Offensive Players of the Week
Jason Campbell, QB, Oakland.
His numbers in the overtime win over Kansas City were pedestrian -- 19 of 33, 229 yards, one touchdown, one interception -- but he made rookie wideout Jacoby Ford a very famous man Sunday in the biggest game Oakland has played since 2002. Campbell drove the Raiders to a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation by completing passes of seven, 19 and 29 yards to get into field-goal range. Then, in overtime, Campbell threw a pass of beauty, a spiraled rope traveling 47 yards, again to Ford, to get in position for the winning field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. Great job of redemption Campbell, who started this game only because nominal starter Bruce Gradkowski is hurt.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland.
The Browns beat the Patriots the way the Patriots have been beating teams for years -- by pounding them and physically dominating them. Hillis, who has surprisingly soft hands for a big man, accounted for 220 yards from scrimmage. He rushed 29 times for 184 yards and caught three balls for 36 more. This has turned into a marvelous pickup, considering Hillis can run through people and around more than just the defensive linemen.
Defensive Player of the Week
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay.
The more I see of Matthews, the more I think we're watching a player with Ray Lewis energy and instincts. Case in point: mid-second quarter Sunday night against Dallas, lined up across from tight end Jason Witten. At the snap of the ball, Matthews sped inside the left shoulder of Witten and slammed head-on into ballcarrier Marion Barber. Sniffed out the play and the gap perfectly. For the game, Matthews had four tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and an interception in the 45-7 wipeout of the destitute Cowboys.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Jacoby Ford, KR/WR, Oakland.
Ford, the rookie from Clemson, made his mark on a big game the way few rookies have this year. He returned the opening kickoff of the second half 94 yards for a touchdown. As if that wasn't enough, he exploded on the receiving scene for six catches and 148 yards, showing grit and determination in the process.
Coach of the Week
Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator, Oakland.
The Raiders can run the ball down throats. They can throw competently to new receivers with two under-the-radar quarterbacks. With 115 points in the past three weeks, Oakland's offense is becoming one of the league's most formidable. The Raiders are thankful they imported Jackson, who's been a godsend of stability to a team closer to good than any of us thought.
Goat of the Week
David Herron, LB, San Diego.
It's an epidemic, played out in the theater of the absurd. Technically this didn't count as the fifth San Diego punt blocked of this season, because Mike Scifres' first boot of the day at Houston actually traveled one yard past the line of scrimmage after it was blocked deep in San Diego territory. This, in effect, was the fifth blocked punt in San Diego's nine games, an incredible run considering that in special-teams coach Steve Crosby's eight previous years with the Chargers, his punt teams had only two blocked. Here, Herron, picked up 12 days ago as part of a raft of special-teams changes, was playing right guard on the punt team, and he vacated the hole to double-team an inside rusher.
Sign of the Week
-- Sign at the Metrodome Sunday. Probably doesn't need much explanation.
1. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego. I'm stunned to have moved him to first overall, jumping over Brady and Manning. The Chargers are 4-5, and how can the MVP come from a 4-5 team, particularly when his competition has winning records. It's because Rivers has been magnificent, particularly in light of winning a tough road game the Chargers had to have without any of his three favorite receivers from 2009 -- and he still threw four touchdown passes and stayed on pace to shatter the all-time yardage record for a season.
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England. Very bad day in Cleveland. Awful. Brady was off all day.
3. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Pretty soon, Dan Patrick and I will be running routes for Manning. In games.
4. Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay. "Could you ever vote for a defensive player, like Matthews, for MVP?'' Dan Patrick asked me last night at NBC. I could, but probably only in a year when the great defensive player helps a very good team win double digits and being more important to the team than the quarterback. That'll be tough for Matthews, particularly in a year when Rivers, Brady and Manning are playing with so many new pieces every week.
5. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore. Man among Ravens.
"Special thanks to all the media. The little league world series is now more physical than professional football. You've been heard!''
--@RyanClark25, Steelers safety Ryan Clark, at 6:39 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
"Never thought I'd look at Diane Lane and think of Tom Coughlin. Just happened on flight to Seattle. Watched & thoroughly enjoyed Secretariat.''
--@giantspathanlon, Giants PR maven Pat Hanlon, Saturday after the team's charter landed in Seattle for Sunday's game, on the feature film that was the Giants' in-flight entertainment. Diane Lane. Tough gal, evidently.
NFL Quiz: Who is the NFL's passer-ratings leader this morning? The answer is at the bottom of this column, in number 10 of Ten Things I Think I Think, but I have four clues for you:
1. In four previous full seasons as a starting quarterback, his highest rating was 81.6.
2. He's the only quarterback of the 32 qualifiers who has not thrown an interception this year.
3. Before this season, he'd never had a 60-percent passing season, nor a 3,000-yard season.
4. He could be the most intriguing free agent in NFL history in 2011, assuming there is actually some sort of free agency season in 2011.
Come on. This is easy.
So this week I wrote in the magazine about the impact of special teams on the 2010 season ... if you'd like to take a look ... and I am left with this nugget I didn't explore in the story.
In his first eight years as Charger special-teams coach, Steve Crosby had one long snapper for the 128 games he coached: David Binn. In the first six games of this year, Crosby had five. Detailing them:
Week 1 -- David Binn. Placed on IR after one game (hamstring).
Week 1 -- James Dearth Placed on IR after two days in camp (broken foot).
Weeks 2-3 -- Ryan Neill. Placed on IR after two games (knee).
Weeks 4-5 -- Ethan Albright. Released. "He was 40 years old,'' said Crosby; 39, actually.
Weeks 6-9 -- Mike Windt Active for four games.
I asked Crosby how Dearth got hurt. "Damned if I know,'' he said. "He was at practice, his foot hurt, he got it examined, and it was broken.''
The Chargers, 4-5, have allowed touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns, have had a kicker injured slipping on artificial turf indoors, have had four punts blocked and a fifth (Sunday at Houston) deflected, and, arguably, have lost four games this year directly attributable to special-teams gaffes.
Flew the Delta Shuttle from Boston to New York Saturday afternoon for a weekend of work at NBC. I had a window seat and the woman next to me, maybe 22, fell asleep as soon as we boarded. She slept through the takeoff and didn't wake up until we were descending into LaGuardia Airport.
I didn't know quite how to handle a peculiar problem.
This woman slept with her mouth wide open, and for much of the trip, her face was pointed in my direction. She'd apparently had a very long night the previous evening, or a morning with a few belts, because she smelled, well, all liquored-up. And for about 42 minutes, I had booze breath coming at me. I didn't do anything about it. For 42 minutes, you can stare out the window and read the paper and just hope your neck doesn't melt.