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The NFL’s Good, Bad and the Ugly: Week 15
NORTH CAROLINA — It was another wild week on and off the field in the NFL and college football.
Grambling State takes the SWAC Title, Auburn shows its racist face, and Sam Bradford takes home the Heisman Trophy.
Meanwhile in the NFL, the AFC East is still a three-way tie for first place, the Steelers clinch the AFC North, the Cowboys make the Giants look like midgets, and the Colts continue to roll.
Let’s take a look at all of this and more in this week’s good, bad and ugly.
Dolphins: Miami did what the New York Jets couldn’t do against the Niners — BEAT THEM. It wasn’t pretty, but they not only took care of business against San Francisco, they kept their division title and playoff hopes alive with a hard fought 14-9 victory in South Beach. Miami had possession for less than 22 minutes Sunday, but held San Francisco without a touchdown. It was the third straight game where their defense has held an opponent without a touchdown in a game. The surprising Dolphins, who began the day tied with the Patriots and Jets for the AFC East lead, won for the seventh time in eight games. They can earn their first playoff berth since 2001 by sweeping their final two games, which would be incredible, since they won only one game last season. Credit the solid mistake-free play of Chad Pennington and their “bend, but don’t break” defense. The Dolphins look very confident, poised and ready to make a playoff run. If they win out and make the playoffs, they can be a dangerous team to play.
Bears: Chicago kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a thrilling overtime victory at home against the underachieving Saints 27-24. Including the postseason, Chicago has won their last nine home games with a kickoff temperature below 32 degrees. The Bears won despite the poor play of Kyle Orton, who finished the game 24-of-40 for 172 yards and two interceptions. Chicago got a scare early when Forte limped to the sideline with a toe injury after his first attempt — a run for no gain on the left side. He finished with 34 yards rushing and 29 receiving. They will need the rookie sensation if they are going to win their remaining two games and make the playoffs. Despite their poor play on offense, the defense came up big throughout the game. The Bears intercepted Drew Brees twice trying to make a big play down the field, which kept them in the lead and kept the Saints from winning the game in regulation. The Bears help themselves by winning but still need help in order to win the division. However, the Saints’ playoff hopes are officially done.
Eagles: If their is any doubt about the accuracy, poise, leadership and athletic ability of Donovan McNabb by anyone after the Monday night game, then the idiots who doubt him didn’t watch the same game I did. McNabb threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns, and the Eagles’ defense pounded Ken Dorsey and the Browns 30-10, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. Philly won their eighth game, while sending Cleveland to their 10th loss of the season. Eagle fans that criticize McNabb, along with the “playa hatin’” racist media, need to give this man credit. Every time McNabb has been criticized during his 10 years in “The city of NO brotherly love”, he’s responded with class, dignity and great play on the field. If there’s anyone these morons should criticize it’s Andy Reid, who showed no class in benching McNabb, and making him the scapegoat for the team’s failures, when he should be pointing the finger right directly at himself. His refusal to run the football behind the league’s biggest offensive will probably cost the Eagles a playoff spot and get McNabb booted out of Philly. If Eagle fans wanna keep Reid and make Kevin Kolb the quarterback of their future, they better understand the future will be filled with losses for years to come.
Vikings: Quietly, Minnesota continues to win and fly under the radar with another impressive win, this time on the road against Arizona. Yeah I know, the Cardinals were hung over from winning their division last week, but the Vikings’ performance was still impressive, when you consider they went back to Tavaris Jackson after Gus Ferrotte was injured and could not play. Jackson, to his credit, played a solid game, going 11 of 17 with four touchdown passes. He is another example of the media trying to exile the black quarterback for the “great white dope”. The perfect scenario for Jackson is to see him lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game or maybe even the Super Bowl, the Vikings decide to definitively state he is once again the starter and he tells them to kiss his “a$$” and ask to be traded or released, so he can move on to another team. That will be a tough dream to come true since the team lost Pat Williams to an injury during the Cardinals’ game and he will miss the rest of the season.
Panthers: Carolina continues to run their way into the playoffs with another dominating ground attack, this time against Denver 30-10. The double trouble duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart rush for 140 yards and two touchdowns in winning their 11th game of the season. A far cry from the 300 yards they compiled on the ground against Tampa Bay, but still very affective. The Panthers have a balanced attack on offense now and the defense is playing very well, but the key, as always, will be the quarterback play of Jake DelHomme. If Carolina ever gets into a situation where the opposing defense shuts down the run and all-pro wide receiver Steve Smith, the weight of the world will be on Delhomme, and his “Tommy John” repaired arm, to make plays down the field in the passing game. This scenario could take place this Sunday as they travel to the Meadowlands to face an angry Giants’ football team, for a battle to decide home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
Falcons: As much as the media would like to praise and give credit to rookie quarterback Matt Ryan for having a solid season thus far, I’m sure if you asked him why he has been successful this year, he will tell you it’s because of the acquisition of running back Michael Turner. Turner continued what I think is an MVP-type of year, rushing for 152 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown, in leading Atlanta to a sudden death thrilling win over Tampa Bay 13-10 victory at the Georgia Dome. Turner ran the ball early and often with an average of nearly 5 yards per rush, against an overrated Buccaneers’ defense who gave up 300 yards on the ground last week against the division leading Panthers. Ryan and the Falcons were lucky to have Turner in the backfield, because the rookie quarterback struggled in the passing game, going 15 of 23 for 206 yards and two huge interceptions. If the Falcons make the playoffs, it will not be on the arm of Ryan, but on the legs of Turner. The rookie has played okay, but the veteran, who used to back up Ladanian Tomlinson, has been great.
Buccaneers: I told you Panther fans, Tampa Bay is overrated. No offense, and an old an overrated defense could equal no playoffs for the Bucs this season.
Saints: Drew Brees can’t play defense and that’s why the Saints will be home for the holidays watching the playoffs on television with their fans.
Redskins: At 7-7, no playoff hopes and a bad loss to the pathetic Cincinnati BUNGLES? The Redskins are back to being the “DEAD SKINS”. Bye-bye, Jim Zorn.
Bills: Up three points with about two minutes to go in the game on the road, and you decide to try and pass the ball only to see your quarterback get sacked, fumble the ball, which gets picked up by the Jets and ran into the end zone for the game winning touch down? Bye-bye, Dick Jauron (Head Coach).
Packers: You lose to a Jacksonville Jaguars team with nothing to play for, numerous injuries, a divided locker room, a coach on the hot seat, and with a player suspended, because he was arrested for possession and intent to distribute drugs? Should we be saying bye-bye, Mike McCarthy?
Titans: I know Tennesse is in the playoffs and in the driver’s seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC, but their performance against the Houston Texans was ugly. Maybe they were overlooking the Texans because the Steelers come to town next week and I know they were playing a divisional opponent on the road with nothing to play for, but their is no excuse to score only ten points against a team you could and should dominate at least physically. Andre Johnson had eleven catches for 207 yards and a touchdown, and Steve Slaton had 24 carries for 100 yards in the Titans 13-12 loss to the Texans. It was an uninspired showing for the Titans, who have already clinched the AFC South and a first-round playoff bye, but could have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a Pittsburgh loss later Sunday. The 12 points by the Titans is their fewest this season, and fewest on the road since Week 12 of last season at the Bengals. The Titans should be concerned with two things going into the playoffs: Running the ball and stopping the run. I still think they are a formidable team, but if they don’t have success at either of the previously mentioned categories, it could be an early exit in the playoffs.
Broncos: Denver must wake up everyday and be thankful they play in the AFC West, because if they didn’t, they would have no chance of making the playoffs, especially after the miserable game they played against Carolina. The Panthers ran over, around and through them offensively en route to an easy 30-10 victory in Charlotte. I know the Broncos’ defense isn’t that good, but they were improving until Sunday. They allowed the Panthers to run and pass the ball at-will, while offensively, they couldn’t protect quarterback, Jay Cutler, or run the ball themselves. The Broncos should also thank San Diego Chargers’ Coach Norv Turner and should even buy him a Christmas gift because he found a way to snatch defeat from victory 8 times this season. Turner should receive his gift after this Sunday when the Broncos defeat the Bills in Denver and wrap up the AFC West title.
Cardinals: Arizona apparently never stopped celebrating their first division title in almost four decades, after their horrible performance against Minnesota losing 35-14. The game was never in doubt after the Vikings got off to a 28-0 lead and never looked back. Kurt Warner threw for 275 meaningless yards and surely will not break Dan Marino’s single season yardage record, and the defense made a point of getting out of the way of Adrian Peterson, allowing him to rush for 165 yards. The good news for Cardinal fans is they finally won a division title, the bad news is that will be the only thing they can celebrate this season, because it will be won and done in the playoffs.
Rams: St. Louis is just bad. Enough said.
Raiders: PLEASE, PLEASE, someone kidnap Raiders’ owner, Al Davis, so he can’t make the decisions for the team and the Raiders can get back to being an NFL team. Right now, my high school can beat them.
Chiefs: How many ways can I say “the Chiefs are horrible?”
Lions: Close, but still no cigar.
Games to watch week 16:
1. Pittsburgh at Tennessee
Key match up: The Steelers’ pass rush vs. Kerry Collins. The Steelers must shut down the Titans vaunted rushing attack to force Kerry Collins to drop back and try and beat them with his arm. If he can’t, the Steelers’ combination of James Harrison and Lamont Woodley will make life miserable for the journeyman QB. On the flipside, the Titans must try and compensate for the loss of Albert Haynesworth, who sprained his MCL and is out until the Titans take the field in the playoffs. Like the Steelers’ defense, their defense must put “Big Ben” on the ground and be physical with the Steelers’ underrated receivers to get a victory and wrap up home field advantage.
2. Baltimore at Dallas
Key match up: Ed Reed vs. Tony Romo. This will be a battle of wits, between the quarterback of the Ravens’ defense vs. the quarterback of the Cowboys’ offense. The Ravens must contain Romo inside the pocket and force all of the play against Romo inside, whether he is looking to run or pass. If he passes, Reed must make solid reads and smart decisions, plus come up with some turnovers in order for the Ravens to pull off the road upset and keep their playoff dreams alive. Look for Demarcus Ware and the Dallas’ defense to blitz Ravens’ rookie quarterback Joe Flacco most of the game, especially on third down.
3.Arizona at New England
Key match up: The Cardinals vs. the cold weather in Mass. If the Cardinals wanna make believers out of me, they have to win a game late in the season in a cold and hostile environment. The only way they can beat the Patriots is out score them, so they must try and run the football to keep the Patriots’ linebackers and safeties off of MVP candidate, Kurt Warner. A win will go far for the Cardinals, in making a believer out of me, their fans, and their critics and would be a huge confidence-builder going into the playoffs. A tough task for the west coast team, because the Patriots are tough at home and they are fighting for their playoff lives.
4. Atlanta at Minnesota
Key match up: The Falcons’ secondary vs. Tavaris Jackson. The Falcons will look to slow down Adrian Peterson and the Vikings’ running game to put the game on the shoulders of Tavaris Jackson. Easier said than done for the Falcons’ defense in trying to slow down the league’s best football player. Jackson doesn’t need to be great, just good, like he was last week against the Cardinals. The Vikings will have a tough task slowing down Michael Turner, who I believe should get consideration as league MVP for his play this season. The Vikings’ defense will also have their hands full stopping the run, just like the Falcons, especially since one of their premier run stoppers, Pat Williams, is out for the season.
5. Carolina at Giants
Key match up: The Panthers’ running game vs. the Giants’ defense. The Giants’ defense will try and slow down the power running game of the Panthers, while keeping Steve Smith in check in the passing game. The Panthers will move Julius Peppers around on the defensive line to get to Eli Manning, and force him to throw the ball early, sack him or force him to turn the ball over. This may be the toughest offensive line the Giants will face all season, in terms of getting to the quarterback, which will be a key factor in winning the game. In two losses this season, the Giants failed to sack the opposing quarterback in the game (at Cleveland and home to Philadelphia).
My top 15 teams after week 15:
8. Tampa Bay
Best performance by a Division I college football team:
Sam Bradford:Well he is not a team, but he led his team to a spot in the BCS National Championship, and took home the Heisman Trophy. Although I thought Colt McCoy deserved it more, because he did more with less help, Bradford had an exceptional season. He threw for 48 touchdowns and only six interceptions, had a high completion percentage, and had big numbers against the top 25 opponents. I can live with Bradford, but I couldn’t live with the overrated Tim “TEE-WHO” taking home the trophy. Let’s hope Bradford has one more great game left when he faces Urban “WHINER” and the Florida Gators in the national championship game.
Worst performance by a Division I college football team:
Auburn Tigers: The Tigers win the award this week not for their play on the field, but their bone-head coaching decision off the field. Instead of hiring a qualified coach like Turner Gill, who was rumored to be a strong candidate for the vacant coaching position there, they hire a coach with a horrible record of 5-19 in two seasons, at one of the worse teams in the Big 12. Iowa StateCoach, Gene Chizik, has been hired as the next football coach at Auburnto succeed Tommy Tuberville, who was fired/resigned after the Tigers’ sub par season. I know Chizik had success as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator when they went undefeated back in 2004, and he did a great job as defensive coordinator with Texas when they won their national championship team in 2005, but there is a huge difference as assistant coach and head coach. Norv Turner is a great offensive coordinator, but has failed miserably as a head coach and the same could be said about Dick Juron, Greg Williams, Wade Phillips and others who can’t seem to push the right buttons as head coach, like they did as coordinators/assistant coaches. Turner Gill was a solid quarterback at Nebraska, helped the Cornhuskers win a national championship as an assistant head coach and now has the University of Buffalo in a bowl after winning eight games, including a huge upset win over previously undefeated Ball State. This is a bad move by Auburn on many fronts, not to mention another door shut for a black coach that’s ready, willing and able to do the job.
Best HBCU Football team of the week
Grambling State University-Grambling State found success in all three phases as they defeated Jackson State 41-9, to claim the 2008 SWAC Football Championship. The game was broke open in the third. Grambling State outscored JSU 21-9 on the strength of a defensive unit that forced a fumble and an interception, which both led to Grambling State touchdowns. Grambling State finished the season with an 11-2 mark and an undefeated mark (7-0) in conference play. Congratulations to Grambling State for winning the SWAC Championship and finishing first in our BASN/HBCU top ten rankings, surpassing exceptional teams like Prairie View A&M, S.C. State and Tuskegee, all who had great seasons as well.
Best HBCU Football player of the week
Greg Dillion of Grambling State- Fitting the games most outstanding offensive player would be our HBCU Football player of the week. The GSU Tigers found early success with Dillion, as he engineered scoring drives on the first two possessions en route to an easy 41-19 romp for Grambling State over Jackson State in the SWAC Championship game. Dillon found Kiare Thompson for a five-yard pass with just over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. GSU would get the ball back and score on a 39-yard Dillon to Dante Cheek pass play. Dillon finished the game 13-of-19, passing for 145 and three touchdowns, while rushing 13 times for 32 yards and a score.
Don’t forget to check out my show on www.blogtalkradio.com, called “The Batchelor Pad”, which airs Monday through Friday, 6pm-8pm EST. We discuss the world of sports from a social, economic and racial standpoint. Just go to the site and type “batchelor” in the search section.
Until next week…….Stay positive, be safe and enjoy the games!