I have a massive headache. The words “San Francisco 49ers” and “NFL playoffs” are still applicable in the same sentence.
The Giants have an epic collapse. The Jets save their season. The Lions, of all teams, are becoming the ultimate spoiler. The Packers have lost two straight and are very much alive. And the Seahawks still have a chance?
The beauty of the NFL is competitive balance rules, it is a week-to-week league and you cannot predict the future.
The beauty of this column is I predict just that with two wild weeks to go.
Pack still alive?
Even after losing to the Lions and Patriots, the 8-6 Green Bay Packers still can make the playoffs. In fact, I will go out on that major limb right now and proclaim that it happens. Assuming Aaron Rodgers is back from his concussion, the Packers will beat the Giants and Bears in Lambeau to close the season. Green Bay’s defense is excellent, supremely coached under Dom Capers. The Giants (more on them in a minute) totally fell apart on Sunday. I still think that the Packers are better than Chicago, even during Chicago’s excellent 2010 season of overachievement.
The Giants are a total mess after blowing leads of 24-3 at the half and 31-10 with 8 minutes to play to the rival Eagles. In my opinion, with the No. 2 seed in reach by holding on to the lead, it was the worst loss in franchise history in the regular season. It was worse than “Miracle at the Meadowlands.” I don’t see how the Giants recover in time to beat the Packers and solve the Green Bay defense or passing attack. Blame Tom Coughlin, Matt Dodge, Perry Fewell, the offense, everyone involved for this stunning disaster for New York. It’s a week-to-week league, but that’s a tough one to move past.
Tampa Bay’s loss to Detroit in overtime was a killer for the 8-6 Bucs, strong enough to derail their unpredictable magic carpet ride. The Bucs have too many key injuries.
Chase for the bye
Bears fans will absolutely love this; I think they will lose out! The Jets regained some needed swagger and stopped their own bleeding by beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh. I think the Jets, coming off of a win in which Brian Schottenheimer called an excellent game and Mark Sanchez protected the ball, can carry the momentum into the Windy City. And you know I like the Packers to beat Chicago after that.
I think Philly gets the No. 2 seed, much to the chagrin of the Bears fans.
I said the Jaguars needed to slay the Colts, and they failed to do it. You give Peyton Manning extra chances, he eventually kills you. Indy has the Raiders and Titans. If the run defense plays like it did against Maurice Jones-Drew, the Colts are going to the playoffs and the dream is dead for “America’s team,” our Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags missed their opportunity. Finally, Indy was able to run the ball and stop the run.
Wild, wild west
Ever since the Chargers lost in Seattle earlier this year, I predicted the slow start would finally catch up to Norv Turner and company. And if you recall what I wrote in this space last Tuesday, I thought the Chargers and Chiefs would both win out. One week later, I more than stand by that statement.
Kansas City is 9-5 after welcoming Matt Cassel back at quarterback and beating the Rams. The Chiefs have been sensational at home this season, with Cassel and Dwayne Bowe especially remarkable at Arrowhead. KC finishes the season with Tennessee and the Raiders in Kansas City. The Chiefs will win the division.
The Chargers’ losses to Oakland are going to come back and bite them, especially the most recent one at home. It’s sad because I firmly believe San Diego will win in Cincinnati and Denver the next two weeks. It’s sad because when the Chargers are at their peak, they can compete with New England. I would’ve loved to see that game come playoff time. But they were way too sloppy this season.
This is what happens when your special-teams play is anemic in the first half, Vincent Jackson doesn’t show up until late in the year and you commit too many turnovers. It will waste a breathtaking 2010 from Philip Rivers.
Wild, weak west
The NFC West is a disgrace. Seattle, St. Louis, and San Fran aren’t worthy of making the playoffs. But this is an anomaly. The league shouldn’t change the rules. You shouldn’t make the NFC West winner go on the road for the playoffs, or ban them altogether in the future. It is awful for the football fan, but it happens.
I wrote on FOXSports.com a month ago that the Rams were the best of the worst because of Sam Bradford and Steve Spagnuolo. And I stand by that. I predict the Rams will beat the Niners in St. Louis and the spiraling Seahawks in Seattle to finish 8-8.
Seattle is a mess. This team is just not that good. The Seahawks have the right brass to turn it around next year, but they have issues at every single position. Matt Hasselbeck has struggled and was finally benched. If Charlie Whitehurst is the answer, I’d love to know the question. They won’t beat the Bucs, flying coast-to-coast Christmas weekend.
Somehow, the pathetic, "who smells a rat" Niners are very much alive at 5-9. If they can beat the Rams in St. Louis and beat the Cards at home, they will win the division if Seattle loses one of its remaining games, which is very possible. I like the Rams over the Niners, but if the “good Niners defense” shows up and Smith plays like he did two weeks ago, it is a pick ‘em game.
If Mike Singletary and Alex Smith host a playoff game together, I officially will have nothing left to believe in! Sadly, this is really possible.
SCHEIN’s Predictions . . .
NFC: 1). ATL 2). PHI 3). CHI 4). STL 5). NO 6). GB
AFC: 1). NE 2). PIT 3). KC 4). IND 5). BAL 6). NYJ
My guys . . .
Ray Rice – Finally, Baltimore got back to its roots running the ball, and the Ravens’ back rewarded offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
Donald Brown – The Colts running back had done nothing since Indy drafted him in the first round two drafts ago. He picked a great time, in a “make or break” game against the Jaguars, to have the best game of his career.
Michael Vick – Talking to him on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday after the legendary comeback, he spread the credit around. But Vick was flat-out majestic with 215 total yards in the last eight minutes.
Steve Weatherford – That was a gigantic, season-saving win for the Jets. And in a game where field position mattered, Weatherford was sensational. He pinned Pittsburgh back, paving the way for Jason Taylor to bust up a play and get a key safety.
Dan Connolly – A 71-yard return by a guard? That was the coolest play I’ve ever seen! Oh, by the way, it was a big play with the Patriots down 17-7 in the second quarter, setting up a Tom Brady touchdown!
My goats . . .
Matt Dodge – You have to listen to your coach and punt it out of bounds!!
Tom Coughlin – How were you not ready for the onside kick??
Giants defense – Why was Justin Tuck in pass coverage on the Vick to Brent Celek 65-yard TD to make it 31-17?
Dan Henning – Did you see that final drive for the Dolphins? That was a clinic in futility.
Gary Kubiak – Hey, Giants fans, it could be worse.