By Tony McClean
Updated: November 29, 2007
NEW HAVEN, Ct. – The deaths of Washington’s Sean Taylor and Hall Of Famer Bill Willis have cast a sad shadow over this week’s pro football action. Starting Thursday night when Green Bay met Dallas and throughout the weekend, all teams will wear a “21″ decal on their helmets in honor of the late Washington Redskins safety, who died Tuesday morning.
The Redskins will wear the decal for the remainder of the season. In fact, in deference to the death of Sean Taylor, I will not be picking a winner or loser for this week’s Bills-Redskins game. In my heart, I just don’t feel right about doing it. That’s my little way of honoring the memory of the late Mr. Taylor.
The Cleveland Browns will wear a “BW” decal on their helmets for the rest of the season in honor of their Pro Football Hall of Fame player Willis, who died Tuesday evening at the age of 86. Willis, a guard who excelled as a two-way player, was one of the first four African-Americans to play in the NFL in the modern era.
R.I.P. Sean and Bill. You’ll both be missed.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester had a 75-yard punt-return touchdown and an 88-yard kickoff-return touchdown last week and has 10 combined kick-return touchdowns on 131 returns in his career. Hester’s mark of one touchdown for every 13.1 kick returns is the best in history, ahead of Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, who scored eight touchdowns on 118 combined kick-returns (a touchdown for every 14.8 kick returns).
In fact, Hester, who has also scored a TD on a reception and a missed field goal, has 12 career touchdowns (1,013 yards) and averages 84.4 yards per TD, the highest mark in history (minimum 10 touchdowns). The Pro Bowl returner will seek to add to his numbers on Sunday against the New York Giants, against whom Hester returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown last season.
Kansas City rookie Dwayne Bowe has 49 receptions this season. The franchise’s single-season record by a rookie is 55. Which player holds the record?
A. Abner Haynes
B. Otis Taylor
C. Tony Gonzalez
D. Stephone Paige
(The answer comes at the end of the column).
LAST WEEK: 10-6 (97-63 overall)
JAGUARS at COLTS
For the first time since these teams were placed in the new AFC South Division in 2002, Jacksonville will enter December trailing Indy by fewer than three games. The Jags (8-3) lead the AFC wild-card race, but are more focused on finally catching the first-place Colts (9-2) as they enter the RCA Dome a game behind the five-time reigning division champs. Coach Dungy’s group will likely be getting Tony Ugoh back on the offensively line. Will it be enough? It’ll be close, but I’ll lean toward the home team.
BUCS at SAINTS
I said it before and I’ll say it again — I have no idea how the Bucs are winning!! Last week, Tampa lost QB Jeff Garcia early against the Redskins and still won under backup Bruce Gradkowski. On the other side, the Saints kept themselves in the playoff picture as they dismissed the Panthers. In many ways, this is a playoff game for both teams given how close things are in the NFC. Tampa comes to the Bayou with a two-game lead in the division over New Orleans. I know the Saints are tough at home, but there’s something a bit magical about this Tampa squad.
GIANTS at BEARS
The New York tabloids were at their predictably worst this week after Big Blue suffered another home loss. And guess who was the whipping boy?? — Lil’ Eli. Throwing four picks and seeing three of them returned for scores will do it everytime. Now the Giants still have a one-game lead over Detroit for the top wild-card spot in the NFC. Six teams are 5-6, including Da Bears. Chicago stayed in the race behind their one-man offense (That’s Hester. Devin Hester) in a win against the Broncos. New York fans are hoping that this isn’t another in a series of second-half swoons. To be honest, I think Chicago wants it just a little more.
BENGALS at STEELERS
By all rights, this should be another walkover for the Black & Gold. However their games with the Bengals are always real battles. In fact, nine of the last 10 games in the series have been won by the road team. Now we all know that the weather conditions had a lot to do with Pittsburgh’s narrow escape against the Fish on Monday night. One gets the feeling that Mike Tomlin would like to see his bunch get back to their early season form. Will Cincy allow that to happen. Even though they looked like worldbeaters last week, we feel that they will return to their regular eggbeaters form come Sunday night.
PATRIOTS at RAVENS
We like to thank the Philadelphia Eagles for reinforcing something that we’ve been shouting to the heavens for last few weeks. That being — THE PATRIOTS AREN’T UNBEATABLE!!!! Yes, I know New England wound up winning the game, but my point is that this isn’t “one of the greatest teams of all-time”. This is a very good team that will likely get to the Super Bowl, but you still have to play the games. (Sorry, Reverend Herm!!) Considering Baltimore’s offense isn’t even half as good as Philly’s and the fact that they’ll probably be a very ornery bunch, look for more stories this week about piling on.
Chargers over Chiefs: K.C. will keep it close, but fall just a bit short.
Eagles over Seahawks: Just a hunch that Philly has enough to pull this off.
Lions over Vikings: It’s probably too little, too late for the Boys from Motown.
Browns over Cardinals: Hopefully Romeo’s Boys won’t fall prey to the semi-SI jinx.
Titans over Texans: Plain and simple, this is do or die week for VY and the boys.
49ers over Panthers: Call this the Lowered Expectations Bowl.
Broncos over Raiders: Are we ever gonna see JaMarcus Russell this season??
Rams over Falcons: Only because we have to pick someone.
A. In 1960, Abner Haynes caught 55 balls (576 yards, 3 TDs) for the then Dallas Texans who would become the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963. Haynes led them in receiving and rushing in 1960 with 875 rushing yards and 9 TDs.