- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner10 hrs ago
The New England Patriots were, mostly, an elite team with a healthy Rob Gronkowski.
The offense was tremendous. The Patriots looked as good as they have the past few years. A collision with the Denver Broncos in the AFC playoffs seemed inevitable.
Gronkowski is done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Aside from Aaron Rodgers' collarbone, Gronkowski's knee might be the injury that impacts the NFL playoffs the most. He changes the game. He's impossible to guard, an enormous movable piece that occupies two defenders on most plays. In many ways he's unlike any other tight end we've seen. The Patriots weren't the same without him early in the season. They won't be the same without him the rest of this season.
There's reason to believe the Patriots can survive. New England was 5-1 when Gronkowski made his season debut. There's also reason for concern. Tom Brady was having one of his worst seasons, statistically, until Gronkowski hit his stride. The Patriots are a hard team to project for the rest of the year without Gronkowski.
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner19 hrs ago
Brett Favre seems to be enjoying his life out of the spotlight.
That seems odd, right? The last few years of his career were marked by his level of waffling about retirement and the attention that came along with that. It might be years before the jokes about Brett Favre and coming out of retirement die down.
But the former NFL great hasn't done much to put himself in the public light since retiring for good. He hasn't sought a regular national TV gig, or been around the NFL much at all. He's quite happy coaching high school ball.
Favre, who has volunteered as Oak Grove High School's offensive coordinator for three seasons, was thrilled when the Warriors won the Class 6A state championship in Mississippi last week. It was the first state title in school history. And Favre was excited for the kids he coaches.
"I can't say it's a Super Bowl, but it's pretty close," Favre told the Hattiesburg American. "It really is. It's a different kind of feeling, but I'm awfully proud of these kids."
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner19 hrs ago
If you're going to this season's Super Bowl in New Jersey, don't bring your grill. And you should feel lucky if you get in the parking lot at all.
During a Super Bowl committee press conference, news came out that tailgating will not be allowed at MetLife Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday, according to ESPN. Fans in Kansas City and Green Bay just got a lot less excited about the possibility of their teams going to the Super Bowl.
Like other Super Bowls, parking will be at a premium. Other Super Bowls haven't had tailgating because of that reason.
ESPN said there will be fewer than 13,000 parking spots available at MetLife Stadium. To get to the stadium fans can ride on a charter bus for $51, take N.J. Transit to the game, or be dropped off in cars with parking passes. Limos, black cars and taxis won't be allowed near the stadium without a parking pass.
And if you do have a coveted parking pass and want to barbecue some bratwurst, don't bother.
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner20 hrs ago
If Mike Shanahan is around to coach the Washington Redskins over the last three weeks of the season, he's not sure Robert Griffin III will be his quarterback.
Shanahan, whose job security has been a constant discussion in Washington since the Redskins' 45-10 loss to Kansas City on Sunday, said he hasn't decided on a starting quarterback for this week's game against Atlanta. He cited the Falcons' pass rush and the fact that the Redskins have given up 24 sacks in five games as a factor in his decision process. He wants to make sure Griffin gets through his second season in one piece.
He said if he decides to sit Griffin this week, he would shut last year's offensive rookie of the year down for the rest of the season. He said if he goes with Kirk Cousins, it would strictly be related to keeping Griffin healthy and not because of Griffin's struggles this season.
Redskins looking into whether they could fire Mike Shanahan for cause and not pay him remaining $7 millionFrank Schwab at Shutdown Corner23 hrs ago
The Washington Redskins' relationship with Mike Shanahan seemed to officially sour on Sunday, and well before the opening kickoff of a 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
ESPN.com had a curiously timed story on Sunday morning that Shanahan was ready to quit last season because of how owner Daniel Snyder gave preferential treatment to quarterback Robert Griffin III, but stuck around for another season after Griffin got hurt. Whether that story is accurate doesn't really matter. The important takeaway is someone leaked it to ESPN.
The Redskins believe that someone is Shanahan, and they aren't too pleased about it.
If the worst-case scenario is true for Rob Gronkowski, he's not just going to miss the New England Patriots' playoff push this year, he won't be back until the stretch run next year either.
The Boston Herald reported that further tests showed Gronkowski has a torn MCL to go with the presumed torn ACL, suffered on a low hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward in Sunday's game.
ESPN speculated that injury could knock Gronkowski out as long as a full year.
ESPN doctor Michael Kaplan believes Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski will be out eight to nine months, possibly even a year.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 9, 2013
The Herald pointed out that Wes Welker suffered the same ACL/MCL combination in the final week of the 2009 season and returned for the opener the next year, so it might not take Gronkowski a full year to return. However, Gronkowski has dealt with plenty of injuries through his career, and was slow to return this season from back and forearm issues.
The Saints are truly a different team at the Superdome, almost unbeatable with the combination of Sean Payton calling plays and Drew Brees executing them.
And after Sunday, the Saints are a big step closer to ensuring a game at the Superdome on the second weekend of the NFL playoffs.
Carolina came into Sunday night's game as the upstart in the NFC South, riding an eight-game winning streak behind a tough defense and Cam Newton. The Saints tore apart that defense and made Newton a non-factor in an impressive 31-13 win.
New Orleans is now 10-3 and a game ahead of 9-4 Carolina in the NFC South. There will be a rematch in Carolina in two weeks, but the Panthers need help to win the division. If the Panthers win out, the Saints still win the tiebreaker by winning two of their last three due to a better conference record.
The Saints, who are now 7-0 at home and 3-3 on the road this season, left little doubt that they should be considered the top dog in the division.
The Patriots can't really complain much about the officials anymore this season.
New England was ticked about a non-call on Luke Kuechly on the last play of Carolina's victory a few weeks ago. The Patriots got away with a clear holding on their game-winning touchdown against New Orleans early in the season, but they did have a point with the non-call on the Panthers.
But now, it has more than evened out.
For some reason, the officials at the end of the Browns-Patriots game decided to give New England the win. That's effectively what happened when they decided to call a pass interference on Browns cornerback Leon McFadden, even though McFadden didn't do anything to Patriots receiver Josh Boyce to deserve a penalty.
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner1 day ago
Darnell Dockett can expect to hear from the NFL offices this week.
The Arizona defensive lineman, a heck of a player who is also well known for his stream-of-consciousness thoughts on Twitter, won't get away with purposely stepping on the hand of a Rams offensive lineman during Sunday's game.
At the end of a run by Rams back Zac Stacy in the third quarter of Sunday's game, Dockett came in a bit late, then Rams offensive lineman Chris Williams knocked Dockett off of Stacy. No big deal if it ends there. But Dockett got up and as Williams was on the ground, Dockett went out of his way to lunge forward and stomp on Williams' hand. Dockett's teammates immediately led him away from Williams.
When Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stomped on Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith's arm in 2011, he was suspended two games. Dockett doesn't have the history with the NFL that Suh does, but the league isn't going to let this go without at least a hefty fine.
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Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has not been thrilled to get questions about his struggles in cold weather.
It'll be a while before he fields any more.
The official temperature for kickoff in Denver was 18 degrees, and it dipped after that as the sun set behind the mountains. And Manning looked like he was playing in the middle of summer.
Manning set a Broncos record with 39 completions, and had 397 yards and four touchdowns as Denver beat Tennessee 51-28. The Broncos had never scored more than 50 points in a game before this season. They've scored at least 50 points three times this season, the first NFL team to do that since the 1969 Vikings.
Manning let it know that he wasn't thrilled with the criticism of his cold-weather performance.
"Whoever wrote that narrative can shove it where the sun don't shine," Manning told Denver radio station 850 KOA after the game, according to the Denver Post.