By: Shawn Davis
Here we go folks, two weeks until Wildcard Weekend. In the NFC, the playoff teams are locked up (although seeding can still be decided), albeit one: The Dallas @ NY Giants game next Sunday night is for the division and the fourth seed. The loser watches from home. While in the AFC, four teams have punched their tickets and 3-5 others are in the chase for the last two spots. It’s going to be great and I’m glad the last week of the regular season will have some drama.
We have the Cowboys vs. Giants game, the Bengals making their push for the postseason with a game hosting the Ravens (who can be had), Kyle Orton bringing Kansas City into Denver to (possibly) dissolve Tebowmania (with Oakland hoping that he does), etc. Since this is the last overview of the season – and we now know who matters and who doesn’t – I’m going to against the categories I’ve used throughout this year.
Green Bay (14-1), New Orleans (12-3), New England (12-3), San Francisco (12-3), Baltimore (11-4), Pittsburgh (11-4), Detroit (10-5), Houston (10-5), Cincinnati (9-6), Atlanta (9-6), NY Giants (8-7), Dallas (8-7)
They Do Not
St. Louis (2-13), Indianapolis (2-13), Minnesota (3-12), Jacksonville (4-11), Cleveland (4-11), Miami (5-10), Buffalo (6-9), Carolina (6-9), Washington (5-10), Chicago (7-8), Kansas City (6-9), San Diego (7-8), Arizona (7-8), Seattle (7-8), Tampa Bay (4-11), Philadelphia (7-8)
Do We Have A Heartbeat?
Oakland (8-7), Denver (8-7), Tennessee (8-7), NY Jets (8-7)
A clear argument can be made concerning the legitimacy of both the Giants and Cowboys but it’s simple for those two: win and advance to the playoffs. They control whether they’re competing for the games that really count. The teams that don’t matter, well…they don’t matter.
If you need assistance to make the playoffs then you’re a team that’s on the respirator because you cannot remedy yourself. Chips have to fall the right way and even winning doesn’t guarantee a postseason berth, by the way. If Denver and Oakland end up with the same record, the Broncos advance. Oakland needs to win – and they need the Broncos to lose. The Jets and Titans both need A LOT of help and all the scenarios make my stomach turn. Honestly, I’m rooting for a Rex Ryan-free postseason because all of his bluster puts an enormous amount of un-needed pressure on his players because they’re the ones that have to put on the pads while he boasts with the microphones in his face.
I’m so impressed by the Cincinnati Bengals and how they’ve handled themselves over the course of the year. After knowing Carson Palmer would never suit up for them and they would be starting a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, I doubt that anyone had this group contending for a playoff spot. But they are and I like how they’ve stayed in games and pushed the Steelers and Ravens (in Weeks 10 and 11). They lost to Pittsburgh (again) in Week 13 and then had another tough defeat at the hands of Houston the next game.
How would they respond? Well they won their last two games against the Rams and Cardinals to make sure they would still have a postseason life and they face the unreliable Ravens this weekend to end the season. No matter how the playoff picture sorts itself out, the Bengals have a bright future ahead of them – and I wanted to give them the credit that they earned the only way that matters: by beating teams. Can someone get that across to Rex Ryan?
How can Reggie Bush’s season continue to be overlooked? Detractors will say “why didn’t he do this in New Orleans?” Let’s be fair about this, okay? It’s not like Sean Payton’s offense is designed to feature the running back and Bush was the all-purpose threat they wanted him to be. They put him in space and he was a large component of the passing attack as a receiver; which is the role Payton wanted him to play as they had multiple backs to carry the load on the ground.
Here’s his statistics, broken down by rushing yards/receiving/return yards:
2006: 565 rush/742 rec/216 ret: 1,523 total yards with 8 touchdowns
2007: 581 rush/417 rec/12 ret: 1,010 total yards with 6 touchdowns
2008: 404 rush/440 rec/270 ret: 1,114 total yards with 6 touchdowns
2009: 390 rush/335 rec/130 ret: 855 total yards with 8 touchdowns
2010: 150 rush/208 rec/92 ret: 450 total yards with 1 touchdown
2011: 1,086 rush/296 rec/52 ret: 1,434 total yards with 7 touchdowns
So the 2009 season was the only year of his career – thus far – where he failed to cross 1,000 total yards when he was relatively healthy; he missed two games that year due to injury. The next year he was out of action for eight games and maybe that’s when the franchise lost faith in his ability to be the player they envisioned him to be. Fair point but there is no way he can be viewed as a bust, no matter what the talking television heads say.
When he was drafted, he was viewed as being the next great all-time back – in the mold of Marshall Faulk – and that was a lofty comparison as Faulkis in the Hall of Fame. His elusiveness and speed was compared to Gayle Sayers and Barry Sanders. What? The bar was raised too high and there is no way he could live up to those legends of the game but Bush is not a bust.
Drew Brees passed Dan Marino as the single-season leader for passing yards with 5,087 at the end of the game last night against the Atlanta Falcons and showed a high level of class. In the press conference after the game he thanked team staff, his defense, the coaches, the fans and the entire city of New Orleans. Marino’s record stood for 27 years before it was broken last night but I think whether it’s Brees or Brady who ultimately take ownership of the passing record after this season – it doesn’t hold for another 27 years. I think it’s broken in the next 5-10 years! The rules of the game now forecast this record being turned over again.
So I went 11-5 with my picks in this throwaway week as most of the games had clear-cut favorites but I was surprised at how aggressive the Lions were against San Diego. I felt the contest would be…a contest but a 38-10 deluge finally put the Chargers out to pasture for this season. It was a great week of football and I’ll be back next week with a look towards the playoffs and my overall (hideous) record in my pick-league.