Well, hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I certainly did, as I watched my Millville team shut out our 100+ year rival, the turkey was excellent, I found some Christmas spirit, and Dallas lost. Had my Eagles figured out Chicago’s speed-passing game, it’d have been a perfect weekend.
But alas, a loss by my favorite team won’t dampen my Thanksgiving like the dampened ones of Brad Childress and Wade Phillips. Both men were head coaches of teams who, if you believe the media, were going to duke it out late in the playoffs for a run at the Super Bowl.
Elsewhere around the NFL, more than a few coaches can sense the axe looming. Usually the day after the last regular season game is when heads begin to roll. Teams try to reverse bad fortune going into a new year at that point, and now would be a good time to figure out where those axes will fall.
So going by division, I offer percentages, in regards to their likelihood of each coach being back for 2011 (you know, to enjoy the work stoppage like everyone else).
Bill Belichick 97% (unless he retires to conquer some other challenge, like overthrow a foreign dictator)
Rex Ryan 91% (big mouth leaves a small chance that he could have a falling out, should he fall short)
Tony Sparano 45% (With Parcells gone, a regime change in Miami seems possible)
Chan Gailey 39% (Depends on how impressive their late run is after Buffalo started 0-8)
Mike Tomlin 95% (Has handled a dysfunctional and controversial team with grace)
Jon Harbaugh 91% (Only in the case of an extreme meltdown)
Eric Mangini 58% (Went from hated sitting duck to unlikely rootable underdog)
Marvin Lewis 28% (Even friends in ownership can’t be happy to watch T-Ocho ruin a promising team)
[adinserter block=”2″]AFC South
Jack Del Rio 82% (Has done so much with very little money, and has the Jags contending)
Jim Caldwell 77% (Can’t blame him for the injuries, but if they miss the playoffs, anything’s possible)
Jeff Fisher 52% (Long tenure jeopardized by Young controversy, Moss misstep)
Gary Kubiak 30% (Miss the playoffs, and Houston’ll get somebody who can actually take them there)
Todd Haley 80% (Make the playoffs, and this number soars higher)
Tom Cable 64% (Bad few weeks have decreased his odds back to “possible longshot”)
Norv Turner 62% (May get unfairly scapegoated for AJ Smith’s lousy management)
Josh McDaniels 15% (Really, how can he survive? HE CAN’T EVEN CHEAT RIGHT!)
Andy Reid 88% (Locked into a big contract, and finally has the quarterback he needs)
Tom Coughlin 86% (Recent winner whose discipline keeps the Giants as contenders)
Jason Garrett 55% (Going to need a few more wins to convince Uncle Jerry)
Mike Shanahan 48% (Washington loves wasting money, so why not buy out Shanny’s contract?)
Lovie Smith 90% (Unless Mike Martz undermines him, of course)
Mike McCarthy 86% (If Green Bay misses the playoffs, there’s a very very slim chance)
Leslie Frazier 50% (A fair number, because we’ve only seen one game thus far)
Jim Schwartz 42% (Valiant uphill battle may be offset by anger fits in tough losing situations)
Sean Payton 98% (Has ways to go before Tom Benson even thinks of pulling the trigger)
Mike Smith 97% (Looking at ‘Coach of the Year’ right now, so forget firing him)
Raheem Morris 90% (Surprising success story has bought himself a ton of time)
John Fox 10% (Anyone need a defensive coordinator for 2011?)
Steve Spagnuolo 82% (Has hit upon gold with Sam Bradford, improved defense)
Pete Carroll 81% (Unless he quits, which is unlikely, then he’ll get another shot next year)
Mike Singletary 42% (Improbable second half run actually gives him a chance)
Ken Whisenhunt 38% (Not pursuing a true QB this past offseason may be his downfall)
But don’t worry about me. I believe Eric has picked up my 2011 option, and that’s due to my incredible win percentage on picks. Taking out the high school game from last week (which was a win), I went 13-3 on the week, with my most impressive output yet.
All I can do this week is try and top that. So here we go!
NFL WEEK 12: 13-3
FOR THE YEAR: 113-63
16. Chicago over Detroit
The rematch from the opening day debacle, and both teams have found their identity: it’s the complete Bears vs. the Swiss cheese Lions. I don’t see this coming down to a controversial call in the waning seconds as the season opener did. In fact, now that the Bears have figured out who they are, I’m looking for a first half mauling, followed by second half preservation, leaving this one in little doubt. You can play along at home and subtract from Jim Schwartz’s percentage as you see fit.
SCORE: Bears 31, Lions 10
15. Green Bay over San Francisco
A match-up of necessity, the Packers need to keep pace with the conference leaders to stay in the hunt, and the 49ers need to be flawless the rest of the way to try and somehow take the division. As much as Brian Westbrook‘s redemption song made for a beautiful Monday night, I can’t see Green Bay giving quarter to them. Unless San Fran’s defense steps up and rattles Aaron Rodgers with his patented “pick-a-palooza”, I’ll take the Pack to try and keep their hopes strong.
SCORE: Packers 37, 49ers 17
14. Kansas City over Denver
Haley-McDaniels II! That fluke of a dominant victory for Denver last time won’t happen twice, as Todd Haley knows his team is just a win away from a guaranteed .500 season. Considering Denver’s recent distractions with their amateur hour rendition of “Spygate: The Musical”, the franchise just looks like a sinking ship, despite their near comeback on St. Louis. If Matt Cassel has a good day, so too will his Chiefs, and the division crown comes closer to striking distance.
SCORE: Chiefs 27, Broncos 10
13. Philadelphia over Houston
The Eagles had what I call an “educational loss” to Chicago. This point in the season is where a good team will lose a tough game, and then look back to see where things went wrong so that they can duct tape the weak spots and continue their playoff run. Philly’s high powered passing game matches well with Houston’s next-to-last pass defense, and DeSean Jackson, after his recent run in with Andy Reid, is going to want to make up for the transgressions. And he will.
SCORE: Eagles 34, Texans 17
12. St. Louis over Arizona
Please, for the love of Mora, somebody in this division end up with a winning record! Sam Bradford seems to be up for the task, as he sure hasn’t been resting on the concept of “first year quarterback isn’t expected to win right away”, and actually has *gasp* last year’s 1-15 team contending! His bag of tricks will be enough to handle Arizona’s anemic defense, and a win brings the team to 6-6, something only true fans and the alcoholic side of the Rosenbloom family thought possible.
SCORE: Rams 31, Cardinals 13
11. Jacksonville at Tennessee
That loss to the Giants really hurt the Jags, as they had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the fledgling Colts. A division win over a team that’s wasting away like Bobby Sands will help, especially since Tennessee has no idea where to go next. After letting Houston walk all over them on Sunday, why can’t Jacksonville do the same? David Garrard’s playing like the “people’s MVP”, the best player not recognized so much nationally, and he’s going to pick on Tennessee this week.
SCORE: Jaguars 27, Tennessee 14
10. New York Giants over Washington
Donovan McNabb is in a familiarly tough situation, only this time there’s no Brian Westbrook to drag him over the finish line. Up against a depleted running game, the Giants know McNabb is going to have to pass often, and playing tight coverage on their unknown receivers (Anthony Armstrong and Brandon Banks, who actually have dynamic qualities) should make for good odds. Besides, McNabb knows Osi Umenyiora quite well. It’s reunion time.
SCORE: Giants 27, Redskins 14
9. New Orleans over Cincinnati
I don’t know why, but this game’s making me hesitate. Perhaps as a result of my percentage theory, Marvin Lewis sees his back to the wall, and figures maybe decimating the champs could be a job saver. I mean, I’m still going with the Saints. They need to do whatever possible to keep pace with the Falcons, and beating up a defense that’s as up and down as a bungee cord seems easy. You know, as long as Reggie Bush doesn’t fumble this one away.
SCORE: Saints 31, Bengals 17
8. San Diego over Oakland
Looks like both teams are getting back to normal, passing each other in opposite directions. The Chargers had their “yes we can” game Sunday night, picking off Peyton Manning four times to prove their seriousness toward making a run, whereas Oakland’s magic from just a few weeks ago appears to have vanished. More of the same here, as Philip Rivers can destroy any defense with this exhilarating season he’s having. Oakland may fight him in spots, but the Chargers take the war.
SCORE: Chargers 27, Raiders 17
7. Seattle over Carolina
For the love of God, please win this game, Seattle. Not that I want to see John Fox begging on the street corner or anything, but I want the NFC West to actually pick up some steam to ensure a worthy division winner. If the Seahawks can’t win this game over the sorry Panthers, then we oughta just gift wrap the division for St. Louis now. Can you believe this was the NFC Championship game just five years ago? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
SCORE: Seahawks 24, Panthers 14
[adinserter block=”1″]6. Indianapolis over Dallas
My, I have quite the opposite feeling about this game from just two months ago. Well, maybe it’s not opposite, since I’m still going with Indy to win, but Dallas’ resurgence to try and allow Jason Garrett to keep the job, taking on the Colts who are beginning to resemble a leper colony, makes for a more competitive matchup. After throwing four picks Sunday night, I can see Peyton Manning leading the road to victory on sheer will alone. Against Dallas some weeks, that can be enough.
SCORE: Colts 27, Cowboys 20
5. Baltimore over Pittsburgh
Part of me thinks we’re going to see something more dire than a Richard Seymour punch in this one. Two teams vying for the same division crown, featuring a troubled quarterback who’s a prime target for a good beat down, as well as a linebacker teammate who racks up roughness fines like they’re oxygen, and two defenses that can make any offense look back with turnovers and violent play. Prediction: three players get helped off the field Sunday night, one on a stretcher.
SCORE: Ravens 17, Steelers 10
4. New England over New York Jets
Speaking of heavyweight battles, there’s a little more grace in this one, but it’s still a heated battle regardless. Last time, the Jets were able to score at will on the Patriots in the second half, prompting a lot of “Mark Sanchez has arrived!” speak. This time, with the Patriots perfecting their offense with the use of Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski, it has potential to be a shootout, but I sense a slower, more brooding game of containment. I’ll take the Patriots on a late drive.
SCORE: Patriots 20, Jets 16
3. Buffalo over Minnesota
Give me one good reason why not. The Bills may have seen their potential third win go right through Steve Johnson’s hands on Sunday, but here’s a chance to make up for it. Brett Favre thrives on his opponents being predictable, and the Bills are anything but at this point, while they determine what their identity is. If Buffalo can keep Ryan Fitzpatrick off of his back, I think he hangs tough on Minny’s D, and leads the Bills to a minor upset.
SCORE: Bills 24, Vikings 20
2. Cleveland over Miami
Speaking of ‘finding their identity’, I don’t think Cleveland would have a more established image at this point than the Dolphins. The match-up here is Karlos Dansby’s reasonably well-oiled defense taking on Peyton Hillis, who is one of the five best running backs in the game right now. While that’ll be a struggle, another struggle is Tyler Thigpen trying to navigate the Browns suddenly-ferocious defense, where Joe Haden’s been a year-two wonder. The Browns will take this in the closing minutes.
SCORE: Browns 27, Dolphins 24
1. Tampa Bay over Atlanta
Now HERE’S an upset pick for ya. Tampa can’t beat anyone good, eh? Keep saying that, because being given a chance to derail the best team in the NFL, a division rival no less, can awaken a sleeping giant’s worth of motivation. At 9-2 and riding high after a big win against Green Bay, makes the Falcons susceptible to being stunned. LeGarrette Blount has been quiet these last few weeks, but he’s my fantasy sleeper pick of the week. Yes, Tampa wins it in a shocker.
SCORE: Buccaneers 21, Falcons 20
Join ESPN Insider today for the best sports analysis online, plus ESPN The Magazine!