Monday, January 2, 2012

THE MORNING AFTER - NFL WEEK 17

Witnessing the Rise of Flynn. Not Bart Starr, Brett Favre, nor the great Aaron Rodgers owns the best passing performance in Green Bay Packers history. That honour goes to former LSU Tiger, and current backup for Rodgers, Matt Flynn, who bested Matt Stafford in a shootout at Lambeau field-- headlining the final week of the NFL season. Flynn threw for a franchise record 480 yards and 6 touchdown passes in just his second NFL start. In a meaningless game for the Packers, their offence was as sharp as it has been all season, and although Rodgers wasn't a factor on the field, he sure played a part in the win. Rodgers called the game for Flynn, who went no huddle for the entire first half. What a brilliant move by the coaching staff-- Rodgers was able to stay mentally sharp by calling the plays without a chance of injury. The biggest winner however is certainly Flynn, who will now be earning a much bigger contract during the offseason, as he enters unrestricted free agency. Good timing.

What a game at Lambeau though. Flynn and Stafford combined for 1000 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. So much for the vaunted frozen tundra of Lambeau.

The season slipping away from the Giants seemed to be an inevitable fact as the latter half of the season began to wind down. Coming to the rescue however, were the Dallas Cowboys-- who gave them life, twice. A fourth quarter, two score comeback with five minutes left, and a dominant performance in the final NFL regular season game this season over the Cowboys masked the imperfections that have plagued the Giants all season. All that is in the past now; the Giants will be one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs, led by an elite quarterback, and two, emerging superstars. Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career, paired up with second-year standout, Victor Cruz. Under the radar, Cruz, a flashy, salsa dancing wideout, has taken New York by storm and shredding opposing defences all season. On the other side of the ball is the pro-bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has been a wrecking ball barrelling through offensive lines all season. The Giants seem to be peaking at the right time, which is terrible news for NFC contenders, especially the Atlanta Falcons.

Contrary to the NFC, the 4th seed in the AFC is not looking too dangerous. The Denver Broncos backed into the playoffs, losing their third straight after almost being shutout by the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday. Tebowmania is subsiding. Geroy Simon hash tagged it best -- "#heiswhowethoughthewas". The Steelers are going to demolish this team this weekend, with or without Rashard Mendenhall. Tebow completed 6 passes for 60 yards and has John Elway regretting every positive word he finally gave in and said.

With TJ Yates separating his non-throwing shoulder, could Jake Delhomme possibly start a playoff game in 2012? What were the Bodog odds on that?

Did Aaron Rodgers sit his way out of the MVP award? With Drew Brees absolutely lighting up the Panthers -- 389 yards and five touchdown passes -- Brees has almost more 1000 more passing yards, more touchdown passes and a higher completion percentage than Rodgers this season. Brees is having the most prolific passing season in NFL history. How can he not be the favourite?

The Colts sucked enough after all. With a loss to the Jags, the Colts are now on the clock and have 115 days to crack the Manning-Luck code. Here's my forecast. The Colts draft Luck and trade Manning to the New York Jets for a bounty. Rex Ryan and the Jets need to swallow their pride, cut their losses and let go of the baggage that is, Mark Sanchez.

Valiant effort from Jared Allen in his pursuit of the NFL single season sack record -- coming just a half sack short of the mark set by future Hall of Famer, Michael Strahan. Allen, the only Viking to make the pro bowl, had the best season of his career and the lone highlight in a dismal Viking season.

Coincidence? While Brees and Brady broke the single season yardage mark held by Dan Marino, tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham break the single season receiving yards by a tight end record, previously held by Kellen Winslow.

Arguably the best three teams in the NFL, the Saints, Packers and Patriots have the worst three pass defences in the NFL.

Best hit without a helmet? Texans Bryan Braman.


Week 17 Game Balls

1) Drew Brees - In a game where he sets the NFL single season passing record and the completions record, Brees throws for 389 yards and five scores and may have finally closed the gap on Rodgers for NFL MVP award.

2) Michael Turner - Two touchdowns and 172 yards -- in two quarters of work.

3) Randy Starks - The big Dolphin D-Lineman tripled his career interception total with two picks of Sanchez-- also chipping in with a sack.

4) Matt Flynn/Jordy Nelson - Forget Luck, RG3 and Matt Barkley. Matt Flynn might be the most sought after QB in the offseason. 480 yards and 6 touchdowns to the delight of Packer nation. His favourite target, Jordy Nelson, has been transformed into one of the NFL's elite wide receivers, capping his break out season with 162 yards and 3 scores.

5) Matt Stafford/Calvin Johnson - Bested just on the final score, Stafford and Johnson put up better numbers than Flynn and Nelson in the loss. Stafford threw for over 500 yards, 224 of which were to Johnson.

6) Ray Rice - 192 yards and 2 scores. That's what happens when Cam Cameron decides to call running plays.

7) Victor Cruz - The most glaring pro-bowl snub. Cruz dominated Sunday night, racking up 178 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by his jump ball grab that helped clinch the game and the NFC East title for the Giants.

8) Curtis Lofton - 13 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown for the Falcons middle linebacker.

9) Jared Allen - 3.5 sacks in his menacing pursuit of Michael Strahan, falling just a half sack short. The most excitement generated for the Vikings this season.

10) Maurice Jones-Drew - 169 yards against a 10-man stacked box, earned him the NFL rushing title.


Week 17 Goats

1) Stevie Johnson/Chan Gailey - After catching a beautiful touchdown pass, Johnson proceeded to lift up his jersey, displaying "Happy New Year" written on his undershirt. He earned an unsportsmanlike flag and a spot on the bench for the rest of the game. Assuming Johnson was warned, he deserves goat status -- but so does Gailey. Lighten up a bit, its week 17.

2) Bill Leavy - Maybe Drayton Florence deserves to be a goat for failing to understand that in the NFL, it is illegal to be physical with Tom Brady, but throwing a flag for this incident, is just ridiculous.

3) Tim Tebow - The chosen one had a tough afternoon. 6 fort 22 for 60 yards, a whopping quarterback rating of 20.6 and a fumble in the red-zone ending the only competent Bronco drive .. But they still made the playoffs.

4) Kregg Lumpkin/Kellen Winslow - The Bucs season was epitomized by one play. Lumpkin and Winslow, both running crossing routes, collided in the middle of the field. With both receivers sprawled out on the ground, the errant pass found the hands of Curtis Lofton, who returns the interception for a touchdown.

5) Mark Sanchez - If it weren't for the stubbornness of Rex Ryan, the Mark Sanchez era would be over.


Rankin' Em After Week 17

1) New Orleans Saints (13-3) - The Packers did nothing to lose the top spot, but the Saints are my Superbowl pick -- thus, the top spot.

2) Green Bay Packers (15-1) - Not sure what to make of Matt Flynn's epic performance. Is he the next big thing? Is Rodgers really that good? or is Mike McCarthy just a genius?

3) New England Patriots (13-3) - 49 unanswered points, crushing the Bills and earning home field advantage throughout.

4) San Francisco 49ers (14-2) - The Rams managed to score two rushing touchdowns on the 49ers, tripling their season totals to just three.

5) Baltimore Ravens (12-4) - The Ravens finally get a home playoff game, the first for John Harbaugh since taking over the reigns in Baltimore.

6) Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) - Heading to Mile High for wildcard weekend-- what a gift for the banged up Steelers. This team needs a better effort than what they have offered in the past month-- they have not looked sharp.

7) Atlanta Falcons (10-6) - Although their offence looks like a contender, the defence will negate them from making any noise in the playoffs.

8) New York Giants (9-7) - Could they be writing the same script the Packers penned last year?

9) Detroit Lions (10-6) - After giving up 480 yards to Matt Flynn, good luck stopping Drew Brees.

10) Philadelphia Eagles (8-8) - What should have been -- the Eagles finished the season on a dominating four game win streak.


Check back for my 2011 Award Section, later this week.

@kidcuthy

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