Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 16:
a. Penn State is insane. A three-year contract extension for an 82-year-old coach who has had recent health problems? Why is there no one at this august institution who can tell a man whom the school isn't positive can even STAND on the sideline every week that it's time to step down? Can anyone who bleeds Nittany blue honestly tell me Paterno has the energy to out-recruit coaches 40 years his junior for the best football players in the country?
b. My final words on the Terrell Owens "Ed Werder made it up'' story, which we're all sick of by now and so I'll make it brief. Point A: ESPN backs Werder on the story of Owens being jealous of Jason Witten, and Owens going to the coaches and saying Tony Romo's throwing too much to Witten because they're close friends. Then they hand over four or five minutes of SportsCenter time so Owens can whine about being wronged. Where was Werder's defense? If you believe so strongly in your own reporter, why let the sniveling Owens have a hostile takeover of your air and give Werder zero chance to defend himself? Sad day for journalism.
Point B: Did you notice what Owens said to the Fort Worth Star Telegram about his meeting with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett "about Tony reading the whole play because other people are open besides Witten.'' That ticked T.O. off, and uh, I believe that's what Werder reported. But Owens can call Werder a liar and get away with it.
c. NFL Network has to be excited about that Western Michigan-Rice Texas Bowl next Tuesday.
d. I watched NFL Network's postgame show Saturday night hoping to hear about the Ravens' win. No wonder so much of America hates the Cowboys and hates the TV networks for worshiping at the altar of the Cowboys. After a friend of mine watched the short on-field interview with Joe Flacco, then longer press conferences with Wade Phillips, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens, then the on-field ceremony of the closing of Texas Stadium, he texted e to say, it was "like watching Al Cowboy-zeera.''
e. Drew Brees needs 402 yards to break Dan Marino's career record of 5,084 passing yards in a season. Carolina is at New Orleans next Sunday. Here's the interesting thing about that game: Sean Payton has that record in his hands, and in his play-calling. Almost literally. If Payton, with nothing on the line but pride and the chance to finish over .500 at 9-7, chooses to get Brees the record, there's a chance he could.
f. Isaac Bruce, catching his 1,000th ball Sunday in St. Louis (fitting) reminded me what a difficult time we're going to have as Hall of Fame electors with the wide receiver group. And it's only going to get more difficult as we let the logjam build.
g. Did William Clay Ford really say Sunday before the game he intended to keep Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew and try to form some front-office three-man team, with another football man from the outside coming in to help? Now I like Lewand, and I think Mayhew is one of the sharpest young guys in football. But how do you tell your fan base everything's fine in your front office when you've won one of your last 23 games?
h. That's right: Since Election Day 2007, Detroit is 1-22. How do you not fire everyone and start over?
i. Bruce Gradkowski must have been born under a lucky star. Looks like he'll get the final start of the year under center for the luckless and injury-ravaged Browns, with Ken Dorsey nursing a concussion and bruised ribs. Nice reward, playing at Pittsburgh with the Steelers angry after a stinker at Tennessee.
2. I think Roethlisberger had better do something about the way he carries the ball in and out of the pocket. Four fumbles Sunday. Six total in the last three games. Way, way too many for an offense that's struggling.
3. I think, by the way, that a few Steelers saw a Titan or two stomping a Terrible Towel on the field in Nashville, and, as childish as it seems, will remember that the next time they play. If there's a next time in January.
4. I think Jack Del Rio is on the verge of making some staff changes that will be the beginning of the Jags' rebuilding for 2009. Stay tuned.
5. I think this is all you need to know about the Lions' chances to avoid 0-16: They are 0-17 in Wisconsin since 1992, and they try to avoid infamy Sunday by traveling to Green Bay. This is how bad it was for the Lions yesterday: With Joey Harrington backing up for New Orleans on the opposite sidelines, there were occasional "We want Joey'' chants. Said Harrington, who always did have a good sense of humor while with Detroit: "It's weird to think I was here in the hey-day.''
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 16:
a. Notice who made the key block to pick up the blitzing Indy safety on Jacksonville's first-quarter touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt? Maurice Jones-Drew.
b. I like how Wade Phillips is getting more pressure with his defensive front in the last month than Dallas has gotten at any point in the last couple of years.
c. Bradie James is one of football's 10 more underrated players -- and what's amazing is, he plays for the Cowboys.
d. I was wrong about Ted Ginn Jr., who is really a good deep threat. Dolphins should thank Cam Cameron for that one.
e. As good as Tennessee was in shutting down Roethlisberger, the Titans were equally good against the run, holding Pittsburgh to 71 yards on the ground.
f. Brandon Jacobs might be the Giants' MVP. What a difference he makes.
g. New Orleans was 11-of-12 on third-down conversions, which says it can drive on anyone in a dome and also that the Lions were on the other side of the line.
i. Jason Taylor made a play!
j. Good for Jim Zorn. He deserved to save his job.
k. Jerry Jones must be wearing or carrying a four-leaf clover. You've got life, Jerry.
l. The Patriots played so well Sunday, and were so prepared to run and throw in any weather. If they don't make the playoffs, a lot of AFC teams will be happy.
m. I mean, New England is playing on offense like it did midway through its perfect season. Last four wins: 48, 24, 49 and 47 points scored.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 16:
a. Are you kidding me, Miles Austin?
b. Blitz pickup, Dallas. When you play Baltimore, the game's about blitz pickup.
c. New England 41, Arizona 0, eight minutes left in the third quarter in Foxboro: Give me one good reason why Kurt Warner is in the game.
d. Actually, give me one good reason why Matt Cassel is in the game.
e. And Wes Welker returning punts?
f. This has been a great coaching job by Bill Belichick, a coach-of-the-year-caliber coaching job. But having your starting quarterback in the game on a mucky field with a 41-0 lead for two more series is not a smart thing.
g. Brian Westbrook has fallen off the MVP radar, hasn't he?
h. Tampa Bay sure knows how to send Monte Kiffin to Knoxville in style.
i. "We just can't finish,'' Herm Edwards said Sunday night. No duh.
8. I think there isn't much of a race in passing or rushing races, with Rivers (rating), Brees (passing yards), and Peterson (rushing yards) holding safe leads after 16 weeks. Andre Johnson has a 93-yard lead on Roddy White (1,427-1,334) for the receiving yardage lead, but Johnson's going to have to hustle against the Bears to catch Welker for the receptions title (Welker 109, Johnson 105). Polamalu, Ed Reed and Tennessee's Michael Griffin are tied for the interception lead with seven, and DeMarcus Ware has a 2.5-sack lead on Joey Porter (20-17.5), with each having one meaningful game left.
9. I think Julius Peppers has done a good job (high impact against the run and pass, 13.5 sacks) reviving his career.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Sat next to Rodney Harrison at the Costas Now 2008-sports-year-in-review show the other night in New York. When Tiger Woods appeared on a satellite hookup to talk with Costas and Rocco Mediate about the '08 U.S. Open, and then about how he was more excited than ever about resuming his career, Harrison leaned over to Osi Umenyiora, sitting next to him, and said, "Look at Tiger! He's still hungry!''
b. Players just love Tiger. Players in all sports.
c. I want to see about 100 movies. In order, probably the Frost-Nixon movie is No. 1, and the Clint Eastwood Gran Torino movie. By this time next week, if I'm lucky, I'll have both of those under my belt.
d. I'll gladly take movie recommendations. Don't come with any of that weak stuff, though.
e. Coffeenerdness: Tea this week. Lots of it. Loading up on the Bigelow Green Team with Pomegranate, for whatever health benefit I can get. I need it. (Who am I? Simms? Torre? Francona? Some tea-pusher?)
f. Seven hours of shoveling Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Where did my daughters go? They were always such good shovelers. Come home girls! Come home! And stop at Saunders Hardware on the way, because I've killed the last three shovels we always use.
g. Good for Boston. Good for Anaheim. In this economy, should a baseball player be paid more than $20 million a year?
h. I'd love to have Mark Teixeira on my team. But at what price? Scott Boras is brilliant at creating leverage, but just because he creates it, it doesn't mean a baseball team has to knuckle under to it. Life goes on.
i. I want to be in the room when Teixeira signs with Washington and looks at Boras and says: "Are you kidding me? You've sentenced me to play for the Washington National for the rest of my career?''
Who I Like Tonight and I Mean Tony Kornheiser
Chicago 24, Green Bay 20. Aaaah, Dec. 22 in Chicago. A lovely night for football. Minus-5 wind chill on the lakefront. Remember Week 16 last year in Chicago? It was last Dec. 23, on a night for neither man nor Favre, and the Bears trounced Green Bay 35-7. The only reason I'm making this a close one is wishful thinking: I need Greg Jennings to have a big fantasy night for my sickly team.