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Monthly Archives: December 2010
Your Top Stories
1. The NFL fined Brett Favre $50,000 for failing to cooperate with league officials in their investigation of the messages and photographs sent to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league “could not conclude” that that Favre had violated the league’s personal conduct policy despite a series of interviews and forensic analysis of the graphic photos. However, league officials said that Favre was “not candid in several respects during the investigation resulting in a longer review and additional negative public attention for Favre, Sterger and the NFL,” which was the reason for the fine. As for Favre’s on-the-field presence, it’s unlikely that Favre will play in the Vikings’ finale as he had not passed the first stage of the standard post-concussion testing.
2. Michael Vick suffered a leg injury in the Eagles’ Tuesday Night game against the Vikings, and it will likely cause him to miss Philadelphia’s regular season finale against Dallas. He missed practice today, and with the Eagles playing on a short week and the third seed locked up, Vick would almost certainly sit, injury or not. Reports are that Vick hurt his quad on the first play of the game against Minnesota. The injury puts backup Kevin Kolb into the driver’s seat, who would be making his fifth start this season. In other Vick-related news, Fox News analyst Tucker Carlson said that Vick should have been executed himself for killing dogs, though Vick has not responded to the comments.
3. The league fined the New York Jets $100,000 for the conduct of assistant coach Sal Alosi who tripped Dolphins return man Nolan Carroll earlier this season. Alosi, who is the strength and conditioning coach of the Jets, reportedly instructed players to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the sideline so as to impede opposing players on punts. The Jets suspended Alosi indefinitely without pay for these actions. League officials described the action as “a competitive violation as well as a dangerous tactic.” Jets coach Rex Ryan denied any knowledge of Alosi’s tactics.
The Playoff Picture
If the playoffs were held today…
1. New England Patriots (13-2)#
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4)+
3. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)*
4. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
5. Baltimore Ravens (11-4)+
6. New York Jets at (10-5)+
With the Jacksonville Jaguars still alive at 8-7.
Again, the AFC playoff picture remained exactly the same from last week. With one week to go, this is what we know:
- New England will be the first seed.
- Pittsburgh would be the second seed with either a Steelers win or a Ravens lose, which could make Baltimore the fifth seed. If the Steelers lose and the Ravens win, the reverse is true.
- Kansas City will be the third seed.
- Indianapolis would be the fourth seed if the Colts win or the Jags lose. Jacksonville would be the fourth seed if the Colts lose and the Jags win.
- The New York Jets will be the sixth seed.
1. Atlanta Falcons (12-3)+
2. Chicago Bears (11-4)*^
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-5)*
4. St. Louis Rams (7-8)
5. New Orleans Saints (11-4)+
6. Green Bay Packers (9-6)
With the Giants knocking on the door at 9-6, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still technically alive at a longshot 9-6, and the Seattle Seahawks clinging to a baffling opportunity to win the NFC West at 6-9.
Again, there’s remarkable stability in the NFC playoff picture as well, with the only change being that right now the Pack is in while the Giants fell back onto the bubble. The possibilities for the NFC are a bit trickier, but this is what we know:
- The first seed will almost certainly be the Falcons. Atlanta clinches the first seed with a win, or with a Saints loss and a Bears loss. New Orleans would be the first seed if the Saints win and the Falcons lose. Chicago would be the first seed if the Bears win and both the Falcons and Saints lose. All these contingencies are pretty moot because all Atlanta has to do to lock up the number one seed is beat the league’s worst team, the Carolina Panthers, but stranger things have happened.
- The second seed will almost certainly be Chicago. Chicago clinches the second seed with either a Bears loss or Falcons win or a Saints win. Atlanta would be the second seed with a Falcons loss, a Saints loss, and a Bears win.
- The Eagles will be the third seed.
- The fourth seed will go to the winner of the Rams/Seahawks game.
- The fifth seed will almost certainly be New Orleans. New Orleans clinches with fifth seed with a Saints loss or a Falcons win. However, Atlanta would fall to the fifth seed if the Falcons lose and the Saints win.
- The sixth seed is three way race that’s surprisingly straightforward. Green Bay would be the fifth seed with either or a Packers win or losses from both the Giants and the Buccaneers. New York would be the sixth seed with a Giants win and a Packers loss. Tampa Bay would be the sixth seed with a Bucs win and a Packers loss plus a Giants loss.
+ = Clinched Playoff Berth
* = Clinched Division
^ = Clinched First Round Bye
# = Clinched Overall Number One Seed
Head of the Pack
Your statistical leaders in:
1. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis) – 4436 yards
2. Drew Brees (New Orleans) – 4424 yards
3. Phillip Rivers (San Diego) –4397 yards
With Brees leapfrogging Rivers.
1. Arian Foster (Houston) – 1436 yards
2. Jamal Charles (Kansas City) – 1380 yards
3. Chris Johnson (Tennessee) – 1325 yards
With Jones-Drew falling out of the top three.
1. Brandon Lloyd (Denver) – 1375 yards
2. Roddy White (Atlanta) – 1327 yards
3. Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis) – 1297 yards
With Lloyd pulling into first.
1. Cameron Wake (Miami) – 14.0
T-2. Clay Matthews (Green Bay) – 13.0
T-2. DeMarcus Ware (Dallas) – 13.0
T-2. John Abraham (Atlanta) – 13.0
T-2. Jason Babin (Tennessee) – 13.0
With Ware, Babin, and Abraham pulling even with Matthews to create a four-way tie for second.
Three Big Match Ups
1. Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 1 P.M. EST on FOX – Tampa Bay has made one of the best turnarounds from the prior to season to this one. Still, even with that great comeback, the Bucs will need some help to make the playoffs. Tampa Bay won a mere three games in 2009, but with a young coach and a young quarterback coming to the fore in 2010, they managed to win nine games and improve dramatically from last year when they were the last team in the NFL to secure a victory. With only one game to go, the Bucs still have a shot, however long, to make the playoffs. That shot, however, requires a win over the red hot New Orleans Saints. The Saints pulled off what may have been their biggest victory of the season last week against the division rival and NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons. The victory showed a lot of toughness and experience from the Saints with the win coming on the road with a great deal on the line. After starting the season 4-3, the Saints have won seven of their last eight games to clinch a playoff berth and hold onto an outside shot of becoming the top seed in the NFC. With Drew Brees looking in top form, and the Bucs still fighting for a playoff spot, expect a hard fought game.
2. Chicago at Green Bay, 4:15 P.M. EST on FOX – Last week’s game against the Giants was, for all intents and purposes, a playoff game for the Packers. Suffice it to say, they advanced. Their 45-17 drubbing of the G-Men means that the Packers control their own destiny going into the last week of the season. It’s win and you’re in for Green Bay. However, that victory must come against a Chicago team that, at worst, will be the second seed in the NFC. On the other hand, that might just work in Green Bay’s favor. If either Atlanta or New Orleans wins earlier in the day, the Bears postseason position will be set in stone, and the Pack might end up facing a team whose playoff tickets have already been punched. On the other hand, with a bye assured, Lovie Smith may want to make sure his team isn’t too rusty before having to get back up to full speed in the playoffs. He might also want to see that his team puts up solid fight against Green Bay, not only to build momentum into the postseason, but to be fair to the Giants and Buccaneers. Or, deep down, he and the rest of the Bears may just want to send the division rival Packers packing in their own house,, as an exclamation point at the end of the regular season. With lots of good reasons for the Bears to get up for this game, and the biggest reason for the Packers to play their hearts out, expect a great match up.
3. St. Louis at Seattle, 8:20 P.M. EST on NBC – It pains me to have to designate a game between a 7-8 team and a 6-9 team a big game, but with a playoff spot on the line, here we are. What nice things can I say about these teams? Sam Bradford has managed to take 2009’s worst team in the NFL and lead them to a greatly improved record, putting them on the brink of a playoff berth. No matter how you slice it, that’s a solid year with a rookie QB under center. Still, the Rams have only beaten one team with a winning record this year. The good news is that the team they beat was the Seahawks, and Seattle doesn’t even have a winning record anymore. For Seattle’s part, Pete Caroll managed to take a team that went 5-11 last year and lead them to a…6-9 record thus far. Well, it’s an improvement. And hey, whatever the reason, the ‘Hawks have a chance to host an NFL playoff game. That has to count for something. Much of this game will be on the shoulders of Seattle backup QB Charlie Whitehurst, who will be making only his second career start. Whitehurst will be filling in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck in what is essentially a playoff game with the NFC West on the line. Unsurprisingly, neither team looks great coming into this game. The Seahawks have lost five of their last six. The Rams have only lost two of their last three, but they did manage to close the book on the 49ers playoff hopes. Say what you will about these two teams, but one of them will be headed to the playoffs. Expect them both to play with an intensity, if not a talent, equal to those stakes.
Around this time of year, everyone puts out their “Best of 2010” lists. There’s nothing wrong with this practice exactly. It’s a good way of looking back at the past year of excitement, entertainment, and events, but I always feel like it misses something, particularly with respect to music. If you’re anything like me, the newest and best additions to your music collection did not all come from 2010. There’s something so great about discovering a brilliant song written anywhere from a few years ago to a few decades ago that is equal to the novelty of any new release. With that spirit in mind, here is a list of the top ten songs I discovered this past year, regardless of when they came out.
Your Top Stories
1. Rex Ryan might be giving the term “football” new meaning this week. Deadspin uncovered four videos of a woman who appears to be Ryan’s wife, Michelle, showing off her clod-hoppers in a series of foot-fetish videos. The videos were uploaded to youtube by a user named “ihaveprettyfeet” who shares several biographical details in common with Michelle. In one video, the camera man who sounds strikingly like Ryan converses with the woman about her feet. The fine folks at Deadspin guess that this video was made a few years ago while Ryan was an assistant coach in Baltimore. When asked about the videos, Ryan said it was a “personal matter” and refused to comment. The NFL agreed, saying it would not be investigating. So did Jets management, with New York GM Mike Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson indicating that Ryan has their “full support.” You can be sure our crack news team will be keeping their toes in the water on this one.
2. Indianapolis receiver Austin Collie is out for the season after suffering a concussion in the Colts’ game against the Jaguars last week. It was his second concussion of the year, and enough for Indy to put him on IR, ending his season. Collie has been banged up all year, missing five games completely and missing significant parts of three others after he was knocked out of the game. Despite this, Collie managed to lead the Colts in touchdown receptions with eight, and the loss will deprive Manning of one of his favorite targets over the past two years. Coach Jim Caldwell said, “From a medical standpoint, we are concerned more so about his health than anything else.” Collie’s injury comes in the wake of a number of other significant personnel losses suffered by the Colts, including Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzales, Joseph Addai, and Bob Sanders.
3. Some quarterback quick-hits for you in our third news item of the week. The Broncos indicated that Tim Tebow will be starting the team’s remaining games against Houston and San Diego. Kyle Orton, the team’s starting quarterback for the majority of the year, expressed his displeasure, saying, “I don’t know if I’ll be here next year. We’ll just have to wait and see what shakes out with the organization.” The 49ers are remaining quiet as to which Smith will be starting for them this week – Troy or Alex. An NFL Network report indicated that Troy would start. Alex has gone 1-8 this year, while Troy has won three of five games in relief. Mark Sanchez has been limited in practice due to a sore shoulder, but said he expects to play in the Jets’ game against Chicago this week. Brett Favre might still play despite his concussion last week against the Bears, but the Vikings, and Joe Webb, are preparing as though he will miss the game. Finally, Aaron Rodgers returned to practice with the Packers this week, and he is expected to start against the Giants on Sunday despite having suffered his second concussion this year.
The Playoff Picture
If the playoffs were held today…
1. New England Patriots (12-2)+
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4)+
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5)
4. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)
5. Baltimore Ravens (10-4)
6. New York Jets at (10-4)
With the San Diego Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars knocking on the door at 8-6.
Despite the lack of teams clinching by this point relative to prior seasons, the AFC playoff picture has remained remarkably stable, with only the Colts’ do-si-do with the Jags changing the order from last week. With two weeks to go, the only big questions are: Can the Steelers hold off the Ravens? Can the Chiefs hold off the Chargers? And who will come out on top in the fight between Indy and Jacksonville for the AFC South?
1. Atlanta Falcons (12-2)+
2. Chicago Bears (10-4)*
3. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)
4. St. Louis Rams (6-8)
5. New Orleans Saints (10-4)
6. New York Giants (9-5)
With the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knocking on the door at 8-6, and the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers still holding onto a chance to win the NFC West at 6-8 and 5-9 respectively.
Again, the NFC playoff picture has been pretty solid consistent despite a lack of mathematical certainty, and it looks to stay that way over the last two weeks of the season. The big questions are: Can the Eagles hold onto their lead in the East over the Giants? Will one of the Bays, be it Green or Tampa, be able to sneak into a Wildcard spot? And what miserable team will back its way into winning the NFC West?
+ = Clinched Playoff Berth
* = Clinched Division
Head of the Pack
Your statistical leaders in:
1. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis) – 4257 yards
2. Phillip Rivers (San Diego) –4141 yards
3. Drew Brees (New Orleans) – 4122 yards
With Manning jumping to number one.
1. Arian Foster (Houston) – 1345 yards
2. Maurice Jones-Drew – 1324 yards
3. Jamal Charles (Kansas City) – 1303 yards
With no changes for the second week in a row.
1. Roddy White (Atlanta) – 1284 yards
2. Brandon Lloyd (Denver) – 1264 yards
3. Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis) – 1247 yards
With Lloyd and Wayne switching places from last week.
1. Cameron Wake (Miami) – 14.0
2. Clay Matthews (Green Bay) – 13.0
T-3. John Abraham (Atlanta) – 12.0
T-3. Jason Babin (Tennessee) – 12.0
T-3. DeMarcus Ware (Dallas) – 12.0
With Shaun Phillips and Tamba Hali falling out of the top three.
Three Big Match Ups
1. NY Jets at Chicago, 1 P.M. EST on CBS – What makes this game intriguing is that the Jets have a lot more to play for than Chicago. With last week’s win, the Bears clinched the NFC North. If Chicago can win out, or if they can get a little help from the Eagles, they can also secure a first round bye. But thanks to the woeful NFC West, even if the Bears don’t win another game this season, the worst that happens is a home playoff game against the sixth seed. The heavy lifting is pretty much over for Jay Cutler & Co. until the postseason. What makes this interesting is the fact that this is a group who haven’t been to the playoffs, let alone clinched a berth before the end of the season, in four years. Whether Mike Martz can get his crew fired up and ready to play or whether his team will come out flat with so much locked up will say a lot about these Bears. The Jets, on the other hand, are still fighting for their playoff lives after having previously held the best record in the league. How the mighty have fallen. New York still controls their own destiny, and if they can win this game, they’re in the playoffs. Even if they lose, they still have their chances with the underachieving Bills on the schedule for their regular season finale, but the AFC Wildcard race is coming to a head and the Jets need to build momentum as they head toward the playoffs. Last week’s win against the likely second-seeded Steelers should help give the Jets their swagger back, but Rex Ryan’s group still needs to firmly erase the memories of their beat down in New England and their close loss to Miami. What kind of game Chicago plays and what kind of team New York puts on the field will give us a good view of what to expect from both sides in the postseason.
2. NY Giants at Green Bay, 4:15 P.M. EST on FOX – This is essentially a playoff game between the presumptive second place finishers in the NFC East and the NFC North. The stakes are the highest for Green Bay. The Packers control their own destiny, and if they can win out, they will go to the playoff thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker with New York and the strength of victory tiebreaker with Tampa Bay. If, however, the Pack loses this game, they’re officially eliminated from playoff contention and a promising season will go down the drain. With Aaron Rodgers returning after his second concussion of the year, it’s do or die in Green Bay. The Giants are suffering a bit themselves. After giving up a 31-10 lead over Philadelphia Eagles last week, a disastrous fourth quarter and a special teams bungle to end all bungles for New York all but dashed their hopes for winning the NFC East. A win for the Giants would give them a playoff berth thanks to a strength of victory tiebreaker over the Bucs, but the big question going into this game is – how much of a hangover will the G-men be nursing as they walk into Lambeau? This game could lock down a major part of the rough and tumble wildcard race in the NFC. The Packers need the win to get to the big dance, but the Giants need the win to prove to themselves that the Philly game was a fluke and that they won’t fade in the heat. Expect a playoff atmosphere and a great game.
3. New Orleans at Atlanta, Monday, 8:30 P.M. EST on ESPN – It’s rare for two teams this good to be playing in the same division. The Falcons look nigh unstoppable, having not lost a game since the middle of October and stringing together eight wins in a row in the mean time. A victory would be huge for Atlanta, giving them not only the NFC South, but home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Falcons are flying high, and nothing would cap their regular season better than defeating their division rivals to ensure that the road to the Superbowl goes through Atlanta in front of the home crowd. The defending Superbowl champion Saints, however, are no slouches themselves. While New Orleans, at two games back, would need a great deal of help to unseat the Falcons at the top of the NFC South, they would be at least tied for first in six of the seven other divisions in the league. New Orleans is still smarting from last week’s loss to Baltimore, but they have won six of their last seven games, and a win here would clinch them a playoff berth. These are two of the best teams not just in the NFC South, or the NFC, but the league. Expect them both to shine in front of a national audience on Monday Night.