The Chargers organization, as adrift as it's been over the past year, is familiar with how many NFL teams have started a season 0-4 and qualified for the playoffs. Because it's just one: the '92 San Diego Chargers.
An impressive 28-6 Thanksgiving victory in Dallas has the Chargers a step away from evening their record at 6-6. That wouldn't be so consequential if the Chiefs hadn't now lost five of their past six games. Yet that is the state of the AFC West, where the other Los Angeles team might not have to linger in irrelevance while the Rams thrive.
It's baffling why the Chargers would want to be the secondary franchise in the market that has proved fickle with NFL teams. What's more, until the new stadium is built, the Chargers are playing in a tiny venue, the StubHub Center. Building a loyal, excited following is bound to be tough, since the Chargers aren't that far removed from the ones with hurt feelings because the franchise left San Diego.
The Chargers haven't yet reversed their losing ways, but a path to respectability has opened for 2017.
Over the final five weeks, the Chargers play only one team with a winning record, and that would be the Chiefs team that they trail by just one game. That an uprooted franchise is this close to contending with a first-year head coach requires some luck in the form of the Chiefs' fall. It has also required remarkable resilience.
The AFC West has taken a few dramatic swings in the course of three-fourths of a regular season. It wouldn't be ridiculous at all to believe the team that was left for dead by the end of September might end up winning the division.
Chain Snatcher II: Talib Strikes Again
Michael Crabtree to announce his retirement after getting his chain snatched by Aqib Talib for the 2nd year in a row pic.twitter.com/iY7WxR8N9p- NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) November 26, 2017
In the future, Michael Crabtree might just elect not to wear a chain in games against the Broncos, since he's been unable to guard them from the sneaky hands of Aqib Talib. The Broncos corner snatched Crabtree's chain for the second year in a row, touching off a brawl that got Talib, Crabtree and Gabe Jackson ejected. Video shows officials missed a left hook thrown by lineman Donald Penn, though that will likely be rectified with a fine. How Crabtree will restore his dignity? Well, that's a thornier question.
The Jimmy Garoppolo garbage time debut
Nearly a month after he was sent from New England to San Francisco in a trade, the 49ers quarterback of the future made his debut late in a loss to the Seahawks, after C.J. Beathard had to leave the game with a leg injury. The heir apparent got the Niners their only touchdown of the game in the waning seconds. All it took was two pass attempts. Surely, that is just mildly encouraging and NFL fans will keep a reasonable perspective. Wait, no, I'm hearing they're already inducting Garoppolo into the Ring of Honor, supplanting Joe Montana.
Gronk just wants to talk celebrations, pretty please
Gronk thinking aloud about his TD celebration "We got yelled at we aren't allowed to talk about celebrations. But I kind of want to talk about it, but I kinda don't because I will get in trouble. So I don't know what to do. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/SC2UpFE9V5- Chad Amaral (@chad_amaral) November 26, 2017
There's more fun in the NFL this season thanks to group celebrations. Don't let Bill Belichick know that. Belichick knows he can't contest NFL policy, but he can forbid his players from enjoying it. And so there's a slightly sullen Gronk wanting to go into greater detail with reporters about Brandin Cooks riding him like a horsie in the end zone. Perhaps Gronk will just have to save it for the celebration tell-all book he'll have someone write for him after he departs the Pats.
Mohamed Sanu: perfect passer
Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu was just another passer benefitting from Julio Jones' dominance on Sunday. Sanu was responsible for Atlanta's first touchdown against Tampa with a 51-yard bomb to Jones. That impressive throw was just the sixth pass attempt for the former high school quarterback in his NFL career. It's surprising that the Falcons don't try more designed throws with Sanu, given that in his career he is now 6-for-6 with three touchdowns and a per-play average of more than 30 yards. Obviously, some of that is due to the element of surprise. It may still be possible to take advantage of that at a rate greater than once per season, however.
Fan of the Week
when you're at the sports game rooting for net neutrality pic.twitter.com/jrl0PSWEsY- Mike Tunison (@xmasape) November 26, 2017
There weren't a lot of positives to glean from Chicago's not at all surprising 31-3 drubbing at the hands of Philadelphia. Chicago is now 12-31 in three seasons under John Fox. While the Bears are clearly in a process of building to the future, there's reason to question whether that progress is happening quickly enough. After all, even if the Bears have their quarterback of the future in Mitch Trubisky, you generally want to make sure he is developing under a coach that will allow him to contend once he's ready. Apparently this one man doesn't see it that way and is expressing his opposition to John Fox through Internet browser visual puns. That's more eloquent than most NFL fans calling for someone's job, so kudos to you, sir.
Among the many problems with being tasked to cover Jones is you never know when he'll simply be an inhuman monster who consumes your very essence. Unfortunately for the Bucs, that was the form he assumed this week. Jones became the first player in NFL history with three games of 250-plus receiving yards. No other player has more than one. At one point in the second half, Jones had been outgaining the entire Bucs offense.
Brown didn't have the sheer numbers that Jones put up in Week 12. His performance was just as incredible. He had 169 yards and two touchdowns. True to form, he also pulled off that one catch that seems impossible. In this case, it set up the game-winning field goal.
The Bengals made yet another controversial personnel decision in the offseason by drafting the Oklahoma running back. He had his breakout game in the win over Cleveland, rushing for more than 100 yards for the first time and scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to put the game out of reach.
The Cardinals may not be chasing their Super Bowl window like they envisioned for the past two seasons, but it's hard to say they didn't make the right move dealing with the Patriots for Jones. He had two more sacks Sunday in the upset win over the Jaguars, tying him with Everson Griffen for the NFL lead. Arizona's postseason hopes are still faint for this year. The decision to lock down Jones to a long-term deal earlier this year gives the Cards some foundation beyond 2017.
It almost seems impossible that an NFL defense could make it to Week 12 without registering an interception, but that's what the Raiders did. NaVorro Bowman finally got Oakland's defense its first interception on Sunday against Denver. The Raiders also posted five sacks, which is something they had done only twice in the 42 games the recently fired Ken Norton had served. That change likely won't change everything overnight. This was a fine start, however.
Like the fortunes of the Chiefs as a team, those of Smith have swung wildly over the course of the season. Going into the season, it was a question of when first-round pick Patrick Mahomes would take over. But then Smith responded by playing like an MVP candidate over the first five weeks. He was throwing deep with efficiency and regularity. Now he's somehow reverted to the old Smith. He struggled under pressure against the Bills and completed only one pass of more than 20 yards. Kansas City remains atop the AFC West for now, but if the losses keep coming, one would assume Mahomes will end up getting his shot before the season is over.
The veteran safety returned to the lineup after missing several weeks with a groin injury. It wasn't a joyous return. He was dinged with two drive-extending penalties and gave up five catches on all his targets for 83 yards in the Saints' loss to the Rams. This includes a big gainer in the second quarter where Vaccaro lost the ball in the sun.
The loss of Joe Haden has wreaked havoc on Pittsburgh's ability to contain big plays. Nine of the 10 biggest plays Pittsburgh has given up have happened in its past three games. Green Bay had touchdowns of 39, 54 and 55 yards on Sunday night. This is after the Steelers defense had shown incredible improvement over the first half of the season. If Pittsburgh hopes to have any chance of getting past New England for once, it can't afford to play such sloppy defense.
When a receiver goes for 250 yards in a single game, there's bound to be at least one defensive back who was made to look horrific. Five of the seven receptions Smith gave up went to Julio Jones, including one that might have spelled the end of his ankles. It's hard to look much worse in coverage than that.
The Packers weren't given much of a chance going into Heinz Field starting their backup quarterback, Brett Hundley, and yet Green Bay had plenty of chances to win. McCarthy made several questionable decisions, including trying a 57-yard field goal in a stadium where such distances are a pipe dream. Tied at 28 late in the fourth quarter, McCarthy seemed content to play for overtime, just as he was fine to throw away a spare minute at the end of the first half. Instead of taking the Packers up on that OT offer, the Steelers were aggressive and snagged a victory in the final minute.
The week in celebrations
If you're talking about the teams doing the most innovating with the new group celebration rules, it's most likely going to be the Eagles and the Steelers. This makes sense. Both teams are really good this season and have plenty to celebrate. It also helps that they have young players in skill positions who want to have fun with the game. This week, the Eagles continued to explore the theme of football teams simulating other sports in the end zone by employing teammates to be bowling pins. Down they go!
Eagles bowling celly pic.twitter.com/ram3DutHyz- CJ Fogler (@cjzero) November 26, 2017
That wasn't it for the Eagles celebratory exploits. They were in full swagger mode in their blowout win. They put on a group rendition of "The Electric Slide." They played tic-tac-toe on the sidelines. It was a little disrespectful.
And that's fine as long as you're winning. But as soon as the Eagles start to falter, they can expect the same treatment in kind. One thing to keep in mind with abstract end zone celebrations is that sometimes the intent may not be immediately clear. And some are more involved than others. That said, I'm not sure how announcer Chris Myers saw what transpired after this Titans touchdown and arrived at it being a demonstration of burping a baby.
How does Chris Myers think burping a baby works? pic.twitter.com/lwYCec5jxg- Mike Tunison (@xmasape) November 26, 2017