It’s a weird time in football. There’s always weirdness as the NFL stretch drive begins. Like one of the great if lapsed NFL rivalries, Giants vs. Washington, won by a quarterback nobody ever heard of a month ago, who lives in his parents’ house, whose mom still makes his bed. Like the 140th pick in this year’s draft beating the Steelers, or the last pick in the ’22 draft playing the best game a quarterback played this weekend. Like the Jets going touchdown-less on 62 of their last 65 possessions. Like the Buffalo Bills playing for their playoff lives—in Week 11.
Or this: The Detroit Lions are 16-4 in their last 20 games.
“Is that good?” quarterback Jared Goff said from downtown Detroit late Sunday afternoon.
Yes. Yes it is. The Eagles are 16-4 in their last 20. Kansas City’s 17-3. Dallas is 13-7. So, this is no small deal, Mr. Goff. But I thought Detroit’s 31-26 win over Chicago was special because Goff had his first three-interception game in four years, and he led a stirring comeback from nine points down with four minutes left. That’s what great players have to do sometimes—forget the crap and drive 148 yards in four minutes for two touchdowns to win a game you a) had no business losing but b) probably should never have won after the hole you dug.
I’ve come to really admire Goff. I thought he was toast when the Rams gave him away to Detroit. Goff, obviously, didn’t. His resilience was vital mentally and physically on Sunday. The unappreciated part of Goff’s game is he doesn’t press or worry about the things he screwed up. He compartmentalizes as well as any quarterback in football today. The good you’ve done doesn’t matter. The bad you’ve done doesn’t matter. The next play—that’s all that matters. It’s a cliché, yes. But if you watch a player live that cliché and win games, so what?
Detroit Lions, 16-4 since Halloween 2022. I mean, come on.
“Unfortunately, I was hurting us early on,” Goff said. “So late in the game, I had to just play. My number one job is to try to find a way to win the game for our team. I can’t worry about what I’d done wrong. At the end of the game, we had a chance to win. How do I get us there is basically all I was thinking.”
“The big thing for a quarterback is just thinking, ‘How do we play one good play at a time?’ I think everyone on offense had a pretty good feeling once we got to the two-minute drill that we’d be able to move the ball similar to what we did in the first half. Everything done prior to this doesn’t matter. We have a chance to win it. Gotta go fast, but we got a chance.”
That’s the great thing about Jared Goff 2.0. He always gives the Lions a chance.
Josh Allen might not have had a bigger regular-season win in his life than Bills 32, Jets 6. “This week,” he told me, “has been a gut punch.”
Reggie Gilliam. Fullback from Toledo. Fourth season. Bills’ special-teamer. I’d argue—and Josh Allen would agree—he made the play of the game three seconds into Jets-Bills.
Trevor Lawrence aired it out, finally. Nice coaching, Doug Pederson.
Come now, David Tepper. Didn’t you learn anything in nine years as a minority owner in Rooneyville?
AFC North QB Depth Chart, as of this morning anyway: Lamar Jackson, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and, in a tie, Kenny Pickett and Jake Browning. Pick it up, Kenny.
The Bengals are confounding the NFL’s TV schedule in the last seven weeks.
Game of the Week: Philly-Kansas City, Monday at Arrowhead. Andy Reid’s 4-0 against the City of Brotherly Shove.
Looming Game of the Week: Bills at Eagles seems like the Week 12 biggie. But no. Mega-game on Thanksgiving weekend we never saw coming is Jags (7-3) at Texans (6-4). Winner has best shot for AFC South and playoff home game.
Tommy DeVito. Three-TD-pass games in Daniel Jones’ last 50 starts: zero. Three-TD-pass games by DeVito on Sunday: one.
Dan Snyder lives. Commanders had to go commando after the loss to the Giants ended any remote playoff prayer they had. No water in the FedEx showers for Commanders and Giants. How incredibly, wonderfully, aromatically fitting.
Ron Rivera, I don’t know how you survive getting beat by Tommy DeVito at home, getting swept by the 3-8 Giants this year, and going winless against the G-Men in the last two years.
Black Friday football. Can the Jets make it a game? Will Tua get a good deal on a big-screen TV?
I bet you don’t know the pro football team that played every home game one season on Fridays.
Charissa Thompson: Need more from you, and need it soon.
Matt Prater rules. Jan Stenerud, the first exclusive-kicker to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made 66.8% of his field goals in 19 pro seasons. Prater’s now made 75.5% of his—from 50 yards and beyond.
Mark Andrews. The Baltimore tight end’s season got hip-dropped Thursday, and that post-game Ravens locker room was crushed at the news he was gone for the year. “Prayers up for his mentals,” Odell Beckham Jr. said softly.
The hip-drop tackle. I’ve got an idea, with an assist from the National Rugby League.
The Bears can’t listen to the fans on Justin Fields. Play it out. Lots to like (but not everything) Sunday in Detroit, especially the deep strike to D.J. Moore. Lovely. Give Fields the last six games to state his case.
Brock Purdy, with the Niners’ first perfect passer rating since Joe Montana. Getting harder and harder to point out he’s only a product of the system, and blah blah blah. Mike Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle with a good column on that this morning, with this capper:
“Near the end of his postgame press conference I asked him how he felt about passer ratings. Purdy laughed. ‘I still don’t even really know what it means, honestly,’ he said. On Sunday, it meant the annoying dog whistle had subsided, at least for the moment. Woof.”
Russell Wilson, born again. Courtland Sutton, Mr. November. Justin Simmons, playing like Ronnie Lott.
Denver, 5-5. And a little dangerous right now.
The Rams aren’t winning anything this year. But man, is Matthew Stafford a blood-and-guts player. So much to admire about the way he hangs in.
The blood feud between Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson is over, apparently. Good thing. Jerry’s 81, Jimmy’s 80. Good to solve things while, you know, you’re around to solve them.
Factoidness. It’s the strangest one I’ve ever written, I think.
JFK. He’s been gone 60 years as of Wednesday. What might have been
On with the show.
Detroit finished last season 8-2 in the last 10 games. Detroit has started this season 8-2. Thus, 16-4. This is the best start for the Lions since Milt Plum was throwing to Gail Cogdill. You know, back in 1962, during the JFK presidency, when in this very week 61 years ago they won to go 8-2 … and moved on to the Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay. Sound familiar?Hard to find fault with these Lions, averaging 27 points and 400 yards a game. They’ve scored in the forties twice, and twice held foes under 10 points. Just one abominable game, a 38-6 loss at Baltimore. They’re 2.5 games up on Minnesota, with only one game against a premier team remaining, New Year’s Eve at Dallas. The only question now is, can Detroit beat out Philadelphia and San Francisco for home-field and the first-round bye in the NFC?
Down 26-14 with three minutes left at the Chicago 32-, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson called for what Goff said was a Sail Pile On concept. Three receivers to the right., running routes at different depths. Tight end Brock Wright ran a short flare pattern to the right sideline. Amon-Ra St. Brown ran an intermediate out-route to the right, drawing the corner, Jaylon Johnson with him. That left Jameson Williams all the way up the right seam with space over the safety. “I was able to drive it in there on him and finish it off,” Goff said. The Bears went three-and-out, and Goff had another long drive to win it.
“I think I’ve gotten better at not overthinking things that really don’t matter,” said Goff. Like stressing on the three picks. “Everybody in this game makes mistakes. How do you find a way to overcome them, and be the quarterback for your team that they need, and find a way to win?”
I told Goff I was impressed by something I read about him in the Sam Farmer story in the L.A. Times—asking Sean McVay for an exit meeting when the Rams traded him to Detroit in early 2021. Most guys, I thought, would harbor resentment, and not want anything to do with the coach who dumped them. “Well,” Goff said, “I wanted to … hah … We spent four years together and he traded me on a phone call. So, I did wanna talk to him face to face. You know? That was half of it. But yeah, I did want to know what I could do better and where to improve. He was honest. It was a long conversation. There was a lot that came out of it. It was good. Got some clarity. Don’t know if I got all the clarity, but I got some.”
It’s a sign of maturity, and growth. Goff’s a good guy for a young team with hunger, because that’s who he is too.
BALTIMORE — This was after midnight Friday in the Ravens’ locker room, after they’d beaten Cincinnati 34-20, after both Joe Burrow and Mark Andrews were lost for the season from injuries suffered in the game. I could imagine the deflation on the Cincinnati side. I felt it with the Ravens. They’d won an important game, and mostly they were happy about it, but there was a bit of a pall over parts of the locker room because they’d lost one of the best players and key cogs to the team, Andrews, with a severe leg injury. “Every snap I take for the rest of the season is for Mark,” the new TE1, Isaiah Likely, said of his mentor quietly in front of his locker.I waited for a while to see Lamar Jackson to take his temperature. He showered, spent time with teammates, got a little treatment on his ankle, cooled down from the emotion of the game, then was ready to talk for a few minutes. His stuff on Andrews, and on this sport, was so good that I thought I’d present his feelings, lightly edited, so you could get the real feel of what it’s like for an important player to lose one of the people closest to him in football and in life.Said Jackson:
“I threw it to him and I saw how he got tackled. Usually, Mark bounces up. But he stayed on the ground and I’m like ‘That ain’t too good.’ Like I told the media earlier, ‘Bro, we came to the league together. That’s my brother. We’ve been like peanut butter and jelly, like bread and butter. That’s my receiver.’ It really hurt me. Like, damn.”
“I went to see him, laying there. I could see it in his face. It wasn’t too good. I didn’t like that feeling at all. It’s like, somebody just hurt my brother. And we gotta make something happen tonight, with him going down. I was ticked off. I was ticked off. I knew we couldn’t lose this game now, know what I mean?”
“We know what type of game we’re playing. It’s a physical contact sport. Anything can happen. Practice, game. Two guys go at Mark. Three sometimes. The dynamic he had on the game was huge. Guys in this room saw a superstar go down and it’s like, ‘Okay, my time to step up.’ Not just tight end group, but the whole offense. All of them. That’s our brother. The whole locker room, a brotherhood. Defense, special teams, offense. I believe everybody was like, ‘We gotta put points on the board. It’s not going down like this. No matter what go on throughout the game just put points on the board.’”
You say anything to him at halftime, or after the game?
“I texted him. I really didn’t say nothing to him at halftime. I didn’t go back there [to the trainers’ room]. I was here and just telling everyone to stay locked in. There’s two more quarters left. Seen what happened to us Sunday [a late loss to Cleveland] and I know how it sounds, but we gotta stay locked in. But I texted him. I told him, ‘Bro, we love you brother. I love you. I’m pissed off. I’m very pissed off about that situation.’ We’re gonna have to do it without him. It’s hard to say that though. That’s hard to text that especially to Mark. I can’t even describe just seeing him before the game …”
“He wanted this game. Every game, not just this game. Each and every game I see him and I see in his eyes like how much he loves the game. I just love having him with me. Just coming to him, throwing to him, it’s so great. A comfortable feeling. I’m still pissed off. Really pissed off. We got so much love for him.”
“But we’re still chasing February. We will finish this season strong. I’ll step up. We’ll all step up. I’ll talk to the guys a lot more, even though I’ve been doing it all season. I still feel like we got the guys to do it even though our brother went down. We got guys who’re gonna step up in this locker room. We still got a determination because we came so far with him. We gotta come out with that same determination. I can promise we will. We just gotta fight each and every game. We will fight. Yes sir.”
The good, the bad and the headliners:
The Bills’ bizarro week. Interesting buzz around the league last week. Buffalo’s 12-men-on-the-field penalty Monday allowed Denver a second chance at a winning field goal, and the Broncos made it to stun the Bills, and less than 12 hours later Buffalo fired the offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey. Odd, to say the least.
“Obviously, not a fun week,” Josh Allen said Sunday from Buffalo. “It was a feeling like if you played better, you’d still have guys [Dorsey] in the facility. And the whole week it was just this sick feeling, knowing that you have to go and perform in five days, but you don’t have time to sulk. I applaud coach [Sean] McDermott for how he’s handled this whole situation.”
But Allen likes Dorsey, and of course he was conflicted about the firing. But it’s a results business, and the Bills had lost four of six and had been outscored over those six games. He didn’t like it, but understood something had to give. “It sucks,” he said. “Sucks losing someone that you care so deeply about. Especially during the course of the season. You don’t want to be a part of teams that do that. That’s typically where bad football’s played. We’re not a bad football team. This week has been a gut punch, but something this team felt like we needed.”
“Typically, to make the playoffs, you’ve got to win double digits. Felt like, ‘We gotta make a move now, right now.’ Gotta win 10 to sniff the playoffs.”
Which meant going 5-2 in the last seven, starting Sunday against the Jets. It felt like a classic must-win, with games at Philadelphia, at Kansas City and Dallas at home to follow. And Sunday just felt different, starting on the opening kickoff.
“It started on play one with Reggie Gilliam,” Allen said.
Special-teamer Gilliam cleanly destroyed Jets’ returner Xavier Gipson, forcing a fumble Buffalo turned into an immediate field goal. It was 29-6 after 40 minutes, never much of a game, and the Bills put up 32 points and 393 yards on the best defense in the division. “That’s not a bad defense,” Allen said. “They’re not—I wouldn’t say they’re the ’85 Bears, but it’s a very solid defense with a good head coach. They seem to play us pretty well. We didn’t play them up to our potential the first time we played them. Tonight, we felt like we played a pretty good game.”
The Bills hadn’t had an offensive day like this in seven weeks, since the 48-point demolition of Miami. With explosive plays back on both sides of the ball, it was the perfect game to end a tumultuous week—in advance of a hellscape schedule.
Joe Burrow. In the last three years, since Nov. 22, 2020, the Cincinnati quarterback has had major knee surgery, a dislocated throwing pinky, a knee strain causing him to miss a game, a calf strain causing him to miss all of training camp this year, and a torn wrist ligament ending his season. He’s missed the equivalent of nearly a full season (15 games) out of a four-year career.
I don’t believe Burrow’s injury prone, and I don’t think he’ll be on IR every year. Football players, particularly those who don’t shy away from contact, get hurt. I’d compare Burrow to another quarterback hurt multiple times early and often in his career. Phil Simms missed time due to injury in four of his first five NFL seasons, but he turned into an ironman mid-career, missing only four games in his seven prime seasons. I think Burrow and the Bengals spend time next off-season figuring out modalities to avoid injury as best as he can—dumping the ball off earlier, throwing it away more—sort of the way Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins did this past off-season. Burrow told me in October he worked particularly on his athleticism and explosiveness last offseason, but the calf injury never let him show that off. It’s smart, because those traits are key to be able to avoid rushers like Jadeveon Clowney—who knocked him down in Baltimore, causing the wrist injury.
“You’ve got to be lucky to avoid injury,” said Simms. “I remember against Buffalo in 1990, some guy fell on me and I went to the sidelines and said, ‘I think I broke my foot.’ And I did. I know they’re protecting the quarterbacks a lot better now, but the rules don’t matter much—you’re going to get hit if you stand in there. So, it’s just bad luck sometimes. The good thing about Joe is he doesn’t get blown up.”
As for the league looking into whether the Bengals hid a hand or wrist injury to Burrow, good. Let the sun shine on injury reporting, because the league’s gotten in bed with every gambling company west of Kennebunkport, and if you’re going to ask people to throw away their money on your product, they’d better know if Burrow has any kind of injury to his throwing hand. I was at the Thursday night game in Baltimore and watched Burrow throwing the ball perfectly in pregame warmups, so there’s that. But the injury-reporting system simply must be above board. If the Bengals didn’t report a Burrow injury that was real, discipline must come down.
The Bengals on TV. Never in their history have the Bengals been such TV darlings in the back half of a season. Thursday night Amazon Prime in Week 11, Monday night on ESPN in Week 13, a possible move to a Saturday national game in Week 15 (there is a five-game pool of games, three of which will move from Sunday to national windows all day Saturday), a Saturday NBC game in Week 16, a CBS Sunday doubleheader game in Week 17. That’s a possible five national games out of the final eight—and Burrow, as it turns out, was around for 25 minutes of one before getting knocked out for the season.
On Friday, the league’s VP of broadcast planning and a prime schedule-maker, Mike North, talked to me about the Bengals and flex-scheduling. You can hear North in full, on Black Friday football and the Bengals and flex-scheduling, on The Peter King Podcast, which will drop at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
“That’s the point of flexible scheduling,” North said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s still a lot of football to be played. You know that the Bengals aren’t going to shut it down. There’s no question losing a guy like Burrow hurts. That’s one of the risks that the scheduling team faces every year in April and May when we’re putting this puzzle together. Which of these games do you deploy early in the season because you’re worried that they might not hold up if you save them for too late? And which of these games do you feel pretty good about saving for December when you’ve got to figure these teams are going to be playing for something? Three or four Bengals games on national television in December sure seems to imply that the scheduling team thought Cincy was going to be there. I don’t think there’s going be a rush to judgment. If you’re hovering around .500 in December, you’re in it … Let’s see what happens over the next couple of weeks before we write them off.”
A couple of points. The NFL is always loathe to move a Mahomes game from a national window, and as of today, I think the league would want Mahomes to stay in a national doubleheader window on New Year’s Eve—unless the Bengals are firmly out of it. But this is an easy fix if need be. CBS also has Miami-Baltimore on Dec. 31, in the early window. CBS easily could trade the Mahomes game for the Tua-Lamar game, pushing a game with some major playoff stakes into the big late-window national game.
I also mentioned the Week 15 Saturday flexibility. The NFL will play Saturday games on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET, 4:30 p.m. ET and 8:15 p.m. ET. Three of five candidate games from Sunday’s slate will move to those three Saturday slots: Minnesota-Cincinnati, Denver-Detroit, Pittsburgh-Indianapolis, Chicago-Cleveland, Atlanta-Carolina. The best game is likely to be in the night window.
Deshaun Watson. The Browns got a scouting reward Sunday, with the 140th pick in the draft last year, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, leading the game-winning drive against the arch-rival Steelers. DTR completed key passes to the three big receivers for the Browns, Elijah Moore, Amari Cooper and David Njoku, and the Browns won 13-10 on a Dustin Hopkins field goal with two seconds left.
Whew. This was a vital game for Cleveland’s playoff hopes, with winnable games against Denver, the Rams, Chicago and Jets remaining. Thompson-Robinson played a C-minus game at best, but he was at his best when he had to be. The Browns, for the first time ever, beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks, just when such a daily double seemed unlikely.
That’s because Watson, after he played his best game as a Brown, was lost for the season with a broken bone in his throwing shoulder. So now, what have we earned about him in his 12 games over two seasons? Not a lot that’s good. His two-year accuracy (59.%) is 5-percentage points below league average. His two-year passer rating, 81.7, is well below the 89.0 league average since opening day 2022. He has 14 TD passes in his 12 Cleveland starts; Sam Howell of Washington has 14 since Oct. 1.
Now for more bad news: Watson’s cap number for each of the last three years on his contract is $64 million. A couple of weeks ago I said the worst thing for the Browns would be if they got to the off-season and weren’t completely sold on Watson being the long-term quarterback they traded three first-round picks for. The end was encouraging to Cleveland because of how Watson engineered the win. Still, when he lines up to start next September, Watson will have played 12 games in the last 3 years, 8 months. The truth is, no one knows how he’ll play with yet another 10 months between meaningful snaps.
Charissa Thompson. Two things about why this story matters:
We live in a time when the media is more distrusted than I ever remember. Thompson is a high-profile person who hosts the Thursday night pregame show on Amazon Prime, who hosts a Sunday pre-game on Fox, who co-hosts a podcast with Erin Andrews. She says on the Pardon My Take podcast that in her former role as a sideline reporter at Fox she would “make up the report sometimes.” It’s outrageous. It’s fireable. Thompson’s not covering the White House, but I don’t care if she’s covering the Chula Vista Little League. Her job is to report the truth, and she admitted she made up things. When Thompson says that, it’s fodder for media-haters to say, “See? They all lie.” Now, in these high-profile roles at Amazon and Fox, how do you trust she’s not inventing some of the things she’s saying? And where are the programming people, the bosses, particularly at Fox, where Thompson said these sideline reports occurred? The silence says one of two things: Sideline reports don’t really matter. Or the truth doesn’t really matter. Or both.
Thompson’s statement after the firestorm didn’t solve anything. Thompson didn’t say on Pardon My Take that she’d almost make it up, or use some qualifying words. She said she “would make it up.” And she repeated it: “No coach is gonna get mad if I say, ‘Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves, we need to be better on third down, we need to stop turning the ball over and do a better job of getting off the field.’ They’re not gonna correct me on that. So I’m like, it’s fine, I’ll just make up the report.” In her Instagram statement the next day, Thompson said: “I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation. I’m sorry. I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster.” Twice Thompson said she’d made up reporting. A day later she said she never lied or was unethical. So, what’s true? What she said on the podcast? What she said in a clear CYA statement that made things worse? We’re left not having any idea.
As for those who say, “Who cares? It’s just a sideline report!” … When a person stands in front of a camera and tells a national TV audience (or any audience, at any level of communication) something, the viewer must believe it’s the truth. Or why is that reporter on TV?
And as for those who say, “Sideline reporters are worthless” … Amazon’s Kaylee Hartung was on the field two-and-a-half hours before the Thursday night game, gathering information. She relayed information on the injuries to Mark Andrews and Joe Burrow to the booth, and gave some to the audience herself. Without her, all the viewers at home would have known is “Burrow, wrist, out.” I remember Michele Tafoya’s illuminating job on NBC the night that Houston coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field near halftime of a game. In the moment, all viewers at home have are sideline reporters to advance stories. So yes, some of the information is boilerplate and cliché. Some of it’s important to the plot of the football game.
Game of the Week: Philadelphia at Kansas City. Fifteen days ago (man, it’s been a long time since KC played), I stood outside coach Andy Reid’s office in the bowels of Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany waiting for the door to open. Reid was in there with offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. Minutes passed. Seventeen of them. Finally, Nagy came out. No discussion, at least with me, over the topic, but clearly the offensive brain trust was concerned with an offense that’s been the shakiest of the Mahomes Era. Kansas City beat Miami in Frankfurt, 21-14, but only two of the TDs belonged to the offense, and Mahomes got stripped and handed the Dolphins a short-field TD. This followed a desultory loss at Denver. So, KC enters Monday having scored 23 offensive points in the last eight quarters. Not good.
“We’re a little bit like the defense was last year in that we’re young in some spots,” Reid told me in Germany. “But we’re getting better.”
Mahomes needs his two 23-year-old second-round receivers, Rashee Rice and Skyy Moore, to be better starting now. For team chemistry, the loss of Tyreek Hill might be good; for the football games, his loss is felt a year-and-a-half later. Per Next Gen Stats, Mahomes threw 44 deep touchdown passes in his first four seasons, 2018-’21. (Deep TDs are those that travel more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.) His total TDs traveled 13 air yards in those four years. Since the start of 2022, post-Tyreek, Mahomes has thrown just two deep TDs in 26 games. Josh Dobbs and Davis Mills have more. And his average-TD length is 5.7 yards, less than half of what it was with Hill, per Next Gen Stats.
That’s why Mahomes needs Rice and Moore, who run 4.5- and 4.4-second forties, respectively, to beat coverage. And Mahomes may need to force the ball to Travis Kelce regardless of the Eagles’ coverage plan. No Kelce against Miami (just four targets) really put a damper on KC’s passing attack. For the Eagles, it’s a good time to play Kansas City … but after two weeks of prep, I don’t expect Reid and Mahomes to come out struggling.
Black Friday football. First, some history.
When Miami and the Jets face off in New Jersey at 3 p.m. Friday, it won’t be the first time pro football’s been played on Friday. The first game in American Football League history was played on a Friday night in Boston 63 years ago. The Patriots played all seven home games that year on Friday nights, not wanting to go head-to-head on Sundays on TV with the popular New York Giants, whose games were shown on TV stations throughout New England. And Al Michaels, who will do the game for Amazon Friday, did a Friday night game in 1986, Rams at Niners, when the game was iced by a Joe Montana-to-Russ Francis TD pass at Candlestick.
Speaking of odd days to play football games, the NFL opened the season in 2012 on a Wednesday night because Barack Obama was accepting the Democratic nomination for president on Thursday that week. And there was a Tuesday game on Dec. 28, 2010, when a nor’easter forced the Vikings and Eagles to delay their game till Tuesday—a fairly infamous game in Philly, because the immortal Joe Webb and the going-nowhere Vikings stunned the Mike Vick-led Eagles.
Amazon always wanted a game on Black Friday, to coincide with a day most Americans don’t work and many shop. From 3-6 p.m. ET Friday, on the Amazon stream (you won’t need Amazon Prime to see the game, just Amazon), special ads will pop up so you can watch football and buy a discount video game for the nephew at the same time. Garth Brooks will perform from his bar in Nashville after the Amazon post-game show.
Originally, this looked like a gem of a game, with a Tua Tagovailoa-Aaron Rodgers duel. Now, it’s 7-3 Miami, with a two-game AFC East lead, at the reeling 4-6 Jets, with Zach Wilson trying to keep New York in some vague playoff contention. For the league, adding a seventh marquee game to a packed Week 12 was always going to be a challenge. Said Mike North of the NFL schedule team: “We thought there was a window where in an already pretty-thin week, we’ve got to stretch these 16 games across now three games on Thursday, one Friday, we’re looking for the big doubleheader game Sunday afternoon, and a good Sunday night game, a good Monday night game. It’s always challenging Week 12 because of how much inventory’s already allocated to other windows. Finding a game for Friday, you know, it’s got to come from somewhere.” The Dolphins are good TV, so the game still works. Prediction: Ratings will be gold, and just like the Cowboys and Lions with the annual Thanksgiving games, more than one team will lobby the NFL to be the permanent host on Black Friday afternoon.
A recurring element in the column this year: a video memory of one of my favorite memories of 40 years covering pro football.
This week: My 2018 trip to see the ailing Bart Starr after a stroke, in what turned out to be his last interview; he died nine months later. The admiration between Starr and Aaron Rodgers ran deep, and you’ll see it in the short video he recorded for Rodgers.
This was an emotional afternoon in the Birmingham offices of Bryan Bartlett Starr.
Offensive players of the week
Brock Purdy, quarterback, San Francisco. Completed 84 percent (21 of 25), for 333 yards and three TDs with no turnovers in the 27-14 beatdown of Tampa. His 76-yard TD to Brandon Aiyuk was a thing of beauty—Purdy arced a perfect throw, layered just over cornerback Jamel Deal 45 yards in the air to Aiyuk, who had an easy jaunt in for the TD. Four notable stats: He had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 Sunday – the first be a 49er since Joe Montana 34 years ago … Purdy’s season passer rating of 115.1 is nine points better than any quarterback in football … his 9.7 yards per attempt is 1.2 yards better than anyone in football … his 70.2% completion rate is the best in the league.
Tommy DeVito, quarterback, N.Y. Giants. The Jersey kid was sacked nine times in his second start in the NFL Sunday, but played decisively and confidently for an undrafted player who had a pretty undistinguished career at Syracuse and Illinois. At FedEx Field, DeVito, who grew up 11 miles from MetLife Stadium, completed 18 of 26 passes for 246 yards, with three touchdown passes and no picks for a 137.7 rating. “Not a lot of people get this opportunity,” DeVito said. He’ll get more, beginning next Sunday against Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Devin Singletary, running back, Houston. For the second straight week, the Buffalo castoff was crucial in a narrow Texans win that kept Houston (6-4) a game behind Jacksonville heading into their showdown for AFC South supremacy next Sunday in Houston. He rushed 22 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. His 11-yard TD score in the second quarter gave the Texans the lead for good. His 262 rushing yards in the last two weeks—in relief of the injured Dameon Pierce—lead all NFL backs over Week 10 and 11.
Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, Denver. After making a one-handed catch on fourth down to keep the drive alive, Sutton leaped high in the end zone to catch a well-placed 15-yard Russell Wilson TD throw with 63 seconds left. It’s the second game in a row Sutton’s made a huge, winning TD catch late to key a Denver win.
Defensive players of the week
DaRon Bland, cornerback, Dallas. Broke open a one-score game at Carolina with his fourth pick-six in 10 games this year. Correct: four interceptions run back for TDs this year. This one, from 30 yards, was the insurance TD early in the fourth quarter to lift the Cowboys to 7-3.
Isaiah Simmons, linebacker/safety, N.Y Giants. With Washington driving in the final minute trying to score the winning TD, Simmons picked off a Sam Howell pass at the New York 46-yard line and ran nimbly down the left sideline for the clinching score. Giants, 31-19.
Jadeveon Clowney, edge rusher, and Kyle Van Noy, linebacker, Baltimore. Signed Aug. 18 and Sept. 27, respectively, to buttress a front seven that was already good, Clowney and Van Noy each had a sack in Baltimore’s 34-20 win over the Bengals Thursday night—and now have combined for 12.5 of the Ravens’ league-high 42 sacks. Clowney and Van Noy, at a combined cap number of $3.8 million, account for 1.7 percent of Baltimore’s cap this year, and they have 6.5 and six sacks respectively. That’s some great value for the Ravens.
Special teams players of the week
Reggie Gilliam, fullback, Buffalo. Three seconds into Jets-Bills, in a game the Bills were desperate to win, Gilliam cleanly leveled/destroyed New York returner Xavier Gipson, the overtime hero in the Jets’ opening-night win over Buffalo. That led to an early field goal for Buffalo and set a tone for the Bills’ 32-6 win, keeping the Bills in the AFC playoff race. Most impressive about the play, I thought, was what a textbook hit it was in the open field, with not a tinge of dirty to it even though it was an absolutely crushing blow.
Matt Prater, kicker, Arizona. The NFL’s all-time leader in field goal of 50 yards and longer made his 77th Sunday in Houston from 57 yards in the first half. He’s got 19 more 50-plus-yarders than any kicker in history. This might be the most impressive thing: In Prater’s last 15 games, he’s 11 of 12 from 50 yards and out.
Ty Chandler, running back/personal punt protector, Minnesota. No team in the NFL is as good on fake punts as the Vikings, and they ran a vital one with nine minutes left Sunday night, trying to add to a 17-15 lead. On fourth-and-four from their 31-yard line, orchestrated by special-team coordinator Matt Daniels, the direct snap went to Chandler, and he ran around the right end for 31 yards. The play led to a field goal that lengthened Minnesota’s lead to 20-15 with 3:20 to play. It wasn’t enough, but it was a great play.
Coach of the Week
Doug Pederson, head coach, Jacksonville. Good piece by Ben Solak of The Ringer the other day boiling down all that ailed the Jags’ offense—third-down and red-zone efficiency way down, Trevor Lawrence explosive plays down, Calvin Ridley lost at sea. In the 34-14 rout of the usually stout Tennessee defense, the Jags pushed receivers further downfield, per Next Gen Stats, with an average depth of route of 9.3 yards, highest of the season. That translated to Lawrence having his best throwing downfield (7 of 13 for 135 yards and a TD). And Ridley finally got loose for seven catches, 103 yards and two TDs. Pederson let this offense do what it should do best—go for the big strikes.
Goat of the Week
Zach Wilson, quarterback, N.Y. Jets. Can Robert Saleh put this man out of his misery? Please? I admire Saleh for continually taking one for the team, trying to prop up Wilson for the future of the franchise, but Sunday in western New York was the exclamation point on the end of Wilson, at least for 2023. Wilson’s first three possessions ended in punts, and his fourth resulted in a bad interception to Rasul Douglas. The Bills took that turnover and turned it into a touchdown and a 16-0 halftime lead. Wondering if you saw that TD, a short pass by Josh Allen to running back James Cook. Three Jets just stood and watched. This is a disheartened defense. Saleh finally subbed Tim Boyle in the second half. Now he’s got to play Boyle or Trevor Siemian with America watching on Black Friday.
--Houston QB C.J. Stroud, after his uncharacteristic three-interception game Sunday, in the 21-16 win over Arizona.
Good. He Should
--Dallas owner Jerry Jones to coach Jimmy Johnson, on Sunday.
--Johnson, to Jones.
Whatever: The 29-year blood feud between the two men who set up the ‘90s Dallas dynasty ended Sunday.
--ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters, on Charissa Thompson’s admission that she made up some sideline reports.
--Eagles center Jason Kelce, 0-4 in his career against former Philly and current KC coach Andy Reid. The two teams meet Monday in Kansas City.
--Deshaun Watson, in a social post after being declared out for the season with a broken shoulder.
The 2023 season of the 4-6 New York Jets continues to slide toward irrelevancy, and it basically will be over with a loss to Miami on Friday. But the last seven games could be exceedingly important for the future of Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, whose reputation has been severely tarnished in the last 15 months.
Hackett’s imaginative coaching techniques earned him raves in Green Bay, and he was a favorite of Aaron Rodgers there. The Packers’ high-powered offense certainly helped him get the Denver head coaching job in 2022. Though he was fired in Denver after an abysmal 4-11 start, the Jets were happy to take him to run their offense in 2023—and to help Rodgers pick the Jets as his landing spot when he wanted out of Green Bay. Of course, Hackett’s grand plan with the Jets was wrecked four snaps into this season when Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles.
But that’s the thing about coaches—the best ones figure a way to make do when disaster befalls the team. Granted, quarterback Zach Wilson’s performance has been terrible. But this is two straight years of terrible quarterback play, in 2022 by Russell Wilson and this year by Zach Wilson under Hackett. There are reasons galore, but it reflects poorly on Hackett—particularly with Russell Wilson playing much better under Sean Payton in Denver this year.
Tracking the offensive numbers in Denver and in New York with Hackett in charge over the past two years, with this year’s numbers through the first 10 weeks:
In 24 games ahead of Sunday, Hackett’s teams had averaged 15.7 points per game. In addition, in total yards, Denver was 25th under Hackett in 2022 and the Jets are 29th this year, while each team was last in the league in third-down conversions under Hackett.
Imagine reading this 20 years ago. You would not have understood anything I was saying.
An NFL game with major playoff implications Thursday night was delayed twice by a drone flying over the stadium.
The company that streamed the game on internet devices nationally, a U.S.-based international tech giant specializing in e-commerce, used this game to promote its next one, the first NFL contest ever to be played on Black Friday.
Viewers to the Black Friday game will be able to get special shopping deals with popup ads on the screen during the game so they won’t have to go shopping at their local stores, which might be shuttered anyway because malls are comatose. Viewers will be able to order holiday gifts from their couches during commercial breaks.
Subway from Brooklyn to Penn Station Thursday mid-morning, train from New York to Baltimore, Uber to hotel downtown, 1.1-mile walk to M&T Bank Stadium, game, Ravens locker room afterward, leave stadium at 12:45 a.m., 1.1-mile walk back to hotel, short night, PFT Live show from 7-9 a.m., Friday, nap, cab to train station, train from Baltimore to New York, subway back to Brooklyn, home Friday at 2 p.m.
Life on the East Coast.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On cursed franchises. From Josh Steele, of San Francisco: “In your expert opinion which is the more cursed franchise: the Cleveland Browns or the New York Jets?” From my biased perspective it has got to be my beloved Cleveland Browns. Why? The Jets have won a Super Bowl, did not have a terrible businessman move the team, did not endure ‘The Drive’ or ‘The Fumble’, have not gone winless in a season and did not lose both their top running back and franchise quarterback in the same season. When will it end?
Winning a championship is such a piece of guesswork, but two pieces of bad news: One, you’ll spend, by my guesstimate, about 35 years trying to leapfrog the two best players in the sport, Tom Brady and then Patrick Mahomes, to even get to the Super Bowl. Two, you’re 40% done with the Deshaun Watson contract, you’ve gotten but 12 overall meh games out of him, and you’re stuck with $63-million cap charges for him for ’24, ’25 and ’26. The best news: The rest of the team’s pretty good and will be competitive for the near future.
On international football. From Bob Kent, of Toronto: “A reply from Canada to the rant of Frank Ignatious on internationalism in the NFL: The NFL is not a benevolent society closely held for the retention and furtherance of the of Great American Dream. It is, instead, a reflection of the Great American Way—a closely held cartel of a few vastly powerful and wealthy individuals whose every thought and action are dedicated to increasing the value of their franchises and league. They will proceed to follow the paths that got them into those positions—the aggressive acquisition of wealth and power.”
Wish I’d written my opinion on this as well as you just did, Bob. Thank you.
Why I called Jim Harbaugh a headache hire in the NFL. From Jim Garrison: “Please explain what the ‘headache’ would be? Harbaugh is a proven winner who, for reasons unbeknownst to me, is getting railroaded out of the NCAA.”
We’ll see what the result is of the NCAA investigation about an organized spying operation on Wolverine football foes run by a Michigan employee. And Jim, you’re correct. Jim Harbaugh runs winning programs. But he’s tough to work with, as many Niners people will tell you, and he’s good at looking out for number one. On National Signing Day at Michigan in 2022, he was off interviewing for the Vikings job. Count me out of that business.
Chris is unhappy with me. From Chris, of Grimsby, Ontario: “It’s getting tougher to read your columns. It used to take me an hour to read your work which I did on my hourly commute - cover to cover. Now I mostly gloss over your column in maybe fifteen minutes. Too much stuff about your travel and your consistent name drops: Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Deion Sanders, we all know they are your favourites all of whom are HOFers and all of whom have also not played in several years. This morning your opinion and speculation of Bill Belichick‘s next move all for the sake of breaking Don Shula‘s record drips of gossip to me which I had thought you were above. Not to mention how unfair that speculation is to those head coaches that are currently plying their way through this season. I will continue to read your column as you often include some insightful links to other stories. But the balance of stuff is a tough read.”
Well, thanks for reading, Chris. Since I started the column in 1997, I’ve had a travel note most weeks, and I’ve written a lot about the biggest names in the sport. I don’t think the column’s a lot different than it was in the old days, but I respect that you feel how you feel.
On NFL global rights. From Chris Richard, of Utah: “You wrote, ‘The Rams, who have NFL global rights to Australia …’ But what does NFL global rights mean for a team?”
I should have explained that, Chris. Each NFL team is allowed to apply to claim global rights to different countries, in order to expand fan efforts, marketing and commercial activities there. Germany, for instance, has five NFL franchises with rights to work there to increase fan bases and marketing opportunities.
1. I think if, as Adam Schefter reported Sunday, the Jets will renew efforts to try to deal for Davante Adams in the 2024 off-season, there are a few things to remember:
2. I think I wonder if David Tepper thinks he’s playing some version of fantasy coaching. Jay Glazer reported Sunday that, nine games into his tenure, Panthers coach Frank Reich has the “hottest seat” in the NFL. Examining the itchiest trigger finger of any owner in the NFL—and that’s saying something given the presence of Mark Davis in the league:
December 2019: Tepper, 28 games into his ownership, dismisses coach Ron Rivera.
January 2020: Tepper dismisses coach Perry Fewell after his 0-4 interim run.
October 2022: Tepper dismisses coach Matt Rhule, 11-27 in his third season.
January 2023: Tepper dismisses interim coach Steve Wilks, who was 6-6 in relief of Rhule.
November 2023: Is Tepper considering whacking his fifth coach in 47 months, barely a half-season into Reich’s four-year contract?
3. I think there’s another part to the Tepper story that would be laughable if it weren’t so laughable: He also owns Charlotte FC of Major League Soccer. The team made the playoffs this year, but, for the second year in a row, Tepper fired the head coach. That means since 2019, Tepper has fired six coaches in two sports, and may be on the verge of firing a seventh.
4. I think there’s one final part of this story I have to share: Tepper’s a Pittsburgher. He owned a 5% stake in the Steelers for nine years before he bought the Panthers, and he learned absolutely nothing from the Rooney family about owning an NFL team. Full-time coaches hired by Tepper in his five-year ownership: three. Full-time coaches hired by the Steelers in the last 54 years of Rooney ownership: three. My point is, if you hire a coach and want to fire him 10 months later, then you really didn’t vet him enough to know him—and you have no idea how much you cripple your franchise when you’re changing coaches the way you change underwear.
5. I think I expect the NFL to move aggressively to erase the hip-drop tackle this off-season. I’ve learned a few things about it since the Mark Andrews injury Thursday night. I watched a video put out by the National Rugby League, which has banned the tackling technique in its league. The NFL has worked with the National Rugby League to identify and try to figure out how common the technique is, and whether it can be eliminated. The NRL identified three parts of the tackle—grab the ballcarrier, rotate the ballcarrier, and land with the body weight on the leg or ankle. All must be present to qualify as a hip-drop tackle. The NFL doesn’t think this is a common technique. The league has found it to occur approximately once per game, so maybe 300 times a season. The big question is intent. I don’t think defensive players, from the examples I’ve seen, have the time to calculate how to twist the player around and land full body weight on the leg or legs of a ballcarrier. I’ve watched the Logan Wilson tackle of Andrews, and I don’t think he did intentionally landed on Andrews’ leg. It all happened so fast. Even Andrews’ teammates didn’t seem eager for a rules change. “We play a tackling sport,” Baltimore linebacker Patrick Queen said. “I don’t think a hip-drop tackle is that bad of a thing. How else do you want us to tackle? Just let the guy run past you?” A suggestion: The NFL begins its serious deliberations on rules changes each February at the Scouting Combine. This winter, bring two defensive coordinators and two defensive players (including Wilson), plus two offensive coaches and two offensive players to the Competition Committee meetings in Indy. Show video of the offending hits. Hash it out. Have a thoughtful debate on whether it’s possible to legislate these tackles out of the game.
6. I think I can’t believe neither Fox nor Amazon had Charissa Thompson address her I-made-it-up appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast. Silence does not mean we’ll forget and in fact shows a total lack of respect for the viewers, many of whom must want to know: Can we trust this person?
7. I think if this is Chip Kelly’s last season at UCLA, I wonder what team, college or pro, would want him now? Kelly turns 60 this week. His record at UCLA in six seasons is 34-33, even after Saturday’s impressive win over USC, and when you can’t win at UCLA, after not winning at San Francisco in 2016 and getting fired after three seasons without a playoff win at Philadelphia, the Oregon magic is gone. I thought the guy had genius qualities when I covered him a few times in Philly, but boy was I wrong. His people skills aren’t good. In his 10 coaching seasons post-Oregon, Kelly is 62-68. That’s not a season or two. It’s a decade.
8. I think I was thinking entering the weekend what a difference six days makes. Follow me:
Sunday morning, Nov. 12: Speculation abounds that all four AFC North teams—Baltimore 7-2, Pittsburgh 5-3, Cleveland 5-3, Cincinnati 5-3—could make the playoffs.
Sunday evening, Nov. 12: Ravens and Bengals get upset. Browns and Steelers win.
Monday, Nov. 13: Browns QB Deshaun Watson goes in for MRIs on ankle and shoulder injuries.
Wednesday, Nov. 15: Browns QB Deshaun Watson lost for the year with a shoulder injury and high-ankle sprain. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson (zero TDs, three picks in his lone start) named to start in huge division game against Pittsburgh.
Thursday evening, Nov. 16: Bengals lose again, in Baltimore, to fall to 5-5, and franchise QB Joe Burrow is knocked from the game with an injury to his throwing hand/wrist. The possibility of Jake Browning starting next week against Pittsburgh—and possibly at Jacksonville, at Pittsburgh and at Kansas City in the season’s home stretch—plagues Bengaldom.
Friday afternoon, Nov. 17: Joe Burrow lost for the season with a torn ligament in his wrist. Jake Browning, the undrafted rookie from Washington, takes over the starting job, perhaps for a leaded schedule with national TV games at Jacksonville, at Pittsburgh and at Kansas City. Add in Cleveland’s win over the Steelers Sunday, and suddenly playoff forecasting looks very good for one team (8-3 Baltimore) decent for the questionably quarterbacked Browns at 7-3, and highly questionable for the Steelers and Bengals, who meet twice in the next month.
9. I think that should be the end of the Deshaun Watson-won’t-play-hurt narrative.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. RIP, Rosalynn Carter, a wonderful American citizen and caring First Lady — and wife of President Jimmy Carter for 77 years. She died Sunday in Plains, GA., and left a legacy of volunteerism and selflessness we all should admire.
b. Sixty-one emails this week about the rekindling of my M*A*S*H habit, with several of you telling me that the writers kept the news of Henry Blake’s “death” from the cast until Radar delivered the news as the scene was recorded. Very interesting.
c. I really hate the Athletics joining the Raiders and Warriors in leaving Oakland. Amazed, too, that no mega-rich Silicon Valley person would have made the A’s an offer ownership couldn’t refuse, then spent to build a palace of a stadium in the East Bay. I know, I know. Easy for me to say. But as a big East Bay fan, it’s crazy to think there isn’t going to be a major pro sports team there a year from now.
d. Ronald Acuna Jr., would have been my N.L. MVP choice, but 30-0 over Mookie Betts—who had an excellent offensive year and one of the best defensive seasons in baseball—surprised me.
e. NHL schedule quirk of the year: Flyers at Islanders twice in four days this week. Flyers-Islanders zero times in the next 127 days.
f. NBA schedule quirk of the year: Celtics at 76ers twice in the first 11 games of the year. Celtics at 76ers zero times in the last 71 games of the year.
g. Football Story of the Week: Kent Babb of the Washington Post on Miami coach Mike McDaniel the person (mostly).
h. Terrific look at Mike McDaniel from so many angles, not many of them X’s and O’s but really everything else. Like this nugget about Tua Tagovailoa, concussed:
“Last year, when [Tagovailoa] suffered a gruesome concussion and crumbled to the turf, it wasn’t Brian Flores or Nick Saban or his dad Tagovailoa called out for. Medical and team personnel had no doubt who he wanted because he kept muttering the same thing. “Where’s Mike?” he said.
i. And Babb on the changing face of coaches and coaching styles, as Mike McDaniel learned on Mike Shanahan’s staff in Washington a decade ago:
It was around this time that the American workplace began changing. Talented Millennials tuned out dictatorial bosses who expected blind fealty to their preferences and impulses. Younger workers pushed back on being productive beyond the point of burnout. These habits even reached NFL offices in 2013, after McDaniel’s mentor, Gary Kubiak, collapsed on the Texans’ sideline during a game and Denver coach John Fox was hospitalized with a heart problem.
“We all kind of realized it around the same time,” McDaniel says. “ ‘Whoa, we need to chill out.’ “
j. Football Project of the Week: Mitch Goldich and Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated with a terrific idea: take a picture of an NFL team’s sideline (Miami’s in this case) and write about a bunch of people in it who we know nothing about.
k. Mike McDaniel told Goldich and Orr that a bunch of “head coaches of their own departments” come together to make a sideline hum cohesively for three hours during games. Like tech guy Patrick Oliver, per Goldich and Orr:
Four hours before kickoff, Patrick Oliver arrives at the stadium and finds the man in the purple hat.
On an NFL sideline, the “purple hat” is the league representative in charge of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablets that fans see coaches furiously jabbing and, sometimes, Tom Brady spiking into the bench. Oliver is there to make sure the tablets are operational and meet the requirements of the Miami coaching staff, which include one important note: The Dolphins do not like to have the stylus pens attached to their tablets. The strings are too likely to get caught on something, and in only very cold weather, when players’ gloved hands will not activate the touchscreen, will they ask the purple hat to keep the pens attached.
Each team is allowed a maximum of 16 tablets per game, and Oliver lets the league know that Miami will take the full allotment. Two of their coaches still prefer to look at in-game all-22 photos the old-fashioned way, so Oliver and his crew have a printer on the sideline. A runner staples photos together and sprints them to coaches who need them.
l. Classic “I never knew that” stuff throughout this interesting story.
m. Cool TV story by NBC News correspondent Emilie Ikeda, former college field-hockey player, on Erin Matson, former college field-hockey player … now the head coach at North Carolina.
n. Matson became the youngest NCAA Division I college head coach in any sport at 22—and led the Tar Heels to the field hockey Final Four over the weekend in her first year at the helm, at 23.
o. No. 1 ranked UNC edged the Virginia Cavaliers in one semifinal and faced a showdown with Northwestern, who defeated Duke in the other semifinal, in the title game. North Carolina went on to win the national championship against Northwestern, outlasting the Wildcats 2-1 in a 2OT penalty shootout for the Tar Heels’ 11th program national championship and fifth in six years. In her first season as head coach, Erin Matson is the youngest college head coach to win a national championship.
p. Wannabe Astronaut Story of the Week: Adam Kilgore (who is very good) of the Washington Post on the incredible Josh Dobbs story.
q. There’s something about Josh Dobbs that appeals to us all—inquisitive, worked for everything he ever got, took advantage of a huge opportunity against big odds. And did I mention he’s a mega-underdog? The coolest thing is he had an internship with NASA in the 2020 off-season, and it wasn’t the kind of sit-over-there-in-the-corner-kid internship. Dobbs had a 4.0 GPA in aeronautical engineering at Tennessee—while playing quarterback on the football team—and he didn’t have to be babied at NASA.
r. Wrote Kilgore:
Dobbs owns a distinction that required his blend of intellect, buoyancy and diligence: He is the second quarterback in NFL history to start for three different franchises in a calendar year and the first to do so with three weeks or less of preparation with each team.
“This has never happened in the history of the league,” Dobbs’s agent, Mike McCartney, said. “It’s not like you go to the library and say, ‘How do I handle this?’ He’s the one who’s writing the book.
”Dobbs worked in what NASA labels the “instrumentation group” focused on “expiration ground systems” for the Artemis I mission, and uncrewed test flight that launched in November 2022. Dobbs’s group, Scott Colloredo said, monitored launchpads by studying hazardous gases, flow rates, temperatures and structural defections. Simple terms: Dobbs helped make sure nothing went haywire on the launchpad. “We threw him right into the fire,” Colloredo said.
s. I don’t care if you hate the Vikings. You can’t not root for Dobbs.
t. Never thought Colorado would be 4-7 after the Joy of September. But Deion Sanders didn’t either. But when you give up 35.9 point per game, you’re lucky to have won four.
u. Love this story about the importance of shop class, from Rich Cohen of the Wall Street Journal.
v. I never valued shop class as much as I should at Enfield (Conn.) High School. Cohen does a good job here pointing out how important it is to actually build things with your hands, from his days in shop class in Glencoe, Ill.
w. Watched the first two episodes of season six of “The Crown” Friday night. I’m glad there’s a sixth season, and I moderately enjoyed the first two eps. But I’m not enthralled by the recent years of the monarchy. I’m not big into Diana-mania. I loved the education about major events around the monarchy in the first, say, 40 years of the reign of Elizabeth. But the modern stuff is too Page Six-ie to me. I’ll watch this season, without the can’t-miss feeling of the first three or four years of it, which were great history lessons for times I never knew much about.
x. Sixtieth anniversary of the JFK assassination Wednesday. I still get sad about Kennedy’s death. I’ll never forget being told the news by Mrs. Barry in first grade in my little Connecticut town, and being sent home, which my teacher telling us to go be with our families. I walked home, a 10-minute walk, and opened the door to see my mother in shock, glued to Walter Cronkite on the TV
y. What might have been.
z. Wednesday is the 11th anniversary of the ‘Butt Fumble’, and the Pats and Jets will note the anny by playing in the Meadowlands, just as they did 11 years ago, this weekend. Celebrate accordingly.
Green Bay at Detroit, Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox. This should tell you how amazingly bad the Lions have been in this century: Playing with home-field advantage every Thanksgiving Day, the Lions are 5-17 on the day we eat turkey. They’ve lost six in a row. The worm is turning. Detroit will be a prohibitive fave Thursday against their good friends the Packers, and I looked on Vivid Seats, the ticket reselling site, the other day, at seats for this game. There are two in the upper deck, corner of the end zone, row 17—in other words, some of the worst seats in the house—for $969.34, including $255.34 in “service fees.” Happy Thanksgiving! By the way, does anyone ever wonder how these ticket resellers get away with saying to customers, “Hey, you can buy two tickets to this game, and we’ll only charge you $255 for being the middleman! What a great deal you’re getting!” As John Mellencamp once said, “Ahh, but ain’t that America.”
Jacksonville at Houston, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS. Stunning to think the Texans have a chance to wrest control of the AFC South in Week 12 by beating the Jags for the season sweep. Honest question I never thought I’d be asking two months ago: If you could pick one quarterback for the next 10 years, would you choose Trevor Lawrence or C.J. Stroud?
Buffalo at Philadelphia, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS. Toward the end of the Bills’ Monday-night implosion, Buffalo meteorologist Kevin O’Neill had the western New York social post of the year: “Is there a professional sports franchise anywhere that loses in such spectacular fashion? Is there a more tortured fan base in North America? Is there any more vodka in the pantry?” Kevin, it’s not over.
Bills needed that one.
Is it too little, too late?
Philly, KC next.