Before improving to 4-2, the Oakland Raiders lit an eternal flame to honor the late Al Davis. After Sunday's 24-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns, the team is apparently still channeling Davis' aggressive spirit. As the NFL trading deadline looms Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, the Raiders are attempting to fill a black hole at the NFL's most critical position by approaching Cincinnati about quarterback Carson Palmer(notes).
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According to a source familiar with the team's thinking, the Raiders were "trying hard" to make a deal for Palmer, although the source highly doubted that Cincinnati owner Mike Brown would deal Palmer. Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell(notes) left the game with a broken collarbone and could miss the remainder of the season. That leaves the Raiders as a playoff competitor with a shaky quarterback situation. Kyle Boller(notes) is the starter and Terrelle Pryor(notes), who just became eligible last week after a five-game suspension, is the backup.
That caused the Raiders to hit the phones quickly after the game Sunday, hoping to get the "retired" Palmer, who has been pushing for a deal since early in the offseason. In fact, Palmer politely asked Brown again this week for a trade, according to a source close to the situation. So far, no go. In all likelihood, Brown will continue to stonewall. Brown has never been a guy to give in to demands, even when they are logical. Bengals fans probably remember the package of draft picks, including at least one first-rounder and another pick that likely would have become a No. 1, Brown once turned down for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco(notes).
Beyond that, Brown might not be willing to trade Palmer to a team that he perceives as a potential playoff competitor. As the first source alluded to Sunday night after Campbell got hurt, you can point a gun at Brown's head and he won't flinch.
In this situation, Davis likely would pull out some serious stops. But the Raiders are in a bit of a quandary right now because they don't have second-, third- or fourth-round picks in 2012 because of a series of moves (they used the third-rounder for Pryor in the supplemental draft, for instance).
In this situation, the Raiders would do well to offer Cincinnati a third-round pick in 2013 that could increase in value to a second- or even first-round pick if Palmer performed well either this year or in 2012.
Palmer hasn't played very well since the 2007 season and there are lingering questions about his right elbow. Still, with Palmer there is a chance for something good and it's clear he's better than Campbell, even without much time to prepare.
Oakland coach Hue Jackson knows Palmer from their days together in Cincinnati. Jackson was the wide receivers coach for the Bengals from 2004-06, when Palmer was just getting started as a player. Jackson privately told people close to him that he would be interested in Palmer once Brown was willing to deal.
Well, the Raiders need to find out now and they need to find out in a hurry.
• Staying in Oakland for a moment, Raiders special teams coach John Fassel – the son of former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel – has had an impressive early career, but he may never have come up with better back-to-back games for his units. Last Sunday at Houston, Fassel's punt team ran a great fake for a 35-yard gain early in the fourth quarter. That helped set up a field goal that gave the Raiders a 25-17 lead, which factored heavily into the end game strategy for Houston. This Sunday against Cleveland, the Raiders not only had a 101-yard touchdown kickoff return by Jacoby Ford(notes), but the Raiders came up with another big play off a fake field goal when punter/holder Shane Lechler(notes) hit tight end Kevin Boss(notes) for a 35-yard touchdown pass. Those three plays proved to be crucial considering Oakland has won by a combined 12 points in the past two weeks.
• Back to Cincinnati for a second: Big props to coach Marvin Lewis and the gang. Lewis promised that the Bengals would have a better team this season and so far he has delivered. However, please note that the combined record of the four teams Cincinnati has beaten is 7-16. While the Bengals get the benefit of playing the NFC West and the AFC South this season, they still have yet to play either Pittsburgh or Baltimore. There's a long way to go.
• One final thought on the Bengals: Nice to see defensive end Carlos Dunlap(notes), a second-round pick in 2010, contributed with a TD return. Dunlap was highly criticized by Florida coaches to NFL personnel people when he came out after his junior year, according to sources. He dropped from a possible top 10 pick to the second round because of perceived lack of effort. He has great talent if he can put it together.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham(notes) is one guy any fan would love. He's tough, fearless and, most important, selfless. Whenever he has been asked to switch position to fullback or play special teams, he has done it. That's how he has carved out an eight-year career after going undrafted. On Sunday, playing in place of LeGarrette Blount(notes), Graham topped the 100-yard mark in a win over the New Orleans Saints for the first time since Sept. 28, 2008.
• By the way, big props to Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris, whose team bounced back after getting thumped last week in San Francisco. The Bucs now have wins against New Orleans and Atlanta, two teams they finished behind last season. Morris made a point to bypass going over a film review of the 49ers loss with the players and simply move on to the Saints.
• I've talked about the Saints' Jimmy Graham(notes) plenty of times already this season. But when any tight end has four consecutive 100-yard receiving games, he deserves a mention. Graham, only in his third season of organized football (he didn't play in high school or at the University of Miami until his final year after playing basketball), tied Tony Gonzalez(notes) for the most consecutive 100-yard games for a tight end. Graham is a natural at tight end and simply a phenomenal overall athlete.
• Nice work by Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans(notes), who moved from left guard to left tackle with Jason Peters(notes) and King Dunlap(notes) out in the victory over the Washington Redskins. Herremans was very good for a guy who doesn't usually play outside and the Eagles did a nice job of executing plays to the left side in the first half.
• Even though the San Francisco 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh have been big winners all season on the way to a 5-1 record and an impressive win Sunday at Detroit, Harbaugh's rookie behavior was just silly. Harbaugh should have issued a public apology and moved on. Everyone would have understood, even Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, who has had more than a few of his own moments where he has been an excitable boy.
[ Related: Jim Harbaugh unapologetic after 'handshake' incident ]
• New Orleans coach Sean Payton was on the bad end of a collision after the Saints' Graham was tackled. Payton suffered a torn medial collateral ligament and a broken leg, but coached the rest of the first half from the sideline and then moved upstairs for the second half. There's a question of whether calling the game from the coaches' box will be the same for Payton, who likes to be able to communicate directly with quarterback Drew Brees(notes). If Payton has to stay upstairs for an extended time, it will be interesting to see how he compensates.
• Any Philadelphia player who complains about the coaching techniques of offensive line coach Howard Mudd needs to get a clue. Mudd is one of the smartest coaches in the history of the game and has developed one great line after another out of mediocre talent. The rumor this week is that some Eagles players were grousing about Mudd. Yes, Mudd is arrogant, but he has the résumé to back it up. The sad part is that the Eagles didn't get a full offseason to work with Mudd because of the lockout.
• The Seattle Seahawks' decision to trade linebacker Aaron Curry(notes) speaks of a systemic problem that makes you wonder about coach Pete Carroll, who once again spent more energy on useless tweets this week when he offered LeBron James a job. Since taking over as Seattle coach in 2010, Carroll has led the NFL in transactions. One big reason is that he has no patience to actually coach a player. Curry hasn't met expectations after he was the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2009. But he wasn't an all-out disaster like Aaron Maybin(notes) in Buffalo. As Curry showed in playing decently for Oakland on Sunday, he has the tools to be an effective player and the Seahawks certainly could use a few more of those, even if they're overpaid.
• Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis(notes) continues to take all sorts of criticism for sitting out a game with strep throat. On Sunday at Oakland, he got pulled after tweaking a hamstring. Hillis isn't living up to the second coming of Larry Csonka reputation he built up for himself. It doesn't help that he called agent Kennard McGuire before sitting out with the strep throat. Toss in the struggles of the Browns' offense and he's not going to get much support among the Cleveland faithful for a new contract.
• Recently reinstated Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson(notes) looked gassed in the early part of the fourth quarter against New Orleans. Jackson couldn't run to get in position to stop a 40-yard reception to wide receiver Lance Moore(notes). He completely missed New Orleans running back Mark Ingram(notes) on a touchdown run on the next play. It's understandable since Jackson had been away from the Bucs for the previous 56 weeks because of a drug suspension. Then again, it's completely annoying because Jackson missed the previous 56 weeks because of a drug suspension. Jackson had the ability to be special before he got suspended. Hopefully, he'll get back to where he was. If not, he has only himself to blame.
(FIVE THINGS I LOVED AND FIVE THINGS I LOATHED)
Loved: The redemption both Giants cornerback Corey Webster(notes) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul(notes) got in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Buffalo's Stevie Johnson(notes) burned Webster for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, a play that tied the game. With 4:02 remaining in regulation, Webster came up with an interception on essentially the same pass pattern to stop a potential game-winning drive and set up the Giants for their go-ahead score. Pierre-Paul later ended the game by batting down Buffalo's final pass on fourth down. Earlier in the game, Pierre-Paul, who also had a sack, was called for roughing the passer, a penalty that helped extend a Buffalo drive that led to a first-half field goal.
Loathed: The listless effort from the St. Louis Rams' defensive line against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers(notes) is great, perhaps the best quarterback in the game right now. However, there were times when the Rams' line played with no effort, a slap in the face to head coach Steve Spagnuolo. On one play, Rodgers scrambled for nearly seven seconds before having to run. On the next play, Rodgers broke away from two tackles for a completion. That's ridiculous.
Loved: The explosive play of Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing(notes) – for the second straight week. Cushing had a great stop at the goal line against Baltimore running back Ray Rice(notes), closing an apparent hole nearly as soon as it opened. Too bad, I …
Loathed: The second personal foul Houston defensive tackle Antonio Smith got on the very play that Cushing shut down. That negated Cushing's great play, gave Baltimore a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line and opened the door for the Ravens to score first.
Loved: Watching the way Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey was teaching his players all the time, even in tense situations. Down 24-17 early in the fourth quarter, Gailey was even instructing one of his players after an injury to stay down longer so that the backup could get ready. Gailey is a guy who is always thinking and instructing.
Loathed: For the second straight week, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White(notes) had a 15-yard penalty that appeared to be the result of frustration. White was called for unnecessary roughness in the first half. While it didn't cost the Falcons, it's symptomatic of a bigger problem for Atlanta, which last season had a league-low 58 penalties. This year, the Falcons have 36 penalties in six games, putting them on pace for 96.
Loved: The Acme Packing Company jersey that the Packers broke out again on Sunday. They're not the prettiest things, but if you've ever been to Lambeau Field and seen pictures of the old team with those jerseys on, it's a cool touch; a real piece of NFL history that isn't a lame attempt to sell a product.
Loathed: How "cute" the Eagles still play at critical moments. The constant criticism of Philadelphia coach Andy Reid is that his offense is awful at running the ball straight ahead when the Eagles need to grind out games. That was evident again as the Eagles built a 20-0 lead and barely got out of Washington with a victory.
Loved: Cam Newton's(notes) salute to Deion Sanders' old touchdown dance was pretty darn cool. Even better was the patience Newton exhibited throughout much of the game. Yeah, Newton had three interceptions (more on that in a second), but Atlanta tested his patience and he did a nice job of playing within the game plan.
[ Related: Cam Newton honors Prime Time with dance ]
Loathed:: As much as Newton is the real deal, he still has some moments that scream rookie. Two of his three interceptions against Atlanta were prime examples. On both of them, Newton locked in on his receiver and gave the Falcons a chance to either deflect one (in the first half) or allow defensive tackle Corey Peters(notes) to get his first career interception. Newton telegraphed the throw that Peters nabbed with one hand.
- Earnest Graham