The Water Cooler is a weekly look at the NFL. I’ll try to hit the high points on Sunday’s happenings. It just so happens that a lot of drama unfolded this week in the NFL.
The Vikings circus continues. They lost their second game in a row Sunday and it was their third loss in four games. The lone win in that stretch was a three point victory over the maligned Dallas Cowboys. Take your pick at which organization is falling faster. Minnesota lost 28-18 at New England. Randy Moss was double-teamed all game and registered just one catch. Brett Favre was knocked out of the game after taking a helmet to the chin which required eight stitches to patch up. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen Favre look that out of it.
I think it’s finally catching up to him. He took a beating yesterday and that was on top of his fractured foot. I’ll give it to the guy. He’s tough. I don’t think anyone will question that, but he’s also stubborn. He knows it. I know it. You know it. We all know it. It’s time for him to step aside. Favre even said in a post game press conference that he questioned why he was still playing.
Favre actually played a good game for the condition that he was in, but let’s look at the overall picture. His QB rating is a career worst 69.8 right now. His low is 70.2 back in 2005 with the Packers. He’s on pace to throw 16 TDs and 25 INTs at the moment and the Vikings are all but finished. There is a small chance of hope, but who really believes that? It’s time for Favre to hang it up.
It would get worse for the Vikings, though. Randy Moss was inexplicably released from the team yesterday. You have to think that his postgame rant had something to do with it, but not everything. The way the Vikings handled the situation is perplexing. Moss found out that he had been released from his teammates. Vikings head coach, Brad Childress, told players “that’s not the type of guy we want around here” and then proceeded to start watching film. FoxSports.com’s senior NFL writer, Jay Glazer, said that the Vikings players are not happyat all with the decision. Neither was the owner. Apparently, he didn’t even know about what Childress had done.
It’s a bit of a shock for the Vikings to abruptly release Moss considering they gave up a 3rd round draft pick to get him, but his rant after the game yesterday and these postgame comments probably sealed the deal for him:
“I miss every last helmet in that locker room,” Moss said. “Coach Belichick gave me a chance to be a part of something special, and I take that to heart.” (via this article)
Things are not right in Minnesota. Anyone can tell you that. Is Brad Childress next? He certainly has no control over this team.
Elsewhere in the NFL
-Donovan McNabb was benched in favor of Rex Grossman Sunday. Redskins Head Coach, Mike Shanahan, said that Grossman was more comfortable with their two minute offense. Yeah. Okay. I’m not even sure Shanahan believed that. That was a garbage excuse from him. Grossman has been with the Redskins as long as McNabb has been so I would imagine their understanding of the two minute offense would be equal.
Grossman promptly fumbled and rookie Ndamukong Suh scooped the ball up and ran 17 yards for the score, icing the game for the Lions. How do you bench your *captain* with the game in question? The Redskins trailed by 7 when Grossman entered the game. It was a strange move by Shanahan. McNabb has always held his tongue and been a stand up guy. I don’t know why he gets treated with such disrespect. The situation in Washington has gotten stranger today. Now, the Redskins offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, is giving a different story about what happened. Shanahan said “that McNabb was told in advance of the possibility of getting pulled from the game if coaches felt the veteran quarterback was struggling”. McNabb’s story is different. He says that he “didn’t hear that part”. On top of all this, JaMarcus Russell worked out for the Redskins earlier today along with several others. Now, I understand that McNabb has not exactly played that well this season, but what has Grossman ever accomplished to warrant a move like that? His career year consists of 20 interceptions and a 73.9 QB rating.
All of the aforementioned drama seemed to drown out an impressive victory by the Detroit Lions. Matthew Stafford threw four touchdown passes, three of which were to Calvin Johnson. The Lions defensive line (Avril, Suh and Vanden Bosch) recorded two sacks each. Detroit scored 23 points in the 4th quarter alone and they are now 2-5 with both wins coming at home.
-Jason Campbell threw for 310 yards and 2 TDs in the Raiders 33-3 rout of the Seattle Seahawks. Don’t look now, but Oakland is 4-4 and sitting in 2nd place in the AFC West. The Raiders have a decent defense. They have been great against the pass for years now, but it has been the ground game that’s been the Achilles’ heel for this defense. It still is. The Raiders are ranked 26th overall against the run. Oakland is finally getting the production out of Darren McFadden they had been hoping to get all along and it has attributed to the second best rushing offense in the league (168.5 yards per game). The Raiders are 3-1 in their last four games with Campbell starting. Backup quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski, has been out with an injury and may have seen his last start of the season. The Raiders host the division leading Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday in an AFC West showdown.
-Sticking with the Raiders, Rolando McClain finally spoke to the media yesterday. He said he wasn’t going to talk to the media until the Raiders sell out a game. Maybe this is his way of coaxing Raiders fans to come out to the game. McClain is a great kid. Great leader. Oakland won’t regret drafting him.
-Could it get worse for the 1-6 Dallas Cowboys? Things could get immediately better if they would cut ties with Wade Phillips. Dallas is 0-4 at home this season following an embarrassing 35-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday. Jon Kitna threw 49 passes in the loss. Kitna nearly had as many rushing yards (12) as Marion Barber (16). The jokes go on and on. As if the awkward handoff exchange at the goal line and Kitna hitting an unsuspecting Jason Witten in the helmet with a pass weren’t already enough.
-Turnovers killed the New York Jets in their 9-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers. It was a really ugly game on both sides, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything to worry about for either team unless it becomes a habit. Considering both quarterbacks had issues throwing the ball, you would have to believe that the wind played a big part in this game.
-The surprising St. Louis Rams defeated the 1-6 Carolina Panthers 20-10 yesterday. The way this team is playing, they have a legitimate shot at winning the NFC West. Their defense is playing well and the offense is playing well behind Sam Bradford despite injuries to the receiving core earlier in the year.
-I was high on the Steelers early in the year because of their tenacious defense and I still am despite a 20-10 loss at New Orleans last night. One thing that will make the Steelers very dangerous when the playoffs come around is their ability to shut down the opposing teams running game. They’re currently ranked 1st in that department, allowing a ridiculous 58.9 yards per game. The pass defense has been suspect all year, but this is a defense focused on taking away the running game. If you can’t run the ball in the playoffs, then you’re as good as dead. The offense will probably need a few games to catch up while Ben Roethlisberger returns to form. I’m still high on the Steelers, but the Patriots are probably playing the best overall football in the NFL right now.The Saints are very quietly having a decent season. The defense is still forcing turnovers and playing better overall. The offense is not nearly as dominating as it was a season ago, but you can attribute that to losing Reggie Bush. The Saints running game is averaging about 50 yards less than they were last season. New Orleans schedule looks very manageable down the stretch, but they will close out with three tough games against Baltimore, Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
-The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently tied for 1st place in the NFC South. It’s a tough division having to compete with the Saints and Falcons, but the Bucs keep finding a way to win. They are awful against the run, but force a lot of interceptions and have a +8 turnover margin. That’s good for a tie for first in the NFC with the Redskins. Any time you’re forcing that many turnovers and not turning the ball over much yourself, it’s going to lead to good things. Last year, the Saints were 3rd in the NFL with 39 takeaways. So far, the Buccaneers are at 18 takeaways and that puts them right behind a three way tie for first place. As long as the Buccaneers keep playing defense like this and are able to keep having the same success on offense, this team will find itself in the playoffs later in the year.
Sunday was no different for Tampa Bay. They forced four turnovers (all interceptions) and survived a trip to Arizona with a 38-35 victory.Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount led the way on offense. Freeman has been great all year for the Bucs, but Blount is just starting to emerge. He looks impressive running the ball and I think he’s the best option in the Buccaneers backfield. Carnell Williams is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. He needs to take a back seat to Blount.
-The NFL in London didn’t get exciting until the 4th quarter. I know I’m not the only one questioning this, but why San Francisco and Denver? Not exactly a star studded game, but it did provide an explosive 4th quarter at least. The 49ers rattled off three consecutive touchdowns to put themselves up 24-10 late in the game. Denver would respond with a touchdown only to fail an attempted two point conversion. That would be the last of the offensive fireworks and the 49ers won 24-16.
–San Diego snapped a three game losing skid on Sunday with a 33-25 win over the Titans. If you look at the Chargers numbers on paper (1st in offense, 2nd in defense), it makes you scratch your head when you look at their record (3-5). The Chargers are great at home, but abysmal on the road. An 0-4 road record will not get the job done. If you aren’t going to win on the road, then you better at least win all of your games at home. San Diego is 3-1 at home, but they are really going to need to step it up on the road. You only have to look at the turnover column to find out where the Chargers are going off track. They have turned the ball over an astounding 14 times in their losses. On top of that, the opposition has only turned the ball over twice. That’s an alarming -12 turnover difference. When you go back and look at their losses, they have all been within seven points or less. The Chargers are playing the best football that no one knows about, because they can’t take care of the ball. That’s a huge problem no matter which way you slice it and San Diego will need to correct that if they plan on making the playoffs. The schedule is pretty soft from here on out, however. Their toughest game will be on the road in Indianapolis and they will play division foes Oakland and Kansas City at home.
–Indianapolis regained control of the AFC South with a 30-17 win over the Texans last night. The Texans made a strong effort at a comeback but fell short after digging themselves in an early hole. Kelvin Hayden intercepted a Matt Schaub pass and returned it for a touchdown early in the 2nd quarter. It would turn out to make quite the difference as the Texans stormed back into the game. Dwight Freeney dashed the already slim hopes of the Texans with a sack and forced fumble with just 34 seconds remaining in the game. Peyton Manning didn’t have his best night, but it was good enough to get the job done. He would follow great throws up with a few bad throws. The offense was inconsistent all around, but Manning is without his favorite target, Dallas Clark. It remains to be seen if his injury will hurt the Colts offense on a consistent basis. If the Texans hadn’t fell behind so early, they would have been able to gash the Colts defense again with Arian Foster. Foster nearly averaged seven yards per carry, getting to 100 yards on just 15 attempts. The Colts are among the worst in the NFL at stopping the run and they do not look as dominant as they have in years past, but there’s still plenty of time left in the season.
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