17 Things we learned from Week 17 | January 3, 2013
And then there were 12!
The 17 weeks of the NFL Regular Season seem to have flown by far too quickly, but we couldn’t have wished for a more engrossing end to the schedule. The Vikings and Packers produced a stunning matchup that ended up creating another Vikings-Packers match up, whilst the Redskins and Cowboys played out a nerve jangling “winner takes all” encounter in the capital. As it’s the end of the Regular Season, this week’s column is a mixture of Week 17, Wild Card predictions and End of Season awards….
1. Most Valuable Player
With all due respect to messrs Manning, Brady and Rodgers, it would be a travesty if Adrian Peterson doesn’t pick up the Most Valuable player award. Whilst Christian Ponder had an excellent game on Sunday, it’s hard to see the Vikes anywhere near the play offs without the contribution of AP. It was fitting that the key moment of Minnesota’s victory was provided by Peterson in the final minute. With the Vikings hovering around Field goal range, AP ripped off a 20+ yard run that showcased his remarkable power, agility and pace. It meant that the Vikings could run down the clock and allow Blair Walsh to cap his remarkable rookie season with a short game winning field goal. Peterson may have finished 9 yards short of the all time rushing record, but there must surely be a major award heading his way very soon.
2. The Vikings are no One Man Team
AP may be the best they have, but there are plenty of other key players in the Minnesota ranks. After a mid season slump, Christian Ponder produced the best display of his young career against the Packers, as he threw 3 TDs and made a number of key 3rd down completions. Then you’ve got a strong O line, that has helped Peterson gain the big yards, rookie Matt Kalil has been a great success and center John Sullivan has been one of the best in the league in his position. On the other side of the ball Jared Allen has continued his fine form of 2011, Antoine Winfield is a top level corner and the likes of Chad Greenway and Chris Cook have stepped up to the plate. Then there’s Walsh – 10 out of 10 from 50+ yards is record breaking stuff and could be a useful weapon if it’s a tight contest this week. I’d certainly rather have Walsh kicking for me then the misfiring Mason Crosby.
3. The Forgotten Rookie of the Year
Poor Alfred Morris has barely got a mention in the rookie of the year debate. He’s quietly put together a record breaking year for a Redskins running back and on Sunday he produced an “APesque” display as he led the Skins into the play offs. Morris churned out 200 yards and added 3 touchdowns as the Cowboys completely failed to work out how to stop him. The fake hand offs, real hand offs and generally trickery by Morris and RGIII left Dallas bemused. Morris’s 32 yard cut back run for his 2nd TD summed up the evening perfectly. A couple of blocks, a change of direction at the line of scrimmage, a quick burst of pace and a saunter to the EndZone. I somehow think Seattle will be less obliging.
4. Romo Does a Romo
Tony Romo is a good QB, but when the going gets tough he has an uncanny knack of staying exactly where he is. When the Cowboys needed a mistake free game, he provided 3 interceptions. The last of the 3 effectively sealed the game; he failed to spot a defender and looped a pass straight to him. After a decent run of form, this was the worst Romo display since Thanksgiving…against the Redskins. At 32, Romo won’t get many more chances of glory, and the odds are that this talented QB will never make it to a SuperBowl. It just goes to show that no matter how good you are, if you’re not “clutch” then you’re not going to go all the way.
5. Chuck can Coach!
Lost among all the adulation that Chuck Pagano has – quite rightly – been receiving lately, is that the Colts HC is a fantastic coach of a football game. In his first week back on the sidelines, Indy produced their finest display of the season as they convincingly beat the Texans in what was effectively a dead rubber for Pagano’s team. Andrew Luck produced one of the best displays of his excellent rookie season, whilst once again some unheralded players came up with big plays. Notably recent FA signing Deji Karim who returned a kick off for a TD that gave the Colts a lead they never relinquished. Whatever happens in the Post Season, this has been a stunning year for the Colts, but maybe the journey isn’t quite over yet…with a
6. Baltimore Back In
It’s not been a convincing few weeks for the Ravens, aside from an easy win over a poor Giants side, they’ve failed to convince many people that they are SuperBowl contenders. We shouldn’t read too much into their defeat in Cincinnati this week – the game had a very “Pre Season” vibe to it. Nonetheless, with an erratic QB and a D that ranks in the twenties, this doesn’t looks like a team capable of winning 4 in a row.
7. Sanchez Shouldn’t Be a Starter
It’s easy to say that Mark Sanchez has been a bust and was never any good, but people forget the 2 AFC Championship games he led the Jets to. Whilst he was never elite, he was a serviceable and occasionally excellent QB. However, he’s gone downhill faster than Vince Wilfork on a ski jump in recent times. His confidence is shot, his accuracy (never his strong suit) is woeful and his decision making is abysmal. In his defense, he has had to deal with a terrible collection of receivers, a poor O line and the Tebow circus. But fat contract or no fat contract, can the Jets really afford to go into 2013 with Sanchez behind center?
8. The Blackest of Mondays
Some were expected (Reid, Turner, Crennel), some were debatable (Lovie Smith certainly), but few people expected a whopping 7 coaches would be out of work the day after the Regular Season finished. Ken Whisenhunt paid the price for the Skelton-Lindley debacle, but will be in demand for one of the other vacancies. Andy Reid seems favourite for a reunion with Kevin Kolb. Lovie Smith will have his pick of jobs – San Diego looks a decent bet. As for messrs Shurmur, Gainley and Crennel? Expect to see them in the background along the sidelines next season as they land prestigious roles such as “long snapper coach” or “kick off co-ordinator”. It could be a long road back to HC for these 3 gentlemen.
And now it’s time for my wildly inaccurate Wild card Picks…
9. Bengals at Texans
The form book says Bengals, the overall record says Texans. This fixture occurred last season and the Bengals produced a poor display to go “one and done”. Cincy look a tougher prospect this time with the Dalton-Green combination and an awesome defensive front. Couple that with a faltering Houston D and an out of form Mat Schaub and you’ve got all the ingredients for an upset. So much so that I’m going to bit and go for the upset win for Cincinnati.
10. Vikings at Packers
Surely it can’t be as good as this week? Probably not, Lambeau is a tough prospect at the best of times, and January isn’t the best of times. Sunday’s defeat will have hurt Green Bay and expect them to come out strong this week. That may not be enough to stop Adrian Peterson, but it’s hard to see Christian Ponder playing so well again. I don’t envisage a high scoring encounter, but Green Bay look too strong and too experienced to slip up, unless it develops into a kicking battle I’m going for a Niners Packers showdown next week, although I have no idea who’d I pick for that one!
11. Colts at Ravens
The Colts are on a high, whilst the Ravens are in a bit of a funk. However, Andrew Luck is a different animal away from Lucas Oil. Ray Lewis’ potentially final game will be the biggest motivation for the Ravens and with another player who may be off in Ed Reed seeming to always come up with a big play in the Play Offs, and this could well be their moment. Joe Flacco was strong in the Play Offs last year, and I expect the Ravens experience to see them home by a couple.
12. Seahawks at Redskins
The most anticipated game of the season so far and a complete coin toss. The best D versus the most creative offence. The battle of the 2 rookie QB sensations. Morris v Lynch. Expect massive plays, big hits, lots of QB scampering and some very wide legged crouching form Pete Carroll. The coin comes down heads, so I’m going for the Redskins.
My final 5 “things” for the regular season are my awards for the season. Sadly no players were available to receive the awards, so I will consuming the 5 bottles of champagne myself!
13. Game of the Year – Packers 27 Colts 30
The birth of Chuckstrong was an emotional day, but regardless of that aspect of the game, this was a match-up for the ages. The Packers appeared to be cruising to a victory as they opened up a 21-3 HT lead over the inexperienced Colts. What followed, was nothing short of a miracle. Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne were unplayable and the Colts turned the game on it’s head. The final 3 minutes saw Luck drive the length of the Field – including 3 3rd and long completions – before finding Wayne for the game winning TD. There was still time for the Packers to get in Field Goal range, but Mason Crosby missed and the Colts celebrated. It was the perfect day at the end of a terrible week.
14. Sleeper of the Year – Alfred Morris
Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, Mr Morris was my preseason pick for “unlikely star of the season” on this very website. Although it’s fair to saw I didn’t expect Morris to break the Redskins rushing record and be a key part of the teams Division title run. Not bad for a 6th round pick with a Victorian name.
15. Flop of the Year – John Skelton
Lost among the debris of the Cardinals season, is that Skelton actually beat out Kevin Kolb for the week one starting job. I can’t imagine how bad Kolb must have been in Training Camp. Anyway, after a rubbish start to week one, Skelton got injured and wasn’t seen again until Kolb got injured in Week 6. Skelton then proceeded to play so badly that he was benched in favour of Ryan Lindley! Lindley was also dire, so back came Skelton for the trip to Seattle. 5 picks later and Skelton had managed to go from starter to scrapheap in just 3 months.
16. Play of the Year – Intertouchdownception!
It would take a monumental amount of straws to break a camel’s back. I wouldn’t recommend trying it, but the end of the Packers-Seahawks clash in Week 3 did a similar job for Roger Goodall. After 3 weeks of below par officials and bizarre calls, Russell Wilson’s last second Hail Mary proved to be the tipping point. Golden Tate did get his hands on the ball…it’s just that he was a distant second in achieving this aim. What looked like a clear interception was ruled as a TD on the field. Not to worry, a look at the video would soon clear things up. Except that it didn’t, it just allowed the refs to make themselves look even more incompetent as they upheld the decision. The “real” refs were quickly reinstated, but that result has had ramifications throughout the season. Would Seattle have gone on their brilliant run without the at victory? Would the Packers have secured a Bye? Would Kate Middleton have got pregnant? We’ll never know…
17. Awful Prediction of the Year – Me!
Ok, I struck gold with my Alfred Morris pick, but who were my outside bet for the Superbowl? err, that’ll be the Tennessee Titans.