Week 17 Blahs
Posted Dec. 30 at 08:14 PM
A quick whirl around the league at the highlights and lowlights of the games I paid the most attention to on Sunday…
Week 17 was pretty bad, except for the way it started -- and for different reasons, the way it finished. So let's start with those games...
Patriots-Giants: In case you missed it -- even though it was on virtually every channel -- the Patriots won this game and finished the regular season 16-0. I guess it's a big deal, since it hasn't ever happened, but it was pretty silly when somebody on the network actually said "It hasn't happened (a team going 16-0 in the regular season) in the 85-year history of the league!" The NFL didn't go to a 16-game regular season until 1978. I also have a hard time accepting Moss's TD "record" since he got it while playing in a season that was 33 percent longer than Jerry Rice's when he set the record, but whatever.
Like most NFL fans, I think, I watched the game with a world of respect for the Giants, playing their starters throughout despite the game being meaningless for them -- and knowing they'd be on the road to open their postseason in Tampa Bay a week later. It would have been easy, and common, for them to pull their starters early, but there they were, slugging it out with the league's best team, trying to win and trying to make the Patriots work for perfection. If they were going to go 16-0, it wasn't going to be cheap. The fact that they lost was secondary to the effort they gave -- and injury risk they took -- while not going down quietly.
As for the game, well, the Pats won, and I'm pretty confident saying they're going to steamroll their first opponent, whoever that may be. All this talk about Jacksonville being the team no one wants to play and how well they match up with the Patriots just convinces me they don't stand a chance -- these popular theories rarely pan out that way. Odds are the Patriots will just turn it into some perceived slight so they can run up the score on them and then Randy Moss can talk about how glad he is that he was able to prove all the so-called experts wrong. Hey, NOT ME, Randy! I know you're going to crush whoever you meet in your first playoff game. It's the Colts who are going to knock you off and prove that Cheaters Never Prosper. Hey, wait a minute....
Titans-Colts: It's not that this was a great game, because it wasn't, but it was important, and it looked like it. Sure, the Colts got Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai and Reggie Wayne out of there as quickly as they could -- and I don't blame them -- but if not for a Wayne fumble, the Colts might have scored enough early on to win anyway. Plus the Browns were the ones who played their way out of the playoffs by tanking at Cincinnati last week. That said, I kind of wanted to see the Browns in the playoffs, just because they're a far more compelling team, at least offensively, than the Titans, who never look particularly smooth on offense. They just cobble together some decent rushing production and 2-3 big pass plays per game, and before you know it they've kicked 3 field goals and come away with a narrow win.
You've got to admire Jeff Fisher, who year after year seems to come up with a team that plays over its head just enough to make the playoffs and probably cause some trouble for a team when it gets there. Plus they play a San Diego team that hasn't exactly earned much credibility in its recent trips to the playoffs, so who knows -- maybe the Titans are at Foxborough two weeks from now.
The weekend began with a great game. It ended with a hard-fought one. In between, there were a whole bunch of other games. Let's zip through some of them....
Dallas-Washington, Minnesota-Denver: These could have been pretty interesting, if anyone actually thought the Cowboys would show up in Washington. They didn't, and Washington won 27-6, clinching the NFC's final playoff spot -- pretty much unthinkable a few weeks back. What was funny was watching the Vikings tie up the Broncos, at the same time Washington was up 3 TDs on Dallas with just 5 minutes left, and having FOX put on the screen "Minnesota clinches a playoff spot with a WIN and a Washington LOSS to Dallas." I think Washington's players were actually sneaking up behind Joe Gibbs with the Gatorade bucket at that exact moment.
As for the games, well, the Denver one was kind of interesting, particularly when it started snowing at the end and I got all nostalgic for my old stomping grounds and started bawling like a baby. I feel certain I'm going to have Brandon Marshall on a bunch of my teams next season -- tough, talented, Football player with a capital F -- and not have any of their running backs. I'm backing off my opinion of Adrian Peterson being the No. 1 overall pick next season, just because his value is going to be killed by either the head coach or the quarterback, or both, unless one or both are much better in 2008. Tarvaris Jackson can pull the occasional game out of his butt, but that's not going to help Peterson live up to his great talent; hopefully they'll get that straightened out. Brad Childress just doesn't strike me as a guy who's going to win games from the sideline as often as lose them; remember, Peterson wasn't even the starter until halfway through the season.
But say this for Peterson: I stuck around to watch the overtime period just because he was lined up to receive the kickoff. I said, this guy's going to run back the kick for a game-winning TD. Since it's Denver, though, the kick in fact ended up nearly in the first row of the seats.
The Washington one wasn't overly interesting -- Dallas looked like they had no interest in being there and consequently, they weren't. Washington's going to be a fashionable upset pick in the first round of the playoffs, but personally I'm a little concerned about slow-footed Todd Collins facing a Seattle team that's No. 4 in sacks.
Lions-Packers: "Disinterested" pretty much describes the Lions in Green Bay to face the Packers, although in fairness to the Lions, they've looked pretty horrible on the road the past couple of months even when they're really trying, so maybe their flailing attempts at tackles and so forth weren't a case of them being disinterested in the proceedings, but merely how horrible they actually are. And Mike Martz is the one who's going to lose his job?
49ers-Browns: This one was intriguing just because it was so odd -- the Browns making or missing the playoffs had nothing to do with their winning the final game of the season. How often does that happen? Fortunately they were playing the woeful 49ers -- at the start of the season, pretty much everyone figured it was San Francisco, not Cleveland, who'd be a playoff contender -- so they could screw up for about half the game and even throw Brady Quinn out there, and still win fairly comfortably.
It's not certain, but there may be a quarterback controversy in Cleveland next preseason. Derek Anderson struggled some down the stretch, throwing up a bunch of interceptions. Quinn looked pretty good in relief (and in the preseason), and gave both Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow opportunities at touchdown receptions -- both committed surprising drops. Odds are Anderson is the starter next season, but he at least opened the door a bit for Quinn in the season's final month.
Saints-Bears: Why do people punt to Devin Hester? As usual, his punt return TD was the biggest play in this game, which (at the time) was pretty important in the NFC playoff picture -- maybe Washington and Minnesota both lose and the Saints get in as the wild card. It didn't matter ultimately, of course, and with their defense, the Saints weren't going anywhere anyway. Still, after seeing first Aaron Stecker and then Pierre Thomas put up better statistical games the past few weeks than Reggie Bush had all season, it's fair to wonder just how good Bush is -- and will ever be -- at the NFL level. It's not like his absence has hurt the Saints offense; if anything, it was better without him. (Which is not necessarily his fault, seeing as he doesn't call the plays.)
So anyway, the regular season is over, and it's on to the playoffs. No more channel surfing; the game are on at different times. Still a few more days of football, but they're not going to be as hectic, and there probably won't be as much to talk about. Then again, with two games replaying good games from the season's last month or so (Jaguars-Steelers, Titans-Chargers) and one replaying a recent playoff tilt (Washington-Seattle), who knows?
There will be a lot more to talk about than there was in week 17, anyway.
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