Monday, December 26, 2016

NFL Christmas Weekend Goes Down Hard

Back in the day, on old-school SportsCenter, Keith Olbermann's schtick included his spoof of Al Davis' northeastern drawl reciting the phrase, "The other team's quarterback must go down and he must go down hard."  It would come out as "Th'uthuh teamz' quaddaback must go down and he must go down HOD."  

Problem is on Christmas weekend in the NFL numerous teams and two key quarterbacks all went down hard.  

The Oakland Raiders' season reached the most wins since 2000 but Derek Carr was knocked out of the game and it threw Oakland's pending playoff run into uncertainty, while the Indianapolis Colts' season effectively ended.

The Titans likewise went down hard in an ugly 38-17 loss at the Jacksonville Jaguars, extending a streak of eight seasons where the two teams split their semi-annual meetings.   Marcus Mariota suffered a serious injury himself, ending Tennessee's playoff bid.   People say the league is better when the Raiders are contenders; it's also better when the Titans - one of the two flagship teams (the Chiefs are the other when they were the Dallas Texans) of the American Football League when they were the Houston Oilers - are contenders.  

The win was a huge morale-booster for the beleaguered  Jaguars, the kind of game a lot of people expected of Jacksonville at the start of the year, and a good start for new coach Doug Marrone.

NY Jets coach Todd Bowles was briefly hospitalized with a health scare the night before the game at the Patriots; he went home with a football ulcer as the NY Jets were....well, the NY Jets again, as Bryce Petty's only "completion" before HE went down was an interception.    An inexplicably timed timeout by the Jets further allowed the Patriots to score at the end of the first half.   

This has been a year of memorable anniversaries - for the Jets 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the disastrous 1996 squad where the Jets spent a then-record $70 million on free agent and rookie talent and won ONE game.

Two stunners saw identical 34-31 scores and had significant playoff implications.   First the Bills rallied to take a 31-28 lead, but the Dolphins tied it and after the Bills missed a FGA in OT the Dolphins won it and while perhaps hastening Rex Ryan's potential firing they improved their possession of the AFC's 6th seed......

.......while the Cardinals knocked the NFC West champs out of the playoff byes with an amazing 34-31 win.

Meanwhile the Ravens and Broncos fell out of the playoff hunt.   While the Ravens fought hard in a back-and-forth affair at Pittsburgh - the Steelers, now AFC North champs, won for only the fourth time in the last thirteen meetings - the Broncos were never in it at Kansas City and suffered the ultimate embarrassment when Dontari Poe threw a touchdown.    The confluence of events secured the playoffs for the Dolphins with their season finale against the Patriots next week.

By beating the Seahawks, the Cardinals put the Falcons in the #2 seed in the NFC after the Falcons crushed the Panthers, leaving their season in ruins with one game left.   The regression of the Panthers has been mystifying and also comes amid a bizarre rumor that the Rams want to sign Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

The weirdest moment came when line judge Sarah Thomas - part of Jeff Triplette's crew - got run over on the sideline.  

The most disgusting loss of the weekend was yet another failure by the Detroit Lions against a quality opponent, the kind of opponent Matthew Stafford needs to beat yet every year fails to do - at one point he was 3-40 against quality opponents  and one offhand hesitates to think the ratio has in any way improved - and the result this time was a 42-21 implosion against the 13-2 Dallas Cowboys and the prospect of having to beat the Green Bay Packers - something Stafford has done a miserable three times in his eight seasons in the NFL - just to make the playoffs.

While the Redskins suddenly have their playoff fate in front of them after a rout of the Bears.   They can make the playoffs by beating the Giants next week

In all a LOT of people - and a number of teams - all went down hard on Christmas weekend.   And the end result is the playoffs are around the corner.

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