You can find more from Michael Salfino at SNY.tv
Note: Scott Pianowski is pinch-hitting for Michael Salfino this week. Michael will return in Week 16.
When you're a controversial coach on the hot seat like Cleveland's Eric Mangini, sometimes you lose even when you win.
Browns tailback Jerome Harrison(notes) was the easily the star of Week 15, exploding for 286 yards rushing and three touchdowns as the Browns outlasted the Chiefs in a barnburner at Arrowhead Stadium. You might not know much about Harrison and with good reason – Mangini's staff has been trying to hide him all year. Jamal Lewis(notes) started for two months and went nowhere (3.5 YPC, zero touchdowns), and since Lewis's season-ending injury Harrison has been forced to share the workload with undrafted runner and CFL refugee Chris Jennings(notes).
Harrison doesn't have the ideal build for an NFL running back – he's a little undersized at 205 pounds – but let's not dismiss him out of hand just yet. He won a Pac-10 rushing title while at Washington State (beating out Reggie Bush(notes) among others). For his pro career he's averaging 5.2 yards a pop and he's a decent pass catcher. He took a whopping 34 carries in the victory at Kansas City without breaking. In theory, you'd like to think Harrison would be an excellent fantasy play next week against Oakland's spotty rushing defense.
Ah, but that's where Mangini comes in. Remember Harrison flashed this ability earlier in the year – 152 yards against the Bengals in Week 4 – but the Browns brass wasn't so impressed; Harrison got just eight touches the following week. Do the right thing, Mangenius. It's time to evaluate what you have here, even if you're doing it for the Cleveland coach that takes your job a month from now.
The Bengals secondary has been outstanding most of the year – Leon Hall(notes) and Jonathan Joseph might be the best cornerback duo in the league – but this unit lost its head during the final scrimmage play at San Diego. The Chargers needed a chunk of yards to get into field-goal range and didn't have any timeouts remaining; in that instance, you need to funnel all patterns to the middle of the field and defend against a sideline pass. The pitch-and-catch from Philip Rivers(notes) to Malcom Floyd(notes) was far too easy.
The Cincinnati offense deserved a better result. Carson Palmer(notes) showed improved accuracy and admirable guts – witness his quarterback draw on a 2-point conversion and his heads-up recovery after Andre Caldwell's(notes) fumble (I can't recall a quarterback ever bailing out a receiver like that). And the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson was outstanding from the opening snap.
Charlie Frye(notes), JaMarcus Russell(notes) and J.P. Losman(notes) all took snaps for the Raiders and yet somehow they pulled the monster upset at Denver. I guess this makes Oakland the island of Misfit Quarterbacks. The thin air seemed to get to announcer Gus Johnson by the end of the day; he briefly compared Russell to Johnny Unitas (that's the first and last time that comparison will be made).
The Dolphins once again wasted some red-zone snaps on Pat White(notes), a silly move given that they're also in the process of developing a young quarterback (and potential star) in Chad Henne(notes). Gimmicks are nice when they work; a stalwart at quarterback sets you up for 6-8 years. See the big picture, Tony Sparano.
The Browns have just 172 passing yards in their three wins. Yes, you can occasionally win in this league while you hide your quarterback, but it doesn't mean you want to play that way for an extensive period of time. Brady Quinn's(notes) job security isn't really any better than Eric Mangini's.
The Patriots did all they could to hug Randy Moss(notes) back into submission; the enigmatic receiver had his best game in a month (five catches, 70 yards, TD). Moss also drew a lengthy pass-interference flag right before his gorgeous fingertip grab in the end zone.
Michael Turner's(notes) hello-and-goodbye (he left after just one carry) underscores the danger of trusting any running back off a significant injury, especially a high-ankle sprain. Even if Turner were healthy Sunday, there's no guarantee he would have done much against a Jets front seven that played extremely well.
Jay Cutler's(notes) had apologists for most of the season but after three more soul crushing picks at Baltimore, I don't see any defense remaining. Yes, Chicago's offensive line is a terrible unit. Yes, the receivers here are average at best. Yes, it's far too early to give up on Cutler, who's got the pedigree of a potential star. But he deserves most of the blame for his horrendous season.
While you and I are sipping egg nog, Mike Shanahan is probably deciding which eccentric NFC East owner he'd prefer to work with. The Redskins probably have a major package ready to go, but if I were Shanahan I'd wait on the Dallas job, which figures to be open sooner or later. When you examine the two offenses side-by-side, it's not even close – the Cowboys have weapons, the Redskins have slingshots.
Matt Schaub(notes) delivered just one touchdown in St. Louis but it wasn't entirely his fault – Joel Dreessen(notes) dropped a perfectly-thrown ball in the end zone. Schaub is a lethal pocket passer if you can't get bodies around him in the pocket, and given how the Rams pass rush failed Sunday, I doubt the Texans even bothered to launder Schaub's game jersey.
If the Steelers can sneak into the playoffs with a healthy Troy Polamalu(notes), I can assure you they're a team no one wants to play (they might be the second-hardest matchup for the Colts, after San Diego). If Polamalu isn't a factor, then this team won't be either.
Matt Hasselbeck(notes) sent 10 passes in the direction of Deion Branch(notes) Sunday; four were completed (for a whopping 28 yards), three were intercepted, and three hit the turf. You can still find some misguided New England fans who pine for the days of Branch, but the receiver has been a monstrous bust in the Pacific Northwest.
It's been a sad endgame for Dick Stockton, one of the voices of my youth. He lost track of the score in the Jets-Falcons game and he's got a knack for mispronouncing names that no one else struggles with (Sunday's example was Mark Sanchez(notes); earlier in the year it was Olindo Mare(notes)).
The Cowboys are looming as very dangerous sleeper in the NFC – given the demands of playing in Dallas, this team might actually be better off on the road – but it's time to cut Nick Folk(notes) before it's too late. Heck, he shouldn't have been on the team plane after his chip-shot choke job in New Orleans,.
Jermichael Finley(notes) drove the Steelers nuts for 60 minutes and if anyone is going to have a Vernon Davis(notes) type of breakout next year, this is the guy. Being tied to Aaron Rodgers(notes) and a scheme that values the tight end doesn't hurt, either.