1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 14:
a. I will never understand how the Seahawks thought Alex Collins was not good enough to make their team this summer.
b. One of the coolest drives of the year: The Colts drove 19 plays, 77 yards in 9:53 in a blizzard, and then used a 43-yard PAT from Adam Vinatieri to tie the game in Buffalo. That’s the most fascinating drive and PAT of the year. Easy.
c. Underrated player of the year: Since Arizona acquired Chandler Jones in a spring 2016 trade with New England, he leads the NFL in sacks (25.0) and tackles behind the line of scrimmage (39).
d. Speaking of pressure, Case Keenum will be seeing Kawann Short in his sleep for a couple nights.
e. The 27-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had to be the greatest throw of Yates’ NFL career, abbreviated as it is.
f. Manti Te’o, 10 tackles. That’s a good career rebound for Te’o, now a Saint.
g. That was one terrible interception thrown by Matthew Stafford in Tampa.
h. I know it’s only two Niners starts, but Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0, 8.9 yards per attempt) is the goods.
i. Davis Webb inactive. Bizarre. Good line from our Conor Orr at the Meadowlands, about the Giants’ approach to quarterback play in this meaningless last month: “This felt like a logjam of competing interests.”
j. Ask yourselves this question, all ye who love the Giants: What purpose does it serve to play Eli Manning in the last three games instead of playing the third-round rookie, Davis Webb, to be able to add info to your 2018 first-round draft decision?
k. The NFL has to explain some of these ridiculous calls, dating back to the Monday-nighter last week in Cincinnati. Phantom calls. All over the place. Antonio Brown’s invisible 15-yard unnecessary roughness call against the Ravens last night. I concur with Sean Payton about the Sheldon Rankins roughing-the-passer call Thursday night; so marginal.
l. Not a good day for Marcus Mariota in the 12-7 loss at Arizona. Just 159 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, no touchdowns, two picks. He’s just not been the dynamic player this year we all thought he’d be in year three.
m. The Bears took Jordan Howard in the 2016 fifth round. He’s given them rushing seasons of 1,313 yards and—with three games left this year—1,032 yards. On a losing team. Nice pick, Ryan Pace.
n. Oakland, 6-7. That’s something I didn’t see coming.
o. Brett Hundley told me last week that one of his goals was to be sure the Pack was still in contention by the time Aaron Rodgers returns. Kudos to him—particularly for coming back from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in overtime on Sunday. Now Green Bay’s 7-6, a game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with a tough slate (at Carolina, Minnesota, at Detroit) and Rodgers almost ready to return.
p. Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins is going to be fun to watch for six or eight years. Really fun.
2. I think I hope for the sake of the franchise, the Giants consider all candidates for the GM job, and don’t have David Gettleman’s name in pen. Not that I don’t like Gettleman; he did a very good job in Carolina. But he’ll be 67 in February. The Giants’ GM job has been sort of what the Steelers’ coaching job is. New York’s had three GMs since 1979, and none has lasted less than nine seasons; Pittsburgh’s had three head coaches since 1969. Maybe Gettleman’s the best guy out there, even if you can’t expect him to be there for more than four or five years. But I’d rather survey the field of GM candidates than pick Gettleman now and let the rest of the field go.
3. I think the combination of Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels would be a heck of a catch for any team, by the way.
4. I think NFL teams will not have learned very much (surprise!) if Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the fifth quarterback taken in the April draft. Or fourth. Mayfield is about 6'0¼", and scouts worry about his size. Let’s go back to 2012. Fourth QB picked: Brandon Weeden. Fifth QB picked: Brock Osweiler. Sixth QB picked: Russell (5'10¾" ) Wilson. Height, schmeight. Watch the games.
5. I think—thanks to Deadline.com, and relayed by Pro Football Talk—we’re now seeing what may be part of the future of the Rams and Chargers in Los Angeles. The Rams are really good, obviously. The Chargers might be good enough to win the AFC West this year. On Sunday, the matchup between the 9-3 Rams and the 10-2 Eagles at the L.A. Coliseum was the game of the day in the NFL—and, obviously, the league feared a laconic reaction when its pregame show, FOX NFL Sunday, went to the game site. Now, the pregame show would air from 9-10 a.m. West Coast time, for the 1:25 p.m. ballgame. When ESPN sends its College GameDay show to college campus sites, and the show is on hours before the game, crowds gather at the appointed time. But obviously, it was feared this would not happen with so much time before the Rams game. So a notice was put out on Project Casting, where aspiring actors go to look for work. “Calling all LA Rams fans!… To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below. . . . Come out, bring your spirit, your best NFL gear & join us for NFL on FOX THIS Sunday!” More and more, I sense the NFL is going to have to resort to things like this to try to rev up the market.
6. I think the NFL and the NFLPA need to investigate—the same way I hope the Russell Wilson head-trauma examination from five weeks ago is being thoroughly investigated—the circumstances surrounding the 49ers’ brutal hit on Houston quarterback Tom Savage, and Savage’s reaction to it. Savage appeared to be twitching after the original hit and came out of the game to be looked at by the unaffiliated neurological consultant on the sidelines. Savage was permitted to re-enter the game for one series. Then he was looked at and pulled from the game, prompting an angry reaction from Savage. Bottom line: It’s good he was pulled, but should he ever have gone back in the game in the first place? This is a vital part of the NFL’s efforts to be sure no player ever plays with a concussion or symptoms of one. The program has to strive for perfection, and this didn’t look perfect.
7. I think Jerry Jones is not happy over the Roger Goodell contract. (Not that he would be.) But I just wonder what he’s got up his sleeve for the NFL meeting in Dallas on Wednesday. I bet it’s something.
8. I think the NFL would be making a mistake if it adopted the college targeting rule, which would provide for an ejection if officials judge that a defensive player targeted a defenseless player's head or neck area with an excessive hit, and would be subject to officiating interpretation. Read those last six words again: Would be subject to officiating interpretation. Often a hit that looks way over the top happens (as did the George Iloka hit on Antonio Brown last Monday night in the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game) when a defensive player looks to dislodge the ball from a ballcarrier. It's a tough call. Often the defender could be aiming for a foe's midsection, but the offensive player could duck or lunge, and then the hit could be helmet-to-helmet. It may not have been the defender's intent, but it just happens. I want to protect players as much as anyone. I'm not saying this is a bad rule. But this rule, if enacted, should be used only on obviously excessive hits.
9. I think, whether you like it or not, I’m taking you into the mind of Andy Benoit right now. Andy’s our NFL tape nerd and true football guru—an incredibly valued and valuable member of The MMQB team. He’s got a fun and interesting life out in Idaho, and he’s opinionated about a lot of things. In his weekly midweek column, you see the other side of Andy. This side:
• “I have always loved holiday lights. If everyone in every neighborhood did even just a little bit of illuminated decorating, 90 percent of our country’s problems would go away. But one caveat: no giant inflatable decorations. They’re tacky and lazy. And, if you live near them, surprisingly loud. (They hum as they stay inflated.) A giant inflatable yard decoration is better than no decorations, but a single wreath (even unlit) is better than a giant inflatable yard decoration.”
• “There are two types of people: clean freaks and slobs. When forced to live together, a clean freak’s and a slob’s most common battleground becomes the kitchen. Clean freaks do the dishes right after eating, while slobs sit around and wait for food scraps to stick to the plates. This one isn’t a matter of personal preference—there’s a right and wrong. The clean freaks are right and the slobs are wrong, and here’s why: If a dirty dish is to ever be used again, it must eventually be washed. Which makes washing that dish an inevitability. You maximize the value of that dish if you recognize that inevitability and clean it right away. Maybe you don’t need that dish until tomorrow night, but by washing it immediately after tonight’s dinner, you have 24 hours of that dish’s cleanliness. That’s 24 hours that the dish isn’t sitting in the back of your mind, yelling Wash Me! It’s 24 hours where the dish is available to be used on a whim. If you wait until, say, the morning to wash it, you get only 12 hours with that peace of mind. All for the same dish-washing effort. Or, actually, for less effort if you wash it up front, since fresh food scraps are easier to remove than old food scraps. If a dish didn’t have to be cleaned, then maybe the slobs would have an argument. But it does, and so they don’t.”
I believe you’ll all join me in pleading: MORE OF THAT, ANDY BENOIT.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Coffeenerdness: Three hours after putting the espresso roast (new for the week) into my 12-ounce Hydro Flask, it’s still hot. What great inventions—the coffee and the vessel.
b. Beernerdness: Beer nerds will hate me for this, but when I opened the refrigerator Friday for a pre-dinner beer (or two), I didn’t want one of the Colorado craft brews in there, or the Gray Sail wheat beer, or the Allagash White. I had a hankering for a Heineken. Still a good standard when you want a couple of lighter, crisp ones.
c. Football story of the week: by Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on the fascinating and new protocol to treat brain trauma, the kind of treatment that could help a legion of former football players.
d. I can’t wait to see Shohei Ohtani.
e. You’re off to a heck of a start with the Marlins, Jeter.
f. Opening day against the Dunedin Blue Jays is only four months away. See if you can build up your roster with some more minor-leaguers.
g. Heresy for a follower of the Boston Red Sox, but I really admire the job Yankees GM Brian Cashman does. He has the benefit of having the Yankee jillions behind him, and of getting players to waive no-trade clauses to play in New York. But he’s still got to put a team on the field to compete with other excellent teams, and he does it—albeit with those big advantages—every year. Did he need Giancarlo Stanton? No. Will Stanton’s gigantic contract eventually cost Cashman one of his young megastars? Maybe. Does another right-handed power-hitter fit his lineup? No. But tell me: If you could get a 28-year-old MVP for peanuts, and that 28-year-old MVP is coming off a 58-home-run year, and he doesn’t appear to have many major flaws except an injury concern (he’s played 120 or more games in one of the past three years), you’d get him …
h. … Even if it makes Jacoby Ellsbury a $23-million-a-year fifth outfielder (Judge, Stanton, Gardner, Hicks, Ellsbury would seem to be the Yankees outfield depth chart, barring a trade).
i. You exist in the world you’re given. Cashman excels in his. It’s easier to excel when you have Cashman’s advantages, obviously. But you’ve still go to do it.
j. So what do the Red Sox do? My advice: pray. And, I guess, overpay for Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez. But the Yankees are 12 wins better than Boston, even with one of them on the Sox.
k. If I were the world champs in Houston today, I’d focus on one starting pitcher, and one top bullpen arm. Then it’d be a great ALCS: Yanks versus Astros.
l. Obituary of the Week: from the Los Angeles Times, word comes that the inventor of the SWAT team (and the ransom-deliverer in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping) has died. Now that’s an interesting life.
m. Story of the Week, by James Sullivan of the Boston Globe, on bookstores making a comeback (yay): “We don’t think of them as booksellers anymore—they’re literary entrepreneurs.” Cool look at people enjoying books around New England.
n. Baseball Story of the Week: from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, on just who and what Shohei Ohtani is. The Japanese pitcher/hitter signed with the Angels on Friday, and he could be one of the great stories in baseball history.
o. One more baseball note: Tracy Stallard, 80, died Wednesday in Tennessee. Not much of a reason for you to remember him; he went 30-57 in a seven-year major-league career. But he did have one moment in the sun: He gave up Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run on the final day of the 1961 season—a line drive low into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium, the only run in a 1-0 Yankees win, played in 1 hour, 57 minutes. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over it,” Stallard said after the game. He pitched a great game against the eventual World Series champs. The Yanks won 109 games that regular season. That’s what I loved about Stallard’s reaction. He pitched well, Maris hit a good pitch (they both said), and that’s all Stallard gave up. No sense crying about it. I like it when competitors (you hear this out of cornerbacks a lot, when they give up huge plays even when they had good coverage) say, essentially, I’ll get ’em next time.
p. Happy 24th birthday, Jacoby Brissett. Lotta football left.
q. Happy 47th birthday, Errict Rhett.
r. Sprint, don’t run, to “Darkest Hour,” the new Winston Churchill movie. There have been so many World War II movies out, many from the British perspective, and so I understand if you’re fed up with the genre. But this one takes a month in the walkup to the war, and in particular Churchill’s monumental decision about whether to negotiate a truce and settlement with Hitler as Germany is on the verge of invading England, or whether he and his country should fight to the death over their freedom. It’s so interesting how everything and everyone in his war cabinet pointed toward appeasement and making a deal with Hitler … but how stubborn Churchill was in holding out. Gary Oldman is outstanding as the prime minister.
s. So Tonya Harding (Google her, kids) got a standing ovation at the Hollywood premier of the movie about her, “I, Tonya.” So … to the people who stood and cheered: You do know that a goon hired by Harding’s then-husband and her bodyguard tried to break main rival Nancy Kerrigan’s leg with a metal pipe before the ’94 Olympics, and that Harding knew about the attack before it happened and didn’t stop it. A standing O. Wow.
t. Save the Boston Herald.
Who I Like Tonight
New England 29, Miami 9. The Patriots have won 15 straight away from Foxboro. They’ve won their last three meetings with the Dolphins by 7, 21 and 18. Miami’s 1-5 in its last six, and the five losses have been by a total of 95 points. You’ll be able to watch your local news tonight, folks. And, with a Pats’ win, you’ll look forward to the game of the year: New England (11-2) at Pittsburgh (11-2) on Sunday at Heinz Field.?
The Adieu Haiku
The kid had it all.
Supe dreams: Wentz versus Brady.
North Dakota weeps.
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