Some observations of this past weekend’s games…
The collapse is complete, Vikes out of playoffs
Josh McCown to Nathan Poole. Not exactly Montana to Rice, but that duo is the one that capped off a disappointing season for the Vikings as the Cardinals pulled off the upset 18-17 knocking the Vikings out of the playoffs. Not only did the Vikings start out 6-0 on the season, matching the 1978 Redskins as the only teams to start out so successfully and not make the playoffs, but the manner in which they lost will leave a bad taste in their mouths the entire off-season. After sacking McCown on consecutive plays, the second of which caused a fumble which was recovered by McCown, Arizona was looking at fourth down and 25 when McCown found Nathan Poole in the corner of the end zone. Poole was forced out of bounds before both feet touched, but after reviewing the play, the call stood and the Vikings were done. The loss gave Green Bay the NFC North division and may be the spark the Packers need to get rolling at the right time. The Cardinals win moved them from picking first overall in next year’s NFL draft to the third position and the win didn’t save head coach Dave McGinnis’ job as he was fired the following day. All the amazing win did was deliver a knock-out blow to a Vikings team that’s been barely hanging on the ropes since November. If I was Mike Tice, I wouldn’t expect too many New Year’s Eve party invitations this year.
Cinderella didn’t wear stripes
The stage was set for the Bengals to avoid the clock striking twelve on their magical season. With a win and a Ravens loss, the Bengals would have done something that they haven’t been able to do since 1990: make the playoffs. But this is not a Disney storybook where everyone lives happily ever after. This is the NFL and the Bengals ride came to a screeching halt after the 22-14 loss to the Browns. It wasn’t Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb that led the Browns offensive attack, but rather rookie Lee Suggs who rushed for 186 yards on 26 carries and two TDs including the game-winner that sealed the fate of the Bengals. Cincy had a shot at the end of the first half trailing 13-7 on the Browns six yard line but a rattled Jon Kitna was indecisive in the pocket and rather than throwing the ball away, Kitna took a sack as time expired. The writing may have already been on the wall after the Bengals took their lumps last week in St. Louis losing 27-10, but 65,362 fans (the largest crowd ever to gather for a Bengals game) thought otherwise. Alas, the Cincy celebration did not happen. Instead, it’s Corey Dillon talking about playing elsewhere and Chad Johnson not saying much of anything (for a change). Whether the Bengals have what it takes to get back in the playoff picture next year remains to be seen, but you have to admit that this year was a nice ride while it lasted.
Colts win down south and take AFC South
The Colts recuperated from a home loss two weeks ago ath the hands of the Denver Broncos defeating the Texans in Houston this week in a battle that was much closer than one would have expected. Indianapolis entered the game needing a win to take home the AFC South and play at home in the first round of the playoffs. The Texans who were coming off a hard-fought loss at home against the Titans the prior week 27-24, led the Colts 17-3 after three quarters of football. But these are the same Colts that pulled off the miraculous comeback on Monday night against Tampa Bay back in week five trailing by three touchdowns with less than four minutes to play only to send the game into OT and eventually pull out the win. Trailing the Texans by two TDs with a whole quarter to go must’ve seemed like being down just a field goal to Manning and company. Sure enough, the Colts clawed their way back led by Edgerrin James 171 yards rushing (56 in the fourth quarter alone) and Manning who threw his only TD pass of the day immediately following a Texans turnover which tied the game at 17-17 with just under four minutes to play. After a Texans three-and-out and a Colts penalty, Indianapolis drove 53 yards setting up the game-winning 43 yard field goal by Mr. Perfect Mike Vanderjagt who has not missed a field goal or extra point all season. With the win, the Colts get a rematch against the Broncos next week looking to seek revenge from the loss two weeks ago. Expect the Colts to be ready this week for whatever the Broncos can throw their way including a healthy Clinton Portis.
Playoff picture and predictions
The stage is now set. Here’s the breakdown:
Bye Week: #1 Patriots, #2 Chiefs
#6 Broncos at #3 Colts
#5 Titans at #4 Ravens
Bye Week: #1 Eagles, #2 Rams
#6 Cowboys at #3 Panthers
#5 Seahawks at #4 Packers
Here’s one man’s view on how things will breakdown in the playoffs.
Round 1: Colts and Titans in the AFC, Cowboys and Packers in the NFC.
Round 2: Titans upset Patriots and the Colts upset Chiefs in the AFC. Eagles take out Cowboys and Packers find a way to win in St. Louis.
Conference Championship: Colts edge Titans. Packers continue to impress and upset Philly.
Super Bowl: Manning vs. Favre, advantage Manning. Dungy and Manning win the big one.
Some other passing thoughts….
Start updating that resume’ everyone (but be careful you George O’Leary wannabes), head coaching vacancies in the NFL are opening up! Look at all the action so far:
Arizona has already said so long to Dave McGinnis and his entire staff despite his week 17 upset win over the Vikings.
Dick Jauron received his walking papers from Chicago despite winning four of their last six games.
Buffalo has kicked Gregg Williams out the door in Buffalo. Williams started off 2-0, but lost seven of his last nine games.
In what I consider an even stranger turn of events, the Dolphins sign Dave Wannstedt to a two-year extension but have decided to turn the general manager duties over to someone else. Wannstedt, who was probably happy to simply still be employed stated, “I’ve never been concerned about titles. I’m the head football coach. I want to coach football.” The only question in my mind is who in the Dolphins organization does Wannstedt have incriminating photos of?
The Falcons fired Dan Reeves two weeks ago and the Giants have already let Jim Fassel go as well, but don’t expect this to be the end of the coaching changes. You can bet Al Davis and the Raiders staff will look closely into the demise of the Raiders and Bill Callahan. Steve Spurrier’s future is also very questionable in Washington. Lastly, Marty Schottenheimer’s tenure in San Diego hasn’t exactly been the makings of a legend.
The hot seat in the NFL looks to stay lit for quite some time. I can’t imagine it’s a good feeling having your firing from your job discussed openly amongst thousands of people, but wouldn’t having the shot to win the whole thing just once be worth the shot?
Until next week…