NFL Power poll
Before we get to the rankings of the best — and worst — of the NFL as we know it, we must discuss the Monday Night Football game. Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnati 20.
Steelers continue to win close games against teams they are considerably better than. Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are the most dynamic RB-WR tandem since Smith and Irvin, maybe.
After his team lost a 17-point lead at home, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who, in his 15 years — yes, 15 bleeping' years — in Cincinnati has as many playoff wins as Stewwie, will be walked to the curb no later than the Monday after the regular season. All of those are talking points. And all of them were rendered as an afterthought because of the overt brutality that last night's game morphed into. It left us with the following thoughts:
We were watching live when Ryan Shazier went down on, comparatively last night, was an innocent tackle. Dude had his head down — kids, always, Always, ALWAYS see what you hit — and dropped listlessly to the turf. It was clear his feet and legs were not moving. He did everything he could to roll onto his back.
It was frightening and served as an awakening. We see these guys do things that make us wince and recoil. We wonder how they always get up but we're only truly reminded of the violence when they don't. SI reported that Shazier will not need back surgery. And as stunning as Shazier laying on the turf, his lower body motionless was, the images of his teammates with tears in their eyes was just as moving. And on the very next play, a snap that happened not long after the ambulance left the field and likely was not completely off the stadium grounds, was a brutally physically hit on Giovanni Bernard.
The lesson there is that the reality can't be dwelled on during the brutality.
And that brutality hit an old-school level Monday night. It was termed as "AFC North football" as Ben Roethlisberger did or the "rivalry" football between the Bengals and Steelers. It was filled with penalty after penalty — 20 total for almost 240 total penalty yards — and two outlawed, high and hard and dirty hits within plays of each other in the fourth quarter.
It was dirty. It was also eye-opening. Those used to be plays that were viewed as tough football plays. Take JuJu Smith-Schuster illegal crack-back block on Vontaze Burfict for instance. That was a play that former Steelers wide out Hines Ward did on a weekly if not quarterly basis.
In some ways, the ugliness that became the end of the Bengals-Steelers game showed us in a lot of ways how much the game has come to address the culture of what is acceptable.
1. New England. The top and bottom of extremes are right with the world. Good times. And speaking of dirty, Rob Gronkowski is lucky his suspension for his late, cheap and dirty hit on Bills defensive back Tre'Davious White was only one game. Gronkowski snapped and lost it and called it 'frustration' which is ludicrous. Gronk being Gronk, not unlike Manny being Manny a decade ago is a silly and unfair umbrella under which Gronk gets special treatment from the NFL.
2. Philadelphia. The Eagles were kind of exposed on Sunday night. Even against a beat-up Seahawks secondary, Carson Wentz missed several open throws and the offensive line struggled to keep the talented Seattle front out of the backfield. That's a problem, especially when two of the NFC playoff challengers — the Rams and the Vikings — thrive on getting defensive pressure with a dynamic front four.
3. Pittsburgh. The loss of Shazier was emotional and dramatic last night. Long-term, if Shazier is done for the season, it could be even more jarring. Simply put, he was the linchpin as an inside linebacker on a defense that had been getting better by the weekend.
4. Minnesota. The Vikings are complete, and at 10-2 are tied atop the NFC standings with the Eagles for the best record in the conference. There are four teams with nine or more wins in the NFC, and the other two — the Saints and the Rams — have already been toppled by these complete Vikings.
5. New Orleans. This Saints offense is downright scary. Drew Brees with a legit A1 wide out (this year its Michael Thomas) has for years enough to keep New Orleans competitive. Add in the best running back duo in football — Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara — and simply pick your poison.
28. Indianapolis. Did you see that Frank Gore moved into the top-five all-time in rushing. The list goes Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin and Frank Gore. Crazy, right?
29. Denver. The Broncos have lost eight straight. And the most recent may be the most egregious. A 35-9 loss to Miami, which dominated in all phases.
30. San Francisco. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo behind center, these 49ers are 1-0, meaning the former Patriots QB is now 3-0 in his career as a starter and Garoppolo is one of 13 quarterbacks who have a career winning percentage all-time of 1.000. He is only one of two to have a career mark of 3-0 as a starter, the other of course being Easy Ed Rubbert, who started and won three games for the 1987 Redskins.
31. New York Giants. Last week the Giants benched Eli Manning. This week they fired their head coach and GM. Heck, by Christmas, here's betting the Giants are going to trade rosters with the Browns. (A move that Jimmy Haslam will veto at the 11th hour unless he can get Greg Schiano to coach them. Good times.)
32. Cleveland. The Bizarro Patriots. Side note: Did you see that Josh Gordon had four catches for 85 yards in his first NFL game since 2014? Gordon has missed more than the last two seasons because of suspensions for failed drug tests, and in when it's all said and done, we're going to wonder what that kid could have been.
In the last 24 hours two of the more celebrated awards of my lifetime got some attention.
The Heisman finalists were announced.
Baker Mayfield (the winner) will be joined by Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who won the bronze statue last year, and Stanford running back Bryce Love.
It's a tribute to all three, but Mayfield will be arguably one of the biggest landslide winners in history. Side note: The two most lopsided votes in Heisman history were Reggie Bush winning in 2005 before having to give it back for NCAA violations and Troy Smith in 2006. So there's that. (And how the Heisman bigwigs made Bush give his Heisman back for getting momma a house and did not vacated O.J.'s Heisman remains one of the great contradictions.)
The other, while not as prestigious across the board, the Sports Illustrated sportsman of the year has always been an award we have tried to guess and paid attention to since we were tots. (Man, Thursday when the SI hit the mailbox was a great day as a kid.)
The winners were Houston sports stars J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve.
Yes, each had strikingly different years on the field: Watt, one of the best football players of his era, has been lost for the year to injury and has as many sacks as Fat Vader does this season; Altuve was the AL MVP for the world champion Astros.
But each made a great impact on their sports hometown after the hurricanes ravaged Houston. Watt started a social media fundraiser with a goal to get to $250,000. He raised more than $37 million.
Altuve also participated in those relief efforts, and for those of us who knew Dan Summerlin, here's how Altuve gave everyone on "Team Dan" 1,000 smiles before Game 7 against the Dodgers.
Who's up for a bowl contest?
Who wants to win stuff?
We all are, right?
Of course. Be on the look out, our Bowling for Bowls of Bowl Success (Bowler optional) will make its debut Wednesday. Before we get there, we have a couple of questions for you regulars:
If you could make a change, what would it be.
This is our longest running contest. We started in 2010 and have done it every year since. We even had DCrotty win one year and had to mail his praise pack to New England.
Here are the tidbits:
We will pick against the spread. Period end of discuss.
We have had different point tiers for the various games.
In years past we have had some years in which misses cost you those points. The last couple of years we have had just positive points.
We also have through its history picked all the bowl games. (We prefer to do it this way to give everyone who plays at least a tangental connection to the holiday games that offer a much-needed reprieve from out wonderful families.)
Speak now or forever hold your peace.
This and that
— Man, Steph Curry seriously rolled his ankle last night.
— While we are on the NBA, the Cleveland LeBrons have won 12 straight. Just saying.
— Here's the story of how Nebraska landed Scott Frost.
— Jon Gruden discussed the Tennessee job briefly on Monday Night Football last night. "Sure do," Gruden said when his cohort Sean McDonough said UT needed to find a coach. "Hopefully will be a matter of time. It's been a long while since they solved that." So there's that, and no he did not have on an orange tie.
Let's start with some True or False, shall we?
True or false Tennessee will have a head coach by the close of BID-ness Wednesday.
True or false, Baker Mayfield will get 90 percent of the Heisman vote.
True or false, Scott Frost will have Nebraska back on a national scale.
As for Dec. 5, well, Sinatra would have been 102 today. Dude was a pimp.
Blossom is 41.
In honor of Bob Barker is 93, what's the all-time Rushmore of Price is Right games. Go and enjoy the day.