Note: I got confused while writing the original column and used italics for no reason whatsoever. I have de-italicized all erroneously italicized paragraphs from Monday’s column. I will keep italics correctly used in context to add emphasis to a word or phrase, and, in parentheses, I will add (Italics Mine from the past). Got it?
NEW YORK — So many thoughts after the Patriots beat the Eagles 31-28. It’s good for the NFL, first of all. A week ago, after a 46-point win on the road against a team with a winning record, all hope for a suspenseful January was lost. The Patriots were untouchable. Now they’re not.
Remember last week when I surmised that maybe the ’27 Yankees could give the Patriots a game? Well, you can add the 2007 Eagles to that list. Current list of the five greatest teams of all-time: 2007 Patriots, 1927 Yankees, 2007 Eagles, 1967-73 UCLA Men’s Basketball, Lance Armstrong.
And it was one heck of a football game, a terrific example of what sports is capable of when it’s done right. Bill Belichick couldn’t have read his team the riot act after the game — at least I hope he didn’t. The Patriots did not play poorly. The Eagles played a tremendous football game, with a bad decision at the end leading to their demise. New England didn’t turn the ball over once, gained 410 total yards, and turned the tide of the game with three interceptions by a beat-up secondary.
Pretty much what I’m saying is, the entire game was won or lost by the following decision, which lead to their demise! I love using the word demise when talking about football. Makes me feel like Sue Grafton.
Re: the bad decision: You can’t kill A.J. Feeley for one terrible throw, because in the midst of a 60-minute ball game against the Team of the Decade, on the road and in your first start in 35 months, bad things will happen. They’re bound to. But there were still so many things wrong with the interception that sealed the deal for New England with four minutes left. The Eagles, trailing 31-28, moved 63 yards in seven plays to the New England 29, where Philadelphia had a second-and-4 and one timeout left. The Patriots had three timeouts left. The goal for Philly here should have been to milk as much of the clock as possible, because if the Eagles scored either a field goal or touchdown quickly, New England would have four stoppages of the clock and three-plus minutes to tie or win the game. Tom Brady could bake four loaves of bread in that time.
I watched these tense last few minutes in the green room outside the Football Night in America studios at NBC. Cris Collinsworth sat to my right. As the time ticked down, Collinsworth, maybe 15 seconds before the ball was snapped, said, “I don’t know why, but I just have a Jason Campbell feeling about this one.” Campbell, the Washington quarterback, threw three bad interceptions in the previous two fourth quarters, at Dallas and Tampa Bay. Now Feeley faded back, felt some pressure, and threw down the right side, deep into the end zone for Kevin Curtis — and the ball was picked off by Asante Samuel, his second interception of the day. True story about Collinsworth, and he didn’t even gloat. The Eagles could probably have run the next three plays (assuming one of the first two resulted in a first down) and gotten the clock down close to the two-minute warning.
Man. How cool is it that I get to hang out with Cris Collinsworth every day? Scale of 1-10, its a 9. Seriously. Hanging out with Tiki is like a 4. Costas, who I have the utmost respect for, is like a 5. Hanging out with Jerome has gotta be a 7. You can;t tell me its not a 7. Olbermann is a 1. That’s not a knock on Keith, though. It’s a strong crew we have at Football Night in America.
Impatience was mistake number one. Two: Why on God’s green earth was Feeley throwing at Samuel, who got ahead of Curtis and outran him to the end-zone pick? In the game, at the time, because of injuries to other Pats’ defensive backs was Eddie Jackson, a special-teams maven. Why not go after Jackson if you’re determined to throw the ball? Two very big mistakes.
I know, I know. It’s far easier to dissect a play with 20/20 hindsight. And I know, Feeley, who the smart money had selling Title Insurance by now, played the game of his life. Heck, he probably even did more good than bad this game. But, I gotta call it like I see it, and AJ Feeley blew this game for the Eagles that they wouldn’t have been in had it not been for AJ Feeley. Shame on you, AJ.
That’s football. In my view, New England survived because of Wes Welker. When the Patriots traded second- and seventh-round picks (60th and 238th overall) in the draft last April for Welker, it was clear they were buying Tom Brady a security blanket for five years. A quick receiver who runs route precisely and gets open in space near the middle of the field consistently is what Brady needed at the end of last year.
The fact Brady also got Randy Moss was an unexpected bonus when the Raiders and Green Bay Packers couldn’t reach agreement on a deal on the first day of the draft, and Al Davis was forced to send Moss to New England. Moss has been spectacular. Welker has been steady and hugely valuable, often times acting as a kind of extended handoff for Brady, increasing Brady’s completion percentage with the running game stopping and starting as it has all season.
I’ve given a lot of consideration to voting for Welker for MVP. Can’t do it…yet.
In the fourth quarter Sunday, with the Patriots’ unbeaten season on the line, Brady threw 16 passes. The breakdown of where they went and how successful each was:
• Welker was thrown seven balls and caught five, for 54 yards.
• Tight end Ben Watson caught two of the three balls thrown his way, for 12 yards.
• Donte’ Stallworth caught both balls thrown to him, for 15 yards.
• Randy Moss caught neither of the two passes thrown his way.
• Kevin Faulk and Jabar Gaffney each caught the only pass thrown to him — Faulk for 12 yards, Gaffney for 16.
I just reread what I wrote about where these passes went, with the Patriots’ unbeaten season on the line. Forget league MVP for a sec, guys. I have to seriously rethink who the most valuable Patriot receiver is. My internal monologue: “Moss caught NEITHER of the two passes thrown his way? How can he seriously be considered the MVPR over Welker??” I’m not saying that Welker is the MVPR. I’m also not saying he’s not.
On the drive New England took the lead for good, it looked like Brady targeted Welker on five of his eight throws. They connected on three passes, all for first downs.
Welker has 81 catches, second to T.J. Houshmandzadeh‘s 83 after 12 weeks. Welker’s on pace for a 118-reception season. He’s the guy who moves the chains; 59 percent of his catches have produced first downs. More and more I’m amazed at how underrated he was entering this offseason, and I think it says something about the value of scouting. Good scouts don’t form an opinion about a player and let that opinion be stagnant over time. Good scouts are open to changing their minds about someone if he plays consistently well. Welker, too small to be a classic possession receiver at 5-foot-9 and not straight-ahead fast enough to be a burner, wasn’t drafted out of Texas Tech in 2004 and went to San Diego, then Miami, as a special-teamer and spare receiver. He emerged as a receiving and return threat last year in Miami, leading the Dolphins with 67 catches and in kick- and punt-return average. During the season, coaches and respected opponents praised Welker to the hilt. Several Patriots said he was the only player in the AFC East they had to consistently double-cover.
The more of my analysis of Welker that I read, the more I am convinced that I was right about Welker. Take that last sentence, for instance. Last year, he was the only player in the AFC East vaunted Patriots had to double cover. That makes him better than: Lavearneus Coles, Lee Evans, Chris Chambers, Roscoe Parrish and Jerricho Cotchery. And all the Patriots receivers, too.
Yet Miami refused to offer him a market long-term contract, and in the midst of a coaching change, decided to dangle him on the market. The Dolphins made him a restricted free-agent and contract-tendered him at a second-round level — $1.35 million — which meant any team could give him an offer sheet and if Miami did not match, the Dolphins would get that team’s second-round pick in return.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Early in free-agency, New England and Minnesota became interested in Welker, and the Patriots, deciding not to wait to see if Miami would match an offer if they made one, offered the Dolphins their second- and seventh-round picks in a deal for Welker. Miami, surprised at the interest a player it thought little of, took the deal, accepting the 60th and 238th picks in the draft for the receiver. My feeling is if Welker was tendered at the first-round level, New England might well have bit and made him an offer, which Miami would not have matched. That’s how much New England loved Welker.
This is based on several off-the-record conversations with Scott Pioli and also a Patriots blog.
And that love hasn’t waned. This morning, above all other reasons, Welker is the biggest factor in the Patriots being 11-0 instead of 10-1.
M? V? P? You’ll just have to wait and see….
The Fine Fifteen
I don’t like the title “The Fine Fifteen,” anymore. I have to keep it at SI.com, because it is part of the Peter King brand. Happens to be their top brand. Just reporting. But I WILL rename it here on Coffeenerdness. I’m looking for something cute, but not too cute. Something that’s not on the nose, but sort of one the nostril. Something like “coffeenerdness” but to describe the 15 best teams in the NFL. Alliteration is always a bonus.
1. New England (11-0). Just what the Patriots needed. A game! A real, live, competitive-in-the-second-half game, for only the second time all season. It may not seem so important this morning, but I can guarantee you this is just what Dr. Belichick ordered. Now, he won’t have any trouble getting his team’s attention as the Pats strive for perfection.
Dr. William Belichick, phD, the Science of Football. Oh, I know it’s not a real thing, but if it were, you wouldn’t enroll in his class? If he opened an university of football higher learning, you wouldn’t want to go there? Maybe even join a frat there? I’ll tell you one thing, they’d have a heckuva football team. Seriously.
2. Indianapolis (9-2). There’s been a bunch of the-sky-is-falling sentiment around the Colts, since they blew a 10-point fourth-quarter and lost Super Bowl 41.5 to New England. But in the last 10 quarters, the Colts D has allowed two touchdowns. They are still a solid contender.
I have a bet with Stuart Scott going. He says he coined the term Super Bowl 41.5. I say I did.
3. Dallas (10-1). Indy and Dallas are thisclose (Italics Mine from the past) in the Fine Fifteen. The Cowboys have scored 137 more points than their foes. The Colts have scored 137 more points than their foes.
They are too close for a space between “this” and “close.” There is nothing else noteworthy to say about the Cowboys this week.
4. Green Bay (10-1). Momentum’s a funny thing. The Packers have won four straight by double digits. You certainly can’t say Dallas is any hotter heading into their Thursday showdown.
A few more funny things: Love, Cris Collinsworth, Peace Treaties, Presidential Politics, The Office, The Cover 2 (Tampa 2), The Internet, Auroraborealis, Snoop Dogg’s popularity, Coffee, the lack of respect Wes Welker gets, Martin Lawrence (not in a good way).
5. Pittsburgh (7-3). Tonight’s game against Miami isn’t the one the Steelers should be worried about. The looming Cincinnati-New England-Jacksonville-in-15-days combo platter is the trifecta that will determine their playoff seed.
I probably shouldn’t be comparing three football games to a combo platter, considering the state of obesity in this country. It’s an epidemic.
6. Jacksonville (8-3). A good sign of the Jags’ depth: Late in the first half, Maurice Jones-Drew had rushed five times for minus-15 yards … and Jacksonville went into halftime with a nine-point lead.
I wish I had elaborated how Jacksonville’s backup running back having 5 carries for minus-15 yards was a good sign of depth. Because now, I have no idea what point I was trying to make. David Garrard might be the African-American Tony Romo.
7. Tampa Bay (7-4). “We didn’t go out and get any of the sexy free agents in the offseason,” Derrick Brooks said Sunday. “We got a bunch of guys who love playing football, and we’re playing more of them every week than we did last year. That’s good for a veteran team.”
Derrick Brooks spins some word-lanyard, huh? I oughtta just give him my column. Naw.
8. Tennessee (6-5). “I’m not going to play Albert Haynesworth ’til he’s ready,” Jeff Fisher told me the other day. “I won’t put him in there for three plays, then risk losing him for six weeks.” Good move, but not very helpful in the last 16 days. In that time, the Titans have lost three straight — by 15, 14 and 29 points — which underscores how important Haynesworth is in the overall Titans scheme.
I ran some numbers. The absence of Albert Haynesworth has cost the Titans 58 points over the past three games. That’s value.
9. Cleveland (7-4). Braylon Edwards has a combination of physicality and hands equal to any young receiver in football.
I video-chatted with Edwards after the game on Sunday.
10. Seattle (7-4). I said it before and I’ll say it again: If what you do best is throw, then throw two out of every three snaps.
I’m always a little worried to share this theory in my column. I always get inundated with calls from GMs who are interested in me for their head coaching job. Its like I told Bill Polian in 1997, I’m a reporter first, a genius football strategist second. And that’s never going to change.
11. New York Giants (7-4). You can’t play much worse than the Giants played against Minnesota. There’s little doubt now the third-best team in the NFC is Tampa Bay, not New York.
So you can forget the last 10 weeks of football where we called the Giants the third best team in the NFC. Past is prologue.
12. San Diego (6-5). The Chargers must have been super-motivated by me calling them frauds last week.
Don’t discount this theory. Jamal Lewis dedicated his entire 2,000 yard campaign in 2003 to “shoving it up Peter King’s fat ass.” I’ve lost a lot of weight since then, though.
13. Philadelphia (5-6). Close only counts in horseshoes — and games against the Patriots.
And hand grenades. And not really in games against the Patriots. But still.
14. Washington (5-6). I can’t allow two horrendous interceptions by Jason Campbell to KO the ‘Skins from the ‘Fifteen.
No sir. Poor quarterback play in the fourth quarter of a hugely important football game will NOT be the reason I knock them out of the Fine Fifteen (name change pending). Though it is the only reason the Eagles lost to the Patriots. Excuse me, came close to beating the Patriots, which counts.
15. Detroit (6-5). To be a factor down the stretch, the Lions are going to have outscore teams, which means Jon Kitna is going to have to play relatively mistake-free football. Uh-oh. Last three games: four, three and four sacks taken. And two, three and one interceptions thrown.
Prognosis: Negative! (from “Seinfeld.” Overrated show.)
Quote of the Week II
“It is the last game of our NFL Network schedule, and it will remain on our NFL Network schedule … That’s not going to be available in a lot of markets where there are Patriots fans … There are fans in large segments of the country that want to see this and aren’t going to be able to see this right now.”
— NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, confirming the Dec. 29 Patriots-Giants game will not be moved off the NFL Network.
Gotta respect the commish. But what a boneheaded decision!
Stat of the Week
With five games left, Brett Favre is in position to have the best season, statistically, of his career. Comparing his 2007 season, with his yardage, touchdown and interception numbers pro-rated over 16 games, to his three MVP seasons — 1995, 1996 and 1997 (when he shared the award with Barry Sanders):
Favre has never had a rating of 100 for a full season, never thrown for 4,500 yards in a season, never completed two-thirds of his passes in a season … all things he’s on pace to do at 38, in his 17th NFL season.
Nothing else to say here. This guy is a God.
(One More Packer) Stat of the Week
Best records in the first 27 games by a coach in Packers history:
1. Mike McCarthy, 18-9, .667.
2. Vince Lombardi, 17-10, .630.
3. Curly Lambeau , 14-8-5, .611.
I’m thinking about making this a weekly feature. What do you think?
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England. There’s a growing thought in 2007 MVP circles that goes something like this: The MVP has to be Randy Moss, because this intergalactic offense was just very good before Moss arrived, and it’s Moss who has made all the difference in this scoring factory. It’s a good argument that has some validity, and I’m giving Moss a lion’s share of the credit for the Patriots being so great.
Note: I’m only giving Moss *a* lion’s share of the credit. Not *the* Lion’s share of the credit. Note the difference.
But there are two reasons why Brady’s a better MVP pick than Moss. One: Moss is not receiving passes in a vacuum. Two new teammates, Wes Welker and Donte’ Stallworth , have caught 101 balls for 1,238 yards and 10 touchdowns. You think they’re not valuable in allowing Moss to see less blanket coverage than he’d be seeing if Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell were the second and third Pat receivers? Two: Brady is on pace to set NFL records for accuracy, touchdown passes, TD-to-interception ratio and passer rating. He’s in the midst of having the best year a quarterback has ever had. How does the best season at — by far the most important position in the game — not win a quarterback the MVP?
No, this was not directed at Jason Whitlock. Yes, it was directed in the general vicinity of Jason Whitlock. Like a hand grenade.
2. Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay. Just read the chart above. That will give you all the ammo needed to make your Favre argument. And one final note: The Packers have won 13 games three times in their 86-year history. They have never won 14 games in a season. They’re on pace to do that this year, too, with Favre at the helm.
Peter, I (Peter) have to question your logic here. If you (I) just gave me (you) all the ammo that I (you) would need to make my (your) Favre argument, why did you (I) make a Brady argument? It’s clearly not all the ammo that I (you) need, Peter (me).
3. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. On pace for his eighth 4,000-yard season in 10 years.
You guessed it, I just didn’t care enough to write something interesting about Peyton.
4. Randy Moss, WR, New England. Averaging 6.4 catches a game, which is good but not otherworldly. Averaging 1.4 touchdowns a game, which is (Italics Mine from the past) other-wordly.
Okay, troops. This is how we’re going to do it. For now on, in the MVP Watch every week, I’m going put the name “Randy Moss,” but you and I will know that I really mean “Wes Welker.” I’ll make the case for Welker somewhere in my column. In this column, for instance, all that stuff about Welker singlehandedly saving the Patriots undefeated season? THAT was the argument for Welker. Got it?
5. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas. The command he has of a game is way beyond what a second-year starter should have. The Cowboys are lucky he’s learned from the brains of Sean Payton and Jason Garrett and the toughness of Bill Parcells.
You got the implication there, right? Payton and Garrett: Wimps. Parcells: Questionable brains.
Now, I’m not going to a sixth player. But if I did, I would be sorely tempted to have Albert Haynesworth in that slot. Rushing yards allowed by the Titans per game with Haynesworth in the lineup: 66. Without: 160. Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher told me Sunday night Haynesworth should be back from his strained hamstring next week against Houston.
I mean, the guy is worth 58 points over 3 games. Who else can say that?
The Awards Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Green Bay QB Brett Favre. “I threw it. They caught it. Nothing spectacular.” That’s what Favre said about his 20-consecutive completions, a franchise record, in Green Bay’s 37-26 Thanksgiving Day win at Detroit. Add in three touchdowns, no interceptions, 76.0 completion percentage and 381 yards, and you have one of the most commanding performances of Favre’s recent history, his own tsk-tsking of the day notwithstanding.
I know some people accuse me of being a Favre cheerleader. Well guess what, if I was 25 years younger, I WOULD be a an actual Favre cheerleader. The man is worthy of cheers. And I am worthy of leading them.
Kansas City RB Kolby Smith. On the Chiefs’ second possession, Smith, making his first NFL start, ran the ball for 5, 3, 0, 19 (on a fourth-and-one with Herman Edwards getting gutsy and going for it), 16, 2 and 10 yards, the last one for a lunging touchdown. In one drive, we saw a better Kansas City running attack than we’d seen all season. By the half, he had 16 carries for 94 yards; for the day, he finished with 31 carries for 150 yards. A great debut — even if he didn’t get the one yard he needed in the fourth quarter to give the Chiefs a first down that could have won them a must-win game.
I hope winning offensive player of the week, in your first start ever, is a consolation prize, ’cause you’re the AJ Feeley of your team.
Defensive Players of the Week
Seattle DE Patrick Kerney. In the last eight days, Kerney has six sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and a pass deflected. In Seattle’s 24-19 win at St. Louis — which gave them a two-game lead in the NFC West — Kerney continued to be the destructive force the Seahawks bought in free agency this offseason. “I’m playing with confidence recently, and confidence and knowing the system is pretty important to succeeding at this level,” Kerney said afterward.
For the sake of this award, the week is 8 days this week.
Tampa Bay LB Derrick Brooks. In his 200th NFL start, Brooks had a typical Derrick Brooks day — 12 tackles. One was the kind of play that made him one of the best linebackers of his generation. With the Bucs hanging on to a 19-10 lead late in the third quarter, with a fourth-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 4, Brooks read either a Jason Campbell sneak or a Clinton Portis dive, and he moved to plug the hole. It was a Portis dive. “They showed a formation where it could be either,” Brooks said over the phone from Tampa on Sunday night. “When Portis came through, we put a good lick on him, and I knew he wouldn’t make it.” He said “we,” meaning he and defensive end Gaines Adams. But it was the slither and smash of Brooks that did 75 percent of the damage in the small space. “I’m 34 years old, and I haven’t been that emotional in a long time,” he said. “That’s one of the more important plays I’ve made in my career.” Quite a statement by a guy who will be a strong candidate for Canton in six or seven years.
You might wonder how I get all these guys on the phone. Well, they call me! Really. Derrick Brooks will call me on a Thursday to ask for my opinion on American Gangster (above average, Crowe was excellent) or a good restaurant in the Atlanta area (can’t go wrong with Houston’s).
Coach of the Week
Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel. Now he’s got them playing defense. The ex-Patriot has the Browns 7-4 with five games left, and he has them playing better defense than we thought they were capable of, at least on Sunday against Houston. “RAC [his nickname] has been grinding us, working us hard, making sure we get better every week on defense,” Willie McGinest said via cell phone Sunday. “The best thing he’s done, on both sides of the ball, is get rid of the individuals on this team. Everyone here’s a team guy now.”
McGinest, for the record, is a 8 to hang out with in person. Winning smile, infectious laugh.
Goats of the Week
Arizona K Neil Rackers. He had a 32-yard chippy, in overtime, to lift the Cardinals to 6-5 and have them enter the month of December one game out out of the NFC West lead with five games left. Remember when Rackers was one of the best kickers in football? Not anymore. He pulled the 32-yarder barely wide left, brushing the flag atop the left upright with the miskick.
St. Louis QB Gus Frerotte. Down by five in the waning seconds, Frerotte fumbled a snap inside the Seattle 5-yard line, dooming the Rams to a 24-19 loss. He just exited from center too early, losing a game his team looked like it would win in the final minute. That’s one of the very good reasons why the Rams are 2-9 right now.
Goats in Sheep’s Clothing: AJ Feeley, Jason Campbell, Kolby Smith, Randy Moss.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
The 49ers won at Arizona on Sunday, finally getting a break when they forced a fumble in the end zone in overtime and Tully Banta-Cain recovered. Interesting guy to have won this game. At the end of the year, San Francisco will fork over its first-round pick to New England, the result of a trade dating to draft day 2007. Sunday was San Francisco’s third win of the year; a loss here would have placed them second in the first-round draft order. Who knows where they’ll finish, of course, because there are five games left in the season. But the Patriots won’t have as high a pick as they would have had because of Banta-Cain, which is some sort of parity-justice. Banta-Cain played the first four years of his career with the Patriots, before flying west in free agency in March.
See what I did? I set your expectations real low and then, bam, you got hit with something interesting. Tell me that doesn’t interest you.
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Walked past a demonstration in front of Macy’s in Manhattan on Black Friday. Intense invectives hurled at passersbys who would even think of entering the store to buy anything with animal hair on it. Chants. Shouts. Whistles. Bustle. Very, very crowded.
“Hey Peter,” one protestor near the end of the line, carrying a sign with a mangled weasel (I think) on it, called out. “Who do you like next week, Cowboys or Packers?”
This is why I think Favre would make an ideal President.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 12:
a. This is not the negative New York media speaking. This is the impartial New Jersey media speaking. The more I see Eli Manning, the more I think he’ll never be a championship quarterback.
Also, I work for a multi-national publication. So it’s the impartial multi-national media speaking in conjunction with the impartial New Jersey media, which has no affiliation with the negative New York Media.
c. Jamal Lewis has more than a little bit left.
Are we square, Jamal?
d. Very glad to see Andy Reid was coaching to win, coaching aggressively. “How about this?” coach Jeff Fisher said Sunday night, watching Eagles-Pats midway through the second quarter with a 14-14 score. “Fun game to watch. Reminds me of our game at Indy a few years ago, when we onside-kicked a bunch.”
Jeff Fisher. He’s in my five. And…I’m in his.
e. Devin Hester controlled the outcome of the Chicago-Denver game as much as any quarterback controlled the outcome of any game Sunday.
I have the numbers to back this up. Call me if you want them. You can get my number through Derrick Brooks, Willie McGinest, Jeff Fisher or Phil Dawson.
h. I liked one of Charlie Casserly‘s theories on the explosion of special-teams touchdowns this year — there are new special-teams coaches on 13 teams, all implementing differing philosophies of covering kicks and punts. Interesting.
I can’t help but feel that I should have asked for a more thorough breakdown, like, have the teams with new special teams coordinators given up an unusually high number of return touchdowns. But then I got an IM from Chad Johnson.
i. Chad Johnson is convinced the Bengals can run the table and finish 9-7. That’s what he told me Sunday. That means beating Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the next month.
2. I think I don’t care how good Darren McFadden looked last Friday, and if you saw how he steamrolled LSU in Baton Rouge, you know he looked like a future star in the NFL. Probably. I wouldn’t use a high first-round pick on him. Of the top 50 running backs in the NFL entering this weekend (ranked by rushing yards), 30 were not first-round picks. In my team rankings this week, I’ve got New England, Indianapolis, Dallas, Green Bay and Pittsburgh as my top five. The Patriots (11-0) have a running game by committee. Tony Dungy of the 9-2 Colts has given CFL refugee Kenton Keith 9.0 carries a game. The 10-1 Packers have had rushing efforts of 104, 55, 119, 88 and 101 yards from Ryan Grant in the last month. Grant, an undrafted free-agent by the Giants in 2005, entered camp fifth on the Giants’ depth chart this summer, then was traded to Green Bay for a sixth-round draft choice. Dallas (10-1) has Julius Jones and Marion Barber III manning the running game. Jones was the 43rd player picked in the draft when he came out, Barber the 109th. Undrafted college free-agent Willie Parker — who couldn’t get consistent playing time at North Carolina — has 3,624 yards over the last two years and 10 games for the 7-3 Steelers. More than any position in football, running back is the one you can find players from the most disparate sources.
Also, you shouldn’t draft a quarterback in the first round. Of the top nine leaders in passing yards, only TWO were drafted in the first round. FIVE were drafted in the sixth rounder or late (and TWO weren’t even drafted at all). Two more undrafted QBs, Kurt Warner and Jeff Garcia, are two guys I’d take over Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Michael Vick, Jason Campbell, JP Losman, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Cade McNown, JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Aaron Rodgers, Byron Leftwich, Tony Eason, Todd Blackledge, Dan McGwire, Rick Mirer, Andre Ware, Ron Powlus and Donovan McNabb – all first rounders – any day of the week. And twice on Football Sunday.
This is pretty good proof that drafting a quarterback in the first round is dumb, dumb, dumb. You’re probably best off waiting till the late rounds.
5. I think I can’t resist one stat for Week 13: Brett Favre is 0-8 at Texas Stadium. He plays there Thursday. Asked about being known as Brett Favre Jr., at this early stage of his career, Wisconsin native Tony Romo said Sunday: “If you’re trying to be Brett Favre, you’re fighting an uphill battle your entire career.”
You now can understand why the ladies can’t resist Romo a little more, right?
6. I think while the Cowboys-Packers is the U2 show of Week 13, the Jags-Colts, in Indianapolis, is not exactly the Goo Goo Dolls. “This is our championship game,” Jags running back Fred Taylor told me on Sunday night. “The opportunity is right in front of us.” Indy leads Jacksonville by a game with five to play; an Indy win would all but clinch the division for the Colts. Jacksonville lost David Garrard after 18 minutes of the first game this year with a high ankle sprain, and a seven-point game at the time ended up a 29-7 Colts victory.
7. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:
a. Hank, with the Baskett catch on the onside kick for the Eagles.
Punning. One of the small pleasures of life as a multi-national journalist.
c. The Redskins’ effort. Joe Gibbs has that team playing hard. Three late interceptions the last two weeks have doomed their playoff chances, but this is not a bad 5-6 team.
They’d be a bad 6-5 team, had they won. They’re an average 5.5-5.5 team.
d. One play told me there is hope for Minnesota quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. With eight Giants in the box on the Vikes’ first offensive series, Jackson, after a play-action fake to Chester Taylor, stared down the receiver to his left, forcing Giants safety Gibril Wilson to that side of the field and giving the receiver flanked right, Sidney Rice, the benefit of single-coverage with rookie Aaron Ross. Jackson fired deep and found Rice on a 60-yard touchdown. Perfect execution.
That’s when I saw it. When he hit Sidney Rice in stride 60 yards downfield.
g. Oakland was smart to move Robert Gallery inside to guard. He created a few good holes for Justin Fargas (and does this man have to go through life with every mention of his name automatically noting he’s the son of Starsky and Hutch‘s Huggy Bear character?). Fargas tightened his grip on the running back job in the process.
Robert Gallery couldn’t cut it as a tackle and had to be moved inside to the less-demanding position of guard. This is proof you shouldn’t waste a high pick on a Tackle.
h. LaDainian Tomlinson, who reached 10,000 rushing yards in six-plus years. He could have been yours, Atlanta.
Wait. Did I just contradict myself? Gimme a second to backtrack. I said you should never waste a high pick on a running back. Ever. Right? Ok. Then I wrote the above statement about LaDainian Tomlinson who was, let me check wikipedia…picked fifth overall. Oh jeez. Then, I verbally mocked Atlanta for trading the fifth pick to San Diego to take Michael Vick, instead of staying pat and taking LaDainian? Oh, I remember now. My computer was stolen while I was in the middle of the column and whoever stole it must have written this LT thing. There we go.
8. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 12:
b. Jets. Frauds. So much for the Steeler-related momentum.
If you’re keeping track, the Jets are my Frauds of the Week. I have a good feeling about this on.e
d. Browns’ throwbacks. Weirdest, most inconsequential throwback outfits ever. The only way you could tell was the numbers on the helmets.
Should I have put this under a heading that made it clear that this was completely uninteresting? You tell me!
e. David Carr: 2-for-10 for 14 yards and a pick in the first half against New Orleans. Rating: 0.0. He’s got about a month left as a Panther. If that long.
And, when was he picked? First round! Never, I repeat, never take a quarterback in the first round!
g. How can you be any good, Tennessee, when you’re held hostage by the absence of one player who isn’t even your quarterback?
Haynesworth is the player. Haynesworth. Remember when he stomped on Andre Gurode’s head? I actually named him my Goat of the Week. This is what I wrote:
“Goat of the Week
“Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee. Easiest pick of the year. Haynesworth stomped on the bare forehead of helmetless Dallas center Andre Gurode in the third quarter, opening a wide gash that required 30 stitches to close. Then he was so infuriated after the idiotic play that Titans coach Jeff Fisher almost blew a gasket trying to rein him in. I talked to Fisher a couple of hours afterward, and he was still steamed at Haynesworth for the bush-league ploy. There seems little doubt that either the league or the Titans will suspend him for Sunday’s game in Indianapolis.”
Albert, now that you’re the best defensive player in the league, and the sixth most valuable player in football, all is forgiven.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
b. Let me get this straight about the Alex Rodriguez deal. He was making $25 million a year with three years left that he could opt out of. The Yankees told him if he opted out, they would have no interest in talking to him. He opted out. They held firm — for about 10 minutes. He called the Yankees. They re-signed him … FOR A RAISE. Now he’ll make $27.5 million a year, and if he breaks the home run record, which appears quite likely, they’ll pay him $30 million more in bonuses. Assuming he breaks the record, the Yankees will be paying $30.5 million a year over the life of the contract. Boy, those Yankees sure do hold a hard line.
That was sarcastic. The Yankees are panzies. The worst elements of Sean Payton married with the worst elements of Bill Parcells.
c. The national championship game has to be the Missouri-Oklahoma winner against West Virginia.
You heard it here first, folks!
d. And no, there shouldn’t be a playoff. Enough of this “amateur” sport. I’ve railed against this before, but it’s patently absurd that college students be asked to practice football for who-knows-how-long in the spring, return at the beginning of August and practice through the last game in January — the same as an NFL team does — without asking them to continue games into their second semesters.
Right. In a country that ranks behind Cuba in healthcare we need better education!
e. I strongly recommend the bison filet, done medium rare, at Ted’s Montana Grill, the Ted Turner meathouse. Lean, delicious, and better for you than beef, from what the buffalophiles say.
Willie McGinest is actually a huge Buffalophile.
f. I love 98 percent of the plotline of House. But this competition among mildly interesting medical students to be the new House aides is, well, mildly interesting. Enough. The medical plots and stories and House’s cantankerousness are why we watch the show.
What’s with the name “House,” though? Just the weirdest, says-nothing-about-the-show name ever. House is lucky that I give everything on TV a chance (yes, ever The Big Bang Theory, which isn’t half-bad), and that writers like me have this forum to espouse the brilliance of the show despite the dullness of the title.
g. Glad to hear from those who think The Office one-ups Seinfeld. Nothing against Seinfeld. But Dwight Schrute and Kramer cancel each other out for comedic brilliance. Michael is funnier than Jerry, Pam a nip better than Elaine, and … well, there’s no one in Scranton who equals Costanza or Newman or Uncle Leo. But Jim, Creed and Angela are pretty perfect characters.
I was thinking, the combined cast of Seinfeld and The Office against the 2007 Patriots in Steal the Bacon. Should be a lot easier now that the Eagles have given us a game plan on how to beat the Patriots.
Gotta take Brady over Michael Scott. Just gotta. I’m taking Dwight Schrute over Moss, but Welker over Kramer. The Patriots running back committee doesn’t really compare to the women of the Office and Seinfeld – Angela, Pam, Kelly and Elaine. The Pats line is second to none, but a comedic O-line of Newman, Darryl from the Warehouse, Kevin, Phyllis and Puddy would be pretty hard to Steal the Bacon from. Asante Samuels has speed, but Constanza has guile. In a game of Steal the Bacon, I’m taking guile every time. As far as the resident kill-’em-with-kindness guy? Gotta take Bruschi over Jim, though Jim doesn’t kill you in a Steal the Bacon game. Andy is the wackjob, and no one on the Pats is in his league as far as unpredictability goes – at least not since Corey Dillon retired. Belichick could outcoach anyone in football, but could he outcoach Larry David in Steal the Bacon? Probably. Belichick has my vote. But, throw in the one-two punch of Jan (if you get what I mean), and the Office-Seinfeld Steal the Bacon team would give the Pats a real run for their money, especially considering that the Eagles gave the rest of the league a blueprint for how to beat the Pats.
Prediction: Patriots 155, Office-Seinfeld 82.
i. Caroline Kennedy. We should have guessed.
And I did. It’s in a letter I wrote to be sent to myself in 2057, on my 100th birthday.
j. The kicker for Missouri is number 99, the holder 84. That has to be the highest number, combined (183), of a holder and kicker in football history.
Just weird, right? What were they thinking?
That’s it, folks. Back tomorrow when I stick it to the moron emailers, just like that guy I like tonight, Tony Kornheiser.