AROUND THE NFL
Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com:
There might not be one single game that impacts more playoff spots than Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers-New Orleans Saints matchup. If the 10-2 Saints win, they would have a tight grip on the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They’d have the tiebreaker over the 49ers and Seahawks, who are both 10-2 (New Orleans won at Seattle earlier this season). That would also put the 49ers in serious danger of losing the NFC West to the Seahawks, who beat them in San Francisco already. And the 9-3 Packers are glad one of those teams has to lose, because that helps their chances at the No. 2 seed and a bye. If the 49ers win on Sunday — and clearly we’re predicting that, based on their slot this week as the NFC’s No. 1 seed — they’d lead the Saints by a game and have the tiebreaker with three to go. Then they’d just have to hold off the Seahawks, which won’t be easy. The NFC is really fun this season.
– – –
This from Brian Baldinger:
Here are top 5 rushing teams:
Combined record is 45-15
To the teams who are struggling; please think about this. #BaldysBreakdowns
Jerry Jones says Jason Garrett has a bright future as a coach – but does not say that would be in Dallas. Nick Shook of NFL.com:
The questions aren’t going away any time soon about Jason Garrett’s job status with the Cowboys, but Jerry Jones believes the coach is qualified to lead a team.
It just might not be the team he’s currently leading.
Jones was asked during his Tuesday morning appearance on 105.3 The Fan about Garrett and why, with the Cowboys sitting at 6-6 and not looking too hot, the owner doesn’t want to make an in-season coaching change. He first referred to Garrett’s work ethic and knowledge of his team before shifting to his opinion on selecting a Super Bowl-caliber coach and how it’s admittedly an inexact science.
“Nobody has the exclusive skills to get the job done so that collectively you can win a Super Bowl,” Jones said, per The Athletic. “But there are qualified people. Jason Garrett is one of them. In my opinion, Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next year.”
In the NFL. Now, it could simply have been an accidental lack of specificity on the part of Jones when he finished that sentence with those three words. But knowing what we know about the 2019 Cowboys, a team that Jones said Tuesday needs to “get our act together relative to what we’re doing on both sides of the ball,” the ending to that sentence seems more significant than anyone might like to admit.
Those in support of Garrett can find comfort in Jones’ statement that Garrett “is the guy for the job.” But as we all know, this league is all about wins and losses. The Cowboys might make the playoffs by way of a division filled with dreadful adversaries, but limping to the postseason likely won’t be enough. Garrett’s guys will have to do so with emphasis, force and maybe even a little bit of flair.
“Listen, I’m worried about winning ball games for our fan base,” Jones said. … “There’s nobody that shoves any more out there than I do, than the Cowboys do. We put the show on, and we spend the money. And we want wins.”
Bottom line. We’ll see if Garrett can produce them.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The return of ELI?
Eli Manning may not be done with the Giants yet. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones injured his ankle in last Sunday’s loss to the Packers and he did not take part in Wednesday’s practice session. He is in a protective boot and, per multiple reporters, head coach Pat Shurmur said that he has a “moderate” high ankle sprain.
Shurmur also said that Jones would not be able to play if the Giants had a game on Wednesday or Thursday. He added it is not as severe as the injury that kept running back Saquon Barkley out for three games earlier this year.
They don’t play the Eagles until Monday night, but Shurmur called it likely that Manning gets the start in Jones’s place. If that’s the case, Manning would play for the first time since Week Two and meet the Eagles for the 31st time in his career. The Giants have gone 10-20 in the first 30 meetings.
The big news on Tuesday was the firing of Ron Rivera. Owner David Tepper forthrightly explained his thinking after the announcement. Here’s David Newton of ESPN.com with a notebook full of Tepper quotes:
Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper began to contemplate firing coach Ron Rivera a few weeks ago, after a home loss to a two-win Atlanta team followed by a meeting with reporters in which he said long-term mediocrity wouldn’t be tolerated.
On Tuesday, two days after a 29-21 home loss to a two-win Washington team extended Carolina’s losing streak to four, he pulled the trigger.
“There is a point where you have to try to elevate a whole organization, and without shaking the tree you can’t get any apples,” Tepper said from the conference room at Bank of America Stadium.
Tepper said the decision to fire Rivera now — instead of letting the organization’s winningest coach and a two-time NFL Coach of the Year finish the season — was made so that Tepper could move forward with finding a replacement without going behind Rivera’s back.
“I thought it was time,” Tepper said. “Why specifically now is I was informed of other teams doing different types of searches out there, and I’m not going to start a search and not tell Ron Rivera I’m starting a search. Too good of a man.”
Rivera told the team’s website on Tuesday night that his time in Carolina were “great years.”
“We did a lot,” Rivera told the site. “The people. We brought in good men, good coaches. We did things the right way.”
Tepper will use a search committee to find the next coach. He didn’t rule out a college coach, but he appears focused on a young, offense-minded NFL coordinator who is willing to use analytics in a way Rivera never would.
That could open the door for somebody such as Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, 47, who was an offensive line assistant with Carolina from 1995 to 2001. Roman, behind the MVP-caliber play of dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson, has the No. 1 offense in the NFL.
“This is a modern NFL,” Tepper said. “There is a preference for offensive coordinators. That does not mean if you find somebody fantastic on the defensive side I won’t consider it.
“The NFL has made rules to lean to the offense. That’s why you have more people going that way.”
Tepper named secondary coach Perry Fewell as his interim head coach. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will transition to special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.
Tepper didn’t rule out Fewell as a candidate to replace Rivera, but his background as a defensive coach doesn’t appear to fit the owner’s job description.
Tepper also made it clear that the promotion of Fewell was not because, as an African American coach, he fit the NFL’s “Rooney Rule” that requires owners to interview minority candidates for head coach positions.
“Perry is a general. He’s a commander. That’s why Perry is in that position,” Tepper said. “Rest assured, Perry Fewell is not in that spot because he’s African American. He’s in that spot because he’s the best man for the job — period.”
Tepper did not fire general manager Marty Hurney, calling him an outstanding college evaluator. But he plans to name an assistant general manager to focus on pro personnel evaluation and a vice president of football operations. Tepper said nothing to ensure that Hurney would remain with the organization long-term.
“We are going to take a comprehensive and thorough review of our football operation to make sure we are structured for long-term, sustained success,” Tepper said. “Our vision is to find the right mix of old-school discipline and toughness with modern and innovative processes.
“We will consider a wide range of football executives to complement our current football staff. We all must recognize that this is the first step in a process, but we are committed to building and maintaining a championship culture for our team and our fans.”
As for what a new coach means for the future of quarterback Cam Newton, who is on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury, Tepper couldn’t say.
The 2015 NFL MVP lost his eighth consecutive game before being shut down after a Week 2 home loss to Tampa Bay.
Newton’s replacement, Kyle Allen, won his first four starts this season and five overall dating to last season before losing five of his past six. Third-round pick Will Grier hasn’t played a down.
“Hopefully, Cam’s healthy,” Tepper said of Newton. “I frankly don’t know, and neither does Cam right now.”
Tepper believes the next coach will have good choices at quarterback. He said Newton’s $21.1 million cap figure in 2020, the final year of his contract, isn’t so big that it’s a detriment.
“We’re not weighed down by a $36 million-a-year mistake right now,” he said.
Newton, 30, wrote on his Instagram story that Rivera’s firing “hurt deep” and that he “will be forever grateful because of the impact [Rivera] had on my life.” He thanked Rivera for “giving me an opportunity” and “for believing in me.”
“I can go on and on but most importantly; thank you for allowing me to be me,” wrote Newton, whom the Panthers made the first pick of the 2011 draft.
Running back Christian McCaffrey, drafted eighth overall by the Panthers in 2017, also posted a tribute to Rivera on his Instagram, writing, “Tough day for Carolina. Thank you to the Coach who believed in me from day 1.
“You represent so much more than a football team. You represent what it means to be a leader and an example to everyone. I will forever be grateful to have played for you. #KeepPounding”
Rivera ended his nine-year tenure with a 76-63-1 regular-season record and a 3-4 postseason mark. Despite an NFL-best 15-1 2015 season and trip to the Super Bowl, he finished with only three winning seasons. The Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos in that Super Bowl.
Rivera had a 12-16 record the past two seasons after Tepper spent an NFL-record $2.275 billion to purchase the Panthers from longtime owner Jerry Richardson.
Rivera, who turns 58 in January, shouldn’t have trouble finding another job as a head coach or defensive coordinator. He took over the defensive playcalling late last season in an attempt to turn the defense around and continued in that role this season.
He is looked at leaguewide as one of the best defensive minds in the game.
Tepper said his final conversation with Rivera was “emotional.”
“Listen, I have great regards to Ron Rivera,” Tepper said. “He’s one of the finest guys in this game, period. That’s not bulls—.”
But ultimately, Tepper didn’t believe Rivera was the man to lead the Panthers (5-7) to the kind of long-term success he became accustomed to growing up in Pittsburgh and as a minority owner of the Steelers.
When Tepper says long-term, he doesn’t expect an overnight turnaround.
“If people believe or fans believe that I’m going to hire the messiah in here and bring you to the promised land in one year, I got a few guys they should meet,” Tepper said. “They can meet the Tooth Fairy, they can meet Santa Claus, I got a bridge in Brooklyn.
“I’m not talking one year. I’m talking about a standard that will be built and sustained … built and sustained.”
Let the speculation begin.
And one name that those is scouting circles have consistently connected to Carolina is Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. Colbert’s contract is expiring, and he and Tepper know each other from Tepper’s time as a minority owner in Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, Ron Rivera says he’s ready to get back on the horse. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Ron Rivera never got to hoist a Lombardi Trophy in Charlotte, but his nine-year run with the Carolina Panthers ended Tuesday with plenty of positive memories.
During his tenure, Rivera won two AP NFL Coach of the Year awards, made a Super Bowl appearance, won back-to-back-to-back NFC South titles, and became the winningest coach in team history. The Panthers made four playoff appearances under Rivera. The franchise made the playoffs four times in 16 seasons before he took over in 2011.
Wednesday morning, Rivera met with the Carolina media — an unusual move for a coach just fired, which speaks to his standing within the organization even though owner David Tepper decided it was time to choose his own coach. In what started out slightly spicy, with the fired coach defending the ups-and-downs of nine seasons, Rivera said he was proud of the turnaround under his watch.
The 57-year-old also made it clear he’s looking to get right back into coaching if he gets a shot.
“I do believe I will get another opportunity, and I will coach again,” he said, laughing that he’s taking the next four weeks off before getting back to work.
The 30-plus-minute press conference could be used as a pre-interview appetizer for any owner considering hiring Rivera for an opening. We know the Washington Redskins need a new head coach. If history is any indicator, several others will also be in the market.
Rivera was asked what pitch he’d make to owners considering him for a coaching job.
“There are a lot of things I would do differently, there really are, but I think I’ve got the right kind of experience,” he said. “I mean, I do. I just think that, having gone through the things that I’ve gone through, been through the things that we’ve been through, been where we’ve been, it gives me experience. Doesn’t mean I’ll be better than anybody else but what it does is it gives me a different perspective …I’ll be honest I’m kind of excited, I really am. I’m really looking forward to a lot of opportunities, I’m looking forward to a little bit of time.”
Rivera noted that his desire to leap right back into another gig if given a chance is to continue to influence the lives of young men.
“I love coaching and not just coaching because it’s about winning football games but coaching because you have an opportunity to impact young men and people and that’s what I want to do,” Rivera said. “I want to be able to coach people, impact people, win football games and hopefully win a Super Bowl…
“It’s young men like Greg Olsen and Eric Reid, who are going to change this world and make it a better place,” Rivera said.
OddsShark put this out in a hurry:
Odds to be the next Head Coach of the Panthers (BetOnline):
Jim Harbaugh +300
Jason Garrett +500
Josh McDaniels +550
Dan Quinn +600
Urban Meyer +600
Greg Roman +1200
Mike LaFleur +1200
Jay Gruden +1400
Doug Marrone +1600
Pat Shurmur +1800
Doug Pederson +2000
Bill Cowher +10000
We will take the field. The next coach of the Panthers is not on that list.
As Tepper swings into action, we note this from Albert Breer:
Here are the first HC hires of the 5 guys to buy teams before Panthers owner David Tepper …
Steve Ross, Miami: Joe Philbin
Stan Kroenke, St. Louis: Jeff Fisher
Shad Khan, Jacksonville: Mike Mularkey
Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland: Rob Chudzinski
Terry Pegula, Buffalo: Rex Ryan
All five were fired, and they lasted, respectively, 3.25, 5, 1, 1 and 2 seasons. Which is to say usually it takes owners time to get the hang of this.
Saints DE CAMERON JORDAN is having a big year.
Cameron Jordan feasted on Thanksgiving, sacking Matt Ryan four times in the victory. All that was missing was the New Orleans Saints’ pass rusher pouring gravy on the quarterback before swallowing him whole.
The four-sack performance boosted Jordan’s total to 13.5 for the season, one behind Shaquil Barrett for tops in the NFL, and earned him the Week 13 NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
With one quarter of the season left to play and the Saints sitting in the pole position in the NFC largely thanks to Jordan and the defense, the 30-year-old is in line for a potential Defensive Player of The Year award.
Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins believes the 20-sack barrier should be in Jordan’s sights.
“Twenty is attainable for a guy like that, for sure,” Rankins said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN. “Me and Cam speak about that stuff all the time in the offseason. That’s his mythical thing, he’s always wanted to reach a 20-piece. Listen, when you go for four, you put yourself in a position where that’s attainable with four games left. Now obviously he has to do the work, and we gotta help him a little bit. But it’s definitely attainable.”
Rankins then offered a quip for doing his part in eating up blockers to help free the edge rusher.
“But if he hits it, I need a gift. I need a very nice gift from Cam,” Rankins said.
With four games left, Jordan needs to average more than 1.5 sacks per game to beat the 20-sack barrier, with tilts against the 49ers, Colts, Titans and Panthers remaining. The 49ers and Colts rank in the top-10 in fewest sacks allowed. The Titans and Panthers, however, sit tied for worst (49) and fourth-worst (45) in the NFL in sacks given up, respectively. Those final two games could provide Jordan his chance to get close to 20.
Predictably, Jordan said he’s not worried about getting to 20 sacks or about individual awards.
“I’ve never said anything other than I want a Super Bowl. I don’t care about personal accolades,” he said. “I’m gunning for everything and plus some. As long as my D-line is playing good and my defense is playing better, I couldn’t care less about myself.”
Of course if he gets there, Jordan won’t complain.
“If it happens, then more the merrier this offseason,” he said, smirking.
If it happens, especially if it keeps Saints remain atop the NFC, Jordan could take home the DPOY award in a wide-open race with four weeks left.
The DB is warming to the idea that QB JAMEIS WINSTON could be back in 2020 – but this from Mike Sando is scary:
Bucs QB Jameis Winston has 25 turnovers this season.
Patrick Mahomes (4)
Aaron Rodgers (5)
Kyler Murray (6)
Lamar Jackson (6)
Russell Wilson (6) +
= 27 combined
Over the weekend, the NFL came down hard on an obscure NFL player, DB JOSH SHAW who was on IR, for gambling on NFL games. David Purdham of ESPN.com:
Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw has appealed his suspension for violating the NFL gambling policy, a source familiar with the matter told ESPN on Tuesday.
Pending the appeal, Shaw is suspended through the 2020 season after the NFL found he had bet on league games on multiple occasions this fall.
The appeal had to be filed by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday. If his appeal is denied, Shaw may petition for reinstatement on or after Feb. 15, 2021.
The NFL prohibits all personnel — players, coaches, owners, officials and league employees — from wagering on NFL games.
Shaw, who is on injured reserve, has not played during his first season with the Cardinals. He placed at least one of his wagers on Nov. 10 at a Las Vegas sportsbook operated by Caesars Entertainment, multiple gaming industry sources told ESPN.
According to the sources, Shaw bet a three-team parlay on the second-half results of three Week 10 games, including the Cardinals’ game at Tampa Bay. On his parlay, Shaw bet against Arizona, backing the Buccaneers to cover the second-half spread against the Cardinals. The Buccaneers failed to cover the second-half spread and the bet, which the sources said was for a few thousand dollars, did not win.
The NFL found no evidence that Shaw used inside information to make his bet or that any game had been compromised.
Shaw, who had a player’s card with Caesars, had bet with the company previously, sources said, but not on the NFL until Nov. 10. Immediately after realizing Shaw had bet on the NFL, Caesars contacted the Nevada Gaming Control Board and subsequently the NFL, which launched an investigation.
As first reported by NFL Network and confirmed by ESPN, Shaw met and cooperated with the league office shortly after being notified of the investigation.
The NFL announced Shaw’s suspension Friday, with commissioner Roger Goodell emphasizing the league’s longstanding policy on sports betting.
“The continued success of the NFL depends directly on each of us doing everything necessary to safeguard the integrity of the game and the reputations of all who participate in the league,” Goodell said in a release announcing the suspension. “At the core of this responsibility is the longstanding principle that betting on NFL games, or on any element of a game, puts at risk the integrity of the game, damages public confidence in the NFL, and is forbidden under all circumstances. If you work in the NFL in any capacity, you may not bet on NFL football.”
This from Adam Schefter:
On the biggest shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday, Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson outsold every other athlete in total merchandise on @fanatics, per a company official. But the top-selling single item on Cyber Monday still was, after all these years, Tom Brady jerseys.
The Dolphins have lost their starting running back for the final four games, but since he’s averaging 1.8 yards per carry, we can’t see that as a big problem. With no chance to improve that, his season concludes as the worst in the NFL since 1936. Joe Schad in the Palm Beach Post with that nugget:
The Dolphins placed starting running back Kalen Ballage on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday.
Ballage carried 74 times for 135 yards this season, an average of 1.8 yards per carry, which is the second-worst average among running backs with at least 70 NFL carries in a season in league history.
Phil Sarboe ran for 1.2 yards per carry for Brooklyn and Chicago in 1936, according to Pro Football Reference.
Ballage was a fourth-round pick from Arizona State. For the rest of this season, Miami figures to rely on undrafted rookie Patrick Laird, seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin and De’Lance Turner, added from the Ravens’ practice squad this season.
On Tuesday, the Dolphins signed running back Zach Zenner off waivers from Arizona. Zenner has played five seasons with Detroit, New Orleans and the Cardinals with six starts and an average of 3.9 yards per carry.
Miami also signed wide receiver/returner Trevor Davis off waivers from Oakland. Davis is in his fourth season after stints with Green Bay and the Raiders.
Davis has played in 40 NFL games with our starts. As a returner, Davis had 54 kickoff returns and 53 punt returns, so he can help ease the burden left by Jakeem Grant, who is on injured reserve.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets are signaling that they will let you take RB Le’VEON BELL and his big contract off their hands. Steve Delvecchio in YardBarker:
The New York Jets signed Le’Veon Bell to a massive contract this past offseason, but they may be looking to part ways with the star running back just one season into the deal.
The Jets are going to be “amenable” to trading Bell after the season concludes, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. They already shopped the three-time Pro Bowler ahead of the trade deadline, and it seems like Bell and Jets head coach Adam Gase are far from a perfect fit.
Bell is in the first season of a four-year, $52.5 million deal he signed with the Jets that includes $27 million guaranteed. He carries salary cap hits of $15.5 million, $13.5 million and $15 million over the next three seasons. The team will almost certainly have to eat some money if they want to move him, but Gase may push for it to happen.
Bell is averaging just 82.7 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. He was a threat in both the run and pass games with the Pittsburgh Steelers who was constantly a nightmare for defenses, but he has not looked like that player this year. A lot of that has to do with the way Gase is using him, though Gase indicated on Monday that it is Bell who has needed to alter his style of play.
“Especially in the last four or five games, he’s really done a good job of trying to make sure that we’re staying ahead of the sticks,” Gase said. “For the most part, I feel like he has adjusted his running style to really benefit us to really keep us ahead of the sticks.”
A report from before the season claimed Gase was totally against shelling out big money to sign Bell, and the Jets have already committed to the coach for 2020. Gase tried to refute the notion that he never wanted Bell on the team, but he wasn’t exactly convincing. If Bell does end up being moved, it will be safe to assume Gase had a lot to do with it.
Another big money free agent signing has seen his season end. Manish Mehta in the New York Daily News:
C.J Mosley’s lost season officially ended Tuesday when the Jets placed him injured reserve.
The Pro Bowl linebacker never got back on track after suffering a groin injury in the season opener.
He aggravated his injury in Gang Green’s shutout primetime loss to the Patriots in Week 7 and never returned.
Mosley attempted to hold off surgery, but he never felt right during his rehab. It also never made sense to rush him back given that the Jets are not in the playoff picture.
The Jets gave the former Ravens star a five-year, $85 million deal that included $51 million guaranteed in free agency.
He finished with just nine tackles, one fumble recovery and a pick-six in 108 snaps in two games.
THIS AND THAT
2019 Season Aikman Efficiency Ratings Through Week 13
With their victory over the 49ers, the Ravens stay in 1st place in the Aikman Efficiency Ratings after Week 13. And even though they lost at Baltimore on a last-second field goal, the 49ers have inched into 2nd ahead of the Patriots who slipped a bit in their loss to the Texans.
There is a gap of 7.7 points from the top three to the #4 Vikings. But after that seven teams are bunched within 6 points of each other.
The Ravens continue to have the top Aikman Offense by a margin of 9 points. They are seeking to become the first offense with an Aikman rating over 100 for the season.
The Patriots defense is still 1st in Aikman Defense, but the decline has been significant. Just three weeks ago, New England was at 96.1.
——- Aikman ——- ——- NFL ——-
Rank W-L Team Comb Off Def Off Def Comb
1 10-2 Ravens 172.7 100.2 72.5 2 9 11
2 10-2 49ers 171.9 85.4 86.5 6 1 7
3 10-2 Patriots 170.8 81.7 89.1 14 2 16
4 8-4 Vikings 163.1 91.2 71.9 8 16 24
5 6-6 Cowboys 162.2 91.2 71.0 1 8 9
6 9-3 Bills 161.0 85.2 75.8 17 3 20
7 10-2 Seahawks 160.5 89.6 70.9 3 24 27
8 10-2 Saints 158.5 87.0 71.5 13 10 23
9 8-4 Chiefs 158.0 90.5 67.5 4 25 29
10 9-3 Packers 157.2 87.5 69.7 22 28 50
11 6-6 Colts 154.5 85.5 69.0 19 13 32
12 7-5 Titans 152.7 83.4 69.2 24 21 45
13 5-7 Eagles 151.8 83.8 68.0 20 14 34
14 5-7 Buccaneers 151.6 81.6 69.9 5 17 22
15 8-4 Texans 151.3 90.5 60.8 9 27 36
16 6-6 Bears 149.4 74.9 74.5 29 7 36
17 7-5 Rams 149.2 79.8 69.4 10 12 22
18 7-5 Steelers 148.7 71.0 77.7 28 5 33
19 5-7 Browns 147.3 78.9 68.4 18 15 33
20 4-8 Broncos 146.9 72.8 74.1 27 11 38
21 4-8 Chargers 145.4 77.5 67.9 12 4 16
22 3-8-1 Lions 144.9 83.7 61.2 7 29 36
23 5-7 Panthers 141.6 79.1 62.5 21 22 43
24 6-6 Raiders 141.4 82.1 59.3 16 20 36
25 3-9 Falcons 141.2 80.3 60.9 11 23 34
26 4-8 Jaguars 140.1 75.2 64.9 15 18 33
27 2-10 Giants 138.7 72.5 66.1 25 26 51
28 3-8-1 Cardinals 137.7 79.9 57.8 23 32 55
29 4-8 Jets 136.4 67.7 68.8 31 6 37
30 3-9 Redskins 132.4 66.6 65.9 32 19 51
31 1-11 Bengals 131.3 67.2 64.1 26 31 57
32 3-9 Dolphins 127.3 72.2 55.1 30 30 60
REVISE PLAYOFF SEEDING
Mike Florio goes on a rant:
The NFL has a major playoff flaw, that continues to hide in plain sight — with no apparent desire to fix it.
Nine years ago, the 7-9 Seahawks hosted the 11-5 Saints in the wild-card round. Seattle “earned” a home game in the postseason by being the best of four really bad teams. The Saints, who finished in second place in the NFC South behind the 13-3 Falcons, had to travel to one of the toughest places to play.
The Seahawks won, prompting some to say that the outcomes proved that they were the better team. The better explanation was that, if the game had been played in New Orleans, the Saints would have won.
This year, the Seahawks could be burned by the rule from which they benefited. Either Seattle or San Francisco likely will finish 13-3 or 12-4, and whoever doesn’t win the NFC West will have to travel either Dallas or Philadelphia, one of which will win the division, possibly with a record of 8-8 or worse.
With the Cowboys currently leading the NFC East by one game, a win over the Eagles in Week 16 could clinch the division for Dallas, allowing the Cowboys to rest their starters in Week 17, which the 49ers and Seahawks engage in a bare-knuckled, winner-take-all fight for the NFC West crown, with the loser limping to Dallas — and possibly losing there, too.
It shouldn’t be that way. The four best teams from each conference should host playoff games. While winning a division should guarantee a spot in the playoffs, it shouldn’t guarantee a home game.
Maybe the rule should be that the division winner has to have a winning record to host a wild-card game. Maybe the division winner should be required to generate a record of 10-6 or better.
Whatever the formula, the current one is grossly unfair. The four worst, most dysfunctional teams could all be in the same division, and one of them will be guaranteed to host a playoff game, no matter how much better the fifth seed in the conference may be.
What’s the argument against it? That winning a division is so special and magical that a home game must be granted to at least one team from pre-determined each four-team cluster? That it’s tradition?
Whatever the arguments may be, fairness dictates a different approach. The Cowboys or Eagles have no business hosting a home game this year in the playoffs, and the 49ers or Seahawks should not be going on the road. Just like the Saints shouldn’t have gone on the road nine years ago.
So here’s the question: Will the owners ever take up this issue? If they ever do, how will they justify embracing the status quo?
One of the 32 teams should propose the rule change, putting it on the agenda for March. And the owners, if they choose not to change the rules, should be ready to explain why the ultimate meritocracy determines playoff positioning based on factors other than merit as reflected by wins versus losses.
If teams are seeded by record, we would say that any division champ should be seeded ahead of any Wild Card with the same record. For example, we would seed a 12-4 Packers team that was the NFC North champ ahead of a 12-4 49ers Wild Card even though the 49ers won the head-to-head match between the teams.
It is not a given that the Alabama career of QB TUA TAGOVAILOA is over:
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has until Jan. 20 to decide whether he’ll declare for next year’s NFL draft, and he plans to get his family’s input before doing so.
Tagovailoa, who is recovering from hip surgery, told ESPN he sees the risk and reward in both of the paths before him.
“You think of risk-reward on coming back. You think of risk-reward on leaving,” he said told ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. “And when I look at it, I kind of look at it, if I come back, the risk is what if I get hurt again? But the reward could be maybe I jump back to the top of the charts, the boards for all these teams.”
By the sound of it, he’s weighing if he can climb back to the top of the draft ranks with another season of college play, or if he should just get paid now and not risk another injury.
“I’d say the reward in all of that is, yeah, I’ll be getting paid millions,” Tagovailoa said of declaring for the draft this year. “But a lot of the money that I could’ve made, you can’t make that money up now. So that’d be me leaving money on the table.”
With approximately seven weeks to go until decision day, Tagovailoa doesn’t seem to be in any hurry. He said that he still wants to talk to his family before making the “business decision.”
“But then, at the same time, I still gotta talk with my family about all this, see what their input is. Now is not the time to be making emotional decisions. But now you gotta change into thinking as a businessman. You gotta make business decisions.”
As a former lock for a top-five pick prior to his injury last month, Tagovailoa also said he’s worried he could fall out of the first round if he declares without having a chance to show off his post-injury play.
“If I leave, the risk is do I still go in the first round, or do I even make [it] to the second round?” Tagovailoa said. “These guys don’t even know if I can play with the hip injury yet, too.”
Falling to late in the first round seems unlikely, and out of it entirely? Pretty much unthinkable. So luckily for Tua, if recovery goes as expected, he’ll be making many millions in his career either way.