In this week edition of our NFL chatter, the guys assess the Packers' chances at a perfect season, Chris Johnson's apparent resurgence, Jason Garrett's curious strategies, and the Broncos' improbable resurrection.The Green Bay Packers survived their biggest scare to their undefeated season, but held on to a thrilling 38-35 victory over the New York Giants. With a seemingly easier final four games, can the Packers finish the regular season a perfect 16-0?
With three of their final four games at Lambeau Field, I'd say 16-0 is going to happen. To me, beating the Giants was their toughest remaining test and they got through it, albeit just barely. And why stop at 16-0? May as well go 19-0 and repeat in style.
I thought the Giants game was the one that could have tripped up the Packers. Now that they've won, I see Green Bay running the table: Unlike Indy, the Packers are serious about going 16-0. Green Bay plays three games at home against weaker sisters Oakland, Chicago and Detroit, and the one remaining road contest is at lowly Kansas City. Aside from a catastrophic injury to Aaron Rodgers, everything is in place for the Packers to follow the 2007 New England Patriots into the record books. Jesse Campigotto:
The Pack's remaining schedule
is just hard enough to imagine them tripping up and just easy enough to see them running the table. Either way, I'm hoping coach Mike McCarthy doesn't pull a Jim Caldwell and rest his starters once they've got home-field advantage secured. I know it's "all about winning a Super Bowl" but the Packers just won one last year. It's not like this is a long-suffering franchise. This year they've got a chance to do something so much bigger by going 19-0. Don't think that makes a difference? Well, every year we hear about the "perfect" 1972 Dolphins. When's the last time someone mythologized the '73 Dolphins, who also won the Super Bowl? Or the '71 champion Cowboys? C'mon, guys. Go for it.Cowboys coach Jason Garrett took the unusual step of calling a timeout just before his rookie kicker attempted a game-winning 49-yard field goal. Bailey, who made the kick, failed on his second try when it counted, and the Cardinals went on to win the game in overtime. Is there any reasonable explanation as to why Garrett iced his own kicker?Tony Care:
This guy is killing me! I actually want to get into his first idiotic decision the play before. The Cowboys complete a pass at Arizona's 31 with 25 seconds lefts and two timeouts. The brilliant Garrett, who must have used the Norv Turner handbook on these matters, decides to play it conservative and let the clock run down instead of picking up more yards in order to put his rookie kicker in closer range.This is the second time that Garrett's conservative ways has cost the Cowboys, yet he refuses to take responsibility. This guy is killing me! Oh, I said that already.Jesse Campigotto:
Yeah, that silly timeout is getting all the press, but the real crime was the preceding play calling. Let's recap:
After Tony Romo completed a 15-yard pass to Dez Bryant on third down to
give the Cowboys a 1st-and-10 at the Arizona 31 with about 25 seconds
left in regulation, Garrett should have used one of his two remaining
timeouts to immediately stop the clock and give his offence time to run
another couple of plays to move the ball closer for their kicker.
Instead, Garrett pulled a Norv Turner, letting the clock bleed until
Romo finally stopped it by spiking the ball with seven seconds left.
Poor Bailey was then hung out to dry with that tough 49-yard attempt on
grass because his coach didn't have the guys (or simply the strategic
sense) to do better by him.Jason Davidson:
I just don't understand that decision but either way, it was one that backfired and yet Garrett stands by it. It seems as though he simply doesn't want to admit that he made a mistake. Dan Bailey has been a decent rookie, but still, if you split the uprights the first time you should be able to do it again and he didn't. To Bailey's credit, he manned up in trying to deflect the blame away from his coach, saying it was his fault for not kicking the field goal the second time around. Kudos to Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt for his beauty of a post-game quote. "I was glad they iced their kicker so I didn't have to." Gold, Jerry. Gold.
In three of his last four games, Titans running back Chris Johnson has run for at least 130 yards. Are we finally seeing Johnson return to his Pro Bowl form?Jesse Campigotto:
Johnson has benefited from a series of games against generous run defences. Those three 130-plus-yard performances came against Carolina, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Heading into this week's games, Football Outsiders ranked those teams 32nd, 25th and 24th, respectively, in the league against the run. In the one game out of his last four in which he didn't rush for at least 130 yards, Johnson had a miserable 13 yards on 12 carries against an Atlanta teamed ranked No. 2 against the run. His next two games, though, are against New Orleans (No. 19) and Indy (30), so more big days could be in the offing.
I'm not ready to anoint him a Pro Bowler, just yet but he's getting there. It's easy to see that Johnson, whose contract distraction and no training camp hampered him throughout the season, is running with more conviction and breaking more tackles. But don't underestimate head coach Mike Munchak's undressing of the offensive line two weeks ago when Johnson only gained 13 yards on 12 carries in a loss to Atlanta. The boys upfront have really picked up their blocking in Tennessee's last two victories.
I knew this guy was too good to not start putting up decent numbers again. And it's in his best interest considering he's in line for an $8 million contract in 2012, one that becomes guaranteed in March. Tennessee was basically an afterthought in the AFC until just a few weeks ago, but with back-to-back 23-17 wins, first at home to the Tampa Bay Buccanneers followed by Sunday's effort against the Bills in Buffalo, a wild card spot isn't out of the question. Johnson is a huge reason for that.Amazingly, after another dramatic win, the Broncos have caught the Raiders and both teams now sit atop the AFC West with a 7-5 record. While the clubs split their season series, there's still four games remaining. So which team wins this division?Tony Care:
I'd have to go with the Broncos at this point. Denver is playing with more consistency and isn't committing the crucial mistakes that usually kill any aspiring playoff teams. It all starts with quarterback Tim Tebow in that area. He's only thrown one interception since becoming a starter and the Broncos are 6-1 during that stretch. On the other side, you never know what you'll get from the Raiders. They'll look balanced and in total control one week, then put up a stinker like they did against Miami last Sunday.
If you weigh strength of schedule (and you should), the Broncos have the edge. Denver's remaining slate is relatively soft: home to injury-racked Chicago, home to New England, at Buffalo, home to Kansas City. Oakland faces games at Green Bay, home to Detroit, at K.C. and home to San Diego. The Broncos also have a slight edge right now in the tiebreaker with an intradivision record of 3-2 compared to Oakland's 2-2.
Basing my response on what I saw Sunday, I'm going to have to go ahead and say Denver. Tebow, I must say, deserves some props, as skeptical as I've been about him throughout the last month or so. But you really can't argue against a five-game winning streak. As for Oakland, they just looked awful in their loss to the Dolphins in Miami. One huge advantage for the Broncos heading down the stretch is that three of their last four games are in the friendly thin-air confines of Mile High. And they've got some huge momentum going too, something the Raiders are clearly lacking.
Back to accessibility links