Thursday, December 19, 2013

Week 15 Recap & Week 16 Preview: NFL Playoff Gifts Under the X-Mas Tree

Twas the week before Christmas and All Through the NFL
Not a player was chirping, not even Rex Ryan's big mouth!

The footballs were thrown deep into the air
hoping that Tony Romo wasn't throwing them into someone else's care...

Yes, week 15 is in the books, and, boy what a week it was. A week that literary changed the landscape of the NFL playoff picture, giving us now two weeks to determine a number of slots in the playoffs. Week 16 figures to be a heck a week, and many teams will be gunning for that last second christmas gift ... err ... victory to put under the Christmas tree.

1) Justin Tucker Kicks Ravens Into Playoffs, Lions Out of Playoffs: It was the kick heard round the world on Monday night when Justin Tucker nailed a 61-yard field goal to put the Ravens in control of the number 6 seed in the AFC wild card, and put the Lions on deaths door.

Two thoughts: A) What a collapse by the Lions. This was a team that had a great shot at winning the NFC North with a win vs. the Ravens but they totally blew it. Matt Stafford came up small with a couple of key fourth quarter interceptions that cost the team, and now they are likely done. The only way the Lions can win the division is IF they win out and hope that Chicago beats Green Bay in Week 17.

B) The Ravens are starting to flex their muscles. They are playing their best football at the right time, and can still win the AFC North, believe it or not, by winning out.

2) The Bengals and Patriots Implode with Opportunity to Clinch in their Face: Both the Bengals and Patriots were given a great opportunity to not only clinch their divisions, but climb into a potential bye week scenario in the playoffs. First, New England. If the Pats had found a way to beat Miami, they would have jumped ahead of Denver for the number one seed. Instead Tom Brady couldn't lead the Pats to victory, falling to the Dolphins in the final seconds. Miami, by the way has a great shot at making it to the playoffs.

The Patriots caught a huge break however, because, the Bengals lost to Pittsburgh. If the Bengals had won Sunday they would have leapfrogged the Pats for the number two seed. Oh well, Cincinnati decided not to show up. Now they have got to win out just to win the North, and fend off the Ravens. The Patriots, meanwhile, can still clinch the East with a win, or a Dolphins loss.

3) The Broncos are no bet as a Super Bowl favorite: There is something wrong with the Denver Broncos. In a season dominated by the incomparable Peyton Manning, who is about to shatter the single season touchdown record, among others, he can't do it all on his own. He needs help, especially on the defensive side. Defensively the Broncos are one of the worst defenses in football; ranked 23rd in total defense and 28th in pass defense.

If Denver is going to make a serious playoff push to the Super Bowl they have to play better team football. Last week, they got exposed against the San Diego Chargers, who held the football for nearly 40 minutes. The Broncos also come across as a team that can get punched in the mouth fairly easily; another bad sign. If it weren't for Manning's heroics turning major deficits into blowout victories this year, the Broncos would be in big trouble.

Watch out for a Denver upset in January if things don't improve.

4) Tony Romo Punched Jason Garrett's Ticket Out of Dallas: For all the great statistics that Tony Romo puts up, he has never been clutch when it counts. His two fourth quarter interceptions doomed the Dallas Cowboys in their inexplicable 37-36 loss to Green Bay last week. Lost in all the Romo hoopla was the fact that Dallas blew a 23-point lead, just to Romo's big turnover.

There was so much that went wrong for Dallas, one would need a book to describe it all. Basically, Dallas got ultra conservative in the second half. Even with Green Bay creeping back into it, the Cowboys didn't do much to stem the tide that they eventually got swallowed in.

Romo was careless. He was told the run the football with Dallas holding a slim 36-31 lead, and decided, instead, to audible to a pass play and proceeds to throw an interception. Green Bay soon scored the winning touchdown.

Romo's picks will ultimately cost Jason Garrett his job. Fair or not, Garrett is not getting paid as much as Romo, and the coach always takes the fall. That is IF Dallas doesn't find a way to win out and sneak into the playoffs with a division title.

Jason Garrett, Cowboys: RED HOT: Garret needs to win out and get the Cowboys a division title, or he will be looking for a new position. You know it's a tough business when one loss can mean everything, but that is the tightrope the Cowboys walk on a weekly basis.

Jim Schwartz, Lions: HOT: Schwartz had a chance to lead the Lions to a division title in a year where Jay Cutler missed five weeks for Chicago, and Aaron Rodgers was lost for the season in Green Bay. Instead his team has slipped in recent weeks, including blowing their playoff chances in a 18-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at home. Now the Lions have to get serious help just to get in with the division title. If Detroit fails to make it to the postseason, it could be curtains for Schwartz.

Rex Ryan, Jets: HOT: Word out of Jet-land is that Rex might stay, but his future is really 50/50. There is mounting evidence that Rex should be fired, evidence that I have documented pretty well on this site, but Jets owner Woody Johnson was said to be happy with the teams progress a couple weeks back. If Woody gives Rex another mulligan, it would only delay the inevitable for another year and set the franchise back another season. Unless the Jets get embarrassed in the the next two weeks, Johnson is still free to change his mind. Keep in mind Rex has won only 12 games in the last two years combined, and has no quarterback to speak of.

Leslie Fraizer, Vikings: HOT: Even though Minnesota has played pretty well of late, change is coming.

Mike Munchak, Titans: HOT: The Titans need a new face, and need one that can put the franchise back on the map. Munchak was a hall of fame player, but as a coach ... eh...

Mike Shanahan, Redskins: ULTRA BOIL: Shanahan is going to get fired -- or so we think. The spat between RGIII and Shanahan has been one of the most bizarre episodes we have seen in a long time. Shanahan clearly despises Griffin so much that he is willing to stir up a lame QB controversy with Kirk Cousins. Problem is owner Dan Snyder might be forced to keep Shanahan because of the $7 million he owes him for 2014. This is a huge mess that won't rectify itself very quickly.

Tom Coughlin, Giants: WARM: It has been my long held belief that Coughlin is not going anywhere. If the Giants make any moves to the coaching staff, it will be offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell that get the boot. Coughlin has done too much good to be fired now. However, the end is near. Coughlin is 68 years old and pushing 70. The Giants need to come up with a strategy for the end of the Tom Coughlin era appropriately.

Greg Schiano, Buccaneers: WARM: The Bucs have played well in recent weeks, even winning four of their last six. But a 4-12 finish is still a disappointment, and it is hard to forget how the Bucs got to this point. Question is: Does anyone want to take this job? If not, than the Glazers might have to stick with Schiano for one more year.

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