1. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:
a. A great, touching story on "The NFL Today'' on CBS on Thanksgiving Day, produced by Charlie Bloom, on organ donation, centered around the late Chris Henry's donation of four of his organs ... and the emotional meeting on Nov. 5 between four of the recipients and Henry's mother, Carolyn Glaspy. Great television, and a great example -- as with Ed Werder's story on Brad Childress and his soldier son in Afghanistan a month ago and Tony's Dungy's piece with the very generous Ryan Clark in New Orleans -- of how there can be superb work done on network TV pregame shows.
b. Darrelle Revis, holding that slouch Terrell Owens to three catches for 17 yards in the 26-10 win over Cincinnati.
c. Ndamukong Suh. Tom Brady will remember that sack for a few days. I'm sure he still feels something from it this morning.
d. Mike Heimerdinger, the Tennessee offensive coordinator, coaching despite his appointment this morning to start chemotherapy treatments in Nashville. "I don't know how long I have with the fight ahead of me,'' he told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. "I don't know if I'll be able to come back to the office sometime or not. I don't know if I'll be able to call another game. I don't know how many more I'll get to do.''
e. The Broncos have found a punter. Britton Colquitt's 50.3-yard gross average against St. Louis was his fourth 50-plus-average day of the season.
f. Curtis Lofton's forced Aaron Rodgers fumble in the end zone. Falcons wouldn't have won without it.
g. Buffalo's effort, every week. It's a little-engine-that-could team. "We feel fortunate to come away with a win,'' said Steeler coach Mike Tomlin. Feel? Try we definitely are fortunate .
h. Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams, with 10 tackles and two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger ... and four holding calls against the man blocking him, Chris Kemoeatu.
i. Chicago defensive end Israel Idonije, whose 6.5 sacks are .5 more than Julius Peppers, who is playing very well.
j. Peyton Hillis, 131 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
k. Peyton Hillis, 11th in the league in rushing, ahead of Darren McFadden, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Shonn Greene and Cedric Benson. Their fame dwarfs his, obviously.
l. Peyton Hillis, for whom the Browns will still get two sixth-round picks from Denver, the last two pieces of what's looking like a fantastic trade for Cleveland. Denver got the invisible Brady Quinn in return.
m. Looking frisky, Ricky Williams.
n. Looking great, Jacoby Ford. Oakland's found a Devin Hester wannabe.
o. What an interception, Aqib Talib.
p. The game-securing run by Brett "Walter Brennan'' Favre.
q. Congrats on your 100th NFL victory, Norv "December's Coach'' Turner.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 12:
a. Baltimore fullback Le'Ron McClain, who would be invaluable against Pittsburgh next Sunday, leaving the stadium in a walking boot Sunday after spraining an ankle against the Bucs.
b. Speaking of Raven injuries, left tackle Michael Oher sprained a knee. Uh-oh. Status unknown.
c. The Bengals bypassing a 47-yard field goal Thursday night because of no faith in kicker Aaron Pettrey. Why have him on the roster if he's not good enough to make a 47-yarder?
d. Stunned to see how off-kilter Peyton Manning looks. Seven of the last eight games with a passer rating under 100. Nine interceptions in his past four games, seven in his past two. He's taking chances and thinking his receivers will be where they're supposed to be, and they're often not there. And as Cris Collinsworth deftly pointed out Sunday night (and NBC's Fred Gaudelli must have found with a very cool close-up somehow), you can see how uneasy Manning is in the pocket -- he's wincing when he throws, anticipating getting hit whether it's coming or not. Telling TV ... even though he's been sacked only once in 101 pass-drops over the past eight quarters.
e. Manning's yards per attempt, 2009: 7.88. Manning's yards per attempt, 2010: 6.88.
f. Officials in Detroit-New England. Nailing the Lions with three personal fouls in the waning moments and New England none ... guys, the Lions aren't fighting with each other.
g. Tennessee running back Chris Johnson getting zero carries in the second quarter of a game in the balance. You'd rather give the ball to Rusty Smith every snap, I take it?
h. The first shaky (4 of 15 in one stretch) period in some time by Josh Freeman. Playing Baltimore, in Baltimore, can do that to a quarterback.
i. DeSean Jackson being moody and diffident.
j. You could take an ugly brawl that gives the game a black eye a little more seriously, Gary Kubiak.
3. I think, summing up the weekend's coaching news: I see Mike Singletary having a very hard time keeping his job in San Francisco barring a 5-1 or maybe 4-2 finish, and I see Jon Gruden and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh being among the leading candidates for the gig. The Niners are desperate for a quarterback of the future, and the next coach could be the man who finds and trains him ...
Jeff Fisher might have to quit the Titans to not coach them next year, because owner Bud Adams is not going to fire Fisher and pay him $6.5-million to not coach. There's a major disconnect between the 87-year-old Adams and the team he owns, and he shows it by backing Vince Young for the long term, though Young and the coaching staff are at loggerheads and one or both should go before 2011. That's not what Adams wants. He wants Fisher and Young to get along and work together ...
Very big day for Gary Kubiak, getting a shutout with that bad defense ... Just because Jon Gruden is not going to Miami doesn't mean he won't get involved with one of these NFL openings. By the way, how do such rumors as the Jon Gruden-to-the-University-of-Miami get such legs? Right down to the $3.4-million average salary, it never made sense. And there it was, all over the media at 9 Sunday night, just waiting to be knocked down. ... There will be significant interest in Harbaugh if he doesn't get the Michigan job -- and I'm not even sure the Michigan job will open ... Ditto Leslie Frazier if the Vikings let him get away. Frazier's the best man for the Minnesota job. The players want to see him get it, and they'll play for him.
4. I think, breaking down the announcement of the Hall of Fame's 26 semifinalists, I see some logjams and some possibilities. Enumerating them, from the point of view of one of the 44 voters (me):
a. Remember the process. These 26 aren't all going to make it in front of the Hall's 44 selectors for election into Canton. Only 15 of the 26 will, along with the two Senior Committee candidates, Les Richter and Chris Hanburger. So 11 will be trimmed from the list of 26 before the committee meets by a secret ballot. Those who could fall by the wayside before the Feb. 5 meeting in Texas: Giants GM George Young, safety Aeneas Williams, owner Art Modell, linebacker Kevin Greene, tackle Willie Roaf ... and maybe bigger names like Terrell Davis and Paul Tagliabue.
b. Sad to see the best special-teamer of all time, Steve Tasker, eliminated in the semifinal cut.
c. Ditto Ron Wolf, a deserving GM and architect.
d. Thrilled to see NFL Films founder Ed Sabol in the mix. Whether he makes the Hall in 2011, Sabol, at least once, deserves to have his case heard by the election committee. Young, Modell, Tagliabue, Terrell Davis ... they've already head their cases heard (some more than once) in the room and been turned down for entry. Sabol never has.
I realize how tough it is to make it. Just think: Only five of the 26 names on the semifinal list, at the most, will make it through the filtering process and be elected in two months. So many of these men are deserving. I think Sabol is one who needs to make it now. Seems to me the longer Sabol waits, the harder it'll be for him to get in. He's not a player, first of all, which makes entry so tough. There's no guarantee future voters, as the selectors get younger and younger, will appreciate the role of NFL Films in making the game so popular.
I thought of Sabol's value while watching the top-100 players series on NFL Network this fall. How would generations -- quite literally-- who follow us be able to know how good Otto Graham, Don Hutson and Sammy Baugh were, and how memorable the '50s Colts and '60s Packers were (not to mention all the great teams and players who followed) without the work of Sabol and the film-gatherers and -makers of NFL Films? Take NFL Films away from the football landscape and we wouldn't have the teaching moments of Vince Lombardi ("a seal here, a seal there'') and the grimy realness of the game.
More than anything, I fear Sabol becoming one of those names who the voters look at every fall and say, "Yeah, he should be in, but we've got to get Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk in this year, and we've got to address the wide receivers and the backlog of defensive players -- we'll have to put ol' Ed off 'til next year.'' And next year, and next year. That's the problem. Sabol's easy to put off until next year. My question: Why not acknowledge the man, who, more than any single person, is responsible for the game growing at the intergalactic pace that it's grown?
e. At running back, Marshall Faulk looks like the favorite to filter through the deep class -- first-timers Faulk, Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin, along with Roger Craig and Terrell Davis. The problem with looking at two or three making it, even if they're deserving, is that there are too many other strong players and deep position groups. Does Martin deserve it over Cris Carter? Bettis over Shannon Sharpe. Craig over Charles Haley? Those are the kinds of decisions that have to be made once in the room, where the list will be cut from 15 down to 10, and then from 10 to five, before voting yea or nay on the final five for election.
f. The receiver class having only three returnees -- Carter, Tim Brown, Andre Reed -- may sharpen the focus on them instead of diluting the group. My sense is Carter is the leader of the three. But if the group continues to fracture and divide, we may continue to elect none of them.
g. From here, the 44 voters pick their 15 in the next three weeks, and the Hall will tabulate the votes and announce its final 15 -- plus Richter and Hanburger -- in January.
5. I think it's been fashionable, on TV and in print and in 'net space, to belittle Matt Cassel. You can still do that, but only if you'd like to be wrong. Last seven games: 18 touchdowns, one interception. Rookie Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis must be making life more comfortable for Cassel. Last year's touchdowns and interceptions for Cassel: 16-16. This year: 22-4.
6. I think, other than the Rams being in first place in the NFC West, the most amazing standings note as the calendar turns to December is this: Jacksonville, 6-5, is first in the AFC South -- with a tiebreaker edge over the feeble Colts.
7. I think Shawne Merriman's has to be one of the weirdest careers in the history of the Buffalo Bills. After Merriman landed on IR Saturday, another season lost to injury, my one question is this: Why would any team pay him a dime of guaranteed money in 2011?
8. I think, speaking of the Bills, I've got to give props to owner Ralph Wilson this morning. When Wilson heard last week that I'd raised money from you readers running a half-marathon -- money that, in part, was going to fund a semi trailer full of food and household items sent by Oklahoma City-based Feed the Children to serve 400 needy Buffalo families -- he said he wanted to match that $7,500 going to Buffalo families and send another chock-full trailer. And so he did; the money will go to the Food Bank of Western New York. Feed the Children trailers will be in Buffalo and Cleveland disbursing their goods on Tuesday, with the Browns and Bills there helping. Thanks to all of you for making it happen. I'll have a couple of photos in the column next week, showing you how your donated money is helping those who need it most.
9. I think Colt Brennan, released from a Hawaii hospital Saturday after a harrowing car crash 10 days ago, sounds like he's going to do whatever it takes to be in some team's training camp in 2011. "I am determined to make a complete recovery, and my desire to continue playing football burns stronger than ever," Brennan said in a statement released by his agent. He suffered clavicle, lung and rib injuries, and a broken left eye socket.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Thanks to Saranac area manager Matt Bronson and area rep Jean Marc Aubuchon for giving me a lifeline of Saranac Pumpkin Ale. Can't thank you guys enough -- and thanks, too, for introducing me to Saranac Caramel Porter. I've had milkshakes that were thinner, but not as good.
b. Several of you have asked me for beer recommendations, which I'll provide as I come across them. This week's: Rapscallion Premier, which is an American Blonde ale. Different taste. A little bit of honey, a little lemony. Very interesting.
c. A good time was had by all at the 74th annual Manchester (Conn.) Road Race in central Connecticut Thanksgiving morning. What a slice of Americana. Ran in memory of my late brother Bob with his widow, Caroline; visiting daughters Laura and Mary Beth; nephew Evan and niece Laila, Bob and Caroline's children; along with their teammates from the South Windsor (Conn.) High cross-country team ... all in bright green "Bob's Team'' T-shirts designed by Laila. A great morning, though it was 29 degrees at the start of the race.
This was one of those leisure 4.8-milers, even with a mile-long winding hill early in the race, with 15 bands playing by the side of the Manchester roadways, and some of the most incredible costumes. Eight guys streamed past at one point in little loincloths and native-American feathers around their heads, wearing nothing else but running shoes. As one of the rock bands played "Fortunate Son'' on a lawn 1.5 miles into it, a guy dressed as one of the Hanson brothers from "Slapshot'' danced on the lawn with a woman dressed from head to toe as a bright red lobster. And so it went. Never had more fun running a race, even though I finished around 11,000th out of 15,000. At least I edged out 90-year-old Betty Hutchinson. Now that would have been embarrassing.
d. Department of Redundancy Department: Please, please, please, NCAA commentators, stop calling the Mid-American Conference the MAC Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference the WAC Conference. It's not the Mid-American Conference Conference, but that's what you're calling it when you say "MAC Conference.''
e. Just can't get into "The Office.'' Sorry. I think it's over for the show. Fun while it lasted, though.
f. Now, "Family Guy.'' That's another story. Just saw the one with the mentally challenged horse house pet, devouring a sugar cube in a painstakingly licking way off Stewie's head. Had to pick myself off the floor after that one.
g. Coffeenerdness: Thanks for your many, many recommendations of a Sunday morning New York coffeehouse for me to write and drink. May have found one -- Grounded, in the West Village. Quiet. Studious. Arty lattes.
h. That Auburn-Alabama game was one of the best football games I've seen in years.
i. Imagine you're Tommy Rees. You're 18 years old -- don't even turn 19 until May -- a true freshman at Notre Dame, walked into the place as the third or fourth quarterback maybe, and now, in the span of 15 days, you've won college football games at Notre Dame Stadium (over Utah), at Yankee Stadium (over Army) and at the L.A. Coliseum (over USC). I mean, you could play 20 years of football and play well enough to make the college and pro football halls of fame, and never have 15 days like that. Ever.
j. Leslie Nielsen, dead at 84. He was one of the funniest men of our lives. I've never laughed harder at an actor, unless maybe it's John Candy. Thanks for the memories.
Arizona 23, San Francisco 20. I declare tonight National Be Nice To Your Better Half Night. You've got lots of big prime-time games to steal the TV in the coming weeks. Steelers-Ravens next Sunday, Jets-Pats next Monday, Packers-Pats in a couple of Sundays, Saints-Falcons on the Monday of Christmas weekend and so on. My alternative television recommendation for spousal harmony: "My Cousin Vinny,'' at 9, on TV Land.
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