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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 7 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening 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…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates after running the ball in for a two-point conversion to tie the score in the fourth quarter of play against the Miami Dolphins in their NFL football game in Miami, Florida October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Murray (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Earlier this week the Broncos said that they’re not going to change their offense with Tim Tebow taking over at quarterback. Then on Sunday, they kept their game plan ultra-conservative and hardly called any screen passes or high-percentage throws to help build his confidence while being dominated for 56 minutes by a winless Miami team. Do they want the kid to fail? Are they trying to prove that they were right by not starting him over Kyle Orton? Are they trying to stick it to all of the fans that have basically begged the organization to play Tebow? Either way, I absolutely love what the former Gator did today. Despite his coaching staff’s unwillingness to put him in position to succeed, he found a way to pull off a miraculous victory with some help from his defense and kicker Matt Prater. It wasn’t hard to figure that he would score a couple of touchdowns and compile over 200 total yards. But the way he did it was marvelous. The Broncos did nothing until four minutes left in the fourth, when he basically willed them to victory. He’s too nice of a guy to say it, but that had to feel good to stick it up his critics’ asses for just one week.

- While Denver refused to change its offense in efforts to help Tebow, Minnesota did a nice job of using designed roll-outs and plays that maximized rookie Christian Ponder’s strengths at quarterback. The rookie will be seeing Charles Woodson (2 INTs) in his nightmares for a while, but he showed a lot of grit bouncing back in the fourth quarter to nearly lead the Vikings to an upset over the still-undefeated Packers. Ponder is clearly an upgrade over Donovan McNabb and his performance today was definitely something to build on. Green Bay’s defense has struggled all year but for Ponder to have Minnesota in position to win in the fourth quarter was something not a lot of people expected.

- Anyone who watched DeMarco Murray play at Oklahoma knew he was a versatile player with a bright future. He did everything for the Sooners in his time at OU and the Cowboys really got a steal last April when they selected him with the 71st overall pick in the third-round. Nobody envisioned him rushing for 253 yards (a Dallas single-game record) in one game, but it was only a matter of time before Murray turned heads. Granted, 91 of those yards came on one play and he did face a pathetic St. Louis run defense. But given all the issues the Cowboys have had at running back over the years, his feat today had to be refreshing for Jerry Jones and Co. Here’s hoping the 23-year-old back can avoid injuries and build off of this incredible performance.

- I made it clear in my predictions this week that I liked the Chiefs to at least cover the 3.5-point spread in Oakland. But 28-0 with two 50-yard pick-sixes? Yeah, no – didn’t see that coming. Suddenly Kansas City is only a game back of San Diego and Oakland in the win column. That’s quite a contrast to where the Chiefs were a month ago, when head coach Todd Haley was nearly fired for the team’s ugly 0-3 start.

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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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Braylon Edwards is single-handedly destroying is own value

New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards celebrates after he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first half of their National Football League game against the Atlanta Falcons in East Rutherford, New Jersey, December 20, 2009. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Braylon Edwards is 6’3” and 214 pounds, he’s only 28 and has been to one Pro Bowl after racking up 80 receptions for 1,2890 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007.

Given those factoids, the current free agent should be in camp right now after signing a multi-year contract with one of the many wide receiver-needy teams in the NFL. But because he continues to prove that a career in football isn’t among his top priorities, he remains in NFL purgatory. And given this latest incident, he may be there a while.

According to the Birmingham Eccentric, Edwards could end up facing legal trouble for his role in a fight that broke out at a bar in Michigan over the weekend. Apparently two members of his entourage assaulted bar employees with knives and forks and while Edwards wasn’t arrested, two of his cousins have been charged with felonious assault. The bar also claims that Edwards was involved and may have been an instigator.

That sound you just heard was the incineration of any multi-year deal that Edwards was hoping to land this offseason.

Now, let me cover my basis and be diplomatic for a second. Edwards wasn’t arrested, nor was he charged with committing a crime. And in this country, you’re thankfully innocent until proven guilty. Thus, Edwards is innocent at the moment.

But this is also the same man who is already on probation in Cleveland after he reportedly punched a local party promoter in the face outside of a nightclub in 2009. In September of last year, Edwards was also arrested on a drunken driving charge in New York, so there’s a history here. At this point, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt from anyone.

Teams were already concerned about his stone hands and his questionable desire. If he winds up being suspended because of this latest incident, Edwards will be lucky to accept a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. In fact, even if he isn’t charged with anything, this incident may be enough for teams to avoid him completely.

I think it’s telling that the Jets were more willing to sign Plaxico Burress, who is five years older and is fresh out of prison, than Edwards this offseason.

Update: Edwards has signed a one-year deal with the 49ers, but the contract is only for $1 million. He will receive $3.5 million if he catches 90 passes and makes the Pro Bowl.

Again, considering he’s only 28 and has a Pro Bowl under his belt, $1 million is chump change. He done screwed up.

Plaxico Burress released from prison

Plaxico Burress was released from the Oneida Correctional Facility on Monday morning after spending over 20 months in prison. Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who was wearing a throwback Phillies hat and gave a brief statement to the media before heading to a reunion with his family, apparently greeted Burress when he got out.

Burress will now fly to Florida and start training in hopes that a NFL team will give him another shot. At 33, it’ll be tough for him to find a gig but the Rams, Jets and Eagles have all been mentioned as potential landing spots. His best attributes are his size (6’5”, 232 pounds) and his ability to win matchups with shorter defensive backs in the red zone. But he’s never been a burner and thus, he’ll have to go to a situation where a team already has a pair of good receivers on the outside. (Thus, the Rams might not be the best fit.)

Even though many observers remain skeptical that a team will give him a shot, Burress should draw some interest. NFL teams aren’t going to turn away talent and if he still has something left in the tank, his phone will ring when the lockout is lifted.

When released from prison, will Burress be given another shot in NFL?

30 November 2008 - New York, NY - New York Giant's wide receiver Plaxico Burress, seen here in this file photo from February 5, 2008, accidentally shot himself with a gun while entering a New York City nightclub. The star receiver is expected to face charges on possession of a gun that is not registered in New York State. Photo Credit: Paul Zimmerman/AdMedia Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

The New York Post is reporting that former Giants’ receiver Plaxico Burress is expected to be released from prison within two or three weeks for good behavior.

Assuming that a) this report is accurate and b) the NFL reinstates him, will one of the 32 teams give Burress an opportunity to play?

Seeing as how he has 505 receptions, 7,845 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns, the quick answer to that question is probably: Yes, someone will give him a chance.

But by the time he’s reinstated, he’ll be 33 and would have just spent over 12 months in prison. He states that he’s been working out four times a week since he was sentenced, but obviously he’s a long ways off from being in football shape. Given his age and his time away from the game, it’s unlikely that teams are going to be fighting over themselves to sign the troubled former star. (Don’t forget that Burress doesn’t play special teams, so it’s not like he could contribute that way until he got back into game shape.) Even the Giants have a deep stable of receivers now.

If/when he’s released in a couple of weeks and if/when he’s finally reinstated, somebody will probably work him out. But there’s obviously a big difference between having him running a couple of routes in an open field and actually signing him to a contract.

Update: Plax’s lawyer says that the Post’s report was premature: “There’s a very wide range of possible outcomes here, and I do not want to get too ahead of myself,” the attorney said. “I don’t see (a return to football) happening in the short term. He still has a year left on his sentence.” (New York Daily News)

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