And with the 17th week of football, the 2011-12 regular season drew to a close. With the tension of having a horse in the race taken out of the equation for me, it was a good week to just enjoy some football and watch as many games as I could. Here’s what I saw this week:
Eagles: The 34-10 win over the Redskins got them to 8-8 on the season and really just made me wonder what might have been. The last 4 wins came against some pretty bad opposition that missed the playoffs themselves (Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, Cowboys) so the upswing needs to be taken with a grain of salt. On Sunday, the defence played confidently and it never felt like Washington was going to mount a threat. On the other side of the ball, with McCoy injured, the Eagles abandoned the run. Vick looked comfortable most of the day in the pocket and Celek and Maclin both had big days catching passes. All in all, it was hard to focus on this game as there was nothing either team was playing for. I spent a good deal of the afternoon watching the other games flash by on RedZone.
Packers/Lions: Shoot-out games are great fun to watch. Big props to Packers backup QB Flynn for setting single game Packers passing records for yards and TDs (eclipsing previous marks of some pretty good company: Starr, Favre and Rodgers). A bit worrisome for the Packers is their defence going into the playoffs. Although they rested a few key starters, they still give up far too much yardage. Their hallmark all year has been generating turnovers. If that dries up, it might cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.
Patriots/Bills: Another team with lights-out offence and cover your eyes defence, the Pats rolled up 49 straight points after getting down 21-0 early. Of interest early in this game was Bills receiver Steve Johnson earning his second post-TD celebration penalty of the season for a premeditated celebration. He was promptly benched for the rest of the game and that took the steam out of the Bills attack. There’s no excuse for not knowing the rules and there really isn’t any excuse for his stupidity this year.
Steelers: They struggled for a 13-9 win in Cleveland, fighting through two big fumbles, a season-ending injury to Mendenhall, wicked wind gusts and an immobile QB. They’re not healthy heading into their playoff game next week against the Broncos. They tend to win ugly and I think they’re a decent bet to make the AFC championship game, even with the injuries.
Broncos: They completely backed into the playoffs and I think the Tebow mania has died down a bit. After his 6/22 60yd performance in a losing effort, I’m not sure how the Broncos will generate enough offence against the Steelers next week to get a win. The Steelers have the talent to match up man-to-man against the Denver receivers, commit an extra safety to stopping the tun and force Tebow to pass his way to victory. If the Steelers keep the mistakes on offence and special teams to a minimum, they should be moving on next week.
Raiders: With the Broncos loss, the Raiders could have made the playoffs with a win. In true Raiders style, they choked away that opportunity and miss the playoffs yet again. After the game, their head coach completely threw his team under the bus in his press conference, insinuating that it’s the players responsibility to make plays (it is, but abandoning the “it’s all about team” when the going gets tough is not a sign of leadership). He also said next year he’ll be more involved in all facets of team preparation next year. This is another great example of how most NFL teams, players and coaches don’t understand much about leadership and human behaviour.
Cowboys/Giants: I really dislike both of these teams, but it was good to see the Cowboys completely hand this one to the Giants with a laundry list of mistakes. The ‘Boys botched 3 opportunities for fumble recoveries, dropped passes, missed open receivers, ran an ill-fated 4th and 1 play late in the game and that doesn’t even cover all of the bone headed defensive lapses by CB Newman. The Giants OL looked good for one of the few times this year, but I wouldn’t trust this team to make a deep playoff run. Not that they won’t, but the Giants have been far too inconsistent this year and one game doesn’t change that.
Although my Eagles season ended too early this year, I got a small moral victory on Sunday. Each year, Jodi and I pick games against each other for bragging rights. I secured those rights when the Cardinals beat the Seahawks in OT to give me the slimmest of winning margins – 1 pick up after 256 games. All tolled, I picked 173 of 256 correctly putting me ahead of all of the ESPN “experts” except their statistical analysis Accuccore picks.