Previewing NFL Week 12

The NFL may be paying the price for not putting its teams in a quarantine bubble during the season.

The pandemic may make it difficult to finish the season. Problems keep popping up.

The Baltimore-Pittsburgh game has been postponed twice and may or may not be played Tuesday night.

The Broncos have all their quarterbacks sidelined for the Sunday game against the Saints. And San Francisco can’t play in its home stadium for at least the next two home games. It is uncertain where they will play.

And if Thanksgiving turns out to be a superspreader, things could get worse.

—It may be hard to believe that of the seven early games Sunday , only one features two winning teams The Titans and Colts are both 7-3 and battling for the lead in the AFC South.

—Two of them feature two losing teams, but the game between the 3-7 Giants and 2-7-1 Bengals is of interest because a Giant victory would tie them for first place with Washington at 4-7. The division winner may have a losing record anda host a playoff game.

—The other game involving two losing teams is the 4-7 Panthers and 4-6 Vikings. Enough said about that game.

—The other games have a winning team playing a losing team and the most interesting game in that category will have the 6-4 Cardinals playing the 4-6 Patriots. A loss would leave the Patriots at 4-7 and would be the first time in his career as a Patriot coach that Belichick has lost seven games in a season. He is now 19-24 without Tom Brady but he’s a defensive coach and his defense has been shaky. It will face a test stopping Kyler Murray although he’s not 100 percent.

—The 0-10 Jets and 1-9 Jaguars are battling for the first pick in next year’s draft and figure to lose to the Dolphins and Browns. The Jaguars will start their third quarterback Mike Glennon against a Browns team that has a rash of injuries.

—The feature game of the day has the Chiefs at 9-1 taking on Tampa Bay at 7-4.It will likely be the last meeting of the best quarterback of the last two decades (Tom Brady) against the player likely to be the best quarterback for the next decade (Patrick Mahomes). Brady is coming off a shaky showing against the Rams last week and will be attempting to bounce back.

—The plus of a Thursday game is teams get 10 days off afterwards. The minus is that it gives losing teams time to make a coaching change. That is what happened to coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn after the Lions loss to Houston on Thanksgiving Day. Quinn fired Jim Caldwell after consecutive 9-7 seasons three years ago to hire Patricia, another ex-Patriot. Things got worse for the Lions, who have been spinning their wheels for decades. Now they start over. Again.

—The Saints figured to beat the Broncos anyway but what makes this game interesting is that Denver can’t play any of its quarterbacks. They didn’t wear masks in their meeting room so when one tested positive, they all were put in quarantine. So the Broncos will probably play a running back Royce Freeman or a practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback. Hinton played quarterback at Wake Forest before switching to wide receiver while Freeman only threw one pass at Oregon. The last time non-quarterback started a game was in 1965 when Tom Matte, who played quarterback at Ohio State, started because the Colts’ receivers were injured.

NFL Week 11 in review

Since the NFL is a quarterback league, it is probably not surprising that the spotlight – for better or worse — was on the quarterbacks last week.

—Patrick Mahomes had the best moment in the spotlight as he led a game winning drive in the last minute and a half to give the Chiefs a victory over the Raiders, who left Mahomes too much time when they scored the go ahead touchdown with just over 90 seconds left.

—On the other hand, Cincinnati rookie wunderkind Joe Burrow had the worst moment in the spotlight as he suffered a season ending against Washington. The injury raised questions about whether the Bengals had done enough to protect Burrow and whether he made a mistake by not refusing to play for them the way Eli Manning did when he was drafted by San Diego.

—With Burrow out, the Bengals lost to Washington, which had veteran quarterback Alex Smith at the helm. Just two years ago, Smith suffered a season ending leg injury that not only threatened his career but his life. Smith made it all the way back with that victory.

—P.J. Walker got his first start for the Panthers and a lot of help from the defense as the Panthers blanked the Lions. The loss dropped the Lions to 4-6 and raised more questions about the job security of coach Matt Patricia.

—Tayson Hill got his first start in New Orleans in place of injured Drew Brees and Hill made the move by coach Sean Payton look good by leading the Saints to a victory over Atlanta.

—Carson Wentz continued to struggle as the Lions lost to Browns to fall to 3-6-1. That still puts them in first place over three 3-7 teams in the NFC East.

—Bill Belichick and the Patriots continue to miss Tom Brady as they fell to 4-6 with the loss to Houston. Belichick was 5-13 before Drew Bledsoe got hurt in 2001 and Brady took over. He’s 4-6 since Brady left so that adds up to a 9-19 mark. Even if you add in his 10-5 record with Matt Cassel, he is 19-24 without Brady in New England. And offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is also getting roasted. Tough times may be ahead for the Pats.

—Meanwhile, Brady struggled against the Rams, throwing two picks and having problems with the deep ball in the loss to the Rams. Age may finally be catching up with Brady.

Previewing NFL Week 11

This is a critical week for the NFL.

Not on the field, but off the field. Since too many Americans seem to be ignoring the CDC’s recommendation to stay home for Thanksgiving, the holiday is likely to be a super spreader event.

And it could affect the NFL, which has issued new guidelines to try to keep teams from having multiple players testing positive in the near future and having problems fielding a team.

It’s probably time for the NFL to isolate teams in a hotel for the final six weeks of the season, but they seem reluctant to take that move so they are risking having the virus having a major impact on the rest of the season.

–The 8-1 Chiefs face the 6-3 Raiders in the Sunday night feature attraction. The Chiefs-Raiders is an old rivalry although it doesn’t appear to be the same with the Raiders now in Las Vegas. The Raiders handed the Chiefs their only loss of the year but I can’t imagine the Raiders sweeping Patrick Mahomes. In my book, the Chiefs are still favored to repeat and they should stay a game behind the Steelers in the battle for the top seed with a victory.

–The 6-3 Rams vs. the 7-3 Bucs should be a good Monday night matchup. Not so long ago Brady beat the Rams in the Super Bowl although he didn’t play a great game. This year, he’s having trouble hitting deep passes but you have to like Brady over Jared Goff. 

–The 7-2 Packers face the 6-3 Colts in the Fox doubleheader game. The key is whether Aaron Rodgers can put enough points on the board to offset the Packers soft run defense that figures to have problems stopping the Colts running game. This should be one of the better matchups of the weekend.

–The Philadelphia-Cleveland game features a 6-3 vs. a 3-5-1 team. The strange thing is that the 3-5-1 Eagles are leading the NFC East and the 6-3 Browns are three games behind the unbeaten Steelers in the AFC North. Not surprising the Browns are favored but they have injury problems so an Eagle win wouldn’t be a major surprise.

–The 7-2 Saints figure to have an edge on the 3-6 Falcons but with Drew Brees sidelined, the Falcons have a chance. The interesting thing is that coach Sean Payton will go with Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston. Now it is Hill’s chance to show he is as good as Payton thinks he is. How Hill plays will be the most interesting aspect of this game.

–Now that Tom Brady is gone, the Patriots have become more of a running team. They pounded Baltimore on the ground last week and figure to do the same against Houston’s rush defense, the worst in the NFL. A win gets the Patriots to 5-5 and gets them in the wild card race after a 3-5 record in the first half of the season.

–When a team has won only one game, good opposing teams don’t tend to take them seriously. That is what happened to the Packers last week when they barely beat the 1-8 Jaguars. Now it is the unbeaten Steeler turn to see if they overlook the Jaguars, especially since they have the Ravens on Thanksgiving Day. reports the Steelers are 4-19 against the spread the last 23 times they were favored by eight or more. The Steeler figure to win, but the only question is whether they will sleepwalk through the game and fail to cover the spread.

–The Titans and Ravens are both 6-3 and both need this game. It is one of the better matchups of the week but is a 1 p.m. game so it won’t get a lot of TV coverage. The Ravens couldn’t stop the Patriots running game last week and now they face Derrick Henry while the Ravens need Lamar Jackson to get in a groove.

–The winless Jets, one game ahead of the Jaguars in the race for the top pick, face the 2-7 Chargers so they would seem to have a shot at a victory. But the Chargers have lost several close games and appear to be better than their record, so the odds are against the Jets getting that first victory.

NFL Week 10 in review

–DeAndre Hopkins made the play of the year when he jumped high in the air to snatch a game winning Hail Mary pass to give the Cardinals the victory over the Bills. It will be included on all the highlight reels of the top plays of the season. It was a key victory for the Cards that tied them for first place in NFC West at 6-3. The loss left the Bills tied in the loss column with the Dolphins with three in the AFC East.

–Tom Brady bounced back from the loss to the Saints by throwing for 341 yards in the victory over Carolina to keep the Bucs in the race. But it wasn’t just Brady. They also went back to the running game with 37 runs after running just three times against the Saints plus two kneel downs.

–The Baltimore Ravens suffered their first road loss in 11 starts and the timing couldn’t be worse as they were beaten by the Patriots. They are now 6-3 and three games behind the unbeaten Steelers and now will have to fight for a playoff spot. Lamar Jackson was hampered by the rainy conditions but still has to prove he can be an elite quarterback.

–The NFC East is still the NFC Least. The Eagles lost to the Giants but still lead the division at 3-5-1. Not since the 1970 merger has a team been in first place with just three wins at the 10-game mark.

–As Allen Iverson once said, it’s just practice. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t practice last week because of Covid exposure but threw four touchdown passes against the Bengals to keep the Steelers unbeaten.

–The Saints lost Drew Brees for multiple games with multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung when he suffered a hit from San Francisco lineman Kentavius Street although all the injuries weren’t caused by the hit. Jameis Winston played the second half for the Saints. There was much talk that Brees would retire after this year. These injuries may make it more likely he will.

Previewing NFL Week 10

The Sunday night feature prime time game is Baltimore-New England. Used to be a great rivalry. But the Patriot dynasty is over and the Patriots figure to fall to 3-6 while the Ravens need a victory to go to 7-2. They are like two ships passing in the night.
–Ben Roethlisberger is off the COVID-19 19 list so the Steelers figure to go 9-0 for the first time in the history of the franchise with a victory over Cincinnati. In the Steelers six Super Bowl victory seasons, they never started better than 7-0.
–Tom Brady and the Bucs will attempt to bounce back from last week’s embarrassing loss to New Orleans when they play the 3-6 Panthers. A victory would boost the Bucs to 7-3. Brady wasn’t the only problem last week but even coach Bruce Arians noted he didn’t play well against the Saints.
–Coming off the big victory over the Seahawks, the Bills will attempt to go to 8-2 with a victory over the 5-3 Cardinals.
–The Chargers-Dolphins matchup features a duel between Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa, two rookie quarterbacks. It won’t be the last.
–Seattle needs to bounce back from the loss to Buffalo by beating the 5-3 Rams, who could tie the Seahawks, and possibly, the Cardinals in the NFC West in the loss column with three with a win. A Seattle victory would keep them in control at 7-2. Every team in the NFC has at least two losses so the race is wide open.
–The 3-4-1 Eagles can get to .500 and take a three-game lead in the NFC Least in the loss column with a victory over 2-6 Washington.
–The Saints are tied with the Packers and Seahawks with the best NFC record at 6-2. They figure to go to 7-2 with a victory over the 49ers. That would lead them tied with the Packers and Seahawks, who figure to beat the Jaguars and Rams.