First and foremost, Merry Christmas to everyone (except the New York Jets and Rex Ryan, way to blow it).
This column will be a tad different since I wasn’t able to just to sit on my couch and laptop for 12 hours straight and watch everything. I’ll use this as an opportunity to follow up a little on last week’s perspective column and even address fan questions and suggestions!!!
Last week’s column was all about perspective on a week to week basis. As I stated, trends are more important and one result. So, the Packers are still the Super Bowl favorites and Tebow still can’t win a game unless his defense plays a great game. Ok, so the Colts won a game that meant something to the Texans, but they’re still a bad team without Peyton.
I’ll start off with a player who really struggled in the middle part of season but has really turned it on for a playoff push: Matt Stafford. In a game where both teams needed a win for playoff contention, the Lions did not disappoint. We aren’t talking about the Chargers team from 4 weeks ago that had just lost their 6th game in a row. The Chargers had won 3 straight, including a thorough whooping of likely AFC North champs Baltimore. Rivers and the offense were clicking and the defense was allowing less than 12 points per game during that 3 game stretch.
Enter Matt Stafford. What does he do? 29/36 (80% wow) 373 yards and 3 touchdowns in a must win game. That’s a heck of an improvement from midseason where it seemed like he couldn’t do anything right and needed last minute comebacks on numerous occasions to simply salvage a win. Stafford dropped back and simply embarrassed a top 10 pass defense (allowing 211.6 yards per game including Stafford’s 373). After criticizing the Lions big time for their lack of discipline a few weeks back, they had 3 penalties for 8 yards on Saturday. I’m not even sure how they got 3 penalties for 8 yards, but needless to say they made sure they didn’t beat themselves.
A lot of people are wondering if the Detroit Lions are peaking at the right time. We’ll see in 2 weeks when they go on the road to New York, Dallas, San Francisco, or New Orleans. If the Lions only commit 3 penalties and 0 turnovers, you can safely say that whoever they play will not have an easy win.
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Last week my #1 fan (Jyot) asked me who I prefer: Kolb or Skelton? This question certainly would have been more interesting had Skelton not been awful on Saturday, but it still poses something worthy of consideration. The Cardinals invested a lot in Kevin Kolb this offseason: a 2nd round pick, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and a huge contract. They made him their QB going forward and the results this year have not been great. Let’s compare their stats this season.
Kolb: 253 attempts, 1955 yards, 57.7% completion, 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, 81.1 rating and 30 sacks.
Skelton: 235 attempts, 1642 yards, 54.9% completion, 10 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, 68.1 rating and 21 sacks.
When you compare the stats side by side, it really doesn’t even look close. Kolb has more yards, yards per attempt (7.7 to 7.0), better rating, touchdown: interception ratio, and QB rating. Skelton has an edge in sacks (21 to 30) and possibly the most important stats, wins and injuries. Kolb’s biggest issue right now is health.
The most successful QBs, offenses, and heck overall teams need reps. Kolb has not had the same luxury as Skelton with Skelton’s experience in the offense. Yes, Kolb has been in the NFL longer and has better pedigree (Skelton went to Fordham, 99% of fans couldn’t tell you where that is), but you can’t underestimate knowing an offense and practicing with it. Kolb had only a few weeks to learn this offense, hasn’t stayed healthy, and desperately needs reps with a WR corps that is average at best other than Fitzgerald. I don’t have the time to break down the running game, but if anyone wants to do it for me, go ahead. I would bet that it’s a heck of a lot better from week 9 on that it was their first 7 games.
* I still maintain that Baltimore is not a very good playoff team. I talked about the Lions peaking at the right time, the Ravens peaked at the wrong time. A very sluggish win to a poor Browns team does not inspire confidence.
* A great win for Buffalo over a playoff contender, but it’s too little too late. The silver lining is that CJ Spiller has looked like he’s worthy of his first round pick. 16 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown, 2 catches for 27 yards. Last week he had 12 carries for 91 yards, 9 catches for 76 yards to go along with 2 total touchdowns. That puts Spiller at 202 yards rushing, 103 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns the past 2 weeks. Those are great numbers against 2 very good defenses (Miami and Denver) and perhaps a sign that Spiller could have a breakout 3rd season like Darren McFadden did.
* I looked up “yungry” in the dictionary and it said “lame pun for a team that loses 9 straight.” Sorry Bucs fans, but this season has been pathetic and you pretty much have to put it on coaching. I don’t believe Blount is a starting RB (too inconsistent) and your defense needs some fine tuning to adjust for the youth. You simply have too much inexperience to go along with poor coaching. Your next coach is inheriting a good situation, but hopefully he brings in the discipline they need.
* The Bengals control their own destiny for the playoffs and I’m rooting for them. I love the makeup of this team and could easily make it to the AFC Championship game.
* It’s win and in for the Denver Tebows as well but the Orton-led Chiefs would love a little screw you that keeps Denver out of the playoffs. If the Broncos lose and the Raiders win, the Raiders win the AFC West, forming a possible Bengals-Raiders matchup. Carson Palmer versus the “garbage” team he refused to play for. I would love to watch the Bengals tee off on him until he waves the white flag.
* Miami, you’re so close.
* St. Louis? Not so much.
* Some internet hack said that Joe Webb deserves better than what Minnesota is giving him right now. The way he has played as of late is making sure Minnesota gives this writer some credit by giving Webb an opportunity. Maybe Ponder will be “hurt” next week and give Webb an opportunity against the Bears.
* A huge congratulations to former Eagles kicker David Akers on his record setting year. For those who didn’t see, Akers has made the most FGs in a season in NFL history (42). While this is a great accomplishment for Akers, Akers has only made 86% of his FGs, good for 12th in the NFL among kickers with at least 15 attempts. This record says a lot more about Alex Smith and the 49ers red zone offense than Akers.
Next week’s headline (inspired by MAQB fan Dan in Philly): New York Giants “tebow” the Cowboys after late game collapse by Tony Romo.
This headline obviously tells who I predict will win the NFC East. I’m thinking Romo has a great 3 quarters then blows it in the 4th quarter by throwing the ball directly to the Giants, Neil O’Donnell Super Bowl style.
Overpaid/Underpaid player of the week.
Overpaid: Mark Sanchez, QB New York Jets. Sanchez had 59 attempts for only 258 yards (less than 5 yards per attempt), 2 interceptions, and a lost fumble in a must win game for the Jets to make the playoffs. Eli Manning only completed 33% of his passes and outside of a busted 99 yard touchdown catch and run by the infamous Victor Cruz, 126 yards passing. How do you lose a game where the opposing QB, outside of one play, completes less than 1/3rd of his passes for less than 5 yards per attempt? Play like Mark Sanchez did on Saturday. Pathetic.
Underpaid: Dan Orlovsky, QB, Colts. Anyone who can win 2 in a row with this pathetic Colts team is underpaid. I don’t buy into the whole “Peyton Manning is MVP” crap but Orlovsky has shown that he should have been the starter over Painter the entire season. The Colts wouldn’t be 2-13 right now had he started all 16 games. Sure, they might only be 4-11, but that’s a heck of a lot more respectable.
Week 17 predictions
New Jersey Giants: 31
Tony Romo is excited to play golf next week Cowboys: 27
Romo chokes. Everyone laughs.
Kansas City: 20
Tebow leads a fantastic comeback only to come up short and watch his team miss the playoffs. NFL analysts blame Eric Decker for not being 6’9” after he fails to catch the game winning catch throw at the perfect height…if he were 6’9”.
The Chargers (minus Rivers) throw in the towel and let the Raiders walk into the playoffs. Rivers seen pouting and screaming on the sidelines as Norv Turner wonders if he’ll have a job next year, much less a head coaching one.
Bengals make the playoffs and set themselves up for the Palmer Bowl.