The Giants entered Sunday with their season on the line. In their final game at the Meadowlands, New York lost their fans’ respect … and a shot at the postseason. As of right now, ten playoff berths have been claimed, while ten playoff positions remain undecided. Let’s be honest, Sunday mostly stunk.
(I apologize for the brief recap this week. Due to the holidays, I am away from my normal viewing domain. Without NFL Ticket on my TV and computer, it was more difficult to keep up with Sunday’s events. I watched what I could and made sure to pay close attention to the day’s important events. Next week I’ll have the proper tools.)
So long, playoffs: Dolphins, Giants, Jaguars, Titans
In 2007, Giants coach Tom Coughlin was on the verge of losing his team. Players grew weary of his strict style, his preaching fell on deaf ears, and the team ultimately struggled. Coughlin then changed his approach and led his team on a surprising Super Bowl run. Two years later, the Giants and Coughlin appear to have come full circle. After a promising start, New York has imploded in the second half of the season. Players are unhappy, the team is struggling, and Coughlin is again searching for answers. Based on their demeanor, Giant players gave up midway through the second quarter. Justin Tuck is as overrated as they come, both as a player and a leader. He and Osi Umenyiora moped around the field waiting for something to happen instead of changing the game themselves. The offense in New York isn’t the problem. It’s the once proud defense. Since Michael Strahan retired and Antonio Pierce got old, the defense has lacked a leader. Tom Coughlin will need to address his defensive issues and discover a new way to relate to his team if he hopes to return to the postseason. Right now, the Giants are lost. What’s worse, too many of New York’s players don’t seem to care.
The AFC Wildcard picture became a little clearer on Sunday as two unlikely teams improved their playoff odds. While the Titans, Dolphins, and Jaguars ruined their chances at the postseason, the Texans and Jets moved into a five team tie for the AFC’s Wildcard bids. In fact, the Jets control their own destiny, win and they’re in. I’ll break down the potential outcomes and tiebreaking scenarios later in the week. For now, we know the Jets have run into two perfect opponents in the season’s final weeks. The Colts surrendered today to avoid injuries. Assuming the Patriots win next Sunday afternoon, the Bengals will probably do the same. If that’s the case, the most notable teams left out would be the Steelers and Broncos.
We have yet to see the Vikings in week 16, but the NFC leaders continue to fall back to the pack. Saints’ apologists will argue that the end of the regular season doesn’t matter. I beg to differ. There are currently three NFC playoff teams playing better football than the Saints. It would take a miracle for New Orleans to avoid all three on their road to the Super Bowl. The Saints’ defense is susceptible to big plays and potent offenses. As I’ve mentioned here many times, the NFC playoffs will be bursting with potent offenses. Sunday’s surprising loss to the Buccaneers may even cost New Orleans the conference’s top seed. (However, the injury to Steve Smith will be a difficult injury for Carolina to overcome if they hope to defeat the Saints.) Nonetheless, the NFC Championship is a wide open race. Any of the six playoff qualifiers could realistically reach and win the Super Bowl. Week 17 will go a long way in determining who will have the inside track. If Dallas or Philadelphia is able to pry a first round bye away from Minnesota, they may be the team to beat.
That was impressive…
- Sebastian Janikowksi successfully kicked a 61 yard field goal on Sunday. He’s consistently been the only bright spot for the Raiders over the past handful of years. That man can boot.
- Perhaps it was the opponent, but Tom Brady and the Patriots resembled the team we expected to see all year. (Isn’t it funny how one game changes our perception of a team? If the Pats don’t blow the Colts game, I’m probably discussing them as a Super Bowl contender. Instead, I’m not even convinced they’ll outlast Baltimore or Pittsburgh in the Wildcard round.)
- Dear San Diego Chargers, I’m sorry for underestimating you. You’re most impressive. The Colts should be scared. Love, Ryan.
- Yes, the Colts ultimately gave the victory to the Jets. However, before the Indy starters were benched, the Jets defense did an excellent job of frustrating and containing Peyton Manning and his receivers.
- If you’re a coach with a young receiver, send him home with footage of Panthers WR Steve Smith. He’s as tough as they come. His TD reception in traffic perfectly demonstrated his toughness. Smith caught the ball, took a vicious hit (broke his arm), and then walked into the end zone as the defender crashed to the ground. Best of all, Steve Smith cares. He wants to win.
- Aaron Rodgers has worked his way into the top five quarterbacks in the league. My current top five goes like this: 1. Manning 2. Brees 3. Rodgers 4. Rivers 5. Brady (higher when healthy)
- They didn’t run over the Redskins, but the Cowboys are playing solid football, in December nonetheless. Next Sunday’s battle for the NFC East should be a very spirited football game.
- What a fantastic 3rd quarter TD grab by Rams WR Brandon Gibson. Gibson went up high to catch the ball and then came down inbounds for the reception. Great leaping ability, better hands, even better awareness. Gibson will be a solid player for the Rams.
- I thoroughly enjoy teams that continue to battle despite their hopeless seasons. The Buccaneers and Panthers knocked off playoff teams that needed victories on Sunday.
- It’s not always pretty, but Donovan McNabb is winning football games that the media has always crushed him for losing.
Not so much…
- The Dolphins, Giants, Jaguars, and Titans all laid HUGE eggs in week 16. With their playoff lives at stake, all four performed miserably. Only the Dolphins returned to life to mount a small comeback, even though they ultimately fell short. What an embarrassing weekend for all four franchises.
- Lions WR Calvin Johnson fumbled twice today. After an impressive rookie year, Johnson may have taken a step back in his sophomore year. Receivers don’t touch the ball enough to justify costly fumbles.
- Ray Rice fumbling the ball back to the Steelers after the Steelers had fumbled the ball to the Ravens on the previous play.
- Matt Hasselbeck has become a turnover machine. For the second consecutive week, he’s been responsible for four turnovers. Seattle needs to send Hasselbeck packing, or designate him to backup duty.
- The Washington Redskins. Two primetime appearances in two weeks, two lousy performances. For a while there tonight, I didn’t think Jason Campbell would make it to 2009 in one piece.
- A normally reliable receiver, Derrick Mason allowed what would have been the game-winning touchdown to bounce off his facemask before it reached his hands. Such a costly drop, especially if Baltimore fails to advance to the postseason.
- Is anyone on the New York Giants’ defense capable of tackling? Anyone? Anyone? Ok, we’ll settle for anyone caring. Anyone? Anyone?
- Shame on you, Brandon Stokely. You should know by now you can’t give an official a low-five.
- Brian Dawkins in Philly, but not in Eagles’ green. It just doesn’t look right.
- After racing out to a 17-0 lead, the Saints allowed the Buccaneers to score 20 unanswered points en route to a surprising overtime victory.
- How important was a perfect 16-0 season to the Indianapolis Colts? Not very. With a five point lead and 5:36 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Curtis Painter walked onto the field with the Colts’ offense. At that very moment, I told my dad that the Colts had lost. I didn’t bother to catch the rest of the game. I already knew they were doomed.
Take that man to Chic-Fil-A
QB Tom Brady: 23/26 267 YDS, 4 TD
RB Jonathan Stewart: 28 Carries, 206 YDS, TD
WR Roddy White: 8 Rec, 139 YDS, 2 TD
WR Randy Moss: 4 Rec, 45 YDS, 3 TD
TE Zach Miller: 9 Rec, 110 YDS
D Panthers: 9 Points Allowed, 317 Total Yards, 4 Sacks, 4 Turnovers
Probably should have stayed in bed
QB Curtis Painter: 4/11 44 YDS, INT, Fumble in just 20 Minutes of Game Time
RB Brandon Jacobs: 6 Carries, 1 YD
WR Mike Sims-Walker: 2 Rec, 19 YDS
WR Derrick Mason: 1 Huge TD Drop
TE Tony Gonzalez: 2 Rec, 17 YDS
D Titans: Surrendered 42 Points, 425 Total Yards and TDs on Six Consecutive Drives
If I’m a Colts fan, I’m booing the entire time Peyton Manning and the rest of the team’s starters are sitting on the bench. Manning is as good as he is because he doesn’t allow himself to get hit. Leave him in the game and allow your team a chance at history. I don’t like the call. Not one bit.
Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Browns are on a three game winning streak. While there are plenty of offensive issues to work through, Eric Mangini has earned another year to build Cleveland into a contender.
In their demolition of the Buffalo Bills, the Falcons demonstrated what could have been if injuries didn’t derail their 2009 season. With some defensive fixes, Atlanta could be the team to beat in the NFC South next year.
“I haven’t seen a Celek star on CBS since Magnum PI” – CBS play by play man, Jim Nantz on Eagles’ TE Brent Celek’s impressive first half.
The Seattle Seahawks are a disaster. Handing the franchise to Jim Mora Jr. was a mistake. Seattle needs a full-fledged makeover. Coach, QB, philosophy; it all has to go.
The Texans almost allowed Sunday’s victory to slip away. Here’s why: Houston’s first five drives; 307 total yards, 27 points. Their last seven drives: 99 total yards, INT, 0 points.
Colts Head Coach, Jim Caldwell is smarter than you think. Need proof? Check the bank accounts of Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. You’ll see large amounts of money sent from their accounts to Caldwell’s. Caldwell saw an opportunity to make some extra dough off both sides. First, he gets paid by Ryan to let the Jets win. Then, Caldwell gets money from Belichick to let the Jets win because New England would much rather face New York in the playoffs than Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Savvy business move.
Really? Jets at Bengals is the game the NFL decided to push to Sunday night? By the time Sunday night rolls around, Cincinnati will probably have nothing at stake. That will leave me watching the Jets beat up on another team’s scrubs. The battle for the NFC East would have been the best choice. Regardless of the afternoon games, the Eagles at Cowboys showdown would have been for the division title … and maybe more. I should be consulted before these decisions are made.