Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 14:
a. Vikings Quiz: What's the name of the twin brother of Minnesota rookie MLB Jasper Brinkley? Answer below.
b. Now that the games mean nothing, here come the Texans. Again.
c. Worst records in football since the start of the 2007 season: Rams 6-39, Lions 9-36, Chiefs 9-36. Six wins for the Rams! Three wins in 2007, two in '08, one this year. Yikes.
d. Best records in football since the start of 2007: Colts 38-7, Patriots 35-10.
e. Interesting tidbit from respected St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz: "I would not be surprised, at all, to see the Rams make a play for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick after the season.'' I agree.
f. Also would not be surprised to see the Rams make a very quiet inquiry about Donovan McNabb after the season either. Not saying the Eagles would make such a deal (two second-rounders and a four for McNabb?), but Kevin Kolb will be a fourth-year player, and Philly's not going to be able to keep him until McNabb retires.
g. Chris Redman did a lot for his future yesterday. He threw a beautiful, in-stride downfield TD bomb to Michael Jenkins and generally looked in command against the unbeaten Saints.
h. My Sirius partner, Randy Cross, on the $65,000 in fines Chad Ochocinco has accumulated this year for his pranky stuff: "Wouldn't it be smart if he took $30,000 and, oh, I don't know, bought winter coats for 1,000 kids in Cincinnati? Can't he find a better use for that money than continue to hand it to the league?''
i. No cornerback tandem is playing better right now than Cincinnati's Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.
j. No receiving corps is playing better than New Orleans,' but San Diego's is very close.
k. Seahawks. Frauds.
l. Vikings Quiz answer: Casper.
2. I think you can call Chad Ochocinco many things, but a coward is not one of them.
3. I think this is what doomed the Steelers this year: a poor offensive line (aided by some poor pocket decisions by Ben Roethlisberger), the inability to ever establish the run the way classic Steeler teams of this era did, and lousy defensive depth.
I tweeted the other night that when the epitaph on this Steelers season is written, it will say the offensive line failed Roethlisberger. Now, Roethlisberger needs to go to the Peyton Manning school of avoiding sacks (Manning could teach a class in it and become a rich man), because the other night instead of throwing the ball away, Roethlisberger got into the fetal position far too often and just took the sack. But what amazed me is how ill-prepared Pittsburgh's offense line was against the kind of zone-blitzes they must see every day in practice. Disgraceful.
4. I think the Heisman Trust, or the Downtown Athletic Club, or whoever is in charge of awarding the Heisman Trophy every year, ought to rename it the Heisman Offensive Player Trophy.
5. I think, not to be a wiseguy, you can't be serious about the voting this year. In a year when there's no clear-cut dominant offensive player, and the voting is fragmented among several skill-position guys, Nebraska defensive tackle Suh finishes his college career as probably the best defensive player of this decade in college football. He gets 19 percent of the first-place votes and finishes a distant fourth.
The Heisman has been awarded 75 times, all to players who touched the ball, with one asterisk. Charles Woodson won it in 1997 as a corner/wideout/kick-returner; he was primarily a defensive player. But the only way he won it is because he had the versatile-player tag -- not because he was a superior cornerback. If Suh isn't going to win it, or even strongly contend, after making 35 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and knocking down the quarterback another 24 times, why continue the charade of saying the Heisman is awarded to the best player in college football. It's just not.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 14:
a. Brad Smith looked like the Missouri quarterback he used to be and not the Jets special-teamer he is now. More wildcat, Brian Schottenheimer.
b. Peyton Manning in the red zone, career, thanks to CBS (great graphic): 225 touchdowns, 23 interceptions.
c. Loved Keith Bulluck's back-to-the-future game against the unfortunate Keith Null: 10 tackles, two interceptions, a pass broken up. The Titans' D played with a ferocity a defense can play with when it knows the quarterback can't beat it downfield.
d. A 65 percent passing day by Joe Flacco and 548 total yards. Good. Do it again next week, and we'll know you've got the offense fixed, Ravens.
e. The kind of balance that will make Mike McCarthy happy: 146 rushing yards, 169 passing yards. Now he just wants more of each.
f. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews makes two significant plays a game.
g. Speaking of first-round rookies, there's a heck of a race for defensive rookie of the year. Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd leads the league with nine interceptions, and Houston LB Brian Cushing had another monster game: 10 tackles, a sack, two other tackles for loss, three QB pressures. Matthews. James Laurinaitis of the Rams. Pretty tough call.
h. Ricky Williams never worked harder for 108 rushing yards, I can promise you that. The Jags knocked the stuffing out of him.
i. Cleveland's Corey Williams, stunting from defensive tackle outside on several rushes to take advantage of his quickness, sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice and pressured him another time, and added five tackles. On a night fit for neither man nor polar bear, Williams was athletic and powerful, the kind of player the previous regime broke the bank for in March 2008.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 14:
a. Two punches, Trent Cole? That's going to cost you $20,000 -- minimum.
b. Way to show up ready to play, Seahawks. First five plays at Houston: a 33-yard Texans kick return, a 64-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson, touchdown, incomplete pass by Matt Hasselbeck, fumbled snap by Hasselbeck.
c. You're in the pennant race, Jags. Anyone out there buying a ticket to avoid one of the big prime-time embarrassments in a long time Thursday when the Colts come to town?
d. Collinsworth said it. I'd like to echo it. What's wrong with Carson Palmer (15-25, 94 yards)? Yes, 94 yards. In four actual quarters.
e. I can't get over Randy Moss. If you didn't see the game, find someone who TiVOed it. Disgraceful.
f. Asked about his confidence in the pass defense after the Eagles hung 45 on the Giants, Tom Coughlin said, "That's not a great question.'' But it's one his legions of fans are asking.
g. The second pick in the draft, Rams tackle Jason Smith, missed his second straight game with a concussion. Scary thing is, he doesn't remember how he got it.
8. I think this is what's crazy about football: The Redskins were in the biggest freefall of any team in the league around midseason, with an offense that didn't score more than 17 points in any of the first eight games. Now they've lost their best two running backs for the year, have a retiree calling plays, and they've scored 88 points in the last three weeks. And Jason Campbell looks like a player.
9. I think you didn't know (I sure didn't) that Tony Dungy completed one pass each to Lynn Swann and John Stallworth in their Hall of Fame careers. True. Happened in 1977, when injuries forced Chuck Noll to tap the former University of Minnesota quarterback to throw eight passes one game.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I signed about 700 Monday Morning Quarterback books this weekend, bringing the total to somewhere around 1,500, which was a shock to me. Three notes: Thanks for reading and sending the books, and thanks for the gratitude ... I had to shorten lots of the personalizations, or I'd never have gotten through it. So if you get it back and hoped for a 150-word paragraph and got a short sentence, sorry. I'd still be signing if I wrote everything I was asked to write ...
Finally, seven of you didn't send your return address, so we actually have no idea where to send the books. If you think you might be one of those, send along your information with some clues about what you asked me to say and who to say it to ... Books will be mailed by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Thanks for being involved in a project I never envisioned would be quite like this. And thanks to the Fantasy League from Tustin, Calif., that got nine books signed.
b. One other book note: Interesting postscript to the biggest play in recent Eagles history from buddies Reuben Frank and Mark Eckel in their Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in Philadelphia Eagles History: On the fourth-and-26 conversion from McNabb to Freddie Mitchell in the 2003 playoff game against Green Bay, Frank and Eckel report that the two men "despised each other,'' which is known to some. But listen to this vitriol. "Donovan hated the fact that the fans and media loved me more than him,'' said Mitchell. "He only threw me the ball when he had to.'' Linebacker Ike Reese said Mitchell "was trying to mess up our opportunity to win a ring.'' Makes you long for the days of Fred-X.
c. Trying to figure out what movie to see this week. There's about 10 my wife and I want to see. Ideas?
d. Coffeenerdness: Looking forward to trying Sledgehammer Blend, which smells like a sledgehammer meeting very dark coffee beans. Thanks to reader Ira Freehof, owner of the Comfort Diner in Manhattan, for gifting the beans the other day at the Matt Light lunch we had to raise money for his wilderness camp to help at-risk teens in rural Ohio.
Good time was had by all, and thanks so much to Davio's-Foxboro GM Paul Flaherty for treating our eclectic group of 10, made up of locals, a fellow from Nashville and three from New York. Great of them to pay to raise $10,000 for the wilderness camp (mattlightfoundation.org).
e. Had a good conversation with Mike McGuire on Saturday. We've got an interesting project planned for after the holidays and benefiting Mike's men that I hope thousands of readers can get involved in. Mike's company will be deploying to Afghanistan (his third tour to either Iraq or Afghanistan) sometime in the fall, it appears.
f. The episode of "The Office'' with the Dundee Awards is the best episode of that show. Ever, I believe.
g. Jason Bay's defense gets worse by the day. I don't get it. Watched the guy for a year and a half ad he seemed pretty average. Now he's being talked about in butcher fashion. I never saw that Jason Bay.
h. Peter Gammons, for all of us who have been tremendously influenced by your career and your passion, thank you, thank you and thank you again. It'll be good to see you on NESN and MLB Network this season, but I take it your friends around the country won't see as much of you. Their loss. Your baseball notes column from the Globe days was often imitated, never duplicated.
Who I Like Tonight
Let's face it: Even with a win tonight, it's going to be very difficult for the 49ers to win the West. Arizona (8-5) and the Niners (5-7) each have Detroit and St. Louis left to play; the other game for each team is Arizona hosting Green Bay and San Francisco traveling to Philadelphia. So you never know ... but we really do know in this case. Arizona's won seven of nine, and it would have been eight of nine, mostly likely, if Kurt Warner had played at Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. Alex Smith will have to win an unlikely duel to make tonight interesting. Arizona 31, San Francisco 16.
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