Sunday at the Post

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our nation's future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause -- united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future -- and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.” -- Remarks intended for the Texas Democratic State Committee by President John F. Kennedy, Nov. 22, 1963

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the death of our 35th president, John F. Kennedy. It feels somewhat surreal to be in Dallas on this day, but I was sent here by NFL Network to cover the Redskins-Cowboys game. There’s been much written about the death of Kennedy, but on this day, regardless of party lines, we honor a fallen leader.

Mike Mansfield, majority leader of the U.S., eulogy to President Kennedy.

There was a sound of laughter; in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a wit in a man neither young nor old, but a wit full of an old man's wisdom and of a child's wisdom, and then, in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a man marked with the scars of his love of country, a body active with the surge of a life far, far from spent and, in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a father with a little boy, a little girl and a joy of each in the other. In a moment it was no more, and so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a husband who asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and the asking wove with a woman what could not be broken in life, and in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands, and kissed him and closed the lid of a coffin.

A piece of each of us died at that moment. Yet in death he gave of himself to us. He gave us of a good heart from which the laughter came. He gave us of a profound wit, from which a great leadership emerged. He gave us of a kindness and a strength fused into a human courage to seek peace without fear.

He gave us of his love that we, too, in turn might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room, no room at all, for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice, and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down.

In leaving us these gifts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, leaves with us. Will we take them, Mr. President? Will we have, now, the sense and the responsibility and the courage to take them?

I pray to God that we shall and under God we will.

AROUND THE NFL...

“A good notation has a subtlety and suggestiveness which at times make it seem almost like a live teacher...” -- Bertrand Russell

1. No matter how many jobs open during the season, I don’t think Mike Shanahan will jump at the first one. He wants to make sure he’s seen the whole landscape before taking what will be his last NFL job.

2. From everyone I talked to in the NFL last week, it does seem certain that Jon “Love You Bro” Gruden will not be returning this year, or next year. There might be a non-coaching clause in his contract, which has yet to be confirmed, that would prevent him from coaching.

3. No matter who gets the Bills job, the fact that owner Ralph Wilson is always so involved will make it hard for him to give full control to anyone. Change is always certain in Buffalo, and there are some major issues that have to be worked out before they could actually hire a coach like Shanahan.

4. With Charlie Weis all but out at Notre Dame, the timing of the Gruden announcement with ESPN was strange, and it appears there would have to be a clause for the network to make an announcement. According to some people I’ve talked to, Gruden wants to spend time with his family.

5. Everyone here at the National Football Post sends our condolences to Chris Spielman on the passing of his wife Stefanie at the very young age of 42. She fought a brave and long battle with breast cancer.

**Click HERE to check out the new team pages here at the National Football Post!

MY VIEW OF THE GAMES, PLUS NOTES AND WEATHER...

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up," Esquire, February 1936

2009 Remaining Strength of Schedule
(Based on opponents’ current records)

Buccaneers .619 (39-24-0)
Redskins .619 (39-24-0)
Giants .587 (37-26-0)
Panthers .587 (37-26-0)
Bills .556 (35-28-0)
Chiefs .556 (35-28-0)
Jets .556 (35-28-0)
Titans .540 (34-29-0)
Patriots .540 (34-29-0)
Raiders .540 (34-29-0)
Bears .524 (33-30-0)
Cowboys .524 (33-30-0)
Vikings .524 (33-30-0)
Eagles .524 (33-30-0)
Ravens .524 (33-30-0)
Lions .508 (32-31-0)
Dolphins .508 (32-31-0)
Jaguars .508 (32-31-0)
Broncos .492 (31-32-0)
Colts .492 (31-32-0)
Rams .492 (31-32-0)
Texans .492 (31-32-0)
Browns .460 (29-34-0)
Packers .460 (29-34-0)
Falcons .444 (28-35-0)
Chargers .444 (28-35-0)
Seahawks .429 (27-36-0)
Saints .413 (26-37-0)
49ers .413 (26-37-0)
Bengals .381 (24-39-0)
Steelers .381 (24-39-0)
Cardinals .365 (23-40-0)

Indianapolis Colts (9-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-4)

Partly cloudy, 56 degrees.

The Colts are 4-0 on the road and have won a franchise-record eight consecutive road games. The Ravens without Terrell Suggs will struggle to create pressure on the passer.

The Ravens must win this game with their offense. They must control the ball and play keep-away from Peyton Manning. They can’t win the game on the outside with their corners against these wide receivers.

The Ravens have to create an extra possession. They must get a turnover, along with being perfect on third down. The key against the Colts is to make sure you always can get positive yards. Pass completions and rushing attempts will matter in this game.

The red zone once again will be the key area for the Ravens. They can score points with the Colts, but they must keep them under 50 percent in the red area.

The Ravens have allowed just three TDs and 24 points in their past three games. Their offense has struggled of late, scoring just four TDs in their last three games and has been held to fewer than 300 total yards in three straight games. QB Joe Flacco has no TDs in his last two games aft er having at least one TD in his first seven games.

Redskins (3-6) at Cowboys (6-3)

Sunny, 65 degrees.

The road team won both games last year. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by five points or fewer, including both meetings last season.

Washington’s Ladell Betts had 26 rushes, 114 yards and one TD in his first start of the season last week against the Broncos and has 100 or more yards rushing in six of his last seven starts dating to 2006. The ‘Skins are a better team with Betts in the game than with Clinton Portis.

The Redskins did not commit a turnover last week for the first time this season. They’re last in the NFL with just 10 takeaways and are T-28th in the NFL with a minus-6 turnover differential. Not committing turnovers is hard to do, especially when the offensive line breaks down.

Levi Jones, the former Bengal, has helped make the ‘Skins line more consistent. They are still not good enough, and the challenge today will be to help Jones against DeMarcus Ware and leaving Jay Ratliff all alone.</p>

The Redskins have been outscored by their opponents 59-17 in the first quarter and 120-50 in the first half. When they have to play from behind, it exposes their offensive line in pass protection, which leads to turnovers.

Jason Campbell has a 90-plus passer rating and 65-plus completion percentage in three straight games and has career highs in completion percentage (66.1 percent) and passer rating (87.9). He is 1-2 career against the Cowboys with five TDs, two INTs. The critical part for the Cowboys will be making sure they keep Campbell in the pocket.

Every team has been successful double moving Carlos Rogers and making big plays against the ‘Skins defense. The ‘Skins must be able to force the Cowboys to work the ball down the field.

The Cowboys are a more explosive offense when Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are in the game. With Marion Barber struggling with his hand, this kind of game does not always match up well against the ‘Skins defense.

Marion Barber has had 18 rush attempts or less in each game this season and has only two games with 15-plus rush attempts. He has 17 rushes, 76 yards, 4.5 yards per rush in his last two games. He had 24 rushes, 114 yards, TD in his last game against the Redskins.

Felix Jones has seven rushes, 16 yards in his last two games (longest run was four yards in span). He had at least one run of 10 or more yards in each of his first five games this season.

Jason Witten has 49 receptions, 438 yards, one TD this season and has no TDs in his last seven games. His 8.9 yards per reception this season are a career low. Teams know they have to take away Witten on key downs, especially in the RZ.

Cleveland Browns (1-8) at Detroit Lions (1-8)

Indoors.

Cleveland Browns
This season

NFL Rank
Offensive TDs
5<< Last
PPG 8.7 Last
Total YPG 214.3 Last
Passer Rating 40.4 Last
Turnover Diff. -13 Last

Five offensive TDs in their last 15 games (fewest in NFL since 1970).

QB Brady Quinn regained the starting job last week vs. the Ravens (after being benched in Week 4 following an 0-3 start) and posted the second-worst passer rating of his career (23.5). Neither Browns QB has fared well this season:

Derek Anderson: 42.9 completion percentage, 681 yards, 2 TDs, 9 INTs, 36.2 rating.

Quinn: 54.6 completion percentage, 508 yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs, 51.0 rating.

Detroit’s RB Kevin Smith has not topped 67 yards rushing since Week 3 vs. the Redskins (101 yards, his only 100-yard game this season). The Lions need to improve their running back situation this offseason.

The Lions always seem to play a good half of football but can’t keep pace with their opponents. They can keep pace in this game.

The outcome might have 2010 draft implications. The loser could wind up with the first pick.

San Francisco 49ers (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-4)

Partly cloudy, 46 degrees.

The 49ers have lost three straight road games and are 1-3 on road. They’ve allowed 28 sacks, fifth most in the NFL. The problems in their offensive line become heightened when they have to play on the road and deal with crowd noise.

Defensively, the 49ers are more physical than the Packers are on offense, but their corners will struggle to cover the Packers’ wide receivers.

The 49ers have the best run defense in the NFL, but because of the likelihood of good weather, this game will be won by the team that throws the best -- which clearly favors the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 16 times in his last three games and has been sacked at least four times in five of his last six games. Rodgers has no INTs in six of nine games and has five INTs this season. He’ll get sacked today, but he can’t make mistakes with the ball.

The Packers lead NFL with a plus-13 turnover differential, and their eight turnovers are the fewest in the NFL.

The Packers are fourth in total defense (282.3 YPG), fourth in rushing defense (93.1 YPG) and sixth in passing defense (189.2 YPG). Hard to understand how the 49ers are going to move the ball consistently.

Buffalo Bills (3-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4)

Rain, 72 degrees.

Last week, Bills QB Trent Edwards returned after missing two games (concussion in Week 6) and was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick after going 18-28, 185 YDS, one TD, one INT. This week, he’s healthy but not starting.

The Bills could be without starting LT Demetrius Bell for at least a couple of weeks (right knee). Buffalo's line, which features two rookie starters, lost starting right tackle Brad Butler to a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. Wonder why the Bills struggle so badly on offense? They don’t run block or pass block very well.

The Jaguars have won five of their last seven games after starting the season 0-2. Four of the Jaguars’ five wins have been decided by seven points or less, including the last three by three points or less.

The Jaguars have won two games in the final seconds on game-winning field goals by Josh Scobee. The Jaguars have been involved in an NFL-high four games (3-1 record) decided by three points or less.

The Bills are small on defense and struggle to stop the run and tackle effectively. They might be in the right spot, but they struggle to make the play.

Maurice Jones-Drew has averaged 132.5 rushing yards the last four games with seven touchdowns.

The Bills are tied for 29th with two rushing TDs. The Bills can’t control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball.</p>

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-7)

Partly cloudy, 56 degrees.

The Steelers are 4-1 when Troy Polamalu plays (2-2 when he doesn’t). Polamalu has three INTs in five games, and the Steelers are 16-3 when he has an INT.

Steelers Defense This Season
With and without Polamalu

With Without
W-L
4-1 2-2
PPG Allowed 13.8 22.0
Pass TD-INT 2-7 7-1
Takeaways 11 2

The Chiefs are 0-4 at home and have lost 10 straight home games, longest home losing streak in franchise history. They’ll be without their leading rusher (Larry Johnson was cut) and leading receiver (Dwayne Bowe was suspended for four games for using performance-enhancing drugs).

The Chiefs have been outscored by their opponents 62-12 in the first quarter this season (12 points are the second-fewest points scored in first quarter in the NFL). They’re looking to win two in a row for the first time since October 2007.

Jamaal Charles will make his sixth career start. He has 5.4 yards per rush this season and 5.4 yards per rush in his career. He had 18 rushes, 103 yards, one TD last week against the Raiders.

The Chiefs are 30th on offense and defense in the NFL. Clearly, they are bad on both sides of the ball. I keep looking for an area of strength but don’t see one.

Seattle Seahawks (3-6) at Minnesota Vikings (8-1)

Indoors.

The Seahawks are 0-4 on road and have lost all four by a combined score of 126-64 (lost by 11 or more points in each game). They’ve lost five consecutive road games since last season and have not lost six straight road games since 2003. Lack of size and power show up on the road, and the Seahawks lack both.

Two of the Seahawks’ three wins this season were against the Rams and Lions. Their other win was against the Jaguars.

Seattle must throw the ball to win, and it must protect Matt Hasselebeck or he’ll struggle. Seattle struggles to protect, especially on the road.

Adrian Peterson is second in the NFL with 917 rush yards and second with 11 rushing TDs. He’s looking to have two straight 100-yard games for the first time this season. Seattle struggles to tackle big backs.

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) at New York Giants (5-4)

Clear, 52 degrees.

The Falcons have lost three of their last four games after a 4-1 start. They’ve dropped their last three road games and are 1-4 on the road this season.

Matt Ryan has 12 INTs this season, T-3rd most in the NFL. He had 11 INTs all of last season. He has six TDs, eight INTs in five road games. When the Falcons have to play from behind on the road, he makes too many mistakes: Eight of his 12 are on the road. The Falcons are a bad road team unless they can play with the lead.

John Abraham has 3

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