Week 16 Judgements: Seahawks alive and fluttering in NFC West
1. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he lives in Seattle where the Seahawks somehow remain in playoff contention despite losing seven of their last nine by an average — an average — of 22.2 points per game, with no defeat closer than 15. is this a great country or what?
2. no matter what happens next weekend Seattle should consider drafting a quarterback. from what I’ve seen of Charlie Whitehurst there is no future there. I mean, for someone who’s been in the NFL five seasons he looks remarkably like an unpolished rookie. not good.
3. the Pro Bowl teams are announced this week, and I have a feeling there’s an AFC quarterback who gets shafted. Will Matt Cassel please come down? the guy has been nothing short of remarkable this season, throwing 23 touchdown passes and two interceptions his past 10 games, but let’s look at the bigger picture. the Chiefs won the AFC West, they’re 10-4 with Cassel in the lineup and they haven’t lost a home game when he starts. Now look what he’s up against in the Pro Bowl voting: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. My guess: he finishes fourth, which is not just a shame; it’s an injustice.
4. the biggest loser Sunday? Make it Philadelphia. not only did Chicago come from behind to win, keeping the Eagles from gaining the inside position for home-field advantage, but now the Eagles must play their season finale on a short week.
5. I’m with NBC’s Cris Collinsworth. It’s one thing to postpone a football game because of “public safety” and the “uncertainty of the extent of the storm,” but the NFL established a precedent by pushing the Minnesota-Philadelphia game back two days. so what determines who or what postpones a game from here on out? and what happens if you have similar conditions for the 2014 Super Bowl which, don’t forget, will be outdoors in New York? you think the league would postpone that one for “public safety?” All those who raised their hands have playoff tickets waiting in San Diego.
6. so now it’s a Michael Vick-Tom Brady MVP contest, huh? Maybe, except it’s not. Vick has given us extraordinary and memorable performances, but he’s not more valuable to the Eagles than Brady is to New England. look, Vick has playmakers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy around him. Brady? the Patriots traded away his most dangerous threat early in the season and changed their offense midway through the season. no problem. Brady has BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Wes Welker and two rookie tight ends, and he not only hasn’t thrown an interception in 10 games; he hasn’t lost in seven. Furthermore, Philadelphia buried Atlanta, the best team in the NFC, without Vick. Vick will gain first-place votes, and he should. but he should not win the award. There is no one more valuable to his team than Brady. Period.
7. Here’s what I never understood about the 49ers’ Mike Singletary: he couldn’t make a commitment to a quarterback. One week it was Alex Smith; the next, Troy Smith; then, either … or both … and say good night, folks. If there’s one question I have for Mike it’s this: If you thought enough of Alex Smith to play him vs. St. Louis when you trailed by eight with nine minutes to go, why didn’t you start him? never mind, save that for the exit interview.
8. the Bengals are 2-11 when Terrell Owens is there at the finish; 2-0 when he’s not. Just pointing out the facts.
9. I don’t know if Denver found itself a quarterback, but I do know it found someone to put people in the stands. Josh McDaniels made a raft of mistakes while he was in Denver, but with the choice of Tim Tebow, he at least gave Denver fans hope that something … no, correction, someone … might be worth watching next season.
10. Maybe Houston fires Gary Kubiak, maybe not. but if it doesn’t, Kubiak should fire his defensive coordinator, and not because I have anything against the guy but because in 15 of the Texans’ past 16 starts Houston has surrendered 24 or more points. When you wonder why this team can’t get off the mat I would start there.
11. There is no better cold-weather team anywhere than New England. the Patriots played in sub-freezing weather three times the past four weeks and not only won by a combined score of 115-13; they didn’t commit a turnover while their opponents had 14, including seven by Buffalo on Sunday. the difference between New England and the rest of the field is not on the roster; it’s in the focus. the Patriots absolutely refuse to beat themselves.
12. Uh-oh, looks like the Giants’ Tom Coughlin may be running out of time. After his team self-immolated last season, getting hammered for 40 or more points in three of its past four games, team president John Mara demanded changes … and he got them. Coughlin fired his defensive coordinator. only now he’s back where he was then, with the Giants surrendering 73 points the past five quarters and opponents scoring on 10 of 19 possessions. Coughlin’s next move could be out the door.
Denver fans have something to smile about this season, and that’s the possible emergence of Tim Tebow as their future QB.(Getty Images) 13. Replays caught referee Pete Morelli signaling a first down in the San Francisco-St. Louis game when the 49ers were in fact a yard short, and, for Pete’s sake, enough is enough. Morelli was the guy in Pittsburgh who last week screwed up the down count, so either give him a tape measure or send him back to math class. Just get this right.
14. the Jets’ Rex Ryan insisted he wouldn’t punt to Devin Hester. then he did, and Hester returned the ball 38 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown. Ryan later said it was a mistake, suggesting that punter Steve Weatherford screwed up, but me? I think someone forgot to remind Ryan and/or Weatherford that Sal Alosi didn’t make the trip.
15. I don’t want to hear anyone ask if San Diego’s Norv Turner is in trouble because he’s not. Nevertheless, someone must suffer for this season’s nose-dive, and that someone is special teams coach Steve Crosby. I know he’s considered one of the best in the business, but he wasn’t this season. In fact, his special teams stunk. yet Turner stood by him when others would not, and he suffered for it — failing to win the AFC West when he drew the NFC West on his schedule. Crosby’s special teams cost the Chargers too many games and, in the end, a division title.
Five things I like
1. how Indianapolis is playing now. Joseph Addai is back. so is Dominic Rhodes. Manning is throwing touchdown passes. and the defense is stopping the run. Sunday’s victory marked the team’s third straight, the second consecutive week an opponent didn’t rush for more than 80 yards and the return of Addai for the first time in nine games.
2. the play of Josh Freeman. he tied a Tampa Bay record with five TD passes and guaranteed a winning record for a Bucs team that started 10 rookies this season. Freeman won’t get MVP votes, but I don’t know of many players who were more valuable to their teams.
3. Ray Lewis as a human Tarot card. Lewis all but guaranteed that Peyton Hillis wouldn’t run over the Ravens again, and he lived up to his promise. Hillis’ 35 yards rushing were his lowest in 10 games. next time I want a prediction I’ll take Lewis over, say, the Giants’ Antrel Rolle.
4. Washington in overtime. three of its six victories have come in the fifth quarter.
5. Minnesota’s chances of not prolonging its season. the Vikings’ past two starts were postponed to later dates, and I can’t remember that happening to anyone anywhere. but, never fear, Vikings fans, your season will end on time, and I know not because I consulted Ray Lewis but because I consulted the schedule. next Sunday’s game is indoors in Detroit.
Five things I don’t
1. the Jets’ decision to try a fake punt on fourth-and-3 at their 40 on the opening series of the second half. are you kidding me? the Jets were up by a touchdown, for crying out loud. Why take an unnecessary gamble when you’re cruising on the road? Ryan suffered for the decision, and he should have: Chicago scored on the next play. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
2. the 49ers’ Troy Smith barking at his head coach after an interception. look, I don’t like anything about that quarterback situation in San Francisco, but get real, Troy. You’re lucky someone gives you the chance to start, and Mike Singletary was that someone. so this is the way you repay him? please.
3. Eli Manning’s accuracy. he might have a career-best 30 touchdown passes, but he also has a career-worst 24 interceptions, and, yes, I know some of those balls ricocheted off receivers’ hands. Nevertheless, no team is going to the playoffs with its quarterback throwing 24 picks, and the Giants are about to demonstrate that.
4. San Diego’s preparation for Sunday’s must-win game in Cincinnati. look at the mistakes, look at the turnovers, look at the complete confusion on Cincinnati’s game-clinching TD pass, and tell me these guys were ready. Far from it. They lost to an inferior team that was without its two most productive receivers, and someone please explain. Embarrassing is one word I can think of to describe this defeat. Humiliating is another. Carson Palmer was supposed to be a handicapped quarterback, yet he produced one of his best performances in any season … in a game the Bolts absolutely, positively needed. I don’t get it, and I bet GM a.J. Smith would like an explanation, too.
5. Chad Henne as a starting quarterback. the guy’s strictly a backup and the sooner the Dolphins wake up to it the sooner they start improving that abysmal record at home (they have lost nine of their past 10 there). twelve of Henne’s 18 interceptions occurred there, and he missed one game. That’s 12 interceptions in seven starts, six of them losses, and time to start the next round of auditions.
Just asking but ….
• Should Tom Coughlin be fired if the Giants don’t make the playoffs?
• Bigger disappointment — Houston or San Diego?
• Coach of the Year — bill Belichick, Mike Smith or Todd Haley?
• Who’s the second-best team in the NFC — Philadelphia or Chicago?
• Should Cincinnati take a hint from New England and go with no-name receivers next season?
3 – Graham Gano OT field goals this season 5 – San Francisco fumbles 6 — New York Giants turnovers, their most since 2004 7 – Straight games without a New England turnover 38 – Game-time temperature in Jacksonville, a franchise record low 319 – Tom Brady passes without an interception 95 – Indianapolis points the past three games 1995 – Last time a Chicago quarterback threw three TDs in one quarter 2-8 – Oakland in non-division games 17-1 – Brady vs. Buffalo
My top five
1. New England 2. Atlanta 3. Philadelphia 4. Baltimore 5. Pittsburgh
My bottom five
32. Carolina 31. Denver 30. Cincinnati 29. Cleveland 28. Houston
Next weekend’s three best games
Chicago at Green Bay … Packers make playoff push at home.
St. Louis at Seattle … Playoffs? are you kidding me? Playoffs?
Tampa Bay at New Orleans … There’s a playoff spot here for someone.
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