Austin Collie Emerging as New Peyton Manning Favorite Target

It’s been two years since Marvin Harrison was released and it looks like the Colts have found his replacement. Second year wide receiver Austin Collie has stepped up and become one of Peyton Manning’s go-to targets.

Collie was drafted by the Colts in the 4th round of the 2009 draft out of BYU. The second-year wideout emerged as a rookie last year, catching 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. This year, he’s posted two impressive statistical games in three contests.

In a season-opening loss to the Texans, Collie had 11 catches for 163 yards including a 73-yard touchdown in the final two minutes of the game. Collie had four catches for 25 yards in a week two win over the Giants. In week three, Collie hauled in 12 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

Through three games, it’s Collie, not Dallas Clark or Reggie Wayne, who leads the team in targets. Collie has been targeted 32 times by Peyton Manning while Clark has 27 and Wayne has 26. Sunday’s game against the Broncos does come with a caveat — Wayne was covered by Champ Bailey so Manning chose to look Collie’s way more often to avoid the shutdown cornerback.

Don’t get me wrong — Reggie Wayne is still Indianapolis’ top receiver and Dallas Clark is still a fantastic receiving tight end. But because he’s only the third priority for opposing defenses when it comes to stopping the passing game, Collie gets lots of single coverage looks and he’s beating them. With Pierre Garcon bothered by a hamstring injury, expect Austin Collie to continue dominating throughout the season.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Jack Dempsey

Futbol Americano Theme for Jets, Dolphins Highlights Hispanic Heritage Month

Unenlightened viewers were caught off guard on Sunday night when they tuned in for the Jets and Dolphins game on NBC. Many of the graphics and logos on the field were suited to fit the “Futbol Americano” theme. When NBC flashed its graphics, they called the teams “Jets de Nueva York” and “Dolphins de Miami.” The reason for all the Spanish promotion is this game is the marquee event for Hispanic Heritage Month in the NFL.

The same thing was done last year when the teams met on Monday Night Football. The reason these teams form the marquee Hispanic Heritage Month game is because of their Hispanic backgrounds. The Jets have Mark Sanchez, who is the only Hispanic starting quarterback in the NFL, and wears the pride of Mexico in his mouth. The Dolphins are co-owned by minority owners Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez, both Hispanic entertainers. In addition to each team’s Hispanic ties, both organizations represent cities that have dense Latin populations.

Tony Dungy: I Would Have Deactivated Braylon Edwards After DUI

Wide receiver Braylon Edwards became the headline story for the Jets this week when he got popped for a DUI with his car full of teammates. Media members and the front office debated how the team should handle the situation, and we said the Jets should have shown him a lesson by benching him for the big Sunday night game against the Dolphins. They ultimately decided to bench Braylon for the first quarter of the game, with coach Rex Ryan explaining that Edwards had already been embarrassed enough by his teammates and media so there was no need to pile on. Fair enough.

NBC analyst and former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who met with Ryan to settle their cussing differences, says he would have acted differently. During Football Night in America on NBC, Dungy said “I think you have to discipline players. You have to let them you know what you expect. When I coached, I wasn’t worried about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I told our guys I’ve got two rules: if you’re out after 1am, if there’s drugs or alcohol involved, if you’ve got a gun, you’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt. I don’t care about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I would have [deactivated Braylon Edwards] and the players would have known about it.”

I’m glad that Dungy stands for discipline and doesn’t tolerate drugs, alcohol, or guns, but I wonder if he would have done what he said had he been in Rex Ryan’s shoes. I’m sure Ryan wants to discipline Edwards, but it’s hard to make that move when you’re 1-1 and facing a divisional opponent who’s 2-0. Moreover, it’s a lot easier to say that when Peyton Manning is your quarterback. Dungy is saying the right thing, but I honestly wonder if he would have carried out his words had he been in Rex’s situation.

Leon Washington Returns Two Kickoffs For Touchdowns

The Seattle Seahawks won a 27-20 thriller over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday thanks in large part to the special teams play of Leon Washington.  Washington returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and single-handedly killed any hope the Chargers had of mounting a second-half comeback.

Leon’s first TD return came on the opening kickoff of the second half and put the Seahawks up 17-0.  The second return may have been even more crucial.  San Diego managed to battle all the way back and tie the score at 20-20 with only 6:39 remaining in the game.  Just when it looked as though the game may be shifting in the Chargers’ favor, Washington took another kick to the house that put Seattle on top 27-20.  They remained there the rest of the way.

Before a broken leg cut Washington’s season short with the Jets last year, he was an important piece of their offense.  Most of Washington’s contributions come via special teams and on third downs, so he’s one of those Kevin Faulk-type players who rarely gets the credit he deserves.  It’s nice to see him blowing up the highlight reel again and helping a team win some games after battling back from a serious injury.

Photo: Getty Images

Sam Bradford Gives Rams Reason for Hope

The St. Louis Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003. They went a pathetic 6-42 the past three years and had the League’s second worst defense each season. As a result of their poor play, they picked in the top two of the draft each year. After selecting defensive lineman Chris Long in 2008 and offensive lineman Jason Brown in 2009, it looks like they struck gold with quarterback Sam Bradford in 2010.

Despite being a rookie quarterback playing on a bad team, Bradford is making plays and keeping the Rams competitive. He got his first career win as the Rams surprised the Redskins 30-16 on Sunday in week three.

I had the Rams and the points in this one figuring the game would be low-scoring and close the entire way. I had an inkling they would win, mainly because I figured the Redskins would still be bummed out over their last-second loss to Houston — but felt it was too risky to select them. With a reliable quarterback handling the offense, it’s time to express more confidence in the Rams.

Watching Bradford work does not feel like watching a rookie making his first career starts. He stands in the pocket without panic, doesn’t have happy feat, and he acts like he’s in command. Even though Sam doesn’t have any strong receiving options, he frequently finds the open man and puts the ball in catchable spots. His stats won’t blow you away — four touchdowns and five picks with 655 passing yards — but for a rookie that’s pretty darn good.

St. Louis is no longer the pathetic squad we saw the past three years. They’re no longer a doormat in the NFL and NFC West. Yes they lost to two poor teams to begin the season and yes they have a pretty easy schedule, but this team looks ready to compete, and most of it is because of their new quarterback, Sam Bradford.

Michael Vick is Absolutely Tearing it Up

It wasn’t long ago that we found ourselves wondering if Michael Vick would be able to resurrect his career after filling in for the injured Kevin Kolb.  Andy Reid went and answered that question for us when he named Vick the starter even after Kolb had been cleared to play.  Unless you’re one of the people who is strongly opposed to seeing Vick succeed because of his dog fighting days, he’s done nothing to disappoint.

Not only is Vick playing well enough to deserve a permanent starting job, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the moment.  Through less than three games, he’s thrown for 750 yards and 6 touchdowns.  He has yet to throw an interception and has had a passer rating of above 100.0 in each game.  Not bad for a guy who is better known for his legs.

That doesn’t mean Vick has lost his play-making ability on the ground, either.  He’s rushed for 170 yards in 2+ games and has one rushing touchdown on the year.  Like him, love him, or hate him, No. 7 is playing out of his mind.  The stats he’s compiled make him look more like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees than some sophomore’s backup.  Oh yeah, and Philadelphia rolled on the Jags today, 28-3.

The Eagles are sitting at 2-1 while their NFC East counterparts have all struggled to get to 1-2.  With Michael Vick looking like he’s never left the league, Andy Reid and the Eagles must be feeling pretty good about their chances to win the division.

Chiefs Rout the 49ers, Show They’re Not Pretenders

Anyone not buying what the Kansas City Chiefs are selling yet?  With a convincing win over the 49ers to run their record to 3-0, we certainly are.  On Sunday, the Chiefs dominated a Niners team that nearly defeated the defending Super Bowl champions last week.

After Kansas City beat the Chargers Week 1, they got little to no credit.  What most saw when they watched the game was a Chargers team that made too many mistakes and a Chiefs team that “got lucky” with defense and special teams.  When Kansas City beat the Browns last week, no one cared because it was the Browns.  The Niners may be 0-3 but they aren’t as bad as their record indicates.  The Chiefs put together a complete game against a good team on Sunday and they should be grabbing the attention of the rest of the AFC as a result.

What does a team need to do to be successful in the NFL?  Run the ball?  Check.  At the moment it looks like the Chiefs are going to benefit from having a two-headed monster in the backfield.  Thomas Jones had 95 rushing yards and a score against San Francisco and Jamaal Charles added 97 yards of his own on the ground.

Pass efficiently? Check.  Matt Cassel finally put together a game that’s worthy of his paycheck.  He completed 16-of-27 passes for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns.  More importantly, he limited himself to just one turnover.  Despite throwing an interception, Cassel finished the game with a whopping 127.1 passer rating.

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