“Hurts is the right man for this time in Philadelphia…At the very least, the Eagles learned the kid can take the heat and deliver under pressure.” – King on Eagles QB Jalen Hurts
“Mike Tomlin has to figure it out, or this will be a bitter January at the confluence of the Three Rivers.” – King on the Steelers offensive struggles
“I think the MVP is pretty close to a Mahomes-Rodgers tossup entering the last three weeks.” – King on the MVP race
“Without a significant and advanced system of contact tracing this fall, the NFL would have had to postpone or cancel games by now.” – King on the NFL’s contact tracing system limiting COVID outbreaks
STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 14, 2020 – Peter King discusses Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts leading the Eagles to victory in his first start and where the Steelers stand after a second consecutive loss in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also hands out his weekly awards, discusses the news and notes from around the league in Week 14, and speaks with epidemiologist Dr. Christina Mack on the important of the NFL’s contact tracing in limiting COVID outbreaks this season.
Across NBC Sports this week, Peacock’s weekday block of NFL programming from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET includes PFT Live featuring Mike Florio and Chris Simms live at 7 a.m. ET, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another, with Michael Holley and Michael Smith, at 3 p.m. ET, and PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. On Monday, Safety Blitz, featuring Rodney Harrison and Jac Collinsworth, streams at 6 p.m. ET, and Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday-Friday. ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest offseason news, and the Rotoworld Football Podcast and Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast discuss Week 14.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
JALEN HURTS & THE EAGLES
King: “It’s been a while since I’ve seen a gigantic win – Philly’s 24-21 stunner over New Orleans in Hurts’ starting debut – greeted with such…caution? It sure wasn’t joy…It’s okay to be joyous – for once this season, at least – even though (Carson) Wentz is probably the one guy in the locker room not feeling any joy…So it’s a complex time in Philadelphia.”
King on Jalen Hurts: “Hurts is the right man for this time in Philadelphia. He played confidently, with no fear…He was as in command as a first-time starter could be. At the very least, the Eagles learned the kid can take the heat and deliver under pressure.”
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley to King on Hurts: “I know he’s an NFL rookie…but I don’t know that he could’ve experienced a whole lot more to get him ready for this than what he did in college…I think part of him is like, ‘Man, if I’ve made it through what I’ve made it through, I trust myself that even in a new situation that I can do it.’ So no, not surprising to me at all that he would go play the way he did today.”
King on Carson Wentz’ future: “The Colts are the most logical suitor. Makes total sense. Wentz reunites with former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, the ultimate patient and calm teacher, and the Wentz mental makeover happens in the decidedly low-pressure-cooker of central Indiana… But – and this is a very big but – the Eagles most assuredly have not decided to deal Wentz.”
King on Wentz: “The NFL still likes Wentz, so his future, while cloudy in Philadelphia, is brighter than you think. One GM whose team will be in the market for a quarterback this offseason told me last week he will seriously study Wentz when the season ends.”
King on the Steelers: “Losing to Washington narrowly and Buffalo decisively have exposed some ugly truths about the Steelers. Nine days ago, the Terrible Towelers were planning socially distanced 16-0 parties.”
King on the Steelers’ Sunday Night Football loss to the Bills: “The Monday night loss to Washington felt a little fluky, but Sunday night’s 26-15 defeat to Buffalo might as well have been 36-15; that’s how one-sided it felt. Ben Roethlisberger looked old and slow. The running game is feeble.”
King on the Steelers’ problems in the run game: “This isn’t a couple weeks with problems running it. It’s two months. Can you give your offensive line strength pills? Tough pills?”
King: “There’s enough wrong with the Steelers this morning, but those drops? Just insane. Diontae Johnson is the league leader (by far) with 12…I’m amazed Ben Roethlisberger went to Johnson four more times after his second drop Sunday night.”
King: “It’s not too late for Roethlisberger, 38, to have one more postseason of hope. The Steelers defense can rise to the occasion against Cincinnati next week, and maybe even Indy and Cleveland the two weeks after that. But can the offense run a little bit and score at least in the twenties? I have my doubts. Mike Tomlin has to figure it out, or this will be a bitter January at the confluence of the Three Rivers.”
NFL CONTACT TRACING
King: “One prediction I feel very good about making: Without a significant and advanced system of contact tracing this fall, the NFL would have had to postpone or cancel games by now.”
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills to King: “The contact-tracing element is absolutely foundational for us. It’s the element that almost nobody is talking about.”
King on contact tracing: “At the beginning of the season, the NFL defined “close contacts” as being within six feet for at least 15 minutes. Not anymore – because the CDC has deemed that too many factors can impact the strict definition of close contact. Tracers now would be concerned with a 5-minute, unmasked and indoor conversation.”
Dr. Christina Mack, an epidemiologist who has worked closely with the NFL this season, to King: “We go through each case that day, and put together a pod team for that case…The real art with the contacts is the interview. It has to be thoughtful and thorough.”
Dr. Mack on an example of learnings from contact tracing: “We had gone through the data and we said, ‘You have a really high number of close contacts at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday. What is the team doing at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday?’ And they said, they’re in the locker room…We learned that the position groups had lockers close to each other and talked through with the team that if they changed the placement of the lockers to make it so the position group lockers were very much spaced apart, they aren’t going to be near each other and they’ll reduce their number of close contacts.”
WEEK 14 NEWS & NOTES
King on the MVP race: “I think the MVP is pretty close to a Mahomes-Rodgers tossup entering the last three weeks.”
King on NBC News political correspondent Steve Kornacki’s Washington playoff probability: “A week ago, before upsetting Pittsburgh on Monday, Washington had a 23.5 percent shot to win the NFC East. Now, after beating Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and after the Giants loss to Arizona, Washington has a 71 percent chance to win the East.”
King on the Bills: “The Bills are real, and they’re spectacular…Josh Allen has a good chance to be Jim Kelly the quarterback and Jim Kelly the local icon.”
King on the Packers: “My hat is off to Matt LaFleur. Never thought the Packers would have another season like LaFleur’s 13-3 rookie year, and here it is.”
King on the Dolphins: “This Dolphins defense isn’t perfect, but it’s feisty. Any D that forces four turnovers and four punts against the Chiefs is one hell of a defense. That Vegas-Miami game in Week 16 is close to a play-in game for January.”
King on the Rams: “The Rams are going to be a tough out in January…Is it just me, or is Cam Akers the closest in running style to Le’Veon Bell since classic Bell with the Steelers?…(Akers) left no doubt he deserves to be the Rams’ mail-carrier the rest of the way.”
King on Aaron Donald: “I suppose Aaron Donald could get overtaken (T.J. Watt?) in the last three weeks of the season, but he seems a heavy favorite for his third Defensive Player of the Year award by the age of 29…Lawrence Taylor won it three times. J.J. Watt won it three times. Donald would join the group with a win this season.”
King on the Raiders: “I think Paul Guenther getting fired as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator is not remotely surprising. They’ve allowed 150 points in the last four games (three losses), the Jets gashed them for 206 rushing yards, and they look positively lifeless on D.”
KING’S WEEK 14 AWARDS
Offensive Player of the Week: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia.
King: “No person in the NFL had a bigger day, on offense, defense or special teams than the 53rd pick in the draft last April…It is positively amazing the lift he gave this downtrodden team…Let’s face it: Hurts gives the Eagles a better chance to win football games right now than the addled Carson Wentz.”
Defensive Player of the Week: Haason Reddick, Arizona, & Chase Young, Washington.
King on Young: “Haason Reddick’s case is overwhelming…But this rookie’s game was just as impactful…in Washington’s 23-15 victory, a win that gave the team the lead in the NFC East with three games to go.”
Coach of the Week: Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Rams (defensive coordinator).
King: “What impresses me the most is getting buy-in from great players like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey to adjust their games to more malleable roles like players must take on in the Vic Fangio scheme.”
Goat of the Week: Dan Bailey, Minnesota.
King: “What kicker in recent history has missed seven kicks (PATs/field goals) in a two-game span?…Bailey, when he’s right, is one of the best kickers in the game. He is decidedly not right, and costing the Vikings in a big way.”
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:
- Football Night in America: Week 14 Recap with Liam McHugh, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy, Mike Florio and Steve Kornacki.
- PFT Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio and Chris Simms streams live on Peacock from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET on weekdays, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another at 3 p.m. ET, PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. At 6 p.m. ET, Safety Blitz streams on Monday and Chris Simms Unbuttoned stream Tuesday-Friday.
- ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
- The Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast and Rotoworld Football Podcast discuss Week 14 and look ahead to Week 15.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.