Schobel would be a great fit in Houston

In nine seasons with the Bills, defensive end Aaron Schobel used both hustle and skill to become Buffalo’s second-ranked pass rusher in team history with 78 career sacks. After missing 10 games to injury in 2008, Schobel proved he’s still got game in 2009 when he played in all 16 games while posting a team-high 10 sacks.

Schobel is a no-nonsense Texas boy who plays the game with a high motor and intensity. With plenty left in the tank, his game compares favorably to Minnesota’s Jared Allen and the San Francisco’s Justin Smith. He will give you all he’s got on Sundays, and that’s plenty.

Schobel’s game is a much better fit as a 4-3 defensive end than an OLB in a 3-4 front. He likes to play off the edge with his hand on the ground as a true pass-rushing end. To change his game now might have negative consequences, just as Aaron Kampman struggled to make the same transition last year in Green Bay. New England’s 3-4 scheme would be a bad fit, but Houston’s 4-3 front would be ideal for Schobel.

Schobel could be the missing piece playing opposite Texans DE Mario Williams. Houston needs a balanced pass rushing attack to threaten the likes of Peyton Manning and the Colts, who have beaten the Texans 15 times in 16 games. At 32, Schobel still is an every-down player, but could be used primarily on passing downs to go get the quarterback. Something he still does better than most defensive ends in the NFL.

Manning has improved chemistry in mind

I paid a visit to the Colts’ new training camp site in Anderson, Indiana on Monday. What’s also new, although it may not be a drastic change, is that this version of the Colts have a new offensive coordinator (Clyde Christensen) and offensive line coach (Pete Metzelaars), replacing longtime coaches Tom Moore and Howard Mudd.

Still, what’s the same is Peyton Manning. Talking with Manning, he told me he wants to improve upon his chemistry with his wide receivers this season. That includes helping Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie take their games to another level, and getting Anthony Gonzalez back in the fold.

It was also great to see Bob Sanders back on the field after missing all but two games last season.

I’ll be checking in with more reports this week.

Owens signing a good thing for everyone involved

Everyone in Cincinnati is wondering if the signing of Terrell Owens will be a blessing or a curse for the Bengals. I tend to believe it’s going to be a very good thing for all the parties involved.

T.O. doesn’t have to be the elite player that he once was. All he has to do is be a good player, catch 50 balls or more, and be a good teammate and not disrupt the locker room.

Check out my full report from Bengals’ training camp on Thursday in the video above.

Improved ball security should put Peterson back on top

I have always said that really good NFL coaches make average players good, and good players great.

Well, Vikings running back coach Eric Bieniemy might help Adrian Peterson take his game from good to great.

After spending time with both Bieniemy and Peterson in Minnesota last week (you can see some of the video to the right) it became clear that the coach has some answers for Peterson’s penchant to fumble the football. Careful film study revealed the majority of Peterson’s fumbles came while he was on his way to the ground, mainly because he refused to surrender when being tackled.

I watched Peterson run through drills using a 14-pound football filled with sand. Weighted balls are often used to increase muscle memory at all three pressure points — the hand that covers the point of the ball, the opposite end of the ball under the elbow, and the top of the ball against the chest — for greater ball security.

It’s impossible to maintain possession of a heavy football if it’s held out and away from the body. The goal is to train the muscles to remember all three pressure points, so that eventually it’s naturally kept high and tight.

Bieniemy also uses a drill where the ball is attached to a rope. While the running back has one hand on the ball the other hand is on the ground — to secure  balance — the coach simultaneously tugs on the rope to force the player to remain cognizant of ball security throughout the final phase of a play. This especially comes into play late in games when fatigue becomes a factor.

As Peterson becomes a more patient runner, the techniques implemented by his talented position coach should help him reclaim his throne as the league’s best ball carrier.

Vince is too Young to lead

The Tennessee Titans are still waiting for Vince Young to show the kind of maturity and leadership they can count on.

This isn’t a new conversation concerning Young, either. One of the things I immediately remembered was calling the opening game of the 2008 season in which Young refused to finish the game. There have been a number of other indicators regarding Young, including when he revealed he had pondered retirement.

Young’s altercation in a Dallas strip club is clear evidence of his need for further growth and development, both on and off the field.

It’s really as simple as that.

After a problematic 2008, Young rebounded with a redemptive 2009 season. Now, entering 2010, both the coaching staff and his teammates are waiting to see if Young can grow into a mature leader who they can follow into an era of consistent success. Young was already in a position where he could ill-afford to take another hit to his off-the-field persona, and this only adds to the pressure. This latest incident is indeed a setback in Young’s continued attempt to win the confidence of the organization.

The wait is still on.

Why the Redskins are the best team for McNabb


 

For many reasons, I believe the Redskins are the best team for Donovan McNabb, including the fact that he’ll be greatly appreciated in our nation’s capitol far more than he ever was in the City of Brotherly Love.

The ‘Skins have been waiting for a true leader at the quarterback position for nearly a decade, and now they have one in McNabb. His five trips to the NFC Championship Game bear witness to the fact that he is a consistent winner. Over the last 11 seasons the Redskins faithful have watched McNabb carve up their defense, and now he is on their side.

McNabb never had a consistent running game while running Andy Reid‘s West Coast offense. Mike Shanahan, however, is the most successful descendant of Bill Walsh‘s coaching tree. As one of the league’s best offensive play callers, Shanahan’s zone running scheme has been one of the most potent rushing attacks for more than a dozen years. No longer will McNabb be asked to convert third-and-2 by passing the ball. Instead, he’ll have the use of a productive running game to help preserve a fourth quarter lead.

Finally, coaching does count. The league’s leader in passing yards last season (Houston’s Matt Schaub) played in the same system, under the same coach who will be sending the offensive signals to McNabb in 2010. Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s son, called plays last season with the Texans as Schaub threw for a league-leading 4,770 yards.

In this case, necessity will lead to a greater appreciation, and maybe even championship results. The Redskins needed a leader and got one. The Shanahans needed a proven quarterback who already knows their system, and they landed a 33-year-old with mobility and a cannon for an arm. Lastly, McNabb needed a team and a coach who will tailor the plan to his talents. It’s a good fit for everyone.

Now let’s see if McNabb can lift his second franchise from a perennial loser to the heights of a consistent winner. With this second chance maybe he’ll be more appreciated.

Owners resorted to gimmicks in OT rule change

The way I see it, the “custodians of the game” have resorted to gimmicks and gadgets in an attempt to make an already popular game more interesting. By changing the overtime sudden-death rule in playoff games, the NFL Competition Committee has opened a Pandora’s box that could lead to even more changes when the novelty of the new modification grows dull.

For years, NFL coaches have preached the equal importance of all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams). As a player, you knew that everyone on the 53-man roster — including holders, kickers and special-teams coverage reserves – had a chance to step up and make a game-changing or game-winning play. However, the new rule has lessened the importance of special teams by stating that the game cannot be won on a field goal in overtime unless both teams have at least one possession.

During the 2009 postseason, we saw in the Cardinals-Packers wild-card matchup how a defense can win a game in overtime without both teams possessing the ball. This will not change. We also saw in the Vikings-Saints NFC Championship Game how special teams can win a game in overtime without equal possession, which based on the new rule, will change.

This is the NFL, not Little League Baseball. Not everyone needs an at-bat.

This has always been a league in which you earn everything you get. Games can be won in all three phases, on any given play. When a team made a mistake in overtime, it most likely would cost them the game. The stakes were indeed high. It was the true meaning of “sudden death.”

The last game played to conclude the 2009 season drew over 116 million viewers, which set an all-time record as the most-watched program in television history. This suggests the game doesn’t need changing and maybe we should leave well enough alone. The measure was passed by 28 owners who failed to consult with their coaches as to how the new rules will affect their in-game decisions.

Whether or not the new overtime rule has made the game better is highly questionable. Just ask those coaches.

Scenes from a Super sideline

Even before riding along with the New Orleans Saints with a police escort from the team hotel to Sun Life Stadium for Super Bowl XLIV, I gained a better understanding of the love affair Saints fans have for their team, and the love the team has for its fans.

While reporting from the team hotel the morning of the game, I observed the growing number of fans, friends and family members who were already in full celebration mode while congregating in the hotel lobby. I asked Saints general manager Mickey Loomis why the team didn’t follow the customary procedure of moving to another hotel the night before the game in order to avoid the pregame distractions of rooming with family and friends.

Loomis explained how, after Hurricane Katrina, the Saints had become accustomed to living in makeshift conditions while easily creating a home away from home. He further explained how his team was perhaps the most prepared in the league to handle these potential distractions.

I saw Saints fans who weren’t cocky, arrogant or taunting. Instead, I saw fans who loved, hugged and embraced total strangers. Once I arrived at the stadium with the team, it became clear that the majority of the fans in the stadium belonged to the beloved New Orleans Saints.

As a sideline reporter for CBS Sports, I used my opening comments to explain what I had witnessed from the team throughout the day. I also wanted to foreshadow how I thought the game would play out based on the intel gathered during my production meetings with the Saints coaches and players earlier during the week. My pregame report went as follows: “I spent the entire month of August with the New Orleans Saints, and today they appear to be just as comfortable and confident as they were then. The coaches and players told me they plan to launch an aggressive attack and they also plan to come after a banged-up and wounded Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Maybe their head coach, Sean Payton, put it best when he told me that it is going to take an aggressive mindset to win this game.”

Payton stayed with his game plan of aggressive play-calling, which ultimately decided the outcome of the game.

While The Who performed during halftime, Payton was hatching a caper that would allow him to steal the Vince Lombardi Trophy away from Peyton Manning and the Colts. Before displaying the nerves of a cat burglar by calling for an onside kick to start the second half, Payton told me in our halftime chat that his team would have to go out and take the game from the Colts by being even more aggressive in the second half. “It’s going to take balls to win this game,” said Payton.

When Chris Reis recovered the onside kick, he put the New Orleans Saints in the driver’s seat, and the result was a Super Bowl championship. As I huddled with the celebrating Saints at midfield, surrounded by flying confetti, heavy security and fist-pumping players who hugged one another, I saw enough love pouring out that could last a lifetime.

I saw Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer hugging his two beautiful daughters and his son, Adam Zimmer, who is an assistant linebackers coach with the Saints. Their heartache and tragic loss of Mike’s wife earlier in the season had to subside for at least a moment during what was a terrific family celebration. I noticed Harry Connick Jr. – then he noticed me and we embraced with a roaring man-hug as I, too, was swept up in the emotion. As the game analyst for the Saints’ preseason games, I couldn’t help but feel as though I had been adopted into the family. That’s just the way it is with this team and its fans. They are more than just a feel-good story. They are the real deal.

I saw a people, a city, a coach and a quarterback achieve its very own version of manifest destiny. Just as the late Reggie White made a divine declaration when he chose to sign with the then-struggling Green Bay Packers, Drew Brees said he felt it was a “calling” that compelled him to sign with the Saints after he had been abandoned by his former team, the San Diego Chargers. Payton said the proudest part of leading the Saints to the Super Bowl is that when the Saints are playing, the crime rate in New Orleans is zero percent.

I felt like I had seen it all. From Katrina to the Super Bowl’s center stage, where an estimated record-setting 106 million viewers watched, the New Orleans Saints gave the world one big hug.

Divisional preview: Colts will have sense of urgency

With the divisional round of the playoffs approaching, I wanted to share some thoughts with you on the four matchups this weekend.

Cardinals at Saints
The Cardinals offense, led by a red-hot Kurt Warner, will need to continue its productive streak against a rested, but banged-up Saints defense. While Warner attacks the secondary, RB Chris Wells could serve as the ultimate hammer to soften up the Saints defensive front. If WR Anquan Boldin is unable to play, the Cardinals remain confident backups Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. The Cardinals defense is far better than its showing last week against the Green Bay Packers when they allowed Aaron Rodgers to pass for 422 yards.

Saints QB Drew Brees will look to prove otherwise by launching an attack designed to get his team an early lead. Brees must prove his team is more rested than rusty. After losing their final three regular season games, an early home loss in the playoffs would bring a dreadful end to what had seemed to be the Saints’ best season in franchise history.

Ravens at Colts
The Colts gave up on what could have been a perfect season in exchange for a healthy and rested team in the postseason. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense must cash in against a Ravens defense that is very capable of ending their season for good. Indy will be at full strength with RBs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown ready to go. Protection has to be the top priority for the Colts offensive line. The Ravens harassed Patriots QB Tom Brady for three sacks, three interceptions and a fumble, so there could be more of the same in store for Manning.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco is banged up, but offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says there will be no holding him back — Flacco will be expected to lead the offense to points, in an effort to match the production of the Colts offense. After running the ball 52 times for 234 yards and four TDs against the Patriots, the Ravens will use the RB trio of Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain to hammer away at the undersized Colts defense. After going one-and-done in three of their last four playoff appearances, the Colts will have a sense of urgency which could yield feast or famine results.

Cowboys at Vikings
Vikings QB Brett Favre has never defeated the Cowboys in three postseason matchups, but he’s hoping to stay on his feet long enough to beat a defense that has four sacks or more during its last four games. Farve must also protect the ball against a team that isn’t committing turnovers — the Cowboys have one turnover or less in their last seven games. Clearly, the Vikings will expect Farve to outplay Tony Romo, who has thrown 13 TDs and only two interceptions in his last seven games.

Romo’s mobility will need to serve him well against DE Jared Allen and the rest of the Vikings sack-happy defense. A vulnerable Vikings secondary will need a consistent pass rush to help defend Miles Austin and Jason Witten. Cowboys RB’s Marion Barber and Felix Jones are a perfect 1-2 punch who are capable of killing you slowly with a game closing drive, or killing you quickly with an explosive big play run.

Either way, the Vikings may need RB Adrian Peterson to a greater degree from what we’ve seen in the past.

Jets at Chargers
This game presents the Jets’ perennial No.1 defense against the high-powered offense of the Chargers. The Jets will simply have to pick their poison, because QB Philip Rivers has too many weapons to choose from. If CB Darrelle Revis decides to take away WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates will shred the defense. The Chargers have struggled to run the ball and will continue to do so against the Jets’ dominating defense.

Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez must avoid turning the ball over and allow and RBs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene to fuel the offense and eat time off the clock. In the air, WR Braylon Edwards will have to be more consistent catching the ball or Sanchez may be forced to rely solely on WR Jerricho Cotchery and TE Dustin Keller.

The Jets are both confident and physical, but are going west against a Chargers team that has won 11 straight games. So hot, in fact, the Jets may want to pack a water hose.

Even without Welker, Patriots are far from done

Once again the Patriots’ early demise is being greatly exaggerated. Even with the loss of WR Wes Welker, who led the league with 123 receptions, the Patriots have always been prepared for what comes next.

Eight years ago the Patriots overcame the most costly injury imaginable, to franchise QB Drew Bledsoe, then moved on to win their first Super Bowl after Tom Brady emerged from the shadows. Others have done the same. S Lawyer Milloy gave way to Rodney Harrison. CB Ty Law stepped aside for Asante Samuel. RB Antowain Smith opened the door for Corey Dillon,just as LB Tedy Bruschi prepared Jerod Mayo.

The Patriots have been, and still are, a team built on the talents of many — never on just one player. Following the 2006 regular season, after losing in the AFC title game to the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots needed to add a big-play wide receiver to serve as a weapon for Brady. Instead of getting one kind of playmaker to serve in one specific role, they added two different weapons to function differently within the offense. The addition of Randy Moss and Welker allowed the Patriots to expand their offense. Now, with Welker out, up next is rookie WR Julian Edelman, who possesses similar skills as Welker. Edelman is a former college QB, so he is an unfinished product who lacks the polish of a veteran player. However, he is far from being a wide-eyed rookie who is green as grass. His 10 catches for 103 yards while replacing Welker in Houston revealed the potential for big things in the postseason.

Before New England’s regular-season finale in Houston, Brady told me that he had battled through various injuries, which had robbed him of valuable practice time. However, he said that it’s now been several weeks where he’s made every practice and is feeling as healthy as he’s been all season. This could spell bad news for the Ravens.

Brady knows the Patriots’ success in this year’s playoffs rests squarely on his shoulders. I would never bet against Tom Brady. He is a fierce competitor. There is no doubt the Patriots are a team in transition, but as long as they have Brady, they have all they need to be considered a real threat in the playoffs.

There’s no room to second-guess Belichick

I’ve always admired Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots for their calculating toughness, versatility and swagger. They have gone to four Super Bowls in the last nine years because of their willingness to challenge conventionality and push every element of the game to its limit.

In calling Sunday’s game in Houston for CBS Sports, I was able to sit down with Patriots QB Tom Brady, who told me the night before the game that not only did he want to play against the Texans, but that he was going to play to win.

I smiled after witnessing his competitive confidence. However, I could smile no longer when his teammate Wes Welker went down after his left knee buckled, and he was carted off to the locker room. Welker never returned to the game.

Even my broadcast partner Kevin Harlan began to question if Belichick should avoid risking other players to potential injury by taking Brady and WR Randy Moss out of the game. Surely, the fallout speculation will offer many Monday morning quarterbacks an opportunity to second-guess Belichick’s decision to play his star players in a game which ultimately carried little weight in their postseason future. As either a third or fourth seed, the Patriots will host a wild-card game next weekend, followed by a potential road game in the divisional round in either San Diego or Indianapolis.

To play or not to play was never a dilemma for Belichick. He told me that he had told his players to plan on playing 60 minutes of football against the Texans. Welker was hurt on the Patriots’ first possession without receiving any contact from an opposing player. He simply planted his left foot in the ground and his left knee gave way.

For those of us who have gone under the knife for orthopedic surgery, we will tell you that it doesn’t take much for ligaments or tendons to tear or rupture. If fact, when it does happen, you say to yourself that it happened on the same move you have made millions of times, so why now? It is a mystery of the human body. It is not Belichick’s fault. It is not Welker’s fault. More importantly, there is no one to blame.

If you play this game long enough, eventually major injuries will seek you out and find you, whether it’s in a meaningless 16th game of the regular season or a playoff game. Players have to play. With playing comes risk.

Championship coaches and players do not flinch at the thought of failure or injury. They don’t play the “what if” game, either. That’s what separates them from others. Belichick and Brady do things differently than you and I might. That’s why they have the Super Bowl Titles and countless memories of conquest, and others simply do not.

Some underdogs could spring upsets in AFC

Brandon Marshall and the Broncos will attempt to avoid the same late-season disappointment from last year. (Michael Perez / Associated Press)

Let’s take a look at some key games in the AFC this weekend:

Chiefs at Broncos: It’s a game the Broncos should easily win at home. After beginning the season with a 6-0 record, a home loss in their regular-season finale could set off a negative chain of events, which could be hard to shake.

Veterans such as Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey and Brandon Marshall will most likely help the Broncos finish with a winning record of 9-7. The Chiefs will pull out all the stops in their effort to begin building positive momentum, which they hope carries over into the offseason. Chiefs coach Todd Haley and QB Matt Cassel are good enough to provide dark clouds of disappointment to Invesco Field at Mile High.

Ravens at Raiders: The Ravens win, and they are in the playoffs — simple as that. There will be no surprises because the Ravens know just how dangerous the Raiders can be on any given Sunday. The Raiders’ upset wins over Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh should be proof positive that the Raiders are capable of ending Baltimore’s season. QB Charlie Frye is coming off a mixed performance last week in Cleveland where he had 300 passing yards, but disappointed with three interceptions. In last year’s season finale, the Raiders knocked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs, and would like to play the same spoiler role for the visiting Ravens.

Colts at Bills: With a greater priority placed on staying healthy, look for the Colts to start Peyton Manning and many other regulars, but don’t expect them to remain in the game for long. The Colts have made it clear that getting their players healthy and ready for the postseason is their No. 1 goal. With rookie QB Curtis Painter as their best option to replace Manning at quarterback, don’t expect much production from the Colts’ offense.

It remains to be seen if Bills players have already packed up the U-Hauls and made ready to head south for the offseason. If the Bills decide to show up and play, this game will be theirs for the taking.

Bengals at Jets: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has clearly stated that he had learned a thing or two from watching the New York Giants play all of their starters in their 2007 season finale with nothing on the line against the undefeated New England Patriots. Lewis wants to keep his team sharp and ready to roll as they head to New York to face the Jets. But while facing Rex Ryan’s pressure defense, Lewis maybe forced to take QB Carson Palmer off the field sooner rather than later if the Jets begin to dish out physical punishment.

To protect their own rookie QB Mark Sanchez, the Jets will want to run Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene at the Bengals’ highly ranked run defense. The Bengals defense has played well despite having lost several defensive players to injury. The Jets have too much riding on this game to let it slip away in front of the home crowd. For the Jets it’s simple: You win, and you are in the postseason tournament.

When Brady practices, Patriots are perfect

All week leading up to their matchup with New England, the Jacksonville Jaguars tried to convince themselves that these were not the same Patriots that had eliminated them from the playoffs in both 2005 and 2007.

Indeed, for the last month, the Patriots’ offense had struggled to produce points — their scoring average dipped to 18.8 points over their last four games. While battling injuries, Tom Brady‘s stock was also trending downward during those last four outings, in which he had completed only 53 percent of his passes with four TDs and six interceptions.

I called the game for CBS Sports on Sunday, and could hardly blame the Jaguars for downgrading the ’09 Patriots, who seem to be a team in transition after the departure of defensive leaders Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour. And two weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers proclaimed Randy Moss to be a part-time player who didn’t always give 100 percent.

After speaking with Brady the night before the game, I sensed playtime was over. Brady explained to me how his assortment of injuries had not allowed him to fully participate in practice during the previous weeks, when the Patriots managed to win only two of their four games. Brady explained how their offensive system would only carry over 15 to 20 core plays into each game, but there would be 35 to 40 new plays to learn each week. He went on to explain how, for a quarterback, it’s vital to run new plays repeatedly in practice during the week. Instead, over the last four weeks, Brady had been running many of these new plays for the first time in games without the benefit of practice.

On Saturday night he assured me he had a great week of practice and that the Patriots’ offensive point production was close to improving without taking drastic measures.

“All we need to do to convert a few more third downs and points will come,” said Brady.

The next day, Brady went through the Jaguars defense like a hot knife through warm butter. He began the game by completing his first seven passes. His next two attempts fell incomplete as he intentionally threw the ball out of bounds to avoid forcing a bad throw. Brady then completed 14 straight passes to finish what he had started. When he was done, 35 points hung on the board. Wes Welker caught 13 passes and set a team record for most receptions in a single season. Moss torched the Jags — and his critics – while catching three of Brady’s four touchdown passes. Brady completed all but three of his 26 attempts. More importantly, he led the Patriots to their seventh AFC East division title in nine seasons.

It appears as though someone has awakened the sleeping giant. It’s also become clear that if you are a Patriots hater, then it is probably best to remain silent and not rekindle the championship fire that most had thought was extinguished.

Playing backups is actually good for Colts in long run

The Indianapolis Colts arrived in Jacksonville wanting to accomplish three things: Stay healthy, play hard, and win. With the emphasis on staying healthy, the Colts began the game without Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis in the starting lineup. But with fewer players in the rotation, Indy’s D-line began to wear down and the Jaguars began piling up the rushing yards with Maurice Jones-Drew.

That’s when the Colts’ competitive fire was lit, forcing both Freeney and Mathis to come to the rescue.

The decision to rest starters and play backups during the final games of the regular season has in no way signaled the white flag of surrender for the Colts. A step back offers a larger perspective of what they have achieved.

For years under Tony Dungy, the Colts have adopted a “Next Man Up” mentality, which has allowed backup players such as CB Jacob Lacey and S Melvin Bullitt to step in for starters Marlin Jackson and Bob Sanders without a loss in production. One reason the Colts have set an NFL record with 12 or more wins in seven consecutive seasons is their ability to get young players valuable experience in more meaningful games, and not just during the preseason. By allowing DEs Keyunta Dawson and Raheem Brock to start for Freeney and Mathis on Thursday night, the Colts accomplished several goals. Young players gained valuable experience in a big-time national game, Freeney and Mathis received some much-needed rest while playing just enough to remain sharp, and, oh by the way, the Colts still won the game.

By winning an NFL-record 23 straight regular-season games, the Colts have demonstrated a successful formula for winning with unproven talent. Two of their biggest defensive plays in the fourth quarter were made by undrafted players. A sack by DT Eric Foster and an interception by Lacey were decisive plays in determining the outcome of the game.

This formula has racked up the most regular-season wins in a decade, but the Colts must prove to be more potent during the postseason.

Lately, it’s been the team with the hot hand that has won the Super Bowl, not necessarily the team that has been the healthiest. Recent early losses in the playoffs should also be a concern for the Colts. Remember, even their 2006 championship run involved a scenario which required them to play in the wild-card round as a No. 3 seed.

If going 16-0 is not on the Colts’ agenda, then playing their best players to remain game-ready should be priority No. 1. If for no other reason, the Colts should also be aware of the San Diego Chargers gaining ground in the rearview mirror.

Super-Charged: Rivers is among the elite

The broadcast booth is arguably the best seat in any stadium around the NFL. My view from the booth at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday provided me a unique vantage point for an interesting performance by San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers.

Rivers certainly had his way with a Browns defense that was playing with only two starters from their opening day roster — CB Eric Wright and LB Kamerion Wimbley. Instead of showing mercy, or taking a slow and conservative approach to dissect the 1-10 Browns, Rivers wasted no time doing what he does best. He attacked by going down the field as much as possible.

Rivers connected eight times for 167 yards with his talented TE Antonio Gates. Rivers needed only 18 completions to post 373 yards, a staggering average of 20.7 yards per completion. He completed over 70 percent of his passes for the fourth straight game. It all makes him as lethal as any quarterback in the league.

Even without a dominant running game, Rivers has led the Chargers on a seven-game winning streak, and he has a touchdown pass in nine straight games. Without the use of a legitimate play-action pass threat, Rivers remains consistently relentless in his assault of going deep. I watched as Rivers led his team from an early seven-point deficit, and without flinching, he surgically carved his way down the field to lead the Chargers to 27 unanswered points.

It’s clear that Rivers deserves to me mentioned among the best signal callers in the league. Top five in my book.

Let’s hear from you.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP | Subscribe (RSS)