Huddle Up Pre-Season Week 2: By Jason King

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a breakout season last year.  But despite finishing 10-6, they missed out on the playoffs.  They are the youngest team in the league and are hoping to have another successful year. 

Third year coach Raheem Morris is one of the most respected coaches in the NFL, despite being the youngest.  He is only 34 years old.  The Bucs finished 3-13 in his first season at the helm.  After that season, many people called for Morris to lose his job.  Mark Dominik, the Bucs general manager, stuck with him despite the criticism. Continue reading


Debunking Favre to Philly and Examining Eagles Backup Plan by Matt Lombardo

There has been a lot of “Favre to Philly Talk ” around, but Taking It to the House isn’t buying it

The next four days figure to be the busiest in NFL history as nearly 1,600 moves are expected to be made across the league in less time than it takes to wait between regular season games. Simultaneously, training camps across the country will be opening and players reporting as rosters are finalized by sure to be sleep deprived general managers.

Assuming the Eagles deal Kevin Kolb toArizonaor elsewhere, which they are expected to do in short order once the league year begins. All signs point to Kolb landing inArizonain exchange for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and possibly a draft pick. With that in mind, many wonder what Andy Reid and company will do to address the backup quarterback position.

On Saturday night Howard Eskin reported on NBC10 in Philadelphiathat the Eagles have interest in former Viking, Jet and Packer Brett Favre. The report was given some credence on Sunday when Michael Vick tweeted “I would be honored to have Brett Farve as a backup. That will be amazing Learning how to toy with defenses the way he did his whole career.” However, Vick conspicuously deleted the Tweet hours later.

Not to discredit Eskin and his story, but this move isn’t one that works for either side, and after speaking with several sources looks to be the longest of long shots.

There’s no doubt that The Eagles are in the market for a quarterback given that Vick hasn’t played a full 16 game season since 2006. However, Favre may be the least logical solution of any available signal caller. The thought of the 42 year old veteran winding up inmidnightgreen is predicated on him being content in a backup role for the first time in his career.

Let’s just say that’s highly unlikely.

Some point to Favre joining the Eagles to mentor Vick, which is a ridiculous notion in and of itself. Vick has been a starter at a high level in the NFL for eight years, well past the point in his career when he would benefit from the tutelage of a player who plays the quarterback position as differently as one can imagine from him. Besides, lets not forget that this is the same Favre who had no interest in mentoring Aaron Rodgers when the Packers used a first round draft choice on the eventual Super Bowl MVP in 2005.

Eagles beat writer Les Bowen used his Eagletarian blog Sunday to bring some logic to the situation saying “why would Favre want to hold a clipboard in Philly? The money, under the tighter new cap, wouldn’t be lavish. His ego is as legendary as his arm,” Bowen said. “The only way he comes out of retirement for this job is if he thinks he somehow ends up at the helm of a Super Bowl contender, and even that scenario assumes Favre has some interest in trying to play again. Vick doesn’t need this. The Eagles don’t need this.”

While it isn’t a stretch to foresee Favre holding the NFL hostage once more and un-retire again, the situation in Philadelphiais far from an ideal one for him to rewrite is farewell story.

However, The Eagles have options they’ll likely pursue in the free agent frenzy to fill their need for a backup quarterback. Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger and Tarvaris Jackson are all available in one form or another if Philadelphia chooses not to entrust Mike Kafka as Vick’s top understudy. Given Vick’s reckless abandon under center, and the ‘win now’ mentality permeating fromOne NovaCare Way, undoubtedly the birds will at least kick the tires on some or all of these options as an insurance policy.

Young has been an enigma in recent years, going so far as leaving the team in 2008 and disappearing after being booed by his home fans in a loss to the Jaguars. Then Titans coach Jeff Fisher ultimately coaxed Young back to the team. Last season in 11 games Young threw for 1,255 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions for the Titans.  Tennessee is expected to release Young shortly after the league reopens for business and he would be an attractive option for the Eagles once he becomes available.

Andy Reid has developed a reputation for both developing outstanding play from the quarterback position and also as a mastermind at overseeing reclamation projects at that position. Both of which would certainly benefit Young, who despite the questions surrounding his motivation, still has the raw talent to succeed in the right situation.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if [The Eagles] acquired Vince Young after the Titans cut him.” Said a source close to the team.

Meanwhile, Bulger will likely draw interest from teams such as the Dolphins, Seahawks, Browns, Redskins and others as a starter and probably would not settle for a backup position. Yet his familiarity with the West Coast Offense and the allure of playing for a contender could put the Eagles in play if the former Ram who spent last season backing up Joe Flacco inBaltimorefails to land a starting gig. Bulger hasn’t been a full time starter since 2008 when he completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,720 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the Rams.

Should the Cardinals fail to deliver the kind of bounty the Eagles are seeking for Kolb, the Seahawks could make a push to acquire him. The Seahawks brass could also turn the keys to the franchise over to Charlie Whitehurst who is currently the only quarterback on their roster. One thing is certain though, Hasselbeck will not take another snap inSeattle.

Like Bulger, Hasselbeck is attractive to teams in need of a starter. The 35 year old spent his entire career in the West Coast Offense and has ties to Reid. The Eagles could certainly do worse than Hasselbeck’s 3,000 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago, stepping in should Vick fall to injury.

Finally there’s Jackson who would likely make the easiest transition to the Eagles offense since he played under former birds offensive coordinator Brad Childress inMinnesota.Jacksonhas been a part time player in recent years but at 28 and being the most mobile of the available quarterbacks, he’s an intriguing option especially given his familiarity with the Eagles system.

Clearly the Eagles have plenty of options available to back up Vick once the league reopens and the free agent shuffle kicks into high gear. One thing is almost certain though, Favre is not a fit and there is certainly a higher upside to any of the other signal callers on the market.



Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL


Eagles Sleepwalk their way to a bad 24-14 loss against Vikings

Vikings CB Anotine Winfield sacks Eagles QB Michael Vick for one of his two sacks in Minnesota’s upset 24-14 win over Philadelphia in the NFL’s first Tuesday game since 1946

In a must-win situation, the Philadelphia Eagles lethargically walked through a game that was more awkward than saying, “Tuesday Night Football”.  After waiting through a somewhat lengthy 2-day postponement, due to a snowstorm that seemed worse to the NFL than others – more on this later – the Eagles were outplayed in a 24-14 home loss to a Favre-less Vikings squad that had a record of 5-9 entering the game. 

Eagles head coach Andy Reid said of his team’s poor performance and losing potential playoff rest, “We don’t deserve it after that performance. Every phase was terrible. We didn’t coach well enough. We didn’t play well enough. I’m disappointed in myself. It’s embarrassing.”

After a 2-day league mandated postponement for a snow blizzard and public safety issues that were much debated – Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell got the ire-up of the Eagles by calling the postponers “Wussies” for not playing the game in Sunday Night’s snow storm and Sportscenter led with on Sunday: “Green Bay Girl Scouts would have been selling cookies in Philly Sunday” — the 2010 NFC East Champion Eagles were flat-out “Flat”. 

The Eagles lost their opportunity to have a bye in the 2010 NFL Playoffs, they had a myriad of things go against them, many of which were their own undoing.  The Birds had too many penalties (12), forgot to run the ball (55 called passes to 16 runs), could not protect their quarterback (sacked 6 times and hit numerous other times), protected the ball poorly (3 turnovers including a fumble recovery touchdown to 1 for Minnesota) and most of all just plain “sloppy” — poor on 3rd down conversions offensively (36%) and defensively (46%).

Much to the Eagles’ chagrin, Minnesota led by former college dual threat quarterback turned part time NFL receiver and first time league starter, Joe Webb (rookie 6th Rd from UAB), brought their “A” game on a night where they were 14 ½ point underdogs.  The Vikings must have not liked staying four nights in the “bunker” like conditions of the Four Seasons Hotel as they were hungry for a win on their 2010 last appearance on the national stage (NBC “Sunday Night Football” turned to Tuesday Night). 

In a season that started out with very high expectations – missed Super Bowl by a 3-point loss in 2009 season – only to go awry – Favre Sexting allegations, roof collapsing at Metrodome, Randy Moss Trade/Waive, head coach Brad Childress firing….I can go on and on.  The Vikings decided that the NFL’s first Tuesday Night game since 1946 (New York Giants at the Boston Yanks) would serve as their Super Bowl.  Vikings DE Jared Allen said after his team’s big win, “I think this was a big win because it was a national game. We wanted to let people know that we are still here to play even though we went through a rough patch. It has been a crazy season and after the last two days and all we went through, this was a nice win.”

Interim head coach Leslie Frazier and his team must have used their time wisely at the palatial hotel by dissecting the Eagles as their game plan was spot-on.  Nine days after the Eagle’s second Miracle at the Meadowlands, there would be no magical Philly comeback this time.  Webb was able to dance around the pocket and make plays on 3rd downs like a young Randall Cunningham, All-World RB Adrian Peterson (22 rushes for 118 yards and 1 TD) was running downhill, and the Vikings beleaguered defense – have allowed 328 points in 2011 – held Philly to 14 points, while bottling-up and beating-down Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick.

Webb, making his first career start instead of Favre (concussion) looked like the veteran quarterback in the game. Peterson said of his young quarterback, “He came out and did his job and did it well”.  The youngster from UAB threw for numbers 17-26 for 195 yards and also added a rushing touchdown. But most importantly, he did not turn over the football against an Eagles defense that tried to rough him up early. 

Conversely Vick (25 of 43 (career-high for attempts), 263 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT with 63 rushing yards and 1 TD), who was named the NFC’s starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl earlier Tuesday, had to fight through a first quarter quad contusion while playing behind a porous Eagles offensive line.  MV7 basically handed the NFL’s 2010 Most Valuable Player Award to Patriots QB Tom Brady as he probably had his worst performance of the 2010 season.  Vick, on a night where no one cared that he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, was harassed into an interception and two fumbles. 

Frazier said of the challenge of playing Vick, “The more we watched tape on Michael Vick, the more he made you kind of shake in your boots a little bit because he’s making so many plays on so many people.  And we just felt like we needed to attack him and not let him attack us as much as we saw him attack other people. Our guys did a great job of executing all the things we had talked about in practice.”

The turning point of the whole game was Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield (2 sacks in the game) performing a “quadruple” with the score tied at 7-7 in the final minute of the first half.  Winfield, who looked like he was in the Birds’ backfield all night, sacked Vick, stripped the ball, recovered it on the run and sprinted untouched for 45-yard a score that left Philadelphia faithful stunned.

Frazier, who is coaching his way into losing his “interim” label, said after his team’s gratifying win, “It was a great effort by our players to battle the way that they had to all week and they showed perseverance that has become the hallmark of our team over the last few weeks. I can’t say enough about our players and the attitude they showed this week and I’m glad they were rewarded for it.”  However in the other lockerroom at the Linc there was whole different feeling in the air – remember when your high school coach would bark after a loss, “I don’t want to hear one word on the bus going home” – as Reid was disgusted.   The 12-year head coach obviously was upset by a poor effort, but he looked like a man that was going to angrily pick-up the pieces while kicking giving his team a good kick in the butt.

Because Reid – still 37-17 in the month of December for his career – knows that his Birds cannot lament over their “Terrible Tuesday” loss for too long as they have too much coming too quickly.  This young beat-up squad, who are now firmly the No. 3 seed in the NFC, must play the second leg of a 3-game stretch in a 12 or 13-day span with the Dallas Cowboys (5-10) coming in on Sunday.  Though the Cowboys’ game is basically meaningless, the Eagles (10-5) definitely should use the game to work out the kinks.  The 2010 Playoffs will be starting soon enough and more than likely the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints (11-4) or the Green Bay Packers (9-6) will be waiting on Wildcard Weekend as the conference’s sixth seed with their superstar quarterback ready to make Webb’s performance look paltry.

The Birds will now have to win three playoff games to reach the Super Bowl with more than likely 2 road games, so they have work to do. However some hope is that former SB Champs, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2007 New Giants both had to fight through the Wildcard Round before winning it all, but the Eagles are a long way from talking about Dallas and Super Bowl XLV.

My advice for the Eagles is to use this loss as motivation and then get some much-needed rest against the Cowboys before the playoffs.  But I think a disgruntled Reid has other plans for his young team. 

 Reid closed his news conference by sternly talking of resting his team for the playoffs, “We’re not good enough to do that.”


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

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 122110

In this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — The Chicago Bears not only won the 2010 NFC North Title but they also most likely ended the career of future Hall of Famer QB Brett Favre in a Monday Night Football dominating win over the Vikings at wintry TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 122110

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 15 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including breaking down the Chicago Bears came up big against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in professional football’s version of the Winter Classic at frigid TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota

2010 NFL Week 15 Remix

Philadelphia Eagles electric punt returner/receiver DeSean Jackson is Week 15’s Game Ball Winner for his dramatic game-winning punt return against the NY Giants in a huge Birds’ comeback victory

2010 NFL Week 15 Games

Thu, Dec 16 

Chargers (8-6) over Niners (5-9), 34-7..Thursday Night Football game that was a must-win for both teams…Star of the game had be WR Vincent Jackson (5 rec 112 yds, 3 TDs)..QBPhilip Rivers continues putting up big numbers…Chargers jump out to big lead and cruise home…Matthews and Tolbert both run hard in win…SD still in AFC West race, but need help from KC…Niners still alive in terrible NFC West…Niners DE Justin Smith denies intentionally shoving an official (ejected from game)…  

Sun, Dec 19

Bengals (3-11) over Browns (5-9), 19-17…In the Battle for Ohio, the Bengals win in comeback fashion…Bengals snap a 10-game losing streak…T.O limps off with left knee injury…Big game for Bengals RB Cedric Benson (31 ATT 150 yds 1 TD)…Browns’ McCoy and Watson have a strong showing in loss…Both team will be in 2011 NFL Draft’s Top Ten picks

Bills (4-10) over Dolphins (7-7), 17-14..Miami is eliminated from the playoffs after a bad home loss to BUF..Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter misses 3 FGs…Brandon Marshall has a big game (11 REC 106 yds 1 TD)..QB R. Fitzpatrick (16/26 223 yds 2 TD, 1 INT) had a solid game for Buffalo..Henne continues to be King Checkdown (33/45 276 yds 1 TD, 1 INT)…The NFL’s worst run defense basically bottled up RB’s Williams and Brown

Chiefs (9-5) over Rams (6-8), 27-13 …Chiefs are 1 win away from clinching AFC West…Big game for RB Jamaal Charles (11 ATT 126 yds 1 TD and career-long 80-yard run in the fourth quarter)…veteran RB Tom Jones contributes for KC (22 rushes for 62 yds and 1 TD, over 10000 for career)…Cassel makes a huge difference for Chiefs after coming back quick from appendix…Bradford looks like a rookie at points in loss…S-Jax runs hard, but is held to less than 70 yds rushing…KC in AFC West driver’s seat..STL still can win terrible NFC West

Colts (8-6) over Jaguars (8-6), 34-24..Big win for Colts in a back-and-forth game for the division lead..Never count out Peyton Manning (2nd game in a row w/ No INTs)…Collie has big game (8 REC 87 yds 2 TD) before leaving with 2nd concussion of the season… LB Hagler makes huge play by returning an onsides kick for a TD…Colts may have found a running game (D. Brown 14 ATT 129 yds 1 TD)…Colts D holds MJD to 46 yards rushing…If Colts win last 2 games (@Oak and Ten), they win AFC South
Cowboys (5-9) over Redskins (5-9), 33-30…Old-time NFL rivalry game that had a ton of points…Shanahan first benches McNabb (3rd string) and then embarasses him further by sending him out as a captain for the coin flip…Kitna continues to put up big numbers in Romo’s absence…Witten (10 rec, 140 yds, 1 TD and fastest TE  to 600 receptions) displays his Pro Bowl skills…Grossman (25/43 322 yds 4 TD, 2 INTs) puts up numbers as starter in loss…Cowboys now 4-2 under Garrett…Redskins fourth straight loss

Eagles (10-4) over Giants (9-5), 38-31…Miracle at the Meadowlands 2…Exciting 1PM game for the NFC East Lead…Giants jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead (Eli career-high 4 TDs)…Vick is the Eagles cataylst in historic win (130 rushing yds and 4 total TDs)…Philly is 8-1 in games Vick has started and finished…Eagles became 9th team in NFL history to comeback from a 21-point 4th quarter deficit …Eagles 28 fourth-quarter points set a franchise record…Manningham fumble near sidelines hurt bad…More big plays for Eagles (four plays of 30+ yards in the fourth quarter)…No Giant in sight when Eagles rookie WR Riley Cooper recovers an Akers on-side kick…Giants punter Matt Dodge doesn’t listen to Coughlin (livid after game) and punts to D-Jax with :12 seconds on the clock…DeSean Jackson becomes the first player in NFL History to end a game by scoring a Punt Return TD (fumbled punt then burst through G-Men coverage unit)..Eagles Rookie LB Chaney has huge game (16 TKLs)..Birds lead NFC East with a chance for conference 2nd seed if Chicago stumbles
Falcons (12-2) over Seahawks (6-8), 34-18..In the Babineaux Bowl, the Falcons used a variety of Seahawks turnovers to a win…three 3rd-quarter turnovers by QB Matt Hasselbeck, including a fumble recoverd in the end zone by Falcons DL Jonathan Babineaux for a TD…Falcons make the playoffs for the 2nd time in Ryan’s 3 years in the NFL..Falcons are 1 win away from NFC South title, NFC #1 seed, and homefield advantage in the playoffs…Possible QB Controversey in Seattle…Falcons vs. Saints in WK16…Seattle’s 8th eighth loss (all by15 points or more) but can still win NFC West by winning out

Jets (10-4) over Steelers (10-4), 22-17…Possible playoff preview game that was physical and entertaining….NYJ Brad “Slash” Smith takes the opening kickoff back for a TD..Sanchez protected the football (zero INTs) while LaDainian Tomlinson (11 rushes 49 yds) and Shonn Greene (12 rushes for 40 yards)  ran hard against Steelers D…No Polamulu (ankle) hurt the Steelers overall game….Big running day for Mendhall in the loss…Hometown kid DE Jason Taylor has a key play in the game by sacking Big Ben for a safety in the 4th qtr…Steelers clinch a playoff spot despite loss..NY Jets firmly in AFC Wildcard race while P-Burgh needs to keep winning to take AFC North over Ravens

Lions (4-10) over Buccaneers (8-6), 23-20…Overtime win that really hurts the wildcard hopeful Bucs…Lions get first road win since ’07 (26-game road losing streak)…Calvin Johnson shines again — Megatron had 9 of 10 catches for first downs and 152 yds…Poor tackling by the Bucs…Lions fueled by backup RB Maurice Morris (15 rushes for 109 yards and 1 TD)…big game for Bucs rookie RB LeGarrette Blount (15 ATT 110 yds 1 TD)

Panthers (2-12) over Cardinals (4-10), 19-12…Panthers win a game over hapless Cardinals in this week’s Toilet Bowl…Fox is out after season, but if he keeps winning the 1st overall pick may not be there either…Breaston’s fumble recovery in the end zone was Arizona’s lone TD…Fitzgerald is the youngest player in NFL history to reach 600 receptions…Two rookie QB starters as Claussen gets the better or Skelton

Raiders (7-7) over Broncos (3-11), 39-23… The Raiders stayed alive in the AFC division title race by beating Denver..Broncos rookie Tim Tebow had some good and bad plays in his starting debut (1 TD rushing and passing)…Raiders runs the ball for over 200 yards on the Broncos swiss-cheese defense..Run DMC has another big game (20 ATT 119 yds)…Raiders even have “track” speed at the fullback position..Oakland is 5-0 in the AFC West and has a shot at title if KC falters…Broncos will be looking for new head coach after season.

Ravens (10-4) over Saints (10-4), 30-24…Ravens give the champs a physical game in the cold..Ravens RB Ray Rice had a career-high 36 touches with numbers 31 carries for 153 rushing yards and TD plus 5 receptions for 80 yards and TD…Ravens responded to being challenged by veteran Ray Lewis…Saints abandon running game early and air the ball out…Possible catch of the year on Lance Moore’s acrobatic play in the corner of the endzone…Baltimore tied with Steelers, P-Burgh holds tiebreaker…Brees 5th straight 4,000-yard season…Saints vs. Falcons in WK16

Titans (6-8) over Texans (5-9), 31-17… The Texans will definitely be looking for a new DC for 2011 and maybe a new HC…Titans snap a six-game losing streak…Collins goes bombs away with WR Kenny Britt making several big plays (6 REC 128 yds 0 TD)…CJ2K finally stopped seeing 8-man fronts (24 ATT 130 yds 1 TD)…Schaub puts up big stats in another loss…Texans fall to back under .500 after two season above that mark…Finnegan and A. Johnson behave themselves as there is no Rd 2

Patriots (12-2) over Packers (8-6), 31-27…What a game in Sunday Night Football!!! Packers backup Matt Flynn accounted well for himself….Brady once again gets it done in the clutch (NFL record 292 passes without an INT)…Patriots comeback from a 4th qtr deficit to win against Rodgers-less Packers in cold Foxborough…Woodhead continues shining (9 ATT 59 yds)…Connolly rumbles 71 yards for longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history…Flynn sacked/stripped by Tully Banta-Cain and recovered by NT Vince Wilfork to end game…Patriots need 1 more win in their last two games (@Buf and Mia) to wrap everything up

Mon, Dec 20 
Bears (10-4) over Vikings (5-9), 40-14…Chicago survives the cold elements in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, to dominate the Vikings to clinch the 2010 NFC North crown…The biggest surprise was early in the game when the NFL’s version of John Wayne, Vikings QB Brett Favre, was under center for his 298th regular start instead of rookie Joe Webb…Jay Cutler (14 of 24 for 194 yards and 3 TD’s) used his big arm to go deep to Knox, Hester, and Bennett…Bears DL Wouton creams Favre on a sack and knocks the former league hero from the game with a concussion…KR Devin Hester took another one back to the house to set an NFL record for return touchdowns…With two games left, Chicago is the NFC’s #2 seed and they hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles

Breaking Down the Standing after Week 15 
2 teams — (12-2) Patriots,Falcons
6 teams — (10-4) Bears, Saints, Steelers, Eagles, NY Jets, Ravens
1 team – (9-5) Chiefs
6 teams — (8-6) Chargers, Packers, Jags, Bucs, NY Giants, Colts
2 teams — (7-7) Dolphins, Raiders
3 teams — (6-8) Seahawks, Rams, Titans
6 teams — (5-9) Vikings, Niners, Redskins, Browns, Texans, Cowboys
3 teams — (4-10) Cardinals, Lions, Bills
2 teams — (3-11) Bengals, Broncos
1 team —  (2-12) Panthers

Division Leaders


Eagles (NFC East —  1 game lead over NYG), Falcons (NFC South — 2 game lead over NO), Bears (NFC North Champs — 2- game lead over GB), Seahawks/Rams (NFC West — 1 game lead over SF), Colts/Jags (AFC South — 2 game lead over TEN; Colts Hold tiebreaker),


Steelers/Ravens (AFC North — 5 game lead over CLE; Steelers Hold tiebreaker), Patriots (AFC East — 2 game lead over NYJ),
Chiefs (AFC West — 1 game lead over SD)

Current Streaks

Winning: Falcons (8); Patriots (6); Eagles (3);
Losing: Broncos (5); Redskins (4); Texans (3)

If playoffs started today, Here would be the Seeds….
NFC — 1. ATL, 2. CHI, 3. PHI, 4. STL, 5. NO, 6. NYG/GB
AFC — 1. NE, 2. PIT, 3. KC, 4. IND, 5. BAL, 6. NYJ

How 2009 Playoff teams are fairing  — Saints (10-4), Eagles (10-4), Packers (8-6),  Vikings (5-9), Cowboys (5-9), Cardinals (4-10),
Patriots (12-2), NY Jets (10-4), Ravens (10-4), Colts (8-6), Chargers (8-6), Bengals (3-11)

Weekly Leaders

M. Schaub 325 yds, 2 TDs
R. Grossman 322 yds, 4 TDs
J. Kitna 305 yds,  2 TDs

R. Rice  153 yds, 1 TDs
C. Benson 150 yds, 1 TDs
J. Stewart 137 yds, 0 TDs
C. Johnson 152 yds, 0 TDs
Vick  130 yds, 1 TD

J. Witten 140 yds, 1 TDs
K. Britt  128 yds, 0 TDs

E. Manning  4 TDs
M. Vick  4 TDs
D. Brees  3 TDs


R.Gould 16 points

D. Buehler  15 points
S. Janikowski  13 points
J. Kasay  13 points

Remaining Games for Playoff Contenders
Atl — NO,Car
Bal — @Cle,Cin
Chi — NYJ, @GB
GB — NYG, Chi
Ind — @Oak, Ten
Jac — Was, @Hou
KC — Ten, Oak
NE — @Buf, Mia
NO — @Atl, TB
NYG — @GB, @Was
NYJ — @Chi, Buf
Oak — Ind, @KC
PHI — Min, Dal
Pit — Car, @Cle
SD — @Cin, @Den
Sea — @TB, StL
SF — @StL, Ari
StL — SF, @Sea
TB — Sea, @NO

Looking Ahead to NFL Week 16

Thu, Dec 23 
CAR @ PIT  Heinz Field 8:20 PM  —- NFLN          

Sat, Dec 25  — Christmas Game
DAL @ ARI  University of Phoenix Stadium 7:30 PM  —- NFLN          

Sun, Dec 26 
DET @ MIA  Sun Life Stadium 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
SF @ STL  Edward Jones Dome 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
MIN @ PHI  Lincoln Financial Field 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
NYJ @ CHI  Soldier Field 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
NE @ BUF  Ralph Wilson Stadium 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
SEA @ TB  Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
WAS @ JAC  Jacksonville Municipal Stadium 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
TEN @ KC  Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
BAL @ CLE  Cleveland Browns Stadium 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
IND @ OAK  Oakland Coliseum 4:05 PM  —- CBS          
HOU @ DEN  Invesco Field at Mile High 4:05 PM  —- CBS          
NYG @ GB  Lambeau Field 4:15 PM  —- FOX          
SD @ CIN  Paul Brown Stadium 8:20 PM  —- NBC          

Mon, Dec 27 
NO @ ATL  Georgia Dome 8:30 PM  —- ESPN


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

2010 NFL Season – Week 6 Preview

RB Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings (1-3) will host the Dallas Cowboys (1-3) in a key Week 6 match-up being called “The Desperation Bowl”

I am dubbing Week 6 of the 2010 NFL Season, “Moving Week”.  This is the time where teams start to distinguish themselves as “Contenders” and “Pretenders”.  Teams will either soon be preparing for key November and December games with playoff implications or eventually start their studying  for the 2011 NFL Draft.  As hard as it is to believe, the NFL season is moving closer to being half over.  But the important thing for everyone is to enjoy the wackiest and quickest league around while it is lasts. 

There clearly is a sense of high anticipation for Week 6 of the 2010 NFL Season.  Some great storylines for this week are the return of Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger from his 4-game suspension (Steelers host Cleveland), Brett Favre’s alleged “Sexting” incident investigation, coaches fighting to stay off the “Hot Seat” (fill-in Carolina’s John Fox, Browns Eric Mangini and the Niners’ Mike Singletary), the Return of Receiver Deion Branch to New England and most importantly on the field there are 8 match-ups where teams at .500 or better will be playing each other. 

Already the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins have celebrated their past perfection as there are not any undefeated teams left – hard to believe a record five teams were 5-0 entering Week 6 in 2009.   Parity is extremely prevalent as there are currently 20 teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better….so please let the sorting out begin.  However from week to week, you don’t know which supposed “powerhouse” is going to be falling back to the pack as “Any Given Sunday” still rules.  In Week 5, it was the former 2009 AFC North Champion Cincinnati Bengals’ turn to get upset.  The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went on the road in a “Mission Impossible” situation and shocked many by producing a hard-fought 24-21 win over the highly favored Bengals.

The current standings show that there is little separation in this parity-laden league.   There are the “Elite” teams at (4-1) are the NY Jets, Ravens, Falcons, Bears (4 teams) along with (3-1) teams Chiefs, Bucs, Steelers, Patriots (4 teams) – Is anyone penciling any of these teams in Super Bowl XLV?; The “Contenders” at (3-2) are Colts, Jags, Eagles, Redskins, NY Giants, Titans, Cardinals, Texans, Saints, and Packers; The “Stuck In the Middle” teams at (2-2) are the Seahawks, Dolphins  along with (2-3) teams Rams, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, and Bengals; The “Pretenders” currently stuck  at (1-3) are the Vikings and Cowboys (will play this week) along with (1-4) teams  the Lions and Browns; and of course bringing up the rear are the “Putrid” teams at (0-5) (i.e. You should just skip to the 2011 NFL Draft) Panthers, Bills, and Niners.

The division leaders after 5 weeks feature also have some unexpected surprises — Washington Redskins (NFC East – 3 teams at 3-2 in this division), Chicago Bears (NFC North), Atlanta Falcons (NFC South), Arizona Cardinals (NFC West), Baltimore Ravens (AFC North), Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West), New York Jets (AFC East), and Tennessee Titans (AFC South – Every team in AFC South is 3-2). Sadly some of my division winner picks from my 2010 predictions are not looking too well – they were the Cowboys, Niners, Packers, Saints, Ravens, Broncos, Colts, and Patriots – but it ain’t over yet. Brash New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan said of his team’s current place in the NFL standings, “We’re 4-1 and right on schedule.  We want to have the best record in the NFL at the end of the season and right now we’re on schedule”.

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 about to take place, 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 as usual I am cautioning NFL fans to not jump off their respective teams’ bandwagons.  All is not lost for most NFL teams going into Week 6 –- well at least those with 1 or more wins…yes even the in-fighting Dallas Cowboys (1-3) still can turn things around.  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 their division, including the 2008 San Diego Chargers, who won the AFC West after a 4-8 start.  Also in 2008, the Indianapolis Colts record stood at 3-4 going into a crucial game against the New England Patriots. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts answered the bell winning 18-15 then rattled off nine straight wins to make the playoffs with a 12-4 record.

Some match-ups already being discussed around water coolers are:

Kansas City Chiefs (3-1) at Houston Texans (3-2) – The old Texans — KC Chiefs were once the AFL’s Dallas Texans — take on the new Texans.  Both these teams are looking to make the jump into “legitimate” contenders.  The Chiefs definitely want to show the NFL that they are not done yet after suffering their first loss last week to the Colts by a score of 19-9.  Kansas City will need better quarterback play from Matt Cassel while the Texans better find a running game, if Arian Foster can’t go. LV’s Pick – Texans

Indianapolis Colts (3-2) at Washington Redskins (3-2) – This one is a battle of two veteran quarterbacks as Peyton Manning faces-off with Donovan McNabb.  The Redskins have been winning “ugly” and continue to play very good defense plus former Pro Bowl DT Albert Haynesworth will be back after attending the funeral of his brother.  While the Colts may have turned the corner after a physical win over the Chiefs last week.  Indy still needs to run the ball better and play better on defense to get the win.  LV’s Pick – Colts

Miami Dolphins (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-2) – The physical Dolphins will want to establish the run behind RB’s Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams – possibly some Wildcat — against the Packers’ injury depleted defense.  The Packers’ offense will definitely be without their two top tight ends and possibly quarterback Aaron Rodgers (concussion), so it will be interesting to see how they generate points on offense against the Dolphins attacking defense.  LV’s Pick – Packers

Atlanta Falcons (4-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) – The young Falcons want to show the NFL that they are indeed a top team as quarterback Matt Ryan returns to Philly.  Look for Atlanta to pound the ball with RB Michael Turner (NFL’s 2nd ranked rushing attack) against the Eagles’ 25th ranked run defense – No DT Broderick Bunkley (elbow).  For the Eagles expect to see starter Kevin Kolb again as Michael Vick (rib cartilage) is too beat-up to face his old team.  Maybe Kolb will be able to get back in synch with WR’s Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. But the Eagles’ O-line is banged-up including LT Jason Peters (knee) being out.  LV’s Pick – Falcons

Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at New England Patriots (3-1) – The top undercard bout to the Cowboys-Vikings main event as two teams that met in the 2009 Wildcard round renew acquaintances.  In last year’s playoff game, the Ravens pounded the Patriots in a 33-14 victory, in particularly QB Tom Brady (2 INTs and 1 fumble in the loss), but this looks like a different New England team.  Expect a physical black-and-blue battle.  The team that can most effectively run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense is going to win this game.  Watch for the match-up of the Ravens LB’s (3rd ranked NFL defense) and the Patriots offensive line.  Surprisingly the Patriots are 5-0 in the regular season against Baltimore. LV’s Pick – Ravens

Lloyd’s Leftovers

NFL Trade Deadline is approaching – Wednesday October 19th 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 sending former New England Patriots WR Randy Moss – along with a 7th rounder — to the receiver-desperate Minnesota Vikings for a 3rd rounder in 2011.  Watch for the names like Chargers holdout WR Vincent Jackson, New England Patriots holdout OG Logan Mankins, Philadelphia Eagles QB Kevin Kolb, Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Sims-Walker, and Green Bay Packers LB AJ Hawk.  Speaking of holdouts V. Jackson and Mankins, the NFLPA has instructed them to report to their respective teams in order to not lose an accrued season of service — the deadline for Mankins is November 16. Of course I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as trades like the 2005 deal where former Niners QB Tim Rattay went to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th rd pick are usually the norm.

Next Man Up – Whether in training camp or Super Bowl week, injuries are always going to be an unfortunate part of the NFL….and owners are pushing for an 18-game regular season (yeah right!), but that is a conversation for another time.   Some key injuries that will have to be dealt with leading up to Week 6 are Rams WR Mark Clayton – Knee (season), Chargers OLB Larry English – Foot, Packers TE Jermichael Finley – MCL (season??), Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – Concussion, Lions WR Calvin Johnson – Shoulder, Colts RB Joseph Addai – Shoulder, Texans RB Arian Foster – Knee, Browns RB Peyton Hillis – Quad, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant – Ankle, Browns QB Seneca Wallace – Ankle, Browns QB Jake Delhomme – Ankle, Packers OLB Clay Matthews – Hamstring, NY Jets CB Darrelle Revis – Hamstring, Eagles DT Broderick Bunkley – Elbow (season??), and Eagles OT Jason Peters – Knee (season??).  However some good news on the injury front is that Baltimore Ravens S Ed Reed is very close to returning from a hip injury that has sidelined him since the start of the 2010 season.

Just Send Him to the Hall – It may have not been a masterpiece, but Arizona Cardinals quarterback Max Hall (25) did just enough to get his first win — over the New Orleans Saints by a score of 30-20 – in his first NFL start. The nephew of former Dallas Cowboys QB Danny White finished the game with passing numbers: 17 of 27 for 168 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT.  The former BYU star became the first undrafted rookie free agent quarterback to start and win against the defending Super Bowl champs in more than 42 years, since the Steelers’ Kent Nix did it against Green Bay on Dec. 17, 1967.  Cardinals’ teammate WR Larry Fitzgerald exaggeratingly praised his new quarterback by saying, ‘He’s 29 years old, man”.  Fitzgerald added, ‘He’s the oldest rookie in the history of the NFL. He’s been on his mission for about 10 years, then he went back to BYU, he went to ASU, he was a sixth-year senior out here at Mountain View, he’s been at it for a long time.’

Further Proof that the NFL is a Pass-First League — Quarterbacks Philip Rivers (1,759) of the San Diego Chargers, Kyle Orton (1,733) of the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning (1,609) of the Indianapolis Colts have each passed for over 1,600 yards in their team’s first five games in the 2010 NFL Season.  The pass-happy quarterbacks have made history as for the first time in the NFL, there are three quarterbacks with at least 1,600 passing yards through their team’s first five games of a season.

Week 6 Feature Game

DALLAS COWBOYS (1-3) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-3) (Sunday, FOX, 4:00 PM ET) – Mall of America Field    

Broadcast Team: Thom Brennanaman, Troy Aikman, Chris Myers and Pam Oliver (Field Reporter)

High anxiety will be in the air at the Metrodome in a game that everyone is appropriately dubbing “The Desperation Bowl”.  This game is a rematch of the 2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs (won handily by the Vikings 34-3).  But this early season game has taken on an even bigger aurora as both the Cowboys and Vikings enter this game with a record of 1-3.  Though a “lose” in this match-up is technically not a death sentence, there will be little hope for the loser — Since 1990 only five out of 240 playoff teams have started with a record of 1-4, which is only 2 % . Especially when both teams entered the 2010 NFL Season with extremely high hopes. 

An expected raucous crowd should be hyped for this “Loser Leaves Town” match-up and a big reason will be each team’s respective quarterback.  In last year’s playoff lose, the Cowboys QB Tony Romo (sacked 6 times and hit often in the playoff loss) was a disaster and had trouble dealing with pressure brought from the Vikings’ D-line, especially DE Jared Allen.  It will be incumbent on the Cowboys’ shaky offensive line (allowed 6 sacks in Week 5 loss to the Titans) to protect Romo (119-174, 1346 yards (2nd in NFC), 7 TDs and 5 INTs) this time around.  The key person on the offensive line will be OG Montrae Holland who is replacing benched inconsistent high-price tag player Leonard Davis (seven-year, $49 million contract). Romo will definitely be trying to get the ball to his stellar receiving corps of TE Jason Witten, rookie WR Dez Bryant (ankle), WR Roy Williams, and Pro Bowl WR Miles Austin (31 receptions for NFC-leading 474 yards, 15.3 ypr, and 2 TDs). 

But in my opinion, the Cowboys would be best served by slowing down the Vikings speedy attacking defense by re-establishing their dormant rushing attack — Felix Jones leads the team with only 197 rushing yards and 0 TDs.  Surprisingly even with head coach Wade Phillips on Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones’ Hot Seat, young offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has chosen to put the ball in the air over and over instead of going to his three-headed monster of Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice.  Romo has averaged 43.5 attempts per game including a high of 47 in a Week 1 loss to the Redskins.  The Cowboys must bring back forgotten player, Barber (has just six carries in 2010), to have any chance to win this game. However finding holes against the Vikings D-line led by the Williams Wall (DT’s Pat and Kevin Williams) will not be easy.

However everyone knows that Romo is a just a “bit” player in this marquee match-up as the NFL’s media circus has descended on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.  To say the least the 2010 NFL Season has been a nightmare for No. 4.  The 41-year old passer/grandfather came out of another brief retirement looking recapture his 2009 form, but all hell has broken loose.  Favre (74-131, 861 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs (same number as the entire ’09 season) and a 67.0 quarterback rating) has been battling an elbow injury that clearly has made him “less” than effective in his first 4 games and he is even contemplating sitting out a game or two, which would end his NFL record 289 consecutive games ironman streak.  He has been hit often (sacked every 14 pass plays) and his receiving corps has be decimated by injuries — leading receiver Sidney Rice has been out all season due to hip surgery and former Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin is battling migraine issues. 

Madden’s favorite kid-like quarterback has looked beleaguered, old, and disinterested as his team has stumbled out the gate.  And to make matters worse, the married Favre has been embroiled in an alleged “Sexting” controversy courtesy of his 2008 stay with the NY Jets.  The website has been driving the story that Favre made inappropriate advances toward former Jets’ reports Jenn Sterger including some salacious voicemails and photos.  The NFL’s favorite future Hall of Famer has tried to stay above the fray, but now the league is getting involved and you know it has to be affecting the 19-year veteran’s play – only was 14 of 34 and had a bad game-closing interception (returned for a TD) in a 29-20 loss to the NY Jets in Week 5.  The good thing is that the Favre does have new buddy, receiver Randy Moss, more acclimated after a whirlwind couple of days last week (traded at mid-week and played against the NY Jets on MNF).  We see if the two can hook-up again after they connected on a 37-yard touchdown against the NY Jets.  Also I want to see if the Vikings equally inconsistent offensive line can stay away from penalties and stop the Cowboys explosive pass rushing tandem DeMarcus Ware (2nd in the NFL with 6 sacks) and Anthony Spencer.  The position on the Vikings’ O-line will be their center position which has not been the same since starter John Sullivan has a calf injury.

As is the case with Romo, the Vikings would be best served giving Favre some run support, especially with his on-going elbow problems.  Outside of Moss and Harvin, the rest of the Vikings receiving corps are “just guys”.  So Minnesota needs to establish running back Adrian Peterson (88 rushes for an NFC leading 480 yards, 5.5 ypc, and 3 TDs plus no fumbles).  The aggressive runner would be the perfect medicine to soften-up the Cowboys speedy 3-4 defense, so Favre doesn’t have to throw the ball over 30 times.   The Cowboys allowed 158 yards rushing last week to the Tennessee Titans in a 34-27 loss. The Cowboys will surely pack the box in order to take away Peterson and make sure that Favre is healthy enough to beat them.  A key player on the Dallas defense should be run stuffer and emotional defensive leader, ILB Keith Brooking. The 13-year veteran is fighting mad after he registered one solo tackle in the Cowboys’ playoff loss and he also thinks that the Vikings ran the score up in the that game.   The Vikings will also look to attack a Dallas secondary that, outside of veteran CB Terrence Newman, has looked vulnerable at times.

LV’s Pick:  This is a tough game to pick, because these two teams’ backs are against the wall and they also are evenly matched — All-Time Regular Season record is tied at 10-10. This game is almost a pick’em as Minnesota is favored by only a point and a half.  I expect the Cowboys to try to get some pressure on Favre, but they will need to watch Peterson first.  If Peterson gets going, expect play-action from Favre down the field to Moss and Harvin.  Conversely the Cowboys will have to deal with extremely loud crowd noise and fix a shaky O-line to come away with the victory.  As always watch for turnovers — both passers have more than 5 INTs so far this season — and big plays on special teams from both sides.   In making my pick, I believe that the Vikings have too many advantages going in their favornot to win this game (home field, noise, Peterson, a very good D-line going against the Cowboys bad O-line and much more).  Also the Vikings have won 5 of the last 6 regular season games against the Cowboys.  Expect some high scoring as Moss and Austin put on a show  – Vikings 31, Cowboys 24

2010 NFL Week 6 Games

Sunday, October 17 

ATL @ PHI, Lincoln Financial Field, 1:00 PM ET —- FOX          

CLE @ PIT, Heinz Field, 1:00 PM ET —- CBS           

SEA @ CHI, Soldier Field, 1:00 PM ET —- FOX          

DET @ NYG, New Meadowlands Stadium, 1:00 PM ET —- FOX          

BAL @ NE, Gillette Stadium, 1:00 PM ET —- CBS          

SD @ STL, Edward Jones Dome, 1:00 PM ET —- CBS          

MIA @ GB, Lambeau Field, 1:00 PM ET —- CBS          

NO @ TB, Raymond James Stadium, 1:00 PM ET —- FOX          

KC @ HOU, Reliant Stadium, 1:00 PM ET —- CBS          

NYJ @ DEN, Invesco Field at Mile High, 4:05 PM ET —- CBS          

OAK @ SF, Candlestick Park, 4:05 PM ET —- CBS          

DAL @ MIN, Mall of America Field, 4:15 PM ET —- FOX          

IND @ WAS, FedEx Field, 8:20 PM ET —- NBC          

Monday, October 18 

TEN @ JAC, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, 8:30 PM ET —- ESPN          

Byes: Cardinals, Bills, Panthers, Bengals





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

Patriots Smartly Move On Without Moss

Receiver Randy Moss will now take his talents back to Minnesota after the Patriots traded him to the Vikings

The National Football League definitely is a “What Have You Done for Me Lately” entity and that fact was shown once again earlier this week.  In a surprising trade, the New England Patriots decided that indeed they could continue on in the 2010 NFL Season without former 7-time Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss (2010 numbers of 9 receptions for 139 yards and 2 TDs on 22 targets). 

The Patriots shipped their malcontent receiver and a 7th rounder to the receiver-desperate Minnesota Vikings for a 3rd round pick in 2011.  One of the bigger surprises was that Moss (33) was even traded in the first place because we all know that typically NFL teams would rather keep a player around for roster protection (i.e. injuries), even if they are a pain in the butt. 

The NFL’s trading deadline is next week on October 19th, but usually the league’s greatest trading activity is around their yearly draft that occurs each April.  However right now picks are more important than free agent veteran-type players to the Pats as they try to reshape their team– drafted 12 players in 2010.  Moss had sulked his way through the first four weeks of the season and clearly was more concerned with his current contract situation – being paid $6.4M in 2010 which is the last year of a 2007 deal – than playing hard on the field. 

After a brief hiatus, “Bad Randy” was back from Oakland and had now reemerged in Foxboro, Mass.  There were several instances where Moss seemed uninterested and loafed it on patterns preferring to only show his Hall of Fame ability only when he wanted to.  Not even the presence of quarterback Tom “Captain America” Brady – currently ranked 2nd in the NFL in quarterback rating (109.0) — could get Moss back in line this time.

Though some thought Patriots head coach Belichick’s benching of Moss, Derrick Burgess, and Adalius Thomas — both are also no longer in New England —  in late 2009 for missing meetings due to “bad weather” was long over. Week 1 of the 2010 season should have been everything Patriots’ fans needed to see that it was going to be a long season if Moss was around.  The Patriots won a hard fought 38-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but after the game Moss only wanted to talk about himself.

In a rambling new conference, he said, “I think around here in the New England area, a lot of people don’t want to see me do good. And the reason why, I don’t know … Sometimes you want your boss to tell you you’re doing a good job. If you’re doing a good job and think you’re doing a good job, you want to be appreciated. I really don’t think that, me personally, that I’m appreciated … I’m not here to start any trouble. I am here to play out the last year of my contract.”  The final straw had to have been a much-publicized halftime shouting match with Patriots QB’s coach Bill O’Brien in Week 4.

The trading of Moss showed that New England no longer is going to try the “All-Star” route -– came close to winning it all in 2007 after starting the season 18-0 with a free agent laden team before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants -– in building their team.  The last two seasons have ended with identical 11-5 records in regular season.  But both seasons also had disappointing endings – No playoffs in 2008 and an embarrassing lopsided home playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. You can see that now New England have modeled themselves as a “team” oriented group which goes back to their 2001 “team first” Super Bowl winning version. 

Belichick in re-tooling his team is leaning heavily on character veterans (i.e. Brady and WR Wes Welker) and building through the draft.  Already this season has shown draft pick dividends with players like WR Brandon Tate, DB Patrick Chung, TE Aaron Hernandez, and others making solid contributions.

Currently, the Patriots are 3-1 and are tied for the top of the AFC East with the New York Jets.  And their latest effort on Monday Night produced a solid 41-14 drubbing of the Dolphins, showed New England can get contributions from a variety of players — 3 Special Teams touchdowns.  Did I mention that Moss went catchless in his last game in Patriots’ Red, White, and Blue.  Even though the former three-time Patriots’ captain had put up some huge numbers — catching 259 passes for 4,904 yards and 50 touchdowns in 51 games — and returned to his Pro Bowl form in New England, it was the right decision to move-on from a selfish player who clearly did not want to be there any longer. 

Now the torch has been passed to players like Welker, Tate, Julian Edelman, and Danny Woodhead to fill-in for the sometimes motivated Moss.  There have even been whispers that the Patriots may go back to the future in recreating their “No Name” receiving corps from their former three Super Bowl winning teams.  There have been murmurs that New England is trying to trade for former big game hero Deion Branch, who has become a high-priced spare part in Seattle, before the October 19th deadline.

The other side to the trade is that Moss will now take his immense talent to the Minnesota Vikings (1-2) who greatly need a game-breaker.  Last season’s breakout receiver for the Vikings, Sidney Rice, is still battling a hip injury that could possibly keep him out until late November and there hasn’t been many other options for Vikings quarterback Brett Favre — 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 3 games.  Moss had been a player that Favre had coveted going back to when the two opposed each other in the NFC North. 

Favre even unsuccessfilly lobbied for the Green Bay Packers to rescue Moss from Oakland.  And now who blame No. 4 for wanting more weapons in Minnesota besides All-World running back Adrian Peterson –- currently 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards (392).  A receiving corps led by the likes of Percy Harvin (migraines), Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett, and Greg Camirilo has produced only 27 receptions for 266 yards and 1 TD in three games so far including two loses.

But make no bones about it…. this is a gamble as Moss brings a Hall of Fame resume — 935 receptions for 14604 yards, 15.6 ypr average, and 151 TDS —  and some much-needed pedigree to pedestrian receiving corps, but you have to wonder exactly how hard will he play at the tail end of his career.  Rumored to want a deal on par with Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall — five years, $50 million dollars, $24M Guaranteed — 29 M in first 3 years.

For now Moss -– had caught 574 passes for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns his past Minnesota career — will get his familiar No. 84 Vikings jersey back and Favre will get the double-coverage worthy weapon that he has greatly desired for his 1-season unretirement.  “He can still go downtown and get the football, which is a stand-alone factor,” Vikings head coach Brad Childress said. “He could sprain his toe here sometime coming up, and you could say that he’s 33, it’s old age. But there’s always risk-reward. I don’t necessarily see this as boom or bust. I think he’s got some more football in him.”

“Moss in  the Twin Cities 2” will all begin this Monday when the Vikings take on the host New York Jets on ESPN and you know that Rex Ryan’s defense led by All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis will be waiting.


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