Huddle Up

NFL News and Analysis with Andrew Perloff

  • 12:22 AM ET  11.16
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Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers are strong wild-card candidates.

1. Don't worry about the Steelers despite their 18-12 loss to the Bengals. The defending champions have an easy second-half schedule and will likely make the playoffs. Once the postseason arrives, the slate is clean and close losses like this won't matter. Coach Mike Tomlin didn't seem worried at all after the game, and noted how hard it is to win when you give up special teams touchdowns. After all, this is basically the same team that won the Super Bowl last season.

2. Larry Johnson might have had the best week of anyone. Atlanta's Michael Turner, Cincinnati's Cedric Benson, Miami's Ronnie Brown, Seattle's Julius Jones and Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook were all knocked out with injuries. Some of those teams have to at least be looking at film of Johnson at this moment. Even though Johnson was particularly unimpressive so far this season, he has to be motivated in the short term. He's been playing like a running back who got paid big money of late, but maybe this season has humbled him. His off-field problems are substantial, but he can probably come off as a professional in the short term. If you listen to his interview on the Dan Patrick Show last week, you'd think Johnson was one of the most down-to-earth guys in the league.

Larry Johnson doesn't fit the mold of an Andy Reid running back, but the Eagles are 5-4 and have to be desperate right now. An inspired Johnson has to be more effective than LeSean McCoy on 3rd-and-1. Besides, they handled Michael Vick's PR concerns masterfully, so Johnson's off-field problems shouldn't pose a challenge.

3. Why is everyone acting like the sky is falling in New England because of the loss to Indy? The Patriots were without defensive linemen Ty Warren and Jarvis Green. Of course, the defense wore down. Yes, Bill Belichick made a mistake going for it on fourth down late in the fourth quarter, but that's one play in one game! It's not the main reason they lost. New England basically outplayed an undefeated team in its own building. And the Jets' loss to the Jags means every other AFC East team has a losing record. The Pats may not have homefield advantage, but they will have the rest of the season to lick their wounds and prepare for the postseason. If you're the Colts, do you want to play them again?

4. Don't even start with the 'Chris Johnson is better than Adrian Peterson' argument. What percentage of Johnson's yards this season have been meaningful? The Titans running back is on a team that can't pass at all and will still get him involved -- even when the score gets out of hand. Johnson even ran for 148 yards in Tennessee's 59-0 loss to New England.

5. The Cowboys had no interest in going to Green Bay and winning on Sunday. The Cowboys don't seem like the kind of team that sits comfortably with a four-game winning streak. They host the Redskins and Raiders the next two weeks -- two games they should win. In other words, if you're a 'Boys fan, you have to be nervous.

6. The Saints are itching to lose. They can't stop the run and eventually will trip up in the fourth quarter of a close game. They'll certainly lose to New England in Week 12, and they'll probably drop a couple of games down the stretch, as they rest their players for what should be a very interesting postseason run.

7. Rex Ryan made a big mistake by winning his first three games in New York. Now he's getting savaged by New York's media who raised the expectations for the first-time head coach. Never mind they lost their best offensive player (Leon Washington) and best defensive player (Kris Jenkins, who was sorely missed as Maurice Jones-Drew gashed them Sunday), and start a rookie quarterback. Ryan has delivered on his promise to toughen the defense (they entered Week 10 ranked No. 1 overall). He doesn't deserve to be skewered for having his team at 4-5.

8. Usually when a player falls in mock drafts throughout the spring, there's a good reason. Apparently, there wasn't with Arizona's Beanie Wells. Wells is the league's most exciting rookie back and adds another dimension to an already dangerous offense. Remember last season when the Cardinals went into hibernation and then a fresh-legged Edgerrin James came out of nowhere to help them reach the Super Bowl. They're easily going to win the NFC West, so they should be careful to limit Wells' touches in the second half and then let him go in the postseason.

9. I thought the most interesting part of Michael Lewis' book, The Blind Side, was the section on Bill Walsh and his certainty he could win with or without Joe Montana at quarterback. Lewis painted a picture of a system-driven NFL, where star quarterbacks are created more by the teams that draft them than their inherit skills. Would Tom Brady be Hall of Fame-bound if he had been drafted by the Cardinals? I'm curious to see if Sandra Bullock can squeeze that into the major motion picture that opens this week.

10. Is a big part of the media storm against Belichick today because he's been rude to reporters through the years? Would the reaction have been so strong if a more likable coach like Jeff Fisher or Tony Dungy had done the same thing? Everyone attacking Belichick better be certain they would react the same way if the Pats had made the first down.


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