Schein 9: Be afraid of the Patriots
I can't believe what Jim Caldwell did.
I can't believe what the Saints did.
You better believe in the Patriots.
I don't believe the Ravens actually control their own destiny after losing in Pittsburgh.
By the way, what the heck was Jim Caldwell doing?
We hand out our weekly Scheiners, SCHEIN 9 style...
1). Foaming at the Mouth
It's the end of the season and the Patriots are playing their best ball of the year.
Did you see the clinic they put on against the Jaguars this Sunday?
Be afraid, NFL. Be very afraid.
Tom Brady played his best game of the season, playing pitch and catch at the Jaguars' expense, going an impressive 23-for-26 for 267 yards and four touchdowns. Randy Moss caught three of the touchdown passes. The duo was seen laughing and having a great old time on the bench during the rout, making the conversation of Moss not playing hard against Carolina a distant memory. Wes Welker had another incredible game, catching 13 passes for 138 yards, solidifying my vote for first team All-Pro. That's 122 catches on the season for Welker.
And when the Patriots get chunks on the ground, like they did from Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and company, it makes that offense once again dynamic and unstoppable.
And the maligned defense stepped up and picked off the usually cautious David Garrard two times.
The Patriots are back in the playoffs after missing the tournament last year when Tom Brady was injured. Something just feels right with the world with New England winning its sixth AFC East title in the last seven years.
Get nervous, NFL.
Now I am not eradicating the follies from this season from my mental Rolodex. I remember how New England collapsed against Miami and how terrible the pass defense looked. This is far from your classic Bill Belichick coached team. Laurence Maroney remains an enigma. The youth on defense can get exposed at any moment. And if you are looking solely at this season, forget about comparing Brady to Peyton Manning. Brady hasn't played as well as Eli.
None of that matters.
The NFL has never been more wide open entering the playoffs. Indy (more on Jim Caldwell's awful decision in a bit) lost its mojo when the starters were replaced. The Chargers are red hot but have something to prove in January. The Bengals haven't looked the part in weeks. We broke down the wide open NFC last week and since then, the Saints and Vikes have managed to look worse.
Nobody in baseball wants to face Derek Jeter and the Yankees, regardless of the year. The same holds true for Brady and the Pats in pro football (deal with it Patriots fans — you are the Yankees).
After that ultimate display of domination, with stud linebacker Jerod Mayo looking just a bit healthier and Brandon Meriweather looking a little bit more like a playmaker, and Moss looking that much more cheerier, you have to respect the Pats.
As long as Brady is healthy and Belichick roams the sideline, the Pats are in the mix and a legit Super Bowl favorite.
2). Rise and SCHEIN
Every once in awhile you get hit with a wonderful Horatio Alger story. And the version in 2009 is in Carolina at the quarterback position. What Matt Moore has done over the last two weeks has been nothing short of remarkable.
Moore beat the Vikings and the Giants while throwing for six touchdowns and no picks in the process. Let those numbers sink in for a minute. Minnesota was playing for the No. 1 seed. The Giants were closing Giants Stadium and playing for their postseason lives. Moore has looked calm while making accurate throws and excellent decisions.
Not bad for a guy who wasn't drafted despite being a legit Day 2 prospect and was promptly cut by the Cowboys in his first training camp.
Moore joined us on Sirius NFL Radio and just wanted to credit Jonathan Stewart and the defense. He was impressive on the air, acting like a vet, deflecting the credit. But Moore did reveal, "Starting in the NFL has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. When you get your shot, you have to take advantage of it. You have to work with your coaches. You work with your guys and make the most of it."
It's a good story. And Carolina might just have its answer at quarterback as a result.
3). Hide the women, children, and Matt Millen
Holy Jim Caldwell! How in the world do you remove Peyton Manning from the game against the Jets with 5:36 in the third quarter? It was illogical, irresponsible, and to the paying customers, the Colts star players, and the rest of the NFL, disgraceful.
If you believed in rest, you don't even play Peyton Manning in the ballgame. Why start him and then yank him with a chance to go for 16-0 — and most especially 19-0? Why eliminate Indy's great air of invincibility it has shown during this winning streak? All of the Peyton Manning-led comebacks. The way the defense made a stop when it mattered. Why would you take that air out of the Colts' proverbial balloon?
I'm not a body language expert, but Manning looked irate. So did Reggie Wayne, who sat on the bench with his shoulders slumped. People can talk about the pressure to stay undefeated and win the Super Bowl all they want. Now there's even more pressure on the Colts after Caldwell's strange and ill-timed move.
And then there's the league responsibility. It's low on the totem poll here, but it just stunk for competitive balance. Curtis Painter isn't a top 75 quarterback in the NFL. Now the Jets don't have to say sorry. Miami, Baltimore, Denver, and Jacksonville all lost. But that game was over the minute Painter, only playing because the real backup Jim Sorgi was on IR, entered the game.
It looked bad. It smelled bad. The fans, the paying customers, were rightly angry they had a run at history wiped away.
In a direct interview with us on Sirius NFL Radio where a gracious Caldwell answered all the questions, the coach said he actually wished he took Manning out earlier than he did. He acknowledged that the players wanted to stay in. Caldwell also said he talked to Bill Polian and Jim Irsay, but it was his decision for the final answer. And he added, "I have an obligation to win a championship."
I think his strategy in this specific game hurt that cause.
4). Backseat Coaching
Hey Jack Del Rio! What are you thinking about? You go for it on a fourth-and-1 in the first quarter at the New England 35 with the score 0-0? Jacksonville got stuffed and New England predictably never looked back.
5). Schein's Anatomy
Rey Maualuga broke his ankle in the win to clinch the AFC North for the Bengals. That's a big blow. The rookie was having a really strong season.
6). Weekly Hot Seat
Pay attention to the word choice coming from Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. He sounded done in New York after the Giants' horrible no-show in a game to save the season Sunday. But Osi has two years left on his deal at about 3 million per. I'd keep Osi regardless of his current frustration. He has too much talent.
7). My Guys
Mike McCarthy: Misguided fans still blame the coach and the general manager for Brett Favre. It doesn't get more foolish than that. The Packers lost in Tampa to fall to 4-4. They kicked adversity in the face after that, going a whopping 6-1 after the defeat. And McCarthy swore to me all year that the offensive line would come together. He was right. Great job getting the Packers into the playoffs.
Jerry Jones: The Dallas owner doesn't get enough credit for a theme we ran with this offseason. Jones made the Cowboys Wade Phillips' team. He cut TO while allowing Phillips to bring in "edge" guys like Keith Brooking and Igor Olshansky, who played for Phillips at prior stops. Brooking made all the difference in the world for Dallas on defense, dominating the Saints and the Redskins, giving them the heartbeat they lacked when collapsing last season. Dallas is back in the tournament and Jones deserves a lot of credit.
Philip Rivers: I could cite a bunch of gaudy stats from the Christmas night win against the Titans. Or I could simply tell you that Philip Rivers has been the second-best quarterback in the NFL this year, behind only Peyton Manning.
Jonathan Stewart: No DeAngelo Williams, no problem. The stud back pounded and humiliated the Giants to the tune of 206 rush yards on a whopping 7.4 yards per carry. I go back to the draft a few years back when a general manager told me Stewart was the next Curtis Martin. Matt Moore told me on Sirius NFL Radio, "Stewart is such a nice, quiet guy who runs angry. It's pretty amazing to watch." I'd agree.
Matt Ryan: The Falcons are a win away from having back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. That's a huge deal. And while Ryan is clearly not 100 percent, as a team leader he is making sure he is out there. It's very impressive. Ryan led his team to a big win against the Jets in Week 15 and had the Falcons in cruise control against the Bills in a lopsided win.
8). My Goats
Tom Coughlin: We've blamed everyone else, and rightly so, from the underachieving bellyachers on the defensive line to the overwhelmed defensive coordinator to Brandon Jacobs to even general manager Jerry Reese. Coughlin avoided my wrath all year, but he needs to take responsibility for his team's total no show in the final game for the Giants at Giants Stadium, in a game loaded with playoff implications. It was totally pathetic.
Garrett Hartley: He missed a 37-yard field goal at the gun to send the Saints-Bucs game into overtime, where Tampa would stun New Orleans. You have to make that kick.
Jim Zorn: I would've benched Albert Haynesworth after he disrespected you by not getting to practice on time. And Zorn makes this list after his team didn't even bother to show up in consecutive weeks at home against division rivals on national television. Zorn will never be a head coach again in the NFL. Great guy. Not a head man.
Jeff Fisher: We can talk about the comeback after the 0-6 start. Or we can simply call this season an underachieving one.
The Seahawks: I mean, really?
9). Three and out
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