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Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond

OK, so our favorite team isn't going to the playoffs again... That doesn't mean we can't enjoy the National Football League! There are still plenty of good storylines out there to distract us from the bad going on in Chicago.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

1) All you Johnny Manziel haters get ready to sound off. There's no way the Cleveland Browns can go back to Brian Hoyer after Johnny Football went 5 of 8 for 63 yards and had a 10 yard touchdown scamper that you can see here.


There's just something about the way Manziel plays football. To the outside looking in, he doesn't seem like a very like-able guy, but inside that locker room it may be a different story.

"When I was told to go in today, I feel like those guys rallied around me for that little bit," Manziel said. "I mean they came up to me, making sure I was locked in, they were encouraging me and they rallied around me for that little bit. So If I were to be the guy moving forward, you want to carry that a little bit, that weight, even though its one drive and it's a small part of this whole entire football game, I still feel I am very thankful for those guys."

I think Hoyer has done a fine job, but he was never going to be the long term answer at quarterback for the Browns. Not after they invested a 1st round draft pick in Manziel. We all knew at some point the Browns would turn to the former Heisman Trophy winner, but their surprisingly good season has kept them rolling with the veteran QB. Even though the Browns are in the AFC playoff hunt at 7-5, Hoyer has been bad their last three games and he has a passer rating under 80 on the season. The time to play the rookie is now.

I think the Browns and the NFL are ready to see more of this...


2) Don't look now, but the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons and the 2nd place New Orleans Saints are inching their way closer to a .500 record. Each currently sit at 5-7 and are trying to avoid being the worst division winner since the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks of 2010.

3) The New England Patriots vs Green Bay Packers game lived up to the hype. If the Packers can keep it going and secure home field advantage in the NFC, you have to like their chances to make it to the Super Bowl. Especially after seeing this stat about Aaron Rodgers that blew my mind.

It has been roughly two years, 360 pass attempts and 31 touchdowns since Rodgers' last interception at Lambeau Field.

4) Drew Brees and Andrew Luck throwing for 5 TDs each would normally be a big deal, but it's just not as big in a week when Ryan Fitzpatrick throws 6 TD passes. The same Ryan Fitzpatrick that was benched for Ryan Mallet and was only reinserted in the starting line up because Mallet is injured.

5) As much as I would like to see Houston's J.J. Watt win the NFL MVP, it can't happen if the Texans are floundering around .500. He may be the most valuable player to the Texans, he may be the best defensive lineman in the NFL, he's probably even the best defensive player in the league this year, but he's not the NFL MVP.

If you give the award to the player that is most valuable to his team, then you ave to ask yourself, is losing Watt really that devastating a blow to the franchise? At 6-6 the Texans need to leapfrog 6 other AFC teams to grab the 6th seed in their conference. This is with the great play from J.J. Watt. With or without him they probably aren't making the playoffs.

6) Connor Barth, who hasn't kicked in a game since 2012, signs with the Denver Broncos last week, then on Sunday he ties a franchise record making 5 field goals. Barth ruptured his Achilles in July of 2013, he rehabbed and made it back to the Bucaneers for training camp this off-season, was cut in August, but kept himself ready.

I know he's "just a kicker", but think about the kind of mental and physical make-up Barth must have to keep himself prepared just in case a team were to call him, then be able to step in and perform at that level.

7) The NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals haven't scored an offensive touchdown since the 1st quarter of their game against the Detroit Lions on November 16th. Perhaps losing Carson Palmer is a bigger deal than some felt.

With a tough stretch to close out the season (Chiefs, at St. Louis, Seattle, then at San Francisco) there's a real chance the 9-3 Cards are left outside the postseason again.

8) The Jacksonville Jaguars came from 21 down to rally and knock off the New York Giants, yet all some Jags' fans are concerned with is their draft status. With their 2nd win they pulled ahead of the one win Raiders for the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Whenever I see the work "tank" thrown around by fans I just shake my head. There's no way professional athletes or coaches will purposefully lose games to better their team's draft positioning. There's simply no guarantee the player or coach will still be around to reap the rewards of the new talent.

The last few games of a lost season may not feature a team fighting for their playoff lives, but there'll be plenty of players and coaches fighting for their future employment.

9) So the latest rumor has the Washington Redskins ready to part ways with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Washington gave up three first round draft picks to move up for RGIII in 2012, but now they'll be lucky to find a team willing to give up a 3rd rounder for his services.

Some general manager will have to determine if the real RGIII is the guy who as a rookie had 102.4 passer rating and a 20-5 TD-Int ratio with over 800 yards rushing, or if the injuries the last two years have drastically changed his potential as an NFL QB.

Do you think he's worth a late round draft pick?

10) When both the running back and the quarterback are complaining about the team not running the ball enough, you have a problem. Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman has talked about balance all season long, but then he gets into games and seems to panic if his team is down a couple of scores. A two or three score deficit early in an NFL game doesn't mean you automatically abandon your game plan.

There's still time for the Bears' offense to get their groove back and that may be what Trestman needs to save his job. Marc Trestman has the final quarter of the season to prove last year's offensive success wasn't a fluke.

If his O keeps puttering along against the Cowboys, the Saints, the Lions and the Vikings, how can general manager Phil Emery justify bringing him back if the offense under-performs for an entire season?