Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Less than a year after closing his
rookie season by winning seven consecutive regular-season games and willing
the Washington Redskins to the NFC East title, more than a few in the Beltway
are calling for Robert Griffin III's head in the form of a benching.
Talk about a short-attention-span culture.
You would think the division crown, the rookie of the year honors and the fact
that Griffin left FedEx Field on his shield after tearing his ACL and LCL
against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs would have bought him enough
capital in D.C. to last through 2013.
For some, though, RG3's debt-ceiling ended up lasting only 10 games and
last Sunday's ugly 24-16 loss in Philadelphia, one in which Griffin had four
net passing yards in the opening half, only elevated the criticism engulfing
the struggling second-year signal caller.
Some teammates and legendary former Redskins have even turned on the former
Heisman Trophy winner, an almost laughable position when examined by those
with no skin in this game.
And that's said by someone who fully understands just how poorly RG3 performed
against the Eagles. A seat in the press box at Lincoln Financial Field
revealed how laughable Griffin's downfield accuracy was, and it was quite
evident the Baylor product still hasn't regained his pre-injury explosion as a
That said, to assume there would be no hiccups -- especially after the serious
injury -- in Griffin's ascension to superstardom was always pie-in-the-sky
thinking, and a 3-7 record while RG3 continues to work out any kinks may be
painful but it's just part of the process, one guaranteed to move forward no
matter the speed bumps along the way.
Remember the Redskins sent four significant draft picks over three years (the
No. 6 overall pick in 2012, their second-round pick in 2012, and their first-
round picks in 2013 and 2014) to St. Louis for the right to select Griffin at
No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft.
So, do you really think benching him after 27 career NFL games is a tenable
position worth arguing?
"There is going to be some growing pains," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said
earlier this week when discussing Griffin. "It's not going to be automatic. We
didn't expect it to be automatic."
Former four-time All-Pro cornerback Darrell Green expected it to be automatic,
though, and was the first to take aim at Griffin on SHOWTIME's "Inside the
NFL" before the debacle in Philadelphia, saying he wasn't sure he was seeing
the leadership necessary from Griffin.
"I think that's the problem," the former Redskins star said. "I think it's
super important to have leadership, and I don't think he really is the leader.
I don't know if they have a leader."
After the setback, receiver Santana Moss seemed to agree with Green, taking
issue with RG3's reluctance to take the blame for a woeful game-ending
interception in the end zone.
"If we're going to win games, we need to win games with our guy (Griffin)
saying, 'At the end of the day, I didn't make a play,' regardless of if it
wasn't him," Moss told WJFK Radio. "As a leader, you understand that if you're
involved in the situation, whether you're the receiver, the quarterback, the
guys making the tackle, whoever -- regardless of the outcome, good or bad, you
have to at some point, stand up and say me or I."
Stop the presses -- a 23-year-old doesn't have the cachet or maturity of
Peyton Manning or Tom Brady just yet?
Again, part of the process. Leadership in any aspect of life isn't given to
you by virtue of a title -- in this case quarterback -- it's something which
must be earned and generally evolves with experience.
Decision making is also a legitimate concern with Griffin. He was able to
convert a 3rd-and-25 on Washington's potential game-tying drive against the
Eagles, along with two other third downs and had advanced the Redskins all the
way to Philadelphia's 18-yard line. He still wasn't sharp, though, and when
defensive end Fletcher Cox put on a strong rush as the seconds waned, instead
of putting the football in his pocket for a potential fourth down or throwing
it away, RG3 lofted an ill-conceived pass down the seam which Brandon Boykin
"Well you always have another choice," Shanahan said of the tainted toss. "Any
time it ends in an interception, you always have another choice. It was 3rd-
and-1, the quarterback's always trying to make a play at one of the hardest
positions in sports to play. And there's going to be many decisions like that
through the years and you grow with them. You'd always rather have it 4th-
and-1 than an interception, we all know that, so you've got to be able to
throw the ball away at the right time.
"But he's trying to make a play."
Former Washington quarterback and current Redskins Radio Network analyst Sonny
Jurgensen was far more blunt in his assessment of Griffin. saying he should
have been benched in favor of fellow second-year man Kirk Cousins on at least
two different occasions during the broadcast.
"Why not play Cousins?" Jurgensen said during the third quarter, before
clarifying: "It's not pulling the plug, it's getting a change. Make a change.
Can it be any worse? You get four yards passing in a half? I would look at the
other quarterback, see if he can make something happen. It's not the end of
the world. They take out pitchers, don't they?"
They do but point me to one Andy Petitte-Mariano Rivera-like combination which
has ever succeeded in the NFL. Relief pitchers aren't an option in this game
and Jurgensen, who was both a starter and backup during his superlative 18-
year career, knows that better than most.
For what it's worth Shanahan believes Griffin's lack of an offseason due to
the ACL injury stunted his growth as a player.
"You need reps. You need repetition." the veteran mentor said. "I think the
biggest growth from the first year to the second year is those 10 weeks of
just going back and doing things that you haven't done before. That's what
you miss besides training camp.
"So when you take the first nine, 10 weeks of the season and you take maybe
the first three weeks before we start our first game, he's getting all those
reps right now. The more reps he gets, the more comfortable he's going to be,
especially in game-type situations."
And for Shanahan stunted doesn't mean stopped.
Griffin remains the franchise QB in D.C. and just like "the guy" in any other
city, he deserves every opportunity to fight through any struggles.
"I think he feels very natural with the zone-read and some of the play-actions
off of it," Shanahan stated. "Some of the drop back passing attack will take a
little time. But he's so sharp at picking things up. He can make any throw.
Not many people have that ability to do that. The great part about it is the
sky's the limit for him in the future."
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THE GAMES (All Times Eastern) - WEEK 12
New Orleans (8-2) at Atlanta (2-8), Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
LINE: Saints by 8
THE SKINNY: What many figured would be the key game in the NFC South this
season has morphed into a potential mismatch. The New Orleans Saints have
found their way again with Sean Payton back on the sidelines after a one-year
suspension, while the Atlanta Falcons, who finished 13-3 in 2012 and perhaps
one play away from a Super Bowl berth, have endured a miserable season thanks
in large part to injuries.
Payton has pushed all the right buttons after spending a year away from the
game as punishment for the bounty scandal in New Orleans, most notably hiring
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who has turned around the historically awful
group from the Saints' 7-9 2012 campaign.
The Falcons, meanwhile, may have hit a new low last Sunday in Tampa, getting
trounced by the lowly Buccaneers, 41-28 for their fourth straight loss, the
team's longest slide since a six-game hiccup in 2007 - the season before head
coach Mike Smith arrived in Dixie.
PREDICTION: Saints 31, Falcons 18
NY Jets (5-5) at Baltimore (4-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Ravens by 4
THE SKINNY: History says it's the Jeckyll and Hyde Jets' turn to win this
week. New York is the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses
through 10 games and if the pattern holds up again this week that means a
victory against the reigning Super Bowl champions, who are currently
underwater and trying to stay in the AFC wild card hunt.
The Ravens lost to the Jets in the first ever meeting between the two clubs
and haven't lost since, winning seven straight in the series. Baltimore has
also won 17 of its past 20 in the Charm City.
PREDICTION: Ravens 21, Jets 17
Pittsburgh (4-6) at Cleveland (4-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Browns by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Steelers are 4-2 since starting the season 0-4 and another win
in Cleveland would really put Pittsburgh in the conversation for the final
playoff spot in the AFC. Pittsburgh has won 17 of its last 19 against the
Browns and the club seems to be getting healthy at the right time.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that defensive end Brett Keisel (foot),
outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) and guard Ramon Foster (ankle), who
all missed the team's win last week against Detroit, "have a legitimate
opportunity to play" in Cleveland.
The Browns have won three of their past four at home and have an opportunity
to match their 2012 win total. Cleveland, however, is just 1-15 all-time when
facing Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, the resigning AFC Offensive Player of
the Week for his performance against the Lions.
PREDICTION: Steelers 17, Browns 14
Tampa Bay (2-8) at Detroit (6-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 9
THE SKINNY: The Lions return to Ford Field coming off a disappointing 37-27
road loss at Pittsburgh, a city in which they haven't won since 1955. The
Buccaneers, on the other hand, aim to win their third-straight game after
starting the season 0-8.
Despite the loss Detroit QB Matthew Stafford threw for 362 yards and set the
franchise record for most career passing yards (16,005) previously owned by
Hall of Famer Bobby Layne (15,710).
For the Bucs rookie QB Mike Glennon is coming off a 20-for-23 performance with
a career-high 137.5 passer rating, while running back Bobby Rainey, playing
because Doug Martin and Mike James are both out with season-ending injuries,
rushed for 163 yards with two TDs and added another score through the air.
PREDICTION: Lions 28, Buccaneers 20
Minnesota (2-8) at Green Bay (5-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 5
THE SKINNY: With Scott Tolzien expected to start again this week for Green Bay
in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers, this will be the first time in over two
decades that Minnesota sees the Green and Gold without either Brett Favre or
Rodgers behind center.
The Vikings haven't been quite as consistent, starting 13 different signal
callers over that same time frame and they could make 14 this time around if
Leslie Frazier finally pulls the plug on Christian Ponder, who is coming off
one of his worst performances yet in a loss at Seattle.
Although the Packers have lost two straight without Rodgers, the team should
be fine this week against a Vikings defense that is among the worst in the
PREDICTION: Packers 31, Vikings 20
Jacksonville (1-9) at Houston (2-8), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Texans by 10
THE SKINNY: A dismal 2-8 Houston team hosts the even worse Jacksonville
Jaguars (1-9) in the first of two meetings over an 11-day span between the
The Texans have won the last five matchups in the series and six of their last
seven games against Jacksonville at Reliant Stadium but are currently in the
midst of a franchise-worst eight-game skid. In his last game in South Texas
Jags QB Chad Henne passed for 354 yards with four TDs and a 126.8 passer
PREDICTION: Texans 17, Jaguars 14
San Diego (4-6) at Kansas City (9-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Chiefs by 5
THE SKINNY: AFC West rivals meet in Arrowhead as the Chiefs try to bounce back
from their first defeat of the season, a 27-17, setback in Denver last week.
Despite Kansas City's defense holding the Broncos offense to a season-low 27
points, the Chiefs were unable to overcome a 17-point deficit late in the
The Chargers, who suffered a significant blow to their playoff hopes in Miami
last week, have lost three straight overall but have won 10 of their past 13
against the Chiefs. Kansas City is 5-0 at home this season, however, and with
his next win Chiefs mentor Andy Reid will become just the 21st coach in NFL
history with 150 wins (including postseason).
PREDICTION: Chiefs 27, Chargers 21
Carolina (7-3) at Miami (5-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Panthers by 4
THE SKINNY: The Panthers have won six in a row -- matching Seattle for the
NFL's longest active winning streak -- and enter the week just one game behind
New Orleans for the top spot in the NFC South.
Carolina "held" on to defeat New England 24-20 on Monday night behind Cam
Newton's three touchdown passes and a questionable no-call on what looked like
a Luke Kuechly pass interference penalty in the end zone of the game's final
"I'm excited for our players," said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. "They won
the kind of game that a lot of people don't think we can win. I think we
proved a lot."
Whether it was helped or not one thing is certain, the Carolina defense is
among the game's best and has allowed a league-low 135 points (13.5 per game).
The Panthers also have the only defensive unit to rank in the top five in
total defense (third), run defense (third) and pass defense (fifth).
Miami remains in the thick of the AFC playoff race at 5-5 despite the growing
distraction of the Richie Ingognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal. Last
week the Dolphins knocked off San Diego 20-16 behind quarterback Ryan
Tannehill, who passed for 268 yards and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to
Charles Clay which put Miami up for good.
"Someone's got to get that last wild card spot," says Dolphins tackle Tyson
Clabo said. "Why not us?"
PREDICTION: Panthers 20, Dolphins 16
Chicago (6-4) at St. Louis (4-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Rams by 1
THE SKINNY: Backup Josh McCown will get the ball again for the Bears, who
moved back into a tie for first place in the NFC North after a 23-20 overtime
win over Baltimore which featured a substantial delay due to inclement
"It's an awesome win," said Bears kicker Robbie Gould, who converted the game-
winning 38-yard field goal in overtime. "To get to 6-4 and be at the top of
our division is pretty big at this point. You spend the first couple months
trying to get in the race and now you're trying to finish the race."
St. Louis is coming off its bye week and will be looking to build off Tavon
Austin's coming out party in a 38-8 win at Indianapolis in Week 10. The
dynamic rookie returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown and had receiving
touchdowns of 81 and 57 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history with a
95-plus yard punt-return touchdown and two 55-plus yard receiving touchdowns
in a single game.
The game will also feature a pair of brothers on opposite sides of the ball as
Bears rookie guard Kyle Long faces his big brother Chris, a Rams defensive
end. Chris Long has 6 1/2 sacks this season and scored on a 45-yard fumble-
return touchdown in Week 10. Both are also the sons of Pro Football Hall of
Famer and current FOX television analyst Howie Long.
"It's a dream come true for me to be able to look across the line of scrimmage
and think my older brother and I are two of the few people on this earth to
play in the NFL," said Kyle Long. "We're privileged and blessed."
PREDICTION: Rams 24, Bears 17
Indianapolis (7-3) at Arizona (6-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Cardinals by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: Last season, Bruce Arians guided the Colts to a playoff berth and
was named the 2012 NFL Coach of the Year after taking over for the
convalescing Chuck Pagano. This year Arians is with Arizona and trying to lead
the 6-4 Cardinals to the postseason. Arians is doing a solid job so far,
amassing the most wins by a head coach in his first 10 games with the Cards
since Charley Winner in 1966.
When Arians faces off with his old club this Sunday he will become the
first person to be named NFL Coach of the Year and then face that team the
following season as the head coach of a different team.
Both the Cardinals and Colts are coming off significant wins in Week 11 and
find themselves right in the mix for the playoffs. The Colts, who lead the AFC
South, erased a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to defeat Tennessee 30-27.
"At the end of the day, winning is what matters," said Indianapolis
quarterback Andrew Luck. "We were fortunate to be in this game to survive our
mistakes and have a chance to win. We know that's got to be fixed."
The Cardinals have won three in a row, including last week's 27-14 win at
Jacksonville. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer passed for 419 yards in that
one, including a 91-yard touchdown to wide receiver Michael Floyd.
PREDICTION: Cardinals 26, Colts 23
Tennessee (4-6) at Oakland (4-6), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Raiders by 1
THE SKINNY: Oakland rookie quarterback Matt McGloin will try to build on his
historic NFL debut in a 28-23 win at Houston last week. The former walk-on at
Penn State threw three touchdown passes and was not intercepted, becoming the
first undrafted rookie quarterback to throw at least three touchdown passes
without an interception in a single game in the common draft era (since 1967).
Tennessee, which is coming off a second-half implosion against Indianapolis
which really hurt its postseason chances, will be aiming for a third straight
win over the Raiders. Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has played well in place of
the injured Jake Locker, completing 44-of-61 passes for 486 yards with three
TDs and a 111.4 passer rating in his past two games.
PREDICTION: Titans 21, Raiders 14
Dallas (5-5) at NY Giants (4-6), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: The jumbled NFC East figures to gain some clarity after this one.
Entering Week 12, the Philadelphia Eagles (6-5), Cowboys (5-5) and Giants
(4-6) are separated by just one-and-a-half games for the top spot in the
Dallas, which is coming off a bye, already defeated New York 36-31 on Kickoff
Weekend. In his past four starts against the Giants, Cowboys quarterback Tony
Romo has 12 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 117.7 passer rating while
his favorite target, tight end Jason Witten, has 26 catches (13 per game) for
237 yards (118.5 per game) and two touchdowns in the past two meetings between
the two rivals.
After an 0-6 start, the Giants have won four in a row, though. Last week, New
York defeated Green Bay 27-13 when wide receiver Rueben Randle had a touchdown
catch -- his sixth in the past six games -- and defensive end Jason Pierre-
Paul earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording a 24-yard
interception-return touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"We knew we were going to have a tough challenge getting back into the mix,
but the only thing we could do is to start getting one win at a time," said
Giants quarterback Eli Manning. "We've done that these last four weeks.
Obviously we've still got some room to go. We've got four in a row and that's
a good feeling. We're going to keep fighting, keep getting better and see if
we can keep winning."
PREDICTION: Giants 34, Cowboys 30
Denver (9-1) at New England (7-3), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: For the 14th time in their storied careers, quarterbacks Tom Brady
and Peyton Manning will face off against each other. Brady has generally had
the edge, going 9-5 against Manning's Colts and now Broncos.
This contest will be the first in NFL history in which both quarterbacks are
at least 90 games over .500 as starters. In their careers, Brady is plus-101
(143-42) and Manning is plus-92 (163-71).
The Broncos defeated Kansas City last week, handing the Chiefs their first
loss of the season. With the win, Denver is now deadlocked with Kansas City
for the best record in the AFC at 9-1. The Broncos lead the NFL with 398
points scored -- the third-most ever by a team through the first 10 games of a
season -- and Manning has passed for a league-best 3,572 yards and 34
New England leads the AFC East by two games despite a controversial 24-20 loss
at Carolina on Monday night. The Patriots are a perfect 5-0 at home, however.
PREDICTION: Broncos 35, Patriots 28
San Francisco (6-4) at Washington (3-7), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 5
THE SKINNY: A couple of young, struggling signal callers will meet inside the
Beltway when the embattled Robert Griffin III and the Redskins host San
Francisco and Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers will be trying to get Kaepernick,
who has passed for a total of 218 yards over his past two contests -- losses
to NFC South heavyweights Carolina and New Orleans -- moving in the right
Griffin's numbers aren't nearly as bad as Kaepernick's but he's facing
criticism from all directions as the architect of Washington's dismal 3-7
PREDICTION: 49ers 27, Redskins 21
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