Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 15

This week I got to see the Falcons whip the Jaguars, the Ravens flake at San Diego, punchless Pittsburgh lose out West, and the Bucs sink to a new low against Dallas.  I missed all the Sunday day games, and since I don't feel like talking about the games I did see, this week I'll take a look at the playoff picture.  In addition, I'll take my first shot at a top 10 for the 2012 draft.

1) New England (v. MIA; v. BUF)
2) Baltimore (v. CLE; @CIN)
3) Houston (@IND; v. TEN)
4) Denver (@BUF; v. KC)
5) Pittsburgh (v. STL; @CLE)
6) NY Jets (v. NYG; @MIA)

7) Cincinnati (v. ARI; v. BAL)
8) Tennessee (v. JAX; @HOU)
9) Oakland (@KC; v. SD)
10) San Diego (@DET; @OAK)

Barring monumental upsets, the Patriots will win their last two and clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That’s because Baltimore collapsed at San Diego and is no longer in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed. The Ravens and Steelers both have a game remaining against the Browns, but Pittsburgh’s other opponent is St. Louis while Baltimore gets Cincinnati, a team fighting for the final playoff spot.

The difference in the #2 and #5 seeds this year is that the #2 gets a first round bye while the #5 gets to travel to Denver to face Baby Jesus’ Broncos. The only scenario where Denver doesn’t get in is if they lose their last two games and San Diego or Oakland wins both of theirs. Denver locks it up with a win next week at KC regardless of what happens this week with any of the teams involved. Given the way these teams are currently playing, I don’t see Denver losing a potential division-clinching game to the Chiefs at Mile High. I don’t care if you’re as experienced as the Steelers or Ravens, the last team I want to face in week 1 of the playoffs is the Broncos at home. 

I've got the final seed coming down to the Jets or Bengals. Neither has an easy two weeks ahead. The Jets face the Giants this week, a team fighting for a spots on the other half of the bracket, and then get to travel to Miami and face a team that always plays them tough. Going back to ’08, the Jets are 3-4 against the Dolphins. The beat up Bengals host the Cardinals, owners of the league’s third longest current win streak (4 games) and victors of 6 of 7 overall. During that streak the Cardinals have beaten the Eagles, Cowboys, and 49ers, so besting the Bengals certainly isn’t out of the question. Arizona is still mathematically alive, so this week it’s going to come down to who wants it more.

I say Cincinnati goes 1-1 at best and could very easily go 0-2, which would allow the Jets to still get that last seed by winning 1 of their last 2. The Giants are still playing for the NFC East, but I’ve got to think Rex Ryan can get his team to beat an overmatched Dolphins team in a must-win game. New York takes the last seed, Cincinnati has something to build upon for next season, and San Diego’s late run was all for naught.

1) Green Bay (v. CHI; v. DET)
2) San Francisco (@SEA; @STL)
3) New Orleans (v. ATL; v. CAR)
4) Dallas (v. PHI; @NYG)
5) Atlanta (@NO; v. TB)
6) Detroit (v. SD; @GB)

7) Seattle (v. SF; @ARI)
8) Chicago (@GB; v. MIN)
9) NY Giants (@NYJ; v. DAL)
10) Arizona (@CIN; v. SEA)

Damn, there goes 16-0. What a letdown from the Packers this week. Aaron Rodgers continues to lose protection, and that will obviously be something to keep an eye on as the regular season winds down and the postseason picks up. Still, they’ll get the #1 seed barring a complete collapse. The #2 seed currently belongs to the 49ers thanks to a playoff-like performance against the Steelers on Monday Night Football. Seattle might be the hottest team in the league, but the 49ers are a team on a mission. I like them to avoid another letdown and finish the year as the second seed.

New Orleans now must win out and hope for a 49er loss in order to get a first round bye. I love the scene surrounding this team heading into the playoffs. They’re pretty healthy, aside from Jimmy Graham’s back, and will be playing their last two at home before hosting at least one playoff game. Dallas currently holds the #4 spot, but who knows what’s going to happen with the NFC East in these last two weeks.

The Eagles finally resemble the team everyone thought they’d be, and while it’s too late for them to get in on the postseason action, they can sure play spoiler for the Cowboys. Dallas is likely to have their fate a little better defined by the time they take the field Saturday as their game kicks off at 4:15 while the Giants and Jets play at 1:00. I think Dallas loses this week and the Giants win. That would have them all tied up at 8-7 with a week 17 showdown in New York looming. Going back to ’08, the Giants own a 5-2 series record and won their last matchup two weeks ago on the road in comeback fashion. Garrett and Eli v. Garrett and Romo in a stressful situation? I’m taking the Giants.

The Falcons need one more win to clinch a spot in the postseason, and they’ll get that win next week against the Bucs if they can’t upset the Saints in the Superdome. Detroit sports the same 9-5 record, but I really don’t like their remaining matchups. Not only do they get to face the surging Chargers, but they get to close out with the champs. Maybe Green Bay dials it down after clinching the #1 seed against Chicago, but I wouldn’t count on it. Just one win and they’re in, but that win is far from in their pocket. I’m really leaning towards San Diego taking this one and don’t have faith in the Lions beating the Packers, regardless of how long the Packers’ starters play. If things play out this way, it isn’t necessarily all bad for Detroit. I don’t think Seattle, Chicago, or Arizona goes 2-0. That means the only team Detroit truly has to worry about would be the loser of the Cowboys/Giants equation. Really, if Dallas loses this week, the Lions are in. The best Dallas could do at that point would be to go 9-7, which means they beat the Giants next week, which means they win the NFC East. The Giants, even if they win this week, would then finish no better than 8-8 by losing to Dallas in the finale, allowing Detroit to retain that 6th seed despite losing their last two.

My Playoff Bracket

Ok, so here’s how I see the playoffs shaping up:

1) New England
2) Baltimore
3) Houston
4) Denver
5) Pittsburgh
6) NY Jets

1) Green Bay
2) San Francisco
3) New Orleans
4) NY Giants
5) Atlanta
6) Detroit

Wild Card Round
#6 NY Jets @ #3 Houston
#5 Pittsburgh @ #4 Denver
#6 Detroit @ #3 New Orleans
#5 Atlanta @ #4 NY Giants

I imagine that the Broncos will be the lone home dog in this round of action, but as I mentioned before, I’d hate to face them and the mojo they’re riding. I think this game will rival ATL/NYG for the most exciting of the wild card round, and while Tebow may have friends in high places, I’ll take Pittsburgh’s experience to pull them through to the next round.

I think the Saints end up with the easiest game of the week. It will be their third home contest in three weeks, and they should have no problem dictating their point total against the Lions. I’m really buying into the Saints playing 3 straight home games being a big boost to their playoff chances.

I believe Houston will do a good job of running the ball and stropping the run against the Jets. I’ll definitely go with Foster and Tate at home v. Green and LT in this one. TJ Yates will outplay Mark Sanchez as well.

The Falcons/Giants would be a really intriguing matchup. Atlanta is tough when playing to their potential, as seldom as that happens, and you know New York is going to be nuts with the Giants hosting a playoff game. I’ll take the road team in this one with the Falcons’ passing game being the difference – Roddy White, Juilio Jones, Tony Gonzales, and even Harry Douglas. Pick your poison New York.

Divisional Round
#5 Pittsburgh @ #1 New England
#3 Houston @ #2 Baltimore
#5 Atlanta @ #1 Green Bay
#3 New Orleans @ #2 San Francisco

This would be one heck of a menu of games. My predictions:
- New England wins its first postseason game since ’07
- Baltimore ends Houston’s first playoff experience
- Green Bay ends Atlanta’s season for the second straight year
- New Orleans is the round’s lone road victor

Conference Championships
#2 Baltimore @ #1 New England
#3 New Orleans @ #1 Green Bay

- Ray Rice does it to the Patriots again; Ravens move on
- Saints get their revenge; beat Packers on the Frozen Tundra

Super Bowl XLVI
Baltimore v. New Orleans

Sticking with my initial season prediction here – Saints beat the Ravens to capture their 2nd title in 3 seasons.

MVP – Drew Brees

VERY Early Draft Projection

The final draft order is not quite set, but I’ll make an attempt at an eventual top 10:

1) Indianapolis – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
2) St. Louis – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
3) Minnesota – Matt Kalil (T, USC)
4) Cleveland – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
5) Tampa Bay – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
6) Jacksonville – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
7) Miami – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
8) Buffalo – Riley Reiff (T, Iowa)
9) Washington – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
10) Carolina – Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 14


Rob Gronkowski is a robot. In a game where he set the NFL record for TDs in a season by a TE, Gronkowski dragged a helpless Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes in his wake while DeAngelo Hall earned that money by playing the role of helpless voyeur. Hearing Greg Gumbel say “Rob Gronkowski shedding tacklers like they’re bad habits” was hilarious. They’ve scored at least 30 points in their last 5 games, but they’re allowing bad teams (Colts and Skins) to hang around dangerously long. Good lord they can’t let that happen this week because the Timmy Tebows handle the 4th quarter like Rain Man counts cards. New York played a second solid game in a row in what was probably their best overall performance since week 2. The much maligned around these parts Mark Sanchez had a career game, both throwing and running for two scores. They’re in the driver’s seat for the 6th seed and can probably go 2-1 and still clinch it. Where did you go Bills from Buffalo? They lost their 6th straight in a rout at San Diego and now face the Dolphins in their last winnable game. Speaking of those Dolphins, after falling to Philly, Miami fired Tony Sparano and got a jumpstart on finding their next head coach.

Baltimore avoided the monumental embarrassment of losing to the winless Colts by shutting them down 24-3 until a meaningless TD on the last play of the game. Cam Cameron seems to have figured out that Ray Rice can run with the football as the Rutgers rusher was front and center, again exceeding triple digits on the ground. That same game plan should work again this week against the Chargers, a team that has given up its share of yards on the ground (Peterson-98; Greene-112; Bush-157; McGahee-117; MJD-97). Their last three games aren’t gimmies, and Pittsburgh is matching them win for win. This last was may have been terribly costly, as Ben Roethlisberger heroically played the second half of Thursday’s game against the Browns with a really messed up ankle, limping around the pocket and pulling out a game they couldn’t afford to lose. His status is up in the air for this week’s game at San Francisco, but do you really see that guy NOT playing? If he plays, I like the Steelers in this one. They’re a bad matchup for the Niners in my opinion and are catching them at the right time. They’ll be without James Harrison though after he was suspended for his helmet to helmet on Colt McCoy. Speaking of McCoy, he apparently did suffer a concussion in that game and was permitted/put back on the field by the Browns. His dad’s pissed, and you can’t blame him. As much as I’m sure the Browns would like to see this story go away, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this one. Man the Bengals are struggling against good teams. They’ve lost 4 of their last 5 to the likes of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and the Schaub-less Texans. They SHOULD beat the Rams on the road, but they’ll get the red hot Cardinals and Ravens after that. Maybe the Jets will get in the playoffs after all.

Way to go TJ Yates! Not only did the rookie notch his first game winning drive, connecting with Kevin Walter for the clinching score with only 2 seconds left as part of a 300 yard performance, he helped lead the Texans to their first ever division title and playoff birth. That was huge when you consider that Arian Foster wasn’t much of a factor on the ground. To have the rookie step up against a pretty stout defense had to give the whole team a big shot of confidence heading into the playoffs. They’ve three pretty winnable games left (CAR, IND, TEN) and should be fighting each week for one of the top seeds. Tennessee nearly completed their rally against the Saints but fell short when Jake Locker fell to the ground on 4th down. Stepping in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck, the rookie threw for 282 yards in just under 3 quarters of play. It looks like he’s going to get the start this week in Indy, and I’m really anxious to see how that goes. I’ve got a feeling Locker has a HUGE Sunday in Indy. I’ve also got to mention how nuts it is that Tennessee had three straight games finish with a score of 23-17 followed by a 22-17 game. Weird. How ‘bout those Jags! Trailing 14 -0 to the Succaneers, Jacksonville went on what seemed like a 276-0 run to earn their 4th win of the year. Blaine Gabbert had what might have been the best game of his short career. That doesn’t reflect terribly well on Tampa Bay since Gabbert shits himself whenever a defender invades his personal space. The Colts suck.

My my my. Well if Sunday’s miraculous comeback, the Timmy Tebows’ 6th straight victory, told us anything it’s this – god absolutely hates Marion Barber. Holy cow how does this keep happening to Denver’s opponents? Every one of these victories is a made for tv Lifetime special. As much as the media loves promoting these weekly 1 on 11 matchups, they’re not winning 6 straight without the leg and gut of Matt Prater. Well done kicker. Ok, so this time Baby Jesus started 3 of 16 for the first three quarters but ended the game 21 for 40 with 236 yards. I understand that it’s not where you start but where you finish that counts, but can someone get this guy to resemble a professional for at least half of a football game? My goodness. This has got to be some kind of 2012 end of world prelude. Go Von Miller! After missing one week with his hand injury, Miller got back in the game, took down Caleb Hanie, and now has 11.5 sacks in 12 games. Defensive ROY. Oakland’s a game back but looks to have ran face first into the proverbial wall. Having been dominated on the road two weeks in a row at Miami and Green Bay to the tune of a 80-30 scoreboard showing, they now return home to hold the fort down against the Lions, a team that has put up point totals of 48, 34, 45, 49, and 34 this year. Yeah, not good timing. They’re also without Darren McFadden again, as it was revealed this week that his foot injury may be more of the Lisfranc variety than a simple sprain as has been advertised so far. I don’t see them catching the Tebows. San Diego’s making a run. They handled a second straight subpar opponent, whipping the Bills in a game that saw Buffalo’s only TD come from the defensive side of the ball when Bryan Scott owned Philip Rivers in the endzone. They’re starting to click, but it’s probably too late. San Diego is 2 down to Denver and has Baltimore coming into town this week. Kansas City lost their 8th game of the season, and then Todd Haley lost his job. That was only a matter of time. That place is a mess right now, and he just never seemed a fit for that team/roster.


That was really an enjoyable game to watch Sunday night. The Giants won at Dallas and took the division lead. This game had everything. Eli Manning throwing for 400 yards; Brandon Jacobs running over Gerald Sensabaugh what seemed like 95 times; DeMarco Murray’s impressive rookie year crashing to a halt with a broken ankle; Tony Romo throwing 4 TDs; Jerry Jones looking like he ate 10 taco supremes; and Jason Pierre-Paul dominating on defense and ending the game by blocking the potential game tying kick. New York got a true must-win and has to be feeling great about going 1-5 and sitting in first place. They’ve got to stay focused against a pesky Redskins team coming into town this week. Dallas on the other hand has to be reeling. They’ve lost their last two games in crazy fashion and must now beat the schizophrenic Eagles and then travel to New York and return the favor in order to win the division. If the Cowboys lose at Tampa this Saturday, they’re done. If the Giants beat the Skins, they can lose to the Jets and still win the division by closing out the regular season by beating the Cowboys at home. Philly beat Miami on the road, but their hole is far too deep for me to give a damn about how they’re doing. Washington gave New England much more of a fight than I thought they would and have played tough teams tough recently. I don’t see them beating the Giants this week, but maybe they get one more win against Minnesota next week.

13-0. The biggest story to emerge from the 30 point stomping of the Raiders was the third quarter loss of Greg Jennings to a knee injury. The Packers are hoping to have their #1 receiver back by the playoffs, which gives him a full month to heal up before the Divisional Round. You don’t just simply replace a Greg Jennings, but having Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley certainly helps. Phil Simms says the problem with the Packers on defense is that the corners have been gambling too much. I’ll have to pay attention to that when they play a team that is really challenging them; not something I expect to happen this week at the Chiefs, their last road game. If Green Bay is to lose one of these last three, I’m guessing it’s the Lions who are likely to be fighting for a playoff spot through week 17. You can’t fight fate, at least not with Caleb Hanie as your QB. The Bears became just another victim of the holy hype train, losing in heartbreaking fashion. They generated zero offense for the second week in a row and now have to host the upstart Seahawks. Without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte this teams isn’t making the playoffs and might not win another game this season. After getting out to a 21-0 lead in what looked like the beginnings of a laugher, the Lions had to count their blessings that a blatant facemask penalty wasn’t called or else they probably end up losing that game. They couldn’t stop the Vikings once Joe Webb got on the field, and I’m convinced he would have scored given another chance from inside the 1. They get Ndamukong Suh back this week and will need him against the Raiders and Michael Bush. If they win this week at Oakland and next week at home against the Chargers, they can become victim #16 at Green Bay and still make the playoffs. Minnesota nearly pulled out that game at Detroit. Christian Ponder was benched after his fourth turnover, and Joe Webb took over the offense and the game. Webb’s not their answer at QB, but like last year’s game at Philly, he’s fun to watch in spurts. They get Adrian Peterson back this week, and he’s their best hope of hanging with the Saints. Minnesota is 2-11, but an insane 8 of those losses are by 7 points or less.

It looked like the Saints were going to lose their 4th road game of the season, but Jake Locker couldn’t get off a pass on the last play of the game, giving New Orleans their 10th win. After going up 22-10 with 4 minutes to play, the Saints looked to have wrapped it up. The defense choked though, giving up a 40 yard TD to Nate Washington on the third play of the series. So in just over a minute, the Titans were within a TD of winning the game. New Orleans went on to have two more offensive series but gained only 1 total first down. They’re going to have to close out a game on the road eventually (Green Bay) if they want to make it back to the Super Bowl. Atlanta overcame a 16 point halftime deficit to beat the Panthers on the road in another pretty underwhelming performance. Yes, they did outscore Carolina 24-0 over the last two quarters, but a good bit of credit has to go to Olindo Mare. After Mare missed a 36 yard FG, Julio Jones raced 75 yards for the put away TD. They’re likely to make the playoffs, but they’re probably the least threatening team in the pool. I still may not be sold on the person that is Cam Newton, but Cam Newton the player is having one hell of a year. He’s exceeded all expectations and is playing at a level that I never thought he could approach in year one. I did not think he was near this pro-ready, especially as a passer. I’m sick of the smile, but he’s saying and doing all the right things in Carolina and looks to be well on the road to professional success. What an embarrassment. The Bucs are absolutely awful. The players have quit, the team is clearly regressing, and not even the frugal Glazers can sell Morris as the Bucs head coach going forward. If that overpaid cheerleader is retained for next season, I will boycott any and everything Buccaneers until the situation is properly resolved. The cliché “youngry” shit has to go. Let’s get some players who can play and coaches who can coach. I was pissed when they hired Morris and allowed him to learn on the job. How’s that worked out? Learn a lot did ya? I’m predicting an 0-10 run to close the season, so obviously I don’t think the Bucs will win any of their remaining games.

Hiccup. The 49ers were unable to avoid the road letdown, losing to the improved Cardinals and John Skelton. The second year passer stepped in for an injured Kevin Kolb and ended the day with three TDs and nearly 300 yards passing. Alex Smith had a really ugly game, his second in three tries. Arizona sacked him 5 times, so you’ve got to like Pittsburgh’s chances of taking him down a time or two this coming Monday night. As I mentioned earlier, I think Pittsburgh is a bad matchup for San Francisco, and the Niners aren’t exactly heading into this one with the best momentum. Seattle handled the Rams in the league’s last game and cling onto their very faint playoff hopes. Marshawn Lynch eclipsed 100 yards for the 3rd straight game and looks to have earned himself quite a few dollars this coming offseason. Tarvaris Jackson doesn’t look nearly as bad as he did for the Vikings, but I’ve got to think Pete Carroll looks elsewhere for a QB this offseason. I still think that guy is Matt Flynn.

Best and Worst

Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Green Bay (1)
Knock on wood, but a Rodgers injury is all that keeps them from 16-0, and that may not even do it.

2 – New Orleans (2)
They clinch the #2 see by winning out and getting on more 49er loss.

3 – Baltimore (3)
The #1 seed is three wins away.

4 – Pittsburgh (5)
Is there a more valuable player in the league (not named Aaron Rodgers) than Ben Roethlisberger?

5 – San Francisco (4)
Their next two games (PIT, SEA) will be playoff-like contests.

6 – New England (6)
Do they end the madness or become just another victim?

7 – Houston (7)
TJ Yates is playing for a #2 seed.

8 – Denver (8)
Given what’s been happening I can’t see these guys not winning the West.

OUT – None

Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
It's almost Christmas, but these guys mailed it in before Thanksgiving.

2 – St. Louis (2)
They’re really bad in multiple spots.

3 – Tampa Bay (8)
Right now, this crapfest is no better than the 3rd worst team in pro football.

4 – Jacksonville (3)
Beating the Succaneers doesn’t earn you much.

5 – Cleveland (4)
Despite hanging with the Steelers and gimpy Ben, they’re a bad team.

6 – Minnesota (5)
Again, not as bad as the record but 2-11 is 2-11.

7 – Kansas City (7)
Barring a miracle they’ll be on this list again next week.

8 – Washington (6)
Because Rex Grossman is your quarterback.

OUT – None

This Week’s Predictions

Strongest wins (by more than 14)
Cowboys @ Bucs
Packers @ Chiefs

Double digit dominance (at least 10)
Saints @ Vikings
Titans @ Colts
Cardinals v. Browns
Texans v. Panthers

Just win baby
Falcons v. Jaguars
Giants v. Redskins
Bengals @ Rams
Lions @ Raiders
Patriots @ Broncos
Ravens @ Chargers
Bills v. Dolphins

Upsetville – Population: 3
Seahawks @ Bears
Jets @ Eagles
Steelers @ 49ers

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peyton Manning - Where Does He Play In 2012?

One of the hottest NFL stories right now involves a guy who hasn’t played a down all year. In a radio interview earlier this week, Peyton Manning’s father, Archie, made a statement that he didn’t think either Peyton or projected #1 pick Andrew Luck wanted to be on the same team. Assumedly after getting a call from Colts management informing Archie that he’s not helping anyone (Peyton’s trade value) with statements like that, the eldest Manning quickly did a backpedal of sorts, complimenting Luck and saying he’s sure the two could co-exist just fine. Now that there’s a spotlight on the situation, one has to ask – Will both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck be Indianapolis Colts next year? Great question. Assuming the current Colts don’t develop any testicular fortitude in this last month of the season, not only will they have the first pick in the draft, they’ll have made it mathematically impossible to finish with a worse record. Let’s approach this one step at a time.

First, there’s the matter of Peyton’s contract. Per that contract, Manning is due a measly $28 million bonus four days prior to the start of the 2012 league year. Since the Colts can’t move Manning prior to the current bonus deadline, they’re likely to negotiate with his reps about moving that deadline back a week or two to allow them to get something in return for a guy who was considered by many to be the best QB in the league this time last year.

Back to Luck. If you’re the Colts, do you spend the first pick in the draft on what most “experts” believe is the best/safest QB prospect to enter the draft since possibly, yep, Peyton Manning? When you look at this team, there wasn’t a bigger weakness than the play under center. Curtis Painter was so awful that now Dan Orlovsky is the first stringer. If you’re the Colts, how can you NOT draft Andrew Luck given what you know about Luck and what little you know about Peyton’s future health and ability?

As bad as this year has been for Indy, they potentially be looking at a decent haul of picks for Peyton in addition to getting Luck at #1. Not a bad way to start 2012. Do you deal Peyton or hold on to him and possibly create your own Favre/Rodgers situation? I would look to deal Peyton for two reasons:

1 – You’ll be getting a guy who I mentioned before as very safe pick; someone who looks to be incredibly pro-ready; and

2 – You have no idea how Peyton is going to bounce back in 2012. Not to doubt the great Peyton Manning, but can he flip the switch and pick right up where he left off? Is he one blindside shot away from retirement?

So now that I’ve made those decisions, the last question to answer is – where do you send Peyton? Looking across the league, there are only a handful of teams that I think will be actively looking to upgrade the QB position this offseason. You can also expect the Colts to at least initially look outside the AFC which will limit their options even more.

Here are the 10 options as I see them:

Yes, I realize the Timmy is now the greatest thing since the invention of the game of football itself, but one can’t assume the clock won’t strike midnight on this fairy tale at some point. One non-Tebow point that could squash speculation is the unlikely desire of John Elway, an iconic QB in his own right, to bring another icon into his backyard. I understand. Elway needs to do what’s best for the Broncos, and I’m not saying he won’t. But do you think he’d be terribly aggressive in bringing Peyton to Denver? I don’t.

Easily the biggest weakness on the Jets in my opinion, Mark Sanchez will single-handedly keep the Jets from winning a championship as long as he’s taking snaps as their QB. Rex Ryan has already been presented with the Peyton scenario and predictably voiced his support for Sanchez. Still, if/when supposition turns into serious possibility, opinions can/do change.

Matt Moore took over for an injured Chad Henne during the season, but Miami would rather neither one be their guy next year. Still, would they be a financial and organizational fit for Peyton? Very doubtful in my opinion.

See Miami. They’ve got Colt McCoy running the WCO right now, and while a player as talented as Peyton can make any team change their scheme, I just don’t see him as a financial and organization fit in Cleveland.

Jacksonville is already reportedly having discussions about ending the Blaine Gabbert experience as the rookie passer looks horribly overwhelmed and scared shitless as an NFL starter. A new owner would love to make a splash with an acquisition like this, but would Manning agree to the move? The Colts don’t need his permission to move him, but I’m sure Peyton could make life difficult for all parties involved if he’s not keen on his potential destination. Would you want to play for the Jags?

On the surface this doesn’t look like a terribly appealing option, but there’s some talent on this Kansas City team. Jamaal Charles figures to be back at the start of next year after inuring his ACL in the second game of this season, and Dwayne Bowe is probably the most underutilized receiver in the game. Throw in rookie Jonathan Baldwin who is getting better each week and third receiver Steve Breaston and this isn’t an awful offense to build around. The Chiefs know they need to improve upon Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, and Kyle Orton, and I believe the latter is most likely to be a Chief next year. The fact that they spent a waiver claim in Orton when they were pretty much out of the playoff chase tells me they have plans beyond this year for Orton. That said, do you put your blinders on to Manning just because you think Orton can play for you?

This one makes quite a bit of sense at first glance. You’ve got Dan Synder, a man never afraid to reach for a headline or spend a dollar and a head coach in Mike Shanahan, a guy who’s been around the block a couple of times in the NFL. Oh, and their QBs suck. Shanahan believes he can find RBs behind the counter at Subway, but he’s very meticulous about his QBs. Manning and Shanahan would be a tremendous pairing in my opinion, and you know Washington is going to be in the forefront when these trade talks start picking up.

How can I include a 10-2 team, a team with the league’s second best record on a list of teams needing to upgrade at QB? Easy when that team’s starter is Alex Smith. Make no mistake, this has been a career year for the former Ute, but does Jim Harbaugh want to continue spending the early part of his 49er era managing his QB and offense through games on a weekly basis? You might say I’m being a bit hard on Smith, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence he finally looks like a professional since Harbaugh arrived on the scene. Give him a different coach and a different team, and Smith goes back to the pre-2011 version. If I’m Harbaugh, I’m salivating at the possibility of adding a Pro Bowl passer to a team that is already dominant at running the ball on offense and stopping the opposition from doing so on defense. A healthy Manning could make them an automatic division winner for the next five years given the circus that is the rest of the NFC West.

Despite the recent wave of wins, Pete Carroll will no doubt look to upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson this offseason. An easy association is USC’s Matt Barkley who surely will go pro after the season, but with the way Seattle is winning, they’ll need to trade up in the draft to get Barkley. I do expect the Seahawks to have a new QB under center next year, but I think Matt Flynn is going to be that guy. Aaron Rodgers’ backup will be starting for an NFL team next year, and with GM John Schneider’s history with Flynn and the Packers, I expect their focus to be on the much younger, much cheaper passer.

Yes they traded for Kevin Kolb less than a year ago, but how has that panned out for them? The deal may make a Manning move financially impossible, but putting Manning on the other end of the passes thrown in Larry Fitzgerald’s direction could increase their offensive output substantially. They’d be an extreme long shot in my opinion.

In the first round of cuts I’ll eliminate Denver, Miami, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. As I mentioned earlier, I think the Colts will try to get him out of the conference, and I can’t see Peyton having the slightest interest in joining any of those teams except possibly Denver.

Next I’ll eliminate the Seahawks for the Flynn factor and the Cardinals for Kolb’s contract.

That leaves the Jets, Chiefs, Redskins, and 49ers as the remaining candidates, and honestly, I’ll be shocked if he’s not starting for one of these four teams next season. He’d make the biggest impact on the Jets and 49ers, but, if healthy, he could make the Chiefs and Redskins playoff teams next year.

Of those four, I’d give KC the longest odds. In my opinion, they’d really have to surpass the competition in compensation, both to the Colts and Manning.

As great as I think that fit would be in San Francisco, I don’t see them winning a bidding war with the remaining teams.

So that means I’ve got it down to the Jets and Redskins. With what we know now about their anticipated cap situations, Washington currently looks to be the better fit. I expect them to exhaust all resources in their pursuit of Peyton. But will it be enough?

As much as Rex Ryan wants to put on the show that Mark Sanchez has a future as a winner in the NFL, he’s got to giggle at the thought of putting Peyton at the helm of his offense. Think this insistence on maintaining ‘ground and pound’ continues with Peyton as their QB? Earlier I mentioned Dwayne Bowe as the league’s most underutilized receiver. Finishing a close second is Santonio Holmes. Think Peyton could get some use out of him?

Decision time. For the 2012 season, I believe that Peyton Manning will be the starting QB for……..the New York Jets.

I know that I mentioned the Colts' anticipated desire to move Peyton out of the AFC, and it will be hard to out-offer the Redskins.  They way I see this going down is that the Redskins and Jets make near identical offers to the Colts, and Peyton "forces the Colts' hand" in moving him to the Jets. 

Can you imagine the storylines? Manning v. Brady at least twice a year. Peyton & Rex v. Tom & Bill? The suits at the NFL offices would be doing cartwheels over the press and money spewing out of that situation.

Whether or not he is a New York Jet in three months is yet to be determined, but I’ve got to think that given his situation, both financially and physically, and the anticipated availability of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning has thrown his last pass as an Indianapolis Colt.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 13


It wasn’t pretty, but I guess a win is a win. The Patriots nearly squandered a 21 point 4th quarter lead to the worst team in football, hanging on for a one score victory. Not sure what you can take away from this victory other than the fact that they close more like Papelbon than Rivera. The important thing is that they’re two games up on the Jets and own the tiebreaker with four left to play. This week is another “nothing to win” type games against the Redskins, but I want to see if they handle Washington any better than the Jets did. Speaking of the Jets, they beat the Skins behind three Shonn Greene scores, or one more than he totaled in his 11 previous games this year. This one was close until late, and while I expect them to win this week against the Chiefs, they could easily lose their last three (@PHI, v.NYG, @MIA). I still think they don’t make the playoffs. Miami stomped Oakland, giving them 4 wins in their last 5 games. It’s a shame they didn’t start churning out the Ws until halfway through the season. Tony Sparano just might have saved his job. Buffalo’s downward spiral continues. Their home loss to Tennessee was their 5th in a row, and they could easily make that a 9 game stretch to close out the year.

Yea! The Ravens didn’t do the post-big-game collapse this time, taking care of the bumbling Browns. Cam Cameron got with the program as Ray Rice carried the ball 29 times for a career high 204 yards. With the win, Baltimore still controls its own fate and will look to drop the Colts to 0-13 this week. For Cleveland, Colt McCoy continues to demonstrate that he could be a damn decent #2 QB. Pittsburgh had it clicking big time against the Bengals, dominating them 21-0 at one point and not allowing a second half score. Ben Roethlisberger had another two TDs, both to Mike Wallace, but Rashard Mendenhall pounded the goal line twice as well. The Steelers also blocked a Mike Nugent FG attempt and got an Antonio Brown punt return TD. Cincinnati needs to get back on track against Houston if they want to get that last playoff spot ahead of the Jets. They’re both sitting at 7-5, and I see Cincinnati has having the easier schedule the rest of the way. AJ Green might be the offensive rookie of the year if it were not for Cam Newton.

Who needs Matt Schaub when you’ve got TJ Yates? Maybe Gary Kubiak wasn’t spouting coach speak when he said that they were very pleased with Yates’ progress as a rookie and were fine with him as their #1. Sure Arian Foster had 31 carries on the day, but Yates was able to consistently command the offense without turning it over. Matt Ryan looked more like a rookie than Yates. It wasn’t all good as the Texans lost Andre Johnson again, this time with another hamstring injury. Will they run their win streak to seven without him at Cincinnati? Tennessee won at Buffalo, giving them back to back victories for the first time since in two months. Sure it was the fading Bills, but Chris Johnson made it a second straight studly game with 153 yards and 2 TDs. Will he run that streak to three against the Saints? Yep, the Jags are still bad, and Blaine Gabbert is so soft he makes Mark Sanchez look tough. Indy is now an 0-12 heaping pile of manure.

Don’t look now, but the most uncompetitively competitive division in the league just got a little tighter. Denver moved their streak to five at Minnesota behind an opportunistic defense and, brace yourselves, a passing QB. Timmy stroked the genie’s lamp at halftime again, connecting with Demaryius Thomas for two 3rd quarter scores and eclipsing the ever so elusive 200 yard passing mark for the first time this year. All the media attention goes to Timmy, but that defense and Willis McGahee (20-111-1) were the difference in this one. That and two late Matt Prater FGs. The momentum express continues as they get the reeling Bears at home this Sunday. Oakland faceplanted in Miami, fallilng behind 34-0 before getting two garbage 4th quarter scores to avoid the (deserved) shutout. Michael Bush (10 carries, 18 yards) had his worst game of the year, and Richard Seymour was kicked out of the contest for throwing a punch at a Dolphin. Bully. The biggest story might be the off field troubles Rolando McClain got himself into. You know your basic assault and weapons charges. San Diego found the cure to their 6 game losing streak in Jacksonville, but I’m not chasing that bandwagon yet. Yes, they’re getting healthy, but this is a 5-7 team that still has Baltimore and Detroit on the schedule and will have a tough time reaching .500 let alone the playoffs; and .500 ain’t cutting in this the West this year. Kansas City continues to live the Tyler Palko dream as Kyle Orton dislocated his finger on his one pass attempt as a Chief. Party on Kansas City!


Ok, does anyone want to win the NFC East? All four of them flopped last week, starting with Philadelphia’s enjoyable, now weekly, no show; this time in Seattle. Vince Young threw another 4 TDs, oops I mean disgustingly awful INTs, giving him 8 in 3 games. Way to go Vince! DeSean Jackson continues to show his ass and do very little football playing on the field. Write it down – whoever signs this guy is going to regret it. He’s exactly the kind of guy you don’t give a long term deal. He’s shown his softness and selfishness repeatedly and is a one trick pony, if that. I bet the end result in Philly is that Jackson and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo are out and Andy Reid and Michael Vick return. As for the rest of this year, they just need to try and not get embarrassed weekly. Dallas did the fade in Arizona, thanks in large part to the boneheadedness that was Jason Garrett’s decision to ice his own kicker, leading to an ensuing miss and eventual loss. Ok, so Garrett claimed to be trying to beat a delay of game, but I call “oops I screwed up” for 1000 Alex. They’ll take their one game lead into Sunday night’s game against the Gaints, a team that almost became THAT team in a thrilling loss to the milk country marvels. Instead of a historic victory, the Giants lost their 4th straight and will try to avoid falling two behind Dallas with three to play by beating them Sunday. In their defense, three of those four losses came to three of football’s best teams (GB, NO, SF). A tough call, but I might take the road team in this one, especially with Ahmad Bradshaw getting healthy. Washington got back into the loss column, dropping to 4-8 and doing nothing but chasing the Eagles for last place in the division.

Here you’ve got the good, the bad, and the ugly. After going back and forth with the Giants in the first half, the Packers were unable to pull away and needed a ho hum 58 second game winning drive from the robot that is Aaron Rodgers to keep their undefeated season alive. It wasn’t all good though. Rodgers threw an ugly INT that the Giants turned into a TD two plays later, Jermichael Finley continues to drop passes, and Charles Woodson suffered late in the game putting his status for this week in check. I don’t see how they don’t get to 12-0 against the Raiders. Anyone catch the time of death? It came with about 6 minutes left in the first quarter as Matt Forte went out with an MCL sprain. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out, and every week counts when you’re scratching and clawing for a wild card spot this late in the season with Caleb Hanie as your QB. Now for the ugly; make that disgustingly undisciplined. Brandon Pettigrew shoving an official. Titus Young pushing Malcolm Jenkins in the face when they were on the Saints’ doorstep. Stefan Logan throwing the ball at a Saints player like a dumbass. Someone teach Nate Burleson how to get separation without drawing a flag. Three offensive PIs??? If they can get their heads out of their asses, they should jump ahead of the Bears for a wild card spot. Minnesota suffered a crushing loss to the Broncos. Christian Ponder and Percy Harvin are establishing quite the chemistry, connecting for two huge TDs. Ponder has made some rookie throws, but I love how he’s working out there; big things ahead for him. Sure they’re a big disappointment at 2-10, but only 2 of those 10 losses were by more than 10 points. Matt Kalil would be a great pick in April to give them the best LT play they’ve had in years.

When the Lions weren’t shooting themselves in the foot, they were getting burnt by Drew Brees. Well on his way to breaking Dan Marino’s single season yardage record, the Saints’ slinger added another 342 to his season total. He threw 3 TDs, but the think that stands out most to me is that he’s gone three straight games without an INT. Now they head to Tennessee in a game that smells a bit like a trap. Of course they’re a better team at home, but I think they’ve learned their lesson with road letdowns (TB, STL). I think this one’s pretty simple at least strategy/success-wise – slow down Chris Johnson and the Saints win. While the Saints are running away with the division, the Falcons are another team doing the fade. After struggling to beat two mediocre teams (TEN, MIN), the Falcons fell on the road to a team with a QB named TJ. They don’t have that oomph this year; don’t seem to scare or even frighten anyone. I’d say 2-2 is a fair guesstimate the rest of the way (CAR, JAX, NO, TB), and that should be good enough to back into a wild card spot given what’s going on with the Bears, Giants, and Lions. Cam Newton set the rookie rushing TD record with three of them against the Succaneers who continue to find new ways to disappoint their fans. Awesome job by the Bucs letting Newton complete a desperate deep ball late in the first half to set up an Olindo Mare FG. Crap teams make crap plays.

After a draining loss at Baltimore the 49ers got back on track by shutting out the Rams 26-0. David Akers owned the first half with 3 FGs, but Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree took over in the second half. The no hangover effect resembles a veteran team that can refocus quickly which will come in very handy come playoff time. Patrick Willis went down with a hamstring injury, so his health will be worth monitoring as the postseason draws closer. Like the Saints, the Niners hit the road this week in a game that sniffs a bit of a looming loss, but I’m buying into their focus. Their recipe is simple and doesn’t require their QB to be on point every week. I don’t like Pete Carroll, but I like the effort the Seahawks have shown over the last month. Speaking of effort, Marshawn Lynch did it again. Somewhat reminiscent of last year’s mega highlight playoff run, Lynch ran through a wall of Eagle defenders and a Jamar Chaney arm tackle to score an impressive TD at set the tone early. He’s now scored in 8 straight games. Their schedule the rest of the way minus San Fran (STL, CHI, ARI) sets up for a run at a .500 record and a middle of the road draft pick. Pete will have to deal up in order to get Matt Barkley. Arizona is playing better ball of late as well, getting another run-off win, this time on the jukes and jives of LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Rams have pretty much locked up last place and will have only the Colts separating them from the top of the draft board.

Best and Worst

Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Green Bay (1)
Scare survived. Now back home for 3 of their last 4.

2 – New Orleans (2)
133 points in their last 4 games. Don’t let me down with a road letdown.

3 – Baltimore (3)
The focus was their against the Browns. One week at a time, and the #1 seed is theirs.

4 – San Francisco (4)
I’m all in with these guys against any team in the NFC except the top two on this list. That said, I think they can hit the Saints with a surprise given the right situation.

5 – Pittsburgh (6)
Solid showing against a playoff caliber team. Can’t wait to see them against the Niners next week.

6 – New England (5)
Chinks in the armor. I really believe their lack of formidable tests late in the season will be their undoing come playoff time.

7 – Houston (NR)
TJ is OK. If they can win on the road at Cincinnati this Sunday, the could end the year on a 10-0 run.

8 – Denver (NR)
As the only team to go from one list to the other this season, the Broncos close out this week’s rankings. When finishing this list, I asked myself a simple question. Of the Broncos, Falcons, Cowboys, Jets, and Lions, who do I feel most confident in going out and getting a win right now? M-O-J-O!

OUT – Dallas (7), Oakland (8)

Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Now Archie’s trying to get Peyton out of town.
Draft pick – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)

2 – St. Louis (2)
The only light at the end of this tunnel is the final week 17 whistle. I like the pairing of Sam Bradford and Brandon Lloyd and think adding another weapon would go a long way.
Draft pick – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)

3 – Jacksonville (3)
Wow, what a bad team being led by a QB wearing a kick me sign.
Draft pick – Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)

4 – Cleveland (4)
Colt McCoy hasn’t shown himself as the team’s future at QB. Will Mike Holmgren find his next QB out west?
Draft pick – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)

5 – Minnesota (6)
Forget the record, the product on the field has improved post-McNabb.
Draft pick – Matt Kalil (T, USC)

6 – Washington (NR)
The slide continues with the Patriots and Giants on deck.
Draft pick – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama) – I’m being serious with this. I really think Shanahan would love to pair Richardson with Helu.

7 – Kansas City (7)
Their recent point totals – 3, 10, 3, 9, 10. 10 points won win them any of their remaining 4 games.
Draft pick – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)

8 – Tampa Bay (NR)
I tried to be nice with these guys, but they are certainly among the worst eight teams in the NFL at the moment. A 5-11 finish might be optimistic at this point and would give Morris an 18-30 record over three years. Do I really need to see another year of this?
Draft pick – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)

This Week’s Predictions

Strongest wins (by more than 14)
Steelers v. Browns
Ravens v. Colts
Packers v. Raiders
Dolphins v. Eagles

Double digit dominance (at least 10)
Jets v. Chiefs
Patriots @ Redskins
49ers @ Cardinals
Seahawks v. Rams

Just win baby
Broncos v. Bears
Chargers v. Bills
Saints @ Titans
Lions v. Vikings
Jaguars v. Bucs

Upsetville – Population: 3
Texans @ Bengals
Panthers v. Falcons
Giants @ Cowboys