Week 16 Monday 10-pack

When a peaceful Christmas afternoon was interrupted with news of a blizzard warning in New York and the instantly expedited travel schedule that went along with it, I expected that I’d be walking back to the hotel in the driving snow at midnight on Sunday, after the Vikings-Eagles post-game show had ended.

I expected wrong.

With the Sunday night game postponed due to the threat of an in-game blizzard, I made the trip back three hours earlier than expected.  Which gave me plenty of extra time to cobble the Monday 10-pack and, more importantly, to get something approximating a good night’s sleep.  Which also will give me more time to work on PFT on Monday, since my normal travel day will consist of traveling nowhere.

For now, here’s the 10-pack.

1.  Philly cancellation raises big questions.

On the surface, we understand the league’s decision to opt for public safety, given the forecast that was available at the time the decision to postpone Sunday night’s Vikings-Eagles game was made.  Safety always should come first, and playing a football game in a blizzard would have been very unsafe for the fans who would have made their way to Lincoln Financial Field.

A short walk from 30 Rock to the hotel on Sunday night helped me understand how treacherous it could have been in Philly.

But NBC’s Cris Collinsworth made an excellent point during Sunday’s show-must-go-on version of Football Night in America.  Has the NFL now set a precedent that will potentially result in more snow-related postponements of games?

No one talked about postponing the Ice Bowl or the 1981 AFC title game, which featured the Chargers and Collinsworth’s Bengals playing under Antarctic wind chills.  If the fans wanted to show up, they showed up.  If they wanted to stay home, they stayed home.  Buying a ticket to a football game includes an inherent risk of bad weather.  The game ultimately is played, in all conditions except those entailing the random presence of periodic 54,000-degree bolts of electricity.

And so not everyone agreed with the move, including Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who told FOX 29 that “Vince Lombardi would be spinning in his grave” in light of the conclusion that Philly was not ready for some football.

“I think it’s a joke,” Rendell also said.  “I think the fans can make their own judgments about their safety. . . .  It’s a decision that fans make for themselves.”

The bigger question is whether the NFL will make a similar decision under similar circumstances in the future, or whether a higher bar will be utilized before taking the drastic step of opting not to play a game.

Our biggest fear?  That the criticism of the decision will persuade the NFL not to postpone a game the next time it appears based on the forecast that postponement should occur, setting the stage for a true public safety hazard.

2.  Coughlin moves closer to being fired.

In the wake of last Sunday’s stunning collapse against the Eagles, the Giants demonstrated a defiance that bordered on arrogance.  Focusing only on the fact that they built a 21-point lead and not on their inexplicable failure to hold it, the Giants believed that they’d go to Green Bay and upend a potent Packers team.

Safety Antrel Rolle even guaranteed it.

In the end, the Giants lost by 28 points.

Though all is not yet lost for the seasons, the Giants need the Bears to do at Lambeau what the Giants couldn’t.  And the Giants also need to win at Washington.  It’s hardly implausible, but if it doesn’t happen it’s hard to imagine coach Tom Coughlin getting another year on the job.

After the 2009 season ended with the Giants missing the playoffs, co-owner John Mara was livid.  He won’t be any more pleased given the Miracle in the New Meadowlands, the blowout in Green Bay, and what likely will be another failure to secure a ticket to the tournament.

With Coughlin under contract for one more season in the world’s biggest market, Coughlin can’t work as a lame duck in 2011.  So either he gets an extension, or he gets a pink slip.

Miss the playoffs, and pink likely will be the operative color.

3.  Kubiak could be out the door, too.

Recently, Texans owner Bob McNair hasn’t sounded like a guy who is ready to hire the third coach in franchise history, which would of course require him to fire the second coach in franchise history.  But after the Texans blew a 17-0 halftime lead to fall to 5-10 in a year that began with high hopes and great promise, thanks to a Week One win over the Colts, the Texans will complete their ninth NFL season without a single playoff berth to show for their efforts.

So can Kubiak survive?  More importantly, can McNair continue to keep the fan base behind his franchise by keeping with the status quo, especially with Bill Cowher supposedly interested in the job?

As Rosenthal pointed out earlier today, long-time Texans scribe John McClain now would be stunned if the entire coaching staff isn’t fired.

So regardless of whether the replacement is Cowher or Jeff Fisher or someone else entirely, the Texans’ squandering of that big lead in Denver may have squandered whatever goodwill Kubiak still had in Houston.

4.  Sparano faces the end of the line, too.

Two years ago, Dolphins coach Tony Sparano finished second in the Associated Press coach of the year voting.  In less than two weeks, he could be out of a job.

I made the case for change during Football Night in America.  (The video appears below, but that won’t stop me from repeating what I said in this format.)

Former V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells hired Sparano.  And Parcells is now out of the picture.  And owner Stephen Ross bought the team after Sparano was on the job.

Competing with the likes of the Miami Heat, Ross wants home games at Sun Life Stadium to be special, the football equivalent of a trip to Staples Center, with minority owners like Jimmy Buffett and Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony and Fergie and Venus and Serena Williams playing the role of Jack Nicholson sitting courtside.  This year, the Dolphins won only one of eight home games, losing in the last week to the lowly Bills and even lowlier Lions, who have now won two straight road games after losing 26 in a row.

In calendar year 2010, the Steelers won twice as many games in Sun Life Stadium as the Dolphins.

So it’s only a matter of time before Ross cleans house and hires his own guy, presumably a big-name, rock-star type who will bring the kind of sizzle that Ross covets.

And what of G.M. Jeff Ireland?  Considering that Ireland opted to take left tackle Jake Long over quarterback Matt Ryan with the first pick in the 2008 draft, it’s safe to assume that that Ireland would be gone as well, and that the next coach possibly will have the power to run the show.

Bottom line? All three of the jobs reportedly on Bill Cowher’s non-wishing wish list may come open a week from today.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/33399756?launch=40815684″ width=”420″ height=”245″ allowFullscreen=”true” /]

5.  Chiefs-Pats on a collision course?

In the NFC, the most anticipated postseason game entails a return by Mike Vick to the Georgia Dome, which will happen if the Eagles and Falcons square off at any point in January.

In the AFC, plenty of intrigue would arise from a visit by the Chiefs to Foxboro.

It would entail a return not just from a quarterback.  In addition to Matt Cassel, linebacker Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and G.M. Scott Pioli would be coming back to town.

On paper, the Patriots should win.

On paper, the Patriots had no business winning Super Bowl XXXVI.

On paper, the Patriots had no business losing Super Bowl XLII.

So with the Pats quietly thrilled that the Chargers have been knocked out of the playoffs, the team that sent the Chargers to the showers could be just as tough of an out as San Diego would have been.

6.  Buh-bye, Batman and Robin.

With receiver Terrell Owens on injured reserve and receiver Chad Ochocinco inactive due to injury, the Bengals went out and spanked the Chargers on Sunday, putting 34 points on the board, including four touchdown passes from quarterback Carson Palmer.

Though it may not have been enough to save the jobs of Palmer or coach Marvin Lewis, it underscores the reality that diva receivers can do more harm than good.

If the Bengals can go to Baltimore and knock off the Ravens without T.O. or Ochocinco, who knows?  Maybe Palmer and Lewis will get a chance to continue the magic they’ve found once they dumped a pair of jokers.

7.  Tebow complicates coaching situation in Denver.

Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow knew that he was auditioning in the final three games of the 2010 season, either for the job in Denver or for a job elsewhere.  With an impressive effort on Sunday, throwing for more than 300 yards while leading the Broncos back from a 17-0 halftime hole, Tebow has made it harder to run him out of Denver.

Two years ago, a new coach of the Broncos did just that, when coach Josh McDaniels decided that he wanted Matt Cassel over Jay Cutler.  After the effort to get Cassel failed, the relationship between McDaniels and Cutler was irreparably damaged.

The question now becomes whether the next coach will legitimately want Tebow to play quarterback, or whether the next coach will want his own guy.  But the fans in Denver have found hope in Tebow, and they’ll be even more restless if Tebow ends up getting the Cutler treatment.

Even though ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on Sunday that the next coach in Denver won’t be required to keep Tebow, the next coach may not as a practical matter have that option, if he wants to get the mile-high mob on his side.

8.  Lions laying the foundation for success.

Back when the Lions were struggling through a season that produced a record characteristic of the Millen years, it seemed like the team was actually improving.  Now that the Lions have won in three weeks more games than they previously had won all year, a quiet sense of wail-til-next-year euphoria is emerging in Michigan.

The Lions beat the Packers at home and then the Lions ended a 26-game road losing streak with a pair of victories in Florida over quality teams, the Bucs and the Dolphins.  It’s an amazing development, given that quarterback Matthew Stafford has missed most of the season with a shoulder injury and every guy that has replaced him eventually has gotten injured, too.

They have a chance to finish out the season with a four-game winning streak when they host the Vikings on Sunday.  A win could pull the Lions out of the basement of the NFC North, making the Lions one of the “hot” teams entering 2011 — and possibly putting them in position to make it to the playoffs for the first time since Matt Millen drove the franchise deep into the ground.

9.  Redskins do themselves no favors with meaningless win.

Amid rumors and speculation that the Redskins were hoping to maximize their first-round draft position by losing the last few games of the season and finishing 5-11, an unlikely overtime win in Jacksonville on Sunday, their second straight fifth-quarter rendezvous with the Jags, has pushed Mike Shanahan’s team to 6-9.

Right now, then, the ‘Skins wouldn’t even be picking in the top ten.

Though Shanahan (if he’s not one-and-out in D.C.) could still trade up, we pointed out last week that the price tag for trading up will likely go up in 2011, if the price tag for signing top-ten players drops under a rookie wage scale.  With the ‘Skins having plenty of cash but not plenty of picks to surrender, they may have to simply make lemonade out of a draft position that will make it harder to find the franchise quarterback that they so desperately need.

10.  Bucs building something special.

With three times as many wins as they managed in 2009, the Buccaneers have provided one of the best turnaround stories in recent years.  But with the playoffs remaining a long shot but not an impossibility, Tampa Bay may not get the credit they deserve, if they don’t qualify for the postseason.

Come next year, they will.  Despite placement in a division featuring strong teams in Atlanta and New Orleans, the Bucs are young, talented, and hungry.  Once they learn how to beat “good” teams, they will be ready to make their move — and they could be one of the teams at the top of the conference in 2011.

Hopefully, that will transform those weekly blackouts into the hottest ticket in Tampa.

26 responses to “Week 16 Monday 10-pack

  1. First – Chris Collinsworth is to journalism what curling is to athletics. It might be considered part of the group but in reality its not.

    Second – The only precedent that the NFL set was that it found out it was not big then the law. Philadelphia put a state of emergency on, that means that only essential people are allowed on the roads, and believe it or not the NFL players and fans do not fall under that umbrella.

    Collinsworth was only trying to come up with an original idea, which he sorely missed.

  2. Nothing is set for the Bucs in regards to the playoffs, we don’t need the Giants and Packers to loese nect week at all.
    As long as the Falcons beat the Saints tonight we only need one of them to lose as well as the win over the Saints next week.
    We can actually take the Saints completely out of the playoff picture next week by beating them (if the Falcons also beat them tonight).

    Why is it people already have the Saints locked in for the playoffs with no chance of a loss?
    I mean wasn’t one of the Bucs 3 wins last year over the Super Bowl bound Saints in their house?

    Anything can happen yet.

  3. Forget about the phantom excuse of public safety, let’s talk about the commissioner asking Jeff Lurie if he would rather play on Tuesday, under conditions that will dramatically favor his QB and all-pro receiver.

    Hmmm, you’re actually going to let me pick my game conditions? Sure, let’s go with the faster track!

  4. Oh yeah, and if the league really cared about public safety at NFL games, they’d outlaw alcohol in the parking lots and stop serving beer at halftime!

    They care as much for public safety as they do for player safety, as long as it gets them the revenue they want & the winners they want.

  5. So let me get this straight the Lions are builiding a foundation for success and the Redskins are idiots for winning a meaningless game?

  6. i say you stop talking like coughlin maybe might could get fired, and start looking at the real possiblities. coughlin WILL get fired and if the new coach is a guy with what one might call ‘an eye for talent’ or ‘common sense’ or ‘coaching ability’, eli manning is the next to go. without that fluke of a superbowl, eli has done jack in his career. his best season is strikingly mediocre, he isnt getting any better, and he still isnt a leader. it was cute when he threw 20+ INTs in a season when he was younger but now that hes 7 years in, its just getting old.

  7. @12strikes, and who declared that state of Emergency in PA, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who then said Eagles fans can make their decision on safety. Duh? Which one is it Eddy?!?!?!

  8. @tdurk34, The Mayor of Philly declared the state of emergency in Philly. Rendel is the governor and can declare a PA wide state of emergency but seeing as how really only Philly got his there was no need. This is why local government have that ability as well so as to handle local issues…..

    12Strikes was absolutely right in what he said. The game had to be moved due to the state of emergency in Philly…

  9. I’d love to see that Chiefs-Pats game. Only problem is, it probably won’t happen. Look at the seeding.

    The Pats are locked into the #1 seed, and the Chiefs are pretty much locked into the #3. So for the ’04 Pats + ’08 Pats (+ Todd Haley) to visit the ’10 Pats, either the Chiefs have to lose next week with the Colts winning (so that they fall to the #4 and become eligible to meet the Pats in the divisional round), or the Chiefs have to win two games, one on the road in Pittsburgh or Baltimore, and face the Pats in Foxboro with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

    Actually, that would be a pretty cool scenario, whoever you root for. (OK, not

  10. As far as I understand the State of Emergency allows the Governor to ask for assistance from the National Guard. It’s not to enforce Martial Law and make people stay locked up in their homes. It’s up to the individuals to decide if it’s unsafe for them to head outside in a snow storm or not all the Governor can do is ask that people stay off the roads and let them know that it is dangereous to go out. I don’t agree with the game delay but then I might be one of the few. It wasn’t great out but it has been much worse then it was yesterday.

  11. Great reporting: This is the best (free) NFL sports reporting !

    This has to be a year of the most coaches getting fired: Any research history on that?

    As far as postponing the Philly game: we definitely live in a different world or as people now say.. a new normal”, we moved up from politically correct!, can you even say calling a spade a spade”, not sure where that started. I do believe in humanity being ‘more caring and compassionate (toward man). War too many wars … way too much killing… SAD there are too many dictators that cause all this to happen.

    THis is a GREAT NFL year… games meaning right to the end… it was lousy last year, teams pulling their starters…
    what happens with 18 game schedule… what happens with injuries? I can’t believe BRADY played the whole game, I was hoping he would get hurt… (sorry !)… just a little not to play…

    Can’t believe teams continue to play important players way after the game was won… Same for Steelers last Thursday Ben with nose and foot, etc.

    Thanks for the great up-to date news !, My Giants friend is so depressed! talking baseball already. I told him I would send him and his office a box of Black and Gold Steeler hats !, ANother year where we get to watch another game !

    Do a statistic on which teams in the last 10-20 years have given the fans an ‘extra’ game to watch.

    ANd which team has not ! Bengals or Browns?

  12. turgidsen, care to tell us how the ‘Skins are improving? They built a free agent heavy team hoping to make an impact this year and it completely blew up.

    hoobsher, you’re right. Strange how the media types still pretend Eli is good simply because his name is Manning. Otherwise, is he better than Sexy Rexy?

  13. Andy Reid and Jeff Laurie pulled the strings to ensure their star players wouldn’t have to play in the snow and risk getting hurt.

    the fix is in.

  14. dobreshunka says:
    Dec 27, 2010 9:53 AM
    Forget about the phantom excuse of public safety, let’s talk about the commissioner asking Jeff Lurie if he would rather play on Tuesday, under conditions that will dramatically favor his QB and all-pro receiver.

    Hmmm, you’re actually going to let me pick my game conditions? Sure, let’s go with the faster track!
    It’s not that simple.

    ESPN owns the right to broadcast NFL football on Monday night to a nationwide audience. For NBC to be able to show a nationally televised NFL game on Monday night against the ESPN broadcast, ESPN would be entitled to a payment of something like $65 Million. That money likely would come from the NFL, since they awarded the broadcast rights to ESPN.

    No one in their right mind would voluntarily forfeit $65 Million, hence the game was moved to Tuesday.

    This, BTW, is different than the Giants/Vikings game, in that the NYG/Minny game wasn’t nationally televised.

  15. The postponing of the Philly game was the correct thing to do. Government officials (regardless of what you think of them) asked all non-essential people to stay off the roads and stay home. Though I consider Sunday football essential, I also live in (usually) sunny Southern California, not in blizzard-to-be Philadelaphia. Rather than having 50,000+ people driving in sloppy conditions, many of them boozing it up before, during and after the game, then driving home in even sloppier conditions, the game was moved. That was the correct and only call to make. Yes, they could have played in the conditions, but it was not safe for the fans (the ones who plunk down money before, during and after) to travel to and from the stadium. Though I have many issues with the NFL this season I believe this was the correct call.

  16. A minor point – for 10 pack issue #1 – in 1981, those were arctic (as opposed to antarctic) winds that put the freeze in Cincinnati.

  17. One of the reasons football is so much more interesting than say, baseball, is that the games are played in all kinds of conditions. Muddy field? Check. Driving rain? No problem. Bitter cold? Let’s play. Blizzard? More’s the better.

    An average game played in sunny, 72-degree skies becomes a spectacle when played in snow so deep you can no longer see the yard markings.

    Let’s hope the NFL didn’t just start down the path of turning football into a snooze-fest.

  18. On #1: The game postponement

    Many commentators but especially Cris Collinsworth, have made me sick with their ‘it’s football weather’ & ‘should every city be involved?’ comments about the game being post-poned.

    First off, Roger Godell post-poned the game.
    Second, the post-poned wasn’t due to playing conditions it was due fan and worker safety!

    If football commisioners didn’t take that into account in the past — shame on them! — There’s no NFL without fans, and I feel showing the fans respect is good.

    What makes me extra sick about Collinsworth and his comments is he rolls up with the SNF crew. You know he’s leaving in a very snow capable vehicle he’s not leaving in his joe-schmoo ’99 civic. Would he tell his wife who was leaving at midnight, in the middle of a blizzard with 40 mile an hour winds — oh, it’s just football weather. Would any diva-situation commentator?

  19. The snow emergency was declared at 2 pm. The game was postponed almost 2 hours before that, before any snow had actually accumulated. I don’t necessarily disagree with postponing the game, but I definitely disagree with the way they made the decision.

    I used to live in Michigan, where we got snow like this all the time. I couldn’t simply stop working because of heavy snow. It’s not hard to drive in it, it’s just that some drivers are idiots and can’t cope with it, but those people shouldn’t be driving in the first place. If you can’t navigate your way home after a football game because of a foot of snowfall, then you don’t deserve a license.

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