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.