Melissa’s Monday Musings Week 11: The Good, The Bad and The Bills

Most NFL Sundays I relish being in a confined space for 12 straight hours, allowing the glare of multiple televisions to destroy my retinas because the NFL with all its thrilling moments and high level strategy is worth it. Not yesterday. Sure, Week 11 brought moments of joy and awe (hello Case Keenum, the Saints comeback and the Eagles domination) but also a lot of slog. Normally in this column we would present positive musings, followed by the bad and bizarre, but a little rearranging is in order thanks to Sean McDermott.

The Bizarre (and Very Bad)

Perhaps Tyrod Taylor has a secret clause in his contract and the Bills needed to stop a lucrative playing bonus from kicking in. Or maybe head coach Sean McDermott, not considering his team might be a playoff contender, booked a fancy trip to Southeast Asia in January and doesn’t want to disappoint his family. Or maybe Taylor is …. never mind because there is not an iota of logic behind McDermott’s decision to bench his starter for rookie Nathan Peterman. Not one.

A week ago Buffalo was 5-4 and sitting pretty as the no. 6 seed. Peterman’s disastrous five INT half and a 54-24 blowout loss to the Chargers later, the Bills are on the outside looking in and suddenly the laughingstock of the NFL.

Why is this happening? Last week’s vague rationale doesn’t cut it “This is about becoming better as a football team and seeing if this will make us a better team,” McDermott told reporters.

Taylor is hardly Tom Brady but in a league of Brock Osweilers and Brett Hundleys he certainly adds a sizzle to the offense and aided several of those wins. He has also only thrown three picks the entire year, which juxtaposed to Peterman’s nightmare makes the move even more stunningly stupid.

Taylor had to relieve Peterman at halftime yet McDermott said after the game that he would evaluate the position before deciding who should start moving forward. What???? Poor Peterman, a fifth round pick from Pittsburgh is clearly not ready and was sadly thrown onto a field opposite Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in his first start. Taylor has been publicly professional, though made clear that he strongly disagrees with the decision. Way to potentially break two quarterbacks in less than a week, McDermott.

Of course this oddity is even worse since it is a metaphor for the societal tensions tearing apart the NFL, and well, society. A talented black man benched for an inexperienced white kid is a disturbing optic, especially as Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment continues to permeate this season.

What an utter disaster.

The Good (Ah, Deep Breathe)

– While much of the league is in a haze, the Eagles have gelled into the NFL’s great stalwart of 2017. They dominate in all facets of the game as evidenced by Sunday night’s critical 37-9 win in Dallas. The Eagles created four turnovers, scoring on one strip sack. We know what Carson Wentz can do – he threw his sixth multiple TD game in a row – and the addition of Jay Ajayi has made the running back corps so deep and incredibly hard to gameplan against. The Eagles have very few holes and it’s refreshing to have a Super Bowl contender that is truly a complete team and isn’t just favored largely because ‘you can never bet against old [Brady/Wilson/Manning/Rodgers]’. Bonus points to the Eagles for bringing in an eclectic range of new (ish) fans.

– Move over, Tony Romo, because another well-spoken player is ready to star in the booth. Panthers TE Greg Olsen, on his bye, served as an analyst for the Vikings-Rams bonanza and was an absolute natural. A three-man booth can be murky but Olsen weaved in and out of the broadcast with deftness, adding digestable insight with every comment. Smart to set up a post-playing career gig which should now be waiting him.

– When the NFL hosts its annual Honors Awards during Super Bowl Week, they really should have a category for best TD celebration. Sunday’s Texans group effort is a surefire nominee if not the winner.

– The Saints have had a plethora of impressive wins during their current eight-game win streak, but perhaps none more important to their Super Bowl hopes than Sunday’s dramatic 15-point fourth-quarter comeback over Washington. When it’s late January and you’re down in a playoff game, this type of win fills you with the belief that you can (and will) win. Drew Brees’s mere presence also brings that confidence. Brees has been on fire as of late – did he finally started sleeping in those TB12 performance pajamas?

– Interesting, related note about the current playoff picture: AFC 1) Steelers 2) Patriots 3) Jaguars 4) Chiefs 5) Titans 6) Ravens NFC 1) Eagles 2) Vikings 3) Saints 4) Rams 5) Panthers 6) Seahawks. For all the ridiculous quarterbacking we’ve endured this season, five of these teams are led by past Super Bowl champions.

– Adam Thielen is no longer under the radar; he is one of the league’s elite receivers. Thielen had 6 catches for 123 yards and a score in the Vikings’ convincing win over the Rams, and honestly it felt like he had more. In some ways Thielen’s current play reminds me of Anquan Boldin’s historic 2012 playoff run where he outmuscled every defender and caught almost every pass, no matter the degree of difficulty. Thielen, of course, has incredible breakaway speed to boot. Case Keenum has impressed with quality footwork and decent decision making but many are waiting for him to come back to earth. With Thielen around it may not happen.

The Bad (But not as bad as the Bills)

– Jay Cutler threw 3 picks before being placed in concussion protocol despite not getting sacked. While Cutler’s availability next week is unknown, his issues remain the same as they have for a decade. Arm strength overpowered by lazy mechanics. This is  really getting old.

– During the Eagles-Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football, NBC ran an awkward and disturbing promo for its Giants-Washington Thanksgiving night affair. Ex-Washington QB Joe Theismann was joined by ex-Giants LB Lawrence Taylor to yuk it about the hilarious time when Taylor broke Theismann’s leg and ended his career. “Turkey leg, Joe?” More importantly, why is Taylor who was charged with raping a 16-year-old in 2000 (he later pled guilty on misdemeanor charges after a reaching a plea deal) being given a platform of glorification? Pretty gross from NBC particularly in the current climate of mass sexual assault allegations.

Joe Theismann and Lawrence Taylor in off NBC promo.

– John Fox is now 3-13 against NFC North opponents and really has to go. Somehow Fox gets more Jeff Fisher-y ever week with bad challenges (or non-challenges) and uninspired playcalling. Coincidentally or not, the personnel parellels are also rather striking. Like Fisher last season, Fox started a journeyman quarterback instead of his franchise rookie. Once forced to start the rookie because the journeyman was insufficient, the playcalling was far too conservative. The losses piled on. We know Fisher’s outcome. Assuming Fox too gets the ax, it would be great to see Chicago try and find a young offensive minded coach with a modern philosophy who calls his own plays in the vein of Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan. Aside from Josh McDaniels the pickins are slim but even a poor man’s version would be an improvement, assuming the new coach kept Vic Fangio or brought in another defensive mastermind.

– From earlier this week, I realized the Jaguars injury report is sponsored by a personal injury law firm. Gross.

– OK fine, Alex Smith is not going to be the 2017 NFL MVP.

– Not a huge fan of Sunday Countdown essentially dedicating its show to the five year anniversary of the Butt Fumble. Felt very provincial.