Some observations of this past weekend’s games…
Say it ain’t so, John Carney!
We’ve all seen the desperation lateral play take place at the end of a game. The end result is usually an illegal pass or the ball ends up in a lineman’s hands essentially killing the play. Neither of those instances occurred in Jacksonville at the end of the Saints-Jaguars game this past Sunday. With six seconds to play and the Saints trailing 20-13, Aaron Brooks connected with Donte Stallworth. After Stallworth made close to six defenders miss, he flipped the ball to former beer man Michael Lewis (which looked very borderline as a legal pass). Lewis was quickly surrounded and he pitched it back to Deuce McAllister. At this point, the majority of the Jags defense was closing in on McAllister. Just when Deuce was about to go down, he threw a lateral halfway across the field to a practically wide open Jerome Pathon who took the ball the final 21 yards for the touchdown. Unbelievable! No flags on the field. What a comeback! Now all the Saints have to do is kick the extra point and it’s overtime keeping their playoff chances alive. Doing the kicking duties is John Carney who hasn’t missed an extra point since 1999 and had only missed five PATs in his 14-year career. Oops. Wide right. Not only did the Saints lose the game by the ultimate stomach-punch, but they were also eliminated from the playoffs. Wow. Do you think John Carney ever saw Ace Ventura: Pet Detective? I’ve got two words for you Mr. Carney: Ray Finkle.
Minny rolls over Chiefs. Will the real Vikings please stand up?
After the Vikings victory over the Chiefs on Saturday (who doesn’t love NFL games on Saturday!) by the score of 45-20, there seemed to be more questions than answers. Do the Chiefs have what it takes defensively to advance in the playoffs? Will the Vikings high-powered offense be enough to succeed in the NFC playoff race? But last and certainly not least, what’s up with the hairdo, Randy? Not since the bus driver in Speed (before Sandy Bullock took over the controls, of course) have I seen such a thing. Don’t they have any SuperCuts out there in Minnesota? ‘Fro aside, Moss continues to produce, catching seven passes for 111 yards and two TDs. Rookie Onterrio Smith posted his second consecutive game with 140+ yards rushing and the Vikings defense forced four turnovers. This is the same team that had gone 2-6 prior to their win on Saturday since their 6-0 start. On the flip side, the Chiefs have now lost two of their last three games after a 9-0 start. Despite Priest Holmes rushing for three TDs equaling Emmitt Smith’s record for most rushing TDs in a season (25), Holmes only managed 55 yards on the ground. What’s next for these two teams? The Vikes head into Arizona next week and a win gives them the NFC North crown. The Chiefs are in the playoffs and can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with a win at home against the Bears and a Patriots loss next week. With the playoffs right around the corner for these two teams, they better figure out how to bring their ‘A’ game quick otherwise it could be a very brief appearance in the post-season for both teams.
No Portis, no problem for Denver.
When the news came down that Portis was not dressing for the Broncos game in Indianapolis on Sunday night, the thought of clinching a playoff berth with a win seemed near impossible for Denver. Fortunately for Broncos fans, Quentin Griffin and Ashley Lelie had different ideas. Lelie had five catches for 115 yards (both season-highs) while Griffin, who was playing for Portis, rumbled for 136 yards on the ground on 28 carries helping the Broncos dominate time of possession (44:58 to the Colts 15:02) en route to a 31-17 Denver victory. Apparently the best way to stop the Colts vaunted offense is to simply keep them off the field. When the Colts offense did take the field, the Broncos shut down M.V.P. candidate Peyton Manning holding him to only 12 completions for 146 yards, both season-lows. With the victory the Broncos clinched a wild-card berth while the Colts who are already in the playoffs, are still battling Tennesee for the AFC South division title. With a win or a Titans loss, the Colts win the division. If that scenario does play itself out, then the Colts will get their shot at revenge in the first round of the playoffs as they will square off against the Broncos again in Indianapolis. The bad news for Indy is Portis may be back for that one.
Playoff picture coming into focus
After week 16, the following teams will be playing into January:
AFC: Patriots, Chiefs, Colts, Titans, Broncos have all clinched a playoff spot.
The Patriots and the Chiefs have clinched a first-round bye.
The final spot will go to the winner of the AFC North division which will be either the Ravens or the Bengals. The Ravens have the advantage. If the Ravens win next week, they are in. If the Bengals lose next week, the Ravens are in. The only way the Bengals get into the playoffs is a win and a Ravens loss next week. Just for the record, the Bengals play the Browns at home while the Ravens play the Steelers at home on Sunday night. That means that by gametime Sunday night, the Ravens will know whether they need to win to get in to the playoffs. Do you think Ray Lewis will be a little fired up for that one?
NFC: Rams, Eagles, Panthers, Cowboys have all clinched a playoff spot.
The Rams have clinched a first-round bye.
The final two spots will go to the winner of the NFC North, either Minnesota or Green Bay, and one wild card spot for either Seattle, the Packers or the Vikings, whomever doesn’t win the NFC North. The Vikings have the advantage in the NFC North. If the Vikings win next week, they are in. If the Packers lose next week, the Vikings are in. The only way the Packers win the division is a win and a Vikings loss next week. Seattle needs the most help as they need to win next week and have either the Vikings or the Packers lose or have Dallas lose and end up with a better strength of victory than Dallas. Whatever that means. No matter how you slice it, it means that the Packers/Broncos, Vikings/Cardinals, and Seahawks/49ers games will all have major playoff implications. You got to love playoff berths decided on the last day of the regular season.
Some other passing thoughts….
Just when you think Tony Parrish was going to be teased to no end about being juked out of his jock by Brian Westbrook in the Eagles/49ers game, Parrish comes up big in OT picking off McNabb setting up the game-winning field goal for San Fran. Redemption songs. That’s all I ever had.
The Panthers 10 wins is enough to secure a playoff berth, but don’t expect Carolina to do much damage in the post-season. Of the Panthers 10 wins, seven of those wins were by three points or less. Lady luck has a funny way of running out at the exact worse possible moment.
I’m starting to wonder if Steve McNair can even feel his legs anymore? Did you see the way he was dropping back in the pocket on Sunday? I was waiting for his leg to snap right off. That guy is amazing and if his team gets into the playoffs, they’ll make some noise on McNair’s will to win by itself.
Some home/road numbers continued this past week: The Rams won their 14th straight home game finishing the season at 8-0 at home matching the Seahawks as the only other 8-0 team at home this year (both the Patriots and the Chiefs have a chance to finish up 8-0 at home this week). The Lions fell to the Panthers in Carolina setting the record for most consecutive road losses with 24. To put things in perspective, the Lions haven’t won a road game since the year 2000.
It’s too bad Jamal Lewis can’t play the Browns every week. The 205 yards rushing for Lewis against the Browns this past week gave Lewis 500 yards rushing in two games against Cleveland this season and he needs only 48 yards to reach the magical 2,000 yards rushing plateau. Not only can Lewis reach 2,000 yards, but with 153 yards against the Steelers, Lewis will match the all-time season high rushing yards set by Eric Dickerson back in 1984 with 2,105. Hmm, the Ravens have a solid running game and a dominating defense. Where have I heard this before?
Until next week…