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In Case You Missed It. NFL Week 12 Recap

Several teams dropped out of playoff contention on Sunday while other playoff contenders struggled with quarterback deficiencies. Elsewhere, DeSean Jackson gets benched, Tim Tebow wins again, and the Colts remain defeated.

Week Two Headlines

Texans, Bears in trouble
While their playoff scenarios differ, the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears both face the unlikely task of overcoming poor quarterbacks to win in, or even advance to, the playoffs.
Much was made since Matt Shaub’s injury about how Houston’s running game could sustain the offense and make Matt Leinart’s job relatively simple. And it did, at least for two quarters. Once Leinart went down, though, the Jacksonville defense swarmed the line of scrimmage and swallowed up Arian Foster and the Texan ground game. T.J. Yates is obviously not the solution. The Texans punted on their final seven possessions, totaled 52 total yards in the 2nd half, and registered only two 1st downs in the 3rd quarter and zero in the 4th. Houston’s defense is talented enough to keep the Texans competitive, but unless they can find an adequate starting quarterback, Houston looks destined for a 1st round blowout.

The Bears’ situation is worse. Chicago doesn’t lead its division and its comfortable cushion in the NFC Wildcard is now just a tiebreaker over the Atlanta Falcons. There’s a realistic possibility the Bears miss the playoffs. The scoreboard against Oakland reflected a five point defeat, but it wasn’t that close. The Chicago defense limited the Raiders to six field goals before finally surrendering a touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie threw three interceptions and ended the game on a hilariously embarrassing intentional grounding penalty. As they proved Sunday, the Bears defense is solid enough to give Hanie and the offense a chance. However, with the Falcons and Cowboys surging, the Bears will need at least ten wins and maybe more to reach the postseason. What we saw from Hanie on Sunday won’t be enough to get there. However, if Hanie can simply protect the football and give the defense 17-20 points a game, the Bears may be able to avoid three losses over the final five weeks (a relatively easy schedule) and hold onto a Wildcard spot.

Eagles, DeSean Jackson embarrassed
With their season on the line, the Philadelphia Eagles fell flat on their face. A promising 1st quarter quickly turned into a blowout, aided completely by the Eagles ineptitude. Let’s start with DeSean Jackson.

Other than Chris Johnson, no other NFL player made a bigger stink about getting a new contract than Jackson. He has continuously declared he wants to be paid like an elite receiver. Just a few weeks ago, he passively blamed the team for not getting him the football downfield. On Sunday, he proved he doesn’t deserve a hefty new contract worthy of an average receiver, let alone a great one. It’s also become increasingly clear that Jackson is afraid to be hit. As soon as the ball approaches his hands, his eyes are looking for the nearest defender. On Sunday, that tentativeness cost the Eagles a much-needed touchdown at the end of the first half.

Jackson has always been a baby when it comes to the physicality of football, but since he was laid out by Dunta Robinson of the Falcons last season, his fear has grown exponentially. If the sideline is available, Jackson takes it. If he must choose between taking a shot to snatch a 1st down pass or staying upright, he goes with the alligator arms every time. He did so twice on Sunday. Jackson makes the least amount of effort possible. Watch him when the Eagles throw deep. He waits for the football, never initiating contact to fight for an underthrown ball or preventing an interception. He’s a soft Sally. Worse yet, he’s oblivious to his own failures.

If Jackson makes two ordinary catches in the end zone on Sunday, the Eagles enter the 4th quarter down 31-24, not 31-13. (Actually, it would have been 31-27, because the Eagles probably kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th down at the two, but oh well.) Jackson talks a big game six days a week. He showboats, he dances, he regards himself as a unique talent. What Jackson doesn’t seem to know is that more talented players than himself have flamed out in the NFL because their brains and heart couldn’t keep up with their athletic abilities. So really, DeSean Jackson isn’t unique at all. He’s just another wasted talent.

Despite Jackson’s poor outing, he wasn’t the only reason the Eagles lost. The defense failed, the coaches were outcoached, and Tom Brady was, well, Tom Brady. To top off a lousy day, the Philadelphia faithful broke out in a chorus of “Fire Andy” chants.  No, it wasn’t Reid’s best performance. His team continues to lack discipline and his defensive draft picks have been nothing short of a disaster over recent years. Regardless, Reid doesn’t catch footballs. Reid doesn’t tackle opposing ball carriers. While the score may not reflect it, the Eagle players were put into position to compete in that game. They failed to execute and therefore deserve an equal share of the blame. I am in no way exonerating Reid. Even if he doesn’t lose his job, he deserves to feel this heat. This was all his doing. I simply refuse to forget that it’s the players that have to do their part. And up until now, they’ve failed even more so than Reid.

Trimming the fat
In addition to the Eagles, several other teams bailed out of the playoff hunt on Sunday. Most surprising of all was the San Diego Chargers who suffered their sixth straight loss, essentially eliminating them from playoff contention and sealing Norv Turner’s fate. Who knows what’s really wrong with Philip Rivers, but the Chargers need to find out before they suffer through another turnover plagued season in 2012. While Rivers didn’t commit any turnovers on Sunday, he played about as well as Caleb Hanie or T.J. Yates.

Also waving the white flag on Sunday; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (literally run over by the Tennessee Titans), the Kansas City Chiefs (Tyler Palko is gawd-awful), the Buffalo Bills (Ryan Fitzpatrick waited too long to come out of his funk), and the Indianapolis Colts (wait, they were eliminated in September).

Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)

1. Packers – After dismantling the Lions on Thanksgiving, I’m going to stop referring to the Packer defense as a glaring weakness. They’re more than good enough to win with Aaron Roders at quarterback. Besides, if Rodgers were your quarterback, wouldn’t you want your defense to force as many turnovers as possible like Green Bay’s does?
2. Patriots – Sunday’s win was the most impressive win of Week 12. Whether Tom Brady’s dominance had more to do with the lousy Eagle defense remains to be seen. For now, The Patriots look like AFC favorites heading down the stretch.
3. Ravens – The Texans won on Sunday, but let’s be honest, they’re no longer a top five team with T.J. Yates at quarterback. Thus, the Ravens and their dominating defense move back into the elite.
4. 49ers – Losing to the Ravens in Baltimore on a short week is understandable. However, that’s two bad outings by the offense in consecutive weeks. Obviously, the 49ers won’t miss the playoffs, but I’m interested in how they’ll be playing once they get there.
5. Steelers – The Steelers looked quite bad against the lowly Chiefs on Sunday night and won regardless. For now, that’s good enough to stay ahead of New Orleans, Dallas, and the limping Texans.
(Last Week: GB, SF, HOU, PITT, NE)

Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)

28. Chiefs – It’s hard to put Kansas City here after how well their defense played, but the Chiefs offense has been unbelievably bad. I’m going to go out on a limb and offer Tyler Palko is not the answer at quarterback. 
29.
Vikings – I hate to put the Vikings here. I have yet to watch them and think, “Wow, this team is awful.” I mean sure, they’re aren’t great or anything, but they don’t look as awful as the other teams on this list. Unfortunately, nine losses is getting tougher and tougher to ignore.
30. Jaguars
– The rate of Blaine Gabbert’s development rivals only the economic recovery. It’s too late for Jacksonville to join the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. Matt Barkley is an option, though.
31.
Rams – They continue to lose and look bad doing it. Losing is one thing, getting worse is unacceptable. 
32. Colts
– Give credit to Carolina’s defense for making even the Colts offense look adept. Well done, fellas. Well done.
(Last Week: KC, AZ, CAR, STL, IND)

Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)

Raiders – Carson Palmer is settling in at quarterback, the Chargers have fallen off the wagon, and Darren McFadden should be returning soon. Don’t get me wrong, the Raiders aren’t really that good, but they’re in the driver seat in the AFC West.
Falcons – With both the Bears and Lions losing and struggling, the Falcons are in prime position for a Wildcard berth. Better yet, the division is still within reach and a visit to Houston in Week 13 doesn’t look as daunting as it did two weeks or even two days ago.
Titans – Tennessee has four very winnable games out of their final five. Considering the Texans are without a signal caller, the Titans couldn’t have picked a better time to unleash the real Chris Johnson. Even if they fail to catch Houston, the Titans are still just a game out of the Wildcard.

Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)

Lions – Matthew Stafford is playing like Tyler Palko, the defense will probably lose Ndamukong-I’ll stomp on you-Suh for at least a game, and the team hasn’t had a good win since October 10th. Seriously, though, we all knew this was coming. It is Detroit, after all.
Texans – I’m sure none of the Texans players felt like they won today. With starting quarterback Matt Schaub already out for the year and backup Matt Leinart headed in that direction, the Texans are in desperate need of a quarterback if they hope to compete in the playoffs. Can someone get Gary Kubiak Jeff Garcia’s phone number? Thanks.
Eagles – It’s time, 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. Meet me at the little row boat. We’re going fishing. You’re not coming back. Start your Hail Mary whenever you’d like.

Things I thought and would’ve said on TV if someone paid me…
  • If you think special teams are overrated, you should go back and watch Oakland’s win over the Bears. Not only did Sebastian Janikowski boot six field goals, but Oakland punter, Shane Lechler put on a clinic on neutralizing elite returners. The Chicago defense was stellar Sunday. Oakland’s special teams were better.
  • He’s not winning, so it makes sense that no one is noticing, but Christian Ponder looks like a keeper in Minnesota. Blaine Gabbert, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten better since his first start in Week 3.
  • It wasn’t pretty, but the Bengals gutting out a victory on Sunday impressed me. In an obvious trap game, Cincinnati started slow, fell behind, remained focused, and eventually clawed their way back to a win. Those are the wins a franchise builds on, especially one full of younger players like the Bengals. Credit the Bengal front office for believing in Marvin Lewis when so many wanted him gone.
  • The Chris Johnson roller coaster peaked yesterday with a 190 yard performance. With a loss to the Bengals earlier in November, the Titans have a long road to get that final Wildcard spot, but Chris Johnson galloping through defenses makes that climb a little easier.
  • How bad have the Buccaneers been this season? Erasing a 17 point halftime deficit in Minnesota just might be the highlight of their season.
  • Cam Newton on Sunday; seven incompletions (27 attempts) and zero turnovers. It wasn’t his flashiest performance of the year, but one that shows Newton is developing as a quarterback between the ears.
  • I find the Arizona Cardinals to be one of the least watchable teams and the St. Louis Rams a close second. And yet, I watched part of Sunday’s game. Like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t turn away.
  • Also, I can’t wait for the Rams to fire Steve Spagnuolo so Andy Reid can hire him as the Eagles defensive coordinator.
  • Why is everyone upset about Stevie Johnson making fun of Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg? Burress was only a victim of his own stupidity. I found the celebration entertaining. As a rule, if you don’t want people to make fun of you, don’t shoot yourself in the leg.
  • I think C.J. Spiller is not an NFL running back.
  • Between chasing a sick kid and traveling between different houses, I never caught an entire Thanksgiving game. I did catch the second half of the Dallas-Miami game, though, and that was the best Thanksgiving game I’ve seen in recent memory.
  • Remember how DeSean Jackson wasn’t shy about his desire for Kevin Kolb to replace Donovan McNabb? Well, since McNabb’s departure, Jackson’s numbers have fallen off, and quite dramatically, too. 2009: 62/1156/9. 2010:  47/1056/6. 2011: 39/664/2.
  • Also, are we convinced the Eagles going for it on 4th down from the two early in the 3rd quarter was the right call? A field goal there makes it a two-possession game. Sure, the defense couldn’t stop the Patriots at that point, but going for it and failing killed any chance of a comeback right then and there.
  • Rex Grossman had the Redskins at 3-2 before he was benched for John Beck and his five game losing streak. Since Grossman’s return, the Redskins have looked respectable, further proving Mike Shanahan has no idea what’s going on anymore.
  • This just in: Tim Tebow will make you pay if you give him a window late in the 4th quarter or overtime. For those saying you can’t win with a quarterback like Tebow, the Broncos are 5-1 since Tebow took over the starting job. The Eagles should send DeSean Jackson to Tebow’s “how to be a football player” summer camp. I mean seriously, how can you not like the way Tebow plays? With the Eagles done, I’m a Bronco fan for the rest of the year.
Things I never thought and would not say this week, even if you paid me…
  • My “Philip Rivers is right there with Brady, Rodgers, Brees, and Manning” preseason assessment was right on.
  • Get used to hearing about T.J. Yates and Caleb Hanie. My guess is neither the Texans nor Bears miss their starting quarterbacks.
  • Just pay DeSean Jackson already. The guy has proven he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win football games. Homeboy deserves a phat paycheck.
  • Ndamukong Suh is not a dirty player. You can’t blame him for stepping stomping on someone. Why was the guy laying on the ground in front of him in the first place?
  • Give me a team coached by Norv Turner or Andy Reid, and I’ll guarantee you a playoff appearance.
  • If I’m the Rams, I keep punting to Patrick Peterson. You don’t start avoiding returners just because they beat you twice in the same month. That’s dumb.
Fantasy Nightmare Football update of the week…
  • Now that the Eagles are done, fantasy football is all I have left. Honestly, I don’t really enjoy fantasy football. I play for the league emails and harassing friends with ridiculous trades like Shonn Greene for LeSean McCoy.

2 Comments

  1. Hey Ryan,

    I’m really dissapointed in the way the Eagles’ season is turning out. I really thought they would be one of the top teams this year coming in. I think you were a little too hard on Jackson but I agree, he does try to avoid contact too often.

    I don’t think he’s a wasted talent but I do think he’s not focused in the game sometimes. Maybe it’s because he knows the Eagles’ season is officially over.

  2. Ryan (Author)

    I too am bummed about the Eagles, but I think I’ve been fair in my criticism of DeSean Jackson. The footage from this season speaks for itself.

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