NFL Alphabet Preview


NFL Alphabet Preview

With another weekend of football on tap, it's time for the latest edition the Alphabet NFL Preview.

This week we're sponsored by Smoking Jay Cutler, unwritten rules and Jim Harbaugh's famous special guests.

A is for AWOL

It was reported this week that offensive lineman Brian Waters actually turned down a significant raise from the Patriots, in favor of the indent on his couch. On one hand, this has quieted those who especially in light of the Welker mess had resorted back on the old Belichick is cheap! mantra. And thats always nice.

But the other hand, it makes one thing very clear: Bill Belichick really wanted Waters back in the mix. After all, Belichick is cheap. By nature, hes a very frugal dude. That doesnt mean that hes unwilling to dish out the big bucks when he has to. But its only when he absolutely has to.

In this case, it's obvious that Belichick thought that he had to which probably says something about his feelings on this offensive line.

B is for Blood Alcohol Level

Theres something twisted about drunken Michael Turner getting pulled over for going 97 in a 65 MPH zone. Michael Turner? Speeding? Shouldnt he have been busted for something that's a little more his pace? You know, like driving an army tank through the corn fields of rural Georgia? Or for getting drunk and violently somersaulting into a group of people at the a crowded bar?

NFL Alphabet Quiz: With his pre-DUI touchdown on Monday, Turner has now scored at least one rushing TD in eight straight seasons. Can you name the five other active RBs who, coming into this year, have at least one rushing TD in every season since 2005.

Answer: Willis McGahee and Frank Gore. Steven Jackson, Ronnie Brown and Brandon Jacobs
C is for Consecutive

Peyton Manning never won consecutive games as a rookie. He didn't win consecutive games until Week 6 of his second season. Of course, as soon has he won two in a row, he rattled off 11 straight, but that's not my point. He never won consecutive games as a rookie! And since we have to compare everything he did as a rookie to what Andrew Luck is doing now, I'll point out that on Sunday against Jacksonville, Luck has a chance to do something that his predecessor never did.

And he'll take the field as a three-point favorite.

D is for Durability

Not a word you'd typically associate with Reggie Bush. In fact, when Tony Sparano named Reggie his featured back last season in Miami, the joke was that Bush wouldn't last 16 carries never mind 16 games. (It wasn't a very funny joke). Well, he played 15 games, and put up his first 200 carry and 1,000 yard season. Through two games this season, he's on pace for 300 carries and nearly 2,000 yards, and while only a heavy helping of bath salts would make you believe that he'll maintain those numbers, the days of questioning Bush's ability to carry a full load are more distant than the Dolphins playoff chances.

Honestly, though. It's amazing what you can accomplish after dropping a Kardashian from your roster. I'm already excited for Kanye first post-breakup album.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Name the only active running back with more career receptions than Reggie Bush (346)?

Answer: Stephen Jackson (373)
E is for Empty

There are only two match-ups this week between undefeated teams. The first will be in Arizona, where the Cardinals host the Eagles. The second is in San Diego, where no one gives a crap.

If you haven't heard, Sunday's game between the 2-0 Chargers and the 2-0 Falcons will be blacked out in the San Diego area. This after ticket sales were so low that the NFL didn't even grant the Chargers the customary 24-hour extension.

The good news for San Diego? Since 2010, the Chargers are 5-0 in home blackout games.

The Bad news? Right here.

F is for Flop

You imagine the atmosphere was pretty somber in Oakland this week in the aftermath of last Sunday's embarrassment against Miami. Starting center Stefen Wisniewski spoke with the Oakland media about one particular practice session:

"It's not a fun meeting," Wisniewski said. "You don't want to have too many meetings like that, with the whole team sitting, watching, watching an ugly film."

Man, so uncool of Dennis Allen to make his players sit through The Dictator.

G is for Gloom

Bills vs. Browns, does any other word (that won't get me fired) come to mind?

Actually, no wait. CJ Spiller vs. Trent Richardson? This might be fun now. This might be the only time in NFL history that someone outside of Buffalo and Cleveland is excited to watch a BuffaloCleveland game.

Just cover your eyes on passing plays. Like your grandma always said: Too much Weeden and Fitzpatricking can make you go blind.

H is for Hail Mary

There's been a lot of speculation this season about Peyton Manning's arm strength, and that speculation got a swift kick in the ass this week when it was revealed that, had the Broncos needed a Hail Mary pass at the end of Monday's loss in Atlanta, back up QB Brock Osweilier would have gotten the call.

"I was going in for the Hail Mary," Osweilier told the Denver Post. "I'm not sure what the dividing line was as far as me going in, but I was getting ready to go in."

Osweilier continued . . .

But the reporters had already left to go find Manning.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Can you name the only three players in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass for Peyton Manning's team in a game started by Peyton Manning?

Hint: If you get this one, you either cheated or your Peyton Manning.

Answer: Jim Sorgi, Joseph Addai and Ken Dilger.

I is for Innovator

RIP Steve Sabol

J is for Junior

Has everyone noticed the new name on the back of Titus Young's jersey this year?

If not, here it is: Young Sr.

Forget the sheer awesomeness of a 23-year-old have "Sr." on the back of his jersey. Senior needs to stop playing like Junior if the Lions and Matt Staffford are going to break out of this early season funk. They aren't the old Lions anymore. No one's cutting them any slack or willing to wait for next year. And two receptions over two games has Young on the hot seat, and Detroit and on fantasy rosters world wide.

He and the entire Lions offense have a great match-up this Sunday against the Titans, which leads to an important NFL Alphabet Prop bet. What will be the greatest total: Titus Young receptions or Chris Johnson rushing yards?

K is for Kneel Down

I don't see the big deal about the move Tampa Bay pulled at the end of last week's loss to the Giants. So, they're down by one touchdown, on the road, in game that could change the course of their entire season, and they're just supposed to roll over and let Eli run out the clock? They're supposed to give up?

I mean, I get why Tom Coughlin was pissed, but it's not because the Bucs broke some unwritten rule. It's because his team looked careless and unprepared. It's because, had that play worked, Coughlin would have been utterly embarrassed. And there's nothing in the world he hates more than being embarrassed.

Except for when the neighborhood kids run across his lawn.

L is for Locker Room Crashers

Did you see that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson made a surprise appearance in the 49ers locker room this week? If not, read the play-by-play in this post from the San Jose Mercury News and bask in the ridiculousness of Jim Harbaugh.

Also, wouldn't Harbaugh be a great fit for the "Sack" character if they ever make Wedding Crashers 2?

M is for Mustache

You have to love Jeff Fisher. Here was his response when asked if Steven Jackson's lack of practice time he's nursing a sore groin (but aren't we all?) will affect his status for Sunday's game:

"I don't have a policy where you have to practice to play," Fisher said, as his 'stache blew gently in the breeze. "Be realistic. He's been in the league how many years? He knows his body, he knows this offense, I'm not concerned about that."

That's a pro right there.

Speaking of which, how about Sam Bradford? Through two games, he's completing 71 percent of his passes (up from 53 last year), plus has four touchdowns only one interception and is averaging more than 250 yards a game. Sure, he hasn't faced the greatest competition, but if he can keep it going this Sunday against a Bears D that made Arron Rodgers look human, we might have to start paying attention.

N is for nine.

How many times have the Eagles turned the ball over this season? Yes, you got it. Nine times. Or to put it another way, only one fewer than the Patriots had over the entire 2010 season. Yet somehow, the Eagles are 2-0.

Some of that is no doubt due to a fortunate draw against the Browns and some help from the refs against the Ravens, but the fact remains: You have to be pretty lucky andor pretty good to win two games in which you commit nine turnovers. And after this trip to Arizona, I think we'll have a better idea of which one better describes the Eagles.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: What's the highest number turnovers that Belichick's Pats have ever committed in consecutive games?

Answer: Eight, in Week 12 and Week 13 of 2006. Worth noting the Pats won both games.
O is for officials.

No one wants to read another lambasting of the replacement refs, so Ill just say this: I feel really bad for these guys. It's not their fault that they're completely and literally out of their league.

Did you see the lead official last night in Carolina? Could he have been anymore scared, confused andor nervous any time he had to explain a call to the crowd? He sounded like a sheepish eight year laboring through his second grade play. You could see the relief the second he finished. You could tell all really wanted was a hug.

At this point, I think we're all reserved to the fact that it's going to take an over-the-top, monumental, game-deciding screw up before the old refs come back to work. Let's just hope it happens soon.

P is for Porous

Is it possible that the Saints defense is this bad? I know they've had two tough match-ups against RG3 and CN1, but come on. Through two weeks, they've now given up 75 points the most they've allowed in any first two weeks since 1985. If they get burned Sunday against Matt Cassel, that will be the true test.

And as bad as their defense has been, the offense hasn't been much better namely Drew Brees. No. 9 completed only 46 percent of his passes in Week 1, which was the third worst performance of his career. Last week against the Panthers, he completed only 63 percent, which would have been his second-worst outing all of last season.

It's really scary to see how quickly things unraveled down there this season, even under their already trying circumstances. If there was only some kind of incentive of program that Joe Vitt could incorporate into the team's weekly preparation?

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Of all the quarterback to have taken an NFL snap since 2000, only five have more career passing yards than Drew Brees. Name them.

Answer: Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe

Q is for Quick

Quick: Who's thrown for more yards this season: Tim Tebow or Bill Belichick?

R is for Recovery

Adrian Peterson's has been absurd. While Jamaal Charles is 11 months off of his ACL surgery and still struggling . . . While Rashard Mendenhall is eight months removed (the same as AP) and still hasn't seen the field . . . Peterson has been slowed, but has pretty much erased any doubt that he's still one of the game's most dominant backs.

But what's more difficult: Recovering from a torn ACL in less than eight months, or playing one NFL game against the 49ers D?

AP's about to find out.

S is for Smoking Jay Cutler

Presented with no additional commentary.

T is for Terrell Davis

Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said this week that the Skins coaching staff has seen "some of Terrell Davis" in rookie RB Alfred Morris.

Wow. Hefty comparison, but I'm not buying it. Like father, like son and this is classic Shanahan. You talk a guy up, you make every one believe and then with a snap of the fingers, you pull in another running back that no one's ever heard of and turn him into the next next Terrell Davis.

With the way the Shanahan's work, in a few months, the only thing Morris will have in common with Davis is that they'll both be out of football.

NFL Alphabet Quiz: Can you name the six running backs who have run for 1,000 yards under Mike Shanahan?

Answer: Terrell Davis (x4), Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson (x2), Clinton Portis (x2), Reuben Droughns (bet you forgot that one) and Tatum Bell
(Note: Morris is on pace for 1,480 yards this season. RGIII is on pace for 992.)

U is for Underwood

The Bucs re-signed Tiquan Underwood this week.

The high top fade had been released by the Bucs at final cuts, Tampa needed his services after an injury to Sammie Stroughter.

Said coach Greg Schiano, who coached Underwood at Rutgers: We plan to utilize Tiquan any way that we can . . . and then most likely cut him the night before the playoffs.

V is for Validation

Not that anyone's accusing the 2012 Texans of being a flash in the NFL pan, but it would be nice to see them handle a legitimate NFL team before being crowned as AFC favorites. Sunday in Denver, Houston has a chance to silence the doubters.

W is for Wally Pipp

Bills coach Chan Gailey is surprised by how quickly running back Fred Jackson's recovering from his sprained knee.

"He must be a fast healer," Gailey said about Jackson, who's already working out on the knee and has vowed to make it back for Buffalo's Week 5 game with the Niners.

Some call it "fast healing," others call it "watching CJ Spiller rip it up every Sunday and knowing that every week you're out of the starting line-up brings you another week closer to never being there again." Or something like that.

X is for XXX

I actually don't mind that Bibi Jones released new photos of her and Rob Gronkowski. First of all, even though it's a headache, it's not like Gronk can get in any more trouble. He's already spoken with Belichick and the Krafts and apologized for what happened last year. He didn't screw up again. However, at the same time, the latest incident serves as a reminder of how much one careless action can screw with all that Gronk has and all that he's worked for. If there was ever a chance that he'd fall back into a trap like that, I'd say that Jones posting that new photo erased it.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Belichick paid her to do it.

Y is for Youth

For most of the offseason, and really the first few weeks of this season, Patriots fans have taken pride in the fact that this year's team is one of the youngest that Bill Belichick has ever coached. It's so exciting in what it means for the future, and the tools that Tom Brady will be surrounded by over the twilight of his career.

Then you think about a game like Sunday, and you're like: Oh, right. There are times when being young has its disadvantages. When going out on the road for one of the biggest games of the year might psyche an important player or two out. How can it not? They're only human.

But at the very least, this will be one of the lingering advantages of last year's Super Bowl loss. That despite the youth that makes up most of the Pats roster, a lot of those guys have already seen it all. They've already played in the biggest game of their. And after that, it's hard for a regular game to have that much of an affect.

Z for Zoltan

Last week was the first time in more than 115 NFL punts that Zoltan Mesko had a kick blocked.

But on the bright side, it gave me something for Z.

Enjoy the games.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 


In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues.