Now the Fun Begins

December is shaping up to be a wild month, with surprise playoff contenders emerging and new stars rising. For one, who’d have thought two months ago that the Eagles and Cardinals would be playing a game with major postseason implications in Week 13?

So many great games on the schedule this week, as the calendar turns to December on Sunday: Denver-Kansas City II, New Orleans-Seattle I, the massively struggling Colts playing for their lives, a jillion teams playing to keep flickering postseason hopes alive.

I love the Arizona-Philadelphia game. It’s a matchup of a classic, traditional offensive coach, Bruce Arians, with a deep-ball-throwing quarterback, Carson Palmer, against a new-wave offensive coach, Chip Kelly, who like to play fast and has a smart quarterback, Nick Foles, to run his offense the way he wants.

Arizona’s won four in a row, averaging 30.3 points in those wins. Philly’s won three in a row, average 33.3 points.

Palmer’s found his footing recently after a long adjustment period with Arians’ offense (read what Jim Trotter wrote for us this week). He’s made Larry Fitzgerald-alternative Michael Floyd come alive at the other wide receiver slot (last two weeks: 13 catches, 297 yards), and his rating of 112.1 over the last month shows Palmer is becoming one with Arians.

Foles has been such a revelation at quarterback for Philadelphia that Mike Vick, the clear winner of the job in training camp, says it would be foolish for Kelly to make a change at quarterback even though Vick is healthy now. Sixteen touchdowns, no interceptions. It’s no fluke. Just watch Foles. He plays fast, and he has proven you don’t have to be a gazelle to win in Kelly’s scheme. As Kelly said a couple of weeks ago, Foles may not be fleet of foot, but he is fleet of mind.

Here’s how these teams stack up in their respective NFC races: Philadelphia, 6-5, has to win to regain a tie with the Cowboys (7-5) atop the NFC East; the Eagles end the season at Dallas in Week 17, and it’s looking like that could be a very significant game. Arizona, 7-4, is three games behind Seattle in the NFC West with five to play, and realistically is playing for a Wild Card. Problem is, 7-4 San Francisco and 8-3 Carolina are also playing for the Wild Card right now. The Panthers have won seven straight, and the Niners are 6-2 in their last eight, with the narrow losses to Carolina and New Orleans the only scars. It could be three teams fighting for two spots.

As the Wild Card race heats up, Michael Floyd is giving Carson Palmer and the Cardinals a dangerous deep-ball threat opposite Larry Fitzgerald. (Tom Hauck/AP)
As the Wild Card race heats up, Michael Floyd is giving Carson Palmer and the Cardinals a dangerous deep-ball threat opposite Larry Fitzgerald. (Tom Hauck/AP)

“We’re going to need some help,” Arians told me this week. “We have to stay on San Francisco’s heels until we play them (in Week 17, at Arizona), and we have to hope Carolina loses. But the way we’re playing right now, I like our chances. Defense and special teams are really playing well, and I’m telling you, Carson’s playing lights out. We go through practices now and the ball never hits the ground. The difference in our team on offense now is confidence. Watch Carson. Watch Michael Floyd. They are confident football players right now. That makes all the difference. Carson’s got two terrific receivers now, and they’re becoming a matchup problem.”

One of the fun things about the NFL at this time of year is watching the hot teams shock the world. A month ago we’d never have figured Philadelphia or Arizona to be in competition for anything but a high draft position. Now, admit it: You wouldn’t be surprised if either one of these teams, playing the way they are, wins a Wild Card game in January.

* * *

1 2NEXT VIEW AS A SINGLE PAGE
25 comments
Supernaut
Supernaut

Who is Jason McCourty? Is that Devin's brother?

Thomas15
Thomas15

Are they still going to play the Philly/Arizona game? From what I'm reading sounds like the Eagles should not even show up.  

TigerFrankBurris
TigerFrankBurris

I was secretly hoping Jacboy would have crashed into Tomlin and and then have him carted off the field, that would have been epic, and also karma for his shenanigans.

Phroggo
Phroggo

The big question in the Mike Tomlin incident is how much longer the NFL will tolerate the incompetence of referee Clete Blakeman, umpire Garth DeFelice and the rest of that officiating crew.

Jon8
Jon8

The guy who writes this column (I refuse to use his name as I find it offensive) once again has misplaced the emphasis!

Here is Tomlin, innocently, getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and immediately taking responsibility and apologizes and the guy who writes this column wants to reign old testament judgment on him!

What about SF's Harbaugh who spends most of the game on the field screaming at, and intimidating Officials in every single game??!!

TigerFrankBurris
TigerFrankBurris

Greaseball Tomlin knew exactly what he was doing just like at the little stupid smirk on his face after the fact, if that's another other team not named Pittsburgh or New England that's a penalty. 

mgranadosv
mgranadosv

Yeah, what a great hire Gus Bradley was. 

He has won 2 games and the Jags have been absolutely pathetic except in those two wins, they were losing by 30+ points every game.

I know PK has to keep it politically correct but saying good things about the Jags is pushing it.

Starstruck
Starstruck

Arians is proving he deserved to be Coach of the Year in 2012.  He drove the Colts team to beyond expectations, then turned the reins over to ( an inconsistent ) Pagano and left for AZ. Now he is operating at a Coach of the Year standard in the desert.  Who knew that Arians could mold retread Carson Palmer into the second coming of Kurt Warner. 

TynanPatrick
TynanPatrick

@Jon8 yelling at officials isnt against the rules, standing on the field of play is

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

If you hate Peter King so much! why do you read his column and waste your time with your posts?

dkinnear
dkinnear

Tomlinson actually affected the play by pushing the runner away from the sideline and into the tackler. Tomlinson needs to be suspended with it pay for one week. He knows the rule and he was far, far outside the rule.

tbdetermined
tbdetermined

@Jon8 this affected the game, Tomlin literally went over the line

hubble181
hubble181

@Reedster2185 Poor widdle weedster's team was vewy badly beaten by the big bad patwiots too many times.

anon76
anon76

@mgranadosv 

They're losing because they have a zero talent roster and got stuck with a pretty tough schedule (Carolina, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Kansas City would spell 2-3 losses even for a team with the best roster.

And yes, even when they were getting blown out, Bradley had his guys fighting for him.  That is an excellent skill for a coach to have.

dkinnear
dkinnear

I meant Tomlin. I hate automatic spell check!

TynanPatrick
TynanPatrick

@brant.david2112 @TigerFrankBurris As a Ravens fan, Tomlin should have been flagged(ANY time anyone but the 11 players for your team steps on the field during a play it is an automatic 15 yard penalty, no questions) and he should be fined for it. that could have literally changed the outcome of the game. accident or not, that isnt excusable. 

Mark20
Mark20

@Reedster2185 @hubble181Are you an adult? "Cheatriots"? Really? Grow the F up. Hard to watch a team you hate keep on winning isn't it?

Jealous much? LOL!

Newsletter