|10.11.11 at 6:51 am ET|
Before the season started, the Eagles, Falcons and Jets were locks for the playoffs. The Bills, Redskins and 49ers were locks to have no chance. … And then they started playing the games. Now, through Week 5, the Eagles, Falcons and Jets are all under .500, and the Bills, Redskins and 49ers are all sitting pretty in first place in their divisions. It’s been an unpredictable year so far in the NFL. The Bills (7) and Raiders (8) are in our top 10. The Falcons (17), Eagles (20) and Jets (11) are not.
The elite teams in the NFL have held true to form. The Packers (1), Saints (2), Ravens (3) and Patriots (4) all have performed up to par and have solidified the top five over the past few weeks. The Lions (5) are making a case week after week that they, too, are one of the best in the league.
What to watch for in Week 6:
‘¢ The Eagles’ season is on the brink of collapsing. They’ll play the Redskins in what is arguably a must-win situation.
‘¢ The Bills will look to take down another solid opponent when they travel to New York to take on the Giants.
1. (1) Packers (5-0) ‘ The comeback win against the Falcons came at a price, as starting left tackle Chad Clifton went down with a serious hamstring injury. The loss will certainly test the depth at the tackle position, because starter Bryan Bulaga has been battling a knee injury for the past two weeks. Even with the injuries, nothing has slowed down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. The defending champs are rolling. They haven’t lost a game since Week 15 against the Patriots and are playing the beat-up, winless Rams on Sunday.
2. (2) Saints (4-1) ‘ Like other elite teams in the NFL, the Saints have a prolific offense accompanied by a mediocre defense. On Sunday against the Panthers, Sean Payton‘s defense made some key mistakes that could have cost the team the game. The five penalties the defense had on Sunday included two roughing-the-passer penalties and a personal foul on a bonehead play from Roman Harper. The Saints also were scorched by DeAngelo Williams on the ground.
3. (3) Ravens (3-1) ‘ Coming off the bye week, the Ravens need Joe Flacco to bounce back from a shaky start to the season. Flacco’s completion percentage is one of the worst in the league, at 49 percent. He’ll look to improve against a Texans defense that is missing its best pass rusher in Mario Williams.
4. (4) Patriots (4-1) ‘ The versatility of the Patriots offense makes Tom Brady and crew one of the most dominant teams in the game. Whether they need to pass, run, go to the no-huddle, or sustain a long drive, the Pats can do it all and are only going to get better. The production from the run game has been key. Brady can rely on his backs to move the chains, and it has helped balance the offense. Defenses have to worry about both the run and pass. The win against the Jets has to bolster the defense’s confidence as well. Although they faced a poor offensive team, the Pats should be encouraged after making big stops on third down. They’ll face a major test this Sunday against the Cowboys pass offense.
5. (5) Lions (5-0) ‘ The Lions didn’t disappoint their fans while appearing on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in a decade. The Lions not only are relevant, they’re undefeated. The defensive line is relentless at rushing the passer. Ndamukong Suh has gone from rookie to superstar in just a year. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have connected each week for at least one TD. Johnson now has caught nine touchdowns in his first five games. No receiver has done that in the history of the NFL.
|10.11.11 at 1:22 am ET|
|10.10.11 at 9:56 pm ET|
In their first five games of the season, the Patriots have been flagged for 34 penalties and 318 yards. Here’s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against New England, not including penalties that were declined or offset:
Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
OL Nate Solder: three penalties (two holding and illegal use of hands), 30 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: three penalties (holding, false start, facemask), 29 yards
S Sergio Brown: two penalties (both defensive pass interference), 51 yards
OL Matt Light: two penalties (both holding), 20 yards
OL Logan Mankins: two penalties (offensive holding and false start), 15 yards
OL Brian Waters: two penalties (holding, offensive holding), 15 yards
TE Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
CB Leigh Bodden: two penalties (both defensive holding), 10 yards
S Pat Chung: one penalty (unncessary roughness), 15 yards
DL Andre Carter: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
LB Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
DL Kyle Love: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
OL Dan Connolly: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S James Ihedigbo: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
CB Devin McCourty: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
WR Chad Ochocinco: two penalties (illegal formation, false start), 9 yards
LB Dane Fletcher: one penalty (offensive holding), 7 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
WR Deion Branch: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: one penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct), 2 yards
Team: two penalties (12 men on the field, offensive holding), 15 yards
WR Wes Welker: one penalty (illegal motion), 5 yards
Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: 10 penalties for 90 yards
Safety: four penalties for 76 yards
Tight end: six penalties for 44 yards
Defensive line: three penalties for 32 yards
Linebacker: two penalties for 22 yards
Cornerback: three penalties for 20 yards
Wide receiver: four penalties for 19 yards
Team: two penalties for 15 yards
Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
Offensive holding: 11
False start: seven
Roughing the passer: three
Defensive holding: two
Illegal block above the waist: two
Defensive pass interference: two
Illegal formation: one
Illegal use of hands: one
Unsportsmanlike conduct: one
Unecessary roughness: one
Illegal motion: one
Twelve men in the huddle: one
|10.10.11 at 11:36 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning for his weekly discussion of Sunday’s game.
Brady and the Patriots topped the Jets 30-21 Sunday, but the quarterback did not seem satisfied with the game. While Brady completed 24-of-33 passes for 321 yards, a touchdown and an interception, he said he thought the offense could have played better.
“We could have scored more in the red area,” Brady said. “I thought we left a lot of points out there. That [Deion Branch‘s touchdown] was one situation where it was good, but at the same time, there were other situations . . . and we had quite a few penalties that really hurt us throughout the course of the game, too.”
Sunday was the first time this season that Brady has been limited to one touchdown pass in a game. The decreased number was due to an increase in running chances. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis put in a 136-yard, two-touchdown performance and enjoyed a season-high 27 carries. Brady said a balance between the running game and passing game will be essential as the team continues through the season.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Brady said. “We’ve got to be able to stay balanced. We’ve got to be able to take advantage of whatever we see. It gives everybody a lot of comfort in knowing that we are a team capable of running the ball effectively as we did yesterday. Even a game where it’s traditionally a game where we’re throwing the ball a lot. Well, yesterday we were pretty balanced and it was pretty effective. We threw the ball decently and we ran it decently, and we’re going to need to continue to do that.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
|10.10.11 at 9:38 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to revisit the Patriots’ 30-21 win over the Jets Sunday and discuss what another loss means for a struggling Jets team.
Esiason said the Patriots ignited a firestorm on New York talk radio with the way they ran through the Jets defense with 12 straight rushing plays in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. The Jets defense, which was supposed to be one of the best run defenses in the NFL, allowed 152 rushing yards to the Patriots Sunday.
“Any time you play your division rival and the game ends the way it did yesterday with New England just taking the ball for about 12 or 13 plays and sealing the victory with a field goal by Stephen Gostowski, that’s about as bad as it gets,” Esiason said. “When you have guys running over 100 yards in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tom Brady throwing for over 300 yards, and if Aaron Hernandez doesn’t drop the ball in the end zone in the first half, let’s face it, this game is probably a laugher. So, I think that the Jets are going to circle the wagons right now and they’re going to be getting a lot of criticism.”
Esiason also addressed the status of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who many around the NFL call an underachiever during the regular season and an overachiever in the postseason. Sanchez was 16-for-26 Sunday for 166 yards. Esiason said he does not think Sanchez is ready to take the next step up in play during the regular season.
“He’s not there right now,” Esiason said. “Will he do it? All I can tell you is that when you win four playoff games against Phillip Rivers in his building, Carson Palmer in his building, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in their buildings the way that he did that last year, you can never take that away from the young man. He actually played really well in the AFC championship game especially in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, so I’ve seen it. I know that he’s capable of doing it.
“I just know that it’s got to be pretty difficult for him going on the field with guys like Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes. … I believe that he plays with some enigmatic, crazy wide receivers that put a lot of pressure on him. … There’s a reason why Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes are no longer with the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New York Giants for that matter or in jail. The fact of the matter is they’re a different sort of cat. They’re talented players but they also at times can be pretty selfish.”
|10.09.11 at 10:08 pm ET|
“As much as I respect and admire Bill Belichick, I came here to kick his ass, and that’s the truth.’
– Rex Ryan, Nov. 29, 2010
Ah, the salad days. Remember when Rex Ryan actually talked the talk?
Salad has been replaced on the menu (at least for now) by a couple of slices of the ol’ humble pie (which isn’t the snack Rex was talking about on “Hard Knocks”). After losing for the third straight time — a stretch that has seen his vaunted defense allow 34, 34 and 30 points — Rex stepped up to the podium minutes after a defeat to his main (OK, only) rival, a loss that puts his team at 2-3 on the season and somewhere very close to trouble as the early postseason picture starts to take focus.
“Obviously, they are the better team right now,” Ryan said. “The score indicated that. I was encouraged, though, by our team. We got back to some runs and completions.”
Encouraged by a loss in which his team gave up 36 first downs, 30 points and 446 yards of offense? Encouraged by 166 yards of passing (70 of which came on the final drive against a prevent defense) on 26 attempts? What happened to the guy who wasn’t going to kiss any rings? Rex Ryan just lost a (winnable) game to the Patriots and instead of bluster, arrogance and hyperbole (which is the Jets’ version of The Law Firm) we get Pete Carroll 2.0. What happened? I feel like Jimmy Conway when he thinks Tommy is just going to sit there and take it from Spider: “What is the world coming to?”
I suspect the truth is this: In 2009 Rex Ryan knew he had a very good football team. In 2010 Rex Ryan knew he had a very good football team. And in 2011 Rex Ryan has no clue if he has even a good football team.
Look, there isn’t anything close to a perfect football team in the NFL right now. The Patriots have major flaws on defense (as we all wait for Albert Haynesworth to do, well, something). But the Jets — again, this is just five games, maybe not a small sample size but by no measure a defining one — look to have significant flaws on both sides of the ball.
Mark Sanchez was OK (but just — and this was against a defense that allowed 478 yards per game through four weeks) on Sunday, but this is a quarterback that hasn’t made The Leap. The offensive line hasn’t been able to protect him or help what has been a below-average running game.
But wasn’t this the case with Sanchez last season (at least in the regular season) and in 2009 (at least in the regular season)? The Jets — Rex Ryan’s Jets — were supposed to be about defense. Sure, the quarterback has to make some plays, but not making mistakes has always been more important for this team.
Zero interceptions from Sanchez (with two touchdowns — no turnovers for Jets) and 4.0 yards per carry might have been enough to pick up a win against this team last year. And now we arrive at the screaming difference between the Jets of 2009-10 and the team we saw on the field Sunday.
This is Just Another Defense.
The Patriots ran for 152 yards on Sunday (BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for a career-best 136). If this was an outlier, you could tip the cap and move on. But this is reality. The Ravens rushed for 112 — same as the Jaguars — and the Raiders (who I still think win the AFC West and one postseason game) rushed for 234.
Darrelle Revis is still plenty great, but the greatest cornerback of all-time isn’t much of a help when the line simply cannot stop the opponent from running the ball at will. I have not seen a drive as telling this season as the Patriots’ final drive on Sunday, 27-21 with 7:07 left. There was no mystery — the Patriots were going to run Green-Ellis and dared the Jets to try to stop them. And the Jets — with Bart Scott (very quiet in the locker room postgame), Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Rex Ryan — were helpless against this:
Green-Ellis for eight yards.
Green-Ellis for 15 yards.
Green-Ellis for six yards.
Green-Ellis for no gain.
Green-Ellis for 14 yards.
Green-Ellis for five yards.
Green-Ellis for three yards.
Green-Ellis for six yards.
Green-Ellis for three yards.
Green-Ellis for one-yard loss.
And when that was done, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 28-yard field goal with 1:02 left to put the Patriots up 30-21, and the game was over. The Patriots lined up, basically punched the Jets in the face, and nothing close to a response was offered.
And it’s the defense — aging and ineffective — that has taken the stuffing out of Rex Ryan.
“We did some good things.” Ryan offered after the game.
The 2011 Jets: Where Moral Victories Happen.
|10.09.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
The crowd was buzzing after the opening play of the second half had the Patriots looking to add to a slim 10-7 halftime lead. Then, BenJarvus Green-Ellis went up the middle for a yard.
Then, Brady was flushed out of the pocket, running for his life like he had all afternoon and found Deion Branch at the Jets 3. Branch caught the ball with no one on him. He touched his right knee to the turf but since no one got to him, he was free to get up and advance. But before he could, Calvin Pace came over and poke the ball out from Branch’s arms.
The Jets recovered and hustled on the field but Bill Belichick immediately threw the red challenge flag. The play would be reviewed. Was Branch certain it would be overruled?
“Honestly even when I saw it on the jumbotron, I was like it’s going to be a close one, it could go either way,” Branch admitted. “It’s one of those bang-bang plays. Yeah my knee was down but it could have gone the other way as well.”
Branch had one HUGE mulligan. Instead of a momentum-killing fumble and turnover, the Patriots had new life. Branch took advantage by making Antonio Cromartie look very foolish on a curl route in the back of the end zone. Naturally, Brady found him for the quarterback’s only TD pass of the day.
“Oh that would have been big,” Branch said of the turnover that wasn’t. “That one would have been big. Because you can almost, if you think about it, we were in the red area and Wes caught a 73-yard pass play, got us down to the 10 yard line and then if that would have happened, it would have taken all the air out of us. Starting out the second half, we always preach about starting fast, both halves and we did that. That would have been bad, but I’m glad it went the other way. ”