Hey was that a Chris Johnson sighting last night? Wow, we remember that guy.
Don't forget Friday's mailbag, and from the "Talks too much" studios, let's wrap this Christmas gift.
NFL Power Poll
OK, the Atlanta Falcons answered the challenge and the Denver Broncos beat a team of merit. The Falcons are a win away from clinching Dome-field advantage. The Broncos, winners of nine consecutive games, look like the best team in football.
Here's the poll (with Super Bowl odds from betvega.com):
1) Denver (5-to-1): Where does this rank on the comeback scale, this stuff that Peyton Manning's doing with a new set of teammates, a new system and the never fading worries that one awkward hit on his his oft-surgerically repaired neck will end it all? We're having a hard time coming up with a better one. (Side note: As great as Manning has been and as much as he meant to Indy for the better part of 14 years, want to know how many Colts fans are sad how things worked out now that it's apparent that Andrew Luck is Manning 2.0? Yep, zero.)
2) Atlanta (7-to-1): It's easy to go from flop to favorite, as our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer shares here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/18/atlanta-falcons-move-flops-favorites-one-week/. The 34-0 spanking of the New York Giants somewhat cleansed the memory of last year's playoff 24-2 beat down the Giants handed the Falcons. Now Atlanta must cleanse its sketchy work in the postseason.
3) Green Bay (15-to-2): As the Packers start to get healthy, they become more and more scary. After clinching the NFC North with a win over Chicago, getting healthy becomes the only goal.
4) New England (19-to-4): Sunday night's roller coaster loss was puzzling at every step. It was strange to watch a Belichick-Brady team fall behind 31-3; it was a blur when they tied it at 31; and after it was tied, everyone thought it was the Pats' to lose. Well, it was and they did. Still, Brady-and-Belichick are still the Super Bowl favorites.
5) San Francisco (9-2): Nice win at New England. Still, of all the teams on the Super Bowl shortlist, the Texans and the 49ers are the only two teams who have quarterbacks that you don't completely trust.
UT football moves
The whirlwind that has been the Tennessee football program in the last three weeks keeps spinning.
The coaching staff is complete. Potential all-star tackle Ja'Wuan James is staying. Potential NFL star in waiting receiver Justin Hunter is leaving. There are some recruiting machinations, but until signing day, that's the case everywhere.
Let's look at the two players that made football decisions Monday, as our UT beat ace Downtown Patrick Brown shares with us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/18/tennessee-receiver-justin-hunter-opts-for-nfl/?sports.
James is an effective player who has been a starter since he first stepped foot in Knoxville. Paired on the opposite side of stud duck left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson, James' return means the Vols have two future NFL tackles around which to build Butch Jones' new offense. And if you think that's not important, well, know this: A new spread/passing attack with an unknown at quarterback and two big-time tackles worked out pretty well for Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M. And yes, there's not a Johnny Football Manziel waiting in the wings to take the baton for Jones and the Vols, but that Texas A&M offense and Johnny Football's Heisman success has been greatly enhanced by the presence of two elite tackles. Tennessee will start with that type of foundation next fall.
As for Hunter, it's not a surprise nor an indictment against the new staff that the 6-foot-4 receiver is declaring for the draft. In fact, Johnny Vols Fans would be wise to plan on Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Bray to join Hunter in the NFL draft pool. And those are the right decisions.
Hey, we love the draft. You know this. And for Hunter, a guy we believe will test very well for NFL scouts, this decision was magnified by the knee injury that ended his 2011 season. Hunter's return this season was far from brilliant, but it was good enough — he still had 73 catches for 1,083 yards — to show he's returned from the injury. And while no future pro athlete wants to have a knee injury on their resume, Hunter could hardly afford to return and risk a second one. Because one knee injury happens — heck Adrian Peterson is making the knee injury look only mildly worse than an extreme ankle sprain — but name a skill player who has had NFL success after two knee surgeries?
McRib, try Mc 'No Thanks'
If you are a fan of the McRib sammich and want to stay a fan, we're OK with that. It's your body and we're a big believe in personal responsibility.
That said, if you want to be a McRib believe, you have our permission to skip straight to the "This and That" at this time. If you read on, there's a real chance your last McRib will be your last McRib.
And before we get started, we normally avoid stuff like this. We in truth and at its core, do not want to see how the sausage is made. But once we saw these facts about the McRib, we couldn't unsee them, and while we've never had the McRib — something about a sammich being pressed and shaped to look like it has bones in it always troubled us — this secured the fact that we'll be McRib-less forever.
We stumbled on to this report http://finance.yahoo.com/news/11-amazing-facts-about-the-mcdonald-s-mcrib-170212930.html and here are the lowlights for the McRib, which has a cult-like following:
* It was developed in 1979 because of a shortage of chickens that limited the availability of Chicken McNuggets. (Wow, who knew the Chicken McNugget was 33 years old? Well, not all of them are that old. Wait, let's keep going.)
* The McRib is a "restructured meat product" and that's what it's called by its inventors. It starts as pork — and we won't mention the parts of the pig, just that it starts as frozen pork — and then goes through the assembly line to a frozen faux rib back in a process that takes 45 minutes.
* There are 70 ingredients in the McRib patty, including azodicarbonamide, which is a flour-bleaching agent that is frequently used in the making of foamed plastics. Delicious.
* The sammich aside, the McRib is a genius product of flash-and-hide marketing, which created the cult-like following and makes its appearance on McDonald's menus seem special.
This and that
— OK, we'll ask: What exactly was the offensive plan for the New York Jets this year? After Monday night's loss eliminated the Jets from the postseason (although their offense had eliminated them from being contenders long ago, and this sadly means we won't have the chance to wager some entertainment against Tony Sparano and Mark Sanchez in the playoffs), what was the goal this year? Develop Sanchez? Bring in Tim Tebow as a piece to do what exactly? What a mess?
— We mentioned this Monday, but now it's official that the Toronto Blue Jays have added NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey in a trade with the Mets. And, considering the Orioles made the playoffs last year, the Rays have such a taut, young nucleus, the Yankees are the Yankees and the Jays have now added Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to the rotation and Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera to the lineup, the Red Sox are the worst team in the AL East. We blame Booby Valentine.
— Congrats to Jimmy Boeheim for winning his 900th game. That's a lot of sitting and pointing for a long time. And dude has gone through some college hoops talent at Syracuse, dating back to the mid-1980s and Pearl Washington. (Side note: Those old mid-1980s Big East slugfests were great when Georgetown was awesome and St. John's had Chris Mullin in the tightest shorts this side of John Stockton and Syracuse and Jerome Lane and Charles Smith at Pitt. Ah good times. College hoops is a shell of its former self, but that's a topic for another day.)
Late into the evening Monday, a few of us were debating the merits of Timmy Horton and the pro-Canadian views of Spy when the dreaded name Gary Bettman appeared.
That got us thinking, if LeBron was the Sportsman of the Year, is Bettman the Poor Sportsman of the Year right?
Who you got in the Poor Sportsman of the Year? Bettman is a contender. So is Lance Armstrong and Roger Goodell.
Discuss, and we're still looking for your favorite Christmas songs for a mailbag question for Friday.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...