Chat with Chris Mortensen
Mortensen, an award-winning journalist and one of the most respected and accomplished reporters covering the NFL, joined ESPN in 1991 and appears on Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and SportsCenter.
Send your questions now and join Mort on Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET!
Chris Mortensen (11:02 AM)
Good morning! Thanks for joining me today. Plenty to talk about so let's get started.
benjamin (milwaukee, wi)
hey chris, with Aaron Rodgers and Co. finally getting a win in a close game against a hated rival - do you see them taking the momentum into the rest of the season? What are their chances of a Super Bowl appearance?
Chris Mortensen (11:06 AM)
Even though I picked the Packers for the Super Bowl, I think this is going to be tough. They have had significant injury losses that impact the entire season on offense and defense, as you know. I know they get some guys off PUP but the schedule doesn't do them any favors. I do think the play of the O-line is a positive - Chad Clifton was great Sunday night vs. Jared Allen - but right now, I have to back off that Super Bowl until I see how they respond to the hand of adversity they've been dealt.
Dan (Iowa City)
Is it time to abandon ship on DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith? The Panthers just cant' seem to score points...
Chris Mortensen (11:07 AM)
Now I would hold off on that thought. I really liked the way Matt Moore threw the ball. Steve Smith will get back into sync the QB, I think. And I believe the running game will get closer to what it used to be.
Glenn (Oyster Bay, NY)
Please stop talking about how good the Giants are. (They play better when they are ignored)
Chris Mortensen (11:08 AM)
Well, sorry, but when I picked the Giants to win the NFC East, everyone seemed to go, "Wow..really?." I think their offensive line is coming around. It's not a perfect team but of all teams capable of getting even better in the second half of the season, I think it's the Giants.
Love your work Mort! You have mine and a lot of people DREAM JOB, talking sports all day!!! Anyways, honestly what do you think of Ryan Fitzpatrick, by all means he has played decent D's (Balt, NYJ) is he the real deal? Or can we expect a fall off, obviously his production last week isn't an every week thing, but what do you think about him? Thanks MORT!
Chris Mortensen (11:10 AM)
Thanks for the compliment and, yes, I do have the dream job for a sports guy. I think Ryan Fitzpatrick probably should have been the guy from the get-go. He plays with courage - not afraid to take shots downfield - and he's athletic enough. Maybe his production doesn't stay quite at this level but he's not to be dismissed.
Jay (Richmond, va)
Hey Mort. What's the league-wide view on whether Shane Merriman has anything left and will he be available? Possible destinations ('Skins?)?
Chris Mortensen (11:13 AM)
The league-wide view is one of curiousity but not sold. If he's healthy then any contending team would have to take a shot. That being said, once he's released off the injured list, he is subject to waivers and teams with the worst won-loss record get the first shot to claim him. The 49ers may be 1-6 but their defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky, was Merriman's LB coach in San Diego and they haven't abandon the thought they could win the NFC West. I don't think he falls to the Redskins on waivers.
Brian (Richmond, VA)
If the Colts make the playoffs will it be because of the defense stepping up or Manning being Manning and winning his 5th MVP trophy? I sometimes marvel at what Peyton can do with the ball in his hands.
Chris Mortensen (11:15 AM)
I think both have to happen. This is as significant a challenge that Manning has faced since the Colts established themselves as an elite team. The injuries around him are real and significant. But for the Colts to make the playoffs, I think the defense has to step it up. This home game against the Texans will be a nice measure - have they adjusted...are they capable of stopping Arian Foster?
Dan (Washington, DC)
The Giants looked good, but let's not overlook the 5 turnovers against the Cowboys, the 35 points given up, the dismantling at the hands of the Colts and Titans, and their special teams are terrible...
Chris Mortensen (11:18 AM)
Absolutely agree, especially on the turnovers (I don't fault them for Dez Bryant's terrific punt return). But how good are they if they eliminate the majority of those turnovers? It's wide open with the Redskins and Eagles in the mix, as well, but I think the Giants are the best team.
How good is Kansas City's o-line? They lead the league in rushing but when I look at the lineup, three starters (Wiegmann, Lilja, and Richardson) have all been let go in the past couple of years.
Chris Mortensen (11:20 AM)
The offensive line is so much better and I think a good deal of credit goes to Bill Muir, their veteran line coach. Smart play-calling by Charlie Weis and Todd Haley and GM Scott Pioli gave them a great weapon in Dexter McCluster that keeps teams honest. And it doesn't hurt to have Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles as the ideal 1-2 RB combo. Power and speed. Lot of O-lines would like blocking for those guys.
Hi Mort!Thanks for your time. Who would you go with-Matt Moore or Jon Kitna from a fantasy perspective? Thanks!
Chris Mortensen (11:22 AM)
Don't ask me why but I handcuffed Jon Kitna to Tony Romo in my ESPN fantasy league over the past weekend. Maybe I jinxed Rom0 and myself. I was down 9 points to Adam Schefter in a head-to-head game with only Romo left to play (for my team) and look what happened. I think Kitna has many more weapons, he's a veteran and with the practice time he should be productive. I do like Moore's number to increase but I'm going with Kitna. You make your own decision - ha-ha.
The way things look now the Patriots could be 7-1 heading into the Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. How do you like they're playoff chances at this point?
Chris Mortensen (11:25 AM)
You're a projecting a couple wins here but understandable. The Patriots would be very dangerous in the second half because all those young players (especially on defense) figure to get better as a unit as the season progresses. Also, Logan Mankins will be back to give the O-line a boost (and depth) for the final seven games. I have to like their playoff chances but AFC is a more rugged landscape than the NFC.
Hey Mort, who do you think starts at RB for the Colts Monday night, Addai or Brown?
Chris Mortensen (11:25 AM)
Addai's not ready to play.
how do people say Ripken's streak is more impressive than Favre's when Favre has gone more seasons in a more physically punishing sport?
Chris Mortensen (11:27 AM)
I think baseball people say Ripken and football people say Favre. Both are amazing streaks. I have covered both baseball and football and, honestly, I go back and forth on it. Baseball is much more of a grind and there are injuries but not of the magnitude in football.
Since the Cowboys are seemingly dead in the water, what do you see them doing in the offseason? Who are the coaching candidates likely to replace Wade Phillips, will Jason Garrett stay, and which players will likely be traded or cut?
Chris Mortensen (11:29 AM)
All guesswork on this - Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and maybe an interesting longshot with Jeff Fisher of the Titans. I'm sure Sean Payton's name will get in the mix but he and Fisher are under contract. Everybody asks whether they would work for Jerry Jones and I say yes.
Scott, Orlando, Fl [via mobile]
At what point will people start talking about the Chiefs as a legitimate team in the NFL? Some of the "top" teams are looking less than spectacular, think New Orleans against the Browns. Coach Haley is showing that you don't need banner names to win games. Just a group of guys believing in the system and playing like a team.
Chris Mortensen (11:30 AM)
I think the Chiefs are for real. I think they will win the division but the Raiders are a viable threat and it would be foolish to dismiss this disappointing Chargers team.
How does a reporter get his sources
Chris Mortensen (11:32 AM)
Long-term through a variety of relationships at every level - league, owners, executives, coaches, players, union and agents are the basic pool. I think the love of the sport you cover helps build trusting relationships.
Obviously, the Skins are getting lucky as much as anything, but in my opinion, consistent luck is of your own making...We know they need a lot of help and depth in the offseason, what do they address in the draft and what do they do through FA?
Chris Mortensen (11:35 AM)
Three offensive areas - QB, WR and RB. Interesting that quarterback is on the list but it's fairly well-known - and Adam Schefter did some reporting on this recently - in league circles that the Redskins aren't ready to make a long-term investment in Donovan McNabb. There are concerns about his consistency and accuracy within the organization. Maybe more time in the system changes some minds.
Mort Christensen (Wyoming)
Has Darren McFadden finally arrived as the real deal? hard to say no.
Chris Mortensen (11:40 AM)
Darren McFadden has proven when he's healthy, he is pretty much what he was in college. I swear he reminds me more of O.J. Simpson (the football player, not the man) than anybody since O.J. left the league. But the cynics of McFadden questioned with his tall, lean body-type - especially the lower legs - whether he would be durable. I've followed his career quite a bit because he was a teammate of my son Alex's at Arkansas and I'll also add that people don't realize is that he is a physical runner, not just an explosive one. And he can catch the ball. He has to stay healthy and durable.
How concerned is the league about attendance? Tampa isn't drawing anyone even with a surprisingly decent team. And many "sellouts" seemingly have thousands of unfilled seats. I'm a Falcons txholder since '97 and I'm likely out after this season due to the high cost. It's gotten out of control.
Chris Mortensen (11:43 AM)
The league has expressed those concerns. This economic crunch is real and appears to have staying power, unfortunately. I think it's complex. At the same time, teams that put a quality product on the field (which the Falcons have) generally will sell. As long as I've covered the NFL, sun-belt teams from West to Southeast struggle with attendance when their teams do not perform. People forget the Dallas Cowboys near the end of Tom Landry's career were having trouble getting people in their seats when they weren't winning.
Mr. Mortensen: Simple question here. Can the Vikings make the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl with Tavaris Jackson at QB?
Chris Mortensen (11:45 AM)
I doubt it but won't know until we get a look. I also doubt that with Brett Favre in his current physical state that the Vikings will accomplish those things though the NFC North is very fluid and not as strong as we first thought.
Nathan (Coralville, IA)
How serious is Jared Gaither's injury? Will he be able to play at the beginning of next season (for another team, of course)?
Chris Mortensen (11:47 AM)
Unfortunately, the bigger issue with Gaither is the same one many NFL teams had when he came out of Maryland via the supplemental draft - does he like football? Is he committed to football? Is he more slacker than player? Those are things people ask, as opposed to the injury. But he does have talent and he is a big tackle so he'll land somewhere.
Larry (Arvada CO)
Still waiting on why ESPN has buried its head on the illegal hit Cutler took on the goal line... Do you hate him that much?
Chris Mortensen (11:50 AM)
That is not an illegal hit. When a QB becomes a ball carrier, all hits are legal because he is not considered defenseless. The league may look at some helmet to helmet hits for ball carriers next off-season - if the runner's progress is basically stopped and the second or third defender comes in with a helmet hit, then maybe they ban it. But when a QB sneaks and goes high, that's the risk. I'm not a big fan of QB sneaks unless they know how to execute it properly.
When people talk of all the young QBs in the NFL, nobody ever seems to mention Josh Freeman. I think what he is doing is more remarkable considering his two starting WRs are rookies, there is basically no running game (watch out for Blount though!) and the offensive line is average at best. Is he the franchise QB us Bucs fans have been waiting on forever?
Chris Mortensen (11:51 AM)
Yes on Freeman! Very, very talented. Mature for a young guy. I would embrace him if I were Bucs fans.
How much longer until the league decides to get rid of the London Game? Teams struggle afterwards, the game usually is awful, and I doubt sending Denver and San Francisco will really get the English all excited about american football. They seem perfectly fine with their own football
Chris Mortensen (11:52 AM)
I haven't been over to London for one of these games but I'm told that the fans are very positive about the game. Personally, I don't like it. But I'm a traditionalist. I didn't like it when the DH was introduced to baseball.
Brian (Charleston, SC)
Good morning. I know the Browns don't have alot of talent on either side of the ball right now, but what is your opinion of how Mangini is doing with is there? I have been a life long fan and keep hoping for the best. My opinion is that they should replace both the O.C. and Mangini next year sure and maybe even get rid of Mangini now and see what Ryan can do as an interim coach. Even with no talent, that O is offensive and Mangini is dead man walking, why not it a go now with nothing to lose? Thanks.
Chris Mortensen (11:55 AM)
I disagree about making changes, based on what I've seen. Mangini is doing a really nice job. I hear from people around the league (coaches, really) who talk about how sound they are. Talent needs upgrading but part of the problem with the Browns is they have embraced instability since they were awarded a franchise after Art Modell left. Why embrace it again since it looks like it has a chance once the talent is upgraded?
Morning Mort. Did you see the way the Raiders play last week? That was a defining moment but do you see the Raiders continuing to play like that? Is this game going to change the season for them? or is it to early to tell?
Chris Mortensen (11:58 AM)
I did see the Raiders and I'm starting to recognize the team I thought was going to be intriguing when I visited training camp. What happened in Denver should be a "defining" moment but unless it's followed up with another win, then it's just a moment.
Kevin (Texas State University)
Mort-Dallas is looking it they will have, at the very least, a top-10 draft pick. What are the odds they make a play for any-one of the QB's that are coming out in April? I've looked, and the QB class looks to be loaded. I'll be happy with whoever!
Chris Mortensen (12:00 PM)
Too early to tell on a top 10-pick but, no, I don't think a QB should be in the mix because Romo is a top-10 QB and still young enough. There's no can't-miss QB with maybe the exception of Stanford's Andrew Luck and he's no lock to come out. The Cowboys need to get serious about their offensive line and secondary.
John Jacob Jingleheimer schmidt (Munich)
Nick Mangold is going up against his childhood friend AJ hawk this weekend, who do you think gets the better of the other in this match up?
Chris Mortensen (12:01 PM)
Mangold is the better player - the best center in the NFL.
People here love to complain about Jeff Fisher but I think he's a tremendous coach and we'd miss him if he was home. Your thoughts?
Chris Mortensen (12:03 PM)
If they don't want Jeff Fisher, I can think of about 24 other teams that would take him.
Mort- true or false- Favre misses Chester Taylor more than Sidney Rice?
Chris Mortensen (12:04 PM)
It's close. Taylor was so reliable as a 3rd down back, both as a checkdown receiver and as a blocker. Favre had something special with Rice so I wouldn't diminish that loss.
Bryan (Detroit )
The Lions were able to beat the Redskins last year for there first win in over a year, Do you see a similar outcome this weekend?
Chris Mortensen (12:05 PM)
Much to the chagrin of Redskins fans, yes, I see the Lions winning this weekend but I'm curious on how rusty Matthew Stafford will be against a pretty aggressive defense.
Rob (Montpelier, VT)
Chris, are the Rams broke? Why haven't they replenished their depleted receiver corps? They're 1 elite receiver away from being relevant.
Chris Mortensen (12:07 PM)
What receiver would you get right now? In the off-season the sale of the franchise definitely impacted the Rams' lack of activity on the free agent front. They did make a play for Vincent Jackson earlier in the month but it didn't work out. The trade deadline has passed. Mark Clayton was looking very good but he's out for the season.
Chris (Ann Arbor, MI)
Denver was embarrassed. What's the story there? Is the coaching staff in trouble?
Chris Mortensen (12:10 PM)
I'm baffled by what happened against the Raiders. You cannot lose a home game to any team - let alone an AFC West rival like the Raiders - by that kind of margin and expect to be totally secure in your job. I think the second half of the season could determine the future of Josh McDaniels and the staff. It could be that the front office gets beefed up and the power shifts but that's all speculative. I think McDaniels is a good, young coach and it's tough to give up on a good, young coach after two years.
Chris Mortensen (12:12 PM)
I'm getting the hook. Enjoyed it very much, as usual. Catch up with me on Twitter via @mortreport and on Facebook/MortReport. We have a great TV show in the works for Sunday NFL Countdown at 11 am ET. Have a great rest of the week and God Bless!