This Josh Jacobs is a fabulous player. We’ve got 15 more pennant-racy things to talk about today than the 4-7 Raiders—the 49ers haven’t allowed a second-half point in five weeks, no one wants to win the NFC South, here comes Deshaun Watson, here come the Dolphins, Jalen Hurts could seriously challenge Patrick Mahomes for MVP, the NFL can’t be serious in keeping Denver on Sunday night in two weeks, Washington could dump the Giants into last place in the NFC East next week, what should we think of the North Little Rock Jerry Jones?—and I will get to every one, and more. But what happened in Decibelville Sunday, that 40-34 overtime win for the Raiders in Seattle, was extraordinary.
“It all started before the game,” Jacobs, the hero of Week 12 in the NFL, told me from the Raiders’ giddy locker room in Seattle. “This fan, when we came out of the tunnel, held up a sign: ‘3-7. NOT BAD FOR A TEAM WITH NO TALENT.’ And he was screaming at us, all this bad stuff. I just looked up at him and said, ‘Thank you for that. I needed that today. You turnt me up.’”
Jacobs needed it because he entered the game with a sore calf, and the Raiders didn’t know how long he’d last. Oh, he lasted. Never in his college or pro career had he touched the ball 39 times in a game. Never had he gained 303 scrimmage yards in a game. Never had he rushed for a touchdown as long as 86 yards. He did all of those things Sunday, the final winning one on his last touch of the day in overtime.
But there were losses for Jacobs too. This was a gnarly, feisty game. You think when a guy rushes for 229 yards and walks off in triumph that it was a game of joy with few trials. Not so. Seattle’s got a puncher’s defense, a physical Joe Frazier-type of D that makes you earn every inch. Jacobs was waaaay down when he failed to convert a fourth-and-one run with nine minutes left, leaving Seattle a short field; that touchdown gave the Seahawks a 34-27 lead. But the Raiders came back to force OT. And on the first play of the Raiders’ second overtime drive, the call was a Jacobs burst over right guard.
“We were running outside zone a lot, and I saw the linebackers pointing outside. So we ended up running inside zone, and I knew if I got through the line, it was a foot race after that,” Jacobs told me.
HE GONE‼️‼️@iAM_JoshJacobs OT GAME WINNER.
📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/8JtHrsHSR2
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 28, 2022
I asked Jacobs if he thought he was the best running back in football, and he demurred, saying he loved watching and learning from Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry. Let’s compare the three men who lead the NFL in rushing entering December:
Jacobs: 1,159 yards, 5.4 per rush, nine touchdowns.
Henry: 1,048 yards, 4.2 per rush, 10 touchdowns
Chubb: 1,039 yards, 5.2 per rush, 12 touchdowns.
Yes, Jacobs has a 111-yard lead for the rushing title with six games left. On Sunday, he cared more about the win. He also cared about the fan with the sign.
“He’s the first one I wanted to find after we won,” Jacobs said. “I went over to him and said, ‘Thank you.’”
The 10 stories in the NFL that interest me the most entering the home stretch of the regular season:
The NFL’s Denver problem. With the Broncos locked into one high-profile stinker in a standalone Christmas-afternoon game at the equally moribund Rams, the league has till tomorrow to flex out of the Week-14 Sunday nighter, KC at Denver.
Should Jerry Jones be publicly flogged for a 65-year-old photo? Jones, thanks to some digging by The Washington Post, is smack dab in the middle of a story of race and culture and the NFL’s bad head-coach hiring practices.
Did Odell Beckham wreck his chances to be a rare late-season playoff vaccine for a contender with his weird Florida airplane story Sunday? Probably not. The Cowboys, Bills and Giants will be the judges of that.
Doug Pederson and Brandon Staley made ballsy calls to go for two instead of playing for OT Sunday—or did they? Our sporting society is so messed up. Pederson and Staley are geniuses for going for two and converting and winning Sunday. If they’d failed? My guess is Stephen A. Smith and the Mad Dog would have them on the public grill today for bad calls.
Mike White did Robert Saleh a solid. In seven days, the Jets’ coach went from saying he wasn’t even thinking about a quarterback change from Zach Wilson, to benching Wilson for White, to watching White play the best-quarterbacked game by a Jet this season. Controversy over. There really never was one.
Well now, Jordan Love. With Aaron Rodgers sidelined by thumb and oblique injuries, and the 4-8 Packers out of any realistic playoff contention, the more-than-encouraging performance by Love should earn him a start next week at Chicago. And perhaps four more after that.
Lord, San Francisco’s defense over the past month looks like something out of the Noll days. The Niners had the league’s fourth shutout of the season Sunday. How great a clash of styles would it be to see the Niners against Dallas or Philly or the Vikes in the playoffs?
Matt Rhule’s coaching Nebraska. Mike Rozier’s not walking through that door. But the King of the Reclamation Project should have a chance to make the ‘Huskers competitive. If you can win at Temple, you can win in Lincoln.
Deshaun Watson’s back. With his mates off Monday and Tuesday after the Browns stunned Tampa Sunday, Watson will be in the facility digesting and contributing to the gameplan for next Sunday’s game in Houston. Weird and somehow fitting: Watson’s first NFL game in 700 days will come in NRG Stadium Sunday at high noon CT.
Justin Jefferson cracks my MVP top five. Part of the reason is what he does without the ball.
The stories of the week follow, and I know I’ll miss 10 or 15 good ones.
I love coaches who don’t leave games up to coin flips. Doug Pederson and Brandon Staley both chose to try to win in regulation rather than be subject to the vagaries of overtime. Back when Pederson was in Philadelphia, I remember him putting to go-for-the-win ethos this way: You have two choices. You can go for the tie, then risk losing the toss in overtime and never see the ball again. Or you can go for the win—you can pick out your best short-yardage play or plays and choose one, figuring that there’s a better chance of gaining two yards with a play you love than there is trying to win a game in overtime.
On Sunday, Jacksonville got the ball with 2:02 left in the game, starting at its 25-, down to Baltimore 27-20. “I knew at the start of the drive that if we scored, I was going for two,” Pederson told me.
But as the drive went on, Pederson realized his favorite two-point play was a play designed for elusive running back Travis Etienne, and Etienne was out with a foot injury suffered earlier in the game. He didn’t love anything else on his play sheet. But when Trevor Lawrence threw for a TD with 14 seconds left, the offense came off the field all fired up, urging Pederson to go for two.
He probably would have anyway, but the attitude of his team convinced him. “Then I thought about our players,” Pederson said. “Zay Jones was hot right then—he’d made a couple of great catches. We had a play for him—a stutter-move and quick out to the front pylon. So that was the call.”
Jones had a step on the corner, Trevor Lawrence threw it perfectly, and suddenly it was 28-27, the biggest win of Jacksonville’s season. When Pederson hugged Lawrence afterward, the QB said: “Thanks for trusting me there.” That, Pederson said, is a huge part of a quarterback’s growth.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) November 27, 2022
Now to the late window.
“The irony after what Doug did today,” Staley told me from Arizona Sunday evening, “is that the play we used is a Philadelphia play. We call it ‘The Philly Follow.’ It’s a famous route they had for Zach Ertz. And when we started that last drive, we knew that was going to be the play all along.”
The idea of the play is to isolate the tight end—in this case, Gerald Everett—somewhere in the middle of the field. With Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler drawing attention on front-side routes, the tight end should have space in the middle. At least that was the plan Staley hoped for. He was right. Everett was surprisingly open.
In the Chargers’ case, going for two is totally understandable. They’re so beat up now that it would make no sense to voluntarily risk the Cards winning the toss with Kyler Murray, James Conner, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green and Marquise Brown to deal with against a depleted D.
Obviously, as a coach, you’ve got to be willing to take the heat when you make a call like this. Both of these coaches have shown they can take a lot of it. Luckily for them, they didn’t have to have the suit of armor this time to handle incoming arrows.
After seeing this story in The Washington Post by two of the great writers of our time, David Maraniss and Sally Jenkins, my first thought was: How’d Jenkins and Maraniss ever find the photo of the 14-year-old high school sophomore, Jerry Jones, in the middle of one of the biggest civil-rights protests of the 20th Century?
“It’s been hiding in plain sight,” Jenkins said Sunday. “To me, the bigger shocker is how Jerry got to 80 years old in public life without anyone ever asking him about it or noticing it before.”
In researching stories this year for the Post on the slow pace of Black men to become NFL head coaches, Jenkins said the paper put in requests to interview all NFL owners. Jones was the only one who said yes. The Cowboys have never hired a Black head coach; Jones is eight for eight in hiring white men as his coaches. So Maraniss and Jenkins did their background on Jones, who, on his first day of classes as a sophomore at North Little Rock High School in Arkansas, was photographed in the crowd of students preventing six Black students from enrolling in school. The photo appeared on the front page of The New York Times in 1957, but no one ever put two and two together about the teen who looked like a 14-year-old Jerry Jones until two things happened: Maraniss found a 2010 oral history on Jones’ life at the University of Arkansas in which Jones said he was captured in a photo on the day of the school protests. And Jenkins compared the photo of the boy looking like a young Jones in the picture to digitized photos in North Little Rock school yearbooks.
“We talked to Jerry for two and a half hours,” Jenkins said, “and he was very forthright about it—not defensive in the least.”
It’s hard to know what to make of the photo, and of Jones’ explanation of being there that day, and whether what you do at 14 should matter when you’re 80. Keep in mind that there is no evidence that Jones did anything that day other than to stand and watch some older students who were active in keeping six Black students out of school. He told Maraniss and Jenkins that he was there that day as “more of a curious thing.” As Jenkins said, “His account is that he was clearly a bystander.”
But being part of the throng, even on the perimeter, and being raised in the Jim Crow South, coupled with the fact he hasn’t hired a Black coach in 33 years as an NFL owner raises questions that Maraniss and Jenkins went to Texas to ask. And the questions got into the way the NFL hires coaches, and into Jones’ belief that any person who wants a job or possession bad enough—as with him buying the Cowboys in 1989—can lift him or herself by the bootstraps to make it happen. That included coaching an NFL team.
“His whole point to us is look, the Rooney Rule doesn’t really touch how we’re making these decisions,” Jenkins said. “We’re hiring who we know. That’s what he said point blank—’I didn’t hire Jimmy Johnson off an interview. I didn’t hire Barry Switzer off an interview. And I wouldn’t have hired Dennis Green (a Black coach Jones once considered hiring) off an interview.’
“I found a lot of what he said very blunt, very direct. And very useful, frankly. The question is how do you escort talented Black men who want to stay in football and maybe run organizations, how do you escort them into that inner circle? Even Emmitt Smith, who does business with Jerry Jones, said a very interesting thing—that he’s done deals with Jerry Jones but when I asked if he thought he was in Jerry’s inner circle, he said, ‘I would say I go in and out of it.’ And he said, ‘I would also say, I think he has conversations with white businessmen that may be different.’
“My big takeaway is he talked about it. That’s a victory. For an owner to sit down and talk about this, had to be such a relief to so many of the Black men in the league who are so tired of this implacable silence on the subject. Or these platitudes, like, ‘We have to do better.’ It’s a relief for me to hear an owner talk in some forthright terms about this.”
People will think of Jones what they will. He’s been in the public eye for so long; opinions about famous people like him have solidified, mostly. It’s impossible to know what’s in a man’s heart. But I’ve never gotten the sense from Black players or any players, frankly, that Jones is a racist. It’s nothing I’ve ever heard.
But Jones understands the power he wields. He knows the impact of the Cowboys never having hired a Black coach. So the end game here, of course, is continuing to look for ways for excellent Black coaches to get exposure to the inside of the top levels of the sport. Jones and Green were on the Competition Committee together, so they spent a week or so together every spring and ate meals and talked at great length. The NFL founded an “Accelerator Program” recently to put up to 60 minority job candidates, coaching and front office, in front of owners. The program will continue at NFL business meetings in Texas next month.
Two interesting things going on in TV land:
1. The NFL will think seriously about flexing out of a Sunday night Patrick Mahomes game on Dec. 11. Weird to think about, because Mahomes and Kansas City are ratings gold. But Mahomes flogging the incompetent Broncos—just when you think Denver can’t play worse on offense, this shockingly bad team always does—would not be ratings gold. Denver has done nothing to show it can play competitively with Kansas City. Having Mahomes on in prime time is great, but not if the game’s a slaughter in the middle of the second quarter. Three other candidates for the league to consider: Dolphins-Chargers, Eagles-Giants, Bucs-Niners. Tampa Bay-San Francisco has been protected by FOX, which would have to lift that (and maybe it would if it could get a Mahomes game cross-flexed in exchange). Taking the Philly game away would leave FOX very light in the early Sunday window, with only two games there. The Giants will be on a major slide if they lose to Washington this week anyway. I’d flex into the Tua-Herbert show. Miami’s been underexposed, and America should get to know an exciting team it could be seeing a lot of come the postseason. Roger Goodell will make the call by late tonight, to be announced Tuesday, if there’s a flex.
2. Thanksgiving was ratings magic, the best regular-season day the league’s had in modern TV history. Giants-Cowboys was the most-watched regular-season game ever, and 138 million Americans watched at least one minute of football Thursday. By putting music acts on at halftime of the games—including Bebe Rexha in Detroit (don’t ask me) and the Jonas Brothers in Dallas—the Lions and Cowboys probably drew marginal fans to watch the music. That all counts. “Football’s already so ingrained in Thanksgiving,” EVP of NFL Media Hans Schroeder said Saturday. “Then you consider five of the six teams came in with winning records and Detroit came in hot, and all three games were competitive down to the wire. Plus we had young stars in every game.” Schroeder credited the Lions for putting a good act on at halftime, and he said even with the success of alternative streaming platforms, “Broadcast TV is still the best place for us. We’ve got to keep finding new ways to engage young fans.”
The Browns are 4-7. They’ve lost six of the last eight, but the return of Deshaun Watson gives them a prayer that, if he hits the ground running (certainly no sure thing), they could be a factor in the playoff race. Cool thing that coach Kevin Stefanski gave Jacoby Brissett, who has kept the seat warm for Watson, a game ball for engineering the comeback to beat Tom Brady and the Bucs in overtime.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 28, 2022
Brissett’s been an excellent leader and okay player, and 4-7 is about what the public thought the Browns would be when Watson returned. “Y’all feel like I’m about to die or something,” Brissett told reporters Sunday. “I still have a job to do.” But that job now morphs into helping Watson win six games down the stretch. I still think asking Watson to play great after 23 months out of the saddle is a huge ask, but we’ll see. Who sits for two years, then has to play the most important position in the game for the six most important games of the season, and can do it at a winning level week after week?
The players are off till Wednesday. Watson will be in the building Monday and Tuesday working out and getting a start on the gameplan. He’ll take over the offense Wednesday in a 10:45 a.m. walkthrough practice, then a real practice at 1:15 that afternoon. Will the circus be around for the game in Houston—protests or vociferous booing? Likely. And with Cleveland being on the road for four of its last six games (also at Cincinnati, Washington and Pittsburgh), Watson can expect road crowds to remember exactly why he was suspended for 11 weeks in the first place.
The second week of my MVP rankings follows. The Associated Press, curators of the award, announced last week it would have its 50 NFL awards voters give a top five for the MVP instead of just one winner-take-all selection, which had been the AP’s model for years. In that spirit, here are my top five in the NFL race after 12 weeks, along with five more contenders:
- Micah Parsons, edge, Dallas.
- Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati.
- Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee.
- Geno Smith, QB, Seattle.
- Saquon Barkley, RB, N.Y. Giants.
Justin Jefferson bursts into the top five; Parsons and Burrow move up on the contenders list, while Henry, Smith and Barkley drop a bit. Jefferson’s move is because of his incredible performance Thursday night (explanation below) plus his full-season greatness. Jefferson has more receiving yards in his first three seasons than any player in NFL history—and he has six games to put that number pretty far in the distance. The rest of the top four remains the same: Mahomes, Hurts and Tagovailoa after all beating wounded opponents, and Allen after winning twice in Detroit in five days.
Agree, disagree or throw tomatoes at me at email@example.com.
FMIA has partnered with NFL Next Gen Stats for a deeper look into one story each week, using motion and speed trackers on players all over each NFL field.
The reason I have Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson in my top five NFL MVP candidates after 12 weeks is because of this Next Gen Stats dot play from Minnesota’s 33-26 victory over New England:
Adam Thielen (15-yd TD reception)
Watch as #18 Justin Jefferson commands the attention of three Patriots defenders enabling #19 Thielen to get open in the end zone.
Thielen had 3.4 yards of separation when the pass arrived, while Jefferson had two defenders within 4 feet.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 26, 2022
Touchdown, Adam Thielen.
Jefferson never touched the ball, but he drew three Patriots defenders to him.
Thielen scored and had one Patriot covering him, loosely.
Not only is Jefferson the most productive receiver ever in a player’s first three NFL seasons (with six games left in his third), but he shows his value even when he’s not targeted. On this snap, Jefferson was lined up wide left, and New England corner Jack Jones covered him off the line. As you can see on Next Gen Stats’ tweeted dot play, Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty pick Jefferson up in the middle of the field and double him, while Jack Jones lollygags into no-man’s land in the end zone, covering no one as Thielen drags across the formation and catches the go-ahead touchdown pass (and ultimately, the winning one) with 9:34 left in the game.
Per Next Gen, Jack Jones was 16.6 yards from Thielen and 16.2 yards from Jefferson at the time the ball was caught, doing nothing productive as the winning TD was caught. Jones has had some shining moments as a rookie, but this was not one of them.
Also per Next Gen, while Jefferson had two defenders draped on him—both within 1.1 yard of him—the single-covered Thielen had a 3.4-yard separation gap from the only Patriot in his area code, cornerback Jalen Mills.
Hard to imagine any receiver in football being as important to his team—including Tyreek Hill—as Jefferson is to the 9-2 Vikings. Next Gen has him on the field for 413 of the Vikings’ 424 pass attempts, more than any receiver in football. And the other thing about Jefferson’s impact is his ability to read and react and get separation on Kirk Cousins’ favorite throw: the cross route. Cousins, per Next Gen, leads all NFL quarterbacks with 50 completions on the crossers, and here’s where the Next Gen tracking devices really shine: Jefferson averages 5.2 yards of separation from the nearest defender on the crossing routes.
When quarterbacks are drafted out of college football, they’re almost always told: Covered in the college game is open in the NFL. Well, with Jefferson, even when everyone knows the ball is coming to him, he still manages to get separation and find a way to get the ball. This is a special player.
Offensive players of the week
Josh Jacobs, running back, Raiders. Remember the first round of Mike Mayock’s inaugural draft running the Raiders? Clelin Ferrell fourth, Josh Jacobs 24th, and Johnathan Abram 27th in Mayock’s first first round. Ferrell’s an afterthought, Abram’s been released … and Jacobs has turned into one of the most physically dangerous offensive players in football. Six minutes into overtime in Seattle Sunday, Jacobs burst over right guard for 86 and the winning touchdown, the big play in the biggest game of his NFL life—33 carries, 229 yards, a 6.9-yard average, and two touchdowns. Josh McDaniels shudders to think where the Raiders would be without him.
Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson, offensive line starters, Philadelphia. In one of the great road-grading performances in NFL history, the Eagles’ offensive line, led by vet coach Jeff Stoutland, beat down the Packers with 49 rushes for 363 yards. That’s the most rushing yards for the Eagles in any game in 74 years. Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders combined for 300 of those yards. Let’s laud the men who got it done, and these guys cleared the holes and allowed the runners to gain an ungodly 7.4 yards per rush.
Mike White, quarterback, N.Y. Jets. “He made the easy plays look easy,” coach Robert Saleh said, presumably after breathing several sighs of relief, in the wake of the Jets’ easy 31-10 win over the Bears. Now Saleh has no decision to make at quarterback. White took it out of his hands with his 22-of-28, 315-yard, three-TD, zero-pick performance, with touchdown passes of eight and 54 yards to ace rookie Garrett Wilson.
Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Jacksonville. I mentioned to Doug Pederson after Jacksonville’s very unlikely comeback win over the Ravens that this felt like a coming-of-age victory for Trevor Lawrence, who hadn’t had one since being the first pick of the 2021 draft. “You’re absolutely right,” Pederson said. Lawrence, at the two-minute warning, down 27-20, took the Jaguars 75 yards in nine plays, then converted the two-point play to win the game. Two plays wowed me. Fourth-and-five at the Jax 30- early in the drive—Lawrence found Marvin Jones on a quick route to the left to convert. On third-and-six from the Ravens’ 29- with 36 seconds left, he found Zay Jones, who made a circus chance deep down the left side for 29 yards. Against a solid defense with a very good secondary, Lawrence was 29-of-37 for 321 yards, with three TDs and zero picks. Just a great performance from a top prospect who hadn’t looked the part, in total, in his first 1.5 NFL seasons.
Defensive players of the week
Nick Bosa, edge, San Francisco. A shutout. Man, is that rare in the NFL. The 49ers beat the Saints 13-0, and a late Bosa sack was a huge key in keeping New Orleans off the board. “You’ve got to protect every blade of grass, and we did,” said Bosa. With the Niners clinging to that 13-0 lead with six minutes left, the Saints had a fourth-and-goal from the four-, and here came Bosa steaming around left tackle, and Andy Dalton never had a chance. Bosa sacked him at the 11-, the biggest play in the rarest of NFL outcomes, a shutout.
Daron Payne, defensive tackle, Washington. With the game—and, perhaps, Washington’s legitimate playoff hopes—on the line, Payne made the play of the day in Washington’s 19-13 win over the Falcons. With a minute left in the fourth quarter and the Commanders hanging on to that six-point lead, Atlanta had second-and-goal from the Washington four-, and Marcus Mariota tried to muscle in the winning TD to Cordarrelle Patterson two yards deep in the end zone. But Payne swatted the ball in the air, and Washington corner Kendall Fuller picked it off in the end zone to clinch the win. For the day, the suffocating Payne had six tackles, two for loss, as Washington held the pesky Falcons to 332 yards and just one TD.
Special teams player of the week
Kene Nwangwu, kick-returner, Minnesota. The Thursday nightcap was tied at 16 at the half, and New England scored on its first drive of the second half to go up 23-16. Now came the kickoff to Nwangwu, the second-year returner who had two kick returns for TD as a rookie, at the Minnesota three-yard line. As he moved downfield and skated toward the left sideline, you could just see what a confident person he is with the ball in his hands. Nwangwu managed to stay inbounds but never appeared to be worried that he’d touch even one white blade of sideline. The 97-yard return for TD started a 17-3 late-game onslaught that helped the Vikings win 33-26.
— NFL (@NFL) November 25, 2022
Coach of the week
DeMeco Ryans, defensive coordinator, San Francisco. After the Niners gave up 30 second-half points to Kansas City Oct. 23, this supposed top-five D didn’t look like a top-20 D. But Ryans stuck with his plan (“We had to eliminate big plays, and we worked hard to do things to make sure that game didn’t happen again,” linebacker Fred Warner said Sunday) and good things resulted. The Niners haven’t given up a point in the second half in any of the four games since the KC debacle, and Ryan’s crew pitched a rare NFL shutout over the Saints in Santa Clara on Sunday.
Announcer of the Week
Miguel Gurwitz, Telemundo. Gurwitz is Telemundo’s play-by-play voice for Thursday night football. But he also has the honor of being Telemundo’s anchor for World Cup coverage, and he is stationed in Qatar for five weeks to do so. You’ve got to see his Thursday/Friday morning to believe it:
7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Qatar time: Anchored four games of World Cup coverage with pre-game, halftime and post-game shows.
[Transported to International Broadcast Center in Doha, Qatar]
4 a.m.-7:30 a.m.: Did play-by-play of Vikings-Patriots.
8 a.m.: Back at hotel, slept for three hours, then resumed anchor duties for Friday’s soccer games.
“My boss asked me a few months ago, ‘You’re going to be at the World Cup when these Thursday night football games are going on.’ I said right away, ‘I want to do both!’ For me, it’s once in a lifetime. I’m getting to live out my dreams.”
Gurwitz, born in Mexico City, lives in south Florida. Loves the NFL. His son is a high school quarterback. We spoke on Friday, after his marathon Thursday and then full day of soccer Friday. I asked him how he was handling the load.
“Great,” he said. “I love it. I’m a kid walking into Toys R Us with all the money in the world. I can sleep later.”
— Miguel Gurwitz (@Miguel_Gurwitz) November 21, 2022
The Jason Jenkins Award
Blake Corum, running back, Michigan. A day after injuring his knee—which put his availability for the biggest game of his life, the Michigan-Ohio State game, in doubt—Corum delivered 200 turkeys and Thanksgiving meals to the needy in nearby Ypsilanti, Mich. He used his NIL earnings to do so. “NIL is going really good, so I told my dad, ‘I’m going to buy 100 turkeys,’” Corum told Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News. Local charities contributed other food for the meals—mac and cheese, canned fruits and vegetables—and also doubled the number of turkeys distributed. So Corum’s good deed led to 200 families having a happier Thanksgiving.
I was talking to it yesterday, I was talking to the ball, and I was like, ‘You already know how I feel about you.’ I was kissing her and I was telling her it’s going to happen soon.
–Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore, who was actually referring to a conversation he had with the football Saturday, before he caught a touchdown pass in New York’s 31-10 win over the Bears.
It’s awful for us. It’s awful for him.
—Tom Brady, on the injury suffered by the best offensive lineman on the Bucs, right tackle Tristan Wirfs.
I been wanting to say this in front of the team since everything happened back in August. Everyone in this room has shown me unconditional love and support, just to help me get to this point for real. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the people in this room.
–Washington running back Brian Robinson, after rushing for 105 yards—his first career 100-yard rushing game—and scoring on a 14-yard TD catch Sunday. These were his words in the locker room after coach Ron Rivera presented him with a game ball for his play in Washington’s 19-13 win, just three months after he was shot twice in a Washington carjacking. Touching moment.
Last week and this week have never met.
–Brad Sham, the Cowboys’ venerable play-by-play voice, near halftime of the New York-Dallas game Thursday. After beating the Vikings by 37 on the road Sunday, the Cowboys stumbled and fumbled their way to a halftime deficit four days later to the Giants.
After many prayers and multiple discussions with my wife, one phrase keeps coming to me: It’s time.
–Stanford football coach David Shaw, who announced his resignation Saturday night after 12 years on the job. Heck of a run. Shaw retires as the winningest coach in school history (96-54), with three conference titles and two Rose Bowl wins. Who knows? Shaw is 50. We could see him in the NFL again.
The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills entered year two of their quarterback reboots in 2019—the Jets with Sam Darnold, the Bills with Josh Allen, both in their second season.
That’s where the similarity between these two teams ends.
Starting quarterback changes since 2019:
Buffalo: 0. Allen has started all 60 regular-season games.
Team regular-season records since 2019:
N.Y. Jets: 20-40.
Justin Jefferson eclipsed Randy Moss for the most receiving yards in a player’s first three years in NFL history Thursday night. Moss had 4,163 yards in 48 games in his first three years, 86.7 yards per game. Jefferson has 4,248 yards in 44 games, 96.5 yards per game. And Jefferson has six games left this season to burnish those numbers, obviously.
The prospect of Jefferson, if he plays without injury the rest of the season, getting close to 5,000 receiving yards in his first three years would show, again, how much this game has changed in the last 40 years. Lynn Swann’s career ended in 1982. In nine seasons, Swann had 5,462 yards receiving, and he made the Pro Football Hall of Fame (obviously in no small part because of his great postseason performances with the Steelers). Jefferson is well on his way to eclipsing Swann’s career numbers in the middle of next year—at the ripe old age of 24.
On Dec. 6, 2021, the Cardinals were in the driver’s seat for the one seed in the NFC playoffs at 10-2.
Since then, in the equivalent of a full NFL 17-game season, they’re 5-12.
Notably in the past 51 weeks, Arizona has:
- Lost to previously 1-11-1 Detroit by 18 points.
- Slid to the fifth seed of the 2021 playoffs by blowing the NFC West to the Rams.
- Gotten smoked by the Rams in a Wild Card game by 23.
- Handed contracts totaling in the ballpark of $300 million to quarterback Kyler Murray, coach Kliff Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim.
- Had it leaked, damagingly, that the team inserted a homework clause in Murray’s contract, leading to rampant speculation that Murray doesn’t study the gameplan outside the building. (It was later deleted from the contract.)
- Traded first- and third-round picks to Baltimore for wideout Marquise Brown, who had one 100-yard receiving game in the first six weeks and has been missing since with a fractured foot.
- Suffered as their best player, wideout DeAndre Hopkins, was suspended for the first six games of the ’22 season for violating the NFL’s PED policy.
- Opened the season at State Farm Stadium with their sixth straight home loss, by 23 points to Kansas City.
- Gotten mauled by 28 to division rival San Francisco in Mexico, where the Cardinals have NFL “international marketing rights” and are trying to cultivate a strong fan base.
- Endured Murray’s worst statistical season as a pro in passer rating so far this season, with a yards-per-attempt average (6.0) worse than Zach Wilson, Davis Mills and Taylor Heinicke.
- Dismissed two offensive assistant coaches for improper contact with women, the latest being offensive line coach Sean Kugler, accused of groping a woman in Mexico City the night before the Cardinals lost to San Francisco.
Been a fine 12 months otherwise.
Six notes from Thanksgiving in Seattle (with an unexpected stopover in Minneapolis due to a long-delayed connection Saturday):
1. I don’t adjust well to Pacific Time, so I’m staring at the ceiling quite a bit before dawn most mornings. Here’s something I notice while staying at daughter Mary Beth’s home: Her home is near a flight path to SeaTac, and one morning flights were on their approach to land at 3:15, 3:44 and 3:49. You flight buffs might know what flights would be landing between 3 and 4 in the morning. Flights from the Far East maybe?
2. There is nothing more delightful than being assigned to go get grandson Peter, now 11.5 months old, up from his nap, and walking into his darkened room with just a peek of light in there, and whispering, “Hello Peter,” and having him squint up at you and smile. That’s worth the price of admission right there.
3. Two movie notes:
- The extended fam sat around the house Wednesday afternoon, and the other two grandkids, Freddy and Hazel, experienced “Home Alone” for the first time. Freddy did not like Joe Pesci.
- One of my five favorite movies of all time (might be my favorite one) was on the Delta list on the way out to Seattle: “North By Northwest.” Every time I watch it, I’m on the edge of the seat. Riveting, even after 12 or 13 viewings. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, perfect together.
4. Mary Beth plays nothing but Taylor Swift in the car. She’d get along well with Nora Princiotti, who is the Taylorest person on earth. So with “Midnights” playing over and over, I got to like one song: Anti-Hero. I also heard the Kanye West/VMAs story, which I never knew. What an idiot move by him.
5. Took one of Mary Beth’s and Nick’s dogs for a walk Thanksgiving afternoon, and put the AirPods in and listened to Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg for an hour on Giants-Cowboys. What a treat they are. Loved hearing them skewer the Scott Novak crew for whistle after whistle after whistle. Brad’s such a great conversationalist, and both are so honest about the Cowboys’ triumphs and foibles. If I loved the Cowboys, I know I’d be turning down the TV voices and listening to Sham/Laufenberg.
6. Intercontinental Hotel-MSP Airport, a fine place to be stuck. Very fine. One problem: There’s a TSA security station leading from the hotel to the terminal, but it’s not staffed now. Which means you can walk from the terminal to the hotel, but not from the hotel to the terminal. Bummer. I did enjoy, though, the extra layer of security going through MSP at dawn Sunday: a six-year-old vanilla lab in the TSA PreCheck line giving us all the once-over. “I know you want to pet him,” said his handler. “Please don’t. He’s working.”
Aaron Rodgers says in postgame presser: "As long as we're mathematically alive, I'd like to be out there."
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) November 28, 2022
Maske covers the league for The Washington Post.
— Browns Rally Possum (@Browns_Possum) November 27, 2022
From one adopted Browns mascot to the newest, after a skunk joined fans at First Energy Stadium to watch Cleveland beat Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The two-point conversion was implemented in 1994.
This was the first week when multiple games (Jaguars, Chargers) were decided by game-winning points that came on two-point conversions in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) November 28, 2022
Sam Farmer covers the NFL for the LA Times.
If they gave out yellow cards for exaggerating injuries in international men’s soccer there would be no players left on the field.
— Bill Smafia (@KevinBuffalo) November 27, 2022
WGRZ reporter Kevin O’Neill, watching the World Cup.
A note that seems impossible: Matt Rhule beat an AP-ranked opponent at Temple more recently than Nebraska beat a ranked opponent
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) November 26, 2022
Matt Brown covers college football for The Athletic.
I disagree. From Rob Kastens: “You have written multiple times about the lack of minority hiring when it comes to GM’s and head coaches in the NFL. Yet, when you write about the Chiefs offense, you mentioned Eric Bieniemy one time while attributing play design and play calls to Andy Reid multiple times. While there is no disputing that this is Reid’s offense, Bieniemy and Matt Nagy before him have played a significant role in designing and calling plays. Andy’s own comments suggest it is a collaborative effort. The NFL certainly has more to do when it comes to minority hires for these top roles, but sportswriters who describe how much more needs to be done to create a level playing field for minority candidates need to address their own coverage bias.”
You refer to the winning play against the Chargers, the shallow cross for Travis Kelce that was a duplicate of last year’s winning play at Los Angeles. In my story, I referred to “when the offensive staff was installing this crossing route.” I also wrote: “Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy design plays for great players like Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, and they don’t care if they’ve run the plays twice or 20 times already this season.” Reid calls the plays, which I pointed out, and I said Bieniemy contributed to the process. What is missing from what I wrote? I think you’re reaching.
Problem with Rodgers. From Jim Welch, of Denver, N.C.: “I’m a 74 year old Packer fan who would rather watch Aaron Rodgers play football than most anything I can think of, but I totally agree with your comments on this Packer season. The pieces were all there for another 13-win season in 2022, and the reason it hasn’t happened is Aaron Rodgers, not the absence of Davante Adams. If Rodgers were really the competitor he has always claimed to be, he would have gotten together with his new receivers [in the off-season] and established the communication bonds to win.”
I think he needs to commit to doing it between March and June in ’23, Jim.
On the Comeback Player of the Year. From Jim Stephens: “I have noticed on a number of gaming sites that Geno Smith is highly favored to win the Comeback Player of the Year award. Why he is being considered for this award given that he was not injured or out of the league last year—he was just a backup to the starting quarterback?”
There is no definition of what a player is coming back from for that award, Jim. It could be a long benching, it could be injury, it could be from coming out of retirement. Anything, really. It usually goes to a player coming from injury, but it’s not limited to that.
Charles remembers RFK well. From Charles L. Freeman Jr., of Los Angeles: “I was a 12 year old Navy kid in San Diego in 1968 and let me tell you, it was a terrible year in America. My grandfather was a minister who worked and marched with Dr. King in Memphis during his last days. Right after RFK was declared the California primary winner, my parents agreed to let me work stuffing envelopes in his local campaign office. I went to bed that night dreaming of another Kennedy in the White House and awoke the next morning to the murder of another person devoted to making America a better place for all. I believe RFK would have defeated Nixon that November.”
Wow. What a story. Can’t imagine your sadness that morning. How the world would have been different if both John and Robert Kennedy had lived 75-year lives.
On Buffalo. From Brendan P. Kelleher: “Your column last week so accurately described Western New York and its football fans—Squirrel Winter clearing Josh Allen’s driveway, comparing how Western New Yorkers help each other in snowstorms to how an Amish community builds a barn. In a time of so much division in society, your words accurately gave readers a sense of how people of different backgrounds came together in response to an epic snowstorm to work for our common goal, to keep our beloved Bills on the road to the playoffs.”
Pretty neighborly, Brendan. Thanks for the email.
1. I think it’s pretty wild that Patrick Mahomes has 401 more passing yards and six more TD passes than any other quarterback in the NFL. We may not talk about him enough—and we talk about him all the time.
2. I think this little quirk of the schedule would bug me if I’m the Jets. New York plays regular-rest road games at Minnesota and at Buffalo the next two Sundays. The Vikings have 10 days between their Thanksgiving game and the game with the Jets. The Bills have 10 days between their Thursday game (this week) and their Dec. 11 games with the Jets. Once, okay. Twice? In a row? The Jets are playing not only better teams but significantly more rested teams.
3. I think I wonder what kind of names I would have been called if I predicted that, entering December, the Green Bay Packers would have a lesser record than the Jets, the Giants, the Jags, the Falcons and the Seahawks.
4. I think I will not be surprised if Nathaniel Hackett makes it to the end of this season as Denver coach. But I will be extremely surprised if he isn’t one-and-done.
5. I think I got 10 or so responses to my MVP Watch over the past week wondering how could Tyreek Hill not be on the list? Short answer: If you put one member of a team on the list—and Tua Tagovailoa is number three—how could you put another Dolphin on the list? It’s called “Most Valuable Player.” If you’re the second-most valuable player on a team, how could you be the Most Valuable Player in the league?
6. I think the Browns are extremely fortunate they didn’t trade David Njoku, despite his 2021 ask. That tight end will be a huge piece to the puzzle if Deshaun Watson becomes a great quarterback in Cleveland.
What a catch 🔥 @David_Njoku80
— NFL (@NFL) November 27, 2022
7. I think there are those who would find it suspicious that, after it was reported Daniel Snyder has dirt on some NFL owners including Jerry Jones that he could use if owners tried to force him out, all of a sudden this story I wrote about earlier in the column tarnishing Jones appears in The Washington Post. That might, and I repeat might make some sense if Daniel Snyder didn’t despise the newspaper. To do anything to help out Sally Jenkins, who has been highly and consistently critical of the Snyder regime, is simply not logical. “All I can tell you is that Dan Snyder wants me personally face-down in a ditch,” Jenkins said. She chuckled. “Not one owner cooperated with this story other than Jerry Jones.”
8. I think what we never could have envisioned eight mornings ago happened Sunday in the Meadowlands. Instead of the second and 11th picks in the 2021 draft (Zach Wilson and Justin Fields) facing off for the first time in college or the pros, the Bears-Jets QB matchup was the 250th pick in the 2015 draft (Trevor Siemian) at the 171st pick in 2018 (Mike White). And after his 315-yard, three-TD performance to carry the Jets to a 31-10 victory, it looks like that 171st pick will be seeing the field quite a bit more.
9. I think I am sick of two NFL rules: defensive pass interference being a spot foul, and the offense being able to legally push a ballcarrier forward for X number of yards. Two reasons:
- Per DPI: Week after week we see horse-crap ticky-tack calls, handing the offense 30 or so ill-earned yards.
- Per the pushing-the-pile, this is not rugby.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Donovan Edwards will never have to buy a beer, meal or house in the state of Michigan for the rest of his life.
— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) November 26, 2022
b. Wow: 75- and 85-yard TD runs in the last eight minutes. Has there been a better individual performance in clutch time of the greatest rivalry in college football than Edwards’, down the stretch of Michigan’s shocking 45-23 rout of Ohio State?
c. Realize it’s not too PC these days to get excited about the World Cup in Qatar, but wow, those two Argentinian goals Saturday against Mexico. What a rocket by Enzo Fernandez. Lord. I find myself irrationally pulling for Messi and his mates.
21-year-old Enzo Fernández comes through for Argentina on the world's biggest stage 😤🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/TeLdEVacdI
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 26, 2022
d. I’m pulling for us more. After not qualifying in 2018, we need to advance. Kudos to the Americans for the 0-0 tie against England, an excellent performance. “They defended incredibly well,” said England coach Gareth Southgate. “Their front six make it so difficult to play through and get at their defense.” Think of it: The U.S. frustrated the great Harry Kane for the entire game. I know sports are all about winning, but to shut out England is a tremendous feat. Good for us. And Tyler Adams—he’s all over the field for the Americans, a skilled and exciting and physical player who I thought was the best player on the field in this game. I hope Adams, the U.S. captain, has a couple more great performances like that in his quiver, first against Iran, and then, I hope, in the knockout round.
Professional plug if you’re looking for how to watch:
Peacock, Telemundo, and Universo will carry all 64 World Cup matches live in Spanish. Peacock is the only direct-to-consumer streaming service in the U.S. offering live coverage of every match. You can go to Peacock’s World Cup home page for more information or to sign up. In addition to the matches themselves, on Peacock you’ll find a 24/7 dedicated World Cup channel featuring pregame and postgame coverage, extended highlights, player interviews, and more. NBC Sports will also have plenty of English-language coverage at nbcsports.com/soccer.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) November 25, 2022
e. Beernerdness: Manny’s Pale Ale (Georgetown Brewing Company, Seattle) is just a great beer to find in an airport. At the SeaTac Airport, a good place to eat and drink, Manny’s, a long-time favorite with a good bite and good hops, was in one of the bars with Ohio State-Michigan and Argentina-Mexico on the TVs Saturday afternoon. I was able to sneak in two of the pints before flying back home for the serious work of doing this column.
f. Many of you reached out about my comments concerning Brittney Griner being sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony for being caught with one gram of cannabis oil. A lot of you supported my stance that it’s a disgrace, and we cannot allow Griner to be forgotten. Several said we should not forget another American imprisoned for a light marijuana charge, an educator named Marc Fogel. Several said Griner is deserving of her sentence because she broke Russian law. Two thoughts:
g. Free Marc Fogel.
h. The reason I am outraged about Griner is that she was sentenced to nine years in the most infamous prison for women in Russia—for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes. On every level it’s excessive and overtly political.
i. Whodunit Story of the Week: “Murder and Loathing in Las Vegas,” by Zoe Bernard of Esquire (via Yahoo).
j. You may know this story—Jeff German, the investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, murdered earlier this year after reporting some sordid stuff about a local small-time politician, Robert Telles, and the politician was charged with the murder. Bernard makes the story breathe. As she reports:
Robert Telles isn’t willing to discuss how his DNA ended up under the fingernails of Jeff German. Or why his wife’s car was spotted near the sixty-nine-year-old investigative reporter’s house on a warm Friday morning in early September, a day before a neighbor discovered German’s lifeless body at the side of his Las Vegas home. Or how an outfit matching the one worn by the suspect captured on security-cam footage wound up in Telles’s home.
Speaking to me at the Clark County Detention Center, a couple miles north of the Vegas Strip, Telles is serious but engaged. Eager to please, even. But he must be careful about what he says. His court-appointed lawyers at the time made that clear. The man charged with premeditated murder in one of the most sensational cases in recent history here—one that drew the attention of virtually every major newspaper and network in the country—is short and lean, with dark eyes framed by black caterpillar brows beneath a gleaming bald head. He’s no longer wearing the thick white bandages that were wrapped around his forearms, covering up what officials said were defensive wounds, when he first appeared in court, six days after German’s murder.
k. In case you’re wondering, Rita Reid, Telles’ second-in-command who ran against him this year and spoke to Bernard for this story, won the general election earlier this month.
l. Radio Interview of the Week: NPR’s A Martinez chatting with the first woman to ever make an NCAA Division I baseball team, Olivia Pichardo of Brown University. Martinez in conversation with Pichardo, who is from Queens:
MARTÍNEZ: I would bet a lot, Olivia, that you’re a hero and a role model. Has anyone reached out just to try and make contact with you?
PICHARDO: Yeah. A lot of the other girls who I know who play baseball have reached out to me on Instagram DMs. And I’ve taken the time to go through every single one of my DMs that—congratulating me and making sure that I get back to all of them. So it definitely, it feels very good to know that I’m now opening up this door for them. My reason for playing baseball isn’t to be a pioneer, but just by me doing this it—by default, it makes me a pioneer. So it’s definitely a strong motivator for me to keep going and to be my best.
MARTÍNEZ: Are you worried at all over negative reactions? How have you thought you might handle that?
PICHARDO: I’ve already dealt with that, to be honest, not on a stage as big as this one. But I have pretty good tunnel vision, which is not an invitation to test that.
Olivia Pichardo, a Brown University freshman, is making history as the first female baseball player to be on an active NCAA Division I roster. 👏 pic.twitter.com/IrSsKVpz0w
— MLB (@MLB) November 21, 2022
m. Radio Story of the Week: Camila Domonoske of NPR on something I’ve heard a lot about but knew nothing about: lithium batteries.
n. Amazing how important, in so many ways, that lithium is. What is it? How is it found?
o. Reports Domonoske:
Salty water gurgles quietly through a pipe across a dry lakebed and into a Caribbean-blue pond. It’s carrying an element that is crucial to the electric car revolution and, suddenly, one of the world’s hottest commodities: lithium.
Silver Peak, halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, may not resemble most people’s mental image of a mine. But for decades it’s been the sole domestic producer of lithium in the United States. Now the small mine is in the process of doubling its output, and facing new rivals, as part of a massive global phenomenon that’s reshaping multiple industries.
Demand for electric cars is soaring and, in turn, straining supplies of lithium, which is used in the vehicles’ massive batteries. Proposals for new mines abound, accompanied by controversies. One proposed site threatens the only habitat of a rare Nevadan wildflower, for example, while another has outraged both indigenous groups and ranchers. But new mines aren’t the only way to get more lithium. And they’re certainly not the fastest.
p. Classic case of spending seven minutes of life and getting an instant education on something we all need to know about. “A single particle of lithium will readily shed an electron, and then zip back and forth between the positive and negative ends of a rechargeable battery, storing and discharging power as it goes” Domonoske reported. “Lithium-ion batteries are a key part of every feasible path to reducing the climate crisis.”
q. Cautionary Tale of the Week: Rebecca R. Ruiz, Kenneth P. Vogel and Joe Drape of The New York Times on the weak oversight by the federal government on sports gambling—and how the industry does a lousy job of monitoring itself.
r. Great lede by the three writers on the scope of the problem:
David Hummel placed his first sports bet in January 2021, wagering $250 on the underdog in a mixed-martial-arts fight. He won $662.50, he said, “and it was probably the worst thing that could have happened to me.”
Having been drawn in by an offer of a “risk-free” bet — the gambling company FanDuel promised to refund his money if he lost — Mr. Hummel kept betting. In little more than a year, he had lost more than $30,000, draining his checking account to $327.
Since 2018, when the Supreme Court opened the door to widespread sports betting, the gambling industry has mastered ways to attract customers like Mr. Hummel. Oversight of this young, fast-growing market has been left to states.
The states are not disinterested parties. They collect taxes on gambling, and the more people bet, the more governments get. One result is that states have, in many ways, given gambling companies free rein.
s. Extraordinarily Naïve, Faux Parental Advice of the Week: Don’t bet on sports. You can’t win long-term. You won’t win long-term.
t. Pro-Ukraine Story of the Week: Hannah Beech of The New York Times asking a question many who visit Maine these days are asking: Why are there so many Ukrainian flags flying in our northeastern-most state?
u. Writes Beech:
Across Maine, the yellow and blue banner — yellow symbolizing the plentiful wheat fields of Ukraine, blue, the sky overhead — flutters from flagpoles. It decorates lobster buoys and barn doors, clapboard houses sprayed with sea salt and cabins nestled in pine forests.
Unlike in cities like New York and Chicago, where symbols of Ukrainian pride in part reflect a large diaspora community, there are few people of Ukrainian heritage in Maine. But the flag’s widespread presence in the state shows another kind of solidarity. Mainers like to say theirs is a flinty spirit, born of enduring harsh winters and an equally harsh economy.
v. Elaine Johnston, co-owner of a hardware store in Waldoboro, Maine, opines: “People over there are doing a good job fighting for their land and their survival, and we in Maine, we like that. We sell flags to people who feel the way we do.”
w. I just love people who are so supportive of Ukraine. It’s such an important cause. Good for the Mainers.
x. I see there’s still nothing to see here about another mass shooting, this one in a Virginia Walmart the other night.
y. RIP Irene Cara. Who could dance like Irene Cara? Who?
z. Grandson of the Week: Steve Wyche of NFL Network welcomed his first the other day, Jeriah, a lovely (I know; he sent me the photo) grandson born to son Jeremy and girlfriend Ilza. One piece of advice from a grandfather of three, Steve: Work will never come first again. Congrats.
Indianapolis 23, Pittsburgh 19. All of a sudden, the Colts are competitive with a strong running game—again. All of a sudden, the Steelers have the kind of aerial combination that Terrible Towel-savers have to watch—Kenny Pickett to George Pickens. This game doesn’t exactly have playoff implications, but it is interesting. Plus, we’ll be watching for the rest of the year to see if Jeff Saturday can finish over .500, so the Rooney Rule will get a ton of attention and then really not matter.
Byes: Arizona, Carolina.
Buffalo at New England, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video. In their last meeting, just 46 weeks ago, the Bills played a perfect game. Not kidding. Seven possessions (excluding end-of-half kneel-downs) for the Bills, seven touchdowns in minus-5 windchill on a brutal Buffalo Saturday night. Burn the film, Bill Belichick. Don’t show your guys “Nightmare in Orchard Park.” At least the offensive effort in Minnesota Thursday (Mac Jones: 382 passing yards) gives the Patriots evidence they can play the Bills on equal ground.
Tennessee at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m. ET, FOX. Weird. Really weird. The game with the best combined win-loss record is one of four FOX regional games.
Miami at San Francisco, Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, FOX. Weird. Almost as weird as the previous one—two playoff teams with strong national followings and major star power play one of two FOX regional games in the late window. So odd that these two games will have such small audiences, with the NFL keeping ratings magnet Indy-Dallas for SNF. And unfortunate that Colts-Cowboys and Saints-Bucs are the Sunday and Monday prime-timers instead of Titans-Eagles or Dolphins-49ers, or…
Kansas City at Cincinnati, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. Mahomes-Burrow III. Third meeting in the past 12 months. You can’t say this about many foes of Patrick Mahomes, but Joe Burrow is 2-0 against him. I’d bet a lot of money he’ll remind himself of this 16 times this week.
Is there an intake limit?
Asking for a friend.