December 7, 2016

Around The League – Week 11

By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff

It’s Thanksgiving so in keeping with the spirit of this wonderful holiday, here’s something I’m thankful for regarding each of the NFL’s 32 teams. And thanks to you, dear readers, for continuing to come back to Patriots Daily and reading, skimming or glancing at our stuff. Happy turkey!

ARIZONA: I’m thankful for coach Ken Whisenhunt thinking that cutting the QB he’s been grooming to take over the Cardinals for the past four seasons three weeks before the start of the season was a good decision and wouldn’t necessarily destroy his team., thus giving me ammo to fire at him whenever I feel like it. Hey Ken – it wasn’t and it did.
ATLANTA: I’m thankful for QB Matt Ryan, who I interviewed for a story when he was still at Boston College a few years ago, being really good so that when I tell anyone sitting in front of a TV with me when he comes on that I once interviewed him, it only sounds slightly pathetic.
BALTIMORE: I’m thankful that lip-flapping linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has never won anything, continues to shit talk the Pats even though his teams have lost to them five of the six times they’ve played. Keep it up, Terrell!
BUFFALO: I’m thankful that the Bills, who ran off 35 unanswered points last week against the Bengals to become the first team in history to win a game by 18 or more after trailing by at least 17 at halftime, have won a couple games, so I can stop saying, “the poor Bills,” every week.
CAROLINA: I’m thankful that coach John Fox, as overrated as they come, only has six more games left with this sorry outfit before he’s mercifully let go. That is, until he’s coaching another team next season.
CHICAGO: I’m thankful for QB Jay Cutler’s refusal to understand that he seems more like an entitled, rich frat boy than an NFL quarterback, reflected in every last pout after a terrible turnover. Endless comedy.
CINCINNATI: I’m thankful for T.O. and Chad Ochocinco being on the same team and said team being one of the worst in the league. Maybe someone will cancel their TV show now.
CLEVELAND: Believe it or not, I’m thankful for the Browns stomping all over the Pats three weeks ago. It woke the Pats up and now they’re on a potential Super Bowl run. Way to go, coach Mangini
DALLAS: I’m thankful that I got to see Jerry Jones’s facelift talking to Nicole Kidman’s facelift just before yesterday’s halftime show at the Cowboys game. It was awful plastic surgery (one of the greatest websites ever) heaven.
DENVER: I’m thankful for Josh McDaniels’s ongoing failure in his first stint as an NFL head coach. It just means there’s a good chance he’ll come back here after he gets fired and that would be magical for the Pats.
DETROIT: I’m thankful for the Lions making my job writing this column for the past couple years so much easier. Pretty much every week, I know at least one spot on the week’s worst teams list will be occupied. Big load off the shoulders.
GREEN BAY: I’m thankful for coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson not being among the legion of Favresuckers and letting him go a couple years ago when they thought he was washed up. Good work, guys. And even better work recognizing that his replacement, Aaron Rodgers, was ready and better. Rodgers is a star, one of the best QBs in the league.

Daniel Snyder Screws It Up Again

HOUSTON: I’m thankful for the Texans building their whole season around beating the Colts in Week 1. It won’t help them down the road when they miss the playoffs yet again because it’s not always the best idea to peak in the first game of a 16-game season. But it will hurt the Colts with regard to the playoff picture and that’s great.
INDIANAPOLIS: I’m thankful for the Colts playing the Pats seemingly every year despite not being in the same division. No matter who wins, those games are always among the best of the season year in and year out.
JACKSONVILLE: I’m thankful for the Jags showing enough resolve to lose four of their first seven games by an average of 25 points per game but still manage to not only be in the playoff hunt but at the top of their division. Sorry I doubted you, coach Del Rio.
KANSAS CITY: I’m thankful for the Pats midwest affilliate (Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel, etc.) being a viable playoff team in just the second year of their regime. The Pats way really does work elsewhere despite evidence to the contrary in certain other outposts of late.
MIAMI: I’m thankful for the Dolphins being not so great this year. Makes life easier for the Pats.
MINNESOTA: I’m thankful for there being only six more games before I don’t have to listen to/read about/watch more material than any lousy, 3-7 team deserves.
NEW ENGLAND: I’m thankful for the best coach and quarterback in the league being employed by my favorite team. It doesn’t get much better or simpler than that.
NEW ORLEANS: I’m thankful for the defending champs getting healthy and starting to round into shape just in time for things to start getting really serious. Last year’s edition of this team was so awesome, so exciting, so fun to watch, I’d love to see it unfold in a similar way.
NEW YORK GIANTS: I’m thankful for the weather getting cold so that I can see coach Tom Coughlin’s face turn a deep shade of crimson and his expression subsequently freeze every time the Giants are on TV. Miracle of modern science, that guy.
NEW YORK JETS: I’m thankful for being spared at least a few hours of Rex Ryan talking about himself and how awesome he is in the aftermath of next Monday night’s game.
OAKLAND: I’m thankful for coach Tom Cable getting through nearly three whole months of a season without violently assaulting one of his assistants, sending him to the hospital then skirting any and all responsibility for it.
PHILADELPHIA: I’m thankful for yet another opportunity to see Andy Reid totally screw his team in a huge game at a huge moment. Some things never get old.
PITTSBURGH: I’m thankful for the chance to visit this beautiful city, get the first-hand Pittsburgh football experience, enjoy their amazing stadium from an excellent vantage point and then watch my team run them off the field. If that wasn’t the best weekend of the year, it was close.
SAN DIEGO: I’m thankful for the Chargers reverting back to form which is to say sucking for the first two months then running away for the next two only to get everybody’s hopes up in time for a colossal playoff loss. Most of the second part of that hasn’t happened yet. But it will.
SAN FRANCISCO: I’m thankful for the chance Mike Singletary got to prove that just because you’re a good motivational speaker who can fire up a crowd doesn’t mean you know the first thing about coaching a football team.
SEATTLE: I’m thankful for being able to see Qwest Field, the Seahawks home, up close. Didn’t see a game there but even from the outside, that place is amazing. If you are ever in Seattle, even if it’s not football season, make sure you check it.
ST. LOUIS: I’m thankful for the Rams doing the right thing in the last draft, taking the franchise QB and not just getting back to respectability but becoming a legit threat that could very well be in the playoffs next year. I’m not a fan but they’ve been so hopeless the past couple years, it’s nice to see them turn it around at least a little bit for their fans.
TAMPA BAY: I’m thankful for the Bucs becoming relevant, competitive and exciting en route a to surprise playoff berth despite being the youngest team in the league, having a coach whose youger than I am and all with $40 million of salary cap space. Great work down there by coach Raheem Morris and GM Mark Dominik
TENNESSEE: I’m thankful for the Titans signing Randy Moss after he was fired twice already by two different teams this season, so that he could potentially hit the trifecta and get fired three times. Not that I have anything against Randy – I actually really like him. But the prospect of one guy of his pedigree getting dropped by three teams in one season and possibly playing for four is a story worth rooting for.
WASHINGTON: I’m thankful for owner Daniel Snyder finally figuring out that he needs to get out of the way and stop trying to play fantasy football by hiring a team building, one-voice kid of coach, but still screwing it up by hiring the wrong one. Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb, Dan? Yep. Thanks for that, from the bottom of my heart.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. New England: The Pats just keep rolling right along, first blowing out Peyton Manning and the Colts for three-plus quarters before hanging on for dear life and a three-point win, then waking up in the second half to blow out the woeful Lions yesterday. As long as the defense does just enough to not kill them (and boy was that close to happening in Detroit), there’s no reason to think they can’t roll into February, not with their offense clicking so seamlessly. Of course, the truest test will be next Monday night at home against the Jets.

2. New York Jets: The Jets are good, very good. They are also lucky, very lucky. In each of their last four games, all wins, they’ve played like crap, down to their competition (Detroit, Cleveland, Houston, Cincinnati) only to persevere in the end because the opponent is too stupid/poorly coached/undisciplined/not good enough to put them away. When they start playing top level competition next week in Foxboro, then down the road against the likes of Pittsburgh, Chicago and division rival Miami, we’ll see if they can raise their game the way the truly great teams do.

3. Atlanta: The Falcons won a relatively tough game on the road against St. Louis, their fourth straight victory. They look like the team to bat in the NFC. But the game was indoors, just like all of their home games. Matt Ryan is one of the best QBs in the league, Michael Turner is one of the best running backs and Roddy White may well be the best receiver. But they still haven’t gone outside and beaten anyone good. If they keep winning at home though, it may not matter since they have the inside track for home field throughout the NFC playoffs.

4. (tie) Green Bay/Philadelphia: The two main challengers (along with New Orleans) to the Falcons, these two teams are each on fire right now, both thanks to their outstanding QBs. The Packers have to go into the house of horrors in Atlanta this week while the Eagles go to Chicago in another potential playoff preview. If I had to make a pick right now, it would be hard not to predict these two teams meeting in the NFC Championship game.

5. Pittsburgh: The Steelers bounced back from getting drubbed by the Pats with a 35-3 rout of Oakland, though it would be easier to take if they weren’t all whining about the Raiders Richard Seymour not being fined enough for cold-cocking Ben Roethlisberger for stupidly talking shit at him. We’ll know pretty much all we really need to know about them though after they play the Ravens in Baltimore next Sunday night.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Carolina: You won’t believe this, but bringing Brian St. Pierre in from changing diapers last Tuesday to starting an NFL game at quarterback five days later in a 37-13 home loss to the Ravens was a disaster. Kind of like the Panthers.

2. Detroit: One has to wonder if the Lions would be 2-9 and en route to yet another double-digit loss, high draft pick season if their second year QB Matthew Stafford could stay on the field. His replacement, Shaun Hill, isn’t awful. But he’s a journeyman backup and you can’t expect such a player to be able to lead such a young, inexperienced team week after week. The Lions have talent, a lot of it. But as they showed against both the Jets and Pats, what they don’t have yet are depth, mental toughness and the kind of discipline required to play 60 minutes every week.

3. Cincinnati: The Bengals suck, and as has happened already a couple times this year, you could see their entire season encapsulated in just a few plays against the Jets last night. After failing to convert a fourth-and short from the Jets 30 due to a brutal drop, they got life from a roughing the passer penalty. So naturally, they drove down to the 10 only to see their kicker miss a 27-yard field goal. Later, after forcing a three-and out, a punt glanced off one of their punt blockers helmet, was recovered by the Jets inside the 15 and two plays later, touchdown. Finally, after a partially blocked punt gave them the ball at the Jets 23 and they got another field goal, to cut their deficit to 17-10, they allowed the ensuing kickoff to be run back 89 yards for a TD. It’s sickening to watch and I’ll bet I’d feel that way even if I wasn’t in a food coma right now.

4. Minnesota: What veteran leadership from the great BrettFavre at home against the hated Packers last week, eh? Players yapping at coaches and each other on the sideline. An embarrassing lack of effort on the field as they were getting rolled, 31-3. BrettFavre telling all his suckups that he’d have to go home and “re-evaluate,” things after the game, whatever that means beyond him metaphorically wearing another sign around his neck that said “LOOK AT ME!” He and his teammates are so sorry, they almost made the horrendous Brad Childress look sympathetic when he was finally fired on Monday.

5. (tie) San Francisco/Arizona: These two teams, each 3-7, are actually playing each other on Monday Night Football this week. I’ve heard of players and teams looking ahead to the next game, but what about viewers. Pats/Jets is the following week. I’ll save my MNF viewership for that one, thank you very much.

What’s Trendy

- The Jaguars: In one of the more shocking developments of this bizarro NFL season is that Jacksonville, now 6-4 and winners of three straight, are in first place in the AFC South, with a tiebreaker edge over the Colts. Boy that Jack Del Rio is a great coach, eh?
- Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: With two more TD grabs in last week’s 31-13 win over Arizona, Bowe now has 11 on the year, 10 of them in his last six games. Previously a big disappointment after being drafted in the first round out of LSU in the 2007 draft, Bowe is having a career year for a potential playoff game, with 725 yards on 45 catches (15.9 yards per catch) to go with all those scores.
- The Seahawks: Must be great to be these guys. They are 5-5 and have lost three of their last four by a combined score of 108-29. They are also in first place in the horrid NFC West and have four of their last six games at home, where they are 3-1.

What’s Not

- The Texans Defense: Houston was 4-2, now it’s 4-6 and has its hideous defense pretty much entirely to blame. The Texans are last against the pass and second to last in points and yards allowed with no improvement in sight. Every week, they lose in more excruciating fashion, with the Hail Mary loss to the Jaguars in Week 10 and last week’s loss to the Jets, in which they improbably came back to take a four point lead in the final two minutes only to let Mark Sanchez go 72 yards in four plays and 25 seconds to score a TD and win. With yet another 7-9 or 8-8 mark coming, expect to see coach Gary Kubiak finally get the gate.
- The Browns: The Browns were a great story a few weeks ago when they waxed the Pats and to an extent, they still are thanks to the inspired, out-of-nowhere play of Peyton Hillis and rookie QB Colt McCoy. But they’ve now lost tow in a row in brutal fashion, the most recent being a 24-20 defeat in Jacksonville in which they forced six turnovers but still couldn’t win. They’re now 3-7 and slip sliding away.
- Eli Manning, Giants: The little Manning doesn’t know how to slide. That simple fact was the difference between the Giants winning and losing a huge, divisional road game to the Eagles last week. Trailing by seven late in the game with a fourth-and 6 looming, Manning saw a huge swath of open turf in the middle of the field and smartly tucked the ball in and ran for a first down well into Philly territory. Problem is, not knowing how to slide forced him to dive forward, stumble down and lose the ball when he hit the ground. The Eagles got it back, salted the game away with a field goal and took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East while the Giants were left to lament their five turnovers, none more costly than that late fumble by Manning.

And finally…

Tennessee quarterback Vince Young got angry after a Titans loss to the Redskins at being pulled from the game due to a thumb injury on his throwing hand because he wasn’t put back in. (never mind that throwing thumbs are somewhat important body parts for QBs). So he threw his shoulder pads in the stands, told his coach, Jeff Fisher, in front of the whole team after the game that he was walking out on him and promptly left the stadium. Then he apologized via text message. Yikes. If Tennessee owner Bud Adams, who has always had Young’s back and was quoted the next day as saying that Young and Fisher “will have to get along,” winds up siding with Young after all of this and not Fisher, e.g. Adams doesn’t sign off on the team trading or releasing such a jerk, Fisher should quit. He caught a break when it was learned that Young’s injury would require surgery and knock him out for the season; now he doesn’t have to deal with the situation until the off-season as opposed to this week or next. But this act of totally insolent insubordination by the relentlessly immature Young, who has a history of childish behavior, has to be the last straw. Fisher, who has coached the Tennessee franchise for 16 years dating back to its days as the Houston Oilers, has pulled no punches in ripping Young to the media since the incident (his statement about the text apology, in which he said, “I’m not a real big texting guy. I’m not really into this new age stuff. I don’t twit or tweet. I think face-to-face is a man thing,” was an absolute classic) making it pretty hard to imagine him ever coaching Young again. Let’s hope Adams sees it the same way.

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