by Michael Lombardi
January 11, 02010
QUOTE: “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -- Teddy Roosevelt
Is there anything better than playoff weekend? Even when the games aren’t great, they’re still fun to watch. Who would have thought (besides Yahoo Dave) that the Jets would be a final eight team, that the Patriots would be sent to an early offseason, that the Cowboys would beat the Eagles worse every time they played them this season, that the Ravens could win a game with 34 yards passing and that the Packers, the No. 1 defense in the NFL, would allow 51 points? It’s the playoffs, and it will only get stranger as we move forward.
In the AFC, the fifth and sixth seeds remain, eliminating two divisional champions. But in the NFC, the seedings held up and all four top seeds remain. So in theory, the top teams in the AFC got a break having to face the lesser seeds, but in reality, the two teams that remain, the Jets and Ravens, are playing much better than either the Pats or the Bengals and proved that with their convincing wins. From the start, every game this weekend looked even, with no team having a dominating advantage on paper. But on the field, three of the four were easily decided. So the final eight teams, regardless of the seedings, are the best teams left in the NFL.
The losers cry…
Philadelphia invested a ton of draft picks and money in their offensive line last offseason to no avail. My recommendation to the Eagles would be to get some of their offensive linemen over to Weight Watchers and to lose some pounds. They looked too heavy too slow- footed.
Eagles fans can blame Donovan McNabb for the loss, and yes, he didn’t play well, but who could play well when being rushed as often as he was? He avoided about 10 sacks and always seemed to be running for his life. LeSean McCoy is a good young back, but he needs to learn how to protect.
The Eagles have to fix their defense this offseason. They allowed 25.8 points the last five games of the season, and besides Trent Cole, they don’t have a top-level defensive lineman. They have good linemen, not great ones.
Cowboys guard Leonard Davis destroyed Mike Patterson of the Eagles in both games. The Birds might need to find a bigger, stronger man to play over Davis.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has to find someone to help him with challenges next season. His performance in the playoffs was beyond ridiculous. Putting the game in the referee’s hands for three quarters is too risky.
If Mike Zimmer does leave for Washington, the Bengals will have to find a top-level replacement because the team has more of Zimmer’s personality than they have Lewis’.
I was thinking of making Carson Palmer a blue-chip quarterback last summer but held off. Watching him play this season, he’s not even a low red. It might be injury-related, it might be scheme related, or it might be age related, but any way you look at it, he’s not the same player he was in 2005.
The Bengals must find some skill players to help Palmer next year, because other than Chad Ochocinco, they don’t have anyone who can get open.
The Patriots must rethink what they do on offense because it appears to me that the rest of the NFL has caught up to them. They don’t have the same mental toughness they once had on offense, and this could be a result of all the slip screens and draws. They never play with power — they play like a run-and-shoot team.
Tom Brady, like Palmer, was not very good Sunday, which might be a result of injury. Not one throw came off his hand with any zip or flow.
The defining moment of the game was when the Patriots had the Ravens backed up before the half and the Ravens ran for a first down. In the past, the Patriots’ signature move was always to take away their opponents’ strength and make them play left-handed. The Ravens defeated the Patriots doing what they do best, and the Patriots never had an answer.
With Chad Clifton getting injured, the Packers must find a left tackle for next year. This offense is so good, the only thing that can stop them is their own offensive line.
In the Packers’ six losses this season, they allowed over 30 points per game. Somehow they have to find ways to slow down the good passing teams in the league. The Packers only forced five third downs yesterday, making the Cards look as if they were playing under CFL rules. It’s hard to get off the field if the opponent never makes it to third down.
The winners advance…
The Cowboys’ offensive and defensive lines have been the difference the last five weeks and have dominated each opponent. To win in Minnesota, it will take their best effort yet because the Vikings can match their size and power.
If I had been the Cardinals, I might have tried an onside kick after they scored to go up seven points late in the fourth. What did they have to lose? They were never going to slow down the Packers, and all they needed was one more possession. Because in this game, field position didn’t matter — even if you lost the kick, the Packers would have just been on a shorter field.
Arizona’s Neil Rackers rushed his kick so much that as soon as he took his steps, you knew he was going to miss it. The pressure got to him on that one.
Baltimore throws for 32 yards and wins? The Ravens can win games with their physical toughness as they, like the Cowboys, have dominated the line of scrimmage.
The Jets also dominated the line of scrimmage, and I get the feeling they like Shonn Greene a little more than Thomas Jones as a runner. I’m sure they like Jones, but it looks like they love Greene.
Darrelle Revis not only covered Chad Ochocinco, he owned him. Revis was once again sensational, and next week he’ll get another great player in Vincent Jackson.
Kurt Warner was amazing again for the Cardinals, making every throw he needed to make with pinpoint accuracy. And having Beanie Wells back there takes pressure off Warner. Is Cards head coach Ken Whisenhunt a great player caller or what?
When an injured Joe Flacco can outrun a New England defense for a first down, you know the Patriots are too slow. Flacco will need to make a few throws next week.
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How do the Jets match up with the Chargers this weekend? Check out this story from Bleacher Report to find out.