Huddle Up

NFL News and Analysis with Andrew Perloff

  • 12:05 AM ET  12.28

How can you blame Jim Caldwell for resting his starters?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A weekly NFL column that heads in the opposite direction of your average pro football analysis.


1. How can anyone rip Jim Caldwell for ignoring a largely meaningless historical milestone to do what he thought was best for his team? Most coaches are praised for tunnel vision when it comes to trying to win the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick would have been lauded for that kind of cold-blooded strategy. The same pundits that rip Caldwell this week would have gone after him twice as hard if the Colts lost a player to injury or looked fatigued like the 2007 Pats.


If New England went 16-0 two years ago, and the Colts and Saints both got to 13-0 this season, it's obviously not that hard to do anymore. And Indy and New Orleans enter the postseason as very slim favorites, unlike the '07 Pats. For those lamenting the missed historical opportunity, you probably won't have to wait long for another team to have a shot at a perfect season.


2. Peyton Manning  just missed on a few big plays in the first half against the Jets, overthrowing wide-open guys. If he had known the game was on the line because he had to build up a big lead, he may have had a bit more urgency to increase the lead in the first half. Indy looked like a cat playing with a mouse, knowing it could take out New York at any time. That was before they got declawed in the second half.


3. New England already had to come away from its 35-34 loss to the Colts in Week 10 feeling it was the better team. The Pats are a much better team now then they were back then. Tom Brady and his offensive line are almost back to 2007 form (he was almost perfect, going 23-for-26 for four TDs in their 35-7 win over Jacksonville) and coach Belichick said his new defense is starting to get the system after Sunday's rout. Don't just assume the Colts or the Chargers will come out of the AFC. The Patriots may have just needed to warm up.


4. The Jets may appear to be postseason-bound but right now they are not a playoff-caliber team. Their defense is very good, but no way could that offense move the ball against a good defense. Even though the coaching staff has wisely reigned in his playbook, every time Mark Sanchez drops back, you cringe hoping he won't make a costly mistake. The Jets catch a break for the second straight week facing a struggling Bengals team that isn't playing for anything significant.


5. No one has the right to say the Denver Broncos blew it even though they went from 6-0 to 8-7. They fired their famous head coach and traded away their Pro Bowl quarterback during the offseason. Few experts tabbed them as a playoff team under inexperienced head coach Josh McDaniels. For their defense to improve from No. 29 overall in 2008 to No. 3 overall (entering Week 16) is a huge accomplishment. If they go 9-7, their season has to be considered a success -- even if they don't get the honor of losing to the Patriots in the first round.


6. If they don't sneak into the playoffs, no team will have more to regret than the Steelers, who will be haunted by losses to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland. Lots of teams blew a lot of close games (the Texans and Jets were terrible in tight contests), but Pittsburgh could have caused a lot of problems in the AFC playoffs. The Chargers have to be rooting hard to keep the more physical Steelers out of the postseason.


7. Who is this year's Arizona Cardinals in the NFC -- an under-the-radar division winner who can reach the Super Bowl? The Eagles are the fashionable choice, but they're getting a lot of hype right now. The Cardinals themselves make a better choice. They seem to be a better, more balanced team than the one that came a play away from winning a Super Bowl. And watching them, you don't get the sense they're fully engaged most Sundays, since they've had the opportunity to coast in the NFC West.


8. With a roster full of rookies, Jack Del Rio won about five more games than he should have with the 7-8 Jaguars this season. But, after five years, do you get the sense he is moving Jacksonville toward a Super Bowl? He is not to blame for the problems this franchise is facing, but the Jags have to consider a marquee name moving forward, even with Del Rio's midseason run this year. And his Belichick impersonation, going for it on fourth down in his own territory Sunday against New England, was a bad mistake.


9. Multiple analysts have recently declared Philip Rivers the No. 1 quarterback out of the 2004 draft over Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. But in a big playoff game, for now Big Ben would have to be the choice, since he's done it multiple times. Besides, can you imagine Roethlisberger with those weapons in San Diego's system, playing against the AFC West? How do you rank those three?


10. Even if he is the best player in college football, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh being selected by the Rams would be a big break from normal draft strategy. Only three defensive tackles have been taken in the top five this decade - Glenn Dorsey (No. 5 by the Chiefs in 2008), Dewayne Robertson (No. 4 by the Jets in 2003) and Gerard Warren (No. 3 by the Browns in 2001). None of those picks worked out and the Rams can't be eager to spend big money for a position they've failed miserably at in recent first rounds. With a meager free-agent quarterback class, they have to draft a QB. Besides, is Suh that much better than Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy? If you ran the Rams, who would you take No. 1 overall?


Remember to keep your posts clean. Profanity will get filtered, and offensive comments will be removed.

Truth & Rumors


  1. 1
    Kerr 'absolutely expects' Knicks offer
  2. 2
    No return timetable for Lightning MVP
  3. 3
    Yankees, Mets, Red Sox among Hanrahan hopefuls
  4. 4
    Smush Parker allegedly punches high schooler
  5. 5
    Tuukka Rask takes blame for Bruins' Game 1 loss

SI Photos