Matthew Stafford is 1-6 as a starter this season, recently threw five interceptions in a game at Seattle and has one of the lowest quarterback efficiency ratings in the NFL at 59.5.
But guess what? It’s not all bad.
Stafford is earning points with the Detroit Lions for his toughness. He has been playing through a knee injury in Detroit that caused him to miss two games (plus the bye week). According to the Detroit Free Press, “Stafford still doesn’t put weight on his right knee when he gets up off the turf, but he makes a point of getting up quickly.”
He also avoided throwing any interceptions against Minnesota despite being constantly harassed and/or sacked.
I know. The natural reaction is: For a $78 million contract, that’s what he’s supposed to do. Fair enough. But we tend to find out about quarterbacks when they get body-slammed every week. So it counts for something.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he didn’t want to “give any gold stars for somebody playing tough.”
But he added, “It’s a tough business, and you have to be physically and mentally tough to play quarterback in this league. There’s a lot of attention at the position, and the physical nature of the position is demanding. … And it’s not just on the field, what you see on Sunday. It’s practice and getting through things like that and going out and practicing on a Wednesday and a Thursday after an experience like this. … I think he’s shown a lot of signs that he can deal with this.”
Meanwhile, here are this week’s NFC rankings. The Lions still stink.
1. (1.) NEW ORLEANS (9-0): The Saints have shifted into auto pilot. They barely beat the 1-8 Rams last week (28-23) and Drew Brees threw two more interceptions. He can throw four against Tampa Bay Sunday and I’m not sure it would make a difference. Their next challenge: Monday against New England.
2. (2.) MINNESOTA (8-1): While we’re waiting on Saints-Patriots, think about this: the Vikings may not lose another game. Seriously. The rest of their schedule: Seahawks, Bears, Cardinals, Bengals, Panthers, Bears (again), Giants. FIU already was booked for a Florida game.
3. (7.) GREEN BAY (5-4): Yes, I jumped the Packers from seventh over Dallas just for one win. Don’t like it? Get your own rankings. I’m convinced they’ve shaken their post-Favre funk, and look how the schedule sets up the next four weeks: 49ers, Lions, Ravens, Bears. Sweep the four and we’ve got a nice national TV game Dec. 20: Packers at Steelers.
4. (3.) DALLAS (6-3): Cowboys fans, despite last week’s loss to Green Bay, you may continue to throw parades for Tony Romo and Wade Phillips for two more weeks. But after facing the Redskins and Raiders, Dallas has consecutive games at New York, against San Diego and at New Orleans. That’s when they start to blow up. There. I said it.
5. (5.) ARIZONA (6-3): The Cardinals go back to their previous home in St. Louis, before Bill Bidwell hijacked the team. More importantly, Kurt Warner goes back to the place where most of us were first introduced to his wife Brenda and her really bad haircut.
6. (4.) PHILADELPHIA (5-4): Brian Westbrook got two concussions three weeks apart and he might be toast, which means the Eagles might be toast. Donovan McNabb now sits in the middle of a kiddie corps on offense: receiver DeSean Jackson (second year), receiver Jeremy Maclin (rookie), tight end Brent Celek (first year as a starter) and running back LeSean McCoy (rookie). Sunday’s game at Chicago will be telling.
7. (6.) FALCONS (5-4): It’s not over but it’s not pleasant. Even putting aside the recent struggles of Matt Ryan for a minute: Michael Turner is out, Jerious Norwood is iffy, Roddy White has a bad knee, Michael Jenkins is mediocre and Tony Gonzalez was beat up last week by Carolina. This teams goes as the offense goes. Not a great backdrop for Sunday’s game against an angry and rested Giants team. Speaking of whom …
8. (8.) N.Y. GIANTS (5-4): They’re coming off a bye, and they needed it after four straight losses. Nobody can quite figure out what’s happened to a defense that has allowed 133 points in the last four games but I sense focus won’t be an issue this week. Here’s something else that won’t comfort you: For the first time all season, all 53 players practiced Thursday.
9. (9.) SAN FRANCISCO (4-5): The 49ers’ win over Chicago last Thursday was the first time quarterback Alex Smith won a start since the second game of the 2007 season. He might want to hold onto that memory for a while. This week’s game against Green Bay comes against a defense that had five sacks and three turnovers against Dallas.
10. (10.) CAROLINA (4-6): I wasn’t buying the Panthers’ resurgence based on last week’s win over the error-prone Falcons, and last night we saw why: a loss to the Dolphins. Jake Delhomme morphed from passing threat back to 19-for-42.
11. (11.) SEATTLE (3-6): You know what Jim Mora’s problem is? OK, loaded question. But here’s one thing: He obsesses over too many things instead of just coaching. Exhibit A: He sent a list of 17 grievances to the league office about officiating in last week’s game against Arizona. It’s a good thing nobody asked Seahawks fans for their list of grievances.
12. (12.) CHICAGO (4-5): Somebody figured out that Jay Cutler is 0-3 in televised night games this season, which doesn’t bode well for the Bears’ Sunday night game against Philadelphia. Then again, is there anybody who believes he wouldn’t still be a tool if they played games on Tuesday afternoons?
13. (14.) WASHINGTON (3-6): One interesting subplot to the Dallas game. The Skins’ Albert Haynesworth going against the Cowboys’ Andre Gurode. Three years ago, Haynesworth was playing for Tennessee when he stomped on Gurode on the field, leading to wounds that required 30 stitches to close. Haynesworth was ejected from the game and suspended. Gurode will be wearing armor Sunday.
14. (13.) ST. LOUIS (1-8): The Rams keep requesting extensions with the league in hopes of selling out home games and avoiding blackouts. At this point, you would think they WOULDN’T want to advertise their product.
15. (15.) TAMPA BAY (1-8): Quarterback Josh Freeman looks like he might be pretty good. But even if the Bucs win their final seven games, they still won’t finish with as good a record as last season (9-7). I know. I’m such a kill joy.
16. (16.) DETROIT (1-8): This is a rare week for Lions fans. They can look at the other sideline during the Cleveland game and think, “Yeesh, I’m glad we don’t have to root for those guys.”