FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Musings, observations and the occasional Week 11 insight as we take in the NFL's premier rivalry, Colts versus Patriots, with its ultra-glamorous undercard of Manning versus Brady ...
• Vince Young is toast in Tennessee. That has to be it for the Titans' 2006 first-round pick, doesn't it? There's really no way back for the Young era in Nashville after Sunday's career-worst meltdown in the wake of the Titans' damaging 19-16 overtime loss to Washington.
Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher said after the game that Young had already lost his job as the Titans' starter, thumb injury or no thumb injury. But it has to go further than that, because if you keep Young on the roster, you might have to use him, given the banged up state of Tennessee's quarterback depth chart. And there's no way you can insert Young into a game at home. Not any more. Not after Sunday.
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A frustrated Young threw his shoulder pads into the stands as he left the field, and there were some reports of him allegedly tossing his helmet toward the fans as well. According to Titans sources, he engaged in a shouting match with teammate Michael Griffin in the postgame locker room and wound up shoving the Titans safety. Young quickly left the locker room in street clothes, with Griffin, wearing only shorts, chasing him into the players' parking lot.
Young was booed heavily at times during the first half, and at one point waved both hands at the fans as if telling them to keep it up and to pump up the volume. He tore a tendon in his throwing thumb in the second half and was replaced by rookie quarterback Rusty Smith, who finished the game and will now be prepared as the starter for next week's game at Houston. Young may require season-ending surgery, and if so, it's safe to assume he's played his last game in a Titans uniform.
With three straight losses after their hopeful 5-2 start, the Titans are in freefall at 5-5. They remain in the playoff race in the muddled AFC South, but only because all four teams are tightly bunched together.
Veteran Kerry Collins is still at least another two weeks away from being healthy enough to play, so Smith will likely have to handle Tennessee's starting QB job in the interim. Young has had his maturity issues in the past, but this time he has likely forced Tennessee's hand with his childish behavior in front of the hometown fans. It's a textbook self-inflicted sacking.
• The NFL's 2010 season has sent us a confusing set of signals on a weekly basis, but at least there's clarity as of Week 11 when it comes to the NFC North: Brett Favre and the Vikings are undeniably done, while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look on their way to much bigger and better things.
Green Bay's dominating 31-3 victory at Minnesota should serve to put the Vikings out of their misery and launch the Packers into whatever passes as the elite class in the NFC. Fittingly, it was Rodgers over Favre that brought down the curtain on Minnesota's two-year reign in the division, because that particular quarterback question has loomed over everything in the NFC North for at least three years now.
Rodgers and the Packers are 7-3, riding a four-game winning streak and looking more all the time like the team that went 7-1 in last season's second half. But as good as the Green Bay offense has looked of late, its defense has been even better. In the Packers' past three games, they've given up 0 points to the Jets, 7 to the Cowboys and 3 to the Vikings. Ten points in three games. The Green Bay offense has totaled 85 points over that same span, averaging more than 28 points per game.
After getting swept by the Vikings last season, Green Bay and Rodgers avenged those bitter losses quite nicely this season. The Packers won 28-24 in Week 7 at Lambeau Field, then blew out the reeling Vikings by four touchdowns on Sunday in the Metrodome. Rodgers threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns without an interception in the win, giving him 596 yards passing, six touchdowns and just two picks against Minnesota this year.
As for Favre, Sunday was likely the last meaningful game of his 20-year NFL career, and he went out with a whimper (17-of-38 208 yards, one interception and no touchdowns) rather than a bang.
At 3-7, with his Vikings having lost a combined three games to division co-leaders Green Bay and Chicago (also 7-3), Minnesota head coach Brad Childress should use the remaining six games to find out if backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is the team's logical replacement for No. 4. Letting Favre play out the string only furthers the mistake Minnesota made to begin with when it coaxed him back to town this summer.
The other variable in that scenario, of course, is whether Childress himself will get to finish the season with the Vikings. Sunday's ugly home loss could be the tipping point that prompts owner Zygi Wilf to relieve Childress of his duties, officially ending what has been a lost season in Minnesota.
• It's like beating a dead horse for me by now, but how long can Texans owner Bob McNair continue to believe Gary Kubiak is the right guy for his team's head coaching job? Houston suffered yet another last-minute loss against the Jets on Sunday, allowing New York's offense to drive the length of the field in the final minute in the 30-27 win.
And it wasn't just the Texans' porous pass defense at fault. Why did Kubiak choose to run the ball three times from the 10 on the Houston field goal drive that preceded the Jets' game-winning touchdown march? If passing the ball is your team's greatest strength, and stopping the pass its greatest weakness, why not go with what you do best and try to score a touchdown that would have given the Texans an 8-point lead to protect?
• You want to know how crazy things are in Tennessee these days? New Titans receiver Randy Moss basically played peace-maker on the Tennessee sideline on Sunday, and he's emerging as a voice of reason on this suddenly troubled team.
Moss might as well help out on that front, because he certainly isn't being used as a receiver. He didn't catch a pass against the Redskins, and has just one catch in two games in Tennessee.
• If you've seen one Jets game this season, you've seen them all. Not to repeat myself from last Sunday's Snaps, but the resilient Jets are going to find a way to win, no matter how long the game lasts. And is there a better quarterback-receiving duo in the NFL right now than Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes?
It must be torture for New York fans to sit through these three-hour high-wire acts every Sunday, but I don't know how you can possibly take exception with the results.
• Maybe the old intimidating Raiders really are back. Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour got ejected Sunday for throwing that open-handed shot to the jaw of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, earning himself a late-first-half ejection in Pittsburgh.
The Raiders as a team took a sizable step back in the 35-3 loss to the Steelers, but Ben Davidson would have been proud of Seymour. Big Ben certainly didn't look quite so big when Seymour sent him sprawling on his back.
• Clearly the Raiders weren't ready to handle a fired-up Steelers team that got humiliated at home last week against New England. The Oakland running game was non-existent, as was the entire offense for that matter. And now with Jason Campbell being benched in favor of Bruce Gradkowski, the team's ever-changing QB situation is again an open question.
• How can you not be impressed with the change in tone and intensity that interim head coach Jason Garrett has brought to the Cowboys? Let's not jump the gun and declare Garrett the long-term answer in Dallas based on two weeks, but he is 2-0 and starting to make a strong case for himself as deserving of the full-time opportunity.
Let's see if the 3-7 Cowboys can take another step against the defending Super Bowl champion Saints at home on Thanksgiving.
• Things are going so well for Garrett about now that even a naked bootleg by 38-year-old Jon Kitna turned into a 29-yard Dallas touchdown in the 35-19 win over Detroit.
• Every week now it seems Dez Bryant becomes more of a force. To my eyes, Bryant is simply the most dynamic play-making receiver to hit the league since Randy Moss in 1998. I give Jerry Jones credit. The Cowboys owner said he wouldn't repeat his mistake of bypassing Moss due to character concerns, and he proved it by taking Bryant in last April's first round.
• Pretty solid two-minute drill work for Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb against Tennessee. And there was no sign of a Rex Grossman sighting this time. McNabb calmly moved Washington into position for a game-winning 47-yard Graham Gano field goal attempt at the end of regulation, but the Redskins kicker missed it. Gano made up for it by nailing a game-winner from 48 yards with 8:17 left in OT.
• I'm trying to remember the last time I've seen a first-place team that underwhelms me as much as Jacksonville does, but who cares? The Jaguars are 6-4, and with the Colts' loss at New England, Jacksonville actually leads Indy (6-4) in the AFC South by virtue of beating the Colts head to head on that 59-yard Josh Scobee field goal at home in Week 4.
• The Ravens wound up making it look like a comfortable win, but if you watched Baltimore's 37-13 conquest of out-manned Carolina, you know better. The Panthers, with the very lightly experienced Brian St. Pierre at quarterback, were within seven points (at 20-13) until late in the third quarter. Baltimore really doesn't close the deal very well this season, and right now the Ravens defense isn't intimidating anyone.
• It may be by mutual consent at this point, but it's hard to see how Marvin Lewis returns to Cincinnati for another season. The Bengals head coach gambled that he could parlay another strong season into a big contract extension, but he lost that bet. Giving up the game's final 35 points in a 49-31 home-field loss to a one-win Bills team might represent the absolute nadir for the 2010 Bengals.
• I still don't get the Browns. If you can beat the Saints and Patriots in back-to-back games, and take the Jets to overtime before losing, you should be able to handle the Jaguars on the road. It seems like Eric Mangini's team, while improved, plays up or down to the level of its opponent.