Friday, January 2, 2009
8 In the Box- NFC
1. The playoffs won't be as fun as they've been the last two years. Usually, we all have the given of seeing Tony Romo and the Cowboys fall flat on their faces in their opening playoff game to look forward to, but this year we will have to content ourselves with watching Donovan McNabb point in the opposite direction his receiver ran everytime he throws an incompletion.
Due to an unlikely set of results in the early games, the Cowboys/Eagles game turned into a virtual playoff game, where the winner got in and the loser was done. Get your popcorn ready, no? Well, yes, but not for the reasons we all expected. It was memorable, but only because of the truly spectacular meltdown the Cowboys treated us to, turning the ball over 5 times and losing 44-6.
So what went wrong with the Cowboys this year, particulary in a horrific 1-3 December? Two things. One, Marion Barber was hurt down the stretch, and for all the hoo ha over Tony Romo and TO and Jason Witten and der dee der dee der, Barber is the most valuable member of that offense. Without him, the onus of generating offense fell directly on Romo, and as Patrick would say, he tripped over his giant clown shoes. The Cowboys finished the year ranked 21st in the league in rushing offense, and that's bad. The other thing is the turnovers. Oh, the turnovers. They turned it over 5 times in this game, and only ONE team turned it over more this year than the Cowboys did. Turnovers are a symptom of mental laziness and lack of discipline, and oh yeah, that fits the Cowboys.
2. So the Eagles are in the playoffs, but it not only took the win over Dallas to get them there, it took 2 NFC "contenders" to lose to teams that had nothing to play for. And, my God, one of those teams was the RAIDERS. If you go into the day saying to yourself, "Well, not only do I need to win today, but I need the Raiders to win on the road, or else my season is over." , ninety nine times out of 100 it's not going to be a very good day for you.
But here we are. The Raiders did indeed go to Tampa and completed the once 9-3 Bucs 0 for December Golden Sombrero. Michael Bush became the latest running back to do a High School Muscial number all over the Tampa 2, rushing for 177 yards and 2 TDs as the Raiders won 31-24.
3. While the Bucs were first in line to get that last wildcard spot, the fact that they failed to get it meant the Bears had the next crack at it. Now, the Bears were justifiably more focused on what the Vikings were doing at home against the Giants' JV, because of course, there was no way the Bucs were going to lose at home to the Raiders, so the only realistic way they could expect to get in was with a win over Houston and a Vikings loss, which would make them NFC North champs.
Imagine the kick in the nuts like sensation they must have felt as the final seconds of a 31-24 defeat ticked away in Houston, knowing that the Bucs were in fact going to lose to the Raiders, and had they beat the Texans, all they would need would be a Philly win over Dallas, which also happened, to sneak in the back door as a wildcard. So, woulda coulda shoulda for the Bears, but in reality, when you have a suspect secondary like the Bears do, and a pass rush that can only generate pressure when they're bringing the blitz, you're gonna have a long day against a team that has Andre Johnson. Andre 2000 (Yards, someday, maybe) had 10 catches for 148 and 2 TD, and was the reason the Bears lost.
4. The Cowboys, Bucs, and Bears, all have reason to feel shame. However, they can all take solace in the fact that they are not the Detroit Lions. The Lions pulled off the difficult feat (really difficult given the general crappiness of the NFL this year) of losing 16 games and winning 0. In case you've been hanging out in a cabin in Wyoming with the Unabomber and Thomas Pynchon for the last month, no other team has done that before. Now the Lions have. They fired Rod Marinelli the next day, and the Bears can't wait to make him their new defensive coordinator or assistant head coach or something, because he's BFF with Lovie Smith. That should work out great. Meanwhile, when you think of the 2008 Lions, think of this play, note how the announcer enthusiastically says "He was forced out of the end zone by an ONCHARGING JARED ALLEN!" uhhh..more like, he ran out of the end zone because he forgot where he was on the field, or thought he was in Canada or something:
5. Carolina and Atlanta knew they were both in the playoffs heading into Week 17, but both had an opportunity to earn themselves a week off and an NFC Divisional Playoff game at home, rather than having to go on the road for a Wildcard game next week, and that's a big deal. The Panthers had the inside track, having to win in New Orleans to nail it down.
It looked for a second like the Panthers might be doing the old chokeroo like a lot of other NFC teams were when Drew Brees hit Lance Moore for 2 TD passes in a little over 2 minutes to bring the Saints ahead 31-30 with 3 minutes left after trailing 30-17 with 5 1/2 minutes left. But with the Saints defense, no lead is safe, especially not a 1 point one. The Panthers drove down the field and Jon Kasay kicked the game winner as time expired to give the Cats the 33-31 lead and the NFC South title. Had he missed, the Falcons, who came back to beat the Rams while this was going on, would have won the division. DeAngelo Williams continues to go bonkers, rushing for 174 yards in this one.
Drew Brees came up 16 yards short of breaking Dan Marino's single season passing yardage record...causing this music to play over the loudspeakers when time expired:
6. Given that it's Coach Firing Season, here's a status update on the 16 NFC Head Masters:
Tom Coughlin- Will be the Giants coach until he retires, or his face freezes
Andy Reid- Congrats Eagle fans, your reward for making the playoffs is another 3 years of Andy Reid, enjoy.
Wade Phillips- I've seen people just convicted of pedophilia look happier than this guy:
Jim Zorn- Will be fired as soon as Dan Snyder decides whether to pay Bill Cowher a gazillion dollars or merely a bajillion dollars.
Brad Childress- Congratulations Vikings fans, you get to keep Brad Childress because you made the playoffs. Yaaaay.
Lovie Smith- Fans in Chicago for the most part don't like Lovie. I think the tipping point came when he fired defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who as an 85 Bear was very popular with the fans, after the Super Bowl season, and replaced him with his buddy Bob Babich. The defense has gone south since, and Rivera has taken over and turned around the Chargers defense. The Bears are an unlikable team and it starts with having an unlikable coach. I will be happy when he's not the Bears coach any more, but that won't be until 2010 at the soonest.
Mike McCarthy- He won't survive another 6-10 season, so the Pack better be better next year.
Rod Marinelli- He gone.
Ken Whisenhunt- If he wins a playoff game with Arizona he should get a 10 year extension. If he wins 2 they should have him stuffed and made coach for eternity.
Mike Singletary- Pants or no pants, he just got an extension and did a good job this year.
Jim Mora Jr.- I like to think of him as the "Michael Vick Enabler". Wants to be one of the players, but he's not a player, he's a coach, and not a good one. Get ready Seahawk fans, because when Vick gets out of the joint I'll give you 3 guesses where he ends up if Mora is still the coach.
Jim Haslett- The players have been lobbying management to keep him after a 2-14 season. If a player came in and lobbied me for anything after going 2-14 I'd be like, "Yeah lobby this, he's gone and so are you."
7. Atlanta and Arizona kick off the 2008 playoffs on Saturday afternoon in Glendale, AZ. The game isn't sold out yet either, so if it's not sold out, there will be no broadcast of the game in Arizona, or at least in the Phoenix area. Apparently there are either not a lot of Cardinal fans, not a lot of Cardinal fans that can afford a ticket, or the Cardinal fans are not inspired by string of spectacular beatings the Cardinals took the last month and a half of the season.
The only real weakness the Falcons have is that they suck stopping the run, ranking 28th in yards per rushing attempt against. As we all know, the Cards are completely and eternally inept at running the ball, so they won't be able to take advantage of that. I don't see any reason why the Falcons won't have a southwestern fiesta and knock the Cardinals around like the pinatas of the league they have been recently.
8. On the opposite end of the weekend playoff docket, Philly and Minnesota close out the weekend at the Metrodome. I almost have to disqualify myself from making a pick on this game just because of my sheer distaste for all things McNabb, but I'll try and take a stab at it.
The Eagles 4-1 run that has gotten them into the playoffs is predicated on them being able to run the ball. In fact, it seems whether they win or lose is entirely dependent on whether they can run it or not. They are 5-0 when they run for over 130 yards as a team, and 4-6-1 when they don't. The Vikings have given up over 130 rushing yards twice in 16 games this year. So chances are 7 out of 8 the Eagles aren't going to run for over 130, and they are a below average team when they don't do that. So, they probably won't be able to run effectively, and they'll probably lose. I pick the Vikings.
8+1. So let's see what Whatifsports.com's sim engine tells us will happen this weekend in the NFC, I'll run 5 sims of each game
Falcons at Cardinals
Sim #1- Falcons win 28-23 after falling behind 20-0 in the second quarter! Michael Turner runs it in from a yard out with a minute left to give the Falcons the win.
Sim #2- Turner rolls over the Cards for 155 yards on 24 carries. Matt Ryan throws 3 TDs, 2 to Michael Jenkins. The undead Edgerrin James runs for 124 yards on 10 carries. Falcons win 37-23.
Sim #3- Roddy White catches a 13 yard pass from Ryan in the waning moments to give the Falcons a 31-28 win. Edge again runs for over 100 yards. I told you the Falcons suck at stopping the run.
Sim #4- JJ Arrington breaks a 34 yard TD run with a little over a minute left and the Cards win 41-34. 132 rushing yards for Turner and 120 recieving yards for Larry Fitzgerald.
Sim #5- Larry Fitzgerald catches 3 TDs and the Cardinals win 28-17. Ryan has a horrid 13 of 34 day.
So the Falcons win 3 out of 5, backing up my pick.
Eagles at Vikings
Sim #1- The Vikings build a 19-0 lead and hang on for a 19-14 win. A defensive struggle as nobody runs for over 100 yards or throws for over 200 yards.
Sim #2- Tarvaris Jackson has a horrible 7 of 17 day and is benched for Gus Frerotte, to no avail. The Eagles win 20-0.
Sim #3- A treasure for field goal aficionados, the Eagles win 9-6.
Sim #4- Adrian Peterson opens the scoring with a 52 yard TD run, and the Vikings get a whole bunch of Ryan Longwell field goals after. Jackson throws for only 58 yards but the Vikings win 19-14.
Sim #5- Vikings win 9-0.
The Vikings win 3 out of 5 here, and every game is a taffy pull. So I guess if you like defense, this game is for you.
Posted by GRRM Jr. at 7:08 AM