With just the Conference Championship games left this coming weekend, we will finally find out who will be in the College Football Playoff. I doubt there will be much change in the standings when they come out Tuesday night.
#1 Clemson beat arch rival South Carolina, but the game was close and that might have an effect on Clemson staying at #1, but they won’t move out of the top four. The only way they miss out on the playoff is if they lose to North Carolina in the ACC Championship game.
North Carolina was ranked #14 last week but they will move into the top 10 based on their easy win over North Carolina State and the fact some teams in the top 10 lost. A Clemson win and they are in the Playoff, if North Carolina pulls the upset, they might get in based on the fact that they will have won 12 games in a row.
In the SEC, current #2 Alabama is in if they beat Florida in the SEC Championship game. Florida was ranked #12 but they will drop significantly based on their blowout loss to Florida State. If Florida happens to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship game, the SEC might not have a spot in the dance.
The Big Ten Championship game will be between once beaten and current # 5 Michigan State against undefeated and current #4 Iowa. From my vantage point, Michigan State is clearly the better team and they will win the game. Either way, the winner of this game will definitely be in the Playoff. The loser hopes for a top Bowl game.
A couple of weeks ago it looked as if the Big 12 might end up like last year and be on the outside looking in. That changed when Oklahoma home ran the table in very convincing fashion. Oklahoma went into the weekend ranked #3 and then blew out #11 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. That will solidify Oklahoma’s place in the dance and they could even move up to #2 in this week’s standings. Even though the Big 12 does not have a Championship game, Oklahoma has played too well lately to be left out. They deserve to be in the Playoff as much as any team.
The Pac 12 needs some help to get in the Playoff. Stanford will be the favorite in the Championship game versus USC. Stanford already has two losses so that alone could hurt their chances. They would need Alabama and/or Clemson to lose to even be considered. If USC beats Stanford, there is no chance they get in.
After 12 weeks, there is only one undefeated team left in the NFL and that is the Carolina Panthers. If the voting were held today Ron Rivera would be coach of the year and Dave Gettleman would be the GM of the year. Both have done remarkable jobs this season.
Three weeks ago, it looked as if New England was going to be the class of the AFC. With their loss to Denver, that is no longer the case. New England has lost too many front line players, and while they will easily win the AFC East, they may not go as far in the playoffs as we thought. They have had more key injuries than just about any team in the NFL this season.
The winner of the NFC East could very well be below .500 at season’s end. Right now, Washington and the New York Giants are tied at the top with 5-6 records. Philadelphia, as bad as they have looked the last few weeks, are still in it if they can possibly get their game together.
Surprisingly, there are a few teams that are now in wild card contention that we never would have thought would be in the playoff hunt: the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Looking at their future schedules, Chicago has the best chance, but they would have to win at least four of their last five games and more likely all their remaining games. If they won out, they would finish at 10-6. As it stands now, their division and conference record works against them when it comes to tie breakers. Still, it will make for an interesting final month of the NFL season.
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Two of the NFL’s top tight ends were injured Sunday and one is lost for the year. It’s bad enough that Jimmy Graham’s inaugural Seahawks campaign is done; however the injury may affect his 2016 season as well. Although both are season ending and require surgery, patella tendon tear is often worse than even an ACL tear.
Graham collapsed on his right leg in the end zone, but by video, the injury happened on the previous step. With the application of an aircast, many wrongly assumed leg fracture. My worst fear of knee extensor tendon rupture were confirmed postgame by head coach Pete Carroll.
The surgery is the easy part. The rehab is the hard part. Patella tendon repair is not an arthroscopic procedure, rather it is a simple open repair where the tendon is sewn together and often augmented with suture through drill holes in the bone. The kneecap tendon is well over an inch wide and is larger, broader and stronger than the ACL. The open incision and early immobilization required leads to more scar tissue, loss of motion and atrophy. In ACL surgery, an arthroscopic is used and patients are encouraged to move and bear full weight immediately after surgery thus speeding recovery.
The grueling rehab takes a minimum of 6-9 months; however, the struggle to regain explosiveness and full power goes well beyond that.
Giants WR Victor Cruz never made it back from last season’s patella tendon tear, but his recovery was complicated by a calf strain. Patriots LB Jerod Mayo did make it back this year; however, his per game productivity is only a quarter of that pre-injury. Through Week 12, Mayo has 22 combined tackles compared to 53 in only six games last season before his tendon rupture.
The Seahawks tight end hopes to fair better than these two comparisons. Cruz relies on explosiveness, while Graham can use his big body. Offensive players have an advantage as they can dictate and plan their moves, where it is harder for defenders like Mayo who have to react instantaneously.
By all accounts, Graham is a great kid and a hard worker. We all wish him well and hope he can come back strong as the new standard for patellar tendon recovery like Adrian Peterson set the new standard for ACL return.
MMMD 1: Gronk goes down
The Patriots would gladly take Sunday night’s loss if they can get their star tight end back. The video of a ferocious hit to the legs and Rob Gronkowski writhing in pain scared everyone. On further film review, the right foot being off the ground likely saves Gronk from serious injury. My hope/expectation in real time was for contusion/bone bruise or possible mild knee sprain (LCL/PCL) without structural damage. MRI will be obtained this AM.
MMMD 2: Big Ben self-reported concussion
In the aftermath of the Case Keenum controversy, it was refreshing to see Ben Roethlisberger report his head injury symptoms and to have the Steelers act immediately to remove him despite it being a close game late in the fourth quarter. Cynics would say Big Ben only came out after being down by two scores, but Roethlisberger was already being looked at before the Seahawks final touchdown.
The spotter’s job is proving to be a hard one as the medical timeout rule was once again not used here. We cannot be sure when the potential concussion happened, but by video, it was likely on the roughing the passer penalty where Roethlisberger took a hit to the head and stayed down briefly. He played nine more plays in that drive.
No one will be penalized in the Keenum case, but here is the second week in a row a starting QB was not immediately removed for evaluation. The “eye in the sky” and the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC) were put in place specifically for this job. My guess is the league will instruct spotters to be more aggressive in calling medical timeouts going forward.
MMMD 3: Cowboys didn’t do Romo wrong
When something goes wrong, human nature is to look for responsibility. I don’t believe the Dallas medical staff deserves any blame in Tony Romo’s clavicle re-fracture.
Fractures don’t heal like a light switch, more like a gradual sunrise. In order to be as strong as the other side, it would take six months, yet the NFL average return is 6-8 weeks. Romo was re-injured 10 weeks out and I am sure he was informed of increased risk. Unfortunately, as he was sacked, he instinctively rolled onto his vulnerable left side to protect his throwing shoulder.
Romo’s hairline fracture will heal well without surgery. He now will have the full six months to heal as strong as possible. I see no medical issue with his clavicle moving forward for 2016.
MMMD 4: Beastmode has surgery after all
Marshawn Lynch “popped a muscle off his pelvic bone” and had surgery to repair it. Whether it is called sports hernia, athletic pubalgia or core muscle, the anatomy and recovery are the same. Sports hernia is certainly a misnomer since there is no true hernia.
Although injury severity varies, average recovery in the NFL is approximately six weeks. After surgery in Philadelphia this season, Zach Ertz returned at four weeks and Arian Foster took eight weeks. The hope is Lynch can return and be effective for playoffs.
MMMD 5: Quarterback updates
Aaron Rodgers hurt his “funny bone” and it initially looked worse than it was. The injury is neither funny (quite painful) nor is it a bone (ulnar nerve). He holds the outside of his wrist/hand as that is where the pain radiates. The good news is that typically symptoms resolve quickly and Rodgers won’t miss time.
Peyton Manning is in a walking cast for his plantar fasciitis. Even if the cast comes off today, he is unlikely to be ready for Week 13 or 14. These injuries linger.
Russell Wilson needed three liters of intravenous fluids during the game. He woke up with flu-like symptoms but still led the Seahawks to a win.
Andrew Luck has now missed two games with his kidney laceration. This injury is a safety issue and typically the minimum is four weeks, if not more.
Sam Bradford has missed two games with his concussion and shoulder injury. He has been cleared from concussion and his presumed left AC joint sprain is mild. Look for him to be good to go this week.
MMMD 6: Medical potpourri
Carlos Hyde missed his fifth week with a foot stress fracture. Assuming he has a Jones fracture, the procedure carries a 6-8 week recovery. In retrospect, it seems surgery might have been the better move.
Danny Amendola missed this week with what I presume to be a mild PCL sprain, which is a 1-4 week injury. Question is how effective he can be in stopping and changing directions when he first returns.
Geoff Schwartz fractured his ankle and is undoubtedly headed to IR.
Chris Culliver had an unfortunate Thanksgiving Day practice injury. He tore his ACL and will need surgery.
Allen Hurns was taken to the hospital but has been already discharged. He has a concussion but his neck is reportedly fine.
Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington both exited the Cardinals game. The hope is Johnson’s knee and Ellington’s foot injuries are relatively minor.
Dont’a Hightower missed the second half with a knee injury. Video was inconclusive on a mechanism, which hopefully is a good sign that it is minor. A report surfaced of a MCL sprain which I hope is minimal.
Justin Houston did not return from a hyperextension knee injury. The hope is for a mild knee sprain and/or minimal bone bruise and an early return.
Karlos Williams left the game with an unknown shoulder injury that I did not see by video.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
This was an up and down week with some good video calls and some key misses that will lower the prediction percentage below 95% (98-5 thru last week).
I correctly indicated Keenan Lewis season was over but it seems to be his MCL not ACL. By video, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knee seemed to give way but he was announced as an ankle injury and returned.
Jimmy Graham was a good call on patella tendon tear. Aaron Rodgers immediate funny bone diagnosis came despite beat reporters tweeting wrist injury. Allen Hurns hospitalization was precautionary. Peyton Manning indeed has missed more than the initial week. Marshawn Lynch had sports hernia surgery as predicted. Danny Amendola knee sprain does seem to be a PCL injury. The Tony Romo call of re-fracture was an easy one. Carlos Hyde’s extended absence was anticipated. Tyrod Taylor played through his mild shoulder separation. Bryan Bulaga ankle injury was minor.
Rob Gronkowski and Justin Houston calls will have to be evaluated next week as more information is known.
This brings the 2015 total to 108-7 or 93.9%.
With this being the Thanksgiving weekend, three games have already been played, so the slate of games in which to make picks is smaller. That said, I still was 3-1 two weeks ago when I last made my selections, the third time this season that I have had three winners.
Tampa Bay at Indianapolis (-2.5)
Yes, Tampa Bay has won three out of their last four, but who have they beaten? Philly and the Cowboys are among the worst teams in the NFL right now. While I agree that Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Jameis Winston has shown great improvement all season, he still will need to be on top of his game in a hostile Indianapolis environment.
The Colts have played well with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, and that trend has to continue if the Colts want to win the AFC South. It’s just a hunch, but I like the Colts to win by at least three. Give the points.
Kansas City (-7) at Buffalo
This is a battle between two 5–5 teams going in different directions. The Chiefs started out slowly losing 5 of their first six games but have come back to win their last four. All four of those wins have been very convincing.
The Bills on the other hand have gone 2-2 in their last four and have been playing with multiple injuries.
While it is usually a bad idea to pick a home team getting as many points as Buffalo is getting, I just feel Kansas City has hit stride and is on top of their game. I’ll take KC in this one and give the seven.
New Orleans at Houston (-3)
When I looked at the spread of this game, my first thought was “how can that be”? Houston has been playing excellent football of late and have won three in a row. They are also playing to win the AFC South title.
New Orleans has lost two in a row and have won only one time on the road all season. What the Saints have going for them is their defensive scheme may be a bit different with Rob Ryan gone, but they still just don’t have enough good players on that side of the ball.
Go with the home team and give the points!
San Diego (+5) at Jacksonville
There is a side bar to this game that not many people will know about. Both San Diego General Manager Tom Telesco and Jacksonville General Manager David Caldwell are life long friends. They attended Saint Francis High School in suburban Buffalo together as well as John Carroll University in Cleveland. They then went to the Indianapolis Colts together to work with fellow classmate Chris Polian who is the son of Hall of Fame General Manager Bill Polian.
Friendships aside, I feel that San Diego is the better team. True, Jacksonville has won three out of their last four, but they very easily could have lost those games also. San Diego has struggled all season, but I have to go with the better quarterback in Phillip Rivers. The Jags may win, but I’ll take the points.
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Shilique Calhoun – DE – Michigan State
Calhoun is a fifth year senior and a three year starter for the Spartans. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2011, played as a backup in 2012 and has been a starter ever since at the wide side defensive end position. Michigan State runs an attacking 4-3 scheme.
In 2014 Calhoun had 39 total tackles, 8.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. To date this season he has 37 total tackles, 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. His career sack total stands at 25.
6050 – 250 – 4.77 (all estimated)
Strong Points – He is a three year starter and has been a productive player as a wide side defensive end. Is tall with good length. Good to very good pass rush skill, knows how to use his hands. Can dip his shoulder when coming off the edge and get under blockers. Good close off blocks to the quarterback. Good overall instincts and reactions. Shows a burst and takes good angles in pursuit. Good tackler. Consistent competitive nature.
Weak Points – Lacks ideal size and I doubt he has the frame to carry much more than 260. Has good not great speed. Lacks power at the point of attack and can get stalemated by run blockers. Inconsistent ability to shed run blocks. Makes more plays in the run game in pursuit than at the point of attack. Not as strong or powerful as he should be.
Summation – Looking at tapes form both 2014 and this season, I haven’t seen the improvement in his game that I wanted to see. He is not a big or powerful guy ad can struggle at the point of attack in the run game. Very inconsistent at getting penetration and disrupting run plays. Makes more plays as a pursuit player than at the pint of attack. Has good not great pass rush skills. To date he has never hit double digits in sacks in a single season. Can use his hands and has a variety of moves but more of a finesse pass rusher. Don’t see an explosive bull rush.
Overall, if he is drafted by a 4-3 club, I see him as more of a situational player who comes in on pass situations. He is not an every down 4-3 defensive end. His best position may be as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He still would need to get a little bigger and stronger and prove that he will be able to drop into coverage. This would be his best bet to be an every down player. The Combine, his pro day and private workouts will be very important as to where he eventually gets drafted. He is a good player not a special player.
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Derrick Henry – RB – Alabama
Henry is a third year junior and one year starter who by all accounts may enter the 2016 NFL Draft. He played as a backup as a true freshman in 2013, rotated with the starter in 2014 and is the primary starter in 2015. In 2014 he ran for 990 yards on 172 carries and 11 touchdowns. He also had 5 receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns. To date this year he has run for 1526 yards and 21 touchdowns and has caught 10 passes for 97 yards.
Size – 6026 – 240 – 4.55 (all estimates)
Strong Points – Huge man with great strength and power. Has good vision and instincts and shows the ability to create. Good cutback runner. Runs with lean and can move the pile. Consistently gets the tough yards in short yardage situations. Can and will break long runs. Can be extremely difficult to bring down in the open field because of his size and power. A reliable pass receiver with good hands. Is a good pass blocker. Durable, not a fumbler. Plays in an NFL style offense at Alabama.
Weak Points – He is a semi-strider who is not all that quick or explosive to the hole. Has a false step before going forward. While he can make some quick cuts, he is not all that elusive. Needs to get and keep better positioning when pass blocking. In recent years, many Alabama backs have not played up to their potential in the NFL.
Summation – Henry is a different kind of back in that you don’t see a back with his size and overall athleticism that often. While he is not explosively quick, he is very strong and gets excellent production as both an inside and outside runner. While you don’t see a burst while underway, he is deceptively fast and breaks a lot of long runs at the college level. He is a punishing runner who gets better as the game goes on because of his size and strength. Will wear a defense down. He is reliable as a receiver who will need to work on his pass routes to become a good receiver at the next level. While he is a very willing blocker, he will also need to work on his positioning and technique. Overall, he is the type of back that can come in and play right away in the right scheme and be very effective.
Devontae Booker – RB – Utah
Fifth year senior and a junior college transfer. Started out at American River College in 2011 and played there two years. Just went to school and did not participate in football in 2013 while trying to get his grades in order. Played at and started at Utah in both 2014 and 2015. In 2014 he ran for 1512 yards, caught 43 passes for an additional 306 yards and scored a total of 12 touchdowns. In 2015 he has run for 1261 yards and has 37 receptions for 318 yards. He also has scored 11 times. In game 10 versus Arizona he tore his meniscus and had surgery. He will miss the remainder of the season. Is older and will be a 25 year old rookie.
Size – 6000 – 212 – 4.49 (all estimates)
Strong Points – Very good athlete with speed, a burst, change of direction, balance and body control. Has been very productive in a good conference. Though he has a false step he is quick to the hole and has excellent vision and instincts. Has jump cut and cutback skills to go along with very good creativity. Can stop and go and has an excellent short area burst. Gets to full speed very quickly. Patient and effective both inside and out. Can make himself small in small spaces to get positive yards. While not overly powerful he stays low and gets yards after contact. Is a very good receiver and a willing blocker. Team Co-Captain.
Weak Points – Doesn’t look to have the frame to get much bigger. Will need work on pass blocking technique. Is coming off knee surgery that will be closely looked at when he is at the Combine.
Summation – Booker is a very productive two year starter at Utah. While he is not the biggest back, he is strong and consistently gets yards after contact at the college level. He is effective as both a runner and a receiver and has the vision and elusiveness to break some long runs. Because he lacks great size, I don’t see him as a bell cow type back in the NFL, but he can be very effective in a rotation if he gets 15-20 touches a game as both a runner and a receiver. Can be a playmaker in that type of roll. The team medical staffs will look closely at his knee surgery to make sure there are no arthritic conditions.
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