by NFL Gimpy
The NFL could not have scripted yesterday’s drama any better. Real life really does supersede fiction. It worked out from an entertainment standpoint yet was easy for the casual fan to understand. Everything became easy after the Bears won at 1pm. Vikings win, they’re in. Vikings lose, Bears are in. If the Bears lost it opened up numerous playoff scenarios that are too difficult to explain in a sentence or two. There was also a side card at the 4:25 slot for the #2 seed and bye week. If the Vikings beat the Packers and the 49ers don’t completely choke against the Cardinals, the 49ers get the bye over the Packers. This put all eyes on the Packers and Vikings and to say this game didn’t disappoint is like saying Victoria’s Secret models are easy on the eyes. Grossly understated.
Oh and there was one other thing that drew fans in: Adrian Peterson’s chase for 2,000 yards and Eric Dickerson’s single season record. Even if the game was boring, there was still a chance to witness history. You don’t often get to see someone break 28-year old NFL records. I remember watching Peyton Manning break Dan Marino’s touchdown record. I remember when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ home run record. When you get a chance to see history, you plop down in front of the TV and savor it.
If you’re reading this column, you know the result of the game. Adrian came up just 9 yards shy of the record but his last carry set up an easy game-winning FG to put the Vikings in the playoffs. The game went back and forth with numerous great plays and unfortunately for the Packers offense, they simply ran out of time. I said on Twitter that this game just felt like one that would have a dramatic finish and earn the label instant classic and boy was I right.
My wife laughed at me on Peterson’s last carry and I was screaming “go, go, c’mon you can do it!” followed by “HE WAS SO CLOSE!!!” afterwards. I did the math quickly when they had the ball on the Packers 48 and realized he needed to get inside the 5 to get the record. It was a dramatic finish, exciting from beginning to end, and what did it do?
Set up a rematch next week in Green Bay. Like I said, you can’t script this any better (unless you’re a Bears fan).
Wild Card Predictions
Seahawks @ Redskins
Rookie QB Matchup! I’ll talk more about the QBs later, so I want to take a second to compare the rest of the team because RG3 and Russell Wilson are so close in skill level right now it’s hard to say which one is better. Both offenses are capable of explosive plays and pounding the ball with a physical running game. The big difference is on defense. The Seahawks are #1 in the NFL in points allowed at only 15.3 points per game. Washington is 22nd at 24.3. That’s an entire touchdown per game. The only definite advantage the Redskins have is home field. If this were in Seattle, the Seahawks would be a mortal lock (8-0 at home this season). Still, I think the vastly superior Seahawks D proves to be the advantage and Russell Wilson and company win 24-13.
Bengals @ Texans
A rematch from last year. Last year, the Texans won with 3rd stringer TJ Yates at QB. A dominant defensive performance made it easy on Yates and the Texans won 31-10. This year, the Texans D is struggling as of late. They’ve given up 23+ points in 6 of their last 7 games and 28+ in 4 of those. The Bengals come into the game with a bunch of ugly wins. They barely beat the Steelers, needed an Eagles collapse after being down at halftime, and a close win against the hapless Chargers. The Texans may be struggling, but I think the pure talent advantage gives them the win, 27-17.
Colts @ Ravens
From worst to 5th seed in the playoffs, the Colts have had a crazy season. Leukemia ass-kicker Chuck Pagano faces off against his former squad who looks like they miss him on defense. The Ravens are not very good on defense and very inconsistent on offense. Like the Texans, they’re backing into the playoffs. They’ve won only 1 game in their last 5. The Colts have won 5 of their past 6. I don’t know if it’s an upset for an 11-win team to beat a 10-win team, but I think the Colts pull this off. They have a ton of positive momentum and the great feeling of getting Chuck Pagano back gives Andrew Luck and company all the incentive they need to advance and get slaughtered by the Patriots or Broncos. Colts win 21-17.
Vikings @ Packers
This is easily the hardest game to predict. I want to assume a Packers win based off of playoff experience, but I could see Adrian Peterson getting 200 yards and 3 TDs on the ground and lead them to victory as well (especially given that he had 400+ yards on the ground against the Packers this year). It’ll all come down to Christian Ponder. If he plays like he did yesterday I’m picking the Vikings. If he doesn’t, I’m picking the Packers. I’m going to say Ponder doesn’t have back to back good games and pick the Packers. Packers win 31-27.
Year of the Rookie QB
A quick changeup this week, I’m going to include overall season results.
Andrew Luck: 14/28 191 yards 2 touchdowns. 5 rushes for 1 yard and 1 sack for 7 yards. QB Rating of 96.0 and a win over division champion Texans. Overall: 339/627 (54.1%) 23 TDs 18 INTs. 62 rushes 255 yards 5 touchdowns and a playoff birth. Overall QB Rating of 76.5.
Robert Griffin III: 9/18 100 yards. 1 sack for 13 yards 6 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. QB Rating of 66.9 and a playoff clinching win. Overall: 258/393 (65.6%) 3,200 yards 20 touchdowns 5 interceptions. 120 rushes for 815 yards and 7 touchdowns and a division title. Overall QB Rating of 102.4.
Ryan Tannehill: 20/35 235 yards 1 interception. 7 sacks for 26 yards and a lost fumble. QB Rating of 65.8 and a loss. Overall: 282/484 (58.3%) 3,294 yards 12 touchdowns 13 interceptions. 49 rushes for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns. Overall QB Rating of 76.1.
Brandon Weeden: Injured, DNP Week 17. Overall: 297/517 (57.4%) 14 touchdowns 17 interceptions. 27 rushes for 111 yards. Overall QB Rating of 72.6.
Russell Wilson: 16/19 250 yards 1 touchdown. 6 sacks for 41 yards and 10 carries for 58 yards and 1 touchdown. QB Rating of 136.3 and a win. Overall: 252/393 (65.2%) 3,118 yards 26 touchdowns 10 interceptions. 94 rushes for 489 yards 4 touchdowns and a playoff birth. Overall QB Rating of 100.
Nick Foles: Injured, DNP Week 17. Overall: 161/265 (60.8%) 6 touchdowns 5 interceptions. 11 rushes for 42 yards and 1 touchdown. Overall QB Rating of 79.1.
The rookie QBs were a tale of two groups. Your franchise QBs and your Maybes. Luck, RG3, and Wilson all seem to be players you pencil in for the next decade and don’t even think twice about it. All three legitimately led their teams to the playoffs. Even more convincing is that the Colts and Redskins were two of the worst teams in the NFL in 2011. The turn around is quite remarkable. Between these three, numerous NFL rookie records were set or tied. Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s passing touchdown record. Luck broke his passing attempts record.
Then there’s the Maybes, Tannehill, Weeden, and Foles. Each one has shown he’s capable of playing in the NFL. None of them have looked like Blaine Gabbert. It’s easy to see even if they aren’t starting QBs, they’re still good backups. If I’m an NFL GM and one of these guys is my backup headed into 2013, I’m comfortable. The problem is that all 3 may be starters in 2013 and if they’re going to start in 2014, they need to improve in key areas.
Tannehill needs to be more of a playmaker. He put up OK stats, but very rarely wowed you. He never had more than 2 touchdowns in a game and would disappear for long stretches. It’s not crazy to see him as a game manager type QB in 2013 but you don’t spend 1st round picks on game managers. Some weapons at WR would be a tremendous help. Greg Jennings, who played under Dolphins HC Joe Philbin in Green Bay, would be a welcome addition across from Brian Hartline. Jennings definitely wants out of Green Bay and I doubt they’ll pay him anyways if he wanted to stay.
Weeden needs to cut the turnovers down. Weeden led all rookies with 17 interceptions and had 6 multi-interception games. They were 1-5 in those 6 games, 4-5 in games with 1 or fewer. The Browns drafted the now 29-year old Weeden hoping his maturity would lead to fewer turnovers than his rookie counterparts. It didn’t. A new regime is coming in Cleveland so Weeden may be out of a job anyways and this could be moot. A new coach and GM may mean a completely new direction.
Foles is tough to evaluate since he played with so many backups. A majority of his time was with 4 backups on the OL, no DeSean Jackson or LeSean McCoy, and a lame duck coaching staff. The one glaring area in Foles’ game that’s missing is the deep ball. With 2 speedy WRs who get open deep, Foles needs to hit them. It’s not a coincidence that possession WR Jason Avant thrived under Foles. Foles is good at short and intermediate stuff where Avant is at his best. If Foles is going to start beyond 2013 (assuming the new coaching staff wants him to) he’ll need to be able to complete passes beyond 15-20 yards. If not, he’ll be relegated to career backup.
Brock Osweiler of the Broncos made his first appearance of the season, but it’s not worth analyzing 4 pass attempts. However, his appearance means 8 teams have had a rookie QB see the field. That’s 1/4th of the league. Pretty crazy number. Keep in mind that Osweiler was drafted before Wilson and Foles.
Back to the winners, Luck, RG3, and Wilson. Luck has drawn a very beatable Ravens team in the Wild Card while RG3 and Wilson face off. It’ll be the second year in a row rookie QBs face off in the playoffs (Dalton and the Bengals vs. TJ Yates and the Texans, who ironically play again, albeit with Schaub at QB for the Texans). The good news is we’re guaranteed a rookie wins a playoff game. I think Luck could pull off a victory over the Ravens and their vastly diminished defense.
I’ll do a season ending column where I give out my superlatives, but for this week, I’m giving the MAQB Rookie of the Week award to RG3. Why RG3 over Wilson, who had vastly superior stats? RG3 has a bad knee yet made the plays to win and get in the playoffs. The numbers aren’t pretty, but you just knew RG3 was not going to lose that game. Must win games are won by great QBs and RG3 was a great QB yesterday.
-As I edit, coaches and GMs are getting fired. Rumors are flying. If I put in every person who got fired as I went, I would never finish this column. Time permitting, I’ll do a column next week other than MAQB going over everything after the dust settles. I do analysis, not news. The last story I broke involved Tommy, Matt, and a missing bag of Funyons. It was the neighbor’s dog who snuck in and stole it, by the way. Thankfully we figured it out before Tommy started throwing empty PBRs at everyone.
-I will say this about Black Monday. Top organizations let their coaches leave with class and praise. Bad ones make it ugly. Take a look at the places where you hear a lot of grumblings on the way out. Those are the places where the next coach might fail too. The places where the coach is upset but humbled, that’s where the next guy might have a good chance.
-Boy did the Texans back into the playoffs. 3 losses in their last 4 games, defense struggling, Schaub struggling, and they managed to not only lose home field advantage but a first round bye as well. The Broncos and Patriots are flying high and it’s tough to imagine anyone beats them in the Divisional Round. It’s looking like Peyton vs. Brady for the AFC. You can’t plan this any better.
-Jaguars and Titans was a game to see who could suck more. The Titans didn’t win that game. The Jaguars simply lost better. After the first drive of the game, the Titans offense scored a whopping 3 points. They got 28 points from Darius Reynaud on punt returns and 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns from rookie Zach Brown. I said a few weeks ago the Titans were the worst 4-6 team I have ever seen. Even 6-10 seems high for them.
-I’ve seen Mark Sanchez is guaranteed somewhere between $8 and $8.75 million in 2013. What an awful situation for whoever their new GM is to inherit. You also have the Tebow problem. Greg McElroy is most likely not an NFL starter. You have to trade one of the most popular players in the NFL, waste a decent portion of your cap on the least popular, and try to rid the locker room of several overpaid cancers. It’s still better than the Raiders situation though.
-The Bears missed the playoffs because somehow they went 3-5 after a 7-1 start. Want to know why? They beat one playoff team in their first 8 games. When they played 6 playoff teams in a row (49ers, Texans, Vikings x2, Seahawks, Packers) they went 1-5. This means they went 2-6 against playoff teams and 8-0 against everyone else.
-Congrats to the New Orleans Saints for having the statistically worst defense (in terms of yards allowed) in NFL history. They lost their last game 44-38 and gave up 273 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground. There are teams who go a month without allowing 273 rushing yards. There are teams who don’t allow 5 rushing touchdowns all season.
-It’s going to be very hard for Mike Vick to get a starting job in 2013. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s unemployed at the start of the season. Athletic QBs who don’t make plays with their feet and make a ton of mistakes aren’t worth anything in the NFL.
-Congrats to Pitt grad Henry Hynoski for his first career NFL touchdown followed by a much more memorable Rhinoceros touchdown dance. I will never forget his high school scouting report. An opposing coach said Hynoski runs “like he’s mad at the grass.” Sadly, in this pass heavy league run blocking FBs are a dying breed.
-I was really impressed with Browns QB Thaddeus Lewis on Sunday. He got the ball to receivers in open space. Unfortunately 3 lost fumbles by his teammates made life tough on him. Lewis showed enough that he deserves a real audition for 3rd QB somewhere.
-Tony Romo. 3 interceptions in a must win game. The last one, which cost them the game, was just awful. He got baited into the throw, threw it off of his back foot with pressure in his face, and put too much air under it because of that. It was 1st and 10 with 3+ minutes to go, down by only 3. You have to be smarter than that. Take the sack or try to use your athleticism to make the guy miss. Heck, maybe you’ll draw a penalty if he hits your helmet. Right, Jason Hatcher?
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