The NFL Trade Deadline is today

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Today is the 2009 NFL Trade Deadline and players like Cleveland Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs are rumored to be on the trading block

Today, Tuesday October 20th is the 2009 NFL Trade Deadline.  And for the first time in a while, there is some “buzz” around the date.  Already the NFL saw the trades involving former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets for picks and former Bucs D-lineman Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears for a 2010 2nd rd pick. 

Some of the rumored players to being on the trading block include Bills WR Terrell Owens, Eagles WR Kevin Curtis, Titans QB Vince Young, Houston Texans CB Dunta Robinson, Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey, Browns QB Brady Quinn, Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs and Chargers LB Shawn Merriman. 

However I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as most trades in the NFL occur on draft day.  If any trades do happen at the 2009 NFL Trade Deadline, expect them to be something like the 2005 deal that sent former Niners QB Tim Rattay to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th rd pick .

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2009 NFL Season – Week 6 Review

 

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Oakland Raiders DL Richard Seymour was a Game Ball winner in Week 6 for his dominating play in an upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles

After a couple weeks of too many games that lacked viewer interest, Week 6 of the 2009 NFL Season once again proved why the National Football League is the best sports league in the world.  There were two overtime thrillers (Bill over Jets and Jags over Rams), undefeated teams rolling on (Broncos, Saints and Vikings), upsets galore (Raiders over Eagles, Chiefs over Redskins, Texans over Bengals, and the aforementioned Bills’ win), potential playoff contender heavyweight match-ups that lived up to the hype (Vikings over Ravens, Falcons over Bears and Saints over Giants) and a historic blowout (Patriots dismantling the winless Titans by a score of 59-0). 

I will start by looking at Week 6’s marquee match-up.  In a game that a lot of people were touting as a potential 2009 NFC Championship preview, the New Orleans Saints (5-0) remained undefeated by dominating the previous undefeated NY Giants (5-1) with the final lopsided score 48-27.  The Saints hammered the NFL’s former top-ranked defense and No. 1 pass defense to the tune of 493 total yards, 28 first downs, and a season-high 48 points.  The Saints offense mixed in play-action and great protection (no sacks allowed) to keep a Giants defense, who had fattened up on the NFL’s underbelly, always on their heels.  Of course the Saints O-line, especially dominating OT Jermon Bushrod, did their yeoman work producing a power running game and a “clean” pocket, but we all know quarterback Drew Brees (see Game Balls) will get most of the glory.   After not throwing a touchdown for two straight week, Brees coming off a bye was on fire as he produced a 369-yard, four-touchdown performance.  The Saints fueled by a strong home crowd that truly believes this could finally be the year for their team, put up 34 points at the half — the Giants’ last three opponents before Sunday had scored a combined 23 points. 

The Saints and play-calling head coach Sean Payton also had balance in their offensive scheme as they rushed the ball 39 times producing 133 yards as RB’s Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell kept the Giants guessing.  On defense, the Saints were stifling as they held Giants starter Eli Manning to only 178 passing yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.  Manning never had time in the pocket and clearly was off rhythm as rushers DE Charles Grant, DE Bobby McCray and DE Will Smith constantly were in his face.  The win was an eye-opener for those, including this so-called NFL expert that thought the Saints could not match-up with a tough East Coast team.  Former Patriot and New Orleans Saints FB Heath Evans said of the win, “These guys are getting a taste of (non-stop) winning. Dave (Thomas, a backup tight end and former Patriot) and I had it when we were on that ’07 team, and you start racking them up.”  But to Saints fans already booking their hotel rooms in Miami for the Super Bowl, I must throw out a word of caution.  There are still 11 more games to be played and the Saints still must finish the job.  The Saints have started 5-0 two other times in their history and both times the season ended short of the NFL’s ultimate goal – 1991, finished 11-5 and lost in wildcard round and 1993, finished 8-8 and didn’t make the playoffs.  Evans added, “These games don’t count until November and December”.  And I totally agree Heath.

The other big story of this week had to be the New England Patriots 59-0 shellacking of the poor Tennessee Titans in snowy Foxborough, Massachusetts.  In a game that reminded me of hall of famer Warren Moon in his CFL prime with the Edmonton Eskimos, Patriots Tom Brady was loving the cold elements as he threw for six touchdowns including 5 TDs in the second quarter alone — the most TD passes in one quarter by a QB since 1950.  But the story of the game was not the Patriots’ NFL-record 45-0 lead at halftime.  Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in a manner that only he can do, kept his foot on the throttle the rest of the game and thoroughly embarrassed the winless Titans.  The Patriots sent Brady back on the field in the second half and the Pats added two more TDs including one thrown by Tom Terrific.  The move definitely was a slap in the face of the Titans and beleaguered head coach Jeff Fisher.   Though some say Fisher’s team “quit” trying after awhile and the Patriots were just executing better, there was no need to continue throwing the ball over and over against a secondary that has too many injuries – missing Pro Bowl CB Courtland Finnegan and others.  Titans LB Keith Bulluck jokingly said of the Patriots effort, “I guess they were trying to raise their ranking in the BCS”.   New England coach Bill Belichick said of the lopsided game, “We went into the game with a game plan and I know the score got out of hand, but we were just trying to run our offense”. 

NBC’s Football Night in America analyst and former Super Bowl winning head coach Tony Dungy said in support of Belichick, “I don’t think he was running up the score. If you’re Tennessee, you’ve got to stop them.”  But you have to wonder if the “karma” Gods were watching.  Remember back in ’07 the Patriots were running the score up on everyone including an embarrassing 52-7 win over the Redskins and Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs.  For sure around the NFL there were probably few tears for the big bad Patriots when the Giants shockingly beat them 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

Here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers for this week before we go to the awards.

NFL in no “Rush” to add Limbaugh — Rush Limbaugh won’t be buying a piece of the St. Louis Rams in the end.  With criticism mounting from the NFLPA, current players, NFL owners like the Colts’ Jim Irsay, and it seemed the entire NFL viewing populace.  Dave Checketts, the businessman leading a group vying for the National Football League franchise, dumped Limbaugh as a potential minority owner of the team.  “Rush was to be a limited partner–as such, he would have had no say in the direction of the club or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations,” Mr. Checketts said. “This was a role he enthusiastically embraced. However, it has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions…endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him and hope it will eventually lead us to a successful conclusion.”  I applaud Checketts, not only because I am not a Limbaugh fan, but the main reason being that the NFL is the ‘Golden Goose’ of sports and the league does not need a gigantic divisive force coming into their midst.  Especially with a myriad of important league issues surrounding the NFL’s upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations including the splitting of equity between the owners and players, an uncapped year in 2010, a potential lockout in 2011, a rookie salary cap, retired players, player discipline, and much more.

The J-E-T-S find out the NFL is hard work — Of all of the upsets this week, I thought the NY Jets loss to the Buffalo Bills was the most damning.  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago after the NY Jets defeated the Patriots that everyone was touting the talkative Jets as the next bully on the AFC’s block.  Well you can put away all of the Jets, head coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez are so great talk.  The J-E-T-S went down to their third straight defeat at the hands of the Bills, losing 16-13 in overtime. Bills kicker Rian Lindell — had missed a 46 yarder at the end of regulation — nailed a 47-yard field goal in overtime to halt Buffalo’s three-game skid. The Bills’ overtime win also snapped an 8-game losing streak against their AFC East foes.  Throughout the game you could sense that the Jets did not respect the lowly Bills and they thought eventually their “mystique” would win the game.  But in the NFL victories are won on the field and not at the microphone. The Jets were flagged 14 times for 96 yards — including five times in overtime — and turned the ball over six times in the overtime loss.  The Bills, who seemed a loss away from firing head coach Dick Jauron, rose to the occasion by overcoming injuries (QB Trent Edwards – concussion and everywhere on defense) and an intimidating Jets running game (318 yards).  To the surprise of many, Bills WR Terrell “T.O” Owens wasn’t even really a factor in the game as he only produced 3 catches for 13 yards and 1 run for 9 yards while dropping a few more.  However as little as T.O contributed to the Bills’ win, Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez (See Lloyd’s Lackey) did more than his share.  All the sudden everyone’s automatic Rookie of Year is finding he hard it is to play week-in and week-out in the NFL.

Tough Injury Loss for the Bengals — Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom (28) ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon in the Bengals’ loss to the Houston Texans.   Odom, the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, was having a breakout season (8 sacks), but unfortunately he will miss the remainder of the season. Other key injuries around the NFL were Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu (torn pectoral muscle – season), Bills QB Trent Edwards (concussion), Giants OL Kareem McKenzie (groin), Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha (eye), Ravens WR Kelley Washington (concussion), Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), Eagles OT Jason Peters (left knee), Vikings WR Percy Harvin (shoulder), Rams WR Donnie Avery (hip), Jets NT Kris Jenkins (ACL – season), Falcons CB Brian Williams (ACL – season) and Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin (high ankle)

Bittersweet win — Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith was not too happy after his team’s 28-21 win over the winless Tampa Bay Bucs.  The four-time Pro Bowler only had 1 catch for 4 yards and 0 TDs in the game and he clearly was frustrated afterwards.  Smith told reporters that Sunday’s win over Tampa was “bittersweet”.  Smith said, “We get the win, but I have a limited role.  So, obviously, I see this game as showing I’m no longer an asset to this team.”  Asked later about his comments, Smith declined to answer then added, “That’s all I got, My name’s Steve Smith and I stand by that.”  You know it has to be tough on Smith as his team has looked to pound the rock more than passing – threw one pass and ran the ball 14 times in a 15-play, 8 minute game sealing drive against the Bucs.  But Panthers won their second consecutive game to reach 2-3 for the season and RB’s DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are starting to look like there 2008 form .  Smith has only caught 21 passes thus far including three games of  fewer than five catches, but I am sure more passes are coming his way.

Take a seat Adalius – Former big-ticket free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas was inactive in the Patriots blowout win over the Titans.  Thomas, 32, has not live-up to his 2007 contract and even though some say he has an elbow injury, you have to expect more. The Patriots started Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton, Pierre Woods and Derrick Burgess with newly-signed 40-year old veteran Junior Seau as the first person off the bench. Thomas only has 15 tackles and one sack this season.

Game Balls

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady – He’s BACK!!! The storied career of NFL superstar quarterback Tom Brady added another chapter this week.  Playing in snowy Gillette Stadium, Brady was the driving force as the New England Patriots (wore their old Boston Patriots uniforms) destroyed the Tennessee Titans (wore their old AFL Houston Oilers gear) by a score of 59-0.  Brady threw a career high and franchise record six touchdown passes including 5 TDs in the second quarter alone (most in NFL history since 1950).  Brady answered a ton of criticism after he looked tentative and missed throws the week before in a loss to the Denver Broncos.  Tom Terrific finished his “quick”, but impressive day (left in 3rd quarter) by throwing for numbers 29-of-34 for 380 yards and 6 TDs.

Honorable Mention

Denver Broncos WR/KR Eddie Royal — Eddie Royal didn’t have any receptions, but he became the first player in Broncos history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game.  The former Virginia Tech star was the key player as the undefeated Broncos (6-0) seized control of the AFC West division in to a thrilling 34-23 win over the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. Royal looked like he was shot out of a cannon on both his 93-yard kickoff return in the first quarter and 71-yard punt return in the second quarter. 

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees – I still believe Brady’s effort, even though against a depleted Titans secondary, was just a little bit better and historic.  Brees however looked like a Pro Bowl quarterback and possible MVP candidate while leading the Saints over the formerly undefeated Giants.  The former Purdue star completed 23-of-30 for 369 yards, 4 TDs and O INTs while not being sacked against a defense that came into the game ranked #1.

Oakland Raiders rookie WR Louis Murphy – The former Florida star did not catch a pass in the Raiders surprising win over the Eagles, but stats didn’t tell the whole story.  Murphy was the key player in the Raiders’ only touchdown of the game as he two downfield blocks in springing TE Zach Miller on an 86-yard touchdown catch-and-run.  Teammates all along the Raiders’ sideline congratulated Murphy after the big score.  Murphy said after the game, “I didn’t have a catch today, but we won, and that’s all that matters.”

Oakland Raiders DE Richard Seymour –Now this is the guy the Raiders traded for at the beginning of the season.  Seymour spearheaded an inspired Raiders defense in their 13-9 upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles.  The former Patriots Super Bowl winner produced a pair of sacks and a forced fumble and was at times unblockable.

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew – As MJD goes, so go the Jaguars.  A week after complaining about his touches in an embarrassing loss to the Seahawks, Jones-Drew responded in the Jag’s overtime win over the Rams.  MJD ran for 133 yards on 33 carries and scored all three of the Jags’ touchdowns.  Overall you have to think “Pocket Hercules” was happy with his 38 touches in the Jag’s win.

Baltimore Ravens rookie OT Michael Oher – The solid rookie O-lineman slid over from right tackle to left tackle in subbing for starter Jared Gaither.  Oher, despite two false start penalties, was up to the challenge of facing Vikings Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen.  The big rookie from the University of Mississippi held Allen to only one sack and felt pretty good about it.  Oher said after the game, “I think he found out I’m an OK player, that guy (Allen) makes like $100 million. I think I did all right.”

Other Honorees: Jets RB Thomas Jones (rushed for a franchise record 210 yards and 1 TD in the Jets overtime loss to the Bills); Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (passed for 417 yards –the third-most in franchise history – in the Steelers dominating win over the Browns); Raiders punter Shane Lechler (averaged 51.1 yards on seven punts and pinned the Eagles in deep over and over); Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (Ran for 143 yards and 1 TD against the usually tough Ravens defense); Cleveland Browns WR/KR/QB Josh Cribbs (Seem like the only Browns player that looked interested as he returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and looked good running the Wildcat).

Lloyd’s Lackey

Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn — On a day where the Philadelphia Eagles surprisingly left their heads in Philadelphia before an embarrassing loss to the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans “quit” in a 59-0 bludgeoning at the hands of the New Patriots, the NFL got a real view of what “Rock Bottom” is in Washington DC.  The Redskins (2-4) continued to be the laughingstock of the NFL, despite the presence of winless teams like the Rams, Titans, and Buccaneers, in a putrid 14-6 home loss to the formerly winless Kansas City Chiefs (1-5).  The Redskins or “The Deadskins”, if you prefer, managed just 265 yards of total offense and gained only 7 first downs while turning the ball over 2 times, committing 7 penalties resulting in 63 yards, and going only 2 for 14 on third-down conversions.   Zorn in his infinite wisdom decided to pin the Redskins woes on his starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, who he replaced at halftime.  Zorn in explaining why he benched Campbell said, “He was a little late in hitting some things and inaccurate.”   Hey Zorn…I wonder if you have a mirror?  The Redskins’ offense now is averaging only 13.2 points per game this season and hasn’t scored more than 17 in any game despite playing facing six consecutive winless opponents (first team in NFL history).  They have are now 4-10 in their last 14 games and the team told Zorn after the game that he had too many responsibilities, so someone else (insert name: “Sherman Lewis”) should run the offense during games.   “It’s going to be a very hard week,” Zorn said. “Last week, I thought that was as hard as it can get. It just got harder.”  Stay tuned as something stinky needs to be cleaned up in the Nation’s Capital and it has nothing to do with politics.

Dishonorable Mention

The Philadelphia Eagles – All I can say is thank goodness that the Philadelphia Phillies are doing so well in the baseball playoffs.  My hometown Eagles annoyed every fan in the Delaware Valley by forgetting they had to play a game in Oakland against the “supposed” hapless Raiders.  The Eagles never could put touchdown drive together in a game – settled for 3 FGs — where they clearly were overconfident and a little arrogant in their approach to the Raiders.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid threw balance out the wind as his team ran the ball just 14 times and passed 46 times against a Raiders team that came into the game routinely giving up 200 yards rushing.  The Eagles offensive line – don’t give me Jason Peters was hurt —allowed the Raiders to produce 6 sacks and gave little time for quarterback Donovan McNabb.  Speaking of McNabb, the Birds passer was inaccurate and missed on a ton of throws finishing with numbers 22-46 for 269 yards, 0TDs, and an almost interception that would have been a touchdown if not for a bogus penalty against the Raiders.  Did I also mention kicker David Akers was 3 for 5 on field goal attempts, the Eagles failed to capitalize on JaMarcus Russell’s 2 INTs and that they were just 2 of 16 on 3rd down conversions. Alright enough already about the Eagles, at least the Phillies outscored the Birds 11 to 9 on their way to winning their game 11-0 against the LA Dodgers on Sunday.

NY Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez – Some may try to pin the reason for this week’s Lackey award on the tricky Meadowlands’ winds (arm strength), but “Sanchize” won this one all on his own.  Sanchez probably played worse than his stat line (10/29, 119 yards, 0 TDs, and 5 INTs plus a fumble that his team recovered) in the Jets overtime loss, if that is possible.  It still puzzles me how Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer kept throwing the ball when the Jets produced over 300 yards rushing.  The 2009 NFL Draft’s 5th overall pick made bad decisions, locked-in on receivers, forced passes into new favorite receiver Braylon Edwards, and overall was too tentative in the pocket.  Sanchez now leads the NFL in interceptions (10) and hasn’t topped 172 yards in a game since Week 1.

Carolina Panthers safety Dante Wesley – The high-energy Panthers hitter was rightfully ejected after he launched himself into the head of Buccaneers punt returner Clifton Smith.  Smith had clearly signaled for a fair catch and Wesley’s actions caused a spirited pushing and shoving match after the play.  Wesley was also notified by the NFL that he was suspended for 1 game and I am sure a heavy fine is coming too.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Steven Hauschka – Somehow, you knew it was going to happen…especially after former Ravens veteran kicker Matt Stover signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week.  Hauschka, a strong-legged young kicker, missed a potential game-winning last-minute 44-yard field goal in the Ravens’ 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.  The 2nd year kicker from NC State finished will have other opportunities, but like I always say “Just a kicker being a kicker”. Ironically Hauschka had been cut by the Vikings earlier in his career.

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – The Bears Pro Bowl running back was held to just 23 yards on 15 carries in his team’s 21-14 Sunday Night Football loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  Forte also had two fumbles in the redzone with the second one being recovered by the Falcons inside the 5-yard line.

The St. Louis Rams – Their 23-20 overtime loss to the Jaguars marked the one year anniversary of the last regular season game that they won.  The Rams or is it the “Lambs” extended the NFL’s longest current losing streak to 16 games.

NFL Week 6

SUN, OCT 18 

Houston Texans (3-3), Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) 28-17

Green Bay Packers (3-2), Detroit Lions (1-5) 26-0

Minnesota Vikings (6-0), Baltimore Ravens (3-3) 33-31

New Orleans Saints (5-0), NY Giants (5-1) 48-27

Carolina Panthers (2-3), Tampa Bay Bucs (0-6) 28-21

Kansas City Chiefs (1-5), Washington Redskins (2-4) 14-9

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3), St. Louis Rams (0-6) 23-20 in OT

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2), Cleveland Browns (1-5) 27-14

Arizona Cardinals (3-2), Seattle Seahawks (2-4) 27-3

Oakland Raiders (2-4), Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) 13-9

Buffalo Bills (2-4), NY Jets (3-3) 16-13 in OT

New England Patriots (4-2), Tennessee Titans (0-6) 59-0

Atlanta Falcons (4-1), Chicago Bears (3-2) 21-14

MON, OCT 19 

Denver Broncos (6-0), San Diego Chargers (2-3) 34-23

Bye: Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, San Francisco 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The Redskins have hit Rock Bottom

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Redskins offensive “consultant” Sherman Lewis will soon be a very busy man as he tries to clean-up Jim Zorn’s sputtering offense

On a day where the Philadelphia Eagles surprisingly left their heads in Philadelphia before an embarrassing loss to the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans “quit” in a 59-0 bludgeoning at the hands of the New Patriots, the NFL got a real view of what “Rock Bottom” is in Washington DC.  The Washington Redskins (2-4) continued to be the laughingstock of the NFL, despite the presence of winless teams like the Rams, Titans, and Buccaneers, in a putrid 14-6 home loss to the formerly winless Kansas City Chiefs (1-5).

The Chiefs improbable win marked the third time that Redskins had allowed a formerly winless team to beat them.  Entering Sunday, the Chiefs — had lost 28 of its previous 30 games  — were ranked pretty much last in the NFL in almost every defensive category while allowing 27.6 points and 402.8 yards per game.  So how did the Redskins and their West Coast offensive guru head coach Jim Zorn treat the Chiefs.  Well the Redskins — or as my colleague Lake Lewis of Sport Journey radio calls them “The Deadskins” — managed just 265 yards of total offense and gained only 7 first downs.  While turning the ball over 2 times, committing 7 penalties resulting in 63 yards, and going only 2 for 14 on third-down conversions.

What a mess, to say the least.  FedEx field that easily holds over 90,000 fans was half-full or half-empty, depending on your outlook for the ‘Skins.  In all the madness, Zorn in his infinite wisdom decided to pin the Redskins woes on his starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, who he replaced at halftime.  Granted Campbell was not at his greatest Sunday – finished with numbers 9/16, 89 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT – but his replacement veteran backup Todd Collins was probably worse.  Collins (6/14, 75 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs and 2 Fumbles both recovered by the Skins) did connected with WR Santana Moss on a 42-yard strike on his first pass (led to a field goal), but from there it was “Check-down City”.  Overall, Collins was tentative in the pocket and took too many sacks including a safety (sacked in the endzone by Chiefs DE Tamba Ali) in the game’s desperate closing minutes.

Zorn in explaining why he benched Campbell said, “He was a little late in hitting some things and inaccurate.”   Hey Zorn…I wonder if you have a mirror?  To me it was ridiculous that the Redskins headman would look at anyone other than himself for his team’s ineptness.  The Redskins defense didn’t allow a touchdown (four Ryan Succop field goals and a safety), sacked Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell 5 times and allowed only 268 net yards, despite playing with bad field position over and over (Chiefs started their final four drives in Redskins territory).

The Redskins’ offense now is averaging only 13.2 points per game this season and hasn’t scored more than 17 in any game despite playing facing six consecutive winless opponents (first team in NFL history).  Zorn began his postgame news conference with a huge sigh then rightfully stepped forward to face the awful music – with the loss to the Chiefs, the Redskins are now 4-10 in their last 14 games.  Of his team’s offensive effort Zorn said, “This offense is better than six points, 100 percent. And that’s on me”.  You are right Zorn!!

However the Redskins organization did send a loud and clear message to their beleaguered head coach immediately after the game .   According to Redskins spokesman Zack Bolno, VP of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato told Zorn that he had too many responsibilities and someone else (insert name: “Sherman Lewis”) should run the offense during games. In case you didn’t know, Lewis (West Coast coach from the ‘90s Green Bay Packers) had been added to Zorn’s staff in early October without the coach’s knowledge.

As if the addition of Lewis as an “offensive consultant” wasn’t a big enough slap in the face of Zorn, now a guy that has been out of the NFL for over five years and someone he didn’t even want will be calling his team’s offensive plays from here on out.  Quite frankly, I have to admit that I find it hilarious how Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and his staff have continued sawing off Zorn piece-by-piece without actually firing him.  With the angry Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off an embarrassing loss to the Raiders, coming to town in Week 7, the Redskins should expect another humiliating home loss.

So rest assured, the inevitable firing of Zorn will soon be upon us, probably during the Redskins’ bye week in Week 8.  “It’s going to be a very hard week,” Zorn said. “Last week, I thought that was as hard as it can get. It just got harder.”

Stay tuned as something stinky needs to be cleaned up in the Nation’s Capital and it has nothing to do with politics.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 6 Preview

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DE Osi Umenyiora will lead the Giants Defense against the Saints high-powered offense in Week 6’s featured game

Week 6 of the 2009 NFL Season is upon us and hopefully this week will bring some much-needed better match-ups than Week 5.  Last week, the NFL needed some more spicing up as there were six games where the winning team won by 19 or more points.  Even though the laughers last week did not hurt the NFL’s TV ratings.  Everyone, including yours truly, is looking forward to action on the field that equals the inordinate amount of weekly hype surrounding the NFL.  However I am not holding my breath just yet for more competitive games this week as six of the 10 games being played feature favorites of 9 or more points.

The  good news is that as bad as some pitiful teams are in the NFL (St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, KC Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and others), there are also five undefeated teams ( Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants) entering Week 6.  Vikings QB Brett Favre said about undefeated, “This is the first time in my career to be 5-0, I’m very proud of this team.  It’s important to start fast.  But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  It only gets tougher from here on out.”  The five unblemished teams are the most undefeated clubs through the first five weeks of a season in NFL history.  We will see how long each of these teams can continue chasing the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, but despite the red-hot Colts being on a bye, there will be at least one less undefeated after Sunday.  The reason being, the undefeated NY Giants and New Orleans Saints will do battle in the Bayou to see who is the NFC’s top team.  The Giants-Saints match-up is one of the most intriguing games thus far (See Featured Game).

Despite the entertaining Colts, Cowboys, Niners and Dolphins being on a bye, the Giants-Saints and a few other games fans are counting on to carry this week’s action. The Seahawks hosting the Cardinals and Broncos-Chargers are two good West Coast battles, but most fans are high on a key inter-conference battle. The Minnesota Vikings (5-0) host the angry Baltimore Ravens (3-2) in a game that will pit two former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid disciples in Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Vikings head coach Brad Childress.  This Sunday’s game at the Metrodome will be all about the running game as both the Vikings and Ravens love to run the ball and stop the run, which are always big keys to winning in my book.  Since the start of the 2007 season, the Vikings led by All-World RB Adrian Peterson have been the league’s best in rushing offense (150.1 yards per game) and run defense (78.2).  Meanwhile, the Ravens’ ground game ranks fourth (130.8) over that span and their rushing defense is second (79.7).  There is also the interesting subplot of two surefire hall of famers on opposite sides of the ball in this match-up as Vikings QB Brett Favre (103-149, 1069 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, and 104.1 rating) and Ravens ILB Ray Lewis go at each other.

There are is also a great showdown of two of the NFL’s best passers as strong arm Bears QB Jay Cutler and his team travel to Atlanta face Matt Ryan’s Falcons.  And NFL fans cannot forget that there are six division rivalry games (Detroit at Green Bay, Carolina at Tampa Bay, Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Arizona at Seattle, Buffalo at NY Jets, and undefeated at San Diego on Monday Night Football) as the teams start taking on familiar foes that will hopefully lead to more competitive games.  There are also several reunion games as former players and coaches renew “acquaintances” and some may not be so friendly.  Seattle Seahawks RB Edgerrin James will go against the Arizona Cardinals, who benched him for most of last season and then put him on the 30-year old running back scrap heap this past offseason. Jacksonville Jaguars WR Tory Holt goes against the St. Louis Rams — played for 10 seasons and won a Super Bowl title — but the Rams new regime thought his knees were shot.  Holt totaled 12,670 receiving yards with the Rams and he will become just the sixth player in NFL history to face a team for which he had 10,000+ receiving yards. Holt is also 34 receiving yards from 13,000 in his career.  Lastly, New Orleans Saints TE Jeremy Shockey goes against the NY Giants, who didn’t even want him on the sidelines when they won Super Bowl XLII and soon after sent him packing to Bourbon Street.

The factor that everyone hopes will lead to more competitive games is “adjustments”.  The NFL is a copycat league where teams can catch-up quickly and adjustments are the only way to stay ahead of the pack and combat falling behind.  With the third round of bye weeks, it is time for the “good” coaches to make the adjustments necessary to get their teams back on track or keeping them at the top.  Remember early season results are important (don’t want to get too far behind), but good coaches realize that they want their team peaking in the championship months of November and December when it is playoff push time. 

But all is not lost for most NFL teams going into Week 6 –- well at those with 1 or more wins…yes even the in-fighting Washington Redskins (2-3).  Since the current 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990, 11 teams have rebounded from being at least three games under .500 after the season’s first five weeks or later to qualify for the postseason.  Of those 11, six won the division, including last year’s San Diego Chargers, who won the AFC West after a 4-8 start.  Remember last year the Indianapolis Colts record stood at 3-4 going into a crucial game against the AFC champion New England Patriots, Peyton Manning and the Colts answered the bell winning 18-15 then rattled off eight straight wins to make the playoffs with a 12-4 record.

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers for Week 6 include:

2009 NFL season has been one of turnarounds – Everyone knows about the woes of former 2008 playoff teams the former AFC South champion Tennessee Titans (from 13-3 to 0-5 this season) and former NFC South champion Carolina Panthers (from 12-4 to 1-3).  But there is the unique case of Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre.  Last season for the New York Jets, the graybeard quarterback go off to a slow start throwing only 2 TDs and having 9 interceptions on the way to an NFL leading 22 INTs for the season.  This season Favre is 5-0 for the first time in his career and his passing numbers are the exact inverse from last year at this time – 9 TDs and 2 INTs.

Dome Sweet Dome – With two touchdown passes against the Ravens on Sunday, Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre will record his 11th consecutive two-plus passing touchdown game at the Metrodome (eight with Green Bay, three with Minnesota).   Favre already holds the NFL record with at least two touchdowns in 12 consecutive games at Lambeau Field from 1994-96, which was equaled by Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner at the Trans World Dome (now Edward Jones Dome) from 1999-2000.

Injuries will be a factor in Week 6 – As is the case with every NFL week, injuries are going to play a huge part in many games.  Returning are Bills LB Paul Posluszny (forearm), Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (Achilles), Steelers RB Willie Parker (toe), and Steelers S Troy Polamalu (knee).  Some bigger names listed as either “Out” or “Questionable” are Cardinals WR Steve Breaston (knee), Seahawks OT Walter Jones (knee), Seahawks OT Sean Locklear (ankle), Seahawks OG Rob Sims (ankle), Ravens OT Jared Gaither (neck), Ravens DT Haloti Ngata (back), Vikings DE Ray Edwards (hamstring), Vikings OG Steve Hutchinson (back), Vikings WR Percy Harvin (shoulder), Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring), Jets OT Damien Woody (foot), Bears LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (rib), Lions QB Matthew Stafford (knee), Texans LB Brian Cushing (foot), Chiefs OT Branden Albert (ankle), Redskins DE Phillip Daniels (biceps), Redskins OT Chris Samuels (neck), Titans CB Cortland Finnegan (hamstring), Patriots OT Matt Light (ankle), and Patriots RB Fred Taylor (ankle)

NFL Trade Deadline is approaching – Tuesday October 20th is the NFL Trade Deadline and for the first time in a while, there is some “buzz” around the date.  Already the NFL saw the trades involving former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets for picks and former Bucs D-lineman Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears for a 2010 2nd rd pick.  Watch for the names like Bills WR Terrell Owens, Eagles WR Kevin Curtis, Titans QB Vince Young, Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey, Browns QB Brady Quinn, Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs and Chargers LB Shawn Merriman to possibly be changing teams around the deadline.  Of course I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as trades like 2005 deal where former Niners QB Tim Rattay went to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th rd pick at the trade deadline are usually the norm.

NFL Week 6 – Featured Game

 New York Giants  (5-0) at New Orleans Saints (4-0), 1:00 PM ET (FOX)

 Broadcast Team: Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver (Field reporter)

“The Battle of the Unbeatens” will take center stage this week.  “This is certainly the game of the week,” said NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci.  The former NFL head coach added, “It’s a battle of undefeated teams and it could be a preview of what’s to come in the playoffs.  These two clubs will probably meet at some point in the postseason.”

 The Giants have feasted on a rather light early season schedule, including a 44-7 blowout of the hapless Raiders last week and are 5-0 for the third time in team history.  The G-Men are also 3-0 on the road this season and boast the NFL’s top-ranked defense (210.6 yards allowed per game) and second-ranked offense (417.4 yards per game).  The Saints, who are coming off a bye in Week 5, are no slouch either — third 4-0 start in franchise history.  The NFC South leaders have combined a high-scoring offense – a league-high 36 points per game – with an aggressive defense – an NFL-best 13 takeaways – this season.  We always knew with Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees (87-129, 1031 yards, 9 TDs, and 2 INTs), RB Pierre Thomas, scatback Reggie Bush, and WR Marques Colston could score points.  But this season the story of the Saints’ 2009 season has been a defense led by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and free agent pick-up S Darren Sharper (NFL leading 5 INTs).

The Giants despite a weak schedule are clearly a complete team (offense, defense, and special teams) and have maintained the number #1 spot in my Power Ranking for a couple weeks.  “This game is going to be a real test for us,” said Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce.  The Giants defensive leader added, “The Saints are going to be prepared.  They’re a well-coached team.  They’re playing well on both offense and defense.  It’s one of our biggest challenges so far.”  On offense, the Giants have balance led by QB Eli Manning (87-135, 1212 yards (2nd in NFC), 10 TDs, and 2 INTs) and Thunder-and-Lightning RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Plus WRs Mario Manningham and Steve Smith (NFL leading 37 receptions, 481 yards, and 4 TDs) have made everyone forget Plaxico Burress.  On defense, the Giants game is pressure, pressure, and more pressure from a D-line led by Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck (3.5 sacks) that usually leads to turnovers.

Injuries are also a big part of this game as the Giants injury list includes LB Michael Boley (knee), DT Chris Canty (calf), and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) – all are probably out.  Conversely the Saints maybe missing CB Malcolm Jenkins (ankle), CB Leigh Torrence (hamstring), T Jermon Bushrod (knee, ankle), G Jahri Evans (toe), and RB Mike Bell (knee)

LV’s Pick:  Everyone will talk about all of the offensive weapons in this game including QBs Eli Manning and Drew Brees.  But to me this battle comes down to each team’s offensive line.  The Giants O-line has been together for 30+ consecutive starts and the veteran group will need to protect Manning (heel) and get Bradshaw and Jacobs going.  The Saints defensive line has been getting pressure from ends Charles Grant (4 sacks) and Will Smith, so the G-Men’s line led by center Chris Snee will have their hands full.  The Saints group has some injuries, but after a week off they will need to be ready because the Giants have the best D-line rotation in the league.  Many are predicting a high-scoring affair, but I believe both teams will look to establish the run and look for turnovers on defense.  Despite maybe a big play or two from the Saints, I still believe that the Giants’ NFC East bred physicality will be the difference.  Expect a big day from Bradshaw and Jacobs on offense and their attacking D-line. – Giants 24, Saints 20

NFL Week 6  

SUN, OCT 18 

Houston at Cincinnati 1:00 PM (CBS)

Detroit at Green Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)

Baltimore at Minnesota 1:00 PM (CBS)

NY Giants at New Orleans 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Carolina at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)

Kansas City at Washington 1:00 PM (CBS) 

St. Louis at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (FOX) 

Cleveland at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM (CBS)

Arizona at Seattle 4:05 PM (FOX)

Philadelphia at Oakland 4:05 PM (FOX)

Buffalo at NY Jets 4:15 PM (CBS)

Tennessee at New England 4:15 PM (CBS)  

Chicago at Atlanta 8:20 PM (NBC)

MON, OCT 19 

Denver at San Diego 8:30 PM (ESPN)

 Bye: Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, San Francisco

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The Wildcat is still running strong in Miami by Lloyd Vance

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The Miami Dolphins led by main ‘Wildcat’ threat RB Ronnie Brown lead the NFL in rushing this season

After the Miami Dolphins success using the Wildcat formation in 2008, naturally everyone thought that the 2009 NFL season would be one where crafty defensive coordinators figured out how to “bust” the Wildcat.  But so far the Dolphins have continued their mastery of the Wildcat offense to a point where some defenders would rather “bad mouth” the offense than find a legitimate way of stopping it. New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said after his team couldn’t stop the formation in the Dolphins 31-27 win over NY Jets, “I can’t respect that stuff, all that Wildcat. We’re in the NFL. Don’t come here with that nonsense.”

Well Mr. Pace there is one thing that almost everyone I talk to around the NFL respects, and that is winning.  Whether you want to call the Wildcat  – really the Single Wing where there is an unbalanced line and someone other than the regular quarterback takes a shotgun snap while looking to pass, pitch, handoff, or run the ball – a “gimmick” or “nonsense”, the formation works for the Miami Dolphins.  To their credit, the Dolphins have been and still are committed to the offense more than any of the NFL’s 31 other teams.  Don’t call it a “fad” to Dolphins as their star Wildcat Ronnie Brown said, “It’s a part of our offense, it isn’t so much about stopping the Wildcat. It’s about stopping our offense.”

During the 2008 regular season, the Dolphins ran 90 Wildcat plays that accounted for 580 yards and eight touchdowns with of 6.4 yards per play. The formation gave defensive coordinators fits in preparing for it.  Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox in try to explain the difficulties for defenses with the Wildcat said, “In the Wildcat, the quarterback position can now be a runner. If the back is not the runner, he’s a blocker, so you get that overload in the running game.”  To explain it more succinctly it is old school 11 on 11 football.

Brown has been the ultimate Wildcat QB the past two seasons, going from a guy coming back from a tough knee injury to be a very good runner and more surprisingly a formidable passer.  Chargers safety Eric Weddle said of the formation and Brown’s ability in it, “When they go from a regular formation and come into ‘Wildcat,’ he (Brown) is so patient with it, you can’t just shoot a gap, and you have to all be assignment-sound. He just sits there and picks his way and finds a gap and hits it. He’s a good runner, a smart runner and patient.”

In 2008, the Dolphins rode the Wildcat all the way to the AFC East division title and one of the most miraculous turnarounds in NFL history.  The Dolphins going from 1-15 to 11-5 matched the 1999 Indianapolis as the only teams in history to make 10-game improvement from one season to the next.  Some thought the Wildcat would wane in popularity after the Baltimore Ravens stuffed the formation in the two team’s 2008 playoff game.  The Ravens held the Dolphins to only 52 total rushing yards and a modest 7 yards on two Wildcat plays in a dominating 27-9 win.  But to many people that saw the game, the real reason behind the Ravens dominance was in forcing five turnovers including 4 interceptions by Dolphins starter Chad Pennington.

Despite a solid campaign in 2008, this past offseason some veteran NFL people, like ESPN Monday Night Football Analyst Ron Jaworksi, still had mixed feelings toward the Wildcat and kept up the “fad” talk.  Jaws said, “I love the Wildcat. It’s great. I’m glad Dolphins QB Coach (David) Lee is up there working all the plays. Maybe he can give them to the college coaches, because that’s where they work. At the NFL level you must have a quarterback that plays from the pocket.” Also the number of teams running Wildcat direct snaps to others than their regular quarterbacks has fallen from 18 teams in 2008 to 7 teams through the first three weeks of this season.

Undaunted the Dolphins have stayed committed to the Wildcat.  In Week 2, the Dolphins rode the Wildcat to 239 rushing yards and possessing the ball for 45+ minutes in a 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The loss to the quick-strike Colts led by QB Peyton Manning was tough, but the Wildcat was back on full display this past Monday Night.  The Dolphins showed mouthy New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan – Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in ’08  – that in Miami, the Wildcat offense is here to stay…well at least until someone can totally stop it. 

The Dolphins piled-up 151 rushing yards and converted nine of 14 third-down chances.  And when it mattered most they went to the Wildcat formation over and over, running out of the formation 4 times for 25 yards on their game-winning, 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive.  Overall the Dolphins ran 16 Wildcat plays for 110 yards (6.9 yards average) with RB’s Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams plus designated dual-threat rookie quarterback Pat White taking direct snaps in the formation.  Brown and Williams were nearly unstoppable in the physical win – the two veteran runners are on a pace for both to gain 1,000 rushing yards this season.  Brown scored a pair of touchdowns, including the 2-yard game-winner out of the Wildcat, while rushing for 74 yards and completing one pass for 21 yards to TE Anthony Fassano. Williams had 138 scrimmage yards with his biggest gain coming on a 59-yard screen pass reception.  We even go to see White come in and move the chains on a third down run.

After the game, Ryan was a little more humble about the Wildcat.  “I used to see all those gimmicks back when I was coaching college, and one thing we could always do is stop the run,” said the charismatic Jets head coach.  Ryan added, “It was a complete embarrassment by our defense and by me. I’ve never been involved in a game like that in my life.”  The Dolphins’ commitment to their rushing attack, including the Wildcat, has paid-off as they are averaging177 rushing yards per game, which by the way leads the NFL.  The Wildcat formation is also a huge hit in this year’s version of Madden Football and Brown has been known to give gamers tips on running the ‘Wildcat’.

Dolphins’ running backs, gamers, and fans are not the only ones going gaga about the Wildcat and running the football.  Both the Dolphins’ quarterback (2nd year QB Chad Henne who is 2-0 as a starter) and well-rested defense (allowing only 76 rushing yards per game) are also singing the Wildcat’s praises.  Going into their Week 6 bye, despite losing former starting quarterback Chad Pennington for the season with a shoulder injury, the Dolphins now have a record of 2-3 and are 2-0 in AFC East games. 

We will have to see if the Wildcat will continue to grow roots around the rest of the NFL, but in Miami the ‘Cat has found a home.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

rickywilliams

After a big win over the J-E-T-S on Monday Night Football, RB Ricky Williams and Dolphins are moving up the Power Rankings

Each week the 2009 NFL Season’s “Contender” and “Pretender” scoreboard becomes a little clearer.  This year in the league, there appears to be two worlds, the “Have’s” and “Have Nots” with a smaller than usual parity-filled middle.  So much for “Any Given Sunday” talk as each week there are more and more blowouts –  Week 5 featured six games where teams won by 19 points or more.

In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Vikings (5-0), Broncos (5-0), Saints (4-0), Colts (5-0), and Giants (5-0); “Teams on the Cusp” — Bengals (4-1), Eagles (3-1), Bears (3-1), and Falcons (3-1); “The Contender”, who are teams that are a step above average — Patriots (3-2), Jets (3-2), Steelers (3-2),  and Niners (3-2); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who are caught in the NFL’s parity-filled middle that either need to join the playoff hunt or fall back – Cowboys (3-2), Cardinals (2-2), Seahawks (2-3), Dolphins (2-3), and Chargers (2-2);  The “Pretenders”, who are also in the middle of the pack but are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Panthers (1-3),  Texans (2-3), Redskins (2-3), and Jaguars (2-3); and lastly  the “Putrid” (i.e. You should just skip to the 2010 NFL Draft) – Browns (1-4), Raiders (1-4), Bills (1-4), Lions (1-4), Rams (0-5), Chiefs (0-5), Buccaneers (0-5), and Titans (0-5)

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1. Giants (5-0) – The G-Men were able to rest QB Eli Manning earlier than expected in a bludgeoning of the hapless Raiders.  Finally the Giants get more than a cupcake as they travel south to face the undefeated Saints and someone’s “O” has got to go.

2.  Colts (5-0) – Peyton Manning continues to play like a machine as the Colts won their 14th straight game with an easy win over the winless Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football.  Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s team gets a well-deserved bye week and just maybe injured players SS Bob Sanders and WR Anthony Gonzalez will be back after the off week.

3.  Vikings (5-0) – The Vikes easily handled the reeling host St. Louis Rams in a game that showed the dominance of DE Jared Allen.  In one of Week 6’s marquee games, the Vikings should finally get tested as they host the angry Ravens come to the Metrodome.

4.  Saints (4-0) – Hopefully during their bye week, the Saints stayed off Bourbon Street and focused on getting ready for the Giants.  The Superdome will be alive as the undefeated NFC East leading Giants led by QB Eli Manning and emerging receiver Steve Smith come to town for a much-anticipated FOX early afternoon special.

5.  Broncos (5-0) – “Young Belichick” Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels got the best of his mentor and he was pumped up by his young squad disposing of the veteran Patriots in overtime.  The road to respectability does not get any easier for the Broncos and their young head coach as they travel to San Diego to face a borderline desperate Chargers team.

6.  Bengals (4-1) — Marvin Lewis’ team was tough and gritty in beating the Ravens in Baltimore.  The Bengals not only brought some much-needed sunshine to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (wife passed away last week), but they also now look like the team to beat in the AFC North.  In a game where the Bengals will need to avoid a letdown, they will host the high-powered Houston Texans and All-World receiver Andre Johnson. 

 7.  Eagles (3-1) – The Birds came off their bye week with a vengeance and led by promising rookie WR Jeremy Maclin, they hammered the poor Buccaneers into an early submission.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid got his 100th regular season win over the Bucs and now Big Red is 11-0 after the bye for his career.  Next up, the Eagles will go a long way from Philly to Oakland, just so they can feast on the hapless Raiders.

8.  Falcons (3-1) – In a total surprise, the Falcons destroyed the Niners in their own stadium.  The Falcons were led by QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, and TE Tony Gonzalez as Singletary fumed over his team’s lack of focus.  Next up is a “Young Guns” shootout as the Falcons led by Ryan take on the Chicago Bears and strong-armed QB Jake Cutler.

9.  Bears (3-1) – The Bears got a much-needed rest during their bye week and hopefully injured players WR Johnny Knox, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer and WR Devin Hester were able to heal-up. In order to stay on the heels of the red-hot Vikings, the Bears will need to continue to win this time on the road against the improving Falcons on Sunday Night Football.

10. Steelers (3-2) – Mike Tomlin’s team climbed back over .500 after finally waking-up to dispose of the scrappy Detroit Lions.  Next up is the reeling Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field in P-Burgh and I am sure the Steelers faithful will not allow their heroes to “Sleep-on“one of the NFL’s worst teams, especially when they are an AFC North rival.

11.  Jets (3-2) – So much for Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s mastery of the Wildcat as the Dolphins ran all over the J-E-T-S in a big Monday Night Football win.  After two straight losses the Jets will need to pick-up the pieces and take care of business at home against the subpar Buffalo Bills.

12.  Patriots (3-2) – It seems like a million years ago that the Patriots ran roughshod over the NFL in 2007.  And the upstart Broncos showed the veteran Pats that teams are no longer fearful of their mystique in a thrilling overtime win.  Hopefully QB Tom Brady will find his long ball accuracy and the Patriots can find some semblance of a running game when they host the desperate for a win Tennessee Titans.

13.  Ravens (3-2) – The Ravens lost their second game in a row as the hungry Bengals seemed to want it more in a tough road win.  In a much anticipated game, it will be the Ravens’ attacking defense against graybeard quarterback Brett Favre as the Ravens travel to Minnesota to face a Vikings squad hitting on all cylinders.

14.  Chargers (2-2) – I am sure during the bye week that the Bolts tried to find their “swagger” again, especially underachievers L.T and LB Shawn Merriman.  Head Coach Norv Turner needs to fire-up an inconsistent Chargers team as they host the division-leading Denver Broncos in an AFC West showdown game on Monday Night Football. 

15.  Cardinals (2-2) – Looks like head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s bye week practices worked as the Cards fueled by QB Kurt Warner and a great goalline stand stopped the Texans in their tracks.  The Cards next go on the road to the Northwest to face an improving Seahawks team and their rejuvenated quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, in a key NFC West battle.

16.  49ers (3-2) – I guess the Niners are not be ready for primetime just yet as they laid a huge egg in an embarrassing home loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  Head Coach Mike Singletary and his staff will be working overtime during the bye week to improve a team that is a little inconsistent.  Expect to see injured running back Frank Gore and just signed first rounder Michael Crabtree in the line-up after the bye.

17. Cowboys (3-2) – The ‘Boys continued their inconsistent ways as they needed a monumental effort from QB Tony Romo and emerging receiver Miles Austin just to pullout an overtime win over the reeling Chiefs.  During the bye week, head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett better figure out a way to save their jobs as the Cowboys will be facing some tough games coming up.

18.  Dolphins (2-3) – In a thrilling Monday Night Football AFC East battle, the Dolphins rode their stellar running game, including the Wildcat, to a late second win over the visiting New York Jets ( have lost two in a row).  After a big win over the J-E-T-S, I am sure it will be fun in the sun for the Dolphins and their Wildcat offense.

19. Packers (2-2) – The bye week allowed the Pack to heal their bodies and egos from a tough loss to the Vikings and you know who.  QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will look to feast on the retooling Detroit Lions when the young squad visits Lambeau this week.

20.  Seahawks (2-3) – Getting back starting QB Matt Hasselbeck was all the difference as the Seahawks were a new team on offense and defense in a dominating win over the Jaguars.  The Hawks will need to figure out if they are a “Contender” or “Pretender” as they host the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals in a huge NFC West battle.

21.  Texans (2-3) – It was the same old inconsistent Texans as they could not string together two straight wins.  The Cardinals bent but didn’t break on defense and QB Kurt Warner picked apart the Texans secondary in a big win.  In a desperate spot on their schedule, the Texans travel to Cincy to face an ascending Bengals team led by stoic head coach Marvin Lewis.

22.  Panthers (1-3) – The Panthers put together a huge confidence building win over the crumbling Redskins and their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn.  The Panthers will look to make it two in a row as they travel to Tampa Bay for a game against the Bucs that I am dubbing, “The Battle for the NFC South Basement”.

23.  Jaguars (2-3) – I don’t even know why the Jags got on their long cross-country flight as they never really showed up in Seattle, losing 41-0 to the Seahawks.  Next the Jaguars host the St. Louis Rams in a game that is sure to be a blackout, but would it even matter as both teams are not very good.

24.  Redskins (2-3) – For the second time this year, the Redskins or as some fans are calling them, “The Dead Skins”, lost to a formerly winless team.  The Panthers out-physicaled the Redskins and now it look like not “if”, but “when” will head coach Jim Zorn be fired.  For Zorn’s sake, the Redskins better not lose to the winless Kansas City Chiefs or it may be time for defensive coordinator Greg Blache or new offensive consultant Sherman Lewis to take over.

25. Titans (0-5) – It wasn’t even close as the Indianapolis Colts showed the reeling Titans what a true contender looks like in a dominating win.  It may be time to unveil V.Y as the Titans have nothing else to lose in a tough road test against the angry Patriots.

26.  Lions (1-3) – It took a while, but the Steelers returned to the place of their Super Bowl XL victory and pulled-out a hard fought win.  The Lions will probably be led again this week by QB Daunte Culpepper, which could prove to be a good thing as he used to be a killer of this week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers.

27.  Chiefs (0-5) – Head coach Todd Haley’s team gave a terrific effort against the inconsistent Cowboys, but in the end the Dallas’ passing combination of Tony Romo and Miles Austin was on fire in their Week 5 win.  Next up is an ugly match-up against the equally deficient Redskins in game that could seal the fate of their beleaguered head coach Jim Zorn

28.  Browns (1-4) – “The Battle for Lake Erie” against the Bills looked more like one big quagmire as the Browns pulled out an ugly 6-3 win.  Hopefully Browns QB Derek Anderson will be able to complete more than two passes against the tough Steelers defense, which may get back Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu.

29.  Bills (1-4) – This game truly was the “Toilet Bowl” as the Bills and Browns combined for only nine total points in an ugly Browns’ 6-3 win.  The Bills will next travel to the big city to face a hungry J-E-T-S’ squad and just maybe underachiever T.O will finally get back in the endzone.

30.  Buccaneers (0-5) – The re-tooling Bucs, other than TE Kellen Winslow, looked very disinterested as the Philadelphia Eagles easily dismantled them at the Linc.  In an NFC South pride game, the Bucs will host the hopeful Panthers.

31.  Rams (0-5) – Steve Spagnuolo’s boys had no answer for QB Brett Favre and the Vikings in a disheartening loss. The Rams will look to get their first “W” as they travel to Jacksonville in a game that is sure to be blacked-out.  Well at least the team will not have to worry about Russ Limbaugh being part of their franchise any longer as the big-mouth talk show host was removed from a group trying to buy the team.

32.  Raiders (1-4) – I can longer sit by and rank the Raiders any higher than the last spot in my rankings.  Even though the Raiders have one win – it’s a “Miracle” by the way – there is no team in the NFL more dysfunctional or in a deeper hole.  With more “drama” regarding the police and NFL security nipping at Raiders head coach Tom Cable’s heels, the Philadelphia Eagles will fly across the country to eat this giant cupcake of a team.

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Review – Week 5

 

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Cowboys WR Miles Austin is Week 5’s Game Ball winner for his monumental effort in the Cowboys’ OT win over the Chiefs

The second quarter of the 2009 NFL season began in Week 5 and the league seems to be a clear case of the “Have’s” and the “Have Nots”.  After five weeks of NFL play, there are five undefeated teams (New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, and Denver Broncos) — most undefeated clubs through the first five weeks of a season in NFL history.  There are also four winless teams after five weeks (St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).  Fortunately the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns got off the “schnide” and can now call themselves winners after two close wins. The Browns “fueled” by the return of RB Jamal Lewis won 6-3 over the terrible Buffalo Bills and the Panthers further pushed Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn closer to the door with a 20-17 win. 

Overall I am going to designate Week 5 in the National Football League as “Blowout Week”.  There were 6 games of the 14 games played that were decided by 19 points or more.  Going into the weekend everyone feared that the Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers would dominate as they took on the NFL’s bottom rung teams — two combined wins between their opponents.  True to form the Giants (blew out the Oakland Raiders 44-7), Eagles (dominated the Bucs 34-14), Colts (marched through the Titans 31-9) and Vikings (tore apart the Rams 38-10) easily disposed of their opponents.  You can also throw-in other unexpected bludgeonings by Seattle Seahawks (beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-0) and Atlanta Falcons (lopsided win over the home team Niners 45-10).

Luckily for viewers, the NFL did also have its fair share of close games including two overtime thrillers.  Surprisingly two teams that were involved in close games were the Cowboys and Steelers.  Both came away with wins, but clearly they each played down to their respective home team competition too lightly (Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions).   The Dallas Cowboys continued there inconsistent ways as it took a monumental effort from receiver Miles Austin (see Game Balls) and quarterback Tony Romo to comeback in a game where they trailed the lowly Chiefs by a score of 10-3 at halftime.  Finally Dallas’ wake-up call came and the Cowboys hit some big plays to get the game to overtime and finally put the Chiefs away 26-20. Conversely the Steelers let Daunte Culpepper and the Lions hang around for a while due to an interception return for a touchdown then finally putting them away late in the fourth quarter winning by a score 28-20.

The game of the week was the Broncos led by “Belichick Jr” head coach Josh McDaniels beating his former team, the New England Patriots, by a score of 20-17 in overtime.  The Broncos drove 58 yards on the first series of overtime –- never looked back after winning the coin flip — to set up Matt Prater’s 41-yard winning field goal.  With former Eagles pro bowl safety Brian Dawkins leading the way, as usual the new-look Broncos were led by their defense, which has allowed just 43 points this season (8.6 per game).  The Broncos defense held the Patriots’ explosive offense scoreless in the second half and Pats Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss to just 36 receiving yards.  On offense, RB Knowshon Moreno made his first career start rushing 21 times for 88 yards, but the Broncos went more to the air against a Patriots secondary that was having problems in coverage.  The Broncos rolled-up 321 yards through the air — compared to just 209 passing yards for New England — and rallied for a big come-from-behind win that realistically showed that they are a team to be reckoned with. 

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers for this week before we go to the awards are:

The Wildcat was loose on Monday Night — Running out of multiple formations including the Wildcat, Miami Dolphins’ running back combination, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were nearly unstoppable in a physical 31-27 win over the NY Jets. Brown scored a pair of touchdowns, including the 2-yard game-winner out of the Wildcat, while rushing for 74 yards. Williams had 138 scrimmage yards, the big game coming on a 59-yard reception.  The Dolphins piled-up 151 rushing yards and converted nine of 14 third-down chances.  We even go to see rookie quarterback Pat White come in and move the chains on a third down run.

NFL Trade Deadline is approaching – Tuesday October 20th is the NFL Trade Deadline and for the first time in a while, there is some “buzz” around the date.  Already the NFL saw the trade of former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets and there could be more.  Watch for the names Bills WR Terrell Owens, Eagles WR Kevin Curtis, Titans QB Vince Young, Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey, Browns QB Brady Quinn, and Chargers LB Shawn Merriman to possibly be changing teams around the deadline.  Of course I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as former deals like former Niners QB Tim Rattay going the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th rd pick at the 2005 deadline are usually the norm.

The NFL is now a passing league – Through Week 5, teams with 300-yard passers had a combined record of 23-8 (.742).  Which is the highest winning percentage of teams with 300-yard passers over the first five weeks of a season (since 1970).  The 23 combined wins are already the most in NFL history through the first five weeks of a season.  Perennial 300-yard passer Colts QB Peyton Manning did it again this week as he hit the magic mark in a win over the Titans – has won 5-of-5 this year in 300-yard passing games. Manning’s final passing numbers were 36 of 44 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

Well it was a win — Browns QB Derek Anderson completed just two passes in 17 attempts for 23 yards in his team’s 6-3 ugly win over the Bills.  Anderson’s 11.8 completion percentage is the second-worst since the NFL-AFL merger for a winning quarterback with at least 15 pass attempts – also had a passer rating of 15. The Browns and Bills combined for the lowest scoring game of the season (9 points), besting the 9-7 result between the Redskins and Rams in Week 2.  And the Bills have lost 12 of their last 15 games.  What an ugly game, but at least Anderson “showed” that the Browns didn’t need disgruntled receiver Braylon Edwards…not.

Game Balls

Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin – Who needs T.O anyway!!! The big physical receiver from tiny Monmouth College (NJ) had 10 catches for a team-record 250 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 26-20 overtime victory at Kansas City. Austin saved the Cowboys’ hides with a 60-yard tackle-breaking game-winning TD reception in overtime. Austin became the 10th player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game. However QB Tony Romo’s new favorite target was the first player with those stats to score a game-winner in OT.

Honorable Mention

Philadelphia Eagles rookie WR Jeremy Maclin – Better stop double-teaming DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis maybe seeing more of the bench.  In his first NFL start, Maclin was electric.  The 2009 first rounder had six catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 33-14 win over Tampa Bay. Maclin was able to get deep twice for returning QB Donovan McNabb as he recorded touchdown receptions of 51 and 40 yards (firsts of his NFL career). Maclin is the fifth rookie since 1970 to have his first two career receiving touchdowns go for at least 40 yards and occur in the same game.

Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner – The veteran passer threw for 302 yards in the Cardinals’ 28-21 victory over Houston Texans. Warner’s efforts marked his 50th career 300-yard passing performance, which is the fifth-most in NFL history. Warner, has now passed for 300 yards in 50 of 113 games (44.2 percent), which is the fastest quarterback to reach 50 300-yard games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (176 games).  Warner also hit another milestone as he has now passed for 13,255 yards in his Cardinals’ career, which combined with his 14,447 yards with the St. Louis Rams.  Makes Warner join hall of famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to pass for at least 13,000 yards with two different teams.

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White – The 2008 Pro Bowl receiver had eight catches for a team-record 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ 45-10 win at San Francisco. White’s big day along Austin’s effort marks the second time in NFL history that two receivers each recorded at least 200 receiving yards and two TD catches on the same day (Kansas City’s Stephone Paige and Houston’s Drew Hill, Dec. 22, 1985).

Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – The former Bears runner rushed 27 times for 120 yards and one touchdown in the Bengals’ 17 – 14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.  Benson became the first running back in 40 games to rush for at least 100 yards against the Ravens.

Other Honorees: New York Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in the Giants’ easy win over the Raiders); Denver WR Eddie Royal (10 catches for 90 yards in the Broncos’ overtime victory over the Patriots. Royal, who now has 109 receptions in 20 career games, became the third wide receiver in NFL history to reach 100 catches in 20 or fewer games, joining Arizona’s Anquan Boldin – 16 games – and former New England wide receiver Terry Glenn – 20); Baltimore safety Ed Reed (52-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Bengals, which was the 12th return TD of his career); Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck (threw four touchdowns completing 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards in the Seahawks’ 41 – 0 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars); Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (had a pick-six interception return and was a big part of the Cardinals’ game-saving goal-line stand); Colts WR Austin Collie (The rookie from BYU caught eight passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts win over the Titans); Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers (two sacks and a huge safety in Carolina’s first win).

Lloyd’s Lackey

The Oakland Raiders – Is there a team worse than the Raiders after their 44-7 humiliating loss to the New York Giants – to answer my own question… “NO”.  I am still trying to figure out how the Raiders ever won a game over the Chiefs earlier this year.  The Giants scored a touchdown on each of their first four possessions for a 28-0 lead only minutes into the second quarter. In his brief appearance, Manning was 8-of-10 for 173 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to backup quarterback David Carr. The Giants ended the game with 483 yards of offense compared to only 124 total yards for the Raiders.  Al Davis’ boys were unable to get the ball moving on the ground or in the air.  Their rushing total was just 60 yards on 25 carries for an average of only 2.4 per carry against a Giants’ defense that allowed 5.5 yards per carry in their first four games.  QB JaMarcus Russell continued to struggle as he finished with only 100 yards passing – the former first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft was 1-of-6 to his wide receivers.  “I expected more out of us,” Raiders head coach Tom Cable said. “We just did not deliver today.” — Amen, Coach. And I didn’t want to mention it… but I will.  The Napa Valley Police and the NFL still might penalize Cable for his alleged punch against assistant coach Randy Hanson.

Dishonorable Mention

San Francisco 49ers CB Dre’ Bly – I guess he was trying to pay tribute to Deion Sanders.  But Bly’s decision to showboat as he was returning a great interception he made against the Falcons proved to be costly. The Niners corner had the ball stripped during his showboating attempt and head coach Mike Singletary was livid.  Of course later, Bly apologized but the damage was already done.

Patriots safety Brandon Merriweather – At a point when the Pats needed a stop late in the game, Merriweather took a dumb taunting penalty.  In the fourth quarter, Broncos WR Eddie Royal was hit in the back by Merriweather on an incompletion and the official right behind the play immediately threw his flag for pass interference. Then Merriweather made matters worse by getting up and pumping his fist while standing over Royal, thus garnering an additional15 yards for taunting.

Rams WR Donnie Avery – In a game that was well over, Avery decided to do a stupid dance after scoring a 27-yard touchdown in the Rams’ 38-10 loss to the Vikings.  Here see for yourself this unneeded display of non-team football.

Week 5 Games 

Bengals (4-1) over Ravens (3-2), 17-14

Broncos (5-0) over Patriots (3-2), 20-17

Browns (1-4) over Bills (1-4), 6-3

Cardinals (2-2) over Texans (2-3), 28-21

Colts (5-0) over Titans (0-5), 31-9

Cowboys (3-2) over Chiefs (0-5), 26-20

Eagles (3-1) over Buccaneers (0-5), 33-14

Falcons (3-1) over 49ers (3-2), 45-10

Giants (5-0) over Raiders (1-4), 44-7

Panthers (1-3) over Redskins (2-3), 20-17

Seahawks (2-3) over Jaguars (2-3), 41-0

Steelers (3-2) over Lions (1-4), 28-20

Vikings (5-0) over Rams (0-5), 38-10

Mon: Dolphins (2-3) over Jets (3-2), 31-27

Byes: Bears (3-1), Chargers (2-2), Packers (2-2), Saints (4-0)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)