1. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:
a. The Washington offensive line, which I have criticized often. Great job enabling Robert Griffin III to make his magic. What a treat a rested Griffin and his mates will be against the Giants, at home, next Monday night.
b. Tom Brady, on pace for 35 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Is it possible he's getting better with age?
c. Adam Merchant, the 15-year-old Make-A-Wish kid who pumped up the Giants with a Friday speech to the team and then appeared in their locker room after that 38-10 rout of the Packers.
d. And the Giants, for making Merchant's appearance -- and his dreams -- come true.
e. Catch of the 1 o'clock Sunday games: Cleveland tight end Benjamin Watson's full-extension dive with Lawrence Timmons in coverage.
f. The NFL, for doling out approximately $187 million in retirement, health and pension benefits over the past 12 months to former players ... and for its 228 approved Parkinson's, ALS and dementia cases, to which $20.5 million has been given since the league's "88 Plan'' was kicked off five years ago. Much work remains to be done. Much work is being done.
g. Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner, for their pick-6s of Drew Brees. San Francisco's defense is the best in football, and those two unsung players are big reasons.
h. Jay Cutler. If we define "value'' in "Most Valuable Player'' as someone whose loss would totally deflate and screw up his team, then Cutler has to be in the running for the award.
i. Brandon Marshall, for his sixth straight season of 1,000 yards receiving.
j. The two bald Colts cheerleaders, particularly ringleader Megan Meadors, the former Miss Indiana. It has to be a pretty big deal for a woman who makes her living at least part due to her looks to shave her head with a jillion cameras and eyes watching. But raising $22,000 for leukemia research, which the cueballing look ensured, was worth it to the women.
k. Chuck Pagano, for touching so many Hoosiers. When he heard about Meadors' plan to shave her head during the Colts' game, he texted Meadors. "It was a pretty lengthy text,'' she said. "The gist of it was that he was thankful for all the support from me and the fans in Indianapolis. He said he came to Indianapolis hoping to build a team based on service and community. He was proud of the way everyone has responded and he wished me and my family a happy Thanksgiving."
l. Who wouldn't want to play for that guy?
m. Chad Henne, for leading a Jags win, their first at home this year. He'd have to royally mess up to not be the Jacksonville quarterback heading into the 2013 offseason.
n. Julio Jones, whose six catches for 147 yards and a vital touchdown for the 10-1 Falcons came on a bum ankle. Jones is making the 2011 megatrade by Thomas Dimitroff look better every week.
o. Knowshon Moreno, who came off the scout team with the injury to Willis McGahee to grind out 85 yards in Kansas City and help the Broncos overcome the stubborn Chiefs defense.
p. C.J. Spiller, 14 for 107. He's electric every week.
q. Indy's defense. In winning five of its last six, the D has allowed 13, 13, 20, 10 and 13 points in the five wins.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 12:
a. The Steeler running backs. All four fumbled in what was easily the most justified team loss of Sunday.
b. Rex Ryan's logic after the 49-19 loss to New England Thursday. He tells his coordinators he doesn't want them to play Tim Tebow, then says Tebow (two broken ribs) was "100 percent available." I'm not getting that. Wonder if Woody Johnson is.
c. Great Carson Palmer trade, Raiders. I like the headline I saw somewhere during the night about Bengals assistant Hue Jackson "taking the high road'' after the Bengals wiped out the team he head-coached last year, Oakland. What? Jackson got fired from the Raiders, in part because he overpaid (first- and second-round picks for Palmer) for a quarterback and went 4-6 after acquiring him. What high road exactly would he be taking?
d. Worst pass interference call I've seen in a while, on Antoine Winfield of the Vikings, saying he interfered with the clear interferer, Brandon Marshall, in the end zone at Chicago.
e. Wait! Even worse was Randy Moss yanking down Malcolm Jenkins in full view of the world in the end zone at New Orleans, and a blind official seeing nothing. Horrendous non-call.
f. Indy cornerback Darius Butler, for biting on the Stevie Johnson double-move, giving up a huge gainer.
g. Catch the easy interception, Asante Samuel. But I can't kill Samuel too much, because he played hurt down the stretch when his Falcons desperately needed him.
h. Josh Freeman's overthrow of a wide-open Mike Williams.
i. The Norv Turners, scoring three points in the last 59 minutes of another crushing loss.
j. The Packers, for whatever that was at the Meadowlands Sunday night.
3. I think the league overreacted, and that's putting it mildly, by censoring Rich Eisen's interview with Oscar favorite Bradley Cooper and yanking it from Eisen's Thanksgiving special on NFL Network. "The segment was pulled because the movie included content related to gambling on NFL games," the statement from NFL Network said.
Cooper stars in Silver Linings Playbook, a movie about a bipolar Philadelphia Eagles fan who returns home to live with his parents to help him handle his mental illness. His father, played by Robert DeNiro, is a part-time, small-time bookie. None of Eisen's questions, and none of Cooper's answers, concerned gambling on NFL games.
Three points. First, Eisen's interview with Cooper would have gotten zero attention in this column and scant attention elsewhere had it aired, but banning it pushed it to the top of the New York Post's infamous Page Six gossip column Friday morning and made the NFL look small and paranoid.
Second, Cooper is one of the biggest stars in America. Eisen's podcasts and specials get some big stars talking about how much they love the NFL. I'm sure Cooper talked about growing up loving the Eagles, and building the brand that Eisen is trying to build, of the NFL as a paragon of entertainment that people in show business and politics and power all love. Now see if Cooper wants to do anything with the NFL again.
Third, the NFL can't sanitize life. I would bet (oops; bad word choice) that a father or two of a prominent NFL player is an inveterate gambler, and puts down money on NFL games. I bet NFL players go to Vegas in the offseason and put a few bucks down on horses and games. It's America.
4. I think, by the way, there isn't a more pro-NFL guy on TV than Eisen, and he can do it without seeming like a total house man. That's a great skill to have. And what the NFL has done, essentially, is to say to Eisen, who is the league's Brian Williams: We don't trust you. If I'm Eisen, I'm furious.
5. I think these sound like the top five college coaching candidates for NFL head coaching jobs, per chats with front office people in the last two weeks (in order):
1. Chip Kelly, Oregon
2. David Shaw, Stanford
3. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (even coming off the bad season at Iowa, he's well-respected in the NFL)
5. Doug Marrone, Syracuse.
I didn't include Bill O'Brien of Penn State because (and call me na´ve) I can't see him preaching love of, and loyalty to, Penn State, and then leaving after 12 months. But never say never in this business.
6. I think these sound like the top 10 NFL assistants who will get sniffs for head coaching jobs in the league next year (in order):
1. Mike McCoy, Denver offensive coordinator
2. Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati defensive coordinator
3. Vic Fangio, San Francisco defensive coordinator
4. Perry Fewell, Giants defensive coordinator
5. Dirk Koetter, Atlanta offensive coordinator
6. Dave Toub, Chicago special teams coordinator
7. Bruce Arians, Indianapolis interim head coach/offensive coordinator
8. Ray Horton, Arizona defensive coordinator
9. Kyle Shanahan, Washington offensive coordinator
10. Clyde Christensen, Indianapolis quarterbacks coach.
7. I think the most curious decision of the week came from appeals officer Ted Cottrell, who cut the Ed Reed discipline from a one-game suspension and a $423,000 fine to no suspension and a $50,000 fine. Cottrell said he didn't think Reed's helmet-to-helmet hit on Emmanuel Sanders was serious enough to merit the suspension and fine. Then Cottrell called Reed's hit "egregious.'' The definition of "egregious," according to Merriam-Webster, is "conspicuously bad; flagrant." If Cottrell thought the hit was conspicuously bad and flagrant, why in the world did he eliminate the suspension and cut the fine by 88 percent? How is that justice?
8. I think the Steelers, normally among the smartest two or three teams in the league in player personnel, need to answer this question: Why are you backing up a perennially beaten-up quarterback with Byron Leftwich, a very slow 32-year-old quarterback, and Charlie Batch, a soon-to-be-38-year-old quarterback?
Isn't it logical to think that, among starters in the league, Ben Roethlisberger has a better-than-average chance of needing a replacement during the year? Maybe the long-term younger backup is Brian Hoyer, who the Steelers signed last week. But Steelers football czar Kevin Colbert needs to find someone so Pittsburgh won't have two old and/or slow backups.
9. I think, for all of you Fireman Ed fans, put some black crepe paper over the this column today. Ed Anzalone, the longtime Jets mascot who does the J-E-T-S chant in the stands, writes in the free paper Metro that, "I decided to leave [the Jets-Pats game before halftime] Thursday because the confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common, even though most Jets fans are fantastic. This is an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another ... I will attend games as usual, just not as Fireman Ed.'' Well, I sure am glad we got that straight.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. So long, Larry Hagman. You were a fixture on Friday nights in the King family house -- and in millions of others -- as J.R. Ewing.
b. Controversial: Mike Florio says he was bored by Lincoln. I have to carve out three hours, and soon, to see it.
c. Black Friday. One of the lightest traffic days of the year, because I had to drive quite a bit Friday. Can't figure that one out.
d. Dope that I am, I never heard of "Cyber Monday" until Friday.
e. Congrats, Toronto Argonauts, for the Grey Cup win, the 100th Canadian Football League championship game. Argos 35, Stampeders 22. You can be sure Doug Flutie was there, and received a standing ovation. One of the fun things about working with Flutie at NBC these days is listening to his stories about the CFL.
f. Congrats, Notre Dame. Of all the crazy things you could have said 12 months ago, the craziest might have been this: Notre Dame will be universally ranked No. 1 in the country at the end of the 2012 regular season and will play Team X for the BCS National Championship. And it's not online yet (Wednesday it will be), but take time to read Tim Layden's SI magazine story about the rise of the Irish. Really a great history lesson.
g. I really want to see the Civil War in Oregon one day.
h. My Bobcats sank like stones, didn't they? Still think Nick Saban quakes at the thought of facing the mighty men of Solich.
i. Florence Norman has been born. One piece of advice, Flo: Don't listen to a word your grandfather says about rooting for the Yankees. It's the wrong thing to do.
j. Coffeenerdness: Daughter Mary Beth is visiting, and I'm proud to say I've got her on the espresso trail. Her drink of choice: a quad (four-shot) grande Americano. Chip off the old block, that girl.
k. Beernerdness: Thanks, Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.) for making your White beer available throughout Manhattan. I don't like it as much as Allagash White, but any port in a storm when you're jonesing for some Belgian beer is a good thing.
l. So good to see Christie Werder, daughter of ESPN's Ed Werder, as such a good soldier battling brain cancer, and good of the Dallas Morning News' Barry Horn to write about itso movingly.
Siebert wrote an incredibly enlightening story about the life of an end-of-the-roster NFL player, Atlanta linebacker Pat Schiller, for the New York Times Sunday magazine this week. So much about the profile is moving and beautifully written and heartfelt and portrays the requisite desperation of an undrafted free agent trying to make a roster. Siebert could write that way, because he is Schiller's uncle.
He wrote of being in Schiller's apartment during this season and seeing the area where he kept his medicines. "I noticed that the dresser was topped with all manner of balms, unguents and painkilling medications: a 23-year-old with the medicine cabinet of a septuagenarian. Somehow, it was only then that I felt the full weight of what my nephew had managed to pull off: the ridiculous odds he overcame; all the excellent players he beat out. I suddenly felt more like one of his hometown acolytes than an uncle to a kid who grew up a thousand miles and, in terms of life experiences and career pursuits, a world away from me. A kid I only came to know at this juncture because he is so good at a game that I, like millions of others, so love to watch.
"'Dude,' he said, as I stood staring at his dresser. "I swear to God, if someone tells me right now there's some miracle body cream out there that would make me feel 100 percent and prevent me from getting hurt but that could also cause cancer or liver damage down the line, I'd use it in a heartbeat. I would."
You will fly through this story, I guarantee it. Siebert has made a great contribution to the football landscape. He's explained so well what so many marginal players, hundreds of them, go through every spring, summer and fall.
Regarding tonight's game, I have Philadelphia 21, Carolina 17. In a battle of endangered coaches, it's not going to do Ron Rivera much good to lose to a team that hasn't won a game in October or November. Not to make you feel worse, Eagles fans (is that possible?), but how about this for offensive frustration: Games scoring 25 points or more in 2012 -- New England 9, Philadelphia 0.
Looks like I misjudged the lad.
Chiefs sound good, Alex?