A very happy and prosperous New Year to each and every one of you. This afternoon while nursing my Ne Year’s Eve hangover, I watched all the happenings of of Week 17 with the rest of America and thought to myself, how much did we really learn that we didn’t already know?
Backing in to the playoffs isn’t such a bad thing: The Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans all backed in to post-season play despite unimpressive performances down the stretch including Week 17. However, if any of these teams win next weekend, no one will remember how badly they stumbled into the dance.
Backing in is better than not getting in at all: Just ask the Jets. Yeah, I know. That goes without saying. Twenty other teams would love to be in the position that the playoff bound teams are in no matter if you backed in or steamrolled in like the Green Bay Packers.
Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, and the Jets are all overrated: Remember when Mark Sanchez led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games? Remember when Rex Ryan garunteed a Super Bowl prior to this season? Yeah, well, the bottom fell out of all of that for the Jets. How bad was it? Sanchez was intercepted three times and Santonio Holmes, who happens to be one of the offensive captains along with Sanchez, was benched following an argument in the huddle. In fact, after the game, one unnamed Jets teammate said Holmes “quit” on the team. Furthermore, sources tell ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen the Jets are leaning towards revamping their offensive coaching staff, despite an organizational philosophy of stability. There’s definitely turmoil surrounding the Jets and its safe to say the honeymoon period is over for Rex and the Jets.
Matt Fynn is going to get paid: No Aaron Rodgers, no problem. The 15-1 Green Bay Packers didn’t miss a beat with Rodgers holding the clipboard and Matt Flynn under center. The former LSU draftee completed 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns. Wow! Flynn is the only quarterback other than Brett Favre or Rodgers to start for the Packers in the last 20 years, and he had better stats today than either of them ever had in more than 300 combined starts. Mr. Flynn is going to get paid big bucks in free agency next year. The only question is, where?
Tim Tebow is not the answer: The Broncos are going to the playoffs even if they aren’t a particularly good team. Their third straight loss puts them at 8-8 for the season and will raise further questions about Tim Tebow’s long-term viability as a starting quarterback.
This was one of the more wretched big game performances you are going to see out of a passing game. Tebow completed 6-of-22 for 60 yards and average of 2.7 yards-per-attempt. He was intercepted once and lost a fumble when in scoring range. Tebow was 30-for-73 with one touchdown and four picks in the last three weeks. He has seven fumbles in his last four games. That should be a clear indication for John Elway to start backing up the truck load of money in Matt Fynn’s driveway.
The Raiders are still the Raiders: Many fans in Raider Nation thought this would be the year the Raiders would snap out of it and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Instead, the Raiders aren’t going to the playoffs after losing three of their last four games. The Broncos left the door wide open for the Raiders to sneak in the back door and all the Raiders had to do was beat the Chargers at home and they couldn’t do it. Yup, the Raiders are still… the Raiders.
The injuries continue to mount for the Texans, Steelers: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to action following a high ankle sprain but despite is return, the injuries tontinue to mount for the Steelers. Running back Rashard Mendenhall went down with a knee injury in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns. He was tackled at the end of a carry and immediately grabbed his knee in obvious pain. He limped off the field and then to the locker room and did not return. After the game, head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged the injury appears to be significant and has already been ruled out of next weeks playoff game at Denver. Reports indicate it could be a torn ACL for Mendenhall. They could also be without safety Ryan Clark on Saturday.
The Houston Texans used another quarterback on Sunday. It was the fourth different quarterback to line up under center for the AFC South champions this season. Third stringer T.J. Yates has started since taking over for backup quarterback Matt Leinart in week 13 due to injury. Leinart started week 12′s game against Jacksonville following a season ending foot injury to franchise quarterback Matt Schaub one week prior. In week 17′s season finale against the Tennessee Titans, Yates was knocked out of the game first quarter on Sunday with a bruised left shoulder but could have returned, according to the Texans. Veterin Jake Delhomme took over for Yates and wasn’t bad for a guy who was on his couch a month ago. No matter, don’t expect Delhomme to start a playoff game next week. The Texans fully expect the rookie to be good to go against Cincinnati on Saturday.
The Giants are streaky, but are heading for the playoffs: In the NFL’s regular season finale, it was a winner take all NFC East championship game. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz lead the way as they did all season, and the New York Giants are headed to the playoffs.
And the Cowboys finish a frustrating season by losing to their division rival. There will be no playoffs in Dallas. Controversy always surrounds the Cowboys and Sunday night was no different. Tony Romo’s unsuccessful fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak deep in Giants territory in the fourth quarter on Sunday night was a costly failure in the Cowboys’ season-ending loss, and afterward Romo and Garrett were both asked who deserved the blame.
Simply put, Romo said, “The call comes from the sideline.”
Going for it on fourth down was the right call. But going through with the sneak, even after seeing that the Giants were lined up and ready for it, feels like a poor decision. Romo should have checked out of the play that Garrett called in from the sideline.
Now that the NFC East is decided, we finally can stop all of the wild and crazy potential playoff scenarios and seeding speculation. The field of 12 hopefuls is set and action begins on Saturday.
01/07 Bengals vs Texans -4:30 PM (ET) NBC 01/07 Lions vs Saints -8:00 PM (ET) NBC 01/08 Falcons vs Giants -1:00 PM (ET) FOX 01/08 Steelers vs Broncos -4:30 PM (ET) CBS