We’ve moved the Friday 10-pack to Thursday, since posting it on Thursday puts the Thanksgiving games in play for our 10 takes regarding the coming weekend of games.
I also needed to get it done early because I’ll be spending Thursday night preparing to host The Dan Patrick Show on Friday, a process which may look a lot like achieving and maintaining a turkey-induced stupor. Primarily because that’s precisely what it will be.
1. At least the NFL tried to give us good games on Thanksgiving.
Every year, complaints arise regarding the quality of the games played on the fourth Thursday in November. This year, the NFL did something about it.
Though the Lions continue to have a hammerlock on the early game, the NFL picked the Patriots to be the visiting team. (Because CBS will televise the game, the road team had to be from the AFC; this year, the choices were the Jets and the Patriots. Either way, a quality opponent would have been pegged for the game.)
For the afternoon contest, the NFL earmarked a game that, as of April, looked to be one of the 10 best of the year — Saints at Cowboys. Though the Cowboys’ struggles have made the game less intriguing, the NFL opted not to take advantage of its captive audience by offering up the weakest home game on the Dallas schedule. (Then again, the Lions already were booked.)
The night game — Bengals at Jets — also looked as of April to be a potentially great game, given that the Bengals and Jets both made the playoffs in 2009. Who knew that the Bengals would be after 10 games The 2-Ocho Show?
Short of moving Thanksgiving to September, the risk that games that looked great in April will be relevant in November applies to every NFL season. All we can ask is that the NFL attempt to provide quality games.
Even if the Lions and Cowboys would lose their automatic home games, there’s no way of knowing that the games picked prior to the season will involve quality teams by the time the games are played. What if the Vikings had “earned” a home game on Thanksgiving as a result of their 2009 performance? Or the 49ers, based on the widespread belief that they’d be much improved in 2010?
In April, every season is a crapshoot. At least the NFL has finally decided to shoot for something other than crap on Thanksgiving.
2. Favre could thrive under Frazier.
The decision of Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier to keep brett Favre at quarterback makes sense. Frazier will earn the job for 2011 only by winning games, and Farve at quarterback gives Frazier the best chance to do that.
The Vikings don’t need to know what Tarvaris Jackson can do; he had relevance only when a change of quarterbacks may have belped salvage a playoff berth. And Frazier has no interest in developing Joe Webb to become the possible starter for the next regime.
So what of the notion that Favre will continue to produce more turnovers than a baker on an IV full of Red Bull? Without former coach Brad Childress peering over Favre’s shoulder and constantly telling him what to do and what not to do, it’s entirely possible that Favre will perform better.
Even though reeling off six in a row likely won’t be enough to edge out one of the three-loss teams currently in position to take both of the wild-card spots, a strong finish to the season would partially rehab Favre’s fading legacy — and it would give Frazier a fighter’s chance at keeping the job. Having Childress out of the picture will make if easier for Favre to just relax and play.
3. Delhomme’s revenge.
Earlier this year, the Carolina Panthers discarded quarterback Jake Delhomme like an empty bottle of screw-top wine. And for good reason. Ever since the completion of the 2008 regular season, Delhomme had been playing like a guy whose Gatorade had been spiked with a full bottle of screw-top wine.
On Sunday, Delhomme will get his first start since Week One, due to Colt McCoy’s ankle sprain. Coincidentally, that start will come against the Carolina Panthers.
So the game will provide Delhomme with a shot at redemption, a chance to prove the Panthers wrong.
Then again, given that Delhomme received a contract worth $20 million guaranteed before the 2009 season, it’s the Panthers that should be thinking about revenge.
Either way, the link gives a sliver of meaning to an otherwise meaningless game.
4. It’s getting no easier for Mike Vick.
If the Eagles and quarterback Mike Vick struggle at Soldier Field on Sunday, it’ll be easy to blame the Sports Illustrated jinx, given that he graces the magazine’s cover this week. But we’re not much for jinxes, unless the person to be jinxed allows himself to think that the jinx exists.
For Vick, the bigger concern should be opposing defenses studying ever bit of tape from his performances to date, building on game plans that slowed him down and trying to devise the one tactic that will shut him down and/or knock him out.
Though the Bears present the latest challenge, a pair of games against the Cowboys, a rematch with the Giants, and a date with the Vikings remain. With each passing week, defenses will be trying even harder to be the team that solves the Vick riddle, preferably by putting him back on the injury report.
Look for the Bears, mired in a seven-quality-teams-but-only-five-spots chase for the postseason, to pull out all the stops.
5. Monday night loser could still be alive.
Thanksgiving weekend wraps up with a Monday night game between the 49ers and Cardinals. It presents a rare stinker on ESPN’s 2010 slate. But it’s not as bad as it appears, if we ignore the fact that each team has a record of 3-7.
If the 5-5 Seahawks lose on Sunday against the Chiefs, the loser of Monday night’s game will remain only two games out of first place with five games to play.
Sure, the loser will be a woeful 3-8. But if we can get past that won-loss record, the reality is that the loser can still get hot in December and steal the division and reset its record to 0-0 in the single-elimination tournament that will commence with the NFC West champion hosting a playoff game.
6. In Atlanta, home-field advantage possibly hangs in the balance.
The game of the week undoubtedly occurs in the Georgia Dome, where the red-hot Packers take on the red-hot Falcons.
Under quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have won 18 games and lost only one at home. Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have scored a total of 76 points in consecutive games against the Cowboys and Vikings.
The Packers are more than a good offense; their defense has allowed only 10 points in three games, including the pitching of a shutout of the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
With these two teams destined to play beyond January 2, this game will go a long way toward determining where the second game may occur. And regardless of what happens this time around, the location of a January rematch will have a lot to do with its potential outcome.
7. Keep an eye on Tom Brady’s foot.
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has no qualms when it comes to talking about his injuries. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is more apt to talk about his hair.
And so it’s impossible to know the exact diagnosis of and prognosis for Brady’s current foot injury, which caused him to miss practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and to be listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, a rare departure from his usual designation as probable.
Sporting a defensive line that could give the Patriots flashbacks to Super Bowl XLII and a Detroit team that is otherwise irrelevant in NFL circles, it’ll be interesting to see whether these Lions use their rare national spotlight as an occasion to roar, by pouncing on Brady’s bum foot.
8. Colts are suddenly in trouble.
If the season ended today, the Colts’ season would be over. And while they’ll play four of their final six games at home, the Colts face the prospect of missing the playoffs — and of winning fewer than 10 games — for the first time since Jim Mora refused to use the “P” word.
The slide very well could continue on Sunday night, when the surging Chargers come to town. The Chargers have played the Colts well in recent years, providing Indy with a consistent thorn in their side.
And while both of the quarterbacks have had to overcome injuries to their supporting cast on offense, the Chargers are getting healthy a lot faster than the Colts. And the Chargers will have receiver Vincent Jackson back, for the first time all year.
It could spell trouble once again for the Colts. At 6-5, the Colts would have to make like the Chargers and finish strong in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.
9. Bucs get their chance to impress.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have handled every team they’ve faced, with the exception of the three elite franchises they’ve played — the Steelers, Saints, and Falcons.
This weekend, the Bucs draw the Ravens. On the road.
On paper, this is another game that Tampa should lose. If the Bucs find a way to win, it’ll be time to take this team seriously.
Actually, it’s already time to take this team seriously. With upcoming games against the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks, 10 wins could be in the offing. With the Ravens, Falcons, and Saints also on the docket, victory in any one of those games will help the Bucs do the unthinkable — nailing down coach of the year honors for Raheem Morris, and possibly executive of the year recognition for Mark Dominik. With a roster devoid of pricey veterans, the Bucs are one of the few teams that is playing like a true team.
10. Chargers are following form, and will likely continue to do so.
After the Chargers lost five of their first seven games, we said (one or twice, or more often) that the team eventually would try to follow a slow start with a fast finish — and fail.
But the Chargers have shown that they can do it again, reeling off three wins and moving to within a game of first place in the AFC West. And they’ll likely continue their climb to the playoffs.
Where they’ll likely lose in one of the first two rounds.
While, as mentioned above, they match up well with the Colts, the Chargers eventually would face the Patriots, Jets, Ravens, or Steelers. And with five losses already in the standings, the Chargers will have to take their pass-first offense to an open-air stadium in the Northeast. In the middle of January.
Moving forward, and as our friend Scott Caplan of XX 1090 in San Diego pointed out during our weekly Wednesday morning radio visit, the Chargers should redouble their efforts to figure out why they can’t win more games in September and October. If they could emerge into November and December with a better record, they’d be able to force some of the other elite teams to San Diego in January.
Hey, at least the Chargers wouldn’t have to face a long flight home after losing.