published Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

5-at-10: Packers on top, the Thanksgiving touch and breaking the rules

From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...

NFL Power Poll

  • photo
    Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is tripped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers (31) in the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay defeated Tampa Bay 35-26. (AP Photo/Shawano Leader, Cory Dellenbach)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

OK, not unlike LSU, let's just agree that the Packers are the best team in the NFL. And to be fair, let's give them a bye into the NFC title game. No? OK, let's play out the season and see where it takes us.

(Although the Packers are the best team... and it's not that close.)

Hey, about some high-interest Thanksgiving Day games with Packers-Lions, Dolphins-Cowboys (what's the over-under on Leon Lett references since he tried to cover that blocked field goal against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving, 18 years ago Thursday?) and Ravens-Niners in the Harbaugh Bowl? Good times. Granted, the 5-at-10 will be at the TFP putting together Friday's Sports section, but here's hoping you enjoy a high-quality schedule.

TOP 5

1) Green Bay: The Packers played badly Sunday and won by nine over a Tampa Bay team that made the playoffs last year. Yeah, that's good.

2) San Francisco: If Green Bay is the class of this NFL season, the 49ers are the salutatorians. The Pack are 10-0; the 49ers are 9-1, two games better than a host of folks at 7-3.

3) New Orleans: The cream of the 7-3 crop. Drew Brees and his bevy of weapons are a scary proposition for anyone.

4) New England: Has there been a tight end with the cult following like second-year pro Rob Gronkowski, who has 10 TD catches in 10 games. He's part Dave Casper, part Kellen Winslow and part Cap Boso, who was the best Tecmo Bowl tight end ever.

5) Pittsburgh: Don't sleep on the Steelers, who had a front-loaded schedule and have battled through a litany of injuries to get to 7-3. Has it been a quiet 7-3? Yes, but that's not a bad thing.

BOTTOM 5

28) Miami: The Dolphins can't even stink right. After starting 0-7 and looking like a team that could contend for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, the Dolphins have won three straight. Someone get Chad Henne on the field stat.

29) Minneosta: Has anyone fallen farther more quickly than Donovan McNabb? Think about it, four years ago McNabb was a debatable name about being Hall of Fame worthy. Now he can't beat out Christian Ponder, and next year he'll be on his fourth team in four years.

30) Carolina: The Panthers are 2-8, and imagine how bad it would be without Cam Newton? Like 1-9 at best... wait.

31) St. Louis: There's 2-8 and then there's 2-8 in the NFC West which is not as good as the SEC West all things considered.

32) Indianapolis: Gross.

A Thanksgiving tip

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    Dillon Greco, left, catches a pass during a touch football game, while Jordan Patalas tries to block him in this file photo.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

This is Thanksgiving week. You know this. That means family, turkey, that runny goo your aunt makes that no one knows what it is but is too afraid to ask, naps, football and turkey sandwiches on white bread with pepper. Thanksgiving is cool. You know this, too.

It should also mean a game of touch football. Seriously. Wherever you are, try to get your family — all of them, there are no exceptions, even the momma that says, "I need to finish the dressing," can spare 10 minutes — in the yard for a quick game. Trust us, you won't regret it. While Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal outlines some basic — and pretty hilarious — rules, the 5-at-10 felt obligated to offer a slight, Southern tweak to a few of them and a couple of additions that are needed.

1) Tailgating is a Southern tradition, and it applies to Thanksgiving touch football. It doesn't have to be an Iron Bowl-type spread or a homecoming gala, but a few cinnamon rolls, some bacon and a jug of coffee (and let's be real honest here, if use the word carafe at your tailgate, well, the Queen of England better be on the guest list). Tailgating is a tradition and if you can't be traditional during the holidays, when can you be traditional? And if you can't be traditional during the holidays, well, the terrorists have won.

2) Depending on your tastes, a pregame adult beverage or two — say Bloody Marys and even those orange juice-champagne things for some — should be available. Let's face it, a day with the family always goes a little smoother with a belt or two, but be careful, getting over-served in a high-tension setting like a family function can lead to misery — and magic. You'll be the one that everyone's talking about for years, and all the stories will start with, "Remember that Thanksgiving when Weena got smashed before lunch, threw up on the Jell-O mold and kissed Aunt Edna on the mouth? It was awesome..."

3) Everyone plays, and if you are super adventurous, you can draft teams. The 5-at-10 loves the draft, you know this, and this is no exception. (Hint: Don't turn this into an adult, playground-picked-last-in-kickball flashback. Pick little kids and the elderly first. Well, after you pick your significant other, of course. Seriously guys, if you have a Thanksgiving family touch football draft and don't pick your wife first, well, enjoy the car ride home. Trust us here.)

4) No jerseys, unless they are worn by females, anyone over 70 and anyone under 12. There is an exception, if Uncle Jerry or anyone 50 or over goes into the house or brings an actual jersey from their playing days — be it hoops, football or anything this side of a wrestling singlet, because let's be real honest, grown men have no BID-ness in a wrestling singlet... EVER — and comes out in an Uncle Jerry throwback jersey, well, that's cool. (Another caveat: If someone in your family plays at the college level or above their jersey is acceptable by everyone other than that player. There can be a field of Alabama No. 3s at the Richardson get together or let's say Matt Simms and family are celebrating Thanksgiving, everyone can wear a replica Matt Simms jersey — of course that would mean everyone would be obligated to throw at least two picks, too. So it goes.)

5) There will be no stretching. Yes, you can give it the old 1-2-3 and touch tour toes or lift your knees and jump around a little, but if you start coordinating stretching drills, then you are going to lose half your family to the Macy's parade and are running the risk of being "that" guy.

6) Avoid being "That" guy. Don't pass out playbooks or look to audible with GiGi at flanker and your 6-year-old niece in the backfield. Don't light up your brother-in-law coming across the middle or chop block Uncle Steven or cut the corner on "5 Mississippi" when you're rushing the passer. Don't call illegal formation because Aunt Nancy, who has already had two glasses of white, is not on the line of scrimmage or start the offensive play-calling with "Trips right" or include phrases like "Z-motion," and "999."

7) But play the game. Be "THAT" guy, who teaches kids about little football intricacies and shares trivia about teams and players. Pass out eye-black to everyone, including GiGi, because it will look great in the family photo. Make sure everyone gets thrown to often enough that everyone catches a pass — and if someone is under 6, they can run the ball — but it will be much more fun if everyone is playing to win but going over the top.

8) The score will be forgotten, the (good-natured) trash talk and memories will stay forever. And if someone falls, all the better.

Exceptions to two sports rules

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    LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle (2) runs past Alabama defensive back DeQuan Menzie (24) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The 5-at-10 has a handful of sports rules. Things we believe that should be policy because 99 times out of 100, they are true to form and are iron clad.

Well, we've experienced a pair of the 1-in-100 situations in the last 48 hours.

We've said for the beginning that we believe a team should not be in the BCS title game unless they are a conference champion. That makes too much sense for that not to be a rule. Well, that makes too much sense every year but this year. If things play out as they are expected, Alabama and LSU will play for the BCS title, and in truth it's hard to fault that matchup if for no other reason than every other team outside the SEC has wet the bed and rolled around in it in the last 10 days. If no other team is willing to do what it takes to get to the BCS title game, well, Alabama come on down.

Hey, we never said Alabama and LSU are not the two best teams in the country, we just contended that Alabama already had its shot and missed. Now it appears that everyone else is missing on their shots as well and so it sure appears to be Alabama's turn again. So it goes. (Hey, we still believe the teams in the BCS title game should be conference champs, but is LSU-Oklahoma State the two best teams considering OSU lost to Iowa State? Is LSU-Oregon the top two even though Oregon has lost twice, including a neutral-field thumping against LSU? No thanks and all of the other matchups would be against non-conference champs, which Alabama is clearly the best of the non-conference champs.)

The other "rule" was properly bent when Justin Verlander won the AL MVP on Monday. Hey, starting pitchers participate in about 22 percent of their teams games, so that'd be the equivalent of a nickel back winning the NFL MVP or the No. 7 guy in an NBA rotation winning the NBA MVP (provided there's ever an NBA again, that is). But Verlander was the best choice among a less-than-impressive field. And EC called it like two months ago, so there's that.

This and That

— The college football coaching carousel made its first stop when Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez, the former West Virginia and Michigan coach. Here's saying that's a pretty good hire for the Wildcats, especially since RichRod's spread offense — and his recently humbled persona — will fit nicely in the Pac-12.

— Don't look now Johnny Braves Fan, but another NL East team looks to be diving into the free agent pool. Washington is having serious talks with left-hander Mark Buehrle. This comes on the heels of the Florida Marlins giving appearances of getting in the bidding wars for some of the big offseason fish such as Pujols or Reyes. Wow, the NL East is trying to look like the AL East.

— For 30-plus-game minutes the Tennessee Vols stood toe-to-toe with college hoops heavyweight Duke on Monday night. Hey, a loss is a loss is a loss and it's still agonizingly early in Cuonzo Martin's first season, but the 5-at-10 has been pleasantly surprised by the effort and results of these Vols so far.

— On the other end of the spectrum, the UTC Mocs played Woodrow Wilson or Warren Harding or Warren Wilson or maybe even Warren Coolidge, the former star center at Carver High School on "The White Shadow," last night. Apparently Loftis Middle School's 8th grade team was already booked. So was the Signal Mountain Upward Basketball 12-and-under squad. Hey, a win is a win is a win, even if Coolidge, Thorpe, Salami and Reese would have been a tougher test for the Mocs last night.

— Darren Rovel, one of the best sports journalists out there, has a great report on how the NBA lockout is hurting several small BID-ness owners from sports bars to T-shirt sellers to escort services. The NBA, it's FAN-tastic-ly short-sighted and myopic.

Today's question

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    Tennessee senior linebacker Austin Johnson hugs coach Derek Dooley during their final introduction as a Vol before their game against Vanderbilt Saturday in Knoxville. Tennessee won 27-21 in overtime.
    Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Heading into the final full weekend of the college football season, there are a ton of talking points.

There's been some hubbub about Derek Dooley's postgame celebration after the Vols' win over Vandy (and Vandy coach James Franklin's response was top-shelf — Franklin is a likable dude). There's a great quote in our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's story on Johnny Majors about how the Vandy win will be viewed as the turning point if Dooley rights UT's ship.

There are some huge point spreads in huge rivalry games — Alabama is a three-touchdown pick at Auburn — and LSU is a 12-point favorite over No. 3-ranked Arkansas (and that line will likely grow).

There's a ton of anti-SEC venom out there, be it jealous or angst against the overwhelming confidence (some might even say arrogance) of the nation's best football conference and some of its fans.

There's talk that Urban Meyer will be named the new coach at THE Ohio State University before the end of the month.

So it's a free-for-all college football Tuesday — the last one of the college football regular season.

Enjoy — and bring it.

about Jay Greeson...

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 ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

James Franklin might be a likable dude, but I'm now pulling for the Demon Deacons this weekend. Peabody Teacher's College can continue to collect big checks they don't earn.

November 22, 2011 at 10:30 a.m.
chas9 said...

5 gets you 10--Hey. Warren Wilson has a terrific acoustic music program.

Agree that Cuonzo and The Vols look better than expected.

Yes, touch football's a must. Strategy question: When playing two-on two or three-on-three, should the defense rush the QB? Should the rules prohibit it? Keep in mind that usually the QB is the QB because he's the one guy out there with little to no mobility because of weight, age, or knees. Or a girl.

November 22, 2011 at 10:33 a.m.
fechancellor said...

"Has anyone fallen farther more quickly than Donovan McNabb?"

Yep, his mother off the TV Screen.

Jay, try "Shotgun X Drive" at the family get together.

November 22, 2011 at 11:19 a.m.
jgreeson said...

BTG —

The fact that UT folks are now getting irritated by Franklin and the Peabody Teacher's College is a testament to the great job he's done.

9er —

So Warren Wilson would be a tough draw at the jazz band tourney, huh? In hoops, that's a joke and UTC should not have charged for tickets last night — that's how bad that matchup was. (Although the same could be said for the effort in the loss to KSU.)

Concur about Martin's Vols. Vols were preseason 11th in SEC — product we've seen so far is closer to preseason 11th in the country than 11th in the SEC.

As for touch strategery, if it's a high-talent level game, we would go 1 free blitz every four downs then it's 3 or 5 Mississippi. More times than not, you have to rush.

If it's more fun game, it's either or — although no one wants to play against Sack from "Wedding Crashers" just keep it clean.

FE to the C —

Here's saying McNabb's mom will continue bending his ear this holiday season.

Mrs. McNabb: "All I know D is that when things were going good, I was a star. Had Chunky Soup and all lined up. Was going to do a pilot. I could had been the next Weezie Jefferson or that funny lady from "227," what's her name Jockey or something like that.

McNabb: "Her name was Jackee."

Mrs. McNabb: "That's what I said. Dang it boy don't correct me."

McNabb: "Sorry, Mama."

Mrs. McNabb: "You need to find a way to get on the field again and get back to the playoffs. I told you not to make that B.O. or C.E.O or whatever his initials were made. He was your meal ticket."

McNabb: "His name is T.O., mama."

Mrs. McNabb: "That's what I said. Dang it boy don't correct me."

— 5-at-10

November 22, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I got no problem with Verlander winning the Cy Young and the MVP. A guy like Verlander doesn't just impact one game. He can alter a whole series. He goes 8 or 9, mows down a bunch of punks, and the bullpen is rested to finish off the next two games as well.

And I think we've seen just what happens to a team when the starters don't go more than 6 and the bullpen gets taxed more than a Swedish millionaire. I'm looking at you, Fredi Gonzalez.

November 22, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
fechancellor said...

As a publicist with one client, I think I can help here. This woman should be REFLAGGED and DETATCH herself from the corrosive vehicle she’s hitched that has all but broken down.

She should be REFLAG herself as the Auntee of the NFL, where she can glom onto whoever is hot. If the player’s mother makes pretentions of doing the job herself, this is a situation where Campbell’s need only showcase Mrs. McNabb’s role as a professional actor.

If it were me, Campbell’s would have gone with Pam Oliver from day one.

November 22, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
chas9 said...

fec--I'm just glad McNabb lasted 8 years (including some very good years) beyond when the big fat idiot once again proved he's a big fat idiot on ESPN.

Jay--Excellent McNabb family dialogue. I believe the Tyler Perry studios could use you. And thanks for the strategery (I saw what you did there).

And of course a pitcher should be allowed to win MVP, every once in a while.

November 22, 2011 at 12:40 p.m.
swooden said...

Jay, 1st timer commenting...enjoy the 5-at-10, and accompanying comments. Was not convinced about LSU-Bama round II, but agree that other (pre)tenders don't want to step up, or continue to step down, as the case may be. Thought the McNabb & Mom exchange was classic, it continues to elicit an auditory chuckle. Keep up the good work!

November 22, 2011 at 1 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Yes, Verlander rests a bullpen. So does Derek Lowe. Well Derek Lowe did when he was still alive. You know what else rests a bullpen? Seven-run leads and long relievers.

We got no beef with Verlander winning it this year because the best candidate was Ellsbury and his team gagged so bad they're still coughing up a lung. (It was Boston, maybe you're familiar with the area/team?)

FE to the C —

Spot on analysis. Auntie of the NFL. That has a nice ring to it.

9er —

Dude had some great years in Philly, that's kind of what made his fallen so stark. As for the windbag that is RL, his exchange on McNabb was typical Rush — he made something that resembled a point of discussion but he was so over the top and full of guffaw that is was impossible to listen to it and the presentation more than the message became the point and the offense.

As for Tyler Perry, here's saying that the 41-year-old (We're a MAN. We're 40 (plus 1)!) Southern white guy is not exactly a front-runner to join TP's staff.

Swooden —

Welcome aboard and feel to swing by anytime.

We don't believe in principle that Bama deserves another shot, but there's an absence of a viable contender that is a conference champ, go with the best team that's not a conference champ and that's Bama.

Maybe Mrs. McNabb will fill the role that Pretend Al Davis left vacant. Thoughts?

— 5-at-10

November 22, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.
chas9 said...

5/10--11th in the country? Let's not get crazy here. But this scenario should please 99% of the Orangebloods:

Remember 1989-90 when Ricky the P took over a struggling KY team on probation? The best players had transferred, and he took players who under Sutton looked too slow and non-athletic and went 14-14, 10-8 SEC. Next year they went 22-6 (14-4 SEC) and 9th in AP poll. As seniors, Pelphrey, Feldhaus, Farmer, and Woods made it to The Best Basketball Game Ever, to be robbed by the thug Christian in the NCAA regional finals, and their jerseys were retired.

Cuonzo could do something similar.

November 22, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.
Salsa said...

Not interested in seeing LSU vs Bama ...again. Give us another game for the title.

November 22, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

On this Thanksgiving Eve Eve, can we not find a little love in our hearts from C. Laettner, who did make a MONSTER of a shot to win that game, and despite the chest stomp, was 10-of-10 from the floor and 10-of-10 from the line in arguably the greatest single college hoops game ever.

And yes 11th in the country is high, and yes there is potential for this UT team to resemble the UK Unforgettables, but that's a long way off. (When we were at AU, one of our good friends was a guy named Griggs Powell and to say he was a huge UK hoops fan would be to misuse the word huge. He was a bigger than huge UK hoops fan — his grandfather was a pall bearer at Adolph Rupp's funeral.)

Salsa —

We're on record saying that to get to the BCS title game, a team should be a conference champ. But this year that doesn't really fit.

If not Bama-LSU, then what matchup do you want?

— 5-at-10

November 22, 2011 at 1:43 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Hmm ... Ellsbury ... don't they make biscuit dough?

Fortunately, even with my big family, we never had a Thanksgiving football game. There would have been blood. It would have been a yard full of that guys. And beer cans. And snuff cans.

November 22, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.
fechancellor said...

Nice job on the McNabb byplay. I should have mentioned this earlier.

I'm not sure what your policy is on links, but I was compelled by this Penn State story in the WSJ.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204443404577052073672561402.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond

November 22, 2011 at 2:18 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Ellsbury makes great biscuits. For some reason they make me giggle.

A yard full of "That" guys is doable. You have to have either 100-percent "That" guys so everyone is competing and spitting blood — and Copenhagen — or you want zero "That" guys.

FE to the C —

As long as they are fit for a family-oriented, InterWeb-based sports column, we got no problem with links. We're all for links and proper credit for work.

— 5-at-10

November 22, 2011 at 2:27 p.m.
Bdub13 said...

As much as I would love to see my mother chop block my brother-in-law with her walker, I don't think the football game is going to happen at our Thanksgiving. I would definately pick the Mrs first though. She actually got pulled from her high schoool powder puff game for actually tackling.

Bring on the All-SEC championship and the haters. I don't care if you do have only one loss, if it's to Iowa State, you shouldn't be playing in any championship.

Dooley said exactly what his team needed him to say, no matter how true it actually was. If Franklin has a issue with the way Tennessee celebrated their victory in their locker room(not in public mind you), then maybe he should have taken care of business on the field.

November 22, 2011 at 2:52 p.m.
jgreeson said...

BDub —

The mental picture of any mom chomp blocking any brother-in-law with a walker generated a full belly laugh here at the TFP studios. Well-played indeed.

And, say what you want about whether UT should celebrate beating Vandy, but you're spot on, if Franklin wants to prevent Dooley and Co. from celebrating, then handle it on the field. The 5-at-10 has always felt the same way about coaches complaining about opponents "running up the score." Sure in some cases, if one team is overmatched, then a team may need to call off the dogs, but at the end of the day your job is to stop them from scoring and their job is to score.

So you're getting mad that they are really good at their job and you're really bad at yours?

Mother chop blocking with a walker... that's good stuff right there.

— 5-at-10

November 22, 2011 at 2:58 p.m.
mack11 said...

I am a lifelong Bama fan and have been against an LSU/Bama rematch since the moment that LSU kicked their winning fg, however, as stated by 5at10, there is no one else who wants to play LSU or Bama or at this point Arkansas....so let the rematch happen. Let the best two teams play.

November 23, 2011 at 7:26 a.m.
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