NFL 2012 Season: Wildcard Weekend in Review

RAMBLINGS

I really got tired of hearing pundits say how the Cincinnati Bengals were a hot team coming into the playoffs. I’ve seen a lot of the Bengals this year and even the games the one in the last quarter of the season they played inconsistently and somewhat poorly. So did the Texans.

Mike Maycock is the worst worst worst color commentator I have ever heard. I am so sick of him saying how every player he mentions is the greatest of all time at this, the best at his position in college, a future Hall of Famer. Knock it off, you sound stupid. Last night he said J.J. Watt has had the best year as an “interior” defensive lineman in the history of the NFL. Idiot. First, Watt mainly plays as a defensive end. Second, tell that to Randy White, Manny Fernandez, Bruce Smith (a defensive end), and Michael Strahan (defensive end). He had a great year, but probably not the best ever in the NFL history.

I got a big laugh listening to NBC talking heads try to make the scratch of Christian Ponder last night seem like it was a good thing for the Vikings and giving them a BETTER chance to win. What??? Granted that must have been NBC’s worst nightmare having a prime time game that everyone with any sense knew was over before it started. When I saw that Joe Webb was going to be the starter I knew that the Vikings had almost zero chance to win that game. They would have been better off with a Tim Tebow who is at least marginally more accurate than Webb. The Vikings really should be kind of ashamed they have such a lousy back-up quarterback on their roster. I don’t know how much control they had over the schedule but I would have made the Washington Redskins/Seattle Seahawks tilt the prime time game.

Ray Lewis is retiring with dignity and class. Regardless of what you think about him, he has probably been the best defensive football player of his generation. Even I got goose bumps watching his pregame introduction.

Redskins’ coach Mike Shanahan should be fired. I kept telling my wife they needed to take Robert Griffin III out of the game in the third quarter. He couldn’t effectively run or throw the ball. And he was a sitting duck. Later in the game, torn LCL and ACL.

 

Houston Texans over Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13

Houston thoroughly dominated the Bengals but didn’t have much to show for it on the scoreboard as they settled for field goals through much of the game. But the Bengals offense was so bad it didn’t matter much. Andy Dalton was just terrible in both his decision making and the accuracy of his deep throws. This whole season, in fact, he hasn’t really played up to the level of expectations based on his fine rookie outing. And A.J. Green has just disappeared from the offense lately because teams double up on him but Dalton can’t seem to get the ball to anyone else. The Bengals biggest mistake on offense, in my view, was not establishing the running game in the first half. They were very successful with the run but didn’t stick with it. That could have changed the outcome of the game. The Texans defensive line was extremely disruptive in the passing game but the Bengals insisted on spreading the field, which the Texans exploited at the line of scrimmage. I wonder if this game impacts Joe Gruden’s chances at a head coaching job.

While the Bengals defense gave up a lot of yards, they did play reasonably well in the red zone and kept the game close. But Dalton and the offense simply didn’t take advantage of it.

Frankly, Houston, despite the win, didn’t impress me all that much either. A better opponent could have spelled doom for them. I think they probably were well served to have played a Wild Card game and get a win instead of having a bye week because had they played the winners of the Wild Card games with two weeks off after a lousy end of season swoon they likely come out flat and get smoked. I hope the Patriots come out and lay a beat down on them again. We’ll see.

I know Arian Foster had over 170 total yards in offense, but this was a defensive game and my MVP is Jonathan Joseph for shutting down A.J. Green.

MVP: Jonathan Joseph, CB

 

Green Bay Packers over Minnesota Vikings, 24-10

As I mentioned earlier I knew this game was over before it started. The Vikings had a decent drive at the start of the game but other than that it was a rather painful, and frankly somewhat boring game to watch. Even the Vikings defense played more poorly than I expected them too. I wonder how much having Webb in there was a downer emotionally for them as well.

There isn’t a whole lot to be said about this game. The Packers had a workman like performance for the win. It was almost like getting a bye week anyway.

The most intriguing part of this game was seeing DuJuan Harris come out of nowhere to put up 108 yards of total offense running and receiving.

MVP: DuJuan Harris, RB

 

Baltimore Ravens over Indianapolis Colts, 24-9

This game played out pretty much like I expected it to. Ray Lewis once again found a fountain of youth and was the emotional leader on a defense that bent a lot, but never broke in the red zone. The offense didn’t do a whole lot in the first half but then Anquan Boldin looked unstoppable in the second half. Where did that come from?

MVP: Anquan Boldin, WR

 

Seattle Seahawks over Washington Redskins, 24-14

This game became very difficult to watch in the second half. After getting up to a 14-0 lead at some point Robert Griffin III hurt his knee and the Redskins put him back in the game. In the third quarter I sat there watching his play and he threw the ball poorly with all arm, and except for one limping nine or ten yard scamper down a wide open sideline, he couldn’t run the ball effectively or escape the sack. Why coach Shanahan, sitting on the sidelines watching it live could see what I did, is beyond me. The Redskins would have had a better chance to win by putting Kirk Cousins in the game. Griffin was just awful. With no solid footwork or base to throw the ball, he armed his throws and they were inaccurate. Granted the receivers should have caught some of them, Griffin clearly was hurting his team and was a sitting duck in the backfield. He certainly paid the consequences eventually.

While this game also played out about how I expected other than the Redskins fast start, the Redskins might have had the chance had Shanahan been smart and put Kirk Cousins in before it was too late.

Despite a goal line fumble, Marshawn Lynch fueled the offense with his running game and was the MVP.

MVP: Marshawn Lynch, RB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player of the Week: Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Defensive Player of the Week: Jonathan Joseph, CB, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman of the Week: Duane Brown, Houston Texans
Special Teams Player of the Week: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

NFL 2012 Season Week Six Observations: Is Ray Lewis’s Career Over?

Observations from Week Six

Ray Lewis: Hearing that Ray Lewis is probably out for the season with a torn triceps, which could possibly mean the end of his career, is kind of tragic. To me there are only three current NFL players that absolute locks for being first ballot Hall of Famers, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. (Now I know some will argue that Eli Manning and probably Ben Roethlisberger will get in too because of their Super Bowl wins, but they are not as good as those threes. Eli will probably get in for his last name as much as his heroics in the playoffs.)

In my time watching football only two linebackers jump out as being otherworldly, Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis. It will be a shame if we suddenly no longer see Ray Lewis on the field again. He has been the heart and soul of the Ravens entire team since its beginnings in 1996 and his name will forever be linked to the franchise that he has been the face of for nearly two decades.

I’m obviously not a Ravens fan, but you can’t help but be a fan of Ray Lewis.

Baltimore Ravens: With both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb out for the season, and Ed Reed not really playing like the Ed Reed of old, the Ravens could be in trouble. They have world of talent on offense but still don’t seem to get it all together. They are a lucky 5-1, but they have made the plays to win games. But their defense could be in trouble, even if Terrell Suggs does come back soon.

Parity in the League: Everyone thought the Houston Texans were the best team in the NFL but the beat down they received by the Green Bay Packers really exposed them. The Atlanta Falcons are undefeated but won some very close games and are clearly beatable. The 5-1 Ravens are in the same category as the Falcons and look vulnerable, especially on defense with the injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. The San Francisco 49’ers came into the season as the favorite pick as the number one team but they’ve lost two games. Meanwhile, the Patriots look average at 3-3. It should make for an interesting second half of the season.

Thursday Night Football: I’m not sure I am all that in favor of the Thursday Night Football every week. Favored teams seem to play down to the level of their competition and exposes players to injuries.

The Week of Meltdowns: I thought Tom Brady was the goat of the week against Seattle with his two interceptions and intentional grounding penalties essentially costing us the game, or maybe Tony Romo who just can’t get his offense to make the plays necessary to win a game. But Philip Rivers took it to an entirely different level in his complete meltdown against the Broncos Monday night. It was one of the worst quarterback performances I have ever seen. And the Houston Texans added to the trend Sunday night with their own embarrassing performance against the Green Bay Packers.

Russell Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Keep your mouth shut punk. You’re embarrassing yourself.


GAMES I WATCHED

Seattle Seahawks over New England Patriots, 24-23

I really hate saying this but Tom Brady was the goat in the New England Patriots loss to the Seahawks. Granted our defensive backs, especially our safeties, were atrocious during the game. And letting Golden Tate catch the ball deep in the fourth quarter for the winning score was a total and utter unacceptable blunder by Travon Wilson of the Patriots. That defense is designed NOT to give up the big play.

Nevertheless, Tom Brady’s two poor decisions on the interceptions, one in the red zone, were extremely costly. His intentional grounding at the end of the first half that required a runoff kept us from kicking a chip shot field goal. And his intentional grounding late in the game gave Seattle the ball in really good field position. Eliminate any of those four plays and we probably win the game. Eliminate all of them and might not have even been close.

The most worrisome aspect of this game is it exposed New England as an average team with a weak defense. The lack the killer instinct they had a few years ago to put teams away, and instead of making the two or three key plays a game to pull out close ones, they are the ones making the mistakes that cost them games. It’s real concern.

Seattle’s defense, despite giving up nearly 500 yards on offense, still won the game for them. They may have the best collection of starting defensive backs in the league and they match up well against bigger receivers. I like quarterback Russell Wilson and think he has a very promising future. His mobility and ability to get the ball down the field are impressive. But right now he’s not that great of a quarterback and don’t see Seattle matching up down the line with the hotter teams. But you never know, Green Bay and San Francisco are both struggling, the New Orleans Saints are all but out of it, so it could be one of those years an unexpected and maybe somewhat average teams rises from the pack. We’ll see.

MVP: Russell Sherman, CB

Tennessee Titans over Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23

Pittsburgh definitely did not have their best outing against the Titans, except for Isaac Redman who had over 100 yards receiving. Once he got hurt, it seemed Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t do much of anything. Tennessee didn’t really do all that much either. Kenny Britt dropped the ball, ran wrong routes, but still had some key plays to get the win. It was still an entertaining game though since it was close and came down to the wire. Given all the sloppy play though, Rob Bironis and his four field goals win the day.

MVP: Rob Bironis, K

Baltimore Ravens over Dallas Cowboys, 31-29

Baltimore has been really, really lucky to be 5-1. In fact all their games have been close. Dallas rushed for well over 200 yards against the Ravens and still found a way to lose. But on the flip side of that Baltimore has had a knack for making the key plays to win games, in this case a record tying 108 yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

Both teams came away from this contest with significant injuries, more so Baltimore who lost Ray Lewis and starting cornerback Lardarius Webb to season ending injuries. Defensively, Baltimore may be in big trouble. Dallas lost starting running back Demarco Murray to a foot injury near the end of the first half. Before that he was on pace for a 200 yard plus rushing day.

The story of this game, Dallas continues to be pretenders and not contenders.

MVP: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR

Green Bay Packers over Houston Texans, 42-24

There were a lot of total meltdowns by teams and players this week, and Houston was certainly part of that parade. They got thumped by the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball while Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic in his six touchdown performance.

Houston’s defense, presumably one of the best in the league, not only got thrashed, but was undisciplined and completely fell apart in the second half. And the Packers defense shut down the run while Matt Schaub couldn’t get anything going. This really exposed Houston, at the time considered by some to be the best team in the league, as certainly beatable. The Packers simply steamrolled them.

Clay Matthews, Jr. was a beast, as usual on defense for the Packers. But J.J. Watt, Houston’s contender for Defensive Player of the Year, was erased.

For Green Bay, is this a sign they are back on track to where they were the past two years? Was Houston exposed as weak, not well rounded football team? Time will tell.

Denver Broncos over San Diego Chargers, 35-24

The biggest, most embarrassing meltdown of all ended the week as Philip Rivers completely imploded in the second half with five turnovers, poor quarterbacking, and just atrocious play all the way around. The Broncos, led by Peyton Manning overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to come back and win the game. Of course they were largely aided by two defensive scores for 14 of those points and a tough defense, but the poise of Manning and the offense in the second half was still impressive.

This is typical San Diego and Norv Turner coached football, good solid talent but just get it all together.

Frankly, I found it fun to watch.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Washington Redskins over Minnesota Vikings, 38-26

Robert Griffin III. End of story.

I mean really? The running, the smart passing. RG3 is carrying the Redskins right now and making everyone around him better. If, and that is a big if with his style of play and the Shanahans’ stupid play calling putting him at risks constantly on option plays, he is going to be a phenomenal.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Michael Oher, T, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins