The Tar Heel state has a beef, and most of it ended up in my mailbox.
Carolina Panthers fans took exception when I deemed the Seattle Seahawks to be the class of the NFC last week, and they turned out in waves to protest. Not surprisingly, they declared their boys to be the team to beat this season – pointing to the Panthers' 7-2 record and rapidly improving defensive chemistry. Meanwhile, Seahawks fans threw out some love in thanks for recognition they've been craving all season.
I also heard from readers who thought some rookies were left off the recent piece detailing young players who should get a shot in the second half of the season. Green Bay Packers fans beware: Aaron Rodgers' name does come up. Beyond the typical rankings complaints, we also heard from a fan who thinks half of the NFL's wideouts are better than Larry Fitzgerald, and an Aussie who appears to have a boomerang in his pocket for a college lineman named "D'Brickashaw."
As usual, keep the responses coming. And remember to include your first and last name and your city and state with submissions. My comments are in italics.
To the mail …
SEAHAWKS VS. PANTHERS ("The wait is over," Nov. 13, 2005)
Regarding Seattle being "the elite team in the NFC" – I beg to differ. Carolina is every bit as good, if not better (and they've played a tougher schedule).
Carolina is a good team, too. But they still have some things to prove. One sure thing – the Panthers definitely haven't played a tougher schedule than Seattle. Without getting into a mind-numbing number of comparisons, the winning percentage of the teams Seattle has played this season is .444. Meanwhile, Carolina has compiled its record against teams with a combined winning percentage of .370.
Before you anoint the Seahawks kings of the NFC, watch a couple of Panthers games. Our defense is much better and more physical than theirs. Steve Smith is probably the best wideout in the NFL right now. Look at Jake Delhomme's stats over the past 16 games and compare them to Matt Hasselbeck's. Plus, the Panthers have recent Super Bowl experience.
Granite Falls, N.C.
For the record, I picked Carolina to win the Super Bowl in the preseason. The Panthers certainly are capable of it, but at this point in the season, Seattle has proved more.
While I think Seattle has done well this year, the Seahawks still aren't the top team in the conference. They did well by adding the players they did and getting rid of a few headaches, but it still remains to be seen if they can hold it together through a playoff game. Certainly, they're better than the Seahawks of last year because their attitude has changed and Mike Holmgren finally has a bunch of players who play hard instead of relying on talent alone.
I don't think you can call Seattle an elite team in the NFC when four of their wins came against the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks have already lost to the Washington Redskins, who rightly didn't give them much respect.
This is obviously a Seahawks team with a different mindset. We know they will win their division, and make the playoffs. My question is: Can they go the rest of the season without losing? Mainly against the Philadelphia Eagles on the East Coast and the Indianapolis Colts at home?
No. Seattle will lose again.
I just wanted to thank you for being one of the few writers to actually realize how great the Seahawks are. I have been following your posts all year and know that you have been a believer all season. I don't know if it is because they are in the Northwest, but for some reason I never hear anything about their No. 1 offense and MVP candidate unless I am reading your write-ups.
Orange County, Calif.
Welcome aboard band wagoner. I have read your columns here and listened to how great the New York Giants were, and how the Seahawks weren't worthy of being in the top five.
I hear this about every single piece I do. I write about a team and suddenly I'm jumping on a bandwagon. Then fans complain about how all I did before the story was disrespect them. This is what an NFL writer does. We cover the league. That means that over the course of a year – in some way – we jump onto every bandwagon in the league. If you would rather read about the Edmonton Eskimos or Hamilton Tiger-Cats, let me know.
Just wanted to say thanks, Charles. All we ever wanted out here was a little respect. I believe the Seahawks have and will continue to show they deserve that.
Gig Harbor, Wash.
I was surprised to see no mention of the fact that the Seahawks have been playing and winning without their two starting receivers (Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram). Now that Engram is back and D.J. will be in a few weeks, the Seahawks are going to be scary in December.
I agree about the offense. But I tried to focus on the defense, since that is what really separates this team from its past failures.
I have been a Seahawks season ticket holder for the past 15 years (since age 21). My brother and I have driven the 334 miles roundtrip from our doorsteps to Seahawks Stadium (it's not Qwest Field to us) for every game – preseason and regular season – for those 15 years. For us, it has been an actual labor of love. We hesitate to even think Super Bowl, for fear we may jinx the team, but we couldn't have said it better ourselves. "Roll Seahawks roll, all the way to the Super Bowl. Fly high, proud and free to a SEAHAWKS VICTORY!" A little ditty for the rest of the NFL.
Nice email, Chuck. I like hearing fan stories. They are much more pleasant than the typical "ARE YOU SMOKING CRACK?" responses I get.
ROOKIES ("Rookie moves," Nov. 16, 2005)
I think you've made a serious oversight in listing Tennessee Titans receiver Courtney Roby as a player to watch without referencing Brandon Jones. Roby looks like a one-game wonder so far and that one game was in Week 8 when Jones was out with an injury. Jones has 21 catches for 274 yards and two touchdowns versus Roby's 11 catches, 169 yards and one touchdown. Jones should at least be given his due in the same article.
Jones was left off the list because the piece was about rookies who were going to get increased opportunities – and starting nods – in the second half of the season. Jones was a regular starter for the Titans during the first half of the season, so he didn't fit what I was writing about.
Walter didn't make it because Collins is still in Oakland's long-term plans. That might change if Norv Turner gets the axe, but for now, the plan is to bring Walter along slowly.
It's interesting that you didn't mention Aaron Rogers with Green Bay in your story about second-half rookies. With the Packers' record, Brett Favre's age and the talk of Favre's retirement every offseason, I would think he would be near the top of your list of rookies that should see some action. Is there any reason he didn't make your list?
It makes sense, but there doesn't seem to be any indication the Packers are willing to sit Favre down for any reason – short of his throwing arm falling off.
In your rookie report, you mentioned the play of Denver Broncos rookie cornerbacks Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth in the game against Oakland. It's even more interesting since Oakland drafted two rookie cornerbacks, Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt, before either Denver pick was made. Has Al Davis lost his draft touch?
Donald H. Hewitt
I wouldn't say Al has lost his draft touch, but his selections – particularly on defense – have been relatively average the last few years. But don't judge Washington or Routt just yet.
RANKINGS RANTS ("Seattle's best," Nov. 15, 2005)
How are you still ranking the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Broncos? They have the same record, sure, but Denver has many more quality wins over teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots – both of whom defeated the Steelers. They have a better running game, better passing game, better coach and above all, YOU YOURSELF gave them a better midterm grade. It's time to put the Broncos in the No. 2 slot.
I'm enjoying the embarrassment, for now. I watched you rank my Chicago Bears in the Bottom Five for several weeks, even exclaiming you would eat your laptop if they won their division. Yummy. After a month and a half, you put them in the Muddled Middle, but with the disclaimer that it didn't mean anything. Last week they were "rising." Now the best has happened: The Bears are in your Top 12!
Did you say the Bears are the 12th-best team in the league? WOW! Considering they have very little on offense, linemen punching each other and a defense and special teams that have carried them all year, that is a bold statement. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears lose out now that they have to face the tough part of their schedule.
Timothy A. Aceto
I was just curious why you didn't put San Francisco in the Bottom Five. The 49ers have the worst-ranked offense and defense in the NFL – 32nd in both categories. They can't move the ball and can't stop anybody else from moving the ball – that's not exactly a recipe for success. I like Cody Pickett, but give me a break.
San Francisco NOT in the Bottom Five? SWEET! That's just the type of positive attitude that Cody Pickett needs to go out and score his first TD.
Finally, someone recognizes Jacksonville in the rankings. The Jaguars have had one of the top-10 records for the past six weeks, and you are the first to place them at No. 11. Even though I think that ranking is a crock, I'd like to thank you for placing them there. They are so underrated. Greg Jones is an animal, Byron Leftwich has a heart of gold (and a cannon for an arm) and rookie Matt Jones is an icon in the making.
Green Bay, Wis.
I heard Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci might be fired and Butch Davis is the replacement.
Nice to hear from you, Butch. Now stop using fake names to start rumors.
If the Houston Texans were to get the first pick of the 2006 draft, they would be better served keeping David Carr at quarterback and actually investing in someone to actually protect him. I could see the Texans looking to move down in the draft and taking one of the two monster offensive tackles that are slotted as first-round picks. Either D'Brickashaw Ferguson or Marcus McNeill would provide Carr with a solid left tackle and allow him to show the form he had in 2004.
Reason No. 496 why I love the NFL: Because someone named Ben Brown in Melbourne, Australia is already contemplating whether an offensive lineman from the University of Virginia could help turn his team around. Awesome.
About your comment on the Buffalo Bills – yeah, the linebackers should be scary next year with Takeo Spikes, Angelo Crowell, and London Fletcher. But the gain there might be offset by the probable loss of cornerback Nate Clements.
West Seneca, N.Y.
Why is it the Atlanta Falcons have yet to get your respect? They win all year, and you kiss-up to the Giants. When the Giants lose, you kiss-up to the division leader of the worst division in football. Keep in mind that the Falcons lost to the Seahawks coming off a short week and had to travel to the west coast. If Michael Vick wouldn't have got hurt, they WOULD have made a comeback.
I'm guessing you have an excuse for the Green Bay loss, too.
Here is why Drew Bledsoe deserves the comeback player of the year award: He was basically written off as being a non-factor for the rest of his career. Now he is currently the top rated NFC quarterback.
Despite their record, the Indianapolis Colts deserve an F. The Stadium Authority is slashing the number of drinking fountains in the new stadium because "we have an economic interest in selling bottles of water." If team ownership is willing to keep their mouths shut when their fans are being gypped out of free water, even a perfect record won't make up for that lack of loyalty.
Agreed. That stinks.
I decided not to vote for the two choices as best back in the NFL. This is because he was not one of the options. Edgerrin James is the best all-purpose back in the NFL. He can carry the rushing load when needed. He is a great receiver and blocker from the backfield. He is not selfish, never complaining when he is not getting his rushing yards due to Indy's passing game. Let's face it: Over the past three years, Edge could have amassed many more rushing yards if the Colts didn't have such a dominating passing attack.
There you go again labeling young unproven players – "Larry Fitzgerald has developed into one of the top-five wide receivers in the NFL." You don't think it's a bit premature to be saying this? Allow me to list the receivers I would rather have on my team right now if I were Kurt Warner: Deion Branch, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, Drew Bennett, Derrick Mason, Hines Ward, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Eddie Kennison, Rod Smith, Plaxico Burress, Terry Glenn, Terrell Owens, Santana Moss, Javon Walker, Muhsin Muhammad, Roy Williams, Joey Galloway, Steve Smith, Joe Horn, Torry Holt, Darrell Jackson and Anquan Boldin. I'm not convinced that Eric Moulds, Laveranues Coles, Keenan McCardell and Brandon Lloyd are any worse. Use your head. Fitz isn't even the best receiver on his own team, let alone one of the top five in the league. Sometimes you are just dumb.
I could see making an argument with a handful of those guys, but come on. I've seen all or parts of six Arizona games this season (as sad as that may sound), and 75 percent of that list couldn't hold a candle to the way Fitzgerald is playing right now.
You are a terrible writer. You claim that the Jaguars hadn't scored 30 or more points since Abe Lincoln was in the White House. For your information, the Jags scored 33 points against Minnesota in 2001. Abe Lincoln died in 1865. Do your research, moron. Just kidding. But I wouldn't be surprised if someone actually sent an email like this. I always get a good laugh out of your column, keep it up.
Lake Forest, Ill.
I get a slew of emails like this. Except for the "just kidding" part.