NFL Week 6: B/R's FC Showdown—Heads Up!
NFL Week 6 had one prevailing theme: concussions. No less than a half-dozen players had to be taken off the field after having their bells rung, with one—Philadelphia WR DeSean Jackson—suffering severe memory loss from his.
It’s a hot-button issue right now, so much so that it’s Topic No. 1 in this week’s NFL FC Showdown.
Hi everyone, I’m Eagles and NFL FC Lou DiPietro, and joining me this week is one of my NFC counterparts: Chicago Bears FC Zack Pearson.
In addition to the concussion issue, Zack and I will rap about whether or not one of our teams is the best in the NFC, who might change addresses before the trade deadline and who is already at must-win status in Week 7.
On with the show!
Topic No. 1: Using Their Heads
Al Bello/Getty Images
Concussions are a part of the NFL; that’s a given due to the physicality of the sport.
But lately, there have been a rash of helmet-to-helmet hits leading to concussions, and it seems as if three or four players a week leave games with “head injuries.”
This week was particularly violent. Atlanta CB Dunta Robinson laid a hit on Philadelphia WR DeSean Jackson this week that not only gave Jackson a “severe concussion with memory loss,” but also rang his own bell. The Pittsburgh Steelers looked more like headhunters in sending Browns Josh Cribbs and Mohammed Massaquoi to the sidelines, tight ends Todd Heap (Baltimore) and Chris Cooley (Washington) also left their games, and David Garrard capped the festivities on Monday night.
Should the NFL step in and do something about this helmet-to-helmet violence?
Zack Pearson Says...
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Yes. The helmet-to-helmet hits are being seen more often, as scary as that is. Although it is a penalty, players are still leading with their heads trying to make that "big hit”—and most of the results lead to concussions. I’ve been watching football since the early 1990s, and I think this season has the most concussions I've seen.
It's obviously becoming a problem, and the NFL has to address it. However, since there is already a rule about helmet-to-helmet hits (simply making them a penalty), I don't expect anything major to happen real soon.
In my opinion, one solution would be to not only make the fine larger, but make it so that for every three offenses, a player earns a one-game suspension. Many players and fans may not like it, but it's a message to keep the players safe. Something to add to that could be if a player is penalized twice in one game for a helmet-to-helmet hit, they will miss the rest of the game.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
I agree on both counts. This season seems particularly violent, and one way to stop that is to throw in a headhunting rule similar to the one the NBA has about technical fouls in a season. As you said, three strikes (aka helmet-to-helmet hits) and you’re out, or two in one game and you’re out for that one.
I think that whole thought process came full circle on Sunday night, when NBC analyst Rodney Harrison admitted he put $50k away each year because the fines were worth his rep as a hitter.
The bigger problem, though, seems to be the helmets themselves. Even though the NFL commissioned an independent study this summer that said the new Xenith X1 helmets meet national safety standards, they don’t seem to pass the biggest test of all: actual shock absorption. Major League Baseball said maple bats were safe too, but watch one of those shatter as compared to a northern white ash one.
So the Xenith helmets are supposed to be safer, but the NFL is experiencing head injuries at an alarming rate. Seems kind of like a fatal flaw, no? Maybe more tests are needed, or perhaps a more stringent uniform rule requiring players to wear something similar to a HANS device in NASCAR (or even those giant neck guards that guys like Bryan Cox used to wear).
Either way, with all the rules in place about diagnosing and treating brain injuries in the NFL now, the fact that a potential factor in their increased occurrence has so far gone uninvestigated is pretty baffling.
Topic No. 2: Head Of The Class
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Through six weeks, 11 of the 16 teams in the NFC are at or above .500, but none of them is better than 4-2. Compare that to the AFC, where while 10 of 16 teams are in the black, there are three that are either 4-1 or 5-1.
The defending Super Bowl Champions, New Orleans, have been besieged by injury and have looked like anything but the juggernaut that won the Lombardi Trophy in February. Minnesota and Dallas, two teams bandied about as potential contenders, came into their game against each other on Sunday with matching 1-3 records (although you'd never know it given their sh*tshow led the 11 PM SportsCenter), while hot starter Green Bay has fallen back to even-steven as well.
Five teams are 4-2, including Lou’s Eagles and Zack’s Bears, and the Cards, Seahawks and Bucs are all 3-2. So…who is really the best team in the National Conference?
Zack Pearson Says...
Al Bello/Getty Images
Can I say I don’t know?
Seriously, the NFC hasn't shown a truly dominant team so far like the AFC has in Pittsburgh or the Jets. I have about four teams that can accept that role in the NFC, but corrections must be made for all teams. The Giants have looked great after a slow start, the Saints are still the Saints (with a deadly offense that can strike at any time), and the Bears are a sleeper team in the NFC who could be much better if they had even an average offensive line.
The fourth, however, is my answer, and one you’ll love, Lou: I think it’s the Philadelphia Eagles.
Even with their quarterback controversy (which actually might be good for them), the Eagles have weapons all over the field. DeSean Jackson is a star player who can change the game around, and while the Eagles will miss him while he’s out, they have an alternate weapon in Jeremy Maclin and a special player at the running back position in LeSean McCoy—who I believe can be a game changer like Jackson. Whether it's Kolb or Vick, both quarterbacks have given this team a chance to win, and their defense has played well enough to keep them in every game.
They’re the most complete team right now, so they have to be in the No. 1 spot.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
I did not see that coming, but I’ll take it!
Now onto something even odder, as I actually think it’s the Giants.
I could go the easy route and say Philly because they’re 4-2, but they’ve won three cupcakes and a glass of milk. I could also say that New Orleans could easily be 1-5, Chicago is lucky they’re not and Atlanta hasn’t beaten anybody.
Instead, I’ll actually praise the Giants.
They’re 4-2, but they’re 4-0 where it counts: in conference. Their losses came to Indianapolis and Tennessee, two other 4-2 teams that are tied for the lead in the “other” toughest division in football, with the Indy loss coming on the road.
Philly may have a ton of weapons, but the Giants do too; three different receivers have led the team in catches/yards in a game so far, and Ahmad Bradshaw has been dominant to the tune of leading the NFC in rushing.
Now, think about this: their franchise quarterback is 17th in the NFL in passer rating (behind David Garrard and Seneca Wallace, even), their former No. 1 running back has, outside of two TD runs on Sunday, been virtually useless, and the pass rush that helped them win the Super Bowl in 2008 didn’t show up until Week 4.
All things considered, perhaps we’re all lucky they’re not 5-1, so I give the nod to New York. Weird, considering I debated whether or not Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat just a few weeks ago.
What's more criminal is that on a week where two 4-1 teams met in Philly, Big Ben returned from suspension, and the 3-1 Pats went to OT with the 4-1 Ravens...Dallas vs. Minnesota led SportsCenter.
No wonder Brett Favre had to send Jenn Sterger pics of his junk...ESPN wouldn't let her get on it.
Topic No. 3: Heading Out of Town
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday afternoon, meaning that by the time you read this, there are roughly 16 hours left for teams to make deals.
It’s been an active year so far, as Marshawn Lynch, Randy Moss, Deion Branch, Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell have all changed addresses in the last 14 days.
Vincent Jackson has been rumored to go anywhere any day now for many days now, and still could within the next 24.
But beyond him, there are a ton of needs that teams could address, and likely a ton of players available to help them do just that. So…who’s got the biggest need to fill, and who can they get to fill it?
Zack Pearson Says...
By far the biggest need is an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears. Their offense has shown signs of being a deadly offense with Jay Cutler and Mike Martz, but in Cutler's last two games he's been sacked 15 times. That’s absolutely unacceptable for a professional team. The defense has played very well this season, but without a passable offense, they aren’t going anywhere.
Of course, there is still (little) time to correct things. Olin Kreutz has played the best out of the line, but they need that one All-Pro lineman to come in and step it up. It just so happened that the New England Patriots have Logan Mankins, who I believe can help turn this Bears offensive line around.
Rumors have been swirling that the Patriots are shopping him, and why not Chicago? The Bears could offer Tommie Harris, who has had limited playing time, and a draft pick. The Patriots are in need of a pass rusher, and Tommie Harris could be that guy. Chicago needs to pull the trigger.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Feasible trade, but Tommie Harris is a 4-3 end, and unless he somehow converts to OLB or three-technique, that’s a mismatch.
Anyway, for my money, Green Bay needs a running back. I said in this space weeks ago that losing Ryan Grant would hurt them more than they knew, and so far it has. Now that Aaron Rodgers has already been concussed and Jermichael Finley is done for the year, they definitely need another weapon.
They missed out on Lynch, could’ve probably had either Bell or Harrison if the price was right, and were beaten to Julius Jones by New Orleans. So now, if they want someone, it’s either waiver-wire fodder (hi, Larry Johnson!) or trade.
As far as who’s available, here are three possible ideas:
-Willis McGahee, who has been non-existent in Baltimore’s offense this year, and didn’t even play on Sunday
-Derrick Ward or Steve Slaton, who are struggling for carries behind Arian Foster and could both be squeezed out in 2011 when Ben Tate returns
-Marion Barber, who is expensive and easily replaceable in Dallas with Tashard Choice
It likely wouldn’t take much more than a third or fourth rounder to get any of them, which is a small rice to pay to potentially salvage a season.
Bonus Topic: Headed for the Draft
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Week 7 sees four huge divisional matchups: Giants-Cowboys, Packers-Vikings, Raiders-Broncos and Seahawks-Cardinals. All will be big by nature, but given circumstances with the eight teams so far, they’re all potential must-wins.
Of that bunch, which team has the most to lose if they must lose?
Zack Pearson Says...
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
They’ve lost two in a row, are currently one game behind the Chicago Bears, and may not be able to afford a second division loss.
It’s a big game for the 2-3 Vikings too, but if the Packers want to stay in the playoff race, a big win at home is a must. The team has looked rusty the last few games and need to get it back on track.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
I want to say Dallas because a loss makes them 1-5 (0-2 in the Division) and pretty much kills their season, but I have to go out west and say it’s the 2-4 Broncos who have the most to lose.
Oakland is their only divisional game in the first half, and in a season where San Diego is struggling mightily and Kansas City may be tailing off, the Broncos need to win every “easy” game they can. Sure, these aren’t your daddy’s Raiders, but they’re still not as good as Denver, and if Josh McDaniels loses to an inferior team at Invesco, it’s all but over for 2010.
The AFC West looks like it has no chance of winning a Wild Card; even if they did, a 2-5 Denver team with a 1-5 conference record would need a miracle to get one.
But at 2-5, even with the top team being 3-3, Denver might become a long shot for the division title too if they can’t get past the Raiders.