Bill Belichick was asked this week about Peyton Manning's subpar performance against Tennessee last Monday night.
``He looked pretty good to me,'' replied the New England coach, whose team will face Manning and the Colts on Sunday night. ``I don't think he is injured. He hasn't been on the injury report, so I am assuming he is not hurt.''
Pure coachspeak and probably a shot at the Tony Dungy/Bill Polian/Colts injury report. When Tom Brady was healthy, Belichick, who always has played his own games with the report, listed him as ``probable-shoulder.''
In any language, Manning is clearly not Manning this season after missing camp following what we now know were two procedures on his knee. He is 22nd in the passer rating at 79.0, about 25-30 points below his usual mark, and about 20 spots in the rankings from where he's been for the last half-dozen seasons. Even Matt Cassel, Brady's replacement, is above him.
z with the Mets compared to Pedro Martinez with the Red Sox. He wasn't totally ineffective, but a dozen of his throws seemed off. Not by a lot, but by enough to make a difference.
Yes, the Colts have a lot of injuries. Yes, the old Marvin Harrison isn't the young Marvin Harrison. But let's not pretend that Peyton is Peyton.
He's only 32, so it's probably the knee. Or another injury that no one's telling us about.
Some other odds and ends as the NFL reaches the halfway mark:

IT'S WHAT'S UP FRONT THAT COUNTS: This used to be an advertising slogan for a cigarette brand back in the days when smoking was widespread and television advertising was permitted. It's always been the perfect slogan for winning football teams.
Here's the best example.
The Tennessee Titans have 18 sacks and have allowed two, the fewest in the NFL. The New York Giants have 26 sacks, most in the league, and have allowed six. Those two teams are a combined 13-1 and lead their respective conferences. Yes, glamour stats by skill-position players are all the rage with fantasy football players. But guys in the trenches win games.
To that end, will someone outside Tennessee please acknowledge Michael Roos, the Titans' left tackle, who could end up being another example of what a farce the Pro Bowl has become. Unless he makes it.
he Titans have allowed just two sacks, even with the immobile Kerry Collins at quarterback. The Titans recognized him in the offseason with a six-year, $43 million contract, then gave David Stewart, who plays on the other side, $38.9 million.
That's a demonstration of a team spending its money the right way. But it doesn't guarantee fame.
Roos, who was born in Estonia and moved to the United States when he was 10, was never a glamorous college star, like Alabama's Andre Smith, a left tackle who is likely to be a top five draft pick if he comes out next April. He was a second-round choice in 2005 from Eastern Washington, which doesn't quite get the amount of national TV time as the Crimson Tide get.
So he may be the best left tackle in the NFL right now and one of the league's least recognized stars.

THE CONVERSE: Pittsburgh's offensive line, hurt by free-agent defections and injuries, has allowed 24 sacks. The Steelers lost to the Giants because they allowed five sacks and had none themselves after coming in leading the league in that category. At 5-2, they should win the AFC North and certainly have the talent elsewhere to advance in the playoffs.
But the OL is making Ben Roethlisberger vulnerable; he rested with a sore shoulder again this week. It's hard to win a Super Bowl when your quarterback is constantly taking a beating.

contract he signed when he was appointed interim coach of the Rams that would automatically make the job permanent if he won six games. That's because of the Rooney rule, which requires that a team interview minority candidates before making a permanent hire.
In the long run, it probably doesn't matter. If Haslett isn't rehired by the Rams after they do their due diligence, he should be hired by someone else in a year where coaching vacancies could reach double digits.
Rule out only the Lions because:
-His surname doesn't start with ``M.''
-He's a winner: 2-1 in St. Louis and was 43-39 in New Orleans until his final 3-13 2005 season, when he had to act as owner, general manager, coach, travel coordinator and everything else as the Saints tried to survive the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But he's fair game for anyone else, including the Rams.
It would be a shock if he doesn't land somewhere after so quickly turning around a demoralized team with marginal talent. Although someone in St. Louis knew what he was doing by making Donnie Avery the first wide receiver taken in the draft.

SINGLETARY'S RANT: Mike Singletary got a lot of praise in his debut as a head coach with the 49ers. First for calling out the underachieving Vernon Davis and sending the tight end off the pitch, then for going public on it.
n in private. And for carrying on like a high school coach rather than one in the NFL.
On balance, Singletary did the right thing.
It gave him credibility with fans who are tired of highly paid prima donnas who don't perform on the field and probably with those players who are tired of working hard and watching others slack off. It's one way to assure those players who want to continue to work hard that you won't tolerate other guys mailing in their performances.
But Singletary's best chance of keeping his team's attention - and in the long run keeping his job - might be to loosen up after the first barrage. Most head coaches learn that a carrot and stick approach only works for so long, and that it's better to get to know 53 individuals and learn what motivates each one.
Singletary was a fiery player and a vocal leader on the Bears of the '80s. But he's in a different position now, a rare one in any sport. Few Hall of Fame players have the patience to tutor those to whom the game comes less easily.
Singletary might take a lesson from Tom Coughlin, a tough disciplinarian who saved his job at age 60 by changing some of his inflexible rules and went on to win a Super Bowl with a team full of strong personalities.
hip council of a dozen players as a bridge between him and the rank-and-file.
In the long term, it's important that Singletary succeeds. Because if he does, some ``me-first'' players will get the signal - not only in San Francisco but around the NFL.
If not, they may shrug him off as just another loser trying to tell millionaires what to do.
DIRTY DOZEN: The top six and bottom six teams in the NFL based on current level of play:
1. Tennessee (7-0). Two sacks allowed all season. Dull wins.
2. New York Giants (6-1). Dave Tollefson, Madison Hedgecock and Domenik Hixon, all productive, were picked up on waivers from Oakland, St. Louis and Denver. Like extra draft picks.
3. Carolina (6-2). Everyone gets to throw out a bad game. In this case, the Panthers' loss in Tampa.
4. Pittsburgh (5-2). Nobody shut down the Giants' run game like the Steelers did last week.
5. Washington (6-2). Clinton Portis is the first half MVP.
6. New England (5-2). For people who thought the Patriots would disappear.

27. Seattle (2-5). Beating the 49ers doesn't really count.
28. San Francisco (2-6). Singletary can rant, but he needs players, specifically a QB.
29. Oakland (2-5). The Bay Area has been barren for a long time.
30. Kansas City (1-6). Maybe Tyler Thigpen has a future.
31. Cincinnati (0-8). Pointing toward the final-week showdown with the Chiefs.
32. Detroit (0-7). When will Calvin Johnson start suggesting that his immense talent might fit better elsewhere?

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