Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 10, 2012 at 9:33 AM
You know that television show that - for some reason - remains wildly popular called The Biggest Loser?
Well, can't claim that we've ever watched it though we know it has to do with weight loss but if this entitled show had anything at all to do with pro football, than this week's guests should include the likes of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and the New Orleans Saints kick coverage units ...
Boy, on an NFL Week 14 Sunday afternoon/evening when everyone inside the AFC North save for the basement-dwelling Cleveland Browns lost and where the dead-and-now-buried Arizona Cardinals lost by 58 points the folks we mentioned at the top of this Jim Sez column really have reasons to hang their heads today.
We'll dig a little deeper into Schwartz's underachieving Lions in just a moment but how about "Big Ben" making his return from a three-week injury absence to throw for the most hollow 285 yards in league history - keep in mind the Steelers once trailed 27-3 in the third quarter of their 34-24 home loss versus 7 ½-point underdog San Diego -- and nothing symbolized Pittsburgh's rotten day at Heinz Field more than Roethlisberger's botched screen pass that doinked off a Steelers head and was recovered by San Diego's Quentin Jammer in the end zone for the easiest touchdown that he'll ever score.
As far as those Saints kick coverage units, they were downright pathetic:
Okay, so we'll dole out credit to New York Giants rookie return specialist/part-time RB David Wilson for piling up an incredible team-record 227 return yards that included/featured a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that got the G-men on the board in the first place en route to their 52-27 overwhelming win against now-out-of-it N'Orleans but the fact is there were gaping holes to run through on a slew of kick returns and seems that interim Saints boss-man Joe Vitt might have forgotten to kick away from the ultra-dangerous Wilson in the first place ... duh!
And while we're giving wrist slaps all around, the Arizona Cardinals - who probably will fire head coach Ken Whisenhunt by sunset this evening - should be investigated for fraud for that 58-0 loss in Seattle although someone will have to tell us why it was important for the Seahawks to score that last TD when Pete Carroll's club could have taken a knee or two - care to explain, coach?
Time to review a couple of NFL Week 14 games before we get to what figures to be a thrilling Monday Night Football tilt from Foxboro, so here goes ...
WASHINGTON 31, BALTIMORE 28 (OT) - On a day/night when eight of the 14 games played on this NFL 14 docket were decided by a full touchdown or less, no game had more wire-to-wire hysteria than this Beltway Battle.
Sure, all the post-game talk on the tube was about both the injury to Redskins' superstar QB Robert Griffin III (the MRI said it was just a knee sprain) and the hero role filled by his back-up and fellow rookie QB Kirk Cousins who fired an 11-yard scoring strike to WR Pierre Garcon with just 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter and than bolted into the end zone on a QB draw for the ensuing two-point conversion play.
Still, this was much more about the Ravens (9-4) losing the game and - quite possibly - a #2 playoff seed that could well have been theirs had John Harbaugh's crew played its cards right in Landover. Instead, Baltimore scored just one TD after dashing out to a 21-14 halftime lead and there was RB Ray Rice getting only 20 carries (for 121 yards and a score) after we declared the other day he must get a minimum of 25 carries (how come nobody's listening?) and there was this Terrell Suggs-less defense keeping the aforementioned Griffin III under wraps for much of this game but not cashing in at the end. And shame on Harbaugh - that one-time, long-time special teams coach whose team allowed a monster punt bring-back in OT by Washington's Richard Crawford who paraded his way some 64 yards to help set up the game-winning 34-yard field goal by now-automatic PK Kai Forbath.
The 'Skins (7-6) have indeed now won four games in a row - but we wanna know if the Ravens are gonna recover from this one and don't look now but here comes Peyton Manning and the red-hot (as in eight wins in a row) Denver Broncos this Sunday into crab cake country.
GREEN BAY 27, DETROIT 20 - Maybe the numbers didn't exactly jive as the Packers had the ball for a mere 22:46 and converted just five third-down plays but anyone who eyeballed this prime-time NBC tilt knows the real story!
Here was Detroit (now 4-9) basically attempting to play the spoiler role in snowy Lambeau Field and doing quite well with an unconventional (for them) ball-control ground game that chewed up yards/clock in the first half but when the Lions led by just four points at the break-see Detroit 14, Green Bay 10 - you knew the shoe was about ready to fall on a hard-luck Motown crew that's now lost its last three games in a row after sporting double-digit leads.
In fact, the Lions saw top-flight WR Calvin Johnson catch 10 balls for 118 yards and it still seemed as if he didn't do any real damage to a Green Bay defense that once again played without leaders LB Clay Matthews and CB Charles Woodson and so go ahead and hop on the Packers' bandwagon now that Mike McCarthy's squad has won seven of its last eight games.
But let's also tread on Mr. Schwartz, too!
The fourth-year Lions head coach didn't utilize his time outs wisely late - why call your final time out with 2:08 on the game clock when you can save 30 seconds on the other side of the two-minute warning? - and why on earth do you trot your 42-year-old PK Jason Hanson out there to attempt a 52-yarder with some wind blowing against 'em early in the fourth quarter in a 17-17 game when a punt was much more prudent?
Maybe you say no big deal 'cause the Lions are going nowhere this year - but gotta believe the likes of Chicago (8-5) and the aforementioned Giants (8-5) cannot be too pleased with this coaching job done against a Packers team that's on a roll and found a way to win on a night when QB Aaron Rodgers threw for only 173 yards.
On Monday Night Football, it's ...
HOUSTON (11-1) at NEW ENGLAND (9-3) - 8:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
Is the AFC playoff road going to "run through Houston"? No doubt we've been hearing such chatter for a few weeks now and so this tilt becomes a litmus test of sorts for a Houston team that is looking to sweep this current three-game road trip (following wins in Detroit and Tennessee) and thus this clash becomes a head-on collision between a team looking to be considered NFL elite and one that's been elite for the better part of the past dozen years:
Consider in the last 10 years alone - since Houston entered the NFL back in 2002 - the Texans have won a grand total of one playoff game (see last year's 31-10 triumph over Cincinnati) while the Patriots have won 13 post-season games during this time span including a pair of Super Bowls in 2003 and '04 ... but Gary Kubiak's crew claims it won't "blink" here.
The Texans believe they can hammer out the big in-between-the-tackle ground yards with the NFL's sixth-best rushing attack starring RB Arian Foster (1,102 yards rushing and 13 ground TDs this year) but something tells us if Houston's gonna win here as 4-point road dogs, than born-again WR Andre Johnson (74 catches) will have to demonize a Patriots secondary that's improved since the early weeks of this 2012 season but still ain't exactly high quality caliber just yet.
Conversely, Patriots QB Tom Brady (25 TDs and 4 INTs) must find ways to avoid the bat-down attempts of DE J.J. Watt and so don't be surprised if New England rolls the pocket some here and has Brady flick quick-hitters to slot WR Wes Welker and TE Aaron Hernandez who will either get solid YAC plays here or else keep the Pats in more third-and-longs than they care for.
One key stat: The Texans are plus 21 in the sack matchup against opponents (36 sacks for Houston/15 allowed by the Texans' sterling O-line) - if those numbers stay on Houston's side here, than Brady and Company could be in a world of trouble.
Spread Notes - Houston's 8-4 ATS (against the spread) so far this 2012 season and note the Texans are a collective 10-5 ATS away since the start of last season. On the flip side, New England is a hearty 7-4-1 against thee odds this season but the Patriots are a modest 29-26-1 spreadwise as betting favorites since the start of the 2009 campaign.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK - FINAL WORDS ON THE HEISMAN
Hey, we don't mean to take any shots at some other sportswriters but ...One publication last spring said this in its Texas A&M preview:
"The big question mark is at quarterback where sophomore Jameill Showers emerged with a slight edge over redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel following spring practices."
Okay, so the truth is Manziel - a/k/a "Johnny Football" - wasn't exactly on anyone's radar screen at the start of this college football season (including ours!) but there was the classy 20-year-old making a wonderful speech following the naming of this Aggie as the winner of the most coveted award in amateur sports this past Saturday night in New York City.
Manziel was a stat-sheet stuffer to be sure and that electrifying win at than-#1 Alabama - which, in truth, now didn't mean a thing considering the Crimson Tide's still gonna play for a national championship! - put him over the top in most voter minds but we'll stick to our guns and say Manziel should have finished runner-up to Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o.
Te'o played inspirational and overpowering football for an unbeaten team - Texas A&M lost twice with Manziel at the helm, doesn't that make a difference to anyone out there? - and yet there were the Heisman voters giving Manziel some 474 first-place votes to Te'o getting 321 first-place votes.
Gotta admit we usually hit the Heisman winner on the head - even in years in which it's a toss-up - but we'll go to our proverbial grave knowing Te'o deserved the award for those key goal-line stands against Stanford and USC and for the mere fact the 12-and-oh Irish played with major pressure on 'em week-in and week-out.
Not the case with Texas A&M which lost its opener and never entertained national title hopes.
Hey, Manziel's speech was great, it was touching. Problem is he shouldn't have been giving one in the first place!
If "Johnny Football" wins next year and thus joins one-time Ohio State great RB Archie Griffin as the sport's only two-time Heisman Trophy winners, than we will gladly roll out the verbal bouquets for the Aggie star.
But something tells us winning big SEC games won't be easy for Manziel in 2013 - that target on his back just got a whole lot bigger!
NOTE: Get all the Bowl Previews this week right here in Jim Sez -- and watch out this week for NFL Week 15 and NCAA/NBA coverage too!