By: Shawn Davis
The Dallas Cowboys visited MetLife Stadium to “play” for the division against the New York Giants and, well, it wasn’t close. It got out of hand early as Victor Cruz continues to stake his claim and as a clutch performer at the wide receiver position. He caught 6 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, one that began to blow this game open. Dallas mounted a small sign of life in the second half but the Giants defense made sure the ending would be void of drama.
At the time of this posting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired head coach Raheem Morris after three seasons (with a 17-31 record) and the St. Louis Rams removed head coach Steve Spagnuolo (three seasons; 10-38 record) and general manager Billy Devaney from their posts, but I doubt those will be the only guys looking for jobs this off-season as 2-4 more coaches could be cleaning out their lockers. The Bears relieved general manager Jerry Angelo from his post while offensive coordinator Mike Martz resigned. Former Tennessee Titans coach, Jeff Fisher, is the hot candidate throughout the league and he has interviews scheduled with teams in search of a new voice as the head coach.
There are concrete reasons why the Indianapolis Colts would look to make changes after wrapping up the Andrew Luck sweepstakes but they fired vice chairman Bill Polian, seriously? (His son, Chris, the general manager was also shown the door.) If the reports on ESPN.com news services (along with other sources) are accurate and “fans have been calling for the ouster of the Polians and head coach Caldwell” I think fans of the Colts are true idiots! Yeah I said it.
Everyone has to share in the blame for the 2-14 season and I see removing Caldwell if that’s the choice that has to be made but to remove Bill Polian is a lapse in judgment from owner Jim Irsay. It’s his team and he can shape it any way that he wants but I hope the “fans” didn’t factor in his decision. Why? The fans are frontrunners only, it seems, because the Colts have spoiled them with sooooo much winning over the last decade and then they turn on the franchise when its quarterback goes on injured reserve with a neck injury THAT COULD END HIS CAREER. Seasons like this prove how loyal fans are and they have a groundswell movement to remove Bill Polian? Really? I think Irsay is clearly moving away from the Peyton Manning era to bring about a fresh staff in preparation for Andrew Luck. Take it from a life-long New York Mets fan, I would love to have a decade of winning and stability in the front office – shit, I’d take one competent year.
Most of the blame should fall on those wearing the pads and helmets because even without Peyton, I thought they would be a 6-8 win team. I think this season hurts Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis once they retire as it pertains to their Hall of Fame prospects because I feel this horrible season was a surprise to most people who really pay attention to football. As is the case most of the times in sports, the suits can be moved easier than the athletes but this was one of those “shockers.”
My pick-league closed this Sunday night and I finished 21st overall – that sucks I know – but I had no idea Tebow would rip my picks to shreds AND the Eagles would forget that the regular season has ONLY 16 games. My final record was 165-91, which is a 64% win percentage, but it was 21 games behind the winner of the whole contest. Next year I’ll make sure to drink, a lot, before making my selections on Saturday afternoons. Although if I do that I could end up with a real problem; I’ll give it some thought.
On a 10-point depression scale I’m officially at a nine because although Wild Card Weekend is one of the best two days to be a football fan – it signals the last few weeks of real football until next fall. As someone who doesn’t like the NBA that much anymore, I could be headed for a tough few months. But it could give me more time to write about the married women that I keep attracting; but that’s a totally different column even though it does feel like a sport.
We have both games on Saturday and Sunday figured out already so I’ll give the games a look and I’ll shoot myself in the foot by making predictions as well. Disclaimer: Don’t use my picks as they only have a 64% chance of coming true. Okay? Great!
Wild Card Saturday:
Cincinnati @ Houston (4:30 pm ET)
The battle of the rookie quarterbacks! When they played in Week 14, T.J. Yates threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with two seconds remaining to give the Texans their first playoff appearance in the franchise’s history and a 20-19 victory over the Bengals. You think the team in Cincinnati would like to reverse that outcome? Wouldn’t you? Wade Phillips made the Texans defense the top unit in football in just one year – and they’ve stayed consistent even without Mario Williams (who they lost for the whole year early on). It’s hard for me to pick Houston without Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson operating at 80% and watching them stumble into the postseason in the manner they have.
Once the season began, there wasn’t any consensus on the Bengals because it was widely assumed they wouldn’t be competitive. Their franchise quarterback was sitting on his couch; Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens were off the roster and they were starting rookies at wide receiver and quarterback. Last time I check those positions are sort of important. I could be wrong. The Bengals have impressed me all season long and I’m glad to see them compete in a playoff atmosphere.
Regardless of the outcome of this contest, Cincinnati has two first-round picks this year and a conditional pick that could be a future first-rounder that came over in the Carson Palmer trade – and they’re positioned to fortify their young core. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could probably be hired as a head coach for one of the openings this off-season – and deservedly so – with the way his unit had performed. Am I gushing over the Bengals enough? I would have never thought I’d give them so much praise with the way Mike Brown has run his franchise but maybe you can teach an old dog a few new tricks.
My pick: Bengals on the road.
Detroit @ New Orleans (8 pm ET)
Matt Stafford and the Lions scored 41 points in Lambeau field in an aerial show Sunday to push the Packers to the limit. Good, right? No, they still lost by four points and Aaron Rodgers watched from the sideline the entire game. In Week 13, the Saints defeated the Lions 31-17 – and it could have been worse had the Saints paid full attention in the fourth quarter.
The Lions don’t run the ball, I mean it’s not even like they try to threaten opposing defenses with a ground look so they’re forced to throw on almost every down. They are proficient doing so and they like to battle back from large deficits. Ok let’s get this straight: They don’t run the ball and they often find themselves having to overcome double-digits to win games. That’s a formula that favors the Saints by a few touchdowns.
My pick: Saints; and I doubt the Lions will be able to stay within 14 points once the game progresses to the fourth quarter.
Atlanta @ NYG (1 pm ET)
I’m not going to say the Giants are playing like the team that plowed through the playoffs to rip the Super Bowl away from the Patriots – they’re not – but they are getting healthy in the one area that separates them from every team in the league: the defensive line. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Mathias Kiwanuka are all healthy and that’s a problem for everyone else now that Eli Manning moves the offense in a way reminiscent of his older brother.
Atlanta Falcons…hmm; I haven’t figured them out the whole year and I’m not going to attempt to now. They have no identity at all; one minute they want to pretend to be the Greatest Show on Turf and other times they choose to be a balanced offense featuring Michael Turner (which should always be the top priority). When they feature the run, and in turn frame their passing attack around it, they are a formidable squad but since they have Julio Jones they get caught up in wanting to play with the new toy over enjoying the ones that have reaped rewards over the last few seasons. This is not a knock on them trading up last year to acquire Jones because they need him to keep up with other teams that have multiple offensive threats but they get too caught up in trying to be ultra-explosive in the passing game. I just see them as such a confusing outfit and they can’t clone Brent Grimes in order to cover both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
My pick: G-Men.
Pittsburgh @ Denver (4:30 pm ET)
Now I’m not going to back pedal on anything as it relates to this game just because Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Clark are out and Ben Roethlisberger’s high-ankle sprain is a real concern; I say that because I picked the Steelers to return to the Super Bowl (with them winning this time over the Packers) and I’m not bailing on that prognostication. I do have a second pick of the Steelers losing to the Saints so as you can see I believe in Pittsburgh, but I digress. Paying close attention this game smells like a Broncos upset, doesn’t it? Stick your noses out a bit.
About a month ago one of my best friends, Justin, was wrapped up in the hysteria of Tim Tebow and what he was doing over the height of his mania. We cracked a few jokes and I said “if Denver makes the playoffs they’re going to win the Super Bowl” to which he almost choked on his food while laughing. The whole scenario would play out as such: the Broncos defense shuts everyone down in order to keep the games close and Tebow does just enough to win them all in come-from-behind fashion – which will disintegrate the internet.
Also, Tebow has God on his side – just kidding, because if the Higher power cares about outcomes of sporting events then mankind is in deep trouble – well, I’d say “magic” is the appropriate term and the force of said magic cannot be ignored. From there, the Broncos raise the Lombardi Trophy, John Elway hides the disdain of knowing there’s no way he can replace the quarterback that just made them champions without the state of Colorado tearing down his home so he disappears after the obligatory championship parade.
Elway, in a state of dementia since he feels that he knows – and is bewildered that the fans don’t view it his way – what a quarterback looks like (he’s aided in this thought while staring at himself in the mirror wearing eye-black and his Broncos “7” jersey) decides to throw caution to the wind by sending a belligerent and expletive-laden letter to the AP explaining why the franchise needs to draft (or trade for) a prototypical passer. Fully expecting an exponential backlash, Elway kills himself in the parking lot at Mile High Stadium by swallowing a bottle of pills. You see how far this thing goes? Justin said I was losing my mind, and in my defense, I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.
I feel this game will be close but…the magic ends.
My pick: Steelers; It’s hard for me to pick against them.
Side notes: Matt Flynn just made himself a boatload of cash this upcoming off-season with his 480 yard/6 touchdown performance in the great shootout on Sunday versus the Lions; teams that cannot trade up in the draft to find their quarterback or have uncertainty at the position (Washington, Seattle, Jacksonville, Miami, etc.) may be calling his agent. This is a story worthy of attention and I think it will garner an adequate amount as we get closer to the 2012 NFL Draft.
Photo: Matt Flynn; nwitimes.com