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2011 NFL Week 13 Primer

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees take the ball up the middle for 8 yards and a touchdown during second half action against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome November 28, 2011. UPI/A.J. Sisco

Eagles @ Seahawks, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
Philadelphia is just the latest example of what usually happens to everyone’s preseason chic pick. Granted, there’s still time for the Eagles to turn things around and if they win out, there’s a chance they could sneak in the back door of the postseason. But I’m not so sure they’ll even win tonight against the Seahawks. Although they lost to Washington last Sunday, Seattle is usually tough to beat at home and the Eagles have been sleepwalking all year. That’s a very undisciplined, unfocused team that Andy Reid is running these days.

Raiders @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Just when positive things start to happen in Miami, Brandon Marshall finds himself in handcuffs. Apparently police in Broward County, Florida briefly detained the receiver after he was accused of fleeing a $142 cab fee around 5:00AM on November 14. The rest of the details are fantastic. The cab driver said that Marshall “didn’t know where he wanted to go” and “When I woke him up and told him he had to pay, he said he wasn’t and started arguing for me to take him home.” Get this, Marshall blamed the “misunderstanding” on the cab driver’s “accent,” although it sounds as if he wouldn’t have understood anyone given the condition he was in. How good of shape are you when you’re falling asleep in the back of cabs at 5:00AM?

Broncos @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Von Miller underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his thumb and may not play on Sunday for the Broncos. That’s bad news for a Denver team that has had to rely on its defense and the one-quarter of magic from Tim Tebow every week. Miller is a runaway candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and if he can’t go, the Broncos defense will be down one of its biggest playmakers (if not the biggest playmaker). Of course, if Adrian Peterson doesn’t suit up for Minnesota then Denver only really has to worry about Percy Harvin.

Falcons @ Texans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Don’t be surprised if T.J. Yates surprises this Sunday. First and foremost, he played in a pro-style offense under John Shoop and Butch Davis at North Carolina and Atlanta will be down two of its top three corners (Brent Grimes and Kelvin Hayden). Christopher Owens, who will start for Grimes (knee), was the poor lad that was repeatedly torched by Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Divisional Round last January and Dominique Franks (who will start at nickel in place of Hayden), has received very little PT the past two years.

Titans @ Bills, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
While I think the Texans can survive thanks to their running game and defense, this is the time for the Titans to take the governor off and amp things up. Tennessee has a legitimate shot of catching Houston in the AFC South because of T.J. Yates’ inexperience. But the Titans need to win, including this weekend against a struggling Buffalo team. The Bills are without Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick is reeling right now. Tennessee has to take advantage.

Bengals @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s put up or shut up time for the Bengals this weekend in Pittsburgh. If they can’t prove that they can beat the Steelers, then nobody is going to consider them legit contenders. On the flip side, if Andy Dalton and Co. pull off the upset then Cincinnati will very much remain in the thick of things in the AFC North. This game could provide a very clear picture of how the rest of the season will play out for the Bengals.

Panthers @ Bucs, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
What a complete role reversal for Tampa Bay. While the Saints and on a smaller scale, the Falcons, improved their rosters this offseason, the Bucs rested on their laurels outside of signing a punter (Michael Koenen). The Tampa front office, which has always been cheap anyway, figured it didn’t need to make any upgrades after the team won 10 games last year and now the Bucs are paying for it. They’re clearly overmatched and lack playmakers to compete with New Orleans and Atlanta in the division. If they lose at home to the upstart Panthers this Sunday, it’ll officially be the lowest point of the season for the Bucs.

Colts @ Patriots, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
There’s really not any point in breaking this game down, right? I mean, not even a little bit. The Colts haven’t played well all season and while a quarterback change may bring a little optimism to Indy’s locker room, the switch is Curtis Painter for Dan Orlovsky. That’s only about a droplet of optimism right there.

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NFL Week 15 COY power rankings

December is when coaches lose jobs or gain big contract extensions for winning big games. And it’s crunch time for coach of the year hype…..

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots—Sure, the Pats were exposed against Green Bay. But like usual, the Hoodie’s teams find a way to win.

2. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles—He almost dropped five spots for not throwing that challenge flag on an obvious reversal, but he’s still here for two reasons—his teams know how to win, and he had the balls to name Mike Vick as his starting QB.

3. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons—No reason to move Mikey from the 3-spot after disposing of the Seahawks in hostile Seattle.

4. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs—Now the Chargers are breathing down his neck; but hey, he probably feels good that Josh McDaniels is watching games from his couch now.

5. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears—Did anyone think the Bears could score 40 points against the Vikings on a frigid December night? Lovie’s defense and Mike Martz’ offense continue to gel and look scary.

6. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams—Yes, they are 6-8 and might win a division. But the fact remains the Rams have equaled their win total from the past three seasons combined, and Spags told his team they can win the Super Bowl if they reach the playoffs. Ridiculous, but true.

7. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Bucs—Still hanging on to a possible playoff berth, but either way, a huge turnaround in 2010.

8. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars—Gambled and lost in Indy, but still tied for first in the AFC South.

9. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers/John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens—Two hard-hitting teams are two of the best teams in the NFL

10. Rex Ryan, New York Jets—Backs up against the wall? No problem for this brash leader, whose team did what few teams do—win in Pittsburgh in December.

NFL Week 14 COY power rankings

Getting down to the wire, like when talking heads on NFL Network, etc. actually start pontificating about what we’ve been writing all season…..

1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots—Now we’ve seen everything. Running the score up against the Bears during a Chicago blizzard, while holding them to one special teams TD? Did this team actually lose to the Browns a month ago?

2. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles—Won a critical division game in Dallas, and the Eagles can make a statement against the Giants Sunday. What happens may determine if Reid stays right here or drops a few notches, but he’s still brilliant for how he handled the whole QB situation this year.

3. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons—He’s running a well-oiled machine, but that doesn’t happen by accident.

4. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams—Nobody is complaining that his Rams lost to the Saints, but they my get a rematch, in St. Louis, in the playoffs.

5. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs—Now the Chargers are breathing down his neck; but hey, he probably feels good that Josh McDaniels is watching games from his couch now.

6. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants—From the hot seat to the cold seat to the warm seat and back to the cold seat. And now the Giants have shot to take over the NFC East, while at times conjuring up visions of the 2007 team that won it all.

7. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars—Winning the AFC South when many thought they’d finish last could turn out to be a top storyline this year. But there are still three games left, including a big one this Sunday in Indy.

8. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers—What a great season this has turned out to be for the Steelers, and look no further than the guy in charge for much of that.

9. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Bucs—No matter how they finish, the Bucs have well exceeded expectations this season.

10. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears—Big hiccup at home against New England, and now they get to play OUTDOORS on Monday night in Minneapolis. Yikes.

Honorable mention: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints—Did you know the Saints were 10-3? Neither did anyone else, but Mike Smith has reason to worry.

NFL Week 13 COY power rankings

Four weeks to go….who will stay on this list and who will drop off. Also, who will be the first coach to get fired? Maybe that’s for another list. For now, here are the best coaches/biggest surprises for 2010 thus far….

1. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs—A two-game lead on the Chargers is nice when you face them in December. Let’s see where this dude sits next week.

2. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams—6-6 looks much better than 5-6, doesn’t it? At least it makes the Packers (8-4) and Bucs (7-5) feel better that they’re currently out of the playoffs based on standings.

3. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles—A tough schedule to finish, but that has never scared Big Andy before, and it shouldn’t when Michael Vick is at the helm.

4. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots—If you put up 39 points on the Steelers and 45 on the Jets, you’re doing something right.

5. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons—The best record in the NFL should be good for something

6. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears—9-3, and everyone is STILL waiting for the other shoe to drop.

7. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers—Let’s not forget the current AFC North leaders started the first quarter of the season without Big Ben

8. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants—Since being on the hot seat, Coughlin’s Giants have gone 7-2 and have won the last two games despite not having Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and more than half of their starting O-line.

9. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars—Still in the lead for the AFC South in a year when most expected him to be fired

10. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Bucs—Much improved despite having trouble beating some of the better teams

Honorable mention: Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders—Bonus points for beating the Chargers so soundly in San Diego last Sunday

NFL Week 11.1 COY power rankings

Are the Bucs for real? Who knows, but their coach sure is.

1. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Bucs—Despite how well the Falcons and Saints are playing, the Bucs are making a case for three teams to come out of the NFC South for the playoffs.

2. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs—If he can hold off the Chargers, he’ll stay here. But that’s a big IF.

3. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles—Raise your hand if you picked the Eagles to win the NFC East. That’s what I thought.

4. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams—One game out of first, and it’s almost December. Yeah, the NFC West is kind of a joke, but still.

5. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons—The current top seed in the NFC. I wonder what Bobby Petrino is doing these days.

6. (tie) Bill Belichick, New England Patriots and Rex Ryan, New York Jets—The mad scientist is probably watching film of the Jets all holiday weekend to get a jump; but don’t think Rex isn’t doing the same.

7. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears—He’ll stay here if his team beats Green Bay again (January 2 at Lambeau).

8. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars—They’re what? Leading the AFC South after Week 11?

9. Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders—Hard to believe this guy was so close to losing his job a year ago, and look at him now.

10. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers—Things were bleak in Pittsburgh after a crappy end to 2009 and not having Big Ben for four games to start 2010. But now they are 7-3 and one of the better teams in the AFC.

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