What We Learned in Week 17 in the NFL:
- Sanchez can’t lead the Jets without help from a running game or a better defense
- Brady has been effing with us for the past 2 weeks
- The Bungles lay down and get run all over by the Ravens but still back their way into the playoffs
- “Black Monday” for NFL head coaches, who will be out?
- The Steelers set to take on the Denver Tebows next Sunday without Mendy
Yesterday was the final day in the regular season in the NFL and it seemed as though the trend was to lose but still manage to make the playoffs. The Broncos and Bengals both lost their “win and you’re in” games but still managed to punch their tickets to the post-season thanks to losses by Oakland and New York. Thinking back to the story lines at the beginning of the season, Kevin Kolb was supposed to get Arizona out of their losing ways, the Eagles “Dream Team” was a lock to win the NFC East, and the Steelers were “old, slow and done.” Not really how it all turned out, huh?
The Jets followed up their back to back AFC Championship appearances with an 8-8 record and an all-around sucky season. With a diminished running game and not the same defense as previous years the majority of the criticism falls on Sanchez and his penchant for throwing interceptions. Rex Ryan kept up the same, obnoxious smack-talk the entire season regardless of the Jets record or chances at the post-season. Santonio Holmes isn’t getting any parties thrown for him by his teammates in the off-season, as he basically sat himself out the end of the game. The Jets fell to the Dolphins in the regular season finale, the finale for Miami’s OLB Jason Taylor (former Woodland Hills High School star). Taylor announced his retirement before the game and in a very classy move, he put up a billboard in Miami thanking the fans for his 15 years in spite of the fact he had spent a season each with the Redskins and Jets. Taylor was the NFL Defensive POY in 2006. I always have a little soft spot for the Dolphins, thanks to Dan Marino. Taylor started with the Dolphins while Marino’s career was ending, but I always followed Taylor because of his Pittsburgh roots, and his good looks. Hey, I’m only human.
So the past few weeks we’ve watched the Patriots go down early in games and look very vulnerable and beatable only to see Brady and his boys come back and win it. Stop effing with my emotions Brady! I really thought they were going to fall flat against the Bills just as they did early in the season. Brady was getting sacked, he threw an interception, and the Bills scored 21 points in the first quarter. Unfortunately, those would be the only points the Bills would score the entire day as the Pats went on to score 49 unanswered points. Seriously?! The Pats, still with the 31st ranked defense in the league, clinched the #1 spot and home field throughout the playoffs. If the Pats end up meeting the Packers (who have the 32nd ranked defense in the league) in the Super Bowl; expect the point spread to be similar to the Baylor, Washington bowl game. I’d even bet the over on it as well.
How much do we hate the friggin Bungles now? Not only do they completely blow it against the Ravens, giving up 191 rushing yards to Ray Rice, but they ended up backing themselves into the playoffs anyway. The Ratbirds cemented their first round bye, along with a guaranteed home playoff game with the win in Cincy. It says a lot about the AFC North that 3 out of the 4 teams are in the playoffs but it only makes me hate those friggin Bungles even more. Cincy will travel to Houston for their wild card matchup, and if Cincy wins, they will travel to New England the following week.
By the time this post is published there might just be some coaches already fired. I personally don’t call for the firing of anybody, I don’t want that kind of bad jou-jou on me, but it’s inevitable that every Monday after the final Sunday in the NFL regular season we’ll see the firing of many head coaches. Bear in mind that the regular season saw the firing of 3 head coaches already, with Todd Haley, Jack Del Rio, and Tony Sporano getting their walking papers mid-season as opposed to today. I would guess that Raheem Morris, Steve Spagnuolo, Norv Turner, and Jim Caldwell are fighting some uneasy stomachs this morning.
The Steelers went into their regular season finale against the Browns already limping with injuries and came away with no better playoff seeding and down a running back. Mendenhall went down at the end of the first quarter, grabbing his right knee, and never returned to the game. While the exact nature an severity of the injury hasn’t been established yet, Tomlin already said to not expect Mendenhall to play in the Steelers wild card match up in Denver. Ben played the entire game and was a lot more mobile than he was during the San Francisco game.
Sunday’s game was one of milestones, although not particularly exciting due to the frustrating lack of points scored by the Steelers, some key milestones were reached nonetheless. Hines Ward caught his 1,000th career pass, a shovel pass that was actually a loss of 3 yards. Ward becomes just the 8th player in NFL history to join the 1,000th catch club, adding the mark to his over 12,000 receiving yards he reached earlier in the season. Ward is definitely headed to Canton whenever his career is over, hopefully not for a few more years though. Another milestone reached on Sunday was Ben eclipsing 4,000 passing yards for the season. He wasn’t exactly in the hunt for Dan Marino’s record like Brees and Brady, but 4,000 passing yards and a 63% completion rate is impressive for Ben and just goes to show Steeler Nation that the days of running the ball the majority of the game might be over and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
So Steeler Nation has a whole week of Tebow-Mania to endure before the game on Sunday afternoon. One big question going into the matchup will be the availability of Steelers FS Ryan Clark, whose sickle cell trait in his blood makes it a very serious health risk to play in the altitude of Denver. Clark may be one of the most underrated Safeties in the league, mostly due to the fact he plays opposite Troy Polamalu, but Clark lead the team in tackles this season and added a sack to his stats yesterday against the Browns. The passing game of Denver doesn’t really strike fear in the hearts of Steeler Nation, so going without Clark might not adversely affect anything, but to say Clark won’t be needed or necessary is inaccurate. The play of Clark this season, along with Polamalu and Ike Taylor, is one of the main reasons the Steelers defense ended with the #1 ranking.
I’ve enjoyed the ridiculousness and the excitement of Tebow-Mania this season so far but now all that is off. I want to see Tebow crying on the sidelines just as he did in his final game as a Gator. The Steelers cannot overlook the rushing abilities of McGahee, and the Denver defense. Depending on how the Bungles fare in Houston, a showdown with either Baltimore or New England will await the Steelers in the next round. Tomlin’s quote about heading into the playoffs pretty much nails it,
“We are excited about being in the field of 12. We turn the page now, we move forward into the single elimination tournament. We are excited about that. We are comfortable in that arena. And we look forward to pursuing the Lombardi.”
Bring it on Wild Card Round!
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