How I saw Week 7 in the NFL:
Kudos to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for putting Michael Sam being openly gay into the proper perspective. "It's a dead issue. A dead issue," Jones told Nancy Armour of USA TODAY after the Cowboys' 31-21 win over the New York Giants, their sixth win in a row.
Sam, a defensive lineman, is a member of the team's practice squad and the fact he is openly gay has zero bearing on his standing with the team as Jones' statement attests to. It's a dead issue because it's not a big deal in Big D. Armour detailed what Sam's typical week is like:
Sam has blended in seamlessly with the Cowboys, doing whatever is asked of him in practice - even playing a little offense on the scout squad. He watches from the sidelines with the other practice players during home games, coming up to the edge of the field to study the defense and going back to the bench to join in the breakdowns after each series.
"He comes to work every day, practices hard," coach Jason Garrett said last week. "He's working on his skills and trying to develop."
In an informal poll before the game Sunday in Dallas, seven of 15 Cowboys fans quizzed had no idea Sam was even on the team. This is how it should be for any practice squad player, so the fact that Sam is fairly anonymous is a good thing. The Cowboys are rolling at 6-1 and the odds of Sam appearing on the regular roster this season seem remote, Cowboys writer David Moore of the Dallas Morning News wrote:
I always thought if Sam appeared on the active roster for the Cowboys this season it would happen sooner rather than later. Now that rookie DeMarcus Lawrence and Josh Brent will be eligible to return to the roster in the coming weeks, I'm not sure that Sam will get a chance this season.
--Sam might be anonymous but the same can't be said for Peyton Manning, my favorite athlete of all time. He was brilliant against the 49ers, throwing four touchdowns in the Broncos' 42-17 romp. His third of the game gave him the all-time NFL record for touchdowns with 509, with the best part being his receivers playing keep away with the ball he set the record with:
--At 5-1 and having beaten the 49ers, Cardinals, Colts and Chiefs (along with the hapless Jets), the Broncos look like the NFL's best team. Their defense is a huge improvement from 2013 and Von Miller is the best defensive player this side of J.J. Watt. If they stay healthy, this team is better equipped than last year's to win it all. Their next two games are killers -- San Diego and at New England, both 5-2. Those two games will tell us a lot about the AFC as we reach the midpoint of the season.
--I thought Seattle was going to be even better than their Super Bowl-winning 2013 team but they look just average after losing to the Rams and dropping to 3-3. The Rams made two brilliant plays on punts that were the difference, including a gutsy fake punt for a first down from their own 15-yard line. Seattle has lost any aura of invincibility it had and has found that defending a title is not easy. It couldn't happen to a more annoying group.
--Same old Browns. Cleveland (3-3) became the first team to lose to Jacksonville (1-6), getting embarrassed 24-6. I think the Browns heard all week that their next three games (Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa) were against teams with a combined 1-16 record and got overconfident. They stunk against the Jags and lost any sense of momentum they had coming in.
--The Colts and Ravens (each 5-2) have each been impressive in recent weeks and look like the class in their divisions. The Colts have the best young quarterback in Andrew Luck and a defense that pitched a shutout for the franchise's first in six years on Sunday. The Ravens have developed a potent offense and the defense is rounding into form.
--In contrast, the four NFC South teams are a combined 8-17-1, with Carolina at 3-3-1 in first place. The Panthers can't stop anybody; the Saints can't win on the road; the Falcons have lost four in a row by double digits each; and the Bucaneers have allowed more points than anyone in the league.
--Hot player of the week: Chris Hogan, wide receiver, Buffalo Bills. Hogan had fumbled earlier in the game against Minnesota but he made up for it with a huge 28-yard leaping catch with 25 seconds left. The catch left the ball at the Vikings' 2 and on the next play, Kyle Orton hit Sammy Watkins for a touchdown that lifted the Bills (4-3) over the Vikings (2-5), 17-16. Hogan is 6-1 and 220 pounds of hotness:
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