In this week's edition of our NFL chatter, the guys dissect the slim playoff hopes of the Chargers, Eagles and Chiefs, Green Bay's shocking loss to Kansas City, the MVP race, plus the prospects of Chiefs' interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
The Chargers, Eagles and Chiefs have all been written off as potential playoff participants. Yet with two weeks remaining, all three teams still have a slim chance of winning their respective divisions. Which team has the best shot at upending their rivals?
Tony Care: I look at it more like which one has the best shot at winning out, because none of these three teams - who won impressive games against top-level teams on Sunday - hold their playoff hopes in their hands. From that perspective I like Philadelphia. The Eagles travel to Dallas, a team they destroyed a few weeks back, and then finish things up against Washington at home. Quarterback Michael Vick has played well since coming back two weeks ago from broken ribs, and the defence - led by NFL sack leader Jason Babin - is playing its best football of the season.
Jesse Campigotto: Probably Philly, because this week they play the team they have to catch (Dallas) before finishing the season with a very winnable home game against Washington. If they win out, they'll own the tiebreaker (best divisional record). San Diego is making its usual December charge, but it closes with a pair of road games (against Detroit and Oakland). And the Chiefs are the Chiefs. They have a minus-127 point differential. They're not winning both of their final two games.
Jason Davidson: I'm going to say San Diego. They looked great against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night and I'm simply not convinced that the Denver Broncos will be there in the end, especially with how Tim Tebow and company were dealt a slice of humble pie by the New England Patriots at Mile High. The Oakland Raiders have let a few golden opportunities slip away and Kansas City simply isn't good enough to win the AFC West. Sure, the Bolts have a pair of road games to finish up but I can see them sneaking by the Detroit Lions while putting the finishing touches on a Raiders' late-season collapse. If they pull it off, Norv Turner's job might not be on the line after all.
Green Bay's shocking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs has many fans in Packerland nervous. Did the Chiefs really give the rest of the league of blueprint on how to beat the Super Bowl champions?
Jesse Campigotto: Remember when the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and everyone was like, "See? All you gotta do to beat the Patriots is dominate the line of scrimmage on defence and pressure the quarterback!" Uh, no kidding. That's how you beat every team in the NFL. Everyone knows that. It's just it's easier said than executed. The Packers had an off day. Big deal. They're stlll the best team in football. Having said that... if they keep losing guys off the offensive line, that could be trouble. That's the storyline that's being under-discussed right now.
Jason Davidson: No they did not. If it weren't for a few dropped passes, the Packers would be 14-0. The defending champs are still the best team in the NFL and still have a great chance to repeat. In fact, this loss could end up being the best thing that happened to them. For the first time this season, Mike McCarthy had his players come into work on a Monday. They will fix what went wrong on what was a rare off day for the Pack. They'll be just fine.
Tony Care: I would say the blueprint has always been there all along, it's just that none of the 13 teams prior to the Chiefs could do it on a consistent basis - and that's get to Aaron Rodgers. With injuries mounting on the Packers' offensively line, the Chiefs were able to hit Rodgers, and hit him often. This also disrupted his rhythm with his receivers. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has plenty to worry about now, but there is a bit of an overreaction to this loss. Green Bay is close to locking up home field throughout the playoff, which would be a huge disadvantage to visiting teams coming into frigid Lambeau Field in January.
With Drew Brees continuing his assault on Dan Marino's single-season passing record, and Tom Brady having another great season, have the two closed the gap on Aaron Rodgers for the MVP?
Jason Davidson: It's a three-way race for NFL MVP without a doubt but my vote still goes to Rodgers. He's done great things with far less passing attempts than either Brady or Brees. Furthermore, he's the only QB in the league to pass for 40 touchdowns. Pretty impressive stuff. Not only that but he's only been picked off six times while Brady and Brees have each been intercepted 11 times. The only disadvantage Rodgers is facing here really is that he's been sacked 36 times, while Brady and Brees have been taken down for losses 24 and 23 times, respectively. Regardless, Rodgers is my pick.
Tony Care: Brees is nipping at Rodgers' heels and it looks like it will be a close race after the Green Bay QB's below-level performance against the Chiefs. The Saints play their last two games at the friendly confines of the Superdome - against Atlanta and Carolina. Expect the aerial show to the continue, and Brees to smash Marino's 27-year-old mark. That will put the Saints QB in a good position to upend Rodgers. However, I'm sticking with the Green Bay gunslinger.
Jesse Campigotto: See my answer above. Why does everyone want to bury the Packers all the sudden? They're 13-1. They just loss an essentially meaningless game, on the road, in one of the toughest stadiums in football. And they were missing their best receiver. Brees is having a great year, Brady is Brady, but Rodgers is the best quarterback in football. One game can't change that.
Chiefs defensive co-ordinator Romeo Crennel took over from Todd Haley two weeks ago, and the team has responded with a pair of victories. Could Crennel keep the head coaching job beyond this year?
Tony Care: Regardless of what happens in the last two games, I'd think Crennel has a decent chance at getting the job full time. His biggest ally may well be Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who was a top executive with New England when Crennel was helping the Patriots with three Super Bowls as defensive co-orindator. The one negative is that Pioli will be under heavy pressure to get this right, since his last choice - Haley - flamed out.
Jesse Campigotto: Let's see how he finishes the year. I never really cared for Haley, but Crennel was generally considered a bust as the Browns' coach. Let's see how the Chiefs fare over the final two games. Like I was saying, the fact that they beat the Packers doesn't change the fact that they're a bad football team. A minus-127 point differential (that's the fourth-worst mark in the league) in the AFC West is awful.
Jason Davidson: Poor Todd Haley. Who knows if KC would have beaten the Pack if he was still at the helm. As far as Crennel is concerned, he should have that interim tag removed from him without a doubt. His players sure seem to like him considering the Gatorade shower he received and Crennel has a good relationship with Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. There have been rumblings about Josh McDaniels being a potential head coaching candidate but I think a more likely scenario will be McDaniels serving as offensive co-ordinator under Crennel. That of course, is if McDaniels leaves his current post with the St. Louis Rams.
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