By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Writer Guy
OK, clearing out the leftover thoughts and preparing for another week of NFL football. ....
Happened to be listening to the Westwood One broadcast of Bears-Cowboys, and postgame interview Martellus Bennett -- "The Black Unicorn" -- was off-the-charts awesome.
In addition to his usual good humor, when Bennett was asked about Josh McCown, he said “look at the weapons he’s got!”
You almost can’t debate that receivers Alshon Jeffery (75-1,193-6) and Brandon Marshall (64-1,090-9) are the best combo in the NFL, and Matt Forte is close to a 2,000 yards-from-scrimmage pace.
There’s little else to explain McCown’s transformation from a lifelong infomercial for mediocrity to a guy who’s rocking a 109.8 passer rating.
Defensive Player of the Year is always a difficult one to figure out, and players from bad teams rarely win awards. But most of the standouts this year do play for bad teams – the Rams’ Robert Quinn, JJ Watt, Lavonte David of Tampa.
Luke Kuechly’s greatness is a tad overblown, and while the Colts’ Robert Mathis has 15.5 sacks he’s really more of a one-dimensional player.
When in doubt, give it to Watt -- no player in the league has been better at his job than Watt has been at his. He may “only” have 9.5 sacks, but he’s got 17 tackles for loss and is a peerless run defender as well on a team where the only thing you have to worry about is him.
Speaking of awards, here’s one vote for Bill Belichick as Coach of the Year. Statistically, the Patriots have been good at two things this year: avoiding penalties (best in the NFL) and great special teams. Other than that, they’re average across the board.
Add in their slew of injuries, an uncharastically errant Tom Brady, and you could have excused them for being 6-7. Instead, they’re 10-3. Just because the Patriots have done it before doesn’t make this achievement any less impressive.
We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s really amazing to see what a different back Jamaal Charles is with consistent use by Andy Reid in Kansas City. He’s got a career-high 13 touchdowns, but with a career-low 4.9 YPC average; he’s also only got five runs of 20+ yards, down from 11 in 2012 and 10 in 2010. And for good measure, he’s got 57 catches, also a career high. He’s never had fewer than 14 carries, or more than 22.
Speaking of the Chiefs, they’re actually more appealing as a playoff team now than they were when they were winning close games with defense every week. Since their 27-17 loss at Denver, they’ve scored 38, 28 and 45, and would look pretty good to go into Indianapolis in the first week of the playoffs against a Colts team that’s had one decent defensive game in two months.
The Jets won one for Rex Ryan this week – the fact that the Jets are in the Week 14 playoff hunt with a minus-111 scoring margin is a tribute to … well, it’s a tribute to something, but not sure what. With games at Carolina and Miami sandwiched around a home date with Cleveland, 7-9 seems more likely than 9-7, but at least Gang Green isn’t going down the tubes like they are in Houston or Washington.
Peyton Manning is probably going to take the MVP down, and for good reason, but it is worth noting that he’s turned the ball over 14 times over the past nine games – that’s a pretty high number, although offset nicely by the 30 touchdowns he’s produced.
Richard Sherman of Seattle is great, but he didn’t exactly cool down the Niners-Seahawks rivalry with the following pregame statement while miked up in San Fran: “THIS IS JUST A GLORIFIED PRACTICE!” Wait, can you lose by 2 to your bitter rival in practice?
Amazing how far under the radar the 9-4 Bengals are flying. Their four losses this year were by 3, 2 and 3 and 11 (at Cleveland), and they’ve beaten Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford.
With the No. 3 seed in the AFC more or less theirs and an appealing road (host a bad No. 6 seed, travel to a No. 2 New England team that’s smoke and mirrors), a trip to the AFC title game is looking pretty good in Cincy.
Trying to think of another situation where a player that’s been as consistent as Ray Rice has been his whole career could be as bad as he’s been for the Ravens this year.
Not only is he averaging 3.0 YPC, he’s only at 5.3 per catch, and his only good game all year (131 yards) came against the Bears’ struggling run defense. Guess you have to blame the Ravens’ O-line, since backup Bernard Pierce is at 2.7 YPC from 4.9 a year ago.
And yet despite this, and Joe Flacco’s awful play, the Ravens are three wins (or maybe just two wins) away from the playoffs and a shot at defending their title.
Thanks to a Tide banner ad on NFL.com, I now know that the Raiders’ original colors were black and gold, before they changed to the black and silver in 1963. What this has to do with laundry detergent, I’m not sure, but the intel is appreciated.
Wes Welker will likely miss Thursday’s Denver-San Diego game with a concussion, and you have to look at him as the symbol of what NFL players go through to play this sport.
Welker has taken an unholy beating over his career, absorbing as many hard, open-field hits to the head, legs (wrecked knee) and body as any player ever has. It’s gotten to the point where, if you’re worried about the health of these players, you have to wish Welker would consider retiring after sucha long and proud career. But you also know it’s not going to happen.
Cam Newton is a hell of a QB, but maybe it’s time to lose the Gatorade towel over the head thing. Just saying.
Philip Rivers is a new man in more than one way in San Diego this year. Not only is his passer rating back in the 100s, as it was from 2008-10 (106.4 this year), but he’s had his best season in terms of fumbles by a long margin.
Rivers has always had a quiet problem with fumbles, and had 15 of them last year. But he’s only fumbled twice all year, losing one – a nice companion piece to his 70.3 completion percentage that’s well over his career number of 64.4.
There weren’t a lot of eyes on the Bills-Bucs game last weekend – good news for EJ Manuel, who had a real rookie day against the revitalized Tampa defense.
He’d only turned it over once in four games before throwing four picks in the loss to the Bucs and taking seven sacks. Still, there has to be optimism over Manuel’s body of work, which includes strong games against strong defenses like the Jets and Panthers.
The Browns should consider spending the last three games of the season doing nothing but throwing to Josh Gordon, just to see if he can become the first 2,000-yard receiver of all time.
It’s a longshot, needing 600 yards in three games, but this is a guy who’s caught 31 of 37 balls thrown his way the last three weeks for 649 yards and four TDs. By our calculations, the passer rating on balls thrown to Gordon in that stretch is approximately 893,355.42, give or take a few digits.
The announcement Monday that there would be no tailgating at the Super Bowl was a little off-putting, and not exactly a banner PR move for a league that’s at the very least ruffling the feathers of its fan base with its off-field decisions.
Benching Robert Griffin III down the stretch of a lost 3-10 year wouldn’t be a bad move considering his health, but questions about his future as a starter are a tad ridiculous.
Despite physical limitations, and an offense built heavily around him, he’s only turned it over 16 times in 13 games. He’s been an average quarterback this year, all things considered, and when you’re a second-year pro, if you can perform at the league average that’s a really good thing.
The interesting thing about the chase for the No. 1 pick in the draft (deep with quarterbacks) is that teams like Washington and Atlanta (3-9) don’t need a QB, meaning teams like 2-10 Houston, 3-8-1 Minnesota, 4-9 Cleveland and 4-9 Oakland (and maybe Tampa, depending on their feelings about Mike Glennon) are fighting for who gets who.
Should make for an interesting draft day with some trades up top.