Random Thoughts From a Wild Week 16

Matt CullenAnalyst IDecember 22, 2008

How sad it is that another NFL season is almost past us. 17 total regular season games with Chicago and Green Bay playing tonight along with 16 games in the final week. We didn't learn much either about the playoff picture. The Giants and Titans clinched the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences, Carolina still has not clinched the NFC South, the Colts clinched a Wild Card on Thursday, and the Falcons clinched a playoff spot yesterday.

The Dallas Cowboys blow their final game in Texas Stadium and still are in control of their own destiny with a win, the Denver Broncos blow yet another chance to clinch the AFC West, Minnesota still has yet to clinch the NFC North, the AFC East is still a 3 team race, and the Romeo Crennel led Browns are still alive...That last one was a joke.

What we did learn though was my reinforcement of the belief that we really don't know anything, or at least I don't know anything. I'm hoping it is we, lets take a look at my big predictions when breaking down the NFC Playoff Picture last column-

1.Dallas would beat Baltimore- Wrong

2.Tampa Bay would beat San Diego- Wrong again

3.Minnesota would beat Atlanta- Another swing and a miss

4.Philly would beat Washington- A Golden sombrero!

5.Chicago would beat Green Bay- To be determined

6.New York Football Giants would beat Carolina- I got one! Yes, I live to write another column!

We know very little about the NFL, remember when last week when the New York Giants and the Tennessee Titans peaked too early? Or when the Dallas Cowboys died Saturday night? It just shows to show you how quickly things can change in the National Football League. I offer no predictions for Week 17, at least not yet, just some random thoughts in the aftermath of Week 16-

-That was a tough loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers, people who have talked to me about the NFL this year should know that I have not been sold on them as a Super Bowl contender and that remains the case. The defense absolutely lives up to the hype, it's at the very least the best defense I have seen since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. They are not Super Bowl contenders as far as I'm concerned.

If you can't run the ball in January, if you can't protect your Quarterback, especially playing in Heinz Field you will not have success. Can you imagine what the Titans defensive line could do to Ben Roethlisberger with Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch? I don't see any way they could beat Tennessee in the playoffs, I don't think they beat Indianapolis in the playoffs, I still don't think they even beat Baltimore if they play a 3rd time. The Pittsburgh Steelers may win one playoff game but no more.

-The Arizona Cardinals have won two road games outside of the division dating back to 2004. They beat the Miami Dolphins in 2004 on a last minute TD, the year Ricky Williams quit on the Dolphins to get high. They also beat the Bengals last year by eight, the game that Antrel Rolle was an unsportsmanlike penalty away from 3 INT returned for touchdowns.

They are 10-30 total on the road since that win, 2-23 outside of the division! That is absolutely pathetic, you name a team and they have lost to them just about all of them. The Indianapolis Colts resting their starters Week 17, David Carr led Houston Texans, the Andrew Walter led Oakland Raiders, the Brad Johnson led Minnesota Vikings, the Michael Vick led Atlanta Falcons in an epically bad 6-3 loss, and the Joey Harrington led Lions TWICE! And if you think it has gotten better this year with them being division champs, think again.

They have lost three of their five road games outside of the division by at least three touchdowns. Oh and they are 2-7 against teams with a winning record. So what am I trying to say? They stink. I'm sorry Cardinals fans, I live in Arizona, I've watched them all year, and they stink. I give them a marginal shot at winning one playoff game only because they will be at home but no more.

-Give a lot of credit to the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, two teams teams that surprised early and disappointed late. They showed a lot of character yesterday though with two crucial wins against Playoff contenders. I am especially proud of the Buffalo Bills because they have now set-up a potentially gigantic collapse by the Denver Broncos.

-If the 0-15 Detroit Lions win in Lambeau next week, just how many people will be in the angry mob outside of Ted Thompson's house? We need an over/under set on this, I am almost certain to take the over regardless of the number.

-Reports of the Dallas Cowboys demise on Saturday night were greatly exaggerated. It was foolish to call them finished. All they needed was a loss from Atlanta or Tampa Bay in one of their final 2 games along with a win a next week in Philly. Atlanta faced a hot Minnesota team on the road and the struggling Bucs faced a desperate Chargers team, a team that may be without a pass rush but that's not something Jeff Garcia could take advantage of anyway. Is it really a shock that one of these teams lost and Dallas is back in the driver's seat? Apparently it is but not for me. And for the people who are questioning Wade Phillips in this game, keep in mind that he has improved the defense since the Rams game and he is going head to head with a man in Andy Reid who has single-handedly cost the Eagles about 4 wins.

-Speaking of people panicking too early, the Giants bounced back to beat the Carolina Panthers and have not peaked too early. They still have the best running game in the NFL, the best offensive line, and one of the best defenses in the league too. If you look at the Giants schedule since Week eight, it's actually quite impressive that they only dropped two games, both of them coming to talented and desperate division rivals. The New York Giants are still the team to beat in not just the NFC but the NFL.

-One final thing, if you are a fan of either the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Eagles, Bears, Vikings, Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, or Ravens and you are considering being disgruntled at the possibility that your team may miss the playoff while the Arizona Cardinals and the winner of the AFC West will make it, don't be.

Funny thing about these four divisions that we have in each conference, they actually mean something! If you win your division then you are awarded one of the top four seeds in your respective conference. If you fail to win your division, there is still hope, you have to finish with one of the top two records of the remaining 12 non-division winning teams.

This is the way it was last year, the way it has been, the way it was starting this year and believe it or not they have never changed that rule. This shouldn't have snuck up on you by surprise, every year there are certain divisions that we perceive as having up years or down years. You do deserve a playoff spot if you win your division; if you don't win your division or earn one the two wild card spots, then you don't deserve to make the playoffs. The rules didn't change mid-season, this is the way it has been.

I can remember back in 2002 as a New Jersey Devils fan coming off back to back Stanley Cup Finals appearances finishing as a six seed and having to play in Carolina. This is despite the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes not only finished with fewer points than us, but finished with fewer points than six other Eastern Conference teams. They were awarded accordingly with the three seed by winning their division, and do you know what happened to the Carolina Hurricanes?

They not only beat us in six games but they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. This is in Hockey too where every round is a best of seven series, just imagine what could happen in the National Football League where believe it or not any team can win on any given Sunday, I love it!