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Thursday, December 15, 2011

NFL – The Three-Quarter Mark

Actually, we are past the three-quarter point, but who is

With just three weeks remaining in the regular season here
are the prognoses of all 32 teams in one paragraph or less!

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (13-0) – The Packers will play their
last road game of the year on Sunday. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC
will go through Green Bay
and the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The only regular season questions
remaining are whether or not the Packers will go 16-0, far from guaranteed with
games against Chicago and Detroit coming up, and whether or not Head
Coach Mike McCarthy will rest Aaron Rodgers and other key players in the final

Detroit Lions (8-5) – The Lions control their own
destiny. However, after starting 5-0, winning only 3 of their next 8 is not the
kind of momentum they want to take into the playoffs, if they make it.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh returns this weekend at the Oakland Raiders
after a two week suspension.

Chicago Bears (7-6) – After handing away the driver’s
seat in the Wild Card race to Tebow Mania last week, the Bears could be in much
worse shape. Two of their three remaining games are against teams with losing
records and the Bears would beat the Lions out on conference wins in a
tiebreaker. The team with the winning record? The Green Bay Packers after this
coming weekend.

Minnesota Vikings (2-11) – Can you believe this team
was just one score away from the Super Bowl two years ago? “REALLY?” Yes,

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (10-3) – Being a lifelong Saints fan, I should know
better to count my chickens before they are hatched,
but the NFC South race is all but done, as the Saints
hold the tiebreaker over the 8-5 Atlanta Flacons. What is very much up in the
air is whether the Saints can pass the San
49ers (10-3) and take over the 2nd
seed in the NFC Playoffs.

Atlanta Falcons (8-5) – The Falcons would have to work
very hard to snatch playoff elimination from the jaws of a playoff berth, but
it can be done. There is a better than 50/50 chance that the Dirty Birds will
not need much more than a win over Jacksonville tonight to get into the
playoffs. I doubt Mike Smith will rest on his laurels come Friday morning, no
matter what happens.

Carolina Panthers
(4-9) – This team is on the way up, best 4-9 team in years. The same bad late
game breaks, which cost the Panthers several games this season, tend to be good
breaks a year later with some experience. It looks like the Panthers got it right with the Cam Newton pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) – Ask Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak about the
value of serviceable backups. Then, ask Bucs coach Raheem Morris about the
challenges of not having them, particularly at quarterback. Yes, Josh Freeman
is in the lineup, but he isn’t “right”, and backup Josh Johnson is not the

NFC East

New York Giants (7-6) – Good news: the Giants snapped
their four game losing streak with a win over the Cowboys last week, controlling
their own destiny in the NFC East race. Bad news: If the Giants don’t follow
through and they fail reach the playoffs, melting down in December for the
third straight year, their coach, Tom Coughlin, is getting fired!

Dallas Cowboys (7-6) – The Cowboys also control their
own destiny, with a season finale against the Giants. The good news for Head
Coach Jason Garrett is that he received a vote of confidence from the owner.
The bad news is that the owner is Jerry Jones.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) – Stick a fork in ‘em. They’re
done. The only question is whether or not Head Coach Andy Reid will return for
a 14th season. With all of the individual talent the team has, he
might get another shot. Then again, failing to have a winning record with all of
that talent may be too inexcusable for Eagles owner Jeff Lurie.

Washington Redskins (4-9) – Head Coach Mike Shanahan and
the Redskins sure have gotten better since running former quarterback Donovan
McNabb out of town. The question is: Will owner Dan Snyder fire ANOTHER coach?
Who is going to want to coach there if he does?

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (10-3) – Linebacker Terrell Suggs has
stepped his game up in the absence of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and kept
the Ravens middle three strong. Now there is some buzz about Suggs for MVP. If
the Ravens keep winning and take the division, he may have some ammo.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3) – Ben Roethlisberger is one of
the toughest quarterbacks I have ever seen in my entire life. Unfortunately,
two of the Steelers’ three losses came against Baltimore. They are going to have to meet
again in January if the Steelers want to reach the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) – Quarterback Andy Dalton has a
bright future and their defense is one to build around. Still, the Houston
Texans, last week showed that Dalton
is still a rookie and this Bengals team is still building. They will need some
help to reach the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (4-9) – Quarterback Colt McCoy is a big
question mark. At times, the potential rises to the surface. Other times, I
wonder if he’ll ever be above average. This team has problems EVERYWHERE, which
often means corrections could begin on the sideline. Watch out, Pat

AFC South

Houston Texans (10-3) – The Texans clinched the
division last week, sealing up a first-ever playoff berth in the 10 year
history of this franchise and its very deserving fans. Houston fans have been starved for NFL
success, with the city hosting its last NFL playoff game 18 years ago. The big
treat would be a first round bye, as the Texans are tied with New England, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh
for the best won-loss record in the AFC. A bigger treat would be the first seed
in the AFC Playoffs, not all that far fetched. If rookie, former third-string
quarterback T.J. Yates continues to survive his trial by fire, it could happen.

Tennessee Titans (7-6) – Rookie Head Coach Mike Munchak
would have my vote for Coach of the
Year, right now, if I had a vote. Tennessee
had on and off the field issues, particularly in the offensive backfield. What
could have torpedoed many NFL teams was managed, mitigated, and handled. The
Titans’ issues at quarterback and running back seem to be under control. The
Titans don’t control their playoff destiny but, should they run the table, they
would win a 10-6, head-to-head, tiebreaker with the Broncos, Jets, and Raiders.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) – The NFL’s version of the
Cleveland Indians from the movie, “Major League”. Very good running game…good
defense. So what do the Jags do? Strong-arm former quarterback David Garrard to
avoid paying him $9 million in salary. Passing offense? Dead last in the NFL.
Recently fired Head Coach Jack Del Rio was sent with a knife to a gunfight this

Indianapolis Colts (0-13) – Could Peyton Manning win the MVP
by not playing a single down? With him, the Colts are a playoff team every
year. Without him, they can’t win a game!

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-3) – Record wise, these are the
same old Pats, but in terms of team composition, the Patriots are one Brady
injury away from becoming the Colts. Brady knows it and it is beginning to show
in his body language. A mediocre running attack and a pitiful defense,
especially in the secondary, will not be good enough to contend for Super Bowls
in the long term. Head Coach Bill Belichick, who has been draft-averse in the
past, must draft some talented young players if they Patriots run of excellence
is to continue into the 2010s.

New York Jets (8-5) – The Jets control their own
destiny for a playoffs birth, with two of their three remaining games against
teams with losing records. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has gotten hotter as the
weather has gotten colder in the past. My gut tells me that wins over the Eagles
and Dolphins should be enough to get this team into the playoffs, for the third
straight year, at 10-6.

Buffalo Bills (5-8) – This team has shown some flashed
of potential and lost some very close games against some very good teams. They
are heading in the right direction. Draft, baby, draft! 

Miami Dolphins (4-9) – Recently fired Head Coach Tony
Sporano should have gotten a gold watch as a parting gift for winning four
games with this team and being competitive in several others. Ownership made
Sporano a dead man walking, last season, when they interviewed current 49ers
coach Jim Harbaugh for his job, while he still had it (a cardinal sin in the
coaching fraternity). Throw in the fact that Sporano was stuck with Chad Henne
at quarterback (a dead man walking at his own position) and Matt Moore and it
is a miracle that the Fins have been eliminated from the “Suck for Luck”
sweepstakes. This team is a legitimate, average (let alone “good”) starting QB
away from being a real headache to the Pats and Jets in the AFC East.

AFC West

Denver Broncos (8-5) – With each passing day, John Fox
looks less “lucky” and more “strategic” by winning with Tim Tebow as his
quarterback. What cannot be disputed is that their defense and running game is
very good. A playoff berth, for which the Broncos control their destiny, will
have a lot of Tebow fans saying, “I told you so!”

Oakland Raiders (7-6) – Head Coach Hue Jackson is my
other Coach of the Year consideration. Considering the Raiders’ recent history,
the fact that they are only a game out of the wild card spot/division lead in
December is remarkable.

San Diego Chargers (6-7) – A horrendous skid of bad
execution and bad luck has Head Coach Norv Turner on the hot seat, yet again.
Fortunately, the Chargers appear to have stopped the funk and are traditionally
very resilient late in the regular season. The Chargers need a lot of help to
reach the postseason, not to mention three more wins in a row, and possibly
save Norv Turner’s job.

Kansas City Chiefs (5-8) – Former head coach Todd Haley is
fired mid-season just a year after winning the AFC West, in spite of losing his
starting quarterback for the season. Something is dysfunctional in K.C. 

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