Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the snow starts to really fly at a Lambeau Field left morose by the Packers' late-game fold job against
• Call it the tipping point, or the reaching of critical mass, but the feeling you get is that the Giants are nearing the "enough is enough" stage with
And here's a newsflash: The Giants don't even need him. Not desperately, at least. Not enough to warrant all the rest that now goes with being the Keeper of the Plax. Not with
The Giants gave Burress the rich, five-year, $35 million contract extension he craved in Week 1, and what have they gotten to show for it so far? Nothing but headaches, and more headaches. Not to mention fines, benchings, suspensions and now a shooting. New York has been patient with its talented but self-absorbed receiver. But at some point, Plax Being Plax stops being an excuse and becomes the definition of the problem itself.
Remember, Giants, you jelled perfectly and came together as a team to win a Super Bowl last year once another problematic pass-catcher --
• Ugly as it was -- and it was hideous from an offensive standpoint -- that was a huge 10-6 win at Cleveland for the Colts (8-4), who won their fifth straight and maintained their hold on the AFC's top wild-card spot, ahead of Baltimore, also 8-4.
The Colts had to win with defense, and they did, getting the game's only touchdown on a 37-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by defensive end
The chorus is getting louder by the week: Indy, having survived its early season brush with mediocrity, is a very dangerous team as the regular season's final month arrives.
• Just wondering,
• I can't see
• I think
• Everything I said last week about the Jets having that Super Bowl-bound mojo building these days, forget it. What's that phrase that became so popular on Wall Street in recent years? Oh, yeah, it was
• I'm not sure the Steelers were able to exorcise all their Patriots demons with that 33-10 lambasting of New England in rainy, cold Foxboro; but the win must've been a feel-good release for an organization that has had a few dreams dashed by the
But where was
• The AFC West is led by a 7-5 team in Denver, with San Diego second at 4-8, Oakland third at 3-9 and Kansas City last at 2-10. The NFC West is led by a 7-5 team in Arizona, with San Francisco second at 4-8, Seattle third at 2-10 and St. Louis last at 2-10.
That's a combined 31-65 (.323), and it's almost a crime that two of these teams are going to the playoffs -- when better ones such as Atlanta, Dallas, New England, Miami and Washington could be in danger of missing the party.
• Good night, Bills. See you in 2009. That'll do it for
Looking back, the Bills opened the season with wins over Seattle, Jacksonville, Oakland and St. Louis -- four teams that were destined to be pretty awful this year. There's just no way to accurately gauge a team's schedule in the preseason, because all of our perceptions are based on last year, yet the games are played in the here and now.
• If nothing else, at least San Francisco winning at Buffalo ends that season-long story about how teams in the Pacific time zone can't win in the Eastern time zone. Not that it ever had a thing to do with the travel element of the whole issue. It had everything to do with the fact that the eight teams in the AFC West and NFC West are mostly lousy.
• Speaking of which .... Sorry, but the Arizona Cardinals are first-place frauds. They're going to win the weak NFC West, go 9-7 or so, and make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. But that's more of a reflection on the sorry state of their division than anything else. And watching the Cardinals get blown out by the reeling Eagles Thursday night only confirmed my season-long suspicions about
Other than that Week 6 overtime win at home against Dallas, who have the Cardinals beaten that makes you take them seriously? They own four wins inside the NFC West, plus a Week 2 win at home against Miami, before the Dolphins got things rolling, and a home win against Buffalo -- a Bills team that soon proved flawed. That's it.
Arizona (7-5) has lost to nearly every quality team it has faced: at Washington, at the Jets, at Carolina, home against the Giants, and most recently, at the up-and-down Eagles. That has the makings of a one-and-done playoff run, you think? Decent tests that still remain include home against Minnesota in Week 15 and at New England in Week 16.
And then there was the way the Cardinals lost to the Eagles. We know Arizona can move the ball, but its defense gave up 437 yards to an Eagles offense that just looked inept at Cincinnati and at Baltimore the previous two weeks. Philly amassed 32 first downs against the Cardinals, held the ball for almost 40 minutes and was a crisp 10 of 15 on third-down conversions.
• After Washington started the season 6-2 and 3-1 in front of its home crowd, the air has really come out of its balloon. The Redskins (7-5) have dropped three of four games, with the losses all coming at FedEx Field, against Pittsburgh, Dallas and the Giants.
Yes, those are three pretty good teams, so no shame there. But you've got to find a way to win at least one of them if you've got real playoff dreams, don't you? By my math, the Redskins get to 9-7 and to the cusp of the playoffs (wins at Cincinnati and San Francisco in December, losses at Baltimore and home against Philly), but if they want to beat Dallas out for an NFC wild-card berth, they'd better find a way to win that Week 16 home game against the Eagles.
• Break up the Ravens, winners of six of their past seven games under rookie head coach
• It's official, by the way: I've got a case of full-fledged
Between Flacco and Atlanta quarterback
• That muffled sound you hear coming from the direction of Cincinnati is apparently emanating from the Bengals players' parking lot. They've all got their engines running already, in hopes of making a quick getaway after this debacle of a season finally ends.
That's not entirely fair to the Bengals defense, which has played hard and surprisingly well for most of the season. But Cincy's offense? In Sunday's 34-3 loss to the Ravens, the Bengals mustered six first downs and punted a franchise-record 11 times. Cincinnati had 155 yards of offense and just 21:02 of possession time.
• Don't look now, but that Tampa Bay at Carolina Monday-nighter next week is a doozy. It's the 9-3 Bucs at the 9-3 Panthers in early December, with first place in the NFC South belonging to the winner with just three games remaining. If Tampa Bay wins, the Bucs have what amounts to a two-game lead, given a season sweep of the Panthers.
• I'm ready now. Ready to finally give up on the 6-6 Saints and admit that my NFC preseason pick for the Super Bowl is going to miss that game for the 42nd consecutive year (New Orleans debuted one season after the first Super Bowl).
The Saints could still go 10-6 and maybe find a way to squeak into the NFC playoff field, but with at least nine teams having a better record after Week 13, it's likely just a pipe dream. New Orleans just lost too many close games this season, failing to make a play on defense when the game was there for the winning. Bottom line: The Saints weren't good enough.
• Here's one piece of unsolicited advice for Bucs head coach
Here's the reality, Bucs fans: Tampa Bay is 9-3, with a great shot to lock down the NFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. If the Bucs were to win a home game in the playoffs, they'd have a decent chance to become the first team to ever play a Super Bowl on its own field.
• This still looks wrong on the Week 14 schedule: Miami at Buffalo, in Toronto. How do you hype this game?
• Did you hang with the Titans-Lions long enough to catch that
• I'm wondering if the Cowboys would still make the trade for
For that the Cowboys are giving up their first- and third-round picks in 2009, plus paying Williams a guaranteed $20 million as part of his five-year, $45 million contract extension? Maybe the Lions did win one in 2008, after all.
• Here's a statistic that might have gotten lost in the 47-10 basting that the Lions took at the hands of the Titans: Detroit was a perfect 0-of-11 on third downs. That's actually hard to do in the NFL, to not fall backwards into at least one third-down conversion, at least during garbage time of a game (of which there was plenty in this game).
With the Lions in December playing host to New Orleans and playoff-driving Minnesota, and traveling to Indianapolis and Green Bay, I'm more convinced than ever that we're going to see 0-16 history this season. It'll be quite the exclamation point on the
• Average score of the (yawn) three Thanksgiving Day games this year: Winners 43, Losers 13, with the final margins being 37 points, 25 points and 28 points. The three winning teams -- the Titans, Cowboys and Eagles -- scored in all 12 quarters, rolling up a combined 83-23 first-half advantage en route to their blowout wins.
I'm a traditionalist, but even I have started to come around to the idea that the woeful Lions might have played their way out of their annual Thanksgiving Day home game. Long gone are the days when Detroit was known for pulling big upsets against heavily favored opponents on Turkey Day. The Titans-Lions on Thursday had all the intensity of a Week 4 preseason game.
• That's why you bury
• Last week, the NFL had its first 800-point weekend ever, finishing with 837 points, or 52.3 per game. And Week 13 started like it was going to be another record-breaker, with the three Thanksgiving Day games producing 168 points, or 56 per game.
But things slowed down dramatically from there. On Sunday, we had San Francisco beating Buffalo 10-3, Indy nipping Cleveland 10-6, Miami 16-12 over St. Louis and the Giants handling Washington 23-7.