Brett Favre’s Legacy: Choke Artist

Wow, how many times is Brett Favre going to throw the most idiotic of interceptions in playoffs games? Two years ago he threw a really dumb interception that let the New York Giants waltz into the Super Bowl. Several years ago he threw one of the dumbest interceptions I’ve seen in the history of the playoffs to give the Philadelphia Eagles a pass to the Super Bowl.

On the last play the Vikings had in regulation, had he just stumbled forward for a few yards on a wide open field and given his kicker a chance to make the field goal the Vikings might have won. But instead, Favre didn’t give his team a chance and committed the cardinal sin of throwing the ball across the field in good winning position.

Yes, his teammates fumbled and stumbled too on offense. What is with Adrian Peterson not being able to hang on to the ball? But Favre, in the most critical of situations, when even no gain would have been better than an interception, turned the ball over.

How sad.

NFL 2009 AFC and NFC Championship Prediction

New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts

Last week I didn’t think the Jets had a prayer of beating San Diego in San Diego. The Chargers were the hottest team going into the playoffs but fell as flat as doughy pancake run over by steamroller. The Colts, on the other hand, didn’t exactly look like world beaters against the Ravens. They did play great defense, and Baltimore just could not get anything done.

The Jets are a team that is built to beat the Colts. They have a good running game, a very good offensive line, and can run the ball on the Colts. And they have the number one defense in the league. Cornerback Darrelle Revis has already proven he can take the Colts best receiver, Reggie Wayne, out of the game. And I said the same thing when they beat the Colts earlier in the season, albeit they did it with most of the Colts starters sitting on the bench in the second half.

And that’s the rub. The Jets were losing before backup quarterback Curtis Painter, the rookie from Purdue, stepped in and looked lost, giving the game away to the Jets. And the Jets biggest weakness is, despite their great defense and good running game, at some point against an offense as potent as the Colts, they are going to have to get the ball down the field occasionally. And frankly, they have not shown the ability to do that this year.

With that weakness and Peyton Manning in the lineup the entire game, I think the Colts are on their way to the Super Bowl. Indianapolis Colts.

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints

This game should be wildly entertaining. I hope it is as entertaining as the game they played last year in the regular season that the Vikings barely won.

The Vikings and the Saints have great, great offenses. I think they are almost equal in offensive potency. Drew Brees probably has more weapons in the passing game, and they have the X factor in Reggie Bush, who turned it on last week. And Favre will either throw six interceptions or six touchdown passes. He has a tendency to melt down in the playoffs. But I am leaning toward a great game by Favre. He has played very controlled and less reckless than in the past. And he has a two good running backs behind him.

And both defenses have been very solid this year (although the Saints had down period because of injuries).

I have a very hard time choosing who is going to win this game. The Saints are at home with what will definitely be a loud, raucous crowd. But guess what? I think the Vikings defense is the key to the game. They simply are better than the Saints defense and their defensive ends, Ray Edwards and Jared Allen, could really exploit the Saints tackles, who frankly are not that great.

My gut tells me the Vikings are going to pull this one out in a wild one. And that is who I am going with. Minnesota Vikings.

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.

2009 NFL Season: Week 15

OBSERVATIONS

To me this was one of the weirdest weeks this season. Who would have thought the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers would be a wild, high scoring game? Who would have thought the Dallas Cowboys could overcome their December swoon to knock off the unbeaten New Orleans Saints? Who would have thought the Minnesota Vikings would put up another awful performance and be one of at least three teams that didn’t bother to show up to their games (the others being the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins)? And the Denver Broncos losing to the Oakland Raiders, a division rival, might not be quite as surprising, but really? You’re fighting for a playoff birth after going 6-0 and you’re going to lose to the Raiders?

James Harrison of the Cleveland Browns rushed for 286 yards, the third highest total in NFL history and highest total in Cleveland Browns history (held by Jim Brown with 236).

After this week if I were doing a Power Ranking my top five teams would be: Indianapolis, San Diego, Dallas, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Dallas jumps up based on their play this week. I’m not sure they can keep it up.

Two more weeks left before the playoffs. I hope I am not subjected to any more games like the Ravens-Bears, Giants-Redskins games. They were embarrassing and boring. That is unless it’s the Patriots wiping some team off the map. That I would enjoy seeing very much.

Now on with my comments.

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills, 17-10

After a week of getting bashed in the media, particularly Randy Moss, the Patriots came out and took care of business against the Buffalo Bills. While it may not have been a pretty, dominating performance, they got the job done. And with so many injuries on the defensive line, with most of the starters out and back-ups in, the Patriots defense should be given credit for an excellent job, even though the weather also helped. We finally generated a pass rush with Tully Banta-Cain recording three sacks. But I am not going to get overly cheerful about a win against the Bills.

The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins both lost, leaving New England with a two game lead for the division title. With two tough games against Jacksonville at home and Houston away, the Patriots really needed this win.

MVP: Tully Banta-Cain, LB

GAMES I WATCHED

Indianapolis Colts over Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-31

Jacksonville did everything they needed to do in this game to control the Colts, except win. They ran the ball well throughout, controlled the clock, picked up first downs, and put points on the board. The only problem was that Peyton Manning was on the other side of the field putting on his own show. And you really have to like the way the Jaguars responded when they would score and the Colts answered. They didn’t get down but came right back at the Colts. But ultimately, they couldn’t get the job done.

The Colts have escaped some very close calls to compile their 14-0 record. Every week they seem to find a way to put nails in the coffin of their opponent and come out on top.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Dallas Cowboys over New Orleans Saints, 24-17Dallas played their best game of the season to give the Saints their first loss. Seriously, this is the best I have seen Dallas play all year long, particularly Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware. Unlike most Decembers, where the Cowboys come out and gag in big games, here they put together a very impressive performance on both sides of the ball.

Dallas’ offense line dominated the Saints defense. Guard Leonard Davis was an absolute beast clearing the path on runs and screen plays and in pass protection. On the other side of the ball this was the best game I have seen DeMarcus Ware play this year. He was in Drew Brees’ face all night and picked up a couple of sacks along the way. The pressure on Brees was pivotal in slowing down the Saints’ potent offensive attack.

Tony Romo also played an outstanding game. He was a much better decision maker in the pocket than he has been in most games this year and his calm demeanor in the face of a raucous crowd and a tough opponent was impressive.

While the Saints notched their first loss of the season, I am not buying into the punditry that there is something wrong with the Saints. They are still the team to beat in the playoffs in the NFC, and that won’t be an easy task for any team. They just lost a game against a good opponent playing their best football of the year.

MVP: DeMarcus Ware, LB


Atlanta Falcons over New York Jets, 10-7

Mark Sanchez’s three interceptions doomed the Jets to defeat in a game they mostly dominated. The Jets inability to put points on the board despite moving the ball well and the turnovers doomed them. The Jets really blew an opportunity to stay apace in the hunt for a playoff birth with Denver losing to Oakland and Miami losing to Tennessee.

Mark Sanchez is really playing like the rookie quarterback he is. His interceptions were bad ones and he, along with not having a true number one receiver, is really slowing this offense down. But Jets fans should not get too down on Sanchez. So far he’s handled this season and his mistakes with class. While he may be struggling, most rookie quarterbacks do, and I see enough in Sanchez to believe he will be a solid starter for this team for years to come if he avoids injury.

MVP: Brent Grimes, CB (two interceptions)

Baltimore Ravens over Chicago Bears, 31-7

This was one of three horrible games in a row I was subjected to this weekend. The Bears and Jay Cutler played so badly it was never even a contest. Cutler threw three more interceptions and his backup, Caleb Haine, pitched up another one.

The Bears must really be scratching their heads and lamenting all the draft picks and big contract they gave up for Jay Cutler who has had a miserable year. Yes, part of the problem is his receivers and a porous offensive line, but a lot of it is Cutler does not look like a good quarterback. He makes really poor decisions and is just simply awful. I seriously wonder if the disaster of this year doesn’t lead to a coaching and maybe front office changes for the Bears this year. It’s about time they went in a new direction.

There is not much to say about the Ravens. The Bears handed them this game on a silver platter and their playoff hopes are still alive.

MVP: Domonique Foxworth, CB (two interceptions)

Carolina Panthers over Minnesota Vikings, 26-7

The Vikings put up another very bad performance in the last month and one has to wonder what this team’s chances are in the playoffs based on their play of late. It’s as if they didn’t even show up for the game, especially the offensive line. Overall it was just a sorry performance all the way around for the Vikings. One of my favorite players, cornerback Antoine Winfield got chewed up by Steve Smith and the Vikings could do nothing on offense.

And the reported rift between Brett Favre and coach Brad Childress, if it’s as deep as reports indicated, bode very badly for this team.

Carolina, on the other hand, played an excellent game on both sides of the ball. They completely shut down the Vikings running game, and at the same time put pressure on Favre, sacking him four times, and pounding him frequently.

For Carolina, hasn’t it become very clear that quarterback Matt Moore should have been starting a long time ago? I wonder how badly Jake Delhomme is really hurt. I can’t imagine him being put back in, even when healthy. Matt Moore played a solid game, along with running back James Stewart and Steve Smith. To me, this was Smith’s most electric performance of the season, going against a solid Vikings defense. I wonder what the Panthers would look like today had Moore been starting all year instead of Delhomme?

MVP: Steve Smith, WR

New York Giants over Washington Redskins, 45-12

With the announcement this week of a new General Manager, Bruce Allen, and an even more clearly lame duck coach, the Washington Redskins simply did not show up for this game. It was an ugly, embarrassing performance. I really don’t have much more to say about the game. It was mostly a despicable, unprofessional display by the Redskins.

But I have to give some major props to two players that did show up: Jason Campbell and London Fletcher. Jason Campbell has earned my utmost respect this past season. He was getting pounded on by the Giants defensive line and his offensive linemen should be ashamed of themselves. When Zorn tried to take him out of the game in the second half after being a bit injured, he showed his true grit and manhood and insisted on going back in the game. London Fletcher, on defense, seemed to be the only person who showed up, but he didn’t have much help. As usual, the $100 million man, Albert Haynesworth, had some good plays, but spent most of his time on the sideline with a little tummy ache.

I hated watching this debacle. The Giants played well but the Redskins really didn’t put up a fight. It was sad to watch.

While plenty of Giants could get the most valuable player of the game award, the game started with Ahmad Bradshaw featured on offense and moving the chains. He was the key force to building up an early lead that ballooned when most of the Redskins’ players quit.

MVP: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: James Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns, (286 yards rushing, third highest in NFL history)
Defensive Player: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Offensive Lineman: Leonard Davis, G, Dallas Cowboys
Specials Teams: Joshua Cribbs, KR/WR, Cleveland Browns
Rookie of the Week: Louis Delmas, S, Detroit Lions