As the playoff picture continues to crystallize, who’s looking solid going in and who’s not? The answers might surprise you.
Atlanta may be 11-2, and is all but guaranteed home field advantage in the NFC, but they have played the weakest schedule in the NFL by FAR, being the only team to play a schedule strength under .400. That, coupled with past playoff failures, makes Atlanta a paper tiger until they show otherwise.
Who else might fit that mold? The Colts.
Despite being a hot team right now, having won 7 of their last 8, the Colts have played the easiest schedule in the AFC, and have a shocking -37 point differential despite being 9-4. I also don’t like Chicago’s chances, if they even make it at all, as they are in the midst of a free fall, losers of four of their last five.
The jury is out on Baltimore, losers of two in a row, and with a brutal final three games remaining, against Denver, the Giants and Cincinnati.
Hit the title/continue reading to read more. . .
On the flipside of the playoff picture, Green Bay looks about as good as you can. They’ve won 7 of their last 8, making them a bona fide hot team, and they’re also the only 9 or better win team in the NFL to have played a tougher than .500 schedule. The jury is out on the Giants, who have also played a very tough schedule, but have struggled down the stretch and still have several tough games remaining.
In the AFC, New England has won seven in a row and has played the toughest schedule of any of the current playoff teams. Houston’s schedule has been easier, and at times, they have looked so damn good you can’t help but think they’re gonna be a beast come playoff time. The worry? Two blowout losses at the hands of high powered offenses in New England and Green Bay, two teams that could easily be the ones standing in the way of a title.
This Week’s Sucked And Won: Christian Ponder, QB (MIN). Ponder edges out Andrew Luck, another QB who was dreadful in a win. Ponder went 11-17 for 91 yards and an interception, posting a QB rating of 53.8. Minnesota is not even TRYING to use their passing game anymore, choosing instead to just keep handing it to Adrian Peterson (brilliant again this week). How are they winning these games?!
Have the Dallas Cowboys finally grown some character? For years this has been an undisciplined team that played below its talent level, but the Cowboys have quietly won four of their last five to put themselves back in the playoff race, including a tough game this week against the Bengals, where Dallas was able to rise to the occasion despite suffering a tragedy that claimed the life of one player and left another despondent and facing charges for his role in the accident.
Shocking Realization of the Week: Seattle scored 58 points this week in a game where their quarterback didn’t break 150 yards passing.
Apparently, this photo of Chad Henne and his wife Brittany is supposed to be controversial or embarrassing. Why, exactly? Is it embarrassing that Henne loves his wife? Is it embarrassing that they’ve been together since they were teens and that they stayed together and got married even after Henne got a big NFL payday?
OK, the pajamas wouldn’t be my first choice, but seriously, NFL players ought to be embarrassed when they are seen incessantly clubbing and surrounded by groupies or have 11 children with 15 different women in 22 cities. Henne has nothing to be embarrassed about. Except the pajamas.
Were the Chargers’ and Eagles’ unexpected victories this week enough to save their respective coaches’ jobs? Conventional wisdom says no. In San Diego, Norv Turner is a career losing coach who has presided over the Chargers’ precipitous fall from relevance. Why bring him back? Philadelphia’s Andy Reid is the longest tenured coach in the NFL, and has a great deal of gratitude and loyalty from the front office, but owner Jeff Lurie made it clear last season that 8-8 was “unacceptable,” and fans are prepared to outright revolt if Reid gets another chance. Both of these guys will probably be on the market in the offseason.
This Week’s Great But Lost: Jamal Charles, RB (KC). Not much has gone right for the Chiefs this year, but one thing that has is Charles’ comeback from an injury ravaged 2011. He’s over 1000 yards for the season, and had a great day against the Browns, gaining 165 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Too bad nothing else went right for KC, they got destroyed 30-7.
Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis may be the sentimental favorite, and I’m sure Houston’s Gary Kubiak and Atlanta’s Mike Smith will get plenty of attention, but my personal choice for coach of the year so far is St. Louis’ Jeff Fisher. The Rams have played a tough schedule (.524 opp. winning percentage) and are still alive and kicking at 6-6-1. Take a look at that roster and tell me that’s not great coaching.
Thursday Pick: Cincinnati (-3) @Philadelphia (GTBets.eu)
I can’t seem to pick a Thursday game to save my life, and I don’t have a lot to offer you here. The Bengals have the Ravens and Steelers coming up, but in order for those games to matter, they need to take care of business vs. Philadelphia. The Eagles are playing vastly improved football since scrapping the moronic Wide 9 defense, and QB of the future Nick Foles gets better every week. Still, this is the Eagles. They’ve won once in two months, so let’s not get too excited.
Cincinnati Bengals 28 Philadelphia Eagles 24
SPOKEN WORD PERFORMANCE
“It’s been a while since we’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. This is tough to swallow.” – Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, after New Orleans 52-27 loss to the Giants. The Saints are actually mathematically still alive, but Vilma’s right. They’re done.
“Sorry I’m a little bit late. There’s a lot of fun stuff in there for a change.” – Browns’ coach Pat Shurmur, on the mood in the Cleveland locker room following a 30-7 win over Kansas City.
“We’ve been in every single game we’ve played this year but being in games doesn’t mean shit in this league. It’s about getting wins.” – Lions QB Matthew Stafford, on yet another game his team didn’t win.
“You can go ahead and look ahead if you want. Just don’t ask me any questions about it…[W]e don’t want to think about the big picture right now. We want to finish and then look back and say, ‘Wow, look at what we just did!’” – Seahawks FB Michael Robinson, after Seattle demolished Arizona 58-0, further solidifying their playoff chances.
“Rookies aren’t allowed to be rookies on this team, except at rookie dinners or Saturdays, when we have to bring the chicken.” – Colts rookie TE Dwayne Allen, on Indianapolis’ reliance on young players this season.
“He called it. He said, ‘I want that one.’ I didn’t quite hear him. I said, ‘Who said that? You say that?’ Usually, anytime a quarterback wants something specific, allow them to do it. They’ll take ownership of it and he sure did, didn’t he?” - Eagles OC Marty Mornhinweig, on letting rookie QB Nick Foles call the game’s final play, a game winning touchdown pass to snap the Eagles’ losing streak.
“I channeled my inner RGIII.” – Redskins backup QB Kirk Cousins, on leading his team to the tying score against Baltimore after Robert Griffin III left the game with an injury.
“We don’t even deserve or warrant the right to speak about the playoffs. All we have earned is the right to talk about the Tennessee Titans next week on the national stage.” – Jets LB Bart Scott, on the Jets’ playoff chances. Following Sunday’s win, they are one game behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the final spot in the AFC.
“They played good and we played like shit and that’s what happens.” – Steelers LB James Harrison, on his team’s performance in a 34-24 loss to San Diego.