On Sunday, I watch football and take notes. On Monday, I come here and empty the steno pad.
DeSean Jackson(notes), by anyone's account, is a dynamite receiver. I love watching him play and I'd want him on my real-life team or my fantasy team, like any logical person would. There's no reason to go into a debate on this, we're going to be in universal agreement.
But it's frustrating to watch him do dumb things or egocentric things, such as his celebration at the end of his 91-yard touchdown in Dallas on Sunday night. I don't begrudge Jackson for being happy about his game-changing play, but there are two key points he's missing as he takes that plunge from the 1-yard line.
First and foremost, he's had problems with premature celebrations before. Jackson lost a score from a prep All-Star game back in the day because of a summersault from the 1-yard line, and then there was the ball flip back in Dallas two years ago that flushed away a score. Second, he has to be pretty sure this type of spectacle is going to draw a flag. He's essentially deciding on the spot that his moment of joy, his declaration of "hey world, look at me!" is worth 15 critical yards in a game that's in the balance.
Play smart out there, DJ. And it's no shame to put your team first and your showboating second.
Jackson's a tricky player to rank for upcoming seasons because his game is structured so much around big plays. Those home runs are wonderful when they click, but it's hard to make a living on them alone. Should the Eagles take him off special teams completely in future years? Run more short stuff to Jackson, bubble screens, a few running plays? Or maybe it's acceptable to keep him where he's at, given the success we've seen over his short career. Do low-volume, high-explosion receivers make you nervous on draft day, or are you fine with this type of home-run hitter, even if the target count is mild?
• It's a shame we don't have better options lining up to take advantage of that horrid Tampa Bay rushing defense (Ryan Torain(notes) looked like Walter Payton for about 20 minutes). Detroit and Seattle head down to Tampa the next two weeks, and then it's the Saints hosting the Bucs for the finale. Maybe Marshawn Lynch(notes) or Justin Forsett(notes) will prove to be a surprise hero in Week 16.
• It was encouraging to see Chris Johnson get back on track against the Colts, and it was also wise of the Titans to get him involved as a receiver (eight catches). Why wouldn't you want your most dangerous offensive weapon to get the ball in space? That established, the biggest positive factor for CJ on Thursday night was the decisive way he ran the ball, getting to the hole quickly, taking what was there on so many plays and not trying to constantly hit a home run. His cutback instincts lead to highlights some of the time, but you can't start every run thinking that way. Against the Colts, Johnson didn't.
• The Browns opened their game at Buffalo with the Peyton Hillis(notes) show, running eight times for 54 yards and marching to the shadow of the goal line. But when a pair of runs fell short of the end zone and left Cleveland facing a fourth-and-goal at the 1, Eric Mangini took the coward's way out and opted for a field goal.
Here's where head coaches need to understand field-position equity – so long as you're not up against the end of the half, it's generally a no-brainer to go for it in these spots because even if you fail to get your touchdown, it's very likely that you'll have outstanding field position on your next drive. The value of having a team pinned at the 1-yard line is around three points anyway, and remember that the pin is your worst-case scenario. You might wind up rolling a seven. Mangini has done a nice job getting his troops to play hard every week, but he's never shown an understanding of this type of strategy.
• One interesting fact about Bill Belichick's Patriots – they rarely retreat to their indoors practice bubble, even in poor weather. If it's possible to practice outside, even in poor conditions, that's what they do. It's entirely logical that his teams routinely thrive in December games and wintry-mix games, as it did in Chicago on Sunday. Luck favors the prepared.
• The Jets did all they could to get LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) going Sunday but it didn't work out (19-49 rushing, 2-5 receiving). He hasn't reached the end zone since Week 6, and I can't see how we trust him next week against Pittsburgh's league-best rushing defense. Thanks for the early memories, LT.
• Graham Gano(notes) had four terrible kicks in his back pocket at the end of Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay – two short misses and two ugly makes. With that in mind, I presented a first-guess to my buddy Kevin as we watched the final snap – why not go for the 2-pointer and the win here? It's rainy, your kicker is in the funk, Mike Shanahan has done it before, etc. And it's not like Washington has playoff designs either way.
Of course I thought Gano would at least get a chance to attempt the boot. So much for that idea.
• My condolences to everyone who got eliminated from the fantasy mix in Week 14. You might want to avoid all football next week; no team dances quite like the group that was recently eliminated.
And try to remember one other thing in this crazy make-believe game we play. The skill of this game is scoring a lot of points over the long haul and making the playoffs. The luck of this game is what happens to you in the playoffs.
Image courtesy Associated Press