Well, it looks like my Saints are going to be a wild-card playoff team. That’s never an easy road in the playoffs, but at least they still have a shot to defend their title. They have always been a good road team under Sean Payton, and that means they’ll be prepared for anything.
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I don’t think losing to Baltimore is any disgrace, but I sure wish they could stuff the run a little better. Ray Rice showed he’s one very versatile running back. He ran hard between the tackles and also caught a deep flare pass and looked like a wide receiver catching it between two defenders for a touchdown. He was so natural peeking back for the ball and then catching Joe Flacco’s perfectly thrown pass. Rice had an awesome game. We don’t see him enough on FOX, and you forget about how talented he is.
These are two very good teams, although I thought the Saints would have figured out how to bring more pressure on Flacco. Baltimore’s offensive line had been allowing a lot of sacks – and, yes, the Saints got three against him – but they didn’t force any turnovers. The Saints need turnovers. They thrive on turnovers. They win on turnovers.
The Ravens showed me a lot in this game. Their defense didn’t play very well in Houston on Monday night and I thought on the short week that the Saints had a shot at winning.
But their secondary had tighter coverage on the Saints receivers than they did against the Texans. They also put a lot of pressure on Drew Brees. Except for two scoring drives, Brees never looked comfortable in the pocket. He must have had four passes tipped. Plus, he really struggled to find open receivers when he needed to make a big play or move the chains.
There is one stat that stood out about Brees and explained the game. He gained only 5.8 yards per pass attempt. That won’t get it done. And Reggie Bush was kind of disappointing with only 36 yards on seven receptions. He looked like he was running backward on a couple of those receptions, and that’s never a positive.
With the Steelers losing to the Jets in Pittsburgh, the Ravens still have a shot to win the division. It all depends on their final two games.
What we do know is that all three of these teams will be tough to beat once the playoffs begin. The Bucs losing to the Lions pretty much makes my prediction of the Falcons and the Saints coming out of the NFC South to be very accurate.
I am happy for a couple teams today.
First, the Lions finally ended that ugly 26-game road losing streak. I know it was against the Bucs, probably the biggest surprise team in the NFC, but it had to feel good for those players and coach Jim Schwartz and his staff.
I know all of us have been impressed with how many close games the Lions have played this season. Now that they have won on the road, they got that monkey off their back, and now they can really start building for the future. They also have to figure out a way to keep Matthew Stafford healthy.
The Lions have a lot of good players, led by receiver Calvin Johnson, who caught 10 passes for 152 yards. I mean, Drew Stanton is Johnson’s third different quarterback this season, and it hasn’t mattered to him one bit. He simply adjusts and attacks the football. You never see him waiting on any pass. Johnson just goes and gets it.
The second team I’m happy for is the Kansas City Chiefs. It looks like Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have turned this franchise around after so many losing seasons. I couldn’t get the word “appendectomy” out of my mouth on one of our Sunday halftime shows and said Matt Cassel had come back from a sore stomach. Yep, everybody laughed, but the point is he missed only one game because of that emergency surgery and led his team to a big road win in St. Louis that gives them a shot to win the AFC West.
I feel bad for the Chargers because I love how Philip Rivers plays and throws the football. But the Chiefs deserve this, and Jamaal Charles has been one of my favorite running backs all season. Charles put the game away with a touchdown run. He’s one very explosive player. It looks like the Chiefs will end San Diego’s run atop the AFC West.
Split day for Mannings
There was only one winner in the Manning family on Sunday. I kind of figured Peyton would find a way, especially at home, to beat the Jaguars. The Colts are still alive for the playoffs, while Jacksonville is going to need some luck. We all know the Jaguars could have wrapped up a playoff spot with a win against the Colts, and now who knows what is going to happen?
There was some bad news for Peyton. He just got receiver Austin Collie back and they teamed for two touchdowns and then Collie suffered another concussion. The last one knocked him out for three games. Peyton really likes having veteran receivers around him, because he knows exactly where they are going to be all the time. The Colts showed a lot of balance on offense, as Donald Brown got untracked for 129 yards rushing and a touchdown while Maurice Jones-Drew had a pretty quiet day.
I don’t know how Eli Manning is feeling right now. That was one tough loss for the Giants. You should have seen Michael Strahan in the fourth quarter. He couldn’t believe that the Giants simply gave that game away.
Eli may have played his best game of the season only to lose to the Eagles when DeSean Jackson returned that punt for a touchdown. I mean, New York had that game. Eli tossed four touchdown passes and really looked strong all night until the very end. As a quarterback, when you play like Eli did, you kind of expect to win.
The Giants are still a playoff team, in my opinion. They have to forget this game and, like Jimmy Johnson said, maybe fire that punter of theirs.