With the conclusion of Week 16, all six playoff spots in the AFC have been locked up following victories by both the Colts and the Bengals. The playoff picture in the NFC is still very much in doubt with five teams still alive for the final two spots. What isn’t in doubt in the NFC is the power and might of the Seattle Seahawks right now. Sunday night in Seattle, the Seahawks pounded Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers 42-13 to clinch at least a wild card in the NFC.
In their last three games, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 150-30. After another deafening display of crowd noise at CenturyLink Field the rest of the NFC is pulling for the 49ers to beat the Cardinals next week because nobody wants to deal with the 12th Man in the playoffs. Even if they’re forced to go on the road, Pete Carroll has the Seahawks peaking at precisely the right time of the year.
With that in mind it is time to take a look back at what else happened in Week 16.
STAR OF THE WEEK – Russell Wilson
Matt Ryan received a lot of votes after he threw four touchdowns in the Falcons win over the Lions. With the win the Falcons locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC throughout the playoffs. Throwing four touchdowns against the Lions is not as impressive as doing it against the 49ers. That is exactly what this week’s winner of the award did Sunday night in Seattle; quarterback Russell Wilson. Led by Wilson the Seahawks were a remarkable 11 of 13 on third down conversions against the 49ers outstanding defense and capped it off by torching them for four touchdown passes. Forty-two points are the most allowed by the 49ers in the Jim Harbaugh era; an amazing feat by a rookie quarterback.
STIFF OF THE WEEK – Jets/Giants
Wow, are there ever a lot of candidates for the Stiff of the week award.
The Steelers playoff hopes came to a bitter end Sunday against the Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger’s interception late in the fourth quarter was not exactly his finest moment. I am still not sure how Big Ben didn’t see Reggie Nelson waiting in the weeds to make the pick but that was a fitting ending to the Steelers playoff hopes. When speaking to reporters after the game Roethlisberger was in no mood to talk about what happened on that fateful pick. “I don’t want to talk about it. You saw it, I threw it to him.”
The Jets and the Giants share this week’s award for two equally brutal efforts.
Poor Greg McElroy was sacked 11 times (yes, 11 times!) in the Jets loss to the Chargers. It was a sad performance that tied a franchise record for futility in protecting the quarterback. Even the Jets biggest critics could not have possibly envisioned the gong show this season has become with their three quarterback; three ring circus.
The New York Giants lost a must win game against the Ravens and looked bad doing it. Battling for a playoff spot the Giants have been beaten by a combined score 68-14 the last two weeks. The Giants are now 2-5 in their past seven games and look nothing like the team that ran the table last year on their way to the Super Bowl.
Adrian Peterson - The Texans defence held Peterson to “only” 86 yards but the Vikings still were able to come away with a crucial and unexpected 23-6 win on the road in Houston. The Texans were so obsessed with shutting down Peterson that Christian Ponder was able to make some key throws downfield. Going into Week 17 Peterson has run for 1,898 yards. Averaging 6.0 yards per carry Peterson is 102 yards away from 2,000 and 208 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season record. Peyton Manning – I am not sure anyone wants to face Manning at Mile High Stadium in a playoff game in January. Manning tossed three touchdowns as the Broncos beat the Browns 34-12.
Thanks to Manning the Broncos were able to extend their winning streak to 10 games. With one game left to play Manning has 4,355 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 103.7. Manning’s 34 touchdown passes this year are second only in his career to his 49 touchdown season back in 2004. Aaron Rodgers – The Titans defence will be having nightmares of Aaron Rodgers for years to come after the Packers hung 55 points on them Sunday.
Whether or not he wins the MVP award Rodgers might have to polish up his “Ric Flair” model title belt if he keeps slinging it like he’s been the last six weeks. Rodgers has 3,930 yards, 35 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a quarterback rating of 106.2. Tom Brady – Brady’s two interceptions took the shine of off of the Patriots win over the Jaguars. Brady has 4,543 yards, 32 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a quarterback rating of 98.3.
Rookie of the year candidates
Robert Griffin III – RG3 just might be the most exciting player in the NFC right now. Hell, he might be the most exciting player in the entire NFL right now. RG3 returned to the lineup Sunday and looked good in the Redskins win over the Eagles.
RG3 threw two touchdowns and more importantly, only ran the ball twice as he wisely protected his knee. RG3 has 20 touchdowns, five interceptions, a quarterback rating of 104.1. On top of that he has also run for 752 yards and six touchdowns. Russell Wilson – After the success of Wilson this season I wonder how many NFL scouts are now ignoring a quarterback’s height when they scour the NCAA for potential talent. After Sunday’s win over the 49ers Wilson has 25 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 98.0. Even more impressive; in his past seven games Wilson has thrown 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions. On the ground Wilson has run for 431 yards and three touchdowns. Andrew Luck – Luck capped off his seventh game winning drive this season when he hit with a seven-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter in the Colts win over the Chiefs.
Luck has 21 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 75, he has also run for 254 yards and five touchdowns. Even better Chuck Pagano was scheduled to return to work on Monday after battling Leukemia throughout the season.
Defensive player of the year candidates
J.J. Watt – Even though the Texans lost to the Vikings Watt still played a major role in containing Adrian Peterson. Then again holding Peterson to 86 yards rushing is considered a major achievement in the NFL right about now. Watt goes into the final game of the regular season with 20.5 sacks, 15 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage and four forced fumbles. Von Miller – Along with Peyton Manning Miller is a major reason why the Broncos are riding a 10-game winning streak. Miller has 17.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and one interception for a touchdown. Aldon Smith - Sunday night’s loss to the Seahawks was night exactly the finest hour for Smith and the 49ers. Smith has 19.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.
One of the main reasons the Bears were able to beat the Cardinals and keep their playoff hopes alive was the play of cornerback Charles Tillman.
“Peanut” Tillman also had eight tackles and knocked down a pass as the Bears snapped their three game losing streak. Tillman has also forced 10 fumbles this year and, in my opinion, has been the Bears defensive MVP for 2012.
Next Sunday night at FedFex Field just outside of Washington D.C. the Redskins host the Cowboys with the NFC East title on the line. After scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tie the game the Cowboys watched in horror as the Saints marched down the field in over-time to set up Garrett Hartley for the game winning field goal. Meanwhile RG3 and the Redskins are riding a six game winning streak into Sunday’s showdown with the Cowboys. Standing room only tickets in the upper deck are going for $255 on StubHub.