Week 17 has come and gone and boy did it leave me wanting more! What an incredible day of football. Of the 16 games, 13 had some sort of playoff implications.
The Broncos and Bengals both lost but clinched playoff berths nonetheless. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski both broke the tight end receiving yards record with Gronk finishing slightly ahead of Graham.
Drew Brees broke numerous records and finished the season with nearly 5,500 yards and 46 touchdown passes, which led the league.
Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in Week 17 but still broke the record for passer rating for an entire season. His replacement, Matt Flynn, did something that had never been done, and may never be done again, as he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns (just think, if Rodgers had thrown those six, he would have broken Tom Brady’s record of 50 touchdown passes in a season).
The Raiders broke the record for most penalties and most penalty yards in a single season. The Cardinals broke the record for most overtime victories in a season.
In the history of the NFL, the 5,000 yard passing mark had only been surpassed two times. It was surpassed three times during the 2011 season (Brees, Brady and Matt Stafford). Finally, Jared Allen came up just ½ sack short of tying the record set by Michael Strahan.
So the 2011 regular season has officially come to an end and the playoffs are set. The Packers and 49ers get byes in the NFC while the Patriots and Ravens get the same in the AFC.
In the NFC, the No. 3 Saints will face the No. 6 Lions in a rematch of Week 13 while the No. 4 Giants will face the No. 5 Falcons.
In the AFC, the No. 3 Texans will face the No. 6 Bengals in a rematch of Week 14 while the No. 4 Broncos will face the No. 5 Steelers.
So, with that, here are the final 2011 regular season rankings as we head to playoff football.
Teams’ previous ranking in ( ).
1. New Orleans Saints (1): The Saints top the rankings for now, but if they want to finish there, they are going to have to beat three very tough teams (four if you count the Lions as a tough team).
2. Green Bay Packers (2): Flynn might get paid more than any previous seventh-round draft pick in NFL history. It was a meaningless game, but is 480 yards and six touchdowns in one game possibly the greatest individual performance by a quarterback in the history of the NFL?
3. New England Patriots (3): The Patriots have completed major comebacks in back-to-back weeks, but they won’t face teams like Miami and Buffalo in the playoffs. How does a team with the worst-ranked defense finish with the No. 1 seed?
4. San Francisco 49ers (4): San Francisco is one of the most under-the-radar 13-wins team of all time. They will face a high-powered offense in their first playoff game but I’m sure they’d prefer Detroit rather than New Orleans.
5. Baltimore Ravens (6): The Ravens swept the division, which is good since they could potentially face both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the playoffs.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (5): The Steelers haven’t looked great the past few weeks, but they get to face arguably the worst AFC playoff team in their first game.
7. Atlanta Falcons (8): The Falcons have caught fire at exactly the right time. The defense has question marks but they are a scary matchup for anyone right now.
8. Detroit Lions (7): Stafford threw for 520 yards and five touchdowns and it still wasn’t enough to get a win. Nonetheless, Stafford reached the 5,000-yardage plateau and will have to be on his game once again next week if Detroit has any hopes of upsetting the Saints.
9. Houston Texans (9): Losing three straight isn’t exactly an ideal way of entering the playoffs, but the Texans are just happy to be there. If they can stay healthy next year, I like them to reach the Super Bowl.
10. New York Giants (11): They had to win their final two games to make the playoffs, and they did. Could they be following the same script as Green Bay from last year?
11. Cincinnati Bengals (12): The Bengals aren’t the most talented team in the playoffs, but they get to face an injury-riddled Texans team and might just have a shot at winning a playoff game.
12. Denver Broncos (13): Tim Tebow went 6-22 for 60 yards against the Chiefs. Does he have any hope of beating the Steelers?
13. Philadelphia Eagles (15): Somehow the Eagles finished the season at .500 and will likely be considered a favorite to win the division next season.
14. Dallas Cowboys (10): Will Jerry Jones stick to his word and keep Jason Garrett around for another season?
15. Tennessee Titans (18): The luck finally ran out for the Titans. They probably had no business winning their game, but because of other matchups, Tennessee came up just short of a playoff appearance.
16. New York Jets (14): All year I’ve felt the Jets were overrated, and even correctly guaranteed they would lose their final two games. Here’s a bold prediction: Mark Sanchez is not the starting quarterback next season. Who is? How about Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn?
18. Seattle Seahawks (16): The Seahawks have some young talent and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them competing for a playoff spot next year.
19. Oakland Raiders (17): Just win, baby. That’s all they had to do, but they just couldn’t do it. Will Carson Palmer be back next season? What about Jason Campbell?
20. Arizona Cardinals (21): The Cardinals went an unprecedented 4-0 in overtime games this year. They went 4-8 in non-overtime games.
21. Chicago Bears (22): Finishing at 8-8 feels a lot better than 7-9. I expect them to be very competitive again next season when healthy. Speaking of which, the health of Brian Urlacher will be critical.
22. Carolina Panthers (20): If they draft anything except defensive players in the first three rounds, someone should be fired.
23. Miami Dolphins (25): Miami played well and sent Jason Taylor into retirement in winning fashion. He’ll be enshrined in Canton on the first ballot.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (24): They finished the season winning two of three and will have an excellent shot at winning the division next year as the AFC West will likely be anybody’s to win.
25. Buffalo Bills (23): Some days the Bills look like major playoff contenders, while other days they look like the worst team in football. Heck, sometimes they look like both in the same day.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (27): Props to Maurice Jones-Drew for playing his heart out every single week. The question is, how much mileage does he have left on those legs?
27. Washington Redskins (26): Well, I guess we all knew Rex Grossman was off his rocker when he said he thought the ‘Skins would win the division.
28. Minnesota Vikings (28): The Vikings will get a high draft pick but I’m not sure if they will look to draft offense or defense.
29. Cleveland Browns (29): The Browns have a lot of draft needs. I expect them to be at the bottom of the AFC North for quite a few years to come.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30): From 10 wins one season (and a 4-2 start this season) to 10 straight losses. Raheem Morris is on the hottest of hot seats.
31. Indianapolis Colts (31): The Colts will get the first pick in the draft thanks to a tiebreaker, but they played respectable football at the end of the season. Do they draft Andrew Luck? If Manning is proven to be healthy, I trade the pick for numerous other picks.
32. St. Louis Rams (32): The Rams finish the season dead last, which is shocking. Even though they were only 7-9 last season, it seemed as if they were going places. How the NFC West will shake up next year is anybody’s guess.
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