From the "Al Davis Studios," here we go...
NFL Power Poll
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)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 ...