Huddle Up

NFL News and Analysis with Andrew Perloff

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  • 10:54 PM ET  12.06

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

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observations from the Meadowlands, where the Giants saved their season by beating the Cowboys 31-24.

1. The beginning of a potential December swoon may seem like the biggest concern for the Cowboys, but Sunday's loss may speak more to their inability to beat decent teams. Dallas is 7-0 against teams currently under .500 and 1-4 against winning teams. So if they fall to San Diego, New Orleans and Philadelphia later this season, it's not because of the calendar -- it's because they're not that good.

2. It may be difficult with his job on the line, but Cowboys coach Wade Phillips needs to take the team's chronic December problems with a grain of salt. He seemed aggravated with questions on the topic. "I don't think it's a mental block," Phillips said. "I think it's something you made up. You said something about Tony [Romo] hadn't lost a game in November. Well, we lost one in November." Phillips might as well let go and try to have fun with the rest of the season, even if his job is on the line. If he tightens up, it's not going to help his team.

3. Michael Vick's triumphant return to Atlanta may have a nice ring to it if you don't have a problem with the controversial quarterback, but that doesn't mean he had any meaningful impact on the Eagles' 34-7 victory or is going to help; this team moving forward. The Birds could have inserted a high school quarterback and still beat the decimated Falcons. The Eagles won't take the ball out of Donovan McNabb's hands in a close game or when they're behind. Philadelphia still hasn't done anything to prove a change-up quarterback helps win games. Interesting to note the Eagles gave playing time to Vick and Kevin Kolb during the fourth quarter. They're setting up what could be quite an offseason with three potentially expensive quarterbacks.

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  • 11:50 PM ET  11.29
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Brett Favre has the NFC North-leading Vikes cruising at 10-1.
Elsa/Getty Images

1. Brett Favre's success and Jay Cutler's struggles are two of the top stories of the year. What if you put Cutler in Minnesota and Favre in Chicago? The Vikings have so much talent across the board, they could hide Cutler's flaws and would probably still be atop the NFC North. And Favre wouldn't have a chance with the Bears' terrible defense, disappointing running game and not-ready-for-the-NFL receiving corps. Both of these teams have had way too much focus on the quarterback.

2. A few thoughts on Hines Ward saying the Steelers locker room was divided on whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should have played against Baltimore despite concussion symptoms on NBC's Football Night in America:

a. The Steelers locker room doesn't like Roethlisberger and probably never did. No player would ever call out a well-liked, respected QB like Tom Brady or Drew Brees.

b. If you left the concussion issues to active players, a guy would have to be actually unconscious at the time to take a play off.

c. The media is playing a huge role in the NFL's stance on concussions. They're pounding players and coaches with concussion questions every week.

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  • 11:47 PM ET  11.22
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Eli Manning threw for 384 yards as the Giants won in OT.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observations from Giants Stadium, where the G-Men beat the Falcons 34-31 in overtime on Sunday.

1. The more passing yards Eli Manning accumulates, the more nervous the Giants offense makes me. Manning put up a career-high 384 passing yards against the Falcons and is averaging a career-best 245 yards per game this season. The problem is that he hasn't been able to sustain late drives to protect leads. With an old offensive line and running backs that keep getting nicked up, the Giants seem to be having a harder time wearing teams down as the season goes on. "You will see a team, like, for six minutes is running the ball and running the clock out. That continues to be something that we have to be better at," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

2. New York has turned into a team that is completely depending on Eli. When he struggles, the rest of the team seems deflated, and when he does well they get fired up.

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  • 12:22 AM ET  11.16
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Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers are still 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.

2a. In their 31-23 loss at San Diego, the Eagles blew several short-yardage opportunities. 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?

5. 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.

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  • 11:28 PM ET  11.08
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Drew Brees and the Saints have not been that impressive.
AP

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

1. Have there ever been less scary 8-0 teams than New Orleans or Indianapolis? What is New Orleans' signature win? The Saints beat the Eagles without Donovan McNabb, reeling Giants and Jets teams, and a Falcons squad that can't play on the road. And they had to come from behind against slightly below-average Miami and Carolina. Meanwhile, the Colts are cutting it close against middle-of-the road competition and head into the difficult part of their schedule with some question marks -- namely, their lack of running game and inexperienced defensive backfield.

2. Please, please don't start the Vince Young national media love fest. He's 2-0 as a starter, and the Titans host the Bills next week. He'll like improve to 3-0 and one of the biggest storylines in the league will be Young's ability to win and Jeff Fisher making a mistake by not going to him earlier. But Young couldn't have done much to help the Titans when their defense completely disappeared the first part of the season. Young has beaten two inconsistent teams -- Jacksonville and San Francisco -- and hasn't had to throw much. Let's see what he does when opponents gets some film on him and try to take him out of his comfort zone. If he keeps this up for six weeks, then start heaping on the praise.

3. The Giants' 21-20 loss to the Chargers appeared to put them in a serious hole in the NFC East, but the New York papers are writing their obituaries too early. The two teams ahead of them in the division, Philly and Dallas, built up their records against bottom-feeders and face their own challenges in the second half. The Eagles' offensive line is one more injury away from total chaos, and the Cowboys are due for their annual late-season collapse. Meanwhile, the Giants have a bye this week to get healthier and could go on a late-season run like they did in 2007.

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