by Ryan Meehan
Like most of you, I vegged on Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t eat and focus on football so much on a usual Sunday, but here in America Thanksgiving is a football holiday. I took it upon myself to check out all three, as I knew I wouldn’t have that same luxury on Sunday. Week eleven most certainly had its share of surprises, and showed that very few teams are mathematically out of it. Let’s take a look at what went down…
Texans 34, Lions 31 (OT)
I’ll always take a pinch of Thanksgiving overtime. Both kickers in this one missed late in the game, and it kind of spooked me Shayne Graham was one of those guys. He’s usually super reliable but he came very close to blowing it. Thankfully, Jason Hansen did too and Graham finally tacked on the game winner in OT. He could have made the kick had he been a little closer, this wasn’t the first time within the game that Jim Schwarz made a critical error. The play in question was a Texans touchdown that would have been reviewed if not challenged. Instead Schwarz threw the challenge flag to review a play that was not challengeable in the first place. Therefore Jimmy was nailed with the 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Look, it’s a terrible rule and it will be changed for sure by the competition committee in the offseason. However, it’s a hypothetical situation that every NFL coach should be aware of. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun to watch, I am becoming a Texans fan more and more each day and it was definitely entertaining to see that slow motion shot of Gunther Cunningham kicking the clipboard. When you think about it the faulty rule combined with the coaching error ended up costing them the game, so that kind of sucks if you’re a Lions fan but let’s be honest they weren’t going anywhere this year anyway. Now the Texans on the other hand have to be exhausted. Kubiak brought up the point “We played 10 quarters in 5 days”…and if there was ever a time to not have back to back overtime games, this was it. Luckily for Houston they won both against teams that we all knew they were much better than. What they need to do now is somehow come up with another blowout game to sort of reintroduce themselves to the league as the team who’s not fucking around. It’s doable…the first thing I would be looking at is the fact that they still have the Colts on their schedule, so maybe repeatedly reviewing the tape where Indy got butthoused by the Patriots would be a great place to start.
Redskins 38, Cowboys 31
Something told me that the Redskins were going to show up and shock a few people and they did just that. Robert Griffin the third might be a running quarterback but he’s got a hell of an arm too. Tony Romo had previously never lost on Thanksgiving, but there’s a first time for everything and it happened in 2012. Here again although all of the pieces would appear to be in place for them to be successful, for some reason the setup that they have in place continues to have difficulties finishing games. This one, the Ravens game, and the second Giants game are all great examples of just how much they have consistently failed at finishing the job. Washington won’t make the playoffs this year but the strides they have taken are grand so far and you have to figure that with Dallas and Philadelphia getting progressively worse that they have a perfect opportunity to position themselves for future Wild Card spots, or even better surpassing the Giants. They’ll eventually need a better defense to do either of those things, but it’s not that far off at all.
Patriots 49, Jets 19
Thanksgiving ruled for me – I went 3-0 and got every single game right. Bill Belichick got his 200th win in monster fashion, as once again his team put huge numbers on the board. This game was scoreless after one quarter, but in the second quarter the Pats outscored team Sanchize 35-3. I watched Rex Ryan’s press conference – every second of it. Does he rent from Mark Sanchez’s family? Is he worried about a potential mob hit on him if he makes a switch? What does he owe Mark Sanchez that allows Sanchez to just keep shitting on everybody with no consequences in sight. The one thing that really stuck out about the Sanchez portion of the Rex Ryan press conference is when he was asked if he believed that Mark will be there next year, he said “I do”. So either one of those scenarios I mentioned earlier is likely correct, or he’s just insane. Discounting injury reports, I haven’t heard Ryan form a cohesive thought in well over a month and I watch a lot of football wrap-up shows. I think it’s pretty safe to say he has no future with the franchise, so it will be interesting to see if the team gives Sanchez another shot without Rex at the helm. Sanchez DID go 26 for 36 for 301 yards in the game, but most of it came late in the game when it was already pretty much over and it was still painfully obvious he had no control over the team. The Jets defense did play very poorly, and they should incur a lot of the blame but I’m still puzzled by the decision making at the coaching level. One of the most telling things was when NBC flashed down to Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison on the Jets’ sideline where they described the total lack of life that had come out of that camp. That’s a problem with the players not believing in the coaching staff. And I realize that it was still early, but if Ryan is supposed to be this hard-nosed balls out risk taker – why would he even consider kicking a field goal against a team that was able to put up 35 points in less than fifteen minutes? Saving face? That can’t be it…they just got smeared, there’s no face to save. On the other side of the fence, I’m seeing more and more analysts say that Houston is no longer the best team in the AFC after this game. It’s hard to argue with a team that’s scored 108 points in the last eight quarters and finally seems to be finding a defensive strategy. But it’s more than just that…it’s the fact that no matter who gets injured, the Pats have others that step up. If Rob Gronkowski hadn’t broken his forearm and was set to start this game, I’m not so sure that they would have rushed Aaron Hernandez back from his injury. But Hernandez stepped up and had two timely catches for 36 yards. And just to prove that New England always has something in their back pocket, they were able to utilize Wes Welker and Shane Vereen who both had touchdown catches. I’m not ready to say that the Patriots are a better overall team than the Texans, but right now it’s close enough for me to call it a tie.
Bears 28, Vikings 10
The Vikings came out and looked absolutely flat in a game where they had a perfect opportunity to prove themselves against the Chicago Bears. By halftime they were already down 25-3 and aside from one solid drive, Christian Ponder looked like the Christian Ponder we all seem to have no real strong opinion about. Jay Cutler on the other hand had a big day coming back from an injury to really stick it to the Vikings and what dwindling playoff hopes they have left.
Bengals 34, Raiders 10
The Bengals were up in this game 24-0 at the half, and looked a lot like the same Bengals that made the playoffs last year. Of course, it may be a bit of a mirage as the Oakland Raiders (as Bart Scott would say) “couldn’t stop a nosebleed”. Although Dalton’s numbers weren’t mind blowing (16 for 30 for 210 yards) he did throw for three touchdowns and it’s becoming very apparent that running BenJarvis Green-Ellis is the Bengals’ game plan from this point forward and with the current state of the AFC, their season may be salvageable after all. Mohamed Sunu has had a touchdown catch in three straight games now.
Browns 20, Steelers 14
Over the last six quarters, it was obvious that Byron Leftwich wasn’t the answer for the Steelers. But now we know that Charlie Batch isn’t either. The Pittsburgh Steelers had eight turnovers in this one. Nonetheless, I have to hand it to the Browns defense, they exploited the weakness of a guy who hasn’t started a game since the stone age and they did it well. It’s pretty evident that the Steelers running game is in dire straits, as their leading rusher was Jonathan Dwyer who pushed through for a monster 19 yards on nine carries. Now the Steelers are in some trouble – Cincinnati is playing much better and seems to have located the strength in their running game, and Roethlisberger is still hurt. The quote of the week comes from Pittsburgh comedian Davon Magwood – “Mike Tomlin looks like my father after I gave him a bad report card…SO pissed…”
Colts 20, Bills 13
Who would have ever thought that after a disastrous 2011 season the Indianapolis Colts would be 7-4 heading into week thirteen? It’s almost hard to put into words, but I’ll give it a shot. This is like the 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers making the playoffs. I think for the most part people seem to forget just how bad the Indianapolis Colts were last year. They finished with the franchise’s worst record since 1991, and became the first team in NFL history to come off nine straight playoff appearances and start 0-13. Although Luck had a decent game, the real star of the show was TY Hilton who returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and also caught an eight yard TD pass. I’m slightly disappointed that the Colts weren’t able to rack up more points at home against the Bills, but not surprised that the play of their defense stepped up as they are now playing spoiler the rest of the year.
Broncos 17, Chiefs 9
Throughout the course of his career, Peyton Manning has been applauded for his focus on winning. He learned from a very young age that if you win ball games, the stats will eventually come, which they have for him as evidenced by his very large body of work. Today was another great example of that, as Manning went through a rough stretch in the first half where he couldn’t get things rolling. He got knocked around pretty hard and landed on that neck. He was given a concussion test immediately, he passed it and returned to throw what was the go-ahead touchdown to Pierre Thomas on a perfectly placed ball to seal the deal for Denver. No need to panic for the mile high club even though they barely pulled it off against a bad team – that’s precisely what he was hired for.
Dolphins 24, Seahawks 21
If you would told me one of the late game comebacks today would have come from one Ryan Tannehill I would have told you that you are crazy. (Editor’s note: This does not excuse you from being crazy. You may still have serious mental problems and that’s not up to us to iron out) What’s bizarre about this game is that with 8 minutes left Leon Washington returned a kickoff for a touchdown that put the Seahawks up by seven and swung the momentum pendulum in their favor. But then Tannehill strutted his troops down the field and the Dolphins were able to hold them off. There was an odd moment in this one with 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter: The sprinkler systems on the field went off. I guess I’m not surprised, it a franchise that is so image conscious that something like this was overlooked. Jimmy Buffett probably laughed anyway. This just goes to show you how much of a week to week league the NFL can be. Last week I was sitting here singing the praises of the Seattle Seahawks and how every other bubble team in the NFC is looking up at them, now they may have sunk right back to the middle of the pack. Now who’s crazy? (Editor’s note: It’s still me)
Falcons 24, Buccaneers 23
I’d usually be suspect of yet another close win by the Falcons, but I expected Tampa to give them a run for their money. Matt Ryan has the talent to drum up comebacks like the one they pulled off against the Bucs. I would love to say that I thought Julio Jones would have made the breakout play of the game but that would be a lie. However, he did and it was intense. Maybe it’s recent memory clouding my judgment, but remember when the NFL used to have the fastest man competition and Darrell Green used to win almost every year? From what I saw on that play, Jones was just as fast as Green ever was. What I took away from this game from Tampa’s perspective is although it was a loss and they remain under .500, they played very well but just got burnt on a crucial play they couldn’t afford to get burnt on.
Jaguars 24, Titans 19
Much like I was incorrect regarding the Seahawks and how they would perform this week, I had just told Pat at S & V last night around 1AM that I thought the Tennessee Titans were poised to turn their season around and make a charge at one of the wild card spots that would remain at the end of the year. Not only was I wrong, but I was wrong at the expense of the Jacksonville Jaguars whom I mercilessly bag on week after week. Jake Locker is going to learn really quick that no matter what NFL market he’s in, losses to the Jags are unacceptable and I’m sure he’s hearing an earful of that at the moment.
Ravens 16, Chargers 13 (OT)
If you’re a Chargers fan, get uncomfortable. Your team will be comfy knowing they pretty much pissed their last chance at a playoff spot away against the Ravens. This game featured one of the least clutch moments in all of NFL history where San Diego failed to stop Baltimore on a 4th and 29. You read that right, no errors. It was especially frustrating because its not like the game was tied and they were just playing that down to preserve the tie. They had it down to what should have been the last play of the game when they were up 13-10. And it happened on a short pass to Ray Rice where he could have been tackled by at least six different guys. It didn’t all start out rough, the powder blue had four sacks in the first half. And they hardly fell victim to the Ravens running up the score like I had predicted. Still, the Ravens matched their best start in franchise history as Torrey Smith yet again had a huge catch late in the game and Baltimore won it in OT.
Rams 31, Cardinals 17
All this game told us is that the Cardinals were not hot shit like everyone had thought in Mid-September, and the Rams don’t care that they’re missing the playoffs they’re going to play every game hard as hell. Cardinals rookie QB Ryan Lindley completed his first 7 of 8 passes, but then fell off shortly thereafter. Any situation where you are waiting on pins and needles for Kevin Kolb to return means that things aren’t headed in the right direction. Bradford on the other hand may not be producing a lot of wins in his NFL career so far, but as long as he can get away with 100 plus yard performances from guys like Steven Jackson and Chris Givens he’ll be able to remain the Rams’ quarterback because playoff demands are not that high. As for Arizona, they play the Jets next so it’ll be easy to ignore that one.
49ers 31, Saints 21
On Friday, Jim Harbaugh came out and told the media that Alex Smith had gone several days without exhibiting any concussion-like symptoms. At that time he wouldn’t name a starter, but by Sunday morning word had gotten around that he had planned to start Kaepernick. Harbaugh historically has been quoted as saying that he likes to go with the QB who has the hot hand. In this case, I see no conceivable way that one would continue to follow that ethos of thinking when going up against Drew Brees who is without question a first ballot Hall of Famer. Nonetheless he started Kaepernick, and it worked. The 49ers looked very comfortable in the Superdome…there’s that certain air of how the light hits the helmets and transfers to television that makes games broadcast in that building look unique, and the red and gold looked and played like it was meant to be and they will be back in February. Don’t get me wrong, Smith CAN run but he can’t run like that. But isn’t this a very strange situation? Harbaugh took Kapernick in the second round when he already knew that Alex Smith was their go to quarterback. Naturally it would be crazy to bench him, but even as an Alex Smith guy I must say that I can’t argue with it. The offense is more expanded with CK at the helm, and who knew? Harbaugh.
Giants 38, Packers 10
Prior to Sunday night’s game, the Giants had lost two straight after going 4-0 in October. They were coming off of a much needed bye week but faced a very hot opponent in the Green Bay Packers. When this game began, my father and I were watching downstairs at my parent’s place, when I noticed something in the pre-game warmups. Ahmad Bradshaw (who had done his share of whining) was leading the team in their pregame speech. I thought “That’s weird, he’s not a team captain…” At that moment I thought to myself: “Maybe Coughlin saw something in him that showed a little extra fire this week. Sure enough, he had a huge game and one could argue that his 53 yard run in the first quarter was exactly what sparked the Giants offense. If the Giants can remain as consistent as they have been they can be among the best in the NFL. On the other side of the field problems were afoot. Probably my favorite postgame quote had to be from Twitter fanboy and occasional pass catcher JerMichael Finley, who told reporters that they “Just weren’t ready” Huh? I’m sincerely hoping he meant they just had so many injuries that they were unable to compete, as opposed to just being downright unprepared. Green Bay needn’t push the panic button just yet, however I would wrapup their play in this game as follows: The way that the Packers played on Sunday night, I have to believe that of the other 31 teams in the league 27 of them could have beat Green Bay. Carolina, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and J-Ville might not be able to hang but a team like the Buffalo Bills could have beat the Packers the way they were struggling. And although it’s not time to load the van up for vacation, it’s definitely a major cause for concern.
Panthers 30, Eagles 22
Look, we’re all adults here. We all have places to be and things to do. I’m not staying up to chronicle the details of a meaningless game. And for the record, that’s EXACTLY what this is. And since I have been sick all day, I simply don’t have the patience to sit here and dissect a game that not only has no playoff implications but also no storylines as well. All you need to know here is the last attempt to score was a missed extra point by Carolina.
I’m exhausted and I’m going to bed.
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.