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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

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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.

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Wilson thinks NFL fines for Marshawn are excessive

wilsonmarshawn AP

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the NFL’s golden boys, a player who conducts himself in public exactly the way the league wants. But if Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has a different approach, Wilson thinks that’s fine.

Wilson said he thinks the fines that the NFL has threatened Lynch with are excessive. All Wilson cares about is that Lynch is a good teammate.

“There’s times I don’t think he should be fined, that’s for sure, especially to the extent that people try to fine him for,” Wilson said. “That’s just my honest opinion. I think the guy loves the game, people love the way he is, and sometimes people try to take certain things away from people, the way they are. I don’t know. I don’t think he should be fined for it, personally.”

Lynch has risked fines this week both for spending only five minutes a day in the presence of reporters and for wearing his own Beast Mode hats rather than NFL-authorized gear. It wouldn’t be surprising if the NFL ends up fining Lynch so much that he actually loses money for appearing in the Super Bowl. That sounds ridiculous to Wilson — and surely to many NFL players who think the NFL is too heavy-handed in its practice of fining players.

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Austin Collie joins CFL’s B.C. Lions

Austin Collie AP

Austin Collie is headed to the Canadian Football League.

Collie, the former Colts, 49ers and Patriots wide receiver, has signed with the British Columbia Lions, the team said Thursday.

A Hamilton, Ontario native, the 29-year-old Collie has caught 179 passes for 1,908 yards and 13 TDs in five NFL seasons, with the bulk of his experience with Indianapolis from 2009 through 2012. He also had stints with San Francisco and New England in 2013, catching four passes for 57 yards in the 2013 AFC title game with the Patriots. Collie did not play for an NFL club in 2014.

Collie endured multiple significant injuries in his Colts career, missing extended time in 2010 because of a concussion and nearly all of 2012 because of a patellar tendon tear.

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NFL didn’t log the PSI of each Patriots football

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What was the precise PSI of each of the 12 footballs the Patriots’ offense used in the AFC Championship Game? We’ll probably never know.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed today that the NFL didn’t log the exact PSI of each football. According to Blandino, when officials inspect footballs to see if they’re properly inflated, they simply approve them or disapprove them.

In other words, although the Patriots did play with under-inflated footballs, the NFL hasn’t kept detailed records of whether those footballs were slightly under-inflated (which could be the result of a change in temperature) or significantly under-inflated (which would indicate that someone purposely let air out of the footballs).

The NFL will apply a low standard of proof to the Deflategate investigation, which means that the NFL doesn’t necessarily need an air-tight case to conclude that the Patriots broke the rules. But anyone who wants the NFL to get to the bottom of this should want the NFL to be as careful as it possibly can to preserve every piece of evidence it possibly can. And a detailed log of the inflation levels of each football is a piece of evidence the NFL should have.

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Earl Thomas apparently angry about random HGH test

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability Getty Images

The Seahawks have found something else to be aggravated with the NFL about.

Safety Earl Thomas posted a tweet this morning about being tested for HGH, and some of his teammates aren’t too pleased about it.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, Thomas wouldn’t elaborate today, but another Seahawks player told him: “We are being treated like criminals, tested like people on parole.”

The league began testing in October, and they tested six players from eight randomly selected teams each week.

So while Thomas might have just coincidentally been on the list for this week, he and his teammates certainly don’t see it that way.

 

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Jonathan Dwyer placed on probation after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct

Jonathan Dwyer AP

Running back Jonathan Dwyer saw his 2014 season come to an early end when the Cardinals placed him on the non-football illness list following an arrest related to an incident with his wife in September.

The legal matters stemming from that arrest came to an end this week when Dwyer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct in Maricopa County, Arizona. Maricopa County Superior Court spokesman Vincent Funari said, via the Associated Press, that Dwyer has been sentenced to 18 months of probation and community service as a result of the plea.

Dwyer was originally facing a felony count of aggravated assault and other misdemeanor charges before the plea as a result of the incident, which allegedly featured Dwyer head butting his wife in the face and breaking her nose.

The NFL could discipline Dwyer as well, although it’s not clear how much of a playing future Dwyer has ahead of him given his mediocre on-field production at a position where teams have proven adept at finding productive players on a regular basis.

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Lions have proposed expanding replay to cover penalty calls

Cowboys take down Lions; head to Green Bay next Getty Images

The Lions lost to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the playoffs in a game that featured officials picking up a flag for pass interference on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens in the fourth quarter.

That decision helped keep the door open for Dallas to win the game and NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in the days after the game that there should have been a defensive holding call on the play at the very least. The Lions would like to see all teams have a chance to challenge such rulings in the future.

At a press conference in Arizona Thursday, Blandino said that the Lions have made a proposal to expand replay so that it includes penalty calls in the future.

“We’ve had discussions going back to last offseason talking about expanding replay and adding to the list of reviewable plays,” Blandino said, via the Lions website. “I think when you look at the evolution of replay and where it started, it was always based in fact. Did the football touch the ground? Did the foot touch the sideline? And we stayed away from the areas that involved subjective judgement. There’s always judgement, but there’s different levels of subjective judgement and that was in the areas of pass interference and offensive holding. I think it’s something as the technology has improved and now we have high definition and super slow motion and 4K, all of that technology begs the question can we eliminate some of the mistakes that happen during the game? I think that’s something that’s going to be on the agenda this offseason.”

Over the years, one of the chief objections to expanding replay is that it would lead to slower games. It’s hard to see where there would be a huge rise in the number of challenges if the current arrangement for coaches is kept in place, however, and the ability to make the correct ruling on the field rather than in a press release after a game should be an appealing one.

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LeSean McCoy wants to talk to Eagles, but not about pay cut

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Eagles running back LeSean McCoy wants to work with the Eagles.

He just doesn’t want to work for less.

Via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, McCoy said he’s happy to restructure his contract, so long as it doesn’t mean a cut in pay.

“I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don’t want to take less money,” McCoy said. “I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we’re all together.”

McCoy is scheduled to make $9.75 million this year, but carries a cap charge of nearly $12 million. That’s a big number for a team that also wants to keep wide receiver Jeremy Maclin out of free agency.

“We’re going to work it work it out and see what happens,” McCoy said. “I got to pay my boy Mac.”

But it’s not going to be out of his own pocket, if it’s up to McCoy.

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Archie Manning: Peyton evaluating everything before making a decision

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wants to see Peyton Manning back in the NFL in 2015, but Manning’s father said Thursday that his son is still weighing his options.

Archie Manning said that Peyton is evaluating everything about the decision to return for another season and that he’s confident his son will make the right decision when the time comes. The first Manning to play quarterback in the NFL added that his son was disappointed that offensive coordinator Adam Gase joined John Fox in moving from Denver to Chicago this offseason, but that Gase’s departure probably wouldn’t swing things in any direction.

“Peyton’s going to try to decide whether he wants to play or retire. If he decides to play, he’ll be fine. It’ll be another coordinator. He’ll deal with it,” Manning said, via NBC San Diego.

Peyton Manning won’t have to do too much guesswork about what new wrinkles might be in the Denver offense since coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison have a long history designing schemes in the NFL. Kubiak also said that he’s going to work with Manning to design the offense if the veteran returns for another season with the Broncos.

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49ers hire Tom Gamble as senior personnel executive

UFC Fighters meet San Francisco 49ers Players Getty Images

The 49ers are bringing back Tom Gamble.

Gamble, most recently the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, has joined San Francisco as a senior personnel executive, the team said Thursday.

The Eagles parted ways with Gamble in December after two seasons on the job. He spent the previous eight seasons with San Francisco, serving as the club’s director of player personnel in 2011 and 2012.

“Tom is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and respected personnel men in the business,” 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a team-issued statement. “He played an instrumental role in our personnel department from 2005-2012, and is well versed in our system having played a role in its development. This familiarity, along with his many strengths, will be tremendous assets as we prepare for free agency and the draft.  It is great to have Tom back with the 49ers.”

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Jets tab Jimmie Johnson as tight ends coach

Minnesota Vikings 2011 Headshots Getty Images

The Jets have added a pair of assistants with NFL playing experience to their coaching staff.

The club announced the hiring of Jimmie Johnson as tight ends coach and Daylon McCutcheon as a defensive backs assistant on Thursday.

Johnson, 48, was the Vikings’ tight ends coach from 2006 through 2013. He played 10 NFL seasons at tight end (1989-1998).

McCutcheon, 38, played eight NFL seasons at cornerback for Cleveland (1999-2006). The Jets’ new head coach, Todd Bowles, had a pair of secondary-coaching roles for the Browns from 2001 through 2004. McCutcheon had a coaching internship with Arizona in 2014, when Bowles was the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator.

Johnson and Bowles were teammates with Washington in 1989 and 1990.

The Jets also announced the hiring of Ryan Slowik as a defensive line assistant and a defensive quality control coach. Slowik was assistant defensive backs coach in Arizona in 2013 and 2014.

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NFL health and safety report says concussions, ACLs are down

New York Giants v New York Jets

Good news everybody, football isn’t dangerous any more.

The league issued its annual health and safety report Thursday, highlighting all the progress seemingly made in the prevention of injuries.

Among the numbers, they cite concussions down 25 percent from 2013 to 2014, and concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet hits down 28 percent in the last year.

Of course, the raw numbers are still alarming, as there were a total of 202 concussions in practice, preseason and regular season games last year, down from 229 in 2013 and 261 in 2012.

The league numbers also dispute the anecdotal notion (held by much of their workforce) that Thursday games are bad for your health, with an average of 4.8 injuries per Thursday games last year compared to 6.9 injuries per game on Sundays and Mondays.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account the wear and tear provided by the short weeks, and how the shortened recovery time could contribute to some of those weekend aches and pains.

Fewer ACL’s are being sprained however, with “just” 49 this year as opposed to 57 the year before. MCL’s are doing worse, with 138 this year after 136 the last year.

The reality is, football remains dangerous to those who play it, despite any efforts to make it safer, or to suggest that it’s becoming safer.

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Michael Bidwill: We’ve had a lot of great conversations with Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald AP

One of the first orders of business for the Cardinals this offseason is addressing wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald’s contract, which currently calls for him to account for $23.6 million of their salary cap space in 2015.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim has said that the team has planned for Fitzgerald’s cap hit and that they won’t cut him to make life easier financially, but the team would prefer to have more room available to address other needs. Doing so would mean restructuring or extending Fitzgerald’s contract and team president Michael Bidwill told Mike Florio on PFT Live Thursday that he’s confident that things will work out.

“I think so. We’ve had a lot of great conversations and I’m feeling very comfortable we’ll get something worked out,” Bidwill said. “He’s been traveling since the end of the season and he’s back in town now. Obviously everybody’s busy this week, but I think in the coming weeks we’ll get something sorted out.”

For the rest of what Bidwill had to say about playing the role of host for the NFL this week, check out the entire interview below.

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Justin Tuck: Ndamukong Suh fits the Raider mold

Ndamukong Suh AP

The Raiders have a lot of cap space at their disposal this offseason and defensive end Justin Tuck knows how he’d like the team to spend some of it.

Speaking from the Super Bowl on Thursday, Tuck shared his thoughts on the impending free agency of Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. While he thinks you could “probably do without” some of the on-field tactics that have landed Suh in trouble during his career, Tuck said Suh is a “hell of a football player” whose overall game makes him seem “to be an Oakland Raider.”

“[He’s] Raider-ish,” Tuck said, via the Detroit Free Press. “And that’s one of the reasons why I know Raider Nation would applaud that move, beyond the fact that he’s an awesome football player. He kind of fits the mold of … the toughness and the ferocious player that built the Oakland Raiders.”

It would help to know who will be running the defense, but adding Suh to a defensive front that features 2014 first-round pick Khalil Mack, linebacker Sio Moore and Tuck would seem to be a step in the right direction for a team that gave up the most points in the league last season.

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Vermeil blames “poor management” for changes in San Francisco

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Former Eagles, Rams and Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil doesn’t care for the way Jim Harbaugh was treated on the way out the door in San Francisco.

Vermeil said on PFT Live that the 49ers should have shown enough respect for the work Harbaugh did to hold onto him.

“San Francisco was a mess before Jim Harbaugh took over. He straightened it out,” Vermeil said. “To me, that should never happen.”

Vermeil believes that if the 49ers’ management is committed to winning, then the 49ers need to find a way to make things work with a successful coach like Harbaugh.

“To me, it’s poor management. It’s probably more personal than anything. But if you’re mature you’ve got to be able to work those things out,” Vermeil said.

The 49ers’ management couldn’t work things out with Harbaugh. If Jim Tomsula doesn’t have the kind of success in San Francisco that Harbaugh did, plenty of San Francisco fans will agree with Vermeil, and blame owner Jed York and General Manager Trent Baalke for poorly managing Harbaugh’s departure.

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Chargers add Mike Nolan as linebackers coach

Mike Nolan AP

The Chargers added some experience to their coaching staff, landing former Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to coach their linebackers.

He replaces Joe Barry, who left to become Washington’s defensive coordinator.

“Mike is a tremendous coach with a wealth of experience and he’ll be a great addition to our coaching staff,” head coach Mike McCoy. “I’ve known him for many years having coached both with him and against him and it’s great to have him here with us with the Chargers.”

Nolan has 28 years of coaching experience, with 17 in the NFL and a largely unfortunate stint as the head coach of the 49ers.

He was the defensive coordinator in Denver in 2009, when McCoy was the Broncos offensive coordinator.

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