Football Insiders: Check out Stewart Mandel's College Football Overtime column.
NEW YORK -- We usually start with the winners in this space every Monday, and we'll get to them soon enough. But today, there's something so compelling about the Washington Redskins have to start there.
No less respected a voice than Michael Wilbon blogged last night that this is the most depressing time to be a Redskins follower he's seen in 29 years of living and working in Washington. "I've never seen so many of them looking droopy and depressed than Sunday night following the pathetic 14-6 loss to the Chiefs,'' he wrote. When you play an 0-5 team, at home, a Kansas City team in the midst of the biggest rebuilding project of any in the league, and you generate more three-and-outs (seven) than points (six), it's time to do something. Anything.
And so last night, Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato met with coach Jim Zorn and asked him (well, asked might be a little kind) to relinquish the play-calling duties. I reported this on NBC last night, and then the team admitted as such, and today I expect the team will announce who exactly the new play-caller is. Smart money around the team last night was two-week-old employee Sherm Lewis, who'd been brought in to consult.
"Jim's doing too much,'' Cerrato told me. "He's coaching the quarterbacks, putting the game plan together, calling the plays, coaching the team. We need Jim to coach the team, to do what a head coach does. It's been 14 games now [the Redskins are a toothless 4-10 since last Halloween], and we've got to do something.''
This is simply an act of delaying the inevitable, of course. Zorn cannot survive. Brought in to refine everything about Jason Campbell's game, Zorn has failed there, and Sunday he had to pull Campbell in the midst of another offensive horror show. The other story here, of course, is that Campbell's contract is up at the end of this year, and now, in addition to looking for a new coach and totally overhauling an awful offensive line in the offseason, they have to find a quarterback too. How attractive, really, is the Redskins' coaching job right now? The place is a mess.
I expect Washington to give this new play-calling thing three or four weeks, and when that doesn't work, Zorn will be dismissed. I was told Sunday night that the logical in-season successor, defensive coordinator Greg Blache, doesn't want the job, and it most logically would go to secondary coach Jerry Gray. Not that this matters much; Gray would never be a candidate for the full-time gig, not with all the big-name coaches out there.
Speaking of big-name coaches, it wouldn't surprise me if Dan Snyder had dinner with one of them this weekend. Jon Gruden will be in town to do the Monday night game for ESPN. Jon Gruden wants back into football. Jon Gruden can coach quarterbacks. Be careful, Jon. Be careful.
The Saints look like the best team in the league to me.
By several measures, the Giants entered Sunday's game at the Superdome as the best defensive team in football. Midway through the second quarter, I turned to Tony Dungy in our NBC viewing room at Rockefeller Center and said, "The Giants are going to have to go for it on fourth down for the rest of the game. They just have no hope of stopping Drew Brees.''
New Orleans had six possessions in the first half. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, a failed fourth-and-goal plunge from the Giants 1, touchdown. Brees was Tom Brady in 2007, Peyton Manning in 2003, Kurt Warner in 2000. Two more long touchdown drives in the second half, and the Saints had a 48-point, 493-yard day.
In the spring, I power-rated the Saints as the 24th-best team in football. I thought there was no hope for their defense. "Twenty-fourth!'' Sean Payton said to me a few months ago in amazement. Talk about one I wish I had back. The Saints aren't the best defense in the game, but they make up for any lack of talent by playing with an edgy attitude with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams sending rushers from anywhere. "We have a lot of fun in practice,'' Williams told me. "I really piss off Drew Brees. I think he was used to getting his way with the defense around here the last couple of years. Not anymore. He's going to get a challenge from us every day in practice.''
Brees, in his 5,069-yard passing season last year, was phenomenal. This year, he's 4 percentage points more accurate, and on pace to throw 35 touchdown passes and five interceptions. Ridiculous. As long as his line keeps him as clean as it has through six games -- he's been sacked only four times -- he's going to have a phenomenal year, one of the best a quarterback has ever had.
I think a Minnesota-New Orleans NFC Championship Game would be one of the most anticipated football games of this era. Think of it: Brees and his all-world offense in one corner. Brett Favre, if he survives the year, in the other corner, with his sidekick Adrian Peterson. God, don't let any of those three men get hurt before January.
There's nothing wrong with Adrian Peterson. Nothing.
Entering Sunday's game against Baltimore, Peterson was on a four-game streak of being held under 100 yards rushing. That had happened only once, in 2007, in his pro career. What's more, teams were loading up to stop Peterson as much or more than ever, even with Favre in the backfield. Though it kept killing teams because Favre has responded so well, here came the strong safety, creeping down, even on downs when Favre might very well pass. On several plays against Green Bay two weeks ago, Peterson saw nine in the box.
"I get the question all the time, 'Are you frustrated?' '' he told me Sunday afternoon. "Are you kidding me? We're winning, we're playing explosive on offense, and I'm supposed to be frustrated. When the other guys can make plays -- Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe -- that helps us be a better team. Plus, I'm coming out of games fresher now than last year.''
I wonder how teams are going to play Minnesota going forward. We've seen the Vikings for six weeks now. The Ravens looked like they tried to hem in Peterson while relying on their corners to hold up in lots of single coverage. But Peterson rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries, and Favre ate the Baltimore secondary alive -- completing 72 percent of his throws with three touchdowns and no interceptions. There's no better combo platter of rusher and passer out there now, and I challenge you to think back to when there was. Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk come to mind, but Faulk wasn't the inside runner Peterson is.
"It's hilarious to me, watching Brett,'' Peterson said. "Sooner or later, defenses will understand they can play like that [with eight or nine men up], but Brett's going to get them if they do. The guy's arm is great. His deep ball is outstanding. Whatever they want to do, we're fine with it.'' We can see that.
Two last points on Peterson. We were stunned at NBC Sunday to see the Vikings -- with 2:30 left in the game, trailing Baltimore 31-30, with a third-and-nine at the Ravens' 17 -- to not go aggressively for the first down. "We were a little surprised too,'' Peterson said. Peterson ran for a three-yard gain, with the Vikings happy to settle for the field goal. It was a poor call because the Ravens had scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, the Vikes looked gassed on defense, and even if Ryan Longwell made the field goal, Baltimore would have two minutes to win it. Longwell made it, Baltimore drove into field goal range, and Steve Hauschka lined up for a 44-yarder with two seconds left. Wide left. I don't care if the kick was wide left; if you've got a quarterback as hot as Favre (playing nearly mistake-free in his first six games), you give him a chance to get the touchdown before settling for three.
Finally, Peterson entered the season with a gaudy career average of 5.16 yards per rush in his first two years. Jim Brownish. Just as defenses haven't changed the way they play him, Peterson's production hasn't changed one whit. After six games this year, he's averaging 5.16 yards per rush.
Rounding out the day...
• I wasn't sure at first glance, but now I am: If the NFL gave Jets safety Eric Smith a one-game ban and a $50,000 fine for launching himself into Anquan Boldin last year, Dante Wesley deserves no less. The NFL should suspend him for launching himself into defenseless return man Clifton Smith as the Buc waited to take one back, Smith hadn't called for a fair catch, and Wesley had the right to cream him when the ball arrived. But the ball was still in the air when Wesley left the ground and knocked Smith into next week. A bush-league play if I ever saw one.
At least last year, Smith flew into Boldin at the same time the ball arrived. This Wesley play was worse. This morning, discipline czar Ray Anderson begins analyzing gametape, TV tape and a player's record to determine whether and how severely a player will be sanctioned. Wesley's going to get something major; that's for sure. It should involve at least one week off. Unpaid.
• In the first five weeks of the season, Tom Brady didn't look much like the classic Tom Brady. But coming off knee surgery, it shouldn't be surprising that he wasn't as good early. Rodney Harrison said it was about five or six games into a season following knee surgery that he really felt back to normal. Sunday in Foxboro was number six for Brady, in the snow, and he looked much like the 2007 Brady.
In a 10-minute span of the second quarter, he threw five touchdown passes. It was a combination of the Titans being defensively inept and their offense handing it back to Brady on three turnovers and two punts. But Brady started flawlessly, seven for seven in the first quarter, and in the second completed 17 of 21 for 252 yards. He showed no hesitation in the pocket, not looking paranoid about bodies flying around him.
"Some days out there when it's snowy like that, it's actually an advantage for the offense,'' he said afterward. "Today was one of those days because we had good footing and it's just fun to be a part of it. I was saying, when you see the weather forecast on Thursday, you're kind of [angry] and then once the day of the game comes around, everyone is excited because you're out there and you're like, 'This is football. This is how it should be.' '' The Patriots haven't looked this good since 2007.
• As one of my editors at SI, Dick Friedman, observed, how about a Harvard quarterback and Yale coach beating the big, bad Jets? Ryan Fitzpatrick subbed for the concussed Trent Edwards, with Yalie Dick Jauron getting a reprieve from the warden by playing opportunistic on defense.
Actually it's the Nice Nineteen this week.
1. New Orleans (5-0). I'm not sure, but I think the 60 minutes the Saints played Sunday was the best all-around 60 minutes of football any team has played this year.
2. Minnesota (6-0). Brett Favre's never been 6-0 before.
3. Indianapolis (5-0). The schedule-maker's nice to the Caldwellmen when they return off their bye: at St. Louis, then a three-game homestand (Niners, Texans, Pats).
4. Denver (5-0). Remember when we talked about the brutal midseason slate Denver had this year? It's still there. Tonight's game in San Diego is the last in October, before a bye. Denver's games in the first 26 days of November are: at Baltimore, Pittsburgh, at Washington, San Diego, New York Giants (short week, Thanksgiving).
5. New England (4-2). Either the Tennessee Titans are Secaucus High, or the Patriots might have taken their first snowy steps back to prominence Sunday.
6. New York Giants (5-1). Abysmal, pathetic, awful in all ways. Also just one game, against football's best team.
7. Atlanta (4-1). After the bye, they've beaten the Niners by 35 on the road and had an impressive Sunday night win over the Bears. And that loss to New England now doesn't look so bad, does it?
8. Pittsburgh (4-2). It is a mark of how good Ben Roethlisberger is that he threw for 417 yards, with two touchdowns, and no one noticed. It's becoming routine.
9. Green Bay (3-2).Aaron Rodgers completed passes (29 of them) to nine receivers Sunday. It's fitting that 34-year-old Donald Driver was the one to lead them. Seven catches, 107 yards, giving him 602 career catches, setting the Packers' all-time record. Hallowed ground: more catches than Don Hutson and Sterling Sharpe.
10. Chicago (3-2). It wasn't enough to make him Goat of the Week, but Orlando Pace had a blunder that went a long way toward losing this game for his new team. On fourth-and-one from the Atlanta five with 34 seconds left, quarterback Jay Cutler barked the signals in a loud Georgia Dome, and Pace leaped across the line -- as though he had the signal wrong. Fourth-and-six. Instead of running Matt Forte or throwing a two-yard curl to one of his tight ends, Cutler had to gain some real real-estate, and his fourth-down pass into traffic wasn't close.
11. Cincinnati (4-2). Go figure the Bengals. Can't stand prosperity.
12. Baltimore (3-3). I'm tempted to throw them out of the Fine Fifteen entirely. But with 10 minutes to go at the Metrodome, they were down 27-10, and they scored 21 points in the next seven minutes to take the lead against a formidable Minnesota defense. The Ravens are not the same on defense this year -- their corners are killing them -- but I still think this team has a good chance to rebound and make something of its season.
13. San Diego (2-2). Seems like about two months since the Chargers played. Actually it's been 15 days.
14. (tie) Philadelphia (3-2). Anyone wondering if just maybe Kevin Kolb would have played a better game in Oakland than Donovan McNabb?
14. (tie) San Francisco (3-2). Hope Mike Singletary had a fire-and-brimstone chat with his defense before it left for the bye weekend.
14. (tie) Miami (2-3). Not sure how long they'll be here. Next three games: vs. Saints, at Jets, at Pats. As that noted football analyst Scooby Doo would say, "Ruh-Roh.''
14. (tie) Arizona (3-2). If the Cards would be consistent, I'd know what to do with them. Of course, can't you say that about every team but the top three or four in here?
14. (tie) Houston (3-3). As I waited to speak with Matt Schaub Sunday after the game via phone, Texans media czar Tony Wyllie said to me, "Hold on. I'm going to put the NFL touchdown leader on the phone.'' He's right: Schaub 14, Brees 13, Peyton Manning 12, Brady 12, Favre 12.
14. (tie) New York Jets (3-3). Bigger crash: Stock market in '08, Jets in '09?
"I just gave that team the win.''
-- Jets quarterbackMark Sanchez, after throwing five interceptions in the Jets' 16-13 overtime loss to the Bills.
No one's arguing, kid.
"Let's assume that Dr. Omalu [noted neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, who has studied brain injuries to football players] and the others are right. What should we be doing differently? ... No one has any suggestions -- assuming you aren't saying no more football, because, let's be honest, that's not going to happen.''
-- Ira Casson, one of the co-chairmen of an NFL committee on brain injuries to football players, as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in the Oct. 19 issue of The New Yorker.
Gladwell compares dog-fighting to football players suffering concussions, and it's a compelling, stark piece -- very good and vivid. His lead on Kyle Turley suffering a severe attack of post-concussion syndrome at a bar in Nashville is frightening and a great illustration of the problems "some" former players live with every day. You'll have to read the story to get the connection of dog-fighting to football, but the story is well worth your time.
"I've been playing sports since I was 8 years old, and never in any sport have I experienced anything like this.''
-- Tennessee linebacker Keith Bulluck, on the Titans' total ineptitude in a 59-0 loss at New England Sunday.
Offensive Players of the Week
Tom Brady, QB, New England.
Has any quarterback in NFL history completed 85 percent of his throws in snowy/wintry-mix weather like Brady played in Sunday? I doubt it. With a 29-of-34, 380-yard, six-TD, no-pick game against the hapless Titans (haven't ever written those two words together, I don't think), Brady had an unimaginably good 35-minute game.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland.
Russell removed the arrows from his back long enough to play good, but not great Sunday in Oakland. But no player in the league had been as bad in the first six weeks of the season as Russell, so his outing against the Eagles is worthy of mention here, with congratulations. Russell completed 17 of 28 passes for 224 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. Al Davis told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that people should be patient with Russell. I'm not convinced Russell can be good enough long-term, but it's clear the Raiders are going to give him this year to show what he's got.
Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans.
At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, it's hard to be anonymous, but Bushrod was until Sunday. Then he pitched a shutout against one of the best pass-rushers in the game, Osi Umenyiora of the Giants. Zero sacks, zero pressures. "I don't know that we ever hit [Drew Brees],'' coach Tom Coughlin said. Three times, actually. But it wasn't nearly enough, and the wall formed by Bushrod and his peers did the trick.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans.
Now, some would argue, with good statistical evidence, that the Giants had the league's best defense going into the game at the Superdome Sunday. The Saints put that D in the shredder. Brees had but seven incompletions in 30 throws, for 369 yards and four touchdowns. No interceptions. He was brilliant. It's hard to hit receivers in stride better than Brees did.
Defensive Players of the Week
Also the USC rookie linebacker alumni section.
Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Green Bay.
In the Pack's 26-0 whitewashing of Detroit, Matthews had two sacks, another tackle for loss, a pass batted down and five tackles. Green Bay held Detroit to 71 net passing yards, and Matthews played the biggest role.
Brian Cushing, LB, Houston.
The Texans went to Cincinnati and laid a 28-17 beatdown on the red-hot Bengals, thanks to four touchdown passes from Schaub and two important second-half turnovers by Cushing, who forced fumbles in the third and fourth quarters that Houston recovered. Cushing added an interception on the Bengals' last drive of the day. For the season, he's led the Texans in tackles in four of their six games.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Josh Cribbs, KR/PR/RB/Everything Else, Cleveland.
So far, Cribbs has been the Browns' best player, and it's on display every week. With the Browns down 14-0 late in the second quarter, Cribbs took a kickoff at his two, sprinted up the right sideline, ran through the Pittsburgh coverage and singlehandedly kept Cleveland in a game it had no business being in. He also returned a punt for 26 yards and ran six times for 45 yards. Only blemish of the day: an interception, thrown out of the Wildcat formation.
Coach of the Week
Curtis Johnson, wide receivers coach, New Orleans.
I can't take credit for this one; Tony Dungy deserves it. During the Giants-Saints, we were watching Lance Moore, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem catch everything in sight (they caught 16 of the 18 balls Brees threw their way in the Saints' rout of the Giants), and Dungy talked about what a great receiving team the Saints were. Devery Henderson was never a great ball-catcher, yet he's become a decent NFL receiver in New Orleans. Johnson's one of those enthusiastic, demanding coach/teachers who doesn't get enough credit for the work they do day in and day out. Moore and Colston, in particular, are tremendously sure-handed and excellent route-runners.
Goat of the Week
Dante Wesley, DB, Carolina.
As I pointed out earlier in this column, there is absolutely no excuse for launching yourself into a defenseless return man without the ball, the way Wesley did against Clifton Smith of the Bucs. The more I watched the play Sunday night, the more I was repulsed. It was barbaric.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. And on the sixth week, he rested. Through five games, Peyton Manning is on pace to set NFL records in two of the most significant categories for a quarterback:
Yards: 5,264. (The record is 5,084, by Dan Marino, 1984.)
Completion percentage: 73.5. (The record is 70.6 by Ken Anderson, 1982.)
He's on pace to be sacked a career-low six times, and he's doing this with two new receivers among his top four targets. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, obviously are 1-2, but rookie Austin Collie and last year's sixth-round pick, Pierre "Foie Gras'' Garcon, are playing meaningful minutes.
And the schedule's conducive to record-setting. Seven of the Colts' remaining 11 games will be played in total climate-control (home and the Jones Dome), with an eighth in Houston, where the threat of weather will result in closing the roof. The Colts could luck out on the road weather-wise: Nov. 22 at Baltimore and Dec. 17 at Jacksonville. The one bear of a game, Jan. 3 at Buffalo, could be moot if the Colts have clinched a first-round bye by then. I could see Jim Caldwell playing Manning a quarter or less, unless the Marino yardage record is on the line that day.
2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Directing one of the great offenses of the decade flawlessly. The 5-0 record is due largely to his consistent greatness this year.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. Interesting when people are asking what's wrong with your game and you're averaging 5.2 yards a rush and more than 100 rushing yards a week.
4. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta. Rapidly moving up the charts. After a 45-point game last week, he drove the Birds to the winning touchdown with three minutes left Sunday night at home.
5. (tie) Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants, and Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. One bad game's not going to diminish the ridiculous start of Manning. And Roethlisberger's on pace for a 5,032-yard season. When the weather turns, so will Ben's numbers, but his career-best is 3,513 passing yards. Barring injury, he'll crush that.
Last year, in the first six games of the season, Tennessee allowed seven touchdowns.
Yesterday, in a 36-minute span against New England, Tennessee allowed eight touchdowns.
The Eagles and Andy Reid's agent, Bob LaMonte, are in negotiations to extend his contract beyond the 2010 season, after which the current deal is due to expire. It's not that the fandom is up in arms over the talks, but many Eagle fans are ambivalent about Reid; he's turned the Eagles into consistent winners but never has led the team to a Super Bowl victory. I thought I'd compare Reid at this stage of his career to another long-term Pennsylvania coach, Bill Cowher, who also had some in Pennsylvania questioning whether he should keep his job after 10 or 11 years. Reid coached his 165th regular-season game in Oakland Sunday, so that's my line of demarcation. Here's how each coach's record looked five games into his 11th season (165 games):
Eerie. Other than physique, jaw structure and a pathetic 2008 Eagles tie against the Bengals, how can the two careers be any closer in the middle of their 11th seasons?
Cowher won a division in his 11th year, went 6-10 in his 12th, went 15-1 in his 13th but lost to New England in the playoffs, won the Super Bowl in his 14th, and went 8-8 in his 15th, and last, season. I think if you asked the average Steelers fan, he'd think the Rooney family's patience with Cowher was a smart thing.
Maybe the average Eagles fan can't see the future as clearly right now, but I would give one caution to those with Reid fatigue: It appears they not only have Donovan McNabb for at least a couple more prime seasons (probably), but also have developed a legitimate heir in 25-year-old Kolb. Ten years into the Cowher reign, the Steelers didn't have one quarterback, never mind two.
So I went to Yankee Stadium the other night to watch Yankees-Angels. Pretty cold. In the bottom of the fourth, a vendor came by. "Hot chocolate!'' he yelled. "Hot chocolate!''
I looked at his badge: Hot chocolate $10.
Sixteen ounces of chocolate-flavored water. Ten bucks. I went online to try to quantify the profit margin, and the best I can figure is the Yankees must be making about $9.15 profit on each hot chocolate sold. I looked at a bulk shopping site, nextag.com, and figured that bulk Swiss Miss would be 23 cents a serving, an insulated cup and lid a combined 6.5 cents, and let's call the hot water 5 cents. And let's say the vendor makes 50 cents per cup sold; I wondered via Tweet how much per vessel an average vendor makes, and the answer varied far and wide, but it seemed like 50 cents per cup was about the average that vendors get. If that figure is right -- or close -- it means the team makes approximately 91 percent profit on every sale of the watery cocoa.
Readers of this column know I'm a faithful follower of the Red Sox. And maybe the Yankees aren't any different from many teams and many products all over sporting America. It's just that, $10 for a cup of hot chocolate, I think we'd all agree, is over the top. Let me put it this way. Thirty-one years ago, I was an intern for the Cincinnati Enquirer and was lucky enough to get one of the paper's tickets a few rows behind home plate to a Reds-Cardinals game at Riverfront Stadium, on June 16, 1978. That night, Tom Seaver pitched the only no-hitter of his career. Face value of the ticket: $8. In fact, the Reds didn't have a $10 ticket in those days.
And that's what I thought of when watching this vendor walk down our upper-deck aisle: I had the best seat in the house for a no-hitter, and that ticket cost less than a hand-warmer would run me on this night.
Ten notes from a quickie trip to Texas last Monday/Tuesday to see U2 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington:
1. U2 was good. Breathe, Ultraviolet, Walk On, City of Blinding Lights and New Year's Day sounded best to me. I liked the acoustics, relatively speaking, in JerryWorld.
2. Cowboys Stadium is a lavish place (massive understatement), and as roomy as any outdoor or indoor stadium I've been in. The traffic going in was manageable -- 42 minutes from downtown Dallas to the parking lot. I'll withhold a longer review until I see a football game there. The videoboard, having been raised by U2 to accommodate its own gigantic spaceship/claw-thing around the stage, was inactive, which was a bummer. Would have loved to see a 164-foot-wide HD TV in action.
3. In attendance: Jerry and Stephen Jones (before flying to league meetings in Boston in the middle of the night), Gene Jones (nice touch with all the art in the building, Mrs. Jones), Tiger Woods, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Wade and Laurie Phillips, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Troy Aikman, Miles Austin ... and about 82,990 others. As the band began to play I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Bono said: "Tiger Woods, this is for you!''
4. Never, ever, ever eat airport Chinese food. I know it smells good when you pass by, but remember the last time you got it, and the sesame chicken was 70 percent breading, 15 percent inedible goo over the breading, 6 percent gristle, 4 percent tough meat, and 2 percent sesame? It hasn't changed. Walk on by.
5. When in Dallas, I strongly, strongly recommend the Sixth Floor Museum, nee the Texas School Book Depository. Last Tuesday was my third trip there, and I'd go again tomorrow. You take an audio tour for $13.50, and you stand on the same floor as Lee Harvey Oswald stood, and you look out the same windows onto Dealey Plaza that he looked onto on Nov. 22, 1963. It's moving, and you can't help but be emotional when you see the boxes stacked in the same formation that supposedly they were stacked for Oswald when he shot out the open window at John F. Kennedy 46 years ago. I'm not even a Kennedy buff, nor am I a history buff, but I think it's one of the most vivid museum tours you can take, anywhere.
6. "What's this with you and Mark Cuban?'' Aikman asked me. "Wish I knew,'' I said.
7. Saw one of the strangest airport signs-of-the-times I've ever seen when changing plans in Atlanta on the way home: a flu-shot kiosk.
8. Every aircraft should have a hand-disinfectant dispenser.
9. Since when did it become OK for flight attendants to pass the hat for a cause? I'm all in favor of breast-cancer research and fund-raising, but on airplanes? Every leg of every Delta flight? On an early-morning Delta flight, one flight attendant told us she'd let us sleep as long as we donated enough money (chuckling), but then semi-strong-armed us ('We can do better than $315, folks!'') when the first passing of the hat didn't result in enough money for her liking. I'd be interested in your responses on this, but it struck me as a little creepy.
10. One guy in front of me boarding the packed Dallas-to-Atlanta flight had a rolling bag, a fat briefcase and a lined trench coat. He stopped at about row 21 and shoved all of it in the overhead bin, completely filling one bin designed to store the stuff of two or three passengers, and then closed the bin. A couple of minutes later, the flight attendant announced that people would have to start checking their bags because the overheads were full. Thanks, pigman.
"In the first four grafs of his Jets story, the Post's Mark Cannizzaro uses the words: fraud, abysmal and stench.''
-- @judybattista, who is Judy Battista, the fine New York Times football writer, Tweeting at 10:23 Sunday night.
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 6:
a. Three words for Cleveland GM George Kokinis regarding Josh Cribbs: Pay the man.
b. A long, long time ago -- oh, maybe four weeks -- most of us were saying the NFC East was the best division in football. We'll see how things play out this year, but right now I think the AFC North and NFC North might be better, and the NFC South is close.
c. Could Michael Vick be any more invisible?
d. Phils 11, Eagles 9.
e. Wow: Adalius Thomas a healthy scratch for New England. That's amazing. Junior Seau plays, Thomas sits.
f. The Patriots had 439 more passing yards than Tennessee: 432 to minus-seven. Minus-seven! On 14 throws.
g. Billboards coming down in Buffalo this morning?
h. Seattle wins at home by 41, then loses at home by 24. That's the season in Seattle.
i. Starting strong safety for Houston Sunday: Bernard Pollard.
2. I think I've got to question the Bears leaving themselves without a pick in the first two rounds for two straight drafts. I liked the Jay Cutler trade, which cost two first-round picks, a third- and Kyle Orton. But in sending their 2010 second-rounder to Tampa Bay for disappointing pass-rusher Gaines Adams (13.5 sacks in 36 Buccaneer games), the Bears likely won't pick 'til sometime in the eighties ... in one of the best drafts in years. If Chicago doesn't get significantly more out of Adams (with ace defensive-line coach Rod Marinelli becoming his tutor), GM Jerry Angelo will regret this deal for a long time.
3. I think it'll be interesting to watch Armen Keteyian's story on the CBS morning show Tuesday, because it could prove there was something more than a casual business relationship between Steve McNair's girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, and Adrian Gilliam Jr., the man who sold Kazemi the gun she used to kill McNair and herself.
Keteyian, an investigative reporter with CBS News, will report that there was more than the "casual, happenstance'' relationship described by Nashville police between Gilliam and Kazemi. Rather, I'm told the report will reveal "a stunning number of phone calls and text messages'' between the two in the days leading up to the murder/suicide. So now the story gets deeper. At the very least, it could force police to confront why they didn't find the phone records that Keteyian found, and to delve into what they mean.
4. I think the NFC West became a two-horse race Sunday, with Seattle's no-show against Arizona. Arizona-San Francisco meet Dec. 14 in the game that could decide the division.
5. I think we've all heard just about enough on Rush Limbaugh's failed part-ownership bid, and I don't have much to add. Except this: Yes, I feel sure he would have gotten rejected had he advanced further down the ownership line, because he would be the kind of distraction the league doesn't want. It might not be fair, but if Limbaugh got the team and kept broadcasting (I'm sure he would), what would stop beat guys for the Rams from monitoring his show, then going into the locker room and asking players, "Hey, your owner just said he hopes the president fails. What do you think of that?'' Maybe it wouldn't happen that way. And it certainly isn't fair that a man's public politics may well have kept him from owning a team. But Limbaugh would have been a living, breathing, daily distraction, and that's something the NFL wasn't going to have.
6. I think two teams suffered major, major injuries that will impact the pennant race. The NFL's co-leading sacker, Antwan Odom, is out for the year with an Achilles tear, and by the time you read this, we may find out that Jets' nose man Kris Jenkins is gone for the year with a knee injury. That would be a killer; Jenkins is New York's top run player.
7. I think the trading deadline, as usual, won't have much meat to it. Deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. I expect the Jags to listen to offers (any offer) for defensive end Quentin Groves, the Chargers, for Shawne Merriman, and the Chiefs might make a couple of minor deals but nothing involving linebacker Derrick Johnson. As usual, it'll be much ado about very little. Over-under for number of trades in the next day and a half: 2.5.
8. I think this is what I liked about Week 6:
a. Wes Welker, 10 catches for 150. Ho hum.
b. The Texans' run D has been suspect all summer and early fall, but it bottled up Cedric Benson (16 carries for 44 yards) very well in Cincinnati.
c. Speaking of teams not known for run defense, the Cards really stonewalled the Seahawks, holding them to 0-for-11 on third-down conversions and seven first downs total.
d. A great job by Ed Hochuli in New Orleans late in the first half, fully explaining why he didn't overturn a Scott Shanle fumble return. Instead of just saying, "The ruling on the field stands,'' Hochuli explained that Shanle was on his way down and his knee was on the ground while the ball was beginning to come out of Shanle's grasp; but because the ball was in Shanle's grasp at the moment the knee hit, it couldn't be ruled a fumble.
e. Jacksonville: 33 first downs. Maurice Jones-Drew: 33 rushes. For 133 yards.
f. Arizona is starting to play like the Cards played in January.
g. Steve Slaton's receiving ability. Schaub threw him six passes, he caught them all, and he gained 102 yards. "When we get a matchup of Steve against the linebacker, he's going to win that one all day,'' said Schaub.
h. Ray Rice. I love watching this guy play football. Twenty touches, 194 yards, touchdown runs of 22 and 32. His burst is better than you think, his hands are terrific, and he's a willing blocker. Averaging 7.7 yards on the ground, against the Vikes, is a feat.
i. Thomas Jones. A 210-yard rushing day, best in franchise history, should be more than a footnote. But the Jets were so bad Sunday -- 15 penalties, five picks by The Sanchize, letting the Bills and their Harvard quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, hang around -- that I can't muster up much more than an attaboy for Jones.
9. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 6:
a. I would like more football out of FOX's NFL pregame show and less yuks. The endless har-har-har obscures the football knowledge of some smart people who have much to say about pro football. Curt Menefee asked Howie Long about the pathetic Raiders yesterday. Howie said something about how it would be easier to fix the health-care problem in America. That's it. Nothing on the Raiders. I understand if Howie's not going to make a critical comment about his beloved former team, but if he's not, why ask the questions?
b. Rex, you know you've got to take the holding duties away from Steve Weatherford, your punter. Weatherford's mishandled snap prevented Jay Feely from attempting the potential game-winner against Buffalo.
c. Seattle's leading rushers versus Arizona: Julius Jones 5, Justin Forsett 4, Edgerrin James 3, Matt Hasselbeck 2. Eleven carries, 14 yards as a team.
d. Washington's offense. It's offensive.
e. Biggest Redskins problem isn't Jim Zorn. It's the offensive line caving in so consistently.
f. You think Cleveland's drop problem ended with the trade of Braylon Edwards? Wrong. Eleven more in two games weeks since the trade.
g. The field looks 240 yards long when the Browns start drives.
h. I'd like to see better decision-making by Cutler late in big games. He just wings some balls. That would have driven Josh McDaniels crazy.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Shouldn't every Curb Your Enthusiasm show this season feature the Seinfeld cast?
b. My thanks to the nice people at BookEnds in Ridgewood, N.J., for hosting me last Thursday night for a Monday Morning Quarterback book signing. I'm at Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center in Boston at lunchtime Wednesday for another signing.
c. I've gotten a kick out of your e-mails and Tweets asking when I'd be coming to City X or State Y for a book signing. Uh, let's just say the budget for promotion began and ended with the New York/Boston stuff. I'd love to come to sign in various places, and I'm sure I'll do two or three more -- I just don't travel as much during the season as I used to.
d. Coffeenerdness: You can rotate in some different food every once in a while, Starbucks. That wouldn't kill you, that little imagination.
e. Congrats, Laura King, for running your first half-marathon Sunday in San Francisco. Wish we could have been there. You're an inspiration to your too-dormant old man.
f. After watching C.C. Sabathia plow though the Angels Friday night, one leftover thought from the sudden end to the Red Sox season: The way Sabathia went after Bobby Abreu (strikeout, strikeout, line out, fly out) is a good lesson for Jon Lester, who pitched around Abreu like he was a cross between Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth in Game 1 of the division series. Lester nibbled more than Daisuke Matsuzaka in walking Abreu in the first, third and fifth innings, throwing 12 balls in 18 pitches to him. It cost him with a walk before Torii Hunter's home run in the third. You're good, Jon Lester. Really good. Go after the man.
g. Totally agree: Charlie Manuel was the anti-Grady Little Friday. With that shaky bullpen, removing Pedro Martinez after 87 pitches and seven innings with a 1-0 lead (and after a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh) was borderline unconscionable. I realize Manuel wanted not to abuse Pedro after a 16-day layoff, but come on.
h. I can't take these playoff off-days. Joel Sherman made a great point in the New York Post the other day: Last year, the Phils had 15 off-days in the playoffs ... and major-league teams had 19 scheduled off-days during the six-month regular season. I cover a sport that's a slave to TV. But baseball allows the momentum of the games at the most important time of year to be interrupted consistently.
Amazing to have a must-win game in the middle of October, but that's what San Diego has. They'd fall 3.5 games behind Denver with a loss to the Broncos tonight. It's a hunch as much as anything else, but I say the desperate team wins, 19-16, with Philip Rivers outplaying Kyle Orton. Barely.