It was back in June that Arizona's Carson Palmer admitted he was thinking about retirement but wouldn't make a decision on his future until after the 2017 season. Well, that decision may have just been made.
The Cards' quarterback broke his left arm Sunday, potentially ending his season, and it's hard to imagine him returning next year -- and not because he'll be 38 but because his team isn't going anywhere. In fact, back when Palmer was contemplating his future it appeared that this year was Arizona's last best shot with him quarterback.
Except it's not. Not now.
"That's a real gut punch," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after losing Palmer.
Translation: The Cards are finished, and if you don't believe me rewind videotape of Sunday's 33-0 beatdown in London. The Cards stunk with Carson. They stunk worse without him.
Arizona's offseason mandate is clear: Draft a successor to Palmer. If he doesn't retire now, he will in a year. But I can't imagine how ... or why ... he'd return.
- So much for the homefield disadvantage. Home teams were 9-5 this week. Now that's more like it.
- Now I know why Cam Newton didn't meet the media last week. Nothing to talk about.
- When the Browns drafted DeShone Kizer, people said he wasn't ready to start and needed at least a year to sit. Guess they were right.
- So the Giants stink. At least they've found the closest thing to Jeremy Shockey in rookie tight end Evan Engram.
- You gotta feel for Colts' coach Chuck Pagano. He's going to be fired not because of anything he did but because of what his front office didn't do -- namely, give him someone other than Andrew Luck to win with.
- The more I see Tennessee the more I'm convinced that Jacksonville is the only threat to defending champ Houston in the AFC South.
- Sorry, but you can scratch Denver from the playoff picture for the same reason you could scratch them a year ago: Quarterback. The Broncos can't get enough from the position. I know, the receivers are hurt, the offensive line is a mess and they're gaining enough from the running game. But, at some point, Trevor Siemian must make plays ... and that's not happening. In fact, over the last two games he has one touchdown pass, three interceptions, nine sacks and a total ... total ... of 10 points. Not good.
- Yeah, I guess Ben Roethlisberger still has it. And so do the Steelers. In fact, at this point, I'd say they're the most complete team in football.
- There's no sympathy for the Jets this week. Not only did they blow a 14-point fourth-quarter lead for the first time since 1995; they were penalized 12 times and lost on an incomprehensibly stupid Josh McCown interception.
- How bad is Indianapolis? This bad: Blake Bortles hadn't had a 282-yard passing game this season (his high was 244). He had 282 passing yards in the first half Sunday. And this from an offense playing without its best player, rookie running back Leonard Fournette.
- No Cliff Avril, no problem. That was another fourth-quarter shutout for Seattle, which is tougher to solve than Clayton Kershaw. The Seahawks have allowed a grand total of nine fourth-period points all season.
- Just asking, but who were football fans in St. Louis rooting for -- the Rams or the Cards?
- In Miami, fans are hot for the Dolphins again, and here's why: Over the past two weeks they overcame a 17-point second-half deficit in Atlanta and a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit vs. the Jets. Plus, they've won nine of their last 11 at home, their best record there since winning 11 of 12 from 2001 to 2002. No, I don't believe, but, hey, it's a start.
- Never, ever underestimate Chicago at home. The Bears have wins over Carolina and Pittsburgh there, could've beaten Minnesota and should've beaten Atlanta. Reason: Defense. They allow an average of 15.8 points a game at Soldier Field, 29.3 on the road.
- How do you win without a quarterback? Ask Chicago. Rookie Mitch Trubisky completed four of seven passes, produced five first downs and one field goal ... yet beat Carolina. But that's what happens when your best offense is your defense.
- Baltimore is only as good as its defense, and the defense that forced 10 takeaways in the first two games -- all wins -- has just three in the five starts since.
- Without Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's biggest losers (other than season-ticket holders) are wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. They combined for three receptions and 25 yards -- or 19 yards fewer than quarterback Brett Hundley had running. Get used to it, Green Bay.
- "All I can say," Hundley said afterward, "is don't write us off." Too late. Already have.
- No, that is no misprint. That is New Orleans ... yes, New Orleans ... alone in first in the NFC South and not just because of Drew Brees but because of a defense that has allowed 17 or fewer points in three of its last four games -- all victories.
- Guaranteed, it's not just the NFL that wants Ezekiel Elliott's court hearing moved from Oct. 30 to Oct. 27. It's the Redskins. They meet Dallas next Sunday, Oct. 29.
THE SUNDAY BEST
The best moment Sunday didn't occur during any game. It happened during halftime of the 49ers-Dallas game in Santa Clara when San Francisco honored former wide receiver Dwight Clark, who is battling ALS. At Clark's request, the 49ers brought back Dwight's teammates, 37 members of the 1981 Super Bowl winners, including Hall-of-Fame quarterback Joe Montana. And they paid tribute to the man behind the The Catch, launching a decade of Super Bowl runs for San Francisco. "I just wanted to see my teammates one more time," said Clark, the team's de facto GM during the 1990s and one of the most beloved Bay Area figures. It was not all that dissimilar to a halftime tribute the team had in October, 1999, for former offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick, then battling cancer of the bile duct -- a disease that would later claim his life. Both events were emotional, but this one ... this one was really hard. There are few football players or fans who don't remember or know of The Catch and who didn't grow up wanting to be Dwight Clark for one shining moment. I know Dwight. I covered him. I loved being around him when I was on the beat for the San Jose Mercury News. And I think of him every day. Thank you, San Francisco, for reminding us how much he means to the Bay Area, us and the game of pro football. "I need your prayers and your thoughts," Clark told the crowd Sunday. He will have both. Always.
NEW ENGLAND DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA. For a change, no questions this week that begin with ... "So, Matt, how concerned are you with this defense?"
MINNESOTA DE EVERSON GRIFFEN. That makes seven straight weeks he's put up a sack. In fact, he had two Sunday.
CHICAGO S EDDIE JACKSON. He returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown. He returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown. In short, he WAS the Chicago offense, the first defensive player in NFL history to return an interception and fumble for scores of 75 yards or more in the same game.
ATLANTA WR JULIO JONES. So he lost. At least he found the end zone. Yep, that's one touchdown and counting for Atlanta's most dangerous receiver.
STEELERS DEFENSE. Look what happened in the second half. In six drives, Cincinnati had one first down, 19 yards, two interceptions, four sacks of Andy Dalton and no points. Combine that defense with Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, and you have a Super Bowl contender.
BUFFALO RB LESEAN McCOY. He has no touchdowns in his first five games. He had two Sunday.
GREEN BAY RB AARON JONES. I guess that clinches it. Jones gets the carries in Green Bay, not Ty Montgomery.
TENNESSEE PK RYAN SUCCOP. Not only did he nail the game-winning kick in OT, his seventh career game-winner, but he hasn't missed a field-goal try inside the 50 in 55 straight tries. "The guy is money" said quarterback Marcus Mariota. I'd second that.
MIAMI QB MATT MOORE. Cutler critics wanted him to play, and they got their wish. Moore responded with a come-from-behind victory and starts Thursday vs. Baltimore.
DALLAS WR DEZ BRYANT. He's now tied with Hall-of-Famer Bob Hayes for most career receiving touchdowns in Dallas history with 71.
CLEVELAND T JOE THOMAS. He bows out with a triceps injury after 10,363 consecutive plays -- a Cal Ripken record that will never be broken -- and is lost for the season ... kinda like the Browns.
ARIZONA QB CARSON PALMER. With time running out on his career, time just ran out on his season. Say goodnight to the Cardinals.
MIAMI QB JAY CUTLER. Sorry, Jay, but that Fox gig has been filled.
CINCINNATI LB VONTAZE BURFICT. Another day, another incident. This time it was kicking Steelers' fullback Roosevelt Nix in the head. "Dude gotta go," lamented running back Le'Veon Bell. Agreed. A three-game suspension for another incident, this one in preseason, didn't deliver the message. Neither did a suspension in 2016 for "repeated violations of player safety rules." Time to realize Burfict and common sense don't go together. Dude gotta go.
DALLAS PK DAN BAILEY. Out with a groin injury, and, yep, that's a big deal for a kicker ... especially this kicker.
ARIZONA RB ADRIAN PETERSON. A week ago, he thought he hit the lottery. Now he's hit reality. Carson Palmer is gone, Peterson is coming off a 21-yard game and the Cards are toast.
CAROLINA PASS DEFENSE. That's the sixth straight game -- a franchise record -- the Panthers failed to produce an interception. Granted, Mitch Trubisky didn't give them much of a chance. He threw seven times. Still ...
YES, ATLANTA, THERE IS A SUPER BOWL HANGOVER
When the Falcons were asked in the offseason about Super Bowl hangovers or curses, they didn't deny that they may exist. But they did say they were prepared to deal with it, with Matt Ryan telling the Talk of Fame Network this summer that "the grind is really difficult, but that is what's going to make it so great." Well, at least he was half right. The grind is really, really difficult. But great? Sunday's 23-7 loss to New England was the Falcons' third straight defeat, something that never happened last season. It was also the fifth time they failed to score more than 23 points, a figure they exceeded 13 times in 2016 en route to a league-high 540 points. Atlanta last year averaged 33.8 points per game. It has exactly 41 in its last three starts, all losses, and don't tell me there isn't such a thing as a Super Bowl curse ... because Atlanta is experiencing it. Now the question: How do they cure it? The grind, Matt Ryan, just got really, really more difficult.
SUNDAY'S REPORT CARD
SACKSONVILLE. Yep, the Jags are back at it, this time sacking Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett 10 times to push them to a league-leading 33 sacks for the season. At this rate, the Jags will set an NFL record with 75 sacks and maybe ... no, probably ... wind up in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
CHICAGO DEFENSE. The Bears are beginning to look a lot like the Monsters of the Midway again, with five sacks of Cam Newton and four takeaways, two of which were returned for touchdowns
RAMS RB TODD GURLEY. He just may be the best back in the game today -- this decade's version of Marshall Faulk. Gurley piled up another 154 yards in offense, scoring for the eighth time this year and making the Rams the next best thing to watching sunsets off the Manhattan Beach pier.
PITTSBURGH RB LE'VEON BELL. Once upon a time, and not that long ago, Steelers' fans wondered what was wrong with him and the Steelers. Not anymore. Bell produced 191 yards in offense, had 38 touches (Including 35 carries) and was practically unstoppable as Pittsburgh coasted to another division win.
MINNESOTA PK KAI FORBATH. He had six field goals, including two over 50 -- one short of the franchise record. With defense and Kai Forbath, the Vikings stand alone at the top of the NFC North.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. Nearly nine months later, Atlanta still hasn't figured him out. Brady was Tom Terrific all over again Sunday, missing only eight of 29 passes, with two more touchdown passes and one huge home victory. That makes him 64 of 91 vs. Atlanta this calendar year for 715 yards, with four touchdowns, one interception and the greatest comeback victory in Super Bowl history.
CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS. It wasn't a great game, just another solid performance by one of the game's standouts -- two touchdown passes, no interceptions and the Chargers' third straight win. Don't look now, but the franchise L.A. didn't want is only two games off the lead in the AFC West.
N.Y. JETS QB JOSH McCOWN. Granted, he threw for three scores and ran for another but ... why throw that pass, Josh? Why? Why?
SAN FRANCISCO QB C.J. BEATHARD. The poor guy was treated like a piñata in his first start, yet still managed to score a so-what touchdown late in the game. No, I don't think he's anyone's future starter, but he gains points for toughness.
CAROLINA QB CAM NEWTON. Over his last six quarters, he has one touchdown pass, four interceptions and two losses -- or nothing to talk about.
CINCINNATI WR A.J. GREEN. Where was he? The focal point of the offense since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator, he was held to three catches for 41 yards.
BALTIMORE OC MARTY MORNHINWEG. Passing game? What passing game?
ATLANTA DE ADRIAN CLAYBORN. He commits a senseless roughing-the-passer penalty that erases a Tom Brady touchdown and leads to a New England touchdown. A week ago, it was Grady Jarrett who did the same thing with Jay Cutler, with the Dolphins then erasing a 17-point deficit. Got to play smarter than that, fellas.
INDIANAPOLIS COACH CHUCK PAGANO. Start the countdown. Pagano will be the first coach to be fired because that's what happens when you have three losses of 27 or more points.
N.Y. JETS CB BUSTER SKRINE. He was the victim of two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and committed three penalties as the Jets self-destructed, blowing a 14-point fourth-period lead. But that's not all. He gave up a long completion that set up Miami's first TD and committed a defensive pass interference that led to a second. Bottom line: He touched all the bases, and, no, that was not a good thing.
CLEVELAND COACH HUE JACKSON. His mismanagement of quarterbacks is nothing short of alarming. He has now gone from DeShone Kizer to Kevin Hogan ... back to Kizer again ... then to Cody Kessler. Sorry, but this is NOT how you inspire confidence in the guy manning your most important position. Pick a guy, Hue, and stick with him.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMER
DALLAS RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT. He comes off a bye and produces his second career 200-yard (219, actually), three-touchdown performance -- with two scores running and a third via a 72-yard catch-and-run. You see games like this, and you understand why Jerry Jones doesn't want this guy joining Marshawn Lynch in the stands.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF SHAMER
ATLANTA OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR STEVE SARKISIAN. The Falcons don't score in the second half last week vs. Miami. They don't score in the first three-and-a-half quarters Sunday vs. a Patriots' team that hadn't allowed fewer than 301 yards to any of the six quarterbacks that faced them. Do the math, people. That's five-and-a-half quarters of shutout football from last year's highest-scoring team and the league MVP. Horrible. Nowhere was Sarkisian's play-calling more suspect than when the Falcons, down 20-0, reached the New England 1. On third-and-goal, he calls a rollout pass to the end zone. Incomplete. On fourth-and-goal, he calls an end around to wideout Taylor Gabriel. No can-do. You'd think these guys would've learned. You have Devonta Freeman in the backfield on third-and-1 (remember?), YOU GIVE HIM THE DAMN BALL!