- DJ Gallo, ESPN.com
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Week 14 was a week of upsets. It was also a week that suggested nothing will ever change.
The Eagles, Chargers and Jets all won, which was no doubt a welcome change for their fans. Unfortunately, their fans must now face the reality that their teams are forever doomed. Take a seat and prepare to get depressed.
Before Sunday, the Phillies had won a game more recently than the Eagles. How does a guy who entered the season on the hot seat and proceeded to go 4-9 keep his job? Two reasons.
a) It’s Andy Reid. He has kept a job against all odds before.
b) The Eagles may have found their quarterback of the future. Rookie Nick Foles has improved noticeably over the four games since becoming the starter. Reid had the wisdom to draft Foles in the third round and has overseen his development. Why, with a young quarterback improving and growing comfortable in a system, would you pull the rug out from under him and force him to learn a new offense under a new coach whose system might not fit his skill set? You might think the Eagles could sustain that continuity by firing Reid and naming someone on Reid’s staff the new head coach, but who would that be? Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg? The guy who, as head coach of the Lions, once opted to start sudden-death overtime on defense? No way. And Reid has fired other possible successors.
No, it’s Andy Reid back in 2013. And probably with a significant contract extension.
Heading into Sunday’s game as a big underdog in Pittsburgh, the Chargers had lost seven of eight. How does a guy who entered the season on the hot seat and proceeded to go 5-8 keep his job? Two reasons.
a) It’s Norv Turner. He has kept a job against all odds before.
b) San Diego’s upset of the Steelers may be only the beginning of a huge late-season turnaround. The Chargers finish up with the Panthers, Jets and Raiders. Just by showing up they should win two of those and will likely be the favorite in all of them. If Turner shows he can keep his team together despite a disappointing season, win a bunch of games in December, get Philip Rivers back on track and continue to develop young players like Danario Alexander and Ryan Mathews, will he really be fired? How often has a coach riding a four-game win streak with this kind of talent at his disposal and the support of his players lost his job?
No, it’s Norv Turner back in 2013. And probably with a significant contract extension.
Heading into Jacksonville, Mark Sanchez had only the support of everyone named Rex Ryan. The Jets won a week ago, thanks to his being benched for third-stringer Greg McElroy. How does a guy go from seemingly having one foot out of the league one week to keeping his job forever the next? Two reasons.
a) It’s Mark Sanchez. He has kept his job against all odds before.
b) If Sanchez was ever going to lose his job, it was going to be this week. But Ryan gave him the start and the Jets won. Sanchez had very little to do with that, but to Ryan, a win justified his decision. Now, believe it or not, at 6-7 the Jets are not completely out of the playoff race in the AFC and only have to climb over the 7-6 Steelers and Bengals to make it. Doing so isn’t impossible. The Steelers and Bengals play tough schedules to finish, while the Jets play the Titans, Chargers and Bills, who are a combined 14-25. At the very least, the Jets should finish 8-8. Are the Jets really going to give up on a 26-year-old who quarterbacked them to a respectable record when they’ve shown zero confidence in his backups and there’s no sure-thing available in the draft or in free agency?
No, it’s Mark Sanchez back in 2013. And probably with a significant contract extension.
Quote of the Week
“I screamed. Like a man, of course.” -- Robert Griffin III, on the moment he suffered his knee injury
Of course. Of course like a man.
Griffin laughed when he said this, but his comment proves that adding “like a man, of course” after saying something that you fear may be perceived as unmanly only draws more attention to your unmanly action.
Would “I screamed” catch your eye without “like a man, of course” after it? Probably not.
Another example: “I ate a salad.” Now: “I ate a salad. Like a man, of course.” It’s less manly the second way.
And another: “I watched a movie with Katherine Heigl in it.” Now: “I watched a movie with Katherine Heigl in it. Like a man, of course.” Worse.
And another: “I went bra shopping.” Now: “I went bra shopping. Like man, of course.” Possibly worse, and definitely more creepy.
Stat of the Week
Cam Newton had the highest QBR in football Sunday, while Andrew Luck put up an 18.4 -- the lowest for any quarterback in a win this season. So if you’re scoring at home … Cam Newton is the new Andrew Luck, who was the new RG3, who was the new Cam Newton, who is now again the new RG3, who has been replaced by Kirk Cousins, who is the new Andrew Luck, who is the old Cam Newton, who is again the old-old Cam Newton, which could be the next Russell Wilson.
Misleading Stat of the Week
Arizona’s 58-0 loss to Seattle was the franchise’s biggest margin of defeat in history, dating to its first season in an NFL precursor league in 1920. This is the Misleading Stat of the Week, of course, because it suggests that this Cardinals team is somehow worse than past Cardinals teams. But true football historians know that the Cardinals have always been terrible and lost all of their previous games by 57 points. Or at least it feels that way.
This Week’s Horrible Fantasy Team That Crushed Your Team
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: 32-for-51, 381 yards, 2 TDs, 27 rushing yards, TD
David Wilson, RB, Giants: 13 carries, 100 yards, 2 TDs, 1 return TD
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: 167 total yards, TD
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: 9 catches, 104 yards, TD
Brandon Gibson, WR, Rams: 6 catches, 100 yards, TD
Clay Harbor, TE, Eagles: 6 catches, 52 yards, TD
Photos of the Week
Press Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked
Mike Shanahan: “Is Kirk Cousins the best young quarterback you’ve seen in the NFL since Robert Griffin III?”
Ken Whisenhunt: “Which of Seattle’s seven touchdowns do you think was the turning point in the game?”
Leslie Frazier: “If you don’t make the playoffs, will you promise to turn Adrian Peterson over to science as soon as your Week 17 game ends?”
Reader Twitter Question of the Week@
djgalloespnIf the Steelers played the last-place team in each division, would they finish 0-16? And if they play the 1st place teams 16-0?
— Eric Martin (@shermez07) Dec. 9, 2012
The Steelers have beaten the Giants, Redskins and Bengals this year -- and the Ravens in Baltimore with a 37-year-old third-string quarterback. They have lost to the Raiders, Titans, Browns and Chargers -- and only beat the Chiefs in overtime.
Why has this happened? According to safety Ryan Clark it’s because “the team with the lesser record has played better than we have.”
That is some good analysis.
Fortunately for the Steelers, their next two games are against possible playoff teams with equal records: the Cowboys and the Bengals. After that they will be huge underdogs at home against the Browns, but if they can win that game, Pittsburgh should have clear sailing through to the Super Bowl title because they’ll be playing teams with far superior records. Probably Pittsburgh’s worst Super Bowl matchup would be if the preseason champion Panthers or Eagles somehow actually made it to the Super Bowl. The Steelers would get killed by either of those terrible teams.
ELITE Quarterback of the Week
Is Nick Foles ELITE?
Evidence for him: Foles’ quarterback rating has improved in each of his four career starts, culminating with 381-yard, three-touchdown performance in a win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. He is part of the rookie quarterback class of 2012 that boasts future first-ballot Hall of Famers RG3, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Also, you can’t spell CUPRONICKEL, an alloy used in silver coins, without NICK.
Evidence against him: His team is 1-4 in games in which he has played, Arizona was 4-8, he was a third-round draft pick and was the slowest quarterback on record at the combine -- “running” the 40 in an offensive lineman-like 5.14 seconds -- which he demonstrated Sunday. Also, you can’t spell PANICKY without NICK.
Five Things Someone Thought I May Have Thought
1. Mark Sanchez after the Jets’ win on Sunday: “I think we’re catching fire.” This is a perfectly vague statement. It could be in reference to a team that is about to destroy all of its competition. Or the likely analogy in this case: It could be something said by a person setting a trash bin on fire. Either way, Sanchez can say he nailed his prediction, making him the modern Joe Namath -- just as Jets fans always hoped he would be!
2. Well, it’s looking as though the Falcons are going to have to win the Super Bowl in order to get respect as a great team, especially after a 10-point loss to the lowly Panthers. It’s probably due to national media bias against the Falcons and/or having to actually win something the way every team has had to do to prove its greatness.
3. Here was the scene outside the Vikings game yesterday: Awesome. Then inside it was all snowless field and 70 degrees. Not awesome. Playing football in a dome is anti-football, anti-America and anti-Mother Nature. Other than that, I have no strong feelings about it.
But how do the Vikings and Lions justify playing in a dome while the Bears and Packers play outdoor football in the same climate? No doubt Ford Field and the Metrodome have two of world’s largest and most impressive coat-check operations, but to me that doesn’t justify, you know, SPITTING IN THE FACE OF MOTHER NATURE. But I’m just someone who respects mothers. What do I know?
4. Frank Gore, age 29, after reaching 1,000 yards in a season for the sixth time in his career Sunday: “Everybody says when you turn 29 or 30, you can’t do it anymore. When I got to 29, I told myself: ‘I’m going to overcome that.’” Frank Gore: inspiration to those in their late 20s out there who think they are too old to still contribute to society. Just because you’re finally off your parents’ health insurance or think you may be 5 pounds overweight or are staring down your 10-year high school reunion doesn’t mean your life is over. Remember that.
But age 30? Yeah, you’re done. Look at Gore’s teammate Brandon Jacobs. He can’t get on the field and has turned into a crazy old man: “Jacobs, hampered by a knee injury earlier this season, spends approximately 20 minutes before games punching the goalpost padding.” Stay away from old man Jacobs’ house, kids!
So remember ... Age 29: still possibly useful. Age 30: life over. Now get out there and get living while there’s still time.
5. You know how some college teams use helmet stickers as a way to show achievements? I think Colin Kaepernick should start doing that. But instead of helmet stickers, he should get a new tattoo for every win or touchdown he scores. That would go a long way toward quieting anyone who might pretend someone with tattoos can’t win in the NFL.
“What does that one mean?”
“Oh, it just signifies beating the Dolphins and having a 50-yard touchdown run. It’s small because I expect to need space for a lot more. And if I win the Super Bowl? Face tattoo.”