• Now that the weather has turned colder and the weeks remaining in the regular season have dwindled down to just a handful, it has already snuck up on us once again. Uh, yeah, sure the holidays are here, but that's not the cherished annual exercise I was thinking of in this case.
In the NFL, this is the time of year when we all gather around and debate Donovan McNabb's and Andy Reid's future in Philadelphia. Let the festivities begin.
McNabb was a juicy topic all last week, of course, after admitting he didn't even know the NFL had tie games. But I knew all things Philly had gotten kicked up a notch Sunday afternoon when I opened my e-mail in box. There was the NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp declaring: "I think it's pretty obvious. Fire the coach ... Andy Reid is not going to bring a championship to Philadelphia.''
And then there was FOX NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson, defending Reid, but calling for the end of the McNabb era: "It's time for a change with McNabb, and Reid should be back.''
And that was after I had already watched ESPN NFL analyst Tom Jackson look intently into the cameras and passionately tell Eagles fans that they would rue the day Philadelphia got rid of Reid and McNabb. For good measure, ESPN's Chris Berman, never missing the chance for another cliché, warned Eagles fans, "Be careful what you wish for Philadelphia. Don't be stupid.''
Everybody it seems has an opinion on the situation in Philadelphia, including Reid, who weighed in rather definitively Sunday afternoon by benching the slumping McNabb in favor of backup Kevin Kolb in the second half of Philly's embarrassing 36-7 loss at Baltimore. McNabb couldn't even argue, given that his putrid 8-of-18, 59-yard, three-turnover performance in the first half did all the talking that was necessary.
For what's it worth, my guess is that this is indeed the beginning of the end for McNabb in Philadelphia, but that Reid survives to coach another year. But I could be wrong. By my count, we've had something of a McNabb/Reid death watch going in Philadelphia at least three of the last four seasons. In fact, almost everything that has occurred since the Eagles lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl in January 2005 seems to have had somehow played into the question of whether it was time for Philadelphia's head coach and quarterback to move on.
All I really know is that the NFL's 10-year rule seems to be playing a factor in all of this. Although there are exceptions, 10 years in the same place is about the extent of an NFL head coach's lifespan these days. After that, people just tire of you, your message and your lack of being able to deliver championships every season. And given that Reid and McNabb are in their 10th season together in Philly, it's only natural that the issue of when their tenure should end seems to be thought of as a package deal.
The Eagles are 5-5-1, mired in last place in the NFC East and looking like the wheels are coming off. If Reid devotes the rest of the season to developing Kolb, McNabb's fate will be sealed, because Philadelphia owes No. 5 a cool $19.2 million over the next two years, and that's not veteran backup money. As for Reid, his future is a little trickier to discern. Quality head coaches are tough to find in the NFL, and he might just out-last the mess that 2008 has turned into, as long as Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hasn't lost faith in him.
The next five weeks should tell the Philadelphia story. We'll all be watching and debating what should or shouldn't be done when it comes to McNabb and Reid. 'Tis the season.
• A whopping 48 points and 530 yards of total offense? Three touchdown catches by Randy Moss? A huge day by Wes Welker? A quarterback throwing for 415 yards? For the first time all season, the 2008 Patriots looked like the 2007 Patriots. And that can't give the rest of the NFL a comfortable feeling about now.
• Let's be honest: We all had some level of doubt about Matt Cassel at some point this year. But with his back-to-back 400-yard passing games, can we all just admit that starting experience in college is way overrated? Think of the irony: Cassel is playing lights out, while the two guys he backed up at USC -- Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart -- can't even get on the field. Raise your hand if you saw that particular trifecta coming.
• I can't fake it and act like I'm not disappointed that Thursday's Tennessee at Detroit game lost its luster just four days short of coming to fruition. I was really looking forward to the first 11-0 against 0-11 showdown in NFL history. Who's with me?
The Lions did their part in Week 12, letting Tampa Bay score 38 of the game's final 41 points after Detroit had built a 17-0 first-quarter lead. At least Detroit fans can't bemoan their team falling way behind right away, as has been its pattern for most of the season.
Told you these Lions were serious about running the table in reverse. It's 0-11 today, and 0-16 tomorrow.
• Terrell Owens was right. Get him the ball and good things happen for Dallas -- about 213 yards worth. What if the Cowboys wind up being this year's version of last year's Giants, the team that got hot at the right time of the year and rode that momentum a long, long way?
I'm not saying it will happen, but I can at least start to believe it could.
• Was anybody else hoping that after that 75-yard T.O. touchdown catch he would race to midfield and stomp on the star at Texas Stadium -- against the 49ers this time?
Wonder what George Teague is doing these days.
• That was a nice, cathartic blowout win for the Bills at Kansas City. You knew someone would have to pay for Buffalo's four-game losing streak, and unfortunately the bedraggled, one-win Chiefs happened to be in the way at the wrong time.
But I still get the feeling it'll be too little, too late for Dick Jauron's team when the playoff invitations get sent out in the weeks ahead. That Monday-night home loss to Cleveland is going to wind up being the killer.
• Between Brady Quinn getting benched in Cleveland -- now what, Browns fans? -- and Charlie Weis getting hooted off the field in South Bend, it wasn't the best of weekends for the Fighting Irish types.
Going back to Anderson full time at this point would only muddle the decision-making process at quarterback in Cleveland, because the Browns haven't definitively found out anything about Quinn just yet. But that's what losing teams do. They bounce back and forth between two bad options at quarterback, making both seem worse than they probably would be alone.
• I still don't even get the Phil Savage/fan e-mail story. I really don't. Can you imagine that story taking place in too many other towns than Cleveland? Something tells me George Young never got embroiled in a nasty e-mail exchange with a fan when he was the Giants' longtime general manager.
• What are the Browns going to do about Braylon Edwards' hands? Seriously. You can't really get a hand transplant. (Can you?) Edwards' drops are getting out of, well, hand. Maybe Terrell Owens is sending him encouraging notes after enduring his own case of the dropsies last year. But then again, I'm sure the whole thing isn't that funny if you're the Browns or a Cleveland fan.
• If you're scoring at home, the Rams have now been out-shone 123-13 in the first half of their past four games -- that's roughly an average of 31-3 at the break.
Looks like that six-wins-you-get-the-job clause that the NFL made the Rams remove from interim head coach Jim Haslett's contract was much ado about nothing.
• I'd have to check to be 100 percent sure, but I do believe my eight predicted division winners in the preseason were: New England in the AFC East, Cleveland in the AFC North, Indianapolis in the AFC South, San Diego in the AFC West, Philadelphia in the NFC East, Green Bay in the NFC North, New Orleans in the NFC South, and Seattle in the NFC West.
At the moment, I'm 0-for-8. But don't laugh, because I bet I've got a lot of company in this particular boat.
• John Harbaugh is such a decent and good guy that I'll bet way down deep he even feels a little bad about his Ravens beating up on his former team, the Eagles, to the tune of 36-7. But he'll get over it.
• Now Adrian Peterson is having trouble making team meetings on time? On a positive note, that didn't even get you noticed during the Mike Tice coaching era in Minnesota.
• All you can say about Jacksonville is that it has been the ugliest season of coach Jack Del Rio's six-year tenure, and the Jaguars have very much deserved that 4-7 they have.
• I officially give up trying to figure out the Broncos. They win when I expect them to lose and lose when I expect them to win. I do know that Mike Shanahan won't sleep tonight after getting drilled at home by the here-to-fore punchless Raiders.
Denver is going to keep San Diego in this AFC West race whether the Chargers want to be in it or not.
• Lest anyone think all Atlanta has on offense is Michael Turner, Roddy White and Matt Ryan, now opponents must contend with rookie receiver/return man Harry Douglas. The former Louisville standout scored a pair of touchdowns Sunday -- the first two of his NFL career -- and neither came on a reception. He had a 7-yard scoring run in the first quarter and a 61-yard punt return for six in the fourth quarter of Atlanta's big win over divisional rival Carolina.
That three-team NFC South scrum -- I'll put the Saints back in it if they win at home against the Packers Monday night -- could be the NFL's best division race down the stretch.