1. I think this is what I liked about Week 7:
a. Davone Bess. As is the case with so many undersized receivers, 31 other teams have to be kicking themselves for passing on him in the draft two years ago.
b. The Raiders scored the most points in their 50-year history. Putting up 59 on the suddenly woeful Broncos, 38 in the first quarter and a half, should be enough ammo for Tom Cable to convince his players that, at 3-4, they are still in contention.
c. Andy Reid, for sticking with Michael Vick. It's the most logical step because Kevin Kolb didn't do enough to outplay him over the past two weeks.
d. Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's the second-highest rated quarterback in the NFL. That is not a misprint. He put up 374 yards in Baltimore yesterday.
e. Michael Turner, whom we take for granted. He ran for 121 yards and caught two balls for 23 more in the win over Cincinnati. Invaluable player.
f. I could have sworn Thomas Jones was done last year when the Jets elevated Shonn Greene over him in the playoffs. Not so fast. He's the co-No.-1 back with the Chiefs and he solidified that Sunday with 125 yards against Jacksonville.
g. The effort by Carolina. To put up 379 yards on any team, even San Francisco, is a great day for the quarterback-challenged Panthers.
h. Mike Williams. The Seattle Mike Williams, with 11 more catches Sunday against Arizona. What a great signing by Pete Carroll.
i. Scott Fujita, in his return home. The Cleveland linebacker had the aforementioned sack of Brees, intercepted Brees also, and had a tackle for loss as the Browns embarrassed the Saints.
j. Kudos to Jeff Lurie for screening The Tillman Story in his meeting room/auditorium at the Eagles' facility Friday. That's not a good day to show movies, because players get out of work early on Fridays. I hope he finds another time to show the movie, when players can see it. They need to.
k. Ben Roethlisberger's artful 53-yard touchdown bomb to Mike Wallace. What was so beautiful is that Roethlisberger planted to pass at his own 39, under pressure, and as he threw a high-arching rainbow to Wallace, he got leveled. Downfield, Wallace caught it at the Miami four and scored. The ball traveled 57 yards in the air and couldn't have been thrown any better.
l. I like the Steelers winning on the road without LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) and after losing Aaron Smith in the third quarter.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 7:
a. Everything about Denver. How would you know where to start?
b. The Cincinnati defense. I figured the Bengals couldn't repeat last year's playoff performance, but this is ridiculous. Another generous day in Atlanta -- 452 yards, 39 points -- left the Bengals 2-4 and out of any realistic playoff contention.
c. The Jags. In six days, they've gone from a 3-2 contender to a 3-4 joke. No team has allowed more than Jacksonville's 209 points.
d. Very strange case of Drew Brees. Sean Payton has to figure out what's different about the most accurate QB of our day. They have to figure it out now.
e. If you want us to take you seriously, St. Louis, don't squander a 17-3 lead against the offensively incomplete Bucs.
f. Brett Favre and his bad ankle. Suddenly, 2009 seems 10 years ago.
g. Chicago's playoff hopes. Hard to see them competing to be .500, never mind vying with Green Bay for the division title.
3. I think the biggest loss of the weekend actually came Friday, when the Indianapolis Colts put Dallas Clark on injured reserve with a wrist injury from a hit he took eight nights ago in Washington. The most versatile NFL tight end in the receiving game is lost for the year, and Peyton Manning will now have to try to do with Jacob Tamme (career catches: six) what he's done with Austin Collie and so many other receivers over the last few years -- put him on the fast track to competence, because the Colts have no other choice.
"For us,'' Manning said, "Dallas pass-protects like a right tackle, and he's also a threat to go down the middle of the field. You've seen Dallas in the backfield for us or lining up at wide receiver. You have to find the guy who can do that, where if [a defender] slips just a little bit, if he bites on a fake just a little bit, it's not just going to cost them a 10-yard completion, it might cost an 80-yard touchdown."
4. I think if you have a minute and can help the injured Rutgers player, Eric LeGrand, who suffered a spinal-cord injury nine days ago in a game against Army, please check out the "Eric LeGrand Believe Fund,'' established the other day by the university.
5. I think Brad Childress will be donating to the league's charitable causes, and soon. "Worst officiated game I've seen,'' he said after Sunday night's 28-24 loss to Green Bay.
6. I think, after talking to the attorney of Jenn Sterger on Sunday, I'd be a little worried about liability in the case of Favre-Sterger if I were the New York Jets. Attorney Joseph Conway and Sterger's manager, Phil Reese, told me that they have retained "a team of former FBI agents" to determine how Favre obtained Sterger's telephone number in 2008 (Jay Glazer reported Sunday on Fox that Favre admitted to the NFL last week that he made phone calls to Sterger, but he did not admit sending her the graphic images via cell phone that have been portrayed as Favre's on Deadspin.com.)
Sterger has been adamant that she did not give Favre her phone number. Conway and Reese told me Sunday that they have identified a "person of interest" whom they believe was the conduit who got the phone number to Favre. That person, I am told, may have worked for the Jets in 2008. This is all speculation on my part -- what part of this story isn't speculation? -- but if Sterger wants a career in the media, it would be difficult for her to have a credible one if she is paid off by Favre for her silence. (I should make it clear that Conway told me there have been no settlement discussions with the Favre side.)
But if a good attorney could make a case that a Jets employee gave Favre the number, maybe the Jets would be liable for damages based on behavior of that employee, giving out personal phone numbers without someone's knowledge. It will be interesting to watch in the coming days.
7. I think if yesterday proved nothing else, it proved the players can be physical and intimidating without hitting other players in the head with their own heads.
8. I think there are two clarifications I'd like to make regarding my lengthy Deion Branch note last week, the one in which I talked about how sad it was how Branch didn't stay in New England and missed four and a half prime seasons with Tom Brady.
One: Players are naturally going to be concerned about making as much money in as short a period a time as possible because NFL contracts are largely not guaranteed. When Branch signed a six-year, $39 million deal with Seattle after being traded from New England in 2006, he didn't necessarily expect to play out the full six years. So even though it appears as though he will play the full six years of this contract (2011 is the last year of the deal), Branch couldn't have known that at as he was mulling New England's offer in 2006.
The Patriots' offer over the first three years of the contract would have paid Branch $16 million; over four years, $20 million. The deal he signed with Seattle would net him $23.6 million over three years, and $27.6 million over four. With the injury factor being so big for a smallish wide receiver like Branch, a difference of $7.6 million over four years is major. Thus, even though Branch was pained to leave Brady, the money seemed worth it at the time.
Two: In terms of pure guaranteed money, the Patriots offered $11 million. The deal with Seattle guaranteed $13 million. That was also a factor. Now, there's a good chance I would have wanted to make the best deal I could to stay with the Patriots just because I would want to play my whole career with a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback. But I'm not Branch.
9. I think I just heard a big "uh-oh'' from 280 Park Avenue, and it had nothing to do with players getting clocked in the head. The New York Times didn't like Lombardi, the play about Vince Lombardi that opened on Broadway Thursday night, and that is not good for ticket sales to non-football fans and those who do not live in Wisconsin.
Here's the start of Charles Isherwood's tepid -- at best -- review. "Granted, the man has a lot to do. Like instilling professionalism, heart and fierce dedication in a frozen winter field full of young men. Like transforming a losing football team into a winning one in the span of a single season. And then leading that team to a series of history-making championships, including the first two Super Bowl titles. But is it too much to ask of Vince Lombardi that he take charge of his own play?''
I get it -- not enough Lombardi (Dan Lauria, the dad in the The Wonder Years.) I agree, sort of; I would have liked to have seen more of Lombardi telling the story and less of Marie Lombardi (Judith Light) telling it, but it's still a good play for any of the hordes of you who love football and have a great regard for what Lombardi brought to Green Bay and the game. The best scene, I thought, was the Jim Taylor character going toe-to-toe with Lombardi about getting a new contract. Terrific, angry, confrontational, spittle-spewing.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Had the good fortune Wednesday to attend a screening of the new documentary Inside Job, a damning indictment of pretty much everything about our financial system and why it collapsed a couple of years ago. The executive producers: Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and his wife, Christine Weiss Lurie.
The documentary, which is narrated by Matt Damon, gives a terrific analysis of what happened, with zingers thrown at some of the giants in American finance. I think we can figure out the base reason: unfettered greed by some of the most important people in America. Lurie spoke before the film and told the crowd, "You're going to need a drink afterwards.'' I think we all needed four.
b. That was not a happy crowd filing out of Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night. I was among the masses. Stunning but right, I guess, to hear the Phillies fans boo the celebrating Giants on the field.
c. Philadelphians aren't very happy with Ryan Howard right now. Not sure I'd be surfacing to kiss many babies in the city if I were him.
d. Thought Bruce Bochy did a terrific managing job Saturday night. He got it. He managed in the moment. He saw his starter, Jonathan Sanchez, unravel with the cacophonous and derisive "SAN-chez, SAN-chez'' echoing through the park, and took him out after he hit Chase Utley in the third inning of a 2-2 game. That game wouldn't have been 2-2 for long; 6-2's more like it if Bochy had been patient with his starter.
Then, in the eighth, I loved him bringing in Tim Lincecum -- even though Lincecum is obviously not a reliever and you'd like to have him ready to pitch significant innings Sunday if needed in Game 7. Bochy saw he had six outs to get, and he tried to get them any way he could; I don't care that Lincecum retired one batter, then gave up two singles, forcing Bochy to go with Brian Wilson for a five-out save.
e. I really like National League baseball. I like the strategy of the game more than what one gets from the AL.
f. I like Joe Girardi and think he's a good manager. But I was stunned to see his use of the bullpen Friday night. There was C.C. Sabathia and the rest of the starting staff in the bullpen in Game 6 of the ALCS at Texas. Phil Hughes on the mound, shaky. Fifth inning. So many guys in the bullpen there are hardly enough seats for them all. And who gets up to warm ... David Robertson, he of the 3.82 regular-season ERA and 1.50 WHIP. In three ALCS outings, he'd been rapped for six hits and five earned runs. Hughes gives up a two-run double to Vlad the Impaler. Texas, 3-1. Every batter now is the most important batter of the season to face. Out walks Girardi. Pitching change. Sabathia, Burnett, Kerry Wood? Nope. Robertson. Homer to Nelson Cruz. Double to Ian Kinsler. Joe, in the immortal words of Christopher Russo, "That's a bad job right there.''
g. You don't think the Texas fans and two-thirds of New England didn't get a little more pleasure out of the end of Game 6 when A-Rod struck out looking to end the series?
h. If you're Brian Cashman, don't you have to wonder, after the Yanks hit .201 and had a 6.58 ERA in this series, whether you have to do more than just sign Cliff Lee?
i. I love Texas making the World Series. I love the Giants making it. I love new franchises like the Rangers making it to the big dance, ratings be damned. I'll be watching, Nolan Ryan.
j. New York Post front page Saturday: "$210M Bust! Yanks for nothing.''
k. Coffeenerdness: Why do restaurants assume you want skim milk for the coffee? Nothing against skim (it's nice for cereal), but you might as well drink the coffee black if you take it with skim.
l. I don't watch much college football, but that Cam Newton is one scintillating player.
Dallas 33, New York Giants 24. Part of this is the theory that the desperate team usually wins when the matchup is close. But part, too, is the fact that the Cowboys, at some point, are going to play a very good game befitting their status. For all the things they're doing wrong that add up to 1-4 -- the penalties, the discipline, the seven Tony Romo interceptions, the intense focus on the failings of the head coach (I wasn't aware that Wade Phillips is to blame for cancer not being cured yet) -- they're still a team, arguably, that's the most talented in the division. I just always figure at some point that talent wins out, and I think that starts tonight.
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