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Weekly NFL Observations for the 2009 Season: Week 16

C Douglas BakerSenior Analyst IDecember 30, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 27: Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by team mate Tom Brady #12 after catching his third touchdown pass of the day against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 27, 2009 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Other than the multiple playoff implications set up for next week, the biggest story of Week 16 was the Indianapolis Colts eschewing a chance to go undefeated in the regular season by pulling their key starters out in the third quarter against the New York Jets.

The Colts ultimately lost the game. The look on Peyton Manning’s face as he saw the backups give up the lead and the game were quite revealing. He was a true solider, though, of course, and after the game said he was fine with the coach’s decision.

Colts fans were not on board with the decision, however. Coach Jim Caldwell has taken a bit of a whacking the press. All I will say is that going 16-0 means nothing if you don’t win the Super Bowl, as I so painfully know as a Patriots fan.

Without Manning, the chances of the Colts winning the Super Bowl would be close to nil, so I have no real problem with playing it safe. It’s the psyche and momentum of a team that has historically choked in the playoffs that is the real question. They really have nothing to play for next week, so they’ll definitely get some rest.

There are so many mediocre teams in the AFC it’s comical. Despite shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly, the Baltimore Ravens have avoided a shot to the head and are still alive!

Unbelievable, until you consider all the other teams vying for a playoff spot have done the same.

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Right now, the Ravens and the New York Jets control their fates next week. Wins and they are in.

I am not going to worry or care about who wins and how it shapes up. Whoever the Patriots play in the playoffs will be a tough matchup.

The New York Giants are finally out of the playoff hunt. They laid down against the Carolina Panthers. Good riddance to one Manning.

And speaking of the Panthers, what would this team look like going into the playoff race had Matt Moore been starting all season long? GM Marty Hurney and coach John Fox seem to have made a big mistake at the quarterback position early in the year.

You can say the same for Jeff Fischer of the Tennessee Titans. While I don’t fault Kerry Collins for the Titans 0-6 start like some do, clearly Young should have come in sooner to add a spark to the team.

I am ready for the playoffs!

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-7

The Patriots seem to be hitting on all cylinders the past few weeks and are poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Brady played an outstanding game against the Jaguars, and the defense has shown up and played well the past few weeks.

Being the pessimist I am, and that it's looking like a No. 4 seed in the playoffs, the Pats will probably end up facing the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the playoffs (assuming they beat their first playoff opponent, which I think they will). But I guess that might be easier than facing the Chargers in San Diego, who are hitting on all cylinders (and then some) themselves.

Patriots fans will basically be praying the Pats come out of this Sunday's game healthy and ready to roll into the playoffs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

San Diego Chargers over Tennessee Titans, 42-17

While I thought the Chargers would win this game, I did not expect them to win so easily.

Right now I think San Diego is the team to beat in the playoffs. They are playing the best football in the league as of Week 16. I hate to say that because they have to rank as one of my least favorite teams. I expect them to easily get to the AFC Championship game against either the Patriots or the Colts.

I’d sure like to see the Pats dance on their logo again and make LaDainian Tomlinson cry, though.

MVP: Philip Rivers, QB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens, 23-20

How many times can a team shoot itself in the foot, blow game after game after game, and still control its destiny for making a playoff spot? It’s really unbelievable.

Having seen the Ravens squander games so many times this year, I want to say they don’t really deserve to be in the playoffs, but neither do any of the of other mediocre teams they are vying against.

Once again, big mistakes at the worst moments cost the Ravens the game. Derrick Mason dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the win, so he has to be the goat of this game. But Joe Flacco didn’t do much to help matters at the end of the game either.

If the Ravens win Sunday they should be a dangerous team in the playoffs. They do have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and really should be looking at a better record than they have now. If they had a true No. 1 receiver they could be really dangerous, but they don’t.

Pittsburgh still has a heartbeat left too, and again, if the Steelers make the playoffs, despite their recent poor play, who knows what could happen?

MVP: LaMarr Woodley, LB

Philadelphia Eagles over Denver Broncos, 30-27

After the Eagles took a 20-7 lead into halftime, I thought the game was basically over, but the Broncos gave them a real run for it in the second half. That the Broncos didn’t fold and fought back must be a bit gratifying to Broncos fans.

They still have a good chance to make the playoffs. Even though they are listed as a wild card team as of today, they need help to get in. Like many of the other AFC teams vying for playoff spots, if they make it in, they will be a scary opponent for whoever they play.

I am not a big believer in the Philadelphia Eagles, frankly, but right now they seem to be playing the best football in the NFC. I still think that the faltering Saints and Vikings are  the teams to beat in the NFC, but Philadelphia right now is looking poised to make a real run.

MVP: Brent Celek, TE

Dallas Cowboys over Washington Redskins, 17-0

I really don’t have a lot to say about this game. I originally was not going to bother watching it, but I did. It was a nondescript game. Everyone knew Dallas would win, and they did so rather easily. As usual, the Redskins offense looked awful.

Dallas goes to Philadelphia next week for a huge game which will decide the NFC East champion.

MVP: Tony Romo, QB

Chicago over Minnesota, 36-30 OT

What is going on with the Minnesota Vikings? They suddenly have faltered badly on both sides of the ball.

This was an exciting game and the Vikings did come back from a 17-point deficit to almost win the game. I have to admit being a bit stunned most of the game. I was waiting for Jay Cutler to throw up some interceptions, but he actually played a decent game. Instead of folding under pressure, the Bears hung in and barely pulled out a victory.

Adrian Peterson and his fumbles are really a problem, and he essentially gave this game away by fumbling after a nice catch-and-run in overtime. The fumble handed the ball right back to the Bears, who scored on a nice pass play to end the game. Peterson, hold on to the ball!

While I still think the Vikings and Saints are the teams to beat despite faltering of late, maybe they have seen their best days and the rising Eagles and Cowboys will eat their lunch. We’ll see.

MVP: Devin Aromashodu, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, 206 yards rushing
Defensive Player: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland Raiders (61 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans

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