1. I think this is what I liked about Week 15:
a. Roddy White. As much as we all thought Julio Jones was going to re-make that receiving corps, he's helped, but White's still the cornerstone.
b. Twenty-four points in the second half for the Colts, against a playoff contender.
c. Cam Newton, who should run away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.
d. The one-handed interception by Washington's DeAngelo Hall -- the interception of the weekend.
e. Good reporting this morning, Gerry Dulac, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dulac has Ben Roethlisberger playing tonight in San Francisco.
f. Speaking of injured players, I love the FOX injury music. Always have.
g. Philip Rivers, who is not hurt.
h. Good day for Seneca Wallace -- and for Greg Little (five catches, 131 yards).
i. Who needs wideouts? Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski played like big wides Sunday: 13 catches, 182 yards. Amazing when the best tight end in football (some would argue) plays Best Supporting Actor to his backup in a very big game.
j. Tom Brady. Loved that spike. It's an emotional game, and his emotion fuels his team.
k. Late-season Chargers. If Late-season Chargers played October Chargers, the score would be Late-Season Chargers 63, October Chargers 6.
l. Tarvaris Jackson, who threw a beautiful deep rainbow in Chicago.
m. Did you see the interception by Red Bryant of the Seahawks? A fastball (well, Caleb Hanie's version of one) came at his gut, and he caught it and pranced in for a touchdown.
n. Antwan Barnes of the Chargers. The outside 'backer's career-high four-sack night helped the Chargers bully the Ravens.
o. Good for you, Todd Bowles. You'll always have Week 15, 2011, in Buffalo.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 15:
a. Andre Carter going down for the Patriots with a quad injury, probably for the season. Bad, bad loss. Good thing they've got a passable sub, Mark Anderson. But that's a loss that will hurt New England in January.
b. The Raiders' defenders crumbling down the stretch. Maybe they all need pedicures.
c. Baltimore on the road. Ridiculous.
d. Caleb Hanie. It's embarrassing. Mike Martz was right to not have faith in him.
e. Ryan Fitzpatrick's last seven weeks. Talk about Murphy's Law. The Bills are living it, and Fitzpatrick's captain of the ship.
f. Hue Jackson the GM.
g. Everything about the Giants, but especially Eli Manning. He threw consistently short in a game the Giants had to have.
h. Josh Freeman, who must be playing hurt.
3. I think NFL.com writer Jeff Darlington's piece out of Denver last night gives you a good view into Tim Tebow that you may have heard about but didn't know how it worked. Each game, home and road, Tebow has as his guest a young person who has gone through some medical or personal struggle, and win or lose, he spends 15 to 30 minutes with the person and his/her family afterward. On Sunday, after the loss to New England, Tebow met with brain-tumor victim Kelly Faughnan and her family. While Tebow and Kelly spoke, her father said to Darlington: "I can't begin to tell you the impact he's had on my daughter. She's very positive, and she tries so hard, but she's had a struggle. Tim Tebow has built her self-confidence up so much -- taught her to believe in herself -- that when I see people criticize him, I'm just dumbfounded. I don't get it. It's almost incomprehensible to me. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to see an athlete use his position and platform to do good for people." And that's Tebow. Forget his religion, forget his politics (if he has any). He's a good person who does good things. He's not the only one, and we in the media are remiss pointing out what other players do. But that shouldn't be a criticism of Tebow. I've found him genuine, as the dad says.
4. I think that was a nice touch, what the Ravens did for the troops in Afghanistan. They've adopted some troops, sending them packages, and coach John Harbaugh told NBC Sunday night: "Imagine if you're out there and you get a note from a Ray Lewis or a Joe Flacco or an Ed Reed. I think that'd be pretty cool.''
5. I think the Giants are the worst home team of any contender in the league. No, I don't think. I know.
6. I think Sunday saved Jim Caldwell. Now maybe the Colts still fire Caldwell after the season, but it would have been nearly impossible for him to come back after an 0-16 season. This, in many ways, was a day the Colts had been waiting for all season -- and the day former first-round pick Donald Brown had been waiting for his entire career. He bulled 16 times for 161 rushing yards, including a Marcus Allen-like 80-yard change-of-direction touchdown run to put the 27-13 verdict over Tennessee out of reach in the fourth quarter.
7. I think the 17 offensive drives by Tampa Bay over two games -- plus the fact that at one point in the last two games the Bucs had allowed 68 straight points -- show why Raheem Morris is in such jeopardy. The defense has regressed hugely, and the offense is right on its heels. The 17 futile drives against Jacksonville and Dallas: punt, punt, fumble, interception, end of half, interceptions, fumble, punt, punt, downs, interceptions, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, end of half.
8. I think the last two weeks are why you don't fire Andy Reid. That, plus the guts of Mike Vick playing hurt.
9. I think it's a good time to be an NFL player. Not just for the money, but for the offseason opportunity. The players have had job-enrichment opportunities such as entrepreneurial sessions at Harvard and Wharton, and a broadcast boot camp at NFL Films. Now they're adding a couple of interesting things in the 2012 offseason. First, a business of music course; players can learn how to manage and run their own labels or bands. And the league will announce this week the NFL Pro Hollywood Boot Camp in April, designed to help players interested in screenwriting, producing, film financing and the business of motion pictures. "Our goal,'' said the NFL's Troy Vincent, "is to provide our players with as many opportunities as possible, so they can judge for themselves what they might want to do when their time in the game is over. Playing football is not a career. We want to help players get ready for life after football.''
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Yes, you probably heard Bob Costas choke up last night on NBC if you were listening to our Football Night in America pregame show. That's because he was paying tribute to a great friend of ours who died of cancer on Friday. Michelle O'Callaghan was the makeup artist for so many shows in New York -- at NBC, at HBO, and at CBS with David Letterman -- and she made me, and many of my peers utterly beautiful in the last few years. We'll miss her terribly. Irreverent, cackling, honest to a fault. Dan Marino was really hit hard by her death. "She's a great girl,'' he said. "She could have been from Pittsburgh.'' Now that's high praise from Marino. I'll always remember her tremendous growing-up-Catholic-in-New York stories -- most of which I cannot repeat here.
b. RIP Christopher Hitchens. The Dr. Z of non-sports journalism.
c. Speaking of Dr. Z: We had a good lunch Wednesday in New Jersey, in Parsippany, and he's in very good physical condition. As I've written, he still cannot communicate 37 months after a series of three strokes quieted his distinctive voice and pen. Matt Millen and I -- and his photographer friend, Artie Snaps, as Zim calls him -- told him stories from the road over a long lunch. Good news for Zim: He still enjoys wine. Better news for Zim: He is married to an angel, Linda. The Flaming Redhead is hanging in and is as devoted a partner as any of us could ever wish to have. I told Zim about how much you all care, and how often you all write to say you miss him. He smiled. Just know your kind words have an impact. Zim's a little different, obviously, more tender than he was, more appreciative of the little things. But you could tell he wishes he still had a forum. When Millen was telling Penn State stories (about the bad Penn State stuff), Zim laughed and ruefully shook his head. It's like he was saying, "I wish I could skewer Jerry Sandusky myself."
d. The Bobcats won a bowl. Congrats, Frank Solich.
e. My Welcome to New York moment last week: Discovered even the scrawny Christmas trees cost $125.
f. Coffeenerdness: Sunday, 11:45 a.m., corner of Madison and 51st, Manhattan, two woman, evidently tourists, staring into an iPhone with a pink cover. One looks at me. "Starbucks,'' she said with a hint of desperation. "Where's a Starbucks?'' I say: "A hundred yards behind us, on this side of the street. Can't miss it.'' They both gasped. "Thank you!'' Sometimes, you just need caffeine.
g. Beernerdness: Tried the Abita Christmas Ale in between working last week in New Orleans. Loved it. Different than normal northeastern Christmas beers with the cloves and nutmeg. But there was an orange taste, and it was the kind of bitter ale I like.
49ers 16, Steelers 13. It looks like Ben Roethlisberger will play despite the sprained ankle. I think Aldon and Justin Smith chase the truly immobile quarterback down early and often in what is going to be a terrific defensive game.
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