The NFL’s Good, Bad and the Ugly: Week 16

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: December 26, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly NORTH CAROLINA — The Richmond Spiders win their first ever National Championship in school history thanks to their alumnist Mike London (an African American) while Eastern Michigan hires black coach No. 5 in Division 1-A.

Meanwhile, the Ravens bounce back with an impressive win at Dallas, the Eagles choke in Washington while the Giants and Titans say “not in my house”.

Let’s examine these stories and others in the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good:

Titans: Tennessee proved a lot of things in their 31-14 trouncing of the Steelers. Their season is not a fluke and they are not only the best team in the AFC, they are the best team in the NFL. They protected Kerry Collins, didn’t make a lot of mistakes and forced Ben Roethlisberger into numerous turnovers all without three of their best defensive players including All-Pro defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. I believed they were good all season and they proved me right and this is coming from a Steelers fan. All the haters can SHUT UP NOW! They are the best team in football.

Giants: New York finally got back to the basic football that one them a Super Bowl Championship last year: They ran the football and ran it well. Led by Derrick Ward, the Giants ran the ball for over 301 yards on the ground and slip pass the Carolina Panthers 34-28 in overtime and clinch home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Ward led the way with 215 yards on only 15 carries while Brandon Jacobs had a workman like 87 yards on 24 carries. New York showed their championship caliber, coming back from a eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force the game into overtime and then eventually winning it on a two-yard run by Jacobs. The Giants gave Carolina a taste of their own running medicine in this game and look to use this game as a spring board going into the playoffs. They clearly are the best team in the NFC.

Chargers: Surprise, Surprise, San Diego is still alive! Thanks to Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense and sliding Buccaneer defense, the Chargers can actually make the playoffs inspite of their head coach Norv Turner. Rivers threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns leading San Diego past slumping Tampa Bay 41-24. Antonio Bryant had 127 yards receiving and a touchdown and the Chargers won the turnover battle (3-0) against the Bucs who lost their third consecutive game and are in danger of missing the playoffs after a promising beginning to their season. Who would have thought after the “bad call” game that cost the Chargers a victory in Denver this season and the way the Chargers have played, they would have a chance to win the AFC West and make the playoffs. No one would have but they do Sunday night at home against the Broncos.

Dolphins: Miami continues to keep their playoff hopes alive with a thrilling comeback win against a very tough Kansas City Chief team. Chad Pennington threw three touchdown passes Sunday in a 38-31 victory over Kansas City that continued one of the most remarkable comeback seasons in NFL history. Miami remarkably won their 10th game of the season after a pathetic season last year that saw them only win one game. The Dolphins are 10-5, five games over .500 for the first time since they were 11-5 at the end of the 2001 season. Pennington, the quarterback no one wanted, threw for three touchdowns and 235 yards, giving him a career-high 3,453 this season, surpassing his 3,352 with the 2006 Jets. The Dolphins finish the season on the road against what should be an angry Jets team after their terrible lost in Seattle (more on that later). A win in the Meadowlands will complete the greatest turnaround in league history.

Falcons: It’s official, Atlanta is playoff bound. Matt Ryan threw for a touchdown and made no big mistakes, Justin Blalock recovered a fumble in the end zone for another score and the Minnesota Vikings committed four turnovers in 24-17 loss on Sunday that clinched a postseason berth for the Falcons. Michael Turner rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, who were 4-12 a year ago and almost have a bigger turn around than the Miami Dolphins. The Falcons defense not only forced turnovers, they held Adrian “Superman” Peterson to 76 yards on 22 carries. The Falcons clinched their first playoff spot since 2004 with Sunday’s win and Tampa Bay’s loss. Atlanta has won six of its last eight games. The victory improved the Falcons to 10-5 on the year, marking just the fifth time in franchise history Atlanta has achieved a double-digit win season. Just imagine how good they would be if Michael Vick was still the quarterback (that’s another conversation for another day).

Patriots: I felt with three games remaining, New England would win the AFC East and make the playoffs and I still do after they pounded Arizona Sunday. This was an absolute domination for the Patriots on offense. They compiled 514 yards of total offense including 345 yards and three touchdowns from Matt Cassell. Defensively the Patriots were just as good holding the Cardinals to only eight touchdowns, 186 yards of total offense including only 44 yards on the ground. The Patriots are winning the games they need to and will need to win one more and hope the Dolphins lose to win the division and make another playoff run.

The bad:

Buccaneers: Tampa Bay continues to spiral downward and out of the playoffs after another bad loss this time to the NORV TURNER-LED Chargers. Philip Rivers threw for four touchdowns and San Diego’s defense forced three turnovers and beat the Bucs 41-24 at Tampa. The Chargers kept their slim playoff hopes alive with the win while damaging the Bucs chances to make it to post season play. The Chargers became the first visiting team to win in Tampa this season behind a 287-yard, four-touchdown, zero-interception performance from Philip Rivers. Rivers’ four TDs are a career-high and his 136.7 passer rating is the second-best of his career on the road. Antonio Bryant has 127 receiving yards and a TD on six catches. In his last three games, Bryant has 23 catches for 435 yards and four TDs. With the Bucs loss, the Panthers are the only NFL team undefeated at home this season. The Bucs defense continues to struggle while their offense remains somewhat inconsistent. If the Bucs do not make the playoffs, it will be interesting to see what changes are made in the off season especially at quarterback. Can you say Donovan McNabb?

Steelers: I said it all year and I will say it again, Pittsburgh wins football games when Ben Roethisberger plays well. Last Sunday wasn’t one of those times. Roethlisberger was intercepted twice and fumble once in an easy 31-14 trouncing to the Titans. “Big Ben” threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns but most of it came in situations where the Steelers were playing catch up. The Steelers played well but finally allowed over 330 yards of total offense to an opponent this season. The Steelers continued to struggle to run the ball as Willie Parker rushed for only 29 yards on 18 carries. With the win, the Titans clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs and both teams have a one week bye before they begin their playoff run. Pittsburgh has reasons to be concern if these two teams meet in the playoffs. They haven’t had a decent rushing game since the first have of the season and the Titans beat them with three of their top defensive players on the sidelines for the game due to injury. Pittsburgh had better take some time to get healthy and go back to the basics of running the football and protecting the quarterback and do it fast because I have a feeling these two teams will meet again but this time it will be the AFC Championship game.

Jets: New York continues to show they are pretenders after another pathetic performance on Sunday against the lowly Seahawks. Seattle’s Maurice Morris sliced through the snow like a sled for a season-high 116 yards and John Carlson scored the only touchdown on a short pass from backup Seneca Wallace as Seattle ended New York’s stay atop the AFC East with a 13-3 upset Sunday. Brett Favre started 8-for-9 but finished 18-of-31 for 187 yards and two interceptions. He under threw Laveranues Coles near the Seahawks 30 in the fourth quarter, and David Clowney earlier when he was 3 yards behind Josh Wilson at the Seahawks 40 further proving to me it’s time for him to go home to Louisiana. The Jets fell to 0-4 on the West Coast this season (9-2 in all other time zones) and their five-game win streak vs. the Seahawks was snapped. Favre was held without a passing touchdown for the third time in his last four games. He has one TD and six interceptions in that span. The Jets failed to score a TD for the first time in their last 20 games (Week 12 of last season vs. Cowboys). The Jets can still win the AFC East with a win vs. Miami next week and a Bills victory over the Patriots. Don’t bet on it.

Eagles: Once again, Andy Reid and Philly find ways to lose football games and this time it almost assures they will not make the playoffs. The Eagles offense was pathetic and predictable once again in losing to the “out of the playoffs” Washington “Deadskins” 10-3 in the nation’s capital. Washington got just its second win in its last seven games, snapping three-game losing streaks overall and at home. Despite the win, the Redskins were eliminated from playoff contention due to the Falcons’ victory. The Eagles were held to just 62 yards on the ground after totaling at least 130 rushing yards in each of the last three games. Donovan McNabb was 26 of 46 for 230 yards and no touchdowns and Brian Westbrook rushed for only 45 yards on12 carries. Philly had a chance to tie the game but but a pass by McNabb to Reggie Brown came up short at the one yard line of the Redskins. The loss brought an end to the Eagles’ three-game winning streak and gave the Redskins a consolation prize on the day they were mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Had Philly won, they would have moved ahead of Dallas and Tampa Bay and into the final NFC wild-card spot with one game to play. Now even a victory at home in next week’s finale against Dallas won’t guarantee a berth. Like the Jets, they will be home for the holidays.

Panthers: The NFC road to the Super Bowl will run through the Meadowlands because New York did what they had to do against frigid, swirling wind — run the ball. The Panthers allowed Derrick Ward ran for career-best 215 yards and gave up the winning touchdown to Brandon Jacobs’ with 9:57 left in overtime and the Super Bowl champion Giants re-established themselves as the team as the team to beat by earning the NFC’s top seed for the postseason with a thrilling 34-28 comeback victory over Carolina on Sunday night. The Panthers allowed a season high 301 yards on the ground to New York running backs in failing to gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the NFC. The loss spoiled a record-tying, four-touchdown performance by Panthers running back De Angelo Williams, who gave Carolina a 28-20 lead with a 30-yard TD run 2 minutes into the final quarter. He also scored on runs of 13, 5 and 1 yards. The Panthers, who have qualified for the playoffs, can clinch the NFC South and the No. 2 seed with a win at New Orleans next weekend. As I said in the past, the Panthers are a good team but not a great team and although they played well in New York, they fell short in the end. Win a championship Panther fans and then come talk to me.

Cowboys: All the hoopla surrounding the farewell to Texas Stadium was supposed to fire up Dallas. Well, it got to the Ravens, too. With two quick bursts, the Cowboys’ playoff hopes took a serious hit. Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee broke open the game in the second half with two long touchdown runs and Tony Romo struggled once again as the Boys’ loss to the Ravens in their final home game at Texas Stadium 33-24. Dallas allowed 388 yards of total offense to the Ravens with nearly 250 of it on the ground. DeMarcus Ware continued his all-pro season with a sack and now has 20 this season. He is 2.5 sacks from tying Michael Strahan for the single-season NFL record. Ware has a sack in 14 of 15 games this season. That is the most games with at least one sack in a single season since sacks became an official stat in 1982. Tony Romo had another poor performance going 24 of 45 for 252 yards and two huge interceptions to Ed Reed (one of the match ups I told you to watch in this game). Baltimore bounced back from a controversial last-minute loss to Pittsburgh to win for the fourth time in five games. With only the AFC’s sixth seed up for grabs, Baltimore is guaranteed of getting in with a victory over Jacksonville at home next weekend. In addition to the homecoming theme, the Ravens also were motivated by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett opting to remain with the Cowboys after interviewing to become Baltimore’s coach last off season. “I wonder what team he wishes he was coaching tonight?” Suggs said. The Cowboys lost for the second time in three weeks, rekindling talk of their December disasters. While they can still get an NFC wild-card berth, this loss makes it tougher. They’ll go to Philadelphia next Sunday needing a win and, perhaps, some help. If they don’t make the playoffs, let the “head rolling” begin in big “D” after the regular season ends.

The Ugly:

Cardinals: Arizona continues to prove their division crown is a product of the teams in the NFC West after that weak attempt at football in New England losing 47-7.. They are the best of the worst in that division which means if they happen to win their home game in the division, they need not make any flight and hotel arrangements after their next playoff game because it will be on the road and they will surely lose. All you have to do is look at this glaring stat: They are 5-0 against teams in their division and 3-7 outside of it.

Broncos: Denver continues their desperate pursuit of missing the playoffs after losing at home to a struggling Bills team 30-23. The Broncos blew an early 13-0 lead and lost to Buffalo 30-23 Sunday in the second-coldest game in team history, setting up an all-or-nothing game against the Chargers next week for the division title and a playoff berth. The Broncos led the Chargers by three games with three to go, but now face the possibility of having led the AFC’s woeful West by themselves from opening weekend through Christmas with nothing to show for it. The Bills had not won in Denver since a 17-16 victory in 1967 at since-demolished Bears Stadium. After throwing eight interceptions in his last six games, Bills QB Trent Edwards had no interceptions against the Broncos. Denver has to win in San Diego next week to win the AFC West and earn a playoff berth. If they don’t, Mike Shanahan should be fired or step down but we know that won’t happen because of the love affair Pat Bowlen has with them even though Shanahan hasn’t won a playoff game since Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway retired.

Browns: You lose at home to the Cincinnati Bungles? Is it that bad? I guess so. So the question now is who will it be, Bill Cowher or Marty Schottenheimer as Cleveland’s next head coach?

Rams: St. Louis is just bad. Enough said.

Chiefs: How many ways can I say K.C. will lose games?

Lions: Not even close and still no cigar.

Games to watch week 17:

Broncos vs. Chargers

Key match up: The Broncos secondary vs. Philip Rivers. If Rivers can exploit the Broncos secondary down the field like he did last week against the Buccaneers, the Chargers will make the playoffs. How far they get in the playoffs will remain a mystery because of……you guest it………NORV TURNER.

Cowboys vs. Eagles

Key match up: Tony Romo vs. the Eagles secondary. Like last week, the key for the Cowboys will be Romo’s ability to make big plays in the passing game while eliminating mistakes in key situations to hurt his team. If he can play turnover free football and the Dallas offensive line can protect him against Jim Johnson’s blitzing defense, the Cowboys will win, if not, they will lose. It’s that simple. Regardless of who wins the game, look for both of these teams to make significant changes in the off season.

Dolphins vs. Jets

Key match up: the Dolphins secondary vs. Bret Favre. Like Tony Romo, Bret Favre must protect the football to give the Jets a chance to win this game. He must do something he is not known for which is make smart decisions with the football and manage the game. Don’t bet on it. The Dolphins are going to the playoffs.

Redskins vs. 49ers

I added this game because both teams have a lot to play for. The Redskins have players like Jason Taylor who need to prove they can still play in this league, Jason Campbell wants to finish the season on a good note, Jim Zorn needs to prove he can coach in this league and management needs to decide if they want to keep him based on his body of work this year. The 49ers have players and coaches that want to keep their job including interim coach Mike Singletary although I believe he proved enough to be the head coach. Look for both teams to play hard.

Lions at Packers

I added this one because of the Lions and their brink of history……..again. If they lose, they will have gone winless once again in their franchise history and will be the first team to go 0-16 in a season. The Packers just wanna win a game after starting the season with such promise. Don’t blame Aaron Rodgers, Packer fans, take a look at your defense. Think about it, would you want Rodgers or a 39 year old man still not sure if he wants to play (again) and leads the league in interceptions?

My top 15 teams after week 16:

1. Tennessee 2. Giants 3. Pittsburgh 4. Indianapolis 5. Carolina 6. Atlanta 7. Baltimore 8. Patriots 9. Miami 10. Minnesota 11. San Diego 12. Tampa Bay 13. Jets 14. Denver 15. Chicago

Best performance by a Division I college football team

: Eastern Michigan and Miami of Ohio

Big ups to Eastern Michigan and their hiring of Ron English and Miami of Ohio for hiring Mike Haywood as their head football coaches. Both men have a wealth of asst coach experience and have shown the ability to run their prospective coordinator positions to warrant the head coaching positions. It’s a shame they have to go to mid-majors to get their opportunities but nevertheless they are opportunities for two more black coaches to prove they are as good as their white counterparts. Next stop, the “five families” (the Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 12 and the Big Ten).

Worst performance by a Division I college football team

Auburn Tigers

I’m sorry, hiring Chizik was so terrible and racist, I still can’t get over it.

Don’t forget to check out my show on called “The Batchelor Pad” that airs Monday thru Friday 6pm-8pm est. We discuss the world of sports from a social, economical and racial stand point. Just go to the site and type in “batchelor” in the search section.

Until next week…….Stay positive, be safe and enjoy the games!