October 21, 2012
October 19, 2012
October 12, 2012
Welcome back to the Pregame Flyover, the only NFL weekly preview that’s not vetted by the commissioner’s office.
Before we get to this week’s slate of games – and tell you which games are Probably worth watching, which games are of Questionable worth, which games are of Doubtful worth, and which game involves Aaron Rodgers and the unwatchable Green Bay Packers – let’s discuss the issue of gadget plays.
Gadget plays are awesome when executed by sinister players
A few years ago, back when Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers, Pittsburgh was always good for some trickery. End-arounds, pass options, Statue of Liberty plays: You name it, the Steelers had it in their arsenal. I was reminded of this during Sunday night’s game against the Bengals when Antonio Brown took a handoff on an end-around. Now, normally an end-around is only moderately exciting, since almost every team runs one occasionally. But Brown, who was lined up to the right of Ben Roethlisberger, was coming down the line of scrimmage when … Oh, my Suzyn Waldman, he has the ball in his left hand – Antonio Brown is left-handed and he’s going to throw the ball!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have little knowledge about the handedness of most NFL players. Drew Brees? Yeah, I know he’s right-handed. Matt Leinart? Yeah, I know he tries to throw left-handed. But running backs and wide receivers? No effing clue. When Antonio Brown wound up and prepared to throw the ball, I was immediately reminded of Ronnie Brown, the former Dolphins running back (now of the Chargers) who used to throw the occasional left-handed pass out of the backfield. That, too, seemed diabolically genius: No one is expecting a non-quarterback that is running to his left to set his feet and throw a pass.
Obviously this play can’t work all the time, because defenses not run by Norv Turner will adjust. But it’s great when it happens because it’s so unexpected and – let’s face it, freakish. I basically assume that everyone I meet is right-handed (the odds!), so when shown otherwise, it’s unsettling and awesome. Obviously that holds true for NFL players, too; because not only did Antonio Brown’s left-handed throw leave the Bengals flat-footed and ready for abuse, it left Steelers running back Baron Batch grasping for air as he lamely attempted to catch Brown’s perfectly placed pass, which would have been an easy touchdown for Pittsburgh.
Gadget plays are awesome, particularly when they’re executed by players we didn’t know were left-handed.
This season’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Normally the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is given to someone who was injured the year before, or who was healthy the year before but brought shame to their family. The list of past winners is a who’s-who of all-time greats (Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Dan Marino) and it also includes a smattering of feel-good stories involving lesser lights such as Jon Kitna, Tommy Maddox and Chad Pennington, who won the award twice.
To the best of my knowledge, the award has never been given to a player who’d been cut from a team and then returned to play for that same team the same season. Maybe Chris Cooley, the past and present tight end for the Redskins, can become the first.
Cooley, who became a fan favorite because of his candid ways, was jettisoned by the Redskins at the end of training camp, when it became apparent that the Redskins simply had too many awesome receivers (or something). Cooley thanked the fans, city and organization in a heartfelt, teary news conference, and hasn’t played meaningful football since. But last week Cooley’s replacement, Fred Davis, went down with a season-ending knee injury, so the team re-signed their former tight end.
Considering that Davis was the favorite target of first-year quarterback Robert Griffin III, it stands to reason that Cooley will see plenty of looks in the Redskins’ offense - particularly with Pierre Garcon out for several games and Santana Moss now long in the tooth. Will Cooley win this year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award? Of course not; Adrian Peterson has already locked it up. Still, I’m wagering Cooley gets more votes for the award than Randy Moss.
Trade these fellas before Tuesday’s deadline
The NFL trading deadline is Tuesday, and a lot of players could benefit from a change of scenery.
1. Mark Sanchez. It’s obviously not working out for Mark in New York. Watching him organize a drive is like watching a drunk guy play Jenga: It takes forever and the crap is bound to go sideways. The Jets need to cut bait and let the Greg McElroy era begin.
2. Dwayne Bowe. Bowe is in the final year of his contract, and his value is only going to go down the longer he’s exposed to Brady Quinn. If I were his agent, I’d be demanding a trade from the lowly Chiefs to a team that could really use a wideout. Say, the Jets? Using my helpful fantasy football trade calculator, I see there’s a fair trade to be made: Bowe for the Jets defense. Make it happen, Pioli.
3. Mike Wallace. It’s not often that Steelers fans turn so quickly on one of their own standout players, but Wallace has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse with no stops in between. Granted, holding out for a new contract didn’t endear him to the fans or the organization, but all would have been forgiven if Wallace were playing to the same level as recent years. Instead he’s developed a serious case of butter fingers. Might as well trade him to the Chargers, where coaches have an uncanny knack for curing players of the dropsies.
What’s with the NFL.com stats lab?
Do statistics scare me? Sometimes. Am I able to overcome my fears? Usually. That said, statistics should always be presented in the most straight-forward way possible, so that I can memorize them easily and then drop them haughtily in dinner conversations. Given that, I’m having a hard time understanding the statistics landing page at NFL.com, which seems unduly intimidating.
The NFL refers to it as the NFL stats lab, which is ostensibly supposed to conjure up thoughts of beakers, periodic tables and hydrochloric acid. “Come into the stats lab, where you can whip up anything to suit your idiotic, preconceived notions about Tim Tebow.”
Unfortunately the landing page looks like a screen grab from “Armageddon,” which only makes me want to go elsewhere to get my statistics.
The Weekly Best
Welcome to the Weekly Best, where we throw pink flags at the best in the NFL.
Best offense: The Patriots.
Best defense: The Bears.
Best defense against Calvin Johnson: Put a Peanut on him.
Best team in the AFC: Is apparently not the Ravens.
Best sack streak for an NFL team: 31 straight games for the Bengals.
Best indication that a sack streak means little: The previous line.
Best joke out of New Orleans: Roman Harper says that without the bounty scandal the Saints would be undefeated.