Eli Manning is now a two time Super Bowl MVP (AP)
Super Bowl XLVI is in the books. We’ve seen this movie before from the Giants. The New England Patriots wee once again on the receiving end of a crushing defeat.
The New York Giants reign victorious over the New England Patriots once again. Four years ago in Glendale, Arizona the Giants shocked the world by defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and ruined the Patriots attempt at perfection. Fast forward to November 6, 2011 – week 9 of the season – the Giants defeated the Patriots one again. This time, it was in the Patriots back yard, Foxborough, Mass. Eli Manning engineered yet another fourth quarter comeback and led the Giants to a 24-20 victory. The loss to the Giants in week 9 was the last time the Patriots tasted defeat in the 2011-12 season prior to Super Bowl XLVI.
Last night in Indianapolis, Indiana in Lucas Oil Stadium – the “House that Peyton built”, Eli Manning and the Giants got the better of the Patriots for the third straight time and the second time in four years on the worlds biggest stage. The New York Giants finished the job and defeated the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI and earned the right to be called champions.
From the moment the Giants traded up for Manning in the 2004 draft, rather than take Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger, there has been a constant argument among fans and pundits over whether that move was a smart one.
Manning has constantly had to deal with comparisons to his talented older brother Peyton, while many said he was not in the same class as Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers, and even after winning his first Super Bowl four years ago, a typical NFL talking point has been whether Eli can be considered an ‘elite’ quarterback.
Tom Coughlin, Eli’s head coach of his entire career thus far, says it’s time for the talk to stop.
New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin holds the the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Giants' 21-17 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. (Chris O'Meara / AP)
“I thought again about this business of elite quarterbacks. I think that question has come and gone. I don’t think we will hear much about that again.” - Tom Coughlin
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, normally keen to steer clear of such talk, chose the presentation of the MVP award to comment on Manning’s place in the rankings of top quarterbacks in the league.
“He’s only the fifth player to be named on a multiple basis as MVP of the Super Bowl, and he joins a pretty elite group of quarterbacks that achieved that.” - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
Manning though, preferred to talk about the contributions of his team-mates and their prospects for the future.
“I’m excited about a number of young guys who stepped up this season. There were some questions going into the beginning of the season on a few spots, but that quickly got answered. Victor Cruz has been a great story, Jake Ballard. Some of these guys have played great football, made great plays for us this year. We felt we had talent across the board on the team, that there were a few spots where we needed young guys to step up, as any team always does every year. You’re going to need young players to come in and play a role, and give you a chance to win a championship.” - Eli Manning
While the talk over Manning’s elite status may subside, the comparisons with his brother are unlikely to.
Peyton’s future, as he tries to return from a neck injury, is uncertain but it could well involve a move away from the Indianapolis Colts.
The two brothers spent some time in conversation after Sunday’s game but Eli said there was no issue of him now having ‘bragging rights’ over his brother who has a single Super Bowl ring.
“This isn’t about bragging rights. This is a lot bigger. This is about a team, an organization being named world champions, and that was the ultimate goal.That’s the only thing that’s important, is the team finding a way to get a victory. That’s the only thing I care about and Peyton and I both know that’s what the goal is every year. It’s not about anything else.” - Eli Manning
Eli is right, but he’s certainly got the right to brag and a heck of a lot to brag about. Eli Manning is no longer in anyone else’s shadow. He’s earned the right to stand alone. Today, he’s standing alone with the rest of his teammates on top of the NFL’s mountaintop as Super Bowl champions. The New England Patriots are standing with the other 31 teams in the NFL wondering what could have, should have, or might have been.
You can’t spell elite without the ELI.
Super Bowl XLVI logo
We’re finally less than 48 hours from the kick off Super Bowl XLVI.
It’s the Super Bowl matchup that must make Rex Ryan’s skin crawl. On one side, there’s the rival that shares a home stadium with the Jets. On the other side, there’s the rival from within their division and the gold-standard franchise of the AFC.
It’s the Giants. It’s the Patriots. It’s Super Bowl XLVI.
Even though his team has failed to win a championship, Ryan was correct with his belief that the Road to the Super Bowl goes through his team. The Pats haven’t lost a game since beating the Jets in November, while the G-Men have remained undefeated since they defeated their co-tenants at the Meadowlands on Christmas Eve.
The Giants and Patriots are the fifth pair of teams to meet in multiple Super Bowls. Not only is Sunday’s game a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants stunned the football world by upsetting the previously undefeated Patriots, this game marks a rematch of a Week 9 regular season contest from earlier this season. The Giants beat the Patriots 24-20.
Also, whichever starting quarterback wins – Brady or Eli Manning, he will take sole possession of the mark for most road or neutral-site postseason game victories with seven. I say this because it’s obvious that the most important player for each team is its quarterback. Whether you rank Manning or Brady first and second or vice-versa, they are the two most important players in the game. The third-most important player is Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who continues to receive treatment for a high left ankle sprain – an injury that leaves his status uncertain for Sunday’s showdown. He is the player whom Brady utilizes most effectively in the Patriots’ passing game and he is the one who creates mismatches in the Giants secondary.
If he plays – and can do so effectively – the Patriots have a greater shot at winning.
New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree (85) make the catch over New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison (37) in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLII at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ on Feb 3, 2008. (John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE)
But, as I have stated in recent weeks through out this most recent playoff run, there is something special about this Giants team and season. This game stands to be a career-defining moment for Eli Manning, who can move ahead of his more famous brother on the Super Bowl victories list with a win and improve to 2-0 in Super Bowls when going head-to-head against Brady.
A New York win will not mean that Eli is better than his brother Peyton or Brady, for that matter, but it will mean that Eli belongs in the elite class of active quarterbacks in the NFL. And that recognition is all he has wanted this season. This Sunday, he gets what he wants.
Prediction: Giants win 31-26
Super Bowl XLVI takes place on Sunday February 5 from Indianapolis, Indiana. Kickoff is set for 6:29p.m. eastern on NBC. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will have the call.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady :: Credit: SI
Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.
For a decade it has been the NFL’s must-see quarterback rivalry — or at least it was until Manning’s neck surgery turned the 2011 Colts into a football team best left unseen.
Peyton’s little brother Eli is the “other Manning” no more. Brady vs. Manning will not die.
The Manning who four years ago engineered the last-minute scoring drive that derailed New England’s pursuit of perfection in Super Bowl XLII gained admittance this season into the NFL quarterbacking elite. NFL know-it-alls now speak of the 31-year-old Eli as respectfully as they do Peyton and Tom and Aaron and Drew. Next Sunday in the House That Peyton Built — Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium — Eli will oversee the family business of rivaling Brady when the Giants and Patriots meet in Super Bowl XLVI.
Tom Brady, who is 1-2 all-time against Eli, 8-4 against Peyton says this about Eli:
“He does everything you’re looking for as a quarterback. I’ve seen first-hand what he can do in the fourth quarter of these games. He’s a great leader. You always hear that coming out of New York. The guys really have a lot of respect for him, and so do I.”
Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson went to the Super Bowl five years ago as a Chicago Bears rookie and lost to Peyton and the Colts, 29-17. Anderson, not wanting to compare the brothers, said about Eli this past week:
“He’s looking like one of the greats right now. He’s playing at a high level. It’s our job as a defensive line to slow him down, and try to mess up his whole momentum right now.”
In soggy San Francisco last Sunday, against the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense, Manning set Giants franchise playoff records for completions (32) and pass attempts (58), producing 316 passing yards and two touchdowns (no interceptions) during a 20-17 overtime victory. The 49ers defense sacked Manning six times, and hit him 12 other times. Manning has seemed unfazed by his leaky offensive line. In three games this postseason he has thrown eight touchdown passes, one interception.
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork:
“You’ve seen him grow, you’ve seen a guy not making the boneheaded mistakes. He’s protecting the football, and that’s first and foremost.”
One would think Patriots coach Bill Belichick is experiencing flashbacks to Eli’s famous escape and heave to David Tyree four years ago in Glendale, Arizona. This past week he also mentioned Manning’s ability to escape from the pocket.
“Not that he’s looking to run for 100 yards or anything, nut converting on third down. Scrambling out of the pocket. Keeping plays alive. We’ve seen that before.”
Eli Manning (credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images), Tom Brady (credit: Elsa/Getty Images)
During the 2011 regular season, Manning threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns (16 interceptions), including an NFL-record 15 fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Two of those fourth-quarter TD passes came in the final 3:03 at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 6. Manning threw a 1-yarder to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left for a 24-20 victory.
The Giants won that evening without wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (76 catches, 1,192 yards, 7 TDs during regular season), who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Nicks this postseason has 12 catches for 220 yards and two TDs.
Nicks and Victor Cruz (82 catches, 1,536 yards, 9 TDs during the regular season) are a challenge unlike any New England’s secondary encountered during the AFC playoffs. Cruz, a UMass product, had six catches for 96 yards against New England in the regular-season game. He had 10 catches for 142 yards last Sunday against the 49ers.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty said the presence of Nicks and the evolution of Manning makes the Giants’ offense more dangerous than it was on Nov. 6. Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw also did not play in the teams’ regular-season meeting due to a foot injury.
“I just think to prepare for all those guys is the toughest thing.”
With Peyton Manning having missed the entire 2011 season, Eli has emerged totally from big brother’s shadow. As the first overall pick in the 2004 draft — by San Diego, which swapped Eli to the Giants for Philip Rivers after Eli and dad Archie made it known Eli did not want to play for the Chargers — Manning was expected to be this good. If the Giants win next Sunday, Eli will have two Super Bowl rings to Peyton’s one. He will have beaten Brady’s Patriots twice in the Super Bowl.
Most of all, Eli Manning wins. No matter which Manning is on the opposing sideline, Tom Brady can’t seem to escape the Manning family. With a victory on Sunday in Indianapolis, Eli may very well be considered Tom Brady’s kryptonite.
Let the countdown begin.
We are finally only hours away from finding out who will represent the AFC and who will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI. The “experts” have had their say as to who will win, but now yours truly is putting on the prognostication hat to pick the winners of the AFC and NFC Championship games. Both games promise to be great TV viewing, as the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers host the New York Giants in the NFC.
Let’s get to the picks!
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots will meet in the postseason for the second time in three years, though this time a Super Bowl berth is at stake. (Winslow Townson, AP)
At first glance last week I thought the Baltimore Ravens didn’t stand a chance in this game after being thoroughly outplayed by a depleted Houston Texans squad. I really believe had the Texans had adequate quarterback play, they would be playing the Patriots this week for the AFC Championship. In fact, I believe the Texans are a healthy quarterback away from winning their own Super Bowl. In my mind, Houston was on a direct path to being the number one seed in the AFC if it weren’t for the injuries to the quarterback position. However, the Baltimore Ravens have lived to fight another day and will be ready to play the Patriots. As I wrote earlier this week, the Ravens have got to play better in all phases of the game in order to win. Especially offensively where we all know it begins and ends at the quarterback position. The quarterback position has always been a topic of conversation for the Ravens and to some extent, it still is. The biggest question, for me, is whether or not Joe Flacco can do enough to propel the Ravens to victory. Listen, do I think the Ravens can win? Yes, absolutely. However, it’s not about Ray Rice or Ray Lewis or Ed Reed. It’s about Joe Flacco. I believe it’s going to be up to him to make a play that lifts the Ravens over the hump.
Brady and Lewis will match wits in the AFC Championship Game. (Getty Images)
On the other side, the Patriots defense has been atrocious all year and a lot of the defensive short-comings have been covered up by the Patriots explosive offense. That said, the Ravens defense presents the toughest challenge the Patriots offense has faced this year. The Ravens defense will have to capitalize on the opportunities given to them. Last week, despite intercepting T.J. Yates 3 times, the Ravens dropped quite a few balls that could – and should have been – intercepted. If those types of opportunities present themselves today, the Ravens have got to take advantage in a big way. They will have to get a score from their defensive unit in this game to assist in offsetting their offensive short-comings. While we know how explosive the Ravens can be, not sacking Yates one time last week is a frightening thought; due to the fact that the only way to slow the Pats down is by pressuring Brady. Baltimore hasn’t given up 100 or more receiving yards to opposing TEs in a while, but when was the last time there was a combo like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? Also, there’s been a lot of focus on Ed Reed leading up to this one. Reed is one of the best safeties in the game, but the Patriots offense will minimize his impact on the game. New England throws more short passes and screens than they do long passes. Therefore, Reed will most likely be helping with coverage on one of the TEs, leaving the middle of the field open.
I know Terrell Suggs told us not to doubt “his boy” because there aren’t many quarterbacks you could compare to “his boy.” Well, Suggs, you are right. We can’t compare Joe Flacco to Tom Brady because that would be flat out idiotic. Your boy may have a 5-3 career playoff record , but New England’s golden boy trounces those numbers, and he has the rings to prove it.
If there’s one advantage the Ravens do have it is on offense. If the Pats allow Rice to be a factor in both the passing and running game, this will end up like their 2009-10 playoff matchup. And as has been the case all season, the Patriots secondary is their weak-spot. New England has to hit and pressure Flacco, or else he will have a field day throwing down field to Boldin and Torrey Smith.
The key for New England in this one will be to stretch out drives and wear down Baltimore’s defense. Let Tom Brady not only control the game, but let him take over. We know he doesn’t like to lose, and this is the perfect game for some revenge. In some cases defense does win championships, but as aforementioned, New England has never lost an AFC Championship game at home. Numbers never lie.
Prediction: Patriots in a dog fight that will end closer than you may think.
I’ve been basically picking against both of these teams for the majority of the season and look where they are now. What makes it even worse is that this might be the best matchup in the NFC this year besides the Packers and Saints in Week 1. So now what?
Eli Manning of the New York Giants drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. (Nov. 13, 2011) || Photo Credit: Getty Images||
Both teams are coming off huge victories and are simply playing smash-mouth football. Their defenses are amongst the best in the league, which could make for a low scoring game. Yet, this game will feature two first-round draft picks, which could make for a high scoring game.
Unlike in the AFC matchup, defense will be the factor to winning this game. Alex Smith showed a lot of adversity and dedication last week, leading a game-winning drive with just nine seconds on the clock. Smith made accurate passes and great plays all game which contributed to their victory. On the other side, Eli Manning did the same exact thing, using his tandem of receivers en route to triumph against the defending champs.
Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora have emerged this post-season and possess the ability to control the tempo. San Fran has some play-makers too, but New York is playing like a team that just can’t be stopped. They won their week 13 rematch against Green Bay last week, and I think they’ve got a great chance to win their week ten rematch against the 49ers this week.
And just remember, you can’t spell “elite” without Eli!
Prediction: Once again, my rooting interest prevents me from giving an honest and un-bias opinion so I’ll just sit back, relax, enjoy the show while rooting hard for Big Blue.
Saints at 49ers
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (11) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the fourth quarter. (Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP Photo)
Given the choice of all eight starting quarterbacks this weekend, not many would have picked Alex Smith as the guy they’d want to lead them down the field for a touchdown at the end of a game. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers? Yes please. Tim Tebow? Last gasp heroics are his stock in trade. Eli Manning? Hey, he’s done it in bigger games before. Of the two remaining, Joe Flacco, too, might have been a more popular selection than Smith – the former first overall draft pick whose previous six years in the league had been a study in mediocrity and whose confirmation as the starter in preseason drew grumbles from the San Francisco faithful. Since then Smith had a solid year, but the sense around the league was still that he was nothing more than a game manager, someone who could just about be trusted not to ruin the good work done elsewhere. And yet at Candlestick Park on Saturday, Smith engineered not one, but two touchdowns in the final three and a half minutes of the game – closing the show with an 85-yard drive capped by a laser beam to Vernon Davis (whose 180 receiving yards represented a new playoff record for tight ends) that had Bay Area sportswriters evoking both The Catch by Dwight Clark and Terrell Owens’s 1999 sequel. This was a play and a game that will go down in 49ers folklore, one that may well appear in future rundowns of the league’s greatest playoff encounters. Even before the final flurry that brought four touchdowns, and four lead changes, in four minutes, it had been compelling fare – San Francisco’s defense assaulting Drew Brees and the Saints’ ballcarriers with a ferocity that for three and two-thirds quarters was enough to blow the league’s most explosive offense off-course. A defense such as this might well be what wins championships. But the 49ers are no longer solely reliant on Frank Gore to win the games along the way.
Broncos at Patriots
All of the "Tebowing" in the world couldn't of saved Tebow and the Broncos from Tom Brady and company
“Say your prayers, Timmy,” boomed the front page of the weekend’s Boston Metro, merrily casting the hometown Patriots with a picture of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady set against a backdrop of angry flame. And a suitably hellish visit it turned out to be for the Broncos, their defense ripped to shreds by Brady while their New England counterparts pummelled Tebow – sacking him five times while allowing just nine completions for 136 yards. Is this the end of TebowMania? Of course not. Everyone is well aware of his pulling power and with CBS already hoping to have him on as a studio analyst next weekit seems certain that we will be seeing plenty more of him in the coming weeks and months. What will also be fascinating is to discover whether the Broncos look to give themselves another option at QB between now and the 2012 season. The lack of public pronouncements supporting Tebow from John Elway has widely been interpreted as a lack of faith that he is the man to take this franchise forward. But for now we can turn our attentions back to the Patriots – with Brady reminding us all why he used to be the guy dominating the news agenda. He added yet another NFL record to his collection by becoming the first quarterback ever to throw for five first-half touchdowns in a playoff game – three of them to tight end Rob Gronkowski. But Brady has enough of those already. What he and Belichick would both really like, is another ring.
Texans at Ravens
Courtesy of Getty Images
New England can hardly have been quaking in their boots at the prospect of a visit from Baltimore either, after the Ravens required a lot of breaks to get past the Houston Texans. The tone was set just minutes into the first quarter when Jacoby Jones inexplicably attempted to field a punt which had already bounced with two opponents close at hand, duly fumbling at the three-yard line then watching as the Ravens punched it in for the touchdown. From there it would be a story of turnovers and missed opportunities for the Texans, who coughed up possession on three further occasions while failing to recover any of three fumbles by Baltimore. Yet despite a -4 turnover margin and the fact that their third-string, rookie quarterback TJ Yates was struggling badly in a hostile environment, they still only lost by seven points. That will be hard to take for Houston, who must surely wonder how things might have panned out had Jones simply got out of the way. But for Baltimore such numbers ought to be cause for real concern. New England will not be so forgiving in Foxboro.
Giants at Packers
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning reacts in front of Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, right, after throwing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks at the end of the first half. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
There was no bigger divisional weekend surprise than the ease with which the Giants saw off the Packers. Well, perhaps Alex Smith’s TD run, but that aside, there was no bigger surprise. But should it have been such a shock? A month ago it would certainly have been a huge upset, with the Packers chasing a perfect season and the Giants losing at home to the Redskins. That week the Packers lost too, for the first time this season, but it was against a briefly reinvigorated Kansas City and we all figured that it was probably best for Green Bay to get a defeat out of the way before chasing the prize. But between then and now much happened that maybe wasn’t properly appreciated: that Redskins defeat left the Giants in a state of permanent knock-out football – and they rose to the challenge. NY blue beat NY green convincingly on Christmas Eve before the Giants again beat the Cowboys, again convincingly, on New Year’s Day. And into the playoffs they strode to, again by several scores, snuff out the Falcons. Each game a must-win, each won with comfort (at least in the end).
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lays on the field during the second half. Giants won 37-20. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP)
Aaron Rodgers meanwhile had only played once during that period. He sat out the last game of the regular season and saw his understudy step up – although the Packers’ defense caused a brief flurry of concern that day. He sat out the bye week. And then he – and the Packers – looked out-of-sorts at Lambeau Field when the big test came. But, to be fair to the Giants, this result wasn’t just about the Packers underperforming. It was about the Giants offense getting smoother by the week. It was about the Giants secondary clicking. It was about a Giants defensive line featuring some big beasts. But, most of all, it was about the Giants once again getting results when it matters. It’s a good thing the 2004 mega deal wasn’t a reality for the Giants. Key figures involved in the proposed trade were the reason why the Giants were able to upset the Packers at Lambeau Field, again. Hey, the Giants might wanna paint that stadium in blue because they own that place!
The NFL divisional playoff game garnering the least attention this year is between the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans will be visiting the Ravens in Baltimore, and they’ll be the underdogs to try to emerge with a victory. For Baltimore, it’s their first shot in a very long time to have a playoff game at home, so they’ll be cherishing that opportunity and looking to capitalize on their home field advantage.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, left, and Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak shake hands after their game in Baltimore on Oct. 16, 2011. A 29-14 Baltimore victory (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
The Ravens are used to being the road warriors in the postseason. Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh have not gotten to play at home in the playoffs yet, ever, before this game. They’ve had good success on the road too in past playoff appearances, but it’s simply much harder to get the job done. But they scratched and clawed all season long for the privilege, and beat the Steelers twice in order to lock up the AFC North division, as well as a first round bye.
So they’ll be at home in this game, and they were an excellent team at home all season long. Their work on the road was suspect, and they suffered several large letdown games as the road team this year. But at home, they were undefeated and went 8-0 during the regular season, something the Texans probably don’t want to be reminded about.
For guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, this season might be their best shot to win another Super Bowl. With Ray Rice being one of the most dynamic backs in the league, Terrell Suggs being a beast, and both of those guys still playing at a very high level, this is a Ravens team that is hard to match up with, and a dangerous team to face when they get things clicking.
The Texans meanwhile enjoyed their first playoff game ever, and of course their first postseason win in team history, last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. But beating the suspect Bengals at home is one thing, and heading into Baltimore with a third string quarterback is an entirely different thing.
These two teams met in the regular season, in Baltimore, and the Ravens were able to win handily. That was when Houston had Matt Schaub in the lineup, and not number 3 QB TJ Yates. That doesn’t bode well for the Texans here. The Baltimore players, and the crowd, are going to be extremely fired up for this one and the rare home playoff game opportunity. They’ll come out firing on all cylinders, and they’ll lock up the win with strong play on both sides of the ball. Take Baltimore to win, although maybe Houston makes it interesting
Photo courtesy of New York Times
The Packers didn’t go undefeated, but one of the 15 games they did win a Week 13 game at the New Meadowlands, a 38-35 win thanks in part to a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as time expired.
Since that point, each team has lost just one game, but the prevailing public opinion is that the Giants are playing their best football of the season and have as good a chance as anyone to knock off the top-seeded Packers this season.
While that is certainly a possibility, New York will have to play extremely well in a number of facets of the game.
If the Giants are going to have success this weekend, they are going to need to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. They can’t just blitz the house, because Rodgers will prey on the single coverage in the secondary and light up the scoreboard. New York needs to rely on Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty up front to not only apply pressure, but also keep Rodgers in the pocket so he can’t makes plays on the run.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants have to prevent turnovers at all costs. The Packers have a penchant for capitalizing on turnovers, but taking care of the ball on offense keeps the ball out of Rodgers’ hands. New York cannot waste possessions, as Green Bay can put up 40 on even the best defenses, and the Giants will need every possible chance to score.
The Giants could have a great day on offense, but there’s a strong consensus that the Packers will have an even better one. My rooting interest prevents me from giving an honest and un-bias opinion so I’ll just sit back, relax, enjoy the show while rooting hard for Big Blue.
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.
Santonio Holmes was not on the field for the closing minutes of the Jets' season-ending loss, and a team source said the captain "quit" on his team. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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.
-4:30 PM (ET) NBC
-8:00 PM (ET) NBC
-1:00 PM (ET) FOX
-4:30 PM (ET) CBS
We’re already one game into the Week 13 schedule in the NFL. On Thursday night, the Seattle Seahawks handed a 31-14 beat down to the reeling Philadelphia Eagles. For me, I’ve always looked at Week 13 as the point in the season where the hot seat really heats up. Of course, playoff clinching scenarios come in to play and for teams on the fringe it’s make or break time.
The hot seat heats up a little earlier for some coaches, but this is the time of year when speculation really heats up as to which coaches will be looking for work at seasons end. Coaching changes usually come in bunches and once the first one goes, it usually begins a domino effect. Well, the first domino has fallen in Jacksonville and Jack Del Rio is no longer employed.
This season, there are quite a few head coaches whose seat is getting warm and toasty right about now. Here are eight that should start polishing their resume.
1. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
Everyone expected the Vikings to struggle this year, but no one expected them to be this bad. Frazier is the one who lobbied to bring in Donovan McNabb and we all know how that experiment turned out. Minnesota is tied for the second worst record in football at 2-9 and could very well match the 1984 3-13 record. The defensive staff, which was retained from the Brad Childress era, will likely be tweaked. There are dead men walking in Winter Park, Minnesota, and Frazier could very well be one of them.
2. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This year, the Bucs have been pretty good (see: upset of New Orleans in Tampa) or horrifyingly bad (see: blowouts against Houston and San Francisco). If you’re the Glazers and see a team cart-wheeling to the Earth in a fireball, crashing in front of an ocean of empty seats, in a market where the sports dollar is stretched thin, you may feel compelled to act. Morris is under contract through 2012 but given the way the Buccaneers have been blown out this season, that contract may very well be shortened.
3) Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
A funny thing happened in San Diego. In years past, the Chargers started slow and finished strong. This year, they started 4-1 and there were high hopes in Southern Cal. Turner’s five-year stint with the Chargers has been an example of the law of diminishing returns, given that San Diego won two playoff games and made the AFC title game in his first season of 2007, then won just one postseason game in 2008, none in 2009 and didn’t even make the 12-team playoff field in 2010. His career coaching record now stands at 103-112-1, including his previous stops in Washington and Oakland. Not good…
4. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams
Spags may be liked and respected by his players and around the league, but it’s the bottom line that’s about to do him in. St. Louis is 10-33 in his 43-game tenure, and even if the Rams rally to a season-ending five-game winning streak, which doesn’t seem likely, Spagnuolo would still have won less than one-third of his games after taking over from the Scott Linehan-Jim Haslett regime in St. Louis. Expectations became sky high with last year’s 7-9 record and the hiring of Josh McDaniels, who was expected to take QB Sam Bradford’s game to the next level.
5. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
Reid must rue the day this past offseason when Vince Young referred to the Eagles as the “Dream Team”, because the dream has quickly turned into a nightmare. Reid may be the dean of head coaches in terms of continuous service and he may have won more than 60% of his games, but in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, the Eagles have won just one of their past nine games at home, including last year’s first-round loss to Green Bay, and look almost assured of the franchise’s first losing record since 2005, the infamous Terrell Owens insubordination season.
6. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have played much better since their disastrous 0-7 start but the weight of expectations may be a little too heavy. Like the Wildcat offence that those 2008 Dolphins made famous, Miami flashed and then largely crashed and burned after that early success. The Dolphins (3-8) are headed for their third consecutive losing season. They still haven’t been able to get their quarterback issues fixed, and have lost home games at an alarming rate the past two seasons.
Sparano likely won’t have any problem getting his next assistant coaching job in the NFL. But his tenure as the boss in Miami has not gone well at all, and it would probably have been better for him if Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had been able to land his successor last offseason, when Ross embarrassed himself and the organization by going across the country in the failed pursuit of Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh.
7. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts
Caldwell may be a nice guy, but he learned one lesson and he learned it fast. Without Peyton Manning, this team is bad. A lot of it has to do with the Colts brass, which was content to see the immediate results and failed/refused to address life after Peyton. As a result, the team that won the Super Bowl in 2009 may also be the next team to go 0 for the season.
Colts owner Jim Irsay is a patient man, and he might give Caldwell a free pass for this lost season. But he might also decide that Caldwell and his staff showed very little skill in making the best of a bad situation this year, and that a change must be made to at least assign some accountability for the Colts’ epic failure.
8. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
If NFL seasons were only eight games long, Coughlin would be in the Hall of Fame by now. New York is 47-17 in the first half of the season from 2004. But Monday night’s brutal 49-24 loss at New Orleans was New York’s third straight defeat, which in a market like New York where losing is not an option, is enough to stir the masses.
Coughlin’s Giants are 24-35 in the season’s second half, and with games still remaining against Green Bay, Dallas (two) and the Jets, a 7-9 or 8-8 finish is very possible in New York. That should result in Coughlin, 65, not being asked back for 2012, the final season of his current contract. New York memorably went on that Super Bowl run in 2007 under Coughlin, but they haven’t won a playoff game since upsetting those 18-0 Patriots, and this would be the Giants’ third consecutive non-playoff season.
Tom Coughlin (credit: Al Bello/Getty Images), Plaxico Burress (credit: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images) courtesy of WFAN New York
Perhaps all that time in the slammer left embattled wide receiver Plaxico Burress a little fickle.
Plaxico Burress told the Wall Street Journal last week, “You never know what may happen. I love New York,” it sounded as if a return to the Giants could be in the cards.
Not so fast…
Earlier this week, Burress called his relationship with coach Tom Coughlin “ambivalent” in a TV interview. He also described Rex Ryan’s squad as “appealing.”
“My situation in New York, me and my coach had an ambivalent relationship to say the least,” Burress said in a TV interview. “Some things that I didn’t agree with, with the way he went about things. And the only way to show my way was to just rebel. Is that who I am? No. This is not college. This is professional sports. If you can’t sit down and go talk to a man that you are busting your tail for, not even have the respect for anything that you have to say, like I said, the only thing I knew then was to rebel.” – Plaxico Burress
When asked to respond to the comments made by his former wide receiver, New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin took the high road as he usually does. However, it didn’t come without a slight at Burress.
“As I’ve said many times, I’ll stay with the same line: I hope he gets some normalcy in his life and has a chance to spend some time with his family, his wife has done a tremendous job of holding that family together for the last two years. She deserves some help.” - New York Gians head coach Tom Coughlin
In other words, Plaxico, worry about spending time with your family and picking up some of the slack and responsibility you left behind while you sat in jail for shooting yourself in the leg.
While the 2011 NFL season is anything but a lock to start on time (if at all), fans all over the U.S. sat by their computers and/or televisions with anticipation Tuesday, waiting for the clock to strike 7 p.m. eastern time. And, in a move that largely means nothing, the league satisfied their fans by offering up the complete schedule for the upcoming 2011 season.
So, while the times, dates and names written on the schedules may as well be scribbled in crayon for all intents and purposes, given the current labor situation with the league and all, if only for a moment, fans can now sit back and pretend all is well with America’s actual pastime.
Among the points of interest on the schedule:
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Chicago Bears in London on October 23 for Week 7 action. Also, the Washington Redskins will travel to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills in a Week 8 game on October 30.
- The traditional Thanksgiving games will feature a tripleheader. Most noteworthy of all, we can look forward to a coaching battle between Harbough brothers as the Baltimore Ravens takes on the San Francisco 49ers.
- The Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys is also scheduled for Thanksgiving Day.
- Michael Vick will come back to Atlanta for the first time as the starting QB of the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.
- The New York Jets host the New York Giants on Christmas Eve. Extra cops have already been scheduled to work the extra shift.
- The Detroit Lions earn their first Monday Night Football slot in a decade.
- Jay Cutler returns to Denver with his Chicago Bears team on December 11 – unless he get the sniffles on December 10 and deems himself too ill to make the trip.
Or — people who earn more in one year than most fans earn in a lifetime — will continue to fight over money and none of this will happen.