After one of the most entertaining games in Super Bowl history, the Baltimore Ravens emerged victorious, knocking off the San Francisco 49ers by a final score of 34-31. Despite a valiant comeback effort by Colin Kaepernick, the Niners’ rally fell short, after an excellent goal-line stand by Baltimore ensured the victory.
With the Super Bowl – and the NFL season – behind us, let’s take a look at some of the things we learned from football’s biggest night.
1. No one can talk smack about Joe Flacco anymore.
Before the playoffs started, I had been beating the “Flacco is mediocre” drum as much as anyone, but he’s shut me and everyone else up with his excellent performance in the postseason. The guy had 11 touchdowns, and no picks. What more do you want? He also had countless deep throws, and while Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones made great efforts to track down those passes, the ball has to get there, and Flacco delivered it on the money more often than not. There’s going to be a lot of needless debate about whether he’s an “elite” quarterback, but frankly it doesn’t matter. He’s a champion, and he was a bigger part of why the Ravens won the Super Bowl than anyone else. Of course he was pretty confident going into this season, which leads me to…
Hit the jump for the rest of John’s piece…Columns | Tagged Baltimore Ravens, Chris Culliver, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl | Leave a comment
It’s been a long wait, but the Super Bowl is finally on the horizon, and with two brothers coaching against one another no less. Jim and John Harbaugh, buy cialis online the head coaches of San Francisco and Baltimore, respectively, are the first siblings to go head to head in the title game, which this columnist foresaw this preseason. Let’s take a look at how these teams’ seasons played out to get the chance to hold the Lombardi Trophy.
After a 9-2 start, the Ravens, who played the majority of the season without team leader Ray Lewis, lost four of their last five games to back into the playoffs. However, Baltimore did enough during that initial stretch to claim the No. 4 seed as the AFC North division champion, and therefore, a home playoff game. In Lewis’ emotional return, the Ravens downed Indianapolis 24-9. They then beat No. 1-seeded Denver 38-35 in double overtime before earning a Super Bowl birth with a 28-13 win over New England in the AFC Championship game.
The 49ers had a similar opening stretch, going 8-2-1 in the first 11 games. They finished 11-4-1, won the NFC West and grabbed the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. San Francisco went through a major transformation in Week 10, when Colin Kaepernick stepped in for a concussed Alex Smith at quarterback. That game against the rams turned into a 24-24 tie, but the Niners have gone 7-2 since, including the playoffs, and have wound up in the Super Bowl. San Francisco essentially dominated Green Bay 45-31 in the divisional round before coming back from 17-0 to claim the 28-24 win over Atlanta in the NFC Championship game.
Not only is this a matchup of brother vs. brother, the Super Bowl will feature two teams that pride themselves on defense and feature excellent rushing attacks in Baltimore’s Ray Rice and SF’s Frank Gore. The major difference between these two squads is at the quarterback position. Joe Flacco tends to sit in the pocket while Kaepernick is elusive and can outrun nearly any defender. However, both have strong arms and clearly can carry their respective teams.
Although defenses win championships, it will be the team that has the better day on the ground will ultimately win this game. Running quarterbacks tend to help with the rushing attack, which favors the Niners. Plus, the Ravens tend to get a bit pass happy, and when Rice doesn’t touch the ball, Baltimore is more likely to struggle. I’d say San Francisco also has a slight advantage in defensive play, and therefore, it will be Jim, not John, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
San Francisco 27, Baltimore 23
Court’s 2012-13 picks to date: 178-87-1Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
In the past few weeks, the excellent performance of Joe Flacco in the playoffs has drastically altered how we view the Ravens quarterback. Whereas he has previously been seen as a game manager-type who you could trust to not screw up a good situation, but not too much else, he now looks like one of the more reliable QBs in the game. His string of deep throws, and lack of mistakes are a huge part of why the Ravens will be playing in the Super Bowl next Sunday. Any thought that the Ravens might let their QB leave in free agency has been firmly extinguished. He will be a big part of the Ravens organization for the forseeable future.
Here’s the thing, though; that would have happened no matter what the Ravens’ playoff fate had been. Even if they had fallen to the Colts in Round 1 (as I mistakenly believed), Flacco still would’ve been resigned by the Ravens in the offseason. Why? Because life without a decent quarterback is hard. Just ask anyone who follows the Browns, Bills, or Raiders. None of those teams have made the playoffs in the past decade, and the lack of a decent signal caller is the biggest reason for it. If you have a quarterback that can make a few big plays, and take a solid team to the playoffs, you should probably hang on to them, even if they aren’t the same level as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (both of whom ended up losing to the Ravens anyway).
Consider the Ravens fate if they were to let Flacco leave. Would they go with backup Tyrod Taylor, who was pretty good at Virginia Tech? Maybe, but they have no way of knowing how that situation would turn out. Third stringer Dennis Dixon probably wouldn’t be the best option in the world, based on how he played in Pittsburgh back in 2010. Maybe either one of those guys could keep the Ravens afloat, but it hardly would’ve been a risk worth taking.
Hit the jump for the rest of John’s piece…Columns, Free Agency | Tagged Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco | Leave a comment
This weekend features two NFL dream teams facing one another in an attempt to simply help pass the time before the Super Bowl. Although it lacks the excitement of playoff football, or even that of the regular season, the Pro Bowl is designed to be a high-scoring affair with numerous highlight plays. Although the AFC earns an advantage on defense, the Pro Bowl is made to be an offensive spectacle, which favors the NFC.
* – denotes starter
AFC – *Peyton Manning (Denver), Matt Schaub (Houston), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis).
NFC – *Drew Brees (New Orleans), Eli Manning (New York Giants), Russell Wilson (Seattle).
Advantage – NFC. While Peyton was an MVP candidate this year, Brees and Eli have are among the league’s elite quarterbacks. Had Tom Brady not bowed out of this year’s game, the AFC would have much more of an argument.
AFC – *Arian Foster (Houston), Jamaal Charles (Kansas City), C.J. Spiller (Buffalo).
NFC – *Adrian Peterson (Minnesota), Marshawn Lynch (Seattle), Doug Martin (Tampa Bay).
Advantage – NFC. Although Charles and Spiller are dynamic and Foster is likely the AFC’s top running back, no one currently compares with Peterson. Plus, Martin showed he is capable of 250-yard, five-touchdown games and Lynch is called “Beast Mode” for a reason.
AFC – *Marcel Reece (Oakland).
NFC – *Jerome Felton (Minnesota).
Advantage – AFC. Reece was arguably Oakland’s best play-maker this year and showed he has great hands out of the backfield. Felton has possibly the easiest job in the league: blocking for Adrian Peterson, who doesn’t seem to even need an offensive line at times.
AFC – *A.J. Green (Cincinnati), *Andre Johnson (Houston), Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis), Demaryius Thomas (Denver).
NFC – *Julio Jones (Atlanta), *Victor Cruz (New York Giants), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona), Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay).
Advantage – AFC. For the majority of the year, Green was playing as the league’s best receiver not named Calvin Johnson, and when he is paired with the ever-dominant Andre Johnson, Wayne and the up-and-coming Thomas, the AFC can do no wrong throwing to that quartet. All four NFC receivers are always big-play threats as well, but each of the AFC’s showed at some point that they could single-handidly take over a game.
AFC – *Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati), Owen Daniels (Houston).
NFC – *Jason Witten (Dallas), Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota).
Advantage – NFC. Witten is among the NFL’s elite tight ends and Rudolph is quickly becoming a part of that group. Gresham has outstanding athleticism and Daniels is as reliable as anyone in the league, but the NFC’s duo trumps that of the AFC due to their ability to be game-changers.
AFC – *Joe Thomas (Cleveland), *Duane Brown (Houston), Andrew Wadsworth (Cincinnati).
NFC – *Russell Okung (Seattle), *Trent Williams (Washington), Jermon Bushrod (New Orleans).
Advantage – AFC. Although Denver’s Ryan Clady had to back out due to a shoulder injury, the Thomas-Brown combination is nearly as good as it gets.
AFC – *Wade Smith (Houston), *Zane Beadles (Denver), Richie Incognito (Miami).
NFC – *Jahri Evans (New Orleans), *Chris Snee (New York Giants), Josh Sitton (Green Bay).
Advantage – NFC. Evans and Snee are simply two of the league’s best at their position.
AFC – *Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh), Chris Meyers (Houston).
NFC – *Max Unger (Seattle), Jeff Saturday (Green Bay).
Advantage – AFC. Pouncey is arguably the NFL’s top center and Chris Meyers isn’t far behind. Unger proved he was elite this year, but Saturday was under-impressive this season.
AFC – *J.J. Watt (Houston), *Cameron Wake (Miami), Elvis Dumervil (Denver).
NFC – *Jason Pierre-Paul (New York Giants), *Julius Peppers (Chicago), Jared Allen (Minnesota).
Advantage – NFC. This one was a close call. Watt’s season was the best of any D-end in the last 10 years, but the combination of JPP, Peppers and Allen is simply scary. Wake and Dumervil are outstanding, but not enough to trump the NFL’s trio of dominant linemen.
AFC – *Geno Atkins (Cincinnati), *Randy Starks (Miami), Kyle Williams (Buffalo).
NFC – *Henry Melton (Chicago), *Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay), Ndamukong Suh (Detroit).
Advantage – AFC. Atkins’ season was simply dominant. No other D-tackle had that kind of year.
AFC – *Tamba Hali (Kansas City), *Robert Mathis (Indianapolis), Justin Houston (Kansas City).
NFC – *Chad Greenway (Minnesota), *Ryan Kerrigan (Washington), Anthony Spencer (Dallas).
Advantage – AFC. Top vote-getter Von Miller, along with DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews and Aldon Smith (Super Bowl participant), are all out of this game. What would have been arguably the most talented position at the Pro Bowl is now one of the most disappointing.
AFC – *Jerod Mayo (New England), Derrick Thomas (Kansas City).
NFC – *London Fletcher (Washington), Daryl Washington (Arizona).
Advantage – AFC. Although Mayo is the starter, Thomas is among the league’s best. Fletcher has been a consummate professional and has had an outstanding career, but he and Washington are simply not as talented as Mayo and Thomas.
AFC – *Champ Bailey (Denver), *Jonathan Joseph (Houston), Antonio Cromartie (New York Jets).
NFC – *Charles Tillman (Chicago), *Tim Jennings (Chicago), Patrick Peterson (Arizona).
Advantage – AFC. Although Tillman and Jennings were dominant early in the season, and Peterson is a game-changer (aided by punt
and kick returns), Bailey, Joseph and Cromartie were consistently among the best at shutting down the opposition’s top receivers throughout the season.
AFC – *Jairus Byrd (Buffal0).
NFC – *Earl Thomas (Seattle), Thomas DeCloud (Atlanta).
Advantage – NFC. Thomas was simply in a league of his own this year at safety.
AFC – *Eric cialis online Berry (Kansas City), LaRon Landry (New York Jets).
NFC – *William Moore (Atlanta).
Advantage – AFC. Berry has developed into one of the best safeties in the game, and while Moore had a good season, Berry made the last-place Chiefs competitive in a lot of games.
AFC – Dustin Colquitt (Kansas City).
NFC – Thomas Morstead (New Orleans).
Advantage – NFC. Morstead was second in the league with a 50.1 yards per punt average, 0.1 yards fewer than Miami’s Brandon Fields.
AFC – Phil Dawson (Cleveland).
NFC – Blair Walsh (Minnesota).
Advantage – NFC. While Dawson went 7 for 7 from 50-plus yards, Walsh was a perfect 10 of 10 from such kicks.
AFC – Josh Cribbs (Cleveland).
NFC – Leon Washington (Seattle).
Advantage – NFC. Cribbs was able to take it to the house on any given Sunday a few years ago, but Washington has nearly won games due to giving his team excellent field position.
AFC – Matthew Slater (New England).
NFC – Lorenzo Alexander (Seattle).
Advantage – Even.
AFC – John Dennehy (Miami).
NFC – Don Muhlbach (Detroit).
Advantage – Even.Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
San Francisco (12-4-1) at Atlanta (14-3)
The 49ers downed Green Bay 45-31 last weekend. Colin Kaepernick torched the Packers for 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception through the air while racking up 181 yards and two more scores on the ground. The Falcons used a 49-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with eight seconds left to narrowly escape with a 30-28 victory over Seattle. Matt Ryan threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, but was picked off twice.
Will Atlanta continue its storybook season that includes eight wins by 7 points or less? Or will the fabled Niners defense show up and shut down the only remaining No. 1 seed? I’m going with the latter.
49ers 31, Falcons 23
Baltimore (12-6) at New England (13-4)
The Ravens upset Denver 38-35 in double overtime. Joe Flacco finished with 331 yards, aided by touchdowns
of 32- and 70-yards to end both halves, and three total scores. The Patriots beat Houston 41-28. Tom Brady completed 25 of 40 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
Although my preseason prediction was a Harbaugh-bowl between Baltimore and San Francisco, New England will likely delay that possibility for yet another year.
Patriots 34, Ravens 27
Last week: 2-2
Court’s 2012-13 picks to
date: 177-86-1Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
Baltimore (11-6) at Denver (13-3)
Ray Lewis’ return clearly pumped up the Ravens’ defense as Baltimore downed Indianapolis 24-9. Lewis led the team with 13 tackles and the D did not allow the Colts to score a touchdown in three red zone attempts. Anquan Boldin rediscovered his dominant ways by hauling in five receptions for 145 yards and an 18-yard score in the fourth quarter. Joe Flacco was an efficient 12 of 23 passing for 282 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Ravens ran for 171 yards between Bernard Pierce (103) and Ray Rice (68).
The Broncos are coming off a first-round bye they earned by winning 11 straight games to close out 2012, posting a 38-3 thrashing of Kansas City in their regular season finale. Denver finished as the only team to rank in the top-5 in both offense (4) and defense (2). The Broncos were also the only team to be top-5 in both scoring offense (2) and scoring defense (4). Peyton Manning put up his second-best statistical season of his career – 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 68.6 percent completions while posting a 105.8 passer rating – to finish with the league’s best QBR at 84.1. Von Miller played out a season worthy of Defensive Player of the year by racking up a franchise-best 18.5 sacks to go along with 68 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and an interception he returned for a touchdown.
It’s a rematch of Week 15, when Denver cruised to a 34-17 road. Sure, Baltimore was without Lewis and was far less than healthy, but Manning, Miller and Co. will be extremely tough to beat in Mile High.
Broncos 31, Ravens 20
Green Bay (12-5) at San Francisco (11-4-1)
Not often is allowing 99 yards to a running back considered a successful day, but the Packers will gladly take that against Adrian Peterson, the player that ran for 210 and 199 yards in the two previous encounters this season. Green Bay went on to defeat Minnesota 24-10 behind Aaron Rodgers’ 274 yards and touchdown on 23 of 33 passing. The Packers’ defense forced three turnovers, including two fumble recoveries.
The 49ers enjoyed a first-round bye. San Francisco went through a major change during the regular season by replacing Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. Kaepernick took over for Smith in that famed 24-24 tie with St. Louis after Smith went down with a concussion. The second-year pro out of Nevada went on to start the final seven games and finished with 1,814 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 415 yards and five scores. Frank Gore posted his sixth 1,000-yard season with 1,214 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Niners was the breakout season of Michael Crabtree, who finished with career-highs in catches (85), yards (1,105) and touchdowns (9).
Another rematch from the regular season, San Francisco opened the season with a 30-22 victory over the Packers in Week 1. Both teams are healthy, but it’s a different quarterback battle. If the Niners’ defense plays the way it’s built to play (strong pass rush paired with a stingy run defense), Green Bay could see a divisional-round exit for the second-straight year.
49ers 24, Packers 20
Seattle (12-5) at Atlanta (13-3)
The Seahawks came away as the only road team to win on Wild Card Weekend by defeating Washington 24-14. After going down 14-0 in the first quarter, Seattle began playing the defense it rode to five straight wins to close the regular season by forcing two turnovers and holding the Redskins to just 69 yards after the first two scoring drives (134 combined yards). Marshawn Lynch was his typical beastly self, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Russell Wilson added another 67 yards on the ground to go along with his 187 yards and score through the air.
Atlanta clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed in Week 16 before falling 22-17 to Tampa Bay in the regular season finale. Matt Ryan had a career year with 4,719 yards, 32 touchdowns and 14 interceptions to post a 99.1 passer rating. The two-headed receiving monster that is Roddy White and Julio Jones finished with impressive stat lines, to say the least. Where White led the team in receptions (92) and yards (1,351), Jones led in touchdowns (10). White finished with seven scores while Jones had 79 catches for 1,198 yards.
Atlanta has shown signs of excellence as well as mediocrity this season. It will be difficult for Seattle to travel to Georgia a week after its stay in D.C., but the ‘Hawks have the defense to shut down the Dirty Birds, as well as Lynch, who’s going up against a defense that allowed 123.2 yards rushing per game.
Seahawks 27, Falcons 24
Houston (13-4) at New England (12-4)
The Texans held on for a 19-13 win over Cincinnati last week. Arian Foster put up 140 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries as Houston held the ball for over 38 minutes. The Texans outgained Cincy 420-198, but scored just one touchdown in four red zone opportunities. Matt Schaub was efficient from a completions standpoint, going 29 for 38 for 262 yards, but was unable to find the end zone and was picked off once.
The Patriots and Texans both went 12-4 in the regular season, but New England earned its first-round bye by defeating Houston 42-14 in Week 13. Tom Brady threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns with eight interceptions on the season. His 98.7 passer rating was the fourth-highest of his career and his 77.1 QBR was second to only Peyton Manning. One surprise was the emergence of Stevan Ridley, who ran for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ridley is just the Pats’ second 1,000-yard rusher since 2004, when Corey Dillon put up 1,635 yards.
Although an NFL game is never guaranteed, this is as close to a guarantee there is.
Patriots 37, Texans 23
Last week: 4-0
Court’s 2012-13 picks
Cincinnati (10-6) at Houston (12-4)
After their 23-17 win over Baltimore, the Bengals closed out the regular season having won three straight and seven of their last eight overall. Although it finished tied with Baltimore atop the AFC North standings, Cincy dropped to the No. 6 seed due to its inferior division record (3-3) when compared to the Ravens’ (4-2). Despite coming down with only one touchdown catch over the final six games, AJ Green finished with 97 receptions for 1,350 yards and 11 scores.
Houston is doing what no team want to do: back into the playoffs. The Texans dropped their third game in four weeks by losing to Indianapolis 28-16. Houston entered the week as the AFC’s No. 1 seed, but due to Denver (13-3) and New England (12-4, holds head-to-head tie-breaker) both winning in Week 17, the Texans are now No. 3. Arian Foster closed out his Pro Bowl season with 1,424 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns on 351 carries.
This game features one of the league’s hottest teams against one of its coldest, but Houston gets the nod due to its superior rushing attack with Foster paired with its aerial strike capability with Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels.
Texans 23, Bengals 16
Minnesota (10-6) at Green Bay (11-5)
The Vikings beat these very Packers 37-34 a week ago, and lost 23-14 to them in Week 13. Minnesota’s 4-2 NFC North record trumped that of Chicago (10-6), giving the Vikes the sixth and final playoff seed in the NFC. Adrian Peterson needed 208 rushing yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season mark of 2,105, but came up nine yards shy, going for 199 and a score on 34 touches. Peterson finished his 2012 campaign with 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Pack dropped out of the No. 2 seed due to its loss last week, but claimed the NFC North and the 3-seed in the playoffs, which pitted them against Minnesota for a third time in a five-week span. Aaron Rodgers finished atop the league in passer rating (108) and was second in touchdown passes (39) with 4,295 yards and eight interceptions on a 67.2 completion percentage.
The home team has won each of the two previous games, which should hold true this time around. However, if Peterson, who went off for 210 yards in that Week 13 matchup, continues to dominate, this one could end poorly for the Pack. I’m sticking with Green Bay despite its troubles with “All Day.”
Packers 34, Vikings 24
Indianapolis (11-5) at Baltimore (10-6)
The Colts won nine of their final 11 games, including their 28-16 win over division-rival Houston last week, en route to the AFC’s No. 5 seed. Andrew Luck proved to be worth the top pick back in April’s draft as he led a 2-14 team from a year ago to the postseason. Luck finished with 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions (tied for the second-most in the NFL). He also took in five scores with his legs.
Baltimore’s season went from a promising 9-2 start to a woeful 1-4 finish, including a 23-17 loss to Cincinnati in Week 17, but still managed to win the AFC North due to its superior division record over the Bengals. However, the Ravens’ poor finish led them to the No. 4 seed, meaning they were the lowest of division winners in the AFC. Ray Rice, easily the best offensive player on Baltimore’s roster, ran for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns on 257 carries, nearly 100 fewer than the two leaders – Arian Foster (351) and Adrian Peterson (348).
It would be easy to take the hotter team, but Ray Lewis’ return should spark the Ravens’ defense. Playoff football is much different than regular season play and Baltimore’s experience should show against the much younger Indianapolis squad.
Ravens 24, Colts 19
Seattle (11-5) at Washington (10-6)
The Seahawks closed out the season with a 20-13 victory over St. Louis, their seventh win in eight games, to claim the NFC’s No. 5 seed. Had San Francisco lost, Seattle would have been enjoying a first-round bye as the 2-seed. However, one of the league’s hottest teams could benefit from playing rather than sitting. Marshawn Lynch definitely went into “Beast Mode” over the second half of the season, topping the 100-yard rushing mark six times and finding the end zone eight times over the final eight weeks, finishing with 1,590 yards, good for third in the NFL, and 11 touchdowns on the year.
After starting 3-6, the Redskins went on a seven-game winning streak to close out the season, including an NFC East-clinching 28-18 win over Dallas last week. Washington’s
win streak is second only to Denver’s 11 straight. Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick in April’s draft, finished as the
league’s third-highest rated passer (102.4) while throwing for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions on 65.6 percent completions. He also ran for 815 yards and seven scores.
It’s a matchup of two of the league’s hottest teams. Seattle has won five straight behind rookie third-round pick Russell Wilson, who not only finished just behind RG3 with a 100.0 passer rating while tying Peyton Manning with 26 touchdowns thrown as a rookie, but is also mobile (489 yards and four touchdowns). Washington has a powerful running back of its own in rookie Alfred Morris, who was second in the league in both rushing yards (1,613) and touchdowns (13). The difference here is defense, which gives the advantage to Seattle.
Seahawks 20, Redskins 13
Last week: 13-3
Court’s 2012-13 picks to date: 171-84-1Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
1. Peterson comes up 9 yards short
Adrian Peterson not only became the seventh player to rush for 2,000 or more yards in a season, the Vikings’ All-Pro running back put up the second-highest total in NFL history. His 2,097 yards is behind only Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 in 1984. Although a mere nine yards stood between Peterson and history, it is unlikely “All Day” is too upset having downed the Packers 37-34 to improve to 10-6 and earn a playoff birth. Peterson finished with 199 yards on 34 carries, including a 7-yard scoring run in the first quarter. AD also found the end zone on his only catch of the game – a 2-yard score that put Minnesota up 27-17 in the third.
2. Denver climbs to No. 1 seed in AFC thanks, in part, to Manning’s alma mater
The Broncos need to send a gift basket or something to Indianapolis. Back in 1983, when the Colts called Baltimore home, Denver acquired a quarterback by the name of John Elway via trade on draft day. That led to five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl championships through 1999, when Elway retired. Fast forward to 2012, and Indy has again given the Broncos title hopes. First, the Colts released their future Hall of Fame quarterback – Peyton Manning – who decided to sign with Elway and Co. in the Mile High City. Then, Indy opens the door for Denver to nab the AFC’s top seed by defeating Houston 28-16,
of which the Broncos took advantage by routing Kansas City 38-3. Not only does Manning play out his second-best season in his 15-year NFL career (statistically speaking), he leads Denver to 11 straight wins, a 13-3 record and homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. No. 18 finished with 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, a 68.6 completion percentage and a 105.8 passer rating – all were the second-highest totals in his career. Manning’s 11 interceptions were the third-fewest he’s thrown and his 84.1 Total QBR, which measure’s a quarterback’s effectiveness on a scale of 0-100, was No. 1 in the league with the second-highest mark (Tom Brady) being a full seven points lower (77.1).
3. New England grabs No. 2 spot
Houston’s loss was not only beneficial to Denver as the Patriots also took advantage of the Texans’ late-season collapse. New England held the tie-breaker over Houston due to its 42-14 trouncing of the Texans in Week 14. After Houston fell to Indy on Sunday, the Pats’ 28-0 win over Miami brought both teams to a 12-4 record, which gave New England the nod for the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. The Texans entered Week 17 as the top dogs in the AFC, but must now prepare for Cincinnati during Wild Card Weekend as the AFC’s 3-seed. The Patriots, on the other hand, now get to sit back, relax and enjoy a bye as they wait to see which team will come to Foxboro in two weeks.
4. Washington claims NFC East
The Redskins entered Week 17 as the leader in the quest for the NFC East crown, but they needed to defeat the rival Cowboys to do so. Robert Griffin III did not post great numbers – 9 of 18 for 100 yards and six rushes for 63 yards and a
touchdown – but he did just enough to lead Washington to a 28-18 win and its first NFC East title since 1999. Alfred Morris was the star, however, as he took 33 carries for 200 yards and three scores in the regular season finale. Morris finished with 1,613 yards on the season, second only to Adrian Peterson. His 13 total rushing touchdowns were second to Arian Foster’s 15.
5. Black Monday takes down seven coaches
Seven NFL teams have clearly had enough. The firings of Philadelphia’s Andy Reid (4-12 in 2012), Buffalo’s Chan Gailey (6-10), Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt (5-11), Cleveland’s Pat Shurmer (5-11), Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel (2-14) and San Diego’s Norv Turner (7-9) were all less than surprising, but seeing Lovie Smith ousted from Chicago is much more of a head-scratcher. Sure, Smith has made the playoffs only three times in his nine years at the helm, and only once in the last six seasons, but Smith led the Bears to a 10-6 record this year. Smith became the fourth coach to be fired after leading his team to double-digit victories, but was the only one who didn’t reach the playoffs as a result. Regardless, at least seven franchises will be searching for a new head coach in 2013.Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
It took until the last game of the regular season to determine the 12 teams that have a shot to become Super Bowl Champions.
But how are things looking for the teams that made it to the postseason?
With each of the 12, I gave a brief statement of what’s good, bad and ugly about the teams and if I think their chances of getting to the Super Bowl are low, moderate and high.
Here’s my breakdown.
The Good: Riding and 11-game win streak, which lead them to getting home-field advantage.
The Bad: Two of the three teams they lost to are also in the AFC playoffs.
The Ugly: They may meet the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Super Bowl Chances: High
New England Patriots
The Good: When the New England Patriots are in the postseason, everybody watches their back. Their running game has been a refreshing sight
The Bad: Despite them constantly making the playoffs, they haven’t won the Super Bowl since 2005 and lost in their last two appearances.
The Ugly: That pass defense of theirs is one of the worst in the league. But they overcome it with a great offense
Super Bowl Chances: High
The Good: They made the playoffs for the second-straight year.
The Bad: Lost a first-round bye and home-field advantage opportunity after losing their last two regular season games.
The Ugly: All four teams they lost to are in the playoffs, including the Super Bowl experienced New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. This may be a short playoff stay.
Super Bowl Chances: Low
The Good: They got in the playoffs in a mediocre division.
The Bad: They are plagued with injuries in defense and have not looked as threatening as they have been in the past.
The Ugly: They limped into the postseason, losing the last four of the five games.
Super Bowl Chances: Low
The Good: Coming back from a 2-14 season, the Colts finished with an 11-5 record led by Rookie of the Year favorite Andrew Luck
The Bad: They give up way too many yards on the ground and in the air.
The Ugly: The possibility of having to face the Denver Broncos in the Divisional playoff. Peyton Manning against his old team… awkward!
Super Bowl Chances: Low
The Good: Won seven of eight games in the second half of the season.
The Bad: Six of those seven teams are not in the postseason
The Ugly: Having to face a Houston Texans team on the road in a rematch of last year’s wild card. However, this time, Houston has a healthy starting quarterback.
Super Bowl Chances: Low
The Good: Finished the season clinching home-field advantage for the second time in three years.
The Bad: Most of the wins were squeakers against inferior teams and lost two of their last four.
The Ugly: They are 29th in rushing, 23rd against the pass and 21st against the run. Not exactly a team that says they are a threat. Also, the last time the Falcons had home-field advantage. They got crushed in the divisional playoff against the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Green Bay Packers.
Super Bowl Chances: Low
San Francisco 49ers
The Good: They have a first-round bye for the second year in a row. Plus they have the league’s best defense.
The Bad: You never know which version of this team is going to show up.
The Ugly: Could face the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional playoff and we all know how that turned out in the regular season.
Super Bowl Chances: Moderate
Green Bay Packers
The Good: They are in the postseason and receivers Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings are healthy again.
The Bad: Lost their shot at a first-round bye after losing to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Ugly: Have to face the Vikings again for the second week in a row and that running game of Green Bay, while improved, still needs work.
Super Bowl Chances: High
The Good: Have not lost a game, since their bye week when they were 3-6.
The Bad: Their pass defense is awful.
The Ugly: They have to face an explosively talented Seattle Seahawks team that’s given up the least amount of points per game, this season.
Super Bowl Chances: Low
The Good: Allowed a season best 15.3 points against the opposition and won seven of eight games in the second half of the season. And they never lost at home.
The Bad: The passing game could use a little help
The Ugly: The Seahawks will never play at home in the postseason unless it’s them against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship.
Super Bowl Chances: You ready for this?… High
The Good: Have you seen what Adrian Peterson can do?
The Bad: Have you seen what Christian Ponder can do?
Ugly: Even though the team beat the Green Bay Packers, Sunday. I don’t think they would like to face them again at Lambeau Field.
Super Bowl Chances: LowPosted in Columns | Leave a comment
For the second year in a row, the final game of the regular season involves two NFC East teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
For the second year in a row, that final game also involves the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas faltered against the New York Giants, 31-14 as the Giants not only went to the playoffs, they won the Super Bowl.
This time the Cowboys face the Washington Redskins. Both teams have played hot in the second half of the season. In the last seven games, Dallas is 5-2 and the Redskins have won their last six games.
While a playoff spot is on the line, one quarterback will have their backs to their walls to see who will handle the pressure.
For Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo, his legacy has been of someone who doesn’t step up when it matters most.
Romo is 1-5 in games when it is win or go home. But in the last seven games, he has thrown 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Win or lose, Romo will finish with his first winning December. But I’m sure he would rather win this game.
Missing from the last game against the Redskins, where they lost 38-31, was the running game of DeMarco Murray. He may not have Adrian Peterson numbers, but he has given Romo a much-needed break in focusing on the pass game.
Also making an impact is receiver Dez Bryant.
After a mere two touchdowns in the first half, Bryant has found the end zone in every game in the second half.
Last week, he finished with a career-high 224 yards in a loss against the New Orleans Saints.
While the offense has been looking great, the defense has had some issues. Ranked 21st against the pass and 17th against the run can mean good news for the Redskins offense.
So while Romo faces pressure on hoping he doesn’t fall apart in the final game, again, rookie Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III is hoping he doesn’t finally play like, well, a rookie.
With 26 total touchdowns and just five interceptions, Griffin has been one of the favorites in the Rookie of the Year race from the start of the season.
After recovering from what looked like a season-ending injury, Griffin recovered in a close win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Despite probably not being 100 percent. Griffin would love to top off an amazing season with Washington’s first trip to the postseason since 2006 when they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.
Helping out Griffin is the stellar running game provided by him and rookie running back Alfred Morris.
The top-ranked rushing attack averages 162.3 yards a game. Morris is ranked fourth in rushing yards with 1,413 and 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, Washington gives up major yardage ranked 30th against the pass. But against the run, the Redskins are excellent. Ranked fifth in that category, Washington will try to keep Dallas’ Murray from finding a hole.
The Cowboys are 4-3 away and Washington is 4-3 at home. It really is anybody’s game.
Will Griffin solidify his stellar performance with a win an advance the Redskins to the playoffs or can Romo prove to everybody that history doesn’t always repeat itself and take Dallas to the next level?Posted in Columns | Leave a comment