Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 9:
a. MLB Network/NBC stat maven Elliott Kalb on the Kansas City Chiefs: "They're so unwatchable they render the opponent unwatchable.''
b. I haven't met Aqib Talib. I don't think I want to.
c. Chris Johnson has a 122-yard lead in the rushing race over Cedric Benson. More significantly, Adrian Peterson is 175 yards behind Johnson.
d. It's not going to make made headlines, but I thought there was some sort of poetic justice that the winning point in the Chargers' 21-20 win was scored by a third-round throw-in to the Philip Rivers-Eli Manning trade. Kicker Nate Kaeding made the kick that propelled the Chargers to their fifth win of the year.
e. Lucky Vikings. They had the best bye a team could have. I'm sure they thought they'd be two games up on Green Bay and Chicago when they returned to work today. But they're three up, thanks to horrible Sundays by Chicago and Green Bay.
f. I never thought Lovie Smith was in any real trouble until yesterday. But this is the defense he's calling plays for? The defense that laid down in Cincinnati and gave up 45 points? The defense that gave up five touchdown passes to Kurt Warner?
g. I don't have a good feeling about Bill Sheridan long-term as the Giants' defensive coordinator.
h. I told you to take more chances downfield, Matthew Stafford, which you should do -- but not as recklessly as you did yesterday in Seattle.
2. I think Aaron Rodgers has a serious problem when it comes to taking sacks, and it cost the Packers dearly Sunday in Tampa. He's got 37 now. I'm not absolving a porous offensive line, but Mike McCarthy has to get it through Rodgers' head when the rush is closing in to throw it away. If I were McCarthy, I'd put on some tape of Peyton Manning today. Manning's Colts line is not a lot better than Green Bay's -- it really isn't; just watch -- and Manning's taken seven sacks. That's because Manning knows when to throw it away or go to his hot guy.
3. I think at this rate, Peyton Manning's arm will fall off by New Year's Day.
4. I think Philip Rivers was as impressive as any player in the league Sunday, just by the way he competed. "As cool as a cucumber,'' tackle Marcus McNeill said of Rivers. "You very rarely see him squint. He has such confidence in his offense. He had a lot of protection up front and that's what he tells us on that drive. He said, 'Come on guys, I need you right now' and he believes in us. That's why we go out and block the way we do.' '' I haven't handed the AFC West to Denver yet. Close, but not yet.
5. I think Marvin Lewis is going to get serious coach-of-the-year consideration from me. I remember seeing him in HBO's "Hard Knocks'' show rail at his team after a preseason loss to St. Louis, lost when the ninth-stringers were on the field. And I thought: This guy's making it very uncomfortable for his team to lose. And the Bengals have gone out and played like that.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 9:
a. Randy Moss' hands. You see that one-handed catch in the first quarter against Miami? "He'd do that in practice on a lot of catches,'' Rodney Harrison said as we watched the play in our NBC viewing room. "One-handed, all the time.''
b. Speaking of hands, what a pick by linebacker Rocky McIntosh of the Redskins. Perfectly timed, with the hands of a Lynn Swann.
c. Still want to fire Jeff Fisher, Titans fans?
d. John Fox is going nowhere. Just a gut feeling, but as his team comes back to normal, that's how I see it.
e. Arizona's dangerous.
f. He won't get much credit for it because of the final score, but Jay Cutler played an excellent football game against Arizona.
g. The Falcons will be a tough out in January. And yes, they'll be playing football in January.
h. Will Witherspoon. Bargain of the year.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 9:
a. In a big game like 5-3 Houston at 7-0 Indy, 5-3 Houston isn't going to have much of a chance to be 6-3 Houston if it can't figure out how to stop fumbling. Come on. Now Ryan Moats?
b. Donovan McNabb missed a lot of receivers last night.
c. Someone has kidnapped Brandon Jacobs. The Giants want him back -- now.
d. Looks like the Baltimore defensive revival lasted exactly four quarters.
e. The 49ers are better that 3-5. Miami's better than 3-5. But you get what you deserve. Both have to get better quarterback play to have a chance.
f. Oh, I didn't like Eric Mangini moving on from George Kokinis so quickly, at least publicly. That whole thing is ridiculous. You bring a guy in to be the GM and then, somehow, he gets thrown overboard after nine months? It's not right. I wonder how the Ravens feel, having given up a trusted scout to have full authority in Cleveland, and he's gone halfway through the year.
8. I think the Cincinnati corners, Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, were the league's unsung heroes Sunday. Not saying the Ravens have Swann and Stallworth on the flanks, but Joe Flacco looked unsure in the pocket all day, and it's because Hall and Joseph pestered the Raven receivers all day.
9. I think the league won't do anything about Chad Ochocinco's little money gag, where he took out a dollar bill and waved it at an official during a disputed call. "You know, like, here's a dollar, change the call,'' the Ocho told me. "Just kidding. Just having fun.'' Wasn't sure the league would see it that way, and though I think league officials will look at the replay in New York today, I hear they won't be inclined to fine Ochocinco. Harmless fun. Well, I didn't think it was fun, but I'm old and boring.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. On Saturday, I shared a dressing room with Taylor Swift at NBC. It's not what you think. All her stuff was in the dressing room for the show that night, but she wasn't there, and I had to dress for the Notre Dame halftime pop on NBC. Well, there was an incident. I stepped on Taylor Swift's red gown. Not on purpose, but there it was, the bottom of it on the ground, and I was trying to walk around it to get my jacket, and I stepped on it, and there it was, a footprint on the bottom of the red material. I quickly wiped off the footprint off. Most of it, anyway. You guys didn't see a size-14 sneaker mark on the bottom of her red gown Saturday night, did you?
b. Jeff Garlin, I know you read this column. You're looking good. You've dropped some weight, and you're sharp. But I don't write to praise your physique or acting ability. I write to urge you, please: More Funkhauser. We out in "Curb Your Enthusiasm'' land cannot get enough of the gravelly voiced weirdo who has three good lines in every scene.
c. Coffeenerdness: Three triple lattes Sunday. Sooner or later, the lack of sleep is going to catch up with me.
d. Listen to Rilo Kiley. You'll thank me.
e. My heart goes out to the victims of the Fort Hood and Orlando shootings and their loved ones. Senseless, senseless incidents. I will not go quietly into the night on this one. America needs to do something about idiots with handguns. How many more Fort Hoods and Orlandos do there have to be before our political leaders have the guts to severely restrict access to murderous weapons?
Who I Like Tonight
Hines Ward knows the drill by now. Some media outlet (in this case, your good friends at SI) does a story or polls players and comes to the conclusion that Ward's the dirtiest player in football. SI did its annual player poll and that's the way the players voted. It evoked a little more than a shrug from Ward when we spoke the other day.
"Not much I can do about it, and I'm pretty used to it by now,'' said Ward. "But it does piss me off. If I was a dirty player, would my coach [Mike Tomlin] tell me, 'Don't change a thing you do?' ''
Ward thinks it's his reputation now, and not current information, that keeps him winning titles like this. Whatever, I find it interesting that Ward has been penalized once this year in seven games for unnecessary roughness and hasn't been fined yet. Not that he hasn't had his share of edgy hits, of course, including the clobbering of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers that kayoed Rivers for the season last year and caused the NFL to implement a rules change outlawing high blindside hits.
It'll be interesting to watch Ward go up against Brian Dawkins tonight if they meet on the field at Invesco when the 6-1 Broncos meet the 5-2 Steelers. Dawkins has had an excellent start for the Broncos after moving from Philadelphia in free agency, and because Denver plays left and right safety instead of free and strong, Dawkins could find himself near Ward on a few occasions tonight.
"Big game for us,'' Ward said. "As good as the AFC is this year, we'll probably have to win 11 or 12 to get in the playoffs ... they've got a great secondary. Dawkins is playing like the Dawkins of old. Champ [Bailey] is Champ again. But we're pretty good too. We have so many weapons on offense that it's like, 'Pick your poison.' ''
He's right there, but I worry about Ben Roethlisberger having time to throw with outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil storming in all night, and I don't trust Pittsburgh to be able to run. I'll take Denver, uneasily, 20-13.
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