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Ten Thoughts on the NFL

The calendar turns to December and thoughts are flowing like eggnog.

Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

1 – Call him Bill Be-lizzard

The New England Patriots just won a game where the QB threw three passes. Three.

In the middle of a crazy winter storm, the Patriots took a page out of Buddy Ryan’s dream diary and pounded the Buffalo Bills into submission. What was most entertaining about the whole thing – and to be fair, you have to have a sick level of football appreciation to enjoy a 14-10 affair with 470 total yards of offense – was knowing that Belichick almost certainly had thought about how to play his team in that weather when it was 100 degrees outside. He’s just built different and I’m hoping voters reward him with a Coach of the Year honor at season’s end. That acceptance speech will be…well, that’s not his strength. But I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.

2 – The Electrifying TJ Watt

TJ Watt has only appeared in 10 games this year but is leading the league in sacks with 16. He led the league in sacks last year with 15. He also leads the league in tackles for loss (16), just like he did last year (23). Sacks can be random, but the 3.5 he recorded against Lamar Jackson in Pittsburgh’s big 20-19 win against the Ravens on Sunday contained no cheapies.

With 5 games left, Watt needs 7 more to top Michael Strahan’s 22.5*. I put an asterisk there because it still bothers me that in the final game of 2001, late in the 4th quarter, Brett Favre took a dive so that his buddy Strahan could break Mark Gastineau’s 1984 record. I’d like to see Strahan knocked off his pedestal.

3 – Benjamin Button Brady

Tom Brady just will not fade. He leads the league in completions (347), attempts (508), yards (3771), and TDs (34), along with the lowest sack percentage in the league (2.7%). He has a shot at setting some single season records. Here’s what that looks like:

Completions – Drew Brees (471). Brady needs 125 or 25 per game.

Attempts – Matthew Stafford (727). Brady needs 220 or 44 per game.

Yards – Peyton Manning (5,477). Brady needs 1,706 or 341.2 per game.

TDs – Peyton Manning (55). Brady needs 22 or 4.4 per game.

I think he breaks the completions record but the others are probably safe. Oh, and it’s hard to argue against giving him the MVP at this point too.

4 – Revenge of the Birds

The Cardinals soared to an easy win at their old stomping grounds in Soldier Field on Sunday to hold on to the #1 seed in the NFC. Kyler Murray gets most of the red bird ink, but you have to be impressed with what Vance Joseph has done with that defense. Attacking on every level, the Cardinals defense remains one of the most underappreciated units in the NFL.

Budda Baker, Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons and Chandler Jones lead the way on a squad that flies to the football. They give off vibes of the mid-2000s Bears defenses with how fast they play and the amount of turnover havoc they create, near the top of the league in both interceptions and fumble recoveries. In a year that seems to have a lack of dominant teams, the best team may be hiding in the desert. For Bears fans hoping to see anyone other than that team up north in the SB, the Cardinals may be the best hope.

5 – Buzzer Beaters

There have been 26 games decided by a game-winning score on the final play this season – the most all-time through 13 weeks – but it’s tough to top the ending to the Lions – Vikings game. Jared Goff found Amon-Ra St. Brown chilling in the front of the endzone as the Vikings defenders guarded… the middle of the endzone? It was a bizarre defense for the Vikings but allowed the Lions to capture their first win of the year.

I had made the comment in this space weeks ago that I was cheering for a winless season out of the Lions, mainly because of Lions fans on Twitter. However, the more you watch this team play and their coach that leaves it all out on the field, the more you realize those guys didn’t deserve a winless record. I’m happy for the Lions to get their first win and love that it came against the Vikings because, why not? Misery loves company.

6 – Purple Reign

Justin Jefferson is good and is going to be good for a long time. The Vikings really won the Stefon Diggs trade because they replaced the dynamic Diggs with a younger and, yes, better receiver on a rookie contract. Justin Jefferson has 2,609 yards in his young career and needs just 118 yards over the last five games of the season to pass Randy Moss for most all-time in a receiver’s first two seasons. He’s already recorded 12 100-yard games.

The influx of talent at the WR position over the last two drafts really shakes up the landscape of the NFL. It will likely be more difficult for veteran wide receivers to pull in the type of contracts they were hoping for just a couple of years ago because of the success from guys like Jefferson, Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, and Tee Higgins. More are on the way.

7 – Triple Crown

Cooper Kupp is chasing a rare feat – the receiving triple crown of receptions, yards, and TDs. Kupp’s line through 12 games (100 - 1,366 - 11) would be an excellent season already, but he’s got a chance at something truly special. Only three players in the Super Bowl era have pulled off the triple crown – Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992), and Steve Smith (2005).

His closest competition is in TDs, where Mike Evans sits at 10. Justin Jefferson is a stunning 157 yards behind Kupp in second place while the Rams receiver holds a comfortable 14 catch lead over Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle. If Kupp pulls off the feat, it will be interesting to see if he or Jonathan Taylor takes home Offensive Player of the Year.

8 – When did he play for them?

There are times when I’m surfing Pro Football Reference or watching a random NFL films clip, and a star player will show up in an unfamiliar uniform. It’s a common enough phenomenon where a good player or even a Hall of Fame player will try to stay in the show for one more year and latch on with an unfamiliar team, maybe two. Johnny Unitas with the Chargers or Joe Namath with the Rams are the classic examples.

Adrian Peterson scored a TD for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and I had no idea he was playing out there. Peterson’s career, which will undoubtedly land him in the Hall of Fame, has been one of the weirder ones. After ten seasons in Minnesota, Peterson has played for the Cardinals, Saints, Washington Football Team, Lions, Titans, and the Seahawks. That’s going to be difficult to remember that timeline in a decade when I’m accessing my implanted computer chip projector to bring up his career history.

9 – Life Comes at you Fast

Joe Brady, once a name floated to ascend to a head coaching position this offseason, was fired before Sunday’s game from the Carolina Panthers. I can’t imagine Joe Brady made the decision to trade for Sam Darnold and give him the fifth-year option, but someone had to be the scapegoat in Carolina and it sure can’t be the head coach two years into a seven-year deal.

As much as we as fans like to think about and discuss “fire this guy” and “hire that guy” it’s easy to forget that these are professionals building a career that have feelings and emotions. I’m sure we’ll see Joe Brady build back into a candidate again – he’s only 32! – but it’s hard to imagine him getting any interviews after a mid-season firing.

10 – Justin Freaking Fields

There’s a line of thought that wants to put Justin Fields in bubble wrap and save him for next year and the (hopefully) new coaching regime. While I understand where that line of thinking comes from, I would prefer to give him the reps and game experience to continue his development. The gains made in the last five games of the year could carry him into the offseason and give future decision makers more information on what they can do with him and for him to get him to the next stage.

I hope he’ll be ready for Green Bay.

What are your thoughts on the NFL this week? Sound off below in the comments and be sure to find me on Twitter @gridironborn.