It was a wacky year in the NFL....always is isn't it? QB numbers are stupidly up, defensive numbers are way way way down....in fact more WRs caught for a thousand yards (19), then backs running for it (14), two QBs broke Dan Marino's record of passing yards...and Matthew Stafford came DAMN close too...10 QBs broke 4,000 yards throwing, TWENTY QBs (including the "immortal" Tavares Jackson) threw over 3,000 yards ...hell Carson Palmer had 2,700 in HALF a season.... but now we're down to the NFL's Final 12 and the tournament to crown the next King of the Ring in the NFL begins...TODAY!!
Saturday Jan 7:
Cincinnati at Houston:
How the Bengals got here:
The Bengals got here despite having the Steelers and Ravens also in the playoffs as well (no easy feat to get 3 teams of 8 from the same division)....well and the Texans being lazy and going for two to avoid overtime in a mean-nothing game for them (man imagine the mutiny if the Jets HAD won and this 2-point play cost the Jets the playoffs....oh man!)...Cedric Benson had a solid 1,000 yard season (and he missed one game...suspension I think?), AJ Green had a damn good rookie season and him and Andy Dalton easily washed away thoughts and memories of Carson Palmer and Chad 85....Jermaine Grisham was solid at TE ....and Jerome Simpson not only had the TD of the year with that flip of DOOM that y'all saw fifty times already....but he added 50 catches and some 750 yards receiving....and a solid but not dominant defense (20.2 ppg, 9th...26 takeaways and 5th in sacks with 45), this is a solid, but not spectacular team....but with all the crap in the NFL this year, average is the new good...not that I intended to crap on the Bengals in this preview....
How the Texans got here:
Peyton Manning got hurt (yeah I had to)....the rest of the AFC South went ass-up, and the Texans despite unheard of injuries at the QB position (I still say losing Leinart was a blessing), a super-strong running game, a dominant WR in Andre Johnson (who's actually healthy this week...so look out)....a top-rated defense, 27 takeaways, 44 sacks (oddly enough only one behind the Bengals), and 4th in points allowed with only 16 a game.... and all this with a laundry list and who's who on injured reserve as well....
Who will win?
I'm tempted to take the Bengals, but anytime Andy Dalton and the Bengal offense comes out against the Big Boys in the NFL...this team comes up short (only winning team they beat was Tennessee, though they DID win in Seattle which is impressive....and the Bengals did lose this game at home a few weeks ago with poor TJ Yates' mama having a heart attack and hiding her face in her hands all game (that sh!t was hilarious I tell you!)....the Texan running game is too strong...and Wade is back on the sidelines, that makes the defense better and leaves room for adjustment (you'd think the NFL would have a way for him to skype and add some help from home right?)...this one could go either way, but if Houston can beat 'em on the road....they can beat 'em at home....
Game Quality: ** (be honest this could be UGLY, there's a reason no network wanted to touch this one)
Detroit at New Orleans:
How the Lions got here:
This is pretty simple.....Stafford to Calvin....early and often....add in some rushing balance with Kevin Smith (4.9 yards a carry) when he got back into the game after Javid Best's injury....Brandon Pettigrew was pretty awesome for the Lions too (83/777 and 5 TDs), Nate Burleson and Titus Young made plays and did things too...this offense is a HANDFUL....there's a reason Stafford broke 5,000 yards passing....the defense is mean and nasty, but limited outside of the front 4 Cliff Avril (back injury) lead the team with 11 sacks, and Stone Cold Vanden Bousch was also solid with 8 sacks....it's funny with all the noise and Garvin Stomps Mr. Suh threw out there...he had only FOUR sacks....that ain't getting it done, son....it's very possible Suh could wipe that out in one epic playoff game....problem is NO ONE sacks Drew Brees and outside the D-Line this D is pretty foul.....
How the Saints got here:
See everything Stafford did?? Drew Brees did better....and aside of Jimmy Graham he did it without a true #1 back or really a stand-out WR (but I think Brees likes it better that way....instead of focusing on one guy, he just spreads, distributes and dominates....it also helps to have an O-Line that was best in protecting the QB and had the fewest sacks allowed....and a good split the load running game with Thomas and Ingram (oops, Ingram is out and on IR now) doing the heavy lifting in the power run game....Darren Sproles (who had more total yards then anyone....EVER) making 3rd down plays and kick return magic....and a defense that gets crapped on for numbers (a mere 33 sacks and only 16 takeaways), but they seem to have a knack to make the big play at the big moment and I like their play makers and personnel over what the Lions have on defense....
Who will win?
The REAL winners are people who bet the over here B)...but yeah this game has a chance to out-do the 96 total points that Green Bay and Arizona did a few years ago.....the offense is gonna fly....but the Saints are 8-0 at home and quite honestly better player for player when you look at the match-ups, and I don't think the Lions have the players to match up unless Calvin does something absurd....but still...the Saints have only allowed 5 sacks in the last 8 games....dang....
Game Quality: **** (this is what the NFL wants, two teams chucking it all over.....)
Sunday January 8:
Atlanta at NY Giants:
How the Falcons got here:
Balance.... Michael Turner running the ball....Matt Ryan spreading the ball to Roddy White, Gonzo and Julio Jones who became one of the most dangerous deep threats in the game....and one of the more dangerous balanced attacks in the league right now....so Giants fans "you wanted to avoid the Lions" right?? Well good luck to ya, I think the Falcons are more dangerous....though not so good on defense, they DO get turnovers (29) and don't give the ball away (21)....this team is a HANDFUL, that probably gets overshadowed by how damn good the Saints were this year.....
How the Giants got here:
Playing in the NFC East? Epic FAILs by Dallas and Phily?? Yeah those too...but aside of that, in a normal year you'd say... DAMN Eli had a good year.....4900 yards 29 TDs and only 16 Picks, a solid WR corps lead by the out of nowhere by Victor Cruz....a beat up defense that is starting to come together, and a getting healthier Bradshaw to give them a running threat....but it's hard to get past the "do they belong here?" questions based on how they were the Default division winner (wins outside the division were St. Louis, Arizona, Miami (in its funk), NE (also in its funk), and the Jets (who played like an NFC East team down the strecth)....and hell they lost twice to Washington...and are hosting a playoff game....amazing....I swear this is not a bitter thing....I didn't think anyone in the NFC East was playoff worthy.....
Who will win?
Can the Giants D (25 ppg) slow down the Falcon offense? Averaging 125 yards a game on the ground is a scary number when Michael Turner is on the other side....and yeah the Falcons D is average too...but I like the Falcons match up and have some GOOD road wins (in Seattle, Detroit) and have seen a Giant-style offense in the Saints twice a year, and simply I think they're a better team....
Game Quality: *** 1/2
Pittsburgh at Denver:
How the Steelers got here:
Big Ben and his 4,000 yards passing even one one leg was pretty damn good this year....and he had an arsenal of talented WR's and they did all this with a pretty crappy year from Rashard Mendenhall (now on IR)....and the #1 ranked defense (despite only 15 takeaways) with the Steelers (which is amazing if you think about the Raven game that started the season and the fact this unit was never healthy and on the field at the same time)...but it's nice to see a Super Bowl runner-up actually make the playoffs the year after....that doesn't happen often...this team is dangerous and has all the pieces to get there again if they're all healthy.....
How the Broncos got here:
Prayer? Miracles....and awesome defense....a solid running game, and the Running Back Quarterback who made anti-football cool....people get all goofy about Tebow and his 4th Quarter crap, but the fact is, the NFL is adjusting and learning how to deal with this and daring Tebow to throw wobbling ducks in their general direction, but a team with Champ Bailey, Elivs Dumervill, Von Miller and a pretty damn good cast behind them as well....it's hard to view this team by the numbers because it took John Fox half the season to get the defense going, and when your top receiving threat has a whopping 44 catches it's tough to view this team on paper and not to mention stumbling into the playoffs on a 3-game losing streak....this team better make a run next year, or draft the next Terrell Owens....this might be a one-shot deal with this team as is.....
Who will win?
There's a lot of injuries here....mostly to the Steelers...and having their top safety not medically able to be ale to play in Denver (as an asthmatic suffering through this schizophrenic weather here I feel ya dude)....both teams are heavy minuses in turnover ratio (-12 for Denver and -13 for the Steelers), this game is gonna be kinda ugly, and has a touch of that anti-football feel I like seeing even in the playoffs! But you just get that feeling the uglier this game gets, the more it fits the home Broncos and some divine intervention....and yeah I just got that feeling something stupid's gonna happen and it's got Tebow's name written all over it.....
Game Quality: *** (this has entertaining train wreck written all over it!)
NFL End of Season Awards:
NFL Comeback Player of the Year:
Steve Smith (WR: Car)
There were a few guys who you could throw into this mix too (Reggie Bush in MIA, Matt Hasselbeck in TEN come to mind) hell I started this writing up Bush as the Comeback of the Year guy, but Bush was only solid for half the year (a lot of that had to do with Chad Hennie being a FAIL mind you), but Smith was left for dead last year and had a foot out the door in Carolina....then sCam came in....and they worked in the off-season and through the lockout and a comeback was born.....79 catches, almost 1400 yards, and maybe the top reason that sCam is gonna win rookie of the year (though Greg Olson was pretty good too), this was a helluva bounce-back for a guy who was "the other Steve Smith" in a lot of fantasy football drafts this year....
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Von Miller (DE/OLB: Den)
I was tempted to go against the grain here and go Aldon Smith in San Fran....but Miller had better tackle numbers
and made a few plays I blatantly remember during the season....not that you'd do wrong with either, but I feel Miller did more to make the Denver defense more better then Smith did in San Fran (Smith was part of a better defense too)....and since the NFL poo-poo's on defense now anyway...no need to go into massive detail....did I consider CB: Patrick Peterson? NO....Kick and Punt return flashiness is nice, but that's not actually playing defense and he made all his plays on Special Teams.....
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Cam Newton (QB: Car)
This one is a tough one.....you had a few legit candidates in AJ Green (who carried the Bengals passing game), Julio Jones (dangerous deep threat making a good offense kinda sick), Torrey Smith was the WR deep guy the Ravens have been having wet dreams about...hell even Andy Dalton who proved Gingers are better QBs then head coaches.....but when it all came down to it, even in a year that QB numbers are blown up like baseball stats in the steroid areas...oh wait, they're STILL in 'Roid-a-Palooza? (before baseball fans get their panties all wet, I DO NOT CARE if a player is on the sauce...it's his body, it's his decision, if you're willing to give up years of your life to make the kinda money to take care of your family for generations, each and every one of YOU would do the same, so stop lying and being all Holier then Thou about it....)....21 TD, 17 INT and 14 more TDs rushing, and 4,000 yards.....it was hard to look past sCam, no matter how anti-QB I am on these awards this year.....
NFL Coach of the Year:
Jim Harbaugh (49ers)
I was tempted to go John Fox, you know cause anyone who can get into the playoffs with a QB who can't actually throw the football did quite the awesome job too.....but then again Harbaugh found a way to turn Alex Smith into David Garrard (in his prime I mean) and did the NUMBER ONE job a coach needs to do....get it to BELIEVE IN ITSELF....only 10 turnovers all year (sick), 2nd in defensive points allowed and EVERYONE carried their load on this team....pretty good recipe to be 14-2 ain't it? The only thing left is to ask....can they keep it going for 3 more weeks?
NFL Defensive Player of the Year:
NaVorro Bowman (MLB: 49ers)
WHO?!?!!?!? I know I know...this name is OUT there....but with no one big really having an awesome year on defense (Jared Allen had cute sack numbers but that team couldn't beat Rutgers in a scrimmage....let DeMarcus Ware dominate a 4th quarter once before I get on his nuts.... Charles Woodson was eh, and Bowman filled in big when Patrick Willis went down in San Fran too)...only 2 sacks I know....143 tackles, 8 passes defended and he anchored a defense that only allowed 14.3 points a game in a season of football where you score 24 points and throw for 300 yards by accident....and before you bitch about this pick....do some stat hunting your damn self....this was almost a year I'd like to not give it to ANYONE quite honestly.....
NFL Offensive Player of the Year:
Drew Brees (QB: NO)
Well this is obvious.....Dan Marino waves hi at you.....the only guys who were close to this for me were Calvin Johnson, and Matt Forte who got hurt....342 yards a game, 46 TDs and only 14 picks (and 4 of them were in one game).....the numbers are just insane....and a damnation of the death of organized defense as a workable plan in the NFL as well....but this isn't the place to take away from what Brees did (since he does have #1 and #4 on the all time passing yards in a season list)
NFL Disappointment of the Year:
The Tampa Bay Bucs
Yeah we all didn't think they were 10-6 good like they were last year....but man did they take the Owen Hart stage dive into the top turnbuckle....Losers of TEN in a row....a stat so bad you need to go back to the paper bag wearing gay pirate with the knife in his mouth Bucs to see THAT bad an effort....Josh Freeman was BRUTAL (and still amazing threw for 3,500 yards....see about stats being poofed?)...17 points for 30.8 points allowed....you name it and the Bucs fraked it up this year and then some....no one comes close to this FAIL...though the Vikings and Rams did try hard to FAIL this big also.....though another pretty big fail was David Garrard getting hurt working out when EVERY team in the world was desperate for a mediocre caretaker QB when guys went down left right and sideways....
Aaron Rodgers (QB: Green Bay)
I don't know which one I stressed more over this year, this one of the Defensive Player of the Year....yes Brady, Rodgers, Brees and Stafford all took the NFL Record Book and threw them out the window, but doesn't that make it LESS special that each of these guys did it? Damn you for getting hurt Matt Forte you might have been my savior and to make it even WORSE, when A-Rod sat....MATT FLYNN comes in and breaks half the Packer single-game records too?!?!?!? Jesus, how do you validate these out of control stats?!?!!? *groan*, do you look at what Brees did? Or A-Rod with his 15-1 (well technically 14...but you get the point)....those kinda seasons are rare too....that Brady guy did his thing too, and any other year when you throw for Five Beans like Stafford did he'd be in the conversation....or even that Eli guy with zero running game and half a defense....and with defensive players being in the sh!t this year...NO WAY can I pick one....how about a kicker?? I guess I'll just cop out and take the man behind the wheel of the league's best machine......why not, it's one more middle finger to Brett Favre right?