For the second straight week, FMQB has turned into Saturday Morning Quarterback. Sorry for that, but had another weird holiday week. To make it up to readers, I have decided to “live tweet” (if you will, but not on Twitter) during both NFC matchups! Like me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/fmquarterback to see my thoughts live in action. I talk a big talk, here’s your chance to see if my strategies and predictions are actually true!
We’ve made it to the home stretch. 11 games remain before we find the ultimate champion. But before we talk about the beauty of the NFL playoffs, let’s take a look at an amazing Week 17 and how we got to where we are.
A Surprising Fight
Before Sunday, yours truly was wondering if NBC was regretting throwing in the Dallas vs Philly game before finding out that Tony Romo was out for the year. But I was pleasantly surprised at the fight the Cowboys put up. It was a back and forth affair, with Dallas scoring in the 4th and missing a 2 point conversion. But they got the ball back with time left, and I really thought Kyle Orton was going to pull it off. Of course he threw an interception on the first play which makes you feel bad for the guy, but very exciting game in the end. Cowboys need to figure out a way to make it over the hump, it’s been 3 straight years with a “Win and In” game the final game of the year, and they are 0-3 in those games.
Game of the Year
Nothing could compare though, to one of the more exciting games I’ve seen this year. Cold, snowy game, between division rivals, winner is in the playoffs. This is what football is all about! Rodgers had 2 early interceptions, both in the redzone. And even with the Bears going up early, the Packers were outplaying them in both yards and time of possession. Matt Forte ended up playing lights out for the Bears, and he yet he was overshadowed by Jordy Nelson who seemed to bail Rodgers out every chance he got. And then, we get to the final drive. Packers are down by 1 with 6 minutes left. They ate clock, and converted 2 fourth downs to get to the 48 yard line. Faced with a 3rd fourth down and needing 8 long yards to convert, Rodgers breaks away from a sure sack and throws deep downfield for a wide open Randall Cobb. Remember, FMQB has money on the Packers, and I was jumping up and down and screaming as Cobb ran into the endzone!
AFC all Watching:
In a unique scheduling glitch, 4 of the 5 AFC teams that had a shot at the playoffs played the noon game. This meant that many could watch the Chiefs vs. Chargers game and learn their fate that way. As it went, the Ravens and Dolphins couldn’t take care of business. So if the Chargers win they’re in, but if the Chargers lost, the Steelers would be in the playoffs. The Chiefs had their spot locked up, so they rested their starters. But Chase Daniel and backup company played a surprisingly good game, and actually had the Chargers down by 10 in the 4th quarter. The Chargers escaped defeat multiple times, including a 41 yard missed FG by the Chiefs (although a non-call made that controversial). Heartbreaking for Steelers fans who had to watch all of this.
What Happened Miami:
The Dolphins had an emotional roller coaster of a year. They started 3-0, lost 4 in a row, later had another 3 game win streak, all while dealing with a major locker room distraction. As it worked out, they could have won 1 of their final 2 games and made the playoffs. They even had an easy schedule to do it! Yet somehow lost to the Bills then the Jets to miss the playoffs. Miami is my team to watch next year (along with the Cardinals).
Happy Trails To You
On Sunday, we watched the greatest tight end of all time play his final game. He is 5th all time on receiving yards, 2nd all time in receptions, and this from a position that mainly focused on blocking until about 8 years ago. Wish the Falcons had put up a strong season for him to ride off into the sunset, but congrats on a great career…one other note from this game. If there is ever 1 play to describe why a talented team goes 4-12, it happened in the final drive of the game. Matt Ryan has a history of driving teams down to score with barely over a minute left, and was in the middle of doing it against the #2 defense in the league. All of a sudden, he’s audibling a play when his center snaps the ball past him 6 yards. They were about 20 yards away from FG range, but this completely killed their momentum and the game. Mistakes like these (and injuries, yes) killed the Falcons this season. You add this and the 4 games they failed to get into the endzone from within the 10, and you have a completely different outcome to their season.
For the Record:
The Rams had the most wins (7) for a team that came in last place in their division.
While the upper-echelon teams are dreaming of the Lombardi trophy, teams that missed the dance didn’t waste any time in starting their off-season. In fact, by noon on Monday, we had 5 additional coaches out (Texans fired Kubiak a few weeks ago) to give us 6 openings. Mike Shanahan was late to his own firing, due to media traffic there to cover his firing. And ESPN struggled to keep up, as they announced the Browns firing, and then the Vikings immediately after. Two others of note: Lions Jim Schwartz and Bucs’ Greg Schiano were also ousted. By Thursday, Lovie Smith was the new coach of the Buccaneers (nice job guys), and Bill O’Brien from Penn State hit the showers for Houston.
Stat of the Week:
The Packers were 6 for 10 on 4th down tries before their final drive on Sunday, when they went 3 for 3
Stat of the Week #2:
The Houston Texans started 2-0, lost 14 straight
Stat of the Week #3:
Nick Foles ended the season with the best TD-INT ratio of all time. He had 27 TD’s and only threw 2 INT’s
Stat of the Week #4:
The Chiefs started the season 9-0, and ended the season 2-5.
Stat of the Week #5:
The only team in the NFC North that wasn’t outscored was the Lions, who was 3rd in their division with a 7-9 record.
Stat of the Week #6:
Colin Kaepernick had more rushing yards in 2013 with 524, than he did in 2012 with 415. I know Kaepernick didn’t play the full season last year, but he has hardly been mentioned this year at all.
Cool Stat #7:
This is the 2nd time in NFL history, that 2 opposing quarterbacks attended the same high school. (Foles and Brees)
Reader Stat of the Week #8:
Since Bill Belichick was hired in 2000, there have been 111 different head coaches in the NFL- Chris Kuck
Stat of the Season:
I’ve been talking about it all year, but here is the final recap. Peyton Manning: 55 TDs (beat the record by 5, only 17 TD’s shy of the all time record now). 5477 yards beat Drew Brees’ record by 1 yard!!! In a moment of fright, official stats makers almost stripped Manning of the yardage record, when they reviewed a lateral pass which Decker took for 5 yards. Had they called this a backwards pass (thus a run), Manning would have missed out on that record, which he easily would have gotten had he not sat out the 2nd half. I know I beat this story to death, but it was truly fun to watch NFL history and see the greatest season a quarterback has ever had in the 94 year history.
Quote of the Week:
“What is your thought on Mike Shanahan?” Reporter
“I can’t talk, I need to hit up the Chik-Fil-A for breakfast” Alfred Morris
Quote of the Week #2:
“Playing in Frigid Philly, with a forecast of 25 degrees…” Sal Paolantonio of ESPN. With how cold it’s been in Minnesota, I would kill for a 25 degree day!
Wild Card Weekend
Chiefs at Colts:
A rematch of Week 16, which the Colts won. This time however, it’s back in Indianapolis. This game will depend on whatever Colts team decides to show up. But the Chiefs limped into the playoffs, winning 2 of their last 5. They also fell to the #6 overall defense in that time (down from #1). They did have a week to rest their players, which the Colts didn’t get that luxury. But, I still think the Colts take it, since they took the first one on the road. Colts 23 Chiefs 17
Saints at Eagles:
This is the only matchup this round that isn’t a repeat from the season. The story of this game is easily how the Saints perform on the road. New Orleans is one of 3 teams to go undefeated at home, but they went 3-5 on the road this year. (Would have been interesting if this game was in New Orleans with the Eagles road record vs. Saints home record). You win playoff games by 3 things. Defense, a running game, and mistake free football. Not that the Eagles have a defense, but the atrocious offensive line would let anybody after Drew Brees; advantage Eagles. Philly also has the #1 rusher in the league, while Pierre Thomas is out for the game; advantage Eagles. New Orleans ended up with the same amount of giveaways as takeaways, while the Eagles were +12 (helps that Foles only threw 2 picks all year); advantage Eagles. If the Eagles play their game, they should be able to calm the Saints explosive offense. Eagles 38 Saints 27
Chargers at Bengals:
I thought the Chiefs limped into the playoffs, but the Chargers barely made it in the first place. Yet, they have the ability to be explosive, with wins over the Chiefs twice and the Broncos. They ended the season on a 4 game win streak, and guess who their last loss was to? That’s right, the Bengals over a month ago. That was in San Diego, in a close 17-10 contest. I don’t see the Chargers doing any better in the Jungle: Bengals 31 Chargers 17
49ers at Packers:
The story of this game isn’t even about the teams, but the frigid cold weather. By the end of game time, forecast are showing it to be -4, with a wind chill of -28! What I didn’t realize is the famous Ice Bowl between Dallas and Green Bay was even colder, with an actual temperature of -13. I’ll admit this is a bit on the extreme side, but to me this is what football is all about. To me this game comes down to running backs and defense, as I don’t foresee the QB’s throwing too much. So it’s down to Frank Gore vs. Eddie Lacy. Lacy is slightly hurt with an ankle injury, but he has the youth over Gore so this is almost a wash. But I’m throwing out the unthinkable. There’s no way the Packers will let Colin Kaepernick torch them like they did last year right? Wrong. The Packer defense is worse than a sieve right now, it’s like trying to keep a mosquito out of your house with chicken wire as a screen. Jay Cutler wasn’t doing anything last week, but Matt Forte was torching them every play. I see Gore doing that, and in the 2nd quarter the Packers will focus so much on Gore that Kaep will explode too. As much as it pains me (and my wallet) to say, I think the 49ers are the sole road team to win this week. 49ers 20, Packers 13
Super Bowl Picks
Knowing me, it’s never too early to make predictions! And it’s never fun to say that both #1 teams will make it, no matter how likely it seems this year. Then again, most felt it was a given that we would see a Broncos vs. Falcons matchup last year. So here are 2 predictions on teams that could take Seattle and Denver down.
First Matchup: Eagles vs. Colts. Two 2nd year QB’s battling it out with surprising seasons would make for a great storyline.
Second Matchup: 49ers vs. Cincinnati. Rematch of the 2 1980s Super Bowl matchups.