Former Lions running back Barry Sanders put himself on Ebay this week, auctioning off the “pleasure of his company” at Super Bowl parties to the highest bidder.
For sale: Barry Sanders at your Super Bowl party
The Cowboys have secured a spot in the playoffs and a win over the Giants this weekend will assure them a division title with the possibility of clinching home field throughout the NFC playoffs on the table as well.
Even if things remain up in the air on those fronts into Week 15, the Cowboys are heavy favorites to wind up with both of those notches on their belts. That’s led to some discussion about how the team would handle the final week or weeks of the season in terms of resting starters.
During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, owner Jerry Jones said it would be business as usual. Jones said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the team is not planning to rest healthy starters, which fits with earlier proclamations about running back Ezekiel Elliott’s workload.
In addition to Elliott, there’s been some question about whether the Cowboys would try to get Tony Romo some playing time in order to help him be ready should starting quarterback Dak Prescott get knocked out of a game. Jones said they want Romo to be ready, so there may be some rest for at least one starter for at least some of what’s left in the regular season even if all is fine physically.
For decades, drunk guys at sporting events have decided that it would be a good idea to take their drunk-guy asses onto the field and run around. For decades, TV networks have refused to broadcast those images.
Why is that? I mean, I know why — the networks don’t want to encourage similar behavior. But why do they care? And why do they think that people who see drunk guys run on the field will suddenly aspire to go to a game, get drunk, and run around on the field?
On Monday night, it happened again. And while Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden had no qualms about discussing it, ESPN refused to show it.
Meanwhile, every fan in attendance had the ability to record the incident with their phones and post it on social media. And some did.
So maybe the time has come for the networks to revisit an outdated policy that never made much sense and broadcast the game authentically, showing the fans at home everything that 60,000 or so fans can not only see but also individually broadcast. Maybe seeing the images of the drunk guy getting leveled by security won’t encourage more to do the same; maybe indisputable visual evidence of the outcome will be a deterrent.
Regardless, there’s no reason to shield the at-home audience from it.
When the Patriots won on Sunday, it was their 201st win with Tom Brady as their starting quarterback, the most for any quarterback in NFL history. But it’s a former Brady teammate who has been a part of the most winning games for any player at any position in NFL history.
The Colts’ win on Monday night was the 219th time in his career that kicker Adam Vinatieri has been on the winning team, counting both the regular season and the postseason. Via stats compiled by a Reddit user and Pro Football Reference, that breaks the previous record of 218 owned by George Blanda, the Hall of Fame kicker and quarterback who played an NFL record 26 seasons.
A kicker doesn’t make as big a difference as a quarterback, and so Vinatieri’s wins record doesn’t garner as much attention as Brady’s. But it’s still an impressive reminder of Vinatieri’s longevity, and of the fact that Vinatieri has played almost exclusively on good teams, dating back to his rookie season in 1996, when he was on a Bill Parcells-coached Patriots team that went to the Super Bowl.
After Vinatieri and Blanda, the next-most wins belong to longtime kicker Gary Anderson, who was on the winning team 212 times. Jerry Rice has the most wins for a non-kicker, at 210, and Brady is fifth among all NFL players at 201.
Brady will likely surpass Rice and Anderson next season, and perhaps Blanda, too. Whether he catches Vinatieri depends primarily on whether Vinatieri retires before Brady does. At the moment, they both look ageless.
The Chargers lost their seventh game of the season last Sunday when the Buccaneers came back from being down 21-17 entering the fourth quarter for a 28-21 win.
It’s the fifth time this season that San Diego has let a lead slip away in the fourth quarter of a game and it makes the playoffs little more than a pipe dream. That combination has some wondering if coach Mike McCoy will be back next season.
McCoy, who is under contract for 2017, guided the Chargers to the playoffs in his first season and the team went 9-7 again in 2014, but they are 9-19 since then and the late-game meltdowns aren’t a good look for a coach. McCoy was asked about his job status on Monday and said other things are more pressing.
“I’m worried about Carolina right now,” McCoy said, via the Associated Press. “That is all I’m concerned about. We have to find a way to go win this one. We got to find a way to go out there and don’t turn the ball over, be more consistent in all three phases, finish the game and win. That is all we are concerned about right now is to get a win on the road. We will deal with everything else down the road.”
One factor that could play into the Chargers’ decision at coach is what they plan to do about their option to move to Los Angeles. There’s a January 15 deadline to decide to bunk with the Rams at their forthcoming stadium and the team may opt to handle things differently from the Rams, who agreed to an extension with coach Jeff Fisher despite a dismal record while citing the difficulties of moving to a new home.
54-year-old Ronald Gasser initially wasn’t charged after killing former NFL running back Joe McKnight. That apparently has changed.
Via the New Orleans Advocate, Gasser has been jailed on one count of manslaughter.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand will hold a press conference at 11:00 a.m. ET regarding the situation. A Normand press conference from four days ago created a strong impression that Gasser may not be charged, given Louisiana laws that recognize justifiable homicide in certain specific situations.
Newell also disclosed a clear conflict of interest for his department: The man who raised McKnight previously worked as a deputy in Normand’s department. It’s unclear what, if anything, Newell or his department did to ensure that the potential bias has not been a factor, one way or the other, in decisions made about Gasser.
It’s also unclear whether prosecutors will choose to take the case to trial. In most situations, the decision hinges on whether prosecutors believe they will win. In this case, given strong criticism of “stand your ground” laws, maybe the prosecution will be required to roll the dice with a jury.
If nothing else, the message to anyone else who may be inclined to shoot first and ask questions later will be that avoiding criminal liability won’t be easy or automatic, and that a shooter will still have to spend thousands of dollars defending against the charges and weeks if not months of worrying about a possible conviction.
The Lions have parlayed a relatively short injury list to the division lead this season, but they’re apparently lost a key defensive player.
Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions nickel cornerback Quandre Diggs will miss the rest of the season with a pectoral injury. The team announced it as a shoulder during Sunday’s win over the Saints.
The 2015 sixth-rounder had found a spot as their third corner, and started four games this year. He was replaced by rookie Adairius Barnes.
The Lions have lost just one starter to IR so far this season — running back Ameer Abdullah — which is a big factor in their being 8-4 at the moment.
The soon-to-be 37-year-old Peppers is heading into the final month of his contract with the Packers, and admitted he’s been giving thought to playing again next year.
“I’m not saying that I don’t want to play next year,” Peppers said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I’m not saying that I do. I’m just saying that right now, I don’t know. And I’ll figure it out at some point.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen between now and February.”
Finishing up his 15th NFL season, Peppers just passed Michael Strahan on the all-time sack list, and has 142.5. Next up is Chris Doleman at 150.5, and nothing Peppers has shown this season suggests reaching that level’s inconceivable.
Peppers admitted he “reflected a little bit on it,” after Sunday’s win over the Texans, realizing his place in football history. For a guy who was just hoping to get to 100 sacks when he was drafted second overall by the Panthers in 2002, he has surpassed every expectation. Now, he’s looking for meaning.
“It’s all about how I feel,” he said. “How one feels, and having a purpose to do it. Obviously, you know what the purpose is — the Super Bowl and all that stuff — but even without that. What’s the purpose? If the season ends, I don’t have a contract obviously, and if nobody calls and nobody says anything — which I don’t think will be the case — but I’ve got to sit back and figure out if I really want to play and if I do, why? And I don’t know. I don’t know.
“I feel like if I wanted to play, that I could. Yeah, I could, for sure.”
He’s had a sack in each of his last three games, and considering the market for guys who can do that, he should find offers. It’s just a matter of where, and for how long.
The Patriots defense has shown signs of improvement the last two weeks.
The Steelers defense has been a strength in recent weeks.
The Jaguars turn the ball over too much and don’t make enough big plays on offense.
The Chiefs expect it to be cold for Thursday night’s game.
The Raiders are doing well in Pro Bowl voting.
A look at the Chargers’ fourth quarter issues.
It’s desperation time for the Redskins.
The Lions liked the “productive paranoia” of last week’s practices.
The Panthers got some time off after their extended road trip.
The Buccaneers are thin at receiver.
Will the Cardinals make a change at punter?
A strong finish would be a good thing for Rams coach Jeff Fisher.
Pride’s about the only thing left for the 49ers to play for this season.
During a Monday appearance on NFL Network, Cruz was more specific about who he planned to talk to about the situation and said he would have a conversation with head coach Ben McAdoo. McAdoo said he welcomes such a chat and pointed to the team’s overall ineffectiveness on offense as a reason why a receiver going without a look is an issue for the second straight week.
“When you have been as inconsistent as we have on offense, it’s a challenge,” McAdoo said in a conference call. “Victor, like everybody else, including myself, wants to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So my door is always open for any of these guys that want to come in and have a conversation.”
During an appearance on WFAN Monday, Manning said there were plays that had Cruz as a lead option but that he wound up going elsewhere when the play unfurled. That suggests Cruz isn’t getting open, which is a reminder that the questions we ask don’t always come with the answers we want.
Browns coach Hue Jackson said he isn’t ready to publicly name a starter for this weekend’s game against the Bengals, but most speculation about who will get the nod is centered on Robert Griffin III.
Griffin has been practicing for a little while and is expected to be formally restored to the 53-man roster this week so that he can make his second start of the season. His first resulted in the broken bone in his left shoulder that landed him on injured reserve, which leaves him eager to “give the team as much of a spark as I possibly can.”
Griffin said Monday that he is in the dark about Jackson’s plans for this week, but that he wants to be part of them beyond the end of this season regardless of the choice for Week 14.
“I don’t know, coach could wait until Sunday,” Griffin said, via Cleveland.com. “That’s why he’s got the HC on his hat and we all trust him in this locker room. I trust him, and it’s just a matter of do they feel I’m ready to play or do they feel like I need to take some more time. So whatever their decision is, I’ll be OK with it because I’m here to be a Cleveland Brown. I’m here to help this team, not just these last four weeks but into the future.”
Griffin knows that future isn’t guaranteed and admitted that “the world could end tomorrow” while discussing the uncertainty of what’s ahead. He was waxing philosophical at that moment, but playing behind the 2016 Browns offensive line has felt that way on more than one occasion.
Washington’s coming off a tough road loss with more injuries to deal with, but at least they’re getting their best offensive lineman back this week.
Backup Ty Nsekhe has played well in his absence, and Williams has plugged in at guard before when injuries forced their hand, but coach Jay Gruden isn’t going to fiddle with things now.
“The plan moving ahead with him is he’s our starting tackle, and he’s the best in the business,” Gruden said of Williams. “So we’re excited to get him back.”
Center Spencer Long is in the league’s concussion protocol. He was replaced Sunday in Arizona by John Sullivan. There’s a chance of activating Kory Lichtensteiger from IR if they need another body there, but they’ll need to find another center regardless.
And tight end Jordan Reed’s status is also up in the air because of his shoulder injury, creating plenty of uncertainty as Washington pushes for a Wild Card berth. They’re 1-4 in the five games Reed has missed with injury the last two seasons.
If you’re a Jets fan looking for a silver lining this morning, well, there isn’t really one. Your team stinks.
But as we’d rather light a candle than curse your darkness, we can point out that they are moving closer to securing a top-five spot in the 2017 NFL Draft order thanks to last night’s loss and the Bears’ epic win over the 49ers.
If the season ended today, the 0-12 Browns (of course) would still pick first, followed by the 1-11 49ers and the 2-10 Jaguars. The 3-9 Jets and Bears are deadlocked (no, really, that’s a perfect word) at 3-9, and have the same strength of schedule number at the moment so they’d flip for the fourth and fifth picks.
They’d be followed by the Titans (enjoying that Rams pick), the Panthers, Bengals, Saints, and Chargers in the top 10.
Also, if the season ended today, people would say “Why on Tuesday?”
When a possibly bad team beats an indisputably wretched one, it’s easy to roll your eyes when the winner starts to puff out his chest.
But in the case of the Colts, it’s legitimate, as improving to 6-6 has them in great position to win the AFC South.
Oh, at the moment, there’s a three-way tie for the division lead, with Houston and Tennessee. But after dismantling the Jets last night, the Colts are feeling like it’s theirs for the taking.
“It’s December football — we wanted to start fast and take the crowd out of the game,” Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said, via Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star. “And we didn’t want to take our foot off the gas.”
The Colts own a tiebreaker over the Titans via head-to-head sweep. The Texans beat the Colts the first time through, but a Colts win this week would give them a one-game advantage in the standings with three to play.
The Texans have lost three straight (though they’re apparently on the verge of greatness or something), but after the Colts game they get to close with home games against the Jaguars and Bengals before going to Tennessee.
The Colts finish with potentially tricky road trips to Minnesota and Oakland before hosting Jacksonville to finish, so on paper it’s a tougher way to end the season.
The Titans have games remaining with the Broncos, at the Chiefs and Jaguars and the home finale with the Texans.
“Everything is right there in front of us,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
And while it’s not the most glamorous division in football, one of them is getting invited to the party at the end of the season, and at the moment, it looks like the Colts have the best chance.
The Jets, flexed out of prime time a week earlier, got a stand-alone close-up on Monday night. And it wasn’t pretty.
“For the first time this year, we got our ass handed to us,” coach Todd Bowles told reporters after the 41-10 loss to the Colts, the biggest win by the Colts over the Jets since a 52-19 victory in 1975 . . . in Baltimore. “That’s very disappointing from a physical standpoint. . . .
“I thought they kicked our ass. I don’t think we had a lot of effort. I’ll see the film. I’m sure there are some people who showed up, but for the most part, we got our ass kicked. . . . It’s very troubling when you get your ass kicked.”
To his credit, Bowles made no excuses nor deflected blame: “All of it falls on me. I’m the head coach.”
So is Bowles concerned that his second year with the Jets will be his last?
“No,” Bowles said. “You know your job is in jeopardy when you take one of these jobs.”
That matter-of-fact calm demeanor has been one of Bowles’ strengths. With the season, and perhaps his job, crumbling, it could quickly becomes a liability — because it may send a message he doesn’t really care as much as he should.
And he should seem to care more than he does. The calls for Bowles to be fired have begun; Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, for example, writes that it’s time for Bowles to go.
“Why give him a third year when 28 games into his head coaching career he has proven he’s not the right man to end the Jets nearly half-century Super Bowl drought?” Myers writes. “No need to make a bad situation even worse. This is a multi-billion dollar business and you can’t give away seasons.”
Of course, that same argument could be made in the direction of Bowles’ boss. And the question becomes whether owner Woody Johnson would blow out G.M. Mike Maccagnan along with Bowles, or whether Maccagnan — the man who has assembled the quarterback clusterfudge that has delivered nothing this year — should get a chance to both hire a coach and find a competent signal-caller.
One major factor in the final analysis surely will be the instant success the Giants have realized by making big changes after the 2015 season.
That same season brought so much hope for the Jets after they nearly qualified for the playoffs. This year, they’ve been eliminated with four games to play.
One of those games will be played in 11 days on NFL Network, at home against the Dolphins. The Just End the Season season then ends in Week 17 with a visit from Rex Ryan and the Bills.
At this point, the question may not be whether Bowles is fired at the end of the season, but whether he even makes it through the final 25 percent of it.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher took some criticism yesterday when he said, “We’re on a record-setting pace with our punt team.” For the coach of one of the worst teams in the league to boast about punting doesn’t sit well with some football fans.
But here’s the thing: Rams punter Johnny Hekker really is having a great season. He’s having perhaps the greatest season of any punter in NFL history.
Net punting average is the single most important stat to use to evaluate a punter, and by that measure Hekker is having the best season ever, and it’s not even close. Hekker is already the only punter in NFL history to finish a season with a net average of over 44 yards, setting the league record for net punting average at 44.2 yards in 2013,. But this year Hekker isn’t just over 44 yards, he’s over 45 yards: If he stays at his current pace of 45.8 yards, he’ll obliterate his own record.
And Hekker is consistently putting opposing teams in bad field position: He already has 40 punts inside the 20-yard line this season, by far the most in the league and within striking distance of the NFL record of 46. At his current pace, Hekker will finish the season with 53 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Perhaps most amazingly, Hekker is nailing all those punts inside the 20 without kicking any too far: He has just one touchback this season. A ratio of 40 punts inside the 20 to one touchback is preposterous.
So laugh if you must at Fisher propping up his punting team. But know this: Fisher’s punter is having the best punting season ever.