It’s been quite the season for the San Francisco 49ers. After being preseason favorites to win the division, the 49ers started off 0-5. During the five game slide, they made the decision to fire the offensive coordinator in hopes of rejuvenating the stagnant offense. Even at 0-5, 49ers president/CEO Jed York insisted that this team would win the division. Thankfully, they play in the NFC West, where 7-9 or 8-8 could get you into the playoffs and even host a playoff game! So technically, even at 4-7, they are still alive and well in the division race.
This was supposed to be the year that Alex Smith took a huge step forward, and claimed the vacant “franchise QB” tag. He got hurt, and backup David Carr was so bad that recently signed third string QB, Troy Smith (yes, the one that led Ohio State to a BCS championship game), has taken the reigns in San Francisco. Troy’s competition is so light, that it looks like he will be the starter for the rest of the season.
Now, Frank Gore, the team’s best offensive weapon, broke his hip in the Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals. Sources are reporting that he is out for the season. The running game will turn over to Brian Westbrook, who we all remember from the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, Westbrook is well past his prime, and the 49ers badly need to win some games down the stretch to make a playoff run. Can Brian Westbrook still carry a team???
Through all of the controversy and bad luck, head coach Mike Singletary remains confident in his team. Every remaining game is a must win for them. I just wonder at this point if he is the only one who is still confident that the 49ers can win the division.
It was a feast or famine week in the NFL for most teams in Week 5. Some teams looked great in victory, some looked ugly in victory and some looked truly disastrous in defeat.
I hope you found that Miles Austin and Jeremy Maclin were available when you checked to see if they were on the waiver wire in your fantasy leagues this morning. And I also hope that you are in last place so you can pick one of them up or that the guy who is in last place has already given up and hasnât checked his team since drafting Matt Forte second overall and starting the year 0-3.
Miles Austin caught a few passes and then ran all over, through, and aroundthe Kansas City Chief defense for 250 yards receiving on Sunday. Covering Austin must not have been high on Mike Vrabelâs to-do list this week when he and a few other Chief veterans took over practice after Head Coach Todd Haley pulled his coaching staff off the field because he was so frustrated with how poorly the team was practicing. Also not high on the Chief to-do list: tackling, taking the proper angle of pursuit, running fast, Gatorade baths for the coach.
Austin and the KC D made Tony Romoâs day. He just had to lob it out there and then sit back and watch his passing yards run down the field to an overtime win. Not a bad way to go. It sure beats trying to jam a ball into Sam Hurd with Champ Bailey covering him in the end zone on the last play of the game.
Haley chose to kick the PAT after Matt Cassel drove his team down the field for a TD with less than a minute remaining. Had he opted to go for 2 and been successful, the story today would have been a) Tom Bradyâs former backup rallying his team late in the game and leading to them victory b) Tony Romo is terribleâŚblah blah blahâŚThe Cowboys are terribleâŚTO somehowâŚThereâs a huge screen in DallasâŚJerry JonesâŚJessica SimpsonâŚWade Philips. But, Haley kicked it and then lost in OT so now we talk about Austin.
Do the bad teams in the NFL look worse than usual this season? Maybe that is just a thought that has been rattling around my brain the last few weeks. But it sure was reinforced and highlighted by these six games:
The six favorites (also the six teams who won) had a combined record of 20-5 coming into the weekend and the underdogs (the losers on Sunday) had a combine record of 2-22. The only favored team of those six playing at home was the Giants. After the weekend the winners are 26-5 and the losers are 2-28.
I would like to say that the Buffalo and Cleveland defenses were just so stout and beat up on each other so hard they held the offenses to a 6-3 final score, but thatâs not remotely the case. Derek Anderson played the complete game on Sunday and completed only 2 of his 17 passesâŚ and his team won! Thatâs about the same as when in pool you have all of your balls left on the table and your opponent scratches on the 8 ball to lose. You didnât deserve to win, but you did.
2-17! This is the guy to whom Brady Quinn lost his job. When I was checking on my fantasy team Sunday afternoon, I was convinced that that stat must have been a typo or a mistake. No way can an NFL QB in a NFL offense with NFL wide receivers complete only 2 of 17 passes.
Also perplexing was that Oakland only threw the ball 13 times while getting trounced by the Giants 44-7. Coach Tom Cable clearly has more confidence in his right cross than he does in JaMarcus Russell. Keep in mind also that the team was playing without Darren McFadden at running back.
The Minnesota Vikings avoided faltering against a weak team after two back-to-back thrilling weeks. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead on St. Louis in the first half of the first quarter. Adrian Peterson scored twice, Brett Favre threw for a touchdown pass, and Jared Allen recovered two fumbles, returning one for a TD. Favre turned 40 last week and joins some punters and kickers in the 40+ club. Percy Harvin led the Vikings in receiving. Ram WR Donnie Avery scored a TD in the 4th on a pass from Kyle Boller to bring the Rams within 28 points and then celebrated with a solo dance in the end zone. His teammates apparently werenât up for a TD dance down 28 points. Steven Jackson went for 84 yards on 21 carries but still hasnât found the end zone yet this season.
Marc Bulger returned late in the game after Boller left with an injury. Bulgerâs return to the field and the fact that Boller started again when Bulger was ready to play should create something of a QB controversy in St. Louis. The bigger controversy in St. Louis though is Rush Limbaughâs bid to buy the Rams. Most shocking about this story is that someone actually wants to buy the St. Louis Rams.
Matt Hasselbeck returned from injury to throw for 4 TDâs in a Seattle Seahawk beat down of the Jacksonville Jaguars. I donât get the Jags. They nearly beat the Colts in Week 1, then lost to Arizona in Week 2. They beat Houston and Tennessee after that to get to 2-2 and make people think that maybe they could put together a respectable season. Then they didnât show up at all on Sunday and lost 41-0. Their season is kind of like the acting career of John Cusack. They won a few games, but other than that itâs been ugly. There was Say Anything, Being John Malkovich, and High Fidelity, and then there was everythingthat happened after that. In case you havenât seen 20 or 30 previews for it, he is in a disaster movie (pun may or may not be intended) about the world ending in 2012. So donât sweat not getting the Olympics in 2016, Chicago, they wouldnât have happened anyway.
Despite taking the loss, Jet fans have to be a little bit excited about Braylon Edwards and his 64 yards and 1 TD effort after being on the team for about 100 or so hours. Mark Sanchez should benefit from having that threat line up next to him in the coming weeks.
I was sitting with my wife watching a football game a few weeks ago and she was noticing that a lot of guys pat each other on the butt after a play or on the sideline. She found it strange and asked me why. I said I didnât know, itâs just what guys do on the football field. This is an aspect of the game that goes unquestioned and mostly unnoticed. But what does not go unquestioned or unnoticed is Bill Belichekâs hugging habits after and before games.
Has any manâs hugs or handshakes been more analyzed and scrutinized than Bill Belichickâs? The talking heads on TV and the voices on the radio love talking about how this man hugs other men. First it was Eric Mangini and the hugs or handshakes after games when the Jets played the Patriots. This year it is the hug that Belichick shared with Bronco Head Coach Josh McDaniels before the game and the hug that they did not share after the game.
Is he sincere enough at the traditional mid-field Head Coaches handshake/man hug after every game? Does he blow them off? What kind of hug is it? Who does he hug and who doesnât he hug?
I have a better question. Who cares? This is the sports equivalent to celebrity tabloids reporting an encounter between two rival heiresses at a Hollywood night club. Apparently both men and women love a good soap opera.
Josh McDaniels has taken over a volatile situation in Denver with a quarterback who looks like he dropped out of Stillwater. He reigned in Brandon Marshall and started the season 5-0 after beating his mentor and the New England Patriots. Tom Brady had a costly and uncharacteristic late game fumble. Randy Moss caught only one ball and it was an interception on a hail mary at the end of the first half.
Here’s a post from one of our new copywriters. I’ve been promoted to President of Overseas Operations or (POO) as I now force my underlings to refer to me. This is Brent Widmark, and he’ll be thrilling you week in and week out with tales of Norse Heroes. Enjoy…
Quarterback problems are a common link between teams who are still searching for their first win. Chad Pennington may be lost for the season for the Miami Dolphins. Jake Delhomme is frustrating Steve Smith fantasy owners. And the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Kansas Chiefs are looking for stability at the QB spot. The Chiefs have the best chance at finding that as Matt Cassel continues to bounce back from injury. Also injured last week for the Chiefs was WR Dwayne Bowe. As Al Michaels would say, he had a hamstring. Brand new Chief Bobby Wade could be a sleeper fantasy WR option if Boweâs hamstring doesnât mend.
The NFL is a quarterback league. Top quarterbacks can take a team up a level by themselves. That is why the Chicago Bears were aggressive in trading for Jay Cutler. If the NFL is a quarterback league, then the NFL media is a âWhat did you do last week?â entity. In Chicago, after a week of Cutler bashing on the radio after his week 1 four-interception-performance against the Green Bay Packers, itâs been nothing but praise as the Bears have beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks to go 2-1. Quarterbacks like Cutler, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger prove to be invaluable every season.
Last season Pennington led the NFL in completion percentage at 67.4 percent. His injury is not great news for wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr, who needs the most accurate passer he can find. If he catches the touchdown pass that went in and out of his hands near the end of the week two against the Indianapolis Colts, the Dolphins may very well be sitting at 1-2 and still dreaming of being the 11-5 team they were in 2008 and not the 1-15 team they were in 2007. The Miami Dolphins will turn to former University of Michigan QB Chad Henne. Also lingering on the depth chart is rookie, Wildcat specialist and former West Virginia Mountaineer QB Pat White.
When the Dolphins drafted Ted Ginn, Jr in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft, fans, commentators, sports writers, hot dog vendors, and Brady Quinn were shocked that the team did not draft Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn. Quinn sat in the green room at the draft and sheepishly watched himself slip through the top 20 before being selected by the Cleveland Browns at number 22 overall. The Browns are now 0-3 and have thrown six interceptions on the season, the second most in the NFL, three by Quinn and three by his backup/quarterback controversy counterpart Derek Anderson.
If the Browns need to seek inspiration for turning their season around, they need only to look a little north toâŚ Detroit? Yep, to the now 1-2 Detroit Lions. Before he was drafted number one overall, former Georgia Bulldog, Matthew Stafford publically welcomed the challenge of trying to turn the Detroit Lions around. He beat out Daunte Culpepper in training camp to earn the starting quarterback spot and the privilege of chucking it up to phenom WR Calvin Johnson. Stafford led them to a win over the Washington Redskins in week 3, their first win since December 23, 2007. After throwing five picks in the first two games, Stafford threw zero on Sunday and connected with Bryant Johnson for his second touchdown of the year. The Lions will now hope that RB Kevin Smithâs shoulder injury is nothing serious as they try to double their win total from the last 22 months next week against division rival Chicago Bears.
After losing to the Detroit Lions last week and barely squeaking out a 9-7 win against the winless St. Louis Rams in week two, the chair under Washington Redskin coach Jim Zorn may be beginning to feel a little warm. No costume Clinton Portis can conjure can hide the way the âSkins have played this year, but reason to celebrate is right around the corner as the next three opponents for Jason Campbell, LaRon Landry and company are a combine 0-9 right now. A 4-2 start to the season is Washingtonâs for the taking.
The only other 0-2 team, besides the Lions, to win in week 3 was the Jacksonville Jaguars, who got 119 yards and 3 TDâs from RB Maurice Jones-Drew. No coach looks better on the sidelines than Jack Del Rio and few coaches walked off the field happier than he did on Sunday. The Jags and QB David Garrard will face two 0-3 teams in the next three weeks and should have a good chance at finding themselves with a .500 record or better after week six. A Jags win may have helped Florida Gator fans forget Tim Tebowâs exit from Saturdayâs game. Actually, no. The flags in Florida are still at half-mast and counselors are available on the University of Florida campus to help students cope with the fact that Tebow may miss the Gatorâs next game in two weeks.
Itâs a QB league and the New York Jets look like they have found a franchise QB in former USC Trojan Mark Sanchez. Sanchez comes from a brotherhood of USC QBâs that includes Cincinnati BengalCarson Palmer, Arizona CardinalMatt Leinart, Kansas City Chief Matt Cassel, and John David Booty, who was bumped to the Minnesota Viking practice squad when Brett Favre unretired, swooped in and stole his roster spot and his number. Sanchez and Head Coach Rex Ryan, son of famed defensive wizard Buddy Ryan, have the J-E-T-S off to an undefeated first three weeks of the year after knocking off the Houston Texans on the road and the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans at home.
For several reasons, Sean Salisbury is not mentioned in the above list of former USC QBâs. No, there will not be a picture.
And speaking of 4, as we call him where I am from, Brett Favre version 2009 was Brett Favre version 1997 for at least one play on Sunday, throwing a 32 yard TD pass with two seconds left in the game to beat the San Francisco 49ers. On the receiving end was former Philadelphia Eagle WR Greg Lewis, who was signed by the Minnesota Vikings just before the season began. The Vikings remain undefeated, helped by a Frank Gore sprained ankle early in the game. Rookie, and former Alabama Crimson Tide RB, Glen Coffee took Goreâs place and rushed for 54 yards on 25 carries against the stout Minnesota Viking defensive line led by Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Jared Allen. The Vikings will try to improve to âFavre and Oâ against the Packers on Monday night. Favre might look across the way at Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and wish he was back in Green Bay. Or he might turn around and see Adrian Peterson and feel really good about being old in Minnesota, in the dome, where it is warm in December.
Looking to week four, New York Jets shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis has a huge challenge in front of him as he goes against Drew Breesâ high flying New Orleans Saints offense. Isaac Bruce will face his former team when the Rams and 49ers square off. Terrell Owens will try to start a new streak of consecutive games with a catch when Buffalo goes to Miami. TOâs record setting streak of 185 consecutive games with a catch was snapped on Sunday. Brett Favre will square off against the Green Bay Packers for the first time since leaving the team for retirement, before coming back and signing with the Jets, retiring, and then coming back again this year with the Vikings. Hopefully for the Vikings his muscle memory does not kick in when he sees a wide open green and gold clad Nick Barnett. That game is on Monday night and is expect to attract an enormous audience. If the Vikings lose, nobody in Minnesota or Wisconsin will be happy on Tuesday. I wonder what kind of questions the media will serve up to Aaron Rodgers all weekâŚ
Week 2 showed us once again that parity in the league is back in full force and that as many have begun to notice, perhaps home field advantage isnât all it was once cracked up to be. Cinci went into Green Bay and won, New Orleans beat Philly, the Cardinals beat up on Jacksonville and Oakland went into Arrowhead to beat the Chiefs. So many great games around the league, letâs start with the one that nearly moved me to tearsâŚ
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots went into the Meadowlands this weekend and looked to make it 9 in a row against an up and coming Jets team. Brady was pressured all day by Rex Ryanâs new defense led by Bart Scott, David Harris and a Darrelle Revis who is starting to get that Champ Bailey circa 2003 reputation, which is at once, exciting and a little worrisome. The Jets hadnât beaten the Patriots in Jersey since the Regan administration, so this was a huge win. I remember when I was like 20 and my 15 year old brother tackled me in some stupid game in the snow. My first thought was, âI think Iâve lacerated my spleen.â My second thought was, âhow has a child done this to me?â Thatâs what the Pats are feeling this week. Vegas had the over/under for Jets wins at 7 prior to the season. Iâm sort of wishing I had placed a bet right now. Wait, wait! I take it all back. The Jets are mediocre at best. UNJINX, UNJINX!
Last Minute Cutler
After a week of listening to Chicago sports radio personalities slow roast Jay Cutler over a fire, the new kid in town responded with a game winning drive against the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Gone were the errant throws that found their way into opposing hands as Cutler, Greg Olsen and Devin Hester did just enough to keep the score close. Steelers surefire kicker and offseason Wildman, Jeff Reed, missed two crucial field goals, and the Bears were able to eek out a major victory over the champs. Following a 1-1 opening, the Bears schedule really becomes favorable with upcoming games @ Seattle, vs Detroit, @ Atlanta, @ Cincinnati, and home again for Cleveland. Those are all winnable games and Cutler may arrive back in Chicago in November with a rare smile on his often pouty face. Things are looking up for the Bears.
Eli and Peyton were both able to secure wins as the Giants went into Cowboys‘ Xanadu and won late the Colts followed suit with a victory of their own in Miami. Itâs sort of silly really, when you think about it. What other family has taken over a profession as concretely as the Mannings have taken over NFL Quarterback? Sure, the Staab’s, are the kings of car batteries, but who is to say they are better than any other 12 volt expert in Idaho? The Mannings on the other hand, have dominated professional quarterbacking over multiple generations. It gets overhyped to the point of annoyance, but to have a NFL QB sire two NFL QBsâone of whom is a lock for the Hall of Fameâreads like some poorly conceived sitcom. Go Mannings! The NFL and everyone in Indy and the greater New York area is rooting for you to meet in the Super Bowl until one of you retires.
And Introducing Chris Johnson as…Predator
Attention League: Chris Johnson is very fast and extremely elusiveâŚ.Although Matt Schaub and the Houston attack led by Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels was able to overcome Chris Johnsonâs fantasy record dayâin our league he scored like 51 pointsâthe young back from ECU reminded everyone that while he may resemble Aaaanoldâs nemesis from the 1987 classic, he is not to be trifled with. Iâm not going to look up the numbers, because frankly itâs depressing, but he had something like 200 yards rushing and another 100 receiving to go along with 3 combined touchdowns. Johnson and the Titans head into Jersey to play the Jets this weekend, and I hope the Jets have seen the John McTeirnan motion picture recently, because as everyone knowsâŚâIf it bleeds, we can kill it,â which in NFL speak translates to, âPut Your Fastest Linebacker On This Guy At All Times.â
Ravens are Funny
Here are my top 3 moments concerning ravensâŚthis is the only Raven I knew when I was 13 (it’s better in Spanish), this is probably the greatest imitation of a raven captured on film and the video below is of an old bird performing the mating ritual of the Eastern Seaboard Raven. The best part is right around 2:45 if you want to skip ahead.
Other than that, I don’t know much about the Ravens besides the fact that they’re still the good old Cleveland Browns to me. I know a lot of people from Cleveland, and I bet they wish they could have the Ravens back home, wearing the brown and orange again. Anyways, the Ravens are soaring again, with that punishing defense led by Ray Lewis but more surprisingly, with an actual functioning offense directed by second year QB and former Delaware Dove, Eagle, or whatever arial creature–Blue Hen…excuse me Delawareans, Joe Flacco, the flock decended on San Diego and had their way with the Bolts. Flacco throws the deep ball like Carson Palmer used toâhopefully for Baltimore fans, his career will take a different pathâand scatback Ray Rice gives defenses pause about bringing a blitz.. The Ravens have a decent schedule coming up, facing stepbrother Cleveland and perennial underdog Cincinnati 4 times in the next 7 games, this team could easily be sitting pretty in the AFC North come Thanksgiving.
Pantsless Coach Looking Sharp
San Francisco coach and former Bears Hall of Fame Linebacker Mike Singletary is a serious man. So serious, that in order to illustrate different football motifs to his team, he feels it necessary to remove his pants during halftime speeches. And you know what? It’s working out there. The Niners havenât really been good since Steve Young left the field for the booth, but Singletary, running back Frank Gore, and a stout defense captained by the terrifying Patrick Willisâjust ask Brad Smithâbut this might be the start of something again. The NFC west is nothing special this year and there is no reason to believe the 49ers canât compete for the division.
Weâve got week 3 right around the corner. The baseball playoff races are finally starting to shape up. October is going to be a crazy month around here. Stay tuned.
Item of the week is any of these Gridiron Classics. Pick one up and look sharp on Sundayâs all season long.