The NFL’s Good, Bad and the Ugly: Week 17

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: January 3, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly NORTH CAROLINA — Duke basketball commits a team violation that the mainstream media is not talking about, Coppin State upsets George Washington while Hampton beats Yale on the hard court too.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins, Chargers and Eagles step up and win to get in the playoffs while the Jets, Broncos and Cowboys step down and will be watching them from home.

Let’s examine these teams and stories in the good, the bad and the ugly of this week.

The good:

Dolphins: A year after going 1-15, Miami joined the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams in NFL history to make 10-game improvement after. beating the New York Jets 24-17 at the Meadowlands. Under first-year coach Tony Sparano, Miami has won five straight and nine of 10 in making the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and winning its first AFC East title since 2000. The Dolphins won the game the way they’ve games all season: play sound defense and play mistake free football on offense. Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington was solid in the game, going 22 of 30 for 200 yards and two touchdowns while is counterpart Brett Favre struggled throughout the game throwing three huge interceptions including one thrown to Phillip Merling who returned it 29 yards for a score. The Dolphins closed season with their fifth straight win and fifth straight road win, going from 1-15 to 11-5 and winning AFC East title for the first time since 200. It’s also the second time that Chad Pennington beat Brett Favre in the Meadowlands in a season finale to clinch a playoff spot for his team. I said it last week, Favre would be the difference in the Jets winning or losing the game. If he managed the game and played mistake free football, the Jets would win but if he turned the ball over numerous times, the Jets would lose. I thought he would do the latter and he did and that’s why “gang green” will be watching the playoffs at home on television. Favre is done and should retire immediately.

Chargers: San Diego completed a surprising turnaround after beating the Denver Broncos at home 52-21. The loss was so bad for the Broncos, owner Pat Bowlen decided to part ways with long time Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan. The Chargers won their last four games while the Broncos loss their last three games and open the door and let the Chargers steal away the AFC West crown. Now that the Chargers are in, it will be interesting to see if they will be out this weekend as they play a very hot Indianapolis Colts team, winners of nine straight games.

Eagles: Boy, did the football Gods smile upon Philadelphia. The Eagles came into the game just looking to beat their rivals the Dallas Cowboys because their chances of making the playoffs were so slim but their playoff chances became greater thanks to the Raiders and Texans. After the Raiders went into Tampa and stun the Buccaneers and the Texans toppled the Bears in Houston, the Eagles took care of the rest by destroying Dallas 44-6 in the city of Brotherly Love. Following their 0-2-1 stretch in November, the Eagles won four of their last five and earned the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs and will play at Minnesota next week. (The Eagles are 2-0 against the Vikings in the postseason.)

Vikings: Minnesota knew if they beat the world champs, they would be champs too……..of the NFC North. With the Giants planted firmly as the number one seed going into the playoffs, the Vikings rallied past the Super Bowl Champs for a 20-19 victory on Sunday afternoon to qualify for the postseason for the first time in four years. Ryan Longwell’s 50-yard field goal won NFC North for Vikings as time expired. The Vikings won their division for first time since 2000. New York had their three-game win streak in Minnesota snapped and have lost three of four overall. Adrian Peterson rushed for 103 yards, his 10th 100-yard rushing game of the season. The much maligned Tavaris Jackson played well going 16-26 for 239 yards and a touchdown including a big 54 yard touchdown pass and catch to Bernard Berrian. The Vikings have been playing well and look to continue their winning ways this weekend as they face an equally hot team, the Philadelphia Eagles. It will be a tough task for the Vikings especially since it doesn’t look like the Vikings will sell out the game.

The bad:

Jets: New York will be watching the playoffs at home on television because of two words: BRETT FAVRE. More on him in the weeks to come.

Broncos:Denver will be watching the playoffs at home on television because of two words: MIKE SHANAHAN. I guess they fixed that problem since they fired him.

Bears: Chicago will be watching the playoffs at home on television because of two words: NO QUARTERBACK. Can you say Donavan McNabb?

Saints: New Orleans will be watching the playoffs at home on television of two words: NO DEFENSE. Drew Brees can’t throw the ball and at the same time, tackle the opposing offensive players, rush the opposing teams quarterback and intercept the opposing quarterback. Or maybe……….

The Ugly:

Cowboys: Dallas is pathetic. A team with 13 pro bowlers, loads of talent and lots of fire power couldn’t manage to win one game down the stretch to get into the playoffs. No performance was worst than the shameful 44-6 beat down they took at the hands of the playoff bound Eagles. The Cowgirls lack balance on offense, play makers on defense and lack discipline and it all starts with two guys: Tony Romo and Jerry Jones. The owner put this team together with no team chemistry or direction at the head coaching position. He is also responsible for keeping the overrated Romo as the starting quarterback. Speaking of Romo, the league’s “best October quarterback” once again fell short of leading the team to the promise and expectations set by the organization and fans. He tries to improvise by moving around the pocket to give his receivers time to get down the field or to put themselves in a position to make plays, instead he holds the ball long enough to make bad throws and interceptions, gets sacked in crucial situations and fumbles the ball often. If Jones doesn’t bring in a bonafied football guy to handle the personnel decisions, hires a coach and arrest some of the players stealing money from him (because they are not earning their pay) and continues to believe in the “great white nope”, Romo, Cowboy fans should get use to seeing players from the team watching games from the stands rather than on the field.

Buccaneers: After controlling their own destiny with a 9-3 record, Tampa Bay went on an early vacation and found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Let’s all finally admit that John “Chuckie” Gruden is not the genius he portrayed to the Glazer “dumb dumbs”, owners of the Bucs. I mean, the one Super Bowl Championship the Bucs won with Gruden as the coach was put together by Tony Dungy over his brilliant years as the coach of the Bucs. It’s time for Chuckie to move on because it’s obvious the team no longer responds to his leadership and coaching.

Bills: Tell me how Mike Shanahan gets fired with a resume that includes two Super Bowl Championships and Dick Jauron keeps his job after a third straight 7-9 record including a in excusable performance in Buffalo’s season finale against the Patriots losing 13-0?

Lions– You have to fire your coach and be the worst team in the league if you don’t win one game in the regular season of the NFL. Detroit is the one NFL city in the US that is not only suffering from a Economic crisis, but has a football team that probably makes people feel worse an not better in these times of financial crisis.

Playoff breakdown (Sunday’s Games): Baltimore at Miami

Key matchup: Ed Reed vs. Chad Pennington. This is a matchup of the team that forced the most turnovers in the league this season(the Ravens) versus the team that finished tied for the least amount of turnovers in the league (the Dolphins). Chad Pennington must manage the game and take advantage of any opportunities the Ravens make give him down the field but that will be a tough task against one of the league’s best defense and future hall of famer Ed Reed. Reed’s unique ability to read quarterbacks and his nose for turnovers so the Dolphins must take care of the football. The team that wins the turnover battle will move on to the next round of the playoffs.

Philadelphia at Minnesota

Key matchup: Jim Johnson vs. Tavaris Jackson. The Eagles will keep it simple: they will stack the box to try and stop Adrian Peterson and try to force Tavaris Jackson to beat them threw the air. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson of the Eagles will also look to blitz Jackson early and often, try to confuse Jackson and force him to turn the ball over. If Jackson can continue to show the poised he displayed over the last couple of games, the Vikings have a shot to win against the Eagles and if they do, who knows how far of a playoff run they can make this season.

My top 15 teams after week 17:

1. Tennessee 2. Giants 3. Pittsburgh 4. Indianapolis 5. Carolina 6. Atlanta 7. Baltimore 8. Miami 9. Philadelphia 10. Minnesota 11. San Diego 12. Arizona 13. New England 14. Chicago 15. New Orleans

Best performance by a Division I college basketball team:

Georgetown Hoyas

DaJuan Summers scored 18 points and No. 8 Georgetown beat No. 2 Connecticut 74-63 for its seventh straight win this past Monday. Georgetown opened the game with an 18-3 run and led the entire game. UConn was never closer than three points. This was the Hoyas’ eighth straight victory in their Big East opener and the earliest Georgetown has played UConn since the first meeting between the schools on Dec. 22, 1958. The win for Georgetown further proves once again how deep in talented teams the Big East really is.

Worst performance by a Division I college basketball team:

Duke Blue Devils

No, not for the usual suspicious calls in their favor on the court, but their team violations off the court the media refuses to talk about. According to limited reports, Duke athletics officials have initiated a self-report to the NCAA over associate head basketball coach Chris Collins’ impermissible attendance Friday at the GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational high school tournament. Friday was the final day of the Dec. 24-26 recruiting “dead period,” during which NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from attending high school games. Collins was at Broughton High’s Holliday Gymnasium as featured games included Ravenscroft-Apex and Word of God-Rocky Mount. The Blue Devils athletics department basically is stating the violation was a clear oversight on Collins and they will handle the violation appropriately.

I know it’s not a scandal of epic proportions or it isn’t the bomb shell dropped in Indiana but it is a clear NCAA violation committed at one of the elite basketball programs in the country but because it’s the Blue Devils, the main stream media gives them a pass but I won’t because the Blue Devils always betray this hire moral image to the rest of the country and always has this sense of entitlement an arrogance. From the lacrosse team to the basketball team, their nose is always stuck in the air as they sit on their high horse and it’s time for someone to knock them off the saddle. Although the violation was small the teams standing in the sports world is not so it’s time for the main stream media to treat it with as much vigor and diligence as they would when they are attacking and HBC school/university.

Best performance by a HBCU basketball team:

Hampton Pirates

Freshman Christopher Tolson led the Pirates yet again with a team- and game-high 21 points as the Pirates snapped a three-game losing streak with a nail-biting 58-56 win over the Bulldogs of Yale University Tuesday night. The Bulldogs out shot the Pirates in the first half, 58.3 percent to 36.7 percent, to go into the half with a 33-30 lead. Yale made 14-of-24 shots from the floor and was led by Alex Zampier, who scored the high for the half with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Hampton made just 11-of-30 shots from the floor and was led by Tolson , who scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds for the Pirates in the first half. Hampton shot only 28.1 percent from the floor in the second half, while the Bulldogs shot 40.9 percent from the floor. Hampton also scored 10 points off Yale’s 13 turnovers and 18 points off the bench to give them everything that they needed to score the 28 points in the second half to lift them to a victory. I know it’s only Yale, but the Pirates proved HBCU’S can win games outside their conference and against non Division 1-A schools.

Best performance by a HBCU men’s basketball player:

James Dillard, Johnson C. Smith

The junior forward from Apex, N.C. averaged 28.5 points and 11 rebounds per game including a dominating performance against 9th ranked Catawba. His best outing came against 9th ranked Catawba in which Dillard had 35 points and 16 rebounds.

Extra Point:

Congratulations to the University of Utah for their upset victory over Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl. Utah quarterback Brian Johnson, showing what “the brothas” can do, played exceptionally well going 27-41 for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns. Utah finishes the season undefeated once again going 13-0. It’s the second time in five years the team has gone undefeated. Although I still don’t think mid-majors should receive a BCS bid, you have to be pretty impressed with what Utah accomplished in beating a team that was ranked number one most of the season in New Orleans which is essentially SEC country where Bama plays their ball.

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!