In our latest edition of Seven Points, Rex Ryan has to eat his words…again, a backup quarterback saves the starters job by playing well, we look at some huge games this Sunday, Tim Tebow giving gifts to the Bills for Christmas, the rebuilding since 1958 Detroit Lions headed to the postseason, some key injuries and much much more.
Ryan Writes Check His Team Can’t Cash
Leading up to Saturday’s “Battle of New York,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan was up to his usual hi-jinks, talking about taking control of the city and how his Jets were the better team. His players followed suit as wide receiver Santonio Holmes spoke about the Giants defense and their inability to tackle and that they were susceptible to giving up big plays.
All that mattered was the play on the field and the New York Giants got the last laugh on Saturday as they came away with a 29-14 victory.
“They were the better team today, and they’re the better team this year,” Rex Ryan said following the game. “Clearly, I was wrong.”
Jacobs, one of the most outspoken members of the Giants shared some words with Ryan following the contest.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jacobs told Ryan, “It’s time to shut up, fat boy.”
The New York Daily News reports that Ryan responded by saying, “Go F– yourself.”
“Rex Ryan is a disrespectful bastard,” Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said following the victory. “The Jets have a big mouth, big belly coach that talks too much.”
Ryan has never been one to take the high road and his antics are great for sound-bytes and newspaper fodder but eventually the Jets fans are going to want to see some evidence of the elusive Super Bowl title he promises to win every year.
The loss drops New York to 8-7, and they are going to have to win their season finale against Miami, as well as receive a lot of help in a few different cities just to qualify for the Wild Card. The Jets need the Cincinnati Bengals to lose to the Baltimore Ravens (probable), the Tennessee Titans to lose to the Houston Texans (possible) and have either the Oakland Raiders who host San Diego to lose or the Denver Broncos which host Kansas City to lose.
The pieces might actually fall into place next Sunday for the Jets to limp their way into the postseason, but we probably won’t hear too much more from Ryan as his team looks like anything but a title contender.
What’s more likely is that five minutes after the Jets are eliminated Rex Ryan will tell us how they’re going to win Super Bowl XLVII.
Joe Webb Saves Christian Ponder’s Job
When Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder left Saturday’s game in third period, Minnesota was down three points on the road to a hot Redskins offense. The Vikings were headed toward their 12th loss of the season which would tie them with the Indianapolis Colts for the league’s worst mark.
Enter Joe Webb, unlikely hero.
The Minnesota backup quarterback led the Vikings to four consecutive scoring drives as he completed four of five throws for 84 yards with two touchdowns, and scrambled for another 34 yards and a touchdown en route to his perfect 158.3 passer rating in the team’s 33-26 victory.
“When they bring in a weapon like that,” Redskins linebacker Perry Riley said of the talented Vikings backup, “not a secret weapon — we’d seen him on tape and we had a feeling — but it’s hard to prepare fully on a short week for two quarterbacks. … It’s hard to change it mid-stream like that.”
Webb’s heroics may or may not benefit him, as he’s stuck behind rookie Christian Ponder who the team used their 12th overall selection in April’s draft to take.
“Some of the things he does, and what it does to the rest of our team, you can’t ignore,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “So it’s something we’re going to have a real hard look at as we go forward. He definitely lifts our team.”
With Ponder’s uncertain status after what could be a concussion, Webb could get a start next week against Chicago. What’s more important for Christian Ponder and his camp is that the victory takes Minnesota out of play for the top pick in next April’s draft, meaning that Ponder will more than likely keep his job for another season.
Young quarterbacks on losing teams have been playing for their own jobs over the last month as the threat of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck looms large for a lot of teams. It’s ironic that Christian Ponder’s couldn’t save his own job, but his backup Joe Webb may have.
A Honolulu Blue Christmas
2011 has been a solid year for Michigan sports. The Detroit Tigers won the AL Central, the Michigan Wolverines are back in a BCS bowl game and perhaps the most unthinkable team in Michigan is having success, the Detroit Lions.
With Detroit’s 38-10 pasting of San Diego, the Lions won their tenth game of the season and clinched their first playoff berth since 1999.
“There’s going to be a time that we don’t celebrate getting to the playoffs, but it’s not going to be tonight,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The talented Lions have had their fair share of distractions which could have derailed their season. In training camp the team’s second-round pick, running back Mikel LeShoure went down for the season with the torn Achilles. Later the team lost running back Jahvid Best for the year with concussions. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was even involved in a post-game altercation with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh after a loss. Finally, on Thanksgiving Day, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh made himself and the Lions national news as he was ejected and suspended for stomping on the arm of a Green Bay Packers lineman.
Detroit stayed the course, played up to their talent level and have taken the next step toward being a legitimate title contender.
“This is an accomplishment,” Schwartz said. “It’s a big step for our team and our organization.”
If the Lions are going to take this great story to the next level they will have to do it from the road, where they have had great success. Detroit has a 5-2 road mark this season and they have a good young quarterback, the best receiver in football and a solid pass rush. Detroit seems to be better suited for a controlled climate and they will likely head to New Orleans, San Francisco, New York or Dallas for their initial playoff game.
Winning a road playoff game for a young team is extremely difficult, but the combination of Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson is difficult to count out.
Several Meaningful Games Next Sunday
In previous years a big story at the end of the season has been teams resting starters as they had nothing to gain in terms of playoff seeding. We will likely not see much of that in the final week of 2011.
Aside from Green Bay who has already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, the other contenders all need to win their final games to ensure seeding. Here are some of the top matchups for this week:
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants– This one is a true elimination game as the winner becomes NFC East champs and the loser goes home. The G-Men were in playoff mode last week as they would have been eliminated with a loss to the Jets.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos– Do you think this was what Kyle Orton dreamed about when he was released by the Denver Broncos earlier this year? Orton, unseated by Broncos enigmatic icon Tim Tebow gets to play against his former mates to try and keep them out of the playoffs. If you can’t make it in yourself, the next best thing is to keep your rival out.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars– The draft fate of Andrew Luck more than likely will be decided in this game. If the Colts lose to Jacksonville they will get the first-overall pick, no questions asked. If they win, they need the St. Louis Rams who host the 12-3 San Francisco 49ers to win to maintain control of the top pick. Although there are no playoff implications here, the future of several franchises rests on this game. Is it in the Jaguars best interests to give their best effort in a game which could haunt their franchise for another decade?
Tim the Terrible
The headline may suggest we’re going to expound upon some sort of historical figure or mythical pirate but we are of course talking about the Denver Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow. The lightning rod for controversy will keep his staunch supporters quiet for at least a week as the second-year pro from Florida had his worst game in weeks.
Tebow completed just 13 of 30 throws for 185 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions in the Broncos 40-14 drubbing by the Buffalo Bills. Not only was Tebow careless with the football and inaccurate, but his mistakes were magnified as the Bills took back two of his interceptions for touchdowns.
“My confidence is just fine,” Tebow told reporters. “I have to do a better job of not giving them opportunities. I tried to make something happen, and I tried to force it.”
Any Tim Tebow-led offense is obviously hamstrung in the passing game but his ability to avoid mistakes is what has kept Denver in games. Tebow is yet to defeat a high powered offense and it appears as if the league might be catching up with his strengths and the Broncos gimmicky offense.
As bad as Tebow has been against solid teams, all will be forgiven if he can find a way past the 6-9 Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday to win the AFC West.
Cam Newton Is Better Than Sliced Bread
I’m told sliced bread is one of the greatest inventions ideas of all time. I like bread, all sorts of different kinds and I really can’t imagine eating a portion of a loaf without it being sliced. The NFL was great before Panthers quarterback Cam Newton arrived but it’s even better now.
Many experts (myself included) thought that Newton had all the physical tools to be a great quarterback, but it would take a while for him to get used to the complexity of the defenses he would face. Some thought he would struggle throwing the football and for the most part those struggles have been very limited.
“There’s always going to be something,” Newton said when asked about his critics. “I continuously try to do what I can control. … I don’t worry about what people say because you know one day you’ll be on top of the world and everybody is praising you and the next day the world will be on top of you and everybody else will be criticizing you.”
Cam Newton is ascending before all of our eyes and he has the statistical hardware to prove it. The dynamic rookie had what is now considered as a “normal Cam Newton day” as he went 12 for 17 for 171 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Panthers 48-16 win over Tampa Bay. In true Cam Newton fashion he also had six rushes for 65 yards and another touchdown in the blowout.
In the game Newton broke Peyton Manning’s rookie passing yardage record of 3,739.
“It’s very nice to do something with a record that’s so prestigious in this league,” Newton said after the game.
Cam has thrown for 20 touchdowns on the season and has run for 14 touchdowns making him just the second quarterback in the history of the league (Kordell Stewart) to accomplish 20 or more passing touchdowns and 10 or more rushing scores in one season. With Newton being just 22 years old, it’s safe to assume that he’s only going to get better and the Panthers are only going to start winning more and more.
High Profile Injuries Concern Vikings, Cowboys
The Minnesota Vikings didn’t have much more than pride and professionalism to play for on Saturday and although they left Fed Ex Field as 33-26 winners over the Washington Redskins disaster ensued. Face of the franchise, “Purple Jesus” or Adrian Peterson went down with what is being reported as a torn ACL and MCL. Peterson signed a seven-year, $100 million contract before the start of the season and it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to begin next season at full strength.
The Dallas Cowboys will play their biggest game in a couple years on Sunday as they take on the New York Giants for the NFC East championship. It appears as if they will have to win with a less than 100 percent Tony Romo. Romo hit his hand on Eagles defensive end Jason Babin’s helmet in the first quarter of the Cowboys’ 20-7 loss on Saturday and did not return.
Vultures Circling in Tampa, San Diego
Preseason playoff aspirations have officially led to disappointment in Tampa Bay and San Diego with the Bucs and Chargers frustrating seasons. The final nail in the coffins of Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris and Chargers coach Norv Turner may have been pounded in as their teams were pounded by the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions respectively.
“I’ve been concentrating every week as well as I can on getting this team ready to play and doing the things we need to do,” Turner said following the loss and subsequent elimination from the postseason. “We all know that’s something that’s discussed at the end of the year.”
As difficult as it is to imagine Norv Turner’s return in San Diego, it’s even tougher to fathom Raheem Morris coaching Tampa Bay in 2012. Morris has one year left on his deal and his team has not only dropped nine straight games, but haven’t been competitive at all in the last month.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie