We realize that the bulk of our traffic comes from folks who check out our offerings while they otherwise would be working.
We also realize that not many of you will be working on Friday, since it’s Christmas Eve.
But every Friday we post a 10-pack of takes for the coming slate of games, and we can’t quit now simply because plenty of you won’t be around to read what we have to write.
So for those of you who are working and/or taking time out of your valuable non-work time to consider our useless facts and arguably even more useless opinions, it’s like you’re in an exclusive club, or something.
1. We’ll take DeSean over Devin any day.
When Bears return specialist Devin Hester racked up his 14th career return touchdown on Monday, Hester was hailed as the best return man in football.
Proving yet again that American society has adopted the attention span of a chihuahua on cocaine.
DeSean Jackson is the best return man in football. It’s not even close. Hester’s good, but there’s no one more electric right now than Jackson.
And he plays receiver with that same flair, squirting his middle-school frame through a sliver of space and then exploding to the end zone. Hester is an average receiver, at best. His return skills simply don’t translate to offense.
But Jackson’s do. Sure, he has only four punt-return touchdowns in three seasons. Hester had seven in his first two. (He picked up none in years three and four, but three more in 2010.)
Still, Jackson is the better player. And of the two players, Jackson has the better chance of capping his career with the placement in Canton of a bust that likely will weigh nearly as much as his entire body.
2. DeSean may have hurt Vick’s MVP bid.
We’ve got one last thing to say about one of the most exciting games in recent years. When Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson broke a 31-31 tie with a 65-yard punt return on the last play of regulation, Jackson potentially robbed teammate Mike Vick of an overtime performance that could have enhanced Vick’s candidacy for the league MVP award.
Hear us out on this one. Remember 2002, in the Metrodome? Vick turned the Vikings’ defense into the Keystone Cops with a thrilling overtime touchdown run. Vick kept running right out of the tunnel, and he took the single-game quarterback rushing record (173 yards) with him.
On Sunday, Vick had 130 yards rushing and one touchdown through four quarters, and he passed for 242 and three touchdowns. In overtime, Vick could have authored a finish that would have helped him attract even more votes for what could be one of the tightest MVP votes of all time.
Then again, the Giants also could have won the game in overtime.
Vick’s next chance to make his case will come on Sunday night, when he gets the chance once again to race through the Minnesota defense on national television. (We had to mention that to make it relevant to this weekend’s games.)
3. A tie could be coming between Vick, Brady.
Speaking of the MVP race, we’re starting to think that the award once again will be split.
We’re surprised it hasn’t happened more often. With 50 voters casting one all-or-nothing selection each, a year like this one easily could result in a tie vote.
That’s why the Associated Press needs to revamp the system for selecting all postseason awards, adopting a Heisman-style system with points awarded based on first-place, second-place, and third-place votes.
So don’t be surprised if Mike Vick and Tom Brady share the 2010 MVP award.
If that happens, the general public doesn’t regard it as a shared award. Instead, each guy is regarded as an MVP.
Actually, maybe that’s the right outcome for the 2010 season.
4. Five-way race for rushing crown.
Throughout the 2010 season, it has been presumed that Texans running back Arian Foster was destined to win the rushing crown. And while Foster still holds the lead at 1,345 with two games to play, his margin is at 21 yards and shrinking.
In fact, four players are within 90 yards of Foster, which means that one of them, with a strong showing in one or both of the last two games, could steal the crown.
Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars has 1,324. Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs sits in third at 1,303. Tennessee’s Chris Johnson is barely halfway to his stated goal of 2,500 yards, with 1,267. Michael Turner of the Falcons has 1,256.
Though it’s a largely meaningless pursuit, the race could get very interesting in Week 16 and 17.
5. Cowher goes out of character to get his next job.
On Sunday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher has targeted three jobs for 2011: the Giants, Texans, and Dolphins. We expected that Cowher would deny it, even if his agent supplied it to Mort.
But Cowher has been silent. Which speaks volumes.
This is the same candidate who, as recently as last year, refused to talk about any jobs that still had a man in them. Now, Cowher or someone on his behalf is sharing his wish list with the media, while Cowher sits at best with an “it wasn’t me” expression or at worst a Cheshire smile riding over his chin.
Even with a more overt effort to get back into the league, it may not be enough. As Peter King first pointed out several weeks ago, the looming labor uncertainty will cause teams changing out coaches to look in-house first, since continuity will be critical if the offseason training program, and possibly all or part of training camp, is lost to a work stoppage.
So why is this relevant to the coming weekend? Because Giants coach Tom Coughlin, Texans coach Gary Kubiak, and Dolphins coach Tony Sparano surely know about the report, they’re likely upset about it, and even if they’ve received a private vote of confidence from each of their owners, they’re surely worried that back-channel discussions could be happening with Cowher. If will thus be interesting to see how they, and their teams, respond.
6. Rex’s recreational activities will hurt Rob the most.
Though Rex Ryan’s bizarrely public hobbies (especially when considering the largely overlooked Alt.com profile posted at Deadspin) won’t affect his employment until owner Woody Johnson is looking for reasons to justify making a change based on subpar on-field performance, there’s one guy who’ll more immediately bear the brunt of Buniongate.
Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is the identical twin of Rex Ryan. That was regarded as a good thing earlier this year. Now? Not.
We’re not saying Rob Ryan won’t be hired, but to get a head-coaching job in the NFL he’ll have to submit to the informational equivalent of a colonoscopy, and he’ll be asked to sign in blood a confirmation that he has supplied the team with no false or misleading information.
Even then, recent events involving Rex could make an NFL owner far less inclined to take a chance on Rob.
So why is this relevant to the coming weekend? The performance of Ryan’s defense in the last two games, against the Ravens and the Steelers, will be a factor in whether or not he gets any sniffs in the 2011 hiring cycle.
7. Niners have a great shot at the NFC West crown.
We’ve assumed for weeks that the NFC West title will come down to the Rams and Seahawks, presumably when the two teams play each other on Week 17.
But even though the 49ers have won only five of 14 games, they have a fairly clear step-by-step path to the division championship.
Cut a hole in a box. Beat the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday. Two? Hope the Seahawks lose at Tampa on Sunday. Three? Beat the Cardinals at home in Week 17.
Regardless of what the Rams or Seahawks do when they play each other on January 2, the Niners would win the head-to-head tie with whichever of the two teams ends up at 7-9.
And then we’ll spend the entire wild-card week talking about how bad the 49ers are and how the playoff process needs to change and then the Niners probably will knock off the Saints at home in the first round likely the Niners nearly did in Week Two.
8. Fins’ failures are unfathomable.
They’re 6-1 on the road. And 1-6 at home. Thus, they’ve won as many games in their own stadium this season as the Jets, Patriots, Steelers, Bears, Browns, and Bills.
In the 2010 calendar year, the Steelers are 2-0 at Sun Life Stadium; the team that plays there is 1-7. Heck, even the Saints have won a game there in 2010.
Thus, 25 percent of the entire NFL has won a game at the venue this year, thanks to Miami’s inability to win more than one itself. With or without a loss to the Lions on Sunday, we’d be surprised (not shocked but surprised) if coach Tony Sparano survives it.
9. Where’s Reggie?
If the Saints hope to make noise in the playoffs, they need to get some production out of Reggie Bush.
He missed eight games with a fractured fibula. In four games since returning, he has rushed for a total of 62 yards, and he has caught 16 passes for another 70.
Last week at Baltimore, Bush didn’t even get the start. And he would have had more rushing yards if he hadn’t played at all. (He finished with minus-4 on four carries.)
They could use him on Monday night against the Falcons. And they’ll need him for the postseason — especially since the Saints are on track to have to do it the hard way by going on the road for up to three games in order to have a crack at the much-coveted “Two Dat.”
10. With or without Favre, Frazier could be in trouble.
It’s no surprise that interim Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wants to see quarterback Brett Favre on the field. We’ve all seen Joe Webb (who has a ton of potential but who hasn’t reached it yet), and that says it all.
But while Favre gives the Vikings their best chance to win, they likely won’t be doing much more winning. Under Frazier, they barely beat a dysfunctional Redskins teams and rolled up a Buffalo squad that shut it down once Favre was knocked out of the game.
Since then, the Vikings have been plastered in back-to-back weeks, both by the Giants and by the Bears. Though Favre hasn’t played, making only a cameo on Monday night against Chicago, the Vikings have lost whatever spark they acquired during their rare (for this year) consecutive wins.
With a likely loss looming in Philly and a finale against the Lions at Detroit, 5-11 is looking more and more likely, as is a 2-4 finish for Frazier.
Though the problems at the Metrodome possible will do enough to get the powers-that-be to donate enough public money to build a new stadium in Minnesota, the Vikings need some hope for 2011. It will be hard to sell hope to the fan base without major changes throughout the front office and coaching staff.
The best news for Frazier is that the locker room supports him, and he’s the polar opposite in many ways of his predecessor, Brad Childress. Still, it would have been much easier to get the fans behind Frazier with a few more wins down the stretch.
With or without Favre, we don’t see those wins coming.