Sat Dec 21 02:55pm EST
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had one of the biggest plays of the NFL season, a 61-yard field goal to beat the Lions last Monday, changing the playoff pictures for both teams.
The boot barely made it over the crossbar, which isn't surprising considering that was 5 yards longer than Tucker's previous career best. But Tucker thinks that, under the right conditions, he could back up 9 more yards and make one.
"If I pulled out the 8-degree driver – on a day when I'm feeling real fresh – I could probably hit one from 70 yards,'' Tucker told USA Today. "I hit one from 70 yards in pregame in Detroit this past Monday night.''
The NFL record is 64 yards, set this season by Denver's Matt Prater. Is a kick of 70 yards really possible?
Maybe. Tucker told USA Today that he hit a field goal in pregame warm-ups from 79 yards out before the season opener in Denver's thin air. Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski supposedly hit an 82-yard field goal in high school, and once attempted a 76-yarder in a NFL game (it wasn't close). A few years ago I saw Prater hit a 69-yard field goal in practice against a defense, although it wasn't rushing all that hard.
Field-goal accuracy has gone way up in the past few decades, and 50-yard field goals from the NFL's best don't seem all that difficult anymore because they hit them at such a high rate. Going for anything close to a 70-yarder would take a specific set of circumstances. A miss would give the other team incredible field position, so it's unlikely to be attempted unless it's at the end of a half. Even then, coaches would fear getting it blocked and returned for a touchdown, or even coming up short and being returned, like Auburn did to beat Alabama.
It seems unlikely we'll see a 70-yard field goal in a game. But Tucker, the NFL's hottest kicker, thinks it's possible, so who's going to argue with him?
- - - - - - -
Sat Dec 21 09:34am EST
On Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles will honor one of their own, a former cheerleader who has served two tours in Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer.
Rachel Washburn, age 25, hasn't had a typical career path, to put it mildly. She joined the Eagles' cheerleading squad from 2007 to 2009 while a student at Drexel University. After graduation, she joined the Army and participated in paratrooper training while ultimately following a path into military intelligence.
Washburn, now a 1st lieutenant based out of Fort Stewart, Ga., served as part of a Cultural Support Team designed to attach women to existing special ops units with the express purpose of relating more effectively to local women.
"I was always seen as somebody they could relate to and not this American imposter who brings my values to that country," Washburn told USA Today. "We kind of noticed that women everywhere share certain similarities. They obviously care about their home, their children. Women everywhere love pretty things. So if we wore a pretty head scarf, it would be like an icebreaker."
Among her more notable achievements, Washburn helped deliver a baby in a snowstorm. She indicated that her awards included the Bronze Star Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, a Combat Action Badge, an Airborne Badge and an Air Assault Badge.
Washburn has approximately a year left on her obligation to the Army, but indicated she may extend her service to address other issues such as gender equality.
The Eagles will honor Washburn as part of their "Hometown Heroes" program during Sunday night's game against Chicago.
Fri Dec 20 06:55pm EST
There has been a lot said about who should be blamed for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's two fourth quarter interceptions last Sunday against Green Bay Packers, mistakes that led to a 37-36 loss.
The answer is: Romo deserves a lot of blame on both of them, especially the game-ending interception to Packers cornerback Tramon Williams.
It looked like intended receiver Cole Beasley stopped his route, and that led to the interception, but Beasley did what he should do. Romo made the mistake by misreading the defense.
Fri Dec 20 04:59pm EST
During offseason minicamps, sometimes in training camp, a NFL coach will take his team bowling or some other similar activity for bonding purposes.
That doesn't happen a lot during the season. There's the very serious business of watching film, practicing and preparing for that week's game to focus on. You surely wouldn't guess that the typically dour Patriots coach Bill Belichick would be the one to take his team on a trip to the movies a couple days before a huge game at Baltimore.
But yet, Friday became movie day for the Patriots.
Fri Dec 20 04:21pm EST
You can generally count on NFL teams to play hard all season, although there are varying degrees of motivation.
It's human nature. If you're out of the playoffs, or have a spot wrapped up, you're not going to be as engaged as the team fighting for its playoff life.
So if there's a spot for someone to make Seattle look even a little vulnerable at home, it's Arizona this week.
The Cardinals are 9-5 but face a tough road to the playoffs if they lose this week. They could be eliminated this week, but only if they lose. A win at Seattle means they'll be alive going into Week 17 no matter what else happens.
Seattle still needs to clinch the division and the first seed in the NFC playoffs, but the Seahawks have a two-game cushion for both. They'd probably like to take care of that this week, but it isn't necessary. If they let down at all, it's going to come against a Cardinals team that isn't that bad, and will have to treat this like a playoff game. The Cardinals are 10.5-point underdogs, but they're going to give the Seahawks a tough game. It should be close, at very least.
Here are the rest of this week's picks:
Buffalo (+3) over Miami: I think Thad Lewis at quarterback might give Buffalo a better chance to win. And I think the Dolphins' high-stress season, on and off the field, has to affect them at some point.
Minnesota (+7.5) at Cincinnati: Cincinnati fans have to be getting nervous. Baltimore is a real threat to win the division now. Then again, with two more wins and one Patriots loss, the Bengals can get a bye.
Kansas City (-6.5) over Indianapolis: Maybe the Colts have it all figured out, but I'm not convinced of that. Interesting question: Knowing that they're likely to meet again in the first round of the playoffs, how much do these teams hold back this week?
Tampa Bay (+5.5) over St. Louis: Two of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL. Who knows. (Certainly not me, who has no chance of picking winners this season.)
N.Y. Jets (-2.5) over Cleveland: So, once home-field advantage for the Jets is factored in, Vegas is saying that on a neutral field, the 4-10 Browns are the better team? Interesting.
Dallas (-2.5) over Washington: I know it's practically a sport to rip the Cowboys, but come on, they're not losing to the woebegone Redskins while they're still alive for the NFC East title. For Jason Garrett's sake, I hope not.
Carolina (-3) over New Orleans: If I picked Carolina to win the NFC South before the season I have to pick them to win this week, right?
Jacksonville (+5) over Tennessee: The Jaguars already won at Tennessee. They're not playing that bad, and no reason they can't at least keep it close.
Denver (-10.5) over Houston: The Texans didn't look too feisty rolling over at Indianapolis last week. The Broncos have had extra rest, are motivated coming off a loss and are going after the No. 1 seed.
Detroit (-9) over N.Y. Giants: So Detroit is embarrassed and wants to save its season too. And here come the absolutely horrid Giants, a team that's a lot worse than everyone realizes.
Pittsburgh (off) over Green Bay: Vegas opened up this game at Green Bay as 2.5-point favorites after it was announced that Matt Flynn would start. Doesn't matter, I don't think the Packers will win.
Oakland (+10) over San Diego: The Dolphins and Ravens comeback wins last week took a lot of wind out the Chargers' sails.
New England (+2.5) over Baltimore: Let's not forget the Ravens offense didn't score a touchdown last week, and Joe Flacco is a bit banged up. The Patriots won't lose the No. 2 seed.
Chicago (+3) over Philadelphia: Since I don't think the Redskins upset the Cowboys, I think that by the time this game kicks off the Eagles will know they're playing for the NFC East title in Week 17 no matter what happens here. And Eagles coach Chip Kelly would be foolish to not rest his starters if that's the case.
San Francisco (-13) over Atlanta: The 49ers play well against bad teams, and the final game at Candlestick Park provides a little more motivation.
Last week: 5-11
Season to date: 91-129-6
- - - - - - -
Fri Dec 20 03:19pm EST
Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber landed on injured reserve with a broken jaw and cracked vertebrae because of a vicious hit he incurred on a first-quarter block last Sunday night.
But he hasn't lost his spirit while recuperating from his serious injuries. Huber has been active the past few days on Twitter, taking about his upcoming dietary options in good humor.
The toughest decision I have to make over the next several weeks... What color to go with! pic.twitter.com/v4hoi5n22F
— Kevin Huber (@khuber10) December 19, 2013
Fri Dec 20 02:52pm EST
A warning to the Cincinnati Bengals: It sure looks like you're getting an angry Adrian Peterson this Sunday.
Peterson is listed as questionable for the Minnesota Vikings' game on Sunday with a sprained foot but told the Twin Cities media that he'll be "ready to roll." Head coach Leslie Frazier agreed that Peterson was likely to play even though he only practiced on a limited basis on Friday.
Peterson also said missing Week 15's game against the Philadelphia Eagles was very tough to stomach.
Adrian Peterson on not playing last week after lobbying: "I was hot. I was devastated. ... I didn’t get my way that day.” #Vikings
— VikingUpdate.com (@VikingUpdate) December 20, 2013
Fri Dec 20 02:28pm EST
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – In the face of criticism that his addition to the New York Jets secondary has been anything but the savior the team needed, future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed took exception with the New York media on Friday and questioned its understanding of football.
During his only availability of the week, Reed spent the first half of his comments lashing out at the media for a lack of understanding of the game and for what he saw as unfair criticism of his play. The 37-year old has at times shown his age and a lack of mobility on the field, which played a role in his ouster from Houston. Now with the Jets, his play has been marked by missed tackles and bad mistakes.
So Reed bristled when the first question directed to him on Friday was about his play.
Fri Dec 20 01:49pm EST
The savior won't be back this week, Packers fans.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been ruled out of Sunday's game against Pittsburgh. It will be Green Bay's seventh straight game without Rodgers, who has a broken collarbone. Green Bay, which would be eliminated from the playoff race with a loss and a Bears win, will go with Matt Flynn at quarterback.
Final injury report: Rodgers out
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 20, 2013
The week unfolded just like the past few have in Green Bay. Rodgers has practiced on a limited basis, all reports are that he looks good, but the Packers' doctors won't clear him for action. That is probably the smart move, even if Rodgers' return might make the difference between a playoff berth or being at home in January.
"As an organization we feel we're not ready for him to play," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at his press conference on Friday.
The Packers haven't been all too transparent about Rodgers' progress. McCarthy has typically said that it's a doctor's decision and then gets angry at follow-up questions. There haven't been any specifics from the Packers' medical staff. Perhaps that's part of the plan. Opponents have to prepare for Rodgers as long as the Packers haven't ruled him out for the season. Even if it's a small edge, it's an edge.
McCarthy sounded more frustrated than usual on Friday. Instead of talking about the doctors, he went out of his way several times to say "the organization" made the decision. He said he concurred with the decision but refused to go into who specifically made the call within the organization.
"I thought Aaron Rodgers did everything he could possibly do, what you look for in all your players," McCarthy said. "The man attacked the rehab aspect of it, did more in the weight room, did some really good things in practice. But, obviously, this is an organizational decision.
"He understands where we are. Everything has been explained. He wants to play. He's played with injuries, he's a tough guy, and he's done everything he possibly could to get back on the field."
The Packers keeping Rodgers' medical status a mystery also has added an element of drama to the NFC North race. The Packers have won two close games in a row with Flynn, and are desperately trying to stay alive for a playoff spot, perhaps until Rodgers can come back and give them a huge boost. The same story will play out in Week 17 if the Packers-Bears finale will come with the North title on the line. If Green Bay and Chicago both win on Sunday, the winner in Week 17 will be division champs. McCarthy refused to even address if Rodgers could return next week.
Will the Packers stay alive in the race this week? And if they do, will they have the former NFL MVP back for that enormous finale? Stay tuned.
- - - - - - -
Fri Dec 20 12:54pm EST
If you have a football-coaching job open, there's a good chance some dimwit has started a rumor that Jon Gruden is atop the team's coaching wishlist or that Gruden would be "willing to listen" to their offer.
The only entities who lose (and win) in this deal are ESPN and Disney, who keep writing checks to Gruden to stay at the mothership. He signed a five-year extension in 2011 (rumored to include a salary north of $4 million annually) and recently said he plans to stay with the network for the 2014 season.
But if there's one team — with actual Gruden connections — we can't immediately dismiss, it might be the Oakland Raiders.
Gruden's former quarterback, Rich Gannon, seemed to suggest in a recent radio interview with 95.7 The Game radio in San Francisco, that a return to Oakland for Gruden wouldn't be a totally crazy notion.
Posted Jul 2 2012
Posted Jul 3 2012
Posted Jun 21 2012