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Around the NFL Week 12

December 3, 2013

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The Texans possible dilemma: With 4 games left in the season the Houston Texans (yes my pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl) are on pace to get the #1 Overall Pick. As a self proclaimed draft guru I have to say that this would be a mighty tasty scenario for my downtrodden neighbors to the south as they would have two very interesting ways to go with the pick. On one hand would be the “sexy” path as there is no other way to describe the idea behind pairing Jadaveon Clowney, in my opinion one of the 2-3 best defensive prospects to come out of college in the past decade, with JJ Watt, in my opinion the best defensive player in the NFL. Clowney is the most physically gifted defensive player I’ve ever graded yet won’t get my highest grade ever (Julius Peppers still holds that award) due to a questionable motor and mediocre game film this year. Yet JJ Watt isn’t just an elite player on the field but is the consummate pro that could be counted on to guide Clowney on his path to stardom and make sure he stayed motivated and productive. On the other hand is the classic path as the #1 Overall Pick rarely is used on a pass rusher and is traditionally used on the most important position in the sport: quarterback. This year it would be quite easy to fall back on that approach as there is one QB prospect that appears more than deserving of the top pick. Teddy Bridgewater was the #1 rated QB at the end of last year on my board and hasn’t done anything to sway me since. He’s a classic pocket passer with good arm strength, a quick release, and is one of the most accurate quarterbacks I’ve ever graded on the college level. He runs a pro style offense, has started 3 years, has handled the limelight this season with class, and is by far the most ready of the three QB prospects (Manziel and Mariota being the other two) to be the face of a franchise. It would be a very difficult call on it’s own but it becomes even harder when you throw in Case Keenum as he’s a hometown favorite who has played well at times. His QB Rating of 86.1 is ahead of Andy Dalton, RGIII, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, and Andrew Luck despite this being only his 2nd year and not being given starter reps this offseason. A case can be made that in 2014 Keenum would take another step and statistically be one of the Top 15 QBs in the NFL which would give even more credence to the idea of pairing Watt and Clowney with the top pick. In the end it might not matter as in only 3 days Jacksonville plays Houston and if the Texans prevail they could slide from 1st all the way out of the Top 5. Yet they are on a 10 game losing streak and with a few more bad breaks they could still end up with the 1st Overall Pick and the franchise changing decision it would entail. Despite only being a franchise for 12 seasons this would be the 3rd time they get the first pick in the NFL Draft. In 2002 they chose David Carr over Julius Peppers choosing offense over defense. In 2006 they chose defense over offense with Mario Williams over Reggie Bush. Both picks were against the grain with one working out for them and the other, not so much. Only time will tell if Houston even has a chance at either player and what decision they would make if given that chance but if I were them I’d choose the quarterback. Andrew Luck and RGIII two years ago were given far more fanfare than Teddy Bridgewater is receiving this year but in my opinion Bridgewater is neck and neck with Luck as the 3rd best QB I’ve ever graded. The Texans just this Sunday outplayed the Patriots in almost every facet of the game yet still came out losers simply because they didn’t have Tom Brady. When you can get that truly elite QB you do everything in your power to do it and in my opinion Teddy Bridgewater is that guy.

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Justin Tuck: Justin on Sunday night had 4 sacks against the Redskins and all I’ve heard is how “he’s back” and how “he’s what’s missing from the Giants” and it cracks me up. After his surprising 4 sack performance he still only has 6.5 sacks on the season and is on pace to have his third straight sub double digit sack season in a row. This isn’t a slump, this is a career trajectory, and it’s been pointing down for awhile. From 2007-2010 he had 39.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles yet in the almost 3 years since then he has only 15.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. The Giants have been a team that has relied on their pass rush to be dominant but anyone thinking Tuck is “just rounding into form” is fooling themselves as he’s a washed up player on the wrong side of 30 and will never again have a double digit sack season. Last Sunday was just a fluke event that re-ignited the hope in Giants fans around the country but in a few games they’ll once again realize that he’s done and will admit that JPP needs a new rushing partner. The Giants let Osi Umenyiora go this offseason despite him having 21.5 sacks and 6 FF (both superior to Justin Tuck) in the past 3 seasons and I think they picked the wrong pass rusher to let go. It’s time fans and commentators stopped talking about how Tuck is in a slump and start talking about how he’s washed up. It’s a much more valid argument at this point in time.

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Cutler or McCown: It’s interesting how in the past few weeks I’ve read reports about Jay Cutler “reluctantly accepting” that he’s going to be franchised this offseason. That’s due to the fact that Chicago hasn’t even broached extension talks with him and everyone assumes there is no possible way they’d let Cutler leave via free agency. Yet I personally think that would make a ton of sense as the Bears are a mediocre team that is aging rapidly on defense and the last thing they should be doing is signing a mediocre quarterback to a 5 year $75 million type deal. I wonder if even that would get Cutler signed but, either way, I wouldn’t consider such a pricey deal for a QB with a career QB Rating of 84 and with only one postseason win to his name. This season McCown has clearly outplayed Cutler as he has a higher completion percentage (65 to 63), higher yards per attempt (7.9 vs. 7.2), more yards per game (238 vs. 228), a better TD/INT ratio (9/1 vs. 13/8) and a better QB Rating (103 vs. 88) than Cutler despite playing with the same supporting cast. Combine that with the fact that McCown could be re-signed on a 1 or 2 year deal at a reasonable rate that would allow the team the financial flexibility to add young talent to their aging defense and I think it makes all the sense in the world to trade Cutler or let him go on an overpriced deal to some needy franchise. The Broncos shocked the world by trading Cutler for two first round picks and 4 ½ years later it’s obvious that they were right as they ended up with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Tim Tebow, Rober Ayers, Kyle Orton, Richard Quinn, and Seth Olsen while the Bears only added Jay Cutler and Johnny Knox. Despite Tebow’s ineptness these past 2 seasons it’s obvious this was a landslide victory for the Broncos as the trade essentially set the stage for Peyton Manning’s current offense which is the #1 offense in the NFL this season. What’s so annoying about the Jay Cutler debate is defenders of his will point to his poor offensive line and lack of offensive firepower around him yet this season he’s playing in one of the most talented offenses in the NFL and he still can’t dominate. When your running back is Matt Forte and your two starting wideouts are Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery yet you still can’t be any better than 15th in the NFL in QB Rating then the problem is with you. Cutler has been average to below average statistically throughout his career, he’s never had a single season with a QB Rating higher than 88 (for all you Romo haters out there: Romo’s career LOW QB Rating is 90.5!), and it’s time Chicago pulled the plug. Re-sign McCown, try and trade Cutler for whatever you can get, and re-stock the defense via free agency and the draft as that is a much better plan for rebuilding the Bears than giving Cutler a new contract. I made a similar argument just 9 months ago with the Ravens and Joe Flacco yet they chose the path of least resistance and overpaid for their quarterback. Less than one season later they’re already regretting it and that’s despite having a Lombardi Trophy to ease the pain. Chicago has had some of the worst QB play of any NFL franchise over the past 50 years but that shouldn’t shame them into overpaying for Cutler. With 3 quality QB prospects this April (Bridgewater, Manziel, Mariota) and a solid stop-gap on hand in Josh McCown the Bears have the chance to make a smart yet unpopular decision and end the Cutler era. I doubt they do it but they should.

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