NFL, Elite High School, College Teams Still On The Gridiron

Saturday afternoon’s annual Army-Navy game officially ended the 2014 college football regular schedule, leading to the ritual of choosing the best collegiate football player in the nation a few hours later at the Friar’s Club in New York City.

Neither event offered any surprises as the Midshipmen from Annapolis held on for their 13th straight victory over the stubborn Cadets from West Point 17-10 and Oregon’s stellar quarterback Marcus Mariota nabbed the 80th Heisman Trophy by garnering twice as many votes as runner-up Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin.

Now the only college teams still in action are those fortunate enough to be playing in one of the 38 bowl games plus the national championship playoff final between the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl winner Jan. 12 at Jerry’s World AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. 

There are four teams still alive in the College Football Championship Subdivision semifinals waiting to play this weekend—Sam Houston State at North Dakota State Friday and Illinois State at New Hampshire on Saturday.

Texas high school football moves into its final week as 20 teams from various classes and divisions compete for that coveted state championship that they have been practicing for since the first week of August. 

Among the 20 teams vying for a state championship are the West Orange-Stark Mustangs (13-2) from Class 4A Division II and the Newton Eagles (12-3) from Class 3A Division II who are facing extremely talented opponents in undefeated Gilmer (15-0) and Waskom (14-1), respectively.

Newton plays at 5 p.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington while the Mustangs take on Gilmer at noon on Friday. Both teams are early-week underdogs, but that doesn’t really matter when the state title is up for grabs.

Last weekend it appeared that the two National Football League franchises from the Lone Star State took off in opposite directions as far as their respective playoff chances are concerned.

The Houston Texans, playing for their post-season lives, hit a big bump in the road when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a fractured left tibia bone in his leg early in the second period of their big game at Indianapolis against the AFC South Division leading Colts.

Ironically, the Texans’ defense played one of its better games, holding Indianapolis far below its NFL second-ranked scoring average (31.3 points) and first-ranked yardage (432.4 yards per game).

The final score of 17-10 kept the Texans in the game until the end thanks to the defense that allowed only 278 total yards and three points in the second half.  Rookie quarterback Tom Savage spelled Fitzpatrick and played in the second period like he was just being introduced to the game of football.

But after halftime, Savage calmed down and was much less nervous and began to move the offense, although he only accounted for three points on the scoreboard. However, the only points Houston scored during the short time Fitzpatrick was quarterbacking came on a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Kendrick Lewis.

As luck would have it, Savage injured his knee late in the game and has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against Baltimore, forcing the Texans to sign former back-up Case Keenum Monday. 

The starting quarterback for the Baltimore game could be Keenum or more likely veteran journeyman Thad Lewis, who was signed a couple of weeks ago. Whoever it is, it probably won’t be pretty.

The Dallas Cowboys upset the Eagles in Philadelphia 37-27 Sunday night, keeping their playoff hopes much brighter than Houston’s. The Pokes took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East Division with a 10-4 record, with the Eagles one game out at 9-5.

But the victory didn’t come without the Cowboys paying a price as the NFL’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray suffered a broken fourth metacarpal bone (ring finger) on his left hand on the last play of the game. Murray had surgery Monday and has not been ruled out of Sunday’s game against Indianapolis.

He will have pain around the finger and will probably have to carry the football in his right hand and hope his doesn’t have to deliver a straight arm with his left, because it will hurt. 

The injury also could affect his pass blocking and pass catching, but one can bet that Idiot Owner Jerry Jones will suggest that he can and should play Sunday. Emmitt Smith had the same injury in 1999 and missed one Cowboy game because of it.

Three AFC division championships were sewn up Sunday—Indianapolis in the South, Denver in the West and New England in the East. 

There should be other clear-cut champions after this week’s action, like Arizona and Seattle in the NFC West who play in the desert Sunday night (7:30 p.m.) on NBC. Detroit and Green Bay are tied for the lead in the NFC North while Cincinnati tries to hold on to its half-game lead in the AFC North over Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

KWICKIES…The Detroit Lions have won 10 games in one season for the first time since 1991. The Lions currently are tied with the Green Bay Packers with 10-4 records.

And while on the subject of streaks, the Dallas Cowboys are 7-0 on the road this season and are averaging 33 points per game. They just seem to have a harder time winning in the friendly confines of Jerry’s World.

The Green Bay Packers were 0-5 at Orchard Park and lost their only game at Ralph Wilson Stadium after Thanksgiving. And the victorious Buffalo Bills now are 4-0 against the NFC North Division teams after upsetting the Packers 21-13 Sunday.

Despite the Houston Texans almost getting eliminated from the playoff possibilities, it was no fault of defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who had another monstrous game Sunday at Indianapolis. Besides recording the Texans only two sacks for 19 yards in losses to bring his sack total for the season to 16½, he also had six tackles, batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage and drew a holding call to nullify one of Andrew Luck’s touchdown passes.

Now that the NFL is being so careful with players suffering concussions, I think that if it resulted in a penalty and a fine from the league office, the guilty party should have to miss as many games as the person he inflicted the injury on without pay. Then maybe some of those cheap shots would disappear if teams would do a better job of preaching about hitting players high.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Cleveland Browns’ first-year head coach Mike Pettine must be just as green at his job as Johnny Manziel proved to be Sunday in his first NFL start at quarterback. How can a coach just hand the football to an untested rookie while his team still has a good chance to be in the playoffs? After all. Brian Hoyer directed all seven victories and kept them in the playoff hunt while he was starting. The Cincinnati Bengals had a mission in Sunday’s game at Cleveland to make life miserable for Johnny Football and they did a real good job of it. Former players who were interviewed during last week gave the impression that they hoped Manziel and his swagger would fail in the NFL. I don’t hope he fails, but I do wish someone would knock him off his high horse and give him a first-class attitude adjustment!!!