|Joe Flacco (left) and Michael Turner could decide the fates of the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.|
John Madden always likes to say that it isn't worth judging a team and projecting its fate until after Thanksgiving.
Well, the turkey, stuffing and requisite leftovers have been digested. My wife's cooking was superb. Some of the play in the NFL? Well, not so much.
Here are nine guys I just don't trust down the post-Thanksgiving stretch.
1) Joe Flacco
I never have trusted Flacco. Right now, it looks like I never will.
Sure, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback played great against the New England Patriots in the AFC title game last season. If receiver Lee Evans had been able to hold on to the ball, maybe we would all have a different perspective of Flacco.
But he's been very ordinary this year. There's likely a reason that the super-savvy Ravens organization has seemed reluctant to give a new deal to Flacco, even though he's set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2013. He hasn't taken his game -- or his team -- to the next level.
Baltimore is 9-2. But who believes in the Ravens as a Super Bowl team? I don't. Flacco was average at best (completing 30 of 51 passes for 355 yards and one touchdown) in Sunday's squeaker of a win over the San Diego Chargers. Perhaps lost in the discussion of Ray Rice's majestic run after the catch on fourth-and-29 from his own 37 was the fact that Flacco checked down on fourth-and-29.
In a loss to the Houston Texans in Week 7, Flacco was horrible. In a win against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9, Flacco started hot and made a big throw late, but slept through the rest of the game. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11, Flacco threw for just 164 yards. Yes, he torched the Oakland Raiders in Week 10, but he was facing a Raiders "defense" that is an embarrassment to professional sports.
On my SiriusXM NFL Radio show in January, Ravens safety Ed Reed called out his quarterback. There was a reason for it. Flacco is not a difference maker. The Ravens' defense has not been the same sans injured players Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis, and the team needed Flacco to provide a boost. He has failed.
2) Michael Turner
When I wrote about the Atlanta Falcons at the halfway point of the season, I critiqued their run game. General manager Thomas Dimitroff correctly told me that it must get better. While Jacquizz Rodgers has given the team a little bit of juice, Turner is the featured back, and he hasn't gotten started. Why would I think he could turn it on now?
Take a look at Turner's last three games. He barely registered in Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, carrying the ball 13 times for 17 yards. When Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw five picks against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11, Turner couldn't do much to help "Ice," running for just 46 yards. In the Week 10 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Turner averaged an unacceptable 1.2 yards per carry.
Ice needs balance on offense. The defense needs rest, and the long, sustained drives that can provide it.
3) Ben Roethlisberger
It's not necessarily that I don't trust Big Ben. I've been on record for years as saying he's an elite quarterback who plays his best when it matters the most. Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer who has stepped up for the Steelers, masking areas of deficiency and making up for injuries all season. Anyone who doubted Roethlisberger's value has seen the Steelers' total ineptitude in the two games -- both losses, and abject failures, at that -- Big Ben has missed.
But if Roethlisberger returns, I wonder if he will actually be healthy enough to play at his customary megastar level.
I wrote last week that Pittsburgh will miss the playoffs without a healthy Roethlisberger. Obviously, after the Steelers committed eight turnovers in Sunday's debacle against the Cleveland Browns, I feel even stronger about my prediction.
Injured backup quarterback Byron Leftwich is awful. His replacement, Charlie Batch, is worse. After watching the way the Steelers' running backs turned it over, and given the play on the line, I don't think you can bank on an injured Big Ben to save the Steelers' season.
4) Marshall Newhouse
It's really not fair to pin all of the blame on the Green Bay Packers left tackle, but he's been the poster child for the team's troubles with a suspect offensive line.
This unit was supposed to be solid. However, matched up against the elite pass rush of the New York Giants on Sunday night, quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't have a chance to work his magic.
5) Russell Wilson
If you've read my columns or listened to my radio show, you'd know there isn't a bigger Russell Wilson fan on the planet then me. I created the Wilson bandwagon this February. And the Seattle Seahawks' rookie quarterback hasn't disappointed.
What I don't trust is Wilson's ability to take over games and dominate if Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are suspended for violating the league's policy banning performance-enhancing substances, as NFL.com's Ian Rapoport has reported they're accused of doing.
Sherman's only been one of the best defensive players in the sport this season. The suffocating Seattle defense has functioned off of the "Legion of Boom" making plays and being physical on the back end.
6) Tim Dobbins
Who the heck is Tim Dobbins?
This really has nothing to do with Dobbins, who is a non-factor at linebacker for the Houston Texans. It has everything to do with how much the Texans miss the injured Brian Cushing on defense. And the fact that we even have reason to mention Tim Dobbins.
Remember when the Texans played a dominant brand of D? Feels like that was a lifetime ago.
I think the Texans can advance in the playoffs with Matt Schaub if they have enough around the quarterback. Houston still has the best run game in the league. But the defense was just torched twice in a five-day span, by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions.
7) Christian Ponder
Can he play quarterback?
I still believe in Ponder's talent and leadership, but he's been in a major funk. The Vikings are 6-5 and in the mix for an NFC wild-card spot. But their schedule down the stretch, starting with the Green Bay Packers this week, is brutal.
8) Ndamukong Suh
Suh has a ton of talent, but he's been an irresponsible, underachieving, classless player. His performance this year also, sadly, serves as a microcosm of the 2012 Detroit Lions.
9) Larry Fitzgerald
I make it a habit not to write about my fantasy football teams.
This is my exception for the year.
What is this, amateur hour?
Two weeks ago, I was in first place in my "Syracuse Alumni" league. Now I'm in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. Same in my league with my SportsNet New York colleagues.
I can only imagine how Fitz feels ...
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.