Monday, December 24, 2012

Justin's Take: Stars, Goats & Notes From Week 16 of the NFL

Game of the Week: New Orleans 34  Dallas 31  (OT)
-There weren't that many close affairs this week in the NFL. Cincinnati/Pittsburgh was low scoring and ugly at times. This one had some offense involved and late game heroics from Tony Romo and the Cowboys. But in the end, the Saints were able to pull this one out and put a temporary halt to the Cowboys post-season plans. Drew Brees tore the Cowboys secondary apart, going for 446 yards and 3 TDs. But just when it looked like the game was over, Dallas came back and scored 2 TDs with under 4 minutes to play. Dallas couldn't ride the momentum into overtime, however. It was the most entertaining game from a slate of not so great games.

The Stepping Up Big Time Teams of the Week
3. Baltimore Ravens
-There were a lot of questions surrounding the Ravens the last couple weeks. They fired their offensive coordinator Cam Cameron two weeks ago, and were promptly blown out by the Denver Broncos the next game. They responded this week with one of their best performances of the year against the New York Giants. Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and 2 TDs, and he also ran one in as well. Baltimore's defense also came back to life this week, holding the Giants to 14 points and only 186 yards of total offense. Baltimore now has the AFC North wrapped up and have a little pressure off of their shoulders.

2. Cincinnati Bengals
-For the second year in a row, the Cincinnati Bengals proved doubters wrong. No one expected them to be a Playoff team last year and they got in. Some thought they would have a setback this year with a tougher schedule, but they beat the Steelers, Giants and Redskins and are now on their way to the Playoffs. The QB-WR combo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green has only gotten better as the year has gone on. Cincinnati is locked into the 6th seed, and they are going to be a tough out in the 1st round. The defense has played very well in recent weeks. They haven't given up more than 20 points since Week 9. I could see them going into Denver, New England or Houston and giving all three of those teams a run for their money.

1. Team of the Week: Minnesota Vikings
-I thought there were a couple of teams that deserved this spot this week. But I went with a team that many didn't expect to be in the position they are now, and that is the Minnesota Vikings. By not only beating but dominating the Texans in Houston, Minnesota put themselves in a "Win and Your In" position next week at home against Green Bay. The Texans kept Adrian Peterson in check for the most part, but they won this week thanks to some stellar play from their defense. They held a very good Texans offense to only 6 points. Christian Ponder played well again and the Vikings are looking the Playoffs right in the face. I for one did not see Minnesota in this spot going into Week 17. Many people thought two teams would make the Playoffs from the NFC North this year, but I guarantee no one saw the Vikings possibly being one of them.

The Homer Simpson "D'OH" Three Goat Teams of the Week
3. Dallas Cowboys
-Yes the Cowboys can still make the Playoffs and win the NFC East, but they nearly cost themselves a shot at the post-season with their performance against the Saints. Dallas kept the game close until New Orleans gave up a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter. Dallas forced overtime but were unable to stop the Saints offense, letting them march right down the field for the game winning field goal. Questions again will be brought up about the Cowboys defense being able to stop good offenses. They seemed to be putting together a good string of football until this set back. It brings back their consistency issues. And now Dallas has to stop a Redskins offense that has been nearly unstoppable as of late.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers
-I had questions about the Steelers heading into this year and didn't think they would be a Playoff team. And my doubts were proven this week with Pittsburgh's loss at home to Cincinnati. The Steelers offense looked terrible. Ben Roethlisberger threw a costly interception late in the 4th quarter. The running game couldn't get going. And they missed a chip shot field goal early in the game that came back to haunt them in the end. As I thought in the beginning of the year, the Steelers looked like an old team that is always injured. Nothing changed this year. Pittsburgh needs an injection of youth this off-season, or they may start slipping in the AFC North.

1. New York Giants
-It looks like there will be no December magic this year for the Giants. While the Giants are still alive in the Playoff race, it would take a win and a handful of losses from teams above them to get in. Is it possible? Sure. But with the way the Giants have been playing lately, you have to wonder if they will even beat the Eagles next week. The offense has looked abysmal the last two weeks, getting shutout and only putting up 14 this week. And the defense has been getting thrown on at will. The Giants do not look like a Playoff team and will more than likely not be defending their Super Bowl crown this post-season.Whether they just lost their focus or were simply out matched, they need to refocus in the off-season.

Other Week 15 Notes
-Who might be the team with the most questions going into the Playoffs? I think it is the Houston Texans. Houston's defense has not looked the same since Brian Cushing went down with an injury. And this week the offense looked out of sync against the Vikings. Houston has gone from a lock for the #1 seed in the AFC to being a loss and Denver and New England win away from being the #3 seed in the AFC. That is the kind of drop that can effect a team's mentality heading into the Playoffs. Having a bye gives the team some extra rest. With the way Houston has been playing lately, they could use a bye. They go to Indianapolis next week. The Colts already have the #5 seed locked up and can rest their starters. But with Chuck Pagano returning to the team, will they really do that? Houston needs to figure things out on both sides of the ball or they could be one and done in the Playoffs whether they are the #1 or #3 seed.

-Who do I not want to see in the Playoffs if I'm in the NFC? That would be the Seattle Seahawks. They scored 50+ points two weeks in a row against bad teams, the Cardinals and Bills. Some people wanted to see them do it against a good team. Well, they demolished the 49ers Sunday night and silenced any critics that remained for them. You just have to hope if you're Seattle that Richard Sherman's suspension gets over turned. But the offense looks very dangerous right now. And while opponents will more than likely not have to go to Seattle to play them (unless San Fran loses to Arizona at home next week), this team is going to be a very tough out. If things hold they will play the NFC East winner. I think they would crush Dallas. And they just shut down a mobile QB in Colin Kapernick. No reason they couldn't do the same to RG3. You have to give credit to Pete Carroll for putting together one hell of a team.

Random One Liners
-Which team has quit the worst on their coach: the Bills or the Jets?


-Will the Broncos have any real challenge in the AFC West NEXT year?

-It's okay Kansas City: Only one more week of Brady Quinn.

-Tim Tebow going to Jacksonville would be nothing more than a temporary band aid for that franchise.

-Nick Foles may actually be the QB of the future in Philly.

1. Atlanta Falcons
2. Denver Broncos
3. New England Patriots
4. Green Bay Packers
5. Houston Texans

The Only One More Week of Suffering Bottom 5
28. Buffalo Bills
29. Arizona Cardinals
30. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
32. Kansas City Chiefs

Three Games I'd Like To See Next Week
Dallas vs Washington: Win and Your In. Always Fun.
Green Bay vs Minnesota: Can Vikings cap off season with improbable Playoff berth?
Houston vs Indianapolis: Texans need some work heading into post-season.

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

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