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NFL Touchdown Midseason All Pro Team
By Andy Benoit, www.NFLTouchdown.com Offense

The running game has been huge in football this season, but everything still begins and ends with the QB (Cowboys fans know what I’m talking about). The trendy All-Pro pick is Kerry Collins. People love to righteously condemn others for calling Collins a game manager. “He’s much more than a game manager,” they proclaim. Well, no he’s not. Look at the numbers: 154 yards passing per game, three touchdowns, three interceptions. Collins epitomizes the game manager.

I want a quarterback who can carry his team to victory. Give me Drew Brees. The Saints QB is posting huge numbers and making the best and most consistent reads in football. His intelligence and pinpoint accuracy have allowed the Saints to stay above water despite being without most of their key offensive weapons during the first half of the season.

As stated earlier, the RB has returned to a crucial status in the NFL this year. Clinton Portis is leading the league in rushing. Because the Redskins are 6-3 and the Vikings are 4-4, I’ll go with Portis, while acknowledging that Adrian Peterson is, overall, the better player. While I’m at it, I’ll take Portis’s lead-blocker, Mike Sellers, as my FB.

Guys like Brees and Portis don’t thrive without a standout OL. Chris Samuels was my choice for LT, but he is part of a group that just got devoured by Pittsburgh. Broncos rookie sensation Ryan Clady has been great, but so has Tennessee’s Michael Roos. The Titans have given up the fewest sacks in football, and as a team, Tennessee ranks fourth in rushing. Roos is the pick.

While I’m at it, Tennessee’s center, the sagacious Kevin Mawae, has been brilliant inside. Between Roos and Mawae, you have to go with Tampa Bay’s Davin Joseph. I realize Joseph is actually a right guard, but I want to be sure to get New York’s Chris Snee on the All-Pro team. I’ll take Joseph out of position. I won’t fudge the rules and put a LT at RT – that’s too big of a tweak. The Eagles offense has survived a slew of injuries this season, in large part because of veterans like Jon Runyan.

As for the men making big plays through the air? Steve Smith has been a difference-maker in Carolina, but his suspension has limited him to just six games. I’d go with Brandon Marshall, but he too served a suspension. Plus, he acted like a punk against the Dolphins. So how about this: Larry Fitzgerald, the most consistent force in Arizona’s second-ranked passing attack, and Roddy White, the unheralded Falcons receiver who is averaging over 90 yards per game and making life easy for rookie Matt Ryan. I don’t feel right about leaving Greg Jennings out, so let me omit the lethargic tight end position (just two tight ends rank in the top 30 in receiving ypg right now: Owen Daniels, 17, and Jason Witten, 30) and go with a three-receiver set.

Defense

Every team with a top-10 defense this season has won at least five games. In other words, defense is where it’s at. Teams that can generate pressure with their front four are nearly impossible to contain. The best example of this in the NFC is the New York Giants. That’s why I’ll take Justin Tuck as one of my DE’s. And the best example of this in the AFC is the Tennessee Titans. So give me league MVP Albert Haynesworth at DT.

As for the other two spots, I have to give 10-sack DE John Abraham his due. Atlanta has turned things around and he’s a big reason why. Playing DT next to Haynesworth is Shaun Rogers. The Browns have been terrible, but not Rogers. I realize he’s a 3-4 NT, but that’s okay, because as you’re about to learn, I’m actually going to take the liberty of running a 4-4-4.

There are simply too many pass-rushing OLB’s these days to use a 4-3. DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys has been a force. It’s hard choosing just one other OLB – Joey Porter, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are all deserving (by the way, not a bad commentary on the Steelers, huh?). Harrison is the most versatile of the bunch.

At ILB, I continue to fall deeper in love with Carolina’s Jon Beason (a natural MLB). And London Fletcher has been a beast for the Redskins.

In the secondary, CB play has been huge this season. Just ask the Titans – they wouldn’t be undefeated without the emergence of Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan is easily the No. 1 CB in football this season. Playing opposite him…how about Washington’s Carlos Rogers? The man surprisingly returned from an ACL this year and has broken up a league-leading 17 passes. True, about six of those 17 have been dropped interceptions, but corners are here to stop plays first and foremost.

At SS, Troy Polamalu has been himself, which is why Pittsburgh’s D ranks first in the league. And at FS, you still can’t ignore what Ed Reed means to that dominant Ravens defense.

Special Teams

A good kicker can make a world of difference for a team. No one talks about John Kasey, but the man hasn’t missed yes this season. And he still has power. For punter, Philadelphia’s Sav Rocca is netting over 41 yards per boot, and he’s downed 14 inside the 20 (with just one touchback.

Devin Hester hasn’t been himself in the return game this year. Darren Sproles has been the most dangerous player when you factor in both kicks and punts. I’d still take Hester if I’m building a team, but in terms of awarding people through the first half, Sproles is most deserving. And finally, for a special teams maven, Melvin Bullitt has been superb for the Colts. Plus, he was great filling in when Bob Sanders was hurt.



Posted by Andy Benoit at 11/7/2008 8:30:00 AM

Comments (1)

NFL Notes
Trent Edwards has no doubt improved this season, and his peripherals are elite (68.0 completion percentage, 7.8 YPA), but a 6:9 TD:turnover ratio reveals there’s still plenty of work to do…It would be nice if the running game helped, as Marshawn Lynch continues to really disappoint. At least he’s much more involved in the passing game this season…If nothing else, Brett Favre keeps things interesting. He’s not playing very well right now, and as crazy as it sounds, the Jets clearly downgraded going from Chad Pennington to Favre…New York’s defensive line is playing at an extremely high level. Forget trying to run on them, and their 29 sacks rank third in the NFL. Kris Jenkins has been one of the most important acquisitions in the league, and I fear for Marc Bulger’s safety this week.

Words can’t describe just how bad that contract the Jags handed out to Jerry Porter was. How Jacksonville continues to be touchdown favorites while on the road is baffling…Chad Johnson has three scores over the last three weeks, including two last Sunday. Therefore, if you can get any type of return, look into dealing him right now. His 9.4 yards per catch mark is absurd, and he hasn’t topped 57 yards receiving in a game this season. I’d rather Eddie Royal…It’s almost unfathomable Cedric Benson has become Cincinnati’s lone bright spot on offense. Even crazier, teammates have had nothing but good things to say about him…If there were an award that’s opposite of Most Improved Player of the Year, David Garrard would be the winner this year.

I’ve heard criticism of the QB switch in Cleveland, and while I can understand questioning the reasoning during a short week, the opponent is ideal, and there was little reason to stick with Derek Anderson at this point. Just because you made a mistake contractually, doesn’t mean that should affect playing time…That said, I’m not expecting Brady Quinn to be any kind of savior. But might as well get the learning process started and see what the future looks like…It can’t be understated – Braylon Edwards has really, really bad hands…I’m not sure what people see in Willis McGahee, but Ray Rice looks like Baltimore’s future in the backfield. He’s an upgrade.

Just when Matt Schaub is in the midst of justifying my hype, yet another injury occurs. That hit he took was pretty serious, so it’s hard to call him soft, but he clearly can’t be counted on to stay healthy. Make picking up Sage Rosenfels a priority…Because of his activity in the passing game, it appears Steve Slaton is matchup proof. Then again, that theory will be tested once more this week against Baltimore…Adrian Peterson is a perceived disappointment, and his utter lack of receiving ability hurts, but the most talented back in football is on pace to finish with 1,646 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, which isn’t too unacceptable. Check out his playoff schedule.

The Kyle Orton injury was a killer, because with his improvement and that defense, the Bears really were sleepers in the NFC. Now, they get a massive downgrade under center. Rex Grossman is horrific…Daunte Culpepper? Seriously? Detroit needs to find a quarterback of the future in the worst way. There’s a very real chance the Lions go 0-16 this season.

Kansas City may have something in Tyler Thigpen. He’s certainly more interesting than Brodie Croyle ever was. Plus, Thigpen has some serious receiving skills!...Down 24-19, Jon Gruden elected to go for two with 13:36 left, and it nearly cost him the game. I guess coaches really will never learn…I’d make Jamaal Charles my No. 1 waiver priority this week. Larry Johnson may come back Week 11, but there’s an equal chance he gets a longer suspension when/if he is found guilty in his December trial. Charles isn’t built for 25-plus touches, but he can catch passes and is explosive, so he’ll do plenty of damage when on the field. With Thigpen making the offense competent, Charles could make a major impact from here on out.

I’m not sure what happened – is it as simple as coaching changes? But Marc Bulger is just nowhere near the same QB he was two years ago. If not for an extremely lucky 80-yard bomb last week, he would have gotten 3.2 YPA against a beatable Arizona secondary. He’s not even worth a roster spot in most leagues…As a Larry Fitzgerald owner, there isn’t a player in the NFL I’ve cursed more this year than Anquan Boldin. Dude is a touchdown machine…At the season’s halfway point, my MVP ballot currently looks like: 1) Philip Rivers 2) Kurt Warner 3) Drew Brees. It’s really splitting hairs among those three, who have clearly been the league’s most valuable players so far. It’s simply amazing what Warner’s been able to do at age 37. There’s a real chance the Cardinals have a bye during the first week of the playoffs…Right now, Tim Hightower should be treated as a top-15 fantasy back. At minimum.

The Titans have now won eight straight games without a 200-yard passing game. Please let that sink in a minute…All LenDale White does is score goal-line touchdowns or hit 50-plus yarders. Such breakaway speed!...Green Bay is underrated. That’s a dangerous team capable of going deep into the playoffs…Chris Johnson is a very, very good football player. Despite White stealing all those touchdowns, Johnson is currently a top-10 fantasy back, and in dynasty leagues, he’s a top-5 commodity.

That offensive pass interference call negating an 80-yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall was a joke. That isn’t called 99.9 percent of the time. Don’t worry about Marshall, he’ll be just fine. His response to Joey Porter was priceless…The Dolphins are sneaky good. I know I wouldn’t want to face them in the playoffs…It’s Peyton Hillis’ world, and the rest of us are just passing through…Can’t wait to see what Ryan Torain can do. It’s safe to say I’ve never been more excited about someone with three career carries who was drafted in the fifth round…As leader of the Jay Cutler fan club, I’ll be the first to admit his play has really slipped over the past five games. Still, I’m keeping the faith.

After everyone was clamoring for a QB change, it was pretty funny watching Brooks Bollinger’s first pass get picked off. I’m beginning to think Dallas is easier to beat with Tony Romo out of the lineup…Justin Tuck is a bad, bad man. Like linebackers in Pittsburgh, the Giants just breed elite defensive ends…Eli Manning has quietly struggled over the past four games, but it doesn’t matter when the running game is historically good. The team’s current 5.2 YPC mark is higher than any team has ever finished a season with.

The Eagles seem to be the darling of stat heads, often getting ranked as one of the league’s three best teams in power polls. I just don’t see it. They pressure the quarterback well, but too often lofty yardage totals result in too few of points thanks to poor red zone play. Donovan McNabb’s impressive 7.6 YPA mark is accompanied by a modest 20-TD pace. Plus, Andy Reid is a liability on Sundays. Why Vegas views them as equals to the Giants (Philly -3 this weekend) is beyond me…All that said, Brian Westbrook should be treated as the No. 1 fantasy asset from this point forward…Seneca Wallace spiked the ball in the final minute of the second quarter to stop the clock last week. On third down. They punted the very next play.

For the first time in 16 years, a team (the Raiders) had negative yardage at halftime Sunday. John Abraham absolutely abused Kwame Harris in one of the more pathetic offensive displays in recent memory. 10 net passing yards!…Don’t be fooled, this Atlanta team is good. I say they beat the Saints this week…It sounds like the Raiders will release DeAngelo Hall soon, meaning they traded a second round pick and paid $8 million for eight games in which he was consistently torched. I always knew he was overrated, but I at least thought he was above average. Not the case. At least Al Davis was able to admit his mistake, and locking up Nnamdi Asomugha long-term should be a top priority. He might be the most valuable defensive player in the league.

It was sad watching the Colts/Patriots game, which was a far cry from their usual matchup. Both teams are a shell of their former selves, although Peyton Manning played well…Interesting to see Bill Belichick make a couple of questionable calls. Still, it’s impressive how he’s getting that New England team to play…Few players are more overrated (and overpaid) than Dwight Freeney.

The offense has problems mainly because of the line, but Pittsburgh’s defense is Super Bowl level. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, two linebackers, have recorded 19.5 sacks so far this season…Byron Leftwich played well in relief Monday, but I’m skeptical if he were forced into significant playing time…Washington’s secondary is playing at an extremely high level. They are allowing the third fewest YPA (6.0) in the NFL, which is especially impressive when you consider the lack of pressure the front seven provides.

Posted by Dalton Del Don at 11/4/2008 5:59:00 PM
Comments (11)

Has Kurt Warner Had a Better Career Than Brett Favre?
The last NFL MVP Blog got me thinking about these two. Favre has had his place in the Hall of Fame cemented since the last millennium, while Warner has been considered something of a fluke, a journeyman nobody who was the product of a great system, a Hall of Fame running back and two Hall of Fame wideouts.

But like Favre, Warner's been to two Super Bowls, winning one and losing one. And while Favre won three MVPs, Warner's won two, and is working on a third this season.

Favre has the longevity records, but Warner, though brittle at times, has also been benched - something that should have happened to Favre in the past five years, but was never a question given his status as a legend.

As for the numbers, Favre is obviously the all-time record holder in yards and touchdowns, so in totals he's unmatched. But in terms of rate stats, Warner is equally dominant. Warner's career YPA is 8.1! Tom Brady's YPA last year was 8.3, and Peyton Manning's career number is 7.7. In fact, Warner is fifth all time in career YPA, behind only Otto Graham, Sid Luckman, Tony Romo and Norm Van Brocklin. Three of the four ahead of him didn't play in the modern era, and Romo's sample is small, and he's never won a playoff game.

Favre's YPA is a pedestrian 7.0 (80th). Favre's thrown 457 TDs and 300 INTs. Warner: 168:106 - a very slight edge to Warner in ratio. Career quarterback rating? 85.8 for Favre; 94.2 for Warner.

So why is Favre considered such an icon (long before he set all the records), while Warner is a guy who came out of nowhere and benefitted from a great system?

Part of it is John Madden, Tony Kornheiser, et al. who have mythologized Favre beyond all recognition. Part of it is that Favre looks like a football player - he's bigger, stronger, has a bigger arm and is uniquely durable. He played at hallowed Lambeau Field, on grass, outdoors, often in the snow. Warner played on turf in a dome for a team that had recently moved to St. Louis. Warner also had no pedigree at all - an Arena League player who was seen as a Martz gimmick, even though that team won the Super Bowl.

Favre was a great quarterback, but Warner's the better quarterback now, and I think when all is said and done, you can make a good argument that he was the better football player overall.



Posted by Chris Liss at 11/4/2008 3:37:00 PM

Comments (24)

NFL MVP
With eight weeks left in the regular season, there's a poll today on SportsCenter offering three choices for the league's MVP thus far:

* Drew Brees
* Clinton Portis
* Kurt Warner

More often than not, MVP awards end up in the trophy case of the player with the best stats on one of the league's best teams.

Brees' Saints have dealt with injuries to Marques Colston and Reggie Bush -- among others -- but they're currently in last in the NFC South. You've got to win be the league's most valuable player, even if your team might be winless without you. I own Brees in a few leagues this season and there's a growing gap between he and the rest of the field at quarterback.

Averaging 5.0 yards per carry on a surprising 6-3 Washington club, Portis appears to be the most valuable player in this group at least on the surface, given his team's record and his place as the league's leading rusher entering Week 10. The Redskins pass the ball well enough to be effective, as Jason Campbell looks pretty comfortable in Jim Zorn's offense.

The Cards have a three-game lead in the NFC West, due more in part to the weakness of the division than to Warner's big passing numbers. I'd definitely entertain arguments that they wouldn't have as much of a lead if Matt Leinart were under center, but they'd still be in first place and I highly doubt anyone would be taking about Leinart as an MVP candidate if he had the same record but the Cards were more reliant on Tim Hightower and the running game.

Verdict: If it's just these three guys on the ballot, I'm going with Portis here. Still, I think Washington could be a good team if Ladell Betts had to step in as the starter at some point. My "sleeper" MVP candidate is Tennessee's Chris Johnson. The defense is excellent as a group, but no one player stands out enough for this award (Albert Haynesworth fans may disagree). Given their lack of other weapons at the skill positions, the Titans' offense would be in big trouble if anything were to happen to their speedy rookie back. LenDale White is a good complementary part, but there's no way he'd keep the chains moving consistently and help limit the strain on game-managing quarterback Kerry Collins.

Posted by Derek VanRiper at 11/4/2008 11:41:00 AM

Comments (5)

NFL Touchdown Sunday Snide Remarks Week 9
BY ANDY BENOIT, www.NFLTouchdown.com Indianapolis Colts 18, New England Patriots 15

Classic Colts-Patriots: you had New England eating up the clock and controlling the tempo, Peyton Manning making all the big plays through the air, Adam Vinatieri deciding it with a 52-yard field goal and Bill Belichick barely shaking Tony Dungy’s hand afterward.

The Patriots lost this game, but a huge positive that stood out was the confidence Matt Cassel displayed. He is growing each week. And while he’s still not making his third and fourth reads from the pocket, he’s at least diagnosing defenses on the presnap and showing a presence in the huddle.

The tendency is to think that the Colts got gashed by New England’s inside run. They did, but in exchange, they kept Randy Moss and Wes Welker in check. If these teams square off again, expect Indy to keep their safeties back deep again.

The Colts rushing attack is still not there. I think this team really misses guard Ryan Lilja.

It’s a shame that this thoroughly well-played game came down to a boneheaded penalty by a pedestrian player. David Thomas’s 15-yard personal foul was one of the most costly infractions we’ve seen in the NFL this season.

Only one time did I see Dwight Freeney truly disrupt the pocket in this game. I still respect the double teams he commands, but the Colts will come to regret making him the highest paid defensive player in the league.

New York Giants 35, Dallas Cowboys 14

It wasn’t even as close as the score indicates.

Have we ever – EVER – seen a team as befuddled and downtrodden by their quarterback situation as Dallas? At one point, Brooks Bollinger started to go into the game and was called back. Not a soul in this organization believes in Brad Johnson or Bollinger. I can’t remember ever seeing such a high quality team become utterly deflated from losing its quarterback for a few weeks.

We get on Terrell Owens’s case all the time; to be fair, we need to praise his leadership this week. Owens did his best to uplift Brad Johnson on the sidelines, and after the game he remained positive. (Contributing to the offensive catastrophe with a rare fumble may have helped humble the man.)

I still can’t get over the job Steve Spagnuolo is doing with this Giants defense. He has made stars out of role players like Danny Clark, Fred Robbins (who is playing at a Pro Bowl level in his own right), James Butler and Jason Webster.

If you asked me what I’d rather have, New York’s trio of running backs or Adrian Peterson, I’d take the former…mainly because I love Brandon Jacobs.

Dallas is really missing cornerback Terence Newman, but more than him, they’re missing a complimentary pass-rusher to DeMarcus Ware. Anthony Spencer can’t stay healthy, and Greg Ellis has gotten old.

Miami Dolphins 26, Denver Broncos 17

I hope a lot of people had the opportunity to watch this game – it was a genuinely hard fought contest. These teams went at each other like long-time division rivals. Amplifying the drama was the fact that Brandon Marshall spent the afternoon sulking (like a child), Joey Porter was ruthless in his trash talking, Tony Sparano was as animated as an end zone seat fan and Jay Cutler was downright pissy by the fourth quarter.

Here’s a very revealing – and truthful – quote from Joey Porter about Brandon Marshall: "He's one of those guys that if he don't get the ball in the first two series in the first quarter, he's out of it. He had 18 catches in a game before. So he's not used to going the whole first half with no balls. We got in his head and he pretty much was done."

Porter went on to say, "I didn't get inside his head, we just were talkin'. He got in his own head. He was done,. He's one of those soft receivers, where he has to have the ball all the time. If he don't get it, he's going to mope and cry. He did it to himself."

The Dolphins defense outperformed Denver’s offense in every fashion. It started with taking away the run game. Miami loaded the box with eight, sometimes nine defenders, and held the Broncos to 14 yards on 12 carries. The defensive backs, particularly the corners, were extremely physical with the wideouts.

On the bright side for Denver, rookie left tackle Ryan Clady had another outstanding game. He has outperformed Jake Long this season. Clady, in fact, might already be a Pro Bowler.

Without Champ Bailey, Denver’s defense is worthless. Karl Paymah led the team with 13 tackles on the day…most of them against Greg Camarillo, the diminutive Dolphins receiver who turned the Broncos into dog food.

Tennessee Titans 19, Green Bay Packers 16

This may have been the best game of the day, and nearly half the people who watched it did not get to see the ending because FOX took them to their local market broadcast of New York vs. Dallas. This begs the question: if FOX has the doubleheader for the day – which they did – then why can’t the NFL just push back the start time of the Cowboys-Giants game by 15 minutes or so and give the Titans-Packers audience a chance to see a great ending to a great game? The people who didn’t get to see this ending got screwed out of three hours of their Sunday afternoon. There’s no reason not to delay the Cowboys-Giants start time. Making the 80,000 people at the Meadowlands wait is better than screwing the millions of viewers at home. Plus, if we’re lucky, the late game will start so late that FOX will cancel that pathetic post game show they call The OT.

As for the game itself…

Chris Johnson is one of the league’s elite running backs. Few guys can change directions going full speed north and south like him. He has some of the best hip swivel I’ve seen.

Helping matters is the fact that LenDale White is thriving in a complimentary role.

Titans center Kevin Mawae is performing at an All-Pro level once again.

Although they lost, the Packers are in pretty good shape. Aaron Rodgers is playing like a star (this game included), which is good because he just got paid like one (over $20 million guaranteed). Al Harris and Atari Bigby are back healthy, which means the secondary can be stifling again.

Also, the Green Bay offensive line is starting to round into shape. Left guard Daryn Colledge has been more consistent this season. On Sunday, Colledge slid outside to left tackle to replace an injured Chad Clifton and did a very commendable job. (It should be noted that Kyle Vanden Bosch missed all but three plays.)

Cortland Finnegan vs. Greg Jennings was a first-class matchup. Finnegan won it, just barely.

Stephen Tulloch is blossoming into a very fine middle linebacker for Tennessee. Playing behind Albert Haynesworth helps.

Atlanta Falcons 24, Oakland Raiders 0

I don’t even need to state any opinions about this one. Here’s all you need to know:

First Downs: Atlanta 27, Oakland 3 (the three tied with Cleveland for fewest in the NFL since the merger)

Total Yards: Atlanta 453, Oakland 77 (at halftime, Atlanta 309, Oakland -2. Minus two! You have any idea how hard that is to do?)

Young Franchise Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan…17/22, 220, 2 TD. JaMarcus Russell…6/19, 31 yards, 1 INT

Team Owner: Atlanta…Arthur Blank, Oakland…Al Davis

Philadelphia Eagles 26, Seattle Seahawks 7

The score would have been 53-7 if Philly didn’t go through their customary dry spell early on.

One of the most fascinating things I learned in this game was that Brian Westbrook does not always maximize his yardage opportunities in the first half because he likes to set up the defense for the second half. Very few players in football are good enough to do this. Just further evidence that Westbrook is one of the smartest competitors in the game.

Somewhat quietly, Donovan McNabb is having a Pro Bowl campaign. He was 28/43 for 349 yards and two touchdowns with one pick in this one. Expect the nation to take note of McNabb’s Renaissance now that the Phillies are off the radar and NBC is broadcasting the Eagles game against the Giants next Sunday night.

Seneca Wallace was absolutely reckless with the football on Sunday. His completion percentage was under 50, and it’s amazing he did not throw at least one interception.

Marcus Trufant, who received a long-term mega deal over the offseason, has been victimized too often in 2008.

Brent Celek enjoyed a fine coming out party in this game. The second-year tight end had six receptions for 131 yards. In all likelihood, he just made L.J. Smith an unrestricted free agent in 2009.

New York Jets 26, Buffalo Bills 17

It’s time to raise our eyebrows about the Bills. This marks two consecutive division losses, both of which were aided by turnovers.

Marshawn Lynch has not been much of a factor in the run game as of late.

Nobody is talking about the Jets defense, but it’s a unit that ranks near the top statistically. All of the key pieces that New York was banking one coming into the season have materialized. Kris Jenkins has been outstanding at nose tackle. Calvin Pace has made plays at outside linebacker. Kerry Rhodes is earning his big checks, and Darrelle Revis continues to climb the charts on the list of elite cornersbacks.

You know, one Jet defender who hasn’t done anything all year, however, is first-round rookie Vernon Gholston. Is anyone even talking about him anymore?

Have we mentioned Brett Favre’s gunslinger mentality yet? Better make sure to get that in at least once.

Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23

Give credit to Rex Grossman – the guy came in and did exactly what a backup quarterback is supposed to do. That said, Bears fans better pray Kyle Orton’s ankle heals in a hurry.

Matt Forte had another fine game, thanks as usual to his vision and patience.

Calvin Johnson had a career-high eight receptions in this game. And still, all that made me do was shake my head even harder at how despicable it is to see this man’s rare talent go to waste.

What’s the deal with Devin Hester? All season long I’ve been saying that he’d kill teams if they didn’t make a concerted effort to avoid him in the return game. I still think that’s true, but even when Hester has been getting his opportunities this season, he hasn’t done anything. He doesn’t seem to be running with a decisive burst. We see this happen all the time to return aces. They have huge success and, in a strenuous effort to replicate that success, they get away from running downhill and take up dancing.

Cincinnati Bengals 21, Jacksonville Jaguars 19

Congratulations Jacksonville, you’re officially the most disappointing team in the NFL this year.

Someone needs to call the Duval County Sheriff’s Office and repot a missing run game. How is it that Fred Taylor hits a wall all the sudden and his understudy and partner, Maurice Jones-Drew, suddenly stops making impact plays?

And an even bigger “how is it” for Cedric Benson gaining over 100 yards against this team.

Chad Johnson found the end zone twice Sunday. His first celebration was a comical scamper down the sideline and into the embraces of his teammates. His second celebration was handing the ball to the referee. Say this about Johnson: he might be a distraction, but at least he knows when to demonstrate humility in fleeting times of success.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is no better than a backup quarterback in this league, but he does deserve a tip of the cap for his underrated running abilities.

Did you see John Henderson’s fight with Andrew Whitworth? Both players got ejected. Henderson deserves to be suspended – for multiple games, in fact. Cameras caught him trying to gouge Whitworth’s eyes.

Baltimore Ravens 37, Cleveland Browns 27

The man with perhaps the best alliteration in football – Ravens rookie running back from Rutgers, Ray Rice – was a monster in this game. Rice should be starting ahead of Willis McGahee even once the veteran is healthy. The quicker, faster Rice offers explosiveness and versatility that an otherwise limited Ravens offense desperately needs. Rice had 21 carries for 154 yards Sunday.

He hasn’t been starting on a weekly basis in Baltimore, but former Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson is proving to be an excellent addition to the club.

Hats off to Derek Mason (nine receptions, 136 yards, one touchdown). The savvy veteran’s consistency has greatly aided the development of Joe Flacco.

Trevor Pryce had an outstanding bull-rush on Eric Steinbach. When Pryce is clicking, this is a ferocious Ravens defense.

Cross apply this analysis to Shaun Rogers for the Browns.

Not to pick on the guy, but this season the Browns are 2-0 without Kellen Winslow and 1-5 with him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Kansas City Chiefs 27

Okay, let’s get one thing clear: what happened in this game was the Bucs simply had more talent than the Chiefs. Yes, Kansas City built a big early lead, but that was only because they emptied their bag of tricks. Trick plays can mask deficiencies for a little while, but they won’t protect you over the course of an entire game.

Jeff Garcia was a genius down the stretch. Late in the fourth quarter he used his 38-year-old legs to scramble and make tough throws at seemingly every major juncture. His touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant was splendid, and even more impressive was the way Garcia fit the ball between two defenders to find Alex Smith for the game-tying two-point conversion.

By the way, how about the reclamation project that is Antonio Bryant? Out of the league just a few months ago, the former third-round pick is on pace for a 1,000-yard season.

Two players are starting to become intriguing for the Chiefs: quarterback Tyler Thigpen and running back Jamaal Charles. Not saying that either is worth a starting role heading into 2009, but both young guys warrant a close look.

Herm Edwards deserves to be the coach of this team after the season. He has unselfishly put all his chips in developing his young players – including a slew of rookies. Judging by the progress those individuals are making, Edwards’s investment will pay dividends at some point down the road.

Arizona Cardinals 34, St. Louis Rams 13

What may prove to be the biggest personnel move of the season was made by Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt Sunday: benching Edgerrin James for fifth-round rookie Tim Hightower. I was ready to declare the Cardinals frauds because of their one-dimensional offense – in fact, I think I did call them frauds a week ago – but with Hightower’s power and burst, this now becomes a lethal attack.

It will be interesting to see how James handles the rest of this season. He seemed upbeat on the sidelines Sunday, but this is a man who is not accustom to sitting. And sit he will, as the No. 2 running back appears to be, rightfully so, J.J. Arrington. James is almost obsolete.

We’re starting to hear a lot about Kurt Warner now. Take a look at his numbers: well over 2,000 yards passing with a quarterback rating in the triple digits. Wasn’t this his profile back when he was an MVP and Super Bowl champion?

Steven Jackson: seven carries, 17 yards. If the man isn’t 100 percent healthy, don’t put him back in the lineup.

Antrel Rolle is doing a fine job at free safety. What’s unique about him is that he’s not necessarily fast, but he’s proven to be one of the most dangerous return artists once he snags an interception. He had the fourth pick-six of his career Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings 28, Houston Texans 21

The Vikings were in control of this game from the start, which comes as no surprise considering Adrian Peterson had his way with the Texan defense.

Bernard Berrian (two receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown) is really playing well for Minnesota. He got off to a bit of a slow start, but, despite a few dropped passes, he’s turned into the deep threat that they paid him $16 million to be.

Owen Daniels put up big numbers: 11 catches, 133 yards. But the Vikings will take that if it means limiting Andre Johnson to just four receptions for 62 yards.

Quarterback controversy is going to follow Matt Schaub throughout his career, even after impressive backup Sage Rosenfels moves to another team (or after Schaub moves to another team). The reason why is, Schaub is injury prone.

Jared Allen is starting to come alive. He recorded his sixth and seventh sack on the season Sunday, and he remains near the top of the league in quarterback pressures.



Posted by Andy Benoit at 11/3/2008 7:52:00 AM

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