Arian Foster Has Another Monster Half, Chargers the Latest Victims

Is it safe to put Arian Foster in the discussion with Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, and Maurice Jones-Drew yet?  He may not have proven as much as the aforementioned studs just yet in terms of consistency, but he’s certainly getting there.  In fact, you could argue that there’s no running back who can do more damage in a brief stretch of time during a game.

Earlier in the year, Foster was benched for an entire half against Oakland and somehow managed to rack up 187 total yards and a score.  At halftime of the Texans game against the Chargers, Arian is already over 100 total yards (99 of them on the ground) and has two touchdowns.  He would have scored a third if not for a receiving touchdown being taken away in a ruling similar to the Calvin Johnson play earlier in the year.  He’s pretty much been the entire Houston offense and is the main reason they’re currently leading 20-14.

In other words, Foster could park it on the bench for the remainder of the game and still end up with an enormously productive fantasy day.  I think it’s safe to say he’s secured a spot in the top-5 of all fantasy drafts next year

Redskins Have Apparently Scaled Back Playbook for Donovan McNabb

The relationship between Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins has taken another bad turn. The veteran quarterback was pulled prior to the team’s final drive against the Lions last weekend and the reason for the move has changed several times. At first it was because Rex Grossman supposedly gave the team a better chance to win, then it was because of McNabb’s injured hamstring, then it was a conditioning thing, and then it was a tempo thing. If coaches Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan are trying to motivate McNabb by beating him up in the media, it’s a strategy that could pay off, but they’re really hammering him hard.

The latest issue raised is that the playbook had to be scaled back for Donovan McNabb. Chris Mortensen said on Sunday NFL Countdown that not only has the playbook been cut in half for Donovan, but that sometimes he doesn’t even call the right play in the huddle. Per Pro Football Talk, analyst Tom Jackson described the situation as irreconcilable.

What doesn’t make sense is the bashing of McNabb through the media engineered by the Shanahans. If they don’t want McNabb as their quarterback, reports like this hurt his potential trade value because it makes him appear unfit to quarterback a team and learn a new offense. I’m guessing they’re trying to stick a poke in his butt knowing how well he generally responds to criticism. It just doesn’t make sense that they continue to rip him this way unless they’re playing a psychological game. And by the way, a lot of new quarterbacks struggle with learning a new offense, and I don’t think McNabb had a difficult time mastering Philly’s offense his 11 seasons there.

Antonio Gates Doubtful but Still Likely to Play Against Texans

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been having a special season for San Diego. Despite getting hurt against the Rams and having just two catches, he managed to play against the Patriots the following week and posted 50 yards plus a touchdown. Last weekend, despite being extremely questionable, he caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Titans. In addition to all the problems on his left foot, Gates also tore the plantar fascia in his right foot making him “doubtful” for Sunday’s game in Houston.

No Chargers player listed as doubtful has played a game this season for obvious reasons; being doubtful means you only have a 25% chance of playing. If you go back to the playoffs in 2008, Antonio Gates was listed as doubtful twice and still played despite a toe injury. Between Norv Turner’s manipulation of the injury report and Gates’ resilience, I fully expect the All-Pro tight end to play against the Texans.

Gates made the trip with the team to Houston and reportedly looked pretty good walking on his way to the team’s walk-through practice. With his history of fighting through ailments, it’s a darn good bet that Antonio Gates will play in the game. You know what? The man is leading the NFL with nine touchdown catches on the season. It’s probably a good bet he’ll get a score in the game as well.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Bill Belichick Playing Head Games with Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll?

Because of Randy Moss’ release in Minnesota and Mike Shanahan’s treatment of Donovan McNabb in DC, many other side stories in the NFL have been overlooked this week. One such story that would normally be of more interest is Bill Belichick going up against Eric Mangini when the Patriots visit the Browns Sunday.

The history between Belichick and Mangini is well documented. Mangini was a ballboy with New England and rose through the ranks thanks to Belichick’s recognition of his work ethic. Mangini ultimately became defensive coordinator of the Patriots and was one of several Belichick assistants to get jobs elsewhere. A year after becoming head coach of the Jets in 2006, Mangini notified the league of Belichick’s practice of filming defensive assistants for playcall signals and the scandal became known as spygate. To say the two became mortal enemies after the incident would be an understatement.

Mangini’s Jets teams went 2-4 against Belichick’s Patriots from 2006-2008, but this will be the first meeting between the two with Mangini as head coach of the Browns. I mentioned this factor when I predicted the Patriots would cover the spread, figuring Belichick will want to stick it to Eric if he has the chance. It also appears as if Belichick has already gotten started with his games.

In a news conference Wednesday, Belichick said several times that the Browns run a West Coast offense. Asked about Belichick’s assertion, Mangini laughed off the comment while offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, another former Belichick assistant, did not describe Cleveland’s offense as a West Coast one. So if Cleveland does not run a West Coast offense, why would Belichick describe it as such? Likely because he’s trying to mess with the coaches.

Maybe Belichick knows Cleveland plays it conservatively with many quick, short passes like a West Coast offense and he’s trying to dare them into taking some chances figuring it will lead to turnovers. Whatever it is, you know Bill is getting the game started before kickoff looking for any advantage he can get. I’m already looking forward to it!

Thomas Jones Continues to Defy the Odds

A running back’s career ends at 30. Just ask Eddie George, or better yet, find out from Eric Dickerson. But don’t bother telling Thomas Jones that, for his career followed the highly improbable path of flourishing the later he got in his career. In many respects, Thomas Jones’ career path has been the inverse of the typical running back’s development. Somehow at 32-years-old, TJ is still getting it done in the NFL.

It’s hard to believe it, but Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones actually started off his career as a bust with the Arizona Cardinals. Selected 7th overall in the 2000 draft, Jones had three lackluster seasons in Arizona before heading to Tampa Bay for a season. He didn’t do much in his second stop, and it wasn’t until Jones was picked up by the Bears that he flashed the talent and ability which originally made him a first-round pick.

Though TJ was blowing up with the Bears, it was likely his poor showing in Phoenix that had me doubting Jones’ skill. Finally, in 2005, I became a believer after watching Jones tough it out week after week. Thomas would be listed as questionable on the injury report almost every single week, often with foot or ankle injuries, and he’d be listed as a game-time decision. No matter how hobbled he was or how little he practiced, the guy always suited up! And he didn’t just suit up; he would rack up 120 yards and score a touchdown or two.

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TGI Friday’s NFL Weekend Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs Philadelphia Eagles

This series is brought to you by TGI Friday’s, where every Sunday means Food, Fun, & Football! Hut, hut, hut!

Why Should I Watch?

There aren’t many quarterbacks in the NFL who are more exciting to watch than Peyton Manning.  Michael Vick is one of the few.  Vick electrified the Eagles when he started filling in for the injured Kevin Kolb.  He was then forced to miss time with his own injuries, but he returns to action on Sunday to face the Colts.  We’re now right around the halfway point of the 2010 season, when we can really start to get a feel for who the real contenders are.  Philadelphia and Indianapolis are two of them.

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Jake Plummer: Mike Shanahan is Still Searching for John Elway

It appears there’s at least one guy out there who feels Donovan McNabb’s pain.  Much has been made over Mike Shanahan’s decision to bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman with the game on the line last weekend.  While Shanahan has denied it, several reports indicate the Redskins coach is unhappy with McNabb’s conditioning and his lack of effort during practice.

According to former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, that’s just Mike being Mike.  Plummer said he thinks Shanahan’s expectations tend to be too high, especially for his quarterbacks.  Out of Bounds passed along Plummer’s thoughts on the McNabb situation:

It just seemed like every game I could have completed these four more passes or these five more shots here and it would have been perfect. And that just wasn’t my personality… But Shanahan wanted perfection and he wore a lot of us down there.”

“I think Shanahan is still searching for John Elway,” Plummer said. “Somehow, someway, he thinks there’s going to be another guy like John Elway.”

“He coached a team to almost perfection (with Elway) so he wanted that again, he wanted that every time we went out there. It’s just not realistic.”

Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like Shanahan’s mentality is consistent with that of all the great coaches in sports.  Does Bill Belichick ever truly seem satisfied?  How about Bill Parcells?  Mike Ditka doesn’t seem like the positive reinforcement type, does he?  You get the point.  Some guys need a pat on the back to keep them going and some coaches aren’t going to give it to them.  If that’s what McNabb is looking for, his stay in D.C. will likely be a short one.