Biggest Winner: San Diego Chargers (+6)
Biggest Loser: Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks (-4)
1. Green Bay Packers (15-1, +0): After resting Aaron Rodgers, backup Matt Flynn came out with a monster day, leading the Packers to a 45-41 win over the playoff-bound Lions. The Lions wanted to win this one, too, as now with a loss, they will be forced to travel to New Orleans during the wildcard round. Flynn passed for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns, both single-game Packers records. He surely earned himself a fat contract in the off-season since Flynn is set to be a Free agent, and Green Bay will not likely use their franchise tag on him with Jermichael Finley's contract situation not going anywhere.
2. New Orleans Saints (13-3, +0): Due to the Rams' ineptitude, the Saints really had no chance at securing the first-round bye last Sunday, but that didn't stop them from trying. Drew Brees has made a strong case for MVP himself, and may actually get it. Although the Saints do struggle when traveling away from a dome, they are the 2nd best team in my mind and will make a significant playoff push. This would be the team that would be most dangerous to a Packer repeat in my eyes.
3. New England Patriots (13-3, +0): Once again, the Patriots fall behind early against an inferior division rival. Luckily for them, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady and was able to lead them out of it. Its odd to see a Bellichick-coached team struggle early, and they will really need to correct this issue come playoff time. They may be able to get away with a huge deficit against Miami and Buffalo, but this won't fly against Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Green Bay, and New Orleans.
4. Baltimore Ravens (12-4, +2): This was without a doubt a huge win for Baltimore. Not only do they secure a first-round bye and home playoff game, but the Ravens proved that they can win against a quality team on the road, something they haven't been able to do consistently all season. The trick is running with your stud RB, Ray Rice. Who would've thunk it?
5. San Francisco 49ers (13-3, +0): For the first time all season, the 49ers defense looked exposed... against the Kellen Clemmens-led Rams, no less. The 49ers allowed 17 fourth-quarter points against the Rams, and almost allowed them to come back. I'm willing to overlook this as some kind of early celebration, but they can't allow this to continue in the playoffs. The 49ers will only win in the playoffs if they can rely on their defense to allow as little points as humanly possible.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4, -2): Even with Big Ben back, the Steelers struggled vs the Browns. They eventually won (but it meant nothing due to Baltimore winning), but there was some key issues. Ben Roethlisberger barely completed half of his passes, he's far from healthy at this point (which is a problem, since they go on the road next week for a wildcard game). To make matters worse, Rashard Mendenhall went down with injury, and he'll be out for the playoffs. Lets just say that Pittsburgh isn't red-hot going into the playoffs. At least they get to play Denver.
7. Atlanta Falcons (10-6, +1): The Falcons got exactly what they needed last Sunday with the Packers beating the Lions, allowing them to steal the #5 seed away from the Lions. This avoids the Falcons from having to travel to New Orleans in the wildcard round, and instead get to pick on the Giants. It should be a game Atlanta can win. They have some momentum carrying into the playoffs.
8. Detroit Lions (10-6, -1): While Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson tore it up against the Packers, the Lions defense was a major disappointment. They were exposed against Packers backup Matt Flynn, who threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns against the Lions' secondary. It looks like the Lions have the same problem that "big brother" does, a lack of ability to stop the pass. Look for this weakness to be exposed again during the Wildcard game against Drew Brees.
9. New York Giants (9-7, +1): After winning the "NFC East Championship", the Giants are playoff bound, and will host a game against Atlanta in the Wildcard round. Easily one of the worst teams in the NFC playoffs, I don't know how far they'll go but they actually have a solid roster. Eli Manning was great against Dallas and if he can replicate his previous playoff success, the Giants may yet have a chance at a championship run.
10. Houston Texans (10-6, +1): I still don't understand their decision to go for 2 at the end of the game against the Titans instead of kicking the extra point and sending the game into Overtime. I guess Kubiak may have been worrying about injuries or something, but still. If you were going to play to win, play to win, damnit. The good news for Texans fans is that T.J. Yates injury was not serious, and he will play next week. They won't have to worry about the turnover machine that is Jake Delhomme. This still doesn't convince me that Houston can actually win a playoff game, however. At this point, their offense has become one-dimensional, and their defense has to play nothing short of spectacular to compensate.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7, +1): Luckily for Cincinnati, they were able to survive losing to the Ravens and still get a playoff birth due to the Jets losing last Sunday. While they weren't able to stop the Ravens at home, there was plenty of fight on this Bengals team and they fought hard. They probably don't have the talent to make a deep playoff run, but they defiantly have the spirit and this playoff birth will go a long way to raise morale going into next season.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8, +3): Too little too late, Philadelphia. The Eagles have finally cast aside their issues and began to look like a "dream team" towards the end of the season. With Andy Reid now likely to survive this season (again), Eagles fans can still be hopeful for next season. Without the lockout, the hope is that these talented players can continue to grow with eachother and come out strong next year. Lets just say that this is the most scary 8-8 team I've ever seen.
13. Dallas Cowboys (8-8, -4): It was obvious that Tony Romo's hand injury bothered him all game. He didn't have much time to throw against the Giants' 3-headed pass rush, but when he did, the ball lacked velocity and was a bit inaccurate. This was a shame, since he was playing for a playoff spot. Dallas had high expectations in pre-season, and Jason Garrett has not met them. We'll see if he survives Jerry Jones' wrath this off-season.
14. San Diego Chargers (8-8, +6): Gosh, it seems that no team is worth being placed in these mid-teens. I guess I'll move the Chargers up to this spot, who did great against the Raiders, knocking them at home out of the playoffs with a huge win here. They were playing for head coach Norv Turner, we'll see if he is retained. If you're a Chargers fan, however, you have to hope that your owner doesn't fall for these shenanigans however. Turner is the reason the Chargers aren't in the playoffs.
15. Tennessee Titans (9-7, +4): The Titans fought a hard game against the Texans, but didn't get the help they needed in order to make the playoffs. This is all fine and good though since the Titans didn't really deserve to be there. The Titans roster is completely mediocre, but there is reason for optimism. Mike Munchak was promising in his first season as head coach, and will not likely take the Penn State coaching job (instead, Bill O'Brien of the Patriots is the leading candidate). If Chris Johnson can find his mojo again next year and Jake Locker can win the starting job, it will be an interesting 2012 campaign for the Titans.
16. Denver Broncos (8-8, -3): It's absolutely criminal to see this team in the playoffs when there are better teams that didn't make it. The Broncos are not playoff material, winning the crappy AFC West in a three-way tie. Oh, by the way, I HATE TIM TEBOW!!! Stupid Tebow supporters actually convinced me Tebow didn't suck so I decided to start him in my fantasy Championship game. I ended up losing the game by 4 points, with Tim Tebow being worth a whole ONE point due to his ineptitude. I could've started Matt Flynn. [Insert more bitchy comments here]. At least I get to watch Tebow get slaughtered by the Steelers next week.
17. Oakland Raiders (8-8, -1): I'd much rather be watching the Raiders in the post-season than the Broncos. Despite being down early against the Chargers, they didn't give up, but didn't quite come close enough. With Darren McFadden next year, this is a team to watch. Although they won't exactly be able to infuse the team with young talent as they lack draft selections in the first three rounds in next year's draft.
18. Seattle Seahawks (7-9, -4): I really struggled with who to put here, but eventually I decided on the Seahawks. I may have been a little premature ranking them at #14, but I still really like their chances next season. While their record is too good to select a blue-collar Quarterback in next year's draft, they still have interesting options to address the position. Kyle Orton, Matt Flynn, David Garrard, and Vince Young are all free agents this off-season, and they COULD try to trade up to land either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in next year's draft. All of the guys mentioned would be an immense upgrade over Tavaris Jackson.
19. New York Jets (8-8, -2): The Jets lost three straight, proving without a shadow of a doubt that they did not belong in the post-season. Mark Sanchez has been beyond horrible in these three games. After a pretty good first part of the season, his play dropped his Quarterback rating to below 80 for the 3rd straight season. Jets fans seem to be finally turning against the fat turd, Rex Ryan. All thanks to my own Dolphins sticking the metaphorical dagger in the Jets' metaphorical heart. I love it.
20. Miami Dolphins (6-10, +2): What a final game for Jason Taylor, who retires after a great career after a 19-17 win against the Jets. The Dolphins have a solid football team across the board, and becomes only the 3rd team in NFL history to win 6 games after starting 0-7. How they address the Head coaching vacancy and Quarterback position in the off-season will influence their success next season. As a Dolphins fan, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is on the top of my wishlist, especially if we can sign Matt Flynn in Free agency. Then we could keep Mike Nolan in place on the defense, and switch to a West coast offense where Flynn has been successful in Green Bay. He defiantly has quality targets in Miami with Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Reggie Bush.
21. Carolina Panthers (6-10, -3): The Panthers showed they aren't quite ready to roll with the big boys against the Saints, being crushed 45-17. They have plenty of reason for optimism going into the off-season though. Cam Newton has developed faster than anyone could've expected. If they can focus on defense this off-season, the Panthers could become a quality contender as early as next season. Carolina's pass rush and Linebacker corp is solid, they should focus on a below average defensive secondary.
22. Arizona Cardinals (8-8, +1): Its going to take a lot to convince me Arizona is worthy of its .500 record, but for what its worth, its a tribute to how scrappy this Arizona team is. With starting Quarterback Kevin Kolb out the majority of the season, this is better than anyone could have expected... they were able to beat the Seahawks without Kolb AND their leading rusher, Beanie Wells. They have some young studs on both sides of the ball, don't be surprised if Arizona challenges the 49ers for the division next season if they can address their needs.
23. Chicago Bears (8-8, -2): The Bears got the final win they wanted, but they needed a defensive touchdown to do it and it was against one of the worst teams this season (without that team's starting Quarterback and star Runningback). So yeah, 23rd really is a nice spot for this team this season. Its really due to the losses to the Bears' own best offensive players (Jay Cutler and Matt Forte), so don't expect the Bears to be 8-8 again next season.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9, +0): The Chiefs proved last Sunday that if there is one team that deserves a playoff birth in the AFC West, it is NOT the Broncos. Oh well. In my mind, Romeo Crennel has proven to the Chiefs organization that he deserves a shot at being "the guy". The Chiefs defense had a major turnaround since he took over the reigns, leading the Chiefs to a 2-1 record with Crennel at the helm, defeating two playoff teams. We'll see if the Chiefs Front office agrees with me, and keeps Crennel around.
25. Buffalo Bills (6-10, +1): While they were blown out by the Patriots, there were some positive things we've seen from the Bills in this game. First of all, the Bills offense did not give up, getting an early lead against the Patriots 21-0. I think the Bills can be confident in being able to win with Ryan Fitzpatrick, especially with young talent like Steve Johnson and C.J. Spiller on the offense. As I mentioned earlier, the Bills lack depth particularly on defense and the offensive line, which killed them this season. If they can become a "deeper" team, they have a better chance next season at snapping their playoff drought.
26. Washington Redskins (5-11, -1): Well, Mike Shanahan and Dan Snyder have a lot of work to do before next season. There are positives to this Redskins team, their defense has been much improved. But one cannot win consistency with inconsistency at the Quarterback position. I almost think now that with Snyder at the helm, the Redskins are front-runners to trade for Peyton Manning if the Colts do indeed draft Luck and trade Manning. Snyder loves veterans, and Peyton Manning is as good as a veteran as you can get. Would certainly be interesting to see both Manning brothers playing in the same division.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11, +1): It's nice to end your season on a positive note, except for the fact that you allow your division rival to possibly draft Andrew Luck, which could possibly guarantee them another 15 years of Quarterback stability. Oh well. Mel Tucker was fighting to prove he is capable of leading this team next season, and I believe he certainly is with how well the Jaguars defense has played this season. The bad news though is the Blaine Gabbert experiment has failed, he's been awful this season. Don't be surprised if the Jaguars select a Quarterback early AGAIN in next year's draft... at the very least, they will sign a veteran to compete with Gabbert.
28. Minnesota Vikings (3-13, -1): Joe Webb is more explosive than Christian Ponder, but I don't think he is the guy either. The Vikings now hold the #3 position, which is good enough to land Robert Griffin III, should they want him. Honestly, I believe the Vikings will try to trade back to extra selections and select someone like Morris Caliborne to patch up their defensive secondary. They won't give up on Christian Ponder this early, and they have bigger needs to address.
29. Cleveland Browns (4-12, +1): At least the Browns fought hard against the Steelers in their season finale. Seneca Wallace continued to prove me right that he's a better starter than Colt McCoy. I think we can finally say the McCoy experiment is a failure. Like a lot of teams, the Browns largest need is Quarterback. Their draft position means that they COULD have a shot at Robert Griffin III, but they need to trade up in order to solidify their chances. Another interesting story is whether or not the Browns will give Pat Shurmur another year or not. He seemed lost at times as a first-year head coach.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12, -1): The Bucs are so bad, that the Falcons rested their starters before halftime after scoring 42 first-half points. The Bucs looked completely inept on both offense and defense, and was only able to play slightly better against the Falcons second team, ultimately losing 45-24. Josh Freeman seems to have totally regressed. After high expectations due to his 25 touchdown, 6 interception season last year, he pulled a complete 180, throwing only 16 touchdowns this season and 22 picks. Raheem Morris was fired Monday morning, which was no surprise. He had lost the locker room, and was not ready to be Head coach when he was hired.
31. Indianapolis Colts (2-14, +0): The Colts are obviously better off losing that game against the Jaguars, as now they have secured the #1 overall selection. It still remains a mystery about what they will do with it, and Peyton Manning. My gut tells me now that they will draft Luck and try to trade Peyton, but its really up in the air. If I were the Colts, I'd seriously consider trading the first overall pick and sticking with Peyton. By trading the first overall pick, they could patch up their weaknesses and give Peyton Manning a chance at some championships in his final years in the NFL. Then again, selecting Luck could solidify their Quarterback position for several more years to come. I don't think there's a wrong move here.
32. St. Louis Rams (2-14, +0): The Rams wasted no time in firing Steve Spagnuolo on Monday morning, he was probably told he would be gone months ago. The Rams' troubles weren't all injuries, the coaching staff proved inept as well. The Rams have an interesting draft position at #2, they will likely try to shop the pick to teams wanting Robert Griffin for a king's bounty. They could draft Griffin themselves, but my gut tells me they won't give up on Bradford so early into his career.
Predictions for Next Week
TKN's accuracy, Last week: 12-4 (75.00%)
Billy's accuracy, Last week: 10-6 (62.50%)
AFS's* accuracy, Last week: 11-5 (68.75%)
TKN's Overall 2011 accuracy: 170-86 (66.41%)
Billy's Overall 2011 accuracy: 171-85 (66.80%)
AFS's* Overall 2011 accuracy: 166-90 (64.84%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.
At the end of the Regular season, I was able to pull within a game of Billy. This gives me a chance to take the lead during the playoffs. As I mentioned earlier, playoff games will be worth double - so this is still a wide open competition. Without further delay, here is our Wildcard picks!
|Wade Phillips improved the Texans D dramatically in 2011.|
TheKillerNacho: I'm not convinced either of these teams will make a deep playoff run. I'm leaning towards the Texans at home, though. Wade Phillips is back from his surgery, so the Texans defense should come in well-prepared for the Bengals. Arian Foster was rested in Week 17, so hopefully he can be healthy too, providing the same edge to the Texans as Ray Rice did for the Ravens in Week 17.
Cincinnati 17, Houston 23
Cincinnati 17, Houston 16
American Football Simulator:
Cincinnati 24, Houston 23
Pittsburgh (12-4) @ Denver (8-8)
TheKillerNacho: This could be one of the most one-sided playoff games in NFL history. Tim Tebow sucks, he couldn't score more than 3 points against the Chiefs. How will he fare against one of the best defenses in the last decade? Its not going to be pretty. Personally, with my healthy hatred of Tim Tebow, I'm going to have fun watching him crash and burn. Mwahahahahaha!!
Pittsburgh 28, Denver 3
Pittsburgh 20, Denver 14
American Football Simulator:
Pittsburgh 23, Denver 18
|Breaking the season Passing record, Brees gets an easy WC matchup.|
TheKillerNacho: In a normal year, the Saints would have a first-round bye, maybe even homefield advantage. But this is not a normal year for the NFC. The Saints are ridiculously good at home, and the Detroit secondary has some serious holes, as we saw in Week 17. Look for Drew Brees to wreck this Lions defense in the dome, ending the Lions' season.
Detroit 27, New Orleans 34
Detroit 20, New Orleans 38
American Football Simulator:
Detroit 20, New Orleans 27
Atlanta (10-6) @ New York G (9-7)
TheKillerNacho: This game has the potential to be the best game this Wildcard round. I can't really get a good read on this game, one way or the other. The Giants have defensive secondary issues, but have a fine pass rush that can potentially limit their weakness. While I think Atlanta is the better team, Matt Ryan does struggle away from his dome and the Falcons' weaknesses seem exposed against New York. I'm going with my gut and saying Atlanta, but this will be a close one.
Atlanta 27, New York G 26
Atlanta 23, New York G 27
American Football Simulator:
Atlanta 24, New York G 25
Question of the Week
Last week, I asked my readers Which teams will be in the playoffs this year?. Included in the poll are all the teams currently not clinched a playoff birth: New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans. It looks like I was spot on, with the Giants, Broncos, and Bengals all getting wildcard spots as I predicted. The poll also finished seeming to agree with me; the Bengals were #1 with 88% of voters believing them to get a playoff birth, 66% thought Denver would, and 55% thought New York Giants would. Among "wrong-answer" teams, Dallas had the most with 45% of the vote, followed by Oakland with 33%, and the New York Jets with 22%. No one thought Tennessee would make the playoffs.
As you can see, this wildcard round features many teams that probably shouldn't have made post-season. Let's look at it from another angle... Which team in 2011 that did not make the playoffs should have (would have the best chance to do well in the playoffs)? between the Philadelphia Eagles (8-8), Dallas Cowboys (8-8), San Diego Chargers (8-8), Tennessee Titans (9-7), Oakland Raiders (8-8) or Other (please comment). As for me, I think the Eagles got really hot towards the end of the season, and would've fared better than New York Giants or Dallas. While they were the ones that dug their own hole, the way they were playing, the could've possibly made a nice playoff run. The runners up in my eyes in this poll is San Diego, but with Norv Turner, I don't know how far they would've went.
Vote on the right-hand side of my blog!