The good, bad and ugly

NFL Week 13 report: Garappolo era begins in San Francisco; Saints keep marching

Jimmy Garappolo is off to a good start. San Francisco 49ers

Another exciting week of football in the books! Week thirteen saw some of some endings, beginnings, and continuations of eras. The action was as expected with late season NFL football.

The Good

-The Jimmy Garoppolo era is under way in San Francisco as they beat the Chicago Bears 15-14 Sunday. The 49ers ended the swirling questions about when and where the former New England Patriots backup quarterback would end up by trading for him Oct. 30. Speculation out of 49ers camp was that Garoppolo wasn’t going to start this year. That changed Sunday when he not only made his first start as a 49er, but also collected his first win.

-The New Orleans Saints picked up their ninth win on the season beating the Carolina Panthers 31-21 Sunday. Once again, their rookie running back Alvin Kamara was a driving force totaling 60 yards and two touchdowns rushing, as well as 66 yards receiving. He once transferred from the University of Alabama because of a crowded backfield. Now he’s an emerging star on an NFC playoff bound team.

-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made the league MVP debate a bit more crowded Sunday night as he outdueled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in a 24-10 victory. Wilson is now directly responsible for 29 of the Seahawks’ 30 touchdowns on the season. That stat alone puts him squarely in the driver’s seat in my opinion.

The Bad

-The Buffalo Bills were beaten by the New England Patriots 23-3 Sunday. Despite their rollercoaster of a season, they came into Sunday’s game still within striking distance of a playoff spot. The loss puts them on the outside looking in of a murky AFC playoff picture. But perhaps most damaging to their chances was the injury to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has a bruised patellar tendon and is listed as day to day. For an athletic quarterback like Taylor, a knee injury like this can limit his mobility, as well as take some heat of his passes because he won’t be able to plant and throw comfortably. The last thing Bills fans want is another Nathan Peterman performance.

-The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the New York Jets 38-31 Sunday. The once promising Chiefs season is now in jeopardy as they’re hanging on like that loose tooth your kid refuses to have plucked from his/her mouth despite being able to twist it around. While they are still leading the awful AFC West by an eyelash, they’re closer to imploding. Fans are calling for the Patrick Mahomes era to start and the team is showing signs of frustration on the field as their play declines. Losing six of your last seven after seeming like the team to beat will do that.

-The Factory of Sadness continued in Cleveland as the perpetually woeful Browns lost…again. After going down 19-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns are now 0-12 on the season. They have pieces in place to build a la the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, but will ownership give the front office a chance to do so? They’re headed for another No. 1 overall pick and own the 4-8 Houston Texans’ first and second rounders. Couple that with what they’ve drafted recently and things could be finally looking up for the Dawg Pound.

The Ugly

-New York Giants now former head coach Ben McAdoo decided this was the week to bench quarterback Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith under the guise that the team needed to see what it has. He also said this was about the future and what’s best for the team. Manning’s consecutive starts streak ended at 210 Sunday while the team lost 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were both fired Monday. I imagine handling this situation poorly, and bumbling the building of a proud franchise led to their exits.

- Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier was carted off the field Monday night after suffering a spinal contusion. The injury came as he hit Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Josh Malone. Shazier moved his arms after the hit, but didn’t appear to have moved his legs. He was taken to the hospital for observations where he will stay.

-The Washington Redskins turned the ball over four times in a 38-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and fumbled twice (one was recovered by running back Samaje Perine). For a guy who’s been banging the table for a long-term contract, he played more like the fourth round draft pick he was coming out of Michigan State as opposed to the guy who was worth a second franchise tag.

Around the league: Perhaps one of the most exciting plays of the weekend came when Bears rookie Tarik Cohen returned a punt 347 yards for a touchdown. So maybe it’ll go down as 61 yards officially, but with all the running around he did, it seemed closer to 347…Jets head coach Todd Bowles deserves some coach of the year consideration. Why you ask? The front office stripped the team down and the team was expected to compete for the first overall draft pick. Instead, they’re the 5-7 team no one wants to see down the stretch..Sure the Garoppolo era is underway in San Francisco, but it took five field goals to beat the Bears...Sure the Seahawks won, but Wentz still torched their defense for 348 yards.. Sure Cousins had a bad game against the Cowboys, but he’s still completing 66% of his passes for 3,289 yards with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on the season. I say all that to say this: no matter how bad (or good) a situation looks in the NFL, there’s always the other side of the pillow.  

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The Astros need to beat up on the lowly Rangers. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Collectively so far this season the Astros would not make for very good garbage men. Meaning they haven't been so good at taking out the trash. Swept in a series at Detroit when the Tigers were terrible, swept at Minute Maid Park by the sorry Orioles, swept in an early season series at the Rangers. Presently the Rangers are an atrocity. A nine game losing streak has them 35-62, buried deeply in last place in the American League West, 23 games behind the Astros. So the Astros need to whip up on them in this weekend's three game set, before the Astros head west for a three city road trip with stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

15. The number of home runs Jose Altuve has hit over his last 37 games. Multiply by four and that's a 60 homers in 148 games pace. Over those 37 games, Altuve is batting just .242. But slugging .577.

.029. Carlos Correa's batting average dating back 10 games played. One hit in his last 34 at bats. 14 strikeouts and just one walk over the stretch. That is what you call a funk. Certainly not a way to curry 300 million dollar contract offers.

The Rangers have just two 100 loss seasons in their history, their first two seasons after becoming the Rangers upon moving from Washington D.C. In 1972 the Ted Williams managed squad went 62-100, Ted quit, and the next year the Rangers finished 57-105. If the Astros sweep them this weekend, the Rangers will be on pace to lose 105 games.

It will be a decade ago this October that the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as any team has ever come without winning the Series. In 2011 the Rangers carried a three games to two lead into game six at St. Louis. The Rangers led game six 7-5 with two on, two out, and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals' David Freese drilled a ball toward the base of the right field wall. Rangers' right fielder Nelson Cruz didn't make an error but didn't play the ball well, going back awkwardly and reaching out at the last second as if afraid of the wall. It went for a two run triple to tie the game. Two innings later Freese hit a game winning homer to force game seven.

The inning before that the Rangers again came within one strike of winning it all. A Josh Hamilton two run homer had the Rangers up 9-7 going to the bottom of the 10th. The Cards got within 9-8. With the tying run on second and two out, Rangers' Manager Ron Washington opted to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. Albert was still a tremendous player in 2011 (his last with the Redbirds), but he was not better than Lance Berkman that season, definitely not against right-handed pitching. Walking Pujols brought up Berkman to face right-hander Scott Feldman (a matchup of former Astro and future Astro). Berkman lined a two-two pitch to center field tying the game 9-9, ahead of Freese's 11th inning walk-off homer. One of the most incredible games in World Series history.

NCAA

Quite the story hitting that Texas and Oklahoma may be plotting to bolt the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. That neither UT, OU, nor the SEC denied it has smoke billowing. The Sooners have won the last six Big 12 football championships. The Longhorns last won in 2009. Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Baylor, TCU, all have more recently won at least a share of the conference title. An SEC UT could be looking at being in a division with Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. UT marketing folks should be exploring a huge sponsorship deal with 7-Eleven. You know, Big Gulp. But as usual, follow the money.

The week ahead…

Wednesday: The Texans open training camp! Wait. Delete the exclamation point. Whither Deshaun Watson?

Thursday: The NBA Draft. Unless the Rockets pull off a thunderbolt of a trade to move up to number one and select Cade Cunningham, the winds of opinion are blowing in the direction of the Rockets taking wing Jalen Green second overall pick. That would be fine. Green is generally considered the most potential-laden explosive scorer on the board. The Rockets can use just about everything, a premium wing scorer would be excellent.

Friday: The MLB trade deadline. Does James Click bolster the Astros' shaky bullpen. The Astros have also been linked to Marlins' center fielder Starling Marte. Growing from his wretched start Myles Straw has been plenty acceptable. Free agent-to-be Marte would be a notable upgrade.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. First big beat the deadline win goes to the Rays. 41-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz still mashes. Simple frame of reference: he's been notably better than Yordan Alvarez this year.

2. The delayed by a year 2020 Summer Olympics are underway. Any interest at all?

3. Baseball's greatest Cruzes: Bronze-Jose Jr. Silver-Nelson Gold-Jose Sr.

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