Tag:Andrew Luck
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 4, 2011 2:08 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2011 11:18 pm
 

Video: Peyton Manning talks to The NFL Today



Posted by Ryan Wilson


On Sunday, prior to the Colts-Patriots game, Peyton Manning joined The NFL Today crew to talk about where he is in his rehab from multiple neck surgeries (he's making progress); what his future holds as a player, coach (prognosis: not good), and television analyst (he's gunning for Marino's chair); and his thoughts on the Colts drafting Andrew Luck. 

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.
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.

Posted on: November 23, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 3:13 pm
 

Report: Luck will enter 2012 NFL draft

LuckPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Suck for Luck? Oh, it’s so on.

In a widely-expected move -- I mean, could you really imagine him returning to Stanford for his senior season? -- quarterback Andrew Luck, the most wanted college player in the NFL, will not return to school after his season is complete.

That’s the word from Yahoo Sports, which reports that Luck will not take college classes next quarter as he prepares himself for the 2012 NFL draft and a possible relocation to Indianapolis.

There were some observers who apparently believed Luck could return to school in order to manipulate which team could possibly take him No. 1 in the draft (if that, in fact, is where Luck is selected). But that’s not going to happen at this point, and when winter quarter classes begin Jan. 9 at Stanford, Luck won’t be there.

More from Yahoo:
“He could still go back and register for classes, but that’s not the plan,” said a source who has known Luck for many years.

Luck’s father, Oliver, who played quarterback in the NFL and is now the athletic director at West Virginia University, wrote via text message that his son “does have academic work this spring that he needs to complete to graduate … and he’s planning to finish his academics.” When asked specifically about whether his son would be taking classes or focusing on his NFL future, Luck wrote: “All I can tell you is that he’ll finish his degree. It is important to him.”

If you were to analyze this situation deeply, you could make the claim that Luck might not want to play in Indianapolis, because there’s a decent chance he’d be stuck behind Peyton Manning for a few years. This assumes, of course, that Manning is healthy and that Indianapolis wouldn’t trade Luck for a boatload of draft picks. But as far as returning to Stanford to avoid that potential clash, it sounds like that’s not playing a factor in his decision.

“That’s not his style,” Yahoo’s source said. “He doesn’t like all the attention to begin with and now you’re talking about doing something that would bring a lot of extra attention on him. … I know it has been done, but there’s no guarantee of where you go. Even now, you can’t figure out what the teams are really going to do. He wants to go somewhere and have a chance to be great. You can’t create that by yourself.”

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Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:01 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 12:13 am
 

Peyton Manning not interested in Ole Miss job

Artist rendering of what Manning would look like as a slightly overweight SEC head coach.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

This much we know: Houston Nutt won't be coaching the Ole Miss football team after the 2011 season. Former Rebels signal caller and progenitor of the modern NFL quarterback, Archie Manning, is on the search committee to find the next coach.

Seems reasonable given Archie's legacy and his stature. Less reasonable, however: the calls for Peyton Manning to succeed Nutt. But that hasn't stopped fans from suggesting as much.

"I've gotten about 20 or 25 e-mails from people in that regard," Archie told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I passed that on to Peyton. He said, 'Just tell them that I'm 0-10 as an assistant for Indianapolis.'"

Incidentally, the oh-for-2011 start hasn't slowed Jim Caldwell any. In fact, Caldwell has applauded his team's hard work this year, which hasn't gone over well with owner Jim Irsay. (“We will never accept this kind of chronic losing. It’s an unwelcome visitor, that we will not tolerate,” Irsay said recently via Twitter.)

Manning has missed the 2011 season while he recovers from multiple neck surgeries. But unlike some players who choose to rehab away from the team, Manning has been seen on the sidelines and in the coaches booth during games. He's even helped with the game-planning. And once he's healthy, there's every reason to believe that he'll resuming his playing career. Even if the Colts go winless and draft Andrew Luck.

Meanwhile, Archie's search continues.

"I know a lot of people in football, you get names of possible coaches and you take them down," he said. "We'll turn the names we have over to the search firm and they'll have more names. …

"A proven name (as a head coach) is good," the elder Manning continued. "But at the same time, every head coach out there has been an assistant at one time. So it wouldn't be wise for us to look away from assistants. We're looking at everyone, even in the pro ranks."

Echoing the thoughts of our buddy MDS at PFT.com, we wonder if Jim Caldwell's name is on Archie's list.

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Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:55 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 10:18 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 10

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 Teams

It 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 Bad

Mike 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 Again

After 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.

Week - Opponent
Rice Carries
Rice Rushing Yards
Points Scored
Result
1 - Steelers
19 107 35 W
2 - Titans
13 43 13 L
3 - Rams
9 81 37 W
4 - Jets
25 66 34 W
6 - Texans
23 101 29 W
7 - Jaguars
8 28 7 L
8 - Cardinals
18 63 30 W
9 - Steelers
18 43 23 W
10 - Seahawks
5 27 17 L

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 Rocket

Alright, 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 Pants

Before 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 Here

First 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 Punts

Leftovers 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 WEEK

This is unfortunate for Ray Lewis:

Hot Seat Tracker

  • Todd Haley -- Welcome back, sir! We missed you. How can one manage to not prepare for the read-option after watching another division opponent look totally unprepared for it and lose?
  • Mike Shanahan -- He's the one who thought Grossman and Beck were a winning combination.
  • Juan Castillo -- It's either him or Andy Reid right?
  • Jim Caldwell -- If Caldwell doesn't get canned, I'm convinced no one does.

Chasing Andrew Luck

Colts (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 Watch

Aaron 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.
Posted on: November 12, 2011 5:32 pm
 

Jeff Saturday holds 'stern' players-only meeting

Posted by Will Brinson

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the 0-9 Colts are the worst team in football. They've been outscored 120-24 over their past three games and the only thing Indy fans have left to cheer for is the possibility of landing Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in the upcoming draft.

But that doesn't mean the Colts are giving up on 2011 just yet. In fact, in advance of their Week 10 matchup against Jacksonville, center Jeff Saturday held a players-only meeting this week, in which he delivered a "stern" message about the team continuing to give it their all this season.

"I felt like it needed to be said and I said it," Saturday said, via Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star. "I don't want to go into the details of it."

However, rookie tackle Anthony Castonzo provided a little insight into what was said, or, at least, the tone of what was said.

"It was really stern," Castonzo said. "It was like, 'Listen, we're not joking around. We're 0-9 right now.' "

That doesn't mean Saturday was pounding his fist on a table or, um, jumping off a turnbuckle or anything. He just probably delivered the message in a similar way to how he handled lockout updates during the offseason.

"He didn't have to yell. He didn't have to scream," Reggie Wayne said, per The Star. "He didn't have to be 'Macho Man' Randy Savage. He was Jeff Saturday. That's how we took it."


Saturday said that he acquired coach Jim Caldwell's consent to hold the meeting, and it's kind of surprising that Caldwell hasn't used the respected veteran to try and push the players before. (Or not surprising, depending on how you view Caldwell, I guess.)

This Colts team has seven games left in the season to avoid the ignominy of going winless, and just two of the games can really be considered "winnable" -- this weeks' matchup against Jacksonville and Week 17's matchup against ... Jacksonville.

That's not to insult the Jaguars, but they're pretty clearly the worst team on the rest of the Colts schedule. Plus, while Jacksonville's defense is impressive this year, their offense is arguably the worst in the NFL (just behind the Colts!), and if Indy's going to stop anyone from scoring 20-plus points in a game this year, you've gotta think their best chance is against the Jags.

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Posted on: November 9, 2011 3:28 pm
 

Sarkisian: Comments not 'a knock on Andrew Luck'

Posted by Will Brinson



Recently, Washington Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said if he were running the team with the first-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he'd take Southern Cal's Matt Barkley over Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Feeling Lucky?

Considering many folks would take Luck over even Cam Newton (!), this came as a bit of surprise. As it turns out, it's not Coach Sark ripping on Luck, it's him being really, really high on Barkley. How do I know this? Well, I listened to the always excellent Free Bruce podcast with my CBSSports.com colleagues Bryan Fischer and Bruce Feldman, featuring Sarkisian as a guest recently.

"Well, I want to start with this: One, this is by no means a knock on Andrew Luck. He's a tremendous quarterback, played at a high level, what he's done at Stanford and the accolades he's gotten he deserves mightily," Sarkisian told CBSSports.com. "What I do know about Matt Barkley is the system he plays in. I know him personally from the time of recruiting him since ninth grade on at modern-day high school.

And the way he's matured and played at the level he's playing at and the types of things he's been asked to do, for me and for our system and what I do, I would draft Matt Barkley. And again that's not a knock on Andrew Luck. I think he'll be the No. 1 pick in the draft. But for what we do, I think Matt fits a little bit better."

So there you have it -- Sark doesn't necessarily believe anyone else will take Luck over Barkley, and he doesn't think Luck won't be great, he just believes Barkley is an ideal quarterback for a pro-style offense.

Of course, most folks believe Luck will be perfect for a pro-style offense as well, so that might not be the most convincing argument.

Barkley's production (67 percent completions, 2,608 yards, 28 touchdowns, six interceptions) isn't that far off of Luck's production (71.3 percent completions, 2,424 yards, 26 touchdowns, five interceptions) this season, if it at all.

And as CBSSports.com's draft expert Rob Rang notes in his recent Big Board rankings, Barkley isn't exactly a slouch.

"Barkley is still a top-notch prospect in his own right," Rang writes. "In a typical draft he would be generating No. 1 overall buzz."

Of course, Rang also notes that his highest-rated player in 12 years of scouting professionally is Luck (ahead of Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson).

So maybe it's possible that Sarkisian is right, and both guys will be great.

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