Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 6:
a. Gut feeling: It's more than just inflammation in Carson Palmer's elbow.
b. Eight days ago, Tony Sparano said to me, re: the Wildcat formation: "There's quite a bit more coming off it that we haven't shown yet. Stay tuned.'' We know what you mean, coach.
c. There are four or five folks in the national media -- and you know who you are -- who are having a nice breakfast of roasted crow this morning over the Wildcat. Those are the people who said the Wildcat is running its course, or there's not much more you can do with it. Right. Tell me what you thought of the reverse and Chad Pennington throwing the touchdown bomb to Cobbs.
d. What a de-helmeting by Ronde Barber.
e. And an even better de-helmeting of Baltimore safety Jim Leonhard by Mike Hart, the determined Indy rookie running back from Michigan.
f. You can't bury Jeff Garcia. You can only hope to contain him.
g. 1:33 p.m., with 2:43 left in the first quarter of Indy-Baltimore. "This game's over,'' Jerome Bettis announced when Indy took a 14-0 lead over the Ravens, and those of us in the viewing room on the fifth floor of the NBC building nodded in agreement.
h. It's been a long time -- maybe back to Danny Wuerffel -- since I've been as wrong on a player as I was about Michael Turner. He's a much, much better runner in traffic than I thought, a bull to bring down.
i. Cable guy really made a difference.
2. I think if I were Jerry Jones, I'd be burning up the phone lines today, with the trading deadline Tuesday afternoon, but not for a receiver. For a cornerback. Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman is out for a month at least after groin surgery (how can groin surgery incapacitate an NFL cornerback for only a month?), and I believe Adam Jones is going to go away from a week or two because of his public brawl with a bodyguard last Tuesday. It sounds totally illogical, but I bet Jerry Jones calls the Eagles and tries to pry Lito Sheppard away.
3. I think there's a reason UConn is not the cradle of quarterbacks, and Dan Orlovsky of the Lions illustrated it Sunday against the Vikes in one of the most idiotic single plays I've ever seen in 25 seasons covering the NFL.
The setup: Minnesota and Detroit were scoreless late in the first quarter, and the Lions had the ball, third-and-10 from their one. Backup quarterback Orlovsky, the former Husky, lined up in the shotgun, maybe five yards deep in the end zone, then rambled right and back when he got the ball. And with no pressure, he simply began to run on the white stripe, with no knowledge why the official back there was blowing his whistle and calling the play dead.
How can you be a quarterback, starting from your own end zone, and not know that if you fade back and run to the right you've got to be sure you don't step on the white line? Alarmingly foolish, the kind of anti-basic-instinct play that makes you wonder whether the guy has any chance to be a professional quarterback.
4. I think the trading deadline day will be quiet, judging by the GMs I spoke with over the weekend. "There's no buzz out there,'' one told me Sunday. "There's a bunch of trades that should happen but won't.'' Like what? "The Raiders should trade [cornerback] Nnamdi Asomugha. What's Al Davis going to do with him again next year when they can't reach a contract deal? Franchise him again? Corners are so valuable, and he's a good one. He ought to see what he can get for him.''
Amazing thing about Asomugha: He's playing for the cornerback franchise tag of $9.765 million this year. If the Raiders franchise him again next year, his salary would rise to 120 percent of that, based on the rule that a player franchised for the second straight year makes 120 percent of his previous year's pay. That would put Asomugha's salary in Peyton Manning-land: $11.7 million for the 2009 season. Would Davis really want to pay that?
Well, the advantage to Oakland would be that there would be no signing bonus or other money due 'till Week 1 of the 2009 season. So the contract wouldn't be as onerous as you'd think with no bonuses on the front side of the deal. And if there's one thing the Raiders would like to avoid in 2009, it's big bonuses ... seeing that they paid eight players a total of $96.4 million in guaranteed money this offseason.
5. I think there's a 50-50 chance Tony Gonzalez goes to the Giants, Bills or Packers. I think there's a 5-95 chance Roy Williams leaves Detroit.
6. I think that was a terrible call by the Vikings -- offensively inept all day, scoring a touchdown to make it 10-8 with 20 minutes to go and kicking the extra point to make it 10-9. I don't care that they ended up kicking a late field goal to win. The difference between being down one or two entering the fourth quarter is negligible compared to the chance of tying the score or being down by two entering the fourth quarter.
7. I think this is what I liked about Week 6:
a. In the span of one week -- Monday night against Minnesota, Sunday against Oakland -- Reggie Bush has changed my opinion of him about as much as a player can. Not that he's the near-every-down back the Saints had hoped he'd be 2.5 years ago on draft day, but he's been the biggest difference-maker for the Saints in two straight games.
b. Indy's kickoff coverage made enough plays Sunday to last a season.
c. Vincent Jackson's a smart receiver. You see how he sort of baited rookie cornerback Terrence Wheatley on the deep throw up the seam for San Diego?
d. Offensive mayhem? What offensive mayhem? Wes Welker's on pace to catch 115 balls.
e. The Green Bay running game didn't look pretty in Seattle, but the key in a grinder of a game like that is keepaway, and 39 carries may have netted only 113 yards, but the running did win the time of possession battle, 37 minutes to 23.
f. Aaron Kampman defines the phrase "great motor.''
g. Correll Buckhalter's repaying the faith of Andy Reid. I thought Lorenzo Booker would be getting the bulk of the non-Westbrook carries this year, but not so. Buckhalter had 18 of them, for an efficient 93 yards, against San Francisco.
h. Stewart Bradley, the invisible Philly middle linebacker, is among the five underrated really good players in the NFL.
i. Great call, Kyle Shanahan, on the quarterback draw to beat the Dolphins. For a 28-year-old rookie play-caller, that one showed some guts.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 6:
a. Gaines Adams needs to learn that when a ball is coming to him in coverage, and there's nothing between him and the ball, and it hits him right in the shoulder pads ... well, those are points you can't get back.
b. At some point, JaMarcus Russell has to go from young quarterback making his way in this league to an efficient NFL quarterback. He played an "F'' game at New Orleans, and I'd grade him lower if I could. His judgment on medium and deep throws was as bad as his accuracy. His tools are tremendous, obviously, but the disconnect between his ability and actual play is too much. In his last four games, he's completed 35, 47, 60 and 37 percent of his throws, which might be good enough when all of your players are better than the other team's, but doesn't give your team much of a prayer in the National Football League.
c. I know I'm not there in that locker room, and I know LaDainian Tomlinson is still a fabulous player, but I don't understand after what we've seen from Darren Sproles, how the Chargers can call a game and put the ball in his hands three times from scrimmage, as they did against New England last night.
d. Uh, Jets? Don't go patting yourselves on the back too hard after that, ahem, uneven performance against the Bengals.
e. Can you believe the Dallas Cowboys, right now, are arguably the worst team in the NFC East?
f. There's something about Matt Cassel, and I found myself searching for the right trait watching him in San Diego. A knack for knowing where to throw, when to leave the pocket, when to dump it off, when to take a chance deep with Randy Moss ... he just lacks the kind of instinct, I think, that comes from not playing the game for nine years. What a tribute to Tom Brady that the Patriots won as much as they did. That's not a dominant team. It might yet be a winning team and a playoff team, but dominating? I don't see that happening 'til 2009.
9. I think this is what Jason Elam thinks about when he's going through a bad patch, or has a shank: Tiger Woods. He told me so last night. "When Tiger Woods hits a bad shot, and he's in the rough, you think, 'That hole's lost,''' Elam said. "But Tiger ends up making birdie. Why? Because he's so mentally tough. He forgets one shot and goes on to the next one.'' Elam missed the 33-yarder in the fourth quarter and drilled the 48-yarder to win.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Joe Maddon. Spencer Tracy.
b. Play baseball, Manny.
c. Three of the six Red Sox playoff games have lasted until 1:25 a.m. or later. I agree with Bob Costas: These games, even the ones that don't go into extras, are just too long. Captivatingly long, but too long. The umps need to tell the pitchers, particularly with bases empty, to adhere to the quicker pace they've been told to keep.
d. Coffeenerdness: You're a coffee store, Starbucks, not a deli. The sandwich-related delays are maddening.
e. It was an honor to be in Wampum, Pa., Saturday for the memorial service of Army Sgt. Allan Bevington, the western Pennsylvania native who died in Sgt. Mike McGuire's platoon in Ramadi, Iraq, on Sept 21, 2006. What was so touching was the men in the platoon -- many of them civilians now -- who came back for the service, which coincided with the dedication of a boat launch on the late sergeant's beloved Beaver River, where he and his two brothers fished growing up.
Nine of the men returned for the service, coming from as far away as Germany, and also from Chicago, Evansville, St. Louis, Miami, Boise, Phoenix and Lubbock, Texas. "We had to come,'' said McGuire, who got choked up giving one of the eulogies for one of the men in his charge. "I think about him every day. I'll never stop thinking about him. We became brothers, all of us. More than brothers. I'll have a piece of him with me every day for the rest of my life.''
Whatever you're feeling about the wars we're in, we should all be so lucky to have friends and family as loyal and loving and caring as the platoon McGuire nurtured in Iraq.
f. I was so happy that McGuire got to see the first win of his beloved Rams at FedEx Field. Watching from NBC Sunday, I knew there was some good reason why St. Louis played an inspired game.
g. Stay safe on your remaining half-year in Iraq, Mike.
h. Weird chemistry on The Office. We need Pam back.
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
New York Giants 24, Cleveland Browns 16. I don't have time to explain this pick, and I don't have time to call my boss to tell him why. I've got to take my 2-year-old Golden Retriever to obedience school. I'm not sorry either. I would make the same decision again.