Week 11 of the 2010 NFL season featured plenty of great games and exciting finishes. It also featured the annual Florio family pre-Thanksgiving visit to New York. Which means that staying up until 3:00 a.m. ET or thereabouts to hammer out the 10-pack before turning in was frowned upon in the luxury suite at the Motel 6.
So we’ll repeat the routine from last week. The first five go up before the train rolls back to reality.
The second five will be posted long before you begin the pre-lunch clock watch.
But, please, feel free to add a comment saying, “Hey, there are only five.”
UPDATE: All 10 are now posted. You may commence your unproductive workplace time.
1. Vince Young is just another Titan.
Tennessee quarterback Vince Young encountered adversity on Sunday, for the first time since Week One of the 2008 season. Like Week One of the 2008 season, Young couldn’t deal with said adversity.
Should it surprise anyone that the supposed leader of a team that is so inherently undisciplined would behave with so little discipline? All year long, the Titans have committed personal fouls and drawn thousands and thousands of dollars in fines. A high-level source with a team other than the Titans referred to the players after Sunday’s game as a “pack of scumbags.”
The Titans have no veteran leadership, and their supposed leader still behaves like a rookie. Though coach Jeff Fisher draws praises as a “player’s coach,” he seems to spend more time making excuses and/or ignoring bad behavior than holding players accountable.
That said, Fisher will be holding Young accountable, due in large part to the fact that Fisher seemingly decided way back in Week One of the 2008 season that Young can’t be trusted. Only after owner Bud Adams essentially forced Fisher to bench Kerry Collins and re-embrace Young following a disastrous 0-6 start last year did Fisher give Young another chance, and Young re-earned his starting job by sparking a turnaround that nearly resulted in a playoff berth.
This time around, either Fisher or Young will be gone. Maybe, in the end, it’ll be both.
2. Randy Moss is M.I.A.
Three weeks ago, Randy Moss was fired for the second time this season, dumped by Vikings coach Brad Childress in the same way that Titans coach Jeff Fisher could soon be dumping Vince Young. Tennesseans were tickled pink by their team’s decision to land Moss on waivers, and many believed that the addition of the game-breaking receiver would quickly push a 5-3 record to 10-3, or better.
And in two games with the Titans, Moss has caught only one pass.
Sure, the Titans have had a revolving door at quarterback, with Kerry Collins and Young and Rusty Smith throwing passes. But the old Randy Moss would catch plenty of passes no matter who was throwing them. All the quarterback had to do was take a five-step drop and fire it deep.
The new Randy Moss simply isn’t the same player, and the Patriots suddenly look like geniuses for getting rid of him when they did.
Since pulling the trigger on the trade, the Pats have won five and lost won. Moss’ teams, in contrast, are 1-5.
And yet Pats coach Bill Belichick was crazy for sending him to the Vikings for a third-round pick.
3. Jags aren’t ready for prime time.
If the season ended today (a meaningless phrase that gets repeated countless times in November and December), the Jacksonville Jaguars would be the champions of the AFC South. It marks a dramatic swing; earlier this year, the other three teams in the division were jockeying for the lead, with the Jags left in the dust.
But the Jaguars have managed to scratch and claw and claw and scratch their way to a 6-4 record. An unexpected 31-28 win over the Colts, which came after the Jags had lost back-to-back games by 25 points each, gives Jacksonville, for now, the tiebreaker over Indy.
Don’t expect it to last.
The Colts play four of their final six games in the friendly (for them) confines of Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts will host the Jaguars. The Colts also have two games against the suddenly imploding Titans, while the Jaguars travel to face the Giants, one of four remaining road games for a team that suddenly has a real home-field advantage.
In pointing this out, we’re not rooting against the Jaguars. We’re just making an observation that, although the team has rebounded from records of 1-2 and 3-4, it will be a tall order to hold off the Colts for the division crown.
Especially if quarterback David Garrard continues to twist the tail of Colts quarterback Peyton, Twitter style.
If Jacksonville somehow pulls it off, it will be one of the most impressive feats the franchise ever has achieved — and it could cement the future of both coach Jack Del Rio and the franchise in their current cities.
4. Gano must go.
Lost in the brouhaha sparked by Titans quarterback Vince Young, who reportedly threw his shoulder pads into the stands en route to a locker-room meltdown after Tennessee’s overtime loss to the Redskins is the reality that the game never should have gone to overtime.
Late in regulation, the ‘Skins had a chance to pull off the win, if kicker Graham Gano could convert a 47-yard field goal.
Gano didn’t send the ball sailing wide a la Scott Norwood 20 years ago. Gano’s kick was straight and high and true.
From 47 yards.
Once upon a time, when kickers used their toes and not their insteps to spray footballs in the general direction of the goalposts, a 47-yard field goal wasn’t automatic. Today, anything shorter than 50, while not considered a chip shot, is regarded as something that falls easily within an NFL kicker’s range.
Though Gano redeemed himself by converting from 48 to win the game, it never should have gotten to that point. NFL kickers should always have the leg from 47, except when they shank the ball.
Gano’s kick wasn’t a shank. Given that he plays a position where the supply greatly outweighs the demand, the Redskins should be considering the available alternatives.
And they should bring in several and have them all kick field goals from 47 yards out.
5. Saints have to be wondering about Reggie.
Last year, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell made the Saints’ rushing attack go, which helped to open up a deadly passing game. This year, the Saints have had the benefit of none of these players for most of the season.
Bell walked away via free agency, but Thomas and Bush have been missing for an extended stretch due to injury. For weeks, the Saints have been frustrated by the absence of Thomas, who last played in Week Three, due to an ankle injury. The Saints have taken a much more understanding approach as to Bush, who suffered nine weeks ago today a fractured fibula that was supposed to knock him out for four-to-six weeks.
On Sunday, Bush widely was expected to play. In the day before the game, indications emerged that perhaps he wouldn’t. Still, it was a surprise that Bush (who supposedly looked great in warm-ups) decided that he didn’t feel sufficiently great to play.
The Saints remain deferential to their $8 million man. Surely, however, the powers-that-be have to be wondering whether Bush is being too hesitant. Though the team has looked better and better as its record has moved to 7-3, they must play postseason games at home, not on the road. As the top of the NFC separates from the pack, the Saints will need Bush in order to overcome the likes of the Falcons, Packers, Eagles, Buccaneers, and Bears.
Indeed, if the Saints can’t find a way to overcome the one-game lead that Atlanta holds in the AFC South, New Orleans would have to get back to the Super Bowl not via a pair of black-and-gold parties in the Superdome, but by winning a trio of January road games, possibly in places like Lambeau Field.
6. Bengals bungle another one.
In most weeks, the Bengals play well only after they’ve fallen behind by two or more scores. This week, the Bengals built a three-score lead.
And then they collapsed.
In the end, the historic swing (the Bills were the first team trailing by 21 or more to ultimately win by 18 or more) becomes the latest glaring failure of the Cincinnati Bengals, who are now 2-8 and who could ride their collapse all the way to 2-14.
Though owner Mike Brown seems to be more interested in making money than winning championships, the fact that Sunday’s game marked the first non-sellout in seven years will get his attention. It’s now a foregone that coach Marvin Lewis, whose contract expires after the season, won’t be back. The bigger question is whether quarterback Carson Palmer and other key players on this suddenly underachieving team will return, and whether they’ll want to.
7. A team with a losing record could win the Super Bowl.
As Rosenthal pointed out last night, the NFC West had a rough day in Week 11, with all four teams losing. Outscored 120-49, the quartet of teams is now led by the 5-5 Seahawks, who have lost three of their last four games by the combined score of 108-29.
With six games to go, it’s not too early to consider the possibility that the champion of the NFC none-of-the-above will be 7-9. Regardless of record, that team will host in the first round of the playoffs the best second-place team in the NFC.
Two years ago, there was an outcry when the 9-7 Cardinals won the division. The criticism seemed to fuel their unlikely run to the Super Bowl.
This year, could a 7-9 Seahawks or Rams or 49ers or Cardinals team assume a similar us-against-the-universe posture and not just get to the Super Bowl but win it.
It’s a laughable proposition for now. We may not be laughing come February.
8. Steelers stop the bleeding.
As of Friday, it appeared that the Steelers would have their hands full with the Raiders. Rested and generally healthy (but for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha), the Raiders had won three straight and four of five. The Steelers had looked sluggish and overmatched against the Patriots, thanks to apparent consequences of the now-annual rash of injuries.
A year after a 6-2 start for the Steelers melted into a 6-7 nightmare, the 2008 NFL champs seemed to be heading in the same direction.
The Steelers rediscovered their pass rush and they bought enough time on offense for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to have his biggest day since returning from a four-game suspension.
So what’s the difference between last year and this year? For starters, the rash of injuries this time around doesn’t include All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Also, the guys who are replacing the injured Steelers are getting it down, without coach Mike Tomlin having to resort to gimmicks like vowing to “unleash hell.”
If the Steelers can continue to overcome their injuries and play like they did on Sunday, perhaps instead of just promising to unleash hell this year, they’ll actually accomplish it.
9. The lost art of sliding.
Last year, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez suffered a knee injury because he opted not to slide after being forced into a run against the Bills. Earlier this month, Eagles quarterback Mike Vick said that he doesn’t slide, he can’t slide, and he won’t try to learn how to slide.
Last night, Giants quarterback Eli Manning saw an opening in the middle of the field at a time when no receivers were open, so he ran for a key first down while the Giants were trailing by seven points late. To cap the effort, Eli didn’t fall on the ground so much as clumsily pounce on it, and when he landed and rolled untouched, the ball came out.
Last time we checked, NFL quarterbacks were elite athletes. And even the most un-elite athletes know how to drop to one leg and slide across grass, real or fake.
Whether the result is an injury or a turnover, the notion that a quarterback can’t or won’t protect himself or the ball by doing something that 95 percent of the audience at home can do is more sad than funny, and it justifies a serious effort by every NFL team to make sure that their quarterbacks know how and when to do something far easier than throwing a 20-yard out.
10. Musical chairs in the NFC.
Not long ago, the AFC boasted more playoff-caliber teams than playoff berths. With a seat at the table guaranteed for the AFC West champion, eight quality (at the time) teams would be jockeying for five spots.
Now, with several of the supposedly good AFC teams fading (Dolphins, Texans, Titans), the picture is getting more clear.
In the NFC, the converse is now true. With the NFC West champ sure to sew up the fourth seed, the other five spots will be divvied up among seven teams with four or fewer losses. Six teams in the NFC East, North, and South have lost three or fewer times.
It means that, of the 7-3 Eagles, 6-4 Giants, 7-3 Packers, Bears, Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers, two aren’t getting in.
It also means that, even if the Cowboys run the table, it’ll be highly unlikely for 9-7 to get them into the wild-card round.
Unless they can swing a transfer to the NFC West.