-loss record of the Ravens. He's had nine carries in a game (against the Rams) where the Ravens absolutely rolled.
But two games above really stand out in terms of similarity -- the loss to the Seahawks and Jaguars. Both were on the road, both were against teams that aren't even remotely considered on the Ravens level and both featured Rice inexplicably getting less than 10 rushing attempts.
The Ravens were behind for much of each game, but never were they in full-on blowout territory, and the downside of running the ball is really only losing a couple of seconds of game time and actually getting the defense to respect the natural balance that the Ravens offense should feature.
It's doesn't seem that hard to figure out that the Ravens are 1-3 when their best player on offense rushes the ball less than 15 times in a game. And yet somehow Cam Cameron can't do it.
7. Red RocketAlright, I give up: Andy Dalton, despite losing to Pittsburgh 24-17 on Sunday, deserves to be the leader for Rookie of the Year right now.
This might sound weird considering he's coming of a loss, he threw a game-ending interception (his second in the fourth quarter Sunday) and my blatant homerism deep respect for Cam Newton.
But it was ridiculously impressive that Cincy took the Steelers best shot early in the game and then rallied back to get within a touchdown, despite losing their other studly rookie A.J. Green after he hyperextended his knee.
Oh, it also doesn't help that Newton absolutely laid an egg on Sunday, failing to score a touchdown in a football game for what he said might be the first time in his life. I haven't seen any confirmation of this, but I also have no trouble believing it.
Back to Dalton and the Bengals though: if Green's injury is substantial, I don't think the Bengals make the playoffs (they currently project as the sixth seed) because not only are the Ravens and the Steelers better, but the Ravens might actually try against Cincy.
And if Newton bounces back over the next few weeks, and the Bengals lose their last three games against the Steelers and Ravens, it's going to be tough for voters to hit Dalton up.
But if he improves from the growing pains he suffered against the Steelers, he might end up stealing the award after all. And, you know, a playoff berth.
8. Andy Reid's Hot PantsBefore the season, we penciled in the Week 10 Cardinals-Eagles matchup with the idea that Kevin Kolb would lead a revived Arizona squad into Philly with a chance for redemption against the team that cast him off for Michael Vick. Instead, Kolb couldn't play Sunday, so John Skelton started and ... the Eagles still lost, 21-17.
With that L, let's just go ahead and bury the Eagles 2011 season. Instead of debating whether 9-7 is possible, let's discuss whether or not Andy Reid should be fired if the Eagles miss the playoffs.
I, unequivocally, say he should not be fired. He's got issues with his roster construction, his clock management and his balance on offense, but there's a reason why he's the longest-tenured coach in the NFL.
Additionally, this is a lockout year, and teams were supposed to struggle to adapt under circumstances. "Bringing in a bunch of new faces" is one such circumstance where there's a built-in excuse.
And perhaps the best reason to hold onto Reid: he's Michael Vick's guy, and Michael Vick just got paid $100 million. That's not to say Vick couldn't play for another coach and succeed, but Reid's mentored him on and -- perhaps more importantly -- off the field. He's turned Vick from an ex-con into a franchise quarterback.
Vick's taken a step back this season, but if Philly can beef up its offensive line and address some of the defensive issues, there's no reason why Reid can't just can Juan Castillo in sacrificial lamb fashion and come back next year, regardless of how this season plays out.
9. What the Helu?Would the Redskins beat the Colts if they played today? Wilson and I talked about that on the podcast (I assume you hit play above and are listening now but just haven't gotten that far yet), and, um, I'm not sure?
Indy's terrible, but Washington is just depressing -- the latest feather in Mike Shanahan's cap is a 20-9 loss to Miami that not only gave Shanny his first-ever five-game losing streak, but also handed the Dolphins their first win at Sun Life Stadium in 364 days.
The saddest part of the Redskins failure on Sunday isn't even that Rex Grossman gives them a better chance to win than John Beck. That's just the truth, even if it's cringe-worthy. Although apparently Shanahan doesn't know that? Or he does? Or ... you tell me:
"We’re going to make decisions that we think gives us the best chance to win," Shanahan said about the decision to go with Grossman. "Then before the game we decided to go in another direction."
I know what he's saying (I think), but it's kind of awesome that this quote, taken out of context, sounds like "Beck gives us the best chance to win, that's why we started him. But on Sunday we changed our minds."
Anyway, the saddest part is that Roy Helu broke Art Monk's single-game receptions record last week and he was inexplicably benched Sunday in favor of Ryan Torain.
"Well, I wanted to give Ryan a chance, see what he can do," Shanahan said of the decision. "[The Dolphins] are a very good defensive team."
Again, I don't know what that means or how it's sound logic for benching Helu.
Whatever, an obviously motivated Torain carried the ball 10 times for 20 yards. Helu still managed to end the day as Washington's leading rusher, though, as he carried the ball six times for 41 yards in the second half.
This logical result would have stemmed from an illogical decision, but there's nothing justifiably rational about the Redskins right now.
10. Bear With Me HereFirst of all, allow me to congratulate my colleague Matt Norlander, who not only got engaged Sunday, but got a win for his precious Bears (an awkward 37-13 slaughtering of Detroit) and a Devin Hester touchdown return.
And second of all, allow me to say I'm sorry for thinking the Bears stink. Because they don't. I can't justify saying that if I'm going to tout the Texans as the top team in the AFC; after all, the Bears play a complete brand of football. They're great on defense, they generate turnovers, they can run the ball on offense and, needless to say, their special teams are pretty good.
Now there's still room for an implosion here. Lord knows they were 2-3, couldn't protect Jay Cutler and looked like a lost team only a few weeks ago. But just like 2010, Mike Martz realized just how true the old equation of "seven-step drops + passing every down = quarterback injuries" really is and Chicago currently projects as the final NFC wild card.
The Bears getting ready to run the not-so-scary AFC West gauntlet, playing San Diego, Oakland, Kansas City and Denver over their next four games. No, that portion of the schedule could not come at a better time, and if you think that running a cover-2 against a read-option offense and having Brian Urlacher shadow Tebow depending on what side of the line he runs off won't be fun, well, you clearly don't enjoy pain.
With Seattle and Minnesota also on the sked -- only Green Bay is really scary -- and Detroit having to play the Packers twice over the rest of the schedule, Chicago could somehow easily weasel their way to 11-5. Again.
Muffed PuntsLeftovers from Sunday's action...
... For the third time in his career, Reggie Bush scored multiple rushing touchdowns.
... The NFL West went undefeated on Sunday for the first time since division realignment. According to my buddy RJ Bell of PreGame.com, a $100 bet on that happening would've paid out $8,400. So, yeah, everyone saw it coming.
... Tebow's the only quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass and rush for 25 yards in each of his first seven starts.
... Drew Brees passed Brett Favre for the second-longest streak of consecutive games (37) with a touchdown pass.
Worth 1,000 Words
GIF O' THE WEEKThis is unfortunate for Ray Lewis:
Hot Seat Tracker
Chasing Andrew LuckColts (1/4): Everyone else in the NFL has two wins, and the only game Indy might even reasonably come close to winning is their Week 16 matchup against the Jaguars. We can almost call this off.
Redskins (3/1): My darkhorse! I think they'll lose out, but I just don't buy the idea of Indy winning one game, much less three.
Vikings (4/1): They play the Packers Monday and get the Lions and Bears again.
Dolphins (5/1): That whole Stephen Ross in a leopard-skin bikini thing is working out well.
Panthers (6/1): Tough schedule coming down the pipe ... and they play the Colts!
Rams (7/1): NFC West schedule and they're starting to fight a little.
MVP WatchAaron Rodgers will most likely extend his season-long virtuoso performance on Monday night and further give us reason to pick him as MVP. But just in case he falters, I've got my eye on a few guys who could get hot and supplant him in the second half, via what we talked about above: Brady, Foster and Romo. Brady, well, duh, he's good. And he sure wasn't a unanimous MVP winner after Week 9 (or Week 10) in 2010. So it could happen. Foster's playing as well as any running back in the NFL right now; if the Texans win out and clinch the top spot in the AFC, people will talk about it. And if Romo can blow up over the next two months and get the Cowboys a division title, well, weirder things have happened.
Tags: Andre Johnson, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Andy Reid, Arian Foster, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Cam Cameron, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Devin Hester, Drew Brees, Gregg Williams, Houston Texans, Jason Witten, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, John Beck, John Elway, Johnathan Joseph, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Schaub, Miami Dolphins, Michael Turner, Michael Vick, Mike Shanahan, Mike Smith, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Ray Rice, Rex Grossman, Rex Ryan, Rob Gronkowski, Roy Helu, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Torain, Seattle Seahawks, Sorting the Sunday Pile, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Wade Phillips, Washington Redskins, Will Brinson
Posted on: November 9, 2011 10:50 pm
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit
Jets vs. Patriots
The recipe for stopping New England’s offense has been discovered: press-man coverage. The Cowboys pressed the Patriots receivers off-and-on back in Week 6. The Steelers did it all game in Week 8. So did the Giants in Week 9. New England scored 16, 17 and 20 in those three games.
Think the Jets might be ale to execute press-man coverage? (Ask the Bills receivers whose white uniforms had practically turned light green by the end of last week’s game.) When these teams met back in Week 5, Darrelle Revis shadowed Wes Welker, though not the entire game. Welker caught a few balls during the breathers away from Revis, including a 73-yarder that gave him a misleading five-catch, 124-yard stat line.
After that game teams may have realized that with Welker bottled up, the Patriots are just another methodical east-west passing team. New England’s offense has no downfield weapon to preoccupy defenses about getting burned over the top. Deion Branch is quick but not fast. Aaron Hernandez, if he regains his pre-Week 3 knee injury form, is fleet for a tight end but not someone who can blaze 40 yards outside the numbers. Ditto for Rob Gronkowski.
There is that Chad Ochocinco guy. He and Brady have not been on the same page all season (Brady actually missed an open Ocho for a would-be touchdown last week; Ocho couldn’t get mad because he owed Brady for other mistakes). The disappointing but charismatic ex-Bengal may actually be the deciding piece in this game. Someone has to step up and be a downfield threat. The last person aslow underneath offense wants to face is Rex Ryan; he knows how to use his safeties as blitzers.
Cowboys vs. Bills
The Cowboys can forget about the fragile Felix Jones becoming their next franchise running back. When Jones returns from his ankle injury (hopefully sometime before his next scheduled injury in December), he’ll be backing up DeMarco Murray. The third-round rookie from Oklahoma State is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and looks like the real deal. It was difficult to assess him after his 253-yard outbreak against St. Louis because, as Murray himself will admit, a truck could have driven through the holes Dallas’ offensive line opened up that game.
But last week Murray registered 139 yards against a quietly impressive Seattle run defense that’s allowing just 3.4 yards per carry (tied for second best in the NFL). He has a unique ability to generate downhill momentum immediately upon hitting his accelerator.
Because of this, Murray can explode to holes before linebackers can identify them or, more often, he can increase his tempo upon reaching those linebackers, which makes him extremely hard to tackle.
For the Bills (and all defenses), the key to stopping Murray will be penetration. Murray has the ability to go left and right, but he has to stop and restart in order to do so. You can’t let him go north and south.
It hurts that Buffalo’s best defensive lineman, Kyle Williams, just went on injured reserve. He was a penetration extraordinaire who would have changed the complexion of this matchup. Marcell Dareus has been impressive since relocating to nose tackle, but the Bills are now thin on the edges and may start waffling again between 3-4 and 4-3 concepts if forced to make another personnel adjustment.
Seahawks vs. Ravens
It’s a classic trap game for the Ravens. Coming off a big primetime win against their archrival, they must fly across the country for an unceremonious bout with a 2-6 team from another conference. And it’s not an awful 2-6 team, either. OK, maybe the offense is awful. Or at least as uninspiring as an Andy Reid press conference. But the defense isn’t bad.
Last week’s stumble at Dallas aside, Seattle’s defense can stop the run. The defensive line has a strong rotation of high-energy players who have the strength to win in a phone booth (end Red Bryant has been the most impressive in this sense). Middle linebacker David Hawthorne reads and pursues well enough, and outside linebackers K.J. Wright and Leroy Hill can both play with physicality on the edge.
On the back end, young safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are still learning to play with consistency (both mentally and physically). Both, however, offer some playmaking prowess versus in the box or downhill. Cornerback Brandon Browner is a bit stiff but has rare 6’3”, 221-pound-size that he’s just starting to learn to apply at the line of scrimmage. Richard Sherman has, for the most part, been able to back up his bizarre cockiness ever since injuries propelled him into the starting lineup.
Lastly, Seattle has a clear-cut Pro Bowler (their only Pro Bowler, in fact) in end Chris Clemons. He’s fast off the edge (like any quality pass-rusher) and also has a strong suppleness that makes him viable in all facets against the run.
So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 10 games.
Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Andy Benoit, Andy Reid, Baltimore Ravens, Brandon Browner, Buffalo Bills, Chad Ochocinco, Chris Clemons, Dallas Cowboys, Darrelle Revis, David Hawthorne, Deion Branch, DeMarco Murray, Earl Thomas, Felix Jones, Film Room, Jets vs. Patriots, Jets vs. Patriots Preview, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor, Keep An Eye on, Kyle Williams, Leroy Hill, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Richard Sherman, Rob Gronkowski, Seattle Seahawks, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Wes Welker
Posted on: November 9, 2011 9:01 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck -- his team comfortably three games in front of Philadelphia for the NFC East lead (and two games in front of the Cowboys) -- has no problems talking about the Eagles problems.
But Tuck also realizes how dangerous that team can be, and in an interview with Jim Rome on Tuesday (via PFT), he actually was somewhat complimentary.* Somewhat, anyway.
“I think everybody expected a little bit more [of the Eagles],” Tuck said. “I think with the talent they have on their football team, they can be one of the most dangerous teams in the league. When they put it together, the thing I was quoted saying is, ‘You can’t buy championships.’ And what I meant by that is, you’ve got to build chemistry.
“You can have all the talent in the world. (But) if you’re not out there playing as one, if you’re just 11 individuals, you’re not gonna beat anybody in this league. And I think right now that’s some of the issues that they’re having. Nobody can question how talented they are, nobody can question how good of a coach Andy Reid is. Everybody knows that. You need more than talent in this league, because every team has talent.”
Clearly, even with that talent, the Eagles have struggled with chemistry. They looked off-kilter and, frankly, terrible at times during the first five games of the season when they went 1-4. But then, Philadelphia seemed to figure out how to win, beating the Redskins and dominating the Cowboys.
Against the Bears on Monday night, the Eagles went back to playing atrociously for much of the game. Obviously, Tuck is right. The Eagles DO have plenty of talent -- Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Peters, Jason Babin, and the vaunted cornerback trio. But for whatever reason, the team still isn’t on the same page, and with eight games left in the season, Philadelphia is running out of time to find it.
While Philadelphia still has to play the Patriots, the Giants and the Jets, that’s nothing like the brutal schedule the Giants face in the final half of the season. So, hypothetically, there’s still time to catch up. But considering the Giants are playing damn good football, beating New England last week in the process, a division title for the Eagles might be a lost cause anyway.
*He even refrained from calling LeSean McCoy “Lady Gaga," which was pretty nice of him.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:16 am
Edited on: November 8, 2011 11:50 am
Posted by Ryan Wilson
A week ago, the Eagles had finally shown their Dream Team form. They made quick work of the Cowboys and even though Philly's record stood at 3-4, the consensus was that they were again a legitimate threat to make the playoffs and they might even win the division.
That changed Monday, when Philadelphia's offense sputtered and their run defense returned to it's early season no-tackling form. The Bears came into the Linc and outplayed the Eagles in all three phases, winning 30-24.
That loss, coupled with the Giants' victory in Foxboro the day before, means that Philly is three back in the loss column to New York, and tied for the worst record in the division with the rudderless Redskins.
When teams with high expectations underachieve, it's not uncommon for players to take it out on one another, often during games. We saw that on the Eagles' sideline Monday night. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, acquired in the trade that sent Kevin Kolb to Arizona before the season, was seen ranting on Philly's bench, pointing at teammates and having an animated discussion with defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Details via the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari:
[Rodgers-Cromartie's] was the latest and most visible example of how the speedy cornerback has failed to find a good fit on his new team. He was victimized over and over again by the Bears, including on one early play when he appeared to give up as Earl Bennett caught a pass and continued running for a 14-yard gain, the Eagles safeties stopping him instead of Rodgers-Cromartie."I got frustrated on a play that I should have known was coming and instead I did something else, so you know I kind of went off," Rodgers-Cromartie said after the game. "(Shoot), I was mad, it was in the heat of the moment, (stuff) is going to happen."
One of the reasons the Cards unloaded Rodgers-Cromartie (other than the biggest one: they were in desperate need of a quarterback) was because he had been inconsistent during this three years in Arizona.
"[He's] coming off a poor season and admits his attention span is not as long as it should be," Arizona Republic beat reporter Kent Somers wrote in July. [Cardinals] coaches have continually emphasized to him the need to concentrate every day and spend more time studying schemes and opponents."
So it's no surprise that Rodgers-Cromartie is prone to lapses. Tamari adds that he "was supposed to be a Pro Bowl-level cornerback, but he has not performed well and has yet to contribute a big play. At times he appears to run away from tackles."
Must run in the family. (Look for No. 31 and then it will all make sense.)
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 3:51 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.
LeSean McCoy might have stayed in the game too long -- he was carrying the rock with the Eagles up a lot of points -- but it worked out for him here, as he nudged out the Rams Steven Jackson for our Eye on Offense Award, thanks to 185 rushing yards.
Chris Long clotheslined his way to the Eye on Defense Award, thanks to a trifecta of sacks against Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a stunning upset.
Long's coach Steve Spagnuolo was rewarded as well, as his gameplan against New Orleans, despite being horribly overmatched, resulted in the least predictable win of the NFL season thus far.
And rookie Patrick Peterson, though his team lost, picked up the Eye on Special Teams Award for his beasty 82-yard touchdown return.
Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.
Tags: Andy Reid, Arizona Cardinals, Chris Houston, Chris Long, Detroit Lions, Eye on Football Awards, Ike Taylor, LaMarr Woodley, LeSean McCoy, Leslie Frazier, Marcel Dareus, Mike Tomlin, Minnesota Vikings, NFL Awards Week 8, Patrick Peterson, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams, Steve Spagnuolo, Steven Jackson