Season of the Fall-Guy
Can you fire an entire roster? It’s a pretty crazy notion but one that wouldn’t meet with much protest if you’d polled locker-rooms of the Cardinals, Lions, Browns, Bolts, Jags and Panthers after their Week 11 meltdowns.
The embarrassment showed in player post-game interviews and shameful they should all feel, moving their coaches one-step closer to the figurative guru guillotine.
Did Norv Turner tell Phil Rivers to throw two picks and cough-up another vs Broncos? Nope. Did Lions’ Jim Schwartz whisper into Matt Stafford’s ear, ‘Hey, how bout turning it over thrice and stalling in the red-zone so I can get canned?’ Don’t think so. Did Packers Mike McCarthy brow-beat Mason Crosby into missing 2 of 3 (50 / 38) or Mike Smith taunt former-MVP candidate Matt Ryan into throwing five INTs (not all his fault) against the Cards? Nyet. And wasn’t every defender in the NFL instructed that ball-carriers must be tackled whenever possible? Yes on that one. Point being, coaches coach and players play, sometimes real bad and then at the worst possible times.
As a rule, today’s fan has closer affinity for players than the coaching set, Rex Ryan, Belichick, McCarthy, Lovie, Tomlin, Peyton & Pagano excepted. As such, today’s guru must be part strategist, motivator and, to the smallest degree possible, task-master, something even college imports J. Harbaugh and G. Schiano must grudgingly accept.
So when that blade of separation begins to fall on coaching tenures and shrill cheers rise from the tricoteuse of fans & media, remember this, it takes a team to win AND to lose.
San Francisco Treat
With starters Alex Smith and Jay Cutler still sidelined, 2nd-stringers took center stage as Colin Kaepernick filled-in nicely (16-23 / 243 / 2) in leading his 49ers crew to a lop-sided 32-7 win over Jason Campbell and the Bears in their Monday night contest. John Q. Public loves controversy and Jim Harbaugh rarely disappoints, responding with “We‘ll see“ when queried post-game on whether a healthy Smith would be his starting QB.
Unlike most professions, the business of sport is highly predicated on emotion and momentum. As such I’m not of that belief which holds a starter has some kind of entitlement to his pre-injury position. I favor the view that ‘if it’s working, don’t fix it.’
I’d hand the reigns back to a healthy Smith because he’s proven his worth in taking 49ers to the threshold of last season’s Super Bowl (46) and continued the trend in compiling a pretty nifty 6-2-1 tally pre-concussion. And as for tattoo parlor regular CK, Harbaugh should know that in football, offense & defense feed off each other and with Cutler out and Campbell acclimating, the normally stout Bears’ D was off-kilter, opening the door wide for a capable back-up to take advantage, a door that won‘t always be open.
Cherry Picks Week 12
Houston Texans (9-1) @ Detroit Lions (4-6) (11-22 / CBS 12:30)
Lions shouldn’t qualify for cherry pickin’ this week but Thanksgiving’s traditionally their time and I feel kinda’ bad for the dudes after last weeks el-foldo. More than sympathy, Detroit’s D stepped-up vs GB, run-game had a pulse, Stafford’s still healthy and as for that coaching staff rift, well, what doesn‘t tear us apart makes us stronger, right?. Texans building back post-GB (WK6) but 1-9 Jags proved work’s not over. Lions play 60, show mettle & win.
New England Patriots (7-3) @ New York Jets (4-6) (NBC 8:20)
This might’ve been a mettle-game for both squads 2-years ago, testing PS possibilities and resolve. In 2012, Jets are a sad story. Their gusty win versus improved Rams in St. Louis is hopeful sign but just first step. Long way to go to concoct chemistry and the Patriots are unsympathetic. Good stage to display Tebow at natural position (TE) but then Rex is oblivious. NE weak vs. pass (30P) but then it’s NYJ (29P). Patriots win.
Minnesota Vikings (6-4) @ Chicago Bears (7-3) (11-25 Fox 1:00)
Either NFL schedulers are closet GB fans or favor tough-love. Vikes’ quest for PS glory must go through roughest remaining slate in NFL and begins in Windy City. QBs will feel heavy heat as both bring it but Bears more leaky (34-S). Rosters quite clean, except key cogs Cutler & Harvin. Black & Blue battle royal with Bears in bad mood post Bay bloodbath, but Vikes rested off bye with deeper talent-well from stick (Allen / Greenway / Winfield / Brinkley) to kick (Walsh / Kluwe). Jay or Jason, Vikings win mettle-game.
Atlanta Falcons (9-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4) (Fox 1:00)
Second mettle game for each: Falcons a loss (NO), TB a win (MIN). No one’s pick yet for SB but Bucs of late playing as well as anyone (5-1) on so-so slate. Mark of a fine team (ATL) that commits 6-TOs and still prevails (ARI). A-birds get balance (R28 / P3) if feed RB Turner more ball (15+), while Tampa DBs (1R / 32P) might work on breaking-up passes over INTs (15 / 32P). Both squads near full strength, Martin will run (ATL 26R) and Ryan will pass (TB 32P). WTW: Turner vs TB run-D (1) & snug Freeman (14S) vs ATL press (24S / Abraham Q'able (9S)). Bucs run stops here, Falcons win.
San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1) @ New Orleans Saints (5-5) (Fox 4:25)
Two more teams playing like contenders and avoiding rash of injuries. QB Smith could sit again but Jim must avoid mid-season, dueling QBs. Waterfield / Van Brocklin (Rams ‘49-52) was a whole different animal. Saints enjoy home dome (3-0 Oct on) with Sproles PROB, while 49ers 3-1 on road. K’nick is still WBTE, but if he gets the nod, has a top D (6R / 2P), run game (1), fine targets (Crab / Davis / Mario) and even kickers that can help (Lee (24 IN20) / Ackers (63)). Alex or Colin, San Fran wins.
Green Bay Packers (7-3) @ New York Giants (6-4) (NBC 8:20)
Marquee match-up pits lead candidates for NFC party nomination. Swaggering GB is red hot (5-0) and should send NFL scheduler a holiday muffin basket. Packers’ run-game (R24) and O-line (32S) are trouble-spots but Rodgers rolls like nobody’s business (2619 / 27-6) and Pack pressure cooks (33S) even w/out the hair guy. Eli’s TD ratio (12-11) belies nice protection (13S) while Giants’ run-game can be an enigma. Numbers suggest GB but like Disraeli said, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics." G-men seem to ramp-it-up lately versus this longtime rival. Giants fashion a win at MetLife.
NFL Hunch Line