It’s Friday. More football is coming on Sunday. So we fill some space for now with 10 takes regarding the story lines for the weekend that will be.
Of course, you likely know that by now.
So we’ll shut up and let you read the thing.
1. Cowboys shouldn’t worry about last year.
Last year, with the Vikings leading the Cowboys 27-3 in the final
moments of a division-round playoff game, Minnesota threw for the end
zone — and scored another touchdown.
Linebacker Keith Brooking didn’t like it.
“I thought it was classless,” Brooking said at the time. “I thought it
was B.S. Granted, we get paid to stop them, but we had zero timeouts
left. I didn’t think there was any call for that.”
Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams took the bait: “It’s the
playoffs. It ain’t no regular-season game. If you lose, you go home.
We take no pity on them. Do they expect us to? I don’t care about no
Brooking. He can say whatever he wants to say.”
Now that the two teams are preparing to meet again, the controversy has
been resurrected. “People can do whatever they want,” Cowboys coach
Wade Phillips said earlier this week. “That’s what they chose to do.
It’s not what I would’ve done.”
Fine, but the Cowboys have bigger issues than worrying about settling
scores regarding Minnesota’s running up of the score. Dallas is 1-3,
and if they’re concerned about anything other than moving to 2-3,
they’re concerned about the wrong things.
2. Brett should sit out on Sunday.
We made our views clear earlier this week — the Vikings need to get
quarterback Brett Favre off the field. The fact that his availability
to play is expected to be the subject of a game-time decision suggests
that maybe the Vikings are planning to do just that.
Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio supposedly took exception to this position.
(At least he called me reasonable, while essentially calling me crazy.)
But Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson agrees with us wholeheartedly.
“The biggest thing for me is who gives your team the best chance to win,
at any position? I think a lot of people are surprised this season to
see quarterbacks shuffled in and out,” Woodson said. “But if Favre is
playing poorly and not giving the team a chance to win, then why play
him? Even if it is Favre. Looking at [Tarvaris] Jackson, if he plays,
he’s 100 percent healthy and is making more plays with his feet,
obviously. We know the offensive line had some issues with keeping pass
rushers off of Favre.
“I think Jackson gives them a better chance, right now, to win games.
That’s what they need. They need to win the game. If they don’t win this
game, they’re 1-4, and their chances of making the playoffs are next to
none.” (More on that point later in the 10-pack.)
Let’s see. Talking head who never played pro football and only spends
part of his time gathering information and developing opinions about the NFL on one hand, member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team on the
other. Yeah, we prefer to have Rod in our corner on this one.
Some of you have disagreed because you believe that Tarvaris Jackson
can’t get it done. Granted, at times he has been, well, not good. But Jackson also has had his moments, including a four-touchdown
performance (with a 135.5 passer rating) at Arizona in 2008, less than
two months before the Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. And Jackson
never had Randy Moss or Percy Harvin. This time, Jackson would have
In 1998, all it took was a five-step drop and a deep ball to be a great
quarterback with Moss on the field. Jackson can do that, at this point
arguably even better than Favre.
3. Seahawks need to show they can win on the road.
The Seattle Seahawks have lost 13 straight road games against teams from
divisions other than the NFC Worst. If they want to win the NFC Worst,
they need to end that streak at some point this year.
Actually, they don’t. They could probably win all of their home games
(the Seahawks are 2-0 so far in Qwest Field) and win one or two on the
road in the division and still win the thing.
But until they can win on the road against a team from a division other
than the NFC Worst, the Seahawks can’t be regarded as a team that would
be able to make noise in the postseason.
4. Chiefs need to quit the fancy stuff.
The Kansas City Chiefs went into Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday with
nothing to lose. No one expected them to be 3-0. Even fewer (if that’s
even possible) expected them to beat the Colts.
But having nothing to lose doesn’t require a nothing-to-lose mentality.
An onside kick to start the game followed by passing on a chip-shot
field goal when trailing only by three reflects the kind of strategy
employed by a team that doesn’t expect to win.
The Chiefs should have instead stuck with a meat-and-potatoes approach
against the Colts. They need to learn from that this weekend, when they
enter Reliant Stadium with nothing to lose.
5. Will someone please dominate?
Parity in the NFL translates to more teams alive for the playoffs deeper
into the regular season. Which means more tickets sold at more
stadiums. Which also means higher ratings points for televised games. Which also means more people checking into NFL news and information on
websites that cover the sport. Which is pretty, pretty good.
But it’s nice to see dominance once in a while. This year, it’s a rare
commodity. In fact, only three of 76 games have been decided by 30 or more
The biggest blowout has come from the Lions, who made their third win
since the end of the 2007 season a 38-point victory over the Rams. And
one of the teams that made it to the Super Bowl in 2008, the year in
which the Lions didn’t win a single game, has suffered the other two
30-plus-point losses. The Cardinals lost 41-7 to the Falcons in Week
Two, and they fell 41-10 to the Chargers in Week Four — only seven days
before somehow beating the Super Bowl XLIV champions.
So, yes, it’s a crazy, upside-down season. We think we like it. But
we’d love to see someone/anyone step up and demonstrate a little
excellence via dominance.
6. Ravens face another big road test.
The Ravens have built their 4-1 record the hard way — by beating the
Jets in New York and the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Baltimore gets a
chance to complete the tough-road-win Trifecta on Sunday, with a visit to New England.
Considering that the Jets and the Steelers have only one loss, the
Ravens’ accomplishment is impressive, regardless of whether they win or
lose on Sunday against the Patriots.
If the Ravens can pull this one off, maybe it’ll be time to consider them to be the best team in the NFL.
7. Bucs can further screw up the NFC.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have started 3-1, putting them a half-game
behind the Falcons and a half-game ahead of the Saints in the NFC South.
If the Bucs want to really turn the NFC upside down, they can beat the
Saints on Sunday, sending the defending Super Bowl champs, sending the
Saints to 3-3 on the year.
A win also would move Tampa to 4-1, putting them in the thick of things
in the NFC. It also would make the Bucs the fifth team since 1990 to
recover from an 0-5 start in one year to a 4-1 start or better the
next. The other four who did it (including the 1997 Buccaneers) made it
to the playoffs.
8. Look for Vick to play.
Eagles quarterback Mike Vick has yet to practice since suffering a
rib/chest injury 12 days ago. But he desperately wants to play against
the Falcons on Sunday, and the Eagles desperately need him.
With left tackle Jason Peters out for the game due to a knee injury and
replacement King Dunlap poised to be beaten repeatedly by Falcons
defensive end John Abrahan, the Eagles need Vick to play almost as
desperately as he wants to play.
Our guess? The Eagles will numb him up and trot him out and hope that he can beat his old team.
9. One-win teams have plenty of hope.
The loser of Sunday’s Cowboys-Vikings game will plunge to 1-4. And that
team likely will have a hard time making it to the postseason.
But not as hard as you may think. Since 1990, 11 teams bounced back
from three games under .500 more than five weeks into the season to make
it to the playoffs.
Of those, five were 1-4.
This year, two teams are 1-4 (Browns and Lions) and two are 1-3 (Cowboys
and Vikings). Thus, both the Cowboys and the Vikings will still have
hope after Sunday.
Not much hope for the loser, but hope nonetheless.
10. Jets are protecting the football incredibly well.
The New York Jets have turned the ball over only once through five games. It’s a feat that is an impressive as it is rare.
How rare? Since 1933, only four teams have committed only one turnover through five games.
The others four teams? The 1960 Browns, the 1998 Bengals, and the 2008
Redskins. Two of those three teams — the Browns and Redskins —
committed three turnovers in their next game. The other, the Bengals,
The strangest part of this record? The three prior teams to pull it off didn’t qualify for the postseason.
With the Jets at 4-1 and improving, it looks like they’ll be the team to break that trend.