Lions where they belong on holiday
If the Detroit Lions don’t find a way to beat the Green Bay Packers, the 1972 Dolphins are going to have a long Thanksgiving.
Plus, we examine the worst coaching sequence and quote of the year and why the Chicago Bears and New York Giants are in better shape than you think.
Happy Thanksgiving. It’s time for the weekly Schein 9:
1. The monologue
Remember the insane overreaction and mob mentality a few years ago, when some were trying to mess with history and tradition and move the Thanksgiving Day game out of Detroit? Thankfully, the NFL didn’t succumb to the pressure.
There are so few traditions left in sports. We should always have games in Detroit and Dallas with our turkey. The Lions are 7-3, certainly legit and fun to watch.
Detroit also represents the one chance for any team to beat the Packers in the regular season. Heck, I think the Lions have the only opportunity to beat the Packers, period. It’s Lions, or history. How’s that for Thanksgiving Day pressure?
I wrote weeks ago that the Packers are going 19-0. They are too dominant. They are too deep on offense, defense and special teams, and they are too well-coached.
Aaron Rodgers is having a season for the ages. He doesn’t make mistakes. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is breath-taking and historic. But you know all of the stats, the nuggets of domination. The Packers are going undefeated because they know how to punch adversity squarely in the face.
Green Bay did it over the weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers came back against the Carolina Panthers and shoed away the Vikings in Minnesota. The Packers don’t have the weekly hiccups that we are accustomed to seeing from other “good” teams in the NFL.
They won the Super Bowl last year as a sixth-seeded wild card. They won the Super Bowl dealing with 18 key injuries. Most of these players have dealt with the Brett Favre insanity and distractions. The leadership on the team is remarkable.
The young, star offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga said a mouthful about the leaders on the team Monday on the SiriusXM Blitz. On Rodgers, Bulaga told us: “He’s a phenomenal leader. He has the confidence and the coolness. And he makes every single throw. Aaron’s knowledge of the offense is amazing. He changes routes. He makes protection adjustments. Aaron never panics or worries or doubts.”
On coach Mike McCarthy, Bulaga explained: “It’s the way he handles every practice and every meeting with detail. It’s the way he handles everything in the media. He gets us to focus on the next game.”
That next game is in Detroit on Thanksgiving. Preseason, I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl. I also thought that one of their regular-season losses would be in Motown. And the Lions will have an excellent chance.
Matthew Stafford is coming off of a sensational comeback against the Panthers, throwing five touchdowns and eradicating a 24-7 deficit. Kevin Smith, back from injuries, back from the scrap heap, gave the Lions the balance and sizzle at running back they haven’t had since Jahvid Best was injured.
Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' defensive line should be able to at least semi-fluster Bulaga and the Packers' offensive line. Bulaga told us that they are aware of how incredibly loud it is in Detroit. The last time the Lions were on national television, the crowd was a huge factor, causing penalties against the Bears. It’s a short, travel week for the Packers. I don’t see any way the moment will be too big for Detroit. They’ve been craving this kind of Thanksgiving showcase.
Did I mention Rodgers is having a season for the ages?
I think the Packers win a tight game that goes down to the wire. Charles Woodson is good for a game-changing play or two against Stafford. And then the Packers run the table. No team will win in Lambeau in the playoffs. The Packers will bludgeon the flawed AFC foe in the Super Bowl.
The Giants aren’t beating them on FOX on Dec. 4. After that, the Packers' schedule reads: the Raiders, a trip to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs, Caleb Hanie and the Bears on Christmas night, and the Lions at home.
Mercury Morris and the 1972 Dolphins will have their Calvin Johnson jerseys on watching the Lions and Packers on FOX. It’s the only chance they have to see the Packers lose a game. Sadly for them, that turkey won’t taste too good on Thursday.
2. Amateur hour
The Jacksonville Jaguars are an embarrassment. How do you not run the ball with star running back Maurice Jones-Drew three times from the goal line in Cleveland when you employ Blaine Gabbert as your quarterback?
The Jags threw on second and third down, and the pop-gun passing attack, predictably, failed. After the game, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who is squarely on the hot seat and always sensitive to criticism, decided to pass the buck. He told the Florida Times Union: “Our offensive coordinator (Dirk Koetter) calls the plays. I can’t speak to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him.”
Del Rio isn’t on headset? The head coach doesn’t have a clue? Wow. I thought the play selection was embarrassing, and it was. But Del Rio came across as clueless and desperate after the game.
3. Can’t make it up
It was a must-win, should-win, will-win spot for the Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles, and they failed miserably. How do you lose to the Eagles and allow Vince Young to demoralize you on an 18-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter to win the game? The third-down defense on the drive, which took nearly nine minutes off of the clock, was embarrassing.
Eli Manning and the offense picked the worst possible time to have their worst game of the year. Tom Coughlin called the loss, “the biggest disappointment we’ve had around here in a long time.” Coughlin also called the running attack, which churned out 29 yards, “pathetic”. Truer words have never been spoken.
The Giants have the knack for second-half collapses under Coughlin. They are now 0-2 in the second half and suddenly tied with the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East. The Giants have the Saints and Packers the next two weeks. Good luck with that.
4. Crystal ball
Dallas has won three in a row. They survived the Redskins in Washington in overtime. Tony Romo has played great ball the past few weeks.
The Cowboys have a much easier schedule the rest of the way compared with the Giants. But I still don’t fully trust the Cowboys, who had to sweat out the victory Sunday. Dallas has “easier” games against the Dolphins, Bucs and Cardinals. But they still have the Giants twice. I think that’s where the Giants win the division, assuming they get back Michael Boley and Ahmad Bradshaw, whom they miss greatly.
5. I’m a genius/moron
I know some bright people — and I won’t mention my esteemed radio co-host Rich Gannon by name — who thought the Tennessee Titans were going to upset the Atlanta Falcons. Call it a needed win for the Falcons, bouncing back from Mike Smith’s awful fourth-and-1 call against the New Orleans Saints.
On the flip side, I was very impressed how Tarvaris Jackson hung in and played strong football in a nice-looking road win in St. Louis. And credit the Seattle defense. I wanted to see Pete Carroll’s bunch win on the road in the division after shocking Baltimore, and the Seahawks got it done.
6. Backseat coaching
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris told me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he kicked two onsides kicks and went for two against the Packers because, “You try to steal possessions from the champs and try to knock them out.” There was no need. Risk/reward factor was not in the Bucs favor.
7. My guys
• Eagles defense: Pro Bowl defensive end Trent Cole told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “We stopped talking and made plays and worked together” in the win against the Giants. Great stuff, but where has this been all year?
• Julian Edelman: He returns punts for touchdowns! He plays defense! Not bad for a wide receiver!
• Hue Jackson: For the second straight week, Jackson had the perfect play selection and cadence on offense. And what do you know? They won. The Raiders are 6-4 and in the driver’s seat in the wacky AFC West.
• Jordy Nelson: The Packers wide receiver continues to dominate.
• Matt Moore: The Dolphins quarterback has won three straight games. Talking to Moore on the SiriusXM Blitz, he really believes in coach Tony Sparano. Moore is grateful for his opportunity, and he has been great during this winning streak. Because of Moore and the resurgent Miami defense, the Dolphins have a great chance to beat Dallas on Thanksgiving.
8. My goats
• Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Bills' franchise quarterback has changed back into a tomato can since he got his new deal.
• Chris Johnson: Has there ever been a more immediate and dramatic fall from grace? Johnson is one of the worst starting running backs in the NFL.
•Todd Haley: You don’t go for it on fourth-and-inches, but you opt for the onsides kick early against the Patriots? I’m still scratching my head.
• Brandon Jacobs: Coughlin called the run game pathetic. Jacobs took the opportunity to rip the fans for booing. Get a clue, loser. This is Jacobs’ final stretch as a Giant.
• Norv Turner: The Chargers have lost five straight. Norv cannot survive.
9. 3 nuggets of wisdom
• On Friday, I led my sizzle/fizzle column by stating I am all-in on the Bears. And then Jay Cutler fractured his thumb. It’s devastating for Chicago. But I think the 7-3 Bears will go 4-2 down the stretch and make the playoffs. The defense, run game and special teams are that good. But they will miss the talented and tough Cutler.
• I’m even less convinced than ever I know what a touchdown catch is in the NFL. I thought Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham caught a game-tying touchdown against the Ravens. But, then again, I thought Calvin Johnson and Louis Murphy hauled in scores in prior years.
• So the Bengals lose in back-to-back weeks to the Steelers and Ravens. The critics cry they crashed back down to earth. Pay attention. Cincy had chances to win both games in the final minutes. The Bengals likely won’t make the playoffs, but with Andy Dalton, the future is bright. And they will get their seventh win of the year this week against Cleveland.