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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Colts 30 Jets 17: Colts AFC Champions, wait for Saints, Vikings

Colts 30 Jets 17. The Indianapolis Colts (15-2) are AFC Champions, having beat the New York Jets and now wait for the winner of the Saints - Vikings game as their challengers in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami.

The way the Colts earned their second trip to the Super Bowl in three years was with a strong defense to go with their quick-strike offense, as they marched back from 11 points down in the first half of the game. The Colts held the NY Jets , the NFL rushing leader, to an average of under three yards per carry.

But it was a story of Quarterback Peyton Manning.

After solving the riddle of the Jets overload blitz by using "three-and-one formations" and taking advantage of key Jets defensive losses, the Colts' Manning threw for 377 yards, and was 26 for 39 and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 123.55. The key was his rookie receivers: Pierre Garcon and Austin Colley. They combined for 274 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

As successful as the Colts were, it didn't start out well. The NY Jets came out to a 17-6 lead with a mix of power running and play-action passing. Mark Sanchez didn't look like the rookie he was here at the 2009 NFL Draft:

His success is a tribute not just to his New York Jets coaches, but to former-USC Coach Pete Carroll and his staff where Sanchez was signal-caller in college. Sanchez was well-prepared for the systems and speed of the NFL. Sanchez' advance to the AFC Championship game as a rookie will not be the rare happening it has been in the past.

But that will come in the future. Today is the Colts day. More on how the Colts did it later.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

“FRO’s Favorite Five” Frankie’s Favorite Fantasy Picks Wildcard Weekend

“FRO’s Favorite Five”
Frankie’s Favorite Fantasy Picks
Wildcard Weekend

For the playoffs I prefer to rate each position for those people who play in the Playoff Fantasy Leagues. Teams on bye (Indianapolis, San Diego, New Orleans and Minnesota) are not included in these rankings.

By Frankie Underwood, Senior Fantasy Writer at www.footballreportersonline.com Email questions and comments to Frankie@footballreportersonline.com


Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay @ Arizona
Kurt Warner – Arizona versus Green Bay
Tony Romo – Dallas versus Philadelphia
Tom Brady – New England versus Baltimore
Donovan McNabb – Philadelphia @ Dallas
Joe Flacco – Baltimore @ New England
Carson Palmer – Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Mark Sanchez – New York Jets @ Cincinnati

Running Backs

Ray Rice – Baltimore @ New England
Thomas Jones - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Ryan Grant - Green Bay @ Arizona
Cedric Benson - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Marion Barber - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Laurence Maroney - New England versus Baltimore
Beanie Wells - Arizona versus Green Bay
Felix Jones - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Willis McGahee - Baltimore @ New England
Brian Westbrook - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Tim Hightower - Arizona versus Green Bay
Kevin Faulk - New England versus Baltimore
Leonard Weaver - Philadelphia @ Dallas

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald - Arizona versus Green Bay
Randy Moss - New England versus Baltimore
Donald Driver - Green Bay @ Arizona
Miles Austin - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Anquan Boldin - Arizona versus Green Bay
DeSean Jackson - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Braylon Edwards - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Greg Jennings – Green Bay @ Arizona
Derrick Mason - Baltimore @ New England
Chad Ochocinco - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Jerricho Cotchery – New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Laveranues Coles - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Patrick Crayton - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Julian Edelman - New England versus Baltimore
Roy Williams - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Jeremy Macklin - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Steve Breaston - Arizona versus Green Bay
Brad Smith - New York Jets @ Cincinnati

Tight Ends

Brent Celek - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Jason Witten - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Todd Heap - Baltimore @ New England
Jermichael Finley - Green Bay @ Arizona
Dustin Keller - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Ben Watson - New England versus Baltimore
Donald Lee - Green Bay @ Arizona
JP Foschi - Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Ben Patrick - Arizona versus Green Bay
Martellus Bennett - Dallas versus Philadelphia


Neil Rackers - Arizona versus Green Bay
David Akers - Philadelphia @ Dallas
Shaun Suisham - Dallas versus Philadelphia
Mason Crosby - Green Bay @ Arizona
Stephen Gostkowski - New England versus Baltimore
Billy Cundiff - Baltimore @ New England
Jay Feely - New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Shayne Graham - Cincinnati versus New York Jets


Dallas vs Philadelphia
New York Jets @ Cincinnati
New England versus Baltimore
Baltimore @ New England
Green Bay @ Arizona
Philadelphia @ Dallas
Cincinnati versus New York Jets
Arizona versus Green Bay


by TJ Rosenthal-Contributing Writer-Football Reporters Online

Sometimes the best remedy for being an underdog is carrying an "us against the world" mentality. On Saturday the New York Jets will do just that as they visit the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the AFC Playoffs. There are plenty of experts and football fans who believe the Jets were benefactors of good fortune at the end of the season, and not truly playoff worthy. The Jets have reminded us all week that they are the league's number one rushing team and defense. In a rematch of week 17, the Jets will soon get their chance to prove the doubters wrong, while taking one step closer to the ultimate goal, a trip to the Super Bowl.

Last weeks 37-0 trouncing of these same Cincinnati Bengals has been defined in the press this week a few different ways. The first viewpoint has been that only  the 9-7 Jets had everything to play for, with a win or go home scenario staring them down last Sunday night.  Unlike the Bengals who had nothing to gain except the addition of key players to the injury report had they risked injury in order to get a meaningless win. The other side of the coin offered has been that the Jets are a tough team built for January that is getting on a roll. Gaining momentum on both sides of the ball. 

The reality is, the truth will come out, starting on Saturday. For now, what can be said about the Jets win in the final game at Giants stadium, is that the club DID achieve one thing. It set the template for how these 2009 Jets CAN be a force through January.  That is, a bruising run game (one that rushed for 257 yards combined last week) with a defense that is tough to move it on, a quarterback in Mark Sanchez who risks little, and an emerging playmaker who will see opportunities to make a difference in Brad Smith. Smith's 58 yard run that set up the Jets first TD,  a 2 yard plunge by RB Thomas Jones, made it a second straight week with a big play for the former QB at Missouri. Smith has been used before behind center in his four years as a Jet, but the breakout game Sunday night (4-92 yds 1 TD) followed another game in which Smith made a huge difference with a big play. In Indianapolis one week prior, Smith returned the second half kickoff 106 yards for a TD, the longest in Jet history, putting the Jets up 10-9 at the time against the then undefeated Colts..

 If Smith has emerged as a true weapon who can be effective with an increased work load both as a running QB and one who can pitch the ball to Jones or rookie RB Shonne Greene,  the load will be lightened for Sanchez. This would come as a delight to the Jet staff, as they look to keep the rookie under wraps more. After a great start that  helped lead the Jets to a 3-0 record, a mid season turnover swoon developed, leading to a 20 interception season. The total tied Sanchez with Detroit rookie Matthew Stafford for second most in the NFL. Only the Bears Jay Cutler threw more with 26 . Should Rex Ryan's Jet defense be even more opportunistic with sacks and scoring off of turnovers, Sanchez's role will be lightened even more. For now, short throws mainly to the outside, away from traffic seem like the best formula for the rookie out of USC, who has not thrown a pick the last two weeks since the gameplan has become even more stringent on the QB.

The Bengals will be at full strength this Saturday after resting four defensive starters and their top rusher  last week. Banged up RB Cedric Benson, the teams leading rusher figures to help an offense that struggled to move the ball at all against the Jets last week. Veteran QB Carson Palmer who has been solid all year for the division winning Benglas, had zero yards passing in the first half. Palmer played just one series in the second half.

 Flamboyant WR Chad Ochocinco  offered Jet Superfan Fireman Ed tickets to the game after failing to come through on doing his own Fireman Ed chant after scoring on Jet star  Darelle Revis in week 17. The Bengals top WR was held to no catches on the day, this after proclaiming all week on Twitter that he was going to win the battle. Ochocino then praised Revis on Monday again on twitter, saying that number 24 was tops in the NFL. Ochocinco, who injured the knee on the icy field during warmups last week said that after having sex on Monday, the knee held up beautifully and is ready to go. So with the defense at full strength, Ocho healthy, Benson back, and Palmer sure to be more focused,  the Bengals will be aiming to show why they were AFC Central champions. 

 The Jets hope to continue as they left off. Ground and Pound it with Thomas Jones and Shonne Greene on offense, while All Pro CB Darrelle Revis and the Jets defense shuts Ochocinco and the Bengals  down on defense. Rex Ryan has been bold during his press conference's saying that of all the teams still alive, he'd rather be coaching the Jets; a team with the number one D and rushing unit in the NFL. He's also tried to reframe the notion that the Jets are long shots to go far. Vegas odds have them a 50-1 shot to win the Super Bowl. The brash outspoken rookie head coach has called the Jets in fact, "the team to beat" in this years playoffs.

 Jets LB David Harris, injured last week with a sprained ankle was insulted this week by the Benglas Benson. Asked what the potential loss of Harris would mean to the Jets, Benson replied "I don't even know who that is." Harris leads the Jets in tackles. He practiced lightly on Thursday. No word as to his status has been determined yet. 

Despite the Jets and Ryan proudly mentioning those "number one" stat categories, they know they have something to prove. In order to truly be thought of as an elite team in 2009 , the Jets have to go out and prove they deserve to be. They have to go out and once again beat the Bengals. This time, in a do or die  game for both sides. This time, on the road.

The Jets were fortunate in catching a break when so many AFC teams lost in week 16 that they regained control of their destiny. They faced a Bengal team on cruise control last week. Although those back to back odd circumstances worked heavily in NY's favor, they don't have to apologize for them. 

What they have to do instead, is make the best of their opportunity. The opportunity to prove that maybe, just maybe, they have bought enough time in 2009 for all three phases to finally put it together in unison. That they have found the right approach for the offense with Sanchez playing it safe while mostly handing it off  to the top rushing unit on football. That they have hung around long enough for  the defense to have regained it's early season swagger. That they acknowledge Brad Smith has to be a bigger cog in the gameplan. Saturday in Cincinnati marks the beginning of a playoff run that is there for the taking. Only however, if the Jets can seize the moment by channelling the emotions born when a team goes out to prove so many people wrong by playing focused, sound passionate football.


EMOTIONS: Are the Jet truly setting their sights on the Super Bowl or are they satisfied just to have made it out of December?. Many have called their playoff berth a joke, or simply luck. Rex Ryan will undoubtedly use the "Us against Them" card throughout the postseason. The Bengals did not like getting knocked down 37-0. They're also at home. WR Chris Henry's death weeks back after a domestic dispute shocked the Bengals  who went out days later in San Diego and played magnificently in Henry's honor. This past week, Jets owner Woody Johnson's daughter Casey, 30, was found dead in LA.  Both teams will play with heavy
 hearts as a result of these tragedies on Saturday.

STEP UP NOW ROOKIE, IT'S YOUR TIME TO SHINE: It goes without saying that if the Jet ground game falters, so will the Jets. However, the Jets may in fact move it on the ground yet also need Sanchez to deliver some key third down throws. Maybe even over the middle. Lead a comeback or two. Here's to hoping that Sanchez plays with that confidence he exuded  most notably Monday night in Miami, leading the Jets back twice in the second half. The perception of Jets doubters will change only with a win that includes Sanchez having contributed more than handoffs and quick rollout tosses to the flat. A win is a win though, so if it means play it safe with the lead, he'll do it. Ill advised throws  have to be behind the kid who seems to be adjusting to his game managing role well, or else, trouble looms.

X FACTORS: Here are two, Brad Smith and FS Kerry Rhodes. Smith can provide big plays on special teams, as WR, and while getting direct snaps in the Jets version of the Wildcat or Kordell Stewart "slash" role of taking handoffs right under center. Rhodes has been coming on since the benching a month ago. His hit on Ochocinco that broke up a pass play last week showed that he is back to playing with instinct again. His three interceptions have got us thinking that something big could be on the way from the guy Rex Ryan hoped could be the next Ed Reed. A key read by Rhodes on a Palmer throw could go a long way to help leading the Jets to victory.  One that would make  Ryan's first playoff game as an NFL head coach even more memorable.

additional notes: 

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 1982, Jet RB Freeman McNeil rushed for 202 yards in a 44-17 Jet win . That was the strike shortened season when the playoffs were called the Super Bowl tournament.

The Bengals were the last team admitted into the AFL back in 1968. Paul Brown was the head coach. Soon to be 49er legend but then assistant Bill Walsh, was credited with inventing the West coast offense during this time. This out of necessity as the team had a hard time run blocking. Former Bengal Super Bowl coach Sam Wyche was the QB.

follow TJ Rosenthal on twitter @thejetreport

FOOTBALL TALK-Wild Card Weekend: A Second Take

January 6th, 2009 9:37pm PST

FOOTBALL TALK-Wild Card Weekend: A Second Take
By David Ortega for Football Reporters Online

This Weekend NFL fans will see what looks like a rematch of last weekend when the Eagles-Cowboys, Packers-Cardinals, and Jets-Bengals tango. In the first two matchups it will be a complete repeat with the Eagles and Packers again hitting the road. The difference in the Jets and Bengals, unlike last week's contest in the Big Apple this one will be in Cincinnati.

The Cowboys will be shooting for the Tri-fecta on Saturday when they face the Eagles for the third time this season. With quarterback Tony Romo (311 yards passing and two touchdowns last week) playing well and the Cowboys defense (four sacks last Sunday) coming to life, the boys from Texas look like favorites to complete the sweep.

The Packers and Jets may have only seen a mirage of the teams they will face this weekend. Green Bay's defense barely faced the Cardinals starting quarterback Kurt Warner who exited early and Sunday night it looked like the Bengals starters took all of the night off against the Jets.

The Cards offense was stagnate with Matt Leinart under center last weekend, but you can bet the Packers secondary will have their hands full with Warner in the huddle on Sunday. The question for Cincy will be trying to muster some offense against the Jets stingy defense and shut down corner Darrelle Revis. Last Sunday Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was held without a catch and quarterback Carson Palmer managed only one completion for no yards and an interception.

It's not often a team gets a chance during the playoffs to exact some revenge for an earlier loss in the season, but this wild weekend will present three opportunities with the Bengals, Cardinals, and Eagles all looking for that chance.

Looking under the hood of Week 17

Vikings flex some muscle on Sunday...
So much for the worry, on Sunday against the Giants the Vikings offense appeared to have cured all of their offensive ills. Quarterback Brett Favre was back to form completing 25 of 31 passes and throwing four touchdowns, while the ground game pounded out 129 yards, including a score by Adrian Peterson. The defense was also stellar forcing two turnovers, recording three sacks, and limiting the Giants to only 181 yards.

Cardinals don't show much in finale ....
With nothing to play for in Week 17, the Cardinals limited quarterback Kurt Warner to a cameo appearance last Sunday. Warner only threw six passes, but he'll need to throw a lot more if the Cards hope to get past a very good Packers pass defense (ranked 5th) that leads the NFL with 30 interceptions this season. Warner is a savvy veteran quarterback with plenty of weapons and he'll have wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (13 touchdowns) available, but Anquan Boldin (84 receptions) could be a different story with a banged up ankle.

Bengals show very little in finale.....
Whether it was by design or not, the Bengals showed very little in their season finale against the Jets. The performance was so poor it could have many fantasy owners concerned about even considering any starters this weekend. Against the Jets stout defense the Bengals managed only 72 total nets yards, turned the ball over three times, and surrendered three sacks. With quarterback Carson Palmer going one for eleven passing and the offense mustering just five first downs, offense could be a problem on Saturday.

More fantasy Notes

"Inside the Matchups"

The Bengals could have a big problem on Saturday in their rematch with the Jets in the AFC Wildcard round of the playoffs. Last week shutdown corner Darrelle Revis (six interceptions) did a huge number on wide receiver Chad Ochocinco not allowing a single catch in five tries. Whether Ocho plays or not, the Bengals figure to half a tough time completing passes in the direction of Revis. Revis has been stellar all season up against the best and leads the NFL's number one ranked pass defense.

The Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (94 receptions) did not have a big season in the end zone, but he was consistent and one of quarterback Tony Romo's most reliable. Last week against the Eagles Witten was effective catching six passes for 76 yards, including a score. In his last five matchups with the Eagles Witten has been an effective target, so there's little doubt that Romo will be looking his way a great deal on Saturday night.

The Patriots may have suffered a big loss last Sunday with the injury to Wes Welker, but they will still have the NFL's 2007 MVP, quarterback Tom Brady. It was not a Brady-like season, but the Patriots quarterback still finished the year with strong numbers; 4,398 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, and 96.2 passer rating. With Welker out, it will be a lot of Randy Moss (13 touchdowns) and Julian Edelman (10 receptions last week) on Sunday against the Ravens 8th ranked pass defense.

Where will Michael Vick end up in 2010?

Where will Michael Vick end up in 2010 ?
By J “The Gambler” Gamble-Contributing Writer-Football Reporters Online
Three years of turmoil. It was like a nightmare. But after most of the dust has cleared, Michael Vick is still living The American Dream. The former franchise QB is licking his chops to get a crack at a starting job next season. In the meantime, Vick is rebuilding a shattered reputation, on an NFL roster and earning back some of the “love” that was lost when he lied to fans, the Falcons and most importantly owner Arthur Blank.
Blank, who gained his fame and fortune as a player in the creation of Home Depot, entrusted Vick with $100 million and the keys to Atlanta. And don’t sniff at that contract. A man of Blank’s business acumen knew deep down that putting a stack on a previously impoverished kid from the ghettos of Newport News Va., and expecting him to be Gandhi with cleats, a helmet and run a 4.2, was a risk. It was a risk that paid high initial returns, but couldn’t sustain in the market and eventually hit rock bottom with Vick admitting to funding a brutal dog-fighting ring, and subsequently doing nearly two years in a Leavenworth, Kansas federal prison. We felt shock, betrayal and eventually anger.  
Despite the public backlash, Vick was fortunate to have a revered Tony Dungy mentor and publicly advocate for him, and people like Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid embrace him. Before you knew it he was on the Eagles roster. The cell block closed, and the doors of opportunity are open wide for Vick. Sure, he had to sit behind Donovan McNabb and couldn’t get in any flow. This first season back wasn’t about that. It was about a change in his attitude, and the attitudes of people towards the fallen great. The organizations that were so adamantly against his return are now willing to use Vick as a spokesperson to advance their causes and agendas.  He’s becoming marketable again.
Vick plans to work with the Humane Society of the United States on an anti-dogfighting campaign. And part of his release agreement was that he would work on programs aimed at preventing youths from entering dogfighting, and also on programs to assist young people who have already been involved in the vicious sport.
Vick has a unique opportunity to be one of the rare athletes and celebrities who can take a precipitous fall, lose everything and then rebuild again with dignity, grace and maturity. An example of resilience, penance, humility and growth that we don’t often get to see when athletes take falls. For most, the opportunity to rebuild never comes. Most of us only get one shot at greatness.  
Vick has been paying his dues and he now deserves a shot at a starting job. He played the humble soldier this season, backing up McNabb and saying and doing all of the right things. Vick has used this season to get re-acclimated to the locker room, the speed and toughness of the league, and getting his body back in football shape. There are many teams in the league with big-time deficiencies at QB. Why wouldn’t Washington, or Miami or Seattle or St. Louis or San Fran let Vick come in and compete for a starting gig ? In any event, they’ll have to wait. Vick’s season is still going on as the playoffs begin. He still has a chance to leave a mark on this season.
The excuse that he has taken two seasons off and is “probably” a shell of his former self, is irrelevant. If anything he added two years to his career. He saved his body.  He’s still better than anything those teams have got at 80 percent. But if he is anything close to what he was -- with the maturity he seems to have acquired by surrounding himself with positive men -- then he can elevate those franchises to elite status. Either way, he deserves the chance to find out. We do too.   

Giants End Season With One Last Embarrassing Loss

Giants End Season With One Last Embarrassing Loss
By Jon Wagner-Sr. Writer at Large-Football Reporters Online

A long season that once started with much promise is finally, mercifully, over for the 2009 New York Giants.

Following a 5-0 start which had the Giants pointing toward the playoffs and contending for Super Bowl XLIV, New York (8-8) ended its season with its eighth loss in eleven games on Sunday.

Like most of the previous seven defeats, the final one wasn’t pretty.

New York saved perhaps its worst for last, as the Minnesota Vikings (12-4) tuned up for the playoffs with a 44-7 manhandling of the Giants, who showed almost no fight for the second straight week after dominating Washington 45-12, only two weeks ago.

After leading the Redskins 24-0 at the half, the Giants trailed by the same score at halftime to Carolina last week, en route to a 41-9 home loss which ended Big Blue’s playoff hopes.

Though Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin stressed professional pride with his team reduced to a spoiler role in the regular season’s final week, the first half in Minnesota was even worse than last week.

The Vikings took the opening kickoff, and needed just 2:03 to go 60 yards on five plays, for a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard touchdown pass to former Giant, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, from quarterback Brett Favre, who had numbers that would have been good for a whole game, all in the opening half.

Favre completed 19 of 23 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, while avoiding a turnover, to lead Minnesota to a 31-0 halftime advantage.

By then, the Vikings, controlling the ball for 18:59 to the Giants’ 11:01, had scored on five of six possessions, had outgained the Giants 343-82 (271-66 through the air, 72-16 on the ground), had 18 first downs to the Giants’ four, and made seven plays of at least 15 yards (New York made just one of those in the first half).

Favre finished with a passer rating of 148.7, going 25 of 31, for 316 yards, with 4 TD’s and no INT’s before being lifted after his fourth touchdown pass, which gave Minnesota a 41-0 lead with 6:13 left in the third quarter.

After kicker Ryan Longwell’s third field goal in as many attempts, the Vikings took a 44-0 lead into the final quarter, having scored on seven straight possessions, and eight of nine.

The season finale was obviously a team effort that was one to forget, as the Giants allowed at least 40 points for the fifth time this season, the most times they’ve done that since 1966. They also missed the postseason for the first time in five years and became the fifth NFL team since 1970 to miss the playoffs after a 5-0 start.

Still, a few Giants reached individual milestones or had some career firsts:

- On his 29th birthday, Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning (17-23, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 lost fumble) became the third quarterback in team history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing 2009 with 4,021 yards (although even that was overshadowed by the Vikings, as Favre received an ovation for becoming the fourth Viking in history to pass for 4,000 yards in a season, finishing the day with 4,202 yards for his sixth 4,000-yard season; Favre, who now has 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions this year, also extended his record NFL record for seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes to nine seasons).

- Wide receiver Steve Smith, on the first play of the Giants’ second possession, caught a ball over the middle, making him the first Giant ever to catch 100 passes in a season. He finished with a game-high 10 catches (for 57 yards), giving him 107 receptions for the year.

- The Giants avoided a shutout on, a one-yard run, the first career touchdown, by third-year running back Danny Ware.

- Rookie wide receiver, Ramses Barden, a 6-foot-6 third-round draft pick in April, out of Cal-Poly, who holds an NCAA record with touchdown catches in 32 consecutive college games, played in his third NFL game and began the Giants’ only scoring drive of the day with his first career reception, a 16-yard grab from Manning.

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin didn’t believe that another poor performance was from a lack of trying. “I do think we tried,” he said. “Where the effort and the purpose wasn’t there last week, I thought we had that this week. I do [think we had pride]. They all came to the stadium wanting to play. I really don’t think for one minute as we went to the field, that anyone was not giving effort.”

Coughlin felt instead, it was simply mistakes that helped let the game get away. The Giants committed 13 penalties for 95 yards.

“I am disappointed in the penalties in this game,” Coughlin said after noting that the Giants had recently done a better job of cutting down on such miscues.

And, in the first half, Coughlin said, “Two turnovers, two scores” turned the game early.

“You can never ever, ever accept what happened on the field [today],” he added.

Manning commented on the disappointed ending to the season after being eliminated from playoff contention last week. “We wanted to finish the season strong, at least,” he said. “And really, just poor play on our part. [I’m] just frustrated and kind of confused and I don’t know what went wrong [since the win in Washington].”

He’s certainly not the only one, as the Giants head into the offseason trying to figure out who to keep, who to let go, and how to get back to where they were as Super Bowl champions only two seasons ago, as NFC East champions last year, and the team they were through five weeks this season.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Pats Could Again Hold Jets’ Key to the Playoffs

Pats Could Again Hold Jets’ Key to the Playoffs
By Jon Wagner-Sr. Writer at Large-Football Reporters Online

The eyes of all New York Jets fans will be on the Meadowlands on Sunday night, as Gang Green tries to make the NFL postseason for the first time in three years.

Rightfully so, since the Jets (8-7) would either clinch the AFC’s fifth seed with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) in the final regular season game (and likely, the last game, period) at Giants Stadium, at 8:20pm EST, on Sunday night.

However, earlier in the day, Jets fans may have to do the unimaginable and begin the new decade by rooting for their arch nemesis of the past decade.

In an ironic twist of fate, the New England Patriots (10-5), New York’s division rival who for much of the past ten years, have stood in the way of the Jets’ success by winning (seven AFC East titles from 2001-2009 and a playoff victory over New York in 2006), could now severely damage the Jets’ playoff hopes by losing.

While focusing on Sunday night’s contest, many seem to be forgetting that what happens earlier in the day in Houston, when the Texans (8-7) host the Patriots (10-5) at 1 pm EST, could have a tremendous effect on the Jets’ chances of beating the Bengals.

Say what you will about how the Jets played the second half in Indianapolis last week, but if the Colts didn’t rest their starters, the Jets probably wouldn’t be playing for much this Sunday.

Likewise, New York will of course have a much better chance at starting the new year with a playoff-clinching victory against Bengals’ backups instead of the Cincinnati starters that produced a 2009 AFC North championship.

At home, the Jets are still very capable of beating a motivated Bengals team with a lot to play for, but it would certainly be a lot easier for the Jets to win on Sunday night if they face a Bengals Lite team similar to the watered down version of the Colts that the Jets saw last week.

And, what Cincinnati may choose to do against the Jets could depend a lot on Sunday’s outcome in Houston.

If the Patriots beat the Texans, the Bengals would be locked into the AFC’s fourth playoff seed, and should rest a lot of starters at Giants Stadium, at least during the second half (especially since without a bye week, that would be Cincinnati’s one chance at resting prior to the playoffs).

However, if New England again stumbles away from home, and fails to lock up the third seed, that spot will be there for the taking for the Bengals. That’s something that could be very attractive to Cincinnati for two reasons.

A first-round matchup as a three seed should be easier against a six seed, as opposed to playing in the four-five game next week.

Looking further down the road, the Bengals would also probably prefer a potential second-round playoff matchup at second-seeded San Diego, where Cincinnati was extremely competitive in a 27-24 loss on a 52-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, on December 20th. Not an easy game at all against the 12-3 Chargers, but the alternative could be a much tougher road to the Super Bowl going to top-seeded Indianapolis as a four seed.

Although Houston needs a lot of help, the Texans will be playing for a lot regardless of how any other AFC scenario plays out. The Texans can make the playoffs with a win over the Patriots and at least two losses from among the Jets, Baltimore (8-7), and Denver (8-7). Making the postseason is obviously the primary goal, but the expansion Texans should have extra motivation to be fired up. Even if the Texans miss the playoffs this year, a win will give Houston its first winning season in its brief eight-year history while helping the Texans avoid a losing record at home, where they are currently just 3-4 this season.

Adding to the chances of a Texans’ win is the uncharacteristic Jekyl and Hyde performance of New England this year. The Patriots are a perfect 8-0 at home, but they haven’t had a decent road win all season. They’re just 2-5 away from Gillette Stadium, with road victories against 3-12 Tampa Bay (really a neutral field win, in London) and in Buffalo (5-10; 2-5 at home).

With the flex schedule moving the Bengals-Jets game to prime time Sunday night television, the final day of the regular season could be summed up in a bit of a tongue twister for the Jets, as in: “Flex, Texans Affect the Jets.”

Regardless of what happens outside of the Meadowlands though, Jet fans are hoping that come Sunday night, they won’t be repeating a far more common phrase, such as “Houston, we have a problem.”

Baltimore’s Dirty Laundry

Baltimore’s Dirty Laundry
By Drew Moss for Football Reporters Online
Those rags. 
Cue Charlton Heston circa 1968: Those damn, dirty yellow rags!
Not the (in)famous Terrible Towels. Penalty flags.  Lots of them.  Thrown at the visiting Baltimore Ravens. Often, and worse – late.  Very late.
The Steelers’ season long crunch time woes were masked by the Baltimore Ravens’ ill-timed sloppiness as two fourth quarter touchdowns were nullified by penalties in a 23-20 Ravens loss at hostile Heinz Field.
With a game winning 38 yard field goal by kicker Jeff Reed with 5:25 remaining under his black hat, Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin held to the tried and true NFL mantra of “no apologies, no excuses” in his post-game, insisting that while the Steelers had “made their bed” with a nearly even, and therefore very uneven 8-7 record, he “likes they way they (the Steelers) are lying in it.”
Raven’s coach Jim Harbaugh did his best to stay positive as well, trying to steer clear of the penalty disparity (Ravens 11-113 yards, Steelers 4-20) in his post-game. But his venom was unmistakable.
When specifically pressed on Willis McGahee’s 32 TD-run that was wiped off the books by a holding call on Ravens wide receiver Kelley Washington, Harbaugh came as clean as a wallet-conscious NFL coach can.
“I think that call was very late,” Harbaugh seethed.  “It didn’t seem like it affected the play.”
Add to this the illegal block in the back called on Terrell Suggs’ that wiped out Domonique Foxworth’s interception/TD return of consistently inconsistent Ben Roethlisberger (17 for 33, 259 yards). 
Then throw in cornerback Frank Walker’s illegal contact penalty that spared the Steelers from another late game implosion, stripping Baltimore of any chance at last second heroics with good field position - and Harbaugh would have every reason to rip the Zebras and/or his team.
But to his credit, Harbaugh more or less stuck to the high road. “You can go to penalties if you want, you can put your finger on whatever you want, but we’re going to Oakland to play our hearts out.”
As well they should.  Despite the loss, the Ravens still control their own destiny. A win against the ever- reeling Raiders would land Baltimore in a wild-card berth, while the Steelers still need help from a slew of teams (count the Jets, Broncos and Texans among them) to get to the postseason.
Tomlin stuck fast to his rah-rah message in the face of the twisted playoff math. “We’re going out to control the things we can control, which is to play winning football,” said Tomlin.
As the Fat Man sang once or twice when visiting the Three Rivers: “Wave That Flag” Coach. “Wave it wide and high.”

AFC South Week 16 Wrap Up

   AFC South Week 16 Wrap Up
By Rafael Garcia
Sr. Contributing Writer Football Reporters Online
Southeast Region
San Diego 42 Tennessee 17
The game was never a contest from the start and the Titans season is now over. Eliminated from the playoffs, Tennessee looks towards other goals. First off was Christmas night, a game versus a Chargers team that had won nine straight games. The Titans needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive but could not deliver. Vince Young has taken this team from 0-6 to 7-7 and back in the playoff talk. The problem was they ran into a San Diego team playing December ball like no other in the league. They have not lost in December since 2006 for a total of 18 straight. Phillip Rivers picked the Titans defense apart going 21-27 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He is playing just as well as any of the top quarterbacks in the league. On the other side of the ball it was Tennessee playing like they did while they were going 0-6. Young had his worst game since he took over going 8-21 for only 89 yards with two picks. He also had a key fumble when he was sliding for a first down. The one bright spot continues to be Chris Johnson and his ability to get yards. He ran for 142 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown and needs only 128 to get to 2,000. He would have probably gone over 200 on Christmas night if the Chargers didn’t have such a big lead. So next week is the last game of the season and they will play to get Johnson to 2,000 and possibly, if he can get 234 yards, pass Eric Dickerson’s mark of 2,105 yards. They are also playing for a .500 but a good point needs to be mentioned. If the Titans lose to Seattle next week they would get better positioning in next year’s draft and would play a better schedule. Now no one wants to play to lose but just thought I would mention that.
New York Jets 29 Indianapolis 15
See this is why I have a problem with pulling players at years end. If you are going to do it why let your key players play into the third period? I can see playing them a series or two or maybe even a quarter. Not only that they did it in their home finale of the season. Way to treat your fans to a good game. So with the score 15-10 Jim Caldwell decided to pull Peyton Manning in favor of Curtis Painter and it bombed. Painter was greeted rather rudely and was hit often. He even fumbled on his second series that turned into a touchdown for the Jets. So perfection is gone and what is the point to the Colts. Let us remember that the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter if you win all your games or go 8-8. Still as a fan you would have wanted to see how it would have panned out next week had they won this game? The loss helped the Jets and hurt the Ravens making the last week of the season one to remember. So the main guys will rest next week in preparation for the playoffs. The media and the fans will second guess the decision for weeks to come but if Indy can win the big one it wont matter. If they don’t win it all it will be questioned into next season. They better hope that the likes of Austin Collie and other young players are not hurting their rhythm by not playing with Manning too much.
Houston 27 Miami 20
This is why they play the game as they say. When the season began the Texans had aspirations of a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history. As the season progressed things began to slowly unravel. They lost key games and kept making the mistake that have hurt them in years past. As the season has come to a close they are playing the brand of football they had hoped to play all year. On this day they looked great jumping out to a 27-0 lead as Matt Schaub had two quick scoring passes and Arian Foster chipped in with a 17-yard run. Kicker Kris Brown also had two field goals in the first half for 27-3 lead. They had to hold off a Dolphin 20-point rally but still looked like a team ready to make its first postseason appearance. Foster looked good running for 97 yards and Andre Johnson had five catches for 71 yards and a score. The defense held Miami to just 60 yards on the ground with Ricky Williams getting just 35. On the other side of the coin they did allow Chad Henne to go 35-55 for 322 yards too. So now they play to win next week and wait for the help they need. They have played hard and coach Gary Kubiak knows what’s at stake and the team is playing like it too. Let’s see if they can accomplish their goal and what they will do if they get there.
New England 34 Jacksonville 7
Another team in search of the postseason with jobs on the line is the Jags. On Sunday things did not go as planned when Tom Brady and Randy Moss put on a show that all but eliminated Jacksonville from playoff contention. They saw Brady go a near perfect 23-26 for 267 yards and four touchdowns. Moss had a huge day with three touchdowns on four catches. Maurice Jones-Drew failed to get 100 yards again getting just 63 on 18 carries. They managed just 275 yards of offense and David Garrard was picked off twice. When they had any kind of drive it was killed, as they were 4-11 on third down efficiency. They made Wes Welker look like one of the best receivers in the league as he caught 13 passes for 138 yards and leads the league with 122 catches. They failed to get to Brady and remain one the worst teams in the league as far as sacking the opposing quarterback is concerned. So they will need to win next week and get a lot of help or its lost season. If they do not make the playoffs changes will be needed and most of the time it starts with the head coach.

NFC South Week 16 Wrap Up

                             NFC South Week 16 Wrap Up
By Rafael Garcia
Sr. Contributing Writer Football Reporters Online
Southeast Region
 Atlanta 31 Buffalo 3
Now that the playoffs are not possible the Falcons decided to play for wins and pride. On Sunday they manhandled the Bills from the start. On the first play from scrimmage Matt Ryan hit Roddy White from 42 yards out to make it 7-0. The Bills would never be in the game from that point on. They managed just 187 total yards with only 40 coming via the run. Ryan finished 18-35 for 250 yards and three touchdowns. White had another scoring catch to close the scoring and finished with 139 yards on eight catches. The running tandem of Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood combined for 28 carries for 120 yards and the defense is playing the way they had hoped they would all year. They held the Bills to 11 first downs and 2-10 in third down efficiency. They forced three turnovers and 10 penalties for 60 yards and two sacks. Next week they go to Tampa Bay to try and finish the year with a winning record.
Tampa Bay 20 New Orleans 17
The last fourth of this season has been really hard on the Saints.  They started off so strong but have been exposed in the last month. The defense is the first thing that needs to be addressed and fast. They are finding ways to keep drives alive by allowing the big play, like the 77-yard punt return by Michael Spurlock to tie the game late in the fourth. They gave up 439 yards total yards to the Bucs. Tampa Bay was 7-12 on third downs and had the ball for 36 minutes. Not too bad for a team that started so bad. It was to the point where people were asking if head coach Raheem Morris could survive more than one year. New Orleans actually lead 17-0 and it was still 17-3 at the half. It would not be enough as Drew Brees was held under 300 yards passing and the Bucs defense came up big when they needed to. They took advantage of an injury to Saints running back Pierre Thomas and shut down the run game in the second half. Josh Freeman continued his evolution going 21-31 for 271 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. He did make a big play in the overtime that kept the winning drive alive. So Tampa continues to look like they are improving with each week and the Saints keep looking more vulnerable game after game. They and some fans thought they had won the game in regulation but Garrett Hartley missed a field goal from 37 yards out with five seconds left in the game. So Tampa moves on to finish the year next week looking to next year and the improvements they need to make. On a last note Morris may have saved his job with the team’s play in the last month or so.
Carolina 41 New York Giants 9
It was the last game at the Meadowlands and it hit home for me personally. I grew up going to that stadium and was looking to see the Gmen go out with a win. Unfortunately the Panthers had other plans. They came in with many questions in a season that had gone south. So, with not much to play for, they decided to show up and show out. Matt Moore had an effective day going 15-20 for 171 yards and three touchdowns. On top of that Jonathan Stewart ran all over the Giants defense to the tune of 206 yards on 28 carries and a score. The Panthers were 10-15 on third downs and had 416 total yards. They ran for 247 and forced four turnovers. The defense held the Giants to 60 yards rushing 27 minutes in time of possession. It was an ugly way for New York to go out as they showed no heart and little emotion. Eli Manning was 29-43 for 296 yards but he was playing from behind all day. It was 24-0 at the half and 34-3 by the end of the third. It was Carolina’s third win in their last four games and just like in Tampa that may have saved their coaches job for sure now.

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