Pittsburgh’s quarterback and running back have rarely played together ... plus a look at the Raiders’ front office, betting on NFL games in London, and what’s up with the exposed concrete in St. Louis?
1) I think when you look at the Raiders’ success, it’s obligatory to praise general manager Reggie McKenzie, who has demonstrated nothing short of wizardry in reshaping a roster filled with hideous contracts through prudent decisions and smart drafting. Equal credit, however, should go to owner Mark Davis, who not only promised patience with McKenzie, but followed through. At this time last year, there was a growing chorus calling for McKenzie to be axed.
2) I think while watching Vontaze Burfict’s disruptive return, I was reminded of how fierce a competitor he is. Sometimes the linebacker crosses the line, but it’s rooted in his insatiable desire to win. His high school coaches once told me, “Vontze is the guy who will lose a game of checkers, and then probably throw the board.”
• GOOD TO BE GARY: A football ambassador, a companion of WWE Divas, a part-time film critic, and an afterthought for his first seven NFL seasons, Browns tight end Gary Barnidge has emerged as the season’s most unlikely breakout star
3) I think I’m glad the Browns/Bengals much-advertised Thursday night matchup is almost finally here. I don’t know how many more times I can watch the commercial where a retired Cuyahoga County judge confesses she takes her Browns fandom more seriously than the law. I understand it’s supposed to be cheeky, but I hope I’m not the only person who finds that just a tad disturbing.
4) I think it’s often lazy to deem Bill Belichick a genius, as many factors (including Tom Brady’s longevity) define his success. However, the coach has implemented some fascinating techniques, including asking each of his offensive linemen to wear knee braces (something that has since become fairly common practice). The measure may have prevented New England rookie right guard Tre’ Jackson from a severe injury after he sustained a big hit last Thursday night.
5) I think the New York Times raises great points in marrying two of the NFL’s hot-button issues: London expansion and daily fantasy. According to the Times, the league “has long walked a delicate line, at once trying to tap fantasy fans’ rabid appetite for football while trying to keep an arm’s length between itself and this unregulated industry, which is increasingly under scrutiny.” The line will only further be muddled in London, where sports betting is legal.
• PACKERS HAVE PROBLEMS: After relying on sandlot plays during their 6-0 start, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense was exposed in Denver. Their short-handed receiving corps isn’t getting open, but the problem can be fixed
6) I think this stat, presented by Football Outsiders writer Tom Gower with only a hint of sarcasm, is startling: Ken Whisenhunt is 1-20 as Titans coach when he has less than eight months to prepare for a game.
7) I think it’s a cruel fate for the Steelers that Ben Roethlisberger went down with an injury during Le’Veon Bell’s first game back from suspension—and that Bell sustained a devastating injury during Roethlisberger’s return.
8) I think if I’m the NFLPA, I’m demanding the Rams find a solution for the hazardous area behind the benches at Edward Jones Dome. About 15 yards from the field, the surface turns to concrete. Why is exposed cement so close to the field? While returning a punt, San Francisco running back Reggie Bush slipped and was carted off with a knee injury. One week earlier, Browns quarterback Josh McCown skidded into the area and hurt his shoulder. Two preventable injuries in two weeks.
9) I think I like Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for peddling his goofy “You Like That” outburst into a good cause. Cousins has endorsed a meme-like T-shirt featuring his likeness and the catchphrase. Proceeds go to the International Justice Mission, which supports ending violence and oppression of the poor worldwide.
10) I think I love this story about a man who came out of retirement to help a failing high school in a desperate town. It’s a good reminder on the influence a coach can have on young people.