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Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 16 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…

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez looks at the scoreboard after throwing an interception against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter during their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey December 24, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- There aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t take over Mark Sanchez right now. I would take Matt Moore over Sanchez. I’d take Rex Grossman over Sanchez, too. Hell, I’d even take Christian Ponder over Sanchez and I wasn‘t high on Ponder coming out of Florida State. I would rather direct snap the ball to Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson 75 times a game than allow Sanchez to throw the ball even once. His performance today in the Jets’ 29-14 loss to the Giants was brutal – Joey Harrington brutal. He makes horrendous decisions, he has zero confidence, and I’m not entirely convinced that he knows where he’s throwing the ball half the time. And at 6’2” he shouldn’t have so many passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage either. For the first time in three years the Jets’ defense isn’t good enough to bail Sanchez out so it appears as though he may have to watch the playoffs from his couch in two weeks.

- That was obviously a huge win for the Giants today but Eli Manning wasn’t much better than Mark Sanchez. I realize the Jets have the best pass defense in the league and pressured Eli relentlessly, but this is the second straight week that he was off his game. If it weren’t for Victor Cruz breaking a tackle along the sideline and racing 99 yards for a touchdown, Manning’s numbers would have been even uglier than they were. (He was 9-of-27 for 225 yards with one touchdown and one interception., although the interception was Hakeem Nicks’ fault as it bounced off his hands.) Again, if Romo doesn’t play next Sunday then Manning and the Giants will host a playoff game in two weeks. But if Eli doesn’t shake out of the two-week funk that he’s been in, then the Giants are prime upset candidates in the first round of the playoffs.

- Obvious statement alert: The Cowboys are in major trouble if Tony Romo can’t go next week. The Giants clearly aren’t intimidated by the Cowboys’ defense, which allowed 34 points to New York three weeks ago. Thus, if Romo isn’t healthy enough to go toe-to-toe with Eli and Co, then it’s going to be a very long offseason for Dallas. Get ready for ESPN to transform into the Tony Romo update network for the next seven days, although it sounds like the injury wasn’t serious.

- I could hammer the Chargers for their lackluster play in today’s 38-10 loss to Detroit but that wouldn’t be fair to the Lions, who put together their most complete game of the season. They absolutely dominated San Diego in all facets of the game and that may have been Matthew Stafford’s (29-of-36, 373 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) best performance as a pro. For the first time in 15 weeks the Lions played with composure, discipline, and urgency. If they play like this in two weeks then they’re going to be a tough out in the first round. Even though it played great today, their secondary is still a concern but there’s no reason to think the Lions couldn’t travel to New York, Dallas, or even San Francisco and win in the first round of the playoffs. But hey, for now, let’s just congratulate Detroit for making the postseason for the first time since 1999. Their fan base deserves this one…

- There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe Jerome Simpson’s acrobatic 19-yard touchdown in the Bengals’ 23-16 victory over the Cardinals. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and seek the highlight out on ESPN, NFL.com or YouTube. It’s well worth the watch, trust me. While the Bengals tried to give away today‘s game, they hung on for the win and are now in the driver’s seat for the sixth and final seed in the AFC. Considering most people didn’t think they’d win five games this season, Cincinnati’s effort this year has been rather remarkable.

- Even when they were down 17-0 at halftime did anyone actually believe that the Patriots wouldn’t come back and beat the Dolphins today? I blinked and the Patriots were in the red zone in the third quarter. I sneezed and the game was tied 17-17. I ordered another adult soda at the bar and the game was over. Miami gave it hell but New England’s offense is surgical when it wants to be. If the Pats don’t beat themselves they should represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year, although Bill Belichick’s defense isn’t going to scare anyone (especially Baltimore or Pittsburgh).

REFILE – CORRECTING TYPO IN NAME Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (R) is sacked by Buffalo Bills linebacker Arthur Moats (C) and linebacker Chris Kelsay (C) in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York December 24, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Tim Tebow must have left his magic juice back in Denver because he played like the lovechild of Mark Sanchez and Jake Delhomme today. Thirteen of 30 for 185 yards, four interceptions and two pick-sixes? Freaking brutal. I’m torn right now on whether I’d rather see the Broncos or Raiders in the playoffs. Is it worth it to see Tebow go 2-of-11 in the first three quarters only to pull off some stunning fourth-quarter comeback? Or would I rather see something resembling a football game for more than a quarter? It’s a coin flip, it really is. Plus, you never know when Tebow’s going to throw in a stinker like today, or his atrocious effort versus Detroit about a month ago. Well…six-in-one. Something tells me neither Denver nor Oakland will be advancing to the AFC title game so I guess there’s no use babbling about it.

- How could the Chiefs get that burned by Darrius Heyward-Bey on that over route in overtime? Kansas City didn’t bother rushing Carson Palmer on the play so one would have thought the Chiefs would have had about nine guys in coverage but nope – there was Heyward-Bey, running wide open and about two steps in front of a trailing defender. Thanks to Heyward-Bey’s big play, Richard Seymour’s blocked field goal at the end of regulation, and Denver’s atrocious performance in Buffalo, the Raiders are still alive in the AFC West.

- Baltimore is going to be tough to beat at home come playoff time. But suddenly the Ravens don’t look as dangerous as they did just a few weeks ago. They were shredded by San Diego last Sunday night and nearly blew a 20-14 lead against Cleveland today. Even if they thought the game was in hand versus the Browns, now isn’t the time to let your foot off the gas with the playoffs right around the corner – especially after you played so poorly last weekend.

- 2011 couldn’t end fast enough for the Minnesota Vikings. They finally win a game but Adrian Peterson tears his ACL (or at least that‘s what guys like Jay Glazer are reporting). Considering there’s only one more game left and the Vikings have been out of contention for about a month, this injury obviously doesn‘t mean anything to Minnesota’s current season. But because the injury happened now, Peterson may not be fully recovered by time training camp opens next year. And seeing as how ACL tears are usually a two-year injury, this is a devastating situation for a Minnesota franchise that thought the worst was over.

- I don’t care how bad the Browns are, I’d pay the price of admission just to watch Joshua Cribbs return kicks. Dude’s awesome.

- Well done, Josh Brown. As if the Rams’ season isn’t bad enough, you’re missing chip shot field goals as your team posts another goose egg. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds.

- How about the “OT” on FOX? The Lions make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and all they talk about is the Dallas Cowboys. The network even showed the Eagles’ (a team that was eliminated today, mind you) locker room celebration and then, in passing as the credits were rolling, finally said, “Congratulations to the Detroit Lions for making the playoffs today!” Granted, CBS had the coverage of the Chargers-Lions game so FOX wasn’t going to be able to do any live looks from Detroit’s locker room. But FOX still could have talked about the Lions more than it did. The media’s infatuation with the Cowboys continues to be nauseating for non-Dallas fans.

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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Can Jake Delhomme really lead a weak Browns’ passing game?

GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Jake Delhomme  of the Cleveland Browns calls out a play during the NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field August 14, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

Merry preseason, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the major issues the Browns could have with their passing game this season.

Usually teams have enough skill players to make an offense work, but their line holds them back.

The Browns have the opposite problem.

Joe Thomas is one of the top pass blocking left tackles in the game and will once again anchor a solid Cleveland offensive line. While he needs to improve his pass protection, young center Alex Mack is a budding star and Eric Steinbach completes a pretty dominating left side.

Unfortunately, not even a good offensive line will save the Browns from what should be one of the worst passing games in the NFL.

I’ve never been a fan of Jake Delhomme and while he may be fooling Cleveland fans with his “veteran presence” act right now, the guy was atrocious last year. He doesn’t handle pressure well, he forces passes into coverage and even when he does have time he still turns the ball over.

Granted, he was a consistent performer in 2008 before his disaster in the playoffs against the Cardinals that year. So if he can recapture some of that magic then maybe the Browns will be okay, but 1) I wouldn’t bet on it and 2) that means other players will have to step up around him.

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Week 14 Top 5 Observations: Browns 13, Steelers 6

Here are five quick-hit observations from the Browns’ upset win over the Steelers in Week 14.

1. The Steelers are done.
The defending champs are done, folks. A five-game losing streak, capped off by their ugliest loss of the season, has ensured that Pittsburgh won’t be playing in the postseason come January. One would have thought that the Steelers would be able to get up for a game against the one-win Browns when their backs were against the wall, but then again “one” would be wrong.

2. The Browns didn’t just win – they dominated.
For those that missed the broadcast because it was on the NFL Network, let me assure you that the Steelers didn’t beat themselves: They got their asses handed to them. It’s strange to say, but the better team won tonight. Cleveland came out more focused, more determined and flat out took a victory from the Steelers. The Browns’ defensive effort tonight was absolutely outstanding, as they suffocated Pittsburgh’s running game and sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times. For as much heat as Eric Mangini has taken this season (and deservedly so), the Browns have played hard the past couple weeks and they deserved a win tonight.

3. Cleveland’s young secondary was excellent.
Something that will be lost in the stat sheet was how well the Browns’ secondary played. Cleveland’s defense might have racked up eight sacks, but most of those were because of the outstanding coverage. Big Ben simply didn’t have open receivers to throw to, which resulted in him double and triple clutching to avoid throwing into coverage. Pittsburgh’s offensive line didn’t play as badly as the sacks would indicate, or at least not from a pass protection standpoint. The Browns’ pass defense was just that good.

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Eagles land Will Witherspoon

The Eagles acquired linebacker Will Witherspoon from the Rams at the trade deadline on Tuesday. In exchange for Witherspoon, St. Louis acquired wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a 2010 fifth round pick.

Witherspoon had been playing the weak side linebacker position for the Rams, but he has experience in the middle, which has been a weakness for the Eagles since Stewart Bradley was lost for the season in training camp. Stewart’s replacements, Jeremiah Trotter and Omar Gaither, are fine against the run but have been a liability in coverage.

Gibson was a sixth round pick of the Eagles’ in April. He impressed Philadelphia’s coaching staff in training camp, but was never going to see the field with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and others in front of him. St. Louis has had a major need at receiver, especially since Laurent Robinson was lost for the year with a knee injury.

As expected, the trade deadline came and went without any big names being dealt. Rumors circulated last week that Brady Quinn, Joshua Cribbs and/or Terrell Owens might be traded, but nothing came to fruition.

Teams are calling about Cribbs, but are Browns listening?

Cleveland Scores reports (via NFL.com) that several teams are calling the Browns inquiring about Josh Cribbs. But Profootballtalk.com reports that Cleveland has no interest in dealing the explosive receiver/return man.

This offseason, Cribbs threatened to hold out if he didn’t receive a new contract, but he never made good on his threats. He’s set to make $620,00 in 2009, $635,000 in 2010, $650,000 in 2011 and $790,00 in 2012. Considering his increased role in the offense, he’s highly underpaid and it’s understandable why he would want a new contract.

But the Browns aren’t ready to re-work his deal, which is why teams are calling about his services. The Dolphins seem to be the team that is pursuing him the most, although the Chiefs, Raiders and even the Colts have reportedly shown interest as well.

Cribbs wants to remain a Brown for the rest of his career, but if the team were unwilling to extend his contract, he’d welcome a trade out of Cleveland. Considering the Browns just traded Braylon Edwards to the Jets, one would think that they would pony up to keep a player of Cribbs’ talent. But Eric Mangini and GM George Kokinis have already shown the willingness to trade players from the previous regime, so nobody should be surprised if Cribbs is eventually dealt.

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