Week 6 Judgements: Don't look now, but Eagles can roll
1. I've always said it's too early to rule Philadelphia out as an NFC East contender, and Sunday proved why. Not only did the Eagles win, but Dallas and Washington didn't — leaving Philadelphia two games behind of the Giants with six more division games left. Now they get the next week off, and consider that another step forward. The reason: Dating back to 2002, the Eagles are an NFL-best 9-0 after byes. "If we continue to play like we did [Sunday]," said safety Kurt Coleman, "I think we're on our way." I wouldn't disagree, only one problem: Rex Grossman doesn't show up on the schedule every week.
2. There is no more difficult team to figure out than Tampa Bay. One week after the Bucs are blown out by 45 in San Francisco, they upset New Orleans at home. Me? I think that says more about the 49ers than it does anyone. They win the NFC West, and they win for a good reason: They're a legitimate playoff contender.
3. When you're talking about candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year, you better consider San Francisco's Aldon Smith. He absolutely wore out Lions tackle Jeff Backus.
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4. I'm not sure if Baltimore's Ray Rice makes for a better player or motivational speaker. It was his halftime speech that helped launch the Ravens to another win.
5. Anybody interested in beating New England should contact Rob Ryan. All I know is that his defenses held Brady and the Patriots to 14 points last season (while with the Browns) and 20 on Sunday. In between, the Pats ran off 13 straight games with 30 or more points each.
6. Watch that last New England drive, and you'll understand why Tom Brady is the best in the business. When he absolutely, positively had to lead the Patriots to the end zone, he did — driving them 80 yards and completing 8 of 9 passes in the process.
7. That does it. Now it's the Jim Harbaugh-John Harbaugh handshake I want to see Thanksgiving Night.
8. The NFL says it will review the post-game handshake in Detroit, and it should. These guys are supposed to set examples for their players, not rehearse for a WWE throwdown. In the meantime, here's hoping San Francisco and Detroit meet in the playoffs. I want to see if Jim Harbaugh or Jim Schwartz learned something Sunday.
9. I don't care how well Darren McFadden is running, Oakland has no shot at winning the AFC West if Kyle Boller is the quarterback.
10. When Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio says "we're not that far away," is he talking about a victory or his dismissal?
11. That's not a quarterback controversy in Washington. It's a quarterback problem. Suddenly, Donovan McNabb doesn't look so bad … or maybe not.
12. I'm sorry, the NFL needs to clarify the rule for what is and is not a reception. The fact that officials initially ruled Nate Burleson's TD catch an incompletion is a disgrace. What? You want receivers to take 6-7 steps with the ball before they let go of it? C'mon, guys, a catch is a catch is a catch. Trust your eyes.
13. The NFL now has flexibility — and interest — to play more than one game overseas. Any chance Tampa could host both of them?
14. Twice the Philadelphia Eagles had fourth-and-2 at the Washington 32, and twice they went for it. One they converted; the other they did not. Question: Was that because of the wind or because Reid doesn't have faith in rookie kicker Alex Henery making a 50-yarder?
15. Good news, Lucky Losers. If you miss out on Stanford's Andrew Luck, you still could be eligible for Oklahoma's Landry Jones — provided, of course, he declares himself eligible for the draft. The more I see Jones the more he looks like an elite quarterback waiting to happen. Maybe we should have a list for him, too, and call it The Landry Jones.
FIVE THINGS I LIKE
1. Hue Jackson's play-calling. Last week it was a fake punt that propelled the Raiders to victory. On Sunday it was a fake field goal, with holder Shane Lechler throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss. "It's fun to play for him," Lechler said of his head coach. That's the first time in years that I've heard anyone around the Raiders use the word "fun." Congratulations, Hue.
2. San Francisco's coverage of Calvin Johnson. So Johnson had a game-high 113 yards; he didn't score. The 49ers almost always double-covered him, often having rookie Chris Colliver check him at the line of scrimmage. All I know is that it worked.
3. Chicago's pass protection of Jay Cutler. You heard me. Whatever changes offensive coordinator Mike Martz and offensive line coach Mike Tice made last week, they worked. The guy was barely touched six days after Cutler was buried in Detroit.
4. Philadelphia's tackling. Hey, the Eagles were shredded when they waved at opposing backs. Well, they just stonewalled the Redskins, holding them to 42 yards rushing. Maybe it's a start; maybe it's not. All I know is that it's a change.
5. The New York Giants when Eli Manning doesn't screw up. When he doesn't throw an interception –- and he didn't Sunday -– they're 29-8.
FIVE THINGS I DON'T
1. Detroit's home-field advantage. The crowd isn't loud at Ford Field; it's deafening when opponents have the ball -– and the proof is in the numbers. In the past two weeks there have been 14 penalties for false-starts by visiting teams, including 9 by Chicago.
2. That sideline injury to New Orleans' Sean Payton. It looked gruesome on TV; I can only imagine how it felt.
3. Tampa Bay secondary coach Jimmy Lake tearing his patellar tendon while celebrating Tanard Jackson's interception vs. New Orleans. That's two coaches suffering serious injuries in one game. Lake will undergo surgery during the Bucs' bye week.
4. The future of Dallas' running game. First, the Cowboys lose starting left guard Bill Nagy for the season with a fractured ankle. Now, running back Felix Jones is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. Now you see why Philadelphia's not so bad off after all.
5. The New York Jets' squabbling. These guys need to stop talking and start winning. Simple as that.
FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE SOME 'SPLAINING TO DO
1. San Francisco safety Dashon Goldson. Had the 49ers lost it would've been his butt on the line. Because it was Goldson who kept the Lions' go-ahead drive going in the fourth quarter when he celebrated an incomplete pass by kicking the football –- drawing a delay-of-game penalty in the process. Stupid.
2. Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. If you have Calvin Johnson in your huddle you get him the ball at the goal-line. I don't care how; you just do it. Yeah, I know he was double-covered. So what? I like his chances when around a jump ball. Apparently, the Lions did not, throwing to him only once inside the San Francisco 20. It was complete.
3. Minnesota special teams coach Mike Priefer. Why, oh, why, kick to Devin Hester? Priefer should know better. The last time he faced the guy was in 2007 when Priefer was with Kansas City, and all Hester did that afternoon was return a second-quarter punt 73 yards and have a 95-yard kickoff return nullified by a penalty. "That was not a good day for me," he told Minnesota reporters last week. "That was a nightmare for about three months." Sunday was not a good day, either.
4. Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk. TV caught him making an obscene gesture during the Packers' blowout of St. Louis. Afterward, Hawk apologized, saying, "It's kind of a running joke with a couple of teammates. I definitely apologize to everyone if kids were watching." I don't care if they weren't. Just apologize, period.
5. Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap. He tried a Lambeau Leap after scoring on a 35-yard fumble return to clinch the Bengals' latest victory. He failed. "Paul Brown did a pretty good job of building those walls pretty high," said the 289-pound Dunlap, " so I couldn't get up there." Yeah, that's it. Blame it on Paul. John did.
JUST ASKING BUT …
• Who wins the NFC South?
• Jim or John Harbaugh?
• Could someone put out an APB for the Minnesota defense?
• Was that the last we see of Donovan McNabb as a starter?
• Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers?
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKS
Here we go again with the rookie quarterbacks. They were supposed to struggle after the lockout, but at least one isn't. Yep, that's Andy Dalton with a 4-2 record in Cincinnati. So he isn't producing the numbers that Cam Newton is; he's producing wins.
• Cam Newton, Carolina /229/134/1847/7/9/1-5
• Andy Dalton, Cincinnati /189/118/1311/7/5/4-2
• Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville /123/60/717/4/2/0-4
Numbers, numbers, numbers
1 — Indianapolis plays of 20 or more yards
4 — Straight games with Drew Brees passing for at least 350 yards, an NFL record
15 — San Francisco penalties
20 – Second-half plays for Pittsburgh
28 – Straight games without a 100-yard rusher vs. San Francisco
55-26 — Opponents vs. Carolina in fourth quarter
116 — Victories for Bill Belichick-Tom Brady tandem, tying them with Don Shula and Dan Marino
9-2 — Combined record of Jim and John Harbaugh
13-4 — Record of California's three teams
18-5 — Giants in games before regular-season byes
MY TOP FIVE
1. Green Bay
2. New England
4. San Francisco
5. New Orleans
MY BOTTOM FIVE
32. St. Louis
NEXT WEEKEND'S THREE BEST GAMES
• San Diego at N.Y. Jets … L.T., Cromartie have something to prove.
• Houston at Tennessee … NFC South at stake.
• Atlanta at Detroit .. No drama with Mike Smith post-game handshake.