Tag:Jay Cutler
Posted on: November 7, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 9:45 pm
  •  
 

Samuel to the locker room; Nate Allen is out

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel has returned to the Philadelphia locker room as the first quarter of the Bears game expired after he got hit in the groin on a play that occurred late in the opening period.

Jay Cutler has not had many problems so far with Philadelphia’s secondary, completing 6 of 10 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 110.0, and Samuel’s absence, if it’s an extended one, won’t help matters. Bears running back Matt Forte also is off to a fast start with nine carries for 52 yards.

Samuel’s absence isn’t the only hole in Philadelphia’s defense. Nate Allen, the starting strong safety, is out for the game after suffering a first-quarter concussion.

The official injury is being called a groin laceration (!), and he should return to the game.

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

Posted on: October 20, 2011 12:00 am
 

Cutler doesn't regret cursing at Martz

Cutler and Martz

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

On Sunday night, as the Bears were dominating the Vikings, quarterback Jay Cutler, obviously upset with something or somebody, told quarterback coach Shane Day to give offensive coordinator Mike Martz this message, “F--- him.”

Which isn’t especially nice, but also not especially uncommon when players and coaches are in the middle of a game where emotions are at high levels.

But when asked Wednesday if he regretted saying what he said, Cutler, via the Chicago Tribune, said no. Which is kind of awesome (hey, give the guy some credit for sticking with his convictions, especially if he feels, as maybe he should, that Martz’s play-calls have gotten Cutler hit far too often this year).

Yet, even though he felt he wasn't wrong, Cutler knows who to blame. The media, naturally.

“Things happen," Cutler said. "I’m not going to make a big deal out of it. It’s not a big deal. We’re all on the same team and we’re going to try to win ballgames.”

And it probably isn’t a big deal, because that’s just how coaches and players talk to each other sometimes. But Cutler didn’t stop there.

“They have cameras everywhere now,” Cutler said. “That’s the media and that’s how it is these days. They are going to try to create stories and they are going to try to find anything to make something out of nothing.”

Which is doubly awesome when you realize that Cutler was engaged to -- and still might be together with -- a reality TV star. Yep, those pesky cameras where EVERYWHERE when Cutler recently went to watch Kristen Cavallari on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Luckily for all involved, Cutler didn’t curse on THAT show.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:31 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 6

Posted by Will Brinson



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

Week 3 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman  Rodgers  Revis  Hester Schwartz
Prisco   Gore Coleman  Hester  Morris
Brinson Bradshaw  Revis  Hester Schwartz
Katzowitz Bradhsaw Coleman  Hester  Zimmer
Wilson  Cutler Coleman  Hester Harbaugh

Week 6 was -- quite obviously -- all about the handshake. But there are other awards to get to as well. And the Eye on Offense Award was a hotly contested little battle here, but Ahmad Bradshaw, with 104 yards and three teeters in a Giants win, takes home the hardware.

On defense, things were a bit of a toss-up too, as Darrelle Revis' pick six garnered him plenty of support. But Kurt Coleman's three-pick game won the day. Although, yes, we are checking with the judges on whether or not Rex Grossman was eligible.

We're just going to go ahead and rename the Eye on Special Teams Award the Weekly Contest to Be Better Than Devin Hester.

And, as mentioned, coaching was a toss-up too, but Jim Harbaugh gets the Eye on Coaching Award ... simply for entertainment purposes?

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Ryan Wilson
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
He's undefeated and doing things at the quarterback position we've seen before but rarely. I know, I know. You're sick of Rodgers. Get used to him, though. He's going to be around these here award neighborhoods for some time as the Packers are likely to enter the nine and 10 win range and start entering the 1972 Miami Dolphins neighborhood.
Jay Cutler Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
He was 21 of 31 for 267 yards and tossed two touchdowns against a very good pass-rushing Vikings defense. Perhaps more amazing: Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz left six, seven and sometimes eight players in to block, and, it turns out, Cutler is a pretty good quarterback when he's not getting blasted for 60 minutes (he was sacked just once).
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Frank Gore Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
He ran for 141 yards and scored a touchdown in the team's upset of the Lions. What's truly impressive is that Gore averaged 9.4 per carry. That is special.
Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
The Giants fell apart against the Seahawks at home in Week 5, making Week 6's game against the Bills absolutely critical for them. Bradshaw was most critical to the win, running for 104 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants win.
Josh Katzowitz
Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
In a huge game for the Giants, Bradshaw, without Brandon Jacobs in the lineup, had a tremendous performance, rushing for 104 yards and three touchdowns. I imagine Eli Manning appreciated the contribution. 
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Wilson
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
He did get beat a few times against Miami on Monday night but that 100-yard interception return was spectacular. Sure, he practically knocked Brandon Marshall on his butt in a great display of non-called pass interference, but Revis is getting those non-calls now.
Kurt Coleman Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles
Obviously, Rex Grossman shares this award because without him, Coleman's three interceptions wouldn't have been possible. In related news: nothing like a BAD REX unannounced visit to make Juan Castillo seem like he knows how to coordinate a defense.
Prisco Brinson
Kurt ColemanKurt Coleman, S, Eagles
He was benched a few weeks ago, but when inserted back into the lineup he made the most of it against the Redskins. Coleman had three picks of Rex Grossman in the game and had one of his best cover days. He was benched for his poor tackling.
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, CB, Jets
I'd love to nominate Rex Grossman, but I'm not sure that's in the spirit of the awards. Instead, I'll give it to the guy who took a pick 100 yards to the house, giving the Jets a 7-3 lead when they should have been down 14-0. Revis showed why he's the best CB in the NFL today.
Katzowitz
Kurt Coleman Kurt Coleman, S, Eagles
Vindication for the Eagles safety. A few weeks after Coleman was benched, he reemerged as Rex Grossman’s biggest foil (well, second to Grossman himself), intercepting three passes and helping Philadelphia to perhaps a season-saving win. Chances are Coleman won’t be benched this week.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Wilson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Why kick to him? Why, why, why? One more time: WHY? Kick the football out of bounds. Kick it into the stands. Kick it into the dirt. Anywhere except to him. He burned yet another team -- this time the Minnesota Vikings -- that stupidly kicked to him. And he'll keep doing that until teams finally get smart and stop doing it.
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
I'll repeat what I wrote in Week 4, the last time Hester was our Special Teams Player of the Week. "We'll never understand why any team thinks kicking to Hester is a good idea." The Vikings did it, and Hester scored. Weird how that keeps happening.
Prisco Brinson
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
Can it go to anyone but Hester? He ripped off a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Sunday night against the Vikings. He also returned a punt 27 yards and almost broke that one.
Devin HesterDevin Hester, WR/KR/ Bears
As long as teams continue to kick to Hester, he's probably going to keep winning this award. Hester was the difference against the Panthers two weeks ago; against Minnesota he simply squashed any hope they had for their entire season with one magnificent burst of speed.
Katzowitz
Devin Hester Devin Hester, WR/KR, Bears
He’s made strides as a receiver this season, but as the Vikings -- who, for some strange reason, continued kicking to Hester -- can attest, he’s still awfully dangerous as a kick returner. Early in the third quarter, he returned a kick 98 yards for the touchdown nearly took back a punt as well. He is, as the Vikings know now, pretty good on special teams.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Wilson
Bill BelichickJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
We went to the same high school. I think we played on the same football team together though I only sorta remember him. I was concussed a lot so bear with me. He's obviously a fiery guy and though his scamper after Harbaugh was unneeded most people would have wanted to punch Harbaugh in the mouth after that obnoxious post-game reaction.
Hue Jackson Jim Harbaugh, HC, 49ers
I think Harbaugh is a crazy-arms meltdown away from a tenured professorship at clown college, but the guy has the 49ers believing something not even Mike Singletary could convince them of: they're a good football team. Through six weeks, they're 5-1. Last year, they were 6-10.
Prisco Brinson
Raheem MorrisRaheem Morris, HC, Buccaneers
After his team's horrible trip to San Francisco that saw them get blown out 48-3, he got his team ready to play against the Saints and pulled off a 26-20 upset.  The Bucs were without running back LaGarrette Blount, so Morris turned the game over to Josh Freeman, who had a big game.
Mike MunchakJim Schwartz, HC, Lions
People are complaining about Schwartz' roll in Handshake-Gate (ugh), but here's the thing: Schwartz celebrates on his own sideline. Not at midfield. I'll hand him this award just based on the fact that 90 percent of America would have punched Jim Harbaugh Sunday. He didn't.
Katzowitz
Mike Zimmer Mike Zimmer, DC, Bengals
The Bengals DC continues to be one of those long-time assistant coaches who needs to be rewarded with a head coaching job. The Bengals have the No. 2 D in the NFL, and have allowed just one opponent to score more than 20 points. Cincy hasn’t played a Murderer’s Row of quarterbacks, but still, Zimmer’s unit has been impressive.
 

Posted on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am
 

Cutler 'shocked' anyone would kick to Hester

Look familiar, Bears' opponents? Please quit kicking to Devin Hester(US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It's amazing what Jay Cutler can accomplish when he isn't constantly running for his life. Against the Vikings Sunday night, the Bears quarterback was 21 of 31 for 267 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was a big reason for Chicago's 39-10 victory over a hapless Minnesota team. Also helping: the Vikings' insistence on kicking to Devin Hester, a Hall of Fame returner if there ever was one.

Hester had a 98-yard kick return in the third quarter, a 27-yard punt return, and for good measure, a 48-yard touchdown reception.

“I think the shocking part for us is that people still kick to him because he’s such a threat,” Cutler said after the game. “And we know he is taking a shot, he might take one to the house, so it’s fun.”

And that's the thing: why do teams keep kicking to Hester? What rational explanation could there be? Two weeks ago, the Panthers were reminded of just how dangerous Hester is. We brought it up during Week 4's Coach Killers column but apparently it bears repeating: Did we learn nothing from Mike Shanahan, or Tony Dungy or, more generally speaking, Tom Coughlin and Matt Dodge?

The Panthers might've beaten the Bears if not for two bone-headed special teams miscues that involved kicking or punting the ball right to Hester. The Vikings still would've gotten blown out Sunday night, but the point remains: it doesn't take any talent to kick (hey, having Chicago start at the 40 is better than the alternative) or punt the ball out of bounds.

“It’s exciting when you’ve got a guy back there you know is a difference-maker and if you get your block and if everybody gets their blocks, he can make guys miss and make things happen,” tight end Matt Spaeth said Sunday night, according to ChicagoBears.com. “It’s exciting to be out there.”

Yeah, we bet.

Coach Lovie Smith added: “There’s never been anyone like him. ... We're all kind of witnessing history every time he touches it.”

And that's the truth. PFT's Michael David Smith points out that "Hester has 11 punt return touchdowns, five kickoff return touchdowns and one missed field goal return touchdown in his NFL career."

No one has done that, and it's why Hester will likely one day end up in Canton sporting a spiffy yellow blazer.

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: October 17, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:34 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 6

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

1. What's Your Deal?
By now, you've undoubtedly seen the little melee that erupted between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz following San Francisco's 25-19 victory in Detroit.

NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello confirmed to CBS Sports following the game that the NFL will look into the near-fight that went down, and I'd be pretty shocked if both coaches didn't get hit with some kind of fine. Though Harbaugh didn't do much that was noticeable on the video, he did admit following the game that he probably incited Schwartz' anger.

Schwartz, of course, chased Harbaugh down the field and had to be repeatedly pushed back from the crowd. No matter what Harbaugh did, it's hard to fathom that Schwartz behavior is remotely acceptable in the eyes of the league. And though Schwartz might have looked like the aggressor, the blame has to lie with Harbaugh on this one.

Looking ahead, this might not be a rivalry that dies quickly. Niners offensive lineman Anthony Davis, on his newly verified Twitter account, had a little trash talk of his own after the game.

"They talked s*** to us all week," Davis tweeted following the game. "We said nothin ... Came and kicked that a** ... its f***** football f*** classy.. Save classy for Mortons lol"

Steakhouse humor aside, it's worth mentioning Cliff Avril of the Lions saw Davis' tweet and pointed out that it was "real professional" -- Davis responded by pointing out that he "pancacked [Avril] on a passing play ... sooo uh just be quiet go home play with your kids."

So this shouldn't evolve into anything unpleasant in the near future at all!

What's fascinating about this whole thing is how people are defending both sides. Some folks think that Schwartz is an unhinged lunatic. Some think Harbaugh is an arrogant jerk. (Our own Mike Freeman noted on Twitter that Harbaugh's not making himself any friends around the league with his attitude.)

For me, it's hard to blame Schwartz for his reaction, given the way that Harbaugh behaved following San Francisco's victory:



Whatever, here's hoping they meet again in the playoffs. In the meantime, my top-five list for coaches I would pick for a steel-cage death match:

1. Jack Del Rio
2. Ron Rivera
3. Mike Tomlin
4. Jim Schwartz
5. Raheem Morris

Leave your picks in the comments.

2. Speaking of Coaches ...
You'll notice Sean Payton didn't make my top five. And he might not have even if he was healthy, but he certainly wouldn't be up there after the incident that took place on Sunday, when tight end Jimmy Graham came crashing into the sideline and blew up Payton's knee.

The Saints coach suffered a broken tibia and tore his the MCL in his left knee, which means he'll be knocked out of shape for quite a while.

"It's just one of those things, the play kind of got up on me quicker," Payton said Sunday. "I think the second part of the tackle seemed maybe all of a sudden. I mean, every once in a while you feel like you get pinned with the play and that's what happened."

Of course, Payton wasn't the only coach who was injured on Sunday in this game (think about that; seriously) -- Jimmy Lake, the Bucs defensive backs coach, tore his patellar tendon celebrating an interception celebrating, as Ryan says in the podcast above, Martin Gramatica style.

What I'm wondering is if Payton's injury might derail the Saints offense a little bit. Maybe that's a stretch, and he'll certainly have his hands all over the team's playcalling and management, but it doesn't sound like he'll be down on the field for a few weeks.

"I might have to be up in the press box for a few games," Payton said. "Because it’s a fracture, its different. If it’s the MCL you can have the brace, but the fracture on the outside means the weight-bearing part of it really changes."

Maybe it won't have any bearing -- with the Saints playing the Colts and Rams in the next two weeks, Drew Brees can probably manage the offense all by himself.

2. A Boy Named John
With Washington getting two weeks to prepare for the Eagles, and Philly looking very much like a punch-drunk boxer practically begging for a knockout shot, it stood to reason that the Redskins could take advantage of the Eagles porous defense and pick up a critical division win.

They didn't, and that's mainly because Rex Grossman turned into, well, Rex Grossman.

The 'Skins quarterback threw four interceptions -- three to Kurt Coleman -- and registered a couple of terrible interceptions that should have been picks. This led to him getting benched for backup John Beck.

“Well number one—we needed a spark," Mike Shanahan said afterwards. "John has been practicing very well the past couple of weeks and with four turnovers there we thought it was time to make a change and give John an opportunity to show us what he could do."

(Ed. Note: Week 6 review will be up early Monday.)

Beck, who's so fancy/awesome he dressed like a gas-station attendant for his post-game presser, isn't locked into the starting role yet, though, as Shanny refused to name next week's starter immediately following the game.

"I would never announce that right after a game," Shanahan said of his decision on who he'll start. "I would announce that later on in the week. We'll make a decision after looking at the film."

That's all fine and well, but who didn't see this coming? Because if the Redskins leading the NFC East after five weeks was the least likely thing in the entire world, then Grossman eventually imploding was on the opposite scale of predictability. And now this is quickly shaping up to be the second rendition of the Donovan McNabb-Grossman fiasco from last year.

On the bright side, it's less expensive?

"I want to play," Beck said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. "I want to be the quarterback. But I’m not the one that makes that decision, it’s coach, and they’ll make the best decision for the team ... What’s gonna happen next, I don’t know. But I’ll just do everything I can to be prepared if my number is called."

If it's me, I roll the dice with Beck, who seemed to at least provide a little spark to the team when he came on the field. It's not like he's been good this year, the Redskins defense has just kept Washington in games. And Grossman's now thrown three or more interceptions in seven of his 45 career starts. Which means 15 percent of the time that you put Grossman under center, there's a 15-percent chance he's going to hand the ball to the opposing defense multiple times.

3. Maybe Romo's Not the Only Choker?
For what feels like the fourth or fifth week this season, it's time to question Jason Garrett's playcalling for Dallas. With the game tied at 13 all and the Cowboys in the red zone, Garrett called a third-down shovel pass despite Dez Bryant sitting in single coverage.

The result was predictably predictable: the shovel pass didn't work and the Cowboys kicked a field goal to go up 16-13. Then, after forcing the Patriots to punt, Dallas ran three straight times (for negative-five yards) and the result was even more predictable: Dallas punted back to Tom Brady, giving him the ball down three points with 2:31 left on the clock.

If you've followed football at all for the last few years, you've probably already figured out what happened. Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does, which is carve up a defense en route to just another routine comeback/last-minute win.

By the time he hit Aaron Hernandez in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Dallas had just 22 seconds remaining on the clock to move the ball far enough down the field to get a shot at a Hail Mary, which Tony Romo threw out of bounds.

On that last drive, by the way, Romo completed two passes for 31 yards. Throw those passes on the previous series and we're talking about a signature win for the Cowboys, against the best team in the other conference at their place.

Instead, we're left to wonder why Garrett continually plays, as my colleague Pete Prisco wrote, not to lose, instead of utilizing the weapons he has on offense in the proper way. And by "we" I mean "me and Jerry Jones."

"You'll always second-guess whether or not we should have tried to run a little offense down there instead of running it three times," Jones said after the game, per our Pats Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard. "We went conservative rather than try to get some points and it bit us."

Jones said that doing so in a regular-season game was acceptable, but it's not the type of thing that he'd like to see in the playoffs. Of course, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys making the playoffs if they can't figure out how to turn trips to the red zone into more than three points a pop.

4. Bollers and Pryors OH MY
Many a pundit's willing to point out that the Oakland Raiders, while a half-game back of the Chargers, are the best AFC West team through the first six weeks of the season.

This isn't that far off. The Raiders are pretty good. But despite winning 24-17 over Cleveland on Sunday, Oakland suffered a seriously detrimental injury on Sunday, as quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and will likely miss the remainder of the season.

“I’m not going to let this football team blink," coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "We’ll miss Jason for a little while. I have no idea how long it will take [for him to recover]. We’ll see as we go. I know obviously he won’t be here next week. We’ll continue to press forward and get better."

That's the optimistic point of view. The pessimistic? Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor and Shane Lechler are now the top-three quarterbacks on Oakland's depth chart. Yikes.

So Oakland has a couple of options going forward. One, roll with Boller. (Again, yikes.) Two, let Darren McFadden carry the ball 50 times a game. (Not terrible, but it could cause some long-term issues in terms of his health.) Three, go out and get another quarterback.

A couple of names spring to mind immediately: Kyle Orton, Donovan McNabb, David Garrard and Carson Palmer. Garrard makes sense because he's openly said he wants to play for a contender and the Raiders, at 4-2, certainly fit the bill.

Orton, McNabb and Palmer seem like longer shots as trade possibilities, but the Raiders have about 36 hours to make a deal, and it's reasonable that the Broncos, Vikings and Bengals would be interested in getting something back for guys that are either going to ride pine the rest of the year or won't bother showing up.

5. Don't Forget the Defense



In this, the year of ridiculously silly offensive outputs in the NFL, it's easy to just gawk at high-powered offensive teams and assume they will end up winning the most games and doing the most damage in the postseason.

But we need to recognize the Ravens for the dirty work they're doing on the defensive side of the ball, suppressed their league-leading points-allowed total to 71 Sunday after casually shut down Houston in a 29-14 victory. Baltimore held 2010 rushing champ Arian Foster to just 49 yards on 15 carries, and limited Matt Schaub to 220 yards and a touchdown in a dominant defensive performance that should make some people take notice.

Ryan and I debated this audio-style, but I think there's a legitimate argument that the Ravens are the best team in the AFC and can contend for the best team in the NFL. Clearly -- quite clearly -- the Packers are the cream of the crop at the moment.

But anyone in the NFL can score these days. Few teams can stop the opposition from scoring. With Haloti Ngata serving as the lynchpin for the defensive line and wrecking havoc on opponents' offensive lines, and with a secondary that's surprising this year, and with Ray Lewis playing rejuvenated ball, the Ravens can do that.

They're lacking in offensive consistency more so than a lot of other teams around the league -- Joe Flacco alternating between awesome and terrible this season is pretty terrifying if you're a Baltimore fan -- but Ray Rice is so good right now that he can carry the Ravens when Flacco's struggling.

And if Rice isn't up for the task, the defense isn't afraid to take over either. Which separates the Ravens from most everyone else in the league.

6. Madden Up to His Old Curses Again
What the hell is going on in Cleveland? Because, one, the Browns aren't winning, so that's a problem. And two, Peyton Hillis has some serious drama surrounding him these days.

We've detailed the drama before (numerous times, actually), but Sunday took things to a whole new level. For starters, Hillis rushed just six times for 14 yards and then left with a hamstring injury, pulling up lame after taking a second-quarter screen pass from Colt McCoy only to have it negated by an illegal shift penalty.

After halftime, Hillis returned and appeared to be out for the game. This is fine, if it's because of injury. Except Hillis returned to the game ... and didn't get any carries. He blocked for McCoy and was on the field, but didn't rush the ball at all.

The Browns weren't exactly ground heavy during the game -- Montario Hardesty only had 11 carries for a meager 35 yards -- and McCoy ended up throwing 45 times (his lowest passing-attempt total on the year is now 32, which is also a bit disconcerting), but to see Hillis hurt but maybe not hurt enough to sit out the rest of the game especially after a controversial injury earlier in the year, well, let's just say that something ain't stirring the Kool-Aid in Cleveland.

7. Ponder This
Sunday night, Christian Ponder got his first real action for the Vikings in their 39-10 blowout loss Sunday night. I mentioned this when writing about the substitution, but you can't pin everything that's going wrong on Donovan McNabb.

He's not the guy refusing to block defenders, and he's not the guy allowing other teams to score 20-plus points in the second halves of games. But it's understandable that some of the players on the team might be a little interested in seeing what Ponder, who at least looked more, um, energetic than McNabb, can do.

"I'm not a coach, but this team definitely could use a spark wherever that may come from," wide receiver Percy Harvin said.

Again, McNabb hasn't been that bad. But the Vikes are 1-5, going nowhere in (arguably) the toughest division in football and need to find out if Ponder's their guy for the long term.

Because at this rate, they'll have another pretty critical decision about some talented young quarterbacks at the top of the 2012 draft as well.

For the Bears part, lets give credit to Mike Martz and Lovie Smith for learning that if you actually give Jay Cutler help to block pass rushers, you can produce offensively.

Except they learned this last year, too. Remember how the Bears stunk and Cutler looked like a candidate for serious brain damage through the first few weeks in 2010? And then the Bears started running the ball more and protecting Cutler? Yeah, maybe next year they'll remember before they're a quarter of the season in.



8. Down South in ... Tampa Bay?
The Saints were supposed to blow out the LeGarrette Blount-less Buccaneers this weekend and the Panthers were supposed to upset the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. And then I was going to spend a large chunk of this column talking about the Panthers secretly being the second-best team in the NFC South.

Well, apparently no one else in the entire world got the same memo I did (thanks a lot for not forwarding the revised copy, you big jerks), because the Panthers got handily dismantled 31-17 in Atlanta and the Bucs straight up took care of business in route to grabbing the division lead with a 26-20 win over New Orleans.

If you missed it, lemme fill you on why the Panthers lost: their defense is terrible. It's not bad coaching and it's not to mean to the guys in the lineup, but the best way for Tiki Barber to revive his career would be to just try and get a tryout with whoever's playing the Panthers in the coming week, because there's a decent chance he could scamper for a buck fifty against that fishnet of a rushing defense.

They'll get better in the future and there's no reason to question Ron Rivera's capability as a defensive coach, but if you can run the ball, you can kill the Panthers. After Cam Newton threw a terrible pick to defensive lineman Corey Peters, the Falcons got the ball up a touchdown with six minutes left to play. Eight plays later -- seven of them running -- they were up 14 points.

Everyone knew they were going to run and there still wasn't any way for Carolina to stop it. New Orleans is a different deal, though, because Blount's absence meant the Bucs would struggle (in their wins thus far, he'd done well, and in their losses he hadn't; it's science!). Instead, Earnest Graham piled up 109 rushing yards on 17 carries, Josh Freeman got loose with Arrelious Benn and the Saints found themselves in a 20-10 halftime hole that they couldn't ever climb out of.

In short, a motivated Tampa Bay team showed up, created turnovers and completely flipped our perspective on the NFC South.

9. Bungle in the Jungle
The Ravens, as noted above, are the class of the AFC North. And the Steelers are coming off a second-straight win in which their defense prevailed and Rashard Mendenhall and the running game looked good.

But it would be silly to discount what the Bengals have done this year, moving to 4-2 after a 27-17 win over Indy, especially considering most of the offensive production is coming from a pair of rookies in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.

Dalton's not lighting up the statistical sheet, per se, as he's averaging just 218.5 passing yards per game, and he's only found the end zone seven times. But four of those have been to fellow rook Green, and -- I'm as surprised to be writing this as you are reading it -- Marvin Lewis was write about his offense getting an upgrade during the offseason.

And the Bengals are benefiting from a soft schedule; they could realistically be undefeated, considering that their two losses were by a combined seven points. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they have the second-best defense in the league, allowing just 278.5 yards per game. That defense has

The schedule gets harder down the road -- multiple matchups with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh loom -- but there are four more games left where the Bengals will either be favored or basically a pick 'em. The idea that this team could win eight games as recently as September was, well, not there. The four they have now is probably what they'd have topped out in most preseason projections.

And now they're a reasonable contender for a Wild-Card berth if a few things go their way in the rest of their division matchups.

10. Things to Do In Denver on Your Bye
It's fascinating to me that a team like the Broncos could, somehow, manage to create a ton of noise about their team. On their bye week. Without really talking about Tim Tebow.

I mean, there was some Tebow talk this week, of course, but it wasn't out of control. Charley Casserly reported that the Broncos won't change their offense much for Tebow, and that's probably a good thing and/or not that surprising, since this is a John Fox offense.

Most of the noise centered around Denver's decision to start trying to ship every single talented veteran on the roster out of town. Brandon Lloyd wants gone, and it seems like he could be moved before Monday's practice (the team apparently doesn't think he can be on the same field as the coaching staff). Eddie Royal's on the block too and he's generating some interest; this makes sense since both player are rentals for the rest of the year.

Kyle Orton's situation is a little more interesting. He'll also be a free agent after this year, and one would think that he'd LOVE to get out of town since a) the coaches yanked him in Week 5 for Tebow despite acting like Tebow's worse than Brady Quinn, b) he'll be a free agent in the offseason and c) he's more reviled by the fans around Mile High than Carmelo Anthony during his "trade me to New York or else" run last year.

But the Broncos issued a statement on Sunday night denying rumors that Orton wanted a trade, so apparently he's content hanging around and playing -- ahem -- nursemaid to Tebow. Or he thinks the experiment will fail miserably and he'll be starting in a couple weeks anyway.

Regardless, Denver, you're 1-4. Spend the bye week getting better, not drawing attention to yourselves when you're not playing please.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... Shane Lechler's first career pass attempt also produced his first career touchdown pass, when the Raiders faked a field goal in the third quarter against the Browns. Oddly enough, Lechler was the emergency quarterback, set to replace Kyle Boller who replaced the injured Jason Campbell.
... No one will talk about it because they won and because of Handshake Gate, but Jim Harbaugh threw a challenge flag on a scoring play. Huge gaffe, since those are all automatically reviewed. It cost him an unsportsmanlike conduct delay of game penalty.
... Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to post four-straight games of 350 or more yards passing.
... Packers are now just the seventh defending Super Bowl champ to start the next season 6-0.

Worth 1,000 Words


 
Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Little red light on the highway...big green light on the speedway...hey,hey,hey"

This one might seem meaningless ... unless you happen to be a Grateful Dead fan and recognize the lyrics to "West L.A. Fadeaway." In which case you, like me, are clearly one of the first people to realize that Irsay's moving the Colts to Los Angeles. Who didn't see that coming?

GIF O' THE WEEK

Big ups to @Jose3030 for pulling this clip of LeSean McCoy pulling an aggressive version of the Pillsbury doughboy poke on Eagles coach Andy Reid. There's so much that's perfect about it, from Reid's stomach jiggling to Reid's head snapping back to Reid being totally unprepared for the punch, to McCoy later tweeting an apology for doing it.



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Jack Del Rio -- He wasn't supposed to beat the Steelers, in Pittsburgh. And he didn't. But the Jaguars showed some life. Still hard to imagine he survives this season though.
  • Jim Caldwell -- In the words of the Talking Heads, stiiiiiiiiiiiiillllll waiiiiiiting ...
  • Tony Sparano -- He only lasts through 2012 if Steve Ross is waiting out Jon Gruden.
  • Steve Spagnuolo -- Another guy who wasn't supposed to win Sunday, and he's been ravaged by injuries. But man, how did we all think they'd win the division?
  • Jason Garrett -- Perhaps a bit early, but Jerry Jones is questioning his playcalling. That's never good.
  • Leslie Frazier -- He needs to go to Ponder now to keep his seat cool.
  • Ken Wisenhunt -- He's got the Cards practicing on their off day during their bye week. Might be feeling some pressure.
Chasing Andrew Luck
You'll notice a shifting of the odds this week -- we're no longer accepting wagers that return any money to you. Mainly because there are just too many crappy teams in the NFL right now.

Colts (-500): The Jaguars and Panthers sandwich their Week 11 bye, and besides a Week 17 date at Jacksonville, well, those are the only games that even remotely look winnable right now.
Dolphins (-350): Their schedule is also quite bleak. At least their fans are happy?
Rams (-250): Al Harris is one of their starting cornerbacks. This is not 2001.
Broncos (-225): They're doing everything in their power to deal away anyone with any talent. And this is different than the Josh McDaniels era how?
Vikings (-125): Minny still has Adrian Peterson? Guh that Bears game was depressing.

MVP Watch
Pretty clearly, there's only one choice: Aaron Rodgers. Guy's doing everything he did down the stretch in 2010 but now it's being spread out over the course of a regular season. If he keeps this up, the Packers will have as many losses as there are people who don't pencil his name in for the top MVP vote.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Meriweather, Harris headed to bench for Bears

After four starts, Meriweather could be back on the bench. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Maybe Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was onto something when he released safety Brandon Meriweather a week before the start of the regular season. Meriweather, New England's 2007 first-round pick and a Pro Bowler in 2009 and 2010, was cut loose because, as Belichick explained at the time, "I just don't think you can pick teams, or pick your players based on what's happened in the past. You have to pick them based on what you think is going to happen this year, and that's relative to the competition, to the make of your team, and player's performance."

Translation: the Pats grew tired of watching Meriweather take bad angles and miss tackles, Pro Bowl accolades aside. He wasn't out of work long; the Bears signed him three days later. It was a one-year contract, which suggested to us at the time that the Bears weren't completely convinced Meriweather was a long-term answer in the secondary. If anything, he adds depth and experience, something Chicago lost in its preseason finale when backups Craig Steltz and Chris Conte suffered a hip injury and a concussion, respectively.

Well, five weeks later and Meriweather, a starter in the Bears' last four games, is again headed to the bench.

Details via the Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure:
Veterans Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather are expected to be benched in favor of Major Wright and rookie Chris Conte for Sunday’s game against the Vikings, according to multiple team sources. Wright and Conte are expected to get the first-team reps at strong and free safety, respectively, during Thursday’s practice. …

Meriweather played a bit reckless throughout the game, opting for big hits rather than wrapping up for the tackle. The former New England Patriot seems to be having a tough time adjusting to a new defensive system.
Sounds familiar.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was asked how the Bears could find more consistency at safety.

"Play harder, fix the mistakes, go back to fundamentals," he said. "And the most important part is to have fun."

In other Bears-related news, if the most important ingredient to NFL success is having fun, Jay Cutler would've been out of the league a long time ago. He's perpetually dour, which undoubtedly has to do with offensive coordinator Mike Martz, whose pass-blocking-optional offensive philosophy has a way of taking the joy out of the game.

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: October 12, 2011 9:43 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 10:51 am
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 5



Posted by Will Brinson

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

Week 5 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman     Cutler  Rogers  Janikowski  Harbaugh
Prisco     Best  Wilson  Novak  Jackson
Brinson Green-Ellis  Allen  Janikowski  Frazier
Katzowitz  R-berger  Wilson  Janikowski  Harbaugh
Wilson  R-Berger  Barnett  Janikowski  Schwartz
Week 5's in the books and so are our ballots -- let's recap exactly why people won what they won.

Jay Cutler got a vote because even though he lost, the Bears offensive line is embarrassing. But Ben Roethlisberger, who plays behind an inept line as well, got more votes for his ability to play through injury and do what Ben do.

On defense, beating the Eagles is still considered impressive apparently, because George Wilson (and Nick Barnett) were mentioned the most and pick up our Eye on Defense awards.

Sebastian Janikowski, aka the Polish Cannon, was nearly a unanimous selection for Eye on Special Teams -- he was one Nick Novak vote away from sweeping the award this week, and it's understandable given he bombed three fifty-yard field goals.

For Eye on Coaching, things were much different -- Hue Jackson was the emotional favorite heading in, but Jim Harbaugh's business-like beatdown of the Bucs garnered him enough support to pick up the award.

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

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Ryan Wilson
Jay Cutler Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
He didn't the win game. His statistics weren't great but it's rare to see a quarterback get the living hell beat of him like that and keep fighting. Fighting. That's not a word commonly associated with Cutler especially since half of league went on Twitter and trashed his toughness during that debacle of a playoff game last season. The only guy I saw get beat up more was Mark Sanchez against Baltimore. Cutler and Matt Forte almost single-handedly kept the Bears in the game.
Darren McFaddenBen Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
It took a sprained left foot to the franchise quarterback and injuries up and down the roster, but the Steelers' offense -- and Roethlisberger -- looked crisp and efficient against the Titans. Big Ben finished with five touchdowns, and 24 of 34 passing, with many of the completions coming on three-step drops. Funny how that works.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Jahvid Best Jahvid Best, RB, Lions
Best ran for163 yards on 12 carries, including an 88-yard touchdown run against the Bears Monday night that helped give the Lions a 21-10 win. He averaged 13.6 per carry. Best has big-play ability that compliments the Lions' wide-open passing game.
BenJarvus Green-EllisBenJarvus Green-Ellis
"The Law Firm" was supposed to lose carries to Stevan Ridley heading into the Jets game. So much for that -- Ellis won on summary judgment against Rex Ryan's defense, running for 136 yards and two TDs on 27 carries, using a punishing physicality to help the Patriots seal a crucial division victory.
Josh Katzowitz
Ben RoethlisbergerBen Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
We got word that Roethlisberger and his bad foot were limping around the locker room before the game. But after throwing for five touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s blowout win, Roethlisberger was either faking or it was just another “too tough to know any better” performances. He also did a nice job of adjusting in order to make up for a beat-up offensive line.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Wilson
Carlos RogersCarlos Rogers, CB, 49ers
He returned a Tampa Bay interception 31 yards for a touchdown. It was a good play but the truth is that entire 49ers defense deserved the award. They gave up just three points and you can see the 49ers start to take on the no-nonsense personality of the coach. This is what the 49ers had hoped to do when the organization hired Mike Singletary.
Nick Barnett Nick Barnett, LB, Bills
He intercepted Vick twice, including a pick-six. Of course, beating the Eagles isn't quite as prestigious as it was a month ago, but given the Bills' recent history, I'm guessing they won't quibble.

Prisco Brinson
George WilsonGeorge Wilson, S, Bills
Wilson doesn't get a lot of due, but he should. He was all over the field against the Eagles. He had 11 tackles, three passes defensed, an interception and a tackle for loss. He was everywhere in the Bills upset of the Eagles.
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
Allen did what he's done all year -- disrupt the passer. But this time, the Vikings finally won. Allen harassed Kevin Kolb into an absolutely horrible game, sacking him twice, picking up three tackles, three QB hits and recovering a fumble. Give Minny's D credit for finally holding a lead.
Katzowitz
George Wilson George Wilson, Nick Barnett, Bills
The Bills just keep on winning, and Sunday’s victory was a credit to their D. Wilson was all over the field with 11 tackles and a pick, and Barnett returned a Vick interception for a TD and then picked Vick again in the fourth quarter as the Eagles were driving for a potential game-tying touchdown.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Wilson
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raidersy K
Janikowski tied an NFL record with three field goals of 50 yards or more. Not bad for a former fat boy party dude. Few players not named Vick have improved their public image over the years better than Janikowski. He's always had a strong leg but these days he's more disciplined and his accuracy and ability to boot long kicks makes him a terrific scoring threat.
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
He was 4 for 4 on field-goal attempts, none closer than 42 yards. Janikowski also converted from 55, 54 and 50. We almost expected him to run on the field and intercept Matt Schaub in the end zone on the last play of the game, too.
Prisco Brinson
Nick NovakNick Novak, K, Chargers
When the Chargers lost Nate Kaeding for the season on opening day with a knee injury, there was great concern about the kicking game. Novak has alleviated those fears. He made all five of his field goals against Denver and hasn't missed this season.
Sebastian JanikowskiSebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
As awesome as the Polish Cannon's headshot is, I might just name him special teams player of the week every week from here on out. But he deserved it in Week 5, accounting for 13 of the Raiders 25 points with a 4-4 day, including three field goals longer than 50 yards each.
Katzowitz
Sebastian Janikowski Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders
He kicked a 54-yard field goal and followed that up with a 55-yarder. Then, one from 50 and one from 42. It was fitting on this day in particular because he had been selected in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft. By Al Davis.
 
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Wilson
Jim HarbaughJim Harbaugh, 49ers
The 49ers are 4-1. Repeat: the formerly sorry ass 49ers and their formerly sorry quarterback Alex Smith are 4-1. Harbaugh has been able to make Smith into a viable quarterback threat. Repeat: Alex Smith is good. How'd that happen?: Harbaugh, that's how.
Jim SchwartzJim Schwartz, Lions
The Lions are 5-0, including Monday night's win over the Bears in their biggest game in more than a decade. For some perspective, Detroit won five games in a season or fewer six times during Matt Millen's eight-year reign of terror.

Prisco Brinson
Hue JacksonHue Jackson, Raiders
With the death of owner Al Davis hanging over this team, Jackson got his team ready to upset a good Houston team on the road. That takes keeping the focus. The Raiders are playing much better this season, and Jackson deserves the credit.
Leslie FrazierLeslie Frazier, Vikings
Good on Frazier for holding onto a lead and winning his first game as a full-time head coach in Minnesota -- Frazier's tenure with the Vikings started off ... interestingly, with the Vikings blowing a slew of double-digit leads. Sunday was a critical win for Frazier and the Vikes.
Katzowitz
Jim Harbaugh Jim Harbaugh, 49ers
I thought about giving this award to Hue Jackson, just because of the emotion of the weekend with Al Davis’ death, but the 49ers are 4-1 and coming off a 48-3 destruction of pretty decent Buccaneers squad. You read that right: 4-1 and 48-3. That’s on Harbaugh.
 

Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:24 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 9:15 am
 

Give Jay Cutler credit for managing to stay alive

Posted by Will Brinson

A few weeks ago, Tony Romo showed up on a Monday night with a couple broken ribs, beat the Redskins and was showered with praise for the next week. Jay Cutler didn't have anything broken (that we know of) before Monday night's 24-13 loss in Detroit, and he didn't win the game, but he should get some credit for his performance.

Cutler fought against a fierce Lions pass rush and an offensive line determined to start him behind the eight ball and/or leave him on the floor of Ford Field.

The offensive line committed a whopping nine false starts, and missed many more blocks, looking completely inept against Detroit's front four. At one point, a stat showed that in 33 dropbacks for Cutler, he was hurried 11 times and knocked down nine times.

Give credit to the Lions defensive line, of course, because they came at a patchwork offensive line with power (Kyle Vanden Bosch), speed (Cliff Avril and Willie Young), and potentially superhuman strength (Ndamukong Suh).

And give credit to a very rowdy and very loud home crowd at Ford Field that disrupted the Bears and remained screaming loudly 30 minutes after the game ended with Matthew Stafford doing on-field interviews.

"Nine false starts -- I don't know if I've ever been a part of that," Jim Schwartz said afterwards. "So, our hats are off to the fans here in Detroit."



Schwartz is right, but the fact of the matter is that the Bears, now 2-3 with losses to both the Lions and the Packers, don't have the offensive personnel to operate against defenses with any whiff of a pass rush.

Detroit sacked Cutler three times for a loss of 12 yards, but that doesn't begin to show the number of hurries and pressures that the Bears quarterback endured during the 39 minutes that the Bears held the ball.

Cutler rolled left, he rolled right, he ducked flying tacklers and he made a slew of fantastic plays with his feet to keep the Bears alive throughout the night, piling up 227 yards and a touchdown (with no interceptions) while going 28 for 38 on the night.

He'll catch grief from the media because the Bears continue to struggle on offense, but he shouldn't -- Mike Martz couldn't seem to realize the obvious fact that three-step drops created bigger problems for Detroit's defense, and continued to let Cutler drop deep into the pocket and get hammered by the Lions front four.

Somehow, Cutler hung in all night and almost gave the Bears a chance to win. He won't get the praise he deserves, because the Bears lost. And that's fair. But he'll probably end up catching grief because everyone seems willing to point fingers his way and/or make up fake newspaper headlines when the Bears struggle.

And that's just unreasonable, given what the absolute lack of protection Chicago gave him.

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