The Dallas Cowboys are 1-7. They have not had a record this poor since 1989, the first season under Jerry Jones’ ownership, when the team started that season 0-8. This season’s team has been full of offensive ineptitude culminating with the loss of quarterback Tony Romo for a couple of months, as well as a defense that has just fallen apart lately. Following a 45-7 loss at Green Bay, Jerry Jones decided he had no choice but to make a move, and did so on Monday by firing head coach Wade Phillips. Jason Garrett, who was once a top head coaching prospect, will finally get his chance with a team that looks like its in full give up mode right now.
This was supposed to be a magical season for the Cowboys. The team had won its first playoff game in over a decade last postseason, and was essentially coming back with the same team with a few adjustments here and there. What’s more, this year’s Super Bowl will be played at the new Cowboys stadium, and the team was looking to be the first to play a Super Bowl in its home arena.
Then, the season happened.
The first game, at Washington, was marred with two major mistakes which had the Cowboys giving Washington seven points at the end of the 1st half, and then a holding call to end the game which took seven points away from Dallas. The Chicago game was the first sign of Dallas’ defense cracking, as Jay Cutler and the Bears offense had what is now considered a rare offensive showing. They somehow won at Houston before their bye week before losing five in a row which included giving up at least 24 points in each of those losses and the shoulder injury to Romo.
With a difficult second half schedule which includes two games against the Eagles, and games against the Saints, Colts and Giants, the Cowboys are more likely to end up with a high draft pick rather than finish the season with more than four or five wins. It’s a lost season alright, but from here on out I hope the media attention on this team lessens a whole lot.
A Thorny Suspension
San Jose’s Joe Thornton was suspended for two games following a shoulder-to-head hit on St. Louis forward David Perron. Perron, who suffered a concussion from the hit, has not played since and it is unknown when he will return. Thornton and the Sharks tried to reduce or even lift the suspension on grounds that the hit was actually legal; Thornton hit Perron from the front and he didn’t really deliver that hard of a hit. They tried to contend that the effect was much worse than the cause and Thornton shouldn’t be punished for what happened.
Unfortunately, and this is true for both the NHL and NFL, it is much more difficult to punish players for the cause rather than the effect. The effect is simple to gauge: is the guy that got hit hurt, and if so how badly is he hurt? To determine the cause, in other words, the intent behind the hit is more difficult. Did Thornton, just coming out of the penalty box, really intend to plow his shoulder into Perron, who just happened to be there, with the intent of knocking him out? It sure didn’t seem like it, but then again the suspension could’ve been worse than just two games.
There’ll likely be more incidents regarding head shots and similar hits in both the NHL and NFL (in fact there were two more big helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL on Sunday), so the story won’t be going away.
Eastern Conference Woes
The struggles of the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres continue into November. Martin Brodeur has been injured as well, and while the Devils did get a win this week (against a Blackhawks team who are also struggling), they are still essentially 4-12 nearly a fifth of the way through the season, their 9 points put them dead last in the league. The offense has been nonexistent, and Zach Parise won’t be able to help it out for months following a knee injury. Ilya Kovalchuk hasn’t scored a goal in six games, only getting two assists in that span. What’s more, their defense and special teams have bombed as well.
The Buffalo Sabres are pretty much in the same boat. With only 10 points this season, the Sabres too have had their troubles scoring goals, playing defense, and keeping their star goalie healthy (Ryan Miller has missed four games). Tyler Myers, the rookie of the year last season, has only 4 points and is a -12 so far, the worst +/- on the team. Derek Roy has tried his best to spark their offense but nothing has really worked thus far.
Now, these two teams play against one another on Wednesday. At least for one night, something will have to give, and the team that takes advantage and gets a rare win against their struggling opponent can maybe get back on track.
In a game against the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver’s Raffi Torres scored a hat trick against his former team.
No other former Oiler was able to score a hat trick against the Oilers after leaving that team. Not Gretzky, not Messier, not anyone. Only Torres. That’s a neat statistic if nothing else.
The Minnesota Chronicles, Continued
Brad Childress is still a head coach. This fact confuses some following a week of turmoil for Childress and the Vikings. Owner Zygi Wilf, according to some reports, considered firing Childress instead of waiving Randy Moss because Childress had wanted to waive Randy Moss. Ultimately Moss was waived, and Childress was able to stick around long enough to get into an altercation on Friday with receiver Percy Harvin. The report was that originally Childress was questioning Harvin’s work ethic even though Harvin has a sprained ankle. Harvin later said that the argument was about whether he should get an MRI, and tried to downplay the incident.
The Vikings, who staged a comeback on the currently hapless Cardinals at home on Sunday, are feeling alright for now as most teams do following a win. The Vikings go to division rival Chicago next, and depending on how that game turns out we might have to go through another week of Viking craziness.
But hey, at least these Vikings stories aren’t about Brett Favre, right?
The Waiver Wire
Speaking of Randy Moss, the Tennessee Titans claimed the Wide Receiver, the only team to actually put in a claim. The Titans made the move following a hamstring injury to Kenny Britt, who will likely be out for several weeks. The injury created a need for the Titans to grab Moss, and now Moss will be on his third team this season after several well behaved seasons in New England. A lot of Titans seemed happy to have Moss, though it’ll be interesting to see how long they keep their optimism.
Meanwhile, the Bills were able to put their winless record to use by have first dibs on Shawne Merriman. Merriman’s career has been in a downward spiral ever since being suspended for steroids back in 2006. Though he initially recovered and had strong 2006 and 2007 seasons, the following years were riddled with injuries and off the field incidents. While his injuries will likely mean he won’t play for the Bills right away, Merriman will hope to revive his career with the Bills starting next season.
The Return of Thursday Night Football
Those who have the NFL Network are in for some extra football as the NFL once again begins to air Thursday Night Football games once a week up until the 16th week of the NFL season. This year’s Thursday slate starts off strong with a big game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens.
I wasn’t fond of the Thursday Night game at first, being aired at an odd night for an NFL game on a network which was fledgling when the game first started to air. Since then, however, the NFL Network has solidified as a network and the game does provide an extra night for football, and reduces the number of games to keep track of on Sunday.
Its all pretty minor, sure, but even for those who don’t get the NFL Network the Thursday Night game has its advantages.
Cam’s New Problem
It hasn’t been a very good week for Auburn’s Cam Newton outside of destroying Chattanooga on Saturday. Last week, a man who was allegedly representing Newton tried to secure payment of $180,000 from Mississippi State so that Newton would play there. Newton and his father claim that this man, if he made such a move, did it on his own and the two of them knew nothing about it. Auburn also seems to have no connection to this story, and the man in question is denying that he solicited schools for Newton’s services.
Then, late last night, reports started to surface that Newton cheated while he was still enrolled at Florida. The report claims that Newton, who was caught cheating three times, attempted such things as putting his name on another student’s paper and, failing to get away with that, tried to submit a second paper that this time he acquired from the internet.
Above anything else, the thing that bugs me the most about these stories is the timing. These reports could’ve come out shortly after they had occurred, but instead they were kept secret until Cam Newton is a leading Heisman candidate and his Auburn Tigers are currently ranked #2 in the BCS poll. With neither story posing too much of a risk to either Auburn or Newton’s eligibility, it seems like the people that are coming up with these stories may just be jealous of Newton’s sudden success and are just going to try whatever they can to ruin his credibility or his eligibility.
TCU destroyed Utah on Saturday, holding the Utes to just seven points. Utah was the only undefeated team to lose, which leaves just four undefeated teams.
BCS #1 Oregon goes on the road to play the California Golden Bears. Cal is 4-0 at home and has blown away each of those four opponents in the process. Of course, those four opponents are UC Davis, Colorado, UCLA and Arizona State, so its not really saying much. Oregon will have a challenge nonetheless as any road game would be.
BCS #2 Auburn hosts Georgia. The Bulldogs were on a small roll until an OT loss to Florida, but they’ve scored at least 30 points in five straight games, four of which against SEC teams (never mind that three of those four were bottom-tier SEC teams). Auburn has been even better offensively, but as this is the game before the big Iron Bowl against Alabama, they could fall into a trap.
BCS #3 TCU hosts San Diego State. The Aztecs are a very quiet 7-2, with their losses each by three points to Missouri and BYU, and are third in the Mountain West behind TCU and Utah. While TCU is at home for this game they should get a test here.
BCS #4 Boise State stays within the state as they play a road game at Idaho. The Vandals just got smacked by Nevada, and Boise State is probably not the best choice to fix their defensive woes against. Consider this yet another easy win for the Broncos, probably. This is also the first of three Friday Night nationally broadcast games for the Broncos, who are looking for some style points from human pollsters for a late-season boost.
Congrats to the New Mexico Lobos who defeated Wyoming on a last-second field goal to get their first win of the season. The Lobos are now 1-8.
The only winless team remaining are the Akron Zips out of the Mid-American Conference. They almost beat 2-7 Ball State on the road, but ultimately lost in double OT. The Zips are now 0-10, and have just two games left, both at home. Following a bye week (which guarantees they’ll still be winless for the next Tuesday Sports Weekly), they play against Miami University. The RedHawks are 5-4 at the moment and 3-3 in conference play. Its not the best of chances for the Zips but its possible.
Thriller at the Big House
The Michigan vs. Illinois game on Saturday was a very exciting game which ended in triple OT with the Wolverines edging out a 67-65 victory.
Defense was almost non-existent the entire game, only showing up in rare occasions, such as the final play of the game when Michigan’s defense put enough pressure on Illinois QB Nate Scheelhaase to force an incompletion on a mandatory 2-pt conversion to end the game.
The game also puts Michigan at six wins, making them bowl eligible for the first time since Rich Rodriguez became head coach three years ago. This season for Michigan has been defined by an explosive offense full of playmakers and a dynamic though often injured QB in Denard Robinson, while the defense has been shredded and torn apart by practically every team so far. By becoming bowl eligible, I believe Rodriguez is safe for at least another year, which he should focus on completely revamping that defense. If he can do that, the Wolverines next season look very dangerous.
For Illinois, this loss leaves the team at 5-4, though with a home game vs. Minnesota next week they should have little problem becoming bowl eligible themselves. With their other three losses coming against Michigan State, Ohio State, and Missouri, the Fighting Illini have been a better team than most people thought heading into the season. Scheelhaase hasn’t had a great passing season, but Illinois has done well on the ground, with Scheelhaase and Mikel Leshoure combining for over 1400 yards rushing. This season should be one to build upon for next season in Illinois, though really it could go either way.
Jeter’s Contract Battle
Does anybody really believe Derek Jeter could end up playing on any team besides the New York Yankees next season? As he begins negotiations with the Yankees for a new contract, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees will offer a contract based on what Jeter has done for the Yankees in the past, or what Jeter may still provide for the Yankees in the future.
Jeter, who was paid over $22 million last season alone, had a down season in 2010 for the most part. In 15 full season with the Yankees, his .270 average is by far his lowest in his career, his 10 home runs matches his lowest total, and his 67 RBI is only one better than his 66 from 2009, both career lows.
As it is unlikely Jeter will end up playing for another team, the Yankees have a slight advantage to get Jeter back at a discount, a word not often associated with a team like the Yankees. Jeter is likely a sure fire Hall of Famer upon his retirement and while he and his agent will likely look for money that a Hall of Famer would get, hasn’t Jeter already gotten that kind of money? I mean, $22 million for one season, there’s no way Jeter is going to get paid that much again, is he?
News and Notes
A Magic/Knicks game at Madison Square Garden was postponed last week after debris fell on the court which may or may not have contained asbestos. The Knicks used the free time to find a way to destroy the Bulls in Chicago in their next game.
Speaking of the Knicks, Isiah Thomas still really wishes he was part of that organization, thinking about being reunited with the team every day. It is worthwhile to note that he is currently the head coach of Florida International’s basketball team, perhaps not for much longer.
The Hornets remain one of two undefeated teams in the NBA (the other being the Lakers) following a 3-pt win against the Miami Heat. Still a long way to go, but could the Hornets be a contender this season?
Tracy McGrady has played in all seven Pistons game but is averaging a little over three points per game. Not quite the comeback he was hoping for.