• I wish I could take credit for being a genius this week, but the truth is that there were some pretty cut and dried games.  I missed on the Dallas Cowboys losing to the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers losing to the Arizona Cardinals.  I’m OK missing on the Dallas game.  I knew it would be close going in, and really, Dallas was only some undisciplined defensive play on the game deciding drive away from winning.  The game that I’m surprised by is the Cardinals beating the 49ers.  Maybe I know something about San Francisco now that I didn’t know before.  I went 14-2 (139-61) straight up and 9-7 (86-85) against the spread.  It’s a good thing you only bet half of my picks. 

    Things I Know Today

    “He was deemed ready to play. We followed all the proper medical procedures.” - Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur on Colt McCoy’s concussion. 

    Colt McCoy was leveled on a hit from Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison that even Ndamukong Suh thinks was dirty.  Harrison was flagged for a personal foul – and he deserves to be fined and suspended, as well – on a hit that left the Browns quarterback writhing on the field.  Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret and tell you that I wasn’t on the field to see the hit, nor was I on the sideline with the Cleveland medical staff.  There are many out there that think my absence from the sidelines means that my opinion of what happened doesn’t matter.  I’m OK with that.  What those people cannot dispute is that everyone watching the game, whether on coach or on the sideline, saw a guy take a helmet to the chin that clearly affected his ability to continue with the game.  Hell, that hit affected his ability to be able to have the lights on at the post game press conference. 

    It turns out that the Browns medical staff gave Shurmur the go ahead to play McCoy after taping up a finger injury, without ever even giving him the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool review (SCAT 2) that the staffs are required to give before a player return to the field after an apparent head injury.  The doctors maintain that McCoy didn’t exhibit concussion symptoms until after the game.  In fact, once the SCAT 2 was finally administered Friday morning, doctors considered it abnormal will hold McCoy out of practices and activities. 

    Wait.  So McCoy was concussed?  But not until after the game?  Is there a doctor in the crowd that can let us know whether or not there is such a thing as a delayed concussion?

    But, Friday’s test aside, who’s to blame for putting a young man’s health and livelihood at risk?  Is it the medical staff or the head coach’s?  I feel pretty good spreading the blame around evenly.  First, there’s no way in the world that a health professional could watch that hit and not immediately start worrying about the well being of your player.  Period.  No excuses, no extenuating circumstances.  A health professional should know better.  Frankly, those doctors ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

    While the team doctors deserve blame for putting McCoy’s health in danger, there is blame left for Pat Shurmur.  The buck stopping with the head coach is NFL dogma.  I understand that Shurmur was told by his doctors that McCoy could play.  I do.  But at some point the man to whom the team is entrusted needs to step up and make the right decision.  Doctors told the public that smoking was good for us for years.  Wrong happens, but when wrong gets compounded by lazy decision making, bad things can happen. 

    Pat Shurmur was hired to make correct decisions.  He hasn’t earned a paycheck yet.

    The NFC East will be one and done in the playoffs.  After watching the NFC East clash between the Dallas Cowboys and the NY Giants, it’s pretty easy to tell that the NFC East playoff representative won’t win a game in the playoffs.  The Cowboys and Giants are the only two teams from the division that can make the postseason (OK, the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t mathematically eliminated yet, but they’re as out of it as Colt McCoy was when the Browns doctors were avoiding doing the SCAT 2), and both teams are fatally flawed. 

    The Giants can’t stop the run.  After DeMarco Murray went out, the Giants allowed Felix Jones to rack up 106 yards on just 16 carries.  Not only did the Giants struggle against the run, but the New York secondary allowed Tony Romo to throw four touchdowns with no interceptions.  New York owns a -25 point differential.  That’s the only playoff team that’s given up more points than it’s scored.  No one is afraid of the big bad Giants.

    Dallas isn’t much different defensively.  They can rush the quarterback but can’t stop the run.  And the Cowboys gave up 80 more yards in the air.  Not only does Dallas have a hard time stopping opposing offenses, but when they do manage to make a good play, there’s a defensive pass interference or offsides to deal with.  Twice on New York’s go ahead drive the Cowboys had third down penalties that kept the Giants in the game. 

    The Giants have the tie-breaker for the division until the two teams face off in the season finale.  Both teams have control of their own destiny.  Winning out gets both in the playoffs, where they can give up 45 to the Lions or Falcons.

    The San Francisco 49ers might be a paper tiger.  The first rule of football is to beat the teams that are on your schedule, and the 49ers have done a great job at that.  San Francisco is 10-3 and have clinched the NFC West.  After that sentiment, things don’t look so rosy for San Francisco.

    The 49ers play a powerful brand of fooballt that features good coaching, a steady dose of Frank Gore, and stingy defense.  Fans have come to love that kind of football.  It’s hard-nosed and intimidating.  But beating up on the NFC West and a weak non division schedule may have fooled us into thinking that the 49ers are a big time contender in the NFC. 

    The opponents the 49ers have beaten are a combined 53-74 (41%).  Of their 10 wins, the only quality victories are over the wild card – and wildly inconsistent – Detroit Lions and the New York Giants (see above).  San Francisco jumped out to such an early lead in the division and played dominant football against bad teams.  I respect that.  But this loss to Arizona and that weak schedule have me wondering if San Francisco is a little bit over-rated.  With Pittsburgh and a surging Seattle looming before the season finale against St. Louis, we might see the 49ers lose their hold on the #2 seed and the first round bye in the playoffs. 

    I like the 49ers are a good team with lots of potential for the future, but playing bad teams doesn’t get you ready for the playoffs.  A first round exit at the hands of the Lions or Atlanta Falcons may have seemed like a terrible prediction a few weeks ago, but now it’s starting to make sense.

    Have NFL questions?

    Want to argue with me?

    Are you a Steelers fan who thinks that Harrison isn’t a dirty player?

    Email me at JoshFlagner@gmail.com, follow me on Twitter at @RailbirdJ and like More Than A Fan on facebook.

    Check out More Than A Fan Radio on CSF Radio Fridays 7-9pm.  Ryan and I talk sports, and probably aggravate everyone

    Josh Flagner (382 Posts)

    Josh was born in Cleveland, lives in Medina, and talks too much. Publisher or the More Than a Fan Digital Network and Host of the More Than a Fan Podcast, he's basically lucky to still be married.


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