Tis the season for playoffs positioning in NFL. The Saints victory over Atlanta on MNF wasn’t of much importance except maybe in the mental department for New Orleans. The Saints finally looked poised and ready to make a run in the NFC, which will be wide open this year. I really think any of the teams that make the playoffs in that conference could run the table. The AFC playoffs spots are all but wrapped up with the only real drama being in the AFC South as Indianapolis and some QB you might have heard of try to make it in the for the ninth consecutive time.
However, this will go down as one of the most interesting year in recent memory as far as surprise teams and the highly unlikely. Who pegged Chicago with Jay “The Rifleman” Cutler as the NFC North champs outside of the windy city? Who would have thought that Michael Vick would be doing his best Steve Young impersonation and take the spot of Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb? Didn’t everyone think Washington would be a little more competitive? We’re not going to even talk about Tennessee’s yo-yo season and acquiring Randy Moss just to have him play decoy in an already boring offense. Brett Favre whole career and life’s work culminated this season (I think better yet I know he wishes he stayed down Mississippi), the NFC West is a complete joke as it stands with Sam Bradford being the best QB already. Peyton Manning looked like Joey Harrington for a stretch but returned to his sheriff duties here lately. The most consistent team this year has been New England of course with the hoodie roaming the sidelines and Brady handling the QB spot with such precision. These guys know how to win games no matter the situation, circumstances, or forces of nature that come against them. All of this in one season as the lockout looms over the league like a storm cloud ready to let loose its fury onto the fans like you and me.
Uncertainty should the name of the game in the NFL this year but enough already with the small talk, time to get down to business and rank the top 5.
1. New England Patriots – Can’t really earn anything from beating the Bills. That’s like beating up your kid brother. If you lose everyone calls you out for losing to your little brother and if you win no one cares because you should be able to beat your little brother up. The Pats close out the season with reeling Miami (losing to the Lions? Come on Dolphins) so don’t look for leading Pro Bowl vote recipient and contending MVP candidate Tom Brady to play long. The Pats already have the top seed in the AFC locked up.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) – The Steel city men did exactly what they needed to do against an inferior opponent in Carolina; they won the game and escaped with no major injuries. Troy Polamalu is expected to be at practice this week which is a good sign. All Pittsburgh has to do to lock up the number 2 seed and a first round bye is beat the Browns. All signs point to a win in that game.
3. Chicago Bears (11-4) – I have been waiting all year for the implosion of Jay Cutler. It looked as if it was finally was taking place at Solider field this Sunday when Cutler threw a pick six in the second quarter. Cutler quickly rebounded though in the third with 3 touchdown passes and when they get Matt Forte involved the way they did (113 yards on 19 carries and 4 receptions for 56 yards) they are a tough out for anyone. Big showdown with Green Bay this Sunday. I love the way Lovie Smith is approaching the game with his arch rival as he said he intends to play his starters. Green Bay needs the win to get into the playoffs so this should make for a very entertaining game. Tune in folks.
Other News and Notables:
Another week, another coach gets the ax: This time it was Mike Singletary of San Francisco and this was probably long overdue (Why do I find myself saying this about every coach that gets fired?). Singletary is the embodiment of a great player and bad coach. He has the passion for the game but not the management nor patience for it in the coaching sense. He played yo-yo with his QBs all season long as he flipped from one Smith to another in Troy and Alex Smith. He showed terrible clock management in games as he burned all three of timeouts in one quarter of a game earlier this year. He even got into a heated exchange with a local sports personality on the radio. When you add up all those incidents and the 5-10 record then it was finally time to take him out his own misery. The last straw had to be the ugly argument he had in plain view with Troy Smith. Coaches and QBs shouldn’t be arguing and almost coming to blows on the sidelines. He makes the fourth coach this year that has been shown the door and most definitely won’t be the last. The reported hot seat of coaches include: Gary Kubiak, Jeff Fisher, Tom Couglin, John Fox, Marvin Lewis, Eric Mangini, and Tony Sparano. Look for a lot of movement this off-season in the coaching ranks.