We like to count in tens around here. It’s simple. It’s clean. It matches my IQ.
Besides, if we didn’t stop at 10, there’s a chance we’d never shut up.
So here are 10 takes for the coming weekend’s games. With four teams on byes (again), we’re not sure we could have come up with many more.
But we definitely would have tried.
1. Celebration rule continues to confound.
Usually, we focus
this look-ahead on specific games. Our first take
for Week Seven looks at a dynamic that can arise in any, some, or all
Confusion abounds regarding the rule that prevents
players from going to the ground when celebrating. Last week, NFL V.P.
of officiating Carl Johnson painted the rule as establishing a bright line,
with no room for interpretation or judging intent.
“The rule is
pretty clear and explicit,” Johnson told Rich Eisen during the “Official Review” segment on NFL Network, while defending the penalty called
against Cowboys tackle Marc Colombo when he fell to the ground after
bumping chests with tight end Jason Witten. “Going to the ground as
part of a celebration, it’s pretty black and white — it’s clear, we
don’t allow a player to go to the ground as part of a celebration,” Johnson said.
OK, good. Now we finally understand the rule.
Then, last weekend against the Cowboys, Vikings running back Adrian
Peterson scored a touchdown, fell to both knees, and held both arms in
the air — displaying the index and middle fingers of each hand.
flag was thrown.
So what gives? “We do not interfere when it
comes to communication with God,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via
e-mail earlier this week. “Going to the ground to pray is not a rules
Fine, but why didn’t Carl Johnson factor that into
his explanation premised on the idea that there’s no room for
interpretation or intent?
“Going to the ground and praying has
never been a violation,” Aiello said in a follow-up e-mail. “He may not have been asked about
that aspect of it last week because it wasn’t relevant. But that’s how
it’s been handled.”
Still, this requires the officials to determine intent. And though I
haven’t been exposed to many different religions, I’m aware of none in
which falling to the ground and extending dual peace signs constitutes
an act of devotion or worship.
Unless Peterson was praying to the ghost of Richard Nixon.
2. Shanahan gets his first crack at Cutler.
In January 2009, the Broncos fired coach Mike Shanahan. A couple of months later, new coach Josh McDaniels essentially fired quarterback Jay Cutler,
For several weeks, it was believed that Cutler would be traded to the Redskins, who then would have him in the fold if (when) Mike Shanahan became head coach. And all signs pointed to a Broncos-to-Redskins trade.
Until the Broncos abruptly traded Cutler to the Bears.
Presumably, the Broncos didn’t want to give the two men a chance to prove that the Broncos should have kept both of them. Now, Shanahan gets his chance to prove that it was the coach, not the quarterback, who made the offense so successful in Denver.
It’s the second time this year that Shanahan has faced a former protege. In September, the Redskins ultimately fell in overtime to Gary Kubiak’s Texans, after Kubiak used the Shanahan-devised time out trick to freeze kicker Graham Gano.
This time around, Shanahan will be returning to his hometown (along with Chicago native Donovan McNabb) in the hopes of showing that Cutler became a great quarterback only because he had access to a great coach.
3. Blue Moon over Lambeau.
In his last trip to Lambeau Field, receiver Randy Moss lit up the Packers in the only playoff meeting ever between Minnesota and Green Bay. Moss added indignity to injury by pretending to drop his pants and moon the crowd in the end zone bleachers.
The Vikings traded Moss to Oakland less than two months later, and he has yet to return to Lambeau in five seasons since. The first time he played there, Moss helped the Vikings destroy the two-time defending NFC champions in a Monday night game for the ages during a magical (but for the conference championship game) rookie season.
He’ll return with a quarterback who faced relentless boos last year in his first trip to Wisconsin with a helmet sport something other than a “G” on it.
Hopefully, Brett Favre won’t pretend to drop his pants.
4. Reid could be applying “100 percent rule” to Mike Vick.
The magical (but for the conference championship game) Minnesota season in 1998 included a quarterback quandary that coach Dennis Green handled perfectly (but for the conference championship game). After starter Brad Johnson broke a leg in Week Two and backup Randall Cunningham began to put together what could become one of the best and most underrated quarterback seasons of all time, Green said that Johnson would get his job back when Johnson returned to 100 percent.
And Johnson never returned to 100 percent.
Earlier this year, we suggested that Eagles coach Andy Reid should apply the “100 percent rule” to Kevin Kolb, which would have allowed the Eagles to ride the hot hand of Mike Vick until he cooled off, or until he suffered an injury. Reid opted instead to declare after an impressive performance from Vick against the Jaguars that Kolb was still the starter — and then to hand the job to Vick two days later.
With Vick now injured and Kolb playing as well if not better than Vick performed, it could be that Reid will hold Vick out until he returns to 100 percent, which won’t happen any time soon if Kolb continues to rack up passer rating numbers in excess of 100 points.
Regardless of semantics, the same reasoning that kept Vick on the field when he was one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league should keep Kolb, one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league, on the field now.
5. Cowboys will delay the inevitable for another week.
Few expect the Dallas Cowboys to fully dig out of their 1-4 hole. But when they face a division rival on Monday night against which the Cowboys are 1-4 since the 2007 postseason, the Cowboys will face a level of urgency they’ve never before seen.
In Week Three, we all saw a desperate Cowboys team that was capable of performing when cornered like a rabid raccoon. Now, after the bye week and a flat performance against the Titans and a narrow loss to the equally panicked Vikings, the Cowboys again find themselves in a game against a team that faces far less urgent circumstances.
Yes, the Giants have turned it around after their own 1-2 start. Yes, they have looked great at times in winning three in a row. But the Cowboys have too much talent and they need this one too badly.
Besides, with no team in the conference having fewer than two losses, the Cowboys remain very much alive. To stay there, they need to win this game worse than any regular-season game they’ve needed to win in years.
6. Chargers, Cowboys have common affliction.
In the Week Six Monday 10-pack, we explained that the fundamental problem in Dallas isn’t the coach, but the G.M.
A similar observation could be made about the Chargers.
Though the owner hasn’t hired himself to be the General Manager in San Diego, the G.M. in San Diego, like the owner in Dallas, doesn’t want a head coach who will try to tell the G.M. how to do his job.
As a result, A.J. Smith ran off Marty Schottenheimer after a wildly successful (but for the playoffs) season, and A.J. Smith hired a guy who, like Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, had been fired twice before and had no aspirations beyond simply being the coach of the team.
And that’s the problem with a coach who’s happy to be a coach. The absence of ambition loosely correlates to a lack of fire, which in turn contributes to a dearth of discipline in the locker room and on the field.
So to anyone who thinks the Cowboys and/or Chargers need a new head coach, you should aim one level higher.
7. Steelers could be the new bad boys of the NFL.
The new emphasis on hits applied to defenseless receivers generally will hurt defenses. And, therefore, it will hurt teams that win with defense.
It will hurt no team more than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers know it. That’s why coach Mike Tomlin and team president Art Rooney have publicly questioned the decision to fine linebacker James Harrison. Rooney wants the league to distinguish between flagrant and incidental hits, something the league apparently didn’t do when meting out punishment for a trio of brain-busters from Week Six.
It appears that the Steelers won’t be changing the way they play football. If that results in more hits that draw fines and/or suspensions, the Steelers’ defense quickly could develop a reputation for the kind of play that previously was confined only to receiver Hines Ward.
8. Jags inch closer to a house cleaning.
After losing by 25 at home to the Eagles (Jacksonville’s second 25-point loss of the season), Jags coach Jack Del Rio was one more blowout loss away from getting blown out of his job.
The team responded with a rousing win over the Colts, following by a somewhat convincing rout of an unconvincing Bills team.
But then the bottom dropped out again, before a national Monday night audience in a game against a division rival. A win would have established the Jags as a force to be reckoned with in the AFC South. A 27-point loss has re-confirmed that this up-and-down team is on track for another season of failed expectations and missed playoffs.
It likely will be enough to get Del Rio fired. An unlikely playoff run in 2007 got him a five-year extension with the kind of buyout that kept him insulated from termination after lackluster performances in 2008 and 2009.
As that extension moves toward its final year, Del Rio probably already is in his.
9. Browns return to the site of their “first” win.
When the Browns flew the coop to Baltimore and became the Ravens in 1996, the records from the franchise that left remained in Cleveland, waiting for the Browns to return in 1999.
So while the Browns officially had plenty of wins when the 1999 season began, the truth was that the new Browns were an expansion team that hadn’t won anything.
As expected, they weren’t very good. Fortunately for the Browns, the Saints at the time weren’t much better. So when the Browns went to New Orleans after starting the season with seven losses and zero victories, Cleveland stole the “W” with a Hail Mary throw from Tim Couch.
Eleven years later, the Saints are the defending Super Bowl champs, and the Browns have only one postseason appearance, and no playoff wins.
If the Browns could swipe another win in the Superdome on Sunday — especially with rookie Colt McCoy at the helm — it could provide the right kind of momentum for a team that desperately needs some.
10. Only one blackout this weekend.
When multiple games are blacked out, it’s big news. So when only one game won’t be televised in the market surrounding the stadium that isn’t sold out, it’s at least worth a mention.
This week, the Rams-Buccaneers game fell short of sellout, as have (and will) every Tampa home game this year, presumably even if they host the NFC title game.
Narrowly avoiding a similar fate were the Chargers, who are selling more tickets as the losses pile up, and the Panthers, who at 0-5 may have their best shot at a win this weekend.
The fact that the Raiders aren’t playing at home this weekend helped, too.