For the rookie left tackle Terron Armstead of the New Orleans Saints, the worst is over.
Now that he has a game of NFL experience in his back pocket, his next game against Tampa Bay will be remarkably easier .
Two quarterback sacks allowed and two illegal procedure penalties - all in the first half - showed that the risk Sean Payton took to start a complete rookie left tackle (with no positional playing experience) was not worth the possible reward.
And come Monday morning Armstead knows he can play NFL football as long as he improves day-by-day - and that is a controllable desire.
Overall, Armstead did okay. Not good, not bad - just okay. But it's a building block of game experience the coaches have on video to work with . Now they can identify strengths and weaknesses and mold the Armstead so he can compete with Charles Brown for left tackle in 2014.
There's a lot of money on the table for both players to make as both try to achieve an NFL career and not just an NFL experience. The next left tackle of success goes to Patriot Logan Mankins - who played the position effectively replacing Nate Solder efficiently. Mankins is an NFL ‘tough guy' - in a league full of them. He did play the position at Fresno State during college, but that was eight years ago.
His ability to switch positions and play well was a significant reason the Patriots beat the Ravens so easily 41-7.
Who is the best in the business?
Well, you have a few to pick from. Tyron Smith from Dallas is probably the youngest and the best, while Justin Pugh of the Giants is also on his way to a great career. Trent Williams is the best on a losing team along with Duane Brown for Houston. King Dunlap for San Diego is the biggest rejuvenation of a career and DJ Fluker was the best first round draft pick.
Joe Staley receives the least publicity with Panther Jordon Gross and there are others out there. Best value for example is Jordan Mills - a fifth round draft pick who has started every game.
But the best? Jason Peters in Philadelphia. Watching him against Chicago, I marvel at his skill.
In Denver, Payton Manning has now thrown 51 touchdown passes . Impressive when you consider only 10 interceptions and how congested the field gets the closer you get to the goal line. Manning makes careers and makes other players millions.
Before he came to Denver, Eric Decker was good but not great. Julius Thomas was ‘just another guy' and Brock Osweilier is getting an education of a lifetime. In Philadelphia, it's hard to explain how the Eagles can score 48 one week and then come back and score 54.
Cris Collinsworth did bring up an excellent point saying that time is a determining factor . There is running an offense and mastering an offense and the Eagles are oh so close to mastering the Chip Kelly way of doing things with the ball. The NFC winner will be decided on Sunday. Dallas did beat the Eagles 17-3 back on Oct. 20, but it seems that outside of the Minnesota meltdown, the Eagles have improved much more than Dallas in every way.
In Green Bay, the talk this week and all week will be Aaron Rodgers and the risk vs. reward. If he's cleared and ready, it's worth taking any risk. The chance that he will re-injure the collarbone is very minimal. When Shea McClellin tackled him, Rodgers was running in space and if he plays he won't do that again.
This is a tough decision for Green Bay on a number of levels and one of them is game practice and speed. With the new collective bargaining agreement, it is harder than ever to duplicate game conditions - especially in Week 17 when practice is more work than at any point of the season.
Personally I would not even try it - if the Packers got in through a division win they could be one and done.
In another week, it will be Black Monday - the day that coaches lose jobs in a 48-hour cycle. Decisions have to be made with the Jets, Houston, Tennessee, Oakland, Washington and Detroit. I think a mitigating factor has to be Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati and Ron Rivera in Carolina. Both have been very close to the unemployment line and both will win divisions this year.
Detroit and Washington I think are inevitable and Houston too. But with all else, it may be best to stay the course and that includes Minnesota and Tampa Bay and Dallas.
Finally, and this question always comes up this time of year - Do players or teams quit on coaches or on each other?
I seriously doubt they do as just making a team has a level of difficulty that is surreal, so why would you jeopardize something that was so difficult to create in the first place?
Some things are difficult to explain - Miami losing 19-0 in Buffalo or KC losing to Indianapolis 23-7 at Arrowhead. Those can be traced to mind set and preparation, but to ‘quit' - I find hard to believe.
Happy Holidays, everyone.