Tuesday's NFL Blog: P.M. Update

Dec. 26th, 2006 ... The P.M. Update to today's NFL Blog is up! Ed Thompson takes you on a fast-paced and informative tour of the NFL and provides you with links to some of the top articles from around the Scout.com network.

As noted below , a few of the links take you to articles that are for subscribers only. If you're not a Scout.com subscriber yet, visit your favorite team's home site today and try it out free for seven days by clicking the link in the right column of that site's home page. You'll get access to all of the subscriber articles on the Scout.com network and access to your favorite team's subscriber forums.

P.M. UPDATE

Powerful Quote:  "I think we have more talkers than players, to be blunt about it," Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman said after the Cowboys' loss to the Eagles on Monday. And he wasn't the only one who was in a bit of a Grinch-like mood on Christmas day. Read all about it from a Dallas writer's perspective at our Cowboys site.

Cowher Watch: At his press conference today, Bill Cowher said that his decision regarding his future as the head coach of the Steelers could come as early as next week. And when asked if there was extra motivation to knock division rival Cincinnati out of the playoffs by beating them this Sunday, he replied, "Let me just say this, misery loves company. We're looking for company."  Get the full transcript in this Scout.com subscribers article at our Steelers site.

Rumor Mill:
So have you heard the rumor yet that Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss could be heading back to Minnesota this offseason for no more than a third-round pick? Well, I turned to Tim Yotter, the publisher of our Vikings site to get his thoughts -- and he just doesn't see it happening. 

"Considering Moss's penchant for 'dogging' it in practice at times and getting frustrated during losing times, it seems like he wouldn't fit with new head coach Brad Childress' oft-referenced 'culture of accountability," he said.  "No doubt, the Vikings are desperate for a No. 1 (and No. 2) receiver, and Moss would likely bridge a chasm of talent in the receiver corps, but his personality isn't a match for Childress, who already released Marcus Robinson with one week to go. While Robinson doesn't have the sulking ways of Moss, he did have a reputation for not being a strong worker in practices. Combine that with Childress's infamous past relationship with Terrell Owens and it just reeks of a bad match"

Yotter noted that the biggest positive in obtaining Moss would be his ability to put fans back in the seats at the Metrodome, and after the discontent of fans with the early stages of the Childress era, that could become a bigger issue heading into the 2007.

"No doubt, they need to generate some excitement," he said. "But I doubt it would come at the cost of locker room harmony."

Lions QB Jon Kitna reacts after losing a fumble to the Bears (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Powerful Quote, Part II: "I just really wanted to win that game so I could tell all those Bears fans to shut up and go home," Lions quarterback Jon Kitna said following the team's 26-21 loss to the Bears in Detroit. Our Lions site takes a closer look at the season that was -- or wasn't -- for wide receiver Mike Williams in this Scout.com subscribers feature, and what his future prospects are in Detroit after getting some limited playing time over the last few weeks.

Easy Pickings?
  Speaking of the Vikings, the Rams certainly drew the lucky straw out of the NFC teams with wildcard hopes that are hoping the Giants stumble against the Redskins Saturday night. The Rams, who haven't scored less than 20 points per game over the last five weeks -- and put 37 on the board against Washington last Sunday -- will try to out pace Vikings rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson who will be getting his second start of the year. In his debut last week, Jackson completed 10 of 20 passes for 50 yards with one interception, no touchdowns, and three sacks and managed to put just six points on the board in the Vikings loss. Meanwhile, the other wildcard candidates will face some pretty stiff opposition. Carolina faces New Orleans and Atlanta takes on the Eagles. If Green Bay is still in the running by the time the Sunday night game rolls around, they have to win against the Bears to have a chance.

Battered Browns:  Our Cleveland site is reporting that quarterback Derek Anderson is out for this week with a separated shoulder, so the reins of the offense are being handed over to third-string quarterback Ken Dorsey, who has a career QB rating of 63.7. The Browns are heading to Houston, who just knocked off the Colts on Sunday. Writer Fred Greetham undoubtedly captured the collective mood of Cleveland fans when he says at the beginning of this article, "Tell us when it's safe to look."

What Were They Thinking?  Don't get me wrong, I think safety Michael Huff has had a strong rookie campaign and was a nice addition to the Raiders defense. But how many times do you think owner Al Davis has bolted upright in bed this season with sweat streaming down his face as he tries to shake off that haunting dream where he recalls passing on quarterback Matt Leinart with the number eight pick overall? Earlier this year, he probably spent some time commiserating on the phone with Bills GM Marv Levy -- who also passed on Leinart at number seven -- to pick another talented defender, Donte Whitner. But with J.P. Losman seemingly coming out of his funk now, Levy probably isn't taking Davis' calls any longer.

Out With the Old...  As the regular season winds down, teams and their fans shift their focus not just on restocking their player personnel, but in some cases their coaches as well. While there should be some head coaching changes after this Sunday's action comes to an end, you'll also see some movement in the coordinator and coaches ranks in the coming weeks. One known change that our Packers site is exploring in this Scout.com subscribers article is the impending replacement of Green Bay offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski who is leaving to take the head coach spot at Boston College. And there's speculation that defensive coordinator Bob Sanders could be let go, allowing head coach Mike McCarthy to bring in fresh talent at both coordinator positions. If he does, some of the candidates other than current Packers coaches could be pulled from a variety of teams like Denver, Pittsburgh, and a pair of NFC East teams. Take a look and see if one of the anyone from your favorite team is included on the potential list of prospects in this article.

A.M. EDITION

Playoff Picture: With one week left, the playoff scenarios are now pretty clear. In the AFC, San Diego, Baltimore, Indianapolis and New England are the division champs, and Denver and New York control their own fates with a win. Others in the hunt but needing help include Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Kansas City.  In the NFC, Chicago, New Orleans and Seattle are the division champs with the NFC East still up for grabs. But after this week's slate of games, either the Cowboys or Eagles will claim that spot with the other team claiming one of the wildcard spots. That leaves just one spot up in the air. And while the Giants appear to have the least complicated way to claim it, with the way they've been playing that's far from a done deal. The rest of the contenders -- Green Bay, Carolina, Atlanta and St. Louis -- will have a better idea of where they stand before Sunday since the Giants play at Washington on Saturday night. With a Giants loss, they're all alive. With a Giants win, only Green Bay would still be left in the running. And they don't play until the Sunday night against the Bears. Wouldn't that be a wild way to wrap up the regular season?

Need a Lineman?  If your favorite team is in need of an offensive tackle or defensive end, you should tune it for tonight's Motor City Bowl on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. (ET) and keep an eye on Central Michigan tackle Joe Staley and DE Dan Bazuin.  Tony Pauline, our draft expert at Scout.com, ranks these two as the most draft worthy players in this game, but provides you with a list of the others who are worth a look as well in this TFY Draft Preview feature.  He currently projects Staley as a third-rounder, but believes he "could make a charge up the draft boards if he plays well at the Senior Bowl."

Packers QB Brett Favre (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Brett Favre Soap Opera Continues:  Harry Sydney at our Packers site does a nice job of sizing up the GM and coaching situation in Green Bay in this Scout.com subscribers feature and weighs in on Brett Favre's offseason decision about returning to the team for another year. "As I look at it Brett is so close to Dan Marino's touchdown record that he would be a fool not to come back and get it," Sydney says. "If you don't think he thinks about it, you don't understand an athlete and their egos."  Sydney, who was a fullback during his six-year NFL career and then became an assistant coach (running backs) for the 1996 Packers team, then weighs in on whether or not Favre's return would be good for the Packers organization. Don't miss it.

Seeing Red:
With one week left in the regular season, just one of the top five teams in red zone efficiency won't be in the playoffs ... the Houston Texans. That's right, Gary Kubiak's club is fifth-best in the league in converting their red zone opportunities at 59.0 percent. Rounding out the top five are San Diego (69.5%), Indianapolis (66.1%), Dallas (62.3%) and New England (61.1%). Go ahead and challenge your buddies with that factoid this week. Unless they read this column, you're likely to stump them.

Quarterback Carousel: First it was Daunte Culpepper. Then Joey Harrington made a nice run leading the offense in Miami. But for the second week in a row, Cleo Lemon has been sent in to relieve Harrington.  The former Lions QB has completed just 12 of 32 passes and has thrown 2 interceptions while failing to lead his team to a single score in the last two games. Meanwhile, the Dolphins scored all ten of their points against the Jets in the fourth quarter under Lemon's direction, putting a scare into head coach Eric Mangini's club as they were trying to strengthen their postseason positioning for a wildcard spot.  The Dolphins wrap up their season this week at Indianapolis, who shouldn't struggle to put points on the board. With Miami out of the playoff picture, it'll be interesting to see Head Coach Nick Saban decides to use this week's game to give the start to Lemon, a third-year pro out of Arkansas State, to help assess where he fits into the team's quarterback plans for 2007. For more on the Monday night game from our Dolphins site, click here.

Play it Again, Sam: Okay, so Humphrey Bogart never actually said that in the classic movie "Casablanca," but it's still a fitting phrase for Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens, who complained (yes, shocking, isn't it?) after Dallas' 23-7 loss to the Eagles that he wasn't getting opportunities to get into the flow of the game early enough. "It's hard to get in the flow when you're getting a ball here, a ball there," Owens said. While he did score the Cowboy's sole touchdown, he sure didn't help his team much on Monday. He made the most of his first-half opportunities with two catches and another play that drew an illegal contact penalty, but in the second half, he just flat out looked awful. He dropped a deep pass that hit his hands close to his body in stride. Of course, that wasn't his fault if you ask T.O. for his opinion. He felt Eagles safety Brian Dawkins should have been flagged on the play. "He bumped me way down the field and I started to regroup. By the time I looked up and located the ball, it was right on me," Owens said. And he just looked lazy on another touchdown pass opportunity that was thrown by Romo early in the fourth quarter that was picked off by Dawkins. While the pass was certainly off-target, Owens appeared to just pull up on his route, seemingly disinterested in trying to battle for the ball or at minimum knock it away from Dawkins. "Late in the game, they start throwing to me," Owens said. "By that time, it's too late. I'm giving full effort. I want to be involved." Full effort? Maybe Owens needs to pay attention during the review of the film this week to determine if that's what full effort really looks like.

Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Hard Chargin':  San Diego handed the Seattle Seahawks a 20-17 defeat and head into the final week of the regular season 6-2 against teams with a winning record. But as this Scout.com subscribers article at our Chargers site points out, the Seahawks did manage to expose a flaw in the Chargers' defense. Seattle clinched their division despite the loss when the 49ers also took one on the chin against Arizona.  And head coach Mike Holmgren tried to focus on that rather than the fact that his team lost its third consecutive game. "Our first goal was to win the division, and we won the division," he said. "People can say whatever they want about that and I frankly don't care ...I would probably be celebrating a bit more had we won the division and won the game, but I'll take it."

Top Three: Heading into Week 17, the top three passers in the NFL (based on QB rating) are the Colts' Peyton Manning (100.9), the Chiefs' Damon Huard (97.6) and the Saints' Drew Brees (96.1). Before the season started, I think most folks would have put Manning up there, but with Brees settling in with a new team and new coach and Huard only having six career starts in his previous nine seasons, I don't think too many would have put either one in their top three when this season started. In fairness, Huard has earned his rating during just 8 starts and 9 game appearances, so if you're wondering who's next on the list that played a full season, it's Cincy's Carson Palmer with a 94.1 rating.

Damaged Goods?
  According to our New York Jets site in this Scout.com subscribers postgame injury report, "The Jets clearly acquired damaged goods from the San Francisco 49ers in the Barlow trade." Running back Kevan Barlow had just 36 yards on 18 carries on a surgically repaired knee that was heavily wrapped Monday night. And he's rushed for a career-low 2.8 yards per carry this season. Following their Monday night 13-10 win over the Dolphins, the Jets now control their own fate for the playoffs. A win over the 2-13 Raiders this week clinches a wildcard for New York, but click that article link to learn more about the injuries that could be a factor.

Desperately Seeking an Offense:
Speaking of the Raiders, did you know they've scored just 12 touchdowns in 15 games ? I'd love to comment on that, but quite frankly it just leaves me speechless. The 2-13 Raiders play the Jets this week while the 2-13 Lions take on the Cowboys. The outcome of those two games will determine which one of those teams gets the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

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