Commentary

Pregame Flyover champions mediocrity

Updated: November 6, 2010, 10:17 AM ET
By Cam Martin | Special to Page 2

Welcome back to the Pregame Flyover, where every week we scout all the games on the NFL schedule, including those played in Canada. Yes, one week after taking the NFL brand to London, where fans were treated to the 49ers-Broncos, the league is exporting its product north of the border to lovely Toronto, which is quite possibly the cleanest, most polite city in North America. In exchange for opening its beautiful metropolis to the NFL, the league is giving Toronto the Bears-Bills game. This is not a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but it certainly runs counter to its spirit.

Now before we get to this week's matchups -- and tell you which games are probably worth watching, which games are of questionable worth, which games are of doubtful worth and which game Randy Moss would have been playing in if he hadn't been drop-kicked to the curb by Brad Childress -- we need to hand out awards for the first half of the season.

2010 First Half Awards for Mediocrity

Week 9 is the midway point of the 17-week NFL season, and thus the perfect time to recognize the people who have flown under the radar so far this season. The excellence of Peyton Manning, Roddy White or the New England Patriots will not be recognized here, nor will the failings of Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb or the Dallas Cowboys because those who excel and who suck tend to dominate the headlines, eclipsing the vast sea of lukewarm performances that often go unwept, unhonored and unsung. Well, not on my watch. The mediocre deserve their due, and their due they shall receive.

Most mediocre hairstyle: The vine-like dreadlocks that Marion Barber helped popularize several years ago can now be seen hanging out the back of at least one helmet per team, yet not a single one of these players has dyed it red and gone for the Sideshow Bob look. Come on, fellas, give it some flavor.

Most mediocre division: The AFC South. Every team has either 4 or 5 wins, the Jaguars have beaten the Colts, the Colts have beaten the Texans, the Texans have beaten the Colts and the Titans have beaten the Jaguars. An over-the-hill Moss will fit in perfectly in this division.

Most mediocre team in the NFL: The Jaguars, who are 4-4 overall including 2-2 at home, 2-2 on the road, 1-1 in the division, 3-3 in the conference, 1-1 outside the conference and 4-4 in games of limited interest to people outside of Jacksonville.

Most mediocre surname: Smith. Smith is the most common surname in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, and the second most common surname in Canada. And once upon a time, the Smith family did the NFL proud, producing the likes of such stars as Emmitt, Bruce, Jackie, Bubba and Rod. But the Smiths have fallen on fallow times. Granted, there's Steve in Carolina and Steve in New York. There's also Will in New Orleans. But are these gentlemen headed to Canton when their careers are over? Sure. They'll be inducted the same year as the San Francisco Smiths, Alex and Troy. Come on, Smith family, get it together. The Johnsons (Chris, Calvin, Andre, et al) are putting you to shame.

Most mediocre team in the turnover battle: Cleveland Browns, the only team in the NFL whose +/- ratio is zero. The defense has had to work hard to overcome the donations of Jake Delhomme, who wishes he could raise his game to the mediocre level.

Most mediocre Ring of Honor ceremony: The Browns. By their nature, Ring of Honor ceremonies are typically awesome affairs, as the name of a beloved player or team official is permanently elevated over the home field as fans cheer rabidly. But Cleveland's inaugural ceremony -- honoring the likes of Jim Brown, Otto Graham and Ozzie Newsome -- came up short when Brown opted not to attend because he felt the team (specifically Mike Holmgren) had been disrespectful in asking him to take a reduced role with the organization. Brown may have been absent from the September ceremony, but that didn't stop some Cleveland fans from acknowledging him anyway -- by booing when his name was announced.

Most mediocre Notre Dame rookie: Golden Tate. Tate looked strong early on, particularly in June when he was warned for trespassing in a closed donut shop. But since then the rookie wideout has been a nonfactor among Notre Dame haters looking to bask in the failures of former Fighting Irish stars. Unlike Jimmy Clausen, who's started three games in Carolina and compiled a hater-loving 52.2 passer rating, Tate has caught an unremarkable 10 balls for the first-place Seahawks. That's some lukewarm sauce, Golden.

Most mediocre NFL column: By definition, it's gotta be this one.

Most mediocre starting running back: Detroit's Jahvid Best. Best leads NFL rookies in yards from scrimmage with 613, but his 3.3 yards per carry average is a tick higher than the league average (3.2), and that's why we can call him mediocre. If his average falls down to the neighborhood of 2.5 ypc (where Carnell Williams resides), we can call him Cadillac.

Most mediocre quarterback controversy: Should the Cardinals start Max Hall or Derek Anderson? This week coach Ken Whisenhunt has decided to use Anderson to rip the hearts out of Arizona fans. Next week, he'll probably use Hall. It's suffice to say he won't be using Kurt Warner.

Most mediocre passing team: Jacksonville, the only team in the NFL averaging the league average 7.0 yards per attempt. For this they can thank Todd Bouman, who started one game for David Garrard and almost got his first victory as a starting quarterback since 2001. Actually, that's not true because Jacksonville lost 42-20.

Randy Moss finally gets his bye week

When Moss orchestrated his trade from New England to Minnesota, we wondered if the self-professed lover of loafing realized he had set himself up to be the only NFL star who would not get a bye this season. The Patriots, at that point, had not yet had their siesta, while the Vikings had just completed their off week. Well, Moss must have realized his mistake because the selectively-assiduous wide receiver orchestrated his release from the Vikings this week and has since landed with Tennessee, a team that's currently on bye. Well played, sir. You might be interested to know that next week is the last week for byes. So if you want to receive more than your equal share -- and really, who deserves a second bye more than you? -- you'll need to orchestrate a move to either the Packers, Saints, Raiders or Chargers before the weekend of Nov. 14.

According to Deion Sanders, Nate Newton will someday be the oldest man on Earth

Former Cowboys All-Pro Newton, who ballooned to more than 400 pounds once his career ended, has lost nearly 175 pounds in the last six months, thanks to a procedure called "gastric sleeve" surgery, an operation that removes nearly 75 percent of your stomach. When Sanders ran into his former teammate, who now weighs 220 pounds, Sanders marveled at Newton's weight loss.

"I'm happy for him because I know I'm going to have him for another 70, 80 years," Sanders said.

In other words, Sanders, 43, looks forward to hanging out with Newton, 48, when they're in their 120s.

Mike Shanahan nearly pulls a Dean Wormer on Donovan McNabb

Which of the following quotes was not uttered by Redskins coach Shanahan in regard to McNabb, whom Shanahan benched in favor of Rex Grossman towards the end of Washington's loss to Detroit?

  1. 1. "The cardiovascular endurance that it takes to run a two-minute, going all the way down with no timeouts, calling plays, it's just not easy. If I thought it was the best situation to do, then Donovan would have run the two-minute offense."

  2. 2. "What you have to do sometimes is you understand everything is sped up. When you don't have timeouts, it's got to come automatic. You've got to call a couple of plays at the line, a few plays at the line. When you go through this during the week [in practice], and you take a look at this type of atmosphere [in a game], I thought it was the best scenario to put [Rex] in there in that situation."

  3. 3. "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

  4. 4. All of the above.

Answer: 3. While Shanahan seemed to be calling McNabb fat and stupid, he stopped short of calling him drunk. Wormer did not extend the same courtesy to Kent Dorfman in "Animal House."

Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out

Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we put out a viewing report on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.

"Probable" Games of the Week(75 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Miami at Baltimore; Indianapolis at Philadelphia; Tampa Bay at Atlanta; New York Giants at Seattle; Kansas City at Oakland.

SPOTLIGHT PROBABLE: Kansas City at Oakland.

For a change, this game isn't for: Last place in the AFC West.

With consecutive blowouts of the Broncos and Seahawks, Oakland has proven: Those two teams are not good.

With victories over San Diego, Cleveland, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Buffalo, Kansas City has proven: It can defeat teams who won't be in the playoffs.

This game features: The two best running teams in the NFL.

This game also features: The worst passing team in the NFL (Kansas City) .

The Chiefs have won: Seven consecutive games in Oakland.

The Raiders have won: Two consecutive games in Oakland.

Oakland has seen its last 11 home games: Blacked out.

Rookie linebacker Rolando McClain says he won't: Give another interview until the Raiders sell out a home game.

We're all waiting with bated breath: To hear what McClain will eventually say.


"Questionable" Games of the Week (50 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Pittsburgh at Cincinnati; New England at Cleveland; San Diego at Houston; New York Jets at Detroit.

SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONABLE: New York Jets at Detroit.

This season Rex Ryan has claimed the Jets have the league's best: Defense and offensive line.

He has never claimed: They have the best quarterback.

Last week the Lions forced: The Redskins to tab Grossman to run their two-minute offense.

This week the Jets will lose if: Mark Brunell is tabbed to run their two-minute offense.

A matchup to watch: Calvin Johnson versus Darrelle Revis.

Another matchup to watch: Ndamukong Suh versus the Jets' offensive line.

Another matchup to watch: Lions fans versus appropriate displays of pride.


"Doubtful" Games of the Week (25 percent chance these games will be worth watching): Chicago at Buffalo in Toronto; New Orleans at Carolina.

SPOTLIGHT DOUBTFUL: Chicago at Buffalo in Toronto.

C.J. Spiller is helping Bills fans to forget: That he was awesome at Clemson.

This game should be encouraging to Buffalo fans because: The Bills are undefeated in Canada this season.

With a victory, the Bills will be on course: To still get the No. 1 pick in the draft.

With three sacks, Bills nose tackle Kyle Williams has: One more than Julius Peppers.

With two sacks and 16 tackles this season, Peppers is: Totally earning that $91.5 million contract.


"Out" Games of the Week (100 percent chance these games will be watched by someone, but hopefully not by you): Dallas at Green Bay; Arizona at Minnesota.

SPOTLIGHT OUT: Arizona at Minnesota.

Both these teams have: Lost to Pittsburgh in a Super Bowl.

Neither of these teams has ever: Won a Super Bowl.

Minnesota's franchise winning percentage since 1961 is:.553.

Minnesota is probably the most: Mediocre franchise in NFL history.

Please remember: Mediocre means "of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad."

The Cardinals' franchise winning percentage since 1920 is: 416.

That's not mediocre: No, it's terrible.

That'd be the worst winning percentage in league history: If the Bucs (.396) and Texans (.393) hadn't come along.

You're not going to mention Brett Favre, Moss or Childress? We just did.

Cam Martin is a contributor to Page 2. He previously worked for the Greenwich (Conn.) Time and The (Stamford, Conn.) Advocate, and has written online for CBS Sports and Comcast SportsNet New England. You can contact him at cdavidmartin@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: @CameronDMartin.


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