In no particular order, here’s what stood out to me during a fun and crazy Week 17 of the NFL season:
- Hey! (This was not what I was going to lead off with, but I’m writing this while watching Sunday Night Football and…) Look! There’s Chris Polk, former UW running back! In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Polk ran for at least 1,100 yards and 5 TDs, capping his career off with a senior season of 1,488 yards and 12 TDs on the ground, as well as 332 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns. This is Chris Polk’s second season in Philadelphia after going undrafted and signing as a free agent in 2012, and Polk has seen the field in 14 games, carrying the ball 11 times for 98 yards and 3 touchdowns. Always great to see another UW Husky making it in the league.
- Okay, where was I going to start this. Well, let’s start with Marshawn Lynch. This season, Lynch averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 8.9 yards per reception. Last season, Lynch averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per reception. I tell you this because while seeing Lynch bust through tacklers today, I was reminded of Shaun Alexander, the former star running back here in Seattle. Though Alexander did have five straight 1,000+ yard rushing seasons each with at least 14 TDs (and at one point had set the record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 27), that’s not what some of us will remember him for. His last two seasons in Seattle he averaged 3.6 and 3.5 yards per carry respectively, and 4.0 and 5.4 yards per reception, respectively. The gap between the two is not only noticeable statistically, but also by just watching Marshawn run. It’s just fantastic not have your running back go three yards and fall down each time.
- If you know any Cleveland Browns fans, give them a hug. Here’s how bad it’s gotten for them:
- The Browns haven’t won more than five games in any of the past six seasons, since 2007.
- The Browns have had just one winning season in the last 11 years.
- The Browns have had just two winning seasons in the last 16 years.
- The Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 (Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano were assistant coaches and Tim Couch was under center).
- The Browns haven’t won a playoff game since 1994, 17 years ago.
- The Browns have only won that one playoff game in the last 21 years.
I tell you all this because the Browns have just fired Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski had previously spent as many as three seasons as a coach with the Browns, but now after leading the team to a 4-12 finish, he got the ax as well. And frankly, the team just doesn’t have much going for it. Josh Gordon, yes. Not much else. Hang in there, Cleveland. Just know that I’m resisting piling on all of what has gone wrong with Cleveland sports over the years.
- Andy Dalton has been amazing this season. Yes, if we’re talking best quarterback in the NFL this season, there’s no question that it’s the man in Denver. But Dalton has put together a stellar season and frankly quality improvement over each of his first three seasons in the NFL. Having played all 16 games in each of his three seasons in Cincinnati, Dalton has rattled off 3,398, 3,669 and now 4,015 passing yards. His touchdown total has also improved progressively, going from 20 to 27 and now 31 this season. Dalton’s Bengals have held opponents to both the 6th fewest passing yards and the 6th fewest rushing yards per game this season and having posted an 11-5 record and winning the AFC North, will play host to the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the playoffs.
- Today, Andy Reid started nearly an entire 2nd string lineup as they took on the Chargers in San Diego. Yes, there was still something on the line in this game; San Diego needed to win to reach the playoffs. However, Reid knew his team was locked in to the 5 seed, and thus chose to rest his starters. Before the game on FOX’s pregame show, Jimmy Johnson seemed worried that – because there were no backups – the Chiefs had no chance to pull this off. Michael Strahan’s way of thinking proved correct though, as Strahan had asserted that the Chiefs backups would be fired up, hungry, fresh, healthy and ready to go. They did end up losing, but quality performances from QB Chase Daniel (21/30, 200 yards, 1 TD & 0 INTs, 7 carries for 59 yards) and RB Knile Davis (27 carries for 81 yards and 2 TDs) show that the Chiefs have some depth heading into the playoffs.
- Right, somehow almost forgot about this one. Aaron Rodgers hadn’t played since November 4th when he broke his collarbone and the Packers lost to the Bears in Green Bay. Today, he may have thrown two interceptions, but Rodgers also went 25/39 for 318 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with 38 seconds remaining. Let’s take a (brief) trip back down memory lane to the years 2005, 2006 and 2007. Aaron Rodgers had been taken in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL draft out of the University of California, and was on the Packers roster.
…but he wasn’t the starter. He was sitting behind this guy named Brett Favre (you’ve probably heard of him). It wasn’t until 2008 when Rodgers was given the chance to show America what he could do in the NFL. Now, he’ll lead his Packers back out at Lambeau as they play host to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1st round of the NFL playoffs.
- One of the many (overused) and great cliches in sports is, “These two teams just plain don’t like each other.” It was certainly apt Sunday when the Seahawks played host to the St. Louis Rams. The rivalry isn’t quite what it was a few years back when both teams were easily the top two teams in the NFC West and the ‘Hawks almost never lost at home, except when they played the Rams. Don’t tell the current players that the rivalry is dead, though. Today’s game saw an ejection, 19 total penalties for a combined 152 penalty yards, and countless other uncalled fouls. There was even one punt in which three penalties were called on the Rams and one on the Seahawks, which apparently still leads to “offsetting penalties.” The other related element was Golden Tate vs. all of the Rams. In the last matchup, as he was running in to the end zone, Tate turned and taunted the Rams, resulting in a 15-yard penalty. Today, the Rams exacted revenge by completely throttling Tate each time they could. However, Tate had one heckuva day (8 catches, 129 yards and 1 TD) so one could certainly say he got the last laugh in the end.
- The Jets won and finished the season at 8-8, which means Rex Ryan will be around next season. Which is fine. I get it. It’s not like he took an amazingly great team and only got them to 8-8. I understand. But outside of Muhammad Wikerson and maybe David Nelson, what are the bright spots? You’re not convincing me that Geno Smith is going to be a great quarterback. I’m still more sold on Mark Sanchez. Remember, the Sanchez-Rex Ryan tandem went to back-to-back AFC Championship games. That’s huge. This offseason will give us a better idea what 2014 will look like for the New York Jets.
- The Giants defeated Washington 20-3, which may say more about the latter than the former, and means the Giants finish the season with a 7-9 mark. Some Giants fans seemed surprised that 7-9 was where they ended up. Make no mistake, Eli Manning was pretty woeful this season (26 interceptions) but injuries were what plagued the Giants all season. Hopefully the final record means those calling for Tom Coughlin’s job will quiet down. Y’all can let me know when he doesn’t have two rings.
- On the other side though was Mike Shanahan who has reportedly been canned after the Washington football team finished 3-13. Shanahan would finish with a 24-40 record in the capitol after winning two Super Bowls in Denver, but make no mistake the real problem here is one Dan Snyder. Snyder’s constant firing of coaches and lack of consistency coupled with his insistence on maintaining the team’s racist nickname show a true detachment from reality. Those as detached from reality as Snyder is struggle to find success, generally speaking, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon in Washington.