(Cam Newton photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
(Russell Wilson cover photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Minnesota and Washington weren’t the only losers Sunday. So was top-ranked Carolina, and here’s why: With the Vikings out, the Panthers play sixth-seeded Seattle … not Green Bay … next weekend, and this is what we know about the Seahawks: 1) They’ve run the table in the NFC playoffs the previous two seasons; 2) they may get Marshawn Lynch back; 3) they’re hot, winning seven of their last eight and 4) they’re road tested. In their last six road games, they’ve allowed a total of one … that’s one … touchdown … and won all six. What’s more they surrendered the fewest TD passes (14) this season and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year. Carolina, you’ve met your match. Yeah, I know, the Panthers beat Seattle Oct. 18, but that was then, and this is now, and now … well, now the Seahawks are en fuego. OK, so they got lucky vs. Minnesota. But I’d rather be lucky AND good, and Seattle is both. Which means … which means we could be looking at a Seattle-Arizona conference championship game.
2. Biggest winners in the AFC: Denver and New England. The Broncos are home to a Steelers club that may not have Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. At best, both will be handicapped by injuries. At worst, they may be missing … and tell me how the Steelers win without them. Answer: They don’t. New England plays a white-hot Kansas City team that could be without star receiver Jeremy Maclin, and, yeah, I know it won without him in the only game he missed this season. But I also know it was vs. Pittsburgh when the Steelers were without Roethlisberger.
3. I guess that means we may be in store for Manning-Brady XVII, and I’ll take that. So will the NFL.
4. Another big winner Sunday: Arizona. Instead of Seattle, an opponent that torched the Cards at home last weekend, it takes on Green Bay … and hallelujah. Arizona shredded the Packers two weeks ago, 38-8, sacking Aaron Rodgers eight times.
5. That’s the best Green Bay has looked in weeks, and credit an offensive line that too often resembled an open window this season. It not only protected Rodgers, who was sacked 13 times the past two weeks, but opened holes for Eddie Lacy and James Starks. I’ve always said that if the Packers are to go deep in the playoffs they absolutely, positively must get their ground game going … and they did, piling up 141 yards and two TDs.
6. The last time Green Bay scored 35 points was Week 3 vs. Kansas City. The Packers are going to need more of that to stay with Arizona.
7. Roethlisberger reportedly has an A/C sprain in his right shoulder, but you have to believe he plays in Denver. I mean, if he could play the last series vs. Cincinnati it seems logical he suits up seven days later.
8. I’ll be honest, I’m pulling for the Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champs. Reason: I want to be there when Roger Goodell hands the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady and Robert Kraft.
9. In Vikings’ lore, Blair Walsh = Gary Anderson. One difference: Anderson’s missed kick in the 1998 playoffs cost the Vikings a Super Bowl.
10. Who says defense doesn’t matter? Six of the top nine defensive clubs are still alive in the playoffs.
11. If Seattle makes it to the Super Bowl I suggest Sean Penn interview Marshawn Lynch.
12. So much for home-field advantage. The four home teams not only lost; they were outscored 93-43. Now that changes, with all home teams favored for the divisional round of the playoffs.
13. Reports have coach Marvin Lewis returning in Cincinnati, and while I’m all for continuity I couldn’t go on with a coach who can’t win a playoff game and can’t control his players. This one goes straight to the top, and what owner Mike Brown is telling you is that he’s content to win the season and not the playoffs.
14. Of everything I read out of that Bengals’ locker room, this was the most damning: “You put up with enough (expletive) for enough time, guys think they can continually do it.” That was tackle Andrew Whitworth, and it tells you why these guys turn into pumpkins every January. Too many knuckleheads on the roster.
15. This just in: The San Diego Chargers just offered Marvin Lewis an extension.
16. Roger Goodell says the current stadiums in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland are “unsatisfactory” and “inadequate.” Wonder how he’d characterize the current officiating in the NFL.
17. If I were Washington I’d "franchise" Kirk Cousins. Reason: Nick Foles. He had a monster season in 2013 and then fizzled. I like Cousins, but I want to see him put two solid seasons together before committing big money to him. So "franchise" him for one season. You like that?
18. So now Jerry Jones is pushing a Chargers-Rams shared stadium in Inglewood. Excuse me, but Isn’t that what Stan Kroenke allies proposed a month ago?
19. Miami’s hiring of Adam Gase settles the question of what the Dolphins do with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He stays, and it’s up to Gase to reconstruct him. “I think he needs a guy that’s going to have his back,” Gase said. He’s right. A head coach … and an offensive line.
20. The NFL has no choice but to suspend Burfict for the 2016 season opener. Fines don’t seem to make a difference with this miscreant. Maybe missing a paycheck will.
21. Upon further review, Burfict and Jones should’ve just kept running after that fourth-quarter interception, never to appear again.
22. What did all four wildcard winners have in common, other than they were all road teams? Uh-huh, each had the better quarterback in its game.
23. I feel your pain, Houston, but that’s what happens when your first two options at quarterback are Browns’ rejects.
24. Jon Gruden asks what the 49ers must be thinking now that Alex Smith is in the divisional playoffs. Answer: Nothing. When they replaced him with Colin Kaepernick, Kaepernick took them to the Super Bowl one year and conference championship game the next. They got what they wanted from him then. You can’t have it both ways, Jon.
25. I feel a whole lot better knowing that Rob Ryan will join his brother to pump up the Bills' defense.
THIS WEEKEND’S HALL OF FAME
(Aaron Rodgers photo courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. That’s more like it. The only mistake he made was telling coach Mike McCarthy to challenge a fourth-quarter catch that had no hope of being overturned.
Kansas City TE Travis Kelce. He killed the Texans in Week One, and he killed them in Week Eighteen – catching nearly half (8) of Alex Smith’s 17 completions. I don’t know, but after what happened in the opener (106 yards) don’t you think someone would cover this guy?
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. Talk about courage. The guy led a game-winning drive with one arm.
Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier. Not only did he have a game-high 13 tackles; he saved the Steelers’ season by forcing that Jeremy Hill fumble.
Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett. Minnesota is still trying to figure out to block him. Hard to believe, the Seahawks once cut him. Now, nobody can solve him.
Washington TE Jordan Reed. He was Washington’s most dangerous receiver, and stop if you heard this before. Reed had over 100 yards in catches for the third time in the last five games and became the first tight end in Washington franchise history to have 100 or more yards in playoff catches.
Former Minnesota coach Bud Grant. It's minus-6 in Minneapolis, and Grant, 88, walks on to the field for pre-game ceremonies in a polo shirt ... no jacket ... showing everyone just how much the weather bothered him. No wonder he's in the Hall of Fame. Nothing gets to him. It's the coldest game in franchise history and third-coldest in league history, and he's dressed for a round of golf.
THIS WEEKEND’S HALL OF SHAME
(Bill O'Brien photo courtesy of the Houston Texans)
Houston QB Brian Hoyer. After committing five turnovers, including four interceptions, he said you can’t judge his career on one game. Maybe not, but that’s how he’ll be remembered.
Washington WR DeSean Jackson. Memo to DeSean: It’s not a touchdown until the ball crosses the line. By non-chalanting that 15-yard catch near the goal line Jackson cost his team a TD. Then he disappeared.
Cincinnati LB Vontaze Burfict. Now you know why the guy wasn’t drafted.
Cincinnati CB Adam Jones. To quote Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Cincinnati RB Jeremy Hill. He said his fumble “cost us the game,” and he’s right. We wouldn’t be talking about these other creeps had he held on to the ball. But misery loves company, Jeremy, and this is your lucky day. You get to share game balls with Burfict, Jones and your head coach.
Minnesota PK Blair Walsh. It’s hard to understand how a guy this good inside the 30 could miss a six-inch putt. ”It’s a chip shot,” coach Mike Zimmer said of the 27-yard attempt. “He’s got to make it.”
“Bengals beat the Bengals.” – Cincinnati defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
0-7 - Marvin Lewis in the playoffs
2 – Playoff victories by teams in the Super Bowl era after being shut out the first three quarters
3-4 – Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XLV
4 – Ben Roethlisberger fourth-quarter come-from-behind wins in the playoffs
4-0 -- Russell Wilson vs. Minnesota
6-0 – Andy Reid vs. Houston
8-3 -- Pete Carroll in the playoffs with Seattle
12-2 – Ben Roethlisberger's record in Cincinnati
38 – Adrian Peterson career fumbles
45 – Adrian Peterson rushing yards vs. Seattle