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What do you make of Sanchez? Vick's performance? The McNabb contract? The editors debate.
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall debate five burning questions for Week 11 in the NFL:
1. Where would Mark Sanchez fall in your AFC quarterback power rankings?
Steven: Sanchez still has a ways to go before he reaches the elite class of quarterbacks in the AFC, but he has shown improvement from last season. The second-year passer has tossed six picks this season after throwing 20 last year and has slightly improved his completion percentage. The Jets can lean on their defense and rushing attack to win games right now, but in a year or two, the team hopes Sanchez can shoulder more of the offensive workload. There are eight quarterbacks I would definitely take ahead of Sanchez this season - Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Kyle Orton. However, I think you can throw Sanchez into the next group with David Garrard, Jason Campbell, Matt Cassell and Vince Young.
Nathan: The AFC quarterback hierarchy starts with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning at the top, then takes a few small steps down from Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger to Joe Flacco. After the top five, I think Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel are traditional “safe” picks who can’t win big games on the road but will put up solid numbers that are hard to argue against. On the other hand, Mark Sanchez and Vince Young are “risky” young guys still figuring out the position, but they have more of “it” — moxy, swagger, whatever you want to call “it” — and seem to find a way to win games (and attract critics). Long story short, I’d take the top five (Brady or Manning, then Rivers, Big Ben and Flacco) over Sanchez, but that’s about it.
Braden: One and two — in whatever order you choose — are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (we can argue that one another week). I think Philip Rivers is No. 3, Big Ben is No. 4 and Joe Flacco is No. 5. After that, all bets are off. Sanchez is just as talented as Matt Schaub or Carson Palmer and wins more games. The former USC Trojan first round pick is 16-9 as a starter and played in the AFC title game as a rookie. He has shown great toughness battling injuries and has performed in one of the toughest, most scrutinizing markets in the NFL. Now, even though he has led his team to the best record in the league, there seems to be no middle ground with Mark Sanchez. He is either loved or hated. Either way, he is a winner in my book.
2. Should the Vikings bench Brett Favre?
Steven: Favre may be hurt and struggling, but I don’t think the answer is to bench him. Tarvaris Jackson is only 10-9 in his tenure as a starter, and I just can’t see him being the answer to all of problems in Minnesota. It’s easy to blame Favre, but not having Sidney Rice is certainly hurting the passing attack. Unless Favre can’t play, I think he’s the best option for this team. The Vikings will be in the market for a quarterback this offseason; the only question is whether that’s through the draft or via free agency.
Nathan: Definitely not. Does Brad Childress even have that kind of power? At this point, Brett Favre and Roger Goodell are the only men who can bench Brett Favre. I think Favre plays against the Packers this week. But after that, it’s up in the air. I wouldn’t be shocked at anything right now. The Green Bay game could be Favre’s last. Why not? Beat the Packers, then ride off into the sunset with a fractured foot, bum throwing arm and bruised ego.
Braden: As I have said in this column before, it was Sept. 7, 1992 the last time Brett Favre didn't start a game in the NFL. Yes, he turned the ball over last week on the road in the division against a solid defense. But he is still one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. If you are Brad Childress, or any other member of the Minnesota organization, you have to believe that Favre is your best chance at still making the playoffs — which in the NFC is still very much within reach.
3. Since he joined the league (2001), where does Michael Vick's MNF performance rank?
Steven: Vick’s performance on Monday night certainly ranks among his best. Some of the other memorable performances from Vick include a playoff win at Lambeau Field in 2003 and posting an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 173 against Minnesota. Beating the Packers at Lambeau Field is probably the most impressive win on his resume, but Monday night’s performance was certainly the best in terms of statistics.
Nathan: Michael Vick’s 413-total-yard, six-TD performance on Monday night was one of the greatest — if not the best — I’ve ever seen. Off the top of my head, Steve Young’s six-TD Super Bowl was unbelievable and everyone always talks about Gale Sayers’ six-TD effort back in the day. But both of those players did one thing great; Vick was throwing darts through the air and gliding for first downs on the ground. I agree with Young’s assessment of Vick’s performance being the “full fruition of the position” — meaning that he had to be accounted for as a pocket passer (like Brady or Manning) and became the 12th man on the field as a runner who was unaccounted for. It was 12-on-11, maybe even 12-on-10 when LaRon Landry wasted his time “spying” Vick.
Braden: Clinton Portis' performance against the Chiefs in 2003 was paramount to the Broncos reaching the playoffs that year. In Week 14, he rushed 22 times for 218 yards and 5 TDs. I think only that ranks ahead of Vick's MNF show in importance and statistics. Vick did it in bad conditions against a division opponent, but it's a Week 10 game against a team falling apart. Others that pop to mind: Shaun Alexander scored five times in the first half against Minnesota on Sunday night. He finished with 24 carries, three receptions and 231 yards from scrimmage. Mike Anderson set a rookie rushing mark with 251 yards against the Saints in 2000. Peyton Manning threw for 6 TDs and 236 yards against Detroit in 2004 — of course, he also had games of 472-5, 320-5 and 393-5 that year.
4. When is the soonest we can expect NFL football back in Los Angeles?
Steven: It’s no secret the NFL wants to be in Los Angeles, but there has to be a team ready to relocate – I doubt the NFL wants to expand to 34 teams. With a new stadium potentially on the way, it sounds like Los Angeles is moving closer to having a team in place sometime within the next 10 years. I’ll guess by 2020 a new team will be playing in Los Angeles, and the likely relocation candidates are the Chargers, Raiders, Rams, Vikings and Jaguars.
Nathan: As soon as the Jaguars can load up the truck and drive away from Jacksonville, or Al Davis has a disagreement with the city of Oakland? Seriously, I’m surprised it’s been this long since the NFL was in L.A. The Raiders were in L.A. from 1982-94; the Rams resided in the City of Angels from 1946-94. But since 1995, there has been no pro football in the nation’s second-largest market. There has been talk of L.A. acquiring the Chargers if San Diego won’t finance a new stadium. But I hope not. Expansion is also a bad idea. Sadly, it will take a franchise relocating. I’d be surprised if the NFL was back in L.A. before 2020.
Braden: Two backers of a downtown L.A. stadium, Casey Wasserman and Tim Leiweke, are making the most serious pitch for a legitimate facility in years. The two heavy hitters have visions of World Cup soccer balls, Final Four baskets and the NFL gridiron in their heads — and why not? The issue has always been where to build. But what if they can add a fancy new retractable-roof building right downtown next to the Staples Center and LA Live complex? San Diego, Oakland, Jacksonville, and maybe a few others, would likely jump at the chance to play next door to Showtime.
5. What do you make of the Donovan McNabb contract extension?
Steven: As more details are released about McNabb’s contract, my doubts about his future in Washington continue to grow. Mike Shanahan doesn’t seem pleased with McNabb’s play this year, but it might help to add some offensive linemen, receivers or even a legitimate running back before casting aside his quarterback. McNabb has been one of the most underappreciated players in recent memory and if Washington doesn’t want him, I’m sure Minnesota or Arizona would be glad to take him next year.
Nathan: I think the Donovan McNabb contract extension gives the Redskins stability and flexibility at the same time. With the CBA negotiations hanging like a black cloud over the NFL, it is wise to have a competent quarterback locked up but also to have an escape route which, by all accounts, the Skins do. This will allow Mike Shanahan the luxury of drafting a quarterback of the future this year and grooming him while McNabb continues to start. At first, this sounded like one of the dumbest moves of the bumbling Dan Snyder era. But the more you hear about this deal, the better it is for Washington. I mean, who else are they going to pay to play? Rex Grossman?
Braden: The total value, the guaranteed amount, the number of years, the incentives and all of the other things that make NFL contracts harder than Chinese algebra simply adds to the intrigue of the McNabb conundrum in D.C. At one end of the spectrum, the contract could be worth just shy of $90 million for five years. At the other, the Skins can cut McNabb at the end of the year and he would become a free agent. I think this is actually a good situation for both parties. The Redskins have either a starting quarterback or a nice trade chip (San Fran, Minnesota, Carolina, Buffalo, Oakland, Arizona). And McNabb either gets his $10 million bonus and another $3.5 next year or he gets to walk as a FA and would likely sign with one of the teams I just mentioned.