(Photos courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Green Bay did more than stop a three-game slide with that defeat of Minnesota. It restored order in the NFC North, where the Packers again are the team to beat. Yeah, I know, they’re tied with Minnesota, but look at what’s left for these two. Five of the Vikings’ remaining opponents have non-losing records, while Green Bay has two — Arizona and Minnesota, the Packers’ last two games. Then there’s this: The Vikings’ game is at Lambeau on Jan. 3, and I don’t need to tell you what that could be like. But if that doesn’t sell you, maybe this will: Whom do you trust down the stretch: Aaron Rodgers or Teddy Bridgewater? Like I said, the Pack is back.
2. The Packers’ defense should be taking bows after pressuring Teddy Bridgewater into six sacks and hurried throws and bottling up Adrian Peterson, but it’s the return of running back Eddie Lacy that makes you think Green Bay may have rediscovered its mojo. With Lacy back on track (he had a season-high 100 yards rushing) the Packers have the balanced offense they’ve been missing. “When you have great defense and are controlling the clock by running it,” said Fox’s Terry Bradshaw, “that’s a formula for success.” Precisely
3. If the Indianapolis Colts win the AFC South — and they should — they can thank Matt Hasselbeck. The 40-year-old Hasselbeck is turning into a modern-day Earl Morrall, going 3-0 as a backup in a season where second-string quarterbacks are 9-20 – including 3-3 Sunday. The Colts have one opponent (Pittsburgh) left with a winning record, so you have to like their chances of repeating in a division where finally we have two teams at .500. And here’s why: 1) The Colts’ Dec. 20 showdown with Houston is in Indy, where they’re 13-0 vs. the Texans; 2) the Texans also have one remaining opponent with a winning record, but that opponent is undefeated New England; and 3) the Colts will have Andrew Luck back for the Houston game.
4. Yep, Brock Osweiler showed me something. And I bet he showed Denver something, too. I know, Gary Kubiak is non-committal about who starts next, but let’s be real, people: Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, but he’s not the better option for Denver now. Brock Osweiler is. Reason: No turnovers. My guess? Osweiler starts vs. New England.
5. To those college teams interested in Chip Kelly, I suggest you contact the Philadelphia Eagles immediately.
6. Say goodnight to Atlanta. That’s four losses in their last five starts, all to opponents that had losing records at the time. Next year, someone make “The Tortoise and the Hare” required reading for these guys in training camp.
7. Each year fans complain how no team has it worse than theirs with injuries … except this season Baltimore fans have a legitimate gripe. Their Ravens lost Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith, Justin Forsett and Joe Flacco to season-ending injuries.
8. Imagine if you had to play a season without a quarterback. Or just go to St. Louis.
9. If Case Keenum was evaluated for a concussion following Sunday’s game … which he was … why wasn’t he evaluated following the fourth-quarter hit? Looks like somebody missed the “concussion protocol” memo.
10. Let’s hear it for Carolina. The Panthers are the first team in NFL history to go from a losing season one year to a 10-0 start the next. All those in favor of Ron Rivera for Coach of the Year, please stand up.
11. You gotta love Larry Fitzgerald. At 32, the guy was supposed to be winding down. But look who made the critical catches on Arizona’s game-winning drive Sunday: You’re looking at him. Next time someone tells you Fitzgerald’s not an elite receiver have him contact Leon Hall. He had to cover him. And he failed.
12. Jim Harbaugh, 9-2. San Francisco 49ers, 3-7. Just sayin.’
13. Here’s why you shouldn’t fall asleep on Kansas City, even when it comes to talking playoffs: The Chiefs are hot, hot, hot, and only one of their remaining opponents (Buffalo) has a winning record.
14. Yes, Seattle, there is life after Marshawn Lynch. It’s called Thomas Rawls.
15. That does it. Everybody off the Oakland Raiders bandwagon NOW.
16. Tony Romo for MVP. The Cowboys are 3-0 with him; 0-7 without.
17. Maybe it’s time to admit the obvious: Miami needs to move on from Ryan Tannehill.
18. Welcome back, James Jones.
19. Miami linebacker Kelvin Sheppard predicts the Dolphins run the table and finish 10-6. So who’s in? Someone? Anyone?
20. The Rod Wood-for-Executive of the Year drive starts now.
21. I know the Chargers have had an epidemic of injuries, but it’s hard to make a case for keeping coach Mike McCoy. He’s lost 11 of his last 14 starts and is 20-22 over three years. I’m sorry, I don’t care how many injuries you sustain; no team with Philip Rivers should be 2-8.
22. OK, so the Ravens are 3-7. They’re never out of game, and the numbers prove it. Not only have all 10 of their starts been decided by eight or fewer points but half of them (five) were decided by three or fewer.
23. Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to streamline replays, and that’s great. But what’s he going to do about officiating? There are more mistakes each week than lakes in Minnesota.
24. One more thing: If Goodell is concerned about “the integrity of the game,” why doesn’t he penalize officials who blew last week’s Jacksonville-Baltimore game? Someone? Anyone?
25. it was a good weekend to Go Green. Green Bay reclaims first in the NFC North, Michigan State upsets Ohio State and Dalyn Williams rallies Dartmouth to a share of the Ivy title by throwing for a TD on the last pass of his collegiate career … with 24 seconds left, no less. So how come the Jets missed the memo? Their mega-buck defense was shredded by a third-string quarterback.
26. That makes Cincinnati 8-18 in prime-time games under Marvin Lewis … another reason they won’t be trusted in January.
27. No mystery to what has the Texans on a roll: Defense. They’ve allowed two touchdowns over the last 14 quarters.
28. Thank you, Darren Sproles. The Philadelphia back celebrated his touchdown by striking a LaDainian Tomlinson pose on the day the Chargers retired L.T.’s number in San Diego … and good thing, too. Nobody from the Chargers could find the end zone.
29. Don’t blame Andy Dalton for that Cincinnati loss. He rallied the Bengals from 10 down in the fourth quarter vs. a team that doesn’t blow fourth-quarter leads. My only question: Only third-and-1, why are you throwing for the end zone? You have Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.
30. If, as Washington’s Jason Hatcher suggests, officials “single out” the Redskins because of their name, then why — entering Sunday — were there only four teams called for fewer penalties than Washington?
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAME
(Carson Palmer photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
Arizona QB Carson Palmer. He said this was “more than a game,” and it turned out he was right. It was more like a statement, and it was all about taking the Cards seriously as a Super Bowl contender. After a first half where he threw two interceptions, Palmer settled down — throwing four second-half TD passes and leading the team to a frantic, last-second victory.
Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers. His defense couldn’t produce a sack the past three games. Then it puts up six vs. Minnesota and bottles up Adrian Peterson. Go figure.
Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin. He runs over, around and through Philadelphia, with his 235 yards just two shy of the record vs. the Eagles — set by Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith.
Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. A late-game strip-sack, a goal-line stand and a failed two-point conversion add up to much-needed support for Brock Osweiler.
Seattle RB Thomas Rawls. Make that three 100-yard games – and one 209-yard game — in four starts. And those 209 yards? According to the 49ers’ media guide, they’re the most by an individual vs. San Francisco.
Green Bay WR James Jones. He’s been AWOL the past three weeks, with just three catches, but returns in the nick of time with six catches for 109 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF SHAME
St. Louis QB Case Keenum. He completed 12 passes, lost two fumbles and missed so many passes it’s a wonder there wasn’t a mutiny among his receivers.
Minnesota CB Terence Newman. His pass-interference penalty on a third-and-15 play leads to one Green Bay touchdown just before halftime. Then he’s caught watching as James Jones delivers the knockout punch in the fourth quarter.
San Francisco’s front office. It makes it here for dismantling a team that once was the deepest and most talented in football and for pulling the plug on quarterback Colin Kaepernick — the guy who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 — by putting him on injured reserve, effectively ending his tenure in San Francisco.
Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator Billy Davis. He’s the guy behind the scheme that got torched by a Tampa Bay team that scored 48 points the previous three games and … oh, yeah, became the first road club in NFL history to have a quarterback throw for five TDs and a back run for 200 or more yards.
Cincinnnati DT Domata Peko. It was his unsportsmanlike penalty that guaranteed a last-second field goal for Arizona. Simulating snap signals is not allowed, and someone pass the word to Peko. No, on second thought, don’t. He said he was just yelling to teammates to “get set,” with coach Marvin Lewis — who labeled the call “ridiculous” — backing up his player. In any case, the damage was done. The penalty helped send the Bengals to their second straight loss.
Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly/ San Diego coach Mike McCoy. Their teams aren’t getting better. They’re getting worse. And Sunday was rock bottom. Not only did both get blown out, but there was more action on the sidelines than in the huddle — with Mark Sanchez and Darren Sproles upset with each other in Philadelphia and Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers in a sideline tiff in San Diego. Someone dial 911.
THIS WEEK’S CANTON INDUCTEE(S)
Carolina QB Cam Newton/Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston. It’s hard to separate the two with what they did Sunday … so we won’t. Newton throws for five touchdowns; so does Winston. Newton throws for four first-half TDs, so does Winston – joining Marcus Mariota as the only rookies in NFL history to do that. Winston throws for 246 yards; Newton throws for 246. No interceptions for Cam; no interceptions for Winston. Cam wins in a laugher; so does Winston. I think you get the idea.
“It’s just the nature of the game, man. Stuff like this happens. So you’ve just got to stand tall and get through it.” – Baltimore QB Joe Flacco on his season-ending injury.
0-5 – Kirk Cousins’ road record
4—Straight J.J. Watt 10-sack seasons
4 – Lost fumbles by Washington’s Matt Jones
5 – St. Louis turnovers
6 – Adrian Peterson fumbles this year, all at home
11 — Tyler Eifert touchdowns
12 – Pass-interference penalties by Baltimore this season, most in the league
14 – Yards rushing by Washington
15 – Punts in the St. Louis-Baltimore game
50 – Dez Bryant-Tony Romo TDs, most in Dallas history
137 – Consecutive starts by Joe Flacco, including the playoffs
255 — Yards from scrimmage by Thomas Rawls