November 17, 2008
It's nothing personal, Philadelphia. I rooted for your Phillies. I love cheese steak, Hammer Schultz, Ron Jaworski, Darryl Dawkins and Harry Kalas. But I just need to get this Rant of Brotherly Love off my chest:
I picked the Eagles in one suicide pool and yet by the overtime period in Cincinnati, I was rooting against Philadelphia. I can't endorse this team, I can't feel good about this team, I don't want my hand prints on this team any longer. You want points left on the table, endgame errors as a rule, a first-quarter malaise like it's part of the game script … well, these are your guys. The quarterback doesn't know the overtime rules. The head coach makes challenges that would make Mike Martz blush. Running plays get tossed in the garbage like losing lottery tickets. Ah, the Philadelphia story.
Does Brian Westbrook look right to you? I'm no doctor, but he doesn't to me. The Eagles had 18 third downs in this game and passed every time. Does Kevin Curtis really scare anyone? That's a No. 3 receiver masquerading as a No. 1. Would it be a sin to run the ball on third down? My friend Jeff Erickson introduced a string of Philadelphia points this way Sunday night: "More on the Eagles, because I'm utterly fascinating in seeing them waste talent." I'm with you, amigo.
Does Donovan McNabb get tired at the end of games? Check his stats from pass attempt 31 and up: 74.4 rating, 5.30 YPA, 56.6 completions. He's yet to run the ball after attempting pass 31, which is telling. It sounds a little silly to suggest, but I really think he's routinely gassed in crunch time, especially if the Eagles are forced to play up-tempo.
As a way to purge all of this Philadelphia hatin' out of my system, let me throw out five random hunches tied to this team.
Okay, that felt therapeutic. Let's look at some other stuff.
• Tennessee is now 9-0-1 or 9-1 against the spread, depending on what your pool used for the Green Bay game three weeks ago. Public disbelief has its privileges.
• The Packers still have major run-stopping problems, but I like everything else about this team. Forget the 5-5 record, Green Bay is a legitimate sleeper. Two star corners you can press with. A star quarterback who's still improving. A suddenly-formidable running game (welcome to the season, Ryan Grant). Opportunistic defense.
• Stop making excuses and just accept it, the Tyler Thigpen story is real. He's legitimately someone fantasy owners should consider using every week. And look at the friendly schedule to close: Buffalo, Oakland, Denver, San Diego, Miami, Cincinnati (Week 17). Thigpen should have had a bigger day Sunday but this fourth-quarter sequence conspired against him: Mark Bradley dropped an easy third-down pass; Herm Edwards got spineless on a fourth-and-2 at the New Orleans 40 and decided to punt; the Saints promptly went on a clock-draining drive for 6:27. The Chiefs saw four more scrimmage plays the rest of the day.
The Saints and Chiefs were at a remote corner of the sports bar, one set only, but I kept shifting to check-in, turning my back on 5-6 other sets in the process. That's the biggest compliment I can give. I also started Thigpen over McNabb in the Friends & Famiy League, but maybe my Philadelphia migraine has something to do with that.
• If you're not loaded at tight end, Dustin Keller is probably worth waiver priority to make the grab. Granted, a lot of you already saw this coming and grabbed him a week or two ago, and kudos for that.
• Peyton Hillis is never going to be a star running back, but he does understand the biggest key to succeeding as a ball-carrier in the pros: be decisive. Hit the hole quickly. Get what's there.
• It always baffles me when coaches waste a time out merely to ponder a big play call upcoming, as the Redskins did midway through the fourth period Sunday. There's a value to that time out. Why not trust your play-calling instincts and preserve the ability to stop the clock, or possibly challenge, later?
• Sage Rosenfels, just good enough to lose with.
• If anyone deserves a new, fat deal, it's Anquan Boldin. Forget the mind-boggling stats and consider the full package, he's the best receiver in the league right now. Runs after the catch, blocking, a huge football IQ, he's got it all.
• I worried about Steve Slaton for no reason, apparently. Happy to be wrong.
• The new Miami regime has found a way to make Ted Ginn dangerous every week, and the same thing goes for the Falcons with Jerious Norwood. The players have to make the plays, but the coaches have to steer them to the right situations first.
• Jeff Garcia's TD count, week-by-week: 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 1, 0. I'm just saying.
• You can throw in the snow, in the rain, and even in the sleet. But heavy wind grounds your passing game. That's all that matters, and I'm embarrassed that I took the New England weather serious Thursday night. That said, we were writing many hours in advance of the game, and the only thing that really matters is the weather at kickoff.
• Two straight weeks of nothing for Tim Hightower, and keep in mind he's running against defenses designed to defend the Kurt Warner circus first. I'm beyond worried for Hightower here. It's one thing when J.J. Arrington gets change-of-pace work, but he was in at the goal in line Seattle.
• I know no one wants to talk kickers, but Neil Rackers is starting to look automatic again.
• For all the complaining you hear about MLB awards, all of the major 2008 winners to this point have been the right picks.
• Here's one way to measure football IQ – watch how offensive players react when there's a turnover away from them. Wes Welker's tackle Thursday night was worth reviewing 4-5 times. Boldin had a heady fumble recovery at Seattle. Ben Watson's takedown of Champ Bailey might be one of my Top 5 favorite clips of all-time. Don Beebe's rundown of Leon Lett is outstanding, too.
• I'm not going to say Daunte Culpepper looks good, but he's been better than I expected. And you can say the same thing about Kevin Smith, he's a decent, versatile, tough player, very flex-worthy in most spots.
• Best-ball leagues are a lot more fun than you might think. Assemble a deep roster, then sit back and relax, knowing the best scores come your way. Sure, it's a less-challenging exercise, but then you get a Justin Gage mint on your pillow and you're glad that it counted for you, somewhere.
Photos via US Presswire