Some final thoughts on Wild-Card Weekend, a ranking of the remaining teams, and initial thoughts on the divisional round match-ups —
- If you would have told me I would pick 3 of the 4 games right for the past weekend and the one I got wrong would be Seattle/New Orleans, I would have never believed you. Who could have seen that coming? Seattle grabbed the momentum and took advantage of a terrific game by Matt Hassleback. The funny thing now is that Seattle has already won in Chicago this year and has a decent shot at doing it again this weekend. Could you imagine the Seahawks actually hosting the NFC Championship Game as a 9-9 team?
- It was a great weekend of games, outside of the complete dud laid by the Cheifs at home. Baltimore was the superior team but Kansas City could have put up more of a fight. How do you not target Dwayne Bowe once? It isn’t like the Ravens have Darrelle Revis out there.
- The Packers are peeking at the right time, which is incredibly impressive considering all the injuries they sustained. It felt like Mike Vick was taking Philly in for a touchdown on that final drive but a few inches underthrown and a great play by Tramon Williams ended it.
Divisional Weekend Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots – They are the unquestioned favorite. Let’s see if the Jets can make Belichick and Brady look human again, like they did way way back in week 2.
2. Atlanta Falcons – Would anybody be surprised if Green Bay went into Atlanta and won this weekend? The Falcons don’t have the same clout as most number one seeds normally do.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Let’s see how their offensive line holds up in round III vs. the Ravens.
4. Baltimore Ravens – You can’t love football and not be beyond excited for Ravens/Steelers this weekend.
5. Green Bay Packers – The Packers have the feel of a team who is hot at the right time and with enough talent to win it all.
6. Chicago Bears – If Jay Cutler has his head on straight, the Bears should roll to the NFC Championship Game. However, I have a feeling Seahawks/Bears is going to be a tight one.
7. New York Jets – Nobody will give them a chance this weekend. Let’s see if they can shock the world.
8. Seattle Seahawks – Well they shut us up last weekend.
Initial Thoughts on Divisional Weekend
Ravens at Steelers – Tape the knuckles up and get ready for old-school, smashmouth, defensive football between a couple of teams who couldn’t know each other any better and couldn’t hate each other more. Take the under and look forward to one hell of a football game.
Packers at Falcons – Their regular season game a few weeks back was terrific and this one should be even better. A couple of great young quarterbacks and high powered offenses at work in the prime-time game.
Seahawks at Bears – I can’t help but have an early feeling Seattle is going to build off last week and take this game. This is coming from somebody who spent the entire year bashing the Seahawks as one of the five worst teams in the league. However, they did beat Chicago earlier in the year and I am not fully sold on the Bears yet. Remember the playoffs are about who is hot at the right time.
Jets at Patriots – Do I expect the Jets to win? No. Will I spend the whole week coming up with every possible way for them to win and talking myself into it happening? Yes.
Wild-Card Weekend Highlights
Is there anything better than a weekend of playoff football when your team is involved? The correct answer is absolutely not, so here is hoping that everybody beat the snow home and is ready for a great two days of football, without carrying on anymore here is a very special edition of the 12 pack for Jets/Colts, along with the rest of my weekend picks —
1. Mark Sanchez is going to throw for over 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns against an over-matched Colts secondary. More importantly, he will protect the football and won’t have a single turnover.
2. Peyton Manning is going to throw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Jets secondary. He will find the match-ups that he wants because he always does. However, Manning will throw an interception Saturday night to Antonio Cromartie.
3. Shonn Greene will have at least 18 carries and at least 90 yards to lead the Jets ground attack. LaDanian Tomlinson will have 10-12 carries and 3-5 receptions. Joe McKnight won’t be involved in the offensive game-plan.
4. The Colts won’t have a running back who finishes with more than 50 yards on the ground. However, they will make big contributions catching the football out of the backfield.
5. Jacob Tamme is going to have a big day against the Jets secondary, with at least 65 receiving yards and a touchdown.
6. Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards will both have at least 70 yards receiving. One of them will get into the end-zone on a big play of 30 yards or longer.
7. Reggie Wayne will have less than 50 yards receiving and won’t score a touchdown against Darrelle Revis. Pierre Garcon will beat Antonio Cromartie for one big play but beyond that will be relatively quiet.
8. Brad Smith is going to have one big kick return and break one big run on offense.
9. Robert Mathis will have a pair of sacks against Damien Woody as he struggles to return from his surgery.
10. Despite having a less reliable kicker, the Jets will outplay the Colts on special teams which will go a long to determining the outcome of this game.
11. The Jets will coach this game extremely aggressively, meaning they won’t hesitate to go for 4th and 1’s and potentially try a few trick plays. However, Rex Ryan being too aggressive on defense will burn them a few times for big plays.
12. The Jets are going win a close one that comes down to the final few minutes, 27-24.
NFL Wild-Card Weekend Picks
Jets (+3) vs. Indy
Saints (-11) vs. Seahawks – I don’t want to hear about the long trip, the crowd noise, or the injuries to their running backs, the Saints are a much, much better team than the 7-9 Seahawks who don’t belong anywhere near the playoffs.
Ravens (-4) vs. Chiefs – Kansas City will struggle to move the football and will have a difficult time stopping Ray Rice. The Ravens are simply a more experienced team, who is better prepared to win this type of game.
Packers (+3) vs. Eagles – I have been all about the Mike Vick show all year but I think he will struggle with Green Bay’s blitzing and the Packers offense will run up a bunch of points on an inconsistent Philadelphia defense.
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Finally, the NFL playoffs are here…here is how TOJ sees the 12 teams ranking heading into Wild-Card Weekend, along a few more thoughts on Jets/Colts and the other match-ups –
1. New England Patriots – The unquestioned favorite to win the Super Bowl, New England couldn’t be any hotter at the moment. I have to think the Patriots would love to see the Jets coming back into their building and will be hoping to avoid the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.
2. Atlanta Falcons – The other number one seed will have a tough road to reach the Super Bowl, likely starting with either New Orleans or Green Bay.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers – A much needed week off for them to rest injured players. You have to wonder if their offensive line can hold up for a Super Bowl run.
4. Chicago Bears – The least talked about team with a bye as a serious Super Bowl contender. However, Chicago will be tough to beat in their building if Jay Cutler is on his game and their pass rush remains active.
5. Baltimore Ravens – Ray Rice has picked it up over the last month and they will need him leading the way on offense, if they want to win the road games necessary to reach the Super Bowl.
6. New Orleans Saints – The defending champs won’t have their home field advantage from a year ago but are still a team nobody in the NFC wants to see coming into their building.
7. Philadelphia Eagles – Everybody is a little down on the Eagles from the previous few weeks but they are too explosive on offense to ignore as a very legitimate Super Bowl contender.
8. Green Bay Packers – They are playing well at the right time and are going to be a handful for any team they face. Yet, being so one dimensional on offense could haunt them this time of the year.
9. Indianapolis Colts – Nobody in the AFC South took advantage of a down year from the Colts who still found a way to 10 wins and a division title.
10. New York Jets – They actually are a lower seed than they were a year before despite having 2 more wins.
11. Kansas City Chiefs – All the makings of a one and done team.
12. Seattle Seahawks – 7-9, yuck.
New Orleans at Seattle – You could talk about the long trip New Orleans has to take and how loud Seattle’s crowd is all you want but at the end of the day, the Saints are a significantly better team in every way imaginable. It is honestly hard to see this game even being entertaining into the second half. However, this is the NFL and crazier things have happened than a 7-9 team potentially led by Charlie Whitehurst knocking off Drew Brees and the defending champs.
Jets at Indianapolis – It is nice to see the early overwhelming confidence of the football world in the Colts. The Jets fit better into the underdog role anyway. This match-up isn’t sitting as badly with me as it did a few weeks ago, especially after watching the Colts against the Titans yesterday. It would be a big step in Rex Ryan’s coaching career if he could knock off Peyton Manning in playoff game. I do know this, one and done is absolutely considered a failure for the Jets season with all the hype around the team.
Baltimore at Kansas City – I have a very tough time seeing the Chiefs being ready to knock off an experienced team like Ravens, despite being at home. It is too easy to picture Ray Rice having a big day and Baltimore’s defense rising to the occasion to limit Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe’s production.
Green Bay at Philadelphia – It is between this and Jets/Colts as the best game of the weekend. This should be a fun one, where there won’t be a shortage of points. I could really see this going either way, especially if Green Bay’s blitz gets after Mike Vick early and often.
It is hard to remember a year when so much of the seeding could be shakenup in the final two weeks, and I know there has never been a year when one division has been so putrid…
1. New England Patriots (12-2) – Bill Belichick won’t let them take the foot off the gas in the final two weeks, as they face the basement dwellers of the AFC East.
2. Atlanta Falcons (12-2) – A quiet 12-2. Let’s see how they handle New Orleans this Monday Night, but either way they have all but locked up home field advantage.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) – Players like Mike Vick and Desean Jackson mean the Eagles are never out of a game.
4. Baltimore Ravens (10-4) – Impressive win over the defending champs kept their NFC North title hopes alive.
5. Chicago Bears (10-4) – How many people picked them to win the NFC North?
6. New York Jets (10-4) – The best way to shoot up in the power rankings is by beating a quality opponent in their building. Can they do it two weeks in a row?
7. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4) – Their offense has been inconsistent and their defense isn’t anywhere near the same without Troy Polamalu in the line-up.
8. New Orleans Saints (10-4) – They can be happy with likely playing the NFC West winner in the first round of the playoffs.
9. New York Giants (9-5) – Went from a potential number two seed to playing for their playoff lives in Lambeau this Sunday.
10. San Diego Chargers (8-6) – They’ll win out, but will they get the help needed to win the AFC West?
11. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5) – The Chiefs should be able to handle business to become the surprise winners of the AFC West.
12. Green Bay Packers (8-6) – Do or die against the Giants at home this week.
13. Indianapolis Colts (8-6) – One of the weaker Colts teams in recent memory but they will still be hosting a home playoff game, unless something strange happens.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) – It was only a matter of time until the Colts caught them. Who wanted to watch Jacksonville host a playoff game anyway?
15. Tampa Bay Bucs (8-6) – Nothing for this young team to hang their head about, if they fall short of the playoffs this year.
16. Oakland Raiders (7-7) – The Colts will have their hands full with the Raiders in Oakland this Sunday.
17. Dallas Cowboys (5-9) – They have played very good football since Jason Garrett has taken over.
18. Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Another mediocre season for the Dolphins, who have some major questions to answer this off-season.
19. Tennessee Titans (6-8) – Took a few weeks too long to wake up out of their mid-season funk.
20. Houston Texans (5-9) – Are you really surprised the Texans were a “disappointment” this year?
21. St. Louis Rams (6-8) – The only team in the NFC West that I have a small amount of respect for.
22. Buffalo Bills (4-10) – Way too high? I don’t think so. They play with heart and remain competitive every single week.
I have to be honest…I can’t even rank beyond this point. It is just a pile of crap, that doesn’t deserve to be sorted through. It feels like the Seahawks lose by 30 every week and yet they could still host a playoff game. The 49ers are four games under .500 and could still host a playoff game. The Vikings have clearly quit. The Browns appear to have quit. The Bengals are a disaster. The Lions…well hey, they won a road game. The Cardinals and Panthers are unwatchably awful, and of course are both playing prime-time games this week.
TOJ’s Favorite Moments Of Week 15…
1. Shaun Ellis is going to play with a cast on his hand this weekend, that will hopefully allow him a little more grip with his fingers. Whether the Jets win or lose, he will get surgery after the AFC Championship game since the recovery time is only a week, he would have enough time to get ready for the Super Bowl. Beyond that, the Jets are 100 percent healthy heading into this week’s game. Rex Ryan didn’t say anything else too notable at his press conference today. He took a little extra time to single out praise for Jim Leonhard, who obviously came up huge yesterday.
2. Cowboys/Vikings – Big let down performance from Dallas. Was that really the best effort they could put forward? It was almost like the whole goal of their season was to get over their December woes and finally win one playoff game, then they forgot the season isn’t over when you finally accomplish those things. I also think Keith Brooking should get a tissue. It was a bush league move by the Vikings to throw for that last touchdown but you can’t show your emotion by running over and saying something to the sideline when your losing by 31 points. I really can’t stand Brett Favre but if the Jets win, I will be rooting like crazy for Minnesota because I want to take him down in the Super Bowl.
3. Cardinals/Saints – Big let down in this game and I am an idiot for picking Arizona. I forgot how good New Orleans could be, since I haven’t seen them win in a month. Yes, Reggie Bush also made me eat my words since he had a ridiculous touchdown run and a punt return for a touchdown to go with it. It is hard not to like the Saints this weekend, especially in that building, in front of those fans.
4. Ravens/Colts – A dull game that was over when Ed Reed’s two interceptions were negated, one by his own fumble and one by a penalty. Many people are pointing to this game saying the Colts will beat the Jets because they just beat a team who is just like them in Baltimore. However, I saw potential in this game. Indy only scored 20 points against a Ravens defense that isn’t as good as the Jets and is completely one dimensional on offense. Manning is Manning and their defense was impressive but the Jets have more weapons on offense than the Ravens and Sanchez has been better than the Flacco the past two weeks. The Colts are the best team in football, which is fine. You should have to beat the best team in football for a shot at the Super Bowl.
5. Norv Turner and Wade Phillips just got contract extensions today. Enjoy another few years without a Super Bowl, Dallas and San Diego.
6. It was nice to enjoy the Jets win yesterday and today but now it is time to shift the focus to Indy. Yesterday was a memorable win for the Jets franchise, since they haven’t won two playoff games in a season since 1982. However, I am not satisfied and I don’t believe this team or fanbase is either. I do believe this Jets team is good enough to win the Super Bowl .You don’t get a chance to play in the AFC Championship every year, so you have to take advantage when you are there. The Jets are the ugly stepchild of this Championship weekend. You have three teams with big name quarterbacks, big time passing games, and big time regular season records and then you have the Jets with their rookie quarterback, power rushing game, big time defense, and 9-7 regular season record. They have crashed the party and rightly believe they can keep shocking the world this Sunday.
They were joking around on the NFL Network today saying that the football Gods are smiling down on the Jets because they play the old-fashioned way. They win with defense and running and are the last link to old days of the NFL left in this 2009 season. With all those missed field goals and all the help they got in December, it does sort of seem like Lombardi, Halas, and company are looking down and smiling on the Green and White.
Let’s Get It Done
Happy Wild-Card Weekend everybody…let us all enjoy this holiday and most of all enjoy rooting for our Jets proving to the rest of the NFL that they belong in the playoffs.
1. Mark Sanchez…don’t turn the ball over.
2. Thomas Jones…keep doing what you been doing all year.
3. Darrelle Revis…show why you are the best defensive player in the league.
4. Kerry Rhodes…put a disappointing season behind you with a big playoff performance.
5. Braylon Edwards…catch the ball.
6. Rex Ryan…blitz, blitz, and blitz some more.
Get all those things done and we’ll be off to San Diego or Indy.
First off, Merry Christmas everybody. I am about to head off to the airport for 7 nights back in the old homeland where my forefathers likely rooted for the worst soccer team in the country and passed that tradition down to me as a Jets fan when my family came to America. If you never see this blog updated again, it is likely I pulled a Michael Corleone found my Apollonia and will be settling down as a simple grape farmer in the hills of Italy, with no concerns about rookie quarterbacks, graduate school, playoff scenarios, or student loans. However, in the more likely case I will return a week from today to write about Jets/Colts which I will be viewing on DVD and the upcoming Jets/Bengals game.
I don’t expect to be coming home for a meaningful week 17 game but I can keep up some bizarre hope the next 7 days. I will be rocking my brand new white Titans Darrelle Revis jersey as a final show of support on the plane today. What do I think will happen in week 16 while I am paddling down the canals of Venice?
1. I think the Jets will put a good fight but ultimately fall short to the Colts 27-17. I expect most of the Colts key players to play the bulk of the game and that should be enough for them to get a victory. The defense will play well but in the end Peyton Manning will be too much and Mark Sanchez won’t make enough plays for the Jets to get a victory.
2. I think the Miami Dolphins will beat the Houston Texans fairly easily and set themselves up to be playing for a playoff spot in week 17…yuck.
3. I think the Titans will knock off the Chargers tonight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
4. I think the Steelers will win a close one over the Ravens, muddling the AFC playoff picture even further.
5. I think New England will beat Jacksonville and wrap up the AFC East.
6. I think the Bengals will beat Kansas City and wrap up the AFC North.
7. I think Dallas will hold off Washington and the Giants will beat Carolina keeping the NFC race interesting for another week.
And with that…I’m off to Italy.
First a few updates:
1. I’m not going to get on Rex Ryan for thinking the Jets were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs after yesterday’s game. Who could figure out this AFC mess, where somehow the Jets still remain within reasonable distance of a playoff spot? I spent an hour today messing with that Yahoo playoff generator and it is scary how alive the Jets still are…of course all scenarios involve them winning football games, a difficult task for a team with a choke artist defense, a terrible quarterback, and no kicking game…well maybe that was harsh but I am still bitter from yesterday.
2. Here is some more bitterness…glad to see Chad Henne throw three picks and blow the game for Miami in OT…tired of seeing the Randy Moss “silence his critics and is still dominant” story angle, the guy had 5 catches for 70 yards against Buffalo…the Buffalo Bills who haven’t made the playoffs since I was in like 6th grade. There I got my shots in on all the AFC East teams.
3. The stats have been updated…20 interceptions…yes 20.
Grading Out Jets/Falcons Game…quick and sarcastic version
Quarterbacks (F) – Well at least he only threw 3 interceptions, not 4 like against New England or 5 like against Buffalo. Why not throw 3 picks against the worst secondary in football? Mark…there is safeties on a defense…they play over the top, they are the guys who keep stepping in and intercepting your passes. This isn’t a USC September game against Oregon State…oh wait, never mind you lost to them too.
Running Backs (C) – Tough day for Thomas Jones who gets a pass because he has been great all year…obviously the unsportsmanlike penalty is unacceptable. Shonn Greene was also quiet. You have a better chance of seeing Mark Sanchez making a Pro Bowl than seeing Danny Woodhead break a tackle.
Wide Receivers (B) – Great day from Braylon who is earning that new contract. Cotchery did his job as usual. Brad Smith is starting to play well on a weekly basis.
The Tight Ends are too irrelevant on this offense to be assigned a grade.
Offensive Line (D) – One of their worst games of the year…the penalty on Alan Faneca at the end of the game was a terrible call however.
Defensive Line (C) – Good job against the run but zero sacks….and zero snowballs thrown by Shaun Ellis.
Linebackers (C) – Nobody has talked more trash on a more average team than Bart Scott. Bryan Thomas has done his best Vernon Gholston impression most of the season.
Secondary (B) – Darrelle Revis is as good as it gets but if he has one thing to improve on, it is catching the football. Kerry Rhodes played his best game of the season.
Special Teams (F) – Kellen Clemens would a great holder/#3 quarterback in the USFL.
Coaching (F) – Do I need to explain?