Another crazy sequence of games has drastically altered the NFL playoff picture. What were some takeaways from key games?
The Seattle Seahawks picked a really bad time to lose at home
Not every game has been pretty but most agreed the Seattle Seahawks were the team to beat heading into the postseason on the strength of a dominant defense, power running game and highly intelligent quarterback. Not to mention the best homefield advantage in the league. The one thing that scared so many people was that aura of invincibility the Seahawks had at home. How could anyone hope to beat them there in the playoffs. Well, the question no longer needs answering. The Arizona Cardinals, who lost in Seattle last year 58-0, took it to the Seahawks early and finished off late in a stunning 17-10 triumph. Not only did it rob Seattle of clinching home field, it destroyed the aura as well. As the playoffs get underway, teams will go in believing they have a chance.
Philip Rivers has all but wrapped up Comeback Player of the Year
Mike McCoy vowed when he took over the San Diego Chargers that the team was going to rally around veteran quarterback Philip Rivers and regain their winning form rather than starting from scratch. Despite several bumps along the way, it seems that promise is so close to being realized. Long odds aside, the Bolts might just complete an improbable run to the playoffs if they win in the regular season finale and get losses from Baltimore and Miami, two teams who lost on Sunday. Rivers sits at the heart of everything, enjoyed one of his best, most efficient seasons of a Pro Bowl career. After most left him for dead in 2012, his turnaround will garner serious consideration for Comeback Player of the Year.
Cam Newton has graduated from top draft pick to true pro
Questions always follow the first overall draft pick, especially when it’s a quarterback. That cloud hung over Cam Newton ever since his name was called in 2011 and doubts began to get louder after a rocky start to this year. Then, with help from a suffocating defense, the third-year kid out of Auburn began to mature not just as a passer but as a quarterback. He started playing the game the right way rather than simply trying to put up big numbers and score points. Never was that clearer than when his team absolutely had to have a drive against the rival New Orleans Saints, the division title at stake. In that sequence, Newton passed his graduation exam, firing the winning touchdown pass and making his first trip to the playoffs as a pro.
The Indianapolis Colts are the biggest enigma heading into playoffs
Every team has their ups and downs during an NFL season, but then there is the Indianapolis Colts. Heading into the playoffs there is not a harder team to read in terms of where they stand among the top teams. One week they get hammered by an opponent by 30 points and the next they return the favor to what many thought was a top tier team. That was on display again as the Colts dominated the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead Stadium. This is the same Indy team that was humiliated by Cincinnati 42-28 just two weeks ago. It basically means they have become a boom or bust playoff team. Nobody knows for certain what they’ll do, and that is a scary thought.
Jim Schwartz has squandered his last opportunity
The Detroit Lions fans have got to be wondering how bad their luck can get. By all appearances they had the best team in the NFC North going into December and were just a couple more wins away from clinching the division title. Instead they coughed up three games in a row, including two at home, to fall out of the playoff picture all together. That failure falls directly at the feet of head coach Jim Schwartz. Too often his team has not played with enough urgency or discipline when it matters, which explains their mind-numbing mistakes in big situations. Not all of it is on him, but that won’t stop management from shopping for a new head coach in 2014.