Ahead of the Curve

Slip Sliddin' Away

Like those old Polaroid shots that would develop right in your hand, the NFL'13 playoff picture is beginning to come clear & take discernable shape this week.

For some teams like Pittsburgh, San Diego, the Jets and Bears, hopes of extended play is almost outta' the picture after their sub-par performances this Thanksgiving weekend.

And teams like Cleveland and Tampa Bay, out of the hunt long ago but showing signs of life, now seem to be moving backwards, though Bucs' coach Greg Schiano looks to have ridden out the storm and bought himself another season.

Kodak Moments

Other clubs are primping & preening for their formal fitting to look their best in NFL's version of the big dance (or that sports version of the Super Bowl): the playoffs.

Teams primed for a serious run include Denver, New England, Bengals, 49ers, Seahawks, maybe the Saints, Colts, Cowboys, Cards, Eagles, Lions, Panthers (like the D) and (gulp) the Dolphins & defending champ Ravens, both at 6-6. And don't count out Kansas City. Chiefs are on a small slide (3Ls) but've played 'em close and should still make the grade come January.

Caveat: Be careful of those Kodak moments (big wins).  They can capture your heart one week, but the next, leave you high & dry with barely a goodbye. 

Dumb & Dumber

Mike Tomlin & J. Kidd (Dumb)

Mike tipped his hand Thanksgiving with a bush-league sideline move (of all days) against the Poes (BAL 22-20). Why he'd put his & Steelers' reputation at risk in such a childish display on national TV, only he, his coaches and Jason Kidd know. What I do know is Big Ben's been getting mauled the past 3-4 years, wants to stay in the Steel City and something's gotta' change while the man's still got game.

Reporter Queries (Dumber)

Dumbest-Question-of-NFL-Weekend comes from that NYJ reporter who asked Rex Ryan post Dolphins loss, did he "regret" his QB decision "three months" back, given their current state?

And how was Rexie suppose to answer such a query?  'Yes, I regret that Mark got injured early on,' Yes, I regret putting that other bum in his place,' or 'No, I don't regret making that mistake and the total lack of offensive synergy that resulted.'  Thanks alot, fella.

These type of reporter 'questions' are like those headlines at Fox News, CNN and my title below that end with a (?) mark: they're not questions at all, but instead, statements, and sometimes inflammatory in hopes of getting the speaker on ESPN.

Ryan's a talker and obliges, but he & others have no responsibility to respond to these cooky queries. Next time Rex, just tell the punk to go play his Nintendo and then take a pass.

Official Blue Bloods?

The League works hard to back-up the referees, especially on controversial calls (NE-Cats no-call & Simultaneous-gate '12). And that it should. Zebras may be well paid but it's a thankless job and must have clear authority to do it effectively and normalize the games.

But the pendulum has swung too far in officials' favor when NFL coaches & players are kept in the dark by the refs during the heat-of-battle on any number of game-time issues.

And such appears to have been the case late in the Giants - Redskins contest (NY 24-17) Sunday night on DC's final drive. A mistake, maybe miscommunication that occurred on the officials' chain-movement may've played a small part in that drive's outcome.

Mistakes happen. Can't always freak. And it's not inconsistency. Overall, refs do a fine job and privately combatants would agree. And the zebras can't give...gurus can't expect lengthy explanations on all matters. But a modicum of communication, clarification must be afforded coaches so they have fair chance to perform their jobs to its hoped-for result.

Haughtiness has no place on the NFL gridiron, Mr. Goodell.

Cherry Picks Week 14: Top-Tier Tussles

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) @ Cincinnati Bengals (8-4): 12-8 CBS 1:00 EST

Indy's still sending SOS for run-game, Andy misses Reggie and getting a bit careless with the spheroid again. Cincy getting back on track (SD), loves PBS, D is stoked and wins.

Detroit Lions (7-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-5): Fox 1:00 (GOTW)

He won't get nary a vote, but has anyone been more valuable to team's rise than Foles (5-1 / 63% / 9 yp / 19-0)? And kudos to Vick for putting team first, rare today in big ego set (QBs). A (-): Foles follows MV's footsteps in flight, of late (9 - 9). Donnybrook, as both run it, Eagles edge in D (tackle / press), Lions in QB, TOP & kick game. Detroit wins.

Seattle Seahawks (11-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (8-4): Fox 4:30

City rivalry here?  Sure.  Franchises big foes?  Yeah, why not.  But this one's really about Carroll v. Harbaugh and the players know it. Winner here sets tone for NFC playoffs. Seattle thumps Niners early (29-3), so big revenge factor? Sure, why not, but 'Hawks road tested (CAR / AZ). Pete's read Jim's book, now writing his own. Edge SF in Stick & Tks, PENs & punt (Lee), but SEA wins.

Carolina Panthers (9-3) @ New Orleans Saints (9-3): 8:35 NBC

Rock (CAR) v. Stone-crusher (Brees). Rivera appears to have done what every NFL guru must do on college flash: turn fear-flight into brave mobility in-the-pocket. Camster no hamster, as Bill leads rush (610). Saints PO'd (not at Pete who kept MNF respectable (34-7)), and win 1st of two (W16), ending Cats' 8W-run.

Steven Keys

NFL Hunch Line

Photo Credit: P. Manning / wc.cca / 9-9-12 / J. Beall (Flickr)


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