Very little feels normal as an action-packed Week 5 nears an end
NEW YORK -- The voice from across the country late Sunday night said what we all feel, if I'm not mistaken, about the 2010 NFL season.
"What is normal in this league right now?''
It's Oct. 11, the Monday morning of Week 5, and the league is fresh out of unbeatens. (Last year, after five weeks, five perfect teams remained.) The Colts go 55 minutes without a touchdown, at home, against Kansas City. Half the free world picked the Cowboys to play the first home Super Bowl ever; instead, they're the worst team in the NFC East and have rendered
The Packers were supposed to waltz into the playoffs with an Indy-like offense, and we look up this morning to find they've been outscored by
Carolina, San Diego, San Francisco and Cincinnati ... 4-16.
Jacksonville 107 points scored, New Orleans 99.
Kansas City and Tampa Bay, three wins each. San Diego and Dallas, three losses.
An odd year, with an ugly twist to start Week 5.
That's what the league has to be praying. Deadspin.com last week published embarrassing voice mails and inappropriate photos (that might be the understatement of the year) that it alleges were sent from Favre to an attractive former Jets sideline host,
But in the wake of the league saying it viewed sexual harassment as a serious concern in last month's case of the TV Azteca reporter feeling uncomfortable with the attention paid her at the Jets' complex, it has no choice but to see if Favre has any culpability in this matter. In other words, was he responsible for sending the lewd photos to Sterger? If so, the league will have to hand down some discipline on Favre.
I said this last night on NBC: There shouldn't be a rush to judgment in this case; Favre has never been found guilty of any matter in the league's Personal Conduct Policy in his 19 years in the NFL and should be afforded the presumption of innocence here. You shouldn't assume that Favre, if found culpable in the matter, will be suspended, because commissioner
Favre told ESPN last night at the production meeting for the network's Vikings-Jets Monday Night Football game that he looks forward to speaking with Goodell about the issue. Re Sterger, now a co-host of a sports show on Versus: She has no interest in pursuing any sort of sexual harassment claim against Favre or the Jets, I am told. As it relates to her cooperation in this, I was told on Saturday that she would go along with the NFL investigation and be interviewed.
On Sunday, she was in seclusion, and now she may be rethinking how to deal with NFL investigators talking to her. But if she no-comments the NFL, and if the investigation cannot continue because she won't cooperate (which I'm not sure is a logical conclusion to draw), she risks being seen as an enabler. Sterger probably wishes she had deleted the voice mails, other electronic communication and photos. I don't believe she had anything to do with Deadspin.com's acquisition of the photos and voice mails, by the way.
As for Favre, if he's disciplined by the league, he'll have 10 days to decide whether to appeal the commissioner's decision. During those 10 days, he'd be able to continue playing.
Not exactly the kind of headline you thought you'd see in the middle of the NFL season, involving the former SI "Sportsman of the Year.'' But it's out there now, and Goodell and the league have to deal with it. Goodell's going to have a tough call if he finds Favre at fault, but his recent history shows (
When the game in New Jersey is kicked off tonight, America will wonder how Favre will cope with the maelstrom around him, and the potential circus atmosphere of the evening. Jet fans haven't forgotten Favre raising Super Bowl hopes with the Jets' 8-3 start in his lone New York season, 2008, only to see him lose four of the last five as the Jets fell out of the playoff race.
But if you're looking for a harbinger of his mindset -- I was told by a prominent Vikings official last night that you wouldn't even know there was a controversy with how business-as-usual Favre's been -- two games from his past might approximate the stress he could feel tonight. I don't include normal football stress, like a player would feel in a playoff game. I'm talking personal stress, from things other than football. And I'm thinking of the game he played in Oakland 24 hours after his father's death, and the emotion-sapping game he played in Green Bay, returning to Lambeau Field last year as the enemy after being the hero for 17 years. The numbers tell an interesting story.
Not bad. Then again, he wasn't facing a
"Yeah,'' he said late last night. "A lot of reasons to feel pressure, and I definitely felt it. But you've got to just play to have any chance of doing well. That's what I tried to do. It wasn't perfect, but it was a start, and I know I can play better.''
A pedestrian 17-of-27 for 168 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, Hall made his bones in this game late in the first half, scrambling for the end zone and diving through three Saints defenders (or trying to dive) in an attempt to score. The ball popped out and he lay on the field, semi-conscious, while tackle
"I got dinged a little bit,'' Hall said. "I was hurting pretty good. My head was spinning a little. I got the wind knocked out of me. That's not a smart play by me. I can't be taking on big linebackers and trying to dive through them. I've got to be smarter.''
True, but his teammates loved him for it. "After he got lit up on that play,'' guard
Palmer's season is now officially a three-alarm fire. The Bengals overcame an awful telegraphed interception he threw -- returned by rookie
The first led to a
He'll get no arguments from Cincinnati fans, who got their hearts broken by that pathetic display in the afternoon, and then, a few hundred yards away in the evening, by the Reds getting swept out of their first playoff series in 15 years. Blame Palmer, but also factor in young Spurlock, the third-year pro from Ole Miss who made the heartbreak possible.
Starting from the Cincinnati 34 with 14 seconds left after Palmer's third pick of the day, the Bucs had a four-receiver set in the game. "It was an 'all-go,' '' Spurlock told me last night. The receivers would fly downfield, then read the coverage and either keep going into the end zone or cut off their routes, depending on how the defensive backs were playing them.
"They were playing a strict Cover 2,'' Spurlock said. And so he knew he would be very unlikely to catch anything behind corner
Tampa being 3-1 is even more surprising than Kansas City being 3-1. The Bucs went young everywhere on the roster, and the quick development at quarterback, receiver, the defensive line and secondary is -- in a word -- stunning.
"Maybe it's surprising to everyone else,'' said Spurlock, "but not to us. We think we should be 4-0.''
New Orleans visits the Pirate Ship on Sunday. All of a sudden, the Saints have a dangerous game to try to right their own ship.
It's good to be able to watch all the games in the NBC viewing room on Sundays, because it allows me to keep an eye on players around the league. And in the first five weeks of the season, no single defensive player in the league has jumped from relative anonymity to stardom like strong safety
Talk about starting and finishing the job: In the first minute of the game, on the first Green Bay series of the day, he creamed tight end
"He's fast, he's a hitter and loves to play,'' coach
Landry was a first-round pick by the Redskins in 2007, and the coach then,
"My rookie year, I felt I was in the right position to take advantage of how aggressive I like to play,'' Landry told me last night. "But when the staff changed, coach [
But new coordinator
"I think the best is yet to come for me,'' he said. And maybe for the Redskins too. They've beaten Philadelphia and Dallas already, and they're tied for first in the NFC East. Landry's nearly as big a reason for that as
Spare me, please, all the wonderful words about what a great locker-room presence, unselfish warrior and all-around statesman Randy Moss was in New England. The way the Patriots were talking about him last week, I kept thinking he was a
Two reasons for all the niceness: Why fire up Moss for his return trip to Foxboro on Oct. 31 with the Vikings? And why alienate those in the locker room who loved Moss?
Here's what I find interesting: Think of all the teams with employees who have close ties to the Patriots and need at receiver. None of them wanted Moss.
Kansas City (GM
Carolina (offensive coordinator
No interest from former offensive coordinator
At the end of the day, Belichick, feeling he had to get rid of Moss, was lucky the Vikings were so desperate. If Minnesota hadn't been so needy, the Patriots would have been faced with this question: Is Moss such a distraction that we should cut him and pay the rest of his prorated $6.4 million 2010 salary?
So while I think there was enough mayhem surrounding Moss to prompt a trade, I don't think he went at it with Brady.
In 2009, the Patriots had more draft picks in the top 100 than any other team in the league (6). Same thing in 2010 -- five picks in the top 100 led all of football. Now, looking forward to 2011, New England's extra picks in the first, second and third rounds will give it the most prime picks again.
Let's see how that compares to their archrival, the Jets, with the round and overall choice before each draftee.
A couple of notes. The 2011 projections are based on where the teams are in the standings and where they may end up -- and the likely false supposition that neither team will make any trades before the April draft. And the
The chart doesn't account for the players mined after the top 100 -- like the Pats using the 113rd overall pick this year on
I'll cover the Monday-nighter, in brief, as well as look into why three NFC powerhouses -- Dallas, Green Bay and the defending Super Bowl champion Saints -- are struggling. Also, I'll have a few thoughts on the Titans, one of the league's most interesting teams in 2010.
"The politically correct answer is that we want to go and fight with the team we have,'' cornerback
Again, the Packers didn't lose to the Redskins because of the run (17 rushes, 157 yards). It's the passing game that needs the most help right now.
The Lions had been 2-35 in their previous 37 games. I mean, how many times have you seen Detroit in the victory formation on offense, which is how they ended this game? Hill was the biggest reason. He was 21-of-32 for 227 yards, with three touchdowns and no picks. I love this about his game: He played no favorites. He completed four passes apiece to five receivers, and his three touchdown passes went to three receivers. Hill was 20 of 30 to
Though the Colts were leading 6-0 with a minute left in the first half, Kansas City was playing this game just the way coach
A brilliant bit of special-teams play by the Raiders in the first five minutes against San Diego in Oakland. A minute into the game, after a failed first drive by the Chargers, Cartwright steamed through the A gap and blocked
Over a 44-minute span Sunday against the once-mighty Packers, Haslett's aggressive defense held Green Bay to three points. Ten drives, three points. Forty-four plays, no touchdowns. Haslett had to go to the United Football League last year to be a head coach, and I'm not saying teams will be beating his door down next winter to be a head man in the NFL again. But he's having a terrific year putting good players in position to be great -- like strong safety LaRon Landry, who forced a fumble and had an interception Sunday.
Indy 9, Chiefs 6, 18 minutes left, KC ball at the Colts' 30.
"It's terrible. It's 0-5. The laughing stock of the National Football League. I think we are losing fans by the minute.''
"Take away the Patriots from Bill Belichick and what is he? A gym teacher with better jewelry, no disrespect to gym teachers intended.''
"I can't wait to taste his power.''
"I just saw something I thought I'd never see after Week 5 of a 17 week season ... graphic on NFL Network: if the postseason started today!?!?!''
With Warner: 62.0 percent. Without Warner: 48.1 percent. ... though things seem to be looking up with Hall.
Oct. 17, next Sunday, is a very interesting date in the family history of
On Oct. 17, 1954, in Wrigley Field in Chicago, defensive end
On Oct. 17, 1993, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, linebacker
On Oct. 17, 2010, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, linebacker
Well, I'm sitting here early this morning writing with a walking boot on my right foot, because of my stupidity. I have a stress reaction to my right fibula, which is to say it hurts a little bit to walk, and it's a nuisance, and I'm not really injured but the thing won't go away unless I have this boot on for a couple of weeks. I felt some discomfort there, above my right ankle, before the half-marathon in New Hampshire last weekend, and then the pounding I put on it by sprinting the last 200 or 250 yards exacerbated it. Turns out you're not supposed to do that, which was news to me. So I'll cool my heels, and heal.
In the meantime, here's the tally of your contributions as of Friday:
Charity Donation total: Wounded Warrior Project $14,335.27. Feed the Children $10,334.00. Total $24,669.27
I know that will rise. A Twitter friend said he was donating $331 Saturday night, to make it an even $25,000. Good people out there.
Feed the Children has informed me they'll take the proceeds and load up two semitrailers and take food and household supplies to two needy American cities. They asked if I wanted to choose them, and I asked which cities statistically were the neediest. Buffalo and Cleveland, I was told. And so sometime in the next few weeks, semis will enter the inner cities in Buffalo and Cleveland with food and supplies to serve 400 families -- each family will receive a 25-pound box of nonperishable food, and a 10-pound box of personal-care items, and a box of Avon products.
I'm going to try to get a player from the Browns or Bills involved at each distribution site, and if I do, I'll include their efforts in a future column.
As for the Wounded Warriors, they have myriad ways to use your generosity -- from rehab for amputees or wheelchair-bound veterans, to job training and other ways they acclimate veterans back into society.
So thanks for all your support. Whenever I ask for your help, you do far more than I have a right to expect.
b. I don't care if it didn't work. I liked the Chiefs' onside-kick on the first play of the game at Indy. You won't beat the Colts without taking some chances.
c. The Ravens, winning in many ways. If they can run the way they ran Sunday, they're going to be a tough out in January.
d. Matt Forte. With 18- and 68-yard touchdown runs in the first half of the first quarter, he did what the Bear running game hadn't been able to do in the first four games: dominate behind a shaky line.
e. Cody Grimm. Victimized in his first NFL starts against the Steelers in Week 3, he suckered Carson Palmer into an interception at the Bengal 11, stepping in front of
g. The combination of
h. Atlanta's run defense, and the stout
n. The city of Detroit. It's not easy losing 35 of 37 and not winning by a rout for five years. Happy for you.
o. The delicious prospect of two Atlanta-Philadelphia games across the street from each other next Sunday in Philly: the Eagles and Falcons at 1 at the Linc, the Phils and Braves (if the Braves can go on a two-game winning streak) at 8 in the baseball park.
p. The Raiders, for breaking the 13-game schneid against San Diego, and
a. Carson Palmer looks like a shot-putter, not a quarterback.
b. The utter hopelessness of the Bills and Panthers.
c. I agree with
d. My preseason prediction of the Panthers as a wild card team. I believe I have my bachelor's in football prognostication from Idiotic A&M.
e. Dallas, the worst team in the NFC East.
f. Houston. Like Cincinnati, the Texans cannot stand prosperity. I don't care if the Giants' defense is the '76 Steel Curtain. Eleven first downs, at home, with that offense ... unacceptable on so many levels.
i. I don't care if you scored,
"It's been fun,'' Warner said, "but it's been challenging too, and more of a commitment than I ever thought it would be. I'm busier than I was as a football player.'' And Brenda's reaction? "She has her moments,'' Warner said. "I totally understand. It's tough on us. When I was dancing 'the dance of love' with my partner, it was our anniversary, and Brenda said, 'Do you find it ironic that you're dancing the dance of love on our 13th anniversary?' ''
I mean, how many people would level with a reporter like that? I find it refreshing and very, very human.
Here's how I judge a legitimate scene -- did it seem real, and not staged? And this scene was so intense that spit flew from the mouths of both men as they lit into each other. Our party met the actors afterward, and I asked Sullivan about it. Two interesting things. He said he wanted the scene to feel a little bit dangerous, which it did. And he said he'd gotten advice that a scene like that needed to be done like it was the first time he was doing it, so it would feel legitimate and emotional. Which it did. My Broadway experience is quite limited, but I know what I like, and I liked this show.
a. Amazed the Twins just don't show up against the Yankees, year after year.
c. Have a good time at Rays-Rangers Tuesday,
d. Mostly uninformed NHL prediction of the week: I'm picking Sharks-Caps for the Stanley Cup finals, in the battle of disappointing playoff teams. The winner: San Jose.
e. Media Quote of the Week:
Funny thing is, I bet he'd agree.
f. Coffeenerdness: Rough weekend at the Starbucks on 56th and 6th Sunday night, just before 11. All the milk in the place was wiped out except for skim. Can't have a skim latte. Just won't do. So I had to do one of the doubleshot things in the can. Those actually are pretty good.
g. What a beautiful weekend in New York. Totally understand why so many people want to live here.