Tuesday, November 27, 2012

JC's Take: Stars, Goats & Notes From Week 12 of the NFL

Team of the Week: Washington Redskins
-Three weeks ago, Mike Shanahan was talking about players playing to be on the team next season. Many people questioned Shanahan giving up on the season so early. Two wins later, Washington now sits at 5-6, one game out of a Wild Card spot and two games back in the NFC East, with a big game coming up against the Giants next Monday night. The Redskins went into Dallas on Thanksgiving and lit up the Cowboys. Robert Griffin made some big time throws and he looks like every bit a QB that the Redskins expected him to be. Griffin has a rocket for an arm and the velocity on some of his passes is amazing. You never know what Giants team to expect week in and week out, so that is why next week is so big for the Redskins. Even if Washington doesn't get to the Playoffs this year, the future looks bright for them. Had it not been for injuries to Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on defense, they might be in better shape.

Game of the Week: Houston 34  Detroit 31 (OT)
-The Thanksgiving day games definitely provided us with some good football to go along with our turkey and stuffing. Detroit needed this game badly to stay in the Wild Card hunt in the NFC, and they played like it. Houston looked like a team worn out from playing almost five full quarters of football just four days earlier. Matthew Stafford lit up the Texans secondary which was without their top cornerback Jonathan Joseph. But in the end, the Texans found a way to win in overtime. Both teams missed field goals in the extra session. Lions fans will tell you that the game shouldn't have even gone to OT. That was definitely a horrible call on the Justin Forsett touchdown run. But Schwartz should have known that all scoring plays are reviewed this year. Him throwing the flag should never had happen in the first place. Schwartz needs to know that it was a scoring play, and it was going to get reviewed. It has been like that for eleven previous weeks this year. Instead, Houston continues its reign atop the AFC and Detroit faces a disappointing year after they had high hopes coming in.

The "I Couldn't Think Of A Funny Name" 3 Stars of the Week

3. Andy Dalton
-Cam Newton and Colin Kapernick are getting all of the attention from last year's QB Draft class, but Andy Dalton may turn out to be the best QB of the bunch when it is all set and done. Once again, Dalton has the Cincinnati Bengals in position to make a late run at the Playoffs with his performance under center. The guy knows how to make plays. He threw for three touchdowns against the Raiders in the Bengals 37-10 victory on Sunday. Dalton is a great game manager and doesn't do anything to cost his team games. The kid has a bright future ahead.

2. San Francisco 49ers Defense
-Coach Jim Harbaugh had a lot of faith in his second year QB going on the road to play the Saints in a tough environment. And while Kapernick did play well Sunday, a lot of credit for the 49ers win on Sunday should go their defense. They put a lot of pressure on Drew Brees. Brees was sacked five times by the 49ers defense. But the bigger stat were Brees two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. You don't see Brees get rattled or make too many mistakes, but the 49ers defense did that to Brees Sunday. Aldon Smith may be the best pass rusher in the league.

1. Robert Griffin
-I raved about Griffin earlier, and I am going to do it again here. I picked the Redskins to win on Thanksgiving because I had this feeling that Griffin was going to put on a huge performance with all of America watching. And Griffin did just that. Griffin threw for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns. The most impressive to me was the 59 yarder to Pierre Garcon. Garcon had a long run after the catch, but Griffin zipped that football in between a couple of Cowboys defenders with some damn strong velocity. Griffin has shown that he is more than a QB that can just make plays with his feet. The guy has all the intangibles you want in your starting QB, and he is only going to get better as the years go on.

The " Don't Tell Our Mama How Bad We Are" 3 Goats of the Week

3. The Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
-I know Green Bay has been playing better as of late, but the Packers offensive line looked terrible all night against the Giants. Aaron Rodgers barely had any time to throw against the Giants great pass rush. If the Packers want to go anywhere in the post-season, or even get there for that matter, they need better play from their O-Line. Watching the game Sunday night, it amazed me that Rodgers made it out of that game without an injury.

2. Jim Schwartz
-Once again, Jim Schwartz needs to know that ALL SCORING PLAYS ARE REVIEWED. It has been like that for all eleven weeks of action this year in the NFL. But for some reason, Schwartz decided it was necessary to throw the red challenge flag anyways. It is a dumb rule in the NFL, but coaches should know better by now. Just a dumb decision by Schwartz.

1. Mark Sanchez
-We got two good games on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the night cap was an absolute dud. The Jets were completely embarrassed by the Patriots. And the media circus just make it even worse for them. But Mark Sanchez running into the behind of his own offensive lineman, losing the football, and having it returned for a touchdown may be replayed on Not Top 10 highlights for years to come. I can't see anyway the Jets bring Sanchez back as their QB next year. If Rex Ryan is back, he might keep him. But if Ryan is fired, you would have to think Sanchez is out the door with him.

Other Week 12 Notes
-The NFL likes to talk about their being parity around the league, but is there really? We are through twelve weeks of action in the NFL, and five of the eight current division leaders have a three game lead in their respective divisions. And the 49ers have a 2.5 game lead in the NFC West thanks to a tie. In the AFC, all four division leaders are the same as last year. And there is a real possibility that the same six teams that made the Playoffs in the AFC last year will make it again this year. The Denver Broncos can clinch their division next week with a win. That really isn't parity to me. It looks more like the NFL is full of about seven or eight really good teams, then a big pile of meh.

-With that in mind, lets take a look at the Wild Card Picture in both conferences, starting with the AFC.

Indianapolis  7-4  5-3  at Detroit, vs Tennessee, at Houston, at Kansas City, vs Houston
Pittsburgh     6-5  3-5  at Baltimore, vs San Diego, at Dallas, vs Cincinnati, vs Cleveland
Cincinnati     6-5  4-5  at San Diego, vs Dallas, at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh, vs Baltimore
Miami           5-6  3-5  vs New England, at San Fran, vs Jacksonville, vs Buffalo, at New England

I included Miami because they are only a game back, but that ending schedule is brutal for them, especially seeing the Pats twice. If they somehow beat New England next week then maybe I will listen to talk about them being a Playoff team. I like the Colts chances of making the Playoffs. Houston will more than likely be resting their starters in Week 17. They've already beaten Tennessee on the road, and Kansas City will be ready for the off-season by Week 16. I think the last spot will come down to the Week 16 match-up between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Ben Roethlisberger will be back by then. I like Andy Dalton as a QB, but he will need to step up in that game and finally win a big game on the road against a divisional opponent. My gut tells me not to bet against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. If the current Top 4 holds, we would be looking at Indianapolis vs Denver in the first round. Peyton against his former team? Peyton Manning is my favorite current athlete, but even I will turn off ESPN in the week build up to that one.

-Now, lets look at the NFC Playoff Picture.

Green Bay  7-4  5-3  vs Minnesota, vs Detroit, at Chicago, vs Tennessee, at Minnesota
Seattle        6-5  4-4  at Chicago, vs Arizona, at Buffalo, vs San Francisco, vs St. Louis
Tampa Bay 6-5  3-5  at Denver, vs Philadelphia, at New Orleans, vs St. Louis, at Atlanta
Minnesota  6-5  4-4  at Green Bay, vs Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston, vs Green Bay
Washington 5-6 5-4  vs NY Giants, vs Baltimore, at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, vs Dallas
Dallas          5-6 4-5  vs Philadelphia, at Cincinnati, vs Pittsburgh, vs New Orleans, at Washington
New Orleans 5-6 3-4 at Atlanta, at NY Giants, vs Tampa Bay, at Dallas, vs Carolina

Despite the Packers terrible performance on Sunday night, I still think they make the Playoffs. And if they somehow catch the Bears and pass them, I expect the Bears to grab the top Wild Card spot as well. After that it gets a bit tricky. Seattle blew a game on the road this week against Miami. The Seahawks have more talent than the Dolphins. And now, add to the fact that Seattle's top two cornerbacks are facing four game suspensions for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, things don't look to be getting better for the Seahawks. I've said numerous times how much I like how Tampa Bay is playing this year, but they have to go on the road for three of their last five, and they are all difficult match-ups. I don't like Minnesota at all with Christian Ponder under center. I think if the Redskins split their next two games they have a real shot. Dallas is too inconsistent for me. And then there are the Saints and Drew Brees, who you can never count out. Here's how I see everything playing out: Seattle: 3-2, Tampa Bay 3-2, Minnesota 1-4, Washington 4-1, Dallas 1-4, New Orleans 3-2. That leaves Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington and New Orleans all at 9-7. If I looked at everything the right way, Washington would get in with the best conference record. And I would not want to face Robert Griffin in the Playoffs.

Random One Liners
-How do six guys miss Ray Rice on 4th and 29?

-If Chan Gailey wants C.J. Spiller to touch the ball more, how come he didn't run the ball the last 13 minutes of the game?

-Remember Chiefs fans, you wanted Brady Quinn in there instead of Matt Cassel.

-Every single one of the Steelers running backs fumbled against the Browns. What kind of committee is that? A Congressional one?

-If I'm Larry Fitzgerald, I'm really contemplating asking for a trade in the off-season.

-I think Aaron Rodgers was just sacked again.

-How does the NFL NOT suspend Ndamukong Suh? Do they know his past history?

1. Houston Texans
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. New England Patriots

The Dirt of the NFL Bottom 5
28. Carolina Panthers
29. Philadelphia Eagles
30. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
32. Kansas City Chiefs

Three Games I'd Like To See Next Week
New Orleans vs Atlanta: This is turning into a very heated rivalry.
Pittsburgh vs Baltimore: The best rivalry in football
NY Giants vs Washington: Can RG3 light it up in prime time two weeks in a row?

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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