Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 NFL PLAYOFFS: Random Wildcard Thoughts

Felipe M

The following are just some quick thoughts about the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Nothing too fancy:

Deja Vu?: The Cincinnati Bengals vs the Houston Texans. They played against each other last season as well. The Bengals have scored a combined 23 points. However, the Bengals' defense did make a case for being one of the game's elite as they proved why they finished the season as the #3 best defense team in terms of "weighted defense" in 2012. Unfortunately for them, Houston proved why their defense finished 5th in that same category and were able to shut the Bengals offense to 10 points. 

Like a Cincinnati Ignition: This is two years straight that the Bengals made it to the playoffs, but experienced a first-year exit. But it's really hard to comprehend what's going on in Cincinnati.  Growing up in the 1990s, the Bengals were a joke of a franchise that were being driven to the ground by owner Mike Brown. The 1st round busts that have been produced by the Bengals is very comical (David Klingler, Dan Wilkinson, Ki-Jana Carter anybody?). It was just expected that the "Bungles" would permanently be the worst team in the NFL!

The Curious Case of Marvin Lewis: Despite head coach Marvin Lewis constantly being on the hot seat (he is one game under .500 in Cincy), he somehow finds a way to get his team to rally.  Lewis was facing death's door last year when the Bengals traded former QB starter, Carson Palmer and went ahead and inserted, then rookie, Andy Dalton. And let's not forget that defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer is one of the best in the business and credit goes to him for creating one of the best defenses in the NFL.  It's very hard not to imagine the Bengals taking another step forward next season. 

Thoughts Send me on a Carousel: Speaking of Lewis, he is a former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Last season, that spot was filled in by Chuck Pagano who is now the current Indianapolis Colts' head coach. That spot was filled by Jim Caldwell in 2011 who was inserted as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore very late in the 2012 season as he replaced Cam Cameron where he coached future NFL player, Antwaan Randle El at Indiana University. The speedy receiver played for the Pittsburgh Steelers where Bruce Arians was his Wide Receivers' coach. Bruce Arians was the Colts' interim head coach this past season while Pagano was treated for Leukemia.

You want more?

Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator under Butch Davis and the Cleveland Browns. Davis was the Defensive Coordinator in Dallas under Barry Switzer. Mike Zimmer was a fellow coach of Davis' under Switzer and eventually became the Cowboys' D-coordinator. Currently, Zimmer holds that same position in Cincinnati....under current head coach Marvin Lewis. How you like that?

Joe Webb still sucks: That is all.

Unintentional Play off the Night: This goes to Packers' LB Clay Matthews who was making his turn against the Vikings' left tackle, Matt Kalil as he was trying to chase down Webb. Kalil did a good job of keeping Matthews off Webb, but as it was a running theme all night long, Webb was holding on to the ball for too long and eventually would try to make plays with his legs. In this instance, Webb tried to do the same thing and run away from the pressure, but he still ended up tripping over Clay Matthews.  Even Matthews was surprised to see that he got credit for an "accidental" sack against the overmatched QB. He was so surprised that he didn't even bother doing his sack dance.

To Play or Not to Play: As much as I criticize Jay Cutler's performance in 2012, I will not deny his toughness. Unlike many fans in Chicago and around the nation, I thought he was wise to sit out in the 2010 NFC Championship game against the Packers. But I have seen Cutler refuse to sit out with concussion symptoms, I have seen him take a beating against defenses who look at the Bears' offensive line like it was lunch meat, and I have seen Cutler continue to get up and run the next play (assuming that the play got to him on time before having to burn another timeout). So this past weekend, we saw two Quarterbacks come into these playoffs with injuries that were severe enough to justify a move by their respective head coaches in the lineup.

One Christian Ponder was sat out at the last minute with an elbow injury. In came Joe Webb. The Packers scored 24 points against the Vikings and they never had a chance. The other was Robert Griffin III who had been dealing with an injured knee for the last few weeks or so.  He wanted to play in the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks and went on to re-injure his right knee, not just once, but twice in one game. Results of an MRI today showed that Griffin has partial tears in knee ligaments and possible surgery is being discussed.

I'm not going to delve too much into this topic, but it's funny how fans all over the NFL have mixed views on Griffin's situation, although most think that coach Mike Shanahan should have taken him out of the game, but we all know fans would've second-guessed Shanahan for taking him out after the first time his knee buckled. Tough situation either way.

The fact is, however, that the onus is and should be on the players to know if they are healthy enough to play and be man enough to say "no" when they can't. Post game on the NFL NETWORK showed Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, and Michael Irvin all agreeing with Griffin's decision to stay in the game. It was HIS choice. He was the one that got the Redskins INTO the playoffs. Finally, Griffin is the team's BEST chance to win the game. In the post-game interview, Griffin repeated the sentiments of the three Hall-of-Famers. He wanted the challenge to play on one leg and he understood the consequences if he continued to play.

Lesson learned.

And finally, we bring it back to Ray Lewis' final home game in Baltimore. Enjoy!

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