Judgements 12: Why the Eagles must beware of the road ahead
There's nobody better than Philadelphia. At least that's what the record says, and as Bill Parcells once told us: You are what your record says you are.
So the Eagles are an NFL-best 10-1.
But before you start booking tickets for Super Bowl LII, Eagles' fans, consider this: Your team's next two games are, in order, at Seattle and at the Rams, and the road can be cruel. It's not only where Philadelphia lost its only game this season; it's where it was 1-7 a year ago -- including a loss at Seattle.
Yeah, I know, the Seahawks are decimated by injuries to their defense, but they're a tough out ... especially at home. And the Rams you already know about. They can put up as many points as the Eagles, stuff you with their defense and just snapped an eight-game New Orleans winning streak.
Look, we know the Eagles will be in the playoffs, and we know they probably go deep there. But I'd feel a whole lot better if I also knew they held home-field advantage because they're not only unbeaten there this season; they won 12 of their last 13 home dates.
So let's just put it like this: If the Eagles can survive the next two weeks -- heck, if they can just split those two games -- they're golden. Because there's not a winning opponent left the last three weeks.
- And then there's this, Eagles' fans: The last two times your team started 10-1, it went to the Super Bowl. That's the good news. The bad? It lost both times it was there.
- The more I watch Kansas City self-destruct, the more I root for the Chargers to win the AFC West. Reason: I want the NFL to get what it deserves by allowing the Chargers to move to a city that didn't want them and a 26,000-seat StubHub Center it can't sell out.
- Andy Reid is right. As much as Alex Smith is struggling -- and the Chiefs have 36 points the past three games (all losses) where they had 42 in the season opener -- you cannot pull a Sean McDermott and panic. The only reason Patrick Mahomes looks like an upgrade to fans is because no one has seen him. The Chiefs are still in first, and Smith knows how to get to the finish line.
- Let's just cut to the quick and say that Dec. 17 game between Pittsburgh and New England decides home-field advantage in the AFC ... because it will.
- Quick question: How in the world did the Saints' Alvin Kamara last until the third round of the draft?
- The Chiefs' Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill have three touchdowns combined the past eight games. They had six the first three.
- Maybe someone should sign Atlanta wide receiver Mohamed Sanu as their backup quarterback. With that touchdown strike to Julio Jones, he's 6-for-6 passing in his career for three touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
- Julio Jones is right. The Falcons do have their swagger back. But here's why I'm not all in on these guys: Three of their last four wins have been vs. opponents that are 13-20. The fourth was vs. Seattle ... in Seattle. The next two weeks will tell us where these guys are going. They're home to Carolina and New Orleans.
- You don't hear Russell Wilson's name in MVP conversations, but you should. He's not only carrying Seattle; the Seahawks are toast without him.
- Yes, Tom Brady is having an MVP year (again), but another reason the Patriots are so far ahead in the AFC East is the rest of the division. It stinks. In fact, all three teams the past three weeks are a combined 1-7, with Buffalo the only winner.
- This is why Carolina matters: The Panthers travel well. They're 5-1 on the road.
- When the NFL wonders why ratings are down, it should consider this: Officiating. Refs take over too many games -- with calls that should be made missed, and calls that shouldn't be made enforced.
- Matt Moore, Jay Cutler, it doesn't make a difference. The Dolphins are awful.
- That's two Austin Seferian-Jenkins TDs lost to instant replay at home. NFL catch rule = dumbest ever.
- Sorry, but I don't see why Mitch Trubisky was the second pick of any draft.
- When Miami's Jarvis Landry predicted a sweep of New England this season, he said, "They're not our big brother anymore." This just in, Jarvis: Yes, they are.
- Pittsburgh misses cornerback Joe Haden more than it will admit. The evidence: Sunday's 31-28 defeat of Green Bay. Second-string quarterback Brett Hundley had two touchdown passes in five previous games. He had three vs. the Steelers.
- More evidence how a solid running game can protect a quarterback: Since the departure of Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys; quarterback Dak Prescott has no touchdown passes and five interceptions in three games, all losses. In his previous 27 starts (excluding the playoffs), he had 39 TDs and eight interceptions.
- This is why that was such a huge win for Buffalo: Since 1990, teams with 6-5 records reach the playoffs 45.2 percent of the time. By contrast, teams that are 5-6 have a 13 percent chance of making the postseason, and Buffalo hasn't been to the playoffs since the 1990 season.
- No matter how well Jacksonville's defense plays, it's impossible to consider the Jags a threat to make a deep run in the playoffs because of Blake Bortles. I just don't trust him to make the big plays if/when the league's top-rated defense falters.
CFLCOACH MARC TRESTMAN. He couldn't win in the NFL, but he owns Canada. The CFL's Coach of the Year, the former Bears' head coach won his third Grey Cup Sunday ... and his first with the Argos ... with a stunning come-from-behind upset of Calgary.
CHARGERS. Granted, they're 5-6, but they're only a game behind floundering Kansas City.
SAN FRANCISCO QB JIMMY GAROPOLLO. Seldom has a meaningless touchdown pass been ... well, more meaningful. At least it was to 49ers' fans. Because Garoppolo's two completions in relief of the injured C.J. Beathard, including that TD to end Sunday's game, give 49ers' fans reason something to hang on to for the rest of the season ... and beyond.
ATLANTA OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR STEVE SARKISIAN. No, he's not Kyle Shanahan, but he did look like it Sunday with his ... and the Falcons' ... best effort of the season.
NEW ENGLAND OWNER ROBERT KRAFT. That's 17 consecutive winning seasons ... and that can happen when you have Tom Brady as your quarterback and Bill Belichick as your head coach.
NEW ENGLAND TE ROB GRONKOWSKI. So he can't talk about touchdown celebrations. He should talk about what he just accomplished: Gronk set the career franchise record for multi-TD games (16).
CAROLINA TE GREG OLSEN. He's hurt again ... and with an injury to the same foot he broke earlier this season.
DENVER FANS. Your team can't win, and you have no quarterback. That's not good for business.
GREEN BAY COACH MIKE McCARTHY. He's from Pittsburgh, so he should know how hard it is to make long field goals at Heinz Field. Nevertheless, he had Mason Crosby try a 57-yarder, and it not only failed; but it led to a Steelers' touchdown in a game they won ... by three points.
INDIANAPOLIS COACH CHUCK PAGANO. Another fourth-quarter blown lead, another loss. The countdown on Pagano's future resumes ... now, louder than ever.
DENVER QB PAXTON LYNCH. So much for the audition. He did nothing in his first start this year, other than produce Oakland's first interception. Then he bowed out with an ankle injury. If I were Lynch, I might be crying, too.
SUNDAY'S REPORT CARD
ARIZONA PK PHIL DAWSON. That 57-yard game-winning field goal? Yep, it was the longest of his 19-year career.
CINCINNATI RB JOE MIXON. The Bengals entered Sunday's game averaging a league-worst 68 yards rushing per. But then Mixon breaks out with a 114-yard effort, keeping the Bengals' slim playoff hopes on life support.
N.Y. JETS WR ROBBY ANDERSON. Don't blame him for the Jets' travails. He's scored in each of the past five games, including two TDs Sunday. No receiver anywhere has a longer scoring streak. Only downside to his best performance of the year was his politicking for the Pro Bowl when cameras were I his face, an act coach Todd Bowles accurately described as "selfish."
JACKSONVILLE DE YANNICK NGAKOUE. For all the talk about Calais Campbell (and with good reason) we forget this guy has six forced fumbles this season, including a fourth-quarter strip-sack Sunday that became a Campbell TD.
PITTSBURGH WR ANTONIO BROWN. Hard to beat what he did Sunday night -- 10 catches, 169 yards, two touchdowns and more than one acrobatic snag. For those keeping score, that's five Antonio Brown TDs the past two weeks.
CINCINNATI QB ANDY DALTON. That's five straight weeks without an interception.
OAKLAND DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN PAGANO. Not bad for his first game as coordinator. I know, the Broncos aren't exactly Air Coryell, but look at it like this: Pagano's unit held up, and, besides, it did something it couldn't all season: Produce an interception.
PITTSBURGH QB BE ROETHLISBERGER. So it wasn't his best game. The guy was effective when he had to be. For the second straight week, Big Ben throws for four touchdowns -- this time leading the Steelers to a come-from-behind win and their sixth straight triumph.
GREEN BAY QB BRETT HUNDLEY. No, he didn't win ... but he did deliver his best performance of the year, keeping the Packers in a game they weren't supposed to win with three touchdown passes and a season-best 134.3 passer rating.
CAROLINA QB CAM NEWTON. Yeah, he won and ran for tough yards and all that. But he was less than ordinary when he had to make plays with his arm, completing just 39.2 percent of his passes, and none to a wide receiver not named Devin Funchess.
N.Y. JETS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOHN MORTON. He's first-and-goal at the Carolina 1 and does ... what? Throw three times, that's what ... all incompletions. So the Jets take a field goal when they should have had a touchdown. Memo to Morton: You're not coaching Drew Brees anymore.
COLTS' PASS PROTECTION. There is none. The most sacked quarterback in the league (Jacoby Brissett) just got dumped eight more times, bringing his season total to 43. At this rate, he'll win dup sacked 63 times for the season. For the life of me, I don't know why Andrew Luck would return from Europe to play with these guys.
CHICAGO'S OFFENSE. No first downs in he first half? One hundred forty yards in offense? Six yards rushing? One field goal? Pathetic.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMER
ATLANTA WR JULIO JONES. Finally, he looks like Julio Jones again -- with a season breakout that resembled his 300-yard effort vs. Carolina a year ago. When Jones is on ... and healthy ... there's no one better, and he was both Sunday -- with 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns, a primary reason the Falcons won their third straight and fourth in their last five starts.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF SHAMER
(tie) OAKLAND WR MICHAEL CRABTREE and DENVER CB AQIB TALIB. Enough is enough, guys. Talib started this whole mano-a-mano throwdown last January by ripping a chain from around Crabtree's neck. Believing that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, he did it again Sunday -- precipitating an all-out brawl that got Talib, Crabtree and one other ejected. And they should have been. Now, we have Denver cornerback Chris Harris claiming that Crabtree sucker-punched him earlier. This one is easy to resolve: Suspend both these knuckleheads. Now. Once and for all.