Emptywheel’s Pro Football Trash Talk – Week 15

Only one college game left before the endless series of bowl games starts up. The annual Army Navy game from Philadelphia. Both teams have among the best rushing offenses in the country, and among the most anemic passing offenses. Seems like a close match, but it’s not, Navy is the clearly better team, and they are favored. They should be, GO NAVY!

The pros, as the post title indicates, are into week 15 of the regular schedule. Already the Bolts have shocked the Donkos in Denver. Peyton seemed off and the Broncos never really got untracked. They abandoned Knowshon Moreno and the running game that has served them so well of late and really missed Wes Welker, who was out with a concussion. A bit about that. Much has been made about how the NFL treats it’s players with respect to concussions (and the lame settlement) but, really, the NFL teats its players like meat in pretty much every area of the body. Here is a great longform about just how true this is: My Injury File: How I Shot, Smoked, And Screwed My Way Through The NFL. It is blunt and gruesome.

Probably the best matchup on the Sunday slate is Pats at the Dolphins. Gronkowski is out again for the Pats, this time he is done for the season with an ACL/MCL injury. That hurts, because Gronk is not only Brady’s best receiver, but also draws tons of pressure off the other young kids at WR. Brady too appears to be a little banged up in the throwing shoulder and has been limited in use in practice, but no reason to believe he won’t be the same old Tom once the game starts. On paper, the Fish match up pretty well, and their defense is young and good. If the depleted Miami O-line can give Ryan Tannehill some time to throw, this could be an upset. But now that Brady and Belichick have home field in the playoffs in their hands, due to Denver’s Thursday night flop, I sure wouldn’t bet on it. Take the Pats.

Ravens at Detroit on Monday night also looks pretty interesting. The Lions are flaky and should be (and are) the favorite at home. But Baltimore has won four of their last five and are worried about their own playoff push. Maybe the Ravens’ secondary should not have pissed off Megatron. Still, Kitties better watch out, this game has upset alert written all over it. As does the Bears at the Brownies. Cutler returns for the Bears, though I would have left hot hand Josh McCown in were it me. The browns are better than their record. Hard to see the Packers coming out of Big D with a win over the ‘Boys. Actually might be possible for all three NFC North leaders to lose this week. And Dallas needs the win because the Eagles figure to dispatch the Vikings.

The last bit of real interest is to see just how crappy the game between the Redskins and Falcons is. These are surely the two biggest disappointments in the league this year, both teams are just a mess. Would be a hell of a sight if new Skins starting QB Kirk Cousins lights up Atlanta. And he just might. RG3 and 10 is not even the backup, instead he has been deactivated and Sexy Rex Grossman will be the backup.

Well, what else ya got to yammer about? Music by the incomparable Lou Rawls.

47 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    Agree that it’s possible all 3 NFC North contenders lose again, though note that Lacey is back and Sean Lee is out and when the Boys don’t have him they’re a sieve that Lacey could well exploit. Plus, Flynn has had several weeks now to try to remember that he used to be able to run the Pack well. I agree the Brownies could surprise (especially with weather–it just hasn’t stopped snowing at all in the MW), and I agree the Bears should have stuck with McCown. The Kitties SHOULD be able to win at home w/Reggie back, but they don’t seem all that intent on winning their way into the playoffs.

    I also think a Fins win is likely. Dobson MAY be back or may not be for the Pats. If he’s not, they’ve got no one to spread the field. And without that, it’s easy to land Brady on his ass, which is how to beat him. I know you think Pats are intent to take over the top spot this week, but I honestly believe they’ll be lucky to stave off Cinci for the 2nd (remember Cinci has the head-to-head against the Pats).

    I note you didn’t say anything about the local team, which could play themselves into a playoff spot. Not chance?

  2. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: Our first commenter!! Thank you, there will be a prize!

    I thought all the games discussed were really hard to figure. I’ll say this, for all the new injury/safety precautions, balance altering injuries are rampant across the league. I am actually surprised the Cheese didn’t let Rodgers go, but maybe they too made the calculation that Detroit and Bears could lose? I dunno.

    I thought about discussing the locals, but they SHOULD beat Tennessee; if they don’t, phffffft. Their real problems are even if they beat the Titans, the final two games are the Squawks in Seattle and Niners in AZ. That’s tough sledding to try to close out a wildcard spot.

  3. Peterr says:

    Here in KC, there’s a new wrinkle to the concussion settlement. From the KC Business Journal:

    Independence attorney Ken McClain filed suit for damages due to injuries suffered by five former players of the Kansas City Chiefs.

    McClain used a clause in Missouri law — set to expire at the end of this year — that makes it the only state in the union allowing players to sue their team for damages, as opposed to being required to sue the National Football League.

    McClain filed suit on behalf of five players who were with the Chiefs between 1987 and 1993: Alexander Cooper, Leonard Griffin, Christopher Martin, Joseph Phillips and Kevin Porter.

    The law in question has to do with state worker’s comp claims. As I understand it, any employer that is exempt from worker’s comp, says the law, can be sued directly for work-related diseases — and at the time in question, the Chiefs fall into that category.

    McClain is apparently a very big deal in Missouri workers’ comp circles. Again, from the KCBJ:

    McClain is a well-known tort attorney who is the first attorney in the United States to win a settlement against a tobacco company. He’s also received injury settlements in cases involving BP/Amoco and microwave popcorn manufacturers. He most recently won a $28 million verdict against Emerson Climate Technologies for not providing proper safety training or equipment to an employee working with a fluid used to cool cutting tools.

    I heard an interview with one of the lawyers involved (either McClain or Paul Anderson) on sports talk radio when the suit was filed, and it’s clear that the biggest part of this case hinges on discovery. Under the NFL settlement, no discovery was made public, and so as Anderson put it, “Basically, the NFL is paying a fee to make the lawyers go away – many of them took the bait.”

    Here, though, the case is squarely in Missouri state courts, and the NFL is not a named party to the suit. But the complaint makes it clear that the entire issue is one the NFL and all its teams have known about for decades. Yes, decades.

    From the complaint:

    30. On December 29, 1937, at the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the American Football Coaches Association, the football community acknowledged its keen awareness of the serious risks of concussions, and the necessity of removing an individual from play if they have suffered a concussion:

    During the past seven years the practice has been too prevalent of allowing players to continue playing after a concussion. Again this year this is true…. Sports demanding personal contact should be eliminated after an individual has suffered one concussion.


    34. Although CTE has been discussed widely in the medical literature for more than eight decades, it was not until 2002 that CTE was officially diagnosed post-mortem in professional football players. Upon information and belief, this late finding was due to the Defendant’s and its agents’ concerted effort to conceal the link between repetitive head trauma in football and neurological diseases. Since 2002, more than 90% of all former players that have been examined post-mortem exhibited pathological symptoms consistent with CTE. The leading neuropathologist studying CTE, Dr. Ann McKee, believes that it is more likely than not that every single NFL player has some level of CTE.

    35. The first professional football player to be diagnosed with CTE was a former Kansas City Chiefs player, Mike Webster. Webster played 17 years — his final two (1989 and 1990) with the Chiefs — in the NFL and tragically died only 12 years after retirement at the age of 50. During the latter part of his life, and while serving on Defendant’s coaching staff, Webster manifested progressive symptoms and signs of cognitive and neuropsychiatric impairment consistent with CT

    They cite a lot of public documents, medical journals, and the like, but the key is what the Chiefs and the NFL knew. The complaint alleges that they willfully concealed what they knew, and negligently dealt with the issue. Thus, discovery in this case is likely to unearth a lot of stuff the NFL would love to keep buried.

    There’s a lot more in the complaint itself, and I’d love to get a lawyer’s take on it, bmaz.

  4. bmaz says:

    @Peterr: Great info. I will say this, I can personally guarantee you that McClain is not the first to ever win a settlement against tobacco. There was a group of attorneys, including Melvin Belli, in the very early 60s that brought substantial suits against multiple tobacco companies (but hugely against RJ Reynolds), thus causing the companies to form a litigation coalition. There were small victories, including, significantly, the requirement of a warning label that took effect in the mid 60’s.

  5. Peterr says:

    @bmaz: Yeah, I wondered about that part.

    But when it comes to Missouri state workers comp law, he’s apparently a very very big deal. On the sports talk show, the hosts said that when they spoke with other lawyers unrelated to the case about the suit, these other lawyers were initially inclined to say this case was a real stretch, but when they heard McClain was leading the effort, they immediately changed their tune and were much more open to it having not only merit but a likelihood of success. My recollection of how the interviewer characterized the respect these lawyers have for McClain went something like “McClain doesn’t chase ambulances, and when he goes after someone on workers comp law, he knows what he’s doing better than anyone in the state.”

  6. Peterr says:

    One more local KC development in the whole concussion mess . . .

    Do you remember Jovan Belcher, the KC Chefs linebacker who last year killed his girlfriend in her home, then drove to Arrowhead and killed himself in the parking lot in front of Romeo Crennel and other front office staff?

    His family has requested that Belcher’s remains be exhumed, to allow for an examination of his brain that they say should have been done before he was buried.

    “If his brain had been examined (when he died), we’d have a better understanding of why he did what he did,” said Bennet Omalu, who is credited with discovering the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). “We would have a better understanding about concussions and playing football, and we would advance the understanding of the science of all of this.”


    Belcher played in the NFL for four seasons, all with the Chiefs, and did not have a documented history of concussions when he killed his girlfriend and himself last December.

    But friends told Bleacher Report last month that Belcher had suffered multiple concussions. Other stories emerged that Belcher had become unpredictable and irritable in the months leading up to the murder-suicide and was beginning to drink more — an autopsy showed his blood-alcohol level on the morning of the murder-suicide was more than twice the legal limit in Missouri. These stories matched a lot of what we know about the effects of CTE.

    Julian Bailes, founder of the Brain Injury Research Institute, has an extensive history of studying the connection between football and brain injuries.

    “Did he have CTE changes in the brain?” Bailes said. “That’s the question.”

    Why an examination of Belcher’s brain wasn’t done as part of the autopsy or research shortly after the crime last December is another mystery.

    Omalu, who discovered CTE in an autopsy of former Steelers and Chiefs center Mike Webster and is the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County in California, said that he “would bet one month’s salary that (Belcher) had CTE,” and that the local medical examiner should have performed a test for it.

    Here in KC, the concussion story isn’t going away, despite the NFL settlement.

  7. Bay State Librul says:

    In bb, Arizona nips Michigan by 2
    Umass keeps their 22nd rating.
    It’s been 15 years since they have climbed that far.

  8. Peterr says:

    Brady too appears to be a little banged up in the throwing shoulder and has been limited in use in practice, but no reason to believe he won’t be the same old Tom once the game starts.

    Maybe Tom could borrow Gisele’s “multitasking team” to help get him ready.

  9. Bay State Librul says:

    The Red Sox were pretty quiet during the winter meetings.
    Not so in their liquor department.
    They will open three more beer stands, extend the drinking hours, and serve beer in bottles.
    The long lines will diminish but may be diverted to another area of the Fens.
    Would you rather stand in a beer line or an urinal?

  10. P J Evans says:

    They exhumed him yesterday. (The ME is making excuses for why he didn’t look for brain damage or preserve the brain separately. Omalu is sure he can find evidence of CTE, if it’s there.)

  11. emptywheel says:

    BOTH Thompkins and Dobson out for tomorrow’s game v. the Fins.

    I would NOT bet my life savings on the Pats. Not at all.

  12. P J Evans says:

    The story I read implied that the family should have told the coroner’s office that they wanted the brain examined. (Like families are going to be thinking clearly at a time like that.)

  13. nomolos says:

    @emptywheel: Have no fear. We have a running back, Devlin, to play Gronk and we have 2 hot dog vendors coming in for Dodson and Thompkins….all will be well.

  14. emptywheel says:

    @nomolos: There’s a TEENY bit of me who thinks 1) BillBel has figured they can win their other games and 2) they’d prefer to have Miami trying to make playoffs and/or 3) prefers to play players w/division teams that they won’t know about at all.

    But that would be crazy, even for BillBel.

  15. nomolos says:

    @emptywheel: Trying to get into the mind of BillBell is daring of you…who knows what vortex will capture you and carry you away.

    One thing I have learned over the last 14 years is never to doubt the BillBell boys.

  16. Peterr says:

    @nomolos: Daring?

    You’re talking about a woman who has spent years getting into the mind of folks like Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, David Addington, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, etc.

    Any vortex that sees Marcy coming isn’t concerned with capturing her — it’s worried about being captured by her.

  17. emptywheel says:

    @Peterr: But he’s a different kind of douchebag genius than those other ones.

    That said, I think I get extra points for Little Three brain.

  18. Peterr says:

    @emptywheel: Thanks to the NFL media rules, the KC affiliate of CBS isn’t showing the Pats and Fish, but instead we are getting a watermelon-extract wrinkle remover youth enhancing skin care system infomercial.

  19. bloodypitchfork says:

    Well..I believe I can positively say..with 30 comments about football, I can see now we might as well hand Alexander the ballgame. :)

  20. emptywheel says:


    Well, once again, the Patsies played better than I thought they would. But no matter how good the QB, you simply can’t win a game w/just 2 real receivers, both of them 5’9″.

  21. Peterr says:

    @P J Evans: The local team seems to be doing OK. First play from scrimmage – 49yd TD pass. Next possession by the Chefs ends the same way, with a 39 yd pass. The Rayduhs take the kickoff and start their drive, only to give up a pick-six. Skip ahead, and the Chefs get a fumble recovery and turn it into another TD 3 plays later.

  22. scribe says:

    @emptywheel: Biebs got bleeped on the post-game. Gotta wonder what Giselle has to say about Amendola, Edelman, Hoo-man, and all the other rogues gallery of receivers. Biebs had something like 30 pass attempts in the 4th quarter alone.

    Heh. I made fruitcake and toll house cookies today while the Patsies were losing. And I made lebkuchen last night, spinning the dog into a frenzy of food-lust (like she isn’t there already, but that’s another story).

  23. scribe says:

    Listening to the feed of the Patsies’ postgame call-in (I have little else to do until the Stillers game starts … ), the hosts and callers are down to bitching about the absence of Aaron Hernandez. In addition to Gronk, of course.

    Their pain nourishes me.

    Also, a nice touch how Jerryworld uses a sample of a car alarm as the audio accompaniment/celebration for an Owboys’ interception. As if the Owboys weren’t annoying enough by just existing.

  24. scribe says:

    @scribe: Romo Comes Up Big TWICE in the last few minutes! Romo is God! This is right up there with his botched FG holding thing in the playoffs years ago.

    Jerry’s agony, reverberating around his billion-dollar Palace Of Greed, nourishes me.

    My Stillers may wind up out of the playoffs or even with a losing record but, for this fan of the Stillers and Who’s-Playing-Dallas, today will go down as one of the sweetest in football history.

  25. Peterr says:

    @scribe: Speaking of “who’s playing Dallas”, I’m amazed that bmaz hasn’t chimed in. In the last five minutes, the Cheeseheads get two TDs and two INTs to pull out the game?

    Bmaz must be dancing on the rooftop right now.

  26. Peterr says:

    @scribe: From CBSsports.com:

    During his postgame conference, Brady was able to basically sum up the way New England played in one sentence.

    “We make some good plays and we make plenty of shitty plays. Thank you.” Brady said a total of 70 words during his press conference, which lasted all of 72 seconds.

  27. scribe says:

    @Peterr: Biebs still came out bleeped through my speakers.

    And the evening wound up a resounding success for my Stillers – a win, sacks on the opposing QB, a punter schooled to never, ever try that “tackling” thing again and to wear a frickin’ mouthguard with a broken jaw (and probably some missing chiclets) to reinforce the point, and the other team’s leading defensive player knocked out of the game.

    I am not cheerful about the last, because I’m talking about James Harrison. I think it is safe to speculate that, had the Stillers not knuckled to King Roger’s piq1ue (at Harrison refusing to piss on a burning Commissioner to extinguish the flames) and dumped him so unceremoniously, we would all now be talking about the Stillers’ playoff seeding and not the Bungles’. With his Ring and DPOY history, he’s given the Bungles’ D the veteran leadership some guy f/k/a PacMan couldn’t. On the Stillers he would have probably given their DBs enough support that the 11 50+ yard plays wouldn’t have happened.

    While that’s water under the bridge, it’s a lesson Pittsburgh’s management should not forget.

Comments are closed.