HOUSTON -- This is the thought that went through my mind near the end of the first quarter Monday night at Reliant Stadium, after seeing
Now, that's not a knock on the Vikings. It simply an acknowledgement that if we're to believe anything about the preseason (and that is a dubious practice right there, taking anything from practice games), it's possible Chicago and Green Bay are on Minnesota's level, and we've got a new power division in the NFL.
As far as division kingpins go, most everyone agrees the NFC East is king heading into the 2009 season. From one through four, the East is better than any division playing. But I think as the season dawns, Chicago-Minnesota-Green Bay is better than New York-Philadelphia-Dallas.
"I saw the Bears [Sunday] night,'' tight end
I don't know what that means, but I think any one of three teams in the North could win 12 games.
If the Green Bay Packers make the ascension from 6-10 last year to the playoffs this year -- and it's not beyond the realm of possibility given the play of their first units on offense and defense in the preseason -- I've got an unlikely primary reason: the offseason program.
You hear the merits of great attendance at teams' offseason conditioning and workout programs debated every year. But a couple of years ago, when I was around the Cleveland Browns during the spring and summer, I was surprised that so many players, including purported team leaders like
I thought that was a major weakness of the Browns. And though I think these programs have spiraled into full-time offseason gigs, the problem with saying you're not making them semi-mandatory is that other teams are. So if you're the Browns and you've got, say, 60 percent attendance, and the Ravens have, for example, 85 percent attendance, doesn't it stand to reason that the Ravens are probably going to come to training camp in better shape and more in tune with what the coaches have planned for them in camp?
That's probably too long a preface, but back to the Packers. Their 2009 offseason attendance, according to coach
In Green Bay, Wisc.? In March and April and May?
"When I took the job,'' said McCarthy, who was named coach on Jan. 12, 2006, "there was a mindset around this team that you can't have an offseason program in Green Bay, Wisc. And I thought that was absolutely ridiculous. The offseason is when you get better, and the attendance at our program in the last couple of years showed, I think, the maturation of this football team. What I told the team is attendance in the offseason program has to count for something.''
Or, in the words of
McCarthy credited the offseason program before the 2007 playoff season with molding the skills of safety
While the Green Bay offense has been noted for its terrific preseason, Jenkins and the defensive line has brought the kind of pressure the new 3-4 scheme must have. New defensive coordinator
I'd expect Brett Favre to get a league fine for his crackback block on Houston safety
I don't think you're going to see a continuation of the cold war between Giants defensive coordinator
Umenyiora hasn't been his 2007 terrific self coming back from knee surgery that caused him to miss last season, and I think his absence might have been part frustration over how he's playing, part missing
Now for your e-mail:
"The Jets were coming off their Super Bowl win, yet they still felt they didn't have the respect of the long-established Giants. Similarly, the Giants wanted to prove they still were the aristocracy among the city's football teams and didn't want to lose to the upstarts from Queens. I was at that game, and think both teams played their starters almost the entire contest. When
"In fact, if you remember the first year the NFL and AFL teams played preseason games against each other, the AFL teams looked at those games as holy wars, trying to build their own sense of respect among the more established NFL teams after being dissed the first few years of the merger as not being worthy of inclusion into the old guard league. My family had Jets season tickets back then and I remember how big that game was. The trip up to New Haven on I-95 was a slow crawl, packed with cars of Jets and Giants fans honking and yelling at each other the entire drive. The Giant fans were pretty quiet on the way back.''
Great point, Harvey. I was 12 then, living in Connecticut, and vaguely remember watching the game on TV. Don't have a great memory of the game, but you've just given me one.
I think what
What was left unsaid is that Roethlisberger, at a time when he needed the backing of his team and his front office, might well have felt jilted if the Steelers were spending time every day acclimating Vick to the new offense, his new team, and his new city. I've had a few people tell me, in essence, that I'm crazy, and the Steelers could never bring a dog-torturer onto the team. All I can tell you, with due respect, is that you're wrong. I'm not saying it certainly would have happened. I am saying they would have strongly considered it were it not for Roethlisberger's problems.
That's all good, with one proviso. The Broncos never let Cutler know he was not wanted. Cutler found out
I'm surprised to hear you say that. Nearly everyone I've heard quoted on the new stadium is pleased with it. Maybe I need to go up to your section to see what you're seeing.
First, and not to quibble, the words "potential Hall of Famer'' might be the most overused four words in our football vocabulary. I'd say Seau has a good chance to make the Hall, and the rest will have a tough climb. And last year Harrison and Seau played a combined eight games for the Pats; Harrison wasn't even around the team for much of the last couple of months, preferring to rehab near his Atlanta home.
But your point is a very good one -- the braintrust and locker-room leadership on defense has taken a beating. Given the fact that two more guys their mates look up to --
All good points, except for the 14-game thing. In a 14-game season, a back needs to average 71.4 yards a game to gain 1,000.
I've made three points to quite a few people over the years, about players who play positions that can be measured by statistics and are being discussed by the Hall selection committee:
a. We can all make stats of very good players say pretty much anything we'd like them to say. If I didn't tell you the name of the running back, but said we were seriously considering enshrining a running back with one career 1,000-yard season, a 3.9-yard career rushing average and an average of 54 rushing yards per game, there's a good chance you'd go back and tell me to go do some more homework on the man. Which is a good thing to say, because the men on the Hall's Seniors Committee are voters I respect very much -- veteran scribes like
b. You cannot take only numbers into consideration. But you can't forget them either, and you can't assume what a player would have done in a different place. We have to look at the talent around candidates, which makes the vetting process even harder. Do we deduct points from
What if I gave you this argument:
c. This applies to all candidates. Remember that the hue and cry for most candidates is localized. I don't recall ever getting a passionate e-mail or letter about
Duly noted. Thanks for writing.
Also noted. Thanks for writing.