It's time to put an end to the 16th week of the NFL regular season and head into the final week before the playoffs. Once again, wins and losses appear to be piling up in the proper columns to possibly provide the Cardinals with another terrific opportunity to advance deep into the post-season. I hope everybody out there had a wonderful Christmas but, as the first game of the week will show, not everyone unwrapped the present they were expecting.
Chargers/Titans: Vince Young woke up Christmas morning feeling like Santa and decided to to hand out presents to the San Diego Chargers to the tune of 3 interceptions. In direct contrast, both running backs for the Chargers had a holly jolly Christmas rushing for two touchdowns a piece (Sproles adding a TD reception as well). San Diego knocked the Titans out of the playoffs while simultaneously providing themselves with a first round bye in the playoffs. Chargers win (42-17)
Buccaneers/Saints: Let's make this short and sweet. Superbowl bound teams do not lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while trying to secure the number one seed. The magic appears to have left the Saints for the time being and I just don't see them pulling out any clutch wins in the playoffs. Bucs win (20-17)
Falcons/Bills: Atlanta and Ryan against Buffalo and...Brohm? Two sacks on Brohm. Two interceptions by Brohm. Too much for the Bills to handle. Too little, too late by the Falcons. Neither of these teams will be playing after Week 17 so they might as well start trying to figure out how to improve next year. Falcons win (31-3)
Texans/Dolphins: With a possible playoff spot on the line, the Dolphins simply did not come out focused. This game was a tale of two halves. The Texans came out quick, throwing up 27 unanswered points in the first half to a chorus of beautiful boos from the Dolphin fans. Miami attempted to come back by piecing together solid drives in the second half and shutting out the Houston offense. Unfortunately for Miami, the lack of focus cut the comeback short when a costly tripping penalty eliminated a 62-yard touchdown by Ted Ginn, Jr. Texans win (27-20)
Seahawks/Packers: I've said it throughout this entire season and it's proving itself true: Matt Hasselbeck needs to retire. If he stays in the league, he needs to get out of Seattle. He has 16 touchdowns this season and 16 interceptions. A touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1:1 is unacceptable. Add the fact that he has fumbled the ball 10 times (only 3 lost) and he's simply not effective. He had another 4 interceptions in this game giving the Packers all they needed to destroy the Seahawks. Three separate Green Bay running backs found the end zone in this game for a total of 5 rushing touchdowns and 1 receiving touchdown. The result was another embarrassing loss for the Seahawks. Packers win (48-10)
Panthers/Giants: Was anybody paying attention to me 6 weeks ago when I said Jake Delhomme was finished in Carolina? How about now? Matt Moore has racked up 470 yards and 6 touchdowns in the last 2 weeks and he did this against the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. I wouldn't be saying much if it had been against the bottom-feeder teams but he has been doing this against solid teams (New York maybe not quite so solid of late). His yard total of 470 may not be elite, but he's put up these numbers during two games where Jonathan Stewart has totaled 315 yards rushing. Basically, he's efficient enough to convert third down passing attempts and finish off drives. Also, I haven't seen any "Delhomme Duck" passes wobbling towards receivers which has to be a blessing for all Carolina fans. So as not to cut the Giants any slack, I'd just like to say "wow." I'd thought the Giants were going to sneak into the playoffs this year as a wild card contender but now they need some serious help if they hope to even be a .500 team next year (IMO). Panthers win (41-9)
Cleveland/Oakland: The fight for jobs continues! After starting the season 1-11, the Cleveland Browns have put together a 3-game winning streak. With wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and now Oakland the Browns are proving that things could be worse. The Browns squeezed out another solid performance out of Jerome Harrison to the tune of 148 yards rushing and one touchdown. His yards per carry weren't anything staggering at only 3.8, but as long as Cleveland can give him nearly 40 touches he may be able to help carry Cleveland to one last win against Jacksonville to finish their lowly season on a high note. The only good news for Oakland is that they've got one hell of a tight end in Zach Miller (shout out to an ASU Alum). Browns win (23-9)
Patriots/Jaguars: New England dominated nearly every aspect of this game. I'm not so sure what to think of New England as their defense has proven to have too many holes and their offense is inconsistent. In this game, though, they were the vastly superior team. Finally, I'll give credit to the receiver where credit is due. Congratulations Wes Welker for being the Patriot work-horse all the way down the field until it's time to put points on the board. When that time comes, it seems you're ignored in order to feed Randy Moss the ball. It's a hard decision because I agree that you should give the ball to the open receiver and Moss was definitely open. Still, I also think you reward the guys who got you there. Moss had only one catch that didn't go for a touchdown. I thought it was supposed to be harder to get open in the endzone? or is that just the only time you give a full effort? Patriots win (35-7)
Chiefs/Bengals: This really wasn't an exciting game. Cinci should have destroyed the Chiefs, especially considering they got a 133 yard rushing performance out of Cedric Benson. Once again, though, the Bengals are having trouble racking up yards through the air. Though Matt Cassel threw 2 interceptions in this game, he did have a beautifully thrown touchdown pass to Tim Castille in the 4th quarter making this game somewhat worthwhile to watch. Bengals win (17-10)
Steelers/Ravens: The Steelers squeaked out a win in this game when they really should have been beaten and eliminated from the playoffs. If the Ravens could hold onto the ball, the Steelers would have gone down. Ray Rice rushed for 141 yards, three times the total rushing yards for the Steelers. Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes to compare to Roethlisberger's one. In the end, though, you can't cough up the football. Two fumbles and one interception by the Ravens led to a heartbreaking 3-point loss. Steelers win (23-20)
49ers/Lions: Who cares?!? The Niners are trying to save face by putting together an 8-8 season while the Lions are trying for yet another top draft position. How many times can you draft high and still not put together a winning team? This game ended predictably. 49ers win (20-6)
Eagles/Broncos: What do you do with the Eagles? I really do not want the Cardinals to play in Philly, during the frozen month of January, on the road to the Superbowl. The Eagles were able to spread the defense out by sending DeSean Jackson deep and floating tight end Brent Celek into the gaps. On a positive note, the Eagles don't have much of a running game. McNabb led the team in yards-per-carry and fell only 3 yards short of being the leading rusher for Philly. I was hoping the Broncos would upset the Eagles in Week 16 to setup the Cardinals for the #2 seed in the NFC. Sadly, we're going to have to wait for a dramatic Week 17 finish for that to happen! Eagles win (30-27)
Jets/Colts: This, sadly enough, was easily predictable. The Colts, yet again, worked the entire season to be perfect heading into the final weeks and then squandered all of that effort by pulling their starters far too early. If the Colts weren't going to play to win, why play their starters at all? All this does is demoralize a team that thought they were working towards something. I predict that the Colts will get smashed again by the Patriots in the playoffs. Resting your starters? Not very well called, Caldwell. Jets win (29-15)
Cowboys/Redskins: The Cowboys played against somebody this week? Oh, weird. It looked more like playing against the practice squad to me. Still, they only put up 17 points. Good effort, practice squad. Cowboys win (17-0)
Bears/Vikings: Butter Peterson strikes again! Adrian Peterson had his hands greased up for another spectacular finish. As he's done so many times before, Brett Favre led his team to a startling 4th quarter comeback and sent the game into overtime. In overtime, the Viking offensive line let the Bears eat Favre for lunch on the first drive. On the second drive, Peterson decided the bears didn't get enough for Christmas and gave them one last gift--the football. Thanks A-Pete for letting the Cardinals stay in the hunt for #2!
P.S--Didn't somebody out there in ROTB land call me insane for predicting that the Bears would win this game? Good call. Bears win (36-30)
Cardinals/Rams: Besides the cinnamon roasted almonds, the only other spectacular thing to happen at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday was A-Wil's 20/20 vision. This was more of a warm-up, stay in rhythm game for the Cardinals heading into the game against the Packers. The offense performed efficiently, but not dominantly. The defense simply performed. Overall, I was happy to see the Cardinals dominate an opponent that they were supposed to dominate. It was a fundamentally sound, efficient game. Let's keep that train rollin'! Cardinals win (31-10)
We have one week left in the regular season and I refuse to budge from my position that the Cardinals have a legitimate shot at #2. I think the Vikings lose in Week 17. If they do, the Cardinals will give an all out effort to beat the Packers. The tough one is going to be the Eagles/Cowboys game. I hope the 'boys show up and give the Eagles more than they can handle. The last thing I want for the Cardinals is to go into the playoffs as the #3 seed which may force us to play in Philly. Othewise, I like our chances. Am I the only one?