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Old 12-29-2008, 07:47 AM    (permalink
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Default Week 17 [last regular season] Breakdown (thoughts)

Thanks to everyone who’s read my stuff week in and out, the discussions have been fun. I’ll likely continue this through the playoffs.

Congratulations to the division champions

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings
NFC South: Carolina Panthers
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
NFC East: New York Giants

AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South: Tennessee Titans
AFC West: San Diego Chargers
AFC East: Miami Dolphins

First and Final weeks are always crazy:
It seems that there's two weeks that are always impossible to predict in the NFL and they are the first and the last weeks of the regular season. Who would've foreseen the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team feared as one of the NFL's top 10 as little as two weeks ago losing to one of the worst three teams in the NFL and allowing 31 points?

Who would've foreseen the St Louis Rams giving the Atlanta Falcons a real fight for their wildcard birth? Playing for respect with some passion and fire was nice to see from the Rams who've been pretty much pathetic for the entire season.

Brilliant Players of 09

Donovan McNabb broke the Eagles franchise record for passing yards against the Cowboys today and did so in a dominating style. After having some bad years through injury and uncertainty surrounding his future after some bad games McNabb has bounced back to become the player I think should be the NFL's comeback player of the year.

McNabb has been a huge part of the Eagles success this year and in his tenth season he doesn't appear to be slowing down. Next week he takes on the Minnesota Vikings who today locked up the NFC North, should be a great one to see.

Adrian Peterson provided the Minnesota Vikings with an offensive metronome of production and was undoubtedly the key cog in their NFC North dominance. Peterson will finish the year as the NFL's leader in rushing yards and did so without a real receiving threat keeping safeties out of the box. The one knock on Peterson is his fumbles, somehow he has to learn to hold on to the ball, in playoff games turnovers are a death sentence for the Vikings sake, let’s hope he fixes at least part of the issue before the playoff game next week.

[homer] Peppers, Smith and DeAngelo Williams all deserve a strong mention here, after Peppers had such a down year in 07 he's had a career season and was a massive part of the Panthers defensive turnaround. Steve Smith finished third in receiving yards after missing the first two games of the season, he is well deserving of his probowl spot. Finally, DeAngelo Williams has been a revelation at running back, leading the NFL with 20 total touchdowns and 1500+ rushing yards he doesn't even look to be wearing down toward the end of the season. Thank you to Vinny Testaverde for giving the running back the motivation and inspiration he needed to become one of the best backs in the NFL.

Drew Brees has been amazing all season long despite losing parts of his offense every week. The final play of the New Orleans season ending game against the Carolina Panthers epitomised Drew Brees as a player. Needing just 16 yards to break Dan Marino's long standing single season passing yardage record the Panthers cleared out deep to prevent the long touchdown. Having an option for a short pick up (easily 16 yards) Brees looked deep hoping for a miraculous catch and run for a game winning TD, only to have the ball and the record bounce of the turf. In a league that at times seems to be filled with criminals, primadonnas and idiots, Brees shines as the ultimate citizen, player and team mate.

DeMarcus Ware has been something special as an outside linebacker and personally I feel he's a step ahead anyone else at the position in the rest of the NFL.

Brandon Jacobs is a force to be reckoned with and Beason's comment “hit him high and pray for the cavalry to arrive” sums up the respect and admiration even the most stout and determined defenders have for the running back. Tiki who?

Aaron Rodgers deserves a mention for his coming out of Favre’s shadow to perform quite well in his own right.

Atlanta's trio of Ryan, Turner and White have the makings of something special. Not many people realise how special an achievement it is to go from winning just 4 games to making the playoffs in just one season. Ryan has tailed off towards the end of the season and has had his rookie ups and downs, but after watching him play quite a few times this season he has that X factor that all defensive coordinators fear and all fans should be ecstatic to see. Turner, now out of Tomlinson's shadow is showing himself to be the perfect complementary force on the ground and reminds me very much of a young Stephen Davis. Roddy White has shown that last season was not an aberration and he should join the ranks of the Nfl's elite receivers with the maturation of his QB within the next two years. After so much mediocrity in their past, the Falcons finally seem to be on the right track.

Apologies to other team's for players I missed, Warner, Fitz, Boldin, Johnson, Allen, the list goes on and on.

The first mention has to go to James Harrison, Lamarr Woodley and Polamalu who've been astounding in their roles as part of one of the best defensive units of the past decade.

Peyton Manning may have started slowly but he has been amazing the past few weeks. As the adage goes, it’s not who peaks first or even rides that peak the longest, it’s when you peak that counts in the playoffs after a big winning streak and dominating wins in the lead up to the playoffs the Colts are a big dark horse to represent the AFC.

Matt Cassel is remains somewhat of an enigma, while its clear he can play for Belichick and that he’s most definitely made himself a boat load of cash this season it’s difficult to foresee him flourishing in another city. First consider the schedule, while the difficult of an NFL team’s schedule is often difficult to predict before the 2008 season the Patriots had the easiest line up of opponents. Playing both the AFC and NFC West divisions gave the Patriots a number of easily winnable games with the continuing collapse of the west as a power house in the AFC and the further deterioration of any team not named Arizona in the NFC. He also played the Jets, Dolphins and Bills, who though at times competitive were extremely inconsistent in their performances. All this behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and with the AFC’s top receiving corp. While I personally wouldn’t be throwing cash at Cassel with the head coach carousel already in full swing and GMs undoubtedly ready to open the check book, at least one front office will be foolish enough to.

Congratulations to Andre Johnson on finally realising his potential and leading the NFL in receiving yardage. He's been pivotal in the mid season turnaround of the Houston Texans and he's been a bright spark on a very dim offense.

If Jets fans are looking for a reason for their marginal success this year they should be looking at Thomas Jones and Kris Jenkins. Since leaving Carolina the big baby has been playing lights out and he seems to respond to the change of scenery and coaching and it shown on the Jets defense. Jones leads the AFC in rushing and at least in my opinion has been a larger part of the Jet's offensive turn around than Brett Favre.

The best CBs in the AFC this year were Finnegan, Asomoghua and Revis (in no particular order) while none of the three are perfect in all aspects of playing football, they have the amazing knack of covering some of the NFL’s best receivers. For me, Asomoghua’s coverage of Steve Smith was nothing short of perfect and no one in the NFL is capable of doing that. Darrell Revis was just as big a part of the turnaround in New York as Kris Jenkins.

Chad Pennington should probably go down as one of the best offseason pickups in the NFL, the Dolphins play hard, old school, mistake free football and although he didn't light up the stat sheet with touchdown passes, he provided a steady passing threat and came through when the Dolphins needed him. He's a huge part of why they're now preparing for the postseason and holding the AFC East division trophy.

Playing in the NFL is hard, it’s harder when your position is currently held by a former first round pick and high price take acquisition, it’s even harder when you’ve got to change position. This is what makes LeRon McClain emergence all the more impressive. After being drafted with a mid fourth round pick as a fullback out of Alabama the Ravens have successfully transitioned McClain to a tailback, quietly this season he’s amassed 1029 total yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns. He’s become more than just the thunder to McGahee’s lightening as well, after Willis managed just 670 yards this season, it seems just a matter of time before he takes the starting job.

BlindSite’s Awards

First annual awards ceremony:

The fragile award: New Orleans Saints. 8-8 record, some bad coaching and a quarterback who threw for 5000 yards all with 16 players on injured reserve and their big name offensive weapons nursing boo boos most of the year.

Bone head coach award: Wade Philips, it seems like week in or week out the Cowboys find a way to either steal a victory they should’ve dominated or lose. Andy Reid put on a clinic in the final week and it’s been obvious to everyone for a long time that neither Philips nor Garrett are the long term answer at head coach for this team.

Bone head player award: Think all the way back to DeSean Jackson’s thrown away touchdown. It still stands out in my mind as the most bone-headed move by a player this season, its up there with the Kiwanuka super body rub on VY.

Most improved player overall (offense): DeAngelo Williams

Most improved overall (defense): Lamarr Woodley

Playoff Predictions:

Wild Card
Atlanta over Arizona
Philadelphia over Minnesota

Indianapolis over San Diego
Baltimore over Miami

Divisional Round
New York over Philadelphia
Carolina over Atlanta

Tennessee over Baltimore
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh

Championship Games

Indianapolis over Tennessee
Carolina over New York (I honestly can’t split these two, but when all reasoning fails, homer prevails)

Offseason Predictions:
I would expect there to be a number of moves that shake things up similar to most NFL off-season’s this year, but the biggest prediction I have to make has to do with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

As it stands 2009 is the last year covered under the current agreement, in other words, it’s the NFL’s last year with a salary cap. While the NFL Armageddon predictions are still way off base and in practice there will be a lot less wild spending going on than initially thought, the loss of the CBA presents some bigger issues, like the loss of proper representation outside of the player’s hired management. Committees on injury, support and rules will have problems meeting and likely, some will disband. The loss of Gene Upshaw, and while this sounds awful, couldn’t have come at a worse time for the NFL as he was truly needed in getting an agreement in place.

Somehow, someone will someway find a method of either extending the current agreement before the 11th hour or getting a new one in place.

As far as players go, I can see Larry Johnson finding a new home, the Jets making a poor first round pick, the Panthers resigning Peppers to the biggest contract ever to a defensive end and there being another round of boring stories about rookie salaries after the draft.

Coaches who should go: Wade Philips, Eric Mangini (gone), Jack Del Rio, Gruden, Haslett, Arians

Coaches who deserve a promotion: Josh McDaniels, Mike Trgovac, Steve Spagnuolo, Schottenheimer

Coaches who’re better coordinators: Haslett, Crennel, Turner

Interim Coaches:
Jim Haslett is a great Rah-Rah type motivator and a lot of players love that in a coach, but they don’t always respond to it. Haslett clearly cannot control a team of 53 men. He struggled to do so in New Orleans and the franchise fell apart around him and he clearly struggled to do so with the talentless Rams. While there were some bright moments, like the hard fought battle with the Falcons and their victory over the Redskins, Haslett makes a great defensive coordinator and I probably would’ve chosen him to be my interim coach if I running the rams, but he wouldn’t stay in that job.

Mike Singletary, the great linebacker and players coach has retained his job with the 49ers in what is likely the franchise’s best move in a long, long time. Singletary might not always make the right move in terms of wins and losses, but he’ll always have his team fighting to the last man, and that’s more important for a young franchise that is still realistically rebuilding. His treatment of star players and dogged special teams veterans as the same is the best way to run a locker room and its shown in the 49ers improved performances this year. Give the man an offensive line, quarterback and another couple of pieces on defence and he could realistically take a run at the NFC West. Time will tell how well Singletary does in the job, but I feel he’s the best coaching change already this year.

Tom Cable, the turnaround of the Raiders has been pretty impressive. Marred by an insane owner who acts as general manager, and a hissy fit between owner and coach like something out of an all girls high school the Raiders seemed to be on the verge of collapse before Cable took over the top job. As most offensive line coaches are Cable takes a no-nonsense approach to the expensive and underachieving raiders unit and has finally got the turd polished enough to shine ever so slightly. The Raiders turnaround began with their gallant effort against Carolina, where though they were defeated the team fought together as a unit and really began to show some promise. With their season ending on a high note against Tampa and their roster filled at certain positions with some star power, the Raiders should look to keep Cable in the job and for the sake of all that is holy Davis needs to stay out of the GM chair.

this year should go to Peyton Manning, his team is in the playoffs and got 9 wins in a row all because of number 18, he is the NFL MVP of 08.

The OPOY should go to either Peterson, Williams or Turner, somehow I think the voters will snub all three.

DPOY is a bit of a toss up between Harrison and Ware, but Harrison has been just so phenomenal in all phases of the game its impossible to go to anyone else.

OROY With respect to Flacco and Ryan, Chris Johnson deserves this award more. The Tennessee Titans were a 9 win team heading into the season and for a time there, looked like they might go 16-0. Chris Johnson has been amazing as a rookie and is a huge part of why the Titans are who they are.

DROY I personally think it should go to Brandon Flowers in KC, but I think Jerod Mayo will win it. The media has an almost sickening love for the Pats and although the rookie linebacker is certainly deserving of the award, he wouldn't be my pick.

Comeback Player of the Year: Julius Peppers, for those that don't know, Peppers has been a dominant force for Carolina this year and along with Beason and Gamble is the biggest reason for the Panthers' defensive success. After having just 2 sacks last year Peppers has a career high and all year has been a terror after swtiching positions.
Runner Up: Joey Porter

Last edited by BlindSite : 12-30-2008 at 05:25 PM.
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