The Giants aren’t the only ones who’ll be getting home a day late due to snow. Winter storms throughout West Virginia and Western Maryland will force the mobile PFT office to spend a day working in the Baltimore area.
Fortunately, the mobile PFT office works anywhere there’s electricity and an Internet connection.
And a bathroom.
So as the train rolls south, I’ll be adding more and more items to the Week 14 10-pack, while more and more of you post comments and send e-mails reminding us that there are not yet 10 items on the 10-pack.
By 10 o’clock in the East (or maybe later), we’ll have all 10 items posted.
UPDATE: All 10 items are now posted. That is all.
1. Jets, NFL face dilemma regarding Sal Alosi.
On December 29, 1978, Ohio State coach Woody Hayes lost his cool and punched Clemson defender Charlie Bauman after Bauman intercepted a pass during the Gator Bowl. Hayes promptly lost his job.
On September 22, 1997, Steelers coach Bill Cowher wisely restrained himself from tackling Chris Hudson of the Jaguars after a blocked field goal attempt at the end of the game transformed a potential 24-23 win by Pittsburgh into a 30-21 defeat. If Cowher hadn’t kept from reprising his playing days, who knows what would have happened to him?
Though Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi threw no punches on Sunday when Nolan Carroll of the Dolphins ran by him while covering a punt, Alosi likewise showed no restraint, succumbing to the moment of temptation occasioned by the opportunity to subtly slide a knee into the path of Carroll’s leg. Apparently oblivious to the fact that cameras were on and rolling, Alosi successfully tripped Carroll.
After the game, once it became clear that any explanations premised on the notion that the incident occurred accidentally or inadvertently would be met with scoffs and/or harrumphs, the Jets issued a statement from Alosi in which he accepted responsibility for his actions “as well as any punishment that follows.”
As Rodney Harrison of Football Night in America said in our weekly look at selected NFL topics, we’ll learn a lot about the Jets based on how they handle this. In September, the franchise was criticized for allowing receiver Braylon Edwards to play only days after a DUI arrest. In January, however, coach Rex Ryan was fined $50,000 for shooting a middle finger at Dolphins fans who were heckling him at an MMA event in South Florida, even though Ryan was on his on time and his team’s season was over.
The punishment, whatever it may be, needs to be severe. The statement from Alosi, which surely was written and/or edited by the team, likely was intended to take some of the sting out of the situation, in the hopes of allowing the Jets to give the man who gave Carroll the Charlie Brown treatment something other than the Woody Hayes treatment. That said, plenty of people (including Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby) will call for Alosi to be fired.
At a minimum, a suspension through the end of the 2010 season must be imposed. Alosi crossed a line on Sunday, and a severe consequence is necessary to ensure that others who have the privilege of being on the sidelines won’t do the same thing.
What if it had been a photographer or a member of the media who had tripped Carroll? Surely, that person would already have been fired. At a minimum, that person never would be permitted to appear on an NFL sideline again.
So why should Alosi be?
Regardless of what happens, the players and their union will be watching. At a time when players face stiff fines and possible suspensions for accidentally inflicting injury by inadvertently using their helmets while trying to tackle defenseless players, anyone who deliberately takes a cheap shot at a player should face at least that much scrutiny, if not a lot more.
2. Metrodome mess will help, not hurt, stadium push in Minnesota.
The Vikings were supposed to have three straight games at home before taking to the road for the final two. As it now stands, they could be playing three of their last four games at Ford Field.
With trips to Philly and Detroit already on the docket in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively, the Vikings have made an unexpected move to Michigan, given the mess in the Metrodome. And with a Monday game against the Giants on tap for tonight, next Monday’s game against the Bears could end up being played there as well, if the ruptured roof at the Metrodome can’t be repaired within the next week.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times joked on Twitter that there’s no truth to the rumor that folks hoping to move a team to L.A. were spotted at the Metrodome with “a large pair of scissors.” As we see it, however, those who want the Vikings to stay put in Minnesota had better have good alibis and/or no large scissors.
This development helps, not hurts, the push for a new venue in or around the Twin Cities. The locals (especially those who had tickets to the 11th game between the Giants and Vikings in 12 years) will get to watch on television as the home team plays a home game in a place other than their home of the last 50 years through a Ghost-of-Christmas-Future moment that surely will cause anyone inclined to be Scroogish with public money to support any and all plans for raising the funds necessary to partially finance a new house with a roof that retracts in a far less dramatic way.
Of course, none of this will help teams like the Eagles, Packers, or Buccaneers, given than the Giants and Bears will have inherently easier games against the Vikings, since the potentially disruptive noise in the Metrodome won’t be a factor. But at least none of those teams will ever have to worry about any earthquakes striking when playing the Vikings.
3. Friction exists league office, officials.
On Sunday, FOX’s Jay Glazer reported that game officials objected to participating in a midweek conference call because the officials are paid only for working weekends. Though the NFL then made the call voluntary, the move suggests the existence of a real problem between the league office and the men who apply and enforce the official rules during games staged by it.
Many employers fail to dot every “i” and cross every “t” when it comes to compliance with employment laws. But when the employees are happy, it’s never an issue, since no one is inclined to complain. When morale dips, some workers become inclined to search for a way to take a stand.
So the fact that the officials objected to participating without pay in a communication aimed at helping them better do their jobs in the postseason means that the officials currently aren’t happy with something the league is doing. Maybe it was the decision of V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson to contact the NBC broadcast booth last week and throw Terry McAulay’s crew under the proverbial bus after failing to throw a flag on Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for an apparent helmet-to-helmet it. Maybe it’s the perception that the NFL isn’t doing enough to squelch criticism from coaches, players, and owners who object to the manner in which the league office is directing officials to enforce the rules regarding defenseless players, with a specific direction to err on the side of safety by awarding when in doubt 15 yards of field position.
Regardless of the reason, the NFL has a problem right now not only with its players, but also with the men charged with the task of ensuring that the players play fair.
4. Falcons can secure home-field without beating the Saints.
The last Monday night game of the season features a Jets-Pats-style showdown between the Saints and Falcons in Atlanta. Unlike the Week 13 contest that ended up being very unlucky for the team from New York, the stakes won’t necessarily be as high in the Georgia Dome.
Even if the Saints win, the Falcons will capture the NFC South crown — and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — by winning at Seattle on Sunday and at home against the Panthers in Week 17. (The third tiebreaker, based on record against common opponents, would go to the Falcons.)
Though winning in Atlanta in December could help prepare the Saints to play there in January, the fact remains that failing to win the division will require the Saints to hit the road in the wild-card round, and to win up to three games as the visiting team a year after the Saints needed only two victories in the Superdome to nail down their first ever Super Bowl berth.
But if the Falcons force the road to Dallas to go through Atlanta, the far more compelling visit would happen when a former Falcon who won in Dallas last night returns to town as a better player than he ever was when he called the Georgia Dome his home.
5. What in the heck has happened to the Titans?
By all appearances and indications, the Jeff Fisher era will be ending in Tennessee after 16 long years.
And this year may have been the longest of them all.
The decline of the Titans has been remarkable. On Sunday, the Raiders and Jaguars squared off in a game with real playoff implications for both teams, even though Tennessee beat Oakland by 25 points and Jacksonville by 27.
On Sunday night, the Eagles pushed their record to 9-4, with one of the losses coming to the Titan by 18 points.
Since beating the Eagles to move to 5-2, the Titans have lost six in a row. Though they woke up on Thursday night and made the game against the Colts slightly more interesting (or, as the case may be, slightly less uninteresting), the Titans have found themselves in the same rut with which they opened the 2009 season, when they lost six in a row before Fisher was coerced into benching Kerry Collins for Vince Young.
Like John Fox in Carolina, there’s a sense that Fisher won’t be unemployed for long, if Titans owner Bud Adams picks Young over Fisher. But any team that hires either guy will have a hard time selling the move to the local media and fans.
6. Panthers have a long way to go.
As the Panthers close in on the second 1-15 finish in franchise history, they face a much darker future than they did the last time they accomplished this feat.
In past years, the NFC South annually had one good team, at most. As a result, the Panthers were that one good team only two years after going 1-15, finishing 2003 with a visit to the Super Bowl.
Now, three very good teams reside in the division. Indeed, there’s a good chance (better than anyone realizes) that the Falcons, Saints, and Buccaneers will make it to the postseason. With stability at the quarterback position and solid organizations above them, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Tampa are poised to make the NFC South as competitive as the NFC East.
Then there are the Panthers. With a talent-challenged roster and an owner whom many believe won’t spend much on his next coach, the Panthers could be destined to dwell in the basement for a long time to come.
The situation could be bad enough to compel Jerry Richardson to make a big splash; Peter King remarked Sunday in the NBC viewing room that Richardson may even have to consider luring Bill Cowher to Charlotte.
But here’s the thing — even if the price is right, Cowher is smart enough to look at the rest of the division and conclude that the circumstances are very wrong.
7. Snyder could soon sour on Shanahan.
During a Sunday afternoon radio visit with FOX Sports Radio, I suggested that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder could be second-guessing his decision to pursue coach Mike Shanahan. It’s a concept we floated in the Week 14 Friday 10-pack, and I was clear (or at least I thought I was clear) when talking about the situation on Sunday that it was all speculation.
Some took it as a “report” that Snyder will be firing Shanahan and hiring Jon Gruden. For now, there’s no reason to suspect that it could happen.
But would it really surprise anyone if it did?
Snyder is notoriously impatient. He fired Norv Turner after less than two seasons. Snyder fired Marty Schottenheimer after only one. Steve Spurrier failed. Jim Zorn barely finished a second year. Only Joe Gibbs, whom Snyder idolizes, was allowed to leave on his own terms.
So with Gruden available and given his history of working with G.M. Bruce Allen both in Tampa and in Oakland, it’s really not much of a stretch to think that, as Snyder takes in the stench of a disastrous first season for Shanahan, the owner at least has to be considering whether Gruden can do in D.C. what he did in Tampa.
If Gruden can’t, Snyder will surely find another flavor of the month who is willing to take $30 million over five years, especially if, in the end, he only actually works for two.
8. Pats are killing playoff teams, before the playoffs even start.
In six days, the New England Patriots sent a pair of potential playoff teams into possible tailspins that could knock them out of the tournament. Last Monday, it was the Jets who found themselves at the mercy of the Pats, who supplied none en route to a 45-3 win. On Sunday, the Bears felt the brunt of Bill Belichick’s battalion, with an embarrassing loss that could eventually cost Chicago a division crown — and coach Lovie Smith his job.
Next week, the Packers could get a taste of the Pats’ medicine, too, which would give New England a clean sweep of the NFC North and put the Packers in a precarious position when it comes to qualifying for the postseason.
Though teams routinely peak too soon, the Patriots have the swagger of 2007 without the pressure of continuing to win game after game. Thanks to the Jets and the Browns, both of whom somehow beat the Pat earlier this year, there will be nothing historic about this New England team.
Other than, you know, the history that comes with winning a Super Bowl.
9. Jets could be on the outside looking in, again.
One week ago, the Jets had nine wins, two losses, and enough confidence to kill a herd of elephants with a slingshot.
Today, the herd of elephants is pointing and laughing, and the slingshot has been jammed into a place where slingshots normally aren’t stored.
That record of 9-2 has become 9-4, and with visits to Pittsburgh and Chicago on tap, 9-6 could be New York’s record entering Week 17.
In the end, the Jets may have to win against the Bills on the final Sunday of the season to get back to the playoffs.
If they don’t, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Two years ago, a collapse from 8-3 to 9-7 claimed the job of coach Eric Mangini, even after owner Woody Johnson said that both Mangini and G.M. Mike Tannenbaum would be safe.
With coach Rex Ryan becoming the man for whom players throughout the league want to play, could Tannenbaum be in trouble? As unlikely as it seems on the surface, the bigger question is whether Johnson once again believes that someone needs to take the fall for a season of failed expectations.
If the G.M. isn’t the guy, who else would it be?
10. So much for the impact of an interim coach.
The Cowboys and the Vikings have seen their fortunes improve with the in-season firing of their respective head coaches.
The Broncos haven’t.
Denver lost badly on Sunday to a bad Cardinals team starting a mid-round rookie quarterback who had been stuck on the depth chart behind an undrafted rookie quarterback.
Regardless of whether hiring one of the franchises greatest players to do something other than play will make a difference (we think it won’t), the reality is that the Broncos have hit one of the low points in franchise history.
With three games left for Eric Studesville to pad his credentials for consideration beyond 2010 in Denver (not likely) or elsewhere in the future (less unlikely), it could be time to trot out Tim Tebow for a test drive.
There’s no guarantee he’ll do well. But how worse could the 3-10 Broncos do?