Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 8:
a. The Lions' seven-year streak without a home blackout ended Sunday. Don't blame the economy. Blame the smell emanating from Ford Field.
b. "This'll probably be your last time in Texas Stadium,'' press box neighbor Jarrett Bell of USA Today said to me just before kickoff Sunday. Said I: "I am not emotional.''
c. I don't know. Texas Stadium's a nice-enough venue. Never got too emotional about it, not like RFK or the Vet. I've seen too many dead crowds in there, although the place was lively Sunday.
d. If Brooks Bollinger doesn't get into the game against the Giants next week, I'll be surprised. Brad Johnson's trying like heck, but he doesn't have much left.
e. The legend of Matt Ryan grows. How'd he thread the needle past Asante Samuel for that 55-yard TD throw to Roddy White?
f. I know you love Clinton Portis, Jim Zorn. And you should. But that little tete-a-tete on the sidelines in Detroit with Mr. Portis should tell you that you're dealing with what Tom Coughlin has dealt with over the last three years with Plaxico Burress. High-maintenance guys. But great players. You've got to make peace and move on.
g. Who's thinner, Jimmy Johnson or Jennifer Aniston?
h. Europe finally saw some offense. 2008: 69 points in London. 2007: 23 points in London by the Giants and Miami.
i. Condoleezza Rice as a long-shot for San Francisco's front office, perhaps? Nice story, Adam Schefter.
j. Excellent overturning of the Eric Weddle interception call by Tony Corrente in London.
k. "We have another season, an eight-game season, coming up,'' Norv Turner said after the 37-32 loss to the Saints. If it's another 3-5 half-season -- which it won't be -- Norv Turner might not be making many more pronouncements with San Diego garb on.
2. I think I'd be surprised if the Baltimore Ravens did not have some sort of bounty -- financial or otherwise -- or at least some quiet pact, to try to knock Hines Ward onto the Pittsburgh sideline when they meet Dec. 14 in Baltimore. And though Terrell Suggs has sanitized his initial statements on bounties with a statement issued through the team's PR staff (the most carefully sculpted, crafted words that Suggs has ever been assisted in feeling, if you know what I mean), it's probably better to listen to the man who was Suggs' head coach with the Ravens until this year.
Writing on his WNST.net "Brian Billick's Blog'' in Baltimore, Billick opined: "So-called 'bounties' by players [are] a commonplace occurrence in any locker room and similar to the bravado displayed on most schoolyards. Players are constantly motivating each other by putting a certain amount of money in a pool and the cash going to the player that 'knocks' so-and-so out of a game, or gets an interception for a TD, or pancakes a defender on a running play. This is standard operating procedure in virtually every locker room in the NFL ... What is worth commenting on is how stupid it is to talk about it afterward. Locker room talk should be just that.''
3. I think San Diego will win the AFC West.
4. I think Ronde Barber may have 33 career interceptions, but his 34th, if made, would have been the most memorable one of his career. Barber was at Tropicana Field for Game 1 of the World Series the other night, sitting in row two, just beyond the first-base dugout. In the fifth inning, B.J. Upton hit a high foul pop near the stands, and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard chased it. As the ball fell, Howard leaned into the stands and plucked it out of the air -- with Barber sitting there watching, his wife clinging to his shoulders with a fearful look on her face. Barber showed off the photo of Howard's catch, with him clearly visible, Saturday, and I asked him where the ball would have landed if Howard hadn't caught it. "Right at my feet,'' he said. He said Howard glowered at the crowd after making the catch. He'd have glowered a lot more if Barber had battled him for it.
5. I think I'm not convinced that staph infections are any more prevalent in football locker rooms than they are in the general public. But I do believe the NFL would be smart to hold another seminar for trainers and team physicians at the Scouting Combine -- the only place where all team medics gather in one place for several days every year -- in February. The NFL needs to allay the fears of so many of its players about how much is being done to fight staph.
But let's look at the numbers. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 12 million Americans get medical help for staph infections annually, which, in a population of 305 million, is about 4 percent of the population. In a league of approximately 2,080 players (I estimate 53 active players plus eight practice-squad players plus four on IR or PUP per team, which is conservative), that would mean the average in line with America's staph occurrence would be 83 players annually.
The league won't release the numbers of staph-infected players, so we can't know for sure if it's fewer or more than 83. But look at it this way: If I told you there were 83 documented cases of staph in the NFL in 2007 (2008, obviously, is not over), you'd say, "That's an epidemic.'' But no more an epidemic than elsewhere in the United States. And I'd be very surprised if there were 83 cases of staph among players in 2007, as would most NFL players and executives; that would be 2.6 cases per team, which seems high.
I asked Indy GM Bill Polian, who has become well-educated about staph because of the Peyton Manning case, if he felt staph was running rampant in the league. "Absolutely not,'' he said. In Manning's case, by the way, the staph infection developed in the fluid that accumulated in the bursa sac that eventually had to be removed because of the infection.
6. I think -- and I said this all week -- that there are so many reasons why Kellen Winslow is probably not long for Cleveland, but there is one overriding one: money. The staph-mania is a legitimate story, and the Browns have to continue their vigilance to make sure the infections don't continue to be any more of a problem in Cleveland than they are for any other franchise. But the biggest source of tension Winslow has with the team is that he's had two very good years and two years when a knee injury kept him off the field.
7. I think this is what I liked about Week 8:
a. Leon Washington is a difference-maker who can't get the ball too much for the Jets. I'd love to see them throw the ball to him more in the flat, in space, to see what he can do.
b. Who's better on play-action than Chad Pennington? You've got to see how he froze the Buffalo front on a first-half touchdown throw.
c. Rudi Johnson lives, evidently.
d. Lance Moore might turn out better than Wayne Chrebet, which would be a tremendous feat. He's a pesky little mite, with great hands.
e. Anyone notice Tony Sparano has piloted wins over the two 5-2 teams atop his division. You have to admit if you like the Dolphins, the prospect of first-half wins over Buffalo, New England and San Diego were not on your preseason radar screen.
f. Adalius Thomas looks like more a leader on the New England defense. He had stereo 13-yard sacks of Marc Bulger Sunday.
g. Speaking of stereo sackers, the Bucs' Gaines Adams had a pair in Dallas. Monte Kiffin's got himself the next Simeon Rice on that defensive front.
h. About time the Seahawks had some good fortune.
i. Andre Johnson had a 41-catch, 593-yard October for Houston. That would translate to 164 catches and 2,372 receiving yards for a full season. This just in: You've got to mention Johnson with Randy Moss (who had his 800th catch Sunday) and Larry Fitzgerald among the elite wideouts.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 8:
a. Brad Johnson looks awful, just awful. On consecutive throws in the second quarter against the Bucs, he threw balls right through the hands of Buc defenders. Lucky he wasn't picked on either of them.
b. Moose! Moose! Not like you, uncovered or covered (and you were as wide open as a receiver could be against the Cards, mid-second quarter) to drop a pass standing alone in the end zone.
c. Roy Williams has four inches on you, Phillip Buchanon, and with six seconds left in the first half and the Cowboys having time for one quick play, don't you figure they're going to throw a jump ball to Williams or Terrell Owens? You weren't ready.
d. I wonder how many Bengals are playing not to get hurt.
e. Can the Chargers start showing up on defense, please?
f. Favre has to realize the line between 9-7 and 6-10 is a very fine one in New York. As much enmity as he feels toward the Packers, the one thing he needs to remember is Mike McCarthy's ever-present emphasis on cutting down the risky throws. Favre's picks almost killed the Jets Sunday.
9. I think I've got this piece of old business from the Favre-Matt Millen-Packers love triangle broken last week by Jay Glazer on FOX: Millen told Favre last week that Detroit defensive coordinator Joe Barry was the source for the story that Favre discussed Packer offensive stuff with Millen. Barry has declined to comment on the story. I have tried to reach Millen, without success.
I did speak to Favre last week. He is steadfast that he gave the Lions nothing of substance, including the kind of code words a quarterback would say at the line that would indicate an audible or specific change of play, and is adamant that what FOX called "a 90-minute dissertation on every single thing that the Green Bay Packers do on offense'' never happened. Without Millen's side of the story, I can't substantiate that one way or the other.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Guess I was wrong about the Rays. That's the thing about a short series. You get a couple of guys in a slump (Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria) and it's all over before they can get out of it.
b. Kudos to Arizona president Michael Bidwill, who, along with 33 other volunteer pilots, oversaw a humanitarian effort to fly supplies to an area in Mexico devastated by Hurricane Norbert. Bidwill also belongs to the Flying Samaritans, which helps operate free medical clinics in Mexico. On the trip to Mexico, the pilots flew shoes, clothes, diapers, baby formula, utensils and other basics to a town overrun by nine inches of rain in an hour, knocking out basic services and ruining most homes.
c. Coffeenerdness: No press box beats Seattle for coffee, because there's an espresso cart right outside the press box. But the Cowboys have improved markedly in the coffee department. Real Starbucks brewed house blend, plus real half-and-half, not the fake stuff.
d. There are about 10 movies I want to see. Recommendations?
e. Great to be on the road again. Good to be able to talk to players face to face and, in this case, great to take a tour of the new Cowboys stadium. More about that tomorrow.
f. Godspeed, Mike McGuire. Hope the next seven months pass incident-free, and I hope your Rams can keep playing the kind of football you saw in Washington 15 days ago.
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Tennessee 23, Indianapolis 13. Colts GM Bill Polian told me the other day he never pays much attention to things like the division pennant races until Thanksgiving. Well, it might be too late for the Colts if that's the first time he checks the standings. That's how big a game this is for the Colts' hopes of continuing their five-year streak of division titles. Check out the AFC South standings, with significant tiebreaker info:
A Titans' win tonight would mean Indianapolis would have to go 8-1 and Tennessee 3-6, for example, for the Colts to win the AFC South. That's why the Colts need to win this one to have a prayer of keeping their division streak intact.