Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 8:
a. Ugliest jerseys in the NFL: Jets' throwbacks.
b. Can't decide what's worse -- Jets' throwbacks or AFL refs' throwbacks. You know, the creamsicle shirts.
c. Any team more confusing than the Cardinals? Rout the Giants on the road, routed by the Panthers at home.
d. And in the category of Best Performance By a Running Back in a Game No One Saw, the nominees are: Chris Johnson, Tennessee, for his 24-carry, 228-yard game against Jacksonville; Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville, for his 177-yard performance with a sick 22.1-yard average carry; DeAngelo Williams, Carolina, for his 158 yards in an upset of the Cardinals; and Steven Jackson, for his 149-yard day against Detroit in the Rams' first win in a year. The envelope, please ... And the winner -- Chris Johnson.
e. Good start, Vince Young. Very good: 15 of 18, and looking quite sure of yourself. And a good bit of play-calling by offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who made the game plan eminently manageable for Young.
f. Quietly -- and, as my buddy Don Banks pointed out, how can the Cowboys do anything quietly -- Dallas has crept back into the NFC pennant race. And Tony Romo is on a three-game interceptionless streak.
g. There is no better defensive player in football than Jared Allen.
h. I don't know what Randy Lerner will accomplish in Cleveland by adding another layer to his front office and coaching staff, unless it's to take the authority away from Eric Mangini.
i. I imagine Lerner must really retch when thinking about adding more people, more payroll, to his swollen front office. Are you aware he's paying former GM Phil Savage for four more years in the wake of his firing late last season?
j. By the way, I never noted this last week, and since I wrote about it when it happened, I need to conclude it in the same space: The league says it found no wrongdoing in the case of rookie Cleveland running back James Davis practicing unpadded and being hurt when going against a padded linebacker in an extra practice drill with the Browns earlier this season.
k. Tampa Bay, 0-7, is the only winless team left. And 0-11 looks mighty probable, with Green Bay, Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta in the next month.
2. I think, as I said on NBC Sunday night (and I'm sure you all clicked off the Favre passion play to listen to my words of wisdom), the most logical endgame in the Tom Cable story may be for him to submit to evaluation, which could lead to counseling, as part of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy.
The league hasn't finished its investigation into the charge by Raider assistant Randy Hanson that Cable struck him and broke his jaw in August, and on Sunday, ESPN's "Outside the Lines'' show had a compelling report by Colleen Domínguez of a history of abuse against women by Cable. The coach admitted he struck his first wife years ago, but denied he was a serial abuser and said he never struck a girlfriend in recent years, as she alleged in the report.
Though Cable has never been indicted on any of these charges, the league could use its power under the conduct policy to advise Cable that he'll have to be evaluated professionally. At the very least, without concluding anything about Cable, what seems to make sense is to evaluate whether he has anger-management issues.
After the season, assuming Cable is still employed as the Raider head coach, the league could use this portion of the policy to have Cable evaluated: "Persons ... appearing to have engaged in conduct prohibited under this policy will be required to undergo a formal clinical evaluation,'' the policy says. "Based on the results of that evaluation, the person may be encouraged or required to participate in an education program, counseling or other treatment deemed appropriate by health professionals.''
3. I think the drumbeat grows louder, with Congress rattling sabers last week on the increasing evidence of brain injuries to football players and an excellent series of stories by the New York Times on the subject, for the league and the Players Association to have independent evaluators study football's impact on the brain.
4. I think a lot of Eagles deserve praise in the 40-17 rout of the Giants. Donovan McNabb was magnificent in the Eagles' 30-point first half, and Leonard Weaver was the poor man's Jerome Bettis in a lumbering TD run. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson showed how tough these Eagles are going to be to stop because of the sudden deep speed they've acquired in the last two drafts. But I'm giving biggest props to the tight end because of his all-around game. On Weaver's TD run up the gut, Celek sprung him by blocking Justin Tuck and preventing him from wrapping up Weaver at the last second. On the next TD, Celek ran a simple post and held onto the ball while getting hit in the end zone. The Eagles were on the way to a rout then.
5. I think I'd bet a Jim Sorgi autographed football that the retractable roof will be closed for early games in Indianapolis from here on out, after what we saw in the first half of the 49ers-Colts game. With the sun shining brightly on the end zone and the Colts driving for a touchdown, Peyton Manning threw a catchable ball to Dallas Clark -- only he never saw it. Sun got in his eyes.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 8:
a. Kudos to Shawntae Spencer, too, for timing the Manning to Clark ball perfectly on the TD-pass-bat-away
b. Whoa -- what a shoe-top tackle of Ted Ginn Jr., on a first-half kickoff by Jay Feely.
c. Vincent Jackson is one of the top-five big receivers in football. Another 100-yard day against the Raiders.
d. The Panthers obviously had the game in Arizona circled on the calendar for months, because they came out and played like it was a playoff game.
e. No one knows Buffalo's Jairus Byrd (pronounced Jair-iss), but when you intercept footballs in four straight games, people start learning.
f. I actually think I like this: Rex Ryan is giving his struggling team six days off after players leave the facility later today. Sometimes it's best just to get away, rather than pound into players that the season is rapidly going down the toilet.
g. Signs of life (26 carries, 90 yards) from Matt Forte.
h. I really like FOX's pregame show going to Afghanistan next week. I don't care what the reason is -- anything to show those overseas we're thinking of them and supporting them, regardless of our political beliefs, I'm behind.
i. Now that's the way to make big plays, Julius Peppers.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 8:
a. For a veteran who's surely been mugged on more than a few pass routes, Derrick Mason of the Ravens went way over the top on a jersey grab by Denver cornerback Alphonso Smith. He deserved the 15-yard flag for unsportsmanlike conduct after throwing his helmet. Calls get missed, Derrick. Relax a bit.
b. Are you kidding, FOX? The moment the game of the year ends and Brett Favre is hugging his way across the field, we hear Thom Brennaman say: "We send you to bonus coverage.''
You do what? You send us to Carolina 34, Arizona 21? For God's sake -- FOR WHAT?!!!!!! What you should be sending us to is Pam Oliver for a live interview with Favre instead of making people wait.
c. So Larry Johnson will be docked $330,000 for his sins in Kansas City, on his third suspension in three years. Amazing thing is, I'm sure those close to him are filling his ears with, "You've done nothing wrong. Everyone's out to get you.'' That's the sad part here.
d. Aaron Rodgers takes too many sacks.
e. Throw it downfield, Matthew Stafford. Bombs away, Calvin Johnson or not.
f. Owen Daniels tearing his ACL is such a shame. He was battling Dallas Clark and Antonio Gates for top tight end in the AFC. Houston will miss him. Matt Schaub trusted him to run perfect routes.
g. The Giants are sinking as fast as any good team has sunk in years. Tom Coughlin hasn't had a bigger challenge than turning around this mess.
8. I think this is my one leftover note on football in Europe, which I think is going to happen in our lifetime; I mean, I think there will be an NFL franchise there.
Flynn Hagerty, a San Francisco native now living in London, wrote to add to the debate of whether the NFL should put an NFL franchise in England. He thinks not, as do many Brits. "There are many loyal and devoted NFL fans in Britain, some who have been fans for over a quarter-century,'' he wrote. "While ticket sales have been excellent for the International Series, many fans are traveling a considerable distance to London, and these people cannot be expected to take a Monday off work an extra seven times a year. Every game will have to be a night game for the U.S. TV market, and there will be no chance of a Sunday or Monday Night Football home game for London. There will be no local favorites, as to my knowledge no British player has ever played in the NFL aside from kickers ...
"NFL fans in the UK are savvy. Many of them may not stop supporting their original team, which might mean the difference between one or two games and season tickets. In my opinion, if the NFL put a franchise in London, it would average between 40,000-50,000 per game. That's really an astonishing number, as only eight soccer teams in the English league average more fans per game. But that will obviously not cut it in the NFL. It's a niche sport here, in many ways very similar to how the English Premier League is a niche sport in America.''
One difference: Kids here know and emulate David Beckham, and you see how tough a road pro soccer has had in this country. I would think an NBA team would have an easier time working in London than an NFL team.
9. I think the funniest thing -- the saddest thing, really -- about the NCAA banning Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant for the rest of the season is how the NCAA announced the move. This was the first sentence of The NCAA News on the Bryant story: "The NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff has reinstated the eligibility of Oklahoma State University football student-athlete Desmond Bryant.''
What brainiac in Indianapolis said it'd be smart to issue a release announcing Bryant would be reinstated -- for 2010? All anyone wanted to know was when in 2009 he'd be reinstated, and, of course, he should have been. Imagine getting suspended for 75 percent of a season for fibbing about having dinner at Deion Sanders' house? To the best of anyone's knowledge, there's nothing sinister involved -- not under-the-table payments, no illegal contact with agents. The NCAA is uncontrollably drunk with power, and just as out of touch with reality and the public. Talk about a punishment that didn't fit the crime. Bryant got robbed.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. I get the sense no one really believes in Iowa.
b. I get the sense no one knows what Oregon's colors are.
c. I get the sense Al Groh can't be long for the world in Charlottesville. Virginia has lost by double digits -- at home -- to William & Mary and Duke.
d. Seems to me the toughest thing to figure in the college top 10 is where to rank Boise State, Iowa, TCU and Cincinnati. Iowa has the great win at Penn State, and I suppose all that matters is the W. Cincinnati has blown out a bunch of teams outside the top 20. TCU has won on the road at Clemson and BYU. Boise's got one quality win, but that win looked a lot better Saturday.
Boise beat Oregon by 11 -- smothered the Ducks; one of the few college games I've seen much of this year -- and Oregon beat a top-five team, USC, by 27. You can't go crazy on comparative scores, but that one has some meaning. Amazing that Boise, of the four, might be the toughest game for one of the big boys right now.
e. Coffeenerdness: Funny thing happened walking to get the papers and coffee Saturday morning in Manhattan. Guy walks up to me at a newsstand on 7th and 53rd and says, "Peter King!'' I turn and shake his hand, and he said, "Jeff Catlett. I'm the one who won the Joe Namath jersey at the Dr. Z auction last spring.'' Wow, I say, and ask what's he doing here in the city, out so early. Seems he lives in Kuwait, works in the oil business, and his wife gave him a trip to World Series Game 2 to see his beloved Yanks, and he was out for a stroll before he had to get to the airport and go back home.
We went to Starbucks and got coffee, and I asked him about Starbucks over there. Turns out he's quite the Starbucks aficionado. "We have 76 Starbucks in Kuwait,'' he said proudly. "Seven in one mall!'' So Howard Schulz is taking over the world after all.
f. New York Post A-Rod passage of the week: The paper on Saturday wrote that US Weekly found an ex-flame who said Rodriguez had two paintings of himself as a centaur -- man from the waist up, horse from the waist down -- in his bedroom at home. This from the Post on the man who, at the time, was hitless in the World Series: "Rodriguez -- who has been hitting more like My Little Pony than a mighty centaur so far in the World Series -- has had a penchant for public displays of narcissism, such as when he was spotted sunning himself topless in Central Park in 2006.''
He promptly went out Saturday and jacked one into the FOX right-field camera position for a home run. Some pony.
g. I really like FOX's sideline guy, Ken Rosenthal, on TV. He's smart and cool.
h. "The Cleveland Show,'' as spinoffs go, should last as long as "Saved By The Bell: The New Class.'' Now, if there was a Brian spinoff ...
Who I Like Tonight
New Orleans 23, Atlanta 20.
There's something about the Falcons that's a little disconcerting, something that will confirm their road wild card status unless it gets fixed very, very soon ... like tonight, around 7:30 Central Time in New Orleans. Last year, the offense was a two-headed monster, with the maturing-before-our-very-eyes Matt Ryan and inside force Michael Turner. But compare Turner's 2008 season to his first six games in 2009:
For the Falcons to seriously challenge the Saints, there's no question that the Turner of 2008 has to re-emerge.
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