Fairly amazing weekend in the NFL: Road teams went 10-4. Giants by four at one of the toughest places to win in the league (Foxboro), Ravens by three at a similarly tough Waterloo (Pittsburgh), Niners by eight in their fourth East Coast trip in seven weeks (Washington), Pack by seven against a troubled but troublesome team (San Diego), Broncos by 14 in a Black Hole (Oakland), Dolphins by 28 in what formerly was a very tough venue (Kansas City) ... and, Monday night, the Bears by six over a team that continues to mystify the western world (Philadelphia).
Two points to make today:
In the last three games, Cutler's been sacked three times. That's a tremendous job by a quarterback with his mobility, with a staff to know they can just leave Cutler in the pocket, and with a line that's bowed it back and said, We're not as bad as everyone says. The win put the 5-3 Bears a game behind the Lions, with an important Detroit-Chicago meeting Sunday at Soldier Field. With Chicago facing most of the Western world in the following five weeks (San Diego, at Oakland, Kansas City, at Denver, Seattle), Monday night's victory was hugely significant for its playoff hopes. Look at those five games. They mean that even a loss against the Lions won't knock the Bears out of realistic contention.
Two nuggets I got from Mayock, in addition to the Andrew Luck one I wrote about in Monday's column: He likes USC quarterback Matt Barkley a lot. "He doesn't have a Carson Palmer skill set,'' Mayock said. "But he throws on time, he doesn't take sacks and he doesn't throw interceptions. I think he'll be a very interesting pro, a good one.''
He said he's confused by some things he's seen on tape with Philip Rivers and was anxious to talk to him to see how he's feeling and why he's made some of the decisions he's made. "There seems to be something missing,'' Mayock said. I'll tell you what it is. It's two things: Enough time to throw -- and Darren Sproles.
Now onto your mail:
I DO THINK THERE IS REASON TO WORRY.
I'd be worried. These Packers remind me of the Patriots of 2007. You knew every week they could put up 40, but if Tom Brady was off his game or got a defensive look he couldn't handle, they could lose. And they did. I'm sure Dom Capers is a little concerned, and it's something I'll try to look into this week.
I'm starting to feel very bullish on something Mike Florio and I talked about Sunday night at NBC: These hits should be subject to instant-replay review, without changing the rules about frequency of reviews. The game's so fast, and officials cannot hope to judge intelligently whether the collisions they're seeing are penalties or not. Sometimes they throw the flag and they're wrong, and sometimes they don't throw the flag, and they're wrong. Fifteen yards can be a pretty important reason for a challenge, especially late in a game.
I'M NOT BLAMING MINNESOTA, SIMPLY STATING HOW BAD IT LOOKS NOW.
Good point. But I'm not blaming Minnesota. I'm pointing out how bad it looks in retrospect. It was only months after that draft that the Culpepper downfall began, and he was off the team 10 months after Rodgers got picked.
ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE COLT A CHANCE.
Fair or unfair, there's a good chance the strength of the 2012 draft will be at quarterback. McCoy appears to have a chance to be a good player long-term. But if he doesn't play better, regardless of his surroundings, not picking a quarterback high in a quarterback-rich draft is something that could haunt the franchise for years. I'm not even saying they should take one if McCoy struggles. I'm saying I think they certainly will consider it strongly.
If they beat Pittsburgh at home on Sunday to go 7-2, we'll take them a whole lot more seriously.
DON'T FORGET BRADY.
You have the made the argument eloquently. Very smart email. Thanks. I guess I would say a couple of things, having no idea what the second half holds. The Patriots scored 34 or more in the first eight games that year and then faded, scoring 34 or fewer in nine of their final 11 games, including playoffs. So the Patriots, for whatever reason, weren't as explosive in the second half of the season and playoffs as they were in the first. Will that happen to the Packers? Very well could, especially because they could have five straight December-January games, with weather a possible factor in any or all: at the Giants, Oakland at home, at K.C., and Chicago and Detroit to finish at Lambeau. Good email, Jim.
WISH I'D TAKEN NOTE OF THIS.
Steeler fans travel just as well, but you make a great point. Thanks.