10 Things We Learned: Upsetting Week 15 edition

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 19, 2011



By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Legendary Lister

1. Aaron Rodgers showed why he is the MVP on Sunday.

It’ll be open season on the Packers this week, as all the pundits fall all over themselves to anoint new teams as Super Bowl favorites, tell us that the Packers defense isn’t good enough and how a team with no running game is a little vulnerable to the upset.

It all reinforces why Aaron Rodgers is having one of the great seasons of all time, and is the MVP of MVPs.

One so-so game by their quarterback (80.1 rating), and the Packers folded like a house of cards Sunday in Kansas City. Their defense allowed Kansas City to go on five separate scoring drives of at least 3:21 and at least seven plays, and forced no turnovers.

Is Drew Brees having an MVP season? Yes. Is Tom Brady? Absolutely. But Rodgers has been better than both, and is doing it in similar single-handed fashion.
Brees has been incredible this year, and his passer rating is still 11.0 points behind Rodgers (120.1-109.1). That’s the difference between Matthew Stafford and
Mark Sanchez this year (11.6), or Eli Manning to Kevin Kolb (10.6). In other words, it’s significant.

As for the Packers, the great ones always lose one or two they should’ve won, and if they finish 15-1 they will be in rare company. But they seem to be more likely to follow in the footsteps of the 1998 Vikings (15-1), who didn’t have the defense to win it all, than the 1984 49ers who did.

2. Denver wasn’t ready for prime time, but Tim Tebow is.

Let’s be honest, it’ll be pleasant to have a less Tebowish Week 16 in the NFL. In the words of the Luke Wilson character from “Anchorman,” it was getting a little ri-goddam-diculous!

But Tebow played a heck of a good game against the Patriots, and his performance should be extremely encouraging to Broncos fans and management.

He’s shown huge improvement in just a half-season of play, going from a quarterback who couldn’t be trusted to make the simplest throws to a guy who had more than a few nice tosses against a willing New England defense. Assuming he can turn about 10 percent of his throws from errant to on-the-mark, he’s going to be a good one.

He’s got the Steve Young gene that allows him to scramble out of any bad situation, and his comments after the game reinforce the fact that he’s a truly special kid: “We did have things going pretty well early. [We] scored on our first three possessions, and we felt like we were moving the ball pretty well, but then we put [the ball] on the ground, and that's something you can't do versus a great team and [New England QB] Tom Brady and [New England coach] Bill Belichick. Besides that, we were right there with them, and there's a lot of great things that we can take out of this game and try to improve and get better. I think every time there's a setback it's just more of an opportunity for a new step up and to make something even bigger and better. We're going to be excited about this week going to Buffalo, and we're going to be extremely motivated. We'll have a good week at practice."

Who wouldn’t want to play with that kid, especially if he can actually, you know, play.

The debate over what the Broncos want to do next year should be moot. They hired John Fox to bring toughness and running to the organization, and with Tebow they’re in extremely good position to do that. If your QB has six turnovers in nine starts, in his first real action? You stick with that guy, period.

3. Can we please start mentioning Philip Rivers with the elite quarterbacks again?

From 2008-2010, Rivers was the most consistently good player in football. Period. He basically had three or four bad games in the span of three seasons, and had a flawed Chargers team in the mix to contend.

But, like all quarterbacks who haven’t had playoff success, his accomplishments have always been treated as disposable, like every regular-season win is a Big Mac picked from a dumpster and every postseason win is a $200 steak on fine china.

Rivers has shown his true colors over the last month, and has his passer rating up to 89.4. He hasn’t thrown an interception in a month, and has the Chargers back in contention with three straight wins. The Chargers are No. 5 in scoring offense after hanging 34 on Baltimore Sunday night,

He’s 62-32 as a starter, has topped 4,000 yards four years in a row, and has thrown 115 touchdowns to 50 interceptions in those four seasons.

That’s elite, folks. Period. Just because the guy doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring doesn’t mean he’s not a front-line superstar.

4. All hail the interims!

If there was a better sight than Romeo Crennel getting a Gatorade shower from his Chiefs after upsetting the Packers, we didn’t see one. It was especially cool the way Crennel seemed to wrestle with whether it was appropriate or not for a few seconds before breaking into a huge grin on that huge old face.

Todd Haley wasn’t bathing in fruit punch much in KC, that’s for sure.

It does beg the question – why is a guy like Haley, who is young and comes off as a domineering jerk, getting head coaching jobs while the wise Crennel is one and done after a failed stop in Cleveland? (And by failed, we should mention that the team actually made the playoffs while Crennel was there, which is like winning the Super Bowl in Cleveland.)

Either way, here’s one vote to let Crennel have a full-time shot at it. Enough of these young whippersnappers – let the old-timers run the show.

Young Todd Bowles didn’t get the splash after his Dolphins won in Buffalo, but it was snowing, and beating the Bills these days is a basic human right guaranteed by NATO. And if you count lame-duck coaches (Jim Caldwell), it was a splendid Sunday for moral victories all around.

5. It’d be kind of awesome if the Chargers, Cardinals and Eagles all made the playoffs.

Yes, it is still possible, that one team that stood at 1-6 and two that were 4-8 will all make the playoffs in the same season. Of course, it would take a string of events only slightly less improbable than those that caused human creation, but the fact that those three are alive in Week 16 is shocking enough.

Norv Turner, Andy Reid and Ken Whisenhunt have all been mentioned in terms of their job security this season, and for good reason. Turner is still in rough shape, while Reid has probably weathered the storm and Whisenhunt will be back.

The Eagles probably have the best shot to actually make the playoffs, needing only to win at Dallas, beat Washington, have the Jets beat the Giants and then the Giants beat the Cowboys. That’s four results, all of which could legitimately happen.

Would you want to play the streaking Eagles, with a healthy Michael Vick in there? Oh, and the league’s sack leader (yes, Jason Babin has 18 sacks!). Oh, and a guy with 20 touchdowns (LeSean McCoy)? We wouldn’t.

As for Arizona and San Diego, the odds would be significantly higher. But it all goes to show that being four or five games under .500 isn’t a death sentence anymore.

6. Bette Midler needs a new agent.

When we first saw Bette Midler appearing in the last 10 seconds of an Acura ad that runs more or less every hour during football games, singing a song and crackin’ wise like the old days, we smiled.

Then we wondered: is this the best she can do? Much like Aaron Rodgers deserves a better go-to sponsor than State Farm insurance, the Divine Ms. Midler deserves better than holiday ad cameos.

Start with the fact that, at 66 years old, she looks pretty f---ing good. Add the fact that she was a major star for three decades in every way imaginable, and you’d think she’d be hosting the Oscars instead of getting scale to shill for cars.

Who’s representing her, Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer?

7. Don’t worry, Colts fans, you’re still sucking for Luck.

Indianapolis got it all Sunday. They won a game, they were able to finally shut down Peyton Manning for the season, they spoiled a division rival’s season (sorry, Titans) and they finally delivered on a stretch of fairly solid play.

And no, it’s not going to cost them the top pick.

The tiebreaker for the No. 1 pick, if it comes down to it, is based on strength of schedule based on the 2010 record. The Colts’ opponents were 133-123 last year, better than 2-12 Minnesota (132-124) and 2-12 St. Louis (122-134).

So, they’d have to win both of their final games (vs. Houston, at Jacksonville) to do it and have St. Louis and Minnesota lose both, and that’s a fairly unlikely scenario.

USC tackle Matt Kalil would probably be the No. 2 pick if Minnesota gets it, and even if St. Louis does – even though they used the No. 2 pick overall on tackle Jason Smith in 2009 and a high pick on Rodger Saffold in 2010, they’ve been poor enough that they might have to go that way again. Ouch.

8. Holy crap, the NY-NY battle is going to be a big one.

Jets vs. Giants. Eli vs. the Sanchize. At the New Meadowlands. Winner probably gets in the playoffs. Loser probably doesn’t. Both teams are coming off shockingly bad performances in big spots, and both teams will have fan bases out for blood.

Wethinks that a few extra security guards might be necessary for this one. If the Raiders and 49ers can’t even play a preseason game against each other without violence erupting, what’s this one going to be like?

In terms of home-field advantage the Jets get it. Not only are they officially home, they’re 6-1 there this year while the Giants are 3-4.

9. Maybe Jay Cutler is a lot better than we think.

Last year, when Jay Cutler was injured in the early part of the season, it seemed like it would be impossible for someone to play worse than Todd Collins, his replacement.  Collins was 10 for 27 with five interceptions in the regular season, missed on all four of his throws as the first option off the bench in the playoffs when Cutler went down, then retired.

But Caleb Hanie has been just as bad. Four starts, four losses, nine interceptions, 11.8 PPG and one season torpedoed.

Wow.

Cutler’s passer ratings the last two years are 86.3 and 85.7, decidedly mediocre … until the No. 2 guy gets in and all of a sudden he looks like the second coming of Roger Staubach. In his 25 starts the last two years, he threw 23 interceptions; in the other five games, the backups threw 13.

Cutler’s injury is going to keep the Bears out of the playoffs (which they probably would have missed anyway), and absence will definitely make the hearts of Chicago fans fonder.

10. And then there were … other thoughts.

You could do a lot worse than Seneca Wallace as your QB. He didn’t get the win for the Browns vs. Seattle, but he was solid outside of a key fumble. He’s got a career passer rating of 84.4, and if he was 6-3 instead of 5-11 he’d probably be a solid starter somewhere. … The Texans finally felt the effects of their absences Sunday vs. Carolina, and you wonder how much a loss like that sends the train off the tracks. Still, at worst they’ll be the No. 3 seed in the AFC, which means a home game against the Jets or Bengals – very winnable. … Coach of the Year got pretty interesting this week with the Packers (Mike McCarthy), Texans (Gary Kubiak) and Broncos (John Fox) both losing. If the 49ers win tonight, Jim Harbaugh is probably the front-runner. If not, Bill Belichick anyone? … The Lions’ offense is great, but they got gashed for 7.3 yards a play in Oakland, part of a theme for the Motowners all year. It’s hard to see them winning at New Orleans or San Francisco in the playoffs playing defense that poorly.
 

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