Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Recap: What Have we Learned?

Unfortunately I was unable to post a preview of the three Turkey day games (happy belated Thanksgiving, by the way!). But I happened to go 3-0 on the day in terms of picking the games, so that's a positive––check out the "picks" tab if you don't believe me.

Thanks to some interesting football games, there is plenty that Thanksgiving day taught us and there's so much to take away from what we witnessed. Here's a start:

Parity, Parity, Parity

The 12:30 pm ET game between Houston and Detroit has proven even further that the National Football League is full of parity this season. This has made it extra tough to pick out a true No. 1 team in the league.

Early on, the Houston Texans were without a doubt the clear No. 1 team coming out of the AFC. Starting the season 5-0 and not allowing a team to put up any more than 25 points, Houston appeared to be on its way to an easy division title. They have continued to pull away with victories and are 10-1 on the season, but injuries to the defensive squad (Brian Cushing has been out for the season since Week 5; Johnathan Joseph missed Thursday's game due to hamstring injury) have exposed them.

The Texans' lone loss came at home against the Packers, a game in which Houston 427 yards and 42 points. The last two weeks, including Thursday, resulted in two overtime victories––43-37 over Jacksonville and 34-31 over Detroit––but very easily could have put Houston at 8-3 and just two games ahead of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.

Despite being the first team in the league to reach 10 wins, the Texans' defense has been exposed and could be in trouble when they get around to preparing for the 8-3, high-flying offense of the New England Patriots on Monday night, December 10. Keep your eye on the AFC South over these last 5 weeks of the season, especially considering Houston still has three division games remaining.
Ndamukong Suh has yet to change his style of play

I'm not saying whether or not it was on purpose, but the fact that it was Ndamukong Suh who happened to be the Detroit Lion defensive lineman that kicked Houston's quarterback Matt Schaub in the family jewels on Thursday seems a little fishy to me.

It appeared to be an accident, in my opinion, but the league has decided to review the play and decide whether it warrants a fine or not. If you're going to suspend Ed Reed for three safety rules violations over three seasons (though the 1-game suspension was reduced to a $50,000 fine), then why not suspend Suh for a game if the commish finds this to be a dirty play?

I'm just throwing ideas out there. It's one thing to play until you hear the whistle and play aggressively, but I would consider Suh's actions over-aggressive and unneeded. Suh, 25, is now in his 3rd NFL season and, as of last December, had been flagged for 9 personal fouls for his over-aggressive style of play and exactly one year ago today (on Thanksgiving vs. Packers) Suh stomped on Green Bay's offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. He was suspended two games for the act.

In his first year and a half in the league he had been fined a total of $42,500 by the league. To top it all off, the a players' poll conducted by The Sporting News revealed Suh to be the league's dirtiest player. After 2+ seasons of this, he has clearly yet to change his attitude. At this point, I don't think he will ever change. It makes for interesting football, that's for sure.

NFC East will come down to the wire: Does Dallas still have a shot at the playoffs?

A 28-3 halftime lead for the Skins seemingly put the game away for Washington, until Dallas' Tony Romo came out in the 2nd half and put up 28 points. The deficit, however, was too large for the Cowboys, who ran for just 35 yards on the day. The Washington victory tied them with Dallas for second in the NFC East at 5-6.

Robert Griffin III continues to impress for the Skins, and is in the heart of the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But with three more divisional match-ups and a tough game in Baltimore remaining on its schedule, the road to a postseason appearance looks to be rocky.

Clearly the East is still up for grabs as they are both just a half game behind the 6-4 Giants, but at this point the Cowboys, surprisingly, look to have the best shot at capturing the East. Despite the loss to Washington at home, the 'Boys have the easiest remaining schedule (vs. Philly, @ Cincy, vs. Pitt, vs. NO, @ Wash.). Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Washington are all win-able games for Dallas if their offense shows up and, depending on whether Pittsburgh has Ben Roethlisberger or not, they can compete with both the Steelers and Saints.

As for the Giants, they are already on a two game losing streak prior to the Week 11 bye and they still have a tough road ahead of them: vs. Green Bay (primetime), @ Washington (primetime), vs. New Orleans, @ Atlanta, @ Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia.

But, these are the Giants, you can never count them out of it in December. Not to mention the Cowboys and Skins have both been somewhat inconsistent this season. So this is clearly anyone's division, even the 3-7 Eagles have a slim shot at turning things around (doubtful). But my money is on the Cowboys getting things together down the stretch.
The Patriots once again have the scariest offense in NFL; Jets are done

I was expecting a rout of the Jets, but not on the defensive side of the ball. In New England's 49-19 embarrassment of the New York Jets on Thanksgiving night, New England put up 14 points on defensive touchdowns while forcing a season-high 5 turnovers and sacking Mark Sanchez twice.

Tom Brady and the offense put up staggering numbers too, of course, against New York's 14th-ranked scoring defense. The offense's 323 passing yards, 3 TDs and 152 rushing yards, 2 TDs was enough for a 30-point victory over the division rival. With 407 points in 11 games is an NFL-best, with the 2nd-ranked Texans putting up only 327 on the season.

The Patriots will get the chance to insert its dominance of the AFC in two weeks when they take on 10-1 Houston in primetime on Monday night. It will once again be up to the defense to step it up and make plays if they wish to make a Super Bowl run down the stretch. The offense is right where it's been for years.

As for the now-4-7 Jets, they've gone so far as to embarrass the infamous fan "Fireman Ed" so much that he left the game at halftime and deleted his Twitter account, according to ESPN. Wow, is the only word that can clearly describe the Jets' current state. Fans have been calling for Tim Tebow to take over the starting role, but Mark Sanchez isn't anywhere near the only problem with New York's squad.

My suggestion to New York: clean house after the season. Rex Ryan has had his chance and hasn't gotten the job done. I think it's time for a huge change within the Jets' organization and it all starts with Ryan.
Week 12 action is sure to reveal many more lessons:

*How will rookie signal caller Andrew Luck react to last week's beating. If he is able to bounce back against the Bills, he can savor his chances of winning OROY and stay in the hunt for Wild Card.
*Is starting Chad Henne going to save the rest of the Jags' season?
*Can Pittsburgh win with Charlie Batch under center, and what impact will the Plaxico Burress signing have?
*After last week's loss to San Fran's Colin Kaepernick, can Chicago's defense bounce back against the league's leading rusher (Adrian Peterson)?
*Is Tampa a contender coming out of the NFC South? They will get their shot at proving they belong with a chance to upset the 9-1 Falcons.
*49ers @ Saints: Rematch of last year's NFC Divisional showdown.

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