Week 13 Monday 10-pack


The 13th Sunday of the NFL season brought bad luck for plenty of teams.  But good luck for others.

And that’s the extent to which I’ll force a triskaidekaphobia-inspired introduction onto this week’s edition of the Monday 10-pack.

Actually, I could also expand the normal list of 10 takes to 13.  Luckily enough, I know not to take on the extra work.

1.  Packers close in on 16-0.

Many believed that, if the Packers could get past the giant-killing Giants in Week 13, the defending Super Bowl champs would be virtually guaranteed a perfect regular season.

Given the current state of the four remaining opponents, that outcome is looking more and more likely.

For starters, the Raiders looked ragged in Miami; they next come to Lambeau Field on Sunday.  Then, the Packers head to Kansas City.  Though the Chiefs possibly will avoid being blown out, it’s a stretch to imagine them beating the Packers.

Then come the back-to-back season-ending home games, which suddenly look a lot easier, given the injury-fueled implosion of the Bears and the penalty-driven collapse of the Lions.

The broader question becomes whether the Packers can win the following three games — the ones that really count.  The added pressure of becoming the first 19-0 team in league history won’t help.  The larger challenge could come, ironically, from the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  If it’s cold, wet, windy, etc. on a January day when a team like the 49ers come to town, the Packers’ home-field advantage could be neutralized, since the Niners excel at running the ball and stopping the run.

2.  Silver lining for the Giants.

In 2007, the Giants hosted the 15-0 Patriots.  In a game with no playoff implications for either team, New York stayed within three points, losing late by a score of 38-35.  The near miss gave the Giants a surge of confidence that propelled them through the playoffs and into a rematch with the Patriots.

And if you don’t know what happened when they played again, the sport is called football.  We hope you become a fan of the game.

This time, another 38-35 home loss to another unbeaten juggernaut could provide similar confidence to a Giants team that sits one game behind the Cowboys, with two games to play against them.  Though there are many differences, the Giants could use the fact that they gave the Packers everything they could handle as the bucket of ice water to snap the Giants from yet another late-season funk.

If it doesn’t happen, it could be the last late-season funk over which coach Tom Coughlin ever presides.

3.  Bears ready to break glass in event of emergency.

When Sunday began, the always-accurate Jay Glazer reported that the Bears are “absolutely not interested” in free-agent quarterback (and Chicago native) Donovan McNabb.

When Sunday ended, our colleague John Mullin of CSNChicago.com was reporting that the Bears would now consider adding McNabb.

The change of heart demonstrated the degree of desperation that the Bears already are feeling.  Quarterback Caleb Hanie has been dreadful (three more picks on Sunday), rookie Nathan Enderle isn’t ready, and Josh McCown is, well, Josh McCown.  Although serious questions remain regarding the fitness, work ethic, and skills of the 13-year veteran, McNabb remains a better option than any of the three healthy quarterbacks currently on the roster, combined.

But even McNabb may not be enough to make a difference, especially if running back Matt Forte misses more than a game or two with a partially torn MCL.

With offensive coordinator Mike Martz already reportedly set to be dumped, coach Lovie Smith could be on the hot seat (again) in 2012, if the Bears don’t make it to the postseason in 2011.  That’s why they’re now inclined to consider giving McNabb a chance, even if there’s not much of a chance he’ll make them any better.

4.  Chargers aren’t dead yet.

It’s easy to assume that the San Diego Chargers will end up on the outside looking in when the season ends.  At 4-7 and with six straight losses, there’s no reason to believe that Chargers can turn it around.

But there’s one curious fact, based on something the Chargers accomplished three years ago.

In 2008, the Chargers lost eight of the first 13 games, and they trailed the 8-5 Broncos with three weeks remaining in the regular season.  But San Diego won the final three games.  Just as importantly, the Broncos lost the final three games.

When the dust settled, the Chargers made it to the postseason as the AFC West champs, they beat the Colts in the wild-card round, they gave the Steelers more of a fight than expected the following week, and the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan.

It’s not likely that the Chargers will pull it off again, but that one slice of history means that, for now, we can’t rule anything out.  Especially with the Raiders suddenly looking worse-than-ordinary and the Cinderella Broncos a shattered slipper away from falling apart.

5.  Team Tebow will be tough to beat in January.

It would be dangerous, however, to assume that the clock will strike midnight for Tim Tebow before the postseason.  With each passing week, the Broncos gain more and more confidence, knowing that as long as they can stay within a score of the opponent, Team Tebow can ultimately prevail.

And that attitude will serve them well in January, when confidence becomes nearly as important as talent.  Adversity eventually strikes every playoff team (except for the 1985 Bears), and the Broncos know how to overcome it because they’re doing it on a weekly basis.

Then there’s the fact that, as the media attention increases, Tebow will continue to be the focal point of it, he’ll be ready for it based on all the attention he has absorbed throughout his career, and it’ll allow his teammates to go about their business without being caught up in the distractions.

Some thought Michael Irvin was crazy to suggest Tebow can take the Broncos to the Super Bowl.  It arguably would be crazier to presume that he can’t.

And it’s even crazier to continue to assume that he’s a gimmick quarterback.  On Sunday, Tebow ran the ball only four times.  In contrast, he completed 10 of 15 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating on 149.3.

Though his mechanics remain flawed and his accuracy remains at times coincidental, Tebow’s passing numbers compare favorably to those of his predecessor, Kyle Orton.  As Football Night In America editorial consultant Elliott Kalb pointed out after Sunday’s game, Tebow has now thrown 158 passes; Orton threw 155.  While Orton has more completions and a higher completion percentage, Tebow has more yards, a higher per-attempt average, more touchdowns (10 for Tebow, eight for Orton), far fewer interceptions (one for Tebow, seven for Orton), and a passer rating more than 12 points higher.

Most importantly, Tebow has six wins in seven starts.  Even if John Elway’s body language suggests that he doesn’t like the way it’s happening, it’s impossible to argue with the results.

It’ll be even harder to do that if (when) the Broncos start knocking off some of the supposedly elite AFC teams in the playoffs.

6.  Ravens may no longer need Ray Lewis.

After Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis injured a foot three weeks ago in Seattle, rumors swirled that Lewis would not play again this season.  Coach John Harbaugh dismissed the notion that Lewis won’t be back, but he already has missed three of the final seven games.  Jason La Canfora of NFL Network suggested on Sunday that Lewis could be back in Week 15, if Baltimore needs to win the game.

Given that the Ravens, Steelers, Patriots, and Texans are each 9-3, the Ravens will need to win the game.  But here’s the thing.  They’ve shown they don’t need Ray Lewis.

And this could be the best way for the post-Ray Ravens to realize that they’ll be fine after he inevitably retires.  The training wheels came off on the fly, the Ravens kept peddling, and they’re 3-0 without him.

More importantly, they’ve found a way to win against an inferior foe on the road the week after a huge victory.  That’s something Lewis couldn’t will them to do in three prior chances this season.

Though the Ravens will find a place for Lewis as long as he wants one, the team’s success without him suggest that, if the foot keeps Lewis from playing again this year and if the Ravens can continue to thrive, it could be the right time for him to realize that it’s the right time to move on.

7.  Peyton’s place may no longer be in Indy.

Another face-of-the-franchise-type player could be leaving his team under far different circumstances.  The Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning continue to careen toward an inevitable No. 1 pick in the draft and a $28 million option bonus that comes due to Manning in early March.

In a lengthy interview on the CBS pregame show, which somehow seemed even longer than it was, Manning disputed the recent suggestion from Vice Chairman Bill Polian that the two men discussed the possibility of the team picking a quarterback, explaining that the conversation occurred two years ago.  That discrepancy suggests a deeper disconnect that could drive the two sides apart.

Then there’s the ominous explanation from Manning that the eventual decisions regarding his future will become apparent in March.  That’s a far cry from Manning’s past proclamations that he’ll never play for another team.

Don’t be surprised, then, if Manning decides to move on.  The bigger question is whether he’ll play elsewhere in 2012 or whether, like former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, Manning won’t find an alternative destination that will pay him top-of-the-market money and that will give him the ingredients for the success that Peyton craves.

8.  Raheem is nervous, and he should be.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris has become increasingly skittish this season, most recently dropping an “F” bomb while discussing his decision to take a page from the Mike Singletary coaching playbook.  Morris is nervous for a very good reason.

Morris has a contract that runs through 2012.  While G.M. Mark Dominik received earlier this year a four-year extension, Morris hasn’t.

And so after the 2011 season, the Bucs need to decide whether to extend Raheem’s deal, to let him coach as a lame duck, or to move on.

Though there’s currently no obvious reason to believe that the Bucs will fire Morris, Morris knows that plenty of stuff can be happening behind the scenes.  He knows this because, in early 2009, he and Dominik were the guys who secretly were being lined up behind the scenes to replace former head coach Jon Gruden and former G.M. Bruce Allen.

So what’s happening behind Raheem’s back now?  He’s surely wondering about that, and that’s surely making him even more anxious than he should be.

Some would say that, by taking the job held by his former boss while his former boss didn’t know he’d be the former boss, Morris deserves a similar fate.  Regardless, his own experiences are now making him wonder what ownership may be cooking up without his knowledge.  And if ownership isn’t up to something, they need to extend Raheem’s contract sooner rather than later, in order to put the coach’s mind at ease regarding a dynamic that ownership utilized when hiring him in the first place.

9.  Chris Johnson moves closer to being Chris Johnson again.

Last week, Titans running back Chris Johnson rushed for 190 yards.  It created the impression that Johnson has finally rediscovered the magic that fueled a holdout that caused him to lose said magic.  But the tape showed a guy who still couldn’t explode like he did earlier in his career.

This week, Johnson added another 153.  And there were hints that he’s getting closer to rediscovering his ability to hit a hole and explode vertically, untouchable even by men who think they have an easy angle on him.

If Johnson can get it back this year, the Titans could be a major factor.  The No. 6 seed remains up for grabs, with a total of five five-loss teams, each of whom hold a two-game lead over the next cut of contenders.  The Titans are among that quintet, and they’re likely the most overlooked.  With Johnson churning up the yardage and getting closer to playing like his old self, maybe they shouldn’t be.

10.  Schwartz needs to get his team under control.

Much has been said about the stomping incident committed on Thanksgiving by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  More should have been said about the role of coach Jim Schwartz in nudging his players toward the line over which Suh leapt, and then pretending to have no responsibility when it happened.

Schwartz wants his defensive players to be salty, nasty.  It makes them more aggressive, which makes them more intimidating and thus more effective.  The mindset traces directly to Schwartz’s time in Tennessee where, despite having an influential position on the Competition Committee, Titans coach Jeff Fisher cultivated a chippy defense that wasn’t above a periodic punch or kick or, as the case may be, cleat stomp on a bare forehead.

With Schwartz enabling and/or creating Suh, other players have followed suit — on offense.  Last night, receiver Titus Young drew a drive-killing penalty for an open-handed blow to the head worse than the one that got Richard Seymour ejected in Miami.  Then, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, during a late-game drive even more deliberate than Donovan McNabb’s punt-pass-and-puke effort in Super Bowl XXXIX, actually shoved an official.  Amazingly, Pettigrew wasn’t ejected.

At some point, Schwartz needs to be held responsible for the conduct of his players.  The NFL decided this year to implement a procedure for fining teams based on certain player misconduct; the program needs to be expanded to take money out of the coaches’ pockets, too.

Then again, if enough dumb penalties contribute to enough losses, coaches like Schwartz ultimately will be held accountable, since they’ll be fired.

41 responses to “Week 13 Monday 10-pack

  1. In reference to #5 with the ’85 Bears not facing adversity.. They did lose their starting QB for a while, and their starting CB (Frazier) in the Super Bowl.

  2. Point # 1.

    I’m not a fan of either team, but the only team that can stop the Packers from repeating is the Saints,not the 9er’s, not anyone from the AFC, as they can score just as many points, no matter where the game is played, or what the elements are…I think the 9ers transformation this year is remarkable, but i will take Drew Brees over Alex Smith every day of the week…..

  3. My thought on Ray Lewis prior to this season was that he’d call it quits after the 2012 season, depending on what the Ravens did this year (as in, he could pull a John Elway/Jerome Bettis and retire if the Ravens won the Super Bowl). I have always hoped and anticipated seeing him become a linebackers coach for the Ravens after he retires so he could still motivate his guys after the fact. Suggs and Ngata have done extremely well anchoring the defense without Lewis in the middle, and if the Ravens find a middle linebacker to succeed Lewis in the draft, then I’ll be okay with Lewis calling it a career.

  4. Agreed with greenpacker. There’s zero chance Lovie is on the hot seat. They were given absolutely zero chance of a making a playoff run, which they were in prime position to do until Cutler went down. Now Forte. He won’t get fired for over acheiving, and then having his two best players go down.

  5. It seems strange to me that anyone who watched the entire Bears Chiefs game would have an entire article based on the play of Caleb Hanie. Our O-line has collapsed in the last few weeks, after having gelled quite nicely. The kid is consistently running for his life.

    I’ll grant that he’s not as experienced, but I’d prefer him to McNabb any day of the week, and thrice on Sunday. He’s acting inexperienced because he IS inexperienced.

    Lovie isn’t on the hot seat, but Martz? I’m ready for him to go. The man tries to force his own style on an offense, rather than trying to use his noodle to work with talent he has.

  6. Re: Schw-Fartz..I told ya…the fish stinks from the head down. He’s a jerk and The Lions are festering as quickly as they showed promise. Suh-ieeeeeee!

  7. Thank god you wrote something about Tebow. Because no one else in any of the media is talking about Tebow. It’s as if Tebow doesn’t exist Tebow. Tebow When we all know what a great young man this Tebow is Tebow. Tebow and Tebow he Tebow just Tebow doesn’t Tebow get Tebow any Tebow of Tebow the Tebow attention Tebow he Tebow deserves Tebow Tebow.

  8. As a Giants fan, the Broncos remind me a lot of the 2007 Giants. Not steller but extremely resilient, with an QB that plays when it counts, and a defense that gets better each week.

    Look out Green Bay.

  9. As a Packer fan, I agree with 700levelvet – the Saints are the Packers biggest threat. However, the Saints are not as good on the road and they likely won’t get a first round bye meaning they will have to play an extra game and then travel the next two weeks. Oh, and two of their three losses were to turd teams.

  10. Great article on Tebow for once. No matter how great he plays nor how many wins he has, I see the haters still hating, which means it’s not about football with them,but more about his faith………. Sad.

  11. Everyone says that Tebow’s Broncos are only where there are because of there defense. That if an opponent scores more than 14 the Broncos can’t keep pace. Well yesterday the Defense had an off day without von miller and the Vikings put up 32, so the Broncos put up 35!

    Also the Defense that supposedly is the only reason Tebow is 6-1 is the same Defense Orton had as a 1-4 starter and Orton had Brandon Lloyd!

  12. The Ravens will not be okay without Ray Lewis. He’s a great motivator and has shown that his presence is a must. If he does retire, the Ravens MUST include him on the staff. Hopefully he can become a mentor for all future Ravens linebackers.

  13. I don’t agree on the Schwartz take. This is not a “culture” thing right now it is a composure thing. The Lions have been lovable losers for ten years now. Suddenly they are in a playoff race and playing in prime time – and they are sinking under the pressure. And it has nothing to do with the loss to the 49ers and Schwartz melting down. It really is about that huge Monday night win against Chicago. It was as if they had won the Superbowl – almost like that was the pinnacle of their season. Since then they have not been able to make plays when they needed it and they have lost their mojo … they have got zero confidence and at the slightest sign of pressure they make stupid choices. This team just lacks experience and that is why they play without composure.

  14. As an under 44 year old Dolphin fan, I can only say I hope the Packers go 19-0. We weren’t old enough to enjoy the perfect season, yet we still have to deal with the stupid jokes and negative attention brought on by loud minority of those 72ers. Hope the Pack does it, so we can end all the champagne jokes already.

  15. I am not a 49ers fan, but Alex Smith is a free agent at the end of the season and while he has played well, that team could really be something with a heathly Peyton Manning at QB. They might even be able to sign them both as Alex Smith would make a nice insurance policy and could compete to get the job back in a few years when Manning retires…and he might get himself a superbowl ring while he waits. There is not a better team in terms of having the players to win now but still have a weakness at QB.

  16. I’m starting to see why Hanie kept getting demoted.

    I’m trying really hard to find some positive things about the way this season is shaping. One nice thing is hearing a lot of people eat their words on Cutler. Look how fast this offense collapsed without him. If the Bears stumble into the playoffs and Cutler and Forte are healthy, the Bears will make a splash.

    Injuries happen and they suck for everyone. After the last two games I’m sure the Bears would be on a 7 game winning streak with Cutler. Oh well, this is reality.

    I don’t care who Tebow prays to. He can pray to Jesus, Satan or a statue of a monkey. It doesn’t make him a good QB. He’s garbage and won’t be around very long.

  17. You know, as a packer fan I hate to say it, but I’m sick of hearing about the 16-0 talk. Sure it has a nice ring to it, but theres a different ring I have in mind. (See Superbowl)

  18. You know you are reading a blog by lawyer when his first instinct is to take money from someone. The biggest penalty a coach can receive is a loss because of the stupid penalties. That loss holds Schwartz accountable. He isn’t putting bounties out on players. He’s asking them to play hard and the next step is to play smart. The best teams can do both but if you can’t get your team to be physical and passionate being smart leaves you with a team that enjoys moral victories rather than real ones.

  19. I’ve wiped unrecognizable slime smelling of offal off the bottom of my shoe that I respected more than that little Napoleon wannabe, Schwartz.

  20. I hope Tebow and the Broncos make it to Foxboro ,,,, pu-LEASE in the playoffs. Good versus evil! The chosen one versus hoodie and his sidekick, the father of illegitimate children!

    Cut to Tebow on one knee… sounds of angels. Cut to Bill looking out from under the hoodie with one eye, through a snow storm.

    60 minutes later, cut back to Tebow leading prayer group after 35-14 whupping by the Pats. Please, let it be so!!

  21. Lol oh my god Broncos fans. You are so ridiculous. I am actually glad that you guys are doing well (Packers fan). I am not “bashing” Tim Tebow here. It’s good to see the Broncos upset the balance.

    BUT PLEASE. For the love of frickin’ God. Please actually see what is happening. PLEASE pay attention to REALITY.

    Tebow passed 15 TIMES. He ran for FOUR. That’s only 19 snaps in which Tebow had any direct effect on the outcome of the game. I mean, really? REALLY? All of the other games? His completion percentage is ABYSMAL – he’s more likely to throw an incomplete pass than a completion. Yes he doesn’t turn the ball over… BECAUSE HE DOESN”T THROW. He just runs the ball if there’s nothing there – or takes a sack.

    He hasn’t done anything except beat the Raiders (THAT was an impressive win – his ONLY one). The rest of the wins have been against absolutely garbage teams.

    I am so done arguing with you morons about who is actually winning these games. Be happy that the Broncos are winning, that’s fine. Be happy that Tebow is a great leader and inspiring his teammates to play better. But don’t sit here and act like we’re all morons and actually believe that Tebow is a good quarterback. He’s TERRIBLE.

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here — does anyone have any logic or reason or ability to think for themselves? Cripesake.

  22. “savagenation2011 says:
    Dec 5, 2011 9:45 AM
    Great article on Tebow for once. No matter how great he plays nor how many wins he has, I see the haters still hating, which means it’s not about football with them,but more about his faith………. Sad.”

    You know, you could easily reverse that around.

  23. @ Dellied –

    I am Bears fan and I COMPLETELY agree with you. They are winning in spite of him not because of him.

    The Bears went 3 – 0 with Krenzel in 2004. He hasn’t been in the NFL since. For crying out loud they went 16 – 4 in REX GROSSMAN’S first 20 games!!!

  24. “…Jim Schwartz in nudging his players toward the line over which Suh leapt, and then pretending to have no responsibility when it happened”

    Of course he’s nudging them to to the line, that’s called coaching and getting your players to be at their best! The players not crossing the line is called professionalism and it’s their responsibility to keep their cool as they are supposed to be at the top of their profession. If Schwartz was not pushing them to the “line” with two hands and a shoulder, I’d want another coach!

    As fas as deflecting his responsibility on his players goes, if this was really happening the team would rightfully turn on him in a NY second via quitting. There’s no signs of that happening and that’s not conjecture!!

  25. An interesting test for Team Tebow will come on 12/18 when the Patriots visit Denver. If Denver’s defense is unable to slow down Tom Brady will Denver’s offense be able to match New England score for score?

  26. The Colts/Manning situation is intriguing and will be the hot topic right after the Super Bowl and leading up to the draft. Manning is holding the cards right now with the March 1st bonus payment due and could force his release if he still wants to and can play. If he wants to stay in Indy a trade for Luck is likely and Denver, Washington and San Francisco are likely suitors in my opinion. The Colts could pry some big names off those rosters to immediately upgrade their team especially on defense and still command draft pick compensation with all the hype for Luck. If the Colts or Manning decide to part ways there wouldn’t be a better place for him to land than in SF. I think there is a zero percent chance of Manning staying with the Colts and them taking Luck.

  27. The broader question becomes whether the Packers can win the following three games — the ones that really count. The added pressure of becoming the first 19-0 team in league history won’t help. The larger challenge could come, ironically, from the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. If it’s cold, wet, windy, etc. on a January day when a team like the 49ers come to town, the Packers’ home-field advantage could be neutralized, since the Niners excel at running the ball and stopping the run.
    Only in MF’s mind is this accurate. Younger QBs have no problem throwing in the cold. Stats back me up in that respect. Rodgers will kill the 49ers secondary. Take note he has not played his best the last four weeks. He will get better before the playoffs.

  28. I think I could throw for 200 yards against the current Vikings’ secondary, especially if a lot of it came from the receivers’ legs.

  29. If Manning leaves the Colts, which team would be the best fit?
    I can’t imagine him playing for any team in the AFC because most of the contenders are mostly set at QB (unless the Ravens lose confidence in Flacco).
    It would be interesting if the Cowboys made a play for him. He could face off against his brother twice a year. The only other team that would make sense (and probably makes the most sense) is the 49ers.

  30. Listen to the Monday Lions presser before you bash Schwartz…he’s handling it the right way

  31. Not superstitous at all with that 38-35 score, just know its do or die in Dallas next week! Eli loves Texas stadium he always excels there. If the defense can hold up first place is ours.

  32. Lets see The Packers will be at home basically for the next 2 months besides a road trip to KC. They will live work ,practice and play all their remaining games in the cold weather. Yet the writers here are trying to sell to the readers that a dome team from New Orleans or a California team which will have no experience in the bad weather will come into Lambeau and dominate.
    Fun Fact: Where was the NFC Championship played last year and just who won it. Bet it was pretty cold that day.

  33. I still like shwartz but he has to put his foot down(no pun intended) on these young guys,UNACCEPTABLE! there is a real logical chance of making the playoffs.We should beat min,san diego and oakland to get to 10 wins and there should not be 1 dumb penalty left in them this year..if this dumb penalty crap continues and we completely fold these last 4 games i might be calling for shwartzs head.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.