Tag:San Diego Chargers
Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:39 pm
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Pick-Six Podcast: Archie Manning, MDS, MNF

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Week 13 is all wrapped up, and we break down the Chargers-Jaguars matchup.

We've got a special guest this week though, and Archie Manning joins the show to talk about the BCS matchup, the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award (click to vote), the status of Peyton Manning's health, why Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin are more vulnerable to critcism than other people (and if they deserve it), how Eli's developed wide receivers this year, the Ole Miss coaching search, and how Peyton and Andrew Luck would work on the same team.

Then we break down whether or not Tim Tebow can be an MVP candidate and bring on our good friend Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk to discuss Tebow's candidacy, whether the Lions are a shinking ship, and much, much more.

Did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?

If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.



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Posted on: December 5, 2011 11:51 pm
 

Jaguars, Blaine Gabbert have a lot of work to do

Two quarterbacks going in different directions after Monday night's game. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The first game of the Mel Tucker era looked a lot like the previous 11 games that ended up costing Jack Del Rio his job: a banged-up Jaguars defense got absolutely no support from a non-existent Jaguars offense. On Monday night, Jacksonville made the Chargers look like the Super Bowl contender many of us pegged them for during the preseason. By the time it was over, San Diego's offense had generated 433 yards and won going away, 38-14.

The Jags, meanwhile, continue to search for an identity. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert could be named "textbook" because he looks the part. He's a strapping 6-5, and mechanically is as sound a thrower as you'll see. At least in shorts and t-shirts.

Have him face a pass rush and it's a different story. Gabbert has looked like, well, a rookie this season. Against the Chargers he was 19 of 33 for 163 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Incidentally, the first half was his best 30 minutes of football this season, right up until the moment an ill-timed pick late in the second quarter led to a Chargers score. That proved to be the turning point in the game.

In the second half, Gabbert reverted to the form that has frustrated teammates and infuriated fans; he's redefined the term "Captain Checkdown." In fact, he's so mastered the art of the dump-off pass that we're promoting him to Colonel. Things got so bad that by the third quarter, with the Jaguars trailing by 17 points, Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden wondered where the organization would be if it had drafted Tim Tebow last year.

There was some speculation in the weeks and months leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft that owner Wayne Weaver would take Tebow. Mostly because the former Florida product was from the area and would sell tickets. Certainly, no one expected him to contribute -- much less start -- and that had a lot to do with Jacksonville's draft strategy. And it's hard to fault them for it.

But unless Weaver has a time machine, passing on Tebow doesn't matter now.

What does matter is that the Jags are a mess. Tucker may very well be the best man to replace Del Rio but the offensive philosophy has to change. Because the Jags' D could play like the 2000 Ravens and it wouldn't be enough to overcome the offense's shortcomings. Some of that is because of Gabberts' inexperience, but it doesn't help when Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are having success, and Christian Ponder is showing glimpses of potential.

As it stands, Jacksonville is 3-9 and there isn't much to be excited about. Maybe they should sign Brett Favre. (That's a joke. We think.)

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Report: 2 teams have reached out to Jeff Fisher

Jeff Fisher could return to the sidelines in 2012. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, Jack Del Rio became the first head coach to get canned this NFL season. He won't be the last. In fact, by the time the offseason rolls around, there could be up to 10 teams looking for new coaches.

One name mentioned at the top of most lists: Jeff Fisher, the longtime coach with the Oilers and Titans who was fired last offseason. Over the weekend there were reports that any interest he might have in the Chargers job (which almost certainly will be vacant the moment Norv Turner puts the finishing touches on another disappointing campaign) will hinge on whether general manager A.J. Smith is relieved of his duties, too.

Now that we're three-quarters of the way through the 2011 season, clubs have begun making plans for 2012. According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, two teams have reached out to Fisher about possible coaching opportunities.

"The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams could be possible destinations for Fisher," La Canfora wrote Monday. "Fisher has very strong ties to ownership in Dallas and New York; San Diego is the closest thing to a hometown team; and St. Louis' front office has ties to him as well, with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff's father, Marv Demoff, being Fisher's longtime agent."

On Sunday, we posted a list of current coaches on the hot seat:

* Norv Turner (4-7)
* Steve Spagnuolo (2-10)
* Jim Caldwell (0-12)
* Tony Sparano (4-8)
* Todd Haley (5-7)
* Tom Coughlin (6-6)
* Andy Reid (4-8)
* Raheem Morris (4-8)
* Leslie Frazier (2-10)

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has since said that Frazier's job is safe, and there's a report that Reid can stick around if he dumps offensive coordinator Juan Castillo. But there's a good chance the other teams above could be in the market for new coaches (although we can't understand why Coughlin would be fired -- he's done well given all the injuries the Giants have endured this season).

Whatever happens, there's a good chance Fisher is back on the sidelines in 2012.

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Posted on: December 3, 2011 4:28 pm
 

Bolts to 'almost certainly' fire GM Smith, Norv?

Posted by Will Brinson

The Chargers 2011 season -- a requiem for a once-talented roster -- marches sadly along on Monday in Jacksonville. San Diego, with a win over the Jaguars, could climb within two games of the AFC West lead ... provided both Denver (in Minnesota on Sunday) and Oakland (in Miami Sunday) lose as well.

The season has, to this point, "snowballed out of control," inspired people to question whether or not quarterback Philip Rivers is hurt, and fire up reports that Norv Turner's seat is warmer than the water just off the San Diego coast. Needless to say, things aren't going well, and they could get worse -- Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune reports Saturday that the Bolts have 'no choice' but to fire Turner and that general manager A.J. Smith could be on the chopping block as well.

"The decisions are not made," a team source told Acee. "But everything is lined up."

The Turner news is hardly surprising. It was believed that Norv needed to make the playoffs in order to save his job past this year when the season began. But even with the expected regression of Kansas City, the limitations of the Broncos offensively and Oakland sometimes willing to be Oakland, the Chargers find themselves in the basement of an imminently winnable division.

That's on Turner, and barring a series of miracle events -- just winning out would only get the Chargers to 9-7 -- he's as good as gone.

What will be interesting is the timing of Norv's all-but-guaranteed dismissal, and how that relates to the job security of general manager Smith. If Spanos believes that Smith is his general manager going forward, he could consider relieving Turner of his duties as soon as this week, particularly if the Chargers lose to the Jaguars.

Acee writes, again per a source, that "the needle [on Smith's possible firing] has moved from 50/50 to 75/25."

But it's highly unlikely that Spanos would can both Smith and Turner during the season, and subject the team to the utter chaos and logistical nightmare that would be operating with an interim general manager and coach. Besides, there is a possibility of making a playoff run, however remote. (Football Outsiders gives San Diego a 0.7 percent chance of making the postseason.)

And if Spanos is indeed considering widespread organizational change, expect him to wait until after the season to relieve Turner of his duties. As well as Smith.

Also worth noting: Smith still has three years and $6 million remaining on his contract, and isn't expected to retire any time soon. So he'd likely come at a cheaper cost for another organization that would be interested in bringing him to run their front office. Even if San Diego struggled recently, it's hard to rip Smith too hard, given the success the Chargers have had in his tenure there.

One organization that might be interested is Oakland. Acee reports that Smith, if he's no longer employed by San Diego, "will be on the list of candidates to become the Oakland Raiders general manager in 2012."

Though many things have to happen to make that reality -- starting with Smith's dismissal from San Diego -- it would certainly add another level of intrigue to an already spicy rivalry.


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Posted on: December 1, 2011 4:51 pm
 

David Boston charged with punching woman in FL

David Boston standing next to former Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson in July 2003. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

When we hear the name David Boston, these images immediately come to mind. Not exactly your run-of-the-mill NFL wide receiver. The former Cardinals first-round pick who played for four different teams has been accused of beating a woman in Boca Raton, Florida following a night of drinking Tuesday, WPBF Channel 25 reports.

According to a Boca Raton police report obtained by Channel 25, Boston punched the woman twice in the head, leaving a gash big enough to require 10 stitches after the incident.

More details via WPBF (by way of the Sun-Sentinel.com):
According to the station, a woman who lived in the home where the alleged beating took place told police she got nervous after watching Boston, 33, drink a bottle of vodka and a bottle of wine, and take some pills. At some point, that woman told her friend, the one who was allegedly beaten, that it would be OK for her to come over to hang out with her and Boston, the report said.

It's not known what caused the alleged attack or what Boston's relationship with the alleged victim is, WPBF reported. The woman who lived in the home told police that she and Boston have been "strictly friends" for several years, adding that he had been staying with her for six weeks but was planning to move out and live in a nearby hotel. When he was warned after the alleged beating that they were going to call the police, he ran off, the report said.
Boston has been charged with aggravated battery.

During his eight-year NFL career, Boston had 315 receptions for 4,699 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was profiled in an ESPN The Magazine story in 2003 that hinted at what most people already suspected: he was using steroids.

"Look, even his face is growing," an unnamed player told ESPN's Tom Friend for the story. "'He's bloated. His cheekbones have changed.' Guys around the league just don't see how his weight could jump from 209 to 257 in three years. Or how he can have 21-inch biceps, a 34-inch waist and 5.5% body fat. Or how he can run the 40 in 4.3 seconds. Or how the sorry Cardinals could let such a physical specimen walk. Or how 30 other teams could let the Chargers scoop him up as a free agent for only 47 mil."

Turns out, those 30 other teams were onto something. Prior to the 2004 season, Boston, then with the Dolphins, tested positive for steroids and was forced to serve a four-game suspension. He later tore ligaments in his knee and missed the season. A year later, Boston played in five games before injuring his knee again.

His professional career ended with a brief stint in the CFL in 2008.

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Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:06 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Tracking Tebow, Week 12: Iron sharpens iron

We're Tracking Tebow … because it's impossible not to watch. 

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Against the Chargers Sunday, Tim Tebow didn't complete his first pass until 3:54 in the second quarter. By the time the game was over -- nearly five quarters of football -- Tebow had attempted 18 passes, completing nine, for 143 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 67 yards on 22 carries.

In addition to running his record to 5-1 as the Broncos starter this season, Tebow also accomplished another milestone: it was the first time in 2011 that he completed at least 50 percent of his throws. Still, our graphic from last week's Tebow Tracker holds: less passing + more running = greater likelihood of a Denver victory.

By this point, some five weeks into the Tebow era, the critics have been silenced. Back on October 23, when he replaced Kyle Orton as the starter, the thinking was that Tebow would be buried on the depth chart behind Brady Quinn by now. Instead, an outfit that began the season 1-4, is now 6-5 and one game out of the division lead, behind the 7-4 Raiders. More improbable scenarios are hard to fathom but the lesson, at least for now, is Tebow has redefined what it means to win ugly, which is certainly preferable to the alternative reality playing out with Orton under center: losing ugly.

We say "at least for now" because there's always the fear that, despite Tebow's knack for making those around him better, the read-option offense is always a week away from being exploited as a gimmick, 2011's version of the wildcat offense, a strategy with a short shelf-life that should have no bearing on personnel decisions behind the present.

We wrote about the phenomenon last week:

"Comparing the read-option to the wildcat has been a popular meme in recent weeks and there's something to it. The Dolphins began the 2008 season 0-2, busted out the wildcat in Week 3 against the Patriots, and blew them out of the water, 38-13. Miami finished the regular season 11-5 and made the playoffs. The following year, after teams around the league had an offseason to figure out the wildcat, it was obsolete. …

"Based on Broncos executive John Elway's recent comments, not only is the read-option a short-term solution to a problem he inherited from the unspectacular Josh McDaniels era, it's one that probably won't last behind this season. Which means that the rest of the NFL has six weeks or so to figure out a way to slow it down.

"The Jets did it for 55 minutes, but Tebow was able to drive 95 yards for the decisive score. The bigger story from that game: New York's inept offense, which included a national coming out part for Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller, and more questions about Mark Sanchez's abilities as an NFL quarterback.

"So, no, Tebow isn't the long-term answer in Denver. But he's not supposed to be. The thing is, nobody thought he was the short-term answer, either. As it stands, he's winning 80 percent of his starts. And if the Chargers play Sunday like they have in the previous five games, Tebow's winning percentage will rise to 83."

Since writing that, we've talked in more detail about why exactly Tebowmania may not last beyond 2012. You can listen to the details on the latest Pick-6 Podcast.


The next five weeks of the regular season look like this for the Broncos: at Minnesota, Chicago, New England, at Buffalo, and Kansas City. Can Denver win out and go 11-5? Seems impossible, but is that any more unlikely than Tebow being 5-1? Clearly, we're dealing with forces beyond the football field.


                                                   Play by Play



(Note: Below are the plays -- both running and passing -- involving Tebow. You can view the entire play-by-play breakdown here)




                                                        Quotes



“I said a little prayer when I was down there. … I feel like our honor to Tim is the way we play and the way we support him. - Broncos rookie safety Quinton Carter on Tebowing at midfield after Matt Prater's game-winning kick.

"It's mistake-free football, it's playing great defense and running the ball on the offensive side and really making the plays when they need to be made. I think that's what's happening. - John Elway on Tebow's 9 for 18 performance Sunday.

"I've never seen a human who can will himself to win like that." - Broncos linebacker Von Miller on Tebow.

“We kept him in the pocket for the most part and he only had a couple of runs. On those runs, it was more the defense than what he was doing. But he made some plays. He’s a great football player.” - Chargers safety Eric Weddle.


                                                   Audio-Visual




Matt Prater kicked a 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in overtime to lift Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos to a 16-13 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers. CBS Sports' Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts have the recap.


Tim Tebow has won three straight games and is 4-1 since becoming the starter in Week 7. CBS Sports' Shannon Sharpe sat down with Tebow, head coach John Fox and Champ Bailey to discuss the Broncos turnaround as well as Tebow's future at QB.

Tebow didn't have many throws against the Chargers, but his second-quarter touchdown pass was both impressive (on his part) and embarrassing (on how the Chargers defense played it). The breakdown of exactly how Decker got so open is below, followed by the video of the play.

Tebow fakes a throw in the flat to Royal, which freezes the defender responsible for Decker (circled in red). Decker, blows past him, the safety is slow providing support (circled in yellow), leaving Tebow a big window to throw through. Nice pass, nice catch, horrible defense. 


Broncos QB Tim Tebow passes deep into the end zone to WR Eric Decker for an 18-yard touchdown, late in the second quarter.


                                                   Eye on Tebow



(Click photos to enlarge)


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Posted on: November 28, 2011 8:59 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Chargers season has 'snowballed out of control'

V. Jackson sits in dejection as Denver beat San Diego (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Slightly lost in the bright light emanating off Tim Tebow and his teammates in Denver’s overtime win against San Diego on Sunday was the fact the Chargers lost their sixth-straight contest after a 4-1 start.

That means they most likely can forget about making the playoffs, and coach Norv Turner can forget about coaching next season in San Diego. That means general manager A.J. Smith’s job also might be in danger.

So, what the hell went wrong with this team (aside from Sunday’s Tebowing experience)? Could be just plain old stupidity.

“We do the dumbest (stuff),” Shaun Phillips screamed out loud after the game, via the San Diego Union Tribune. “I’ve never been on a team that does the dumbest (stuff) all the time.”

And the worst part of that is …?

“It comes at the worst times,” left tackle Brandyn Dombrowski said. “… We’re killing ourselves.”

Remember, the Chargers actually took a 10-0 lead vs. Denver and looked decent enough in the early part of the game, and you had to figure that if they built a big lead, the Broncos would have to rely on their passing game -- which, as we know, is hardly their biggest strength.

Even though Tebow didn’t complete his first pass until late in the first half, the Chargers couldn’t take enough of an advantage and build up a big enough lead. Plus, they kept making those same silly mistakes that have plagued them all the way to a 4-7 record.

Or as Phillips said, “We keep doing the same old caca, then you’re going to keep getting caca.”

But credit goes to Philip Rivers, the quarterback in the league who’s had the most disappointing year, for the best quote of the day about the state of his team.

“It’s just snowballed out of control,” Philip Rivers said. “… There’s nothing I can say to make it sound good. It’s about as bad as it gets.”

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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:38 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 12

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.

 
(Ed. Note: Monday's podcast will be up around lunch due to some travel/family stuff.)

1. Run Like Hell -- Er, Heck

Every week, Tim Tebow takes the field as the Broncos quarterback, and every week everyone sits around and snarks at the Broncos running the ball an obscene number of times. Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory in San Diego featured Tebow toting the rock a ridiculous 22 times.

Just for some historical perspective, Tebow's now the only player in post-merger NFL history to attempt 20 rushes and 10 passes in a single game.

People rip the guy for ruining the quarterback position, or not playing it in a "real" way, but everyone very conveniently ignores three factors. One, he can make throws -- a pair of touchdown strikes to Eric Decker in the past two weeks were the difference between 2-0 and 0-2. Two, Tebow simply doesn't turn the ball over. Only 22 quarterbacks since 1970 have finished the year with 250-plus passing attempts, less than five picks and less than five fumbles. Tebow could be No. 23. (Aaron Rodgers could be No. 24.)

And most importantly, the Broncos have a strong running game with Willis McGahee, and an even stronger defense that no one wants to give credit to. If someone else, like a Brad Johnson-type, is quarterbacking this team, the defense gets all the credit. Because it's Tebow, that's the focus.

That's just how it is, and that's fine. After all, Tebow's now beaten every single AFC West rival this season on the road. He is a story. He is the story.

But maybe -- with all due acknowledgement of the silliness involved in "clutchability" -- it shouldn't be all that surprising that Tebow and the Broncos bested Norv Turner and the Chargers in the fourth quarter and overtime. Eking out victories from teams willing to hand over a win thanks to silly mistakes is the modus operandi of the 2011 Broncos, and giving away wins with silly mistakes is what Turner's Bolts teams do best.

San Diego's now last (!) in the AFC West and the only bright spot to this season, outside of Ryan Mathews emerging as a viable feature back if he can stay healthy, is the likelihood of Turner being shipped out of town following this season. You can like or dislike Turner all you want, and he's turned Philip Rivers into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but this Chargers team needs some fresh blood.

Denver's one game back of the playoffs thanks to holding a tiebreaker over the Jets, and they've got the tiebreaker over the Bengals too. A game-managing quarterback plus a running game plus a stout defense has had success in the NFL before.

So if you're still hating on Tebow, just quit and enjoy the ride.

2. Bear Down, Again

Ignore for a second the fact that Bears starting quarterback Caleb Hanie doesn't even know how to properly spike the ball at the end of the game. And ignore that he finished 18 of 36 with three interceptions on the day in Chicago's 25-20 loss to Oakland Sunday.

Because the Bears are still going to make the playoffs. Or, at least, they can.

As noted last week, Chicago's still got a very Chicago formula for making it to the postseason, with Devin Hester on special teams (kudos to Hue Jackson and Shane Lechler for avoiding him Sunday) and a defense that sacked Carson Palmer four times Sunday and limited the Raiders to just a single touchdown.

That type of play will go a long way against opponents like the Seahawks, Vikings, Chiefs and Broncos, all of whom are on Chicago's schedule the rest of the way in. And a quick look at our 2011 NFL Playoff Race Tracker reveals that only two worthy teams in the NFC will actually be shut out of the postseason (the Lions and the Giants are currently odd men out).

I'm not a huge fan of moral victories, especially when an actual loss reveals just how poorly your backup quarterback can play. And don't get me wrong -- Hanie has plenty of flaws and won't make things easy for Chicago the rest of the way. But if you're the Bears, you have to believe Sunday's showing means a playoff berth is still possible.

3. T.J. Yates: An All-Time Great

The case of T.J. Yates is a weird one. Thanks to a (likely) season-ending injury to Matt Leinart, Yates appears to be the de facto starter in Houston and, as Pete Prisco pointed out in his grades column, next in line to suffer a nasty injury as a result of the football gods really not wanting the Texans to smell success.

But you know what makes Yates' case even weirder? He's probably the most successful NFL quarterback in North Carolina Tar Heel history, despite being a rookie, having never started a game and despite having accumulated his career passing numbers -- 8/15 for 70 yards and no touchdowns -- on Sunday in backup duty.

That's because the only other option for "top NFL quarterback in UNC football history" is Scott Stankavage, who played in four games over two NFL seasons with the Broncos (three in 1984) and the Dolphins (one in 1987) and managed to complete 32 percent of his 25 attempted passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. (In fairness, Yates is also one of only two UNC quarterbacks drafted since the merger, which is insane.)

His entire career wasn't as successful as Yates' Sunday afternoon in Week 12.

4. "Fire Who?"

The fans want it, as evidenced by the Eagles crowd raining "Fire Andy" chants on the field amid New England's 38-20 shellacking of Philly.

"The way we played, I can understand," Reid said afterward.

It's never easy to sympathize with any supporter of Philly sports, mainly because they're too vitriolic in their reaction. (There's a reason the battery-throwing, Santa Claus-booing stereotype exists.) And it's real easy to laugh at the Eagles plight, especially after they "won the offseason" with a ton of free-agent moves and name-brand signings.

But suggesting that the Eagles should dump Reid is silly, especially when there's a smarter path to success.

1) Fire Juan Castillo. This is coming anyway, you gotta think, and it's not that unreasonable. 2) Re-work the defensive scheme. Hire someone who can take the incredibly talented defensive group Philly has and actually utilize them properly. 3) Dump DeSean Jackson. He's ridiculously talented, but Jackson's got the look of a guy who's wrecking this locker room with contract and attitude problems. (Or maybe, as Clark Judge wrote Sunday, he's a symptom of a larger problem. Either way, he's not helping and he's not happy.) 4) Draft/trade/sign linebackers, safeties and offensive linemen in the offseason and actually address weaknesses.

This isn't an "easy" solution, of course. But this Eagles team has too much talent and Andy Reid's got too much success in Philly to simply blow everything up because the Dream Team experiment went awry in the first season.

He's also inherently tied to Philly's franchise quarterback, Michael Vick. One more bad year from both guys and it might be worth discussing a change, but just because Philly fans are naturally angry doesn't mean Eagles management should have a naturally knee-jerk reaction to 2011.

5. Why So Serious?

There's no reason to sit here and get in an uproar over Stevie Johnson's touchdown celebration against the Jets, in which he mocked Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes by pretending to shoot himself in the leg and then crash a plane. (Besides, Bob Costas' "get off my lawn" Sunday night halftime rant took care of that.)

I like the move, because it's a big-time slap in the face to the Jets, the Bills need some swagger, and as long as you back up your trash-talk, do what you want.

The problem with Johnson's TD is that as soon as he pulled off a celebration mocking a pair of wideouts on the other team, his game went in the toilet. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)

Look, I think Johnson's an awesome talent and a great dude and if I'm in charge of meting out discipline, someone who landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sunday is washing Johnson's white t-shirt collection, just because his celebrations are hysterical.

But if you're going to publicly mock a colleague for literally shooting himself in the foot, you can't turn around and spend the rest of the game figuratively doing the same thing to yourself and your team, which is precisely what Johnson did when he egged on a would-be game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter:



That's exactly why I refuse to get all amped up about whether what he did was right or wrong. Johnson will almost certainly be fined by the NFL. Johnson will -- as Mike Freeman's already noted -- be subject to league-wide and public scorn. And, most importantly, his team lost because after his premature celebration, the Jets wideouts were substantially better than Johnson was.

6. Shananigans

There's no chance that any other football journalist or fan or couch-bound pundit knows as much about managing a football team as Mike Shanahan. The man has two Super Bowl wins. Enough said.

But why on Earth did it take so long to get Roy Helu touches?

The Redskins rookie running back rumbled for 108 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught seven passes for 54 yards in Washington's surprise 23-17 comeback victory in Seattle Sunday.

This would be shocking, but Helu already set the franchise record for receptions in a game three weeks ago, and averaged five yards per carry more than Ryan Torain two weeks ago, so giving him the rock seemed obvious to everyone ... except Shanahan.

Seattle's rush defense is one of the best in the NFL (3.5 yards per carry allowed going in and coming out of the loss), so it's not like Helu was carving up the Panthers or Colts here.

The obvious reward for his impressive game on the ground and remaining Rex Grossman's most reliable target is a much-deserved, one-carry afternoon next week against the Jets. Don't say I didn't warn you, fantasy owners.

7. 0-Fer

The Colts became the first NFL team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, just minutes before the Rams were booted as well, thanks to their 27-19 loss to Carolina in Indy Sunday.

Everyone knew they were already eliminated, of course, and everyone knows they'll land the top-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the big question is, can the 2008 Detroit Lions keep their bottles of Andre on ice for the time being?

Probably not -- Indy looks like a pretty good lock to finish the season at 0-16, based on their remaining schedule.

First up in Week 13 is New England (in Foxboro) and there's no reason to spend time wondering if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will get trapped against a one-time arch-rival in a free "kick 'em while they're down" game. They won't. At Baltimore in Week 14 should be a lock for a double-digit blowout too. The Ravens have stumbled against bad teams, but not at home, and no one's had a defense as bad as Indy.

Tennessee (Week 15) and Houston (Week 16) at home shouldn't present challenges for Indy when it comes to losing either, considering that both teams appear to have capable rushing attacks. Even if Chris Johnson still looks like he's wading through a giant jar of jelly when he hits the hole, he's been effective against bad rushing defenses this year.

That leaves at Jacksonville in Week 17, and which isn't even their best chance at being favored (read: getting more than a 50 percent chance of winning from Vegas). That will be Tennessee, but the Titans will still be favored by at least three points in Indy, like the Panthers were.

And none of the remaining teams on the schedule have a defense nearly as bad as the Panthers, which means there's a 60-plus percent chance Indy goes winless this year. At least.

8. Rookie of the Year Race

Fortunately, we get to honor a Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. Because otherwise, we might have a big old heated argument about who the most deserving rookie in 2011 is. Last week, I threw my [substantial only in the literal sense] weight behind Andy Dalton leaping past Cam Newton for the top rookie, but now I'm not so sure.

That's not because Cam went bananas in a win on Sunday so much as it was Dalton only beating the Browns because he's got another rookie -- wideout A.J. Green -- on his team, who might secretly be the best option for the award on the Bengals roster.

Cincy remained in playoff contention -- they're currently the No. 6 seed -- thanks to Green making big catches to set up scores all day.

On the defensive end of things, Von Miller continued to state his case for ROY honors with 10 total tackles and another sack. And what about Patrick Peterson, who returned a fourth punt return for a TD on the year? Dude's defensive improvement is underrated so far this year, especially in a tough situation, and it'll be interesting to see how his game-changing impact on special teams will rate for voters -- three of his teeters have, literally, been game-winning scores.

9. A Quarterback League

Watching the Chiefs stifle the Steelers for much of the Sunday night game -- eventually won by Pittsburgh 13-9 -- was picture proof of how important having a good quarterback really is. Matt Cassel might have struggled against the Steelers defense, but Tyler Palko was absolutely miserable, going 18/28 for 167 yards and three picks.

The same can be said for Jacksonville, who knocked Matt Leinart out against Houston, but couldn't muster any sort of offense because no one would respect Blaine Gabbert, much less McCown.

Teams that don't have a good quarterback can still win by playing smart and running the hell out of the ball, but the Jaguars and Chiefs are great proof as to just how quickly a team can fade out relevancy as a result of lacking substantial skill under center.

The Jacksonville and Kansas City defenses have put their respective offenses in decent position to win games over the past couple of weeks, but an inability to move the ball resulted in a pair of losses for each squad. (Romeo Crennel's defensive scheming against Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger was particularly impressive, and even more depressing when you think about how badly it was wasted.)

Which is precisely why it's impossible to be too bullish about the playoff chances for teams like the Texans and the 49ers.

10. And the Oscar Goes To ...

Jerome Simpson for the flop of the NFL season. And maybe NFL history? It's hard to even call this a "storyline," because it's not. There's no epidemic of flopping hitting the NFL and Christian Ronaldo isn't going to be defecting any time soon.

But Simpson's flop, which you can watch here, is just too amazing to ignore.

Oh yes, and the Bengals snuck one out against the Browns, holding onto their sixth seed in the playoffs. They've got the look of a team that isn't quite ready to quit trying out this possible pipe dream of a postseason run, but if they play like they did against the Browns when they get the Steelers, Texans and Ravens over the next three weeks, it's hard to imagine them sneaking in with three 6-5 teams (Titans, Jets, Broncos) hanging out on the fringe.

And that flop wouldn't be nearly as pretty as Simpson's.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Percy Harvin's 104-yard kick return that didn't produce a touchdown on Sunday was the longest non-scoring play in NFL history.
... Peterson is also the only player in NFL history with four punt return touchdowns of 80-plus yards or more in a season.
... And the Rams-Cardinals game was the first in NFL history to feature an 80-plus yard punt-return TD from each team.
... Cam Newton is just the fourth post-merger quarterback to rush for 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Steve Grogan, Kordell Stewart and Daunte Culpepper on that list.
... Chris Long recorded his 10th sack of the season, meaning he and dad Howie are just the second father-son combo to record double-digit sacks in a season in their career, along with Clay Matthews and his dad, Clay Matthews.
... The Bengals overcame a 10-point halftime deficit for the third time this season, tied for the most in NFL history, along with the 2011 Lions.
...

Worth 1,000 Words



GIF O' THE WEEK

There might be a better option, but watching Tim Tebow hit his X button two seconds too early and then get laid out is pretty entrancing.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Norv Turner: Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes "no playoffs = no more Norv." So, probably no more Norv.
  • Jim Caldwell: If they go 0-16 and draft a new franchise quarterback, how can they carry over the same staff? They can't right?
  • Steve Spagnuolo: He just lost back-to-back games to Seattle and Arizona. Talk about a free-fall.
  • Jack Del Rio: It's a good rule of thumb that if you're flopping your first-round rookie for a McCown brother that your job is in trouble.
  • Tony Sparano: Even if he keeps winning, you gotta think Stephen Ross goes window shopping this offseason.

Chasing Andrew Luck

The Colts have all but locked up the Luck sweepstakes, and with the remaining schedules, we might as well take the numbers off the board. Congratulations for ruining a mini-feature in this column by Week 12, Curtis Painter. You jerk.

MVP Watch

Speaking of jerks, "tanks for nuthin'" Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has one more holiday game left -- a Christmas showdown with the Bears. And the Packers could still lose a game and maybe come back towards the Patriots (if Tom Brady stays hot?), but he's all but sewn up this award pretty early in the season.

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