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News » The Schein Nine: NFL's weekly hot seat


The Schein Nine: NFL's weekly hot seat


The Schein Nine: NFL's weekly hot seat
1. Bill Belichick


By now you know that I think Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in sports history. That's not NFL history. That's sports history.

But things are off right now in New England. Belichick's defensive backfield, a weakness coming into the season, was exposed by the Chargers last week. In theory, they have a match-up nightmare with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Mike Shanahan's Broncos coming to town. Belichick, now more than ever, must come up with a game plan to aid the cause.

It's always fun when Belichick and Shanahan match wits. And both brilliant coaches need this win desperately. Shanahan's an offensive guru. How Belichick counters will be fascinating to watch.

Plus, Matt Cassel has been a mixed bag at quarterback. A lot of NFL people are miffed that Belichick didn't have a better option behind Tom Brady.

The Pats' running attack is stuck in the mud. Laurence Maroney's injury is killing this team. Cassel and Randy Moss need balance. And that's the major area of weakness of the Denver defense, stopping the run.

It's a huge game for New England as the Bills and Jets will be around all season.

2. Eli Manning

Was Monday night a blip or a trend? Manning had uneven regular seasons in 2006 and 2007 before going on his majestic ride in the playoffs last year. The Cleveland debacle was too reminiscent of games Eli had against Minnesota and Washington last year.

The Niners have solid cornerbacks and some excellent front-seven players in Patrick Willis and Justin Smith. The San Fran game represents a huge spot for Manning's confidence this week.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson

We are still waiting to see the Tomlinson of last year. Maybe we never will with his toe injury.

Buffalo is getting back cornerback Terrence McGee, who's one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Phil Rivers isn't going to be able to throw with ease against the Bills in the huge Buffalo vs. San Diego showdown this weekend like he did last Sunday night against New England. The Bills' run defense is giving up just four yards per carry on the ground this year. Paul Posluszny has been a run-stopping force. Tomlinson is averaging less than four yards a pop and is only 10th in the league in rushing. To beat the Bills, the Chargers need the future Hall of Famer to play like it.

4. Jeff Fisher

How can you be at 5-0 and on a weekly hot seat? That's easy. The Titans have never been in this position before, being the only undefeated team in the league. Tennessee is coming off of a bye week. They play in Kansas City against the lowly Chiefs, who spent the week shopping their best player. A benchmark game with the rival Colts in prime time looms large for Week 8. Fisher needs to make sure his team is focused and the spot in Arrowhead doesn't become a classic trap game.

5. Brad Johnson

Does it get any more complicated? The star quarterback is out. The star quarterback's idol calls him and tells him to try to play through the pain. The big-name cornerback is suspended. The team trades for a brand new stud receiver. The team hasn't played well in the last three weeks, going 1-2 and looking lost against Washington, Cincy and Arizona.

And now it is Johnson's job to make sure the Cowboys avoid an upset at the hands of the one-win Rams.

This is a tough spot with all the drama involved. But Johnson is a veteran who has been through everything and who should be able to right the ship, at least for this week. But this is a magnified, pressure-packed hot seat if there ever was one.

6. Jon Gruden

The effort against Carolina was incredible. We talked to tight end Alex Smith this week and he gushed about the game plan and the intensity. Tampa's talking baseball with the Rays. The Bucs just had a sensational division win against the Panthers. A date in Dallas will be a statement spot for the Bucs in Week 8. Gruden needs a repeat performance all around from last weekend against Seattle on Sunday night.

It sounds like Jeff Garcia will make the start at quarterback this week. But you still get the feeling Brian Griese is the Gruden guy. The quarterback rotation isn't over yet.

7. Clinton Portis

Here's what the Redskins running back had to say after Washington was humbled at home by the winless Rams last weekend:

"The headlines got good. The guys started high-fiving," Portis said. "We hadn't thought ahead all season long until this week. ... The previous four games, the focus was there."

That's pretty damning stuff. And he's also ripping his head coach Jim Zorn. With the way Zorn's coached to start this season, that's unacceptable.

Portis has had an MVP-caliber season thus far. But it will be interesting to see his teammates react to those words with their play against the Browns in Washington this Sunday.

8. Bernard Berrian

The former Bear receiver signed with the Vikes this past offseason after Jerry Angelo refused to give him the guaranteed money he wanted. And Berrian so badly wanted to remain in Chicago he would've taken a hometown discount if the offers were remotely close. They weren't.

Berrian enjoyed a great Week 6, going over the 100-yard mark receiving and helping out the Vikings' anemic passing attack with all-important yards after the catch.

When we talked this week, Berrian tried to speak in a cliché-filled, vanilla tone about Sunday's game against Chicago. When asked if he was telling the truth that this was just another game, he said, "I have to make it that way. I cannot get too hyped up. That won't help."

9. Tony Sparano

The Dolphins' loss to Houston last week was heart-breaking as the Texans made multiple gigantic plays on fourth down en route to a last-second victory.

Miami doesn't have time to have a pity party. The Dolphins face the strong Ravens defense this weekend in Florida. Baltimore got flat-out embarrassed by the Colts last week. This will be an angry Ravens team up for the challenge.

Sparano has done an excellent job getting his team up for big games. The "Wildcat" formation has been unpredictable and unstoppable. I'm fascinated to see how Miami comes out in a big game against Baltimore on Sunday.

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Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 16, 2008

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Ray Lewis Name: Ray Lewis
#52
Position: LB
Age: 33
Experience: 13 years
College: Miami (FL)
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