NFL Insider

Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Columnist
Tuesday, November 6, 2007; 11:00 AM

The Post's Mark Maske was online Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest news from around the NFL.

A transcript follows.

Mark writes the NFL Insider blog, and is the author of the new book War Without Death: A Year of Extreme Competition in Pro Football's NFC East.


Mark Maske: Hello, everyone. Let's get right to it.


Annapolis, Md.: Hi Mark,

Which loss was more embarrassing? Pats over Redskins, 52-7, or Steelers over Ravens, 38-7?

Mark Maske: I'd say the Redskins' loss was more embarrassing, but not by all that much.


Boston: Will the Pats run defense keep them from going undefeated and, more importantly, winning the Super Bowl? Were you surprised by how little Adalius Thomas played in the Indy game when most people assumed he was brought to the team to cover the Colts tight ends?

Mark Maske: I wouldn't spend too much of your time worrying about the Patriots' weaknesses. That is a great, great team and I'm now convinced the Patriots will be 17-0 heading into a rematch with the Colts in the AFC title game. But you'd have to give the Colts a chance to win the rematch, even at New England, because they showed they can play with the Patriots and they should have Marvin Harrison and Tony Ugoh back in the lineup the next time they play.


Washington, D.C.: The Patriots have won nine games this year while the Rams, Panthers, and Eagles (the three teams N.E. beat in their three Super Bowl wins) have won a combined total of seven games. Isn't that amazing?

Mark Maske: That goes to show you how difficult it is to maintain excellence in this era of the NFL, with the entire system designed to pull everyone toward mediocrity, and it underscores what a great job organizations like the Patriots and Colts have done.


Washington, D.C.: Mark,

Like many of my fellow Redskins fans, I've been very disappointed in the 'Skins offense, but after watching the Ravens play so poorly yesterday, 40 total passing yards, I feel perhaps we ought to be somewhat thankful we have Campbell and Cooley. I felt bad for the Ravens fans. How is it that the Ravens offense can be so poor for the last decade and the Ravens coaches, etc., have not been able to improve it? Have the Ravens ever had a good offense? I've read how the Ravens' GM and scouts are very competent and good at building a solid team, yet their offense always is struggling. At least in D.C. we have the excuse of not having a good GM. If people are calling for Gibbs' head, what are they doing in Baltimore?

Mark Maske: It just shows that you have to get the quarterback in place and build around him, and the Ravens haven't been able to do it. They used a first-round pick on Kyle Boller and he hasn't panned out. They went out and got Steve McNair as a stop-gap measure. That worked fine last season but it was never going to be a longterm solution, and you look at him now and wonder if he has anything left. Billick has gotten plenty of heat for it, especially in Baltimore. Winning a Super Bowl buys you some time in terms of job security, even if you're an offensive coach and the defense wins it for you, but that doesn't last forever.


Baltimore: I'm tired of hearing the Good vs. Evil comparison between the Colts and Patriots. Not only do the Colts have Bill Polian as their GM, but am I the only one who remembers when the Colts left their fans in the middle of the night?

Mark Maske: That was ridiculously overdone. Yes, Tony Dungy is a very engaging guy and Bill Belichick isn't. Yes, Belichick was punished for illegally stealing play signals. But the good vs. evil thing was silly. It's to be expected in the buildup to a game that big, I guess. At least the game itself was terrific.


Washington, DC: Do you think its possible that the increased parity in the NFL has actually made it MORE possible for a team to go undefeated/winless? By making everyone about the same, its that much harder for a bad team to get a win and for a good team to lose. In the past when a third of the league was good, a third okay and a third bad, there were more opportunities for bad teams to get wins on each other and good teams to lose to each other. These days everyone is mediocre, so how can St. Louis beat anyone? Also, aside from playing Indy, the Pats really don't play anyone who can be considered good. Kind of counter-intuitive, but I think there might be something there. Maybe?

Mark Maske: It's an interesting theory. The problem is assembling an exceptionally good or bad team in the first place. But yes, I guess once you have a team that's very, very good or very, very bad, it increases the chances of 16-0 or 0-16 to have everyone else bunched toward the middle. The biggest flaw with the theory is we don't ever see either one happen, but I guess we have a chance at both this season.


Oxford, Miss.: I know Donovan McNabb keeps saying he wants to finish his career in Philly but at what point does it just make sense for him (and the Eagles) to get traded. He could get on a team that has a shot at going the distance and the Eagles could start the rebuilding process in earnest. I'm an Eagles fan and I appreciate loyalty but I'm thinking it might be best both for Donovan and the Team for him to go somewhere else.

Mark Maske: Don't overreact just because the Eagles are 3-5 and in last place. This is a team that's won five of the last six division titles. It won the division last season after being 5-6. Don't start tearing apart the entire team just yet. Things don't last forever and the time could come when suggesting that is perfectly reasonable, but I don't think that time is now.


Eagles woes: While it's nice that the Eagles' head office is standing behind Andy Reid, I can't help but feel there's a problem. If his sons are in that much trouble, he can't be giving his full attention to coaching the team.

Mark Maske: There are certainly some very real family problems there and some difficult and delicate issues related to balancing work and personal time. I've had a lot of people in the league tell me they wouldn't be surprised at all to see Reid walk away after the season. I have never thought he would quit in the middle of the season.


Re: More embarrassing: I disagree. The Ravens looked positively awful. All the fumbles and QBs getting killed. At least Jason Campbell left the game against the Pats with some dignity.

Mark Maske: But it was 52-7. That's a game that gets remembered for a long, long time. Last night's game will be forgotten within a few weeks. It was just your standard-issue, run-of-the-mill blowout.


Silver Spring, Md.: I know its hindsight, but why did several teams pass on Adrian Peterson?

Mark Maske: He went seventh, so it's not like he fell to the bottom of the first round or anything. The six teams that passed on him were the Raiders, Lions, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals and Redskins. The Bucs had Cadillac Williams, the Cardinals have Edgerrin James and the Redskins have Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. Certainly the Raiders, Lions and Browns might like a do-over, but you can't really fault the picks of JaMarcus Russell, Calvin Johnson and Joe Thomas. There was a little bit of an issue with the broken collarbone that Peterson suffered in college and some wariness by some teams that he might need surgery and miss some or even all of his rookie season. But the Vikings thought he'd be okay without surgery and obviously they were right because he's been quite a bit better than okay.


Boston: What would the Pats record be if they had Campbell from the 'Skins as their QB instead of Brady? What would the 'Skins record be if they had Brady instead of Campbell? Is a quality QB the scarcest commodity in the NFL?

Mark Maske: A quarterback the quality of Brady or Peyton Manning is the scarcest commodity, for sure. I'd say the Patriots with Jason Campbell as their quarterback would be behind the Colts but would still be the second-best team in the NFL because they're so solid in all other areas. I'm not sure the Redskins would be unbeaten with Tom Brady as their quarterback but they'd be the best team in the NFC.


Pats-Colts rematch: Any advantage the Colts may have with a healthier roster could be nullified simply with better officiating. That was embarrassing to watch. Two pass interference penalties should never have been called and a third should have been called on the Colts, not NE. I'm thinking the rematch will involve more experienced refs.

Mark Maske: But you know, you see pass interference calls blown every single week in the NFL. That's just something that happens. I think the Patriots showed Sunday they're the best team in the league but the Colts showed they belong on the same field and will have a chance to win the next time the two play.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Were you at Heinz Field last night for oldtimers' night?

In spite of the horrible loss, I think the feeling around here for many is: Ray Lewis is a class act. Hope he finds a way to help his team turn around for the rematch.

Now, is McNair over and out now?

Thanks much. HLB

Mark Maske: No, I wasn't there. I watched as much as I could take. It's an interesting issue with McNair. I do think you have to consider going to Kyle Boller.


Baltimore: Any thoughts on the energized Buffalo Bills? Winners of their last three and should have beaten the Broncos and Cowboys. Are the Bills a legit wild card contender yet?

Mark Maske: That seems to be a legitimate team and it should have at least one more win. I don't know if I'm ready to call the Bills a playoff contender simply because it's the AFC we're talking about, but you can't help but like their team.


Adrian Peterson: Mark, where will I rank among the top running backs in the league in three years?

Mark Maske: First.

How about right now? I'd say first right now, too. Who would you rather have? He's putting up these numbers on a team that has absolutely no passing threat.


Anonymous: Do you see the Browns pulling a Chargers and trading away Derek Anderson for replacement Quinn next year no matter what happens?

This kid is a stud and no one seems to be talking about him.

Mark Maske: No, I don't see the Browns letting Anderson get away. Even if they do go to Quinn as the starter at some point, they're going to want to have Anderson around in case Quinn fails or gets hurt.


Washington, D.C.: Everyone is jumping on the AFC bandwagon and saying how bad the teams in the NFC. Sure the colts and patriots are great but one of the main reason they have been consistently good for the past few season is that they have not had any injuries to their starting quarterbacks. Most of the teams in NFC are hurting because they have had a lot of injuries to their starting QB. Teams like Eagles, Panthers, Rams, Seahawks all have had injuries to their starting QBS. I like to see how colts and patriots would fare without their starting QB and then we can determine how good Belichick and Dungy are as head coaches.

Mark Maske: Even if those teams are perfectly healthy, they don't in any way stack up to the Colts and Patriots right now. They're simply not as good. Now, I do think the conferences are fairly comparable this season once you get past the Colts and Patriots, but you can't just throw them out of the equation and say that makes everything equal.


Brady's Skills: Something to remember about the Patriots is, yeah, Tom Brady is a HOF quarterback but that offensive line gets him like five minutes to pass with every snap. Most teams with a decent QB would be playing much better if they had the Patriots O-line.

Mark Maske: It's a very good offensive line that's playing very well. He has very good receivers playing with him this season, as well. But you couldn't just take any quarterback and plug him into that equation and come out with 33 touchdowns and four interceptions. It all starts with Brady.


Pittsburgh: What is the bigger surprise? The Browns looking good and in 2nd in the AFC north or the Bengals and Ravens looking up from the bottom.

Mark Maske: The Browns are a huge surprise. You could look at the talent on that roster and envision an improvement. But I don't know that you could envision five wins at the halfway point.


SU: Do you see Jason Campbell throwing for 300 yards-plus anytime this season. I know the 'Skins like to run the ball but when Clinton Portis has more rushing yards then JC has passing, isn't something a little bit off?

Mark Maske: After the way Portis ran the ball Sunday and what Gibbs said about that being the type of offense he wanted to have, it doesn't seem like Jason Campbell will be given the opportunities any time soon to have any 300-yard passing games unless the Redskins fall way, way behind early in a game.


Columbia, Md.: We now see that the Colts can be competitive with the Pats, who can be competitive with either from the NFC? I still don't see the Steelers with those 2 teams yet. Who can be competitive with Dallas in the NFC?

Mark Maske: I don't see anyone in the NFC being able to beat the Patriots or Colts. The Cowboys actually had the lead in the second half when they played the Patriots and that game was closer than the 21-point final margin. But I still don't see the Cowboys being able to beat either one. The Giants might have the best chance because of their pass-rush abilities, but I think both the New England and Indianapolis defenses would force some big-time mistakes by Eli Manning.


Call me mean spirited but...: I can't help admitting that I kind of like the idea of the Patriots going 16-0 AND Miami going 0-16 just to really stick it to the '72 Dolphins.

Mark Maske: I'm not ruling out either possibility.


Washington, D.C.: As I watch McNabb play I feel sorry for him. I know he is taking a lot of heat, but are folks in Philly ever on the team for not getting him any receivers? I thought the James Thrash and Todd Pinkney year was bad.

Mark Maske: Both pre-T.O. and post-T.O., the Eagles have taken the approach that they can make the offense work without a true No. 1 receiver. I'm not sure that I agree. Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown are decent players, but I think they need one truly big-time guy in the mix to make it all go.


Mark Maske: I'm going to run, everyone. Thanks for the questions and see you right here next week.


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