Well folks, week 16 of the NFL season is now officially in the books. Week 16 brought some clarity to the playoff picture.
Home field advantage was sewn up for the Green Bay Packers by virtue of their 35-21 win over the Chicago Bears on Christmas night. The New Orleans Saints clinched the South division with their win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. The New England Patriots clinched a first round bye and need only to win against the Buffalo Bills to clinch home field advantage for the AFC. The Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons both claimed the Wildcard spots for the NFC. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants have a play in game, winner takes all, this weekend for the Eastern Division title and the 4th seed in the playoffs.
The AFC playoff picture is much more muddled with many different scenarios including the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and the New York Jets. With that let’s move to our weekly The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
1. Aaron Rodgers:
Aaron Rodgers was once again nearly flawless on Sunday night. Coming off a disappointing loss to the Chiefs, with questions concerning if teams had figured their offense out, Aaron Rodgers answered with an emphatic “No, they haven’t”.
The much maligned and injured offensive line was brilliant. Allowing Aaron time to shred the Chicago Bears secondary on his way to a 5 touchdown performance with 0 interceptions. Aaron likely won’t play much this weekend. This may very well be his last appearance on our weekly column for the regular season.
2. Detroit Lions:
The Detroit Lions clinched a playoff spot with their win over the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers had been a team surging lately, and were coming off a blowout over the much heralded Baltimore Ravens. The Lions beat them handily 38-10.
Matthew Stafford continued his superb season and the defense held the Chargers in check. Detroit can clinch the 5th seed in the playoffs this weekend with a win over the Packers who will likely be resting a lot of players.
3. Victor Cruz:
The man has been amazing all year. Perhaps, even more amazing, is that many people haven’t noticed his outstanding play. In the game against the New York Jets, where many receivers get sent to the mythical “Revis Island”, he caught a 10 yard pass and turned it into a record tying 99 yard touchdown.
This was the biggest highlight of a storybook season filled with memorable catches for the young receiver. The Giants won the battle of New York and will clinch the Eastern Division with a win against Dallas on Sunday Night Football.
4. Cincinnati Bengals:
The Bengals found themselves playing an Arizona Cardinals team on a roll coming into last Sunday’s game. Needing a win, to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Bengals found a way to get it.
Led by a rookie Quarterback and a rookie Wide Receiver no one expected the Bengals to control their own destiny for the playoffs going into week 17. It won’t be easy beating the Baltimore Ravens, who also need the win to clinch the division over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the win and you’re in scenario is all a team can ask for and they have that in front of them.
5. Drew Brees:
I’m honestly a little torn on this one for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I didn’t think Brees was all that great in Monday’s game compared to other games this season. He threw 2 interceptions and should have had a 3rd if the Atlanta defender hadn’t just dropped an easy one.
Secondly, I didn’t really care for the way they went about getting Brees the record. Had this been the last game of the season, or even the last home game of the season, I could see it. However, they play Carolina at home this Sunday. They have to win and hope the St. Louis Rams can upset the San Francisco 49ers to get a first round bye and a divisional round home game. The record was a foregone conclusion.
There is also the outside possibility that Tom Brady has a huge game and ends up with more passing yards than Brees this season which would make that big celebration premature and pointless. Regardless, when you break the single season passing record, you make The Good list for that game. Congratulations, Drew Brees.
1. Tim Tebow:
Tim Tebow was a strong candidate for The Ugly list this week. I decided to make him the number 1 on The Bad list instead. This is who he is. He’s a Quarterback that struggles making proper reads and throwing the football accurately and on time.
Sometimes he makes the right read but the wrong throw. Other times he makes the right read and throw, but is either early, or late, with the throw resulting in incompletions. There are even times he makes the wrong read but pulls off a great throw, that leaves you scratching your head as to how he did that.
It’s who Tim Tebow is and I believe it’s who he will always be. That’s why I question the validity of him as a long-term answer as a Franchise Quarterback. That’s a discussion better left for another day and column.
2. Kansas City Chiefs:
Coming off a huge, unexpected, win against the Green Bay Packers the Chiefs had the Oakland Raiders coming into Arrowhead Stadium. If the Chiefs had won out, with the Broncos loss to Buffalo, they would be in the playoffs.
Kyle Orton brought them back to tie the game and then put them in range for the game winning Field Goal. This doesn’t sound bad, right? Well, here’s where the bad comes in.
They allow the Raiders to block the game winning Field Goal attempt. Then they promptly allow a long pass play on the first play of overtime giving the Raiders field position to make the game winning Field Goal and end the Chiefs hopes of a playoff spot.
3. Early Doucet gets tripped up by the turf monster:
Late in the 4th quarter down by 1 score the Cardinals faced 4th and 5 from the Bengals 17 yard line. The Bengals sent all their coverage to Larry Fitzgerald, which allowed Early Doucet to break wide open for the tying score.
Unfortunately, for Doucet and Cardinal fans, he tripped around the 2 yard line without any contact from anyone. The ball fell harmlessly to the turf and the Bengals took over on downs.
The Cardinals have played very well down the stretch but when you are learning to win, sometimes these types of bad things are a common part of the learning process.
4. Atlanta Falcons Red Zone offense:
The Falcons moved the ball pretty well against the Saints between the 20’s. However, they had to settle for 3 Field Goals and had a turnover on downs in the Red Zone. When you’re playing a team the caliber of the Saints you have to score Touchdowns not settle for Field Goals or come away empty.
The Falcons may get a chance to redeem themselves in a couple of weeks if the playoff seeding remains unchanged after the week 17 games. Atlanta would return to the Superdome for their first playoff game as things stand right now.
5. Cleveland Browns game management:
At the end of the first half, with a chance to get at least a chip shot Field Goal, the Browns handed the ball off instead of killing the clock with a spike. The game clock ticked down to 0:00 without any points being scored.
At the end of the game on 4th and 2, the Browns had a chance to get the ball back and attempt a 2 minute drive for the win. The Ravens were obviously in a formation to try to draw the Browns offsides. It worked when Phil Taylor jumped on Joe Flacco’s second hard count and the Ravens ran out the clock.
After the game Joe Flacco said he had never seen that play actually work. I’m sure many of the Browns’ fans wish they could say the same.
1. Adrian Peterson’s knee injury:
I know it’s a tough game for tough men but watching his knee bend that way was ugly. Unfortunately, he tore both the ACL and the MCL and will require 9 months of extensive rehab. The Vikings remain hopeful he will be able to return to the field in the early portion of next season.
Get well soon, Adrian.
2. Green Bay Packers run defense:
The Packers defense has struggled all season. However, against a Bears team that was playing it’s 3rd Quarterback, (who hadn’t started a game in the NFL since 2007) and a 3rd string tailback, the Packers allowed 199 yards rushing. They knew the Bears were going to try to run the football. They simply couldn’t stop them. The Packers defense is a huge concern for them going forward into the playoffs.
3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Does anyone remember that this team was once 4-2. That record included wins over the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
They have lost their last 3 games by a combined score of 120-45. Those losses came against Jacksonville who has 4 wins, Carolina who has 6 wins, and Dallas who has 8 wins. Not exactly murderer’s row.
Overall they have lost 9 in a row and 10 of their last 11. Raheem Morris may very well lose his job and their young Quarterback Josh Freeman seems to have regressed. Ugly is the best word to describe things in Tampa these days.
4. San Diego Chargers:
The Lions are a good team. However, the chargers are far too talented to be this enigmatic. They got blown out by the Lions when they still had an outside chance at the playoffs, had they run the table. The best they can do now, is play spoiler to the Raiders, and enter into an offseason full of questions for the future of the franchise. It was an ugly performance by a team that teases us all, with Super Bowl aspirations, at the beginning of every season.
5. Washington Redskins:
After a promising start. the Redskins have had another abysmal season. The Redskins followed up a huge divisional rivalry win in New York against the Giants, with a resounding thud, at home against the struggling Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had lost their star tailback to a devastating knee injury. Christian Ponder had to leave the game with a concussion. Despite being decimated by injuries, the Vikings persevered and pulled out a road victory over the puzzling Redskins. Is Mike Shanahan on the hot seat or will RG III solve the Redskins problems? We’ll get some of those answers in the coming offseason.
That concludes our weekly look at The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Join us again next week for our last regular season edition. I won’t promise that you’ll agree with our opinions but it will be as always: sometimes controversial, never meaningful, categorical allocations, of the week in the NFL.