So can we discuss what just happened?
The NFL makes its name off of unpredictability, high drama, unyielding physicality and acrobatic amazement. The NFL combines all of those things, puts it on a football field, and glosses them up for maximum audience entertainment.
That’s the NFL in a nutshell and why it works as the premier American sporting organization that it is. You never know exactly what to expect but, whatever it is, it’s usually memorable. But this year, even by NFL standards, it was on another level.
Getting every prediction correct is a pipe dream idea that I never expect to actually see in real life. Just know right way that prognosticating is a fancy parlor trick and anyone who brags about being right more then half of the time is a stone cold liar.
In September I authored our first NFC Preview and, as you can see, had a few hits and misses. I predicted the Green Bay Packers were gonna win their division and roll to the Super Bowl. Hey, I’ll take credit for that no doubt. They finished strong and captured the NFC Central title. Of course, I also thought the Eagles and Saints were gonna win their respective divisions and both teams struggled through the 2012 campaign. Particularly the Eagles, who put forth their worst season in this millennium.
They opened with a weak “at least they won the game” victory over a sorry Cleveland team, and after beating Baltimore the next week, marched into October at 3-1.The national media was ready to crown them, but I knew better on that one. Littered with a mismatched roster, a coaching staff seemingly at odds with one another, Nnamdi Asomugha’s horrible cover skills and Vick’s historical turnover issue resulted in a 4-12 campaign. All this losing finally cost Andy Reid his job.
Adrian Peterson’s comeback would be the story of the year, normally, but, this season, his resurrection from a torn ACL is not the main story. Purple Jesus freaks are cussin’ me out in a hybrid English-Scandinavian right now I assume, but let’s be real for a second. There is zero question that what A.D. has done in these last few months has been nothing short of awe-inspiring and legendary. Eric Dickerson was that dude in the mid-80s – so for anyone to come within nine yards of breaking his record certainly gets a handclap for me.
But his ordeal can’t compare to Peyton Manning’s. There were real discussions about him being forced into retirement and not only did he come back good as ever, he did it on a new team. I personally think both Peterson and Manning had MVP caliber seasons, and the only sensible way of settling this is for them to share the award. Any conversation avoiding that reality immediately becomes null and void.
This doesn’t even consider BountyGate, which after all of the hoopla, ended up being one of the NFL's most embarrasing moments.
One could argue that the investigation into the Saints supposed bounty program was the story of the year, but it's hard to look past those rookie QBs.
Who had a better season? No idea. You don’t either. RG3 has gotten a lot of support, maybe too much. Actually…it has been too much. Griffin III has benefited from a fortified east coast bias. His numbers (20 TDs, 3,200 passing yards and a 65% percent completion rate) back up the adulation, so it’s hard to go against him. I write this even while saying he’s my rookie of the year, but it’s by the slightest margin imaginable. We’re talking “sliver of baby hair” slight. But he simply did more with less. Injuries to Redskins defenders Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo lessened the strength of Washington’s defense and pushed more of the burden onto RG3’s shoulders. All he did was respond in every way, every week.
As for Russell Wilson, he was compartmentalized up in the wet air of Seattle, and, because of that, he can deservedly play the underrated card. He actually threw more touchdowns than both Andrew Luck and Griffin III (26, breaking Peyton Manning’s rookie record) and passed for 3,118 yards. His only fault is that Seattle’s defense, which, as we get closer to the playoffs, looks more formidable by the hour. They're as good as San Fran or anyone else out there. It's not hyperbole at all to say that the Seahawks have a Super Bowl level defense.
Statistically, Luck had the most interceptions out of the three (18), but he also played under an entirely different set of circumstances. While Luck and Griffin III were championed by thirsty QB-deficient fanbases, Luck had to come into Indianapolis and replace the irreplaceable Manning. That’s hard enough, but couple that with his head coach Chuck Pagano being sidelined with leukemia and he had the highest bar to get over. He still tossed the rock for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns.
All three of them are in the playoffs. That in itself is amazing. Speaking of playoffs...
Wild Card Picks
Minnesota at Green Bay. On paper this game looks great. Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the game and Peterson the best RB of his generation. But I have my doubts about whether Vikings signal caller Christian Ponder can double up and have two consecutive strong performances against the Packer defense. A.D. will get his, but ultimately it won’t be enough. I like Green Bay to blow it open in the second half.
Seattle at Washington. So remember what I said about Wilson being underrated through no fault of his own? This is gonna be his “if you don’t know, now you know” game and I expect him to put up a strong stat line. It’ll be close until Seattle’s defense scores a TD to seal the win.
Indianapolis at Baltimore. Indy had a great year, a TV movie great year and they should all be proud. But there is no way, the Ravens are losing to the Colts (of all teams) in the first game of the Ray Lewis’ farewell tour. Ravens are gonna roll in this one.
Cincinnati at Houston. Matt Schaub is getting his first taste of playoff food (he was injured last postseason) and hopefully he doesn’t find it too spicy. He’s gonna have to complete several throws on 3rd down, otherwise things might get outta hand. Arian Foster should have a big afternoon, but so will Bengal's defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Please remember that name, because he’s gonna be all over the place. If Cincy wins, it will be because of him. I still like the Texans, but its gonna be close.