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NFL Week 16: Choking dogs all around

Jets, Broncos, Eagles, Bucs and Vikings all blow big playoff opportunities.

By Jim Buzinski
Outsports.com


Wade Phillips, patron saint of clueless coaches, after Dallas allowed consecutive 75+-yard rushing touchdowns against Baltimore on Saturday night.
Choking dogs – Jets, Broncos, Eagles, Buccaneers and Vikings: All five of those teams could have either clinched a playoff spot or controlled their playoff chances and all five were favored Sunday. All five lost, making it one of the biggest collective choke jobs in memory. In no special order …

Jets (9-6): After 11 games, the Jets were 8-3 and the toast of New York after handing Tennessee its first loss. Now, a month later they are running on fumes, having lost three of four (two of the losses were to sub-.500 teams). Brett Favre has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions in the last month and he had two big ones in Sunday’s 13-3 loss at Seattle.

This completed a perfect year for the Jets in West Coast trips, 0-4. A sure playoff lock beginning the month, the Jets need to beat Miami and have New England lose to win the division. Otherwise, it looks like Favre should retire and stay retired this time; he looks like an old quarterback who has faded as the season has progressed.

Broncos (8-7): Denver would have won the West by beating Buffalo at home. Instead, the Broncos blew a 13-0 lead and fell 30-23 to a Bills team that had lost seven of its last eight. Denver has now lost at home to Oakland and Buffalo and on the road at Kansas City (the three teams are a combined 13-32). This is an average team that now heads into San Diego needing a win or else the Chargers take the West. My money is on San Diego, gettting revenge for the Hochuli Non-Fumble game earlier this season.

Eagles (8-6-1): Philadelphia began its game at Washington knowing that Tampa Bay had lost to San Diego and that the Eagles controlled their playoff chances. So, the same Eagles that averaged 33 points in winning their previous three games, scored only three against a Redskins team that lost a week before to Cincinnati.

Philly trailed 10-3 and had a last gasp from inside the Redkins’ 20. On what turned out to be the final play, Reggie Brown caught a pass at the 1 and gained no more yards as the clock ran out. It was a stupid play on Brown’s part to NOT be in the end zone since the Eagles had no time outs. And I think Donovan McNabb should have thrown the ball away and had at least one more play.

Wrote our estimable Joe in Philly: “The Eagles got that gift from San Diego and promptly flushed it down the toilet. Truly pathetic. In a 3-0 game at the half, with winds swirling and McNabb throwing ground balls to shortstop and dropped passes, naturally Andy Reid calls pass after pass after pass. An owner who really cared about winning instead of money would surely have a new coach and GM next year. The Eagles don't have such an owner.”

Philly needs to beat Dallas and get help to make the playoffs.

Tampa Bay (9-6): The Bucs were 9-3 and came into Sunday’s game against the Chargers unbeaten at home. But the Bucs laid a major egg, getting blasted 41-24. Tampa Bay all of a sudden can’t play defense and needs to beat Oakland and help from other teams to make the playoffs.

Vikings (9-6): Minnesota had won four in a row and was at home against an Atlanta team coming in with a losing road record. The Vikings then got butter fingers, fumbling seven times and losing four in a 24-17 loss to the Falcons (10-5). The Vikings still win the division by beating the Giants next week or if the Bears lose to the Packers or Titans.

I was going to include the Dallas Cowboys (9-6) among the choking dogs after their 33-24 debacle against the Baltimore Ravens in the final game at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys, though, got an early holiday present when other teams lost and they still will make the playoffs by winning at Philadelphia. The way Dallas is playing, a win next week is very iffy; this is a team that now has gone 12 straight seasons with a non-winning record in games played after November.

Let us praise: On the other hand, a big round of applause to the Falcons, who made the playoffs by beating the Vikings. After last season’s debacle with Michael Vick's dog fighting and coach Bobby Petrino quitting, this franchise looked like it would take years to recover. Mike Smith is a cinch for coach of the year and QB Matt Ryan for rookie of the year.

Who’s No. 1?: The Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants won big games Sunday to secure the top seed and playoff home field in their conference, but how much does it mean? It has been since 1993 that both top seeds made the Super Bowl. In general, the NFC No. 1 has fared better, with six of the last nine No. 1’s making the Super Bowl. This season, all bets are off and seeing both No. 1s make the Super Bowl or lose in the divisional round would not surprise me.

The Giants (12-3) won a pulsating 34-28 overtime game against Carolina (11-4) that saw the G-Men rush for 301 yards, their most since 1959. The loss hurt the Panthers more than the win helped the Giants. New York showed last year that it could win playoff games on the road, so a loss Sunday would not have been devastating.

But the Panthers don’t travel well – they are 8-0 at home but only 3-4 on the road. Next week they head to New Orleans and no NFC South team this year has won on the road against a fellow division opponent. If the Panthers lose to the Saints and Atlanta wins at home against 2-13 St. Louis, Carolina will lose the division to the Falcons and fall to the No. 5 seed with no bye. Funny how much Sunday’s loss after holding a 21-10 lead could wind up meaning to the Panthers.

Screwed Up: Something is wrong this season if the atrocious Arizona Cardinals (8-7) and a .500 or barely-above AFC West team make the playoffs, while an 11-5 New England sits home. It is also wrong that the Colts will have won 11 or 12 games, yet will have to travel in their wild card game and play at San Diego (8-8 if they win the division) or Denver (9-7). The Patriots swept the NFC West this season, but will miss out on the playoffs unless they beat Buffalo and either the Dolphins lose or tie against the Jets, or the Ravens lose or tie against Jacksonville.

The Cardinals are one of the worst playoff teams I can remember and only qualified because they won the dreadful NFC West. They have not win a game outside the division since Oct. 12 and Kurt Warner has been pathetic; I trust he no longer has Cyd’s MVP vote. Warner might have been MVP after Week 8, but he was benched Sunday and has thrown as many picks and TDs the last half of the season.

I think back to the San Francisco at Arizona game in Week 10 that saw the 49ers blow a chance to win the game despite having first-and-goal from the 1. Had the 49ers won, both they are the Cardinals would be 7-8 heading into the final weekend. For the good of the league and fans everywhere, Commissioner Roger Goodell should vacate the NFC West title, give it to the Patriots and let them take Arizona's spot in the playoffs.

Historic: We saw something Saturday night in the Baltimore-Dallas game that had never happened before – the Ravens became the first team to have touchdown runs of 75+ yards on consecutive plays from scrimmage (Willis McGahee 77 yards, then Le'Ron McClain 82 yards). This happened in the fourth quarter against a Cowboys defense that needed to make one stop; they failed spectacularly.

After the game, Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips blamed his players, saying he had called a run blitz and all the gaps were filled; nice to throw 11 players overboard. A run blitz, though, was not the right call since all Dallas needed was to force the Ravens to go 3-and-out, and a more conservative run defense that prevented 10 total yards on three plays (no way Baltimore was throwing that late in the game) was more important than trying to gamble and stuff the Ravens for negative yards.

Phillips is a lousy head coach who is in over his head; his staff was outcoached all night by the Ravens, including on a terrific fake field goal by Baltimore. To blame his players, though, is really low and it sounded like someone trying to save his job. Phillips is done unless Dallas makes the playoffs and then makes a run.

To the point: This comment on the Dallas Morning News’ Cowboys blog sums up the feelings of most ‘Boys fans:

FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!FIRE WADE!!

What does he really think: With the Cowboys’ loss screwing up New England’s playoff chances, here was the Christmas wish from a Patriots fan on a message board: “Without any hint of a joke, I hope the Dallas plane crashes on the way to their next game, and all of the stewardesses and other non-Dallas personnel on board are the only survivors.”

On that cheery note, a Happy Holidays to everyone!