1. I think you might not have heard, but the Giants are playing the Patriots on Sunday.
Since the big boss did a pretty tremendous oral history of the 2007 regular-season finale between the teams, I’ll feebly attempt a follow-up.
One of my favorite conversations while working on Sports Illustrated’s Super Bowl Gold (buy it, mostly because it’s really good, but also because I have kids to feed) was with Justin Tuck, who provided his first-person account of Super Bowl XLII.
a. It was a wide-ranging conversation with Tuck, but my favorite part had to do with the series of strange hand signals he was giving right after the final horn.
Tuck: “I was walking on the sideline and I saw a Giants fan with an 18-1 sign. I was trying to make a gesture of 18-1 with my hands, it’s like I was doing the math: I did a 10, then an eight, then a slashing motion, then a one. I admit, I couldn’t really make it work.
“But that 18-1 sign, the guy was right in the front row, that’s the first thing I remember seeing after we won the Super Bowl.”
b. Also, Tuck said nice things about the guy playing quarterback for the Patriots:
“The plays I didn’t make stood out more than the ones I did. There was one play that I still remember like it was yesterday. It was a quick throw but I had a pretty good rush up the middle. I actually grabbed Tom Brady’s forearm as he threw, and he still completed the pass. I found a new respect for Tom Brady considering how many times we hit him. He kept getting up and making plays.
“There were plays in that game that went our way. The play when I stripped the ball from Brady in the second quarter, Randy Moss was streaking up the sideline wide open. If Brady gets the ball out, that’s a touchdown. So if I get there a split-second late… It wasn’t until that last pass, when Brady threw for Moss on fourth down and he didn’t catch it, that we knew it was over. With that team, and that quarterback, with that much time left on the clock… all they need is one big bomb to get in field goal range. And their field goal kicker was pretty good.”
c. One of the funniest anecdotes I heard was from Jarvis Green, who famously had Eli in his grasp before Eli escaped and connected with David Tyree on the helmet catch.
Green: “I feel like I didn’t sleep for about two weeks afterwards. I mean, if I make that play, I’m going to Disney World. What’s funny though: I started getting these royalty checks in the mail. I didn’t know why, and I hadn’t watched TV for weeks after the game. So I called the NFLPA and asked what was going on. They said, ‘Remember that play in the Super Bowl? There’s a Gatorade commercial, where Eli Manning gets away from the guy who could have had the sack…’ They asked if I wanted the checks to stop, I said, ‘No, no, no!’ I finally saw the commercial little later, watched it maybe two or three times. That was enough.”
d. That’s enough free stuff. Go buy the frickin’ book.
e. One last thing that doesn’t have to do much with anything. As I was looking through Super Bowl 42 photos, I noticed one of Eli Manning in the tunnel alongside a No. 13; it caught my eye because Giants No. 13 jerseys have become pretty popular here in the NYC area.
If there is ever a reboot of Twins, please let it star Jared Lorenzen and Odell Beckham Jr.
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2. I think it’s easy to say Seahawks-Cardinals is not a rivalry due to the Seahawks’ 4-2 record (including a sweep last year) since Russell Wilson arrived in the Pacific Northwest, take another sip of your Keystone Light, then lean back in your seat with a well-deserved sense of satisfaction.
To you, I would say this: The Cardinals’ starting quarterbacks in those six games: John Skelton, John Skelton, Carson Palmer, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Ryan Lindley.
Obviously, Palmer is going to be under center Sunday night, and the teams split the two games Palmer played in. The Cards’ one victory with Palmer came in the QB’s only visit to Seattle, a 17-10 win that was the last loss of the 2013 season for the eventual Super Bowl champs.
That game, if you remember, was an ugly, nasty classic. Wilson’s 11-yard pass to Zach Miller midway through the fourth quarter was the first touchdown of the game, giving Seattle a 10-9 lead. At that point, Palmer was 10-for-21 for 122 yards and four interceptions. He took Arizona on a 10-play, 80-yard drive, connecting with Michael Floyd on a 31-yard TD pass, Floyd juggling it with Byron Maxwell right in his shirt, with 2:13 left to win it.
The sense is that everyone is waiting for Seattle to flip a switch and dominate again. But it’s the Cardinals who have the second-highest point differential in football this year, behind only the Patriots (yes, Arizona’s +110 is better than Cincinnati and Carolina). These teams, of course, still have one more date this season, Week 17 in Glendale.
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3. I think I have some friendly advice for two Cowboys stars: never, ever, ever, never go on Twitter...
a. We’ll start with the easy one: Asinine bio edits aside, why would you, Greg Hardy, even subject yourself to Twitter? Your mentions ratio must be 200 hate tweets for every one from a spammer/advertisement/genuinely supportive fan. I mean, it’s not like you can promote your personal brand for future endorsement opportunities. There is literally no upside to you being on there.
b. Dez Bryant, stop searching your name on Twitter. It’s not worth it. Of the 307 million monthly active users on Twitter, 304 million are brands or spammers. The rest is made up of professional trolls, aspiring trolls, media members and my friend Rob. Dez, I bet most informed football fans think very highly of your football abilities and competitiveness. But your actions are a half-step away from bugging the tables at that Buffalo Wild Wings in Plano and storming the place post-game to confront anyone who spoke ill of you.
c. Anyway, follow me on Twitter!
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4. I think Thursday night’s win over the Jets was important to Rex Ryan for obvious reasons. But don’t forget: That was a huge game for both teams regardless.
As I’ve mentioned before, the AFC Wild-Card race is wide-open. Barring a surge from a team like the Ravens or Chiefs, the two spots are presumably going to come down to the Bills (5-4), Jets (5-4), Steelers (5-4) and Raiders (4-4). Buffalo now has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets, as well as the best record against AFC opponents of the four teams (at 5-3, the Raiders and Jets are 4-3 and the Steelers are 2-4).
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5. I think I have some wonderful news for Chip Kelly: You’re getting the biggest positive bump in the nine-week history of the Chip-O-Meter (which is, of course, universally recognized as the only scientifically accurate way of measuring your job performance).
No one is throwing a parade for the guy who bested Matt Cassel, but last Sunday night the Eagles’ offense ran like the finely tuned machine it’s supposed to be. Sure, part of it was the opportunity to pick apart the rotation of hapless Sean Lee understudies. But by the time overtime rolled around, the Eagles were playing fast, the Cowboys were worn down, and you got the feeling that Philly could have run for seven-plus yards on literally every play. That’s how this thing is supposed to work.
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6. I think, as a follow-up, had the Eagles lost to Matt Cassel and the Cowboys, I would have suggested an open tryout, and maybe a motivational speech from “Donovan McNabb”:
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7. I think I think some things about college football…
a. Best wishes, of course, to Gary Pinkel as his focus shifts to his battle with lymphoma. He and his Missouri staffs were as good as it gets from an X’s and O’s standpoint, piling up wins with second-tier recruiting talent.
And if there was ever a coach who should write a book… Last week’s player boycott and Michael Sam have been the headliners. But in the past five seasons alone, he also had a star quarterback (James Franklin) who once refused a cortisone injection and instead sat out a big non-conference game, and Pinkel managed to keep the best prep player in the nation in-state (Dorial Green-Beckham), then had to dismiss him after numerous incidents away from the field. And, again, despite typically ordinary recruiting classes, he has produced seven first-round picks in the last seven seasons.
b. Everyone has their down years, but I thought Gus Malzahn was supposed to be an offensive maestro. In Jeremy Johnson, the man who would be a Heisman contender, and Sean White, Auburn has two quarterbacks who look absolutely shell-shocked out there.
c. Over at Campus Rush, friend of the program Pete Thamel took a deep dive into Ezekiel Elliott’s game. The Ohio State RB hasn’t exactly been tested yet this season (Indiana! Hawaii! Rutgers!), but anyone who saw last year’s 230-yard night against Alabama in the national semifinals knows the NFL is going to be giddy about him:
“Elliott won't acknowledge NFL talk until the end of the season, but he's considered a mid-to-late first-rounder. ‘He can catch and block and is obviously a good runner,’ says an NFL scout. ‘He's a rare commodity, better than [San Diego Chargers rookie] Melvin Gordon because he's more versatile, bigger, stronger and probably faster.’”
Gordon went 16th overall last year, and indeed, Elliott is clearly the superior prospect.
d. I must warn you, the following clip contains an obscene, some might even say pornographic excessive celebration. This is South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth, in the aftermath of his TD reception on a flanker pass.
College football is a joke sometimes. South Carolina's excessive celebration penalty was for this... pic.twitter.com/5Abu431k76— Florida Football (@FloridaFootball) November 14, 2015
Oh. My. GOD! My kids could have been watching! Thank goodness back judge Roy Potts was there to throw the flag for excessive celebration. He is the hero America needs.
As for Orth, he just didn’t learn his lesson. Later he was seen on the sideline “high-fiving” a teammate. Just disgusting. I hope Orth is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
I, for one, look forward to the day when the unpaid teenagers who play college football show all the passion and joy of DMV employees on a Tuesday morning. I know Mark Emmert can get us there.
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8. I think, while you’re counting down the hours to kickoff, you should spend some time with The MMQB Read of the Week: Jenny Vrentas on NFL players’ newest performance enhancer: sleep.
“[The Jets instructions for London] included general rules that become even more important during a week of overseas travel: No caffeine after 2 p.m.; no alcohol within three hours of bedtime; keep room temperature between 65 and 68 degrees; turn off or cover any blue, green or white lights in the bedroom, no matter how small. Nap for either 30 minutes, arising before you slip into deep sleep, or 90 minutes, after completing a sleep cycle, but never 60 minutes, because waking up in the middle of deep sleep can make you feel sluggish.”
“Tom Brady does cognitive exercises at night to destimulate his brain so he can fall asleep by 9 p.m., part of the 38-year-old’s regimen to ward off Father Time, as Sports Illustrated reported last year. J.J. Watt, last year’s NFL defensive player of the year, was shown on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer advising a younger teammate to hit the sack around 8:30 p.m. so he could get 10 hours of sleep. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who in 2014 made 30 out of 31 field goals in his 19th NFL season, says one of the reasons he’s been able to perform well in his 40s is making sure he gets eight hours of quality sleep a night.”
Anyone who is familiar with Jenny Vrentas’s work knows how good she is on these sports science pieces. And this is as good as it gets; absolutely fascinating.
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9. Twelve-plus things I think about Sunday’s 12 games:
a. I’ve written about the Packers’ troublesome schedule the last two weeks. They’re very much human on the road, and typically unstoppable in Lambeau. Well, after dropping games in Denver and Carolina, they host the Lions on Sunday. I have a feeling we won’t be hearing so much about the Packers’ problems come 4:30 or so.
b. The Bucs are 1-11 at home under Lovie Smith. Each loss in the Cowboys’ six-game losing streak has been understandable considering their quarterback situation, but aside from maybe the home game against Atlanta in Week 3, this is the most winnable game they have played since Romo went down.
c. Well, Panthers at Titans is a matchup of two of the four head coaches who are unbeaten in 2015. The most interesting thing about the Panthers’ last two weeks is that, after dominating the second half in their first six wins (outscoring opponents 94-62), they had some issues in barely hanging on during home wins over the Colts and Packers (outscored 42-29 in the second half and overtime).
d. Bears fans have to be confused. Jay Cutler has been sharp since returning from a hamstring injury; including Monday’s heroics in San Diego the Bears are 3-2 with two fourth-quarter comeback wins since Cutler’s return. And they’ve been in every game despite an incredibly green defense; all five games since Cutler’s return have been decided by a field goal or less.
e. Don’t look now, but Washington has actually won three straight at home. I’m… not quite sure how I feel about that. Any ideas, Kirk Cousins?
f. Remember when Dan Campbell was 2-0? Well, it might be getting worse. Sunday’s trip to Philadelphia would seem to be a nightmare matchup for Miami’s leaky run defense, as the Eagles’ uptempo rushing attack is really starting to click.
g. The sense I get is that everyone wants Johnny Manziel to win the starting job outright, to the point that he was getting overwhelming praise for a thoroughly mediocre performance in Cincinnati last Thursday night. Well, he gets one more shot on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
h. The Blake Bortles-to-Allen Robinson connection has to be exciting for Jaguars fans. They’ll have a chance to pick on a Ravens pass defense that hasn’t been very good since losing Terrell Suggs.
i. Two of the league’s upstarts meet, featuring the top two quarterbacks from the draft class of 2014, when Minnesota visits Oakland. But mostly it’s a very good test for the Raiders’ run defense, which had been excellent until DeAngelo Williams and the Steelers torched them for 195 and 6.5 yards per carry last week.
j. I’m not sure how this Giants secondary is going stop Rob Gronkowski and/or Julian Edelman. Not that it’s an uncommon problem, but the Giants safeties (while they’ve filled well against the run) have often looked lost against the pass this season.
k. The Chiefs had Denver right where they wanted them in Week 2, holding the Broncos to 299 yards of offense and losing the game on a late Peyton Manning TD drive followed by the infamous Jamaal Charles fumble six, one of three lost fumbles and five turnovers in a 31-24 loss.
Certainly, the Broncos should be on point in their own stadium coming off a dud performance in Indy. But this Chiefs defense is still a tough matchup considering the Bronco’s still-shaky offensive line and a running game featuring a hobbled Ronnie Hillman and two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust C.J. Anderson.
l. As mentioned above, this is one of the NFL’s best rivalries, if not the best, right now. But I’d hesitate before calling this a must-win for Seattle, even at home. The Cardinals have to run a gauntlet in the second half of the season, including trips to St. Louis (who beat them in Glendale) and Philly as well as home dates with the Bengals, Vikings, Packers and, again, Seahawks. Seattle’s schedule is no dance around the maypole, but even with a loss (which would put them essentially 3.5 games out of first), they still have a shot to make up that ground.
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10. I think, at 12:58 p.m. ET, you should turn your volume all the way up and press play…