FIVE STORIES TO WATCH IN WEEK 9
1. The coaches’ hot seat
It got very crowded on the weekend. Take your pick as to whose butt is hottest: San Diego’s Norv Turner, Philadelphia’s Andy Reid or Carolina’s Ron Rivera. Who’ll be the first to go? Our money’s on Turner.
2. The NFL trade deadline
It was supposed to be Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT, but Hurricane Sandy forced the league to delay it by 48 hours. Clubs have been kicking tires, too. Should be interesting to see if one or more skill-position players is moved.
3. The Mario Williams soap opera
That’s probably not an item-topping headline anyone with the Buffalo Bills ever wanted to see. Especially when their $100-million man with the hurtin’ wrist already was going to be in the news this week before playing his old team, the Texans, down in Houston on Sunday — where his old lockermate, J.J. Watt, leads the NFL in sacks.
4. RGIII vs Cam
Last year’s dual-threat OMG quarterback, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, goes head-to-head on Sunday at Washington against this year’s, Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. You KNOW each is going to want to outshine the other. Just keep in mind: Their teams have losing records.
5. Mid-season awards time
There are 17 weeks in an NFL season. We’re between Weeks 8 and 9. So, everyone and his brother will be weighing in this week with mid-season awards. You, of course, are most interested in ours. Check back in two days!
STOCK GOING UP
Believe it or not, the Oakland Raiders. They’ve won two in a row, and before that deserved to beat the Falcons in Atlanta. They’re 3-4, and their remaining schedule is about as friendly as it gets in the NFL: Tampa Bay, at Baltimore, New Orleans, at Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver on a Thursday night, Kansas City, at Carolina, at San Diego.
STOCK GOING DOWN
Tony Sparano once had respect around the league for his offensive game-planning. But what he’s doing now as New York Jets offensive co-ordinator boggles the mind. He actually has made Mark Sanchez worse. And for all the off-season bluster about using Tim Tebow in creative ways, it’s clear Sparano has no idea what to do with his holiness.
ON THE HOT SEAT
See head coaches above. We’ll add a unit co-ordinator to that list: Jacksonville Jaguars offensive co-ordinator Bob Bratkowski. His talent is thin, yes, but he could hardly be doing less with it. And having Blaine Gabbert quarterback-sneak it with a badly banged-up shoulder was beyond stupid.
HYPE WE’RE BUYING
Injuries and age had the Pittsburgh Steelers teetering as recently as a week ago Sunday night in Cincinnati. But they pulled out that game and just thumped Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. The Steelers (4-3) have found a legitimate runner in Jonathan Dwyer, and the defence is relocating its swagger.
HYPE WE’RE NOT
The Seattle Seahawks have a good defence — but not great. Russell Wilson is doing OK for a rookie quarterback, but there’s a reason he was drafted behind Luck, Griffin, Tannehill and Weeden. Plus, the Seahawks play lousy on the road, winless except at Carolina.
I get it that Rex Ryan knew he’d start a full-blown quarterback controversy by doing this, but I still woulda sat starter Mark Sanchez and played Tim Tebow at quarterback after visiting Miami got far ahead in the second half of a 30-9 blowout win. Not doing so just tells the world, and Tebow, that you have no confidence in him.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett blew it big-time when, trailing by five with 1:23 left, and facing 2nd-and-one at the Giants 23, he called three consecutive pass plays for his offence. He shoulda run it at least once, especially with three timeouts left. Instead: Incomplete, incomplete, interception.
The Carolina Panthers coulda been 3-4 with a playoff pulse had their awful defence not let both Atlanta (four weeks ago) and Chicago (on Sunday) march down the field in less than a minute to win on last-play field goals. As it is, the Panthers are 1-6.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
The San Diego Chargers quarterback obviously was still dazed and confused a week after his second-half meltdown against the Denver Broncos. When his team needed him to have a good game at struggling Cleveland, he went 18-of-34 for 154 yards in an awful 7-6 loss.
The rookie quarterback led his Indianapolis Colts on a game-tying 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter at Tennessee, then marched them 80 yards in overtime to win 19-13. Luck finished 26 of 38 for 297 yards, and the Colts now have a winning record (4-3) for the first time since Mr. Commercials was quarterbacking there two years ago.
ZERO OF THE WEEK
The enigmatic Dallas Cowboys receiver now makes as many dumb gaffes as dazzling gainers. Three of the former cost Dallas against New York. He slow-dogged a post route that got picked. He misjudged, improperly caught, muffed, recovered, then finally fumbled a punt. And rather than just fall on his butt for the winning touchdown, he put a hand down to brace his fall — out of bounds.