Mike Tomlin better check his fly from now on

Mark Bell Spectator’s Eye

December 6, 2013

The NFL news of the week has been all about Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and his Thanksgiving sideline dance, which was really nothing but some good old fashioned spur-of-the-moment gamesmanship.

Thanks to the NFL’s anally-retentive posture with regards to its various rules and public image, their reaction has been akin to swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

Not that they will ever care for the odd fan’s opinion, but the collateral damage from such a reaction hardly seems worth it. When the next fly goes buzzing by (provided, of course, that it’s not the same one that you only thought you got the first time), what’s the next tool in your box, a mace?

The actual problem with this whole situation is that it’s been a media-driven penalty regarding a play that wound up having absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the game. In fact, it’s pretty evident his little two-step and a hop maneuver didn’t affect the play itself in any substantial sort of way.

During the heat of the moment, it was apparently not a big deal since the referees on the field at the time - one each on opposites sides of the offending coach looking right at him as the play matriculated down the field - completely disregarded it.

But when television later showed their pictures and Tomlin had the audacity to react with a grin on his face, the twitter pated amongst us these days goosed themselves into a minor frenzy and the “league office” stepped in with their usual legalistic efficiency and aplomb.

Thus a new category of coaching conduct has been codified while the “league office” considers the penalties it will apply in whatever fashion it chooses in its own good time. Isn’t monopolistic power one of mankind’s most wonderful creations? Tomlin bows. We sigh.

Following a week of extraordinary luck during Week 13, the success percentage of your humble prognosticator jumped from .600 to .618, which is an astounding improvement for one week’s slate this late in the season.

There’s nothing quite like a 13-3 week to lighten the mood. Here’s hoping it all doesn’t go south with Week 14 (which isn’t necessarily a bad omen in itself, but being 14 is a tough age for everybody).

Bills at Buccaneers - The future of both of these often-struggling franchises appears bright with the emergence of young quarterbacks Mike Glennon in Tampa Bay and E.J. Manuel in Buffalo. Now if the teams can amass sufficient talent around them - and they avoid the ever-present injury risk - there is hope for even better things soon.

These two present about as evenly matched a contest as the NFL can have, and that usually means the difference is in the intangibles and the uncontrollables, chief among the latter of which are the weather conditions in western New York coming off Lake Erie as December opens winter’s door.

That looks to be the single toughest matchup problem the Florida team will have and there’s not a thing anybody can do about it except assume it probably plays a big hand in the outcome.

Chiefs at Redskins - If they are not now very careful in folding their map, Kansas City is going wind up being later than expected at the postseason party. They dare not detour and risk a big stumble on the road to D.C. (which is so full of stumbles these days we don’t know what to think next).

The formula of stringent defense with a measured offense managing its possessions well still works. The problem with Washington is they can’t do either, and their erstwhile explosive potential with the ball has fallen into one of those potholes they only dug for themselves.

Titans at Broncos - There’s no doubt Tennessee still has some fight left in them, but on the road in Denver is no place to expect any sort of knockout surprise unless Buster Douglas gets behind center for the horsemen. (Now there’s a mental picture.) Even so, with Coach John Fox back in the corner calling the shots there’s no way Denver takes a dive.

Rams at Cardinals - St. Louis is overdue for their surprise victory of the season. Not quite as big a one as they were hoping for a month or so ago, but they can take solace in all the little divisional rivalry revenge gems they can get. They know what kind of pressure Carson Palmer can and cannot take, and - unless the Rams get really generous with the ball - Arizona’s defense can’t do it alone, even at home.

Giants at Chargers - San Diego is probably not the sort of team to slink away just because all their hopes are now dashed. The competitive spirit of Philip Rivers just doesn’t work that way. New York’s lineup, on the other hand, is just chock full of slinkiness these days.

Big Blue has fired up the hot stove and the roster spit is rotating even now. It will be ready for fresh meat around April and Chef Coughlin is looking forward to serving dinner in the spring.

Seahawks at 49ers - Here’s our Game of the Day award winner as we see how much momentum Seattle maintains heading south on Interstate 5. (Yes, we know, they actually fly to these things but that’s not as hefty a metaphor.)

The Seahawks are in everybody’s heads right now. Nobody really knows how to deal with them. Russell Wilson has a lot of experts scratching their heads, and a few more marveling at the sight. The issue for Seattle is if they will begin to suffer the effects of the dreaded disciplinary double-play: misbehavior and overconfidence. They passed the first question on the misbehavior test last week with their suffocation of the Saints. Division rivals on the road present a different set of circumstances.

While it’s true that you can never be too confident, you can never be too sure of yourself either, and always be certain to know as much about your opponent as you do about yourself. We have a month to learn how mature they really are.

The question of the moment for the home team is if their offensive issues are straightening out: Colin Kaepernick’s accuracy and confidence, the return of Michael Crabtree, how gimpy Frank Gore’s ankle will be, etc. These mesh pretty well with the questions about the backside of Seattle’s defense and whether any holes show up where really big hitters have been playing really well.

It’s very hard to turn down butter when it’s on a hot roll, so let’s go with Seattle but that’s only because this space requires a choice.

Panthers at Saints - Since we just grabbed a left coaster as Game of the Day, we’ll settle on this Gulf Coast venue for our Game of the Week. The league’s schedule-makers must have foreseen something in putting these two rivals with matching records face-to-face two times in the last month.

New Orleans starts off with the advantage because they always play so well at home since Coach Sean Payton moved to town. On the other hand, Carolina is looking to continue their franchise record by winning a ninth consecutive game. Something’s gotta give.

The matchups are nothing short of fantastic pretty much all across the lines. But, while enormously talented, the bulk of the players on the Panthers roster are in rarified air which is notorious for taking your breath away, especially when that atmosphere is confined in the old Superdome.

Expect the Saints’ defense to make the play that makes the difference.

Cowboys at Bears - This is a “Four-D Formula” pick: Don’t trust Dallas out of doors in December.