Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - "The Butterfly Effect" is far more than
a science fiction thriller starring Ashton Kutcher.
In real life, it's a term used in chaos theory to illustrate how small initial
differences may lead to larger unforeseen consequences over time.
The name of the effect was coined by Edward Lorenz and refers back to a
theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being wholly contingent on
whether or a butterfly had flapped its wings weeks earlier.
While that's obviously a stretch and Hollywood has by and large turned the
butterfly effect into a hackneyed cliche involving time travel, it's actual
implications are taken for granted by millions every day.
It could be as simple as taking a different route to work the day there was a
massive traffic jam on the freeway or as life-altering as the now legendary
stories of the lucky few who missed their doomed flights on Sept. 11, 2001.
The butterfly effect even exists in football, evidenced by Baltimore Ravens
rookie safety Matt Elam, who took out Aaron Rodgers' most dynamic receiver,
Randall Cobb, last Sunday with a text-book hit under 2013 football rules, one
with which Rodgers took exception.
The helmet to the leg knocked Cobb out of the game with what is being reported
as a broken right fibula, an injury that will sideline him for "multiple
weeks," according to Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Multiple weeks turned out to be at least eight when the Pack placed Cobb on
injured reserve with a designation to return on Tuesday. The third-year
standout will not be eligible to play until the Packers' Week 15 matchup at
Dallas on Dec. 15, and even that sounds like a stretch.
The injury could be a significant blow to Green Bay, which improved to 3-2
with Sunday's defeat of the Ravens. Cobb is leading the team with 29
receptions for 378 yards with two touchdowns and also serves as the Packers'
primary punt returner.
Rodgers confronted Elam on the field and explained his thought process
"I think he could have hit him in the proper hitting zone and that's what I
told him," the All-Pro said.
To an offensive player these days, "the proper hitting zone" is akin to the
strike zone in Major League's Baseball's steroid era, basically the 12-inch-
or-so area from your waist to your thighs.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh responded by taking exception with Rodgers'
ridiculous take on Elam's legal hit.
"To say that it could have been more artistically palatable is pretty hard
for me to understand," Harbaugh said Monday. "That's a fast route. They ran a
pretty good route there. Aaron made a good, quick throw in there and Matt is
doing the best he can to try to stop that play. So I have no idea what
(Rodgers is) talking about."
Rodgers was talking about the butterfly effect that has made taking out the
knees -- formally a no-no via unwritten rule in football etiquette -- not only
acceptable but almost necessary.
Keeping defenseless receivers safe has been a point of emphasis for years, one
that has made hits to the head a non-starter and virtually eliminated by
decree of a 15-yard penalty along with a substantial fine.
On paper, it was a prudent idea with everything we now understand about
concussions, but now all the big hitters searching for the knockout blow have
been replaced by heat-seeking missiles like Elam aimed directly at the lower
"The other safety (James Ihedigbo) came over and actually made a very
knowledgeable point, which I appreciated a little intelligent answer back and
forth about some of the issues defensive players have to deal with (trying to
hit) the target area," Rodgers said. "I totally understand that and get that."
If Rodgers really gets it, he understands Elam shouldn't have been penalized,
isn't going be fined and he is down a receiver because of that precious
"proper hitting zone" as it's now defined by the NFL.
Newton's laws of motion are clear: For every action there is always an equal
and opposite reaction.
Matt Elam's hit was the reaction to an untenable policy here and the only
thing to blame for Cobb's injury is good intentions gone bad.
NFL POWER POLL
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THE GAMES - (All Times Eastern) - WEEK 7
Seattle (5-1) at Arizona (3-3), Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 6 1/2
THE SKINNY: If the Cardinals plan to get involved in the NFC West race, it's
imperative they hold serve at home when the division-leading Seattle
Seahawks arrive for "Thursday Night Football." The rough and tumble West could
very well be the NFL's toughest division and is currently the league's only
one in which all four teams are at or above .500.
This game features two of the NFL's premier cornerbacks in Arizona's Patrick
Peterson and Seattle's Richard Sherman. Both ball hawks are in their third NFL
season and Peterson's 10 interceptions since 2012 are third in the NFL behind
Sherman (11) and Chicago's Tim Jennings (12).
Seattle has been mortal away from the Pacific Northwest this season, rallying
late to beat Carolina and Houston before stumbling in Indianapolis. Meanwhile,
Arizona has the kind of defense that could make things difficult for the
Seahawks' running game and has the revenge factor after the ugly 58-0 setback
in the Pacific Northwest last season.
The Cardinals come in here as the far more desperate team and have a history
of handling Seattle in the desert, so that makes Arizona the prudent pick here
... if Carson Palmer can play a somewhat clean game. And that's a big "if."
PREDICTION: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20
Tampa Bay (0-5) at Atlanta (1-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 7
THE SKINNY: Call the Falcons a Super Bowl contender gone awry thanks to
injuries and ineptitude. The latest of example of Murphy's Law striking Dixie
was the season-ending broken foot of All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.
As bad as things are in Atlanta, though, they are even worse in Tampa, where
things like MRSA and the Josh Freeman debacle have turned embattled head coach
Greg Schiano into a dead man walking.
PREDICTION: Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10
St. Louis (3-3) at Carolina (2-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Panthers by 6
THE SKINNY: The Rams have rebounded to win two in a row, including last week's
38-13 rout at Houston in which St. Louis scored in all three phases, offense,
defense and special teams.
"I think everyone totally bought in," said Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who
recorded a career-best 134.6 passer rating. "If you look at the way we've
played the past two weeks, it's been a completely different mind-set and
Carolina had that same mind-set and attitude in Minneapolis a week ago as Cam
Newton accounted for four touchdowns -- three passing, one rushing -- in the
Panthers' 35-10 drubbing of the Vikings. The former Rookie of the Year joined
former Viking Daunte Culpepper as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era
to record three games with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing
touchdown during their first three NFL seasons.
"This is a team that understands the importance of where we are right now and
where we can go," said Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith. "It's a team that
seems to be waking up."
PREDICTION: Panthers 20, Rams 17
Cincinnati (4-2) at Detroit (4-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 3
THE SKINNY: Doppelgangers at the top of the AFC and NFC North meet in the
Motor City as the 4-2 Bengals visit the 4-2 Lions. Cincinnati is alone atop
its division after last week's hard-fought 27-24 overtime win at
Buffalo. Quarterback Andy Dalton passed for 337 yards and three touchdowns in
that one while kicker Mike Nugent booted the game-winning 43-yard field goal
with 6:44 remaining in the extra period.
"We've done some good things," said Dalton of the team's recent play on
offense. "It's nice for us to come out and score, move the ball well and do
some good things, so we have to keep getting better and keep improving. That
is what we are going to do."
Detroit, which has company atop the NFC North in Chicago, will be seeking to
knock off its second straight AFC North foe after the team's Week 6 win at
Cleveland. Matthew Stafford tossed four touchdown passes, including three to
undrafted rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, who became the first tight end in
franchise history with three TD receptions in a game. Defensively, linebacker
DeAndre Levy had two interceptions and is now tied for the NFL lead with four
PREDICTION: Bengals 21, Lions 20
San Diego (3-3) at Jacksonville (0-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Chargers by 7 1/2
THE SKINNY: It's been the Philip Rivers show for San Diego this season. The
veteran QB has been spectacular, recording an NFL-high three 400-yard passing
games and a 108.7 passer rating, second in all of football behind Peyton
Manning. Rivers has done all that despite being without Danario Alexander
(ACL) for the entire season and Malcom Floyd (neck) since Week 2. Rookie
Keenan Allen is quickly turning into Rivers' top receiving threat and will be
aiming for his third straight game with 100-plus receiving yards and a TD.
The hapless Jags were far more competitive than most thought against
high-powered Denver a week ago thanks in large part to Chad Henne, who
registered his 10th career 300-yard passing effort, and star receiver Justin
Blackmon, who leads the NFL with 19 catches for 326 yards since returning from
suspension in Week 5.
PREDICTION: Chargers 27, Jaguars 17
Buffalo (2-4) at Miami (3-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Dolphins by 8 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Bills signed QB Matt Flynn earlier this week, but coach Doug
Marrone still expects Thad Lewis to be able to play Sunday after the Duke
product sprained his foot in his second career start, an overtime loss to
Cincinnati this past Sunday. Lewis, of course, is only playing because rookie
starter E.J. Manuel is out with a knee sprain and his original backup. fellow
freshman Jeff Tuel, was miserable in his first turn at the wheel. Lewis
completed 19-of-32 passes for 216 yards with three TDs (two pass, one rush)
against the Bengals.
He will greet a Miami team coming off its bye week and trying to halt a two-
game skid. Since 1990, the Dolphins are 14-10 after a bye and second-year QB
Ryan Tannehill tends to play better at home, completing 80-of-128 passes for
893 yards with seven TDs versus one interception and a 98.2 passer rating in
his last four starts in the Sunshine State.
PREDICTION: Dolphins 27, Bills 17
New England (5-1) at New York Jets (3-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 4
THE SKINNY: Injuries continue to pile up for New England as it shoots for its
seventh consecutive win over the Jets and its 13th straight against AFC East
foes. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was placed on injured reserve Wednesday
after reportedly undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. Mayo was hurt
during the fourth quarter of this past Sunday's game against New Orleans. The
two-time Pro Bowl selection leads the Patriots with 55 tackles this season.
It's another significant loss for the New England defense, as star defensive
tackle Vince Wilfork went on IR earlier this month because of a torn Achilles'
Last weekend, Bill Belichick surpassed Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll on the
all-time list with his 210th victory, good for fifth in NFL lore. This weekend,
it's Tom Brady's turn to make history. Brady, who beat the Saints with a late-
game TD pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, needs one more scoring pass to lap
Fran Tarkenton (342) for forth-most in NFL history. Brady is 18-4 all-time
against the Jets.
New York rookie Geno Smith is 2-1 as a starter at home and has been especially
effective in the fourth quarter over the past month, completing 26-of-37
passes for 317 yards with three TDs and a 112.1 passer rating in the game's
most important frame over that span.
PREDICTION: Patriots 23, Jets 20
Dallas (3-3) at Philadelphia (3-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Eagles by 3
THE SKINNY: First place in the NFC East will be on the line when the Eagles
host the banged-up Cowboys, who will be without starting running back DeMarco
Murray and star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware.
Dwayne Harris sparked Dallas last weekend with a 90-yard kickoff return and an
86-yard punt-return touchdown in the team's 31-16 win over Washington. The
Cowboys lead the NFC with 183 points scored and Tony Romo's 108.6 passer
rating is the highest mark in the NFC.
"The division games are big," Romo said. "We have a big one with Philadelphia.
It's a tough place to play. They're playing tough football, so it'll be a good
test for us. We'll be ready."
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has won two in a row after last weekend's 31-20
victory at Tampa Bay and will be going with second-year man Nick Foles at QB
for the second consecutive week as Michael Vick continues to recover from a
Running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 630 rushing yards and 871
scrimmage yards and is the fulcrum of an offense which is the only one since
the 1970 merger to gain at least 1,600 net passing yards (1,628) and 1,050
rushing yards (1,071) through the first six games of a season.
"I've seen improvement from where we started to where we are right now," said
Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly.
PREDICTION: Eagles 34, Cowboys 30
Chicago (4-2) at Washington (1-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Redskins by 1
THE SKINNY: Chicago and its opportunistic defense will try to stop a four-game
losing streak to the Redskins, who are off to a dismal 1-4 start after winning
the NFC East a season ago. The Bears "D" has not allowed a fourth-quarter TD
this season, and since 2012 has 11 interception returns for TDs, most in the
NFL. Cornerback Tim Jennings had two picks in a win over the New York Giants in
Week 6 and leads the NFL with 12 since 2012.
Washington continues to struggle as Robert Griffin III feels his way back from
the torn ACL he suffered in last season's playoffs. RG3's numbers have been
fine but it's clear he has lacked some of the explosion and elusiveness that
defined his game pre-injury.
PREDICTION: Bears 21, Redskins 16
San Francisco (4-2) at Tennessee (3-3), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 4
THE SKINNY: The Titans have lost two straight behind veteran backup Ryan
Fitzpatrick as Jake Locker continues to recover from hip and knee injuries
he suffered on Sept. 29. Fitzpatrick is expected to make his third start on
Sunday against the 49ers, although Locker has been cleared for football
activities. The target for Locker's return remains the Nov. 3 game against the
St. Louis Rams after the team's bye week.
The Niners, on the other hand, have won three straight and are looking
stronger and stronger as they get healthier. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is
the barometer for their success and is now 11-5 as the team's starter
(including playoffs) with 94.1 rating and 674 rushing yards. When Kaepernick
starts and has a 100-plus passer rating, the 49ers are 7-0.
PREDICTION: 49ers 29, Titans 17
Cleveland (3-3) at Green Bay (3-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 10
THE SKINNY: Aaron Rodgers is running out of healthy receivers, but it won't
matter much this weekend with Brandon Weeden and Cleveland coming to Titletown.
A-Rod completed 15-of-20 passes for 246 yards with three TDs and a 155.4
passer rating in his only start against the Browns and has won 21 of his past
22 starts at home.
Cleveland hangs its hat on big-play WR Josh Gordon, who has 25 receptions for
429 yards and two TDs since returning from a suspension, along with Jordan
Cameron, who leads all NFL tight ends with 38 receptions.
PREDICTION: Packers 31, Browns 16
Baltimore (3-3) at Pittsburgh (1-4), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Steelers by 1
THE SKINNY: Football's version of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry renews in the
Steel City with a little less luster. The reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens
are a pedestrian 3-3, while the Steelers finally earned their first win
last weekend against the Jets. Baltimore has won 13 of its last 15 against AFC
North foes and will be searching for its fourth straight win in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers will continue to rely on star QB Ben Roethlisberger, who is an
impressive 88-43 in his career as a starter and 9-5 versus the Ravens. "Big
Ben" also needs just three TD passes to join Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw
(212) as the only Steelers' signal callers with 200 TD throws.
PREDICTION: Steelers 17, Ravens 16
Houston (2-4) at Kansas City (6-0), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Chiefs by 6 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Texans will be trying to halt an ugly four-game losing streak
with a quarterback situation in flux. Matt Schaub is injured and has been
ineffective, giving embattled head coach Gary Kubiak a decision to make. If
Schaub can't go because of his balky ankle, then Kubiak could turn to either
T.J. Yates, who played poorly after relieving Schaub in an embarrassing home
loss to St. Louis last weekend, or Case Keenum, a popular Texas native who
starred in college at the University of Houston.
Kansas City will be a tough task for any of them. The Chiefs are the first
team in NFL history to start 6-0 after losing 14-plus games in the previous
season and will be shooting for their first 7-0 start since 2003 (9-0). The
K.C. defense is coming off a 10-sack performance against Oakland and has helped
the team compile an NFL-best plus-12 turnover ratio. QB Alex Smith, meanwhile,
is 25-5-1 as a starter in his last 31 games.
PREDICTION: Chiefs 23, Texans 14
Denver (6-0) at Indianapolis (4-2), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 6 1/2
THE SKINNY: Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis in search of his 17th
straight regular-season win as the Broncos' starting QB. Manning posted a
141-67 regular-season record for Indianapolis, passing for 54,828 yards, 399
touchdowns and a 94.9 passer rating as he guided the Colts to the playoffs 11
times, including a victory in Super Bowl XLI. He hasn't slowed down in the
Rockies and leads the NFL with 2,179 passing yards, 22 touchdowns -- the most
ever through the first six games of a season -- and a 128.8 passer rating this
Denver improved to 6-0 last Sunday with a 35-19 win over Jacksonville and has
scored 265 points, the most ever by a team through the first six games of a
season. Manning passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over
the Jaguars while running back Knowshon Moreno rushed for three scores.
Manning's successor in Indy, Andrew Luck -- the No. 1 overall selection by the
Colts in 2012 -- has won 15 of his first 22 career starts. He guided the Colts
to the playoffs as a rookie a year ago and currently has the team in first
place in the AFC South.
In Monday's loss at San Diego, Manning's former favorite target and Luck's
current one, Reggie Wayne, reached 1,000 career catches (1,001), becoming the
ninth player in NFL history to do so. The Colts -- with Wayne and Marvin
Harrison (1,102) -- are the first team in NFL history to have two players with
1,000 receptions and Manning was a huge part of that.
PREDICTION: Broncos 34, Colts 27
Minnesota (1-4) at New York Giants (0-6), Monday, 8:40 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 3
THE SKINNY: If the Giants are ever going to get it done, this is probably the
week. The Vikings figure to turn to their third QB of the season, talented but
enigmatic ex-Bics starter Josh Freeman. But unless Freeman also can line up
at cornerback, defensive tackle and linebacker, it might not matter.
Minnesota's defense is giving up 31.6 points per game (30th in the NFL), 308
passing yards per contest (29th) and 418 total yards (31st). And the one thing
the Giants can do is throw the football. Victor Cruz has 14 catches for 261
yards and two TDs in his past two "Monday Night Football" games, while Hakeem
Nicks had seven catches for 96 yards in his last meeting against the Vikings.
Also up-and-comer Reuben Randle has nine catches for 171 yards and three TDs
over his last two contests.
PREDICTION: Giants 33, Vikings 24
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