Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 4:
a. Why, FOX, why? Why show the top 10 plays of Brett Favre's career? How many celebrations of his career have you done, and how many more will you do? What possible relevance do the top 10 plays of his career have this weekend?
b. Ron Winter's officiating crew had the worst day a crew has had all season in New England. From a ticky-tack roughing-the-passer call to two ridiculous unnecessary first-down measurements, to what seemed like a 10-minute delay for crew discussion and replay review in the fourth quarter. All of it made a long game agonizing.
c. Get ready for another week of the-officials-are-calling-too-many-marginal-calls stories. We're going to hear lots of grumbling from Ravens fans, and some in the media, who feel like Baltimore got jobbed Sunday. I know the guys in the NBC studio sure feel the Ravens got jobbed.
d. There's no quit in those Manginis, and I mean that with no sarcasm.
e. I'm also serious when I say: You can't stop Elvis Dumervil; you can only hope to contain him.
f. Chuck Cecil, get aggressive. It's your only chance. Send the house.
g. I could have sworn I could read David Garrard's mind while he shredded the Titans on Sunday. His mind was saying, Mr. Weaver, we don't need no stinkin' Tebow.
h. Wow. Did you see that handshake between John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick? Harbaugh belichicked Belichick! Gave him the dead-fish handshake that Belichick has given Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan.
i. I really like Steelers returner Stefan Logan, who's 60 percent the player Darren Sproles is ... at about 10 percent of the cost.
j. Well, Junior Seau thought he had six or eight good games in him. Now, while Jerod Mayo heals, we'll see if Seau has at least two or three.
k. Whoa. Limas Sweed inactive. It took all of three weeks for the unknown Mike Wallace to move ahead of him on the depth chart.
2. I think, at some point, Shawne Merriman has to either make a play or take a seat. I respect the fact he's got a strained groin muscle. But if you're hurt, sit. Three solo tackles in four games? Embarrassing.
3. I think it's great the NFL devoted so much time and energy and pinkness to breast-cancer awareness Sunday. Now I'd like to know when the league is going to have the following two gamedays:
a. Concussion Awareness Day. Kudos to the New York Times for pounding on this issue hard and giving impassioned players an outlet for their concerns on brain injuries. Current players see many of their elder brethren struggling through memory loss and can't help but think their time is coming.
b. Indigent Retired Players Day. Leroy Kelly, a Hall of Famer, has a pension of $176 a month. Scores of players, well into the hundreds, don't have the medical care they need. The league and its players are making headway toward ameliorating the crisis, but not soon enough.
Smarter minds than mine can figure out how to draw attention to these issues, but I do know this: A much-needed bridge between players and owners would be built if the owners spent the kind of lockstep verve on these issues some weekend as the league, the players and its network partners did in unison on breast cancer awareness Sunday.
4. I think we could argue about a lot of NFL-related things right now, but there is one fact that is indisputable: Peyton Manning is the best player in football, and right now, it's not close for second place.
5. I think New England could have the quirkiest schedule a team has ever faced. It opened the season against the 0-0 Bills, the 1-0 Jets, the 2-0 Falcons, the 3-0 Ravens and now gets the 4-0 Broncos ... and then against what could be the 0-5 Titans (if they lose to Indy this week) and the 0-6 Bucs (if they lose to Philly and the Panthers).
6. I think NBC's Rodney Harrison created quite a stir Sunday night, saying Tom Brady should take his skirt off and put some pants on. In other words, Brady should man up and, I guess, not take these piddling calls the refs are giving to him. As Sunday turned into Monday, Harrison was getting mondo crappola for this statement ... and just after midnight, he called my cell and said, "Can you believe this? I WAS JOKING! I had a smile on my face! I texted Tom and told him I was going to have fun with this, and he had no problem with it at all. He thought it was funny.''
Well, no one thought he was joking. I told Harrison that when the NBC PR staff, which puts out quotes from our Sunday night show each week, e-mailed his comments, obviously whoever read those comments was going to think he was ripping Brady for being a wuss. "I was joking!!!'' he said. OK. Consider your point made to thousands.
7. I think Pete Carroll's going to stay married to college football. I'd be surprised if he took a pro job in the near future. I talked to Carroll the other day about Mark Sanchez, and he made an interesting comment about how he noticed a lot of teams are hiring lesser-known coaches (San Francisco, Tampa Bay) and not paying them as much as the veteran proven NFL coaches ... and they're not being very patient with them. His point, pretty simply, was this: Why should I give up a great job in a place I love for a speculative job that could crash and burn in the first year?
8. I think this is what I liked about Week 4:
a. Glen Coffee's 106 total yards isn't what I thought it'd be in relief of Frank Gore, but who can complain when you win by 35?
b. Denver punter Brett Kern was a field-position guru against Dallas, with four punts from Denver territory averaging 55.3 yards.
c. Ricky Williams, 35 Miami touchdowns. Jim Kiick 28, Mercury Morris 29. Does that stun anyone else?
d. Best news of the day for Miami: Cameron Wake, the pass-rusher who led the CFL in sacks over the past couple of years, had a three-sack afternoon against Buffalo.
e. Jacksonville's D is starting to play like Jack Del Rio drew it up. First eight Titan possessions: Four punts, three turnovers, a field goal.
f. San Francisco's 3-0 in the NFC West. No division game now till week 13, and the remaining Arizona game at home. It's beginning to look a lot like the Niners are going to make the playoffs.
g. I hold my breath when Ahmad Bradshaw (12 for 64 in KC) gets the ball with even a little space.
h. Carson Palmer, who had to convince Marvin Lewis to go for it on fourth-and-11 in overtime at Cleveland with 64 seconds left, ran for 15 yards to make them both look good. That would have been playing it much too safe for me. Good for Palmer.
i. Peyton Manning is 33. He has 342 touchdown passes, third-most of all-time. He is 127 behind Brett Favre. Let's say Favre puts up 18 more and Manning finishes the year 125 behind Favre. Manning's going to obliterate the record. I'll be surprised if he doesn't get to 500 while still playing effectively, consistently.
9. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 4:
a. Buffalo's run D, which has allowed 472 yards in the last two games. Stunning.
b. Even by JaMarcus Russell's standard, the past month has been about as dismal as a quarterback could have. His quarterback rating in each of his four games: 47.6, 46.0, 33.6, 48.5. Amazing. He has one touchdown pass. The first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft has one touchdown pass.
c. 100-yard rushing games by a Raider: zero ... 100-yard receiving games by a Raiders: zero. The Raiders don't have a 70-yard rushing game by a back.
d. Shayne Graham may have made the winning field for the Bengals, but anyone looking at the trajectory of his blocked extra point would tell you it's way, way too low.
e. A 28-point loss at Miami, sad to say, could well have sealed Dick Jauron's fate in Buffalo for the luckless Bills. That and an eight-game losing streak in the division.
f. Three picks for Trent Edwards ... lots go into picks, including far too much pressure over an inexperienced offensive line, but Edwards can't be throwing three interceptions.
g. Matthew Stafford's kneecap subluxed, I'm told, and the team will know more after an MRI this morning. It wasn't a full-blown dislocation. He could play against the Steelers at home this week.
h. The Rams were down 35-0 with 14 minutes left. Sad. No question they'll have to be in the Bradford-McCoy derby next April.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Glad to see you light the lamp in your first game with Les Canadiens, Brian Gionta.
b. I'm not opposed to fighting in the NHL, except when it's clearly premeditated. How can Donald Brashear skate out onto the ice in his first game with the Rangers this year and, with no provocation, drop the gloves with some thug from the Penguins and go at it? Just stupid. That's the kind of fighting the league should come down hard on.
c. There's nothing like a sudden-death game in a pennant race.
d. Now you have to wonder how much it'll hurt Detroit, if they beat Minnesota on Tuesday, not pitching Justin Verlander in the opener against the Yankees. I think that's a mortal wound. To have a chance, I think Verlander had to pitch Games 1 and 4. He could have gone Wednesday (Game 1) and Monday (Game 4) had he not had to go to the post Sunday. Now Game 2 might be his only outing.
e. In my limited (very) time covering baseball in four spring trainings recently, I got to know Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi a little bit, and found him to be smart, cutting-edge and challenged by the role of the little guy trying to beat the big, bad Yanks and Sox in the American League East. Always sad to see a good man fired, which happened to Ricciardi on Saturday. I'm sure the massive struggles of Vernon Wells and failure to get a ransom for Roy Halladay were the chief reasons. Wells used to be a franchise player. Now he's a franchise anchor. Hard to predict that when he got signed for big money.
f. I'm also told there's not a more honorable man and good baseball guy than Eric Wedge. I'll always wonder what would have happened to the Indians in the playoffs a couple of years ago if Sabathia and Carmona hadn't laid such gigantic eggs against the Red Sox.
g. My baseball awards:
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis. Easy. Not a competitive race.
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis. Led in wins and IP, fourth in ERA.
NL Rookie: J.A. Happ, Philadelphia. A 2.85 ERA, with 15 of 22 quality starts.
NL Manager: Jim Tracy, Colorado. Rockies went 74-40 and earned Wild Card after he took over.
AL MVP: Joe Mauer, Minnesota. Terrific receiver. Batting champion. Plus: Imagine missing a month and still having more total bases than Youkilis, Jeter, Michael Young, Longoria.
AL Cy Young: Zack Grienke, Kansas City. Not even a discussion.
AL Rookie: Andrew Bailey, Oakland. Edges Porcello, Andrus with 26 of 30 saves, 1.88 ERA.
AL Manager: Ron Washington, Texas. With an assist to pitching coach Mike Maddux and prez Nolan Ryan for their construction of a pitching staff. Rangers are relevant again.
h. Playoff crystal-balling: New York over Detroit/Minnesota in four, Boston over the Angels in five, St. Louis over the Dodgers in four, Philadelphia over Colorado in three.
i. Coffeenerdness: Tried Via, the new Starbucks instant coffee. The mere thought of instant coffee is not pleasant to me, though I've liked the Green Mountain Keurig cups, particularly the excellent dark roasts. We use Italian Roast intermittently in our home Krups machine, and we love the bite.
Three times in the past week I had the Via Italian Roast. Three times I was pleased. I take my coffee with a little half-and-half, and I honestly tasted no difference between the Italian Roast we brew and the Italian Roast I had in this little Via packet. Even bought a dozen of them to use at home. I think Starbucks got this one right.
j. Met Don Pardo in the elevator at NBC Saturday. You know Don Pardo, the voice of NBC for decades; he now intros the talent on "Saturday Night Live.'' He said he flies in every Thursday from his home in Tucson for the gig. He's 91. What a cool thing, meeting such a famous voice.
k. Curb Your Enthusiasm has never been better, which is very hard to say about a great show, and I haven't even seen the Seinfeld episode that debuted last night yet.
Who I Like Tonight
Vikings 26, Packers 23. When all the hubbub dies down, and there is a football game, I am reminded about what Bill Cowher used to tell his Steelers' teams. The Steelers would go into hostile environments on the road -- usually more hostile than most teams would feel, because the Steelers were always so good -- and Cowher would tell him team: "You've got to weather the storm.'' You've got to take their best punches early, not get blown out, and just survive. Then, 12 or 15 minutes into the game, it'll settle down into a football, not a screamfest from the fans, and the kind of football you've been practicing and playing will take over.
That's how I see this one tonight. The Vikings break out strong, riding the wave of emotion from the crowd, and Green Bay battles back. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers trade lightning bolts -- I think they'll both be up around 300 passing yards -- and somehow, some way, the best player in the stadium, Adrian Peterson, will hang around to win it for the Vikings at the end. If I'm wrong, and the game's 41-0 one way or the other, it's still going to be compelling theater. But I don't see a blowout. I see three hours of tension.
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