The Hangover is a fevered attempt to collect thoughts on the NFL and anything else stuck in the craws of the brain on Tuesday* after all football has burned out. All opinions belong solely to the author and all facts belong to that evil new war god** of unfeeling thought.
*We're here a day early because we'll be talking plenty of Lions on Tuesday, come hell or high water. Let's sneak it in now.
**If you haven't clicked the link, you should. New music this week, thanks to Baroness, an amazing band any rock fan should be checking out.
The Panthers are 14-0 and have locked up the first-round bye with authority. But the record felt secondary to the crazed spectacle unfolding across the stage in New Jersey as the drama in five (six?) parts unfolded with Odell Beckham Jr. on one side and the Panthers, primarily Josh Norman, on the other.
The Shakespeare nonsense had it all. Although the great Bard preferred stabbing, Odell tried decapitation against his vengeful foe. It all began there, and the league should rightly punish him for such an act (although given the state of the Commissioner's office it'll be curious to see how that unfolds). That said, the intrigue was already loose.
Beckham remained in the game, because while the NFL may talk a good deal about player safety and discipline, it's not enough to beat out of the almighty powers of viewership and television drama. Beckham remained in, and certainly as you could have called this script, he caught the game-tying touchdown from Eli Manning and proceeded to mimic Allen Iverson.
This of course was going to subject us to all manners of terrible takes come Monday if the Giants had held serve and snatched victory from the Panthers. The concept that Odell Beckham Jr. could "redeem" himself from trying to scramble the brains of Josh Norman by catching a game-tying touchdown was ridiculous. And yet...
Now Odell Beckham Jr. has a chance to redeem himself.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 20, 2015
Mercifully, the Giants couldn't hold on to their duct-taped spoiler dreams and sprung another leak. The Panthers marched on and that was that.
The words afterward from the Panthers were probably the best of the day. It's clear there's going to be skepticism around what the NFL does on something like this. Beckham is one of their biggest stars right now and the Giants are one of the more popular franchises, with its head coach scrambling to find a way to end his season (and perhaps, his career) with any glint of positivity possible. Depriving the Giants and Eli of their primary weapon would be a blow to any chance they have to salvage the NFC East's despicable outlook.
But the main loser here is Beckham himself. What was once a man who made unbelievable catches and a perky attitude has now had his image shifted dramatically in the eyes of sports fans. Any neutral fan watching must have seen that something was really off. He got whipped all day and made irrational decisions in how he vented his frustration with Norman. It came out, and most people think differently today about how he has been sold to them. He got nothing out of this that will endear him or his "brand" to the sports world.
That and, really now, you can't do the Iverson stomp and then lose the game. That's just sacrilege.
Each game Chip Kelly loses, we wait with baited breath for the hangman's call. Every touchdown by the opponent, the cries in Philadelphia denounce the once-crowned genius. The memes roll in and urges grow louder for Chip to return to the college fold a conqueror. "It's for the best for all parties."
Philadelphia is perhaps rightfully upset at the pace of things. The Chip Kelly reign began with such vigor and zeal, slaughtering the Washington team on Monday Night Football to inaugurate his debut in the NFL. Since then, the roster has slowly eroded and despite excellent records in the past two seasons, it's not enough to keep the hounds off him for a season currently sitting 6-8. Certainly, not enough given that he's spent these offseasons demolishing the Andy Reid roster and trying to make...something. He also may or may not be burning the bridges necessary to build that roster; I don't care if you believe in the idea of Chip Kelly being racist or not, but it's clear he is going about in a manner that will drive off player desires to join for his team.
But more importantly, there is this notion is that he's going to be done in Philadelphia after this year; of that much is certain to the fans. They want the bum out, but to do so would take deus ex machina and an about-face from Jeffrey Lurie. Do not be quick to forget that Kelly won the front office power struggle and has assumed control over much of football operations. That does matter, as it probably buys Kelly a little more time to do what he must with the Eagles roster (for his sake, hopefully a quarterback, seeing as neither side of the Foles/Bradford trade seems to have found anything of note).
Still, this is Philadelphia. Something's bound to happen in this town.
Brock Osweiler's performance Sunday was uninspired. A late interception capped off any crazed hope for a return from the abyss as the Broncos let the Steelers waltz back into the game and snatch victory. Those bastards are dangerous. They'll shank you if you don't watch your back, and they'll take your playoff spot...Jets.
Now though, as Brock struggles to fill this role thrust upon him mid-season, cries are coming from analysts to see the return of Peyton Manning to the field. This seems absolutely absurd, not to mention selective as to exactly which Peyton you'll get coming back to the field.
...your weekly reminder that Peyton Manning's passer rating this season is 67.6, worst among rate-stat qualifiers. There's no going back.— TY Fighter (@tyschalter) December 21, 2015
I don't see how a Peyton Manning return, any return, won't be any different from the past couple of years where Kobe Bryant has returned to the Lakers. The zeitgeist demands he be the star and continue the narrative, regardless that his play might be so unbelievably detrimental to the team. In many ways, Peyton Manning also commands that same zealous shield from his fans as Kobe does. There's nothing you can do to point out that The End Has Come for their favorite superstar. It has to be forcibly excised, the farewell laid bare.
It simply would not be prudent for the Broncos to continue to make this analogy any more clear. The Lakers have damaged themselves kowtowing to the wishes of their own superstar. Bringing back Peyton next year would service absolutely nobody, save perhaps all the writing that would be generated in half-eulogy for a man who is held to be a pinnacle of sportsmanship and a reprimand to any who dares deviate from the quarterback-as-a-perfect-man paradigm.
Maybe Brock can't cut it for them, which would illustrate a new terror in the idea of an heir-apparent quarterback model for plenty of fans, but the way forward isn't with Manning. He's done. Hope otherwise is just trying to find the narrative.
Every day is Thursday
We've reached the dread-long time of year where the NFL has begun to encroach upon Saturday, filling the vacuum left by college football almost the instant after the Army-Navy game hit triple zeroes. Of course, a new day of the week conquered doesn't necessarily facilitate good football. You could have put your child to sleep by the inaction of the Cowboys and Jets.
It's nice to see that the weary state of Thursday NFL games can be exported to another night of the week with the same name and branding. But it's also curious why the NFL wants to walk this route to begin with.
On one hand, it's predictable and understandable. I tried to lay out a schedule on a napkin where the NFL could conceivably find a night every day of the week to play at least two games, with Sunday being the preference for overflow past two. Certainly, if someone could find the proper networks to pick it up (you can't really be casting out weeknight prime time programming) it'll get the ratings, just as Thursday gets the ratings despite the quality of games. It could also be beneficial in ending this abysmal regional system, where I'm stuck with Patriots and Titans as the only 1 o'clock game here in Toledo.
And sure, we can brand them all Thursday Night Football on every night too.
But I'm not sure it's sustainable. It's a great path if you want to set the world on a stage of weariness for football by trying to showcase it each and every night. Part of the appeal of football is the gluttony of a single day and night of sport. Even as football -- primarily college, but the NFL is here too -- attempts to do the thing and expand to every day of the week in search of new ratings, the real meat of the matter remains on the weekend. It's why they've put Red Zone out there, and Sunday Ticket, and all the rest of the mess. It remains the day that people can carve out to watch football, rather than check the channel guide and decide to watch something other than sports on a Wednesday. It is, as that trailer for Concussion keeps reminding us, a day of the week the NFL owns. To loosen its grip in search of more days and more ratings is haphazard.
Besides, it's bowl season.
Conquered but won
When the Detroit Lions met the Raiders, Oakland was already in free-fall, plummeting and rapidly ceding ground on their playoff hopes. With their 30-20 defeat at the hands of Green Bay on Sunday, the Raiders are finally eliminated from playoff contention.
They'll be a sexy pick for the future. The AFC West is certainly competitive, although time will tell if the Broncos and Chiefs can continue their reigns. The Raiders, meanwhile, have quietly worked up a great core with Amari Cooper and Derek Carr on one side of the ball and Khalil Mack on the other. There's plenty on their radar in the draft, but both the grizzled Jack Del Rio and Charles Woodson profess their beliefs in a bright future for the Silver & Black.
That's great if they can pull it off. Football is better with a loud, brash, domineering Raiders team, especially if this happens to become a Los Angeles team to boot. As I said last week with AJ McCarron (who won on Sunday! The first Alabama quarterback to do it since the 80s!), the NFL is in need of new villains, although this Raiders team might not necessarily be willing to fall into the role their history has oft ordained. After all, Al Davis no longer commands the team's fortunes, for better or ill.
Granted, all hope towards the future is ephemeral. They're certainly a sexy pick, but we'll see down the line how it all holds together. These things have a way of derailing quickly for Oakland. Wish them the best but be ready for the inferno.
Matt Hasselbeck's heroics have kept the Colts' AFC South-based playoff dreams alive up until this point, when the Texans trampled over Indianapolis on Sunday. The Colts are still in play but it feels like the old king might finally be out of tricks.
For his own part, Hasselbeck gave a crushing presser following the defeat. It's understandable here. He's been punched, bitten, stabbed, set aflame, run over, smashed, crashed, eviscerated, lacerated and defenestrated. That's been his career. Like Channing Tatum in The Eagle -- if you're not above a horrible Netflix movie reference -- he exists only at this point to be beaten and throttled.
At this point there's good wonder why Matt's still out here trying to make it work. He made 40 years last September and enjoys rarefied company among those old-timers who can still survive in the NFL, although that may not be enough for the hyper-modern NFL where hits come harder and harder and everything hurts.
Peyton Manning chased a dragon seeking to finish his career on a high note. That's never really been Hasselbeck's role in this grand drama. His goal seems to be to survive as long as humanly possible in a league where that privilege escapes so many. Maybe he's reached the end of it. He shouldn't have to sacrifice himself any further to save a team like the Colts. He's done enough.