Guys, I never thought my fingers would start cramping up while writing a newsletter, but that's exactly what's happening right now. I'm guessing that probably has something to do with the seven helpings of turkey, nine slices of pumpkin pie and 14 rolls I ate at Thanksgiving dinner, and now that I'm thinking about it more, I deserve every cramp I'm getting.
Besides eating yesterday, I also spent six straight hours watching football and let me just say that I'm not sure what kind of deal you can get for a new coach on Black Friday, but the Cowboys and Lions might want to think of at least looking around. After the Texans pounded Detroit 41-25, I didn't think there was any possible way that anyone would top Matt Patricia's performance for worst coaching job ever in a Thanksgiving game, but then along came Mike McCarthy.
If McCarthy's coaching performance was a Thanksgiving meal, it would be Tofurky. Tofurky tries to trick you into thinking it's Turkey just like McCarthy tries to convince you he's a good coach, but then he goes and does something like calling a fake punt on fourth-and-10 from his own 24. Why would you do that, Mike? WHY?
Anyway, I've got some Thanksgiving leftovers calling my name, so let's get to the newsletter. As always, if you want to share this newsletter with everyone you know, I will not be offended. Just click here to grab the link and then send that link to everyone on your email list.
1. Today's Show: Recapping the two Thanksgiving games
We don't take holidays off here, which means we put out a Thanksgiving podcast on Thursday to recap the two games that were played. I was joined by the only two guys in America who drank more wine than me: Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson. By the way, it's probably a good thing that the Ravens-Steelers game got postponed, because at the rate I was drinking wine on Thursday, I'm not sure I would have been capable of podcasting at midnight after a late game.
Although we did touch on the Texans-Lions game in the podcast, we spent most of our time talking about Washington's 41-16 win over Dallas. Here were our biggest takeaways from that game:
- Mike McCarthy called the worst fake punt of all-time. With just under 13 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were only trailing 20-16, so how did this game turn into a blowout? Glad you asked. It's all because McCarthy decided to call for the worst fake punt of all-time. On a fourth-and-10 from his own 24-yard line, the Cowboys coach called a fake punt reverse. The punter took the snap and then pitched it to Cedric Wilson, who was 14 YARDS BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE at one point, which means he was going to have to run 24 yards to get the first down. In news that probably won't surprise you, the fake punt failed, Washington scored one play later and the rout was on. You can see the play by clicking here.
- Antonio Gibson goes off. Washington's offense didn't get much done through the air, but that didn't matter, because Gibson dominated the game on the ground. The rookie running back rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns, which is notable, because he became the first rookie since Randy Moss in 1998 to score three touchdowns in a Thanksgiving game.
- Ezekiel Elliot is not the best player on the Cowboys roster. For some reason, Jerry Jones keeps insisting that Zeke is the best player on the team, but I'm starting to think that might not be the case, and if you need proof, just look at this game. For one, Zeke lost a fumble in the second half, and if you're starting to feel like that happens all the time, you're not crazy. Elliott has now lost six fumbles on the season, which is the most by any non-quarterback. Elliott also rushed for just 32 yards on 10 carries. Dear Jerry, Tony Pollard has just as much talent and costs a lot less, you might want to think about using him more.
Not only did we talk about both games during the podcast, but we had an insanely long debate about who's going to win the NFC East and every team got at least one vote (The fourth voter was our producer Debo, who is a noted Eagles homer, so you can probably guess who he voted for). When you combine wine drinking with a hot debate about the worst division in football, you get a Thanksgiving podcast to remember.
To listen to today's episode -- and subscribe to the podcast -- be sure to click here.
2. Today's show Part II: Picking Week 12 games
The best part about Friday -- besides the fact that it's Friday -- is that you get two episodes of the podcast in your feed. Let's just consider this our Black Friday special: Two podcasts for the price of one and since the price is free for both podcasts, it's basically the best deal on the internet.
For the picks podcast, Wilson and I ditched Brinson so we could go drink some more Thanksgiving wine and since Brinson doesn't work well alone he brought in Pete Prisco and R.J. White for a discussion about their best bets and picks for Week 12.
The guys spent nearly 60 minutes going over the best bets for every single game being played in Week 12 and we're going to cover three from each guy below.
As you may or may not have noticed, these guys are going full underdog this week. Of the nine picks we decided to feature here, seven of them are calling for the underdog to cover. To hear what the rest of the best bets are for Week 12 -- and there are quite a few -- be sure to click here so you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast.
3. Ravens-Steelers game in jeopardy, multiple other teams dealing with COVID
The game between the Ravens and the Steelers has already been postponed once and it's starting to look like there's a chance it could be postponed again. The problem for the NFL is that more than 10 Ravens players have tested positive for COVID, including Lamar Jackson, and that number doesn't seem to be slowing down. If the outbreak isn't controlled over the next 36 hours, the NFL will almost have no choice but to move the game, which was originally scheduled to be played on Thanksgiving night before being moved to its current time of 1:15 p.m. ET on Sunday (NBC).
Let's take a look at the league's options for this game:
- Keep it where it is on the schedule. As of right now, the NFL has insisted that the game isn't going to be moved and that's likely going to be the case if the Ravens don't have anymore positive tests on Saturday. However, if they do keep the game where it is, that means Lamar Jackson won't be able to play.
- Move it to Monday or Tuesday. One problem with moving the game is that the Ravens currently are scheduled to play on Thursday in Week 13. If the Ravens outbreak gets worse on Saturday, the NFL could push Baltimore-Pittsburgh to Monday or Tuesday and then move the Ravens' Thursday game against the Cowboys to Sunday or Monday in Week 13. This is how the league fixed the Bills situation in Week 5 when Buffalo had to play Tennessee on a Tuesday before a scheduled Thursday game in Week 6. Buffalo's Thursday game against Kansas City was moved to Monday that week.
- Move it to Week 18. The NFL doesn't want to add an extra week to the schedule, but the league has already let it be known that this is a contingency plan. If a game needs to be played and it has playoff implications, the league can tack on an extra week to the regular season and play the game then. The problem here is that if the Steelers earn a playoff bye, that advantage would be thrown out the window, because every other team would be get a free bye in Week 18 while the Steelers were playing the Ravens.
- Cancel the game. This would be a drastic move, but not inconceivable. If the NFL moves the game to Week 18 and then the Ravens start floundering to the point where the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game wouldn't have any playoff implications, the league could simply cancel the game.
- Make the Ravens forfeit. Unlike the Titans' outbreak earlier this season, the Ravens outbreak has included at least one staff member who knowingly violated the NFL's COVID protocols. During their time at the practice facility, the Titans followed nearly every rule, but the Ravens haven't been as stringent. Due to that fact alone, it's possible that the NFL would simply make the Ravens forfeit the game. Even though this is a long shot, it's serious enough that Adam Schefter was tweeting about forfeits on Friday.
Remember, it's possible that by the time you read this, the NFL will have made a decision on the game. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin actually canceled his team's practice on Friday as they wait for clarification from the league on how this situation is going to play out.
As for other COVID situations around the NFL, the Browns, Falcons, Jaguars, Colts and Broncos are also dealing with positive tests in their organization. From a personnel perspective, the biggest loss right now is probably in Indy, and that's because DeForest Buckner won't be allowed to play on Sunday against the Titans after testing positive.
4. Washington runs the 'Annexation of Puerto Rico'
It's not often you see an NFL team call a play that a peewee team ran in a children's movie from the 1990s, but that's exactly what happened yesterday during the Cowboys game. In what will easily go down as my favorite play ever called in a Thanksgiving game, Washington ran a play from the movie "Little Giants," and it wasn't just any play, it was the "Annexation of Puerto Rico."
If you're like me and you've seen "Little Giants" more than 75 times, then you know exactly what play I'm talking about. It's one of those sneaky trick plays that you always see in movies, but you NEVER see it run in a game; well, until yesterday. After the win, Rivera confirmed that he did in fact steal the play from "Little Giants," while also noting that former NFL coach Bum Phillips helped inspire the play.
"It actually goes back to a movie called 'Little Giants' and it's called, I hope I don't get in trouble, 'The Annexation of Puerto Rico,'" Rivera said. "We nicknamed it the 'Bumarooski,' but most of these guys don't understand it so we had to explain to them who Bum Phillips is, and we did it as a tribute to him."
There are two angles of the play and you're going to want to watch them both. First, click here to see the all-22 angle and then once you watch, that, click here to see how perfectly Alex Smith and J.D. McKissic pulled this off. The play came on a second-and-5 and McKissic was able to gain six yards.
Finally, if you want to see the play that inspired all of this, make sure you click here to see how it was run in "Little Giants." Rivera actually called this play as the Panthers coach back in 2011, but the big difference this year is that it came against the Cowboys, which is hilarious, because the team in "Little Giants" also ran the play against the Cowboys.
5. NFL Week 12 picks
This is the final newsletter of the week, which means I feel morally obligated to cram as many picks as possible into this space. I crammed down seven servings of turkey yesterday, so I know I'm good at cramming.
With that in mind, we've got more Week 12 picks coming your way and those will be coming from Will Brinson, Jonathan Jones and CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. Here's how things are going to work: I'm going to give you one pick from each guy and then direct you to the rest of their picks. That way, if you like their pick, you'll be able to read the rest of them, but if they pick against your favorite team, you can ignore the rest of their picks and move on.
- Will Brinson: Browns (-6.5) at Jaguars. The Jaguars are on their third quarterback of the season, and apparently, Brinson thinks the third time is the charm, because he's picking the Jags to pull off a monumental upset here. If Brinson's pick pans out, that would throw a giant wrench into the AFC playoff race, and since I love when giant wrenches are thrown into things, I'm kind of hoping he's right about this game. PICK: Jaguars 21-20 over Browns. For the rest of Brinson's Week 12 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jonathan Jones: Panthers (+3.5) at Vikings. After watching the Vikings get upset by the Cowboys in Week 11, it's pretty apparent that Jones has lost all faith in Minnesota. PICK: Panthers win (Money line: +165). For the rest of Jones' Week 12 picks, be sure to click here.
- Jason La Canfora: Seahawks (-5) at Eagles. La Canfora's new betting strategy is to just bet against Carson Wentz, and to be honest, it's not a horrible strategy. If you bet against Wentz in every game this season, you'd be 7-3 against the spread, which means you'd be up enough money to buy something fun on Black Friday. PICK: Seahawks cover. For the rest of La Canfora's Week 12 best bets, be sure to click here.
6. Pro Bowl voting: Patrick Mahomes leads the NFL
The second most important voting event of 2020 is happening right now and that's the Pro Bowl vote. Although there won't be an actual Pro Bowl game this year, the NFL is still going through with the voting process, which I'm only mentioning here, because we now know who the top vote-getter is through the first month of voting.
Here's a list of the top-five Pro Bowl vote-getters so far:
I'm not saying there should be a recount, but where is Andy Dalton on this list? I voted for him at least 130,000 times. He should definitely be in the top-five.
As for other positions, there are some fascinating nuggets to share:
- The AFC kicker with the highest vote-total so far is Rodrigo Blankenship. We talk about him regularly here, so I'm going to take all the credit for his popularity, although it definitely does help that he's managed to turn himself into a cultural icon. I mean, the guy has his own clothing brand.
- Only two Steelers players are the top vote-getter at their position right now. The Steelers are one of the most popular teams in the NFL, but apparently, no one has told their fans that Pro Bowl voting is open, because the 10-0 Steelers are getting zero respect. Only T.J. Watt and LONG SNAPPER Kameron Canaday lead the voting at their position. To put this in perspective, the 0-10 Jets also have two players leading the vote at their position (Braden Mann and Mekhi Becton).
- The Chiefs currently have the most players leading the vote at their position with four. Besides Mahomes and Kelce, they also have Chris Jones leading at defensive tackle and Tyrann Mathieu leading at strong safety.
Voting for the Pro Bowl will run through Dec. 17 and then the roster for the event will be announced shortly after that. Although we won't see the AFC against the NFC on the field this year, EA SPORTS and the NFL have teamed up to create a week-long series of virtual games and those matchups will feature celebrities, NFL Legends, current players, and streamers playing as the official Pro Bowl rosters in Madden NFL 21. The week-long celebration of football will then be capped off with a virtual Pro Bowl game where 2021 Pro Bowl players will face off within Madden NFL 21.
For some reason, I am oddly intrigued by this and I'm guessing that's because this can't be any worse than the actual Pro Bowl.
7. The Kicker!
Look, I'm not going to sit here and say that yesterday was the greatest Thanksgiving ever for NFL kickers, but yesterday might have been the greatest Thanksgiving ever for NFL kickers. In the two games that were played, we saw the four teams combine to attempt eight field goals and all eight kicks went through the uprights.
To celebrate this impressive performance, I will be spending Black Friday scouring the internet for great deals on kicker jerseys. Alright, those leftovers are seriously calling my name now, so I have to roll. See you guys Monday!