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NFL Week 2 Power Rankings: Patriots win down, dirty

The Red Sox will present Rivera with a gift Sunday, perhaps second base from Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

Then New York Jets offensive center Nick Mangold will sprint out of the dugout and take out Rivera at the knees when he walks off the field.

Or maybe not.

That lack of sportsmanship and class would be a nice follow to Mangold's attempted knee-capitation of Aqib Talib from behind at the end of Thursday night's miserable 13-10 victory over the Jets.

Talib picked off a Geno Smith pass and, like a wise NFL veteran, stayed bounds as long as possible before dancing his way off the field, icing New England's mathematical triumph.

This did not sit well with Mangold, who tried to do what that PED suspension couldn't do to Talib last year, namely end his career or put it on indefinite hold.

The teams came to blows in the aftermath of the play, with offensive lineman Willie Colon making contact with an official and D'Brickashaw Ferguson throwing a punch. It was the only punch provided by the Jets' offense.

The Patriots' offense was worse, especially since they actually have both a legitimate veteran quarterback and postseason expectations.

"I was tired of losing," Colon said. "And we just can't have it. I don't remember ... I was trying to get in there and help my brother and that is why I reacted the was I reacted."

Usually taking a swing at your opponent after the game is out of reach is usually considered one of the not best ways to respond to losing.

Pats Jets Mangold Globe - Barry Chin.jpgMangold's cheap-shot and the ensuing melee set off Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"I made the tackle. He was obviously along the sideline and I thought he was still in inbounds. I thought it was a good tackle and apparently it was not and that's how they saw it and it started a little ruckus," Mangold told the New York Daily News. "Obviously it's an intense game and an intense rivalry and tempers flare."

Patriots' lineman Logan Mankins, speaking on the CSNNE post-game Patriots' postgame show, had a much more concise and accurate assessment of the hit. "They took a cheap shot," he said in his weekly sponsored appearance. "It was on the wrong sideline to do that so we were standing up for our guy ... Since the Jets did it, was dirty. If I had done that, it would have not been dirty."

Welcome to the "No-Spin Zone."

Any official word on a possible fine for Mangold won't come until Monday at the earliest.

Cheapshots and childish antics have spread through the NFL and college ranks like PED usage or Johnny Manziel autograph signings.

Mangold's desperate dive was mild compared to some of the other lowbrow hits that have emerged in the league of late. The NFL's push to cut down on concussions via penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits or blatant head shots [see the league's $765 million legal settlement with its retirees] has created a new breed of "fake tough" players.

Many receivers and other skill players have lost the fear of going over the middle that they once had. And where defenders used to aim high to tackle, without necessarily using the helmet to hit the opposing player's head, they now the fear being penalized or fined for even incidental head-to-head contact. That means shots to the knees are becoming more common place even as offenses try to exploit these new rules.

"Wide receivers are crossing through the middle of the field and laughing," former Patriots' safety and All-Universe Cheapshot Artist Rodney Harrison, who now works for NBC, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. "It's a joke now."

Where defensive players once focused solely on hits, they now have to factor in fines. "Now their concern is looking up after every play and saying, 'I can't afford $30,000,'" Harrison said. "The entire league has realized these guys have had to change their temperament, and offenses have changed their whole approach."

That focus on the knees has snowballed and spread throughout the league.

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, he of the infamous Thanksgiving 2011 head stomp and 2012 Matt Schaub groin kick, was fined $100,000 by the NFL for his low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan following an interception last week. The flag cost the Lions a touchdown. He's appealing the suspension and Suh's agent says his player was just making a routine play. The play was in a different part of the field as the Mangold hit, but was similar in its childhood cheapness.

Harrison once said he suffered roughly 20 concussions in his NFL career, or at least that's what he remembers. The insidious nature of these injuries has left the NFL with little head room to maneuver when trying to balance the basics of the game, such as hard hits over the middle, with concerns for players' long-term health, litigation and public perception of the sports.

Perhaps a few knees are an acceptable price to pay.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews went right for the head and was fined $15,000 for his Week 1 on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Before last week's game, Matthews had spoken about putting "hits as early and often on the quarterback."

The NFL levied $321,750 in fines after Week 1.

While the Patriots continue to shift through the debacle that was Thursday's victory, they can at least take pride that they've avoided inclusion on the 2013 regular-season fine list.

Here are this week's rankings, listed with the team records and last week's records:

1. 49ers (1-0; 1) - Manziel did everything but win Saturday. No. 1 Alabama beat Manziel and Texas A&M 49-42. Johnny Football threw for 464 yards, amassed another 98 on the ground, completed 28 of 39 passes and connected on a pair of TD passes, including a 95-yarder. He even did some Kapernicking.

Tebow Time in New York over after Jets cut QB

Tim Tebow was waived by NFL Odds the Jets on Monday, the end of an unsuccessful one-season experiment in New York that had been expected for months.

''Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we all had hoped,'' coach Rex Ryan said in a statement by the team in announcing the move.

The Heisman Trophy winner attempted just eight passes after his ballyhooed arrival in a surprising trade from the Denver Broncos in March 2012. He threw for 39 yards and rushed 32 times for 102 yards - and stunningly had no touchdowns as a member of the Jets.

Meanwhile, starter Mark Sanchez struggled amid constant questions about Tebow's playing time, and still Tebow remained mostly on the sideline. The Jets and new general manager John Idzik drafted former West Virginia star Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL draft Friday, giving New York six quarterbacks on its roster - and creating uncertainty about Sanchez's future as well.

Tebow arrived at the team's facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Monday morning and was told he had been cut.

''Tim is an extremely hard worker, evident by the shape he came back in this offseason,'' Ryan said. ''We wish him the best moving forward.''

Tebow took to Twitter a few hours later, citing a bible verse: ''Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding,'' Tebow wrote, ''in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.''

Tebow led the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011, but became expendable when Denver signed Peyton Manning as a free agent. The popular backup quarterback was acquired by the Jets for a fourth-round draft pick and $1.5 million in salary. He was introduced at the Jets' facility to plenty of fanfare at a lavish news conference, with Tebow repeatedly saying he was ''excited'' to be in New York.

It turned out to be one of the few high points in Tebow's stay with the Jets. Along with his shirtless jog from the practice field in the rain during training camp, of course.

Owner Woody Johnson jokingly said last season that ''you can never have enough Tebow.'' Well, the Jets apparently had their fill after just one year.

From the day the Jets made the move to bring Tebow in to compete with Sanchez, many fans and media predicted it was only a matter of time before the former Florida star stepped in as the starting quarterback. There were billboards outside the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey welcoming Tebow, and sandwiches named after him at Manhattan delis.

Meanwhile, the Jets insisted having both Tebow and Sanchez would not be a distraction. The plan was that the team would benefit from having both players' different skill sets: Sanchez as the traditional quarterback, and Tebow running the wildcat-style offense.

While everyone from Johnson to Ryan to former general manager Mike Tannenbaum to former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said they were all ''on board'' with Tebow, it became evident early that he had no clear role.

And Tebow simply didn't impress enough in practice to earn more playing time.

Ryan refused to start Tebow in place of a struggling Sanchez late in the season, choosing instead to go with third-stringer Greg McElroy ahead of him for one game - despite Tebow's multitude of fans taking to Twitter and begging the team to give their favorite player a chance. The since-fired Sparano never was able to figure out a way to consistently use Tebow, who spent most of his time on the sideline during games.

He was solid in his role on special teams as the personal punt protector, but the Jets stopped using him even there after he broke two ribs in a game at Seattle in November. Tebow's overall role diminished greatly after the injury, even after he healed. He tried to hide his frustration, but acknowledged late in the season that things didn't turn out quite how he expected in New York.

''I think it's fair to say,'' Tebow said, ''that I'm a little disappointed.''

The Jets appear to be sticking with Sanchez despite his struggles and the arrival of Smith as the future quarterback because he is guaranteed $8.25 million this season.

Still, Idzik made it clear that the team would bring in competition for Sanchez. Tebow, however, is not going to be among the team's options. He's free to explore other opportunities - even if there don't seem to be many at this point.

It appeared Jacksonville, the other team to pursue Tebow last offseason, would be an obvious landing spot. But new general manager David Caldwell nixed the idea of a happy homecoming when he declared at his introductory news conference that he couldn't ''imagine a scenario in which he'll be a Jacksonville Jaguar.''

Many believe Tebow's best chance to stick in the NFL would be to switch positions. But he insists he is a quarterback and just wants an opportunity - just as the Broncos gave him two seasons ago when he took over for Kyle Orton and led Denver to several comeback victories and into the playoffs.

Tebow was the talk of the country back then, as it seemed everyone - including actor Robert Downey Jr. at the Oscars - was dropping to a knee to do their version of ''Tebowing,'' mimicking the quarterback's prayerful pose.

It was something that was absent all season in his stint with the Jets.

Chicago could be a possibility since new coach Marc Trestman worked with Tebow before the NFL draft in 2010 and in the Senior Bowl and liked what he saw. He'd be a backup there behind Jay Cutler, though. Tampa Bay, San Diego and New England might also be options.

Tebow could also head to Canada and play in the CFL, taking the route several others before him have, such as Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Jeff Garcia. The Montreal Alouettes own his exclusive negotiating rights, but whether Tebow would even be open to a move north of the U.S. border is uncertain.

Brett Bouchy, the owner of the Orlando Predators of the Arena League, recently told the Orlando Sentinel that his team would ''love to have him'' and added that ''we have a contract waiting for him to sign.''

Either way, it's quite a fall from grace for Tebow, who was a two-time national champion with Florida, and whose No. 15 Broncos jersey ranked second in national sales to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in 2011. He remained a model citizen throughout his frustrating year in New York and answered the constant barrage of questions about his role and mindset all season.

Recently retired Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff labeled the way the team used Tebow an ''absolute mess.'' Former Jets teammate Mike DeVito, now with Kansas City, said after the season that he would've liked to have seen Tebow get a chance.

Whether Tebow gets another one elsewhere - and if it's as a quarterback - this season remains to be seen.

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