Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NFL Winners and Losers -- Week 15

Sorry guys but no time on Tuesday for a follow-up post to the Mini FTOPS recap I put up yesterday, nor for a proper treatment of Week 15 of the NFL season. I am trying to bust out about ten different things at work, all of them urgent of course, and I'm also allegedly off for remainder of the year, though I have seen even that freedom slowly disappear over the last few days at my place of business. Oh well, gainful employment is gainful employment in this economy I suppose. But it certainly makes 100,000 words a day on the blog a difficult goal to achieve. So here I have the weekly Winners and Losers report, one day later than my usual.

Winners:

1. I have got lots of Winners this week, but let's start the list with something near and dear to my heart: The Philadelphia Eagles and DeSean Jackson. After five straight wins, and with the Saints' loss and the Vikings' recent troubles, the Eagles enter the final two games of the 2009 regular season as the hottest team in the NFC and now sit alone atop the NFC East and at 10-4 on the year, with head coach Andy Reid putting together another typical Andy Reid regular season. Reid has managed the incredible feat of winning five NFC Easts in his ten years as the Eagles' head man, with this looking hopefully to be the 6th in 11 years for the City of Brotherly Shove. And with this weekend's two-touchdown beatdown of the 49ers, the Eagles also clinched a playoff spot, their eighth postseason appearance in the last 10 years. And as well as Donovan McNabb has been throwing the ball this year in Philly (3008 yards, 21 touchdowns (2 rushing), and 9 INTs), I don't know when someone is finally going to start at least mentioning 2nd-year wideout DeSean Jackson as a viable MVP candidate for the season. After another 6 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Niners this past Sunday, DeSean's season numbers are now up to 56 catches for 1087 yards and 8 touchdowns receiving, 9 rushes for 134ards and 1 touchdown running, plus 2 more punt returns for touchdowns on the season. 56 catches, over 1200 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns while becoming the first NFL player to score 8 touchdowns of more than 50 yards in a season in a couple of generations. What a season for the second-year pro out of Cal.

2. The Dallas Cowboys. It's hard to believe I'm sitting here typing this out right now, but just one week after blowing their second straight critical December game for the umpteenth season in a row, Dallas came out and shocked the world by besting the undefeated New Orleans Saints 24-17 on the road to do far more than ruin Drew Brees & Co.'s shot at football immortailty. The Cowboys also saved their season in a big way, getting win that nobody expected and leaving themselves in position to nab the NFC's final wildcard spot, where they remain one game ahead of the New York Giants despite the Giants having swept the Cowboys on the season this year. What's more, the Cowboys' big win on Saturday night also ensures that they remain on track to control their own destiny within the NFC East, now knowing that if they win out -- including at Washington this coming weekend and then at home vs. Philly to close out the season -- then the Cowboys will win their second NFC East crown in three years and send the Eagles to the wilcard spot instead with their own season sweep over a key divisional rival.

3. Josh Cribbs and James Harrison of the Cleveland Browns. Boy did these two guys have special games in Sunday's awesome 41-34 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Runningback James Harrison, who had just over 300 yards rushing for the season prior to Week 15, out of nowhere had 34 carries for an incredible 286 yards against the Chiefs' porous defense, scoring three touchdowns and power his team to victory as he broke Jim Brown's single-game franchise record for rushing yards. Harrison's 286-yard outburst ranks him as the #3 individual rushing yardage effort in NFL history, which fits in very nicely with teammate Josh Cribbs, whose two kickoff returns for touchdowns on the day gave him 8 kickoff td returns for his career, which too is an NFL record for the just 26-year-old wideout. Could these guys have saved Eric Mangini's job in Cleveland this weekend? Probably not me thinks, with Mike Holmgren this week accepting the job of running Cleveland's football operation.

4. The San Diego Chargers and Phillip Rivers. When the Chargers drove about 50 yards in 50 seconds to win their 9th straight game against the playoff-bound Bengals this weekend, they did more than win their ninth straight game and move to 11-3 overall on the year. With the win the Chargers also clinched their fourth consecutive AFC West title after the Broncos' shocking loss to the lowly Raiders, and the team all but sowed up a first-round bye and the overall #2 seed in the conference behind the still-undefeated Indianapolis Colts. And despite all the great talent on this Chargers team -- from LaDainian Tomlinson to Darren Sproles to Vincent Jackson to Antonio Gates -- the biggest reason for the team's success this year has got to be 6th-year quarterback Phillip Rivers. In 14 games so far in 2009, Rivers has compiled 3891 yards and 25 touchdowns, with just 9 picks, for an overall qb rating of a very impressive 102.8. As a point of reference, the great Peyton Manning's quarterback rating through 14 games is 101.2. On Sunday, Rivers' 24-for-38 performance for 308 yards, 3 tds and 2 picks was enough as he led his team on a furious last-minute rally down the field to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired and keep the team's winning streak alive, including the Chargers' now 17 straight wins in December when it really counts. I've said it before here and I'll say it again, but the Colts and Chargers seemed destined for yet another great matchup deep in the AFC playoffs this season.

5. The Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens blew out the Bears at home on Sunday afternoon, with both the offense and defense doing their share to make Chicago's life miserable. The Ravens swirling defense caused Bears qb Jay Cutler to throw 3 more picks, causing 6 turnovers overall and playing with sufficient urgency to give the Bears no chance to keep the team from 8-6 and getting it the inside track to the AFC's 6th and final playoff spot. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, meanwhile, busted out with a career-high 4 touchdown passes, leading the offense to amass 24 points off of Bears turnovers in never giving the Bears a chance on either side of the ball. And with five teams just one game begind at 7-7 in the AFC, the Ravens appear to be peaking at just the right time, having won 48-3 over the Lions last week, meaning that the team has now outscored its opponents by a whopping 79-10 over its last two games. Bring on the Steelers this Sunday!

6. Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans. For the third time in the last seven weeks the Titans appear on the Winners list, as Vince Young has led the team back from 0-6 to 7-7 and right in the thick of the logjam one game behind the Ravens and Broncos for the final AFC playoff spot. In Sunday's overtime win against 7-7 Miami, VY threw for 236 yards and three touchdowns, getting into the end zone three times and captaining the team on its last drive in overtime to kick the winning field goal. It's a damn shame that the Titans are still a game out of the AFC wildcard picture right now, but as I've said previousl here, Vince Young and Chris Johnson would likely be the story of the year in the NFL in 2009 if not for one Brett Favre.

7. Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben did a little bit to help his team to a crazy 37-36 victory over the playoff-bound Green Bay Packers on Sunday: try 29 for 46, for 503 yards and 3 touchdowns, including the last-second score to wide receiver Mike Wallace, in the utterly thrilling win. Roethlisberger's 503 passing yards is an all-time franchise record for the Steelers, and Big Ben joins Y.A. Tittle and Warren Moon as the only other NFL quarterbacks in history to throw for at least 500 yards and 3 tds with zero interceptions in an NFL game. The Steelers' win not only ended the Pack's 5-game winning streak and Pittsburgh's 5-game losing streak, but it kept the Steelers alive in the AFC playoff race, with the inside track among the 7-7 teams one game out of the final wildcard spot and a game this coming weekend against the Ravens who currently hold that final wildcard at 8-6.

9. The NFL's Week 16 schedule. Man I don't know how the NFL knows to do this, but just look at all these postseason-bound or at least playoff-hopeful teams faving each other this coming weekend. 11-3 Chargers at 7-7 Titans on Friday night. 8-6 Ravens at 7-7 Steelers on Sunday. 7-7 Texans at 7-7 Dolphins on Sunday. 7-7 Jaguars at 9-5 Cheatriots on Sunday. 7-7 Jets and 14-0 Colts on Sunday. 8-6 Broncos at 10-4 Eagles on Sunday. 9-5 Cowboys at their big rival the 4-10 Redskins on Sunday night. There are just so many big games this coming weekend, there aren't enough tv's in the house to watch them all. Well done, NFL.

Losers:

1. The Minnesota Vikings. There is so much blame to go around with this team right now that it's hard to pinpoint on just one player or decision, but things appear to be falling apart in a hurry for the team that just a few weeks ago was considered by all to be neck and neck with the Saints and Colts among the NFL's elite teams. Star runningback Adrian Peterson's role has been diminished to almost nothing over the last several games in Minnesota, with AP recording only three 100-yard rushing games this season and only one in his last eight outings, mostly it turns out because Brett Favre has been systematically increasingly audibling the plays called in by head coach Brad Childress, consistently switching up Childress's planned run plays for passing plays more prominently featuring Favre and his arm. Finally, with the Vikings getting beat down on by the 6-8 non-playoff-bound Carolina Panthers this past Sunday night and his Vikings unable to move the ball at all, Childress finally decided to do something to stand up to Favre and informed the all-time qb that he was being "rested" for the remainder of the game in favor of Minnesota backup Tavaris Jackson. Favre's response? "F you, I'm playin'." And so it was done. With the inmates running the asylum as the Vikings have now lost two of their last three games after a 10-1 start, Brett Favre has found a way to once again turn NFL fans all around the world against him and leave us just waiting and hoping to see his pomp and hubris catch up with him as the 2009 regular season comes to a close for the Viking team that Favre, apparently, is the real head coach of. Who knew?

2. The Denver Broncos. What do you even say about a team that had a comfortable 2-game lead in the wildcard race over the rest of the pack and a home game against the lowly Raiders, but then went out and let JaMarcus Russell of all people lead a last-minute drive to score a touchdown to turn the Broncos' 6-point lead into a 1-point loss in the final seconds. I mean, JaMarcus frigging Russell? The Broncos somehow failed to score a touchdown after a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line late in the 4th quarter, leaving room for the Raiders to win the game with a touchdown-scoring drive, and on the day the Broncos' vaunted rushing game could get nothing going as the team was outrushed 241 yards to 80, and the team allowed the Raiders more first downs, more total yards and more time of possession than they coud muster in this crucial game for their post-season hopes, all more unthinkable stats against this Raiders team. Now the Broncos will feel the pressure to win at Philadelphia and/or at home against Kansas City in their final two games or they could suddenly find themselves on the outside looking in to what is very close to becoming a hugely messy AFC wildcard race.

3. The New York Jets. After leading all the way from late in the first quarter until just a few minutes left in the game, and basically dominating on the defensive side of the ball throughout, the Jets let a crucial game to their 2009 playoff hopes slip away when they allowed the Atlanta Falcons to march down the field, eventually giving up the winning touchdown with a minute and a half to go on a 4th-and-goal play when they left all-pro tight end Tony Gonzalez wide open on a quick slant in the end zone. The Falcons' 73-yard, game winning touchdown drive from a 7-3 deficit came after the team had managed just 8 first downs and 167 total yards in the entire game prior to the final drive, including an incredible 25 consecutive 3rd downs where the Jets caused their opponents not to convert. After giving up the lead, Jets quarterback Ryan Sanchez then compounded the pain by throwing his third pick of the game with under a minute to go to end his team's chances in preditcably frustrating fashion after an 18-for-32, 226 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interception performance on the day, the fifth time Sanchise has thrown multiple picks in a game already this season, and making his 20th interception overall so far in his rookie year in 2009. And it turns out the Jets really picked a horrible time to step down again in the 4th quarter, as a win would have left them tied with the Ravens and the Broncos at 8-6 in the fight for the AFC's final playoff spot. Instead, the Jets find themselves stuck right in the thick of the 5-team pile-up at 7-7 in the AFC, with at least the Dolphins and Jaguars holding tiebreakers over the Jets due to winning head-to-head against them during the regular season.

TO Watch: 2 catches for 20 yards, and no scores on Sunday. 2009 season stats through 14 games: 47 catches for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns. Not good at all my man.

JaMarcus Russell award: Brady Quinn, who was put on IR this week by the 3-11 Cleveland Browns, somehow won his last two starts despite throwing for less than 100 yards in each. In Sunday's thrilling 41-34 win over the Chiefs, Quinn limped his way to a 10-for-17 performance for 66 yards, 0 tds, 2 interceptions and a 27.7 overall quarterback rating on the day. But is that good enough to win an award named after JaMarcus Russell? Hale no, you guys know what JaMarcus thinks of qb ratings above 20! This week's clear winner has got to be Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears, who added to his NFL-high 25 intercepton total this week in going 10 for 27 for 94 yards, 0 tds and 3 picks in his team's 31-7 blowout by the Ravens. Cutler's final qb rating on the day was a far more JaMarcus Russellian 7.9! Now that's what I'm talking 'bout.

The Mike Tomlin Award: Ever hear of Fancy Play Syndrome in poker? After declining to start this award a few weeks back when Bill Bellicheat very publicly made the wrong decision in going for it on 4th down from his own 30-yard-line late in the 4th quarter in a move that directly cost his team a win against the undefeated Colts, I just can't pass the opportunity up again this week thanks to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. With 3:58 to go in the 4th quarter against the Packers on Sunday, and with his Steelers having just kicked a field goal to nab back a 30-28 lead in a crazy game against the Pack, Tomlin inexplicably called for an onsides kick -- yes, with his team having just retaken the lead -- and naturally one of his players touched the ball too early and the Packers took over for a short drive to a go-ahead score with just 2:06 left in the game. From this day forth, when an NFL player or coach engages in Fancy Play Syndrome and outthinks himself into making an idiotic play to hurt his team, it shall be known here as the Mike Tomlin award.

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3 Comments:

Blogger John said...

Do you want more interesting?
In mid-October, the NFL's scheduled holiday showcase game seemed the equivalent of swine flu -- something you completely want to avoid.
Then, the prospect of watching the San Diego Chargers visit the Tennessee Titans on Christmas Day seemed dismal. The teams' combined record through Week 6 was 2-9.
But as we assess the Week 16 ESPN.com NFL Draft Power Rankings, this matchup is a prime ticket. The No. 3-ranked Chargers are the league's hottest team outside of Indiana, winners of nine straight games. After an 0-6 start, the No. 14-ranked Titans have won seven of eight and have a playoff pulse.
Merry Christmas!And have a good time!

10:17 AM  
Blogger leslie said...

The NFL Draft is creating a partnership with researchers at Boston University who are studying the long-term effects of brain injuries on players, the Associated Press reported. “It’s huge that the NFL Draftactively gets behind this research,” Robert Cantu, the co-director of the school’s research program, told the AP. “It forwards the research. It allows players to realize the NFL Draft is concerned about the possibility that they could have this problem and that the NFL Draft is doing everything it can to find out about the risks and the preventive strategies that can be implemented.”
Merry Christmas! Wishing have a good time!

12:30 PM  
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10:05 AM  

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