1. It appears that the Eagles’ Andy Reid will not be back with the team in 2013, ending the era of the franchise’s most successful head coach. Reid’s success in that role has largely come about due to his offensive acumen as well as shrewd drafting that allowed the team to bolster their roster with young talent and avoid having to re-sign aging veterans to lucrative contracts. This season’s subpar effort will almost assuredly be Reid’s worst performance as the team’s head coach and that has been the result of numerous injuries to the team’s offensive starters as well as the continued poor showing on defense. This week against the Cowboys, it is possible that the Eagles will start six players who were not expected to fill those roles at the outset of the season. Three starting offensive linemen are on in injured reserve including arguably the team’s most valuable offensive player in left tackle Jason Peters while starting right guard Danny Watkins has struggled with an ankle injury and is not fully healthy. The team is also missing its top threat at wide receiver in the speedy DeSean Jackson, starting running back LeSean McCoy, and quarterback Michael Vick. It is little wonder why the Eagles rank 30th in the league in scoring at just 16.7 points per game and why Reid will be looking for a new employer in 2013.
2.Sticking with the Eagles, don’t expect to see LeSean McCoy back in the line-up for at least another week and possibly longer. With the team out of the playoff picture and rookie 7th round pick Bryce Brown providing solid production in the team’s Monday night loss to the Panthers, Philadelphia has little incentive in rushing McCoy back. Not only that, the MNF announcers made it clear that he was still in the early stages of his recovery from the concussion he suffered in Week 11.
3.While much has been made of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh sticking with second-year signal caller Colin Kaepernick over incumbent starter Alex Smith, the decision is hardly entrenched in stone. Harbaugh has left himself with plenty of wiggle room to go back to Smith, describing the situation as the team deciding to go with the hot hand at the position. While Kaepernick has played well and provided added dimensions in the deep passing game and running game, he will need to remain hot over the team’s final five games to enter the playoffs as the starter and there are plenty of roadblocks in the way of that happening. The 49ers Week 13 opponent played them to a tie in Week 10 and San Francisco also faces the Patriots and Seahawks over the next five weeks.
4.Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin has had an outstanding season but struggled this week against a Falcons defense that stacked the box and effectively bottled up the Buccaneers prized rookie. Prior to Martin’s 21-carry, 50-yard performance in Week 12, he had an amazing string of solid performances over his prior six games, amassing 1,019 of total yards and scoring seven touchdowns. Only two other rookies in the history of the league have accumulated 1,000 yards over a six game stretch, Eric Dickerson of the Rams in 1983 and the Colts Edgerrin James in 1999. Both players accomplished the feat twice.
5.With center Lyle Sendlein having suffered a torn left MCL during last week’s loss to the Rams, the Cardinals starting offensive line in Week 13 will feature just one holdover in the starting line-up from last season. Starting tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges were lost for the season in training camp and replaced by veteran journeyman D’Anthony Batiste and rookie 4th round pick Bobby Massie. Batiste was recently demoted in favor of rookie 7th round pick Nate Potter while Massie has struggled mightily. At guard, Adam Snyder was signed to replace Deuce Lutui, leaving only fellow guard Daryn Colledge as a returning starter from last season. The lack of continuity along the offensive line has clearly contributed to the poor overall play of the team’s offense due to their struggles in pass protection where they rank last in the league with 46 sacks allowed, nine more than the 31st ranked Packers.
6.While there is some noise emanating from Oakland regarding the fans wanting to see 2011 supplemental 3rd round pick Terrelle Pryor take the field at quarterback, the odds of him playing a meaningful role in the Raiders final five games are remote. Pryor hasn’t even be listed as the team’s 2nd string quarterback this season, with Matt Leinart having assumed that role behind Carson Palmer. However, head coach Dennis Allen has said the team needs to find out what they have in Pryor so there is a strong possibility that he will be used on a limited basis in a Wildcat or read-option role.
7.In Tennesseee, the unceremonious sacking of offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has owner Bud Adam’s fingerprints all over it. Known for meddling in his team’s affairs and influencing which players to take in the draft (remember Vince Young?) and sign in free agency (remember Peyton Manning?), Adams displayed his impatience with the team’s performance several weeks ago and threatened changes if it didn’t approve. Sure enough, Palmer was given his walking papers by head coach Mike Munchak this week and there is a strong likelihood that Adams will give Munchak his following the season if the Titans don’t finish the season strongly. After a solid rookie season as the team’s head coach in which the Titans finished 9-7 and missed making the playoffs on a tiebreaker, Tennessee is just 4-7 this season.
8.In what was very likely the worst performance of his career on Thursday night, Saints quarterback Drew Brees failed to throw a touchdown pass, ending his streak of 54 consecutive games with a passing TD. In addition, he threw a career-record five interceptions as the Saints were all but eliminated from playoff contention with their 23-13 loss to division-rival Atlanta.
9.Sticking with the Falcons, their 11-1 record is impressive but a closer look reveals that it’s not as impressive as it appears and another disappointing playoff run could be in order. Seven of their wins have been by seven points are less and the team’s running back has been shut down often this season, a situation that also occurred last season. The Falcons face the Panthers in a road game next week followed by games against the Giants, Lions and Bucs – a three game stretch that should tell us more about their chances to make a Super Bowl run in 2012.