Who Fed It And Who Ate It: 2019 Week 12
Groupthink is a phenomenon that seemingly thrives in the incubator of the NFL. Once narratives become rote in the mind of the pro football fan or writer (your humble scribe included), it takes extraordinary effort to change that mentality, even if the reality has been evident for some time. We'll be talking about two teams who are opening eyes in primetime games, and the machinations of another where the story does not break for a reason.
The Ass Kicking of the Week was a Monday Night beatdown of the Los Angeles Rams by the Baltimore Ravens, as the Ravens romped to a 45-6 victory as QB Lamar Jackson threw 5 touchdown passes in his MNF debut When we left the Ravens in January of this year, they looked to be in over their heads as AFC North champions after falling to the LA Chargers in the Wild Card round. Even entering this season, the Ravens looked to be a year away behind a splashy Cleveland Browns and reloading Pittsburgh Steelers squads. The Charmed City Blackbirds have become a juggernaut, leading the league in scoring behind 22 year old MVP candidate in Lamar Demeatrice Jackson Jr. His blend of athleticism and passing acuity are not new to the NFL. Greats like Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, and Michael Vick made their names as passing & rushing dual threats, but Jackson is taking it to a completely different level. But ironically, Jackson is simply becoming the fulcrum of Baltimore's entire offense, a philosophy that was widely popular in the league's infancy. And his output is ridiculous. Jackson is on pace to pass for over 3500 yards AND rush for over 1200 yards. Just as Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes showed the possibilities of the modern day quarterback, Jackson is showing the potential of the position as a ubiquitous keystone of the offensive unit. This young phenom is the spearhead of a Ravens team that is threatening to break the New England Patriots' stranglehold they have on the AFC. Despite the Pats losing to Baltimore, it is their lone blemish on their record, staying one game ahead of the Ravens. If these two teams face one another again in the AFC Championship, the home venue can make all the difference in the world given the success of the host team in that game. If the Ravens want the road to Super Bowl LIV to go through Baltimore, they will need to defeat...
The San Francisco 49ers, who stomped the Green Bay Packers 30-8 on Sunday Night Football to stake their claim as the team to beat in the NFC Sometimes, these narratives stubbornly remain because fans in particular don't want them to change. The Niners struggled mightily in 2018, posting a 4-12 record and only bested the Arizona Cardinals (3-13). This offseason was important for two reasons. One, the 49ers awful record turned into a top draft pick, #2 to be precise. That brought Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, a bonafide disruptive pass rusher. And secondly, the 16 players who ended 2018 on injured reserve were coming back. Losing roughly 30% of your active roster to injuries is simply an insurmountable hurdle to overcome. So this was going to look very different in 2019. But as San Fran started off hot, many were discounting it, claiming the Niners were taking advantage of a soft spot in their schedule. Some were looking at this most recent installment of Sunday Night Football, a game flexed into primetime, as a test against a purported Super Bowl contender in Green Bay. We found out two things. First, the Packers are not a true NFC contender, not after that performance on that stage. And second, the 49ers are. Yes, the Seattle Seahawks are right on their tails at 9-2 and holding a current tiebreaker over them (with a Week 17 showdown in Seattle that could have unprecedented consequences). But San Francisco, Seattle, and New Orleans are the short list of senior conference contenders to challenge for a Super Bowl LIV berth. All others are dogs with fleas; good teams with a fatal flaw that will be their undoing. With a defense that is sturdy at all three levels and an offense that is able to beat you with the three headed ground attack of RB's Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert or the passing game of QB Jimmy Garoppolo, WR Emmanuel Sanders, & TE George Kittle, this is arguably the most complete team in the league today (although the Saints may have something to say about that). This epic interconference tilt in Baltimore should be one of the best matchups in recent memory. We'll see if it lives up to the hype.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed his frustrations with his team's loss in New England. Is Jason Garrett's time with the Cowboys coming due? The Cowboys currently sit 6-5, leading the NFC East. They would be a 4 seed in the playoffs if the regular season ended today. Not bad, but not good enough, according to Jones. In a post game interview, he expressed his frustrations with his team, taking a swipe at the head coach in the process. Despite the fact that Garrett has only posted one losing record in eight full seasons, many fans have long called for his ouster. Then again, Cowboy fans are often not happy unless they reach a Super Bowl once every three years, so take that into consideration. But when Jones, who has long defended Garrett publicly, takes a couple shots at his coach after a tough loss to the defending Super Bowl champions, it suggests that Jones may be ready to go a new direction. While Cowboys fans may rejoice at this development, there is a sobering follow up question: Once Garrett is shown the door, who comes in as his successor? And before those Cowboys fans start listing the likes of Saints head coach Sean Payton and Oklahoma University head coach Lincoln Riley (among others), there are realities that need to be stated. For openers, Jones' influence on the Cowboys is all encompassing. It's not just his standing as the de facto general manager; he also has say in which associate coaches come on board. Decisions like that are conventionally within the purview of the head coach, not the GM. That unwillingness to surrender control over the team ultimately hurts Jones in recruiting head coaches. The only head man he has hired with a proven track record was Bill Parcells, and even the Big Tuna could take the Cowboys only so far in his four year run. That means that either a current associate coach will be promoted or an outsider who can tolerate Jones' level of involvement in the on field product will be named the ninth Dallas Cowboys head coach. And will America's Team be better off as a result? Only time will tell.