Does Randy Moss Have Anything Left in the Tank?
Here's what his former teammate Brandon Merriweather had to say:
As in judging the ball, it's only one person out there like it, and that's Larry Fitzgerald. As in hands, it's only one person out there like it, and that's Larry Fitzgerald. As in speed, when he runs, there's nobody like it. And his size is what makes it worse. When you put those things together, you've got a great receiver... Moss is in a class of his own. I think if you asked any of [the league's other elite receivers], they will tell you Moss is in a class of his own. He's Moss. He's like no other. They would tell you that.
Asked about criticism of Moss for his declining production, Meriweather said: "The thing with Moss is, the reason you see that is because he has two or three people on him every play. We were in Cover 3, and I still shaded to him, knowing that the corner is going bail and be over the top and play the 9 route, that I don't have to be over there, I still lean toward him. No matter what coverage you're in, you have to give him his respect. And that's what people don't understand."
I realize Merriweather, who sees Moss as a "big brother" could easily be biased or simply want to boost his now unemployed friend's stock, but Merriweather was playing 20 yards off the line of scrimmage Sunday – so much that Troy Aikman remarked that he had never seen a safety play that deep. Apparently, the Pats defensive scheme, rightly or wrongly, reflected Merriweather's assessment.
Call me stubborn, but I still think Moss is a top-15 receiver the rest of the way (though of course where he winds up will affect that). Keep in mind also he's three and a half years younger than Terrell Owens, who's still going strong. Healthy inner-circle Hall of Fame receivers don't suddenly lose it at age 33.
The Craziest Play Call Ever
It's one thing to let Peyton Manning call plays for the Colts and quite another to turn the playbook over to punter Steve Weatherford! While Weatherford accurately diagnosed the Packers' defense and got about 16 yards on a fake punt, it was 4th and 18 from the Jets' 20 yard line. I'm all for aggressive play calling – and it's a joke that coaches won't routinely go for it on fourth and short inside opponents' territory – but this was the craziest play call I've ever seen in my life. But perhaps the sicker thing was Tony Siragusa and Moose Johnston believing that Rex Ryan had called the play and praising it. Siragusa even justified it after the Packers settled for a field goal, by saying Ryan knows he can fail on the fake because his defense was so stout! If you're going to justify a fake on 4th and 18 from your own 20, you might as well advocate not punting ever and opening up an extra roster spot.
Smoke and Mirrors?
Does anyone realize the Patriots have the best record in the NFL with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead as their tailbacks and Brandon Tate, the current incarnation of Deion Branch, a less-than-100 percent Wes Welker and two rookie tight ends as their main weapons on offense? And it's not like the defense is loaded with superstars, either.
Four or the Field?
Compared to last year when eight weeks in, everyone would have had the Vikings, Colts and Saints among their top-four Super Bowl favorites, this season is wide open. My question is would you rather have your choice of four teams, or the field to win the Super Bowl? I'd definitely let you pick and take the field. Incidentally, my teams would be: (1) New York Giants (easier conference gives them a boost); (2) Pittsburgh Steelers; (3) Indianapolis Colts; (4) New England Patriots. But with the field, you'd have the Packers, Jets, Ravens, Chiefs, Falons and Saints and longer shots with the Chargers, Dolphins, Titans and Eagles, too. If I got five teams, I'd probably add the Packers and give you the field, but that's a closer call.
Sam Bradford or Ndamukong Suh?
We had a "spirited" debate about this in our blog comments, with no one agreeing with me, but I'd take Suh who is already in the running for Defensive Player of the Year while Bradford's nothing more than a highly promising prospect. And while Bradford's done nothing but validate the Rams selection of him, the chances that he's better than Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan a few years from now are probably about 50/50. Whereas Suh might already be the best defensive lineman in the game. As a QB, Bradford's ceiling is obviously higher than that of any defensive player, but again, it's the difference between a prospect and a current star.
Things to Take Away from Week 8
• Watching Calvin Johnson break DeAngelo Hall's tackle and stretch his entire 6-5 frame to get the ball across the goal line for his first touchdown Sunday validated all my overreaching on him the last two years.
• Darren McFadden is a top-5 real-life back. He's so explosive in the open field, and he can run between the tackles, too. But Jamaal Charles is top-3 – amazing quickness speed, patience and vision. Thomas Jones is LenDale White circa 2008, and the Chiefs need to do what the Titans did in 2009 and give Charles the full load.
• *&%* Mike Tolbert.
• Robert Meachem got off to a slow start, but judging from the end of Sunday night's game against the Steelers, he's going to be targeted more frequently going forward. (He caught all six of his targets for 76 yards, and he looked quick and agile coming back to the ball).
• Arian Foster is a top-3 fantasy back along with Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Foster is not only in a good offensive system, but he's ahead of Michael Turner because of his ability to catch passes.
• LaGarrette Blount is as athletic as this guy. He's also likely to keep the job going forward.
• While Derek Anderson's red-zone pick down three at the end of the game was inexcusable, Larry Fitzgerald (12 targets) is still a top-10 receiver going forward.
• The Cowboys are a totally broken team, but Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten should be fine fantasy-wise. I suppose that means Jon Kitna's worth a look as long as the interception penalty in your league isn't too bad.
• Even if Donovan McNabb is out of shape, benching him for Rex Grossman is a bad idea under any circumstances.
Things to Watch for in Week 9
• The Colts as three-point road dogs in Philly.
• The matchup between the Raiders who've won their last two games by a combined score of 92-17 at home against the 5-2 Chiefs. (An unlikely game to qualify here).
• The 3-5 Chargers as road favorites in Houston.
• The Calvin Johnson/Darrelle Revis matchup in Detroit (unless, of course, the bigger Antonio Cromartie is matched up with Johnson).
Beating the Book
Patriots -4.5 at Browns
This is my favorite type of game to bet – a scrappy home dog against a team that's probably not quite as good as its record or reputation. The Pats might prove me wrong, or the Browns could implode, but I like the setup and the value here. Take Cleveland who wins outright.
Browns 19 – 17
We won with the Chargers last week to go 5-3 in this forum and 57-56-4 on the season. We were 10-7 in this forum last season, 131-122 overall. We were 12-5 in this forum in 2008. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 9
Last week I picked the Cowboys, and they were a disastrous choice. (Miraculously, I had used them already in my "re-buy" pool and instead was forced to go with the Colts.) But it wasn't just the Cowboys. The Jets lost, too, and the biggest favorite on the board, the Chiefs, won only by the slimmest of margins. While we were spoiled by last year's predictability, this past week illustrated how you quickly you can get to the end game in your pool by picking a team like the Pats or the Colts that not too many others were on. (Had Rian Lindell's field-goal attempt gone through the second time, I would have been down to the final three).
For this week, there are once again no double-digit favorites. But here are the seven most popular choices: