I don’t know if anyone clocked this on the Sky coverage this week, but when the Around The NFL guys jokingly said that Jeff Fisher should be the the new Packers head coach, Neil Reynolds took it seriously. He asked the panel if that was really the direction the Packers should be going in, and the panel had to very kindly explain to Neil what sarcasm was. Americans needed to explain to a Brit what sarcasm was… I’m still cringing.
The Texans, I Guess
It’s been hard to find a stand out performance this week. The LA Chargers didn’t fluff their lines on the big stage and managed to put away the Steelers, though they had to come from behind to do it. The Patriots looked like their late season best, though Kirk Cousins has also run away screaming from the limelight by this point. The Jaguars managing to win 6-0 was impressive in its own way…
I guess the Texans deserve a nod for ending that bizzare “we can make the playoffs” Browns nonsense straight away. With the LA Chargers winning their coming out bash, I think the Texans now take the title of the most under the radar team in the league. DeShaun Watson is back to his best, they’ve got a strong number one receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, and their secondary were regular ballhawks. Lamar Miller is the sixth leading rusher in the NFL despite having second-least amount of attempts of anyone in the top six.
For years under Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub the Texans were always the hipster pick for postseason success, though it never really materialised. But you know what? This could finally be the Texans team to surprise a few people come January.
Green Bay Packers
In the cruelest of ironies, when Mike McCarthy drove away from Lambeau Field for the last time, he drove down a street named after him. After twelve years, his time at the helm of one of the game’s most beloved teams had come to an end.
The legacy of Mike McCarthy is really hard to judge. On the one hand, he kept the team perennially good and brought home the 2010 Super Bowl to boot. On the other hand, he can also be accused of having the old Arsene Wenger mentality of “fourth is good enough” and, so long as the Pack had January football, he didn’t worry too much about championships.
Still, though, I can’t help but think that this is premature. Cris Collinsworth made a great observation about the Patriots which also applies to the Packers here. To paraphrase, the advantage they have over other teams is that while others are still on version two or three of a plan, teams with longstanding management have figured it out and nailed it on version thirty seven.
There is no doubting that the Green Bay offense has misfired, and they are criminally wasting Aaron Rodgers’ prime years. But, if anything, this makes promoting offensive coordinator Joe Philbin to interim head coach even more baffling. There is no chance of Philbin taking the role full time, the Packers have been clear they want to find another Sean McVay style upstart, but if your offense is the problem, why promote your OC?
I’d have gone the opposite route, firing Philbin and mandating an overhaul of the offensive psychology. Then, if things don’t improve, look at McCarthy’s position. If he had to go, I also would have let him go after the season with some dignity to “transition to an unconfirmed front office role”.
Sacking him like this not only feels cruel, but is also throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
I need a new tight end for my fantasy playoffs as Greg Olsen has wound up on IR (see below). In a dream world that TE would be Travis Kelce, as the big man put up numbers usually only seen in Madden when I can’t be bothered to run the ball so just do a succession of dump off passes. The Chiefs put an awful off field week behind them with a win over the Raiders, and Kelce was the standout with twelve catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Pretty much everything that could go wrong for the Panthers on Sunday did. Their tight end Greg Olsen’s long injured right foot finally exploded, putting him on IR, and the whole team collectively limped in sympathy to a 24-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Newton, though, will give the Panthers real cause for concern. Not only did he throw four interceptions, the injury to his throwing shoulder is so severe that he couldn’t manage to even make the late game hail mary throw. Instead, backup Taylor Heinicke had to be brought on just to lob the ball far enough downfield to reach the end zone. If Cam will be handicapped this badly throughout the season, it’ll be a painful run in for the Panthers.
I admit it’s harsh to give this section to Newton when the Colts @ Jags game happened, but I refuse to go through that game again. I just… I just refuse to do that to myself. It’s just not worth it.
Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions in a relationship? I love Khalil, truly I do, but then I see Colts’ DT Denico Autry getting three sacks, six tackles, and forcing two fumbles and… I don’t know. I guess I just wonder if there’s more out there, you know? Deep down I know that Khalil’s late season dip in form is mainly because after a lightning start he’s being double covered by default, but…
Anyway, Khalil Mack picked up a respectable sack and four tackles, so retains because loyalty matters.
The Bears Need Trubisky
Chase Daniel has tried really, really hard since stepping in for Mitchell Trubisky as the Bears’ gunslinger. To be honest, he’s been nowhere near as bad as some predicted he could be, and even helped them pick up a win on Thanksgiving day in Detroit. But the Giants game showed that the Bears need Trubisky’s extra something. And yes, it is harsh to say that after Daniel drove the team downfield for an incredible tying score, but the main reason they were in that state is a lack of offensive production to begin with.
Trubisky has been upgraded on the injury report to “day to day”, so there is hope he’ll be back in the line up for next Sunday’s showpiece game. And if he’s not, then the Rams are the Rams. They’re the best team in football right now, and they will be a stern test. Even with a fully fit Bears team, you’d still fancy the Rams. So look out for Trubisky on the injury report: if he’s playing, the Bears have a chance heading into the 4th quarter. If they don’t, then the stadium will start emptying at half time.