1. I think this is what I liked about Week 4:
a. Jim Mora's interview of Mike Vick on NFL Network. Hearing Vick call prison "the best thing that ever happened to me'' was an incredible TV moment. It's the best interview in TV this year. And Vick adding he never would have changed had he not gone to Leavenworth: "If that didn't happen, I wasn't going to change. I wasn't gonna stop fighting dogs. My mom tried to tell me, and it was in one ear and out the other.''
b. Derrick Mason. His 40-yard catch of a Flacco rainbow early in Steelers-Ravens -- the 875th catch of an underrated career -- was a great example of how a receiver can block out a defensive back without getting called for pass-interference, and shield the defender from having any chance to make a play. Smart veteran move.
c. The embattled Alex Smith -- for a while on Sunday. A 10-play, 88-yard drive (and completing six consecutive passes) to start the game. I know he made two bad throws later, and I'm a broken record here, but it's not time to give up on Smith.
d. Haloti Ngata is such a force, and such a deceiving athlete, that I swear the Ravens could put him at defensive end in pass-rush downs consistently and he could get double-digit sacks.
e. Nobody places the ball at the perfect spots for his receivers like Drew Brees. Jeremy Shockey was blanketed by the Panthers in the third quarter on a short out pattern, and Brees put it perfectly, where only a diving Shockey had a chance.
f. Chris Canty. You're alive.
g. Osi Umenyiora. You're a man possessed.
h. Way to hang in there, Seneca Wallace.
i. Terrell Owens took a big step toward a bust in Canton against the Browns Sunday with his 10-catch, 222-yard day against the Browns. He's second in history with 15,325 yards, and fifth now with 1,030 catches. He needs 64 receptions to catch Tim Brown, 71 to catch Cris Carter and 72 to tie Marvin Harrison. He'll probably have to play another season to do so, but Owens could well finish his career second to only Jerry Rice, the man who ran the receivers' room in San Francisco when Owens was drafted by the 49ers in 1997.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 4:
a. Nomination for worst game of the week by a player on a winning team: Laurence Maroney, running back, Denver. Incredible that the Broncos paid a fourth-round pick, in part, to acquire this back who can't make something from anything but big holes. His day at Tennessee: Eleven carries for five yards, two receptions for 10 yards.
b. Nomination for worst game of the week by a unit: Chicago's pass protection. Cutler didn't throw fast enough, and the Bear line was a simple sieve in a nine-sack first-half performance.
c. I don't like Giants return man Darius Reynaud's instincts. He doesn't know when to fair-catch a punt.
d. Me thinking Tomlinson was washed up.
e. The Raiders letting Derrick Ward and Arian Foster roll over them.
f. Jimmy Clausen has to learn to throw the ball above the hands of the defensive linemen, not into their numbers. Sheesh.
g. Buffalo's secondary. What a poor display. On the Jets' third touchdown pass of the day, there were three Jets open in the end zone. Watch the wide-angle replay. Three guys open, including the one who caught the touchdown pass from Sanchez, tight end Dustin Keller.
h. Kelvin Hayden, Kelvin Hayden ... How do you not catch that interception, the pick that could have clinched the win for the Colts at Jacksonville in the fourth quarter?
i. Soon to be seeking another line of work, or at least another team: Giants punter Matt Dodge. Hard to find something more indictable about a pro athlete, but Dodge is a Nervous Nellie out there.
3. I think nothing will be easy for the Saints this year. Hasn't been through four games. Won't be for the next 12.
4. I think the quarterback crop for the 2011 draft is taking shape nicely, with one of the top prospects looking great for a half Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., before the roof fell in. I asked ESPN's Todd McShay to give me his top five college quarterbacks, and here's his list, complete with his projected overall pick in the draft in parentheses, or, in one case, a school returnee:
a. Andrew Luck, Stanford (1)
b. Jake Locker, Washington (10).
c. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (17).
d. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri (return to school for senior year).
e. Christian Ponder, Florida State (46).
5. I think this thought occurred to me while watching Carson Palmer struggle in the first quarter of the season: He's owed $53 million over the next four years, but whether there's a salary cap next year or not, the Bengals could cut him and not have a dime count against a cap.
6. I think Max Hall starts for the Cardinals -- maybe for the rest of the year. The biggest reason Ken Whisenhunt let Matt Leinart go is because he likes Hall and is sure Hall has a chance to be better than Leinart in his system. With Derek Anderson struggling mightily, there's no reason not to play Hall now.
7. I think the Bills look farther away from contention than I ever remember.
8. I think the 49ers aren't out of it. Not at all, not in the NFC West. If they beat the Eagles Sunday night (and Philly playing Kolb behind that line makes that very possible), and with Arizona hosting New Orleans and the Rams at dangerous Detroit, the Niners could go to bed Sunday night a game out of first through five weeks after an absolutely wretched start.
9. I think this could be Arian Foster's wakeup call --though I must say I didn't think he needed one. I had dinner in Houston with Foster 12 days ago, and I found him to be quite responsible and absolutely thrilled he was getting a real chance to be a big-time running back after his checkered past at Tennessee.
Here's what I mean about responsible: We sat at the restaurant for a good three hours. At the start of the evening, we each ordered a glass of wine. I knew we'd be there for a while, so after we'd ordered the wine, with the waiter still there, I asked Foster if he'd like to just order a bottle because we'd probably be there long enough to drink two glasses. Oh no, he said; he didn't want to drive after having two glasses of wine.
He was kept out of the lineup Sunday for missing a meeting and being late for another, apparently, and he was chided for it early Sunday morning by one of his Twitter followers. "I'll try to be better,'' he wrote to his fan.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Apropos of Nothing Quiz Dept.: What is Everbank Field? (Answer at bottom of this section.)
b. This is what I call paying it forward: A couple of weeks ago, I put two club seats to Friday night's Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park in play for my www.runpeterkingrun.com fundraiser. The face value of the tickets is $340 for the pair. I asked for $500. A reader from West Lafayette, Ind., Rick Johnston, came up with a $500 donation and told me to keep the tickets and auction them off again. Wow, I told him; thanks.
So I did, lowering the price to $400. This time, Greg Morville of Glen Ridge, N.J., came up with the dough. He told me to send him the tickets, and he had some friends interested in them, and he'd try to sell them for a good buck if he could. Wow, I said; thanks.
At the same time, two other readers combined to donate $416 and said they'd take the tickets if they were available, but if not, good luck with the race. Wow, I said; thanks.
Greg Morville got back to me and said his buddy Jim Hayes offered to buy the tickets from him for $450. One baseball game, two tickets, $1,766 to Feed the Children/Wounded Warrior Project. I'm so grateful for your generosity.
c. Baseball awards: MVPs: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Joey Votto, Cincinnati ... Cy Youngs: Felix Hernandez, Seattle; Roy Halladay, Philadelphia ... Rookies: Neftali Feliz, Texas; Buster Posey, San Francisco ... Managers: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota; Bud Black, San Diego.
Now, it took me a while to come over to the Felix Hernandez camp, and I don't love giving the award to a 13-12 pitcher, but pitching for a team that offensively challenged (zero runs scored by Mariners in seven of his last 13 starts) has to be a very strong consideration. One final note: Almost picked Jose Bautista for MVP, but Hamilton had as many big hits as Bautista and maybe more -- and he did it in a pennant race.
d. Turns out I was right about the Red Sox. Picked them to finish out of the running in the AL East, with the Ray and Yanks making the playoffs. I figured one thing right -- they didn't have the bullpen to make the playoffs -- but the injury thing, obviously, no one can predict.
e. Coffeenerdness: The most shocking thing about my run in the wilds of New Hampshire? I did it fueled by a non-Starbucks coffee. Dunkin' Donuts, you did just fine. Thank you.
f. Congrats on a great first year at The Boston Globe, Pete Abraham.
g. Good luck on your new NFL assignment with the Globe, Greg Bedard.
h. I'll miss box scores for the next six months.
i. Everbank Field is the home field for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Miami 30, New England 23: Pretty simple, really. The New England defense is a mess right now and the secondary has contributed generously, giving up 28 points to Mark Sanchez and 23 to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jaworski detailed well the problems of the Patriot D against play-action on Sunday morning's State Farm NFL Matchup show on ESPN.
The game's in Florida, and New England has been a bad road team lately, too, losing five of the last six away from home and giving up 28, 34, 10, 22, 38 and 35 points in those six games. It's entirely possible that Tom Brady could put up 30 tonight. But that might not be enough. And he might get tormented by the resurgent Miami pass-rush, too.
Walking to my plane in Boston Saturday afternoon, a Massachusetts state trooper told me, "You picked the wrong team, Petah. Shoulda picked the Pats.'' Maybe, but if I did, I wouldn't have much confidence in the pick.
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