This afternoon, we continue giving thanks for the NFL and the highs and lows it brings us--its devotees--weekly. Today, we join together in front of TV screens, computer screens, and radios around the world to give thanks for Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as we get to watch two former NFL MVPs and truly elite QBs lead (drag) their teams into the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers had the foresight to draft Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith in the 2005 NFL Draft, and after three years of sitting behind future HOF QB Brett Favre, finally turned the reins over to Rodgers, who has developed into one of, if not the, best QB(s) in the NFL today. Brady was drafted after six other QBs (none of whom are still in the league) in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft to back up Drew Bledsoe before he seized the starting QB job and developing--with HC Bill Belicheck--one of the most successful HC-QB pairings in league history.
Lambeau Field is one of the most iconic stadiums in NFL, so we get the chance to watch the King of the (NFC) North lead Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, Clay Matthews, and Julius Peppers against Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Darrelle Revis. While playing in Lambeau in late November might be a challenge for most QBs, Brady and company play in harsh conditions at Gillette Stadium, so the cold is less likely to be a factor for them than it would for other teams. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms we be calling this game for CBS, available across the county to all homes except for an unlucky few in the Atlanta-area who don't get the game.
While Matt Ryan is not on the level of Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, Matty Ice is a franchise QB, just unfortunately playing on a franchise in turmoil under Atlanta's own Walking Dead HC Mike Smith. What was supposed to be a bounce-back season for the Atlanta Falcons has instead been a second season in a row of inexplicable clock decisions, debilitating injuries, uninspired coaching, and general WTF?-ness that has Falcoholics clamoring for change. Despite their substandard 4-7 record, the Falcons are actually tied with the New Orleans Saints for the lead in the NFC South, with the Saints holding the tiebreaker (debates over whether the NFCS needs to cede its automatic playoff berth will, I'm sure, ensue).
The Falcons drafted OT Jake Matthews (cousin of Clay and PHI's Casey, and younger brother of Kevin, son of HOF OL Bruce, nephew of Clay Jr, grandson of Clay Sr, and cousin of Troy Niklas) with the aim of protecting their franchise QB and eventually moving Matthews over to LT from RT after this, his rookie season, but a season-ending injury to Sam Baker in the Falcons preseason game against the Texans forced Matthews to swap sides earlier than expected. Even so, Matt Ryan has been sacked 23 times, making his task of feeding Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Steven Jackson that much more difficult. Likewise, the Falcons' defense remains lackluster, despite the presence of Osi Umenyiora, Desmond Trufant, and Paul Soliai, with RaShede Hageman and Kroy Biermann remaining lightning rods for fans' ire.
The Falcons will be welcoming Bruce Arians, his Kangol cap, and the rest of the Arizona Cardinals to the Georgia Dome in the hopes of returning to their winning ways after a surprising loss against the Seattle Seahawks last week. While Carson Palmer is done for the season (and possibly his career) after a second ACL injury, Arians has refused to adjust his offense for Drew Stanton, expecting Stanton to handle the task set before him. Larry Fitzgerald remains troubled by a sprained MCL and didn't practice this week, leaving Stanton reliant on such "household names" as Rob Housler, Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington on offense.
In reality, Cardinals fans need to give plenty of thanks for the presence of Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Calais Campbell and Antonio Cromartie on defense. Clearly recognizing our friendly fandom, Fox is airing this game for Houstonians, meaning those of us who live in the Houston area, the Atlanta market, much of the West Coast, St Louis, Buffalo, Cleveland, Baltimore, Alaska, and Hawaii will get to watch Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch call this game on TV.
Gather 'round, Texans fans, as we stuff ourselves into the 'itis and enjoy this afternoon slate of NFL games. A friendly (and usual) reminder to be kind to one another.