Sunday, December 30, 2012

Peterson Comes up Shy of Rushing Record, but Leads Vikes to Postseason

Earlier this afternoon Calvin Johnson failed to accumulate the 108 yards needed to become the first 2,000 yard receiver in league history. Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt fail to record the sacks needed to break the single-season sack record and Adrian Peterson came up just NINE yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.

But, there is one major difference between these four failed accomplishments: Adrian Peterson's performance won his team a playoff berth. Though he didn't break Dickerson's coveted record of 2,105 yards, his 199 yards put him over the 2,000 yard mark on the season (7th player to ever do so) and put him No. 2 on the list, just ahead of Jamal Lewis' 2,066 yards in 2003.

But more importantly, Peterson's near-200 yard and 2 TD performance allowed the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) to knock off their NFC North counterpart Green Bay Packers, 37-34, to clinch the 6th and final seed of the NFC playoffs.
On the verge of field goal range with under a minute to play in a tie ball game, Peterson broke free for a 26-yard gain. On the play, Peterson stayed in bounds and put the Vikes at the GB 11-yard line, putting rookie placekicker Blair Walsh in great position to kick the game-winner through the uprights with :03 left on the clock.

His 2,097 yards and 13 TDs (12 rushing, 1 receiving) on 348 carries gives Peterson a much better overall season than Dickerson's 1984 season. Peterson did more with far less as both teams finished with a 10-6 record and a wild card berth. Peterson averaged 6.0 yards per carry while running for the second-most times of his six-year career.

Minnesota's second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has been average-at best this season, but posted a 120.2 rating with 3 TDs in today's wild card-clinching victory today. If Ponder can carry his own in a rematch with Green Bay next week at Lambeau (wild card round of NFC playoffs), then the sky may be the limit for this Minnesota team.
So, no record for "All Day" today, but he got something just as good, if not better: another week of football!

NFC Seedings:
1. Falcons
2. 49ers
3. Packers
4. Cowboys/Redskins
5. Seahawks
6. Vikings

Wild Card Round (next weekend):
6 Vikings @ 3 Packers
5 Seahawks @ 4 Cowboys/Redskins

AFC Seedings:
1. Broncos
2. Patriots
3. Texans
4. Ravens
5. Colts
6. Bengals

Wild Card Round (next weekend):
6 Bengals @ 3 Texans
5 Colts @ 4 Ravens

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Week 17: Head Coaches Who Could be Facing "Black Monday" Firings

With today being the final game of the season for over half of the teams in the National Football League, it's natural that some of the head coaches will be fired tomorrow...A.K.A. "Black Monday."

A couple of teams are in dire need of change, and finding a new head coach is step No. 1 in the rebuilding process. A couple additional teams are on the fence, and may or may not decide to fire its coach.

I'm a firm believer in that success at the professional level is not going to happen overnight, and guys who had rough years in their first season at the helm of a rebuilding team do not deserve to be canned. As a result, there is a list of guys who could be fired after today, but who I believe should be given another season or two to prove they can lead the team to postseason contention.

Rex Ryan, NYJ

There has been so many negative headlines swirling around the New York Jets in the media and, at 6-9 (possibly 6-10 after today), the Jets need major changes. I probably would have fired Rex after all the issues within the locker room last season. Ending 2011 on a three-game losing streak and missing the playoffs at 8-8, the Jets have been underperforming and need to wipe the slate clean.

Ryan got the Jets to two consecutive AFC Championships in 2009 and '10, but his Jets have gone 14-17 since then. Time to go, Rex!

Andy Reid, PHI

Philly fans have been calling for this firing for a couple of seasons now, and I think it's about time for change within the Eagles locker room as well. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles has shown us that he's the future of Philadelphia, and if the Eagles are going to deal Vick and keep Foles for next season, starting with a fresh head coach would be a smart move as well.

Reid has had a great 14 seasons at the helm for Philly, winning six division titles, making five NFC Championship appearances, one Super Bowl appearance and posting a 140-101-1 overall record (regular and postseason). But it appears he may have worn out his welcome after two straight disappointing seasons.

Pat Shurmur, CLE

Pat only makes this list because there have been numerous reports lingering that say Cleveland plans to fire both Shurmur and the General Manager Tom Heckert will be let go as early as Monday. Shurmur seems to be aware of the situation and his Browns are giving everything they have against Pittsburgh.

In his second season as coach, Shurmur has combined to go 9-22 and the front office appears to be preparing to start their search for a franchise QB over once again despite drafting rookie Brandon Weeden in the first round this past April.

Norv Turner, SD

Much like Shurmur, there have been rumors of the firing of Turner and GM A.J. Smith following the season. But unlike the Browns situation, these rumors have been spread throughout the season not just this weekend. Turner, the head of the Chargers since 2007, has missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons and has struggled to even win in the postseason (3-3).
On the Hot Seat

Chan Gailey, BUF

Gailey's future in Buffalo isn't looking good after three losing seasons and a 15-32 record (not including today).

Jason Garrett, DAL

If Dallas loses tonight and misses the playoffs for a third consecutive season under Garrett, Jerry Jones may decide to go a different direction.

Ken Whisenhunt, ARI

Just one winning season since representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in 2008 has landed Whisenhunt on the hot seat.

Jim Schwartz, DET

Never thought I'd be putting Schwartz on the hot seat after his Lions made a surprise appearance in the NFC playoffs last season.
Needs More Time

*Mike Mularkey, JAC: 2-13 after first season as coach of Jaguars.
*Romeo Crennel, KC: 2-13 this season, 4-14 overall as KC's coach, but injuries have destroyed any hope for his Chiefs.
*Ron Rivera, CAR: Cam Newton's maturity has a direct effect on Rivera's future in Carolina.
*Mike Munchak, TEN: Disappointing turnout in Tennessee, but it's just the Hall of Famer's first campaign at the helm for the Titans.

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Week 17: Postseason Scenarios, Injuries and Game Picks

The final week of the regular season is upon us and there are still plenty of scenarios and milestones to be reached in today's games.

Playoff scenarios (Two playoff spots left unclaimed in NFC):

*Houston can clinch first round bye with a win or tie OR New England loss or tie OR Denver loss. They can clinch home-field advantage with a win OR tie+Denver loss or tie OR New England loss+Denver loss or tie.
*Denver can clinch first round bye with a win or tie OR New England loss or tie. They can clinch home-field advantage with a win+Houston loss or tie OR a tie+Houston loss.
*New England can clinch with a win+Denver loss OR a win+Houston loss. They can clinch home-field advantage with a win+losses from Denver and Houston.
*The winner of the Dallas/Washington primetime match-up takes the NFC East crown and the 4th seed in the NFC. If Dallas loses, they are eliminated from playoff contention, but if Washington loses they can still clinch the final wild card spot with loses from Minnesota and Chicago.
*San Francisco clinches the West with a win over Atlanta or a Seattle loss.
*Seattle clinches the West with a win and a loss from San Francisco. They can clinch a first-round bye with a win+SF loss+GB loss.
*Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot with a win OR a tie+Chicago loss OR Dallas loss or tie+New York loss or tie+Chicago loss.
*Chicago can clinch a playoff spot with a win+Minnesota loss or tie OR a tie+Minnesota loss.
*New York Giants can only clinch a playoff spot with a win+Minnesota loss+Chicago loss+Dallas loss.
Records/Milestones within Reach:
*Minnesota's Adrian Peterson is just 102 rushing yards shy of becoming just the 7th player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single-season. He's also 208 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
*One week after breaking Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record, Detroit's Calvin Johnson is 108 yards shy of becoming the first player in NFL history to break 2,000 receiving yards in a single-season.
*Houston's J.J. Watt (20.5 sacks) is 2.5 sacks shy of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5 sacks. San Francisco's Aldon Smith (19.5) is right behind him and just 3.5 sacks shy of the record.
*Seattle's quarterback Russell Wilson is one TD pass away from tying, and two away from breaking, Peyton Manning's rookie TD pass record of 26, set in 1998.

Week 17 Key Inactives:
Anquan Boldin, BAL
Brooks Reed, HOU
Brandon Weeden, CLE
Colt McCoy, CLE
Ray Lewis, BAL
Trent Richardson, CLE
Roddy White, ATL
Mike Wallace, PIT
Davone Bess, MIA
Carson Palmer, OAK
Greg McElroy, NYJ
Brian Urlacher, CHI
Game Picks:
Falcons over Bucs
Bills over Jets
Bengals over Ravens
Steelers over Browns
Bears over Lions
Jaguars over Titans
Eagles over Giants
Saints over Panthers
Colts over Texans
Vikings over Packers
Seahawks over Rams
Patriots over Dolphins
Broncos over Chiefs
Chargers over Raiders
Niners over Cardinals
Skins over Cowboys

Updates will be coming!

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Denver and Seattle: Super Bowl Favorites?

The playoff field hasn't been complete quite yet, but that past two weeks of play have really taught us a lot. Some of the match-ups may have even been a preview of what's to come this January.

When it comes down to making a late-January playoff push, it's all about who has the most complete team. After impressive performances yesterday, I think it's relatively clear which two teams have the most complete teams heading into the 2012-13 postseason: Denver in the AFC and Seattle in the NFC.

It's actually quite baffling that more people have not been talking about the Denver Broncos, who happen to be one win and a Texans' loss away from snagging the No. 1 seed in the AFC (can still clinch first round bye with victory over Kansas City on Sunday). At 12-3 with one final regular season game remaining on the schedule, the Broncos are on a 10-game winning streak.

The streak, which may just be the quietest double-digit win streak I've seen in quite a while, includes big wins over teams such as New Orleans, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Peyton Manning (68.1%, 4,355 yards, 34 TD, 11 INT, 103.7 rating) has stated his case for MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, leading his offense to 10 30-point victories this season. The team's only three losses this season have come against playoff teams (Atlanta, Houston and New England), have been decided by 10 or fewer points and all came within the first five weeks of the season.
Since the last loss on October 7, Peyton & Co. has outscored opponents 308-172, and has put up less than 20 points in a game just once.

Sure, the New England Patriots (11-4) beat Denver earlier in the year and have had a more high-powered scoring offense than Manning's Broncos this season. But the Broncos have excelled in a very important area that the Pats have not: Denver's defense has been playing out of its mind this season.

Led by second-year linebacker Von Miller (65 total tackles, 17.5 sacks, 1 INT, 6 FF, 1 TD), Denver's defense has jumped from 24th scoring defense in 2011 to the 5th-ranked scoring defense this season. Atop the AFC in the category (behind SEA, CHI, San Fran, ATL), Denver has surrendered 19.1 points per game.

Having a healthy Elvis Dumervil back in the lineup this season has done wonders against the pass, as they currently rank 7th in pass defense (17th last season) lead the league in sacks with 48––28.5 of those have come from the Dumervil/Miller combination.

Peyton's 2nd-best scoring offense has received some assistance from the secondary in the scoring department, with 5 touchdowns coming off interception returns and one additional touchdown coming from a Tony Carter fumble recovery.

The rookie-led Seattle Seahawks haven't been quite as high-scoring as Denver's No. 2 ranked scoring offense, but in the month of December they've been the highest-scoring team in the league. Clinching a playoff spot in the NFC after defeating San Francisco last night, the 'Hawks have outscored opponents 150-30 over the last three weeks.
At 10-5 and current placeholder of the No. 5 seed in the NFC, Seattle has a shot at winning the NFC West division thanks to a four-game winning streak and a 6-1 record since the end of October. Although only one of its five losses have come against a playoff team (13-6 to San Francisco), all five of them have been by a touchdown or less.

The fact that rookie quarterback Russell Wilson (63.4%, 2,868 yards, 25 TD, 10 INT, 98.0 rating) is leading the team to these wins and is just one passing TD away from tying Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 isn't even the most impressive thing about this team. Just like Denver, it's the defense that's impressing.

When it comes to playoff football I don't care how much you're passing the ball, defense and a powerful running game wins championships. Top NFC teams Atlanta (13-2) and Green Bay (11-4) have been throwing out of their minds with two top gunslingers Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. But they don't run the ball consistently well.

Both are top 10 passing teams, but Green Bay ranks 20th on the ground while Atlanta ranks 28th. Running under 4.0 yards per carry as a team isn't going to get the job done on the ground. Interestingly enough, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, A.K.A. "Beast Mode," has single-handedly outrun the Falcons entire team this season (1,490 yards, 11 TDs to 1,332 yards, 11 TD) and has come close to outrunning Green Bay.
Running the ball 297 times with Lynch has done wonders for Wilson's development as the season has progressed, and actually 431 yards and 3 of the team's rushing TDs have come from Wilson himself. That's also something we haven't quite seen from Matt Ryan in Atlanta, though Aaron Rodgers is usually a threat on his feet if the opposition allows him too much time.

Now, when it comes to the defensive side of things, this is where it gets scary. Quietly the Seahawks have become the league's No. 1 scoring defense. After shutting down Colin Kaerpernick and the Niners last night (something I was not prepared for and didn't think would actually happen), the Seahawks are now 19 points ahead of the No. 2 scoring defense in Chicago and the 49ers fell to No. 3.

Try to digest these defensive numbers for Seattle:

5.0 yards/play (t-5th)
275 first downs allowed (7th)
2,998 passing yards (5th)
14 passing TDs (t-2nd)
17 interceptions (t-9th)
71.6 rating (3rd)
36 sacks (t-12th)
1,570 rushing yards (11th)
8 rushing TDs (t-5th)
13 fumble recoveries (7th)
30 forced turnovers (t-5th)
6 defensive touchdowns (t-3rd)

Individual Defensive Numbers:

Bobby Wagner––129 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 INT, 4 passes defensed
Chris Clemons––38 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, 3 FF, 4 passes defensed
Richard Sherman––60 total tackles, 1.0 sack, 7 INT, 3 FF, 23 passes defensed, 1 TD
Kam Chancellor––84 total tackles, 1 FF, 2 FR, 4 passes defensed
Earl Thomas––58 total tackles, 3 INT, 1 FF, 9 passes defensed
Bruce Irvin (R)––16 total tackles, 8 sacks, 1 FF

In order for a team to be strong enough to make a deep playoff run and compete for a championship in the NFL, it has to be able to be multi-dimensional and have a tough defense. Though passing seems to be taking over the NFL, a strong running game is still vital to postseason success.

Because of this, and the fact that young quarterbacks seem to be taking over the game as well, it appears as though the Broncos and Seahawks are two of the best-fit teams for a championship at the moment and are getting hot at exactly the right time. If you were to ask me back in August if I thought the Seahawks and Broncos would be where they are right now at the end of December, I would probably say no. But Peyton has proven he's back and as strong as ever, and Russell Wilson proved last night that he's a force to be reckoned with coming out of the NFC West.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Night Football: Niners Look to Clinch West with a Win

Now that the late games are all in the books and the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) managed to clinch the AFC North title for the second consecutive season with a 33-14 win over the New York Giants (8-7), all focus can be placed on the Sunday night game. And oh boy, will it be a great one.

A lot is on the line for both teams involved: Seattle (9-5) and San Francisco (10-3-1), which is a breath of fresh air. Normally we'd see a late-season San Francisco/Seattle showdown on the schedule and not even give the game a second glance.

This season, however, is a completely different story. The Niners have already clinched a playoff spot with 10 wins, but will have the opportunity to clinch the NFC West division for the second straight season with a victory. The Seahawks find themselves sitting in the 5th seed at the moment, but have yet to clinch a spot. They will need a victory tonight to clinch a playoff spot since the Skins and Vikings both won today as well.

The match-up is so highly anticipated that the NFL rendered the game primetime-worthy and moved the game from 4:15 to the Sunday night slot on NBC.
With two young quarterbacks at the helm for both teams––rookie Russell Wilson for SEA and second-year speedster Colin Kaepernick for SF––the defenses for each team must be licking their chops. The Niners and Seahawks are the league's top two scoring defenses heading into Week 16, and will be bringing their A-games.

Both teams are incredibly similar in all aspects of the game:

San Francisco offense: 26th in passing offense, 2nd in rushing offense, 7th in turnovers
Seattle offense: 27th in passing offense, 3rd in rushing offense, 3rd in turnovers

San Francisco defense: 1st in scoring, 2nd in total yardage, 16th in turnovers
Seattle defense: 2nd in scoring, 3rd in total yardage, 5th in turnovers

With these numbers are win totals eerily similar, it's clear that this game will be a hard-fought game and that the team with the least amount of mistakes will prevail in the end.

Star running backs Marshawn Lynch (1,379 yards, 10 TDs) and Frank Gore (1,118 yards, 7 TDs) have both been having fantastic seasons for their respective teams, and will both obviously need to show up to play tonight to give their team the best chance at coming away with a victory.

Despite all of this, it will be the play of the two young quarterbacks that will have the largest impact on the outcome of tonight's match-up. Seattle's 24-year old rookie Russell Wilson (62.9%, 2,697 yards, 21 TD, 9 INT, 95.5 rating) has gotten better and more comfortable in the pocket as the season has progressed. He has quickly made his case as the dark-horse for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award this season, though he has not shot at winning the honor over Luck or Griffin.

San Francisco's former No. 1 overall pick back in the 2005 NFL draft began the season as the starter after breaking out with a career-year in 2011 and taking the Niners to the NFC Championship. However a concussion in a Week 9 tie to St. Louis knocked him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks.
Niner backup quarterback Colin Kaerpernick, 25, took over the role for the team and hasn't looked back. The dual-threat signal caller has taken the 49ers on a 4-1 run in his first 5 career NFL starts and has won over the fan base. Even with a healthy Smith back, Kaepernick still has the starting role and is poised to prove everyone he should keep the job in front of a primetime crowd tonight.

Though the rookie Wilson has more experience under center this season, I believe Kaepernick (65.6%, 1,289 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 101.4 rating; 379 rushing yards, 5 TDs in 11 games/5 starts this year) proved himself in a 41-34 victory over New England last week. After going into Foxboro last week and putting up 41 and putting up 31 at New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, I have no doubts Kaepernick can outplay Wilson on the road.

Both quarterbacks will have tough nights against these defenses, but with some help from Frank Gore the Niners offense will do just enough and limit mistakes against Chris Clemons, Richard Sherman & Co.

Though Seattle's offense has put up a total of 108 points over the last two weeks, you have to remember that those two games were against Arizona and Buffalo––not the best scoring defense in the league. Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks this season, 3.0 shy of tying Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5) will have a field day against the rookie Wilson, as he recorded 3 tackles and 1.0 sack in the 13-6 over Seattle earlier in the season.

Prediction: I'd take San Francisco's defense over Seattle's, though it is really close, and the Niners offense will make fewer critical mistakes. The Niners take this one in a close one, 21-17. Though I'd still love to see the 'Hawks in the postseason.

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Colts, Bengals Clinch Final Two AFC Playoff Spots with Victories

Heading in to today there were two playoff spots remaining in the AFC and three teams in the hunt. At 9-5, the rookie-led Indianapolis Colts were just one victory away from clinching one of the two open AFC wild card seeds. Cincinnati (now 9-6) and Pittsburgh (now 7-8) were both facing off in hopes of capturing that final spot.

Tip-toeing away from Heinz Field with a 13-10 last-second victory, the Bengals managed to eliminate its AFC North foes from playoff contention and snag the final spot earlier today.

Thanks to a late Ben Roethlisberger interception and a 43-yard field goal from freshly-signed kicker Josh Brown, the Bengals defeated the Steelers despite managing just 14 yards on the ground, as a team.

This marked the second consecutive week that Roethlisberger threw a costly interception late in the game, leading to three straight losses and five over the last six weeks of play. The only win since an overtime victory over Kansas City on November 12? A Charlie Batch upset over the playoff-bound Baltimore Ravens at the beginning of the month.
Cincinnati struggled mightily on offense throughout their 6th road win of the season, combining for 267 total yards and turning the ball over three times (also forced 3 on defense). Andy Dalton threw for 278 yards but was sacked six times and threw two picks in his fourth multi-interception game on the season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had run for 100+ yards in four of his last five games with three touchdowns, while combining for the second-most rushing yards in the league over that five game span. But Pittsburgh limited him to all 14 of Cincy's rushing yards on 15 carries and no touchdowns.

The only Cincinnati touchdown of the day was off another Roethlisberger mistake, coming on a 17-yard interception touchdown by Leon Hall towards the end of the 1st quarter.

With two struggling offenses and three combined missed field goals, it was clear that the winner of the game would have to be the team that makes the least-critical mistakes. And that was Cincinnati. Making big plays when it mattered most, Andy Dalton got the team in field goal range following Roethlisberger's second of his 2 picks of the game and Brown made up for his missed field goal earlier and kicked the game-winner through the uprights with :04 to play, sending Cincinnati to the postseason.

With the Ravens (9-5, already clinched a playoff berth) facing the 8-6 New York Giants at home, the AFC North division may end up coming down to next week's Baltimore/Cincinnati match-up in Cincinnati next Sunday. Win against the G-Men, and the Ravens win the North. But if the Giants pull out a victory on the road, the North division will come down to the final week of the season. That's what we all want, right? Makes things a bit more exciting during Week 17 games.
As for the Colts, rookie Andrew Luck stole the show this afternoon. Though it took him and Indy's offense all game to finally put the Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) to bed, Luck managed to steal the show in front of the Arrowhead Stadium crowd.

Just one year old, Cam Newton's rookie passing yards record has already been surpassed. Luck's 205 yards against Kansas City's 7th-ranked pass defense was enough to pass Newton's 4,051 yard total from 2011. He's now at 4,183 for the season, and can shatter the record with another 200-300 yards next week against division foe Houston.

The game-deciding touchdown came with just over four minutes to play in the game and culminated with a 7-yard touchdown pass to veteran wideout Reggie Wayne, the 21st TD pass of Luck's season and career. The drive 73 yards on 13 plays and ate up over six minutes of the game clock. Indy's 24th ranked defense forced a 3&out from KC's Brady Quinn the following drive to seal the playoff-clinching victory just one season after the franchise was 2-14 and at the bottom of the league.

A loss from Houston (12-3) and a win from New England (11-4) and a possible win from Denver (11-3 but leading Cleveland 14-3 in the second quarter) could possibly result in a shake-up of the AFC seeds. One thing we do know for sure at the moment, however, is that Indy and Cincy are in the postseason, and Indy will be either a 5th or 6th seed.

The road for Cincinnati will be clearer once the New York/Baltimore match-up is in the books later on this evening...Baltimore currently leads 14-7 at the end of the opening quarter.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Madden Curse? What Madden Curse? Calvin Johnson Chasing History vs. Falcons on Saturday Night

Tonight's Monday Night Football game is being played on Saturday night (since Monday is Christmas eve), and it's a huge match-up for two reasons. 1) Atlanta is chasing the No. 1 seed in the NFC postseason. 2) Calvin Johnson Jr. is chasing down Jerry Rice's coveted receiving record.

Sure, a win for the 12-2 Falcons would clinch a first round bye and the No. 1 seed in the postseason. But I'm more intrigued by watching the Detroit Lions' (4-10) wideout Calvin Johnson Jr. possibly break Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record.

With 1,667 yards through 14 games this season, the sixth year pro Johnson is just 15 yards away from setting a career-high of 1,681 yards, which he set last season in his monstrous breakout year that landed him the coveted Madden cover for the 2013 video game.
But more importantly, Johnson Jr. finds himself just 182 yards away from breaking Rice's record of 1,848 yards for the 49ers in 1995. Johnson set career-highs in receptions (96), yards and TDs (16) last season, but has already broken that mark in receptions (106 through 14 games) and is about to break his career-high in yards tonight as well.

Clearly out of the playoff hunt with a 4-10 record out of the NFC North, Johnson's record chase seems to be all that the Lions' have left to fight for this season, so there's no doubt Matt Stafford will be gunning for him. And the Falcons secondary will be paying extra attention––well, obviously a guy of Johnson's talent will be double-teamed whether there's a record in reach or not.

In the midst of all these young quarterbacks that have entered the spotlight this season, it's refreshing to see records such as single-season receiving yards, rushing yards and sacks in reach of being broken all within the same season.
Both San Fran's defensive end Aldon Smith and Houston's J.J. Watt are at 19.5 sacks this season and are just 3.5 shy of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5 with two games to play. There will be more on that particular record tomorrow morning. For now, enjoy tonight's game!

All-Out Blitz's prediction: Falcons win 35-21, and Calvin Johnson inches closer to Rice's record with 125 yards and a TD.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Adrian Peterson's Magical Season: How Does he Stack up Against the League's All-time Greats?

It's no secret that the Minnesota Vikings' 27-year old running back Adrian Peterson (also referred to as "AP" or "AD," which is short for "All Day") is just 294 yards away from further immortalizing himself within Pro Football history by breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing yards record of 2,105.

With two games left to play Peterson, less than a year removed from surgery to repair a torn left ACL and MCL, is set to become just the 7th player in history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a given season.

Now I know I've said this here on the All-Out Blitz numerous times, and you may start to get tired of hearing about it. But I have yet to dedicate an entire article on Peterson's historic season. And that's exactly what I plan to do: stack AD's 2012 season, and career for that matter, against some of the great ones from season's past.
Not only will I compare 2012 to Dickerson's famed 1984 season among others, but I will also be comparing Peterson's 6-year career to the first six seasons of a couple of Hall of Famers and soon-to-be Hall of Famers.

First off, I'd like to point out that just one season in his so-far illustrious pro career has ended without 1,000 yards rushing, which happened to be last season (970 yards, 12 TDs in 12 games) just prior to receiving his bionic left knee––just kidding, his knee isn't actually robotic, right?

First comparison is the obvious one: Eric Dickerson in 1984.

Eric Dickerson--1984, Los Angeles Rams
Second season in pros, 24-years old

16 games: 379 rushing attempts, 2,105 yards, 14 TDs, Long: 66 yards
5.6 Y/C, 131.6 Y/G on 23.7 A/G

- - - - -

Adrian Peterson--2012, Minnesota Vikings
Sixth season in pros, 27-years old

14 games: 289 rushing attempts, 1,812 yards, 11 TDs, Long: 82 yards
6.3 Y/C, 129.4 Y/G, 20.6 A/G

**Dickerson through first 14 games: 326 rushing attempts, 1,792 yards, 11 TDs

The key to the above comparison is Dickerson's stat-line through the first 14 games. Looking at that and you can tell Peterson is well on his way to surpassing Eric on the list of most impressive rushing seasons of all-time. In terms of both individual and team, Peterson's got the edge. The Rams finished the season at 10-6 with a playoff berth thanks largely to the on-field production from Dickerson.

Much like the Vikings this season, the Rams had an average-at-best quarterback completing 50% of his passes and throwing 20 passes a game with the 25-year old Jeff Kemp. Los Angeles was a middle-of-the-pack defense and was a playoff team based solely on Dickerson's success.

Minnesota is sitting at 8-6 and in line for a wild card spot if they can manage to win out and end the season at 10-6. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has underachieved this season after showing promise as a rookie last season. His 2,527 yards, 14 TDs (12 INT) and a 78.6 rating has been just enough to get the Vikes by in terms of passing. It's been AD's career-high 1,812 yards and 11 TDs that has put Minnesota in playoff contention coming out of the North.

With opposing defenses keying in on stopping Peterson and the team's running game, they have still failed to slow down this Vikings offense. Peterson has been on a roll ever since Week 7 against the Cardinals, rushing for 100+ yards for eight consecutive games––150+ in six of those games and 200+ in two. Also over that 8-game span AD has combined for nine of his 11 touchdowns on the ground and Minnesota has put up 34 or more points on two occasions.

A 2-0 finish to the season would put the Vikings in the playoffs and match the regular season record of the 10-6 Rams. Not to mention, if Adrian does break the single-season record he would likely achieve it with much less carries and would have put up the greatest single-season for a running back in NFL history. By far.

I never even mentioned the fact that Dickerson fumbled the ball a total of 14 times during the '84 regular season. Peterson? Just four fumbles through his 14 starts this season. So unless he fumbles five teams in each of his last two games (not likely) he will have beaten Dickerson in that category as well. All Dickerson has left is his 107 yards and 1 TD in LA's 16-13 NFC Wild Card loss that season.

Peterson is just 294 yards in the final two games away from posting the best season by a running back ever. But where does that leave him in terms of his first six seasons as a pro? Here he is next to some legends:

First six seasons in NFL (sorted by yards gained; Hall of Famer; Leader among the 6):
*Eric Dickerson, 88 starts: 2,136 attempts, 9,915 yards, 75 TD, Long: 85; 4.6 Y/C, 110.2 Y/G
*LaDainian Tomlinson, 95 starts: 2,050 starts, 9,176 yards, 100 TD, Long: 85; 4.5 Y/C, 96.6 Y/G
*Emmitt Smith, 91 starts: 2,007 attempts, 8,956 yards, 96 TD, Long: 75; 4.5 Y/C, 96.3 Y/G
*Barry Sanders, 87 starts: 1,763 attempts, 8,672 yards, 62 TD, Long: 85; 5.0 Y/C, 97.4 Y/G
*Adrian Peterson, 80 starts: 1,695 attempts, 8,564 yards, 75 TD, Long: 82; 5.1 Y/C, 98.4 Y/G
*Walter Payton, 83 starts: 1,865 attempts, 8,386 yards, 65 TD, Long: 76; 4.5 Y/C, 94.2 Y/G

Considering that among the group of six listed above––consisting of four current Hall of Fame members and one first ballot Hall of Famer––Peterson has the best yards per carry average through six seasons, I'd say he's in pretty good shape.
Averaging 1,427.3 rushing yards per season, Peterson needs just six more of his "average" seasons and he'll be an automatic lock for the hall and in sight of Emmitt Smith's league record 18,355 rushing yards all-time. Though he's not quite to Dickerson's near-1,000 yards through six seasons, or LT's 100 TDs, Peterson has a lot to be proud of, ranking with the big boys. With two games left to go in his first six career seasons, Peterson can surpass Sanders' 8,672 yards and possibly even reach 80 rushing TDs.

Being on pace and ahead of guys such as the greats Barry Sanders and Walter Payton at this point in his career says a lot for a guy of Peterson's caliber, and it's really scary when you think about what he can accomplish before he hangs up his cleats.

He's got an eye-popping combination of size, speed and power. He's a nightmare in the open field for defenders and no matter which way you slice it, we could be witnessing the best this league has ever seen.

Embrace it.

Note: We do not own the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NFL History 101: Throwback Thursday

It's "Throwback Thursday," everyone!

To celebrate, here's an entire team of throwback photos. Enjoy.

Sorry, I had to throw Dante Hall in there at the end as the "Throwback" return man. Don't lie, you guys know you miss Hall's days with the Chiefs in the early 2000s. Some of his returns were better-looking than any of Devin Hester's kick return TDs. Hey was electrifying!

Hope you enjoyed the first of many Throwback Thursday's here at the All-Out Blitz!

Note: We do not own the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recapping Week 15: The NFC Playoff Picture and Why the Redskins Will Win the East

The NFC at this point is a bit more wide open than the AFC. Three of the four divisions in the AFC have already been spoken for, and one more is on the verge of being claimed as early as this weekend.

The NFC is a different story, with just half of the playoff spots being taken after 15 weeks and only two division titles have been claimed.

In the South, Atlanta already had the division down a couple of weeks ago but are now just one win away (possibly this coming Saturday against Detroit?) from claiming the top seed in the NFC. A convincing 24-0 shutout of the contending New York Giants (8-6) has shown that Matt Ryan's Falcons are still the team to beat in the conference and are two wins ahead of the next team in line, San Francisco (10-3-1).

Here are the headlines from this past weekend in the NFC...
Packers Fend off Bears for NFC North Title; Chicago and Minnesota jockey for playoff spot

At 10-4, Aaron Rodgers and his Packers have taken home the division title for the second consecutive season. With games against Tennessee and Minnesota still left on the schedule, it's possible that the Pack could beat out the Niners for the second seed and a first round bye if the Niners lose to both the Seahawks and Cardinals.

The Bears have hit a sudden wall and, after starting the season at 7-1 and one of the top contenders in the conference, have fallen in 5 of its last 6 games. Now on the outside looking in on the NFC postseason (Chicago and Minnesota are both 8-6, but Vikings hold tiebreaker), the Bears are in dire need of a couple of victories. In order to have a shot, the Bears will need to win both remaining games on the schedule (Detroit and Arizona) and hope the Vikings do not win out.

That will be tough, however, as Adrian Peterson has put the Vikings on his back and carried them to victories despite an underachieving quarterback in Christian Ponder and losing wideout Percy Harvin for the remainder of the season. The Texans and Packers will be seeing a heavy dose of Peterson over the final two weeks and will need to hold him to under 294 yards if they would like to keep him from breaking the single-season rushing record (set by Eric Dickerson in 1984). I'll be looking closer into Peterson's record-breaking chase sometime in the next day or so.
49ers @ Seahawks: Week 16 Game to Watch

Lucky for us, the primetime Sunday night game this weekend will be between the two teams duking it out for the NFC West title. Normally the chase for the Western division title in the NFC is a pretty bland battle, with the winner finishing around 9-7, 10-6. But this year we've seen two young quarterbacks take over the reins and dazzle opponents, making for an unusual exciting finish out West.

Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick took over for the concussed Alex Smith in San Fran, and hasn't looked back since. In his first five professional starts, the 25-year old Kaepernick has posted a 4-1 record with 7 TDs, 2 INTs and over 1,200 yards. He's pulled off victories against teams such as Chicago, New Orleans and, most recently, the 10-win Patriots on Sunday night, putting up 41 points against one of the AFC's best teams.

The rookie signal caller in Seattle, Russell Wilson, has established himself as the Seahawks' future and is a dark horse candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year this season. Carrying Pete Carroll's 'Hawks to a 9-5 record, Wilson has a shot at once again silencing his critics on Sunday night if he can pull off a victory over the Niners. If the Seahawks win on Sunday, they can clinch a playoff spot. Even if they lose, they can still clinch if the Bears, Vikings and Redskins all lose.
Washington, Dallas Victories, Giants loss means a 3-way tie in East

Did I not tell you this would happen? I believe I did a couple of weeks ago. The "Giant" collapse in New York continued with a 24-0 shutout against the Falcons. Their fourth loss over the last six weeks puts them near the bottom of the list of "in the hunt" teams, at No. 9, while the second Redskins' rookie signal caller came out a victor in his first career start. Dallas' Tony Romo kept his 'Boys in the hunt with a 27-24 overtime victory over Big Ben's Steelers, but it will be Washington that ends up coming out a winner.

The Giants will get a Baltimore team sitting on a 3-game losing streak this Sunday, but with Ray Lewis expected to return I can see the Baltimore defense coming into the game hungry. Very hungry. Another Giants loss and the Cowboys facing the Saints, I believe it will be the Skins who pull out ahead in Week 16, defeating the Eagles in Robert Griffin III's return to action.

At 9-6, it will come down to a Cowboys/Redskins grudge match at Fedex Field in Week 17, a match-up in which the Skins will win, completing the season sweep and wrapping up the NFC East. It's a tough pill to swallow for the Giants, likely finishing out the second half of the season with a 3-5 record and completing 2012 with a 9-7 record. But Eli Manning's inconsistency has held back a team that very easily could be at 10-11 wins right now.
NFC Playoff Scenarios

*Falcons clinch first round bye and No. 1 seed with a win. Can clinch first round bye with a win OR a loss by Green Bay OR a loss by San Francisco.
*49ers clinch NFC West with a win over Seattle. Can clinch first round bye with a win AND the Packers lose.
*Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win over San Francisco.
*Redskins can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Philadelphia AND losses by Giants, Bears and Vikings.
*Giants can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Baltimore AND losses by Redskins, Cowboys, Bears and Vikings.

Note: We do not own the above images. No copyright infringement intended.

Recapping Week 15: AFC Playoff Picture Experiences Shake-up

Heading into this past weekend, the Baltimore Ravens had a perfect shot at proving they belong with the top dogs in the American Football Conference. Taking on Peyton Manning and the then-10-3 Denver Broncos, a banged up Baltimore defense seemed poised for the challenge.

Needing a victory to clinch the AFC North title, Baltimore struggled early and often against Denver's 5th-ranked overall defense. The firing of Cam Cameron as the team's offensive coordinator earlier that week was supposed to fix the offensive problems, promoting Jim Caldwell as the OC and play-caller. With Ray Rice receiving just 12 carries throughout the entire game, Joe Flacco clearly struggled to get anything going.

If Baltimore wants to make it deep into the postseason, they will need to get Rice the ball early and often. I'm talking, 25-30 carries a game. With an All-Pro playmaker at your disposal, it's hard to understand why coach John Harbaugh has not done anything to address this problem yet.

During Baltimore's current 3-game losing streak, Rice has received just 44 carries (average of 14.6 per game) while Flacco has averaged nearly 32 pass attempts during those games. While Flacco's stat line looks near-perfect in the overtime loss to Washington (16/21, 182 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 121.4 rating), in the other two games he completed under 50% of his passes.
The truth is that Flacco has been one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks in the game this season, and has overthrown more receivers than a fifth-year quarterback should be.

There have been five instances in which Flacco had attempted 40 or more passes and Rice had received under 20 carries (at PHI, vs. CLE, at HOU and vs. DEN) this season, and Baltimore went 1-3 over that span while being outscored 117-76.

Need more proof that Ray Rice needs the ball in his hands more and Flacco should be throwing less often? I have one more vital piece of information for you: On six different occasions this season Joe has completed under 60% of his passes, and BAL's record during those six games is 2-4. Flacco has a combined 6 TDs and 6 INTs. During those two wins the defense surrendered just 19 combined points to the Chiefs (2-12) and the Chargers (5-9).

Hopefully, for Baltimore's sake, Caldwell will come to his senses and get Rice the ball early and often. He will need to in order to break Baltimore's current 3-game losing streak this weekend. All Baltimore needs is a victory over the next two games to clinch the AFC North for the third consecutive season. They did, however, manage to back into the postseason this past Sunday with the Dallas Cowboys' victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime.

In other news...

Houston Captures Second Consecutive AFC South Title

With a 29-17 victory over rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (9-5), the Houston Texans (12-2) managed to capture its second straight (and second overall) AFC South division title. The victory came in stunning fashion, too, coming off a disappointing 42-14 defeat at the hands of the Patriots (10-4) a week prior, Houston's offense was clicking on all cylinders again.

Arian Foster ran for a season-high 165 yards and quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 261 more. Thanks to 5 total sacks of Luck, the Texans managed to keep its spot as the team with the best record in the AFC. Three of those five sacks were recorded by Defensive Player of the Year favorite J.J. Watt, who managed to tie San Francisco's Aldon Smith for most in the league, with 19.5. With two games to play, both Watt and Smith are just 3.5 sacks away from breaking Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5, set in 2001.
Luckily for the Colts, they still hold the No. 5 seed in the playoff picture and will get another shot at the Texans in a Week 17 showdown at home. This week against the Chiefs the Colts can clinch a Wild Card spot with a win or a Steelers loss to the Bengals.

Houston can clinch a first round bye and the No. 1 seed with a win over Minnesota or Indianapolis.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh: Week 16 Game to Watch

Regardless of what happens in the New York/Baltimore game, all eyes will be on Cincy (8-6) and Pittsburgh (7-7) Heinz Field this Sunday. With only three remaining teams that can clinch the final 2 spots in the AFC playoffs, this is the most important game left in the conference this season.

Cincinnati easily handled the Eagles on Thursday night, pulling away with a 34-13 victory and inching one game closer to Baltimore. Pittsburgh missed out on a huge opportunity with an overtime loss to Tony Romo's Dallas Cowboys. But, luckily for a frustrated Ben Roethlisberger, he can still clinch the sixth seed with wins over the Bengals and Browns these last two weeks.

It really will be a must-win game for the Steelers on Sunday. A win, and they control their own destiny Week 17, needing just a win over the Browns (they would hold the tiebreaker over the Bengals). But a loss would mean Cincinnati would clinch a Wild Card spot, and the Colts (whether they win or lose against the Chiefs) would capture the final available playoff spot.
Cincinnati is certainly the dark horse to squeeze into the postseason, despite winning 5 of its last 6 games. The victories over that span have come against just one playoff contender (New York Giants, 31-13). The rest of them: Kansas City (2-12), Oakland (4-10), San Diego (5-9) and Philadelphia (4-10) have a combined 15-41 record in 2012. A last-second loss to the Cowboys (8-6) two weeks ago, 20-19, has proven costly for the Bengals and may be the game everyone looks at if they lose to Pittsburgh on Sunday and miss the postseason.

The Bengals are 5-2 on the road this year, but are on a 5-game skid against the Steelers right now and haven't beat them and haven't beaten them on the road since November 15, 2009. Andy Dalton has improved vastly in his second season under center (62.5 comp %, 26 TDs, 14 INTs, 89.4 rating) and is just 86 passing yards away from surpassing his 3,398 rookie performance, but will need solid protection from his offensive line if he plans on recording his first career victory against Pittsburgh (0-3 all-time).

Establishing the run game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis early and often will be key and will allow Cincinnati to set-up the play-action pass and keep Dalton comfortable under center. Pittsburgh, to make up for its depleted defense, will need to play mistake-free football. That's exactly what they were able to do against Dallas prior to Antonio Brown's fumble on a punt return late in the game. If Brown doesn't fumble, Pittsburgh had a great shot at winning the game without going into overtime.

Must-win for both teams, obviously. But even bigger for Pittsburgh, as a loss will eliminate them from playoff contention.

New York Jets Embarrassed on Monday Night; Eliminated from Playoffs

Thanks to a porous performance from the offense (6-8) against the Tennessee Titans on national television, the Jets were officially eliminated from the AFC playoff picture last night. Both offenses, to tell you the truth, looked horrendous. But luckily for Jake Locker's Titans, Mark Sanchez (54.8 comp %, 2,678 yards, 13 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.9 rating) stole the show.

Sanchez's four interceptions and game-ending fumble with under 30 seconds to play led to a disappointing playoff run and basically a disappointing season. Sanchez, who should have been benched for good after 3rd stringer quarterback Greg McElroy led the Jets to a 7-6 win over Arizona two weeks ago, was finally benched by head coach Rex Ryan earlier today.

McElroy (5/7, 29 yards, 1 TD, 118.5 rating in 1 game this season) will make his first career start against the Chargers on Sunday. Long overdue for the second-year quarterback out of Alabama? Yes, I think so. All of New York would agree––well, half of New York anyways, I'm sure Giants fans love watching Sanchez.
The Jets offense had ample opportunities to put points on the board, as the defense managed to stall the Titans offense plenty of times, sacking Jake Locker four times and forcing 10 Tennessee punts. They even managed to limit them to just 12 first downs and, aside from one mistake that allowed Chris Johnson to run for a 94-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the front 7 limited CJ to just 28 yards on his 20 other rushing attempts. No turnovers were forced, but Tennessee committed 14 penalties for 111 yards, giving New York second chances and stalling offensive drives.

With just over two minutes to play, New York had the ball at Tennessee's 23-yard line (down by four points). Sanchez made the decision to lob a pass over the middle to tight end Jeff Cumberland, in triple coverage, as Tennessee's Michael Griffin picked off Sanchez for the fourth time of the game. It appeared to end the Jets' night, but after three Chris Johnson runs managed just four yards, the Jets had forced a 3 & out and set Sanchez up with 1st and 10 on Tennessee's 25-yard line (punter Brett Kern shanked a punt in his own end zone).

What does Sanchez do with this gift from heaven? Fumbles the snap out of shotgun formation on his first play. Game over.

I'm not even near being a Jets fan and we here at All-Out Blitz have gotten very frustrated watching this offense. Despite all of this guaranteed money Sanchez is due, I wouldn't be surprised if New York's front office somehow tried to dispose of him this offseason. Especially if McElroy is able to get something going in these final two games.

Rant over.

AFC Playoff Scenarios

*Texans clinch home-field advantage throughout playoffs with a win over Minnesota OR Denver and New England both lose.
*Broncos clinch first round bye with win over Cleveland AND Jaguars beat the Patriots.
*Ravens clinch AFC North with win over Giants.
*Colts clinch wild card with win over Kansas City OR Bengals beat Steelers
*Bengals clinch wild card with win over Pittsburgh.
*Steelers clinch wild card with wins over Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Up next...Recapping Week 15: NFC Playoff Race Coming Down to Final 2 Weeks

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Night Football Live Blog: Jets Fighting for Playoff Hopes

Coverage of this past weekend's slate of Week 15 games will be coming your way tomorrow morning. For now, however, we will be taking this time to bring you live coverage of the Monday Night Football match-up between the 6-7 New York Jets and the 4-9 Tennessee Titans.

Not the most exciting match-up, we know. But we've got the time to do a live blog for the evening and since we haven't gotten the opportunity to do too many this season, why not take advantage?

Besides, this is Tennessee's chance to play spoilers and eliminate Mark Sanchez and the Jets from playoff contention. Plus this is the season's last Monday Night Football and we're only 8 days away from Christmas, so we're in an extra good mood.
Tennessee is clearly out of the postseason this season, with no possible mathematical way for them to make an appearance. New York, however, has a shot. A very slim shot, albeit, but it's still a shot. Here's their playoff scenario:

Must win final three games @ Tennessee, vs. San Diego, @ Buffalo


Indianapolis must lose final 2 games
Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati; Cleveland beat Pittsburgh
Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh; Baltimore beats Cincinnati

Take a few moments to wrap your head around all of that. So not only do the Jets need to do something they haven't done since last November/December (win three consecutive games), but they also must rely on other teams to get into the postseason.
Titans in 2012

2-4 record at home
0-2 in December
2-1 vs. AFC East

Jake Locker: 1-2 record, 916 passing yards, 4 TD, 4 INT, 82.5 rating at home

Jets in 2012

3-3 record on road
2-0 in December
2-1 vs. AFC South

Mark Sanchez: 3-3 record, 1,185 passing yards, 4 TD, 4 INT, 74.0 rating on road

All-Out Blitz's pick: Jets win 24-10

In-Game Live Blog Updates

Last-minute injury report:

Jets--Dustin Keller (ankle), Stephen Hill (knee) are both out. Newly-signed wideout Braylon Edwards will be playing.
Titans--Damian Williams (hamstring), Colin McCarthy (concussion) and Scott Solomon (knee) are all out. Backup QB Rusty Smith will also be inactive tonight.

*The Jets are wearing helmet decals that say "S.H.E.S." in honor of the 20 children and 6 adults who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT last week. Also, just a few minutes ago there was a moment of silence at LP Field in honor of the victims as well.

First Quarter
*Kick-off officially at 8:41 pm eastern time, as Darrius Reynaud took the kick to the 22-yard line for Tennessee. The young Jake Locker will take his offense out on the field first.

8:45 pm: Jake Locker hits WR Nate Washington on a 30-yard pass on 3rd & 4. Just like that the Titans have set-up camp deep in New York territory on the team's opening drive.

8:49 pm: The promising drive stalls as New York stops the Titans' Chris Johnson for a loss of 10 on a 3rd down option play. Tennessee settles for a field goal attempt by Rob Bironas, which is blocked. New York will start its first offensive drive at their own 37.

Apparently Bironas had trouble finding his helmet before coming onto the field to attempt the first FG of the night.

8:51: Braylon Edwards will need to step up big for the Jets tonight, who will be without TE Dustin Keller and WR Stephen Hill.

8:53: Heading into the game RB Shonn Greene needed just 117 rushing yards to top 1,000 for the second consecutive season of his 4-year career. He could accomplish that feat tonight rather easily if the Jets get him the ball early and often.

8:54: Edwards makes his first catch as a Jet in 2012, a 14-yarder on a key 3rd down.

8:57: Tim Tebow makes his first appearance of the evening, running on a QB sneak up the middle to convert the Jets' second 3rd down of the opening drive. A pass interference call one play later puts the Jets inside the red zone.

9:00: Controversial touchdown pass from Sanchez to TE Jeff Cumberland. It was ruled a TD on the field, but after seeing the replay it appears to slip through his hands and hit the ground.

It will automatically be reviewed since this season all scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed upstairs...ball has been ruled to have hit the ground after further review by referee Gerry Austin. That will bring up 4th down for NY.

9:03: Nick Folk's 22-yard field goal attempt is good. 3-0 Jets, 4:22 to play in the opening quarter.

9:11: Tennessee's Chris Johnson hasn't been the same since his 2,000 yard in 2009, but he still displays his explosiveness every once in a while. He hits holes at lightning speed but runs east-to-west far too often. If he was Barry Sanders, he could get away with lateral running a little easier, but he's not. Does he not understand that you can't bounce it to the outside every play?

At this point, Jake Locker has looked like a stronger runner than Johnson, who just took off down the field for a 15-yard gain and a TEN first down.

9:12: End of quarter 1. Still 3-0 Jets with the Titans facing a fourth down and short.

Second Quarter
9:18: The Jets need to find a way to make Shonn Greene a bigger part in the offense. A powerful back like Greene needs to be utilized as much as possible, especially if you have an unreliable quarterback under center. Greene has 25 yards on 6 carries thus far tonight.

9:22: Another punt coming for the Jets. The good news for Jets fans, however, is that at least Sanchez appears to be spreading the ball out and getting everyone involved. Five completions to five different players (Edwards, Greene, Cumberland, Bilal Powell and Konrad Reuland).

9:24: There's something we haven't seen in a while, but doesn't come as much of a surprise. Sure, I've been hard on Chris Johnson, but we all know he can break a long run at any moment. That's what he just did: 94 yard rushing touchdown for CJ. Longest run in franchise history for Tennessee. 7-3 Titans.

It was the sixth 80+ yard TD of Johnson's 5-year career with the Titans. Also the 48th touchdown of his career, rushing and receiving (including postseason).

Johnson has the names of all 20 of the victims of the Newtown, CT school shooting on his cleats tonight (photo shown below), and that TD was no doubt dedicated to those children and the families of the children.
9:30: Tim Tebow stays in the game for two consecutive plays, as he runs for a first down while running the triple option. Two tight ends were lined up in the backfield along with RB Joe McKnight. They're changing things up a bit on offense here.

9:35: This actually may be the longest I've seen Tebow in a game at one time this season. Four straight now as the Jets face a 3rd & 16 following a delay of game. He miraculously avoids a second straight sack and throws the ball away to bring up 4th down. I'm not really sure what Rex Ryan is doing here, to tell you the truth. Titans get the ball back with just over 6 minutes to play in the half.

Here's Locker's chance to start to break this one open. If he really wants to, anyways.

9:41: Tennessee's offensive line is really struggling tonight. New York doesn't even need to blitz, they are getting pressure on Locker with their front line and Johnson can't even get back to the line. If you take away NY's one mistake that led to the 94-yard TD, CJ has managed just 9 yards on 9 carries.

9:44: We've been waiting for this for a while now, appears to be a Sanchez interception (Jason McCourty). It will be reviewed to determine whether McCourty was in bounds, but if the play is upheld it'll be Mark's 14th interception of the season and Tennessee ball.

Call is confirmed upstairs, Titans ball. It appears as though the Jets are already throwing in the towel and we still have four minutes until halftime. Coming up with a defensive stop and going into the half with a 7-3 deficit would be a huge win for NY.

9:47: Locker is still running for his life and is forced to step out of bounds on third down. There's the stop that I just mentioned. 3 & out. This game is as ugly as I was expecting.

9:52: "4-9 football teams do 4-9 things" --Jon Gruden. Sounds about right.

2 minute warning in Tennessee.

9:57: Does anyone wanna win this one? A promising start to a late Tennessee drives stalls after another Locker sack and a near-interception. The Jets are trying to force things to happen and neither team can get any sort of rhythm. The Jets final drive of the half ends with a Sanchez sack. U-G-L-Y.

Halftime: Titans 7, Jets 3
Sanchez's first half rating: 16.7
One explosive offensive play: C. Johnson 94-yard TD
1 turnover (Sanchez INT)
4 total sacks, 7 combined punts
*Johnson's TD run is the only first half highlight worth mentioning

Third Quarter
*What's the over/under that the Jets break 200 total yards for the game (99 total yards in first half...81 of which came on the ground)? Our pre-game 24-10 prediction is looking pretty generous right now.

10:16: Rex Ryan was impressed by Johnson's run, apparently saying at halftime that he's "never seen anything like it before."

10:18: First offensive play of the second half is Braylon's 2nd catch of the game, moving the chains already. New York had 10 first half first downs.

10:20: Another Sanchez mistake, overthrowing Cumberland and straight into the hands of McCourty. It's McCourty's second INT of the night and 4th of the season. Titans take over at the NY 46 for their first offensive drive of half No. 2.

10:23: Locker loves the bootlegs to his right, he thrives off them as he just picked up TEN's 7th first down of the evening. It was Kenny Britt's first catch of the game, 41st of the season according to ESPN's Mike Tirico.

10:25: Penalties continue to destroy any hope the Titans generate, a holding call takes Tennessee out of field goal range and a failed 3rd down conversion will force another Brett Kern punt. The penalty was Tennessee's eighth of the game.

10:38: Tennessee takes over at their own 10 as they attempt to get a scoring drive going for the first time since early in the second quarter.

10:40: Another 3 & out. Kern will make his 6th punt of the night deep inside his own end zone. The punt goes out of bounds at their own 35, giving New York fantastic field position. If New York can't get anything out of this next drive, then all hope will officially go down the drain, despite the score still being just 7-3.

10:43: A 20-yard run by Joe McKnight puts the Jets at the TEN 15-yard line and pushes the Jets over the 100-yard mark on the ground. Total group effort: McKnight 35, Greene 35, Powell 20, Tebow 15, Sanchez 4. 109 total.

10:45: Tennessee brings the heat but Sanchez gets the ball out quickly to TE Cumberland for a TD. Linebacker Tim Shaw (McCarthy's replacement) has good coverage on the play but seems to lose track of where the ball is. The 17-yard touchdown through the air and the extra point by Folk gives NY a 10-7 lead with just over three minutes to play in the quarter.

Maybe the Jets do have some fight in them, as they were able to take advantage of the poor punt from Kern.

10:49: More pressure on Locker as he overthrows Nate Washington by a couple of feet on a deep pass down the right sideline. Can Jake get a little protection at all tonight?

It's a good thing he's still got that play-action bootleg to the right in his arsenal, as he hooks up with rookie Michael Preston for a first down on the next play.

10:50: Second red zone attempt of the game for the Titans. Last one came in the first quarter and ended with a blocked FG off the leg of Bironas.

10:54: Locker takes the ball into the end zone himself on a designed running play to his left, following his lead blockers the whole way. Locker was 3-for-4 on the drive before he capped it with a 13-yard TD run. A Bironas extra point gives Tennessee the lead back, 14-10, with under a minute to play in the third.

10:56: A short run on first down by Powell takes us to the end of the quarter. With 15 minutes to play, Tennessee leads the Jets 14-10. Rex Ryan better get his squad to rally together as they only have one quarter left to stay alive in the playoff hunt.

Fourth Quarter
*Tennessee leads nearly every offensive category through three quarters of play with the exception of total plays, first downs and giveaways.

11:03: New York has limited the penalties tonight, but there was a crucial one on that 3rd & 2 that eventually led to a punt after Akeem Ayers sacked Mark Sanchez (4th sack for Titans tonight). Titans offense back on the field at LP Field.

11:07: Neither team has managed to keep its quarterback upright on 3rd downs. Locker is dropped for the fourth time tonight as well, forcing another Kern punt and another fair catch from NY return man Jeremy Kerley. A holding call against the kicking team (Titans) adds 10 yards on to the end of the play, giving New York solid field position to start the next drive.

11:10: Two consecutive short passes that Sanchez has now missed, both check down passes. He's now 9/21 for just 93 yards.

Sanchez completes a pass for 8 yards on 3rd and 10. Another punt coming, but hey, at least Sanchez is now over the 100 passing yards mark for the night!! That's good news, right?? His rating has climbed to 36.7 for the game as well. Offense still not making any progress, however.

11:14: Tennessee's penalty count just went up to 12 for 86 yards after Deuce Lutui is called for holding. Basically tackled his man.

Cromartie barely misses an interception on the very next play. If "almost-interceptions" counted as interceptions, I think Locker would have about 3 so far tonight. Ouch.

11:19: Locker underthrows an open Lavelle Hawkins on 3rd and long. The two teams have combined for a 7-for-23 3rd down conversion rate tonight. New York takes back over at their own 23-yard line after Kern's eighth punt of the game. I'm feeling a long, 10-play scoring drive from Sanchez. We're overdue for one, wouldn't you say?

11:21: It had appeared as though Rex Ryan had come to his senses. Started this drive with a couple of Shonn Greene carries which resulted in a first down, but then a deep Sanchez pass intended for Edwards was picked off by Michael Griffin. Errant throw which was unnecessary. Tried to force it in, gave Griffin an easy INT.

Another holding penalty against Tennessee on Griffin's return negated the decent field position, but Tennessee holds possession with a four-point lead and 7 minutes to play, nevertheless.

11:24: Another designed run play for Locker comes up one yard short on 3rd down. Tennessee only managed to take off about a minute and a half on the game clock before the ball was given back to Sanchez and Co.

With 5:20 to play, this drive (starting at NY's own 8) may be New York's final chance to re-take the lead.

11:27: With Greene getting the ball on 3 of the first 4 plays this drive, I just thought I'd share with you the impact he's made on offense this season...In the 6 NY wins, Greene has been heavily involved. But in the team's 7 losses, Greene got 16 or fewer rushing attempts and just 1 total TD.

Take the ball out of Sanchez's hands and into Greene's for 25+ times a game, Rex. That's all I'm going to say. He's received 20 or more carries on just four occasions this season, all of which resulted in victories.

11:30: More Tennessee penalties have kept the NY drive alive as we reach the two-minute warning in Nashville. Will be interesting to see if Sanchez can close this one out and stay alive in the postseason hunt.

11:33: Uhm, oh my. What on earth was that? Inside Tennessee's 25-yard line and Sanchez throws another errant pass off his back foot, into triple coverage. Griffin makes his second pick of the game and gives the Titans the ball back inside their own 5 with 1:51 to play. Sanchez's 4th of the game and 17th INT on the year.


11:35: Tennessee plays it safe and gives it to Johnson three straight times. The result? Four total yards and a Kern punt with :53 to play. New York will get the ball back one more time with zero timeouts.

11:37: Wacky ending to this one. For the second time this game Kern kicks one off the side of his foot and the Jets will get the ball at the TEN 25.

11:38: First play for New York's offense and Sanchez FUMBLES the snap out of the gun and gives the ball up for the 5th time this game. With no TOs left, Locker can kneel the ball and run out the final 39 seconds of play.

Unbelievable finish. Titans improve to 5-9 while the Jets fall to 6-8 and are eliminated from the postseason for the second consecutive season after two straight AFC Championship appearances.

FINAL: Titans 14, Jets 10

More recap and reaction from tonight's game, as well as the rest of Week 15, will come tomorrow morning/afternoon. Thanks for following along tonight!

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