Time is running out. For teams to make the playoffs. Yes. But also to get onto the Nice list and secure yourself some awesome holiday loot.
Here are the NFL folks whose Week 15 performances stood out as Naughty or Nice.
Pete Carroll: Up 30 points in the fourth quarter against the Bills, Carroll’s Seahawks attempted a fake punt and picked up 29 yards. Remember Carroll is the guy who confronted Jim Harbaugh with “What’s your deal?” after Harbaugh’s Stanford team ran it up on USC in 2009. Carroll lives by a sort of Code of the Unlikeable, a Bizarro Golden Rule, if you will: “Do unto others as you would not want done unto you, but then act all shocked and outraged when someone treats you the same way.” Naughty. Very naughty.
Danny Amendola: The Rams’ receiver hit an old man in the face with a football. After a touchdown, he spiked the ball and the ball caromed hard into your grandfather’s face. Sure, it wasn’t on purpose, but hitting an old man in the face is hitting an old man in the face. It’s not something you really talk your way out of. Super naughty.
Ed Reed: It seems Ed Reed has decided in recent weeks that he will avoid the practice of tackling as much as possible. It makes sense. Why get fined every week? But Sunday this happened: As Reed half-heartedly flailed his arms, Knowshon Moreno jumped right over him. Hey, it happens.
But after the game, Reed had this to say about the play: “I couldn’t react because I was dealing with a lot of sickness early in the game. I just wasn’t all the way into it, honestly. I was dealing with flu symptoms and everything. I just kind of watched him jump over me.” Uh, what? You’re blaming the flu on getting hurdled? Unless you’re asleep on the field and covered in blankets, the flu does not cause you to get jumped over. Ed Reed: liar. Lying is naughty.
Roger Goodell: Roger Goodell was pretty much yelled at by his dad this week when Paul Tagliabue threw out the suspensions Goodell imposed on four Saints players. Doing something wrong and then getting grounded by your dad in front of everyone is humiliating. But Goodell deserved it because he was naughty.
Russell Wilson: He needs to knock it off. His offense has amassed 959 yards in the past two weeks. They’ve scored 108 points. Look, fella, it was already decided that RG III and Andrew Luck were the 1 and 1a of rookie quarterbacks. You trying to butt in with your production and success is a desperate ploy for attention. Being a show-off is naughty.
Haters: Most people hate haters, but not Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel. He says haters are nice. “We love the haters, man. The haters keep up going. So keep your hate coming. We love it. It make us play with a chip on our shoulder.” I thought the idea was that the Falcons were mainly ignored because of their annual playoff destruction. But they apparently have haters? People are expending energy to hate? On the Falcons? Huh. Well, keep at it haters. The Falcons appreciate your service.
Eagles and Steelers: At its best, the holiday season is one of giving. The Eagles and Steelers regularly just give the ball over to their opponents with barely a nudge or a tap. Their fumbling should inspire us all.
Drew Brees, Andre Johnson and all other players with big fantasy numbers: You stepped up for the fantasy football playoffs. You are fantasy clutch and your owners will never forget you, especially if they have you in a keeper league.
Matthew Stafford: Detroit played the Cardinals on Sunday. If you have had the misfortune of seeing Arizona play this season, you will know that their quarterback is a crude catapult made from damp balsa wood, a bit of twine and some duct tape. It’s sad.
This contraption had seen Arizona to nine consecutive losses and six total points over the previous two games. But then Stafford -- whose ELITEness was secured last year because he had a surprisingly good statistical season as your backup fantasy quarterback -- came to town and was grossly outplayed by Arizona’s makeshift football-hurling apparatus.
But where does the nice come into play? Ah, yes. In playing so poorly, Stafford allowed his team to fall to 4-10 and move ahead of the now 5-9 Cardinals in the draft. It will be exciting to see the quality of talent Detroit will bring in (and fail to utilize).
Adrian Peterson: Pretty much everything he does is awesome. “Nice” seems to undersell him a bit. But ‘tis the season and everything. Have to use the right jargon.
Quote of the Week
They don’t think a little fat man can jump, but I can definitely get up. -- Mike Tolbert, RB, Panthers, on jumping over the Chargers’ defensive line to score one of his two touchdowns
Short, fat people dunk competition. Let’s make it happen, America.
Stat of the Week
That was Joe Flacco’s QBR rating Sunday, the second-lowest rating for any quarterback in the NFL this season. The lowest QBR rating of the season? That belongs to a Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, who posted a 0.3 back in Week 7, which was the lowest rating in the history of the stat, dating back to 2008.
I don’t mean to want to criticize a statistic that was invented by ESPN experts high above my pay grade, but something in the formula obviously needs to be tweaked if it is unable to properly recognize the best quarterback in the NFL. Let’s fix it.
Misleading Stat of the Week
The Broncos ran the ball 45 times in their blowout win in Baltimore. That is the most a Peyton Manning-quarterbacked team has ever run the ball in a game. But don’t let that stat make you think that Broncos’ offensive coordinator Peyton Manning is losing confidence in Denver quarterback Peyton Manning to make plays. The two are very close and have all the confidence in the world in each other.
This Week’s Horrible Fantasy Team That Somehow Made the Playoffs and Beat You
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: 22-for-28, 220 yards, 2 TD, 52 rushing yards
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: 17 carries, 67 yards, 3 TD
Danny Woodhead, RB, Patriots: 84 total yards, 2 TD
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Redskins: 2 catches, 56 yards, 2 TD
Travis Benjamin, WR, Browns: 1 catch, 69 yards, TD
Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens: 7 catches, 125 yards, 2 TD
Photos of the Week
Press Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked
Tom Coughlin: “Your team has averaged 26 points per game over the past two games. Do you think they can keep that up through the end of the season?”
Lovie Smith: “Which of your late-season collapses is most memorable?”
Pat Shurmur: “Kirk Cousins is five years younger than Brandon Weeden. Whoops?”
Reader Twitter Question of the Week
@djgalloespn my question is why aren't there more late games? Why not have 6 early and 6 late per week?
— Tyler Young (@tycoyoung) December 17, 2012
There are more teams in the Eastern two time zones than in the Western two time zones, but that doesn’t necessarily explain it. You would think the league would want to balance out the day with good games early and late so we all are enslaved to our televisions.
But often we’re left with a ton of good early games, followed by maybe one good late game and a horrible mishmash of Raiders, Chargers, Cardinals, Rams and Chiefs. Yuck.
It also means that NFL fans in the Mountain and West time zones don’t go to church because all the good games start in the morning there. Good job, Goodell. Now you’ve also got that on your record. And Raiders, Chargers and Cardinals fans could probably really use some uplifting church time, too.
ELITE Quarterback of the Week
Is Carson Palmer ELITE?
Evidence for him: He won a Heisman, he made two Pro Bowls -- REALLY! -- the Raiders dealt two high picks to get him, this year will be the third 4,000-yard passing season of his career, and he didn’t turn the ball over once in a 15-0 win over the Chiefs on Sunday. Also, you can’t spell PALMY -- flourishing or successful -- without PALM.
Evidence against him: He played quarterback at USC, he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl in six years, his trade to the Raiders is thought of as one of the worst in modern times, and Sunday was just his third game of the season without a turnover. Also, you can’t spell PALMERWORM -- a small, hairy caterpillar -- without PALMER.
Five Things I’d Think I’d Think If I Thought
1. Sports fans complain all the time about athletes who come up with a huge season in a contract year. They’re greedy. They’re in it for themselves. They only try their hardest if there’s money on the line. Fine. But if we’re going to rip those players, we also have to be fair and compliment and credit those who don’t behave that way.
Joe Flacco, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace. All three are free agents at the end of the year. All three have lost millions almost every time they step on the field or open their mouth off the field this season. There’s not a case to be made that any of them are putting up big numbers for a contract. We salute you, gentlemen. More NFL players should be like you. (But not too many, though, because then the league’s quality of play would really suffer and the whole NFL would be unwatchable.)
2. Has anyone actually asked Toronto if they want a Bills game every year? Canadians are polite. They probably thought it was rude to say: “By no means do we want your horrific team playing here. Get lost.” But the Bills just showed up. We should at least ask Toronto. How would we like if they just plopped a Raptors game down here somewhere? We wouldn’t. We would hate it. We’d probably go to war. And it would be a just war.
3. Why did the Chiefs lose 15-0 to the lowly Raiders, a Raider team that is 30th in points allowed in the NFL this year? Romeo Crennel knows: “Couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t throw the ball, got into the red zone and couldn’t get any points.” Week after week, Crennel’s postgame analysis is on point. He is a treasure.
4. A week after losing to the awful Panthers, the Falcons blew out the struggling Giants at home. I guess all of the questions about the Falcons being able to win in the playoffs are answered. NO ONE ASK ANY MORE QUESTIONS!
5. What happened to the term “gunslinger”? I just realized I haven’t heard it all season. ELITE came in and completely wiped “gunslinger” from our TV broadcasts, which is amazing because “gunslinger” was used approximately 168 times per NFL game not long ago. I don’t think we should let this term die. Keeping language alive is important to a culture. I say it’s time we debate who are the ELITE gunslingers.