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A weekly NFL column that heads in the opposite direction of your average pro football analysis.
1. Pencil it in right now: Brett Favre will play in 2010. Even in a losing effort, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice made plays in a losing effort against a tough Pittsburgh defense and will create too attractive a situation for Favre to turn away next offseason.
2. Passing is too easy in the NFL right now. The accumulation of rule changes, most recently protecting quarterbacks and receivers from hard hits, has created numbers that look ridiculous in the scope of NFL history. Good-to-average quarterbacks are putting up numbers that are hard to believe, and future Hall of Famers are having their way with defenses:
--The Texans’ Matt Schaub is on track to throw for more than 4,500 and 36 touchdowns.
--The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers completed 16 of 20 passes with three touchdowns against the Browns on Sunday, and has 11 TDs and just two picks on the season. If you look at the numbers, Rodgers, with a 110.8 passer rating, is better than Favre ever was.
--The Chargers’ Philip Rivers hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 2.
--The Broncos’ Kyle Orton has nine touchdowns and one interception on the season.
--The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger had his worst statistical day of the season on Sunday (14-of-26 for 175 yards) and is still completing over 70 percent of his passes this season. His career best is 65.5 percent in 2003.
--Favre completed 34 of 51 passes in a losing effort against Pittsburgh. He’s completed 69 percent of his passes this season. His career best is 66.5 percent in 2007. Does anyone else find it weird he’s having one of his best seasons at this age? That’s because it’s so easy to pass right now.
--Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are so good, the numbers aren’t necessary. And don’t forget Tom Brady, who may be having an off year, but has thrown nine TDs in his last two games.
3. On the flip side, even with the across-the-board improvement in NFL passing, bad quarterbacks are worse than ever. Here’s my best explanation: the good teams moving the ball so well in the air forces the bad teams that can’t throw to give up on the run and put the ball up even though they shouldn’t. That means a lot of bad down situations, lots of blitzes, and lots of mistakes.
4. Can the media-Matt Ryan love affair stop now? Good young quarterback, but all the talk of Ryan being the next Peyton Manning is way too early. Just ask Tony Romo, who led the Cowboys past Ryan and the Falcons today. We love to put QBs on a pedestal and either rip them down or worship them. Just give Ryan some time before anointing him a superstar.
5. Coming into the season, Leon Washington was the only bona fide Jets weapon. The rest of the offense still has a lot to prove now that Washington is out of for the season, but the emergence of rookie Shonn Greene is a significant silver lining. Greene surprised the Jets with his ability to catch the ball in training camp, and has more speed than Thomas Jones and more power than Washington.
6. The Saints’ 46-34 win over the Dolphins will end up being their most impressive out-of-division road victory this season. New Orleans has a tough home schedule ( Jets, Giants, Patriots, Cowboys), but drew a great road slate. They visited the Eagles when Donovan McNabb was out, won easily at Buffalo, and visit St. Louis and Washington. The Saints may end the season without a signature road win, but it won’t matter since they have a great chance to get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with that schedule.
7. A FOX graphic noted that this was the first time in NFL history three teams have gotten through Week 7 undefeated: Indianapolis, Denver and New Orleans. Of those three teams, the Saints have the best shot to reach the Super Bowl by a longshot. Not necessarily a knock on the Colts and Broncos, but the AFC playoffs will be a lot tougher.
8. As notable as receiver Miles Austin’s rise in Dallas has been, Roy Williams’ lack of effectiveness is almost as glaring. Romo has no confidence in the former Lions wideout and it affects the way he throws to him. Why not just admit trading for him was a mistake and put Patrick Crayton back into the starting lineup? The Cowboys would be unwise to keep throwing it to Williams just to prove a point.
9. Not a great few weeks for the Wildcat as Michael Vick does nothing in Philly and the Dolphins lose despite running it effectively. But there was one signature Wildcat play in Week 7 that almost happened – Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle throwing a bomb to a wide open Larry Fitzgerald. The play was the Wildcat at its best, confusing the defense and getting Arizona’s best player open. But for some reason, Fitzgerald dropped it and a holding penalty was called on the line anyway. Baby steps, but we’re going to see effective throwing out of the Wildcat soon.
10. Recent history is on Sam Bradford’s side. How can teams overlook the Oklahoma quarterback in next year’s draft when other quarterbacks have had so much success after shoulder surgery. Half the league still regrets reading too much into Drew Brees’ shoulder injury. Brett Favre is playing like a 30-year-old just months after arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Tom Brady underwent minor shoulder surgery back in 2004 and has since rewritten the record book. Even Chad Pennington squeezed out another Pro Bowl season after multiple surgeries. Bradford might be hurthing now, but he will probably end up having a better career because he drops a few slots in the first round and avoids landing on one of the league’s worst teams.