It is the best rivalry the NFL has these days. New England and Indianapolis no longer are in the same division, but they play every year.
The Colts and Patriots meet Sunday for the eighth consecutive season, the league’s longest streak between non-division opponents since realignment in 2002.
The Patriots own a 7-5 advantage, including 2-1 in the playoffs.
Tom Brady won his first six starts against the Colts, but Peyton Manning has won five of the past six.
“It’s a great matchup, and I think both our team and the Colts have been winning a lot of games over the last 10 years,” Brady said. “We’ve had some great games between the two teams, and I’m expecting this game to be the same.”
Brady and Manning remain the standard for all quarterbacks in the league. They are friendly, if not friends, and each professes respect for the other.
“He’s an incredible player,” Brady said. “The thing that I love [in] watching him is his consistency. He’s such a competitive player and being around him, in the experience that I’ve had around him, it’s no surprise why he’s such a great player. He loves the game. He loves studying it. He loves talking about it. I think we definitely have that in common.”
Bucs hope not to leave their hearts in SF
The Buccaneers have been California Screamin’ since they entered the league. They are 2-23 in the regular season in California. (Their only Super Bowl championship happened in San Diego.)
“It hasn’t been a big deal up until right now when you brought it up,” Bucs coach Raheem Morris said, chuckling. “Nah, I was well aware of that. I’ve got some personal losses myself. Going out there hasn’t been kind. It’s a long trip. It’s a hard trip. … There’s no excuses. You have to go out there and try to get a win on the West Coast.”
The Bucs have set all kinds of records for futility since they entered the league in 1976, including the most consecutive losses and the most consecutive double-digit loss seasons. Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden changed the team’s fortunes and its history.
Morris will now try to do something neither of those coaches did. The Bucs are 1-11 in San Francisco, with their only victory coming in 1980 on a Garo Yepremian field goal for a 24-23 win over the 49ers.
The Bucs will travel out to California a day early, leaving on Friday to try to get acclimated. Tampa Bay left for Arizona a day early and beat the Cardinals, 38-35, earlier this season. They also won at Seattle last December.
“This is a different team. They’ve got a different team,” quarterback Josh Freeman said. “Anytime you go to the West Coast, it’s a long trip, and you’ve got to get mentally prepared.
“We’re leaving on Friday. It’s going to give us the opportunity to get there and get settled in for a day. It’s going to definitely be a challenge.”
Lions’ road victory a long time coming
The Lions set the NFL record for road futility last week in a loss to the Bills, their 25th consecutive away from home. How long has it been?
When the Lions last won a road game — Oct. 28, 2007 — Jon Kitna was their quarterback and Roy Williams was a starting receiver. Williams caught eight passes for 77 yards in the Lions’ victory over the Bears, and Kitna was 24-of-35 for 268 yards.
Kitna and Williams will play against the Lions on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
“Wow! Yeah, that makes me seem old,” Williams said of the Lions’ road losing streak. “Yeah, I’m surprised. I’m surprised about that, because we’re all professionals. You should be able to win on the road; you should be able to win at home. But it’s unfortunate. They have had things that have happened to them, and I can testify they have had things that have happened that shouldn't happen, that don't happen to other teams.”
Fourth and short
Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas is not a one-catch wonder. Thomas, who caught the Hail Mary pass that beat the Texans on the last play Sunday, leads his team with 41 catches for 536 yards and two touchdowns.
• The Chiefs offense has struggled since they lost Dexter McCluster to a high ankle sprain Oct. 24. While his offensive numbers aren’t impressive — 26 touches for 207 yards and a touchdown — his speed makes defenses play the Chiefs differently. Kansas City is 1-2 without him, with its lone victory an overtime win against the Bills. The Chiefs averaged 36.5 points per game in the last two games McCluster played. They are averaging 20.7 points in the three games he has missed. Their rushing average has gone down from 190.4 in the first seven games to 77.5 the past three.
• The Panthers’ third-string running back became their first to rush for 100 yards this season as Mike Goodson gained 100 against the Bucs.
• Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is 18-1 (.947) at home. It is the most home victories for any quarterback over the past three seasons. Ryan has won 14 consecutive starts at home.
• The Colts are 14-12 when Peyton Manning doesn’t throw a touchdown pass. They are 69-13 when he isn’t intercepted.
• The Panthers have allowed 59 first quarter points and have given up a touchdown in the first quarter in seven of nine games.
• Jason Campbell has a passer rating of 104.3 in the Raiders’ three-game winning streak. He is 46-of-80 for 743 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
• Rams rookie Sam Bradford hasn’t thrown an interception since late in the Oct. 10 game against Detroit. That’s four full games and 138 consecutive passes. It’s the longest streak for a rookie since Tampa Bay’s Bruce Gradkowski had a streak of 147 consecutive passes without an interception in 2006. Chris Miller holds the Rams’ club record with 146 consecutive passes without an interception.
• Bucs receiver Mike Williams is two touchdowns shy of tying Michael Clayton’s single-season rookie receiving touchdown record of seven. Williams has 40 catches for 627 yards this season. It is the most receiving yards for a rookie receiver.
• Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has had 13 interceptions returned for touchdowns since becoming the starter in 2004. That is the second-most in the league, trailing Brett Favre, who has had 14.
• When the Broncos last traveled to San Diego, they beat the Chargers, 34-23, to improve their 2009 record to 6-0. They have gone 5-14 since.
• The Packers have a league-high 11 players on injured reserve, including six starters.
• Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has 1,078 yards from scrimmage on 153 touches. He is averaging 17 touches and 119.7 yards per game. But Charles has scored only three touchdowns.
• Since Week 3, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.
• Marshawn Lynch has rushed for 217 yards on 74 carries in five games for the Seahawks, a career-low 2.9 yards per carry.
• Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has accounted for four total touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) on just 13 offensive touches to lead the NFL in touchdown percentage.
• Saints free safety Malcolm Jenkins has made a seamless switch from cornerback and ranks second on the team with 67 tackles. He has one sack, a forced fumble and has broken up a team-high nine passes.
• The Giants have had at least one turnover in every game this season. Even during their five-game winning streak, which ended with the loss to Dallas last week, the Giants had 12 turnovers (seven lost fumbles and five interceptions). They added another lost fumble and two more interceptions against the Cowboys.
• The Steelers have failed to score a touchdown in the first half of three games and have scored only three points in the first half in three games.
• Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff took over the NFL lead on touchbacks this week. Cundiff’s 25 touchbacks put him one ahead of Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski. He has produced touchbacks on 58.1 percent of his kickoffs.
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.
There are many qualifications for a player’s stock to be rising. Typically, I look at under the radar guys who should be on your radar — the super-sleepers, if you will. But this week, in addition to those types of players, a couple familiar names deserve to be thought of at an even higher level than before.
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals TE
The Bengals first round pick started the season with a bang, catching six balls including a TD in Week 1 against New England. Since then, he has been involved in the passing game — catching at least two balls a week — but hasn’t done anything notable until Week 10. Against Indy, Gresham stepped up and hauled in nine balls for 85 yards and a score. As Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson get older, look for the youngster from Oklahoma to be a bigger part of the Bengals passing attack.
Mike Wallace, Steelers WR
After his Week 10 performance (eight catches for 136 yards and two scores), Wallace is on this list because he is now a must-start in all formats. The youngster is extremely fast, and has reliable hands and the trust of Ben Roethlisberger. He has five scores in his last five games and is a good bet to make a few big plays each week. Wallace is a solid seasonal and dynasty WR2, and holds the most value in non-PPR leagues.
Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers WR
The Bucs’ second rounder in the 2010 NFL Draft has taken a bit longer to make an impact than fellow rookie fourth rounder Mike Williams. While the big, 6'2", 220 pounder isn’t quite ready for seasonal formats, he should be encouraging his dynasty owners with his play at this point. Not only does he have a TD catch in each of his last two games, but he’s making a bid to earn the starting WR gig opposite Mike Williams heading into 2011. Knowing now that Tampa Bay’s offense is on the up-and-up with Josh Freeman leading the charge, dynasty owners should consider Benn a player with good things in his future.
Steven Jackson, Rams RB
I haven’t been very high on SJax this year, and with good reason, but I watched him play a little against the 49ers in Week 10, and he looked more like the 2006 version than I’ve seen in a long time. With Sam Bradford playing well, and things looking up in St. Louis, I could see a situation where the Rams bring in another back next season to keep Jackson fresh and lengthen his career, which would be great for his dynasty value. In the mean time, he’s back to being a must start after his big Week 10 outing.
Felix Jones, Cowboys RB
Easily considered one of the biggest disappointments in fantasy this year based on preseason expectations, the third year man from Arkansas is back on the map after taking a screen pass 71 yards for a score in Week 10 against the Giants. Now, I’m not saying he’s a player you can trust just yet, but this kind of performance was exactly what his owners needed to feel good about him again, for both the short and long term.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks RB
Despite getting in the end zone, the 24 year old had a putrid game compared to teammate Justin Forsett. Lynch may get better when Russell Okung returns, but for now he’s much like Julius Jones was — just a starter by name.
Davone Bess, Dolphins WR
Chances are, despite his pedestrian last couple games, he’s still going to be a good NFL receiver, however he’s not the next Wes Welker by any stretch of the imagination. With Chad Pennington and Chad Henne injured/battling it out for the starting gig in Miami, it could be a rocky finish to what was a brilliant start of the season by Bess. Also, it’s important to note that Brian Hartline is stealing his targets and looking good in the process.
Dustin Keller, Jets TE
As much as I hate to admit it, because I love Dustin Keller, it clearly looks like the presence of Santonio Holmes is in fact hurting his production. He’s now the fourth option in the passing game on most plays behind Braylon Edwards, Holmes, and either LaDainian Tomlinson or Jerrico Cotchery. Don’t bail yet, as he’s still young and has upside, but consider other options until he shows us something more.
For more risers and fallers, check out our weekly rankings on Wednesday.
Paul Hickey is the lead contributor for Athlon Fantasy Football and operates the website nooffseason.com, a 365-day resource for obsessive fantasy owners who eat, breathe and sleep fantasy football. While the site appeals to all fantasy heads, there is a special emphasis on dynasty formats and IDP leagues.
Boomer Esiason played his collegiate football at the University of Maryland, where he set numerous school passing records as a left-handed honorable mention All-America quarterback in 1982 and ’83. Chosen in the second round of the 1984 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals (and the first quarterback taken that year), Esiason played nine seasons in Cincinnati, earning the NFL’s MVP award in 1988 when he led the Bengals to the Super Bowl. He was traded in 1993 to his hometown New York Jets, for whom he played three seasons. He joined the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent in 1996 and retired after the following season.
For his NFL career, Esiason completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 touchdowns and nearly 38,000 yards. He was selected to four Pro Bowls and was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1995 for his philanthropic work with the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which he established in 1993 to raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis.
Today, Esiason is an analyst for “The NFL Today” on CBS, for “Monday Night Football” on Westwood One radio, and co-host of an A.M. sports-talk show on WFAN.
Athlon Sports: What’s the major storyline in the NFL this season?
Boomer Esiason: Ultimate parity. You have no team that has fewer than two losses. I think what you’re seeing is what the NFL hopes, and that is as many teams as you can possibly get in the playoff races until the end of the season. Right now, with the exception of maybe four teams, everybody still legitimately has a chance to make it to the playoffs, as odd as that sounds.
AS: To your point, two of what had appeared to be the strongest-looking teams, the Giants and the Steelers, lost decisively on the same day. So who is the best team in the NFL now? Esiason: The notion of “Who is the best team in the NFL at the present moment” really doesn’t hold water because things can change on a weekly basis due to injury. In this league it’s a war of attrition. And the fact that they’re going to play 18 games is even more amazing when you watch what’s happening on the field.
AS: Is that surprising to you? Esiason: It’s not surprising because in the salary-cap era, there are two things you have the cap for: One, to keep player costs down (even though when you look at what some of the players are making you say, “What! What are you talking about?”), and two, to create a level playing field. And even teams like Tampa Bay and Cincinnati and some other teams that don’t spend a lot of money, or have more money than they can spend, are still in the mix. Tampa Bay is a prime example of what can happen when you get a great quarterback, or a budding great quarterback, in Josh Freeman. They have probably the lowest payroll in the NFL, and yet they are right in the mix for a playoff spot as we speak.
AS: Does the salary cap work against sustained success? Esiason: I don’t know if I agree with that. You do see the same superpowers it seems the last five years at the top, mainly because they have established, great quarterbacks. That’s Brady, Manning, and Roethlisberger. And because their defense has been so good for so long, the Baltimore Ravens are in that situation. It’s certainly important when you have a difference-maker at quarterback, because he’ll always keep you in games. But it’s nice to see some new teams, namely the Jets. New Orleans is also becoming a superpower since they brought in Drew Brees. And we’ll see San Diego back in the mix. I just think it’s great to see Kansas City and Oakland relevant again and their games meaning something. Houston had a dabble there with a little success. There are teams that are on the cusp that are going to be good for a little while, I think.
AS: Two years ago, you said that oversaturation was the NFL’s biggest challenge. Does that still hold, or does the NFL have bigger challenges now? Esiason: With the NFL Network and DirecTV and all the different blog spots and the Internet and everything else, I still think that the game is woefully oversaturated. But you would never know it by the ratings. Thursday night ratings for the NFL Network, which is not in every house in America, still had one of the highest ratings in cable TV history. I think that speaks to the popularity of the NFL. There is some cannibalization that is going on; by going to 18 games you’ll not only add two more weeks of legitimate product but you’ll be able to spread some more of that over the NFL Network.
AS: There is a greater awareness now in the league of the danger of concussions and their long-term effects. But is the league putting too much emphasis on violent hits? Esiason: Concussions have been a big thing for a long time, and I applaud the NFL for really putting them front and center. For a long time they had this attitude that it is not a significant issue. But as we all grow older and see the generation of football players that played before me and my generation, we can see the profound negative effects that hitting your head over and over can have. So, the NFL is doing everything it possibly can to protect the players and make sure that today’s players don’t deal with the same issues that yesteryear’s players are dealing with.
AS: And now the league is considering adding two more games to a violent sport. Does that make sense? Esiason: Roger Goodell understands how violent this game is and I think it’s one of the reasons that they’re taking the significant steps to try to curtail the many vicious hits. It is something that is obviously at the forefront. As long as the players keep getting bigger and faster and more aggressive, injuries are going to play a profound part in the success of these football teams. And even if you do have a Peyton Manning on your team, with so many injuries around him and his current roster being depleted by injuries, I doubt that we’ll see him in this year’s Super Bowl.
AS: Who will we see in this year’s Super Bowl? Esiason: If I had to place a bet on it right now -- which doesn’t really mean much -- I’m still saying that San Diego has a very good shot at being a very good team here in the second half of the season. They’ve lost games in some heartbreaking ways. But they have as good a defense as anyone right now and a quarterback and an offense that is as dynamic as anyone’s in the NFL. They’re going to get healthy, and I do think that they will be a force when it comes to the end.
AS: What about in the NFC? Esiason: It’s probably going to be among New Orleans, Green Bay, and New York. If I could look in my crystal ball, I’d say that we’ll see Green Bay and San Diego in the Super Bowl.
AS: Not impressed with the Falcons? Esiason: I think they have been really good at home. I’d like to see them do a little bit more on the road. I probably mistakenly left them off the list in the NFC, but I just think that when Green Bat is healthy, they are as good as here is in the NFL.
AS: If you were NFL commissioner for a day, what is the first move you would make? Esiason: That’s a good question. I think I would do my damndest to change the completion/touchdown rule to make it easier for everybody to understand. And the reason I say that is because Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions were not given a touchdown in the opening game, yet Kevin Walter, the wide receiver for Houston, yesterday was given a touchdown. I didn’t really see a big difference in what happened between the two plays. There is a great amount of confusion over as to what constitutes a touchdown catch and what doesn’t.
AS: What about if you were an NFL GM: What current player would you build your team around? Esiason: Peyton Manning. I’ve watched a lot of quarterbacks do a lot of great things in my career, as a player and as a broadcaster, but the things I have witnessed from him over the last two years have been nothing short of brilliant. Of those of us who have played the position and understand all that goes into the position -- on the field, off it, in the meeting and interview rooms, calling plays, knowing personnel, and reading defenses -- there has never been a quarterback in history who has done it the way he has done it and been as successful for as long as he has been. When all is said and done with, in my eyes he will be the single greatest football player that has ever played.
AS: Are you a fantasy football player? Esiason: I have been in the past; this year, I’m not, and the only reason for that is because last year I had four teams in four different leagues and got burned out.
AS: It’s hard to keep track, right? Esiason: (laughing) Oh, with the injuries and all the updates, it’s hard enough for us at “The NFL Today” to figure out who’s playing, and we’ve got up-to-the-minute knowledge, you know what I mean?
AS: What’s the biggest misperception the fans have about the game? Esiason: That the players are inhuman, that they don’t have feelings that the fans do when their team loses.
AS: How’s your foundation doing? Esiason: We’re doing well. We’re surpassing $85 million raised by the end of this year. We are giving millions of dollars away to cystic fibrosis patients for scholarships, organ donations, and lung transplants. We have put tens of millions of dollars into research grants and tens of millions of dollars into hospital support and patient support programs. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished. The best news of all is that my son is a sophomore at Boston College. He’s living, breathing proof that if you have a disability you can live life to the fullest and really become something special. The most important thing for me as a dad is watching my son grow into a young man.