Five weeks into the NFL season and six weeks into the college season and we know one thing for sure, things aren’t going to be the way we thought they were. There are a number of different story lines that dominate college and NFL football and that’s what makes this season so interesting.
The Atlanta Falcons
Who would have thought that after five games, the Falcons would have a perfect 5-0 record. New Head Coach Dan Quinn has brought new life to the Falcons and they are playing with an enthusiasm that we haven’t seen in years.
The Atlanta resurgence has been led by quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman. All are off to tremendous starts.
Three of the Falcons next four games are on the road but all four games are against teams with losing records. As well as the Falcons are playing, it’s possible they are 9-0 before they play another quality team.
The Detroit Lions
Many felt the Lions would challenge the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title. That won’t happen, at least not in 2015. The Lions have yet to win a game. What has been troublesome is the offense. In the last four games the Lions have averaged just over 13 points a game. This is with a quarterback who is supposed to be one of the NFL’s elite according to many “experts”. That quarterback is Matthew Stafford and he got benched Sunday for his poor play. If his poor play continues, it remains to be seen if backup Dan Orlovsky will take over.
CBS Sports Adam Schein tweeted Sunday “The Detroit Lions…rebuilding since 1957…”. If the Lions don’t make some top to bottom changes soon, they may still be rebuilding in 2027.
The Cincinnati Bengals
Right now the Bengals are the class of the AFC North with a perfect 5-0. This includes an outstanding come from behind victory over last year’s NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is off to his best start ever, passing for over 1500 yards and 11 touchdowns in the five victories. Another player off to an outstanding start is third year tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert was bothered by injuries in each of his first two seasons, but to date this season he has 24 receptions for 312 yards and five touchdowns.
Dalton has taken a lot of heat in the past because he hasn’t performed in the playoffs, but if he continues to play the way he has this season he will be looked upon as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.
Over the past few years, Jay Cutler has taken a lot of abuse from fans and analysts nationwide. Some has been deserved, some underserved. In 2015 we have seen a “new” Jay Cutler emerge. Gone is the moody player who wore his emotions on his shoulder. What we have seen this year is a much more relaxed player who has also taken on a new leadership role. He has also played his best football since becoming a Chicago Bear in 2009.
In the last two weeks, playing without his top receivers, he has led the Bears to two straight victories and this is while playing with a severely pulled hamstring. His stats over the last two games are 54 completions in 88 attempts for 533 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception.
For those who thought that Jay Cutler was going to be one-and-done under new Head Coach John Fox, you can forget about that. Cutler will be in Chicago for a while. Fox and Cutler have built a strong relationship and that is the reason for Cutlers improved play.
If the original “deflategate” suspension was upheld, Tom Brady would not have played in New England’s first four games and it’s highly likely that the Pats wouldn’t be 4-0.
When the suspension was overturned, Brady went on a mission to prove he may be one of the best quarterbacks of all time. In his first four games this year, Brady has thrown for 1387 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. His quarterback rating is a whopping 121.5.
Next up for the Pats is a game against the “deflategate” whistle blower Indianapolis Colts. If Brady keeps playing the way he has, this game could be the best game of his 16 year NFL career. Payback’s a bitch!
USC was supposed to be one of the favorites to win the PAC 12 this season. Instead they are off to a disappointing 3-2 start with both losses coming in conference play. Sunday, Head Coach Steve Sarkisian was placed on leave due to off field issues related to alcohol. Late Monday afternoon, USC fired Sarkisian and a search for a permanent replacement will begin shortly.
Following reports in both Los Angeles and Seattle papers, Athletic Director Pat Haden could also be in trouble. The papers brought up several instances of high alcohol consumption by Sarkisian documented with receipts. With receipts in hand, many are now questioning Haden’s vetting process when he hired Sarkisian.
This could get ugly before it’s over but one thing is clear and that is the reputation of one of the great football programs if all time is in serious danger.
About 10 days ago, I wrote my early scouting report on Cal junior quarterback Jared Goff. I pointed out that while Goff is talented, he isn’t ready to make the jump to the NFL. He needs another year of college football.
Of course I was bombarded by Goff and Cal fans as well as by some of the draft media who disagreed with my opinion. Saturday night in front of a national television audience Goff bombed in a loss at Utah. Goff completed 25 of 47 throws for 340 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. In the second half he lost his composure and his accuracy especially on longer throws, he was way off.
In my report I stated that in the early season Goff had not played a top defense and that we would see what his real talent is in games versus Utah, UCLA, USC and Stanford. With the Utah game behind us, Goff has the other three games to redeem himself in the eyes of NFL evaluators. As for me, I will stick to my original opinion. He needs another year of college and he will be much better off if he uses that year. His college playing experience will be invaluable to him when it comes time to make the jump to the NFL.
Steve Spurrier is hanging up his visor.
The Head Ball Coach is walking away from South Carolina, according to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated. Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Shawn Elliott is expected to be named interim head coach on Tuesday.
The 70-year-old Spurrier is in midst of his 11th season with the Gamecocks. After a brief stint in the NFL, Spurrier returned to college football and built South Carolina into an SEC contender, culminating in three straight 11-win seasons from 2011 to 2013. But the team won just seven games last season and sits at 2-4 this fall, with all four losses coming against SEC foes. Spurrier has never had a losing season as South Carolina’s leader, and the team was bowl-eligible in his first 10 seasons.
Spurrier won the 1996 national championship and six SEC titles at Florida, where he coached for 12 seasons. The former quarterback played his college football in Gainesville from 1963 to 1966 and won the Heisman Trophy for his play in his final season.
He began his coaching career with the Gators in 1978 as the quarterbacks coach and served in the same role at Georgia Tech the next year before becoming Duke’s offensive coordinator in 1980. After becoming the youngest coach in professional football when he took over the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, he came back to Duke for his first head-coaching job in college football in 1987. He was named the ACC coach of the year twice while in Durham, and he left the school with a 20-13-1 mark. After a 122-27-1 record with the Gators, Spurrier resigned and took the head gig with the Washington Redskins.
Spurrier has a combined record of 228-89-2 at Duke, Florida and South Carolina. He is the Gamecocks’ all-time winningest coach with 86 victories.
It’s safe to say that college football won’t be the same without Spurrier.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.
USC has fired head coach Steve Sarkisian.
One day after placing him on an indefinite leave of absence, athletic director Pat Haden terminated the contract of the head coach effective immediately. Clay Helton will continue as the interim head coach.
The following is a statement from Haden:
“After careful consideration of what is in the best interest of the university and our student-athletes, I have made the decision to terminate Steve Sarkisian, effective immediately.
“I want to thank Clay Helton for stepping into the interim head coach role, and I want to add how proud I am of our coaching staff and players and the way they are responding to this difficult situation.
“Through all of this we remain concerned for Steve and hope that it will give him the opportunity to focus on his personal well being.”
Sarkisian went 12-6 in less than two seasons as head coach. The Trojans went 9-4 last season and started 3-2 this year.
The question now is whether or not Haden will be around to pick the next permanent head man at ‘SC.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.
Florida quarterback Will Grier has been suspended for the rest of the season for violating NCAA rules.
The Gator tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The positive test has an automatic suspension of one calendar year from the NCAA, which would mean he would not be eligible to return until Florida’s seventh game of the 2016 season. The test was the result of something the signal-caller took over the counter that he did not get approved by Florida trainers, according to Grier at Monday’s news conference. The school plans to appeal the suspension.
The Davidson, N.C., native has thrown for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns against just three interceptions this fall. Florida travels to LSU for a showdown of unbeatens on Saturday.
Grier became the first Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009 to pass for more than 200 yards in three consecutive games, and his completion percentage (65.8) ranks first in the SEC.
With Grier out, sophomore Treon Harris will likely start for head coach Jim McElwain’s team. He started the season opener before giving way to Grier, but he was also suspended earlier this season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Harris has appeared in two games this season and thrown for 269 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.
Kansas City lost more than the game on Sunday. The likely have lost their number one offensive weapon for the season. By video, it was immediately clear that Jamaal Charles tore his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
There remains the slimmest of hopes as the team awaits a MRI; however, in my almost two decades as a NFL team physician, we had every ACL tear diagnosed based on physical exam prior to leaving the field. The lachman and drawer manual tests are very accurate, especially when done immediately before guarding or swelling. Unfortunately, I don’t doubt the quality Chiefs medical staff, as they know the bad news.
Certainly a hands on exam or reviewing a MRI is much more accurate than any video analysis; however, this injury was clear to me. For 17 years, I would examine players on the field, sideline, locker room and then re-exam them the day after with MRI results in hand. Next came a Monday visit to the team video room to analyze what happened. This is the inspiration for the Monday Morning MD title. I was just trying to be the best team physician I could be. I had no idea how this knowledge might serve me in the future.
In 2011, Charles tore his left (other) knee ACL and made a terrific recovery returning with a career best 1500+ rushing yards. However, his feat was overshadowed by Adrian Peterson’s 2000+ yards in his 2012 ACL return.
After successful ACL surgery, the other knee is more likely to tear than the original knee is likely to re-tear. There are genetic and other structural factors (in addition to occupational hazard) that lead to more risk for certain players.
If there is a silver lining, Charles has several factors that could work in his favor. First, this was the other knee as the left knee injured in 2011 was sparred. Second, he knows how to successfully rehab as he has been through this before. Athletes who tear their ACL have a 95% chance to return to the same level. Finally, an October injury gives 11 months before the next regular season game.
If the team knows before the MRI, why get the study? Confirmation of the physical exam is always helpful, but the main reason is to evaluate associated damage of meniscus, articular cartilage, other ligaments or bone bruise. Perhaps there is a small chance of an ACL avulsion where a repair could be entertained as opposed to the much more common reconstruction.
Assuming the MRI news is good in terms of minimal articular cartilage damage and a successful surgery, I expect a full recovery and a quality 2016 season for Charles.
MMMD 1: Super Star injury watch
Dez Bryant’s return from Jones fracture was originally pegged at 6-8 weeks. Admittedly I felt use of bone graft might mean a worse fracture, but a Week 7 return isn’t unprecedented as other NFL players have returned earlier, but things have to go his way. Dez has been seen without his boot but was in one on the sidelines Sunday. He still has to run, cut and practice before playing. Jerry Jones indicated Bryant had a stem cell procedure last week, but that only confirms he is weeks away as any injection to accelerate healing (stem cells or PRP) takes at least two weeks to start to work. Just ask Victor Cruz, Kiko Alonso or Breshad Perriman who all had stem cell and/or PRP, yet remain sidelined.
Andrew Luck missing Thursday’s game was not a setback. The best news on his subluxed (shifting) shoulder is there was no structural damage on MRI and surgery is ruled out. With 10 days until the much-anticipated Patriots showdown, I would be surprised if Luck is not ready.
Ben Roethlisberger has not practiced but did throw on the side and has been on the exercise bike. Next step is straight ahead running, followed by cutting and then drop backs/footwork. Once I saw he was without crutches on the sidelines last week, I felt his bone bruise was better than expected and the grade 2 MCL should have him returning during October and I stand by that timeline.
Steve Smith Sr. sat this week as expected with four spine fractures likely to involve the transverse processes. Last season, quarterbacks Tony Romo and Cam Newton returned to play after a one-week absence. Certainly it will be harder for a wide receiver to return so quickly but I feel Smith, as tough as he is, has a shot to play next week. I would be shocked if he did not play this month.
Tony Romo remained in a sling, but I remain confident that he will be ready to play as soon as he is eligible from his being placed on short term injured reserve.
MMMD 2: MRSA has Daniel Fells hospitalized and on IR.
The Giants tight end was reported to have undergone at least five procedures on his ankle. Methicillin resistant staphylococcal aureus (MRSA) require stronger antibiotics and often require surgery to lance superficial boils. When it goes deeper, that leads to greater issues, as it seems to have on Fells.
Although MRSA is very worrisome, claims of potential need for amputation exaggerate the real danger. Reports indicated a positive turn of events.
MRSA first hit society and the NFL over a decade ago. The NFL established protocols with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as early as 2006. Those protocols seem to be working as while staph is naturally all over are bodies, there have been no proven examples of player-to-player MRSA transmission since then. It is important to communicate these facts to the players and the Giants medical staff reportedly held just such a meeting.
MMMD 3: DeMarcus Ware carted off in Oakland
Whenever a player is transported off the field, many fear the worst. I expect that is not the case with Ware’s back injury. First, there was no one play where there was trauma. Second, a player with a serious back injury would not be sitting up as he was carted off. Finally, the Oakland Coliseum locker rooms are up several flights of stairs and x-ray is up several flights further. As a team doctor, I have been in that position where a cart was needed due to the Oakland stadium antiquated logistics.
With all of these factors, I hope the cart off was of convenience and not necessity. I expect a quick return for Ware without serious spine issues. I hope the NFL can rectify the Oakland stadium issues including playing some games on dirt causing safety issues.
MMMD 4: Injury rundown
Justin Forsett, Ravens RB – broke a big gain to set up first and goal before the drive stalled and Baltimore settled for a game tying field goal. By video, Forsett suffered a high ankle sprain. He did not return as his team lost to the Browns in overtime. This morning’s exam will set the tone for potential return based on overnight swelling. By video, I anticipate a mild high ankle sprain without an extended absence and a chance to play next week much like Fred Jackson was able to.
Odell Beckham, Jr. and Ruben Randle, Giants WR – both with hamstring injuries. Beckham returned on final drive, but Randle did not. Both of the severities are to be determined.
Marques Colston, Saints WR – left game and seen in a sling. By video, he may have a AC joint sprain/separation with severity to be determined.
Donta Hightower, Patriots LB – has a rib injury and did not return. By video, there is no fracture but rib cartilage/muscle injury is just as painful.
MMMD 5: Eye in the sky controversy.
The ATC spotter is asked to perform an impossible task. His or her job is harder than an official never missing a call. Judging concussions by video if far from an exact science as many hard hits don’t lead to concussion but some minor blows do. I applauded the new medical timeout rule but also indicated that it would not be the final answer.
Many felt Arian Foster should have been evaluated fully before returning to the Thursday night game but a medical timeout was not called. Fortunately when he finally was checked, he was cleared to return and finished the game.
Just like officials work in a crew with divided responsibilities, at least three people are needed where currently there is only one ATC and a video technician. One ATC should be responsible for live action and monitoring the actions of medical personnel, while the second ATC is charged with evaluating further replay angles. You can’t ask the same official to be watching for roughing the quarterback and hit to the head of a defenseless receiver at the same time. It is equally impossible for one person to follow the action, monitor actions of medical personnel and evaluate replay angles.
MMMD 6: Call to remove final preseason game
At the owners meeting this week, there was more discussion about eliminating a preseason game. In this health and safety era, my suggestion is simple. Remove the final preseason game but add a second bye week. The season remains the same length and player health and safety are improved.
Thursday short rest games could be eliminated as midweek games could be paired with a bye, thus giving 11 days before and 10 days after. The Patriots and Titans just had a bye last week. I bet both teams would love a bye in the second half of the season.
The NFL had two bye weeks in 1993 and it was not continued, but that was over 20 years ago and this is a different time. My informal poll shows players in favor of a second bye week.
The season would stay the same length, no extra games would be played and there would be more meaningful football to watch (and more revenue) with an additional slate of Sunday games, plus an extra Sunday, Monday and Thursday night game. International games could be more easily scheduled. Heck, Wednesdays would become feasible for games too. Managing a second bye week would also increase the fantasy challenge.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
Last week we ended with a 46-3 record. Unfortunately, Lance Dunbar did tear his ACL and MCL as video showed. Fortunately, Fred Jackson returned to play in first week after a mild high ankle sprain. Tevin Coleman was active in his second week from rib fracture as expected. Matt Hasselbeck was ready to go and showed no effects of illness. Arian Foster returned to play after his concussion evaluation as expected.
The video is clear on Jamaal Charles presumed ACL tear. With the Chiefs expectations, I will count it correct for now, but will change it if the news is surprising. This makes the 2015 record 51-3 to date.
Georgia RB Nick Chubb doesn’t count here as I am limiting the scoring to NFL injuries. As expected, his injury is a multi-ligament tear and much worse that ex-teammate Todd Gurley’s ACL. I am just hoping Chubb’s injury will be more like Willis McGahee’s multi-ligament tear who made it to an NFL career versus Marcus Lattimore who retired after two seasons of rehab with the 49ers without playing a down. Gurley has started the last two games and notched two 100+yard performances. As a sophomore, Chubb has one and a half years to get ready for the 2017 NFL draft. He will need all of that time.
Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc
Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.