On your next road trip, pull over to a rest stop off the interstate and offer to pay for a truck driver’s meal. Just try it.
These wo/men are behind the wheel for extremely long hours, and could at times stay out on the road for up to three weeks. For all the quagmire that they go through on their vicious grinds: cut offed, honked at, and bumped by, etc … it makes me wonder - how do the occasional, one-armed-pull-down motions put smiles on these exhausted motorists?
In the NFL-world, GMs, coaches, and players are the truck drivers, and Honk the Horn gestures arrive in the form of beefy questions from their hopeful fans:
“Will Michael Vick be back with the Eagles in 2014? What’s wrong with the Cowboys’ secondary, and should we keep worrying? Will the Redskins or the Giants turn it around?”
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly dislikes discussing hypotheticals. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense ranks drop-dead last in the league, but it’s great to know that his glass remains half full.
Coach Tom Coughlin, well, is notorious for making “Super” wide U-turns – and as hyperbolic as that sounds – going downhill is a positive thing for the Giants, who build momentum from their losses for an epic winter launch (postseason run).
Coughlin’s stuck in a 2-6 rut now, Giants fans, but a win in Detroit on December 22 may be a better Christmas gift than the Corgi you’ve been begging for.
On how the season will unfurl, I’ll say that all four trucks are still in it to win the NFC East Race. Here’s how:
Washington Redskins (3-5) Projected: 9 - 7
With a little over two minutes left, the Redskins defense allowed the Chargers to march down the field from their own 8-yard line but ultimately prevented the Bolts from crossing the goal line in a do-or-lose situation.
Going forward, the Redskins must stave off the Vikings in Minnesota, Falcons in Atlanta and pull at least one of the following upsets in D.C.: the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving, or the Kansas City Chiefs on December 8. London Fletcher's health (limited by a knee injury) is a tremendous factor in their defensive unit's progression, and will be under carefuly watch in the coming weeks.
The other four teams are the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants (twice) – the matchup in Week 17 against New York could determine if these truckers move on to the postseason.
If yesterday’s Blow-a-10-Point-Lead-We’ll-Rely-on-a-Goal-Line-Stand-Later is any indication that the Redskins’ D is ready to take the next step. …well I grant you the permission to expect your favorite team to finish the season 9-7.
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) Projected: 11 - 5
A Cowboys-flavored lollipop would taste bittersweet. (More bitter than sweet.) In a universe with an influx of unicorns and catsup red-colored butterflies, this squad is 9-0. (The Chiefs, who slighted Dallas by a foam finger, would be 8-1.) Yes, Dallas with a spotless record. I said it.
DeMarco Murray's health is a hefty concern for Dallas' stagnant - not staggering - offense. When the bitter, cold (more bitter than cold) weather hits, they'll go to the air less and rely on their ground attack.
The ‘Boys have us singing N’Sync’s “I Drive Myself Crazy” every time we watch their secondary undergo mental breakdowns. Ugh.
Fortunately, they’re in luck. Dallas possesses the easiest remaining schedule compared to their divisional rivals. Should they protect their 1-game lead over the Eagles, the League’s worst-ranked secondary must shutdown battered offenses in the Giants, Raiders, Bears, Redskins, and Michael-Nick-Barkley-led Eagles in the season finale.
That’s hypothetically 5 wins, which means that they’ll hold a commanding 10-4 record with two toss-up outings against the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. That’s good enough to clinch the NFC’s top spot (11-5).
Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) Projected: 8 - 8
Unlike Dallas’, the Eagles’ schedule is not as favorable.
I predicted that they’ll take care of the Raiders this weekend. Due to their awkward quarterback situation, their grim future is uglier than it appears. Right about now, rumors swirl and QB controversies buzz around losing teams, but it’s the exact opposite in Philadelphia. Nick Foles tossed seven touchdown passes en route a drubbing of the Raiders.
Defensively, the Packers, Cardinals, and Bears pose grave threats to the Chip Kelly-style offense. They could stack eight or nine in the box to stuff LeSean McCoy, and force Eagles quarterback’s starting QB here to outwit their defensive backs.
The Eagles have their talons full: Megatron is near-impossible to defend, and the Cowboys, Vikings and Redskins are capable of ruining the Birds' playoff chances.
The good news: four of their seven duels are at home.
The bad news: the three bouts away (GB, MIN, and DAL), are IMO, must-win games. They barely miss the playoffs with an 8-8 record, a solid showcase by first-time coach Kelly nonetheless.
New York Giants (2-6) Projected: 7-9/6-10
These truckers are stuck in the woods in the middle of nowhere, probably roasting marshamallows over the campfire and game planning. The first part's cute, the latter gives me the spooks.
The Giants won enough Super Bowls - two in the previous six seasons, right? Shhh. That last tidbit is powerful enough to generate the missing glow that they need to turn their woes into. … whoa’s.
The G-men are coming off a much-needed bye weekend, and their winter marathon will start with three consecutive games on their home turf vs. the Raiders, Packers and Cowboys. Miracles have often occurred in the Meadowlands, usually against the home team, but that could change for them in ’13 (unlucky number does support my case).
Their final five games: Redskins twice, Chargers, Lions and Seahawks. These matchups aren’t insurmountable challenges. If New York’s Hakeem Nicks transforms back to being the reliable receiver that the team desperately demands him to be, the sky is the limit for their air-game.
I’ll wish for them to finish 7-9, if not, 6-10 is highly feasible.
I can’t wait to see how the middling NFC East division will pan out. Before the thickest of fogs clear up for these four squads, I must remind you of this stark fact: they all have ways to go before even they can start muttering the eight-lettered “P” word (Playoffs). Gelling and chemistry-development happens during the course of the season, and so the concept remains consistent - whether you’re a truck driver or a professional football player, they will grind it out.
NFC EAST WINNER: Dallas Cowboys
Until then readers, go long -- until next time.