Moss-less Vikes not contenders, the Cowboys' malaise, more Bus Stops
The Vikings never gave Randy Moss a chance to enhance their offensive flexibility
The Saints looked great Sunday, but they're still a long way from the playoffs
More thoughts on AFC powers, Niners quarterbacks and ND tragedy
Throughout the 2010 NFL season, SI.com's Nick Zaccardi will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the latest happenings in the league. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
The Vikings' decision to waive Randy Moss was not a smart move if they're thinking about the playoffs. And after just four games? That's a knee-jerk reaction.
Sure, Moss wasn't producing in the box score (one catch for 8 yards in a loss to the Patriots on Sunday), and the team only went 1-3 with him, but the real problem wasn't Moss. It was the Vikings, and their inability to get him the football. Moss was plenty effective in drawing double teams, leading to Percy Harvin's breakout, and drawing pass-interference calls. But he didn't get the ball, and, being who he is, probably ruffled some feathers. If I'm Randy Moss I would have been a little frustrated, too.
Without Moss, the Vikings offense will rewind to where it was a month ago when they were desperate to add a playmaker of Moss's caliber. Harvin will now see double teams, and Brett Favre has one less option when he needs all the help he can get.
So where will Moss end up? Your guess is as good as mine, but if I had to choose, I think the Broncos could be a good match. Josh McDaniels worked with Moss in New England, knows his temperament, understands him as a player and knows how to get him involved.
The Saints are over their Super Bowl hangover. Last week, I attributed New Orleans' mediocre start to a Super Bowl syndrome. That's no longer the case, as the Saints played like champions again in a 20-10 win over the Steelers on Sunday night, moving to 5-3 and a ½ game out of the NFC South lead.
You didn't have to be there to know the intensity was ratcheted up at the Superdome. A Sunday night game. Halloween. A marquee opponent. It was the perfect recipe for New Orleans to step up on a big stage like it did in February.
Drew Brees played like an MVP, withstanding pocket pressure and making his trademark great, accurate throws. I was more impressed by the short-handed defense keeping the Steelers at bay with some crucial goal-line stops. They also never let Ben Roethlisberger (17-of-28, 195 yards, one interception, three sacks) get into a rhythm despite being without their top three corners (Jabari Greer, Tracy Porter and Randall Gay), and fill-in Patrick Robinson going down on the game's second play with a right ankle injury.
Moving forward, the Saints can easily build off this momentum. Only one of the next five opponents owns a winning record (Seattle). Still, it's an uphill battle because they're behind talented Atlanta and a Tampa Bay team that's starting to believe it can play with anyone.
The Cowboys are pretty much done, in case we didn't know already. Sunday's uninspiring performance against the Jaguars was telling. You could see that nobody really wanted to step up. Instead, they all kind of disappeared into the background as Dallas fell to 1-6. They could play the rest of the year with a lame-duck coach; Jerry Jones has been adamantly against in-season changes. Dallas can still win games, but which ones are a complete mystery as you don't know when the talent will come to play. They're playing like a bunch of individuals now instead of a team.
I experienced similar situations during my first couple season with the Rams. When it became clear we didn't have a chance to make the playoffs, guys started to let up. It was a tough pill to swallow, because I still had reasons to play and wanted to fight but couldn't do much on my own.
Can it be fixed by something like a players-only meeting? Not with these Cowboys. Since Tony Romo went down, they've been playing like a team that doesn't believe they can win. If I'm Wade Phillips, I'd go with Jon Kitna for another week or two, and if you don't have any success, put in young Stephen McGee to see if he can prove a capable fall-back option going into 2011.
The AFC is still a tiered conference. The old guard took a hit with the Steelers' and Jets' losses, while the resurgent Chiefs and Raiders won again in Week 8. I still see a gap between the top teams in the AFC and the second tier, even though it may be closing. Right now the elite teams are the Ravens, Steelers, Jets and Colts. The Patriots are stating a strong case to join that group. As for the Chiefs and Raiders, they're on the right track but aren't ready to compete for a championship this season.
I'm not upset about the Texans scanning the locker room for banned substances. That's perfectly fine with me. The locker room is an open environment anyway when you consider the media has access to it. All teams need to be proactive in making sure players know which substances they can and can't take. When I played, we had the option of giving a supplement to our trainers, who would test it, tell us what was in it and whether or not it was a problem.
You also need to look at it from an owner's perspective. The team and its players are an owner's investment, and he's just making sure they're not going to get in trouble.
A few more quick thoughts ...
-- Donovan McNabb's benching doesn't rule out his prospects as a long-term QB in Washington, but it does show that Mike Shanahan doesn't have the confidence in him that everyone thought he did.
-- Troy Smith or Alex Smith? I'll take Troy. The rest of the team has responded positively to him.
-- Derek Anderson or Max Hall? Flip a coin. The Cardinals are pretty much getting the same thing from both -- inconsistent quarterback play.
-- The Week 9 game I'm looking forward to the most is Tampa Bay at Atlanta. Bucs coach Raheem Morris made this claim that his team is the best in the NFC. Now is the opportunity to prove it. The Bucs already lost to New Orleans, so if they can't beat Atlanta, they won't even be the best team in their division. This game will teach us a lot about Josh Freeman and Co.
-- As part of the Notre Dame family, I'd like to express my condolences to the family and loved ones of Declan Sullivan. We've got to look into the reasons as to why this tragedy wasn't prevented and make sure it never happens again.