Tuesday Trends

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

1. The Packers are gunning for 19-0

The scary Greg Jennings injury notwithstanding, the Packers are going to go for this. Don’t believe me? Ask Mike McCarthy’s unofficial spokesman, BJ “The Freezer” Raji. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert documented some telling statements (h/t PFT):

“I think I can speak for coach in that he’s going to try to go for this thing,” Raji said.

Later, Raji added: “You don’t win a Super Bowl by being scared. You just play. That’s the message [McCarthy] is preaching. Just play the game because … that’s the way you’re supposed to play it. You’re not supposed to be playing a game and looking at all of these scenarios of who you want to play. That’s not how football is supposed to be played. Generally, if you do things the right way, hopefully you get some luck in the injury thing.

“You have to respect the game of football. Obviously we’re in a great position. We’re 13-0. We have a lot of things wrapped up. But ultimately, you never accomplish anything great by being scared. We have an option to go either way, but if you want to make history and do some things that haven’t been done in a while, you have to take a chance.”

I continue to find it awesome that the Packers are talking about this openly instead of speaking in platitudes about “being singularly focused on the next game.” Whether or not it is something that they achieve, they can be proud of themselves for gunning for it. This is so much more exciting for all non-Bears and Lions fans to watch than the 2009 Colts who went 14-0 before resting their starters and finishing the regular season 14-2.

The Jennings injury was a sobering reminder of the terrible things that could go wrong in this pursuit of perfection but I am in strong agreement with Raji, and from what I can gather, the rest of the organization, that the potential rewards are worth the risk.

2. The Jets have pole position for the 6-seed in the AFC.

Somewhat under the radar, the Jets have won three in a row and the three teams that they entered into Week 14 tied with–the Titans, Bengals, and Raiders–all lost. Part of the reason for the comparative quietness surrounding this team is how much attention the undefeated Packers and the preternaturally blessed Tim Tebow have been getting and part of it is that those three wins have come against the Bills, Redskins, and Chiefs (combined record: 14-25, which is actually better than I thought it would be before adding up the teams’ records).

Still, though, each of the victories has come by at least two touchdowns and the Jets’ strong defense will serve the team well as the weather gets colder and points get harder to come by. The Jets finish their season with games against the Eagles, Giants, and Dolphins. The schedule could be easier (although it could also be harder) but they are now in full control of their own destiny.

3. The Falcons and Lions have pole position for the NFC Wild Cards.

Atlanta and Detroit were, similarly to the Jets, aided by Chicago and Dallas losses this week. The Falcons should be able to win two of their last three and get in–they play the Jaguars, Saints, and Buccaneers. The Lions, though, continue to look shaky and undisciplined even in victory and must face the Raiders, resurgent Chargers, and potentially 18-0 Packers. They could definitely falter down the stretch but right now the last playoff spot is theirs to keep or lose.

At this point, with consecutive losses to the Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos, the Bears look incapable of righting the ship. They aren’t completely done for but they are in a precarious position and may have squandered their last best chance to keep pace when they got Tebowed* in the fourth quarter and overtime on Sunday. The bi-polar Cowboys, who play the Bucs, Eagles, and Giants can’t be written off quite yet as they are capable of beating or losing to anybody.

*Webster’s dictionary defines Tebow as a verb referring to when your running back goes out of bounds to stop the clock, fumbles in field goal range in overtime, and your defense collapses under the pressure of the Almighty One.

4. The Saints offense is scary good.

When I was doing research to try to show that the Jets’ defense is really good (they ended up not being in the top five in passing yards or rushing yards, temporarily thwarting my ability to wow you with the stats), I was astonished to see that the Saints are leading the league in total offense with 447.8 yards per game–23.4 more than the Patriots and 43.6 more than the Packers. They are outgaining the Packers by more than 10%!

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that as the Packers have built up big leads in some of these games, they’ve taken their foot off the gas pedal a little bit and run on first and second down instead of continuing to go for the kill. Another component, somewhat related to the first, is that the Saints have a better running game with their four-headed not-quite monster of Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles than the Packers have with Ryan Grant, James Starks, and out-of-nowhere Brandon Saine.

All this is really to say that it would be a tremendous story if the Saints and Packers met at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship game on January 21, 2012. It would be a unique sense of parallelism that the last two teams to win the Super Bowl, who opened up this NFL season, met again for the right to go to Indianapolis. This scenario is far from unlikely.

5. Can I do another flip flop on Carson Palmer?

Maybe the trade was as egregious as I thought it was! After throwing four interceptions against the Packers on Sunday, Palmer now has 13 in seven games to go along with only nine touchdowns this season.

His interception to DJ Smith was particularly putrid; the throw looked like it was intended for Smith as Darius Heyward-Bey was triple covered five yards behind where the pass ended up.

If the Raiders don’t make the playoffs this year–and right now they are a game behind the Broncos in the AFC West and the Jets in the Wild Card–then this trade will go down in history as having been a colossal mistake.



One Response to Tuesday Trends

  1. Phil rockwell says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Those of us in New England wonder what you have to say about the 10-3 Patriots. Make shift defense, with guys like Edelman playing three positions, etc. Brady keeps them winning even without on-field prayers!

    Just wondering.


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