Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 15:
a. The excessive reverence for the Heisman Trophy by ESPN had me wretching up my pork chop Saturday night. Did Jesus win the Heisman? Moses? Abraham Lincoln?
b. Just what the Redskins needed: Ryan Fitzpatrick looking like Matt Ryan, Cedric Benson running a screen pass 79 yards (his previous long play of his career was 43 yards). Chris Henry eschewing his parole officer for the end zone ... I can only imagine what Dan Snyder was saying upstairs as the most nightmarish quarter of the Washington season was playing out.
c. I give my stamp of approval to a Web site called profootballfocus.com, which goes into incredible detail on all positions, most notably those we don't study enough in the trenches. The interesting thing about the site is it's done by a British chap, Neil Hornsby, a fan of our football who was inspired by the inimitable Paul Zimmerman to dig deeper into what really wins and loses games.
"Just as the 1983 draft became known as the Quarterback Class of 1983 because of the six quarterbacks taken in the first round, perhaps this year's draft will become the Tackle Class of 2008. Of the eight tackles taken in the first round, six started in Week 1 and four have played in every game.'' Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Branden Albert, Gosder Cherilus, Sam Baker, Jeff Otah and Duane Brown all have started much or all of the season ... and Hornsby's attention to the minutiae of the game shows he's watching closely, rewinding and replaying recordings and getting a good view.
Brown, for instance, he's seen in five complete games, and he points out that four sacks and seven pressures allowed in those games shows he might be the odd man out -- the Todd Blackledges, as he says -- in this tackle class. Thorough stuff. Well worth your time to check out.
d. Excellent point, Sal Paolantonio, about the Eagles double-teaming the Giants' X receiver just 7-percent of the time (on four of 51 snaps) eight days ago -- as opposed to doubling Burress with a safety 73 percent of the time in their first game. As last night's game showed for the second week in a row, teams will make the Giants prove they can throw deep without Burress before they keep a safety back consistently to guard against Domenik Hixon or another Giant beating them downfield. And Brian Baldinger backed that up with five illuminating plays on NFL Network on how differently the Eagles played the Giants without Burress.
e. Three hours, NFL Network. Three hours of a pre-game show? Stop. Please. Bob Papa, live at 8:03 a.m. Central time, for a 7:25 p.m. Central time game? My two questions: Why not a 24-hour pre-game show? And how does the talent like that 4 a.m. pickup out in Los Angeles?
f. Why does every announcer say "football game'' instead of "game'' or "field'' or "player'' over and over and over in the same sound bite? We know the sport is football. Does Joe Buck say, "The Cubs are playing a heck of a baseball game on this baseball field?'' Does Mike Breen say, "This is a basketball game for the ages, and these basketball players out on that basketball floor will remember it forever?''
g. The Polamalu-Tomlinson through-the-years Nike commercial is easily the best spot of the year, with the best background music.
h. Very nice job on the Steve Smith interview, Sterling Sharpe.
i. Best new uniforms in the league this year: the all-red jobs of the Texans. Bob McNair should make them Houston's home unis.
2. I think this is what I find incredible about the myriad of tiebreakers: The Patriots entered December at 7-5, and even if they navigated the month with a perfect 4-0 record, they could easily find themselves out of the postseason. Miami was in control of its playoff destiny more so than New England was of its destiny. If the Fish and Pats both win out, Miami makes it because of a one-game edge in conference record, 8-4, to New England's 7-5. New England also loses on the wild-card tiebreaker to Indianapolis if both finish 11-5 (head-to-head Indy win) and to Baltimore if both finish 11-5 (Ravens would have only three or four conference losses). Amazing that even at 11-5, New England will need some help to make it.
3. I think you won't find me paying much attention to the Pro Bowl when the rosters are announced Tuesday afternoon. The game hasn't had meaning for a long time, but now, ever player wants to make the team and no team wants to play in the game. Too many players treat it as a nuisance, not an honor.
4. I think Clinton Portis is going to be in front of us one day for Hall of Fame consideration. Two games shy of seven full seasons, and he's already past 9,000 yards. He's 27 years old. Can he muster 4,000 more yards? I'd think he will. If so, he'll be in Eric Dickerson territory.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 15:
a. Good luck to Doug Marrone, the Saints' offensive coordinator, who was released by New Orleans with the team out of playoff contention to take the Syracuse job. Classy call by Sean Payton, to allow Marrone to leave so he can get a jump on recruiting. Marrone's a good man and a smart coach, and Greg Schiano has proven at Rutgers that no job is beyond salvageable.
b. I believe in Kyle Orton.
c. A great, great throw by J.P. Losman, the two-yard dart that could have only been in one miniscule spot to fourth wideout Steve Johnson on a skinny post to give Buffalo a 17-14 lead.
d. With the Jets floundering the fans giving them the business just before the half, Leon Washington showed why he might be the Jets' MVP -- on his first carry of the day, with a minute to go in quarter two. He took a handoff, juked and darted and sprinted for 47 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. That gave Washington nine plays of 40 yards or more on the season, more than anyone else in football.
e. Antonio Bryant might be a pain in the keister, but he's going to make some money in free-agency after the season. He's making $605,000 this year on a one-year deal with the Bucs. He'll make $6.5 million next year, somewhere. (Not saying he'll average that for a long-term deal. I am saying he'll make that much in salary and bonuses, at least.)
g. Playing with a bad foot, Washington middle 'backer London Fletcher is performing heroically. As physically as Fletcher plays, it's amazing he's missed zero games in 11 years.
h. Jermaine Phillips, the play of the year for Tampa Bay on that strip of the Atlanta pass at the Tampa one early in the third quarter. If Phillips doesn't make the play, Tampa falls behind 17-7. But by making the play, the score stayed 10-7, and the Bucs got the ball back at the 20. Excellent replay reversal by Terry MacAulay on a very close play, but certainly a fumble.
i. Kelley Washington of the Patriots, on a rainy field in Oakland, made a great, great tackle on a kickoff, pinning the Raiders at their seven.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 15:
a. How can Devin Hester take a punt and run backward 10 yards, as he did Thursday night against New Orleans? Isn't that against every punt-return fundamental he's ever been taught?
c. Eric Mangini better have lots of tackling practice in camp next summer.
d. Why did Seneca Wallace run off the field at halftime in St. Louis screaming at everyone?
e. You sounded very excited to be in Cincinnati yesterday, Tony Siragusa.
f. Three major penalties in four minutes for Cortland Finnegan.
g. That's not the worst for Finnegan, an excellent player but one who helped cost the Titans a game -- and probably cost himself $50,000 within the span of one minute in Texans-Titans by getting two 15-yard penalties (one was 13 for half-the-distance to the goal) for unnecessary roughness for a late spear on Owen Daniels, the other a late hit to Matt Schaub. Those 28 yards helped the Texans get in position for Kris Brown's winning field goal.
h. I really like Jay Cutler -- I think he's going to be Dan Fouts -- but sometimes he forces balls into coverage that are just plain bad decisions. Check out his second-quarter throw with three Panthers around his receiver. Pick.
9. I think the receiving race is going to be a good one down the stretch. Andre Johnson's up on Wes Welker, 103 catches to 102, and Johnson has a 98-yard lead on Roddy White for the yardage title. Johnson's amazing. He's averaging a 100-yard receiving game per week. Exactly.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Why, oh why, if you're a politician in Illinois do you think you're getting away with anything big? Assuming this latest idiot goes to jail, that makes it four of the past eight Illinois governors who would have been imprisoned.
b. Jim Carrey is the new Adam Sandler. He makes a gazillion dollars starring in movies we don't want to see.
c. Except the remake of The Longest Yard, of course. The greatest movie of all time.
d. I think, regrettably, we have to help Detroit. Too many lives at stake to not bail them out. But there'd better be a car plan with vehicles we're actually interested in buying.
e. The Office is much, much, much better with Pam back in Scranton. It's been a while since I've seen something funnier than Meredith's hair catching fire, unless it's Meredith getting dragged by her arms into the rehab facility.
f. Coffeenerdness: Did an exclusive interview with Marv Albert last night about his coffee habits. Turns out he likes three double-tall cappuccinos a day, and doesn't mind drinking them at room temperature.
g. I have to get a life now.
h. Way to sell those Staples Center suites, Laura King! Proud of you!
i. Happy 23rd birthday this week, Mary Beth King! Proud of you, too!
Who I Like Tonight, and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Philadelphia 33, Cleveland 13. The old dog, Andy Reid, has learned a new trick: running the ball. In the Eagles' last three games, Donovan McNabb has thrown it 87 times and Brian Westbrook has run it 69 times. Contrast that to the previous three games, when the Eagles won just once: McNabb 137 throws, Westbrook 47 runs.
You don't win with McNabb, or anyone, throwing it 46 times a game. And you don't win letting Westbrook carry it 16 times a game.
I'd be shocked if Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg go back to throwing it 65 or 70 percent of the time. Ever. And certainly not tonight against a team they ought to be able to beat into submission.