Extra Points: Good times or bad, Cutler is no leader

Maturity is never guaranteed with age.

Most of us develop at least some maturity through the every day experiences of life, but others actually avoid any maturation as a lifestyle choice.

Jay Cutler is now 29 and you could probably still go down to your local high school and find a more even-tempered quarterback when the bullets start flying. In fact, your average 13-year-old unleashes fewer tantrums than the talented Chicago Bears' signal caller.

You may think it's a crazy time to take shots at the Vanderbilt product, who was brilliant on Monday night in Dallas as Chicago decimated the Cowboys, 34-18.

Cutler finished that one 18-of-24 for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but he was still as unprofessional as ever, walking away from his offensive coordinator, Mike Tice, on at least two different occasions.

"I know you guys have to sell papers," Cutler told the Chicago Tribune after the game. "It's hard out there. But you can't blow up every headline. Things happen during football games. Just because I walk off and go get water doesn't mean much."

It's true that Cutler's on-field antics and sideline pouting sessions are always front-page news in the Second City, but passing the buck is classic Cutler. He's always been about blaming others for his own poor body language and intemperate demeanor, instead of looking into the mirror and taking ownership of the situation.

A better answer after Monday's contest might have been: "I made a mistake, I was unprofessional and it won't happen again."

If the local scribes still took aim at Cutler after an answer like that, maybe he would have a defense.

In the afterglow of the win on his Tuesday Chicago-area radio show, Cutler finally offered mea culpas to both Tice and his much-maligned offensive line, particularly J'Marcus Webb, saying Tice "called his best game to date" and taking the blame for a sack by Cowboys star DeMarcus Ware.

But that's also typical Cutler, the front-runner who looks like the second- coming of Brett Favre until things start to derail like they did in Green Bay back on Sept. 13.

He also finally explained his petulant child act with Tice.

"It wasn't anything about Mike," Cutler said during his show. "We got into a 3rd-and-1 situation. We'd talked about getting in 3rd-and-short all week, and we didn't convert. A crucial point in the game where we didn't convert.

"Everyone's mad, 3rd-and-1, you've got to convert that," Cutler added. "Mike was fired up. He was mad because we didn't convert it. So I took a second. It's unfortunate these things get so much attention because it happens on a weekly basis, game by game between players and coaches, players and players."

To be honest that's fair.

Tempers often flare in the heat of battle, but there's a consistency about Cutler's behavior in direct contrast with most of the other veteran quarterbacks in the league. And that can't be explained away by the "heat of battle" defense.

Cutler's a glad-hander, who will pretend he's your best friend when the sun is shining, all the while readying to plunge the knife into your back when the clouds appear on the horizon.

Tice, who Cutler showed up on national television, and Webb, who was berated on the field by Cutler for his poor performance in Titletown, are just the latest to see his unprofessional side.

Luckily for Cutler, Tice, who is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound former NFL tight end, and Webb, his 6-8, 335-pound left tackle, have been professionals, otherwise that trademarked smirk might be imprinted on a very big man's fist.

There is no black and white in football, just nuance. That's why blanket statements are often farcical.

So why do so many of us believe that Cutler will never pilot a team to the Super Bowl despite his prodigious talents?

Simple: If the quarterback position has anything to do with leadership, he doesn't have a chance.


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THE GAMES (All Times Eastern)

Arizona (4-0) at St. Louis (2-2), Thursday, 8:20 p.m.

LINE: Cardinals by 1

THE SKINNY: The Cardinals are 4-0 for the first time since 1974 and have won 11 of their past 13 games dating back to last season, the best record in the NFL over that span. In last weekend's 24-21 win over Miami, Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb connected with wide receiver Andre Roberts on a 15-yard touchdown on fourth down to tie the game with just 22 seconds remaining to force overtime before Jay Feeley booted a 46-yard field goal in the extra frame to cap the comeback. It was the first time since 1999 the Cards won after trailing by at least 13 points at halftime. St. Louis also is coming off a win, a 19-13 triumph over Seattle. Rookie punter Johnny Hekker threw his first career touchdown pass on a fake field goal and rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals and became the first player in NFL history with 60- yard (60) and 50-yard (58) field goals in the same game. NFC West teams leads all divisions with 11 combined wins this season.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 24, Rams 17

Miami (1-3) at Cincinnati (3-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Bengals by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Dolphins have won six of their past games in Cincy, but things are a lot different this time around. The explosive Bengals have averaged 33 points per game in their three wins and quarterback Andy Dalton has an NFL- best 151.7 fourth-quarter passer rating. Dalton's top target, A.J. Green, is quickly turning into one of the league's top receivers and will be aiming for a third straight game with 100-plus receiving yards. The Dolphins are feeling their way with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw for a career-high 431 yards is their overtime loss at Arizona last week, the second-most yards by a freshman signal caller in NFL history.

PREDICTION: Bengals 34, Dolphins 20

Green Bay (2-2) at Indianapolis (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Packers by 7

THE SKINNY: The Colts come off a bye week thinking about more important things than football after first-year head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, a former head coach on the college level at Temple, takes over for Pagano as Indy aims for a fourth consecutive home win vs. Green Bay. Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has passed for 300-plus yards in two of his first three NFL starts. For the Packers, reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers has won five of his past six starts versus AFC opponents and he is starting to heat up after throwing four TD passes in Week 4 against New Orleans.

PREDICTION: Packers 27, Colts 21

Baltimore (3-1) at Kansas City (1-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Ravens by 5

THE SKINNY: Baltimore will be shooting for its fourth consecutive win over a Chiefs team in disarray. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel has said the embattled Matt Cassel will be his starting quarterback against the Ravens but left open the possibility that backup Brady Quinn could play against the Ravens after Cassel performed poorly in the team's ugly home loss to San Diego last week. If you are looking for some good news for the Chiefs, the team has won six straight contests in October. Baltimore, on the other hand, remains an AFC heavyweight and Joe Flacco continues to have a breakout year at quarterback. The University of Delaware product will be attempting to record a third straight contest with 300-plus passing yards and the Ravens are extremely tough to beat when Flacco is playing well, compiling a 25-2 mark when he records a passer rating above 100.

PREDICTION: Ravens 27, Chiefs 20

Cleveland (0-4) at New York Giants (2-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Giants by 8 1/2

THE SKINNY: The only winless team in football, Cleveland has another tough task in front of it when it visits the reigning Super Bowl champs. The young Browns are building around rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has 300-plus passing yards in two of his past three games, including a franchise rookie record 320 on Sept. 27 against the Ravens, and freshman running back Trent Richardson, who has rushed for a TD in three straight games. The Giants will be trying to bounce back from a tough loss to NFC East rival Philadelphia and Eli Manning has won seven consecutive starts against AFC teams.

PREDICTION: Giants 30, Browns 14

Philadelphia (3-1) at Pittsburgh (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Steelers by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: Philadelphia has been living on the edge, winning its three games by combined four points, while Pittsburgh is off to a slow start thanks in large part to the absences of Troy Polamalu, who has missed two games with a strained right calf, and James Harrison, who hasn't played this season while nursing a lingering knee problem. The two former NFL defensive players of the year are both scheduled to return Sunday and that's daunting news for the Eagles because the Steelers are 23-7 since the start of the 2009 season when both are in the lineup. When one is sidelined or both are out, the Steelers are just 11-10.

PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Eagles 17

Atlanta (4-0) at Washington (2-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.

LINE: Falcons by 3

THE SKINNY: Matt Ryan is red-hot for the undefeated Falcons and leads the NFL with a 112.1 passer rating. The Pro Bowler has cracked the century mark in each game this season and that guarantees success for Atlanta, which is 27-0 when Ryan is over the 100 mark. The Falcons are also 14-0 when "Matty Ice" tosses three or more touchdown passes, something he has already done three times this season. For the Redskins, it's all about dynamic rookie signal caller Robert Griffin III, who has completed 86-of-124 passes for 1,070 yards with four TDs and leads all NFL QBs with 252 rushing yards and four TDs.

PREDICTION: Falcons 30, Redskins 27

Seattle (2-2) at Carolina (1-3), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

LINE: Panthers by 3

THE SKINNY: Cam Newton has been receiving some criticism in Charlotte for the first time, but the sophomore signal caller has still been very productive and is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 touchdown passes (25) and 15 rushing TDs (17) in his first 20 career games. That said, the production needs to translate into more wins going forward. The Seahawks continue to ride running back Marshawn Lynch while rookie quarterback Russell Wilson develops. Lynch leads the NFL in rushing with 423 yards and has had at least 85 yards rushing in 12 of his past 13 games.

PREDICTION: Panthers 21, Seahawks 14

Chicago (3-1) at Jacksonville (1-3), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

LINE: Bears by 5 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Bears defense has looked like one of the NFL's best early on, leading the league with 14 takeaways, 11 of them interceptions. Both linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman had pick-sixes on Monday night in Dallas and Tillman, particularly, has been a turnover machine. Tillman is only player in NFL with 25-plus interceptions (27) and 25- plus forced fumbles (27) since 2005. The slow development of second-year quarterback Blain Gabbert continues in Jacksonville, which counts on running back Maurice Jones-Drew to shorten games. Since '09, MJD leads the NFL with 4,673 rushing yards,

PREDICTION: Bears 24, Jaguars 7

Denver (2-2) at New England (2-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

LINE: Patriots by 6 1/2

THE SKINNY: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will renew their classic rivalry under different circumstances now that Peyton calls the Rocky Mountains home.

"You are talking about greatness on the field with two guys that have done things that nobody else has ever done at the position," NFL Network analyst and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci said when discussing Manning and Brady."

"They both have had tremendous impact by playing the quarterback position at such a high level for so many years," added CBS Sports' "NFL Today" analyst and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. "They really brought the position to new levels."

Last week, Manning passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the Broncos' 37-6 win over Oakland, marking Manning's first such performance in just his fourth game with Denver.

Brady, meanwhile, threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots' 52-28 comeback win at Buffalo, extending his streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 36 games -- tied for the third-longest in NFL history. The Pats also became just the second team ever with a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard rushers (Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley) and two 100-yard receivers (Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski) in the same game and the first team since the 1950 New York Giants to score at least 45 second-half points in a game in which it trailed at halftime.

The contest will mark just the second time in NFL history that two starting quarterbacks with 125-plus career regular-season wins each meet in a game. The only matchup featuring two such quarterbacks was Marino of the Miami Dolphins vs. John Elway of the Broncos on Dec. 21, 1998.

PREDICTION: Patriots 34, Broncos 24

Tennessee (1-3) at Minnesota (3-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

LINE: Vikings by 5 1/2

THE SKINNY: The surprising Vikings have cut down on mistakes and have the only starting quarterback in the NFL who hasn't thrown an interception in Christian Ponder (123 passing attempts). Minnesota had a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown from Percy Harvin in its win over Detroit last week and a 77-yard punt return TD by Marcus Sherels, becoming the first team in NFL history to record both a KR-TD and PR-TD in same game three different times. The Titans will likely be without QB Jake Locker, who dislocated his non-throwing shoulder for the second time this season in last week's loss to the Houston Texans. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who completed 17-of-25 passes for 193 yards after replacing Locker last week, is certainly capable, although he provides a stationary target for the Vikings' strong pass rush.

PREDICTION: Vikings 24, Titans 21

Buffalo (2-2) at San Francisco (3-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

LINE: 49ers by 9 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Bills will be attempting to rebound from their epic second-half collapse against New England last week. Buffalo squandered a 14-point lead by allowing the Patriots to score 45 second-half points in what turned about to be a 52-28 drubbing by New England. The Bills allowed a mind-boggling 580 total yards, the second-highest total allowed in franchise history and the Pats scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions. The Niners, meanwhile, dismantled the Jets 34-0 last week, the team's first road shutout since their 2001 regular-season finale at New Orleans (38-0).

PREDICTION: 49ers 30, Bills 20

San Diego (3-1) at New Orleans (0-4), Sunday, 8:25 p.m.

LINE: Saints by 3 1/2

THE SKINNY: The Chargers and Saints will be meeting for the first time since 2008 when the teams played in the International Series game at London's Wembley Stadium. New Orleans quarterback Brew Brees, who began his career with San Diego, has thrown a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games and will look to surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas for the longest streak in NFL history.

"I'd obviously love to be talking about a win," Brees said after the Saints' 28-27 loss at Green Bay, "but certainly it's significant to even be mentioned in the same realm as Johnny Unitas. His career speaks for itself."

San Diego is atop the AFC West after last week's impressive 37-20 win at Kansas City, a game in which Philip Rivers surpassed the 25,000-yard passing mark, reaching the milestone in 3,144 attempts, the fifth-fastest to accomplish the feat in NFL history.

PREDICTION: Saints 30, Chargers 24

Houston (4-0) at New York Jets (2-2), Monday, 8:35 p.m.

LINE: Texans by 7 1/2

THE SKINNY: Houston is 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. Last week, the Texans defeated Tennessee, 38-14, behind quarterback Matt Schaub, who is second in the AFC with a 105.3 passer rating, and defensive end J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL with 7 1/2 sacks and is the first player since Kevin Greene in 1998 to record at least 1 1/2 sacks in each of his team's first four games. The Jets will look to rebound after last week's embarrassing home loss to San Francisco, but will be missing All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis (ACL) and top wideout Santonio Holmes (foot).

PREDICTION: Texans 34, Jets 10