1. I think this is what I liked about Week 1:
a. Did you see Steve Smith catch a ball late in the first half at Chicago, get blasted, get right up and line up for the next play?
b. Brandon Marshall is playing this season as if he has a new life and wants to make sure he doesn't blow it. That, essentially, is the case. A gamer.
c. Marshawn Lynch. Mayock's right -- the most underrated tailback in football.
d. Good to see Titus Young becoming a playmaker in Detroit. Someone has to pick up the slack from the disappearing Calvin Johnson.
e. Jonathan Dwyer, the third-year back from Georgia Tech, hurts people when he runs. Even when the Steelers get their backfield totally healthy, Mike Tomlin has to find carries for this guy.
f. Stevan Ridley, 15 for 127, his third game over 125 yards this year.
g. Chandler Jones is one impressive rookie rusher. He had a 17-yard sack of Sam Bradford.
h. Always impressed with how Ben Roethlisberger moves in the pocket to avoid traffic. How can a man that big be that quick?
i. What a move by Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert, faking Brian Urlacher off his feet in the second half at Soldier Field.
j. Ronnie Hillman, just 21, is the speed complement Willis McGahee has needed in Denver.
k. Richie Incognito, the mauling Miami guard, graded out like a road-grader against the Jets.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 8:
a. One word for those Steeler uniforms: vomitous.
b. Seriously, NFL: We know why you do these throwback uniforms. (Throwup, in this case.) You want fans to go buy another type of Steelers jersey for the holidays. That's what this about. And I defy you to find one self-respecting Steeler fan who would be caught dead in those mustard-and-mud striped jobs with the stupid numbers. And the socks. I think Margaret Hamilton wore those in The Wizard of Oz as the Wicked Witch of the West.
c. If I called those jerseys ugly, it'd be a compliment compared to what they really are.
d. Dying to find out how you got James Harrison to put that garish garbage on.
e. Awful decision by Cam Newton late in the first half, tossing the ball away while being sacked -- and resulting in a diving pick by Tim Jennings.
f. You have to make that catch, Calvin Johnson, down the stretch, in the corner of the end zone.
g. Philip Rivers isn't getting much help, obviously, but a few of his throws in Cleveland were way too far off target for a man with his resume.
h. Washington kicker Kai Forbath, for booting an extra point try right into the line. Blocked? No. Horribly mis-hit, yes.
i. Interceptions No. 7, 8, 9 and 10 for Tony Romo at Dallas Cowboys Stadium this season.
j. The Chiefs. A two-month nightmare continued Sunday, when they spent their seventh straight game without a lead in regulation. I mean, how is it possible to NEVER lead a game? It's the first time such a thing has happened in the NFL for such a long span since 1940.
k. And Romeo Crennel, if you don't know why Jamaal Charles only carried it five times in the game, you'd better find out.
l. Rex Ryan's confidence. Gone. Vanquished. Sanchized.
m. Dallas' home-field disadvantage. The Cowboys are 14-13 in the house that Jerry built. Not dissimilar from their 99-100 regular season record this century.
n. Mark Sanchez. Rex, it's time.
3. I think, not to depress you any more than you already must be this morning, Saints Nation, but in the 6.5-year Drew Brees Era, the worst defensive game New Orleans has played was last night's -- if you count yards allowed. The Saints surrendered 530 yards to Denver, and they'd never allowed more since Brees walked on campus in 2006. The second-worst game? Last week, when they allowed 513 at Tampa Bay.
4. I think Cam Newton did something at the end of the first half in Chicago that really bugged me. From the Chicago 33, the Panthers called a Hail Mary with three seconds left. Newton threw it way over the end line. Either he wanted someone in the stands to have a souvenir, or he didn't want to risk another interception on his stat sheet. I'm guessing the latter, and I don't like it.
5. I think if a certain cadre of NFL owners -- not a large one -- had their way, there'd be two teams in the Los Angeles market in the next 10 years. And there'd be two teams in Europe in the next 15. But I'm very skeptical the Europe thing will work, as are natives of England who know far, far more about this than I do.
6. I think it's literally impossible for a defensive back -- like Chicago safety Chris Conte in the third quarter against Carolina -- to avoid the kind of personal foul call he got for his hit on a defenseless receiver, Brandon LaFell. If LaFell is diving head-first for the ball and a defender is coming from opposite him to break it up, how possibly is he going to do it without hitting him somewhere around the head or neck? Should the defender simply lay back and wait for the receiver to catch the ball, then try to hit him? As dangerous as that play is, the league is more than tying the defender's hands behind his back by making it virtually impossible for the defense to play defense on the play.
7. I think I have one question about the Detroit Lions: Who has kidnapped Calvin Johnson, and what have you done with him?
8. I think we're about to see the national game with the worst ratings of the year: Kansas City at San Diego, Thursday night.
9. I think Phil Richards of the Indianapolis Star hit a home run with his piece this week about how Chuck Pagano might be away from the team while undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, but he's making his presence emotionally felt every day. Such as the day third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish was cut -- and the one who delivered the news, by phone, was the ailing head coach, from his bed. Pagano's one heck of a man.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week.
a. Congratulations, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, for your appointment as the first female president of the Baseball Writers of America.
b. San Francisco: best walking city in America.
c. Really happy for Marco Scutaro, who should not have been cast out by Boston at the end of last season, for winning the World Series. And to all the Giants. That was a great team win. Can you imagine the Giants next year if they could convince Tim Lincecum to pitch the eighth inning, and they had Lincecum in the eighth and Sergio Romo in the ninth? They'd be tough to beat.
d. So the Giants beat the Tigers four straight by a total of 10 runs, and the Tigers beat the Yankees four straight by a total of 13 runs. Does that mean the Giants would beat the Yankees four straight by a total of 865 runs?
e. Couldn't last forever, Ohio Bobcats. Good luck the rest of the way. And congrats, Miami, for bursting our bubble.
f. When I look at Donald Fehr, I think: They're not playing hockey until Groundhog Day.
g. I need to see Argo.
h. Coffeenerdness: My football-season equilibrium was put to the test with Starbucks closing all shops in New York at 4 p.m. Sunday with the subways and trains scheduled to be shut down three hours later.
i. Beernerdness: If you have one baseball wish left (for those of you who like the game), I'd suggest this: Wish for a bleacher seat at AT&T Park in San Francisco, go to the park in time for batting practice, visit the Anchor Brewing stand behind the bleachers in center field, get an Anchor Liberty Ale, and just watch BP, preferably in the sun. That was the scene last Wednesday for me and my brother, and the beer, and scenery, were perfect.
Layden, my SI pal, has written a gem on the 63-yard field goal in the current issue of the magazine -- the NBA preview issue. The story will be online soon, but here's a cool piece on the making of it. Please find your copy of the mag and read this story. What I love about it is Layden visited with all four of the men who share the record -- Tom Dempsey, 1970 (still in New Orleans); Jason Elam, 1998 (living in remote Alaska now); Sebastian Janikowski, 2011 (in Oakland); David Akers, 2012 (in San Francisco) -- and they all seem to marvel at the fact that no one has gone beyond Dempsey's 63-yarder 42 years ago.
Think of it: Just two weeks ago, St. Louis rookie Greg Zuerlein booted a 66-yarder eight feet to the left of the left upright -- but it hit the net behind the end zone and would have been good from 72, easy, if it were just on target.
The most poignant stuff Layden got was from Dempsey, who was born with only half a right foot and a miniature right arm with no fingers, and the Saints. Detroit led the awful Saints 17-16, with two seconds left. The ball was on the New Orleans' 37-yard line; in those days, the goal post was on the goal line, not 10 feet back, and so the kick Dempsey was to try would be from his own 37, a 63-yarder. "On the sideline, Dempsey heard the voice of special teams coach Don Heinrich. Tell Stumpy to get ready to kick a long one,'' wrote Layden. And the kick ... The description by Layden, one of the best writers I've had the privilege to work with over the years, is sublime: "Dempsey's kick died in the air just inches past the crossbar and fell to earth like a buckshot mallard dropping into a flat-water pond.'' Beautiful. You'll enjoy the story.
Now for San Francisco 19, Arizona 13: Bet you didn't know, or forgot, that John Skelton threw three touchdown passes against the Niners in a 21-19 Arizona upset in Glendale last December. Three's how many TD throws Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco had against the Niners last year -- combined. So I don't put it past Skelton (6-0 as a starter at home) to give San Francisco a tough game. The one thing that scares me for Arizona: In San Francisco's last three games against marginal starters -- Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Russell Wilson -- the Niners have allowed nine points. Breakdown of the 31 Jets, Bills and Seahawks offensive possessions:
Touchdowns: 0. Field goals: 3. Missed field goals: 1. Punts: 18. Fumbles: 4. Interceptions: 3. Lost on downs or end of half: 2.
In other words, Skelton has his work cut out for him, as they say.
Hey, Jim Cantore!
Tell 'em from D.C. to Maine:
Respect Sandy's wrath.
SI Now Live Friday December 6, 2013
SI Now: "Lenny Cooke" documentary details a fallen prospect