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Redemption. NFL Week 17 Recap

The Dallas Cowboys avenged an embarrassing performance in the final week of the 2008 season by pinning an even more embarrassing loss on their division rival. With the exception of a devastating injury, there were few surprises in Week 17. Let the postseason begin.

The 2009 Season has come to a close. Obviously, this will be the final recap of the season. Next season I’ll work on a more desirable review of the week’s events. The current structure makes it difficult to concentrate on a single game. I prefer to follow one game in its entirety than catch glimpses of a game here or there. I have eight months to brainstorm.

Kicking Off

Tony Romo and Wade Philips exorcise a new set of demons with each passing week. After winning two straight December contests, Dallas bullied Philadelphia en route to their biggest victory since the Barry Switzer era. With the win, the Cowboys clinched the right to host the Eagles in the opening round of the playoffs. More importantly, the Cowboys’ win emphatically proved they’re a legitimate contender in the NFC. The win won’t save Philips’ job, but it didn’t hurt his cause either. Aside from Aaron Rodgers, Romo is the hottest quarterback in the conference. Instead of costing his team in big games, Romo’s been calmly leading them to victory. Add in a potent running game and the Cowboys can keep pace with any offense. The Dallas defense is also performing head and shoulders above any other defense in the conference. If we’ve learned anything from Arizona’s run last year, it is that anything can happen in the playoffs, so Dallas is anything but a sure thing. However, based on the past month, the Cowboys may be the toughest out in the NFC playoffs. Right now, they’re certainly the hottest team.

Congratulations to the Bengals, Eagles, and Patriots. With the opportunity to clinch/improve their playoff positioning, all three teams lost in embarrassing fashion. New England’s loss will be felt beyond the standings as star receiver, Wes Welker, went down with what appears to be a season-ending knee injury. The Patriots do deserve some leniency as they played a majority of the second half without their starters. However, blowing a 14 point 4th quarter lead is not the momentum any team is looking for heading into the postseason. The Eagles, with the most to lose, failed to score a point. The Eagles were undisciplined, sloppy, and severely outplayed. Instead of resting next week, Philadelphia will return to Dallas to take on a team that has convincingly beaten them twice this season. On a “you blew it” scale from 1 to 10, the Eagles registered an 11. I’m open to a conspiracy theory in the Bengals situation. Playing the Jets next weekend instead of the Ravens is an easy choice. If the Bengals made this call before the game and tanked their final game of the 2009 season, they made the right choice. If their intention was to win the 3rd seed, we’ll know from a lack of confidence this Saturday. The Jets beat-down of the ACF North winners was arguably the most lopsided game of the season. The Jets ran over the Bengals to the tune of 275 yards while the defense surrendered only 72 yards of total offense to Cincinnati … 72!!!! That’s a thrashing. Hope’s not lost, yet. All three teams have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the playoffs. Cincinnati and Philadelphia can even do so against the same teams that crushed them on Sunday.

I don’t understand the reported “anger” of NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell in regards to teams tanking the season’s final games to protect their players. Coaches in the NFL get paid to, not only reach the playoffs, but advance their team deep into the playoffs. Injuries derail playoff runs annually. Keeping key players healthy becomes a coach’s main concern once their playoff position is set. If the Commissioner wants to ensure teams are competitive in the season’s final weeks, he’ll need to create a system that entices Super Bowl contenders to risk injuries in essentially meaningless games. Such incentives would require changes to the current playoff format. For example, a team clinched a first round bye could lose the right to host that game, or division winners could travel on Wildcard weekend. It’s all nonsense. Adding financial incentives for players and teams isn’t the answer either. Resting players is a part of the game that can only be eliminated by parity.

That was impressive…
  • There’s only so much room on the Chic-Fil-A weekly all-star team so I couldn’t include all the backs that had impressive performances today, but there were several.
  • He’s mostly been called upon for short yardage duty this season, but Willis McGahee came through for the Ravens today; 16 Carries, 167 Yards, 3 TDs
  • Fred Jackson 33 Carries, 212 Yards. Jackson should be the centerpiece of Buffalo’s offense moving forward. He’s a better back than Marshawn Lynch.
  • The Blizzard conditions in Buffalo. I didn’t care that the miserable Bills were battling the Colts’ reserves. I will watch any football game that includes shoveling the hash marks, sweeping the sidelines and players tip toeing through inches of snow.
  • The Cleveland Browns finished the season on a four game winning streak. I’ve watched a large percentage of each of those contests because I thoroughly enjoy their defense. Building around a solid defense is the quickest (and smartest) way to make your franchise a contender.
  • Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers. With all the struggles of kickers this year, Gostkowski could retrieve a nice contract as a free agent this offseason.
  • The catch and toe-touch footwork by Texans WR Jacoby Jones on his 4th quarter TD reception.
  • It only took 15 weeks, but Jay Cutler has finally settled in for the 2009 season. Over the past two weeks, Cutler has thrown for more than 500 yards, thrown 8 touchdowns and only 1 interception. Chicago fans are hoping to see more of this in 2010.
  • The Carolina defense has been the NFC’s most dominant defense over the second half of the season. FOX showed that in their final four games (all against top ten offenses), the Panthers surrendered a total of 46 points. Yes, the Saints were all reserves on Sunday, but 36 points over the previous three weeks is impressive nonetheless.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs laid a whipping on the Denver Broncos. I’m not a fan of head coach Todd Haley, but he had his players locked in today.
  • Beginning next season, Aaron Rodgers will be the best quarterback in the NFC for the next five to seven years. He IS the Packer offense. Throwing for 4,000+ yards, 29 TDs, and only 7 INTs is why the Packers let Favre walk.
  • Speaking of Brett Favre, that was a throwback performance today. The Giants rolled over, but the Vikings offense heads into the playoffs with some much needed momentum.
  • Chris Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards this season. The most impressive part of Johnson’s accomplishment is that he accumulated that yardage with a 5.8 yard per carry average. Unbelievable.
  • The New York Jets defense, Wow. I can’t decide if the Bengals tanked on purpose. Regardless, I wouldn’t want to meet that defense in the playoffs.
  • The Dallas Cowboys manhandling the Eagles
  • Kudos to the Oakland Raiders. Even with JaMarcus Russell under center, the Raiders refused to roll over for the Baltimore Ravens. Maybe Tom Coughlin should seek advice from Tom Cable on how to motivate players despite circumstances.
Not so much…
  • The New York Giants. Yuck. Has there been a team in the NFL more content with failure than the New York “Football” Giants? Michael Strahan couldn’t save that defense.
  • On their first play from scrimmage without Tom Brady, the Patriots fumbled in their own endzone. The Texans recovered for a touchdown. Brady would later return. Why? Because Bill Belichick is Bill Belichick.
  • Total first downs in the first half of the 49ers/Rams game: 9.
  • Texans kicker Kris Brown needs some practice in the offseason. His 2009 season was a disaster that may have arguably cost Houston a playoff berth. Today, Brown missed an extra point and two field goals.
  • Matt Leinart may not be in the NFL much longer. He looked terrible on Sunday.
  • The holding call that nullified a Chris Johnson 62 yard TD run. Ticky-tac call that ruined Johnson’s shot of reaching Dickerson’s single season record.
  • With all their talk of being a threat in the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly eliminated themselves on Sunday when they allowed Tyler Thigpen to bring the Dolphins back from 17 down.
  • We finally saw the Eagles offense play a consistent game on Sunday. Yes, they were consistently bad, but they were consistent nonetheless.
  • The Rams unquestionably earned that number one pick. The Buccaneers certainly earned the second pick as well.
  • You know you’ve had a rough season when Billy Volek and second stringers beat you. Don’t worry Redskins fans, it’s finally over.
  • Carson Palmer: 1/11, 0 yards, 1 INT. Save some of that for the playoffs, Carson.
  • Sheldon Brown getting burned on the double move … again. Enough of the “Brown should be in the Pro-Bowl” talk. There’s a significant difference between Brown and Asante Samuel. Brown is consistently beaten by the double move. Samuel will bite on the double move and get burned as well, but his aggressiveness leads to huge interceptions. Brown just surrenders costly touchdowns. THAT’S why Brown was left out of the Pro-Bowl.
  • For the second consecutive year, the Denver Broncos collapsed after a torrid start. Another long offseason in the Rocky Mountains.
Take that man to Chic-Fil-A

QB Brett Favre: 25/31 316 YDS, 4 TD
RB Jamaal Charles: 25 Carries, 259 YDS, 2 TD
WR Sidney Rice: 6 Rec, 112 YDS, 2 TD
WR Jabar Gaffney: 14 Rec,  213 YDS
TE Vernon Davis: 6 Rec, 89 YDS, TD
D Cowboys: 0 Points Allowed, 228 Total Yards, 4 Sacks, Turnover

Probably should have stayed in bed

QB Kyle Orton: 3 INT, Two returned for Touchdowns
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: 7 Carries, 13 YDS
WR Wes Welker: Probably will miss playoffs with torn ACL and MCL
WR DeSean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin: Poor play, dropped passes in big game
TE Kevin Boss: 0 Rec, 0 YDS
D Giants: Surrendered 44 Points, 487 Total Yards

Quick Slants

You could hear New Englanders panicking as Wes Welker limped off the field. Welker was clearly distraught on the sideline. He knew his year was over. Next to Tom Brady, Wes Welker is the player the Patriots offense could least afford to lose.

Turns out Carolina WR Dwayne Jarrett IS alive. Jarrett made an appearance in Carolina’s season finale on Sunday. Time will tell if one decent game in three years is enough for a team to take another chance on Jarrett.

It takes me a long time to give up on a game. After falling behind 17-0, I turned to my wife and declared that the Eagles would come back. “Yeh,” she said, “to Philadelphia.” Touche.

Chiefs linebacker, Derrick Johnson filled in nicely for Brandon Marshall today. He and Kyle Orton were clicking in the second half.

As I mentioned before, I watched a significant amount of the Bills game today. Buffalo’s crowd was amazing. Despite a blizzard, fans showed up to support the miserable Bills. They were loud, energetic, and supportive. Please explain to me why the NFL takes a game from these fans and hands it to Toronto. Send the Jaguars, Bengals, or Chargers. They struggle to sell out. Leave Buffalo alone.

The two hottest teams not in their respective conference’s playoff field: Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers. If Carolina benched Delhomme after week one, they might have advanced to the playoffs.

The NFL is a brutal game, but players care for each other. After delivering a vicious blow that left Dolphins QB Pat White unconscious, every Steeler defender within the vicinity of the play immediately began waving over the Dolphin medical staff. No showboating, no celebrating, no relishing the hit, only concern. I like these moments.

He ultimately fumbled the ball, but Vikings LB Chad Greenway’s interception was a catch an elite wide receiver makes, not a linebacker.

I tuned into the Bears/Lions game to say my goodbyes for this season and was treated to this gem from FOX analyst Trent Green: “Well, not only are the Vikings winning big, but that means the Giants are losing big.” Thanks, Trent. What would we do without you?

So you can cancel dinner plans for next weekend:
Jets at Bengals 4:30PM ET Saturday
Eagles at Cowbys 8:00PM ET Saturday
Ravens at Patriots 1:00PM ET Sunday
Packers at Cardinals 4:30PM ET Sunday

2 Comments

  1. danielle

    Haha witty Lauren. =) Oh, and when SNF came on last night, Aaron said something to the tune of “the Jets and the Bengals? Seriously?” While he hasn’t been able to keep up on your blog, he obviously shared your failed flex sentiment.

  2. Rick

    Things the Eagles could improve on: 1) The Eagles waste 2.6 timeouts per game. They could easily get that to 3. 2) At the end of either half, when the Eagles try hurry-up to get a play off, only half the team is ever ready to run the play. They could get that down to zero and skip the part where they look like they are trying. 3) The Igs have not put 60 minutes of football together all year. They could present a much more honest package to fans if they invited Marky Mark down on Sunday afternoons and played in knee pads and t-shirts and skipped the paychecks. Your wife is a character.

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