Commentary

Let's make some unreal deals

With the trading deadline near, here are five wise moves that probably won't be made

Originally Published: October 15, 2010
By Adam Schefter | ESPN.com

It might sound like fantasy football. But it would be nice if, in this case, fantasy could become reality.

From now through the NFL trade deadline Tuesday, there will be more telephone calls than actual proposals. But it doesn't change that there are trades to be made.

Here are five trades that should be -- but won't be -- made.

• Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber to the Green Bay Packers for a fourth-round pick: Green Bay balked at parting with a fourth-round pick for Marshawn Lynch, but it needs a running back to help carry the offense through the season. The most attractive part of the deal for the Cowboys is not the pick, it's unloading Barber's seven-year, $45 million contract.

• New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins to the Chicago Bears for defensive tackle Tommie Harris and a fourth-round pick: Chicago gets the help on the offensive line it needs, and New England gets help on the defensive line it needs along with the fourth-round pick it gave up for wide receiver Deion Branch.

• Baltimore Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger to the Arizona Cardinals for a third-round pick and Derek Anderson: Arizona made the mistake of not signing Bulger during the offseason. Now it can correct its error for a third-round pick, a move that might be the key to Arizona winning its division. Anderson would be a throw-in Baltimore knows well; the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round in 2005.

• San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson to the Seattle Seahawks for second- and fifth-round picks: The Chargers have been adamant that they want second- and third-round picks for Jackson. No one has offered it. San Diego has shown it doesn't need Jackson to move the ball, so why not get second- and fifth-round picks for him?

• Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith to the St. Louis Rams for a second-round pick: The Rams already have lost their top two wide receivers, Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery, to season-ending injuries. Smith would be more than a replacement -- if Carolina were willing to trade him.

Now, on to this week's 10 Spot:

Some statistics can be staggering, such as this: Since 2002, the Indianapolis Colts' road record -- 49-18 (.731 winning percentage) -- is better than the home record of every team in the NFL except New England. Pittsburgh is tough at home, and its record during that time is 47-18-1. Baltimore is tough at home, and its record during that time is 48-18. Neither is as good as Indianapolis on the road. Now the Colts are back on the road, where, amazingly enough, they have gone only 1-2 this season. They're in Washington to play the Redskins on Sunday night. Maybe Washington would be better playing at a neutral site, such as London.

[+] EnlargeMike Shanahan and Bruce Allen
Win McNamee/Getty ImagesThe first five games have been a wild ride for new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen.

Right about now, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen must realize how peaceful their season off was last year. Four of Washington's five games have been decided on the last play. Washington beat Dallas in Week 1 when a holding penalty on Alex Barron negated Tony Romo's 13-yard touchdown pass to Roy Williams on the game's final play. Washington lost to Houston in Week 2 when Texans kicker Neil Rackers nailed a 35-yard field goal with 3:24 left in overtime. Washington won at Philadelphia in Week 4 when a Hail Mary on the final play of the game bounced out of wide receiver Jason Avant's hands and into the hands of Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall. And in Week 5 against Green Bay, Redskins kicker Graham Gano booted a 33-yard, game-winning field goal 6:54 into overtime. To be able to take Sunday's opponent, the Colts, to the last play, would have to be considered another victory.

During the 1972-73 season, the Philadelphia 76ers set the record for the worst season in NBA history, finishing 9-73. The Detroit Lions have become an NFL road version of those 76ers. The Lions will be trying to avoid their NFL record-tying 24th straight road loss Sunday when they play the New York Giants. And if the Lions lose, they will match the record they set from 2001 to 2003 with 24 straight road losses. In fact, since the start of the 2001 season, the Lions have a combined 8-67 road record -- not far from the 76ers' 9-73 record season. The Lions are the anti-Colts.

There already have been a handful of notable NFL trades. Now teams are about to take their new toys for test drives Sunday. New England's newly acquired wide receiver, Deion Branch, plays against the Ravens; Seattle's newly acquired running back, Marshawn Lynch, plays at Chicago; and Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss returns home to Minnesota for a game against the Cowboys, his second game after being traded from the Patriots to the Vikings. Of the new acquisitions, Moss might be in the best position to succeed Sunday. No player has lit up the Cowboys quite like Moss, who never has forgotten that Dallas bypassed him with the eighth overall pick in the 1998 draft for Greg Ellis while Moss slipped to Minnesota at No. 21. Since then, Moss has played seven games against Dallas and gone 7-0. In those seven games, Moss has scored 11 touchdowns, including three on Thanksgiving Day in 1998 in the first game he played against the Cowboys. If Moss does it again Sunday, the pressure on Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is going to be dialed up to even more uncomfortable levels. And even at 1-3, there might not be a more dangerous team in the wide-open NFC than the Vikings.

Football's parity never has been more evident than in the AFC South, in which Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee and Indianapolis all have 3-2 records. Since realignment in 2002 to create eight divisions, all four teams in one division never have had the same record in the same week after at least five games had been played. After this week's games, the AFC South is assured of some type of shakeout because Tennessee plays at Jacksonville on Monday night. Based on the Titans' schedule, it will be a challenge for them to keep pace in the division. In their final 11 games, the Titans play only one team with a sub-.500 record -- the 2-3 Chargers. Currently, the Chargers own the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense and No. 2-ranked defense.

Something is not right in New Orleans. Maybe it's running back injuries, with Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas both sidelined, but the Saints have entered the red zone 19 times and come away with only seven touchdowns. It's a major reason why, one season after averaging 31.8 points per game, the Saints are averaging only 19.8 this season. If the offense seems unrecognizable, consider this: This season the Saints have scored 99 points; the Jaguars have scored 107 and the Raiders have scored 111.

When the Giants won Super Bowl XXI in 1986, Super Bowl XXV in 1990 and Super Bowl XLII in 2007, they did it largely on the strength of their defense. Now the Giants' defense is back to playing at a high level. Two weeks ago, the D racked up nine sacks in one half against Chicago. Last week, it shut down one of the league's best ground games in Houston. Even though Pittsburgh's defense has been dominant, even though Baltimore's defense has been a force, no defense in the league has been any better than the Giants' D. Through five weeks, the Giants are ranked first in the league in total defense and first in the league in pass defense. Much of the credit belongs to former Bills interim head coach Perry Fewell, the Giants' new defensive coordinator. And for all the attention the Jets' defense has generated, the best defense in the area might belong to the Giants.

For all the discussion about Eagles quarterbacks Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb, one of the more intriguing subplots surrounding Sunday's game involves the homecoming of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. He grew up in nearby Exton, Pa., and attended William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. Ryan succeeded Vick as the face of the Falcons' franchise. He stabilized the Falcons and has led them to a tie with Chicago for the best record in the NFC (4-1). Now Ryan will attempt to defeat Vick's team.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Lloyd
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireBrandon Lloyd, whose previous best is 48 receptions, has 30 catches in five games this season.

Denver's Kyle Orton has outperformed most NFL quarterbacks. But some accolades also belong to his wide receivers, each of whom is on pace for his best season. Breakout wideout Brandon Lloyd had his best season in 2005, when he caught 48 passes for 733 yards; this season, Lloyd is on pace to catch 96 passes for 1,885 yards and 10 touchdowns. Eddie Royal's best season came as a rookie in 2008, when he caught 91 passes for 980 yards and five touchdowns; this season, Royal is on pace for 93 receptions for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. And Jabar Gaffney had one of his best seasons in 2005, when he caught 55 passes; this season, he is on pace to catch 99 passes for what would be a career-high 1,046 yards and three touchdowns. Orton has been the orchestra's conductor. But the symphony is shining, as well.

Football is filled with superb tight ends, from veterans such Indianapolis' Dallas Clark and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez to young studs such as San Francisco's Vernon Davis and the New York Jets' Dustin Keller. But nobody is better than San Diego's Antonio Gates, who has caught a touchdown pass in nine straight games. It is the longest streak in NFL history for a tight end and is tied with Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the longest touchdown streak in Chargers history. If Gates can catch a touchdown pass in San Diego's next four games, he will tie the record that Hall of Famer Jerry Rice set. In an era when tight ends have produced more than ever before, Gates is producing like no other.

The Schef's Specialties

Game of the Week: Baltimore at New England. The Patriots have been waiting for this rematch since the Ravens beat them in the playoffs last season.

Player of the Week: Broncos QB Kyle Orton. Against the Jets' 23rd-ranked pass defense, Orton can take one more step into the national spotlight.

Upset of the Week: Broncos over Jets. New York is one of the league's toughest teams, but Denver is one of the league's toughest places to play.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

MORE NFL HEADLINES

MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM