MMQB preamble, Homage to the Opening of High School Football Season:
While the entire NFL world has been fixated on every detail and development in his year-plus battle with his neck issues, Peyton Manning wasn't the only player who had his 2011 ruined by injury. His lost season just happened to generate more media coverage than the plight of all other injured players combined, given that his absence set off a chain of events that rendered it the most impactful injury in league history.
The NFL is both beloved and exalted in the pantheon of spectator sports because absolutely no one knows what will unfold from week to week. But that doesn't stop us from predicting up a storm when it comes to the season just ahead. More than two months away from the full-scale opening of training camps, here are seven strong hunches we're willing to share in a bold foretelling of 2012's storylines to come:
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest the doings of the first 24 hours or so of the NFL's always frenzied free agency period...
As this year's NFL free agency period opens, teams will be wrestling with age-old issues: risk vs. reward, talent vs. trouble, injury history, how a player fits in the team's current locker room and whether that player is worth potentially overpaying if his price rises in the open market. It's all part of the game of March.
The road map to success in today's NFL starts with the quarterback and revolves around the passing game. Look at the league's top teams -- the Super Bowl champion Giants, runner-up Patriots, regular-season-best Packers, etc. -- most boast top QBs and highly productive pass offenses.
My updated Sweet Six after Monday night's 49er beatdown of the Steelers:
If you have followed this space this season, you might recall the stubbornness with the prediction running backs would pay us back. It hasn't really happened to the extent we thought, but they sure did come through this week.
Here's an odd little fact -- injuries tend to go down about this point in the season. There's no one reason why. There's certainly a survivors effect, and late in the season, some teams begin to rest players or look at rookies. There are always injuries at some level, and the perception remains up, but the numbers bear this out. It trends slightly downward from Week 1, dropping off sharply in Week 10 and 12. Injuries linger across the season, so it's tougher for even dedicated medheads to discern this pattern. Then again, it may not really matter in what order or pattern injuries occur. Early-season injuries may cost more points, but the longer adjustment time for real or fantasy teams diminishes it to some extent. That said, there are plenty of injuries to talk about today, so let's look around the league. Remember, I'll have my normal 11.30 a.m. ET chat here to get the latest info to you as the inactive lists roll out as well as updates all morning.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take in a Week 9 in the NFL that was pretty friendly to road teams, with eight of them -- the Jets, Dolphins, Falcons, 49ers, Bengals, Broncos, Giants, and Packers -- winning ...
In this pass-happy NFL, it was a breath of fresh air -- fantasy relief? -- to see a revival of running backs. It has been long overdue.
At the quarter pole of the 2011 season, the NFL has seen an interesting twist surface on the familiar length-of-game issue. If you've been paying attention through the first four weeks of the schedule, by now you know that games are never over, even when they seem over. You could say that the art of the comeback is making a comeback in the NFL, except for the fact we've never seen historic comebacks like this before. To wit:
So what do you want? The good news or the bad news?
Ah, the NFL. You never can truly peg it.
CHICAGO -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take in a tight, taut and thrilling Week 3 in the NFL that featured seven of the early eight games being decided by a touchdown or less ...
We'll also be doing regular updates here on Sunday morning as new info comes in.
(This story first appeared in SI in 1992.)
ATLANTA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from Week 2 in the NFL, where long-suffering fans in Buffalo, Detroit and Washington are loving the football revivals that are underway in 2011 ...
No team in the NFL's Week 1 surpassed expectations more than the Buffalo Bills. Their 34-point blowout win at Kansas City was the largest margin of victory in the league's 16 opening-week games, and in embarrassing a Chiefs team that won the AFC West and owned six more wins than they did in 2010 (10-6 compared to 4-12), the underdog Bills also handily led the way in terms of the upset factor. As it turns out, any given Sunday was last Sunday in Kansas City.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills are dealing with several injuries that are testing their roster depth just a couple of weeks into the preseason.
You will spend countless hours this season agonizing over whom to start based on matchups. Frankly, it can be unnecessary minutiae. Most of the time you should just stick with the guys you drafted to carry you; just use matchups to break ties.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on NFL training camps across the country. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
It's been four years since Shawne Merriman has been Shawne Merriman. Maybe that Shawne Merriman is gone forever.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- You know what's particularly fun about NFL camps this year? The new.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts view draft grades a bit differently than most. You know how most analysts do it: They pretend they watched every college football game of the past three seasons, toss out clichés about various schemes, or which players "set the edge" and have "good motors" and then try to guess which will succeed or fail at the next level.
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we wrap up day three of the NFL draft and the entire seven-round pick-fest at Radio City Music Hall ...
Quick-hitting insight from today's 1 p.m. games ...
If you believed preseason predictions, then the NFL's Week 14 storylines illustrate just how wrong you were. Don't feel bad. No one could have expected the strange twists and numerous turns that 2010 has taken. And all of it seems to be wrapped up tidily in this week's pivotal games.
Quick-hitting insights on today's 1 p.m. games ...
Who says superstar quarterbacks are a dying breed in the NFL? Just call the Seattle quarterback Charlie White-hurts. Who's leading the coaches' dead pool? And toast could be the operative words in Houston and Philadelphia.
Twenty-five years have passed, yet when his memories uproot him from his perfectly pleasant existence as a Phoenix-based salesman and send him back to a darker, windier, colder place, Bruce Mathison still feels the chill.
Quick-hitting insights from the slate of 1 p.m. games ...
A weekly look at the risers and fallers among individual defensive players and team defenses. Analysis is based on the four main statistics for most IDP leagues (solo tackles, sacks, passes defensed and takeaways) in three-position formats (defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs).
Did a top quarterback just come onto the market?
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Musings, observations and the occasional Week 7 insight as we await the second annual Brett Favre Lambeau Reunion Weekend, which all but slipped off the radar screen in the NFL's recent news-intensive atmosphere ...
PHILADELPHIA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take stock of a bevy of hotly contested Week 4 games while watching the unfolding McNabb Bowl at Lincoln Financial Field ...
Quick-hitting insights from the slate of 1 p.m. games.
KANSAS CITY -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 3 that was quite friendly to the road teams on this NFL Sunday ...
The NFL's ever-spinning quarterback carousel is so minute-by-minute these days that the Eagles' Michael Vick went from clear-cut backup, to temporary starter, to permanent starter -- all in the span of 10 days.
Houston 30, Washington 27 (OT) The NFL can play out the rest of the 2010 schedule if it so chooses, but we've already found the Fantasy Event of the Year in the form of the sixth game in NFL history to boast multiple 400-yard passers. On one side, Matt Schaub (497 passing yards, 3 TDs) missed the hallowed 500-yard mark by one completion, but led Houston to perhaps its greatest comeback victory in franchise history. On the other sideline, Donovan McNabb passed for 426 yards and one touchdown, while making short-term stars of a relatively anonymous corps of receivers. For those who regret benching McNabb in Week 2 -- and I'm certainly guilty of that -- feel free to throw D-Mac back into the starting mix for Week 3. The recent concerns about his battered ankle and lack of timing with the 'Skins pass-catchers seem comically far-fetched at this point.
For everyone who pegs Arian Foster as a sure bet for 150-plus yards every week, or believes that Matt Hasselbeck has tapped into the fantasy fountain of youth, or thinks Michael Vick represents a stronger seasonal fantasy play than Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton or Vince Young, may I present a few time-tested rules about what to believe in -- and what to ignore about fantasy football after Week 1.
A salient point or two that bears noting as we attempt our annual NFL predictions column, as if you really could divine the landscape of the league before its new season even begins...
Let's start today's Fantasy Clicks with six too-close-to-call debates for draft day. And for the sake of consistency, I'll stick to the realm of standard-scoring leagues:
Running backs are two things: The key to your fantasy season and the most replaceable part in the NFL. It's hard to get those two to mesh up.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Ben Reiter had to say about the Bills camp in Pittsford, N.Y. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
If the 2010 NFL offseason were given a moniker it would be called the "Year of the Trade." Never before have so many trades taken place in general, and involving big-name players in particular. From Donovan McNabb to Santonio Holmes to Brandon Marshall, the ability to trade players without any cap consequences in the uncapped year has kept the NFL hot stove cooking over the past three months. Already this week, former first round picks Byron Leftwich, Adam Carriker and Ernie Sims have been dealt.
Could the St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo draft Sam Bradford in part to buy time for themselves? Though it is admittedly a somewhat cynical theory, don't dismiss it. The one thing I know about the NFL is this league is not all about winning as many people suggest; it's about keeping your job.
Three Things I Think I Think on this fine Tuesday:
No sooner had the last flake of confetti fallen in Miami that next year's Super Bowl odds were posted. Not surprisingly, the Colts are the favorite to do what they couldn't achieve this season. Everybody of consequence returns for the Colts next season. Linebacker Gary Brackett is scheduled to be a unrestricted free agent and Antoine Bethea is a restricted free agent, but both are expected to return to Indianapolis. With that in mind, here's a look at the biggest questions that need answered this offseason among the AFC teams.
In an era of 32-team leagues, championship hopes are slim for almost everybody. What you really want is belief.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we contemplate the final three games of the NFL's postseason and dissect news from around the league.....
News item: Chan Gailey will be introduced as Buffalo's new coach today, and the Bills are laying low beforehand, knowing they're going to get rapped heavily for it and figuring they should put on a united front when they make their case. Four observations:
Five quick observations, then your e-mail from a busy NFL week:
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 15 that was chock-full of drama, record-setting performances and thrilling comebacks and conclusions. With Christmas just around the corner, who could ask for anything more?....
NEW YORK -- Fourteen things you need to know on the heels of Week 14:
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills consider two-time Super Bowl-winner Mike Shanahan a legitimate candidate to be their next head coach.
DENVER -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the Mile High City as we run down the curious doings of Week 11 in the NFL ...
With Dick Jauron's demise in Buffalo this week, the first domino has fallen in the NFL's annual exercise known as hiring/firing season. While nowhere near as many head coaching vacancies are expected this year compared to last year's record bloodletting, when 11 teams changed the guy in the No. 1 headset, you can be sure Jauron won't be the only one shown the door.
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson blew it Tuesday. Not because he fired coach Dick Jauron, who was 24-33 in three-plus seasons, including 5-14 in his last 19 games; because he failed to look at the real problem holding down his team: the absence of a proven personnel man to run his football operations.
For downtrodden organizations out of playoff conversations for years, achieving any type of success can be difficult. Teams like St. Louis, Kansas City and Detroit are trying to get any wins they can, hoping to string a couple together and build momentum. But that's just part of contender-building and not even the most difficult. The next step is sustaining success and then handling the prosperity that comes with winning.
Whether they'll ever admit it or not, a fast start in the NFL gets everyone -- fans, media, players, and even play-'em-one-at-a-time coaches -- dreaming about a magical run through January and the road trip to the game that's so big they use Roman numerals to identify it. Which way to the press conferences?
One would think that there would be a palpable buzz in an NFL locker room before a prime time game on national TV. A heightened sense of anticipation, at the very least. Instead, our locker room was the flattest I had ever encountered in all my years of football, and everyone in there, from coaches to players to the equipment and training staffs, looked as if they had seen a ghost.
Musings, observations and the occasional Week 5 insight as we adjust our TV's vertical hold to handle those hideous brown and mustard-colored vertically-striped socks the Broncos hopefully will put back into the time capsule after their showdown with the Patriots late Sunday afternoon ...
Things we know (or at least think we do) one month into the NFL's regular season....
In the four seasons of the Sean Payton era in New Orleans, there have been precious few ovations to be heard for the beleaguered Saints defense. But the roar that went up early Sunday evening in the visiting locker room at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium was not for Drew Brees and another dazzling display of offensive firepower, it was for new Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the unit that is finally starting to make some noise of its own.
The sky is falling in Tennessee, they're on suicide watch in Pittsburgh and dogs and cats are living together in Buffalo.
Nothing against Mark Sanchez, because New York's rookie quarterback has been everything the Jets hoped for and more, but when you go fifth overall in the draft, the bar of expectation is set ridiculously high. The more intriguing story through the first two weeks of the NFL's 2009 season is how much early impact teams are getting from the most unlikely of sources.
There's a lot to look forward to this weekend in the league -- Jake Delhomme and Jay Cutler trying to redeem themselves, the debut of the new Dallas stadium and its 168-foot-wide high-def TV hanging over the field, Rex Ryan putting up or shutting up, and the Lions trying to make me look smart for picking them to beat the Vikings. But the game that fascinates me is Baltimore at the beat-up Chargers in San Diego's home opener.
For a reason that even Tom Brady couldn't fathom, he entered the huddle in Monday night's season-opener against Buffalo down 11 with 5:32 left in the game and, eerily, predicted the future.
When Turk Schonert took the call at home Saturday morning, and was told by Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron to be on alert for an unscheduled trip into the Bills team complex that afternoon, he had no idea the reason for the audible.
So the answer to the most hotly debated question over the last couple of days has been answered, yet that answer has only sparked more questions. What we do know is that enigmatic wide receiver Terrell Owens is going to the Buffalo Bills on a one-year deal worth $6.5 million. What we don't know is whether this is simply a football move borne out of head coach Dick Jauron's realization that this is likely his last year in Buffalo -- if the team doesn't make major strides? Or is this just as much about sparking some excitement among the Buffalo fan base and increasing ticket and merchandise sales? And maybe the most intriguing of all, how is T.O.'s flash gonna play in blue-collar Buffalo? I mean, picturing T.O. in Buffalo is kind of like imagining the Queen of England at a monster truck show. Just doesn't seem to fit.
The 2009 NFL season officially begins Friday at 12:01 a.m. when free agency opens. What follows is a rundown of the game plans for every AFC team heading into free agency and the draft. For NFC teams, click here.
MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- I have been voting at the Montclair First Ward District 3 polling place for 17 years. Even with presidential elections, we never had a line longer than two or three people. This morning, at 6:48, there was a line of 36 citizens in front of us, many of them New York commuters. One of the poll workers said the normal turnout in this 1,000-voter district for a presidential election was 500 or 600, and she expected "close to 1,000'' today. It took 31 minutes to get through the line, get into the voting booth and make my choice -- time very well spent.
No matter how long you stare at them, the AFC standings after three weeks just look a bit off kilter, don't they? Not upside down per se, but refreshingly out of order, and jumbled to the point where our customary quick glance can't take it all in.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Despite owning the AFC's longest active playoff drought -- eight long years and counting -- the Buffalo Bills have some legitimate buzz surrounding them this preseason.
Ten final thoughts on the doings around the league on draft weekend:
Another wild draft has come and gone, and now the big questions become, which of these players are worth taking in fantasy drafts and where should they go? There doesn't seem to be as many hotshot quarterbacks with the potential for a starting job right away, or top running backs with the opportunity to break through. However, there could be a few more receivers with the chance to be decent contributors early.
With the NFL Draft kicking off in fewer than 72 hours, here's what we're hearing around the league:
Living in Boston, where Drew Bledsoe made his NFL name, I shouldn't have been surprised to hear the notion tossed out there almost reflexively, even before the news of the former Patriots quarterback's retirement had sunk in.
1. The Patriots tried to mimic the "Red Sox Babies" promotion but they hit a snag when Tom Brady misunderstood the instructions and tried to provide all the babies himself. -- Mike, Arlington, Va.
BUFFALO -- There were 12 of us watching the game that January evening, a dozen converted Bills fans huddled around a television in the den of a rented house in the city's University Heights section. I had lived in Buffalo for just under 42 months, but my education as a Buffalonian was nearly complete. I knew the difference between Albright-Knox, the city's famed modern art gallery, and Chuck Knox, the Bills' best coach before Marv Levy. Pronunciations such as Cheektowaga and Tonawanda, the tongue-twisting towns that tripped up the new television anchors, rolled from my lips as if I were a Niagara Frontier native. And while I hated winter in Western New York, a season that lasted longer than many marriages, I had come to admire the heartiness of my fellow Buffalonians as they combated snow drifts as tall as Manute Bol and wind-chill readings that often dipped below zero.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight in reaction to the release of the NFL's 2007 regular-season schedule ...
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Break out the Day-Glo golf balls, hand-warmers and the winter rules.
This article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated on December 1, 1997.
Baseball is enjoying such unprecedented economic success and labor peace that it starts the new season Sunday doing a pretty good impression of the National Football League.
I learned two important things after writing last week's column on the recent struggles of defensive linemen selected first overall in the NFL Draft. One is that there are a hell of a lot of readers who thought I had overlooked Lee Roy Selmon and Ed "Too Tall" Jones, when, in fact, I was discussing the failures of defensive linemen drafted within the last 30 years. The other is that there are a handful of readers out there who think the 2000 draft class produced some of the worst first-round picks in recent history, including its top selection and the inspiration for last week's column, Cleveland Browns defensive end Courtney Brown. It was this second lesson that got me to roll back my sleeves and delve into some draft evaluations for this week's column.
1. Who will go after Michael Bush?
If we've learned anything from the first few weeks of the NFL's unrestricted free agency period, it's that bigger bank accounts usually lead to riskier decisions within the marketplace. The recent increase in the NFL's salary cap -- it has grown by nearly $25 million over the last two years -- has given more teams more license to indulge in the kinds of moves that they wouldn't even consider a few years ago. I'm talking about aging running backs signing for good money and guards -- yes, guards -- finding fat paydays after years of being dismissed as the most expendable components of an offensive line. It's these types of trends that have made this offseason all the more interesting.
Reading personal e-mails to me and e-mails to this column, I've been surprised at the vitriol in the Lance Briggs case. I agree with it, but I'm surprised by it.
New running backs are all the rage in the NFL this month. Here's how I rank the half-dozen moves that have landed some familiar faces in new places for the upcoming season:
That slightly acrid odor that permeated the first 36 hours of free agency was the smell of money burning holes in the pockets of NFL general managers. Engorged with spendable cash because of an elevated salary cap, teams threw millions at a crop of players mediocre in every way but luck. What did it mean to be a free agent at a time when franchises averaged a record $14.95 million in cap room? It meant that by the end of last Saturday, four players who have never made a Pro Bowl -- guards Eric Steinbach (who signed with the Browns) and Derrick Dockery (Bills), tackle Langston Walker (Bills) and linebacker London Fletcher (Redskins) -- had deals totaling $148.5 million. "That's what happens when you have 32 owners with money to spend, thinking they're one or two players away," said San Francisco coach Mike Nolan. He should know. The 49ers, who went 7-9 last year but hung around in the wild-card race, had a league-high $38 million in salary-cap space. They promptly made a nice player (but not a superstar),
1. The Patriots trade for Wes Welker -- Whether it's at slot receiver or in the return game, Welker is a pesky little play-making presence that gives the opposition fits. The Patriots gave up second- and seventh-round picks for him, but with two first-rounders this year, that lessens the blow to New England's first-day draft haul. As a bonus, the move also potentially weakens a division opponent, which is never a bad idea. Get ready to see Tom Brady throw a ton of those receiver screens that the Patriots love to Welker.
Brooks, a former NFL wide receiver and cornerback, spent the last seven years as a scout for the Seahawks and Panthers.
Is it just me, or does free agency seem, well, not quite as free as it once was? At least in terms of headline names being dumped into the marketplace, sparking the kind of shopping sprees teams like Washington, Cleveland, Denver and others have gone on in recent years.
SI.com's Paul Zimmerman, a Hall of Fame voter for the last 16 years, spoke with SI.com about Saturday's selection process for the 2007 class. Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He hadn't even accepted the job as Louisville coach, but Steve Kragthorpe was already on the recruiting trail. He was dining with Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich in Oklahoma City to discuss the Cardinals' opening in the wake of Bobby Petrino's sudden departure to the Atlanta Falcons, when Kragthorpe got up from the table and called Brian Brohm on his cell phone.
Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy had an interesting perspective on the legacy of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning when this postseason began. When asked, for probably the one millionth time, if Manning needed to win a championship to ensure his place in history, Dungy said that history would probably be a lot kinder to Manning than any of us can ever imagine. He mentioned how hard it is to judge a man's career while he's still playing. He talked about how history can turn revisionist once a player finishes his career. And the more Dungy talked, the more he made a convincing point: There's still plenty of time to know what kind of mark Manning will eventually leave on this game.
Back in the early fall, comparisons were being drawn between the 2006 Chicago Bears' defense and the fierce 1985 unit that was truly one of the best in NFL history. After a 40-7 beatdown of the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field last Oct. 8, in which the Bills scored a meaningless touchdown with 66 seconds to play, Bears' defenders were genuinely livid in the postgame locker room.