A crazy end to the 2009 NFL season today! In what surely must be one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory, the playoff picture is about set. I will take quick look around the league tonight and set the stage.
1-New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Losers of their last 3 games, the Saints keep the number one seed and home field through the playoffs. The defense has been hurt and shaky and the offense has seemed unsure as of late. Maybe two weeks preparation is just what New Orleans needs, but they look about average right now.
2-Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
The Viking returned to form today destroying the Giants in a statement game. A first round bye is their reward and they will have momentum going into the divisional round.
3-Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
The most dangerous team in the playoffs this year looks to be the Cowboys (and you had so little faith Gawains!! HAHA). A total dismantling of the Eagles today delivers the NFC East crown to Dallas and more importantly they get to replay today's game at home next week against the outclassed Eagles.
4-Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
The perplexing Cardinals win the NFC West but lose today at home to the Green Bay Packers who will play them again next week in the wild card round. The Cards have played well at times this year, but the Packers really overwhelmed them today so they look like an upset special next week.
5-Green Bay Packers (11-5)
The surprise in the NFC this year, the Packers are tough to beat because they do everything well. I think they have to be favored next week against the Cardinals.
6-Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)
What a wild ride for the Eagles today! They could have been the number 2 seed with a bye week but instead get dominated in Dallas and fall to the last wild card spot. I find it hard to believe the Eagles can rebound in one week after being beaten so easily by Dallas, but anything is possible.
My picks next week will the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers.
1-Indianapolis Colts (14-2)
The AFC leader all year. This team has first playoff game upset loss written all over them! People cannot understand why the Colts have limited playoff success over the last decade even though they have won more regular season games over that time than any other team. It is simple: The Colts have no higher gear. They play at the same intensity whether it is a regular game or a playoff game. This works well in the regular season because they play at a high level, but they are often out worked in playoff games.
2-San Diego Chargers (13-3)
This team looked finished by week 5 but has not looked back since then. The Chargers have to be the favorites for the AFC at this point. They are red hot and are playing great football.
The following is probable as I think the Jets will beat the Bengals tonight.
3-New England Patriots (10-6)
Just when the Pats were looking good, Wes Welker has been lost for the season on a freak knee injury. This is a huge blow for any Patriot playoff run chances, which looked weak anyway. Another blown 4th quarter lead does not bode well for the opening wild card round, probably against the Ravens.
4-Cincinnati Bengals (10-6 projected)
The Bengals have had a surprising season and win the AFC North. I think they will let the Jets win tonight and then get to play against the rookie NY QB Sanchez next week at home in the wild card round. The Bengals are very balanced and overlooking them would be a mistake by any team.
5-New York Jets (9-7 projected)
With a win against the Bengals tonight the Jets will make the playoffs after a strange up and down year. It is hard to get a feel for this team, so they will be fun to watch!
6-Baltimore Ravens (9-7)
A veteran team that has made so many mistakes they about killed their playoff chances over the past few weeks. Luck has smiled on them and they get a wild card round appearance against a shaky, Welker-less Patriots team.
My picks next week will the the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals will lose to the Jets next week as they are getting embarrassed with all their starters in. Just silly; either play to win or mail it in but the half effort tonight will cost them.
Surprises:-The Steelers fail to make the playoffs after winning the Superbowl last year. This happened the last time they won as well.
-The Giants totally fell apart this year.
-The Cardinals did not fall off the face of the Earth.
-The Chargers turning things around.
-Are the Falcons that bad?
-The Broncos did way better than I thought.
-Defense has officially become extinct.
-The Lions and Rams were terrible
-Albert Haynesworth is not worth what Washington paid him.
-The Patriots should have landed Julius Peppers.
-Matt Cassel would struggle on the talent devoid Chiefs.
-The Dolphins would come back to Earth.
-Give Brett Favre a running game and he is still very dangerous at the QB position.
A great season and some wonderful playoff football yet to come!
Come on, you know I am going to say the New England Patriots!
-Three Superbowl victories
-Five AFC title appearances (winning 4)
-Undefeated 2007 season (Lost Superbowl)
-7 AFC East Division Titles
-Best Season 2004:
Finishing 14-2 the Patriots befuddle Peyton Manning and the Colts winning 20-3 and at one point Manning walked over to the sideline after another interception with his hands up in the air saying "I give up!!!". A shocking road blowout of the Steelers in the AFC title game (41-27) was so unreal I am not sure the TV announcers knew what to say. A close win over the Eagles (24-21) in the Superbowl ended the best Patriots season ever.
There is not much more to say, quibble in the comments if you will but this is an easy call.
Have a good night.