Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 13:
a. I keep hearing the Seahawks might be thinking of letting Matt Hasselbeck -- with a very manageable $9.95 million, $9.45 million and $6.75 million cap number for the final three years of his contract -- go. If they do, they're nuts.
c. I don't trust anything about the Arizona Cardinals anymore. Disgraceful performance at Philadelphia.
d. Funny to hear Daryl Johnston use the word "shootout'' in the Giants-Redskins game.
e. Tony Corrente, please learn the meaning of "indisputable visual evidence.'' If there's one thing that gets my goat about instant replay in the NFL, it's referees overturning plays that have some doubt to them. And if you can tell me with 100 percent certainty that the Steve Smith incompletion in the Giants-Redskins game, with Corrente the referee -- as ruled by the officials on the field -- was actually a completion, I'll eat a helmet.
f. Playoff Express Derailment I: Bills have lost to Browns and Niners in the last three games.
g. Playoff Express Derailment II: Drew Brees threw two interceptions in 45 seconds at the end of the Saints' loss to Tampa.
h. Playoff Express Derailment III: The Chargers lost two straight at home within eight days. They are playing like lost sheep.
i. Bad, bad call by Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy in a 28-all tie with two minutes left against Carolina. With a fourth-and-one at the Panther 1, McCarthy kicked the field goal rather than try to punch it in. A field goal gives Carolina the chance to drive down for the winning touchdown. A touchdown assure the Packers of no worse than going to overtime, assuming Carolina doesn't score a touchdown and go for two. Getting stopped at the 1 on fourth down makes Carolina have to go 65 yards for a good shot at a winning field goal. I hated the field goal call because the Panthers, who'd been moving the ball well, only had to move into field-goal range to extend the game to overtime.
j. I believe Monte Kiffin is gone, leaving to work with his son at Tennessee, as ESPN reported Sunday. Makes too much sense not to happen.
2. I think you can make book on Plaxico Burress playing elsewhere in 2009, assuming he's not in jail. (And that may not be the best assumption right now.) In fact, I expect the Giants to either de-activate him the rest of the season or place him on the non-football injury list for the rest of the year, effectively ending his career with the New York Giants. Amazing, amazing story.
Giants GM Jerry Reese negotiated a great contract to lock up Burress before the season, making it about as safe a deal as he could, with miniscule guarantees. The Giants can cut or trade Burress after the season and simply eliminate $23 million of the $27-million-in-new-money deal he signed with the Giants. In effect, as I said on NBC last night, when I examine the deal, I see the contract totally on the come. And the first big test of this contract will come on Dec. 10, when Burress is due $1 million from the original and only guaranteed money in the deal, the third installment of a $4.325-million signing bonus when he signed. Let me break down all of the non-guaranteed money in the Burress deal that makes it absolutely simple for the Giants to cut the cord with him after the season:
Non-guaranteed base salaries: $11.5 million ($1 million in 2009, $3.5 million in 2010, $3.5 million in 2011, $3.5 million in 2012).
Non-guaranteed one-time bonus to be paid early in the '09 off-season: $2 million.
Non-guaranteed roster bonuses: $3.5 million ($500,000 in '09, $1 million in 2010, $1 million in 2011, $1 million in 2012).
Non-guaranteed escalators, payable only on high performance: $5 million ($1.25 million in '09, '10, '11, '12.) He has not reached his escalators yet that would kick in for 2009.
Non-guaranteed workout bonuses: $1.3 million ($325,000 in '09, '10, '11, '12).
Burress also has a clause in his contract that could come into play and cost him $400,000 this year. For every game he's ineligible to play in because of non-injury reasons, he doesn't earn a $100,000 per game roster bonus.
Awfully sad. "Trouble just follows him,'' said Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber. No one over the weekend was arguing.
3. I think there's one more thing regarding Burress, and it's good news for Amani Toomer: The Giants are $20 million under the 2009 cap right now, and Toomer, whose contract is up at the end of this year, wants to return in 2009. This makes his chance much better to do so. The five Giant receivers under contract for next year (Steve Smith , Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixon, David Tyree) are due a combined $3.6-million in 2009. Adding Toomer for $4 million under the cap, and one guy in the draft or free agency, and maybe subtracting Tyree, could well happen. The Giants have plenty of resources to go on without Burress. The big test, obviously, will be seeing if one of these names can turn into the big-play receiver the Giants will obviously have to play without.
4. I think Kurt Warner is rapidly playing himself out of all those nice things -- like a third MVP, like a winning January -- he'd played himself into through the first 10 games of the year. At some point, an MVP has to win a game he shouldn't win. Warner hasn't had one of those yet this year, and though he's played very well overall in engineering the Cards' 7-5 record, he's been downright bad in big games on the road, including throwing interceptions to end the first two drives at Philadelphia Thursday night.
5. I think this isn't going to please the folks in Detroit and Dallas, but you should expect the league to discuss opening up the Thanksgiving Day games to all 32 teams when a new schedule is discussed for 2010. This will be a battle of tradition. Some owners like the system as is because the league retains few real traditions. But some owners and football people think it's too much of an advantage for Detroit and Dallas -- especially Dallas -- to play at home every Thanksgiving while foes have to travel on a short week. And there is grousing that the games are not spread around to all 32 teams.
It obviously hasn't been enough of a home-field advantage to matter for Detroit, but Dallas gets the short week at home, then the weekend off. When the league goes to 17 or 18 games in 2010 (assuming that's the year the schedule expansion happens), there's a chance the Thanksgiving Day games could rotate as well, with every franchise getting a home game on Thanksgiving every 10 or 11 years.
6. I think what Baltimore is doing now borders on the franchise-changing. Look at their six-of-seven winning streak. Joe Flacco's thrown 11 touchdowns passes with two interceptions. Point totals: 27, 29, 37, 41, 10, 36, 34. The 10 was against the Giants, understandably. But this is no longer a team that has to win 13-10 to have a chance. The hope Ray Lewis and other defensive stalwarts saw in training camp wasn't the annual wish-and-a-prayer pipe dream that had become the annual frustrating tradition in Baltimore.
"Our offense has done a better job at everything,'' said Mark Clayton, who's become a multi-dimensional weapon for Cam Cameron's offense. In Cincinnati, he caught five passes for 164 yards and a touchdown, and he threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason; he's also run it five times this year. "The defense has always respected us as players, but we've wanted to make the other side of the ball's job easier. We're doing that now.''
I asked him how the adjustment to Flacco has been. "It's been fun, tough, frustrating, trying, rewarding and part of growing offensively. Now we're seeing him mature into something great. I'm glad I'm a part of it.''
7. I think this is what I liked about Week 13:
a. What a great individual effort by Washington wideout Devin Thomas on his reverse-and-lunge for a touchdown against the Giants.
c. Eric Wright, who entered the year as the embattled Eric Wright, is now the reliable Eric Wright. Cleveland's lucky to have him, and the Browns now know that left corner is one position they won't have to fill at the start of 2009.
e. Peyton Hillis. Who'd have figured the first guy all year to solve the Jets' run defense -- averaging 3.4 yards per rush entering Sunday -- would be the guy who blocked for Felix Jones and Darren McFadden at Arkansas? He had 22 carries for 129 yards against the Jets, bruising New York behind a zone-blocking line.
f. We don't appreciate Derrick Mason enough. He's going to finish with the quietest 80-catch, 1,100-yard season in football.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 13:
a. Reggie Wayne, a third-and-11 drop in the end zone? Can't do that.
c. First 10 Cincinnati plays: 15 yards.
d. You miss a few more of those extra-point kind of field goals, Rian Lindell, and you'll be applying for jobs in Calgary. The 20-yard miss was the shortest miss by a Bill since 1981.
e. Do not blame Aaron Rodgers when the Packers miss the playoffs. Blame the Green Bay rush defense -- Carolina had 94 yards on the ground in the first 20 minutes at Lambeau.
f. Terrible play by Derrick Ward in Giants-Redskins, running out of bounds with 29 seconds left in the first half, a yard short of the first down on third down, instead of diving for the first-down marker, which he definitely could have made. You don't make money in this league by imitating Franco Harris, Derrick.
g. I don't know who to blame for San Diego being 4-8, but I am going to start with the biggest star of them all -- LaDainian Tomlinson, averaging 3.7 yards per rush after running for 5.2 and 4.7 yards a carry in the last two years. If LT can't be more productive, Norv Turner should turn more to Darren Sproles.
h. I mean, 201 total yards against the Falcons, at home. That's awful.
9. I think as many as 13 coaches may change in January.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Starting to hear Mark Teixeira is going to sign for seven or eight years somewhere, probably in Anaheim. And no, I don't call a team an hour outside of Los Angeles "Los Angeles.''
b. For all of you wondering about the pros and cons of the MacBook Air, I just want you to know I flew from Newark to Seattle the other day and my battery lasted all the way through Montana.
c. Plaxico Burress (pre-gunshot) agreed with me about the insanity of the Knicks dumping players and salary two seasons in advance of being able to bid for LeBron James. His point, like mine, is this: What do you tell Knick ticket-buyers who are paying $244.50 for a decent seat (I am serious) for the next two years to see a JV team? I've never heard of something so insane in pro sports.
d. Coffeenerdness: Standing in line at Starbucks at this time of year borders on the maddening. The holiday drinks, the sandwiches, the special sprinkles on top of the coffee ... Howard Schultz is trying to be too many things to too many people.
e. How about Devin Harris? He might be enough to make me want to see the Nets once this year. Maybe.
f. One final point about guns and players who own them: Bob Costas is right. When is the last time we've heard of a gun brought into a public place by an athlete actually making a situation better?
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Houston 23, Jacksonville 17. I appreciate a totally meaningless game as much as the next guy (I spent four years leaving at halftime of all Ohio University home football games), but after a wall-to-wall football Thursday, decent football in the early games Sunday, the memorable Steeler chasedown of Matt Cassel, and the Bears and Vikings fighting for their playoff lives last night, I hereby give you permission tonight to choose from among:
7:30 p.m., Cinemax, The Departed.' Too gratuitously violent for my blood, but Matt Damon's a pretty good ratfink.
8 p.m., TBS, Family Guy. Four straight Family Guys, I can assure you, will be better than four straight carries by Steve Slaton. Just ask Eric Mangini; this is his favorite show. The episode with Brian the dog dating Drew Barrymore, starting at 9, is one of my personal favorites.
9 p.m., Animal Planet, It's Me Or The Dog. Victoria tries to tame Prince, a 90-pound Mastiff puppy with boundary issues. I am not making that up. That's what it says on the TV Guide website.
10 p.m., National Geographic channel, Taboo: Spilling Blood. More from TV Guide: "A look at animal bloodletting traditions around the world.'' I wonder if Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson will be featured.