Mullins: A Clown Who’s Desperate For A Crown

Written by Tom Mullins. NBA Columnist for TRST and Founder/Editor of HoopHuddle.com @HoopHuddle

Everyone expected the Dwight Howard circus to roll into Los Angeles when he was traded, though most didn’t predict the infamous Dwightmare to also hitch a ride.

As we all know the Lakers have been struggling for wins in the early part of the season, and of course someone has to be blamed. Mike Brown has come and gone, with the scrutiny now directed at their players such as Dwight and Pau. Not only is his free throw percentage poor, but it’s obvious that he hasn’t completely recovered from the back injury which saw the three-time Defensive Player of the Year miss the end of last season and the London Olympics.

The absurd comparisons to Jordan’s Bulls once the new LA team was formed this past offseason aren’t even being mentioned now. Howard thought teaming up with a pair of MVPs would finally get him the ring he desperately wants, at this point that championship looks like a distant dream. Sure Nash still has to return, though the defense is the real problem. Things aren’t going to drastically improve once their 38-year old point guard returns, who’s only played a handful of games.

With Dwight Howard becoming a free agent this offseason, it’s quite possible that Superman could be flying out of Hollywood. There’s a slim chance that he’ll stay a Laker if success doesn’t come in his first season in the purple and gold.  He recently said the following in relation to a championship, “So if I have to play on another team or do whatever I have to do to get one, that’s my goal. This is my passion, so I’ll continue to fight.”

His selfish behavior in past months is still present, with Howard not willing to take responsibility for the team’s problems on the court. Dwight needs to grow up before it impacts his legacy even more, as he’s possibly become the most hated player in the league.

Loyalty doesn’t exist anymore in sport. If Howard wants to leave, he’ll leave. If he wants to be the number one guy like he was in Orlando, LA isn’t where he’ll stay. Kobe Bryant being the competitor he is, will probably play for several more seasons with the way his body’s holding up. We might see LeBron in a Lakers jersey longer than Dwight, scary I know.

Teams will be lining up to sign him to huge contracts come next year and don’t be shocked if he decides to leave. Imagine a Dwight Howard-James Harden duo. Wherever he ends up, I just can’t see him being a long-term Laker. It might be a replica of Shaq’s career, where he moves from the Magic to LA and bounces around numerous teams to end his career.

Tonight the Kobe and company travel to Oklahoma City to square off with Durant’s Thunder, in what could be a season defining game for Dwight Howard. The national media’s waiting for more problems to arise in Lakerland and changes could be imminent. If the Lakers fail to come together and win consistent games going into the New Year, not only will it impact this season’s outcome, but also the future of the Lakers as Howard could be on his way out the door.

Vols go with Cincy’s Jones as new Head Football Coach

Hosted by Tim Kelly-Host,Owner, and Founder of The Real Sports Talk

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Tennessee has struggled to replace Phillip Fulmer. First they went with Lane Kiffin. Kiffin talked a big game, and appeared to have Tennessee headed in the right direction, before bolting fo the USC job after just one season. Tennessee then went with Derek Dooley, who struggled to put together a winning formula in the SEC, and was fired after finishing off his third season with a record of 15-21.

The Vols hope that the third time is the charm in replacing Fulmer, as they are set to announce today that Butch Jones of Cincinnati will take over as their next head coach. Jones, will reportedly sign a 6-year contract, with the monetary value not yet disclosed.

Jones, who spent three years as Cincy’s head coach, went 23-14 after replacing Brian Kelly as Head coach in 2010.

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Is Kobe Bryant a Top 5 player in NBA History?- Youngest to reach 30,00 pts in NBA history.

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Ricky Nolasco not avaliable according to Marlins

By Tim Kelly-Host,Owner, and Founder of The Real Sports Talk

Follow Tim on Twitter @KashKelly_TRST

Despite rumors that Ricky Nolasco wanted out of Miami, the Marlins do not seem likely to move the veteran right-hander. This is according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.

Nolasco, due nearly 11 million in 2013, seemed like a piece the Marlins would be chomping at the bit to trade.  First off, he is coming off of a year in which he posted a 4.48 ERA. He hasn’t exactly earned 11 million. Secondly, the Marlins tend to move on from players who make that type of money, even if they do earn it.

That being said the Marlins still do have to try to sell tickets, and keep other players such as Giancarlo Stanton relatively content, although it may be too late at this point. Keeping Nolasco is likely a move to try too accomplish both of the goals above.

Nolasco, 29, joined Ginacarlo Stanton in voicing his frustrations after the Marlins dealt Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, and a few others, to the Toronto Blue Jays last month. Nolasco likely wants to join a contender as he enters the prime of his career, but it appears he will have to wait until the trade deadline at the earliest to be moved.

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Monday Morning Realist Week 13

By: Akiem Bailum

Twitter: @Li495Akiem

Greg Who?

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There’s no doubt about the fact that the New York Jets’ quarterback controversy at this point is basically a manufactured creation of the ESPN spin machine in Bristol. Mark Sanchez isn’t a good quarterback and neither is Tim Tebow. So many simply want to start Tebow because of what he did last year with Denver and the fact that he won two championships (only one as a starter) at the University of Florida.

That’s all fine and good, but as we all know, success in the NFL doesn’t always translate to success at the next level. You can ask a lot of USC quarterbacks about that.

There would be no Tebow sightings in East Rutherford on Sunday given that he was injured, so who had to play the role for backup of Mark Sanchez?

Greg McElroy? Greg McElroy? The name sounds more like something that’s associated with a New York or New Jersey State Senator rather than an NFL QB. But Greg McElroy was taking snaps vs. the 4-7 Arizona Cardinals.

The Jets were 4-7 themselves coming into this game and virtually have lost any shot at making the postseason a long time ago. The Cards have lost seven consecutive matchups after starting the season on a promising 4-0 note before the injury to Kevin Kolb.

If you are the kind of fan that loves defense and low scoring games, then this was your game. By halftime, the score would be 3-0 Arizona. Or, should I use the old baseball cliché where the score was actually 3-0 Diamondbacks leading the Mets heading into the Bottom of the 5th inning?

Regardless, though, New York did get another impressive performance from Shonn Greene. He looked like the lone standout on offense for either team with 24 carries on 104 yards. Those 104 yards were more than the yards any of the QBs had.

For the Cardinals’ Ryan Lindley—10/31, 72 yards, one interception, and 2 sacks. For Sanchez—10/21 for 97 yards, 3 interceptions and 3 sacks. Two of those interceptions came from Kerry Rhodes. If the Arizona Cardinals’ defense was combined with a competent offense (think New England or Denver) you would probably have your Super Bowl team right there.

Then, behind for most of the game and not scoring any points in the game, McElroy comes in and throws the game winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter with a 29 yard pass to Jeff Cumberland. Gang Green wins 7-6.

Apparently, the two teams forgot the memo that collegiate football teams play on Saturday and not Sunday. Also, that one touchdown pass from McElroy will be enough to send Gotham’s tabloid press into a frenzy. Cue the stories of there now being a three-way QB “controversy” for the Jets when there may not be one at all.

In Week 14, 4-8 Arizona travels to Seattle to play the Seahawks who currently would be the sixth seed in the NFC if the playoffs began today. The 5-7 Jets will face the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Stay At Dome

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The Minnesota Vikings need to find a way to reschedule their last four games to be played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome this year. Their 6-5 record coming into their game in Lambeau Field vs. the division rival Green Bay Packers was mainly due to a 5-1 showing in the 2012 season at home. They were an atrocious 1-4 on the road.

Meanwhile, Green Bay was coming off a game on Sunday Night Football vs. the New York Giants in which they got embarrassed—and a little bit exposed. They lost 38-10 to the G-Men and let Eli Manning throw 3 touchdowns. This was coming when the Pack were shorthanded on both sides of the ball. No Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, or Greg Jennings.

Jennings did return, but still, no Shields, Matthews or Woodson vs. the Purple People-Eaters.

Adrian Peterson knows a thing or two about injuries since he’s coming back from one—and doing so in authoritative fashion. He had 21 carries for 201 yards including an 82 yard run for a touchdown that, at one point, had Minnesota ahead 14-10. The Vikes could’ve extended out that lead before Christian Ponder threw one of his two interceptions while in the red zone.

Such a team is beginning to remind me of the old San Diego Chargers teams from the mid-2000s when it was clear that they were winning football games on the back of LaDainian Tomlinson and not Philip Rivers. Also, given this season and the average career length of NFL runningbacks, it’s time to start mentioning Adrian Peterson as a future Hall of Famer. For this season alone, he may wind up with 1900+ yards. Any football writer who doesn’t vote for either him or Peyton Manning as Comeback Player of the Year should either have their credentials stripped from them or should be drug tested. Both are probably the favorites for the MVP award as well.

As for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers was 27/35 for 286 yards, threw for 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Also, this has been a much maligned season for kicker Mason Crosby, but he did convert 3 of 4 field goals on the day.

The Vikings are now a 6-6 and football team and they are 1-5 on the road. That statistic shouldn’t make anyone who bleeds the pigskin version of purple and gold optimistic even if they are able to sneak into the playoffs past the Buccaneers, Seahawks, and Bears. This looks less likely after this week. Also, not utilizing Adrian Peterson in the red zone? Who was calling those plays for the Vikings? Their mascot?

They will stay in the division and will return to their “Dome Sweet Dome” in the Twin Cities to play the Chicago Bears. As for the 8-4 Packers, they’ll be on NBC’s Sunday Night Football next week against the Detroit Lions.

WTL…What the Luck?

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Between the diagnosis of leukemia for head coach Chuck Pagano and the seemingly overnight sensation that Indianapolis Colts’ rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has become, it has made for one of the most intriguing stories this NFL season. Heading into their game with the Detroit Lions at Motown’s Ford Field, they were 7-4 on the season. This was a position that no one (myself included) thought they would be in after coming off a 2-14 with Peyton Manning injured. Also, we all know that he only went 3-13 in his rookie year for Indy.

Detroit is coming off a heartbreaker of a home loss to the Houston Texans who at the time were playing 2 overtime games in less than a week. But, they did make fans in Houston think about their own team’s defense which for 9 weeks looked like the best in the league.

They’d be on display again in a huge fashion. Matthew Stafford went 27/46, threw for 313 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. And they call Calvin Johnson “Megatron” for a reason. He caught 13 passes for 171 yards and 1 touchdown. There’s a reason he was targeted almost half of the time when Stafford was looking for a receiver to throw to.

Late in the fourth quarter, it looked academic. The Lions would pull off the upset of the AFC South’s Colts—something they were unable to do vs. the AFC South’s Texans. They led by a score of 33-21 going into the game’s final minutes and Luck was playing a game that was shifting the rookie of the year pendulum back in the direction of Robert Griffin III.

Then with 2:39 left in the game, he threw two of his touchdown passes. The first was to Lavon Brazil for 42 yards. The last one that one the game went to Donnie Avery for 14 yards as the Colts took only their second lead of the game—the one that mattered ultimately in the end. The Colts won 35-33.

For the game, Andrew Luck threw for 24/54 for 391 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. T.Y. Hilton would be the leading receiver with 6 receptions for 100 yards. Avery caught two touchdown passes on 5 catches and 91 receiving yards. The Colts pulled out another one just as they did earlier in the year vs. the Packers at Lucas Oil Stadium. That game, of course, was their first game after the organization heard the heartwrenching news that Chuck Pagano had leukemia.

Now they’re 8-4 and sitting pretty in a weak AFC in terms of their playoff chances as a Wild Card. Also, they’re the 5th seed right now if the playoffs began today. Guess who they’d face at this point in the first round of the playoffs?

Peyton Manning’s Broncos.

Your head is in the ground if you don’t think the media is pulling for the seedings to stay exactly as they are right now. Peyton Manning vs. his former team and the quarterback he was supposed to be mentor for. There’s an easy storyline right there.

Indy will go back home to play the Tennessee Titans. The 4-8 Lions head to Lambeau to the play the Packers on Sunday Night Football.

The Jovan Belcher Tragedy

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Ok, it’s certainly fun at this point to look at the playoff races. I’m now doing a “If the Playoffs Started Today” section for Monday Morning Realist that I have temporarily shelved for this week’s column. There were plenty of other interesting games this week. The Steelers got a huge win over the Baltimore Ravens that kept their playoff chances alive. They’re now 7-5. Cincinnati Bengals are now also at 7-5 after defeating the San Diego Chargers in San Diego.

Even the Kansas City Chiefs won their game this week 27-21 over the Carolina Panthers.

Of course, though, that football victory was nothing compared to the personal loss the Chiefs organization went through on Saturday.

Early Saturday, news broke that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher had taken the life of not only his 22 year old girlfriend, Kassandra Perkins, but also himself as well. This didn’t happen in the home or abode of Jovan Belcher, it occurred in the Chiefs training facility. Also, it happened right in front of general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel.

The saddest thing to come out of what happened on Saturday morning was that a 3-month old little baby is now without a mother and a father. On behalf of everyone at The Real Sports Talk, I’d like to send out condolences to the families affected by these tragic losses as well as to the Chiefs’ organization.

It still pains me to know two things. Number one, CBS led off The NFL Today with a conversation about the playoff picture heading into Week 13 instead of leading with the Belcher tragedy. Also, the NFL still didn’t consider either canceling or even rescheduling the game for a later date.

The rest of the Chiefs players and coaches knew Belcher, if they knew about the personal issues he was going through, that’s for them to say and not us to speculate. Regardless of that, they were friends of his even though he committed two heinous acts that morning. I’m sure those players and coaches are now wishing they could’ve possibly done more to persuade Belcher not to have it come to this.

I’m a sports fan. We all are sports fans. Having that affiliation as a fan with a team and going through that team’s ups and downs is a tradition as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. But even with all of that being true, there are moments like these when we realize that these are human beings just like the rest of us.

They may be stronger, faster, and spend more time in the weight room than a lot of us, but they’re still humans with all of the issues that humans have to go through and many of those could be personal.

Prior to the game, a moment of silence was held at Arrowhead Stadium to bring awareness to the crime that is domestic violence. Belcher’s name was not mentioned during any of the pre-game proceedings, nor should it have been. Belcher took, what he probably felt, was the easy way out instead of using better methods to work through the issues he was having with his girlfriend so they can reconcile. Even if he didn’t want to do it for himself, or even Kassandra Perkins’ or Kassandra Perkins’ family, then he should have done it for his 3 month old baby.

Even in a week of football where we are four weeks shy of the postseason beginning, this week of football was rendered meaningless because of this atrocity that took place in Kansas City, MO/KS. The Chiefs’ 27-21 victory over Carolina was, arguably, the most emotional for a team this year (there’s also a case for Indy’s over Green Bay after the Pagano news). The Kansas City Chiefs have announced plans for the creation of a fund to support Zoey, the 3 month old daughter of the late Kassandra Perkins.

And after the game, Brady Quinn said this:

“The one thing people can hopefully take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people. I know when it happened I was sitting and in my head, thinking, what could I have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?

“We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half of the time we are more preoccupied and other things going on instead of the actual relationships we have right in front of us.”

“Hopefully people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”

Well said, Brady Quinn. Well said.

National Domestic Violence Hotline—1-800-799-SAFE(7233), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY), thehotline.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-TALK (8255), 1-800-799-4889 (TTY), suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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Sanchez benched for McElroy(Tebow time?), Chiefs win after Belcher incident, Luck leads comeback

Hosted by Tim Kelly-Host,Owner, and Founder of The Real Sports Talk

Follow Tim on Twitter @KashKelly_TRST

Missed any of the NFL Week 13 action? No issue, Tim Kelly of therealsportstalk.com has you covered!

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NFL Week 13 Predictions including Saints/Falcons, Vikings/Packers, Steelers/Ravens

Hosted by Akiem Bailum, host of TRST’s “10 Minutes on the Clock”

Twitter: @Li495Akiem

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Mullins: LeBron’s Dominance, In A League Of His Own

Written by Tom Mullins, TRST NBA Columnist @TMSports

Over the past few seasons LeBron James has been not only the best player in the NBA, but the best player in the world. If you can’t see this you’re either an excessive Kobe fan, a bitter Cavs supporter (yes they still exist) or Skip Bayless himself.

In the opening month of the season, James has continued his dominance, playing at an extremely high level and putting up incredible numbers, which are better in most categories than last season’s when he won his third MVP award. Averaging 25.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game through the first thirteen games. Also shooting 53% from the field and down on turnovers from last season, leading the Heat to a 10-3 record.

Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest of the “elite group” are obviously outstanding players in their own right, each with unique and effective skills, mentioning them with LeBron James though?

That’s a mistake.

Of course the media’s going to do it, you can’t blame them for doing their job. Sure these guys are comparable with statistics and possess similar qualities, but the pure dominance and control LeBron can have on a game, that’s second to none. No player in the NBA today will ever be as good as LeBron James is right now, not even the highly rated Kevin Durant, who could quite possibly go down as one of the best scorers in NBA history. Statistics are definitely a key part of comparing players and determining who’s the “best”, as seen with LeBron’s incredible numbers, although the average person won’t use anything besides stats and achievements, which is a flaw in today’s sports fans.

To form an accurate viewpoint when analyzing a player or team is as simple as watching their games and having a non-bias attitude towards them. On most occasions statistics only show one side of the story. Sitting down and witnessing what LeBron James can do in the space of 48 minutes, proves that he’s superior to every other basketball player on Earth.

After winning his first championship last season, the recognition and respect that LeBron deserves, began to head his way. The media’s excessive coverage and scrutiny of the Heat’s superstar has started to die down, though it’s still seen frequently today. Unfortunately to be become one of the greatest in the eyes of most hoops fans, LeBron James will need to live up to the hype when he arrived in South Beach, and win multiple titles. Even if LeBron and the Heat are unsuccessful in doing so, there’s no doubt that he’s already a legend and deserves to be mentioned amongst the all-time greats.

Just not quite MJ yet.

Eagles release Jason Babin, DeSean Jackson out for the year, why does Andy have a job?

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Monday Morning Realist Week 12

By Akiem Bailum, host of TRST’s “10 Minutes on the Clock”

Twitter: @Li495Akiem

Getting the L Train Back on the Right Track With a W

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In Week 11, the Minnesota Vikings were on their bye week. Meanwhile the Chicago Bears witnessed a weakness of their team when they were dominated on the road by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. It, of course, got so bad that it created a quarterback controversy for the Niners—an organization that knows something about QB controversies.

Jason Campbell clearly wasn’t the answer to the Bears’ offensive problems and showed why he is a backup to Jay Cutler. It’s rare when a team starts mentioning how much they miss Cutler, but that’s the complex the Bears are in.

Historically, the Bears haven’t been good when it comes to QB play and Cutler may not be as much of a franchise QB as either Manning brother, Brady, Brees, or Rodgers. But it was clear that having Jay Cutler under center for the Bears would be a boost as they continue to press forward on a push to the postseason.

Prior to Chicago’s home matchup vs. their arch division rival Vikings, late word started to lead out to the press that Cutler was making significant progress in his recovery from the concussion injury he sustained on a Sunday Night Football loss to the Houston Texans. That progress became enough that he was cleared to start for the Bears in that game.

Cutler only went 23/31 for 188 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception—not uncommon numbers for Jay Cutler. But the Chicago Bears maintained possession for almost 40 out of the game’s 60 minutes. They also did better than the Vikings in converting on third downs. Chicago converted on 11 out of 19 while Minnesota only mustered 6 out of 16.

For the Bears, runningback Michael Bush would only rush for 60 yards on 21 carries, but scored 2 touchdowns. Brandon Marshall nearly had a 100 yard day as he caught 12 passes for 92 yards.

For the Vikings, of course Adrian Peterson would carry the load. He carried the rock 18 times for 108 yards despite the Vikes only possessing the ball for less than 23 minutes. Christian Ponder went 22/43 for 159 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.

The 28-10 victory for the Chicago Bears sends them to 8-3 while the Vikings fall to 6-5, making the wild card situation much more interesting in the NFC with only 5 weeks left before the playoffs start. Next up for the Monsters of the Midway will be another home game—vs. the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks. The “Purple People Eaters” shall remain in the division as they travel to Lambeau Field to face off against the Green Bay Packers.

Steel Curtain Replaced By a Steel Deli

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The Bears and Steelers could relate to each other the past couple of weeks. Both teams have seen their quarterbacks sidelined and both teams know clearly what their offenses look like without them. While the Bears got their starter back off the shelf this week, the Steelers will have to wait a little while longer.

And the sight may not get any prettier for fans of the black and gold.

With both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich out due to injuries, Pittsburgh would have to turn to veteran QB Charlie Batch to go under center for the Steelers this week. Their opponent would be the division rival Browns in Cleveland. Even with a 3rd-string QB, they couldn’t possibly lose to the Browns, right?

Right…?

Precisely…wrong. In fact, it would get worse for the Steelers than it was against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football and Baltimore is what Cleveland isn’t—a playoff bound team.

As the old saying goes, there’s a reason why Charlie Batch is a 3rd-string quarterback. He would only manage 199 yards going 20/34 with zero touchdown passes and 3 interceptions. Surprisingly, he’d only be sacked once.

But, those 3 interceptions would be 3 of 8 turnovers the Steelers committed in this game. Among them—all four Steeler runningbacks (Chris Rainey, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, and Isaac Redmond) would commit one fumble each.

The only other score for Pittsburgh would come via a Lawrence Timmons interception return that was returned 53 yards.

Brandon Weeden was a little bit better for the Cleveland Browns. He went 17/26 for 158 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. They’d also get an 85 yard performance from Trent Richardson who had those on 29 carries.

Plaxico Burress also made a much ballyhooed-return to the Steelers on this day. He’d be targeted twice and wouldn’t catch a pass.

It was a great defensive day for the Browns and the Steelers have seen (once again) what their offense looks like without Big Ben under center. I think they miss him…bad.

The Steelers are 6-5 and will play the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, just two weeks after the two rivals matched up in the ‘Burgh @ Heinz Field in Week 13. The 3-8 Browns shall play the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Ten….Ten Wins

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The Houston Texans were the first team to reach double digits in victories for the 2012-2013 NFL season with their overtime win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. On the Sunday after Turkey Day, the Atlanta Falcons had the opportunity to join them by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

Last week, the Falcons played arguably their worst game of the season vs. the Arizona Cardinals at their Georgia Dome, and probably only got away with a win solely because they were playing the Arizona Cardinals and not a team with a real offense. They still managed to win, but other teams may have been given a blueprint as to how to beat them in the future.

Meanwhile, the Bucs were coming into this matchup as the hottest team in the NFL by winning their last five straight. Doug Martin (now nicknamed “Martin ScoresEasy” by plenty in the sporting press) is right up there with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the top candidates for rookie of the year.

In this one, Martin would be responsible for both Tampa Bay touchdowns, but carried the ball 20 times for just 50 yards. That means the Falcons (whose defense seems to be improving) has done what they have been unable to do for many of their games this season—prevent the other team from having huge days on the ground vs. them. Josh Freeman would throw for 19/30, 256 yards, with zero touchdowns or interceptions. 5 of those passes would be caught by Vincent Jackson for 97 yards.

Not that Atlanta’s rushing attack was much better. Jacquizz Rodgers had 10 carries for 49 yards, and the Falcons have been using him more than they have been using veteran RB, Michael Turner. Turner averaged just over 1 yard a carry—13 of them for 17 yards. Matt Ryan’s line would be 26/32 for 353 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 pick (Ronde Barber). It’d also prove to be another big day for Julio Jones—6 catches for 147 yards and the recipient of Matty Ice’s lone TD pass.

Late in the game, the Bucs played conservative (in my opinion) and tried to hit a 56 yard field goal that was out of Connor Barth’s range. Instead of going for it on 4th down, they tried to kick a field goal with the score at 24-23. On the next Falcons possession, they tricked the Bucs by throwing it once to Roddy White on 3rd down when most teams simply play it safe with run plays. The pass was caught and the game was over at that moment. Freeman’s hail mary pass on his last possession would be unsuccessful.

A five-game winning streak has been snapped for the 6-5 Bucs as they travel to play the Broncos next week in Denver. The 10-1 Falcons will go home to play the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football.

Speaking of Which…

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The Saints have looked like another one of the hot teams as of late. After starting 0-4, they came into their home game vs. the San Francisco 49ers with an extremely high amount of momentum. They’ve gone from 0-4 to 5-5 and thanks to Drew Brees and head coach Joe Vitt, more fans in the Gulf South have more confidence when they associate their team with the “p” word.

Jim Mora would know.

Meanwhile after an impressive performance vs. the Bears on Monday Night Football, it propelled Colin Kaepernick to immediately assume the position of starting quarterback for the Niners. The thinking perhaps was that coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to see what Kaepernick could do vs. a good offense after carving up a great defense last week.

Kaepernick didn’t disappoint. He’s very mobile and seemed to find unorthodox ways to make a lot of passes, but he made them and that’s all that mattered. He would rush for San Francisco’s first touchdown of the game that put them up 7-0.

It may not have been what he did vs. Chicago, but he still threw for 16/25 for 231 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. They’d also get good performances from runningback Frank Gore (19 carries for 83 yards), and wideouts Delanie Walker (3 receptions for 81 yards) and Mario Manningham (5 catches for 69 yards).

San Francisco’s defense also came to play, proving why it is a top-10 defense in this league. For the Saints, Drew Brees went 26/41 for 267 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

The two picks were both pick six’s.

One happened at the end of the 2nd quarter to Virginia’s Ahmad Brooks and the other went to Donte Whitner midway through the 3rd quarter. Brees would also be put under heavy pressure by the Niners’ defensive line—he’d be sacked 5 times. Brooks, Aldon Smith, and Justin Smith would each be credited with 1.5 sacks.

Passing would be equal, but the 49ers also outrushed New Orleans by almost a 3:1 ratio.

It brings the Saints to 5-6 and they shall now travel to Atlanta on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football to play a Falcons team whom they beat earlier this year at the Mercedes Benz Louisiana Superdome.

As for the 49ers, it means another week of speculation that Kaepernick is their quarterback going forward in the future. With Alex Smith at the end of this deal, it may turn out that he could be the biggest loser with all of this. There are plenty of teams that could use a quarterback right now, though. A certain team in New York automatically comes to mind. So does one in Arizona.

It may not be Joe Montana vs. Steve Young, but it certainly feels like the late 80’s once again in the West Bay. Next up for the 8-2-1 49ers—the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

4th and 29 for Baltimore = 4-Finished for San Diego

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Yeah, 4th and 29…but we’ll get into that later.

There’s no doubt that the San Diego Chargers (wearing their powder blues in this game) likely needed to defeat the Baltimore Ravens at home in Qualcomm Stadium to still have any outside shot at the playoffs. The Steelers lost earlier in the day to the Browns, but the Colts, Bengals, and Dolphins (the other 3 teams the Bolts need to somehow leapfrog to earn a Wild Card berth) all won their games in Week 12.

4th and 29! 4th and 29!….it’s coming.

For one half, it did look like the Chargers were playing with a sense of urgency and the Ravens looked lethargic on offense—which means one must give credit to the San Diego defense. Neither offensive line had a great day as Flacco was sacked 5 times while Baltimore got to Philip Rivers on six occasions. Arthur Jones (Ravens) and Antwan Barnes (Chargers) each came up with 2 sacks for their respective teams.

Things would of course change in the 2nd half with San Diego looking slow. Rivers’ day would include 23/36, 238 yards, 1 TD, and 0 interceptions. Ryan Matthews carried the ball 19 times for 72 yards and and Danario Alexander had 5 receptions for 74 yards.

But let’s be honest—4th and 29 was the game, the Chargers’ season, and possibly, the job security of head coach Norv Turner.

Rice’s huge move on 4th and 29 rivals that of his alma mater (Rutgers) to the Big Ten. Part of the beauty of the 4th and 29 play to Rice (which he was credited for 30 yards on) was that it happened on a screen play. Multiple Charger defenders had a chance to get one tackle on him before he got the required 29 yards, but they instead looked like their Kansas City Chiefs circa 2008 who couldn’t tackle worth beans.

The play would be reviewed for about 10 minutes, but it always looked like it would stand. It did and the Ravens took advantage. Justin Tucker would kick the game-tying and game-winning field goals for Baltimore—both from 38 yards.

The Ravens got themselves a huge victory, as the old phrase goes, by “hook or crook”. It brought them to 9-2, still one game behind the Houston Texans for the best record in the AFC. Also with the Steelers losing, they’re now 3 up on both them and Bengals for the AFC North. Lost in the 4th and 29 hoopla was that Torrey Smith also had a huge day and was probably the player of the game (not named Ray Rice) for Baltimore. He’d have 7 catches for 144 yards including his own huge play on a 3rd down in overtime that set up the game winner from Tucker.

As for the San Diego Chargers, they’re 4-7 in a division they can’t win with the Peyton Manning-led Broncos in it. They’re finished. 4th and 29 was a microcosm of their season this year. It was enough of a mental blow to give up the play, and it was an even bigger mental blow to not atone for it by scoring in overtime. They’re not making the postseason this year and Norv Turner may have not had less job security than he does now.

Eat your hearts out, Donovan McNabb and Freddie Mitchell.

In Week 13, Baltimore plays the Steelers at home while San Diego has to find some way to regroup to play another AFC North team at home—the 6-5 Cincinnati Bengals.

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The theme of this week seems to be hot teams in the NFC that got derailed this week. We’ve already seen what has happened to the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Green Bay Packers would also face a similar fate.

With a 7-3 clip coming into their matchup vs. the New York Giants in the East Rutherford Meadowlands, they were winners of five consecutive games dating back to the last time they played on Sunday Night Football. That was when they dominated and frustrated the Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium in Houston.

But, despite winning a five-game winning streak that would give Green Bay control of the NFC North, they would come into their game vs. the G-Men shorthanded on the defensive side of the football. No Charles Woodson and no Clay Matthews. No Greg Jennings on offense added to their scoring difficulties.

It showed, and showed often.

After a 2-yard touchdown run from Andre Brown, the Packers were able to answer with an Aaron Rodgers 61 yarder to Jordy Nelson. That tied the game at 7-7 and it began to look like it would be a shootout at the Meadowlands.

It would be the only touchdown for Green Bay on the day.

The Giants would extend their lead to 24-7 and ultimately to 38-10 in the victory. Rodgers would go 14/25 for 219 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Eli Manning would return after the bye week in impressive fashion. He went 16/30 for 249 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

In addition, the Giants would sack Rodgers 5 times with Mathias Kiwanuka the recipient of two of the hits on Rodgers.

The win gets New York back on the right track at 7-4 and go up on the Cowboys and Redskins in the NFC East by 2 games. Late news broke, though, that somewhat sapped the euphoria of victory for Big Blue. Coach Tom Coughlin had announced in the Giants’ post-game press conference that runningback Andre Brown broke his fibula. He’d finish the game with 13 carries on 64 yards rushing including the 1st quarter touchdown.

The Packers are also now 7-4, but thanks to the Bears beating the Vikings earlier in the day, they’re now back in 2nd place a game behind the Bears. The simple issue with the Packers is that they have to get healthy. In a tough NFC, they can ill afford any losses to anyone else right now. They need to get Clay Matthews, Sam Shields, Greg Jennings, and Charles Woodson healthy for the final push for the postseason or they may be leapfrogged by the Bucs or Vikings. In addition to all of that, 4 of their last 5 games are in their own division—including two vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

If the Playoffs Began Today….

AFC:

Texans 10-1

Ravens 9-2

Patriots 8-3

Broncos 8-3

Colts 7-4 (WC)

Steelers 6-5 (WC)

NFC:

Falcons 10-1

49ers 8-2-1

Bears 8-3

Giants 7-4

Packers 7-4 (WC)

Seahawks 6-5 (WC)

Ironically, the Pack and G-Men would play each other if the playoffs began today. They may see each other this year one more time before the Lombardi Trophy is issued to the Super Bowl winner in February.

That’s for later, though. As for now, both teams now look to Week 13. New York will be on Monday Night Football as they take on RGIII and the Washington Redskins in Landover’s FedEx Field. The Packers will play one of those two games vs. the Vikes also in Week 13. That will be a home game for the Green and Gold at Lambeau Field.

Stay tuned to TRST for the most in NFL coverage, including The NFL Final Score every Sunday!

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