1. I think this is what I liked about Week 13:
a. Thank you, Sterling Sharpe, for saying Andre Johnson should have been suspended for landing three punches to the head and face of Cortland Finnegan. Not that it's the right opinion -- but that it's not the popular opinion for someone who works for the NFL Network.
b. Merril Hoge on the NFL Matchup show: "Israel Idonije has been the most consistent defensive player on the Bears defense.'' Point is, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher have been very good all season. That's how good and how much of an impact Idonije has made this season.
c. Great CBS graphic about Tennessee having 12 straight touchdown-less quarters entering the fourth quarter against Jacksonville, a franchise record.
d. I highly recommend taking a look at Chicago Trib NFL ace Dan Pompei's National Football Post Sunday column. His best gem from this column: NFL's on pace for 462 offensive-holding penalties, or 89 more than last year. Obvious cause: The umpire being in the backfield for 53 minutes per game, with a better view of offensive line play, instead of being shielded by the defensive line when he used to line up in the linebacker area. Good work, Dan.
e. Love the Redskins road unis with the gold pants.
f. Great catch by Sidney Rice, going up with two Buffalo defenders, with all three of them having some sort of possession
g. Clint Stitser! You're in the Pro Football Encyclopedia now!
h. Stitser. Bengal kicker. Managed a line-drive 29-yard field goal against the Saints, just a few days after being signed away from the Nevada high school team he was coaching. Don't get comfy, Clint, considering that you missed a conversion kick.
i. Smart play-call by Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, and good execution, on the quarterback-keep touchdown run by David Garrard, when everyone in Nashville was expecting another grind-it-out run by Maurice Jones-Drew.
j. Drew Stanton, ladies and gentlemen. How many times was Matt Millen cursed for wasting a second-round pick on him? How many times was he hallelujah-ed at Ford Field Sunday? Two plays, 91 yards to go ahead of the Bears just before halftime, including the long TD to Calvin Johnson.
k. Nickname of the Week, by profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio: "Bitter-Beer Face.'' For Peyton Manning.
l. Julius Peppers. As critical as I've been of him for his lack of production over the years, I have to hand it to him now. He's playing as well as any run/pass-defending defensive end in football, and he stoned the Lions on two big run-stops Sunday.
m. Chad Ochocinco, with one of the prettiest boundary receptions you'll ever see, barely tapping both feet on the final blade of fake grass before momentum pushed his body down over the sideline against the Saints.
n. Jonathan Vilma, with the fourth-down stop of the day against Cedric Benson.
o. Lions defensive end Cliff Avril. Overshadowed much of the year by Ndamukong Suh and Kyle VandenBosch, Avril broke out with a dominating performance in the Lions' near upset of the division-leading Bears. He had three sacks (actually two full sacks, and two half-sacks), the first that stopped Chicago's first drive of the day, and the second two contributing to stunted Bear drives in the third quarter as the Lions hung onto a narrow lead.
p. Don't know whether to laud Leon Washington for the long kickoff return or to knock him for semi-celebrating early, allowing the kicker to trip him up at the 1 to prevent a Seattle touchdown.
q. Eric Weems, save that kickoff return in some time capsule. A great return at a vital time for your Falcons.
r. Raiders rushers. Against the top-ranked D in the NFL, Oakland ran for 251 yards and swept the Chargers.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 13:
a. I'm not telling networks what to do or anything, but the tell-all, gut-wrenching Mike Vick interviews are over. I love the story, and it is well worth telling. But he's said the same thing 63 times now. Enough.
b. Where'd you get those uniforms, Packers? Costco? And the helmets that looked like round FTD fall-bouquet vases? Without a question, those are the worst throwbacks I've seen, and there have been a lot of bad ones.
c. Albert Haynesworth, for missing his fifth game of the year with an illness. Talk about a guy not giving his team its $100-million's worth.
d. Leodis McKelvin, for having the worst five-play span of any player in this season ... and whose errors led to 14 Vikings points. First, he lost the wrestling match for a touchdown with Sidney Rice. On the ensuing kickoff, he smashed his own man on the return, fumbled and gave the ball up to Minnesota. Three plays later, McKelvin was called for interference, leading to the Vikings' second touchdown.
e. Giants: 31 turnovers this year, most in the league. That's got to be driving Tom Coughlin nuts.
f. Ref Walt Coleman, during 'Skins-Giants, after a failed challenge by Washington coach Mike Shanahan: "Denver will be charged with a timeout.'' Old habits die hard.
g. At halftime of Jags-Titans, these negative Tennessee numbers dominated: Over the past six quarters, Tennessee had been outscored 37-0, and Chris Johnson had been held to 14 yards on 13 carries. Those two stats were related.
h. Mike Sellers. Bo Scaife. Your teams (Washington, Tennessee) are stinking up the joint, and you both have huge drops of absolutely simple catches.
i. Ed Hochuli's crew for a ridiculous call ruling that Ndamukong Suh unnecessarily roughed Jay Cutler.
j. Hey, Marvin Lewis: You score a touchdown with 13:42 left in the game to make it 20-18, and you go for one? Terrible decision, particularly with a kicker who'd already missed one PAT.
k. Can't miss the call busting Ben Roethlisberger's nose, nor the one busting Heath Miller in the head, Terry McAulay and crew.
3. I think, in the ranks of embarrassing performances in the 2010 season, you'd have to go a long way to top Washington's lay-down job against the Giants.
4. I think all you had to do to realize how much the Jets will miss safety Jim Leonhard -- placed on injured-reserve with a broken leg suffered Friday -- was to listen to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine talk about Leonhard and his value to the team after practice: "We were all crushed ... I think everybody was just a little stunned ... It's just -- it was really stunning ... It's a crushing thing ... I don't think people realize what a vital part of our room Jim Leonhard is, so that makes it more difficult ... He really did quarterback the back end. He was a big part of helping guys get lined up and he was usually a guy that was in the right place at the right time doing his job. That's something that we are really going to miss.'' You rarely hear coaches get so ratcheted up about the loss of a player.
5. I think the best thing Carolina owner Jerry Richardson and GM Marty Hurney can do -- assuming the Panthers lose out and get the first overall pick -- is hire Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh to be their head coach and draft Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. I know the Panthers don't want to break the bank paying their coach, particularly in a year when it's going to be an owners' market for coaches (because I don't think there will be many jobs open). But continuing the great relationship between coach and franchise quarterback at the next level, in my opinion, would make Harbaugh well worth the $3.5-million or so per year it would cost to get him. Still think there's a good chance the Panthers would have to fight the 49ers for Harbaugh if the Niners continue on their uneven path the rest of the season and fire Mike Singletary.
6. I think, speaking of coaching jobs, it's hard to envision Josh McDaniels surviving now in Denver. After Spygate II, there was no question both in terms of public opinion and the opinion of the owner and front office that McDaniels had to have an impressive finish to keep the job. Well, Denver has since lost to St. Louis at home and scored six points in a loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Even with injuries on defense, you've got to wonder whether the D is tuning the coaching staff out; Denver has allowed 32 points a game, on average, over the past six games.
7. I think there's a long list of those who passed away last week we need to acknowledge: Ron Santo, for being a great third baseman and the classic local voice of the fan; Chicagoland is still in mourning this morning, even though it's been a few days since he died... Phil Jasner, the great NBA writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, who died Friday of cancer. One of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic sports journalists of our time... Jim Kelley, Mr. Hockey in Western New York as a columnist for the Buffalo News, and a contributor to SI.com, was as knowledgeable a hockey guy as the lower 48 contained. I didn't know Jim well, but I loved reading him because he wrote with such authority; if he wrote about a trade being close, you knew it was on the verge of happening. And he respected the game so much. I loved reading him.
8. I think you should check out this map of FOX coverage for the late game Sunday. Look at it. Tell me if anything really surprises you. Look at how much of the country bypassed 9-2 Atlanta versus 7-4 Tampa Bay, with huge playoff implications, in favor of 3-8 Dallas against 6-5 Indy. What surprises me the most is not just the mass of the country -- probably 85 percent -- taking Colts-Cowboys, because I totally get the Peyton Manning/Lure of the Cowboys' ratings power. But how about some of the places that chose it over a huge NFC South game: Jackson, Miss., Meridian, Miss., Lake Charles, La., Miami, Fort Lauderdale. Odd, to me. But I would like to praise station directors in Fargo and Duluth, of all places, for going Bucs-Falcons.
9. I think Ken Whisenhunt needs to play Fordham rookie John Skelton Sunday, and maybe for the last four games. Really, what does he have to lose? And he has to know Derek Anderson won't be back, so why prolong the agony by playing Anderson?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. We've had enough of the gecko, Geico. I think I speak for all of America when I say that, the same as it was once over for Spuds McKenzie.
b. Coffeenerdness: Starbucks finally has the egg nog latte right. In the past, they've had so many varieties of egg nog, some of it actually metallic-tasting. But I've had the egg nog latte in four markets now, and they've figured some way to get it right. And they have it right.
c. I'm no Fran Leibowitz expert, but I saw a terrific documentary on her the other day on HBO called Public Speaking. Man, can she talk. And is she interesting. Strongly recommended. Great tale of an interesting New York life.
d. Classic New York Scene of the Week: Walking west on 51st Street Friday around 5 p.m., I saw a Santa Claus with his hat and beard off, standing just off Rockefeller Center with the bustle of the holiday season. He had all his belongings in a brown bag between his legs, and as I passed, he lifted a one-shot bottle of liquor (Stoli vodka, I think) and downed it in a flash. Aaaah, the holidays.
e. Thank you, Jimmy Roberts and Brad Faxon, for the recommendation of La Masseria, the Italian place in Manhattan's Theater District. You can tell a good Italian restaurant by the quality of its sauce, and that sauce with the rigatoni was a gem.
f. Re the Adrian Gonzalez trade: I'm usually in favor of a deal of a big star in his prime (particular one with a very good glove) for four prospects, and this is no exception. Once I found out Gonzalez hits well the other way -- 18 homers to the left of dead-center last year -- it got the King seal of approval.
g. If anyone can help a Marine in need, cancer-stricken Jessica Shepherd, please find it in your heart to do so.
h. And thank you, thank you, thank you to you readers of this column and you who follow me on Twitter, and to you, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, for helping 800 needy families in western New York and northeast Ohio get food and kits of home supplies from Feed The Children on Tuesday. Players from both teams helped offload big semi trailers on a frigid day that is the players' day off, so I'm highly appreciative of their efforts. For 10 Bills, COO Russ Brandon and Laurie (wife of Chan) Gailey to give most of a day, and for similarly giving Browns to do the same, I pass along thanks. And to all of you reading this, thank you. You're the ones who raised the money to make the two Feed the Children distributions happen.
Patriots 27, Jets 20. You've read quite a bit about this game, even if you're in Nome. My view, in short, is that a very big key to this game is Patriots rookie cornerback Devin McCourty has to come up very big, particularly when he's covering Santonio Holmes, for the Patriots to win, because the New England nickel will struggle to hold down the Jets' passing game.
McCourty played the Lions like he was a five-year vet, which was no surprise to the centerpiece of the Pats' D, linebacker Jerod Mayo. "The way he came through the door told me he'd be a good player,'' Mayo told me the other day. "He's kind of an old soul. The way a lot of first-rounders come in to teams is almost like you should respect them. Devin earned it from the first day.'' He showed that savvy against Detroit by out-wrestling Calvin Johnson for an interception. "Veteran play,'' said Mayo, "especially coming against a good receiver like Johnson.''
He'll need a few of those tonight, and I say his play, and Bill Belichick's head, will be enough for New England.