Starting the column a little differently this week as the upper echelons of the NFL standings took care of business in Week 12. Other than some slight jockeying for playoff position, the “haves” generally continued their winning ways while the “have nots” did, um...not.
Instead of taking a look at one big takeaway from Week 12, it’s time to take a look at some of those lesser teams in the standings and see who might be looking for new coaches following the season.
Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears)— Although the Bears beat the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving and Nagy kept his job despite reports he was already out the door, the “offensive guru” only put up 16 points and “improved” to 4-7. Temperature: Red Hot and Climbing
Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos)— Winners of three of their last four, it’s possible that Fangio has saved his job. The 63-year-old has yet to make the playoffs, however, and the fanbase won’t accept another lost season. Temperature: Hot, but it's a dry heat
Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions)— Expectations were very low for the Lions in Campbell’s first season and all reports out of Motown have the players bought into Campbell and his staff. Still, it’s very difficult to look this bad every single week. Temperature: Just got to the beach, so it's bearable
Urban Meyer (Jacksonville Jaguars)— Just about every local or national media type who has commented on the Jaguars have noted how out-of-his-depth the former college coach seems. If you don’t think some of that is coming from rumblings inside the building, you aren’t paying attention. Temperature: Surface of the sun, but no one notices
Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings) — Like Fangio above, Zimmer is one of the oldest coaches in the NFL and was long considered one of the brightest defensive minds the game has ever seen. The Vikings are consistently losing one-score games, which means both that Zimmer has them very competitive, but also that he’s not pulling the right levers to win. Temperature: Uncomfortable, but there's a breeze.
Joe Judge (New York Giants) — Week after week, the Giants look completely uncoached and put their best players in the worst possible places to succeed. Barely beating the Eagles in a game neither team looked enthusiastic for doesn’t change that much. Temperature: "Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty"
What We Got Wrong, But Should’ve Gotten Right…
My picks weren’t stellar this week, but I went against the grain picking both the Miami Dolphins and the Denver Broncos, and those picks paid off big time. 71 percent of experts tracked by Pickwatch thought the Panthers were going to win, but quarterback Cam Newton played terribly (as I noted in my picks column) while Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa continues to play well—proving me, a whole lot of other experts, and his own front office wrong.
Meanwhile, the Chargers continued to do what they do. They played decently well against the Broncos, but 86 percent of the experts got this one wrong because they failed to note that the Chargers have been dropping games like this all season—getting run on at will and passive effectively but with too many turnovers.
What We Never Would’ve Guessed...
With three percent of experts tracked picking the Raiders, them winning isn’t the biggest “upset” of the season in terms of how few picked them, but it was a big surprise in terms of what they’ve done lately—namely, losing the three games prior and being entirely unable to score more than a couple of touchdowns. Exploding for 36 points against a defense only allowing 22 points a game is a pretty shocking development. Oh, and QB Derek Carr is now your NFL passing leader.
The Schottey Six: Cyber Monday Shopping for Contenders
1. Arizona Cardinals: Cryotherapy Chamber for Kyler Murray—Do you even play Murray against Chicago? Do you need him? This is the top team in football, but they need Murray back if they want to beat the NFL’s best.
2. Green Bay Packers: PR Assistance for the Defense— It’s the 5th-ranked scoring defense in the league and most people can’t name more than one or two players on that side of the ball.
3. New England Patriots: A Big Boy Bike for Mac Jones— Eventually the training wheels are going to have to come off. Jones is excelling statistically, but the offense isn’t built to allow him to take chances with the ball...yet.
4. Tennessee Titans: A Clone of Derrick Henry — It’s not just a running back or even another great running back that they need, they need their king back, and only the King will do.
5. Los Angeles Rams: Glasses for Matthew Stafford — Gunslingers giveth and they taketh away.
6. Baltimore Ravens: A New Page for Greg Roman’s Playbook — How can a team have this much talent and keep banging their head into the same wall offensively?
Cleaning Out the Notebook
— The Los Angeles Rams are too talented of a team to be playing this poorly. That’s on coaching. However, for all his statistical prowess, it’s important to also put some blame on QB Matthew Stafford who continues to make extremely poor decisions.
— The New Orleans Saints recently signed QB/Gadget Taysom Hill to a (potentially) lucrative extension and the rubber is about to meet the road. He’s finally coming back from an injury that has limited him for much of the season and he’s reportedly taking over QB duties. There is nothing (at all) to say he’s worth all the time and attention the Saints pay him, but
— I fell for thinking the Pittsburgh Steelers would “come to life” in getting a handful of players back from injury against the Bengals. Instead, they fell flat on their face. The upcoming matchup with the Ravens fits their team a little bit better, but still...embarrassing to say the least.
— Are the New England Patriots the best team in football? Probably not...but, they’re about to be tested in a big way. They face the Buffalo Bills (twice) and the Indianapolis Colts in the next three games. If they can go 2-1 over that stretch, they’re locking up a top seed thanks to a final two-game stretch against Jacksonville and Miami.
— Can one player impact a game in terms of a win or a loss? Certainly...no matter what the position. For the Houston Texans, there aren’t many players more impactful than safety Justin Reid, who was benched on Sunday prior to the game against the New York Jets. My initial reaction was “good on (Head Coach) David Culley,” because installing a culture is more important than any one player. However, Reid, says he was confused by the benching, which means they still aren’t on the same page...that’s on the coach. Reid is a free agent this year and it’s pretty clear he won’t be signing back on board.
— If you enjoyed the Ravens/Browns game, let me know what the 1920s were like. That game was straight out of the annals of history, but not a good game mind you. No, even back when running was all there was, this wouldn’t have been a fun game to watch.
— A little bit of a programming note, from here on out, I’ll be doing my picks article on Tuesdays and am moving my power rankings to Wednesdays. Why? We’ve got some fun things in store for the site and yours truly is a consummate team player.
— Speaking of cool things on the site, look over at the right-hand menu bar on the homepage and check out that new social widget. While you’re there, give us a follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Heck, shameless plug: Follow me on Twitter as well!
— Over on Three & Out, Ty, Samantha and I talked to former NFL QB, Shaun King. He had some very interesting things to say about current NFL QBs like Matthew Stafford and Baker Mayfield. He also broke down who he likes in the upcoming draft.
— If you didn’t enjoy “The Game” between Michigan and Ohio State, you either hate good football or are an Ohio State fan who is still salty. Michigan played essentially a perfect game. If you play a game with those two rosters 10 times, Ohio State probably wins six of them, just not this one. I grew up a Michigan fan, and they were my first real interaction with football. This is one of the best teams (if not the best team) since the 1997 National Championship.
— One of the biggest reasons Michigan won was the play of defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux has long been the consensus No. 1 player in this draft class (in terms of talent if not outright draft position), but Hutchinson’s fantastic season has brought him even. If Hutchinson becomes the first defensive player to win the Heisman and his hometown Detroit Lions own the No. 1 pick, it will be hard for them to pass.
— Speaking of the draft, if the season ended today, the Jets would own the No. 4 and No. 5 picks, the Giants would own No. 6 and No. 7 while Philadelphia would have No. 9, No. 10 and No. 4. That’s a massive influx of talent into those three organizations.
— Our big Black Friday splurge in the Schottey Household was a robot vacuum. I know I’m a little late to this trend, but this gadget is amazing. We’re still working out some technical kinks but it’s definitely already proven its worth.
— While we’re on the subject of the holiday season and spending money, a little parenting advice. You don’t need to go broke to make things great for your kids. I promise, the stress of thinking you need to provide the “perfect” toy, experience or anything else isn’t worth it. Spend time. Stuff doesn’t last, memories do.
“You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”—Warren Buffet