2010 NFL Football Season: Week Nine Observations


The Dallas Cowboys

Watching the Sunday night debacle where the Green Bay Packers demolished a Dallas Cowboy’s team that had been thumping their chests about a Super Bowl run at the start of the season was just too much fun to watch. For all those lifelong Cowboy’s haters like me, it’s great to see this team not only buried in mediocrity, but actually be a bad team that quits. I knew after watching that travesty of a game that poor Wade Philips was going to get the proverbial axe. Jerry Jones had to do something to stop the bleeding. I like Philips but never thought he was quite cut out to be a head coach. I am not so sure Jason Garrett is the answer as I see the offense, which he runs, as part of the problem as well. If they really want to make a statement they need to cut Mike Jenkins who has been a horrible cornerback all year long. The Cowboys are providing some good fodder and good entertainment.


GAMES I WATCHED

Cleveland Browns over New England Patriots, 34-14 (On NFL.com Game Rewind)

I had to force myself to watch this game online. What I saw made me sick to my stomach.

The New England Patriots defense has been very soft all year long. We have mostly been winning through special teams and turnovers. And our offense, without Randy Moss stretching the defense, has been extremely inconsistent as teams are able to simply double cover the underneath receivers. Wes Welker is getting a lot of unwanted attention from defenses these days. And when we can’t establish a running game to loosen up the passing attack, the offense is just flat.

But the defense was just absolutely mauled by the Cleveland Browns. The scariest thing about this game is it is either an aberration and just a trap game between contests with the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, or it exposed our defense and weak, undisciplined, and patsies. I hope it was just an aberration.

The Browns did beat the Saints after all and Peyton Hillis, who had a 184 yards rushing in this game, put up 144 yards on the stout Baltimore Ravens defense (okay, I know they are not as stout this year but still). And I thought the Patriots’ defense played very physical and tough against the Minnesota Vikings and the hard running Adrian Peterson. So that gives me hope that defense just had an off day. But you never want to lose this badly and look that soft against any team, much less one with losing record.

Cleveland certainly appears to be better than their 3-5 record. They beat the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots and played very well against the Baltimore Ravens.

MVP: Peyton Hillis, RB

Baltimore Ravens over Miami Dolphins, 26-10

The Baltimore Ravens had little trouble dispatching the Miami Dolphins. I thought they were going to pay for settling for field goals after having the ball in the red zone twice in the first half. Once the Ravens got near the goal line they had comically bad offense series after looking great up that point and had to settle for three points instead of seven. But Miami was never able to take advantage of their breaks. It was only 13-10 Ravens at halftime and it should been much worse for the Dolphins. But the Ravens dominated the second half.

Most impressive was the Ravens ran the ball straight up the middle over and over with guard Ben Grubbs and center Matt Birk just dominating the interior of the Dolphins defense. The Ravens, while giving up a few yards, forced three interceptions and never looked back.

MVP: Ben Grubbs, G

Philadelphia Eagles over Indianapolis Colts, 26-24

I have a lot to say about this game and the horrendous officiating. The officials did every thing they could to give the Indianapolis Colts the win. The officials used zero common sense in call helmet-to-helmet contact. I could care less about the Eagles and despite many who think I hate the Colts, I really don’t. But I have observed over the years just how much the bad, horrendous, game changing calls always seem to go in their favor.

The bottom line is the Eagles completely outplayed the Colts and deserved to win the game.

The biggest mistake the officials made is calling a roughing penalty on defensive back Kurt Coleman late in the second quarter after Austin Collie was knocked out on a hard, legal hit. Collie clearly caught the ball, had possession, moved forward and ducked his head, and was crunched by Coleman in what appeared to be the chest area. Collie drops the ball and the Eagles recover it. The correct call by the officials would have been a fumble by Collie and the Eagles getting the ball wherever they returned it. At the very least it should have been the Eagles ball at the spot Collie fumbled it. Instead the Colts get a 15-yard penalty in the red zone and are able to score a touchdown and pull to a 16-14 deficit against the Eagles.

I know part of the officials’ reaction to the hit was probably that Collie was knocked completely unconscious and had to be taken off on a stretcher. I have a lot of admiration for Collie and thankfully he appears to be fine now. But that doesn’t absolve the officials for practically handing the Colts a touchdown.

But they were not done yet! Down 26-17 with three and half minutes left in the game, the Colts face a 4th down and 18 yards to go from the Philadelphia 41 yard line. The Eagles sack Manning, game over, right? Hold on, defensive end Trent Cole barely grazes the back of Manning’s helmet as he was being blocked. Manning probably didn’t even feel or notice it. But the officials, seeing that the Colts were about to lose, drop the flag, 15 yards, let’s hand the Colts another touchdown refs!

The Eagles were able to survive for a close win but it should have never come to having to get first down and run to run out the clock.

Lost in all this is Michael Vick played an excellent game both passing and running and the Eagles defense played as well as I have seen them play all year.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

Green Bay Packers over Dallas Cowboys, 45-7

There really isn’t much to say about this game other than that Green Bay destroyed Dallas and the Dallas players simply quit. Jerry Jones must have been horribly embarrassed by the lack of effort or will on the part of his team. The Packers played a great game, of course, but they didn’t have a real football team to compete with.

And Clay Matthews, Jr. just terrorized the Dallas offensive line while receiver James Jones had a nice day with 8 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Cincinnati Bengals, 27-21

The Bengals are an enigma to me. They have great receivers, a good quarterback, and a solid running game but just can’t seem to get it done. Their defense is a bit weak and not at all like the Marvin Lewis defenses of the past, but they are not horrible either. Had the Bengals not given up scores after turnovers and a blocked punt, they might have been able to win this game. But they just seem not to be able to get over the hump.

The Steelers defense, as usual, is solid but they seemed to relax after getting the big lead and let the Bengals back in the game late. And the offense had to resort to a trick play with Antwaan Randle-El throwing a touchdown pass. But despite a speedy receiver, Big Ben, and a good running attack, they don’t tend to produce a lot of points.

While the defense really won this game, they let the Bengals back in it so I’m going with the speed receiver Mike Wallace as the MVP who had 110 receiving yards and extended the Steelers lead in the fourth quarter with his touchdown grab from Randle-El.

MVP: Mike Wallace, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Wes Welker, WR/K, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders

2010 NFL Football Season: Week One Observations

Wes Welker Scores Against the Bengals

A new season is upon us and it should be an exiting one.

In the NFC we wonder if the New Orleans Saints can repeat as Super Bowl champions, if all the hoopla over the Dallas Cowboys will end again in ignominy, if Brett Favre can take a depleted receiving corps back to the playoffs, if the San Francisco are as good as advertised, and how will the only rookie starting quarterback in the league, Sam Bradford, fare in St. Louis?

The AFC appears to be even more wide open than the NFC. Several teams have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. The New England Patriots with a healthy and hot Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and a young defense should improve over the year and be a contender. The New York Jets and their slothful undisciplined coach say they are the heirs to the AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded on offense and their defense looks as good as ever. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has proven to be as formidable as ever and when Big Ben gets back their offense should improve. The Indianapolis Colts are always a tough team and the Houston Texans are emerging. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers may or may not slip. They are in the weakest division in the AFC and despite losing their opener, will likely have a spot in the playoffs.

Before jumping in the games I watched this, a few big picture headlines that week one revealed.

  • Brady, Welker, Moss and the offense are back and as good as ever.
  • New Orleans appears to have started right where they left off last year, with a powerful offense and defense that is solid. They are the favorites to emerge from the NFC.

  • Minnesota, after the tiresome annual saga of Brett Favre’s retirement dance, suddenly found themselves without receivers. Their defense is solid but their opening salvo on offense bodes ill for their chances this season.

  • Thankfully, for once, we won’t have the annual will the Indianapolis Colts go undefeated as they spank the teams in their weak division. Houston hung a loss on the Colts, and if their offense line continues to struggle, Peyton Manning is in for a long season.

  • Will Michael Vick be the Eagles starter this season?

  • San Francisco is not as good as we thought they were.

  • Dallas continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • Finally, for the most part the defenses in the league seem to have started the season a step ahead of the offenses. This is likely to change as the season progresses but as someone who loves the defensive side of the ball, it was refreshing to see.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24

One word: Welker.

It was a very happy sight to see Wes Welker looking like, well, Wes Welker, after his amazingly fast recover from reconstructive knee surgery after suffering an injury in the last game of the season last year. WELKER! WELKER! WELKER!

Tom Brady also looked very sharp in this game, as did the entire offense. It was good to see a little bit of the running game back in the game plan, although I still think they could run the ball even more. Fred Taylor seemed to have fresh legs in the first half and the running back by committee approach worked. And I continue to be amazed at how older players like third down back Kevin Faulk can continue to be so effective.

What was also heartening to see is the very young defense with two rookie starting cornerbacks holding up well against the powerful Cincinnati Bengals offense with two of the best receivers in the league. I did get somewhat worried in the second half when the Bengals had two back to back sustained scoring drives. Barring injury I expect the defense to continue to improve as the season progresses. While it was not a lock down defense, it was good enough to win this game.

And Brandon Tate! His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was crucial, as it turned out, to extend the lead. Instead of providing even more momentum for the Patriots, it almost seemed like the Patriots players thought the game was over and played really rather poorly in the third quarter. The defense suddenly looked vulnerable and the offense didn’t do much either.

The Patriots played a very good all around game while the Bengals really didn’t get started until the second half. But for us Patriots fans the story was Wes Welker.

As a side note, good riddance Baloney Lauren Maroney. And don’t worry about Randy Moss, he’ll be fine.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR


New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings, 14-9

There are really a lot of storylines to this game.

The Saints look like a Super Bowl team. While their offense did struggle a bit their two scoring drives were dominant and once they started running the ball in the second half, they locked the game up. If they can continue to mix in a solid running game with their vaunted passing attack they will be very difficult to beat this season.

The Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in the game and the best I saw all weekend. Guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, along with center Jonathan Goodwin, completely dominated Minnesota’s defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams. Maybe the Williams boys need to get back on that supplement that almost cost them a suspension. They got punked in this game. And I really have to give a huge shout out to Jermon Bushrod. He totally handled my 2009 defensive player of the year Jared Allen entirely on this own. Last year I got a lot of criticism for favoring Carl Nicks over Jahri Evans as my All Pro guard. I did so because last year Nicks often had to help Bushrod, who really was the weak link on the offensive line. I don’t know if this is a one game stellar effort by Bushrod or if he has really improved that much. If continues this level of play the Saints may even be better this year than last.

In the second half the Saints finally started running the ball with Pierre Thomas, who ate up the clock and moved the chains. He has solid performance behind the dominant offensive line and I felt it was a great change of pace by Sean Peyton.

Minnesota, meanwhile, looked awful on offense. With Sydney Rice out for at last half the season and Percy Harvin ailing and running lousy routes, there really were no receivers open to throw to. Bernard Berrian looked awful in preseason and woeful in this game as well. He seems to have completely disappeared. I was surprised Greg Camarillo did not see more action in the slot.

Minnesota’s defense did not play up to their usual standards on the defensive line but they settled down and did manage to hold the Saints to 14 points. They are battling injuries in the secondary and Antoine Winfield is also coming off an injury plagued 2009 and really did not play up to his usual standards. It was great to see linebacker E.J. Henderson back in the lineup and playing extremely well after suffering a gruesome broken femur last year. I though his career was likely over, but clearly it’s not.

Minnesota is likely to continue to struggle on offense unless the receivers get their heads out of their ass and start playing football.

While Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are better and played wonderfully, I am giving the most valuable player award here to Jermon Bushrod for handling Jared Allen.

MVP: Jermon Bushrod, T

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles, 27-20

Let the quarterback controversy begin! The Eagles offense looked absolutely miserable in the first half. Kevin Kolb was harassed and the receivers weren’t really getting open but he wasn’t doing much either. I am not sure if it is because Michael Vick kept entering the game and did not allow Kolb to establish a rhythm or something else, but once he sustained a concussion and Vick took over the offense came to life. But, that was mostly because of Vick’s legs. His running really broke the game open for the offense even though they still fell short in the end.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires this season now that Kolb might be out for a few games and Vick will be the starter. If Vick is successful it will be hard for Andy Reid not to keep him behind center once Kolb is healthy. But you know what? Vick will never lead a team to the promised land (although he has sent quite a few dogs to doggie heaven). His success in this game was mostly his running ability. Just like in Atlanta, once teams scheme against him, his inaccurate passing and poor decision making will catch up with him. Yes, he may have a rocket arm and can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, but Eagles’ fans should not get too giddy over the possibilities. Unless he continues to be a running quarterback he will not be that dynamic, and eventually teams will catch up with the Eagles if Vick is at the helm.

Green Bay didn’t really look all the wonderful either. The offensive tackles had a hard time handling the rush but they did manage a couple of really nice touchdown drives. The star of the game was Clay Matthews, Jr. who was all over the place on defense and recorded a couple of sacks.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys, 13-7

GOAT: Jason Garrett. And no, that is not for “greatest of all time” but idiot. I am sure everyone has seen the play by now, but at the end of the first half, in bad field position, with little time left on the clock, the Cowboys ran a short sideline route to Tashard Choice who ended up fumbling the ball which was returned for a Redskins touchdown and was the difference in the game. What made this play so stupid? First, the Redskins offense was doing absolutely nothing and had only a 3-0 lead. Scores were clearly going to be a premium in this game and with so little time left on the clock, the smart move was simply to run the time off the clock and regroup in the second half. Secondly, the play had no chance of even netting enough yards to get into field goal range. It was stupid play call, period, for that situation.

What this play and head coach Wade Phillips’ comments after the game shows is that Wade Phillips is not in control of this team. He basically threw Jason Garrett under the bus by saying they should have kneeled on the ball, didn’t know why the ran a play there, and tersely said the defense (which he runs) did its job and did not give up a touchdown. I believe they will continue to be destiny’s stepchild this season.

Otherwise, both teams struggled a great deal on offense. Dallas’s offensive line did not protect Tony Romo well but they finally got going late in the game to finally make a run for a win, but alas they failed. A holding penalty on the last play of the game negated a would be game winning touchdown. It was clearly holding too so nobody can gripe about the call.

The Mike Shanahan era started off with a win over archrival Dallas on Dallas’s home turf. While it was not a dominating or particularly impressive win, especially on offense, it was a win. As usual, the Washington defense is very solid this year, as they have been in year’s past. While they have sometimes been criticized for not getting enough turnovers, they are basically a very sturdy unit.

The offense, however, was woeful and did nothing. Shanahan needs to find a way to fix that quick because they won’t be winning many games like this otherwise. He can thank DeAngelo Hall for the fumble recovery and touchdown, which was the difference in the game. Or, send Jason Garrett a thank you card for the gift.

MVP: DeAngelo Hall, CB

Baltimore Ravens over New York Jets, 10-9

The New York Jets are an undisciplined team and reflection of their coach, the slovenly Rex Ryan. They shot themselves in the foot with penalties and giving up big plays on third and long when they had the Ravens’ offense on the ropes, which was the difference in the game. Add to that the harassment by Jets players of a female reporter also shows a lack of professionalism, decorum, and discipline, again a reflection of their head coach. The Jets may very well implode this season.

The Jets defense continues to be a stellar unit, one of the best, if not the best in the league. But their offense looks awful and Mark Sanchez has not proven, yet, that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. They were facing another top defense in the Ravens, so maybe time will tell.

The Ravens defense played excellent football and Ray Lewis continues, in his fifteenth NFL season, to be one of the best defensive players in the league. He got some great hits on the Jets, and the rest of the unit played excellent as well. I was surprised at how the offense was so throttled, however, even facing the Jets. With Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very good offensive line, Anquan Bolden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap, I thought they were loaded on offense. The Jets bailed them out with bad penalties most of the game and Ravens were lucky to escape with a win.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

Kansas City Chiefs over San Diego Chargers, 21-14

I was happy to see the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Monday night but Chief’s fans shouldn’t get too excited. It was really two big plays on offense that sealed the deal, a great 56 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles and a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster were the keys to the game. Otherwise the offense looked anemic and Matt Cassel really did not do much to distinguish himself.

The Chief’s defense did play well. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey finally looked like a first round draft pick in this game and the defensive backs did a very nice job on the Charger’s receivers, especially Brandon Flowers.

Philip Rivers made himself look like a complete idiot and proved what a jerk he is yelling at his teammates and carrying on a like a petulant child in the second half. While indeed his teammates made mistakes, I can’t imagine that endears him to his offensive line or establishes him as the leader of the team. They did almost come back and win, however. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews had a decent game, but he gave up a fumble that lead to a touchdown, helping the Chief’s secure the win.

MVP: Dexter McCluster, KR/WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (231 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans Saints
Special Teams: Brandon Tate, WR/KR, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs

The Story Behind the Wild but Winning 1990’s Dallas Cowboys

I sat down one Saturday to read Boys Will Be Boys, about the 1990 Dallas Cowboys, and couldn’t put it down.  This book chronicles the hard partying team that won three Super Bowls in four years and is definitively the team of the 1990’s.

Given the drinking, drugs, women, and super hard partying this team engaged in during their run in the 1990’s it is simply amazing that they were able to win championships.  I’m not sure if it is a testament to just what phenomenal athletes these men were, or their dedication to football and winning despite their debauched lifestyle off the field.  According to this book it seems nearly the entire team, with the exception of a few like stars like Troy Aikman, were engaged in a wild years long party off the field, while racking up wins and championships off of it.

Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wide receiver and guard Nate Newton appear to be the ringleaders of this band of imbibers.  Of course Irvin has been busted enough times with drugs and women that it comes as no surprise.  What is surprising is just how pervasive the lifestyle was.  Certainly we all know there are a handful of players on every team that lead pretty wild lifestyles, but how a team that seemed to be immersed so deeply in drinking and womanizing (and presumably other illicit activities as well) could be so successful is really amazing.

Another completely bizarre character is defensive end Charles Haley.  Basically run out of San Francisco by his teammates for his horrible behavior, he nearly fit right in with the Dallas Cowboys.  This nasty fellow was known for exposing himself to his teammates and constantly harassing them and stirring up trouble.  Only professional athletes could ever get by with the horrendous behavior and bizarre antics of Haley.

There is also plenty of other inside information about the 1990 Cowboys.  We learn more about Troy Aikman and his leadership on the field.  And of course there is great detail about coach Jimmy Johnson who turned a blind eye to off field behaviors as long as the team kept winning.  We follow how he turned a losing team into a powerhouse with adroit drafting, his arrogant yet winning ways, and his falling out with owner Jerry Jones, when two Texas sized egos found they could not coexist.  We also get a view of the inevitable decline after the inept blowhard Barry Switzer took over as head coach.

All in all this was a wildly informative book about a wild but winning team.

Boys Will be Boys

2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs Review

The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts certainly didn’t look rusty after playing a few meaningless regular season games and having a bye week. In fact, they looked the opposite, healthier, fresher, and ready to roll.

Kickers played a huge role in this year’s playoff games. Nate Keading of the San Diego Chargers choked on two makeable field goals that probably cost the Chargers the game. Chris Kluwe had a fabulous day punting for the Vikings that had an impact on field position and the ability of the Cowboys to come back after getting down early. Last week Jay Feely of the New York Jets had to punt and placekick. His ability to punt effectively was impressive.


New Orleans Saints over Arizona Cardinals, 45-14

This game turned out about how I expected, although I thought the Cardinals would have more success on offense. The Cardinals defense played so badly last week that I expected another track meet in which the Saints would ultimately prevail. I did not think the Saints defense would play as badly as Green Bay’s last week, and they were at home, so I gave them a big edge. A few early turnovers and the Saints scoring a touchdown on nearly every possession in the first half sealed the deal early.

The Saints looked quite impressive on both sides of the ball throughout the game, and Reggie Bush even emerged as a significant scoring threat, as if the Saints didn’t already have enough weapons. His 46 yard touchdown run near the end of the first half buried the Cardinals early, and his 83 yard punt return in the third quarter knocked whatever spark the Cardinals had right out.

You have to hand it to Kurt Warner though. After getting blasted after an interception in the first half and leaving the game, he came out in the second half and played hard, in what increasingly looked like a futile effort given their defense was doing little to stop the Saints.

MVP: Reggie Bush, RB/KR

Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 20-3

The biggest weakness of the Ravens this year is they lacked a true number one receiver and had a hard time getting big plays in the passing game. That was ultimately their downfall all year, and against the Colts in the playoffs. Add to that the multiple turnovers, and they had no chance.

You could see the frustration on quarterback Joe Flacco’s face in the second half with the inability to get anything going. Derrick Mason is a decent receiver but too old and not fast enough to be a breakaway wide receiver and Mark Clayton, who should be that guy, is a bust.

The Colts, and Peyton Manning had a very efficient offensive game, controlled the clock, and simply ground out an easy win over the Ravens. The Ravens defense played well in spots, but with the turnovers and time of possession, there was not a lot they could do to pull this one out.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB


Minnesota Vikings over Dallas Cowboys, 34-3

While the Minnesota offense played extremely well, especially Brett Favre and Sidney Rice, it was really the defense and special teams that set the tone early and clamped down on the Cowboys. Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense were harassed early, with Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards emerging with three sacks and forced fumble early in the game. And they continued to frustrate the Cowboys offense throughout, leaving the offense to have its way with the Cowboys defense.

And even though I am no fan of Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams, once he was knocked out of the game, the Minnesota defensive line really dominated the action. Putting Jason Witten and sometimes a back to block Minnesota’s Jared Allen was foolhardy, and their back up tackle was not up to the task, either.

Obviously Favre played a great game with four touchdown passes (but one in garbage time), but it was the defense that really pulled this one out for the Vikings. I also have to include punter Chris Kluwe in that, who had some excellent punts which impacted field position.

It was a well rounded effort by the Vikings and gives them the kind of big win they need to keep momentum as they face New Orleans next week in the Superdome.

MVP: Ray Edwards, DE

New York Jets over San Diego Chargers, 17-14

I really thought the Jets had no chance against the Chargers this week. The Chargers won nine games in a row and were the hottest team heading into the playoffs. They looked completely flat offensively in this game, but hats off to the number one defense in the league for shutting them down most of the game.

Two big keys to game were the two interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers in the third quarter, one on a brilliant play by Darrelle Revis, and Nate Keading missing two makeable field goals, which probably cost the Chargers the win. The ten points off turnovers and missed field goals were huge for the Jets.

The biggest play of the game, and the one that ultimately sealed it for the Jets was Shonn Greene’s 53 yard run for a touchdown that put the Jets up 17-7 with a little over seven minutes left to play. Given the way the Jets defense was playing it proved to be too much for the Chargers to overcome, although they came close.

And what to make of Nate Keading’s two missed field goals? I would not call a 36 yarder and a 40 yarder chip shots, necessarily, but they are the kinds of kicks that must be made, especially in the playoffs. Hit one, and you might be looking at overtime and a chance to win. Hit both and you are likely looking at the Chargers moving on to the AFC Championship game. It will be a long, long offseason for poor Keading.

And finally, there as been much debate about Norv Turner going for an onside kick in near the end of the game with one time out and 2:14 left on the clock. Kick it away, and get a three and out with one time out and the two minute warning, you are probably looking at getting the ball at least your own 30 yard line (but probably better with the poor punting by the Jets’ Steve Weatherford) with about one minute and a half on the clock. Even though the Jets had played great defense all day, the explosive Chargers would have had a chance to get into field goal range to tie the game and give Keading an opportunity to redeem himself (or not). Or even score a touchdown for the win. A failed onside kick ends the game. I thought it was bad move by Norv Turner.

Are the Chargers simply snake bitten in the playoffs? It seems the years they have their best chance to get to the Super Bowl they play well but lose in the playoffs. They seem to play better in the playoffs when they are the underdog.

MVP: Shonn Greene, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota
Offensive Lineman: Kyle DeVan, G, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans

2009 NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

The Cardinals defense did not show up last week, but their offense was unstoppable against a Green Bay defense that has played extremely well the later half of the season. On the other hand, the New Orleans Saints had a rash of injuries, especially on defense, and have not played a meaningful game in a month. And in fact, they played rather poorly their last three games.

So what teams show up on Saturday? I find it hard to believe that the Cardinals, as great as they are offensively, can keep scoring on every possession two weeks in a row. And the Saints, despite being down the last few weeks, should be well rested and ready to go. Drew Brees has had a great season and has the more weapons than any quarterback in the league. Being at home, in the loud dome, against a porous defense, I think the Saints will pull this game out, maybe even in a blowout. New Orleans.


Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts

The Ravens really did not have much of a contest last week so I don’t know whether the Ravens are on a roll or not. They are very one dimensional with their key offensive threat being Ray Rice. Flacco only completed four passes last week in their win against the Patriots and has been shaky the second half of the season. Further, they have found a way to squander numerous games they should have won this year. Add to that, they have no true number one receiver and have a hard time getting the ball down the field.

On the other hand, they have already proven they can beat the Colts. They should have beaten them earlier this year in Baltimore, but blew their opportunity, like they have done so many times this year. They also have the kind of offense that can beat the Colts, a stout offensive line and running game that can control the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field. But at some point they have to be able to make plays in the passing game to beat the Colts, and recently they have not show the ability to do that.

The Colts have not played much real football the past month. But they went 14-0 and always found a way to pull out close games. Peyton Manning has been a machine at quarterback, and even with the Ravens stout defense, he can pick apart any secondary in the league.

But what Colts team will show up? The perennial choke artists who swallow the big one when it comes playoff time? Even in their lucky Super Bowl season when the Patriots knocked off the top seed and best team in the regular season, the San Diego Chargers, they almost choked against a rather weak Kansas City Chiefs team in the Wildcard round.

I hope the choke artists show up against the Ravens and lose. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Ravens have the offensive firepower to beat the Colts. So I have to go with the Indianapolis Colts.


Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

This is a tough game for me to call. Dallas is on a roll and has played very well on both sides of the ball. And while Minnesota ended the season on a high note, they falter a little bit during the end of the season. But at the end of the day, I really think the Vikings have a more talent on both sides of the ball. The have great receivers, Dallas has good ones, they have a great running back, Dallas has good ones, and they have a very good defense, Dallas has a good one. I will call Favre and Romo a wash, as they both tend to underperform in the playoffs (but Romo didn’t last week). Minnesota Vikings.

New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers

The New York Jets got three gift wins in a row. Don’t get me wrong, you have to respect what they did to get into the playoffs and win. And their defense is stout, the best in the league this year. But their offense, like that of the Ravens, is one dimensional. They can run the ball very well but have a hard time making big plays in the passing game. That will doom them against the red hot San Diego Chargers, who are going into the playoffs with the most momentum of any team in the league. Their much improved defense, along with the mouthy jerk but great quarterback Philip Rivers, a good if not sterling running game, and big receivers, will spell doom for the Jets. I think the Jets defense can hold up reasonably well, but their offense is not going to score enough for a victory. San Diego Chargers.