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Week 15's huge slate, Sal Alosi, the Metrodome and more in this week's editors debate.
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall debate five burning questions for Week 15 in the NFL:
1. After snowgate, will the Vikings finally get a new stadium or will they have to move?
Steven Lassan: I think this situation will end up being good for the Vikings. The Metrodome is outdated and it’s time for a new venue. After all, the Twins just got a new stadium and the University of Minnesota has a nice outdoor stadium that was opened in 2009. If Minnesota wants to keep the Vikings in town, a new venue is a must and the roof collapsing should raise more awareness for this situation.
Braden Gall: Images of frosty white breath billowing out of Fran Tarkenton at old Metropolitan Stadium is the way the Vikings should be remembered. Sure, the Vikings have made a few trips to the NFC Championship game but the early, outdoor years were the best to be a Purple People Eater. The Metrodome is a dump, and if the Twins can play outdoors, then so can the Nordically inclined Vikings. If you build it, they will come — otherwise, Zygi Wilf will be sipping a nice Cabernet a few hours south of Napa Valley soon enough.
Nathan Rush: First off, the Vikings have no business playing indoors. Minnesota’s roof caving in is a sign to move back outside. The Vikings should have the same winter weather edge as the Patriots at Gillette Stadium or the Packers at Lambeau Field — if not the Bears at Soldier Field, where they own snow games, right? From 1961-81, Minnesota played at Metropolitan Stadium. During that time, the purple people made four Super Bowl appearances (IV, VIII, IX, XI). Since moving inside to the Metrodome, the Vikes have zero NFC titles on their resume. Coincidence? Probably. Fitting? Certainly. I vote for a new outdoor facility in the Twin City area. Hopefully they can get it done now that the roof has caved in on the Metrodome.
2. Has Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi been treated fairly?
Steven: I don’t believe Alosi was acting solo when it came to the players lining up as a wall on the Jets’ sideline. There’s more to the story on that, which is why Alosi was suspended indefinitely, instead of fired. Alosi was wrong to trip Nolan Carroll, but a fine and a suspension should be sufficient for his actions.
Braden: What Alosi did, in the heat of the moment, has no place in sports. It is unacceptable and needs to be punished. The $25,000 fine did just that. What I do not like is the Jets suspending him because he told injured players to line up on the sideline. The Jets can do whatever they want, within the confines of the rules, on their own sideline. Standing in a organized line falls into the totally legal catergory. Alosi apologized and seemed very sincere in his words. He "wasn't thinking" and has paid a big price, but let's move on.
Nathan: I have to defer to arguably the greatest special teamer and gunner of the modern era, Buffalo’s hustling icon Steve Tasker, a seven-time Pro Bowler and 1993 Pro Bowl MVP as a special teamer. “So what?” Tasker told ESPNNewYork.com, regarding the Sal Alosi scandal. “No question, you’re not supposed to trip someone, but I think this is an overreaction. … If they are coached to do that, so what? Call a penalty on them. If a gunner is going to use the sideline as a weapon, like I did, why wouldn’t you want to form a road block?” The wall-building, knee-knocking, tripping outrage caused by Jets strength coach Sal Alosi’s actions against Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll has gone overboard, in my opinion. It was a bush league move by Alosi. So what?
3. Is Jacksonville's Gene Smith the Executive of the Year in the NFL?
Steven: Why not? A lot of people were ready to write off the Jaguars after a 3-4 start, but this team is back in the playoff mix with a real chance to win the AFC South. The Jaguars haven’t made many big splashes through free agency, choosing to build through the draft, and this is where Smith has shined. The Jaguars are building a solid defensive front, with rookie Tyson Alualu and second-year tackle Terrance Knighton. In addition to Alualu and Knighton, the offensive line is set for the next 10 years with Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton protecting the edges. Cornerback Derek Cox, tight end Zach Miller, running back Rashad Jennings and receiver Mike Thomas are all solid pieces that Smith drafted in 2009. Although the Jaguars won’t win the Super Bowl this year, Smith has built an impressive core to contend in the AFC South.
Braden: This question would have been laughable when Roger Goodell announced that the Jaguars had selected Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall selection in the draft last spring. But Smith is the one laughing now. His team is in first place with a division title in sight this weekend in Indy. He has built this team his way — front the inside out. He has addressed the lines of scrimmage with conviction (see Alualu) and has filled in the holes with quality bits and pieces like Mike Thomas and Derek Cox. A little luck never hurts either (see Thomas being in the right place at the right time). The Chiefs' Scott Pioli and Falcons' Thomas Dimitroff are his primary competitiors, but Smith gets my vote right now.
Nathan: It’s boring, but the Patriots’ brain trust of coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and senior football advisor Floyd Reese have done the best job this season. In chronological order, New England made All-Pro nose tackle Vince Wilfork happy with a contract extension in March, “reached” to draft Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty ahead of bigger names (Boise State’s Kyle Wilson, for example) at No. 27 overall in April, signed versatile Jets reject Danny Woodhead in September, traded disgruntled receiver Randy Moss for a 2011 third-rounder from the Vikings in October and re-acquired Super Bowl XXXIX MVP wideout (and Tom Brady’s boy) Deion Branch for a 2011 fourth-rounder to the Seahawks in October. The Pats have done it all — retained their own talent, scouted well at the draft, made treasure out of another man’s trash, traded away a cancer and traded for an old reliable — in what was supposed to be a “rebuilding” year in Foxborough.
4. With a huge slate of action set for Week 15, which game are you most looking forward to this weekend?
Steven: Several good choices, but I’m going to pick the Giants-Philadelphia game. These two teams look to be in good shape to make the playoffs and are capable of getting hot and making a run at the Super Bowl. The first matchup between these two teams was back and forth and should be another entertaining game. I can say with a high degree of certainty that I will be doing a lot of flipping between games on Sunday and will avoid the thrilling Arizona-Carolina matchup — or should it be called the battle to draft Andrew Luck?
Braden: The AFC South is on the line in Indianapolis when Jacksonville shows up this weekend. The Jets might be fighting for their Super Bowl lives this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Packers will try to slow the unstoppable force in Foxborough Sunday night. An old school NFC East rivarly will be renewed when the Eagles head over to New York/New Jersey to take on the Giants in a de facto division championship game. But New Orleans at Baltimore is the game that has caught my eye. The Super Bowl champs have quietly forged the second-best record in the game. A win at the Ravens would send a major shot across the bow of the rest of the NFC. And the Ravens are one Joe Flacco fumble away from a divison title of their own.
Nathan: Eagles at Giants is clearly the most important game on the schedule this week. Both NFC East powers have a 9–4 record but Philly won the first matchup, 27–17 in Week 11. Whichever team loses this week will be in jeopardy of missing the playoffs. The winner will have the inside track on the division title and maybe even a little Super Bowl swagger entering the wide open NFC playoffs.
5. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have teamed up for an NFL second-best 108 wins. Are they the greatest QB-Head Coach combo in league history?
Steven: If the Patriots continue to have success over the next 2-3 seasons, I think there’s little doubt Brady and Belichick will be the best quarterback/head coach combination in NFL history. This duo has combined for three Super Bowls and another one appears likely in the next couple of seasons. The other combination that comes to mind is Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, but I’d give Belichick and Brady the edge if they continue to roll up the victories.
Braden: The only QB-HC combination with more regular season wins is Dan Marino and Don Shula with 116. But the clam chowder tandem has three Super Bowl Championships to the South Beach pairing's zero. Nearly half a dozen coordinators have left to take head coaching jobs, yet Brady and Belichick keep on winning games. Eight more wins and no one can really argue, right?
Nathan: There have been several Hall of Fame coach-quarterback duos over the years. The Packers’ Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr, Cowboys’ Tom Landry and Roger Staubach, and 49ers’ Bill Walsh and Joe Montana come to mind. But for my money, the Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are history’s finest leadership duo. What they have been able to accomplish — four Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl wins, a 16–0 regular season in 2007 and a 14–4 playoff record together over seven AFC East division titles in eight healthy, starting seasons for Brady (not counting Drew Bledsoe’s 2000 campaign or Matt Cassel’s 2008 run as the starter) — is unparalleled. The hoody and the hairdo are the simply the best.