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Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 15 in the NFL

Every Sunday throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

– It’s ironic really. Three weeks ago every NFL talking head said that if the Packers could get past the Lions in Detroit and the Giants in New York that they’d probably go undefeated. And after Green Bay mopped the floor with Oakland last Sunday, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Pack would finish 16-0. Then the Chiefs, led by a chewed up and spit out Kyle Orton, go out and pull off the upset of the year by knocking off Green Bay, 19-14. Everyone will analyze this game to death but there’s not much to dissect. The strength of Kansas City, its defense, once again stepped up and played incredibly well. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, did not as the usually explosive Green Bay offense fizzled for the first time all year. Romeo Crennel didn’t pan out as a head coach but there’s no doubt the man knows how to run a defense. He put together a scheme today that will be studied, picked apart and emulated by every defensive coordinator that may face the Packers down the road. To hold Rodgers and Green Bay to just 14 points is truly remarkable.

– When you think about it, it makes more sense that an inferior team like the Chiefs were the ones to knock off the Packers instead of a playoff contender like the Lions or Giants. The Packers will always see Detroit or New York coming, so theoretically they should play their best football. A team like Kansas City, however, has a better chance of sneaking up on Green Bay (again, theoretically). Still, the Chiefs have nothing offensively so for them to pull off an upset like this was almost flabbergasting.

– The talk this week leading up to the Patriots’ clash with the Broncos was how Tim Tebow needed to step up in order to match Tom Brady. But in the end, Brady essentially made Tebow a non-factor by craving up a Denver defense that has the biggest reason for the Broncos’ success these past six weeks. One of the many things that make Brady so great is that he usually doesn’t force his hand when he doesn’t need to. For example, with Deion Branch out with an injury and Wes Welker and Rob Gronkwski drawing double teams, Brady simply keyed on Aaron Hernandez, who shredded the Broncos for 129 yards on nine catches. Even though New England’s defense was shaky at times (especially in the first quarter), the Pats proved how difficult it’ll be for Denver to match up with the elite teams in the AFC come playoff time.

– There’s no reason to devote 150 words to how the Saints beat the Vikings today in Minnesota. The Vikings’ secondary resembles a revolving door to the end zone, so it wasn’t surprising to see Drew Brees throw for 700 yards and 19 touchdowns versus a bad Minnesota defense. But it must be a little unnerving to fellow NFC contenders that the Saints finally looked good on the road. They haven’t played well away from the Superdome this season and quite frankly, they’ve developed a reputation of being more conservative on the road than at home. But today they went out and made it look easy. With the Packers falling for the first time all season, maybe the power structure in the NFC has shifted ever so slightly in New Orleans’ favor. If you were to pick one team and one team only to beat Green Bay, it has to be the Saints, who are the only NFC team that can match up with Green Bay in a shootout.

– If I’m a team like the Falcons or Lions, I’m praying that the Giants make it into the playoffs. Because right now they’re about as dangerous as a roll of Tollhouse cookie batter. In the last six weeks the Giants have wilted against good competition (San Francisco, New Orleans and Green Bay) and floundered against inferior division rivals (Philadelphia and Washington). The only reason they’re still alive in the NFC East is because the Cowboys crap themselves whenever they’ve expected to rise to the challenge and make a stand. As I noted in my predictions piece this week, I expected Washington to hang with the Giants. But I even wrote that I didn’t expect the Skins to win. Instead, they absolutely dominated the Giants from the opening kickoff and somehow managed to sweep New York for the first time since 1999. Given how Dallas had already won, how first place was on the line in the division, and how they were at home, it was inexcusable for the Giants to lose to the Skins. But why be shocked given how poorly New York has played the past month and a half? We should be long past expecting this team to dominate an opponent just because it’s better on paper, especially considering how the Giants have played down to their competition all season long.

– Between the Jets, Titans and Bengals, I don’t know which team I want to see in the postseason less. The Jets were absolutely manhandled by the Eagles from start to finish in Philadelphia, the Titans couldn’t muster more than 13 points in a loss to the previously-winless Colts, and the Bengals were in a 6-6 deadlock with the powerhouse Rams before finally shaking loose in the second half. At this point the NFL should just give the No. 3 seed in the AFC a bye and save itself the embarrassment of a Mark Sanchez v. T.J. Yates battle royale.

– I shudder to think how good the Detroit Lions could be if they had even an ounce of discipline and/or composure. As they showed today in Oakland, the Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection is electrifying, the front four will give most offensive line fits and the linebacker corps continues to overachieve. That was a great come-from-behind win for Jim Schwartz’s squad but this is a team that lacks the fundamentals (see tackling and not committing stupid penalties). Still, at 9-5 the Lions look like a lock for one of the two Wild Card spots in the NFC and after a decade of miserable football, it’s all smiles right now in Detroit…

– …of course, the Raiders really handed the Lions that game today. Had Oakland stuck with Michael Bush and the running game instead of getting cute with shotgun formations late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders probably win today and make things interesting again in the AFC West. (It also didn’t help that Carson Palmer missed a wide open Chaz Schilens on a third-and-three that could have sealed the game for Oakland.) For all intents and purposes Hue Jackson has done a great job for the Raiders this season, especially considering all the injuries Oakland has suffered through. But he could have managed the fourth quarter better today.

– The Texans were due for a game like they had today against the Panthers. They deserve all the credit in the world for persevering through injury after injury after injury, but T.J. Yates is their starting quarterback. At some point he was going to turn in an ugly performance and he certainly did today. Even with Arian Foster and that powerful rushing attack, it was only a matter of time that the defense would falter and Yates would stumble trying to make plays. That said, seeing as how they’re already in the playoffs this loss will actually serve Yates and the Texans well in the end. It’ll be a good learning experience for the rookie.

Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie celebrates a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the fourth quarter of the NFL NFC Championship football game in Chicago, January 23, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

– Why again did the Bears not reach out to Donovan McNabb a few weeks ago? Because Mike Martz’s offense is too complicated to learn in a short period of time? That makes sense. Far be it for me to question Jerry Angelo but the odds were rather high that Hanie would struggle as a full-time starter. I would have rather given McNabb a shot to learn a scaled back version of Martz’s offense than allow Hanie to piss away a potential Wild Card spot. Granted, McNabb has shown nothing in two years that would make you think he could have saved Chicago’s season but at least with him there was a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.

– The Seahawks have been pretty fun to watch these past few weeks. Disagree with me and I’ll remind you that they had a fat guy score a touchdown today. Fat guy + touchdown = fun. It’s science.

– I would hate to play the Panthers if I were a team fighting for a playoff berth right now. They pulled off a “fumblerooski” with Richie Brockel in their 28-13 win over the Texans today. There’s no telling what else they’re capable of.

– Next Monday night in New Orleans is going to be f.u.n. – fun. The Falcons have finally found some consistency on offense and if they’re firing on all cylinders out of their no-huddle attack, they can hang with the Saints. New Orleans has been unstoppable at home this year but if the Falcons can get Brent Grimes (knee) and Kelvin Hayden (toe) back from injuries then the Atlanta defense is capable of slowing Brees and Co. down. The defense has quietly been the strength of the Falcons team this season.

– Hello, George Wilson? Yes, this is the grounds crew at Ralph Wilson Stadium. One of our employees retrieved your jockstrap following today’s game. We went back and watched the film and we can pinpoint the moment you lost it. Do you remember when Reggie Bush did that spin move on you in the second quarter? Right, well he spun you right out of them. You can come pick it up at lost and found at your earliest convenience.

– I would love to be a fly on the wall whenever Buffalo’s front office gets together to watch Ryan Fitzpatrick play. There must be a ton of, “Dear God what…were…we…thinking!” after they handed him that seven-year, $62 million contract back in late October. Dude has been brutal ever since. Don’t be fooled by his stat line (31-of-47, 316 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) from today’s loss to the Dolphins. He was awful, posting his two touchdowns and the majority of his yards when the game was pretty much out of reach in the fourth quarter.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2011 NFL Week 7 Primer

Denver Broncos reserve quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates his fourth quarter 12-yard touchdown run against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 9, 2011 in Denver. Despite a comeback effort from Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, the Chargers held on for a 29-24 win. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Broncos @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET
Tim Tebow said that the Denver coaching staff didn’t change the team’s offensive scheme to fit the quarterback’s skill set during the bye week. That makes sense. I mean why would any coaching staff want to try and play to their quarterback’s strengths? Bill Belichick doesn’t do that with Tom Brady. Mike McCarthy doesn’t do that with Aaron Rodgers. Both of those teams largely keep the ball on the ground and let Brady and Rodgers be the game managers they are. (I hate that I even have to write this but I know some people will misconstrue things: I’m being sarcastic.) While I like Tebow’s chances of succeeding this weekend in Miami no matter what the scheme is, I think the Broncos should have styled their offense around what he does best (i.e. being creative in both the run and the pass). But what do I know? I’m a doctor, not an offensive coordinator.

Falcons @ Lions, 1:00PM ET
It’s all well and good that the Falcons want to get back to Michael Turner and their ball-control ways, but at some point OC Mike Mularkey better figure out how to beat teams through the air. Matt Ryan is the only quarterback in the NFC South who has yet to throw for over 300 yards in a game this season and he ranks 17th in the league in overall passing yards. With Julio Jones (hamstring) expected to miss another week, it would be wise for the Falcons to keep the ball on the ground against the Lions’ suspect run defense. But again, at some point Mularkey has to do his job and figure out a way to let Ryan soar. The most obvious solution is to put him in the no-huddle full-time, but Mularkey and Mike Smith’s conservative ways just won’t allow it.

Texans @ Titans, 1:00PM ET
Hey Matt Schaub, it’s go time buddy. The AFC South is yours for the taking and while I understand that you lost your best playmaker and your defense is now without its best weapon, it’s high time you raise your game. Arian Foster is seeing eight man fronts so there’s no reason for you not to exploit defenses with your arm – Andre Johnson or no Andre Johnson. Tennessee’s pass rush is one of the weakest in the league, so figure it out and get your team a win, Matt.

Chargers @ Jets, 1:00PM ET
“The more we get comfortable, we start playing pitch and catch and I’m doing my thing out there, the offense is going to go through the roof,” said Plaxico Burress in regards to Mark Sanchez and the Jet offense. Right, because naturally Plax is the key to whether or not New York’s offense is going to eventually get out of its funk. I think the Jets have it right in giving Shonn Greene an increased workload. The only way they’re going to really get their offense going is relying on the ground game to open things up for Sanchez. Burress is probably right when he suggests that he and Sanchez need to develop more chemistry, but the key to this offense is Greene and the ground attack.

Redskins @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
Mike Shanahan is in a mess of his own making. Everyone knew going into the season that Rex Grossman is fine in small doses, but over the course of a season he’s going to hurt you. Thus, now that Shanahan has switched things up and is starting John Beck on Sunday, he better win. The Panthers are better than their 1-5 record would indicate but this is a game the Redskins have to win if they want to keep pace with the Giants in the NFC East.

Seahawks @ Browns, 1:00PM ET
Peyton Hillis has an injured hamstring and won’t practice on Thursday. His agent has advised him not to play in this game, or the next 12. If a case of the sniffles is equal to missing one game, then an injured hamstring must be equal to 13 missed games. Hillis and his agent just can’t be too careful when it comes to the King of Fumbles’ health.

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Quick-Hits: Observations about Week 1 in preseason of the NFL

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws a pass to Laurent Robinson for a touchdown during the second half of their NFL football game in St. Louis, Missouri, December 26, 2010. Bradford set an NFL record for completions in a rookie season. REUTERS/Sarah Conard (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

There’s still one game left on the Week 1 preseason schedule (Jets vs. Texans tonight), but I’ve let these thoughts marinate for long enough. Here are some quick-hit observations from Week 1’s NFL preseason games.

Jake Locker turned in the best performance of any rookie quarterback in Week 1. Locker was solid in the Titans’ preseason win over the Vikings on Saturday, completing 7-of-10 passes for 89 yards and a 45-yard touchdown to Yamon Figurs. Granted, he did fumble once and took a sack, but the key is that he looked poised and confident in the pocket. The Titans aren’t paying Matt Hasselbeck $7 million to sit the bench, so don’t count on Locker unseating the veteran this season. But the rook looks good early.

Speaking of rookies, Julio Jones looks like the real deal. It’s way too early to know if the Falcons will receive a good return on their big investment from the 2011 draft, but Jones looks fantastic thus far. In his preseason debut against the Dolphins, both of his receptions went for 20-plus yards and he added one rush for 12 yards on an end-around. He basically affirmed what everyone has been saying: that he doesn’t look like a rookie. Again, it’s early, but the Falcons have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen.

The Bears still have issues on their offensive line. Simply put, GM Jerry Angelo has not done a good enough job building his offensive line over the years. He has missed in the draft (Chris Williams), he has missed in free agency (Orlando Pace), and now he better hope that guys like J’Marcus Webb and Greg Carimi can settle in to their respective positions before quarterback Jay Cutler gets killed. The Bears gave up nine sacks in their win over the Bills on Saturday night, including four by the first-team unit. Granted, Caleb Hanie held onto the ball too long on multi occasions, which contributed to a couple of the sacks. But the bottom line is that Chicago’s offensive line looks poised to hold the Bears back in 2011.

Shawne Merriman could be ready to resurrect his career in Buffalo. Of the nine sacks that the Bills recorded against the Bears on Saturday night, three of them came from Merriman. He absolutely abused J’Marcus Webb on a consistent basis, using the combination of speed, power and technique that made him popular in San Diego early in his career. He has always been a motivated player, so if he’s completely healthy he could be one of the few stars in Buffalo this season.

The Panthers clearly want Cam Newton to start. Jimmy Clausen started Saturday night against the Giants, but Newton entered the game in the second quarter and played into the fourth. Ron Rivera hasn’t made the announcement yet, but Newton figures to start the Panthers’ second preseason game. As long as he looks respectable and isn’t a complete disaster, I think we’ll be seeing Newton as the starter come Week 1 against the Cardinals.

Colt McCoy looks like a perfect fit for Pat Shurmur’s offense. Because they have an entirely new coaching staff and there’s so little time for the players to get up to speed before the regular season starts, the Browns could be one of those teams that is drastically affected by the lockout. Then again, if McCoy plays as well in the regular season as he did in his first preseason game, the Browns may actually be more competitive than people think. McCoy completed 9-of-10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown versus Green Bay and while the game was meaningless in the standings, it was hard not to be impressed with the second-year QB’s play. He looked like he had been running Shurmur’s offense for two years – not two months. He’s a perfect fit for the West Coast scheme and thus far, Cleveland fans have to be cautiously excited about his development.

It looks like Ted Thompson has struck draft gold again. Rookie Randall Cobb caught three passes for 60 yards in the Packers’ preseason opener on Saturday. He also racked up 58 yards on two kick returns, impressing the team with his speed and quickness. Aaron Rodgers could have yet another weapon in his passing arsenal this season.

It wasn’t surprising to see the Vikings’ offense struggle as much as it did in Week 1. Minnesota fans seem eager about the potential that this unit has, which is understandable. With guys like Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and now Donovan McNabb on that side of the ball, the Vikes’ O has the chance to be explosive this season. But it will take some time before everyone is on the same page with new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Plus, while McNabb may be familiar with the West Coast Offense, it’ll take time before he gels with his receivers in this offense. Both of his series on Saturday ended in punts and his average pass didn’t travel past four yards. Fans might see more of that this preseason as McNabb and the rest of the Vikings’ offense gets acquainted with Musgrave’s system.

It’ll take time before Sam Bradford is comfortable in Josh McDaniels’ system. Bradford was a little shaky in the Rams’ preseason opener on Saturday, completing 7-of-12 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He had great chemistry with tight end Lance Kendricks, but it was clear that Bradford will need a couple of games to play with confidence in McDaniels’ system.

Donovan McNabb is not a robot!

Washington Redskins’ quarterback Donovan McNabb looks to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on December 12, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Donovan McNabb seems thrilled to be free of the Shanahans in Washington.

“Some coaches say ‘Hey, it’s my way or no way,’ ” McNabb said via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “You become robotic. That’s when you pull away from your style of play and the way of things that got you successful. If things don’t go as well as you’d like them to, you find out what the mistake was, you correct it and you go right back and get it done.”

Mike Shanahan is a control freak. His son Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator in Washington, seems to be even worse. They personify a disturbing trend where coaches try to do too much, and they don’t let their players play. I think if you make football too scripted, you lose the ability to let your players improvise.

I admire teams like the Steelers that put players like Big Ben in a position where he can improvise and make great plays. Of course all of this is a balancing act, but the Shanahans seems to represent the extreme.

I have no idea how McNabb will do in Minnesota. He has some great weapons, but he’s also near the end of the line. That said, he’s a veteran, and it makes sense to let him play the game.

Will John Beck be the Redskins’ starting quarterback in 2011?

Washington Redskins quarterback John Beck warms up for the game against the New York Giants at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on January 2, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

Rotoworld has two interesting tidbits today on the quarterback situation in Washington:

John Beck is expected to enter training camp as the Redskins’ starting quarterback, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“It will be his job to lose,” said Schefter, who is tight with coach Mike Shanahan after the two collaborated on a book in the late ’90s. Per Schefter, the Redskins bypassed QBs in the draft because they believe Beck is better than most of the group that was available in the middle of the first round. Beck doesn’t have a touchdown to show for his four NFL starts. He completed 27-of-48 passes (56.2 percent) for 300 yards (6.2 YPA) with a 2:2 TD-to-INT ratio against backups in last year’s preseason. Former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron has given up on Beck twice now, which leaves Shanahan as the 30-year-old’s lone backer.


Free agent Rex Grossman appeared on ESPN 980 Radio Wednesday and said he is under the assumption that he will re-sign with the Redskins.

“I’m assuming that’s what’s going to happen,” he said. Grossman added that OC Kyle Shanahan and QBs coach Matt LaFleur personally asked him to throw with the Redskins’ receivers during the lockout. For now, we consider Grossman likely to be back in Washington to compete with John Beck. Most reporters covering the situation believe Beck will be ahead on the depth chart.

Am I the only one flabbergasted that people believe John Beck will be the Redskins’ starting quarterback next season? I get that this is all just speculation at this point, but I can’t be the only one who is raising an eyebrow to Mike Shanahan’s (potenital) madness here, right?

Beck isn’t without talent, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Miami and I’m wondering what Shanahan sees in him to make him believe that he can start in Washington. I figured that Grossman, who Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb for last season, would be the favorite heading into training camp when the lockout lifts in the summer of 2032 – not Beck. (Assuming Grossman re-signs with the team, of course.)

But hey, what to do I know? Maybe Beck is the best fit for Shanahan’s offense and he just needed to find the right situation to succeed. Clearly the Redskins believe in him or else they would have drafted a signal caller in April, although they still could sign a veteran free agent like Vince Young when/if he becomes available later this summer.

Still, does anyone else envision Shanahan throwing a whole bunch of mediocre talent into a mixing bowl and just going week-by-week in terms of whom he starts at quarterback next year? Because I sure can…

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