As this was the last week of the season, the focus should be on the playoffs.
- New Orleans Saints. Coach Sean Payton feels that the entire history of the NFL can be overcome by a franchise that has never had a winner. So, he sat Drew Brees and started Mark Brunell who had not seen regular action since November 12, 2006. The Saints not surprisingly got beat down by a red hot Panthers team which should have made the switch from Jake Delhomme (no hard feelings, Delhomme is still a hero to my high school) to Matt Moore at midseason. Whether Payton realizes it or not, no team has lost the last three games of the regular season and made the Super Bowl. Maybe when your franchise has won two (2) playoff games in 42 seasons such things don't apply, or maybe they apply doubly--especially when your team even with Brees checked out two weeks ago. In any event, Sean Payton wins the award this week of having Herman Edwards remind him why you play the game. For the sake of the folks back home, I'd like to see the Saints pull this off to finish their historic season, but I highly doubt that they beat any of the NFC playoff teams right now.
- Indianapolis Colts. Coach Jim Caldwell is the runner up for the Edwards reminder. Caldwell played Manning to continue his consecutive start streak (Brett Favre started again today also, more on him below) and Tony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne to get them 100 catches in a season. This kind of refusal to participate meaningfully in a game has Roger Goodell thinking about incentives, such as draft picks, to keep playoff bound teams from yanking starters. Caldwell isn't going to look at the film from this game. He's not worried about it. Just like Andy Reid in 2004, Caldwell gave away the final two games to rest starters (Reid did lose Terrell Owens until the Super Bowl though). However, those 2004 Eagles are the ONLY team to lose the final two games of the NFL season and make the Super Bowl--they didn't win, you recall. The Colts got beat like a drum today and I hope they lose the first game they play in the playoffs...oh please let it be the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.
- New England Patriots. Wes Welker is done for the playoffs before they got started with a gruesome knee injury. Welker was an irreplaceable possession WR for the Pats (123 catches, 1348 yards this season) and an inspirational presence on the field. New England finished the regular season 2-6 on the road. They host Baltimore in the first round, but should they get by the Ravens, I think the season ends on the road in the next game.
- Wild Card games. Really!? There's four of these games and three of them feature the exact same matchups as the final weekend of the season, Week 17 scores in brackets: Jets v. Bengals (Jets won 37-0), Green Bay v. Arizona (Green Bay won 33-7), Cowboys v. Eagles (Cowboys won 24-0). How unlucky can we get to have this happen?
Ready for the Playoffs
- San Diego Chargers. They treated their final game against the Washington [redacted] like a preseason game. They rested starters after the starters put up 10 points in two drives. Perhaps this was a belated preseason game, neither team could crack 70 rush yards. Why are the Chargers in this pile and not the winners not playing to win pile,? The Chargers back ups won the game. Sure it was against Washington, but at least the team didn't pack it in without the starters. Also, the Chargers have quietly rattled off 11 straight wins. LaDainian Tomlinson says he is healthier than he has ever been to start the playoffs--look out.
- Minnesota Vikings. Huh? The Vikings looked bad in losses against Arizona, Carolina and Chicago, how are they ready to go? Well the Giants were suggilated by the Vikes 44-7. Brett Favre wasn't going to let Tim Tebow's Sugar Bowl performance show him up. Favre was 25/31 for 311 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Favre threw for 4,000+ yards, 33 TDs and only 7 INTs on the season. He's 40 years old and this is probably his best season statistically--Favre has never thrown less than 13 INTs in a full season. He also has Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson to help him out. Due to the Jets running all over the Bengals, the Vikings rush defense is now 2nd in the NFL allowing a little more than 87 yards per game.
- The 2009 St. Louis Rams make any argument for contraction (or even better, a relegation division) seem reasonable. The Rams won 1 game this year and it wasn't in Week 17. In a 28-6 loss to the 49ers, the Rams managed 109 total yards on 62 plays. San Francisco wasn't exactly world beaters this year. This game also featured twenty (20) punts for 971 yards.
- Relegation Division idea: The top 20 teams in 2009 stay in the NFL, the other 12 teams are relegated (finishing last in any of the 8 current NFL divisions is an automatic relegation) to a lower division with a chance to win back their pride and make the show again. Relegated teams for 2010: St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Washington, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Buffalo, Seattle, Oakland, Miami, Chicago.
- Realigned NFL for 2010: AFC & NFC, 1 Division each with 10 teams a piece. Top 6 teams in the AFC and NFC Division tables make the playoffs, the lowest two teams in each table are relegated in 2011. The top four teams from the relegation division table in 2010 replace the bottom four relegation teams from the NFL for the 2011 season.