San Diego Chargers 52, Denver Broncos 21
The Chargers are obviously that “hot team that nobody wants to face” right now, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be in the playoffs. San Diego is three games behind New England in the standings, making them the beneficiaries of a flawed playoff system.
The reason Denver is not in the postseason is that six members of their defensive front seven shouldn’t be starting in the NFL. San Diego’s 289 yards rushing reaffirmed this.
LaDainian Tomlinson looks fresh, and so does Antonio Gates. Factor in the resurgence of the Charger offensive line and, suddenly, Norv Turner is a genius again.
Darren Sproles might be the best backup running back in the league right now. I’d be a little careful in describing him with the word “special” though.
In Week 2 Brandon Marshall caught 18 passes against the Chargers, which inspired me to refer to Antonio Cromartie as “Mrs. Brandon Marshall.” But Sunday night, Cromartie and the rest of the Charger defense limited Marshall to just 55 yards on six catches. Cromartie’s unflattering epithet is officially revoked.
Philadelphia Eagles 44, Dallas Cowboys 6
Everyone will talk about Tony Romo’s meltdowns in December and Wade Phillips’s lack of authority. Both subjects are fair, but neither encompasses the depth of the problem in Big D. Prominent as the Cowboys franchise is, it’s a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 13 seasons. They haven’t had a winning record in December during that span either, and they’ve lost their last nine season finales overall.
The overriding difference in this contest was coaching. Despite not knowing all week if this game would hold any significance to them, the Eagle players were far more prepared than the Cowboy players. Jim Johnson toyed with Jason Garrett all afternoon, and Andy Reid instilled emotion and fire into his men, while Wade Phillips stood by with a look of bewilderment on his face.
Roy Williams, who spoke out about not getting the ball enough earlier in the week, was absolutely pathetic in this game. (Some reports have said that Williams has a foot injury.)
Pac Man Jones is a tremendous athlete who plays hard, but it’s obvious no one has ever had the gall to coach him. His fundamentals and awareness are nowhere near an NFL level.
Before the season began, we thought that this might be one final hurrah for several familiar veterans in Philly. But now, Donovan McNabb looks worthy of a new long-term contract, Brian Westbrook doesn’t seem doomed to hit the 30-year-old running back wall, offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas continue to be remarkably consistent each week and Brian Dawkins looks every bit the Pro Bowler that he is.
The Eagles continue to get great play out of their front seven. Replacing Omar Gaither with Akeem Jordan has helped.
Baltimore Ravens 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 7
Last year, Baltimore, on their way to a 5-11 season, lost at Miami in Week 14. It was the Dolphins’ only win on the season. Now both teams are set to square off in the Wild Card round this Sunday. We might be looking at the most unlikely playoff matchup in NFL history.
Neither Ray Lewis nor Ed Reed will contend for the Defensive Players of the Year award, but ask yourself, Where would the Ravens be without these two?
Guys like Derrick Mason are what wins championships. The überconsistent veteran gutted out a bum shoulder to catch six passes for 77 yards in this game.
If Matt Ryan weren’t so darn good, we’d be talking about Joe Flacco as NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Jacksonville’s VP of Football Operations Shack Harris shouldn’t be taking the fall for this team’s ’08 disaster. If Jacksonville weren’t a well-constructed team, people wouldn’t be so disappointed with their results. Harris did his job; there were coaches and players who didn’t do theirs.
Miami Dolphins 24, New York Jets 17
The Fins deserve to be heralded as one of the greatest turnaround stories in pro football history. There are four reasons for their resurgence: 1. Bill Parcells worked his magic. 2. (Pardon the cliché, but) Tony Sparano changed the culture. 3. Chad Pennington glued Parcells’ and Sparano’s efforts together. 4. Miami was never as bad as their 1-15 record to begin with.
Some of the biggest news of the week came Sunday morning when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen revealed that Bill Parcells could take $9 million and walk away should Wayne Huizenga successfully sell the team. Keep a close eye on this story.
Eric Mangini does not deserve to be fired. He got the Jets to the postseason his first year on the job, and this season, despite the disastrous final month, New York still improved their record by five games.
As a sportswriter, you don’t want to be one of the yokels who wrongly stated that Brett Favre was done. But I think he is. In recent years, Favre’s age has caught up to him late in the season. Of course, any talk about Favre’s future requires an obligatory grain of salt. The grain of salt here is that Favre and Mangini never quite seemed to be on the same page. With the head coach out, perhaps the quarterback will be more inclined to stay. This is just speculation…
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