published Monday, December 23rd, 2013

5-at-10: Manning's history, NFL playoff picture and bowl picks

Well, here's hoping you have made your list and checked it twice. Christmas is almost here.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

  • photo
    Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning smiles after throwing his 51st touchdown pass of the season and set a new NFL record.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


With the flick of his wrist — well with 51 flicks of his wrist — Peyton Manning grabbed another piece of NFL history. He has thrown more TD passes in a single season than anyone ever, passing Tom Brady's previous mark of 50 with four scoring throws Sunday, and Manning still has week 17 to add to his 51 TD passes.

We can debate where he falls on the Rushmore of all-time NFL quarterbacks — we think he's on there — and we can debate the significance or importance of Manning's record.

Here's what we know: Two years ago he missed the season because neck injuries and there were severe questions whether he would ever return and if he did how effective he would be. He has the Denver Broncos poised as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. He is within an average game (for him this year) of adding the most passing yards in a single season record to the list of accomplishments year.

Here's what we think: Manning at the line of scrimmage has no peer, at least currently. It's easy to forget that before helmet-radios and a thousand levels of intel-meeting-scouting-meeting- meetings-meeting-everything-else, quarterbacks used to call their own plays. Manning is the maestro of the modern-day machinations at the mosh pit that is the line of scrimmage. Manning will almost assuredly add his fifth NFL MVP award in the coming days, a record haul that is every bit as impressive as the 51-plus TDs or the three-plus-miles (and counting) he'll throw for this season.

Here's what we don't get: Why do so many fans bag on Manning? Is it Manning fatigue? (Dude is in a slew of commercials and gets his name in the paper a few times every football season.) Is it postseason ups and downs, and could those be silenced if the Broncos win it all and Manning captures a second ring?



NFL recap

Crazy times in the NFL for sure. We go into the final weekend with two heads-up division title games, which is awesome. We go into the final weekend with several teams scoreboard watching for potential playoff fall out. We go into the final weekend with Seattle and Denver controlling their destinies for home-field advantage, but with a slew of possibilities in play.

Some where Roger Goodell just sipped some Egg Nog, smiled and said, "It's all working according to my plan..." then laughs that Snidely Whiplash evil chortle. If he had a sinister mustache that would work too. (Side note: Egg Nog is gross. Period. It's the Christmas drink in the seventh circle of Hades where they only serve cole slaw and the only activity is moving furniture. Yuck.)

Here's a breakdown of all the playoff possibilities which are too numerous to mention.

Good times.

That said, the drama that lives in the football helmets in the great state of Texas is off the charts right now. The Texans are looking for a coach. The University of Texas is looking for a coach. If Jason Garrett and the Cowboys do not beat Philly and get in the playoffs, Dallas will be looking for a coach.

Somebody needs to hire Coach Eric Taylor from the TV version of Friday Night Lights. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.


  • photo
    Colorado State players celebrate their win after the NCAA New Mexico Bowl college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Albuquerque, N.M. Colorado State won 48-45.(AP Photo/Matt York)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Bowl games

Want to know why they call it gambling and why we advise to risk entertainment only?

Notice the following: MIke Leach and Washington State had a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the Blankety-Blank Blah Bowl over Colorado State, comfortably beyond the five-point spread. A TD, a fumble, a TD and a two-point conversion, a fumbled kickoff return and a last-second field goal later and Leach and Co. lost in regulation.


We head into the bowl season looking for some good fortune after a rocky conclusion to the regular season. Yes, we finished the year 51-40-1 against the spread, but that's below our standards and was plodding down the stretch.

So we were flummoxed by Pirate Leach walking the game-management plank — Washington State was up 8 with less than two minutes to go and just got a first down only to lose a fumbled handoff on the next play when three kneels and a punt all but seal it — was not how we had hoped to start spinning around the bowl slate. So it goes.

It also goes as such when Louisiana Lafayette surprisingly starts quarterback Terrance Broadway, who broke his arm last month. And it's how it goes when USC shows up motivated. Alas.

We are 1-3 against the spread and have work to do. Take that for what it is and know that if you want to ride the other way, it's your entertainment on the line.

So we enter the week of Christmas, which is gold for tots but is more like the Chili's triple-play appetizer in bowl parlance. It's not the main meal — sure it can be viewed as a meal because there is a lot on the plate — but the bigger morsels are still come.

But we pledged to pick them all, and picking them all we shall.

Oregon State minus-3 over BYU: Tuesday night's only game features an interesting match-up. We'll swing with the Beavers because: a) OSU quarterback Sean Mannion is a senior and this is his final go; b) OSU coach Mike Riley is 5-2 in his last seven bowl games, so he knows a little about preparation; c) Boise State veteran coach Chris Petersen R-U-N-N-O-F-T to Wsashington; d) Boise State sent quarterback Joe Southwick home from Hawaii for violation of team rules; e) Boise State was 8-4 this year, a perfect 6-0 in Boise and 2-4 away from the Blue turf.

Utah State plus-2 over Northern Illinois: The Huskies have been an interesting story all year, even getting Jordan Lynch an invite to the Heisman. The Utah State defense is not as interesting but every bit as tough. Hey, Merlin Olsen went to U-State, and he was awesome in "Little House on the Prarie." That's enough.

Pittsburgh plus-4.5 over Bowling Green: Bowling Green was sneaky good in the sneaky entertaining MAC. (Admit it you miss those Tuesday night MAC games. MAC Action... it's fantastic.) Pittsburgh was blah-rific in the ordinary ACC. Still, Pittsburgh has a legit NFL player in Aaron Donald; Bowling Green lost its head coach. Edge: Panthers. Side question: Speaking of nicknames, if Stetson is going to be the Hatters and we all know that Tulane is the Green Wave, why can't they change Falcons to the Bowling Green Green Bowlers. That would be cool.)

Marshall minus-2 over Maryland: Comparing common opponents tells us that each team won at Virginia Tech in overtime. Let's ride with Marshall because a) Conference USA was far from great but the ACC was not exactly filet mignon; b) Matt McConaughey will have his boys ready to play. (Better football movie: We Are Marshall or Remember the Titans? Discuss.)

BYU plus-3 over Washington: Nineteen times out of 20 we favor the favorite. It's the wise play. We have picked more underdogs in this wave of bowl picks than we did all season. That's a scary fact. Still, the Huskies are another bunch that are playing after their coach broke up with them. Sigh. BYU is tough. Tough does not slump. One of the main hurdles about bowl handicapping is whether teams mess around during the bowl festivities. BYU is not into messing around, not when certain extracurricular activities get you dismissed from school.

Minnesota minus-4 over Syracuse: Hey look, another ACC team in a Christmas-week bowl game. Go figure. The Gophers are one of the better, undertold stories in college football. Plus, the most famous Gophers are Dave Winfield and the little critter in Caddyshack; the most famous Oranges are Carmelo Anthony and navel. Edge Gophers.

This and that

— Shin Soo Choo (bless you) signed a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Texas Rangers. Texas has now added Choo and Prince Fielder in the offseason. Looks like someone was a little irked about not making the playoffs last season, huh?

— Lost in the NFL craziness that was Sunday — and capsulated very well by our own ace columnist Mark Wiedmer here — was the Titans win over Jacksonville. The Titans showed effort and pride and gumption for embattled coach Mike Munchak. That may be enough. The play of the game, though, was the Jaguars throwing a screen pass to center Brad Meester in his final home game of a 14-year career. Here's the video.

— Oregon is debuting its bowl uniforms. Here's a peak. The duds are called Mach Speed.

— Did you see the Washington politician who took to the Twitter after the Cardinals beat the Seahawks on Sunday? Here's a story. Dude, step away from the iPhone and take deep breaths.


Today's question

There's a ton to dissect above, so help yourself.

But if you still need more, well...

Sometime this holiday week, we are going to do a 16-team Christmas movie bracket. Now is your chance to weigh in. Discuss.

We can all agree that Peyton Manning is far-and-away the NFL MVP frontrunner, right? OK, who's No. 2? Brady? Cam Newton? Nick Foles? Discuss.

And Merry Christmas.

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 ...

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.
MocTastic said...

Movies that must be in your Christmas movie brackets: Its a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street (the original one), Elf, and The Santa Clause.

I did not include Charlie Brown Christmas and many of the great 30 minute animated Christmas movies as they are not really movies.

A video to get everybody rockin' and rollin' this morning:

December 23, 2013 at 10:28 a.m.
chas9 said...

Two thumbs up all the way for Peyton.

Looks like the imposter USC plays better without Lane.

Kentucky beat Belmont who beat UNC who beat UK. Proving this year we have a bunch of good teams and no great ones. The Cats have no bad losses and are on track to be elite eight good by March, which is not as good as expected. Andrew Harrison is way better than Ryan Harrow, but he'll have to advance his game for UK to advance to final four good.

On the distaff side, #5 UK, playing without frontline starter Stallworth, lost a close one to #2 Duke. Rupp was full with 23,000 plus. When UT and UK meet they'll draw more than most SEC men's games.

And I'll never watch a game on a red field.

December 23, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

Master Jay:

Remember the Titans is the better football film. Washington and Mcconaughey are both top notch and well cast but, top to bottom, the better cast for the other characters was in RTT.

If you don't like egg nog then you are not "mixing" it correctly. This being a family friendly column, I'll stop there but try to remember "the recipe" the Baldwin sisters in the Waltons TV show used to make. "The recipe" makes egg nog palatable.

December 23, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring,

You can't miss with "A Very, Very David Allen Coe Christmas." DAC opens up his home to his favorite Confederate tattooed biker gang. All invited get ripped and get more tattoos commemorating the event. DAC then performs all them songs mentioning his name. Everyone then drinks and drugs more, eventually destroying DAC's double wide.

Peyton is a man of great talent, an outstanding leader and a one of the best passers ever, however, the Super Bowl he won was against a Bear team with absolutely no offense. If Peyton is to top Brady, he's got to beat him in the playoffs. Manning needs another Super Bowl ring for validation. That Ely has two rings may not show much, but it has to be on Manning's mind.

December 23, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Peyton will always have some haters no matter what. Maybe if he wins the Super Bowl in NY this year, the cold-weather criticism will die down. Or maybe not. But I think Peyton has proven himself enough as a QB already. He's the greatest ever.

As for MVP this year, it's not even close. Cam Newton all the way. (Kidding.)

December 23, 2013 at 11:58 a.m.
fechancellor said...


I ain't no Payton hater. As Broncos go, he's not even on my "hit list." For me, it was Elway's magical escapes with Dick Enberg gushing O'My, O'My every time Elway wriggled his tush behind center. Enberg led the cheering section from the press box. That's the stuff that rubbed me raw. Redemption in four Super Bowls was my reward.

Peyton is paid giant gobs of money to do what he does, but in reality he's only playing for rings now, and the window of opportunity is slowly closing.

I'll remind that Peyton never beat Florida, although, one of those games were marred by Jay Graham's sixteen or so fumbles.

December 23, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I know BYU is good (I've seen how good they are up close and personal), but I didn't know they were good enough to take on Oregon State and Washington during bowl season. Even though you do reference Boise State in your prediction, your tagline says otherwise.

If I'm Tom Brady, I could always use the old Patrick Roy line, maybe the greatest verbal shot in sports history, even better than Hollywood Henderson saying Terry Bradshaw couldn't spell "cat" if you spotted him the c and the a. "I can't hear Peyton talk because of the Super Bowl rings in my ears." Even though Peyton had a pretty good line after the game about Brady probably taking the record back next year.

Another thing about the Pitt Panthers. That's not Tony Dorsett or Hugh Green, but Aaron Donald is a bad, bad, bad man, and they've got a couple of very, very good receivers.

December 23, 2013 at 1:04 p.m.
jomo11 said...

I think Manning's problems in December and Jan. have hurt his rep. He needs to win a Super Bowl again. Some consider Manning just a "Stat" guy, a better version of Fouts and Marino, but not Brady and Montana . . . .I know its unfair because TEAMS win Super Bowls, not just QB's but thats the way fans view it.

December 23, 2013 at 2:52 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Just read Joe Drape's story on Army football on I want to say he once covered the Braves for the AJC. Then I see a story on boxer Jermain Taylor, bylined to Josh Katzowitz. There's one for the files, 5.

And it appears Army has found its man in Jeff Monken. The superintendent of West Point is a pretty impressive dude. So I think that deal is going to get done forthwith.

December 23, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Jay, please, whatever you do, do not include "Love Actually" in your Christmas movie bracket. I actually saw this film described as a "modern holiday classic" recently. If you are like me and got roped into watching this romantic comedy/swift kick to the sack that is this movie by a female companion...You will understand my loathing for this movie.

Perhaps I am missing something, but I do not sense much hatred for Peyton Manning. People criticize his post-season productivity and argue that perhaps he is overrated. However, it seems to me most people generally like Peyton. Tom Brady on the other hand...Wow, some folks really hate that guy. To read some of the diatribes against Brady on the interwebs one might think Hitler or Pol Pot was the signal caller for the Pats.

The thing that impressed me most during the past weekend's early bowl season games was the fan support shown by Ragin' Cajun backers at the Superdome. The UL-Lafayette fans filled the dome and had home field advantage against Tulane on the Green Wave's home turf. And if you have never tailgated with a bunch of Cajuns, go ahead and add that to your list of things to do. Those folks do it right.

A tip of the hat to MT. Every season goes better with a Chuck Berry barnstormer on the playlist.

Well, I'm out of here for a bit. Hope you all have a great Christmas and may 2014 do right by you. And don't eat the yellow snow.

December 23, 2013 at 4:13 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Frank Zappa. Yes. Yes. Yes.

GD, it's not far from Lafayette to New Orleans anyway - not that all ULL fans and alums live in or near Lafayette. That bothers me when dimwit announce crews say Georgia fans make the drive from Athens to fill in the blank road game or Tech fans make the drive from Atlanta, etc. - and ULL's enrollment is about 16,000 and change. Tulane's enrollment is a little over 13,000.

December 23, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
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