The Fine Fifteen
Actually it's the Nice Nineteen this week.
1. New Orleans (5-0). I'm not sure, but I think the 60 minutes the Saints played Sunday was the best all-around 60 minutes of football any team has played this year.
2. Minnesota (6-0). Brett Favre's never been 6-0 before.
3. Indianapolis (5-0). The schedule-maker's nice to the Caldwellmen when they return off their bye: at St. Louis, then a three-game homestand (Niners, Texans, Pats).
4. Denver (5-0). Remember when we talked about the brutal midseason slate Denver had this year? It's still there. Tonight's game in San Diego is the last in October, before a bye. Denver's games in the first 26 days of November are: at Baltimore, Pittsburgh, at Washington, San Diego, New York Giants (short week, Thanksgiving).
5. New England (4-2). Either the Tennessee Titans are Secaucus High, or the Patriots might have taken their first snowy steps back to prominence Sunday.
6. New York Giants (5-1). Abysmal, pathetic, awful in all ways. Also just one game, against football's best team.
7. Atlanta (4-1). After the bye, they've beaten the Niners by 35 on the road and had an impressive Sunday night win over the Bears. And that loss to New England now doesn't look so bad, does it?
8. Pittsburgh (4-2). It is a mark of how good Ben Roethlisberger is that he threw for 417 yards, with two touchdowns, and no one noticed. It's becoming routine.
9. Green Bay (3-2). Aaron Rodgers completed passes (29 of them) to nine receivers Sunday. It's fitting that 34-year-old Donald Driver was the one to lead them. Seven catches, 107 yards, giving him 602 career catches, setting the Packers' all-time record. Hallowed ground: more catches than Don Hutson and Sterling Sharpe.
10. Chicago (3-2). It wasn't enough to make him Goat of the Week, but Orlando Pace had a blunder that went a long way toward losing this game for his new team. On fourth-and-one from the Atlanta five with 34 seconds left, quarterback Jay Cutler barked the signals in a loud Georgia Dome, and Pace leaped across the line -- as though he had the signal wrong. Fourth-and-six. Instead of running Matt Forte or throwing a two-yard curl to one of his tight ends, Cutler had to gain some real real-estate, and his fourth-down pass into traffic wasn't close.
11. Cincinnati (4-2). Go figure the Bengals. Can't stand prosperity.
12. Baltimore (3-3). I'm tempted to throw them out of the Fine Fifteen entirely. But with 10 minutes to go at the Metrodome, they were down 27-10, and they scored 21 points in the next seven minutes to take the lead against a formidable Minnesota defense. The Ravens are not the same on defense this year -- their corners are killing them -- but I still think this team has a good chance to rebound and make something of its season.
13. San Diego (2-2). Seems like about two months since the Chargers played. Actually it's been 15 days.
14. (tie) Philadelphia (3-2). Anyone wondering if just maybe Kevin Kolb would have played a better game in Oakland than Donovan McNabb?
14. (tie) San Francisco (3-2). Hope Mike Singletary had a fire-and-brimstone chat with his defense before it left for the bye weekend.
14. (tie) Miami (2-3). Not sure how long they'll be here. Next three games: vs. Saints, at Jets, at Pats. As that noted football analyst Scooby Doo would say, "Ruh-Roh.''
14. (tie) Arizona (3-2). If the Cards would be consistent, I'd know what to do with them. Of course, can't you say that about every team but the top three or four in here?
14. (tie) Houston (3-3). As I waited to speak with Matt Schaub Sunday after the game via phone, Texans media czar Tony Wyllie said to me, "Hold on. I'm going to put the NFL touchdown leader on the phone.'' He's right: Schaub 14, Brees 13, Peyton Manning 12, Brady 12, Favre 12.
14. (tie) New York Jets (3-3). Bigger crash: Stock market in '08, Jets in '09?
Quote of the Week I
"I just gave that team the win.''
-- Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, after throwing five interceptions in the Jets' 16-13 overtime loss to the Bills.
No one's arguing, kid.
Quote of the Week II
"Let's assume that Dr. Omalu [noted neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, who has studied brain injuries to football players] and the others are right. What should we be doing differently? ... No one has any suggestions -- assuming you aren't saying no more football, because, let's be honest, that's not going to happen.''
-- Ira Casson, one of the co-chairmen of an NFL committee on brain injuries to football players, as quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in the Oct. 19 issue of The New Yorker.
Gladwell compares dog-fighting to football players suffering concussions, and it's a compelling, stark piece -- very good and vivid. His lead on Kyle Turley suffering a severe attack of post-concussion syndrome at a bar in Nashville is frightening and a great illustration of the problems "some" former players live with every day. You'll have to read the story to get the connection of dog-fighting to football, but the story is well worth your time.
Quote of the Week III
"I've been playing sports since I was 8 years old, and never in any sport have I experienced anything like this.''
-- Tennessee linebacker Keith Bulluck, on the Titans' total ineptitude in a 59-0 loss at New England Sunday.
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