Another week of not-so-flattering headlines were all the buzz for the NFL in Week 12. The Denver Broncos find themselves tied up in a ‘Spygate’ fiasco and a head coaching hot seat. Blows were exchanged in Houston, but the punishment surprised us all. The San Francisco 49ers kept their playoff hopes alive, but lost their best player in the process. These are the stories that you need to know about heading into this weekend’s games.
Throwing salt in the wound of a Denver Broncos team in the midst of another horrific season was the revelation of what has become known as “Spygate II.” The name refers to an incident in which Broncos videographer Steve Scarnecchia reportedly filmed a six-minute walk-through of the San Francisco 49ers when the teams played in London during Week 8. Though head coach Josh McDaniels was cleared of any involvement via NFL investigation, he was guilty of not reporting the situation immediately.
The league fined both the Broncos and McDaniels $50,000 a piece for violating league rules. Making the situation even more interesting is the fact that Scarnecchia and McDaniels were both on the staff of the Patriots team involved in the original “Spygate.” This may have been the final straw for McDaniels in Denver. Just hours after endorsing his coach, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen issued a letter to Broncos fans saying that he would “monitor” the situation in the team’s remaining 5 games.
Since arriving in Denver, McDaniels has made headlines by running off Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, trading Peyton Hillis for a 3rd string quarterback, reaching for Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, having his name tied to a cheating scandal and going just 5-16 after his surprising and deceiving 6-0 start last season. It’s make or break time for the 34-year old.
In Sunday’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, a dispute between cornerback Cortland Finnegan and wide receiver Andre Johnson turned physical, when the two players exchanged punches mid-way through the 4th quarter. Finnegan and Johnson were involved in an altercation on a 2nd down play, but were separated by officials. On the ensuing play, things escalated when Finnegan lunged for Johnson’s face and the two locked up. After both players managed to remove each others helmets, Johnson landed a couple blows before they were separated and ejected from the game.
A stiff punishment was expected to be handed down for the fight. However, to the surprise of many, Commissioner Roger Goodell handed out the proverbial “slap on the wrist.” Each player was fined $25,000 and will not face any suspension time. Goodell’s decision ruffled many feathers, as he fined Steelers linebacker James Harrison $25,000 this week for a roughing the passer penalty. Do you think it’s fair that two players exchanged punches and received the same punishment as a man who made a hard hit in the flow of the game?
Gore Out for Season
Monday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals was a bittersweet affair for the San Francisco 49ers. On one hand, they kept themselves afloat in the NFC West division race by blasting the Arizona Cardinals 27-6. However, the team will have to make that playoff push without their best player after losing Frank Gore for the rest of the season with a fractured hip. Gore finishes the season with 853 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
While news of Gore’s injury is certainly a setback for the 49ers, their backup options leave the fans with some hope. Stepping into the starting role now is veteran running back Brian Westbrook, who diced the Cardinals defense for 136 yards and a touchdown on Monday. Rookie Anthony Dixon is also capable of making big plays, accumulating 54 yards and a score against Arizona himself. With the division in reach, the 9ers will need this 1-2 punch to replicate that kind of production in the remaining 5 games.
Week 12 Scores:
New England Patriots – 45, Detroit Lions – 24
New Orleans Saints – 30, Dallas Cowboys – 27
Cincinnati Bengals – 10, New York Jets – 26
Jacksonville Jaguars – 20, New York Giants, 24
Pittsburgh Steelers – 19, Buffalo Bills – 16
Minnesota Vikings – 17, Washington Redskins – 13
Carolina Panthers – 23, Cleveland Browns – 24
Green Bay Packers – 17, Atlanta Falcons – 20
Tennessee Titans – 0, Houston Texans – 20
Kansas City Chiefs – 42, Seattle Seahawks – 24
Miami Dolphins – 33, Oakland Raiders – 17
Philadelphia Eagles – 26, Chicago Bears – 31
St. Louis Rams – 36, Denver Broncos – 33
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 10, Baltimore Ravens – 17
San Diego Chargers – 36, Indianapolis Colts – 14
San Francisco 49ers – 27, Arizona Cardinals – 6
NFL Power Rankings Top 10
1. New England Patriots – Deion Branch is STILL juking Alphonso Smith.
2. New York Jets – There is no Fountain of Youth on Revis Island.
3. Baltimore Ravens – They’re winning…but where in the world is Anquan Boldin?
4. Pittsburgh Steelers – Did you see Steve Johnson blame God on Twitter?
5. New Orleans Saints – Does Roy Williams have Twitter?
6. Atlanta Falcons – The Saints are probably thinking “Any day now!”
7. Indianapolis Colts – They’re losing and it’s Peyton’s fault. I’ve been waiting to say that for years.
8. Chicago Bears – Julius Peppers reminded everybody that he is a freak athlete.
9. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick is human after all.
10. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers needs a run game ASAP.
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Stealing NFL headlines this week are a few situations involving disgruntled players and questionable coaching decisions. Randy Moss made a shocking early departure from Minnesota, Donovan McNabb was benched for being out of shape, and a couple high profile holdouts returned to duty. Read about these stories and more in Eastbay’s Week 8 NFL Headlines.
Not even a month after they acquired him via trade with the New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings parted ways with wide receiver Randy Moss, officially waiving the 7-time Pro-Bowler on Tuesday. After a loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday that all but ended the Vikings chances of making a return to the playoffs, Moss reportedly had some behavioral issues in the locker room that offended some of his Vikings teammates, including quarterback Brett Favre. In addition, Moss used his post-game meeting with the press to inform them that he’d no longer answer their questions, criticize some of Minnesota’s coaching decisions and swing high praise in the direction of his former teammates and coaches in New England.
Once again, head coach Brad Childress finds himself at the center of a controversial discrepancy with a star player. Favre hasn’t exactly hidden the fact that he’s not thrilled with Childress’ play-calling and ability to lead. Reports suggest that there are some players within the Vikings organization that believe that Childress was the cause of some of the problems surrounding Moss. ESPN reporter Adam Schefter has even stated that those who know team owner Zygi Wilf say he’s angry at the team’s decision to waive a player that he “wanted and worked hard to bring back.”
Teams will now have until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday to make a claim on Moss. Rumored suitors are the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins.
You’re down by 6 with less than two minutes left to play in the game. You need a poised quarterback to lead you down the field for touchdown in the two-minute drill. Looking to your bench, you see a 6-time Pro-Bowl quarterback with the third best winning percentage among active QBs on one end. On the other, you see Rex Grossman. Easy decision, right? Wrong. That was the situation in Sunday’s contest between the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions, and coach Mike Shanahan went with Grossman.
Enhancing the hilarity of this decision, Grossman (as you’d expect) gets sacked on his very first play of the game, fumbles and Lions defensive end Ndamukong Suh returns it for a touchdown. So what reason did Shanahan have to bench McNabb for a potential game-winning drive? Apparently, McNabb didn’t have the “cardiovascular endurance” to run the two-minute drill. His words, not mine. Oh yeah – they brought in Mr. Fitness JaMarcus Russell for a “workout” this week.
After this episode, one has to believe that McNabb has precisely 8 games left as a Washington Redskin. You can add the name of Albert Haynesworth into that equation as well.
No Longer Holding Out
After eight week holdouts to start the season, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Patriots guard Logan Mankins each reported to their respective teams. While Mankins is available to start playing as soon as Sunday, Jackson must sit another three weeks to serve a three-game suspension imposed by the league for violating the personal conduct policy. Both of these returns may prove to be pivotal in deciding the AFC Championship, with the Patriots holding on to the league’s best record and the Chargers still very much in the playoff mix out west.
Week 8 Scores:
Denver Broncos – 16, San Francisco 49ers – 24
Jacksonville Jaguars – 35, Dallas Cowboys – 17
Miami Dolphins – 22, Cincinnati Bengals – 14
Buffalo Bills – 10, Kansas City Chiefs – 13
Washington Redskins – 25, Detroit Lions 37
Carolina Panthers – 10, St. Louis Rams – 20
Green Bay Packers – 9, New York Jets – 0
Tennessee Titans – 25, San Diego Chargers – 33
Minnesota Vikings – 18, New England Patriots – 28
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 38, Arizona Cardinals – 35
Seattle Seahawks – 3, Oakland Raiders – 33
Pittsburgh Steelers – 10, New Orleans Saints – 20
Houston Texans – 17, Indianapolis Colts – 30
NFL Power Rankings Top 10
1. New England Patriots – Basically, Randy Moss saw his old girlfriend looking happier with a new man and wanted back in.
2. Baltimore Ravens – This team has all the tools needed to hoist up the big trophy at the end.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – They’ve had a tough time putting away other good football teams, and lost to the two best teams they’ve played. Cause for concern?
4. New York Giants – What are the odds Hasselbeck leaves Sunday’s game healthy?
5. New York Jets – That offense will return next week from the ultra rare double Bye Week.
6. Indianapolis Colts – If you have remotely decent hands, Manning will make you look good.
7. New Orleans Saints – That was impressive. They’re getting healthy again – can they start stringing together wins?
8. Atlanta Falcons – Big game against the Buccaneers this weekend. They somehow have the same record.
9. Green Bay Packers – They’re weathering the storm and back in first place. I’m not sure anybody else in that division can take it from them, either.
10. Kansas City Chiefs – They seem to be legit. Of course, the Broncos did too around this time last year.
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This past weekend’s NFL action marked a week of high scores, big upsets, controversial calls and battered quarterbacks. We saw young passers like Colt McCoy, Matt Moore and Josh Freeman lead their teams to poised victories, while veterans like Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Jay Cutler had weeks they’d like to forget. Read below to catch up on some of the NFL’s biggest Week 7 stories.
If you started at quarterback in Week 7 and escaped without injury, consider yourself lucky. Some high profile QBs are limping into Week 8 or will miss it completely. The most notable injury was suffered by Cowboys hurler Tony Romo, who may have seen his season come to an end after exiting Monday’s game with a broken clavicle. The injury is said to take 6-8 weeks to heal. With a 1-5 record, it’s not likely that the Cowboys will be in a position to risk Romo returning to the field this season.
Also banged up was Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who reports suggest has two fractures in his left ankle. Though experts have questioned Favre’s ability to start the team’s Week 8 contest against the Patriots, Brett says he’s willing to give it a try. If Favre were to sit out, it would end a NFL-record 291 consecutive games, 315 including the playoffs.
Mile High Massacre
There are losses, and then there are losses. No matter how good or bad the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos are when they meet, it’s usually a well contested game between two teams that absolutely hate each other’s guts. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, as the Raiders marched into Denver and demoralized the Broncos, winning the game 59-14. The 59 points marked the most points scored in the 50-year history of the Raiders. Leading the charge was our Week 7 Player of the Week Darren McFadden, who posted a combined 196 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The last two Bronco coaches who lost by three or more touchdowns to the Raiders at home didn’t return the following season. Perhaps knowing that his job is on the line, Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels apologized to Broncos fans and team owner Pat Bowlen for the embarrassing performance. He’ll certainly need to find a way to move the team forward as they travel to London to play the San Francisco 49ers this weekend.
Where there’s controversy, the Pittsburgh Steelers probably aren’t far away. After linebacker James Harrison was at the center of last week’s “devastating hit” scandal, the Steelers were once again in the news, this time for a controversial call made by officials. On a 3rd and 2 play with less than 3 minutes left to play and the Steelers trailing 20-19, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ran the ball on a designed play and attempted to dive across the goal line. Roethlisberger fumbled the ball as he crossed the line, but the play was still called a touchdown on the field.
After a review that clearly showed Roethlisberger fumbling the ball prior to crossing the goal line, the officials overturned the touchdown, but still awarded the Steelers the football because they didn’t have clear evidence that it was the Dolphins who indeed recovered the loose ball. In other words, they didn’t know happened. Roethlisberger insists he had a piece of the ball in the pile, but Dolphins players believe linebacker Ikaika Alama-Francis had possession. “I just don’t understand the ruling,” he said. “I had possession,” said Francis.
This call may rank up there with the infamous “Tuck Rule” call from the 2002 AFC Division Playoff meeting between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. The video of Alama-Francis celebrating with the football isn’t actually visual proof that it was he who recovered the ball. I’m thinking this will be addressed in a future meeting.
Week 7 Scores:
Cincinnati Bengals – 32, Atlanta Falcons – 39
Pittsburgh Steelers – 23, Miami Dolphins – 22
Buffalo Bills – 34, Baltimore Ravens – 37
Jacksonville Jaguars – 20, Kansas City Chiefs – 42
Cleveland Browns – 30, New Orleans Saints – 17
San Francisco 49ers – 20, Carolina Panthers – 23
St. Louis Rams – 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 18
Philadelphia Eagles – 19, Tennessee Titans – 37
Arizona Cardinals – 10, Seattle Seahawks – 22
New England Patriots – 23, San Diego Chargers – 20
Oakland Raiders – 59, Denver Broncos – 14
Minnesota Vikings – 24, Green Bay Packers – 28
New York Giants – 41, Dallas Cowboys – 35
NFL Power Rankings Top 10
1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Every Super Bowl winner has a lucky game or two during the season.
2. New York Jets – The Jets maintain their standing during the Bye Week.
3. New England Patriots – Turn the ball over against New England, you’re probably not going to win.
4. Baltimore Ravens – Was anybody surprised Buffalo blew that lead?
5. New York Giants – They’re really making life on opposing quarterbacks hard. Plus, that group of receivers is really good.
6. Houston Texans – A week off and next up is the Colts rematch. Moment of truth this week.
7. Indianapolis Colts – Colts are going to need some plug-n-play magic with those injuries to Clark and Collie.
8. New Orleans Saints – Madden Curse? Defending Champion Curse? Not much you can really say about this team getting handled by the Browns at home. Brees looked awful.
9. Tennesee Titans – Starting to look a lot like that team from two years ago.
10. Atlanta Falcons – They really had no business letting the Bengals creep back into that game, but they’ve played well this season.
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Week 6 began a Big return in Pittsburgh and ended with a thrashing in Jacksonville. In between there were hard hits that the league wasn’t pleased with, more sacks by Osi Umenyiora and some disappointing results in San Diego and Dallas. Check out the Week 6 NFL headlines to read more about the big stories from around the league.
It’s a Hard Knock Life
Dick Butkus. Deacon Jones. Jack Lambert. Night Train Lane. Ronnie Lott. Remember your father’s stories about the hard hitters from his day? Well, this isn’t your father’s NFL. After hard hits from Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Falcons corner back Dunta Robinson and Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather sidelined and concussed unsuspecting receivers (in Harrison’s case, two guys), the NFL warned teams that “devastating” hits could result in suspensions starting in this weekends games. Additionally, the league upped the ante on the fines, issuing $50,000 fines to Robinson and Meriweather, and $75,000 to Harrison. Has the league stepped in and made the right decision, or are we on our way to a future of two-hand touch NFL football?
Big Ben Ticks Again
After serving a 4-game suspension for offseason transgressions, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made his return to the starting lineup on Sunday. Introduced to a loud ovation, the two-time Superbowl Champion looked to shake off the rust from his 9 1/2 month layoff. At times, he looked like the Big Ben we all know. Other times, like a quarterback playing his first game of the season. Overall though, he played well, completing 16 of his 27 passes for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns en route to a 28-10 win over the rival Cleveland Browns. The Steelers, who went 3-1 during Roethlisberger’s suspension, look like the real deal pairing the game’s greatest improviser with what may be the league’s best defense.
Trouble in Jerry World
Sunday’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings was a game of inevitable crisis for one of the participating teams. Both teams needed a win after getting off to disappointing 1-3 starts. Sparked by a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown by Percy Harvin to start the second half, it was the Vikings who got off the schneid by beating the Cowboys 24-21 after a game-winning Ryan Longwell field goal in the 4th quarter. The win moves Minnesota to just one back in the loss column behind the division leading Bears, while the Cowboys are dead last in the NFC East. Heading into a match-up with the rival New York Giants this weekend, a disastrous season may be on the horizon for “Dem Boys.”
What’s Going On In San Diego?
Okay, we’re used to it by now. The San Diego Chargers get off to a slow start, only to finish the season strong and make a push for the AFC crown. However, you have to wonder if the Chargers haven’t ran out of that magic. The losses on their schedule aren’t exactly a “who’s who” NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams? After parting with running back LaDainian Tomlinson (who’s having a stellar season in New York), trading cornerback Antonio Cromartie and failing to come to contractual agreements with wide receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, the team all but cut ties with linebacker Shawne Merriman this week after placing him on injured reserve. Is the Chargers run atop the AFC West finished? Do they still have the talent to catch the Chiefs and overcome the obstacles in front of them? We’ll see, as the annual Charger turnaround is due any week now.
NFL Power Rankings Top 10
1. Pittsburgh Steelers – Business as usual as they hit the tough portion of their schedule.
2. New York Jets – Wasn’t pretty, but they’ll take it against a game Denver squad on the road.
3. New Orleans Saints – They’ve scored 30 the last two weeks and have Cleveland at home on Sunday. Did James Harrison leave any Browns to make the trip?
4. New England Patriots – No Moss? No problem. That game lived up to the hype.
5. Baltimore Ravens – No shame taking an overtime loss to the Patriots in their house. Don’t tell Ray Lewis I said that, though.
6. Houston Texans – You don’t want to get into a shootout with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Another Texans rally?
7. Indianapolis Colts – Something still doesn’t seem right about this Colts team. However, I won’t doubt Peyton.
8. New York Giants – Osi Umenyiora is back in form and the Giants are taking out quarterbacks left and right.
9. Philadelphia Eagles – Decisions, decisions, Coach Reid.
10. Tennessee Titans – They’re “leading” the AFC South, yet I have them ranked below the Colts and Texans. Justified? For now, I think so.
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