by Michael Lombardi
October 25, 02009
QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...
“More than any other country in the world, Britain must rely on the enterprise and trained ingenuity of her people. Since we have neither the massive population, nor the raw materials, nor yet adequate agricultural land to enable us to make our way in the world with ease, we must depend for survival on our brains, on skilled minds that are at least proportionately equal to those in the United States and Soviet Russia.” -- Sir Winston Churchill
Check out this rarely seen television footage of Sir Winston Churchill. It was uncovered to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the college in his name at Cambridge University.
With the NFL playing a game in London today, how could we not start the Sunday Post without a Churchill quote?
New England and Tampa Bay are set to play at Wembley Stadium. Asked about the possibility of the NFL expanding to London, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “I think it should. I really believe it'd be the right thing to do some time in the next decade. There should be a franchise here. We've had great support here and in Germany, so we look forward to seeing what happens.”
“It’s a way to expand our game on a global basis, to broaden interest in our game. The best news is that it’s the Brits who are coming to the games.” – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
NFL Network video update on the Patriots/Bucs game
AROUND THE NFL...
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” -- Winston Churchill
1. In talking to people close to former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, his preference in returning to the NFL might not be on the sidelines but in a Bill Parcells-type role. And the team he has his eye on is Seattle. Current GM Tim Ruskell is in the last year of his deal and has not been given an extension even after Jim Mora, his hand-picked head coach, was hired. Holmgren would love to be back in Seattle and still has a wonderful relationship with Seahawks owner Paul Allen.
2. Many people in the league feel the vote of confidence coach Jim Zorn received last week from GM Vinny Cerrato had more to do with the Redskins not being able to lure an interim coach for the remainder of the season. Zorn will comply with anything the front office asks because he has significant money due him on the remainder of his contract. Gregg Williams, the former ‘Skins defensive coordinator, is still in a grievance with the team over his contract.
3. The idea of the ‘Skins bringing back Joe Gibbs in a Parcells role as GM has been mentioned around the league by a few agents, some of whom are close to the front office. I can’t imagine Gibbs being able to handle the job with all his off-the-field activities.
4. Not sure what the wife of former Titans GM Floyd Reese was trying to prove with her rampage last week against her husband’s former team. Sally Reese wasn’t shy, feeling her man was betrayed by an organization he worked for for over 20 years. Sally might be right, but her delivery was all wrong. Here is the link.
5. An NFL executive suggested to me that maybe the Jets were trying to get Jay Ratliff from the Cowboys and that Ratliff was the player owner Jerry Jones was talking about as the huge deal he was offered. Tight end Marcellus Bennett is the name most often mentioned as the player Jones was referring to. Ratliff is a very good player, but I’m sure there’s no way the ‘Boys would have parted with him.
6. Nice work by Don Banks of SI.com uncovering the college XOS tape problem, which will affect many teams in the NFL that rely on their coaches viewing tape in house. This is a huge issue, and unless it’s resolved it will greatly impact the college draft.
MY VIEW OF TODAY’S GAMES, PLUS NOTES AND WEATHER...
“Statistics can be made to prove anything -- even the truth.” -- Author unknown
Packers (3-2) at Browns (1-5)
Mostly cloudy, 52 degrees, no wind.
The Browns have lost seven in a row at home (second-longest home losing streak in franchise history; longest home losing streak is nine, 1999-2000). The Browns have four offensive touchdowns and three return touchdowns in their last 12 games. Do you think Joshua Cribbs makes a difference?
Cribbs lined up at QB 13 times last week vs. Steelers and had six rushes and 45 yards and was 0-2 passing with an INT. Cribbs has 12 rushes, 101 yards, 8.4 yards per rush this season (rest of team has 3.5 yards per rush).
The Browns don’t have the ability to play man to man against the Packers’ wide receivers. If they play zone, they’ll get methodically beaten. This is a tough matchup for the Browns on defense.
The flu will create problems for the Browns, whose endurance will be an issue as the game goes on.
The Packers are 14-12 on the road under Mike McCarthy. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times by the Lions last week and eight times by the Vikings in their previous game. The Packers must protect Rodgers today. They can lose the game if they turn the ball over because of a lack of protection.
49ers (3-2) at Texans (3-3)
Partly cloudy, 76 degrees.
S.F. has not had a player with 100-plus receiving yards in a game this season, joining the Bears, Bills and Rams. They must throw the ball well.
The Texans have not allowed 50 yards rushing in any of their last three games. Their run defense will determine if they win the game.
The Texans’ defense has just seven sacks (T-29th in NFL). Brian Cushing leads the team with 48 tackles (first among NFL rookies).
The Texans have struggled to run the ball and should struggle against the physical front of the 49ers. S.F. must force turnovers.
Frank Gore is expected to return after missing the last two games. Gore is T-3rd in NFL with 6.2 yards per rush. It helped playing the Seattle defense.
Michael Crabtree makes his NFL debut, and the speed of the game should catch him by surprise. The Niners will need him to force coverage.
Houston has trouble with physical teams — and the 49ers are a physical team.
Chargers (2-3) at Chiefs (1-5)
Chance of rain, 56 degrees.
The Chargers are 24-8 in divisional games since 2004. Philip Rivers is 4-2 career vs. the Chiefs as starter with seven TDs and nine INTs and has 300-plus yards in his last two games vs. K.C. He’s 16-4 career vs. the AFC West as starter.
The Chiefs secondary will be challenged because the Chargers’ talent lies in their offensive skill. The Chargers wideouts struggle when they’re pressed, but the Chiefs don’t have the corners to handle press coverage and win.
Wonder why the Chargers are struggling? Their defense has seven sacks (T-29th in NFL). Shawne Merriman has 13 tackles, no tackles for loss and no sacks (also, no sacks in his past six games, the longest drought of his career). Shaun Phillips also has no sacks (he had seven or more in each of previous 4 seasons). Rookie Larry English leads team with two sacks. They were counting on these three players to make plays.
Reason No. 2 the Chargers are struggling: They’re 29th in the NFL in red zone TD percentage (seven TDs in 19 red zone trips, 36.8 percent). They were 11th last season (56.9 percent). They’re tied for last in rushing with 57.6 YPG and are last in the league with 2.9 yards per rush. Can’t run, can’t score touchdowns and can’t get pressure on the passer. That defines the ‘09 Chargers.
The Chargers’ offensive line is struggling and will need to help protect against Tamba Hali who is having a Pro Bowl season for the Chiefs.
I really think the Chiefs would be better on offense if they featured Jamaal Charles more and Larry Johnson less. They look very slow with Johnson. The Chiefs have no rushing TDs in their last seven games dating to last season. Johnson has no rushing TDs and no 100-yard games in his last seven games and has been held under 4.0 yards per rush in each of those games.
The Chiefs have lost 28 of their last 31 games and nine of their last 11 divisional games. They’re also lost nine straight at home, the longest home losing streak in franchise history.
The Chiefs have been outscored by their opponents 31-6 in the first quarter this season. Get behind fast and you can’t play catch-up. They’re last in the NFL in third-down percentage (21.2 percent).
Vikings (6-0) at Steelers (4-2)
Partly cloudy, 56 degrees.
Brett Favre is third in the NFL with a 109.5 passer rating and tied for third with 12 passing TDs. He has a 100-plus passer rating and 70-plus completion percentage in each of his last three games. He also has 10 completions of 25-plus yards in the last four games (no completions of 25-plus yards in his first two games). He must be able to work the ball down the field today.
The Steelers will attack Favre from the right side and force him to move to his left. They must force him to feel rushed in the pocket. They need him to make a mistake.
The Steelers have outscored their opponents 38-6 in first quarter this season. They love to start fast, which means they throw early and often.
They must have a plan for Jared Allen and give Max Starks help at left tackle. But Big Ben Roethlisberger is the hardest quarterback in the NFL to get on the ground. He can throw well with tacklers hanging all over him.
The Vikings must play man to man on the Steelers’ wide receivers and force Big Ben to make tight throws. Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 1,887 pass yards this season and also leads with 26 completions of 20 or more yards. He has a 100-plus passer rating in three straight games. He would be the MVP right now if not for Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
Troy Polamalu has an interception in each of his two games this season. The Steelers’ defense is third in NFL with 17 sacks.
James Harrison is T-4th in NFL with six sacks, but the key will be Lamar Woodley, who has to win the matchup with Phil Loadholt, the Steelers’ right tackle.
If Percy Harvin doesn’t play, it will hurt field position for the Vikings. To beat the Steelers, you must try and play on a shorter field.
Colts (5-0) at Rams (0-6)
Chance of rain, 61 degrees.
This will be the 12th time since 1970 that an undefeated team that’s 5-0 or better has faced a winless team that’s 0-5 or worse.
The Colts have won 14 straight games, the longest win streak in franchise history and longest active win streak in NFL. The Colts have won seven consecutive road games, tied for longest road win streak in franchise history.
Bob Sanders of the Colts returns from a knee injury and should help their secondary make plays. His play, along with the Colts’ great rush, will make it hard for Marc Bulger.
Alex Barron will have a difficult time protecting against Dwight Freeney, and the Rams will be forced to slide their protections toward him — which leaves Jason Smith on an island at right tackle. Expect Robert Mathis to have a huge game.
Dwight Freeney is T-4th in NFL with six sacks and has at least one in his last six games dating to last season.
The Colts have scored 62 points in the second quarter. The Rams have scored 54 all season.
The Colts have started fast in their last two games — 13 possession, eight touchdowns. This team, especially Manning, knows how to finish drives.
The Rams will have to play a ton of zone and have a good plan in the red zone. The Colts will move the ball, but for the Rams to be in the game, they must play a great game in the red zone.
Rams have lost 16 straight games, longest losing streak in franchise history and longest active losing streak in NFL. Bulger is 4-27 in his last 31 starts.
Patriots (4-2) vs Buccaneers (0-6) at London
The Patriots traveled to London overnight on Thursday, while the Buccaneers left Friday morning and arrived at 6 p.m. eastern time, 11 p.m. London time (Note: The five-hour time difference changes to four hours on Sunday since London lost one hour Saturday night).
The Patriots will come out and try to pick up where they left off last week — aggressively throwing the football. The Bucs do not match up well in the secondary.
The Patriots are 32-5 vs. the NFC since 2001, including playoffs. The Patriots have won 16 straight regular-season games vs. the NFC (last loss was Sept. 18, 2005, at Panthers). The Patriots are 24-5 in October since 2003.
Expect the Pats to force Josh Johnson to stay in the pocket and make plays. He’s best when he can run around and find receivers down the field. Johnson has been sacked 10 times in three starts this season. He has 21 rushes, 141 yards, 6.7 yards per rush (second on the team in rushing yards, six more than Derrick Ward).
Bills (2-4) at Panthers (2-3)
Clear, 67 degrees.
The Panthers are 29th in rush defense (149.2 YPG) and 31st in allowing 5.0 yards per rush. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, running the ball might be the only way the Bills can score.
The Panthers will try and get the ball to Steve Smith, and if the Bills get into their eight-man front, expect him to have a larger impact on the game.
Second-round rookie safety Jairus Byrd has three interceptions in his last two games.
The Bills struggle to tackle big backs; expect both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to make big runs.
Jets (3-3) at Raiders (2-4)
Clear, 74 degrees.
The Jets have lost three in a row after a 3-0 start. They’re 1-2 on the road and are 2-12-1 in their last 15 road games against the Raiders.
Expect the Jets to take away Zach Miller and force JaMarcus Russell to make plays with his wide receivers. The Raiders have struggled to handle the tough blitz schemes.
WR Chaz Schilens will make his season debut after suffering a broken left foot in training camp. Schilens might start. He was a seventh-round pick in 2008 out of San Diego State and had 15 receptions, 226 yards, 2 TDs with 6 starts and 16 games played last season.
Without Kris Jenkins in the middle, the Raiders must run the ball effectively and limit their passing attempts. Too many attempts will mean turnovers.
Don’t expect Rex Ryan to panic with Sanchez. Ryan saw Joe Flacco start 3-3 last season with Ravens.
Joe Flacco vs. Mark Sanchez
FIRST SIX STARTS AS ROOKIES
’08 Flacco ’09 Sanchez
W-L 3-3 3-3
Comp. Pct. 64.1 52.1
Pass YPG 179.3 172.5
TD-INT 2-7 5-10
Passer Rating 68.8 56.7
The Raiders’ defense has blitzed 34 times this season, fewest in the NFL. The Jets will be able to handle the Raiders’ blitz after seeing it on tape. No surprises there.
Bears (3-2) at Bengals (4-2)
Partly cloudy, 65 degrees.
The Bears are 1-2 on the road this season and have lost six of their last eight road games. Their offensive line play makes them less effective on the road.
The Bears are sixth in rush defense (88.4 YPG) and face ex-Bear Cedric Benson. Benson is third in the NFL with 531 rushing yards and leads the NFL with 127 rush attempts.
Matt Forte had 12 rush, 121 yards, one TD against the Lions in Week 4 but has struggled against the rest of the NFL:
Depth on defense will be a problem for the Bengals. This game is going to require their pass rush to make plays. The Bears can create mismatches on the Bengals’ safeties.
Carson Palmer will have to play to win the game. He must throw the ball well against a very good Bears defensive front. He has to make plays in the passing game.
Falcons (4-1) at Cowboys (3-2)
Thunderstorms, 72 degrees.
The Falcons are all about gaining the lead and playing from ahead. Matt Ryan is 5-5 career on the road as a starter. Ryan is 7-1 in his last eight starts. The Falcons are 15-1 under Mike Smith when leading at halftime. They’re fourth in scoring defense, allowing 15.4 PPG.
The Falcons have allowed just two sacks, T-fewest in NFL, and face a Cowboys defense that has 10 sacks in its last three games after having no sacks in their first two.
Michael Turner has a TD in four straight games and has six TDs in that same span. He’s T-30th in NFL with six rushes of 10 or more yards after leading the NFL last season with 45 rush of 10 or more yards. He’s lost a step of burst and acceleration from a year ago.
The Cowboys are 2-0 coming off a bye under Wade Phillips and have won their last four games coming off a bye.
The Cowboys are second in total offense (420.4 YPG) and third in rushing offense (161.0 YPG). They lead the NFL with 5.9 yards per rush and have three RBs with at least 5.1 yards per rush (Marion Barber, 5.1; Tashard Choice, 5.1; Felix Jones, 10.1). But yards won’t matter today; points are the key. The Cowboys must finish drives.
The Cowboys’ safeties do not cover well and will struggle to match up on Tony Gonzalez.
Whoever has the ball last in this game might be the winner. Both teams need to make the other one play from behind.
John Abraham of the Falcons might be the difference. He must dominate Flozell Adams. The Cowboys’ offensive line has trouble with quick linemen, and the Falcons are a quick group.
Saints (5-0) at Dolphins (2-3)
Chance of a thunderstorm, 85 degrees.
The Saints are the only team to score on each of their opening possessions this season (four TDs, one FG in five opening drives) and are the only NFL team that has not trailed in any game this season.
The Saints have scored 45-plus points in three of their five games this season. Their offense has 22 TDs, and they’ve had to punt just 19 times. The Saints lead the NFL with 38.4 PPG and 430.0 YPG this season. The only way to slow them down is to be more physical than they are. Miami can be very physical.
Expect the Colts game plan as the Fins will attempt to keep the ball away from the Saints. Every punt the Dolphins force on defense is like a turnover. The Dolphins lead the NFL in third-down offense (56.0 percent), and their average third-down distance is 5.47 yards (fewest in NFL).
Marques Colston has eight TDs in his last eight games. Brees leads the NFL with a 118.4 passer rating and set a franchise record with 15 consecutive completions last week. He has 300-plus passing yards in 26 of 53 games with Saints. The Saints lead the NFL with a plus-9 turnover differential. What’s most amazing is that Brees throws the ball to Colston even when he’s covered.
Miami needs the crowd noise, and they need to force two turnovers.
The Dolphins will need to play their best in the red zone. They need to be able to force the Saints to be under 70 percent in the red zone.
Cardinals (3-2) at Giants (5-1)
Clear, 54 degrees.
The Cardinals are 2-0 on the road after going 3-5 last year. This is the first time since 1991 that they’ve won their first two road games.
The Cardinals lead the NFL in rushing defense (59.6 YPG) after ranking 16th in rush defense in 2008 (110.3 YPG). They’re allowing 2.7 yards per rush (fewest in the NFL and the only NFL team allowing fewer than 3.0 yards).
The Cardinals are 31st in pass defense (265.2 YPG). Expect Eli Manning to have a very big day. Both teams will be throwing the ball.
Cards left tackle Mike Gandy will need a ton of help. One of the main reasons the Cards struggle on the road is the play of their offensive line.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK…
“If you want to change your children, change yourself,” -- Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis, author of “The Blind Side” and “Money Ball,” offers advice on parenting while appearing on the Jon Stewart show. Great stuff.
Jay Cutler and Eli Lilly team up to help fight juvenile diabetes.
BOOK OF THE WEEK…
“We have great managers who haven't spent a day in management school. Do we have great surgeons that haven't spent a day in surgical school?” -- Henry Mintzberg
Master Leaders: Revealing Conversations with 30 Leadership Greats. George Barna (author, editor), Bill Dallas (contributor)
A fabulous book based on conversations with 30 great leadership gurus all over the world. George Barna gets in depth with some of my favorite leadership experts -- Warren Bennis to Pat Lencioni to Seth Godin to Tony Dungy and many more offer candid advice on how to improve. This is a must read for any coach or executive looking to develop his leadership skills.
ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING...
“When one bases his life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made.” -- Author unknown
Great story on the former owner of the Washington Redskins. A must read.
The Lion in the winter: Hugh Hefner reflects on his life.
More on concussions in the NFL. Another fantastic read.
COMMENT OF THE WEEK FROM THE POST...
“Hey Coach Reid, I'm pretty sure Herm Edwards is available to help out with time clock issues.”
From “Bob from Huntington, N.Y.” on the story, “Tavern talk: NFL’s worst game manager”
“The inability to make a decision has often been passed off as patience.” -- Author unknown
STORIES TO SHARE...
“Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side.” -- The Talmud
About 10 years ago, a young and very successful executive named Josh was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only two months old.
He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and – whump! -- smashed into the Jag's shiny black side door. Brakes slammed, gears ground into reverse and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted at the kid, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?!" Building up a head of steam, he went on. "That's my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?"
"Please, mister, please. . . I'm sorry! I didn't know what else to do!" pleaded the youngster. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop!" Tears were dripping down the boy's chin as he pointed around the parked car. "It's my brother, mister," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."
Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be OK. He then watched the younger brother push him down the sidewalk toward their home.
It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE -- a long, slow walk. Josh never did fix the side door of his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast, that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention. Some bricks are softer than others. Feel for the bricks of life coming at to you. For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has positive answers. (Author unknown)