Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 10:
a. Chad Pennington is a top 10 quarterback. Who'd have believed it? That 39-yard touchdown pass he threw to Ted Ginn Jr., in double-coverage against Seattle, was a thing of beauty.
b. Roger Goodell, in an Internet chat the other day, sounded more hopeful about an international franchise in our lifetimes than I'd heard before. "Our fans in the UK continue to support us and have an interest in seeing more NFL football,'' he said. "I believe it's realistic as the fan base grows that it's possible there could be a franchise in London someday.''
c. Doesn't Yamon Figurs sound like a Rastafarian?
d. Trent Edwards hasn't fallen to earth. He's crashed.
e. Had 40-year-old, frustrated-to-be-out-of-football Jeff George on the Sirius NFL Radio show last week. "I find it hard to believe there isn't a place in the game for me. My arm feels like I'm 25," he said. "I'm not asking to be a starter, I just want a spot on a team. I still hold out hope I can play in this league. I'm working out three or four days a week, staying ready. Some people might laugh about it. I've been hearing the excuse, 'You're too old,' but I look at guys now playing near 40, and if you can throw it like I can throw it ... Why wouldn't you take a look at me?''
I told him to call the iconoclast GMs, like A.J. Smith of San Diego, and ask to be seen. But George is treading dangerously close to Joe Theismann territory. Joltin' Joe thought well into his 40s that he still was throwing well enough to be on an NFL roster.
f. I continue to laugh at those who say the Wildcat formation has run its course. The Dolphins scored their seventh touchdown out of the frisky formation when Ricky Williams, one of three backs in a single-wing formation, took a handoff and ran 51 yards for a touchdown.
g. Free sack for Julius Peppers.
h. Remember when Jim Haslett was coaching's Next Big Thing? What was that, 16 days ago?
2. I think Cortland Finnegan is as chippy a player on defense as Hines Ward is on offense. I said chippy, not dirty. They're not dirty players. They're edgy, physical players.
3. I think there are a few quarterbacks in the NFC East -- starting with Tony Romo next Sunday -- who will be trying to rake DeAngelo Hall over the coals in the last seven weeks of the season. Hall signed with Washington on Friday, after his bizarre release from the Raiders, who paid Hall $8 million to play all of eight games.
Stats Inc. came up with this illuminating stat about Hall's horrid play so far: He surrendered 40 receptions for 556 yards this year, more receiving yards than any other cornerback allowed through nine weeks. Part of that is because his counterpart, Nnamdi Asomugha, is so good and quarterbacks don't want to throw at his side. But Hall cost the Raiders second- and fifth-round picks last April, and then this big cap hit for eight lousy games. For a guy who made Oakland give up so much, Hall, you'd think, would at least be competent.
Hall has always talked a great game, but this year he proved he can't play one. He should be no more than a third corner behind Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers when Springs returns from his calf injury. Still, when Hall was on Sirius NFL Radio Friday, he still talked with Deion-like bravado, telling a host who said he'd given up some big plays: "You just made that statement, 'give up big plays.' I don't think I gave up a play over 20 yards this season. I gave up one to Michael Jenkins, a 27-yard touchdown. That's part of the business, the nature of the beast. When you're getting a lot of money, you're expected to make a lot of plays. And there are a lot of plays out there I didn't make and I take responsibility for those."
4. I think this is Romo's health status as of this morning: Talked to Romo on Saturday, while he was on his final two days off of a bye week, and he told me, naturally, that he would definitely play against Washington on Sunday night at FedEx Field. But it sounded like he'd be affected by his partially healed broken right pinky finger. The break is just below the top knuckle on his right little finger, and he'll play with a splint on it.
"It won't be all the way healed,'' he said. "It's still probably a good two or three weeks away from that. I don't know where it's exactly going to be, healing-wise, in Washington, but my timing will be fine.''
The key is whether Romo will be able to throw a hard 15-yard out. Any quarterback who can't throw a liner to the sidelines is going to be a detriment. "I had to throw one of those this week,'' he said. "I'm not going to lie to you. There was pain when I threw it. But I can take the pain. If I've done it once, I can do it again.'' Romo also told me the finger "has gotten healthy enough so I could take a hit on it.'' We'll see.
Dallas-Washington, with huge playoff implications, is a pretty big game. Dallas-Washington, with a marquee quarterback an injury risk, with the eyes of the nation on him, makes it a compelling watch.
5. I think the Cleveland coaches are dead men walking.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 10:
a. Denver rookie receiver Eddie Royal had 52 catches in his first eight games. No receiver in NFL history has had that many in his first eight games.
b. I wrote on SI.com Friday morning about the game plan-safety of rookie Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn's starting debut, and this will give you some perspective: Of Quinn's 35 passes against Denver, the longest passes traveled 13, 11 and 11 yards. Every other one was 10 yards or less past the line of scrimmage. Credit offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski for a smart game plan ... even though the Browns should definitely have called a run to get the first down with a minute to go on third-and-one and then fourth-and-one and two timeouts left.
c. Great presence in the pocket by Matt Cassel, knowing when to bail out and run and when to stay. He knew when to fold 'em on his 13-yard scramble for a first-quarter touchdown against Buffalo.
d. First drive of Bears-Titans: Rex Grossman led a 14-play, 75-yard drive, taking up 6:20 of the clock. That was as good as it got for Grossman Sunday.
e. Heroic performance by Jared Allen, playing with a numbed shoulder when most players wouldn't have taken the field. But the safety he recorded was a real turning point in the win over Green Bay.
f. If Seneca Wallace doesn't underthrow an open Bobby Engram on third-and-10 in the final seconds, Seattle beats Miami. Seneca, you've got to make a better throw there -- and you can't push the ball out there. You have to cut it loose.
g. I realize Mike Holmgren will wretch reading this, but that was a moral victory for the Seahawks, playing that well against a superior team.
h. Haloti Ngata is one heck of a defensive force -- with some good hands too.
i. I love the Herman Edwards try for two to win at the end of Chargers-Chiefs. If we're going to go ga-ga over Mike Shanahan doing it when it works in Week 2, we've got to give Edwards credit for going for it in Week 10.
j. Stewart Bradley of the Eagles, who will take some votes away from London Fletcher in the linebacker Pro Bowl voting, had 10 tackles in the first half Sunday night. I can't remember when I last saw someone with 10 tackles in a half.
k. Nick Collins had his third interception returned for touchdown this year at Minnesota. That's a career for a lot of guys.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 10:
a. The Broncos defense needs to yap less and tackle more. Every play they're woofing at someone.
b. Cleveland's linebackers just aren't making enough plays.
c. The Bills have to be quicker throwing the challenge flag. They could have negated a 21-yard Wes Welker reception in the first quarter at Foxboro if they'd been quicker on the draw.
d. Tennessee, minus-5 yards rushing in the first half.
e. Why is Thomas Jones running the ball with a 37-point lead in the fourth quarter, with a game in New England four days away?
f. He hit the crossbar. Sebastian Janikowski hit the crossbar.
g. When the epitaph is written on the Green Bay season, blame the run defense.
h. I don't care what the Eagles say publicly. They've got to be second-guessing themselves for paying tight end L.J. Smith real money when he was free last winter.
i. I hate to do this to a proud Marine who served in Kosovo and Afghanistan, but what a monumental mistake Tennessee fullback Ahmad Hall made at Chicago. You knew points would be at a premium in a Bears-Titans game. With the Bears up 7-0 late in the first quarter, and Tennessee with the ball on Chicago's half-yard line, Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger had a power formation in the game, with three tight ends and Hall as the upback in the I-formation. Hall took the handoff from Kerry Collins and had a clear path to the end zone ... and Hall, inches from the goal line, simply dropped the ball. Chicago ball. Seven guaranteed points surrendered. Lucky for the Titans, it didn't cost them the game.
8. I think the Jeremy Shockey trade has worked out a whole lot better for the Giants than for the Saints ... and the Giants haven't even gotten anything yet. They'll have the Saints' two and five in next year's draft.
9. I think this is my double-take moment of the weekend: George Blanda played his first game for the Raiders a week shy of his 40th birthday ... and he held the team's scoring record for more than 30 years until Janikowski broke it Sunday against Carolina.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I just can't watch politics anymore. Not for a while. Sorry, Wolf.
b. I can watch Family Guy, however. Lots of them. In a row. DVR-ed.
c. Hoping to not be an old geezer here, but The Office isn't the same. What's missing? Keep trying to figure it out. I think part of it is the absolute silliness of the Andy-Angela engagement, and part is the predictability of Jim and Pam having a rocky engagement due to their separation. I don't know. It's just ... OK.
d. King, you're such a ... a ... girl.
e. Congrats, Montclair State. Great win over Rowan on Saturday.
f. Coffeenerdness: Later in my Starbucks career, I find myself wanting to make the triple grande latte a quad grande latte. Is that bad? To want more than half the latte to be espresso?
g. How'd you like the game, Sen. Biden?
h. Katie Couric gets a bad rap. I thought she did well in her election coverage. I didn't watch it constantly, but in flipping around, I found her to be smart and prepared.
i. I did watch a lot of CNN. And they have more analysts than the NBC, Fox and NFL Network pregame shows combined.
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Arizona 31, San Francisco 13. Two superb decisions will be on display tonight for the fans of the Arizona Cardinals, who are suddenly contending not only for a division title, but for a first-round bye. One: Whisenhunt's choice of Warner over Leinart at quarterback; clearly Warner has regained the touch that made him a two-time Most Valuable Player.
Two: the choice of fifth-round running back Tim Hightower to replace grousing multi-millionaire Edgerrin James as the starting running back. Whisenhunt couldn't ignore the mounting evidence that James was hitting a wall. In his previous four games, James averaged just 2.9 yards a rush and hadn't broken a run longer than 15 yards in 46 carries. Here came Hightower, who, in his first career start, rushed 22 times for 109 yards to help beat St. Louis.
I like Arizona to grind it out tonight against the 49ers. And that Cardinal pass-rush can come from anywhere; they've got five guys with at least three sacks. They're not the Steeler front, but they've been putting consistent pressure on the passer -- just ask Romo who Travis LaBoy is -- and they're on pace for a 42-sack season.
You're chortling about my suggestion that the Cards could get a bye and then a home playoff game? Say they win tonight to go to 6-3. They've got Seattle twice down the stretch -- no gimmes, because Matt Hasselbeck may be back for the Weeks 11 and 17 games, but clearly games the Cardinals should win. Four of the last seven are home. (Though two of the roadies are at Philly and Foxboro.) The biggest problem: Even if the Cards finish 11-5, Carolina is probably going to be the biggest competitor for the second seed ... and the Panthers would win the head-to-head tiebreaker because of their 27-23 win over Arizona in Week 8.
I still don't know how good Arizona is, but I do know it's building up a nice little home-field advantage --the Cards are 3-0 at home, by an average of 17 points a win -- and won't be an easy out in January, bye or not.