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

NFL 2009 Wildcard Weekend Review

OBSERVATIONS

It was a shame three teams didn’t show up for their games, the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia Eagles.

And three marquee quarterbacks put up rather poor performances, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, and Donovan McNabb.

So three out of the four games were duds.

And we had one ridiculous game between Arizona and Green Bay, where the defenses didn’t show up to play.

Weird.

Baltimore Ravens over New England Patriots, 33-14

Needless to say, for me, this was a heartbreaking game. It was over before it started and the Ravens exposed everything wrong with the Patriots this season: a predictable offense, no running game, poor play calling, and a young defense that seems to wander around the field aimlessly at times.

I really thought the Patriots would win a close contest here but the offensive game plan was atrocious and the opportunistic Ravens defense took full advantages. The four turnovers, along with Ray Rice’s 80 plus yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage is really the story of the game.

I’m not so sure the Ravens were so great, as much as it was the Patriots were so poor. They ran roughshod over the Patriots and Joe Flacco didn’t have to throw very many passes to win this one.

I find it humorous how all the Patriots haters (and non-haters) are harping over how the dynasty is over. HELLO! The dynasty was over pretty much last year. Few players from the three Super Bowl wins this decade are still there. It’s hard to stay on the top of the heap for very long in this era.

I’ll write a Patriots retrospective later, not here. But suffice it to say, it’s pretty clear we were not a great team this year and has some gaping holes, and the Ravens took full advantage of all of them.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, 34-14

Just like last week the Eagles didn’t show up for this game. McNabb played a lousy game and the defense gave nearly 200 yards on the ground, which helped Tony Romo have a fine day passing. This was all around a pretty disappointing matchup for a playoff game. The Eagles, who seemed to be on a roll late in the season, fell flat when it counted most, as usual.

MVP: Felix Jones, RB

New York Jets over Cincinnati Bengals, 24-14

This game wasn’t even as close as the score. For the second week in a row the Cincinnati Bengals played like it was preseason. What a woeful and embarrassing end to the season for the Bengals after such a promising start. Despite some of the injuries they suffered, especially on defense, it’s inexcusable to seem so lifeless and pathetic in the playoffs. Ironically, the only Bengal that actually showed up to play was oft maligned, and fairly so, Cedric Benson, who ran the ball like it was a playoff game. Too bad the rest of this teammates kept their game in the locker room.

And Carson Palmer was just flat out horrible in this game, while Chad Ochostinko let himself get punked again by Darrelle Revis, the Jets outstanding cornerback.

As for the Jets, what can you say? They got three passes in a row, and one in the playoffs. Mark Sanchez had a nice game, but didn’t have to do much but hand the ball off and watch his defense take care of business.

You have to take a big hat off to Jay Feely, the Jets placekicker, who had to kick and punt after the Jets punter Steve Weatherford had an accelerated heartbeat and was a scratch.

Jets running back Shonn Greene had a nice day with 135 yards rushing, but my hat is off to Darrelle Revis and the Jets defense.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB


Arizona Cardinals over Green Bay Packers, 51-45 OT

I don’t know why people call a game like this, where the defenses are so pathetic it’s embarrassing an unprofessional, an “instant classic.” Yes, it was entertaining and came down to an overtime turnover by the Packers for the Cardinals to pull it off. But a great game? Hardly.

Frankly, I hate seeing games where every time the offense touches the ball it scores. It’s boring. And the second half after the Packers settled down, that is exactly what happened. I seriously, literally, got bored in the second half because I already knew what was going to happen when the offenses took the field.

But of course, the last play of the game with the sack and fumble by Green Bay is why we watch the game right? Who knows what will really happen on any given play.

Kudos to both Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers for their performances in this game. I’ve become a fan of Rodgers the way he has taken over for Brett Favre with all the pressure that entails, and then getting behind in his first playoff game and having the poise to come back.

MVP: Kurt Warner, QB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Defensive Player: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
Offensive Lineman: Alan Faneca, G, New York Jets
Special Teams: Jay Feely, K/P, New York Jets

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

2009 NFL Season: Week 13

OBSERVATIONS

At the start of the season most people expected the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots to be in the thick of the Super Bowl chase along with the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, none of those three teams look like particularly good teams.

There is a reasonably good chance the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts could go 16-0. Amazing.

Miami Dolphins over New England Patriots, 22-21

Since when did the New England Patriots become a team that doesn’t show up for the second half of football games? Since when did Tom Brady become an average quarterback who throws dumb interceptions? Since when did it become a bad idea to kick a field goal on fourth down in the red zone? Since when did New England’s defense look toothless and unable to stop anyone when it counts? Since when did offensive football mean throwing long passes every play? Since when did New England become a mediocre team? I guess I saw it coming and just didn’t want to recognize it.

Furious might be the best way to describe my feelings after losing this game. The offensive play calling is a joke. I’d like to see Charlie Weiss come in and take over his old role as offensive coordinator and play caller. Yes we can hit the bombs and big plays, but not consistently, and it seems never in the second half of games when we need a score. And Tom Brady’s interception to Moss in the end zone when he was double covered was just atrocious.

And the defense? This looks, and really kind of is, the type of defense you would see on a totally rebuilding team or an expansion team. I don’t know what the average age or years of experience is on the defense but it is clearly very young with mostly players with limited experience. I don’t think I have ever seen a Bill Belichick coached team play defense so poorly.

While Miami seems to often have our number in away games even when the Patriots are at the top of their game, the performance of the Patriots the past two weeks has me down and scratching my head. Are we even as good as we were last year?

If the ship isn’t righted soon, it doesn’t matter much who we play, we could miss the playoffs (unlikely) and if we do make it get embarrassed.

Miami did a good job of hanging in the game. Hats off to Davone Bess who might put Ted Ginn, Jr. on the street next year, and Vontae Davis for his interception of Brady in the end zone. And let’s talk a little Chad Henne for a moment. This second year quarterback from Michigan is showing improvement this season and is getting a longer leash. If he keeps developing and improving, this fellow could be a very solid starter for years to come.

MVP: Davone Bess, WR

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over Buffalo Bills, 19-13

This really wasn’t the most interesting game to watch. The Jets played reasonably well on both sides of the ball and came out with a nice win. This keeps them a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East now that the Patriots have lost two in a row. The big story in the game, of course, was quarterback Mark Sanchez injuring his right knee when sliding head first for a first down. He already dinged up his left knee earlier in the year. A banged up starting rookie quarterback is not the best situation to be in at this time of year.

The Jets mostly used a solid running game by Thomas Jones to control the game. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis continues to impress shutting down Terrell Owens.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB

New Orleans Saints over Washington Redskins, 33-30 OT

I felt sorry for the Washington Redskins after this game. The Redskins have had an insane season with their coach being punked and basically demoted by the owner, squabbling among players, notably Clinton Portis who has always been a head case, and now really is one now that he is on IR with a concussion, and just horrible offensive production. Now with some backups playing with heart and a defense that has always been solid, they are actually playing very competitively. They just aren’t winning.

I’ve heard the word snake bitten describing the Redskins after this game and I have to say that is exactly what I was thinking as well. They didn’t lose this game by bad play, really, just some unlucky breaks.

Four plays really defined this game. Near the end of the first half the Saints’ punter Thomas Morstead badly shanks the kick and the Redskins gunner is helpless as he can’t see where the ball is and it hits him on the shoulder. The Saints recover the live ball in good field position. Really bad. But eureka! Defensive back Kareem Moore intercepts Drew Brees on third down and is running it back to midfield. Oops! He is stripped by wide receiver Robert Meachem who runs it for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 at halftime.

The Redskins shook off their misfortune and came out to play an excellent second half of football. The offense moved the ball well and built a ten point lead in the third quarter. But alas, you aren’t going to hold the Saints offense down forever and Shaun Suisham missed an easy 22 yard kick that could have won the game for them. He has since been cut. See ya!

After hanging on to a tie going into overtime, the Redskins won the toss. Having moved the ball well all day long, after the kickoff I thought they had a great chance to get into field goal range for a win (if the kicker doesn’t botch it again). Alas, Mike Sellers fumbles the ball again giving the Saints a short field, game over.

At least the Redskins played hard and showed heart. Other than the miscues it may have been their best game of the season. Redskins linebacker London Fletcher should be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl. He has played well all season.

Will the Saints go undefeated?

MVP: Robert Meachem, WR

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 31-24

The Dallas Cowboys simply cannot seem to get their act together, especially in December. There are a lot of Jekyll and Hyde teams this year, but Dallas might be the most odious of them all. They have talent but just can’t perform when it counts most. They had decent play for the most part but missed filed goals by Nick Folk and a punt return for a touchdown by the Giants, which was less the punt returner being great than it was awful tackling by the Cowboys, doomed them.

The Giants had a great day from wide receiver Steve Smith with six catches for 110 yards. They are barely still in the playoff hunt.

MVP: Steve Smith, WR

Arizona Cardinals over Minnesota Vikings, 30-17

This was a very impressive win by the Arizona Cardinals who looked a lot like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. Even those who thought the Cardinals might win this game had to be surprised by the way they dominated the Vikings on both sides of the ball. The Vikings defensive player of the year candidate, defensive end Jared Allen, was a non-factor, while the Cardinals offense simply rolled all night long on the arm of Kurt Warner and the receiving of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

The Cardinals defense also turned in an excellent performance. They were able to limit Adrian Peterson to 46 yards rushing and harass Brett Favre into two interceptions. This was the way the Cardinals defense played last year when they made their Super Bowl run. I don’t know if the Cardinals will keep this level of play up, but for this week they looked like one of the better teams in the league.

MVP: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens, 27-14

The Baltimore Ravens are just awful on offense. It may be partially the play calling but the only production they get is from Ray Rice. Receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton give them very little in the passing game and Todd Heap seems past his prime a productive receiving tight end. On top of that Joe Flacco threw some stupid interceptions, especially the one in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay, on the other hand, looked good on offense and defense. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as a premier NFL quarterback. The entire defense also played well, particularly linebackers A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, Jr. and cornerback Charles Woodson. The veteran Woodson has played so well this year he should be on the short list of defensive player of the year candidates.

And of course anyone who watched this game knows how crazy it was. There were flags every few moments, mostly for pass interference. This game featured 310 yards in penalties, tied for second most in NFL history. Crazy.

Overall, despite all the penalties, the Packers simply outplayed the Ravens on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Levi Brown, RT, Arizona Cardinals
Special Teams: Domenik Hixon, WR/KR, New York Giants
Rookie of the Week: Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers