Sundays are all about collecting stories and stats, angles and observations. Mondays are about clearing the notebook. Here are some themes and images that had my attention during Week 7 of the elegant violence.
• I vowed to not write another Clinton Portis love letter this week, but I can't help it; this week we'll lead with Portis, the early leader in the MVP race. If you want to skip down to the next bulleted item, you have my permission.
The numbers look great on Portis but he looks even better when you review every snap. Being a franchise running back isn't about one or two long runs, it's about a host of successful ones, and no one gives you that more than Portis; he's consistently gets what's there plus an extra yard or two on his own. He doesn't have the home-run gear that we saw in the Denver days, but he's a smarter runner now, decisive to the hole, an excellent reader of blocks, surprisingly powerful. An in pass protection from the backfield, there's no one better. (I'm organizing a midseason draft next week with
industry experts degenerate side-bettors, and Portis will be No. 1 on my board. Anyone know how to rig a draft lottery? Time to download that famous Patrick Ewing drawing, I suppose.)
• The Portis success should make things easy for Jason Campbell, but surprisingly the Redskins aren't taking a lot of deep shots even with No. 26 going bonkers (Campbell has just one 30-yard completion the last three games, and while he's been efficient in that span, he has just one touchdown pass). They've scored just 14 and 17 points at home the last two weeks against the Browns and Rams, and that's not gonna feed the cat when the big boys come out to play. One of the benefits of having a bell cow like Portis is the freedom it gives you to hit some home runs on deeper routes. Let's see it, Jim Zorn, especially with Detroit's messy secondary waiting in Week 8.
• Everyone seems to be mad at Marshawn Lynch these days, and everyone's crazy for Matt Forte. To my eye, they're the same guy - sustaining runners but not really explosive guys, reliable fantasy plays because of their set-up and volume, but not someone who can carry you to a title on their own. Forte hasn't passed 4.0 YPC since Week 2 against Carolina.
• The Saints passing game is going to miss Reggie Bush more than it did Marques Colston or Jeremy Shockey. Just having Bush on the field helps dictate coverage and shape what opponents can and can't do against you; with all due respect to Colston and Shockey, they don't quite the same effect.
• A lot of blame winds up on Mike Martz and the San Francisco line, but the main reason the Niners hand out sacks like Halloween candy is J.T. O'Sullivan. To borrow Andy Behrens's tremendous quote on Charlie Frye, O'Sullivan will kindly hold the ball until you arrive to sack him.
• You know my skeptical tack on LaDainian Tomlinson. Anyone want to stump for the pro side? I didn't catch as much of that game as I'd like to - those helium balloons pack a wallop.
• Drops aren't a new thing with Braylon Edwards - I saw just about every snap at Michigan, where he was noted for dropping the easiest of chances then making a highlight-film snag against double coverage. But I don't know how I can spin his nightmare at Washington, where he let 4-5 very catchable throws hit the turf. Derek Anderson has issues of his own, but you can't blame him if he stops skimming so many attempts to No. 17.
• I realize the Browns have covered the last two weeks, but I think we need to enjoy picking against Romeo Crennel while we can. Maybe Crennel is a master with player motivation or Xs and Os, we can't really judge that, but I know bad in-game decision making when I see it. Cleveland, hope you can find a way to win the Cowher Sweepstakes in a year or two. (If you want to substitute Brad Childress or Wade Philips in the Crennel space, be my guest.)
• I know Dallas can fix its offense. I have no idea how they're going to plug the defense. I'll be surprised if Tony Romo doesn't play next week.
• Get out the list of coaches who don't understand the 2-point conversion and add Rod Marinelli to the list. It's okay, skip - when the Lions eventually let you go, you won't have to worry about making those decisions any longer (Detroit is where head coaching careers go to die).
• It's a shame Josh Morgan got sick at the very end of training camp because Week 7's emergence could have come a lot earlier. He started against the Giants and should continue to do so; he's had good chemistry with O'Sullivan from Day 1.
• Who did Mewelde Moore tick off when he was in Minnesota? He's not a guy you can feature for a full season, probably, but that's a versatile, solid football player.
• Put Gus Frerotte on the "start, don't watch" list, like a sketchy baseball closer you're afraid to scout live. Frerotte does just enough every week to feed the fantasy bottom line, but don't press your luck by investing three hours of your day living and dying with him.
• I watched every snap of Oakland's defensive meltdown in New Orleans, and I watched every snap of Oakland's defensive domination against the Jets passing game. I can't make sense of it, but I watched it.
• Coaches don't seem to understand that if you want to ice a kicker, you do it before he gets a warm-up try. The timeout just before the first attempt doesn't make any sense. (There is also data that suggests icing the kicker in any manner doesn't work to begin with; all I know is this, I'm not handing out practice frames.)
• Vernon Davis will probably have 2-3 nice games every year, but I'm officially done trying to figure out when they're going to come. Being a marvel in the workout room does not make you a great football player. In Davis's case, it doesn't even make you an average football player.
• Give Kenny Watson a chance, Cincinnati. He's not a miracle worker, but he can't be worse than the other guys. I know this.
• A nifty afternoon for Willis McGahee (in front of his Miami peeps), though he once again absorbed a ridiculous amount of pounding. There's a knack to avoiding kill shots at the pro level, not exposing yourself continually through the run, and if McGahee ever picked up that skill, it would add years onto his shelf life. Instead, he's a week-to-week and year-to-year guy, and it's a shame - ability isn't the problem here.
• If you felt a little trampled waking up today, Week 7 did it to you - it was all about the running backs. I skimmed the leaders over brunch and didn't see any three-touchdown quarterbacks, and no multi-score receivers. Donnie Avery would have been on the second list (all hail The Noise), but the officials deleted a second score, and Marc Bulger misfired on another one.
• You watch Julius Peppers on the right week and he looks like the best defensive lineman in football. The wrong week, you're not sure he's even on the field. For whatever reason, he threw his A-Game to the Saints Sunday.
• Don't be sore about Ahman Green's usage, Steve Slaton owners. It's best for the long haul, and you'll need No. 20 fresh in the last two months. Don't forget the Texans had that weather-induced Week 2 bye.
• Baseball Stuff because there's nowhere else for me to put it: Watching Kevin Youkilis hit, I think, "that looks painful." Watching Jason Varitek hit, well, that just pains me. It's been a great ride, captain, but the lease is up, time for a different model . . . I could see either team winning the series, but give me the Phillies . . . Chip Caray drove me crazy for a week, and I know I'm not alone . . . The All-Star Game gimmick is a joke, but isn't it a cute coincidence that Scott Kazmir won the game in New York this year, and Brad Lidge lost it? It's the only red ink on Lidge's profile this year, in fact.