1. I think this is what I liked about Week 8:
a. Kyle Vanden Bosch is such a smart player; he had a looping sack of Donovan McNabb that underscored it. He lined up over the nose, looped to his right, had the option of which hole to pick, went all the way outside to the right, and nailed McNabb. Underrated speed for an old guy.
b. Kyle Orton to Brandon Lloyd, back shoulder, between two Niners. Thing of beauty.
c. The Chad-T.O. celebration post-touchdown. A simple gentleman's handshake. Kind of cool.
d. Favre played. He was glad he did. Played well too. "I was shocked I was able to play and move around the way I was,'' he said. No reason he won't play again next week too.
e. Buffalo's effort. Chan Gailey doesn't have a good team, but he has a team that's fun to watch and that plays hard.
f. Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers ... just physical enough. He's playing so well, and in part because he knows how physical he can be past the five-yard bump zone.
g. The two Jet fans dressed as Sideline Rex Ryan for Halloween. Perfect -- all the way down to the headset he wears and the black vest over the white long-sleeve shirt underneath -- and the laminated playsheet he holds. Now that's clever.
h. Officials made the right call on the Denver chop block against San Francisco. When Knowshon Moreno dropped down after pitching the ball back to quarterback Kyle Orton, and then the onrushing 49er got pushed over the kneeling Moreno, that constitutes a chop block. "Intent'' is not a factor in chop blocking -- and clearly, Moreno didn't drop to his knees to attempt a chop block. But that doesn't matter. The only thing that matter is whether the defender was chop blocked, which, in this case, did happen.
i. Jon Kitna deserved a much better fate. His receivers got their hands on all three balls Kitna had intercepted by the Jags.
j. Jamaal Charles, 22 for 177. Heck of an elusive back, and he can break tackles too.
k. Fantasy players who picked up LaGarette Blount.
l. Darius Heyward-Bey! A Darius Heyward-Bey sighting! And a 105-yard receiving day for him.
m. Mike Shanahan's stones.
n. Ron Brace. Huge play in Minnesota-New England late in the first half, with the Vikings having a first-and-goal at the Patriots' one with the score tied at 7. Brace, a second-year defensive tackle from Boston College (looks like he has classic noseman size), lined up on the head of Minnesota right tackle Phil Loadholt. At the snap, Adrian Peterson took the ball and ran right behind Loadholt. One problem: Brace was pushing Loadholt back. Peterson couldn't find a hole, and he was enveloped by the Patriot defense. Never would have happened if Brace hadn't win the man-to-man battle with Loadholt.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 8:
a. Teams wear throwbacks too often. Those Ram throwbacks were ugly when Dick Vermeil coached, and they're still ugly.
b. Brutal, brutal sked of early games. Simms and Nantz at Jax-Dallas (combined record 4-9) ... London getting the 3-11 combo platter of Niners/Broncs.
c. I don't say this lightly: I am shocked at how much the Cowboys stink. Miles Austin and Felix Jones -- and the defense -- are the latest to smell it up. Austin and Jones dropped Jon Kitna throws, turning them into interceptions. The defense ... pick a player. It's awful.
d. Randy Moss implying the Vikings should have gone for the field goal at the end of the first half on fourth-and-goal from the Patriot one in a 7-7 game. I guarantee you'd have heard grumbling from the Vikings if Brad Childress had gone for the field goal instead of using the best running back alive, Adrian Peterson, to try to make a yard, and a touchdown.
e. The ridiculous fake punt the Jets tried, and that punter Steve Weatherford evidently had permission to try if he felt he had the open space, on a fourth-and-18. How can you think you've got room to make 18 yards? Ridiculous that Weatherford ran it, and more ridiculous if he had the freedom to do so from the coaches.
f. Mark Sanchez responding to pressure. Not a good day for the Sanchize.
g. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, 22 for 76. It's vital to do better than that.
h. Carson Palmer. I don't care what the stats say, he throws too many Rick Ankiel balls. In other words, the football equivalent of a ball ending up on the backstop.
i. Amazed that Drew Brees held onto the ball so long in the fourth quarter, giving the Steelers a chance to sack, force a fumble and recover. Not like Brees.
j. Max Hall. Looks like he's playing with zero confidence now, totally unlike the guy I saw in training camp.
3. I think the reports of the Houston Texans doing drug sweeps in the wake of two of their players being suspended this year for testing positive for PEDs are a little off-base. This happened five weeks ago, when left tackle Duane Brown got whacked for four games. The Texans met with their players and told them the only supplements they wanted to see on the premises were NFL-approved supplements. Three companies manufacture these supplements and are marked with the NFL seal of approval. So the players were told if you have anything else in your locker, get rid of it.
Team officials did a visual inspection, though not very close and involved, to make sure players were complying. But if a player had unapproved supplements behind a door in his locker, for instance, the team wouldn't have gone in there to inspect, according to Houston GM Rick Smith. "We didn't go down there and search through lockers,'' Smith told me. "We just wanted players to know the only way you could avoid testing positive for sure would be to only take the NFL-approved supplements.''
What the Texans did, in effect, is put the dog-ate-my-homework onus on the players. If the players want to say they took a tainted supplement, they can do that ... but then they'd have to admit they took a supplement not approved by the NFL, which is what the team is trying to make sure they don't do.
4. I think because many of you have asked about NFL Films' Top 100 Players series, I thought I'd take a minute to explain how the thing worked. The final show, with the top 10 players, will air Thursday night on NFL Network, followed by a one-hour wrap show with four or the voters (me, veteran NFL executives Ernie Accorsi and Mike Lombardi, and Jarrett Bell of USA Today) discussing the pros and cons of the vote with moderator Steve Sabol. (We taped the show the other day in Mount Laurel, N.J., in NFL Filmsville.)
Anyway, here's how the balloting went: 85 voters --owners, GMs, NFL executives and retired execs, coaches, owners, former coaches, broadcasters, media and Hall of Fame voters -- got a list of 260 players. We were asked to grade the players from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best). When all the ballots were gathered, NFL Films tallied up the votes, and the 100 highest-rated players were ranked from 1 to 100 based on total points. For instance, if Johnny Unitas was given a 10 by 70 voters and a 9 by the other 15, his point total would have been 835. I have no idea about Unitas' point total; I use him only as an example. But you see how the things works.
Seems the biggest controversy so far has been the ranking of the modern quarterbacks (surprise) who've played since 1970. They've fallen in this order: Brett Favre 20, Tom Brady 21, John Elway 23, Dan Marino 25, Roger Staubach 46, Terry Bradshaw 50, Troy Aikman 80, Steve Young 81, Kurt Warner 90, Joe Namath 100. Obviously, there are a couple of quarterbacks I haven't named who just might be in the last show. One is active and might be playing tonight. Another is retired and has the same last name as a western state with a very big sky. Anyway, it was a fun exercise. Thursday night will be fun TV.
5. I think I liked two things Mike Tomlin said to Bob Costas in the NBC Football Night in America interview last night. Costas asked Tomlin about what changes he's seen in Ben Roethlisberger since the QB returned from his four-game suspension. "As a player, he's enjoying the monotony more,'' Tomlin said, and truer words can't be spoken. Roethlisberger saw what was taken away from him, missed it desperately, and came back a more interested man in what used to be the menial tasks of the job. Tomlin also said of his quarterback having to much fame too early in life: "Success ... can be a trap door for you.'' Good stuff.
6. I think the Lions probably want to play the Redskins every week. Great stat from Mike Florio: In the past 40 Detroit games, the Lions are 2-0 against Washington and 2-36 against everyone else.
7. I think we shouldn't let the weekend get away without leaving you with a snippet from SI's David Epstein's report in the magazine this week on a groundbreaking study of high school football players. Writes Epstein:
"The findings suggest that while the NFL is going to unprecedented lengths to control the violent collisions that produce concussions, brain trauma in football may start much earlier, and much less conspicuously, with hits that never raise an eyebrow, much less a penalty flag."
Epstein also describes the potential of blood and genetic testing to diagnose brain trauma:
"Bone breaks have X-rays and muscle strains have MRIs, but no form of medical imaging has yet been able to quickly and reliably quantify the type of brain trauma a concussed athlete might suffer. But a number of promising technologies are in the medical pipeline."
8. I think the oddest stat -- or maybe not, if you consider how offensive coordinators target who they consider the weak link in a secondary -- is that DeAngelo Hall had the highest completion completion-percentage-against of any cornerback in football after seven weeks ... yet had his fifth interception in 32 minutes Sunday against the Lions. (added to his four picks against the Bears last week, all in the last 25 minutes of the second half). I'm sure no player has ever had five interceptions in 32 minutes in NFL history. Small consolation to the Redskins, of course, today.
9. I think Jenn Sterger is probably more likely to sue the New York Jets than she is to take action against Brett Favre, if the investigators working for her attorney find it was a Jets' employee in 2008 who funneled her phone number to Favre.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. MLS Eastern Conference semis: New York vs. San Jose. Come again?
b. I thought it was weird when Phoenix was in the NFC East. Well, I guess San Jose is east ... of Honolulu.
c. Always learn a lot reading the New York Times. Always. Like last Wednesday: Did you know Bill Clinton's a vegan? That a public school superintendent of a system in Maine with declining enrollment traveled to China to try to convince parents to send their kids to school in his town? That, in the past 26 years, 24 New Yorkers have been killed or seriously injured in fights arising over Halloween eggings? That (and I particularly liked this one) the World Series mayors are both former baseball players themselves and, in their own way, are politically/baseball correct -- Democrat Gavin Newsome of San Francisco throws left, Republican Tom Leppert of Dallas throws right.
d. I have heard people complain that the price of newspapers is going up, or that newspaper websites, in starting to charge people for content (which is long overdue), are turning people away from the papers. Well, I guess paying $2 for the Times is prohibitive outside of New York City compared to recent days, when it could be had for less than a dollar. But I paid $2.49 for a Zone bar in Logan Airport the other day and $2 for the newspaper. I was finished with the Zone bar in seven bites -- maybe five minutes. I spent 75 minutes with the Times, then put the crossword in my bag (frustratingly) to work on it later in the week. Pretty good deal if you ask me.
e. Speaking of journalists who deserve praise, Stan Grossfeld of the Boston Globe is amazing. He's done great work this year on the Bernie Carbo-played-high story, the story of the other Marinovich -- Syracuse pass-rusher and NFL prospect Mikhail Marinovich -- and the Travels-With-Charlie-style story in which he was a fly on the wall in London with Red Sox owner John Henry as he closed the deal to buy the Liverpool soccer team. What's more, he takes the pictures for the stories too. Now that's a photojournalist for you.
f. Speaking of Liverpool, my brother Ken lives in England. He's a big Yankees fan. He's a big Liverpool fan. Now he's got to root for the owner of the Red Sox to turn around his flagging soccer team.
g. Coffeenerdness: Thank you, United Airlines, for at least trying to make good airline coffee. The Starbucks United serves -- had it again last Wednesday -- is the best in the air.
h. I have not run into many (or any, maybe) companies with the public conscience of Harpoon Brewery in Boston.
i. Thanks, Celtics, for allowing my buddy Pete Thamel and me to parachute into the Celts-Heat LeBron Bowl opener. Very generous of you. Even got to meet my favorite player of my youth, Hondo Havlicek. That was fun. Except for me asking one too many stupid questions when trying to find out where some of the guys from that team were now. "Where's Larry Siegfried?'' I asked. Said Hondo: "He died two weeks ago.''
j. And I know less about the NBA than I know about Norwegian politics. But I did leave the basketball game wondering how in the world anyone would think Chris Bosh is on LeBron's and Dwyane Wade's level. It should be the Big Two and Three-Quarters in Miami instead of the Big Three, shouldn't it?
k. Count me among those who cannot figure out for the life of me how a kid (or an adult, for that matter) would be allowed to go up in one of those portable scissor rigs that house film crews at football practices when the wind is blowing at an estimated 50 mph. Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan was killed when the wind blew one of the rigs over at an Irish football practice the other day. The investigation continues. I've been at many a practice when those things are skyward. Without being there, it's tough to figure out exactly what happened, obviously. But if it's that windy, it stands to reason it's quite a risk.
l. Come on, Charlie Sheen. Get a hold of yourself, man.
Indianapolis 30, Houston 23. This game can go a lot of ways, because both teams ought to feel pretty good coming off the bye. But if I'm analyzing a football game, and Peyton Manning has had two weeks to prepare, and Bill Walsh has had two weeks to prepare, I'd still probably pick Manning. Thus the prediction.