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Week 16 Judgements: Seahawks repay Packers for stolen win

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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Thank you, Seattle. Three months ago, Green Bay fans cursed the Seahawks (not to mention replacement officials) for an unforgivable Packers' loss that wasn't a loss at all. Well, it took awhile, but justice has been served, and it was the Seahawks who served it. They did what was right and fair and returned Green Bay to a position where it can gain the second of two first-round playoff byes. It happened with Sunday night's defeat of the 49ers, with San Francisco dropping a half-game behind the Packers, and consider that payback for a victory the Seahawks know wasn't theirs. Green Bay should be the second seed, and, thanks to those dreaded Seahawks, will be if it beats Minnesota next week.

2. Make next Sunday's game the biggest of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's career ... because if he doesn't win, Dallas doesn't make the playoffs. So what? So if he doesn't win, the Cowboys finish 8-8 ... again ... which almost certainly puts the kibosh on Garrett's career in Dallas.

3. If the playoffs were to end today, it would be Washington hosting Seattle, and that means two things: 1) Russell Wilson vs. RG3 and 2) boffo TV ratings. Too bad the Offensive Rookie of the Year votes will have been collected. If there's one defense that can track RG3, it's Seattle, but the Seahawks are a vastly different team on the road ... when that road doesn't lead to Soldier Field.

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4. I watch RG3 limping against Philadelphia, and where some people see a gutsy performance I think: Why didn't the Redskins rest him one more week?

5. People keep talking about how maybe, just maybe, Washington should trade Kirk Cousins, and my response is: Why? He's the perfect backup for a starting quarterback who's going to get hurt.

6. Trust me, there are a lot of people happy that Seattle probably doesn't win the NFC West. Nobody wants to go there in the playoffs, and for good reason: The Seahawks don't lose at home.

7. There is nobody who benefited more from Baltimore's victory Sunday than the Packers and 49ers. The Giants beat each twice in the past 12 months, knocking off San Francisco at Candlestick both times and destroying the Packers by a combined score of 75-30. In fact, Green Bay's only loss the past 10 games? It was to the Giants.

8. Indianapolis has a lot of support next weekend from a couple of unexpected sources: Denver and New England. If the Colts were to upset Houston -- and Indianapolis is 6-1 at home -- the Broncos and Patriots gain first-round byes, not Houston.

9. So the Colts are the fifth seed for the AFC playoffs, which means ... yep, they're virtually certain to play a first-round game vs. Baltimore in Baltimore. So what? So it's the Colts returning to Baltimore, that's what, and it's going to be ugly.

10. Guess that makes Baltimore's Jim Caldwell the leading candidate for Comeback Coach of the Week.

11. Atlanta should be worried about Green Bay. The Packers not only are red hot, winning nine of their last 10. But they went to the Georgia Dome the last time the Falcons had home-field advantage (2010) and won a playoff game ... big.

12. Interim coach Bruce Arians should be a legit Coach of the Year candidate. He's 9-3 and has the Colts into the playoffs one year after they bottomed out at 2-14. His reward? He loses his job Monday to Chuck Pagano, and, believe me, that's nothing but good for everyone. But Sunday was nothing but perfect for Arians. He led the Colts into the playoffs, and the team that ditched him -- Pittsburgh -- was eliminated. Who says life is not fair?

13. Consider that a Joe Flacco rebuttal to critics.

14. Adrian Peterson doesn't run for 100 yards for the first time in nine games, yet he may have narrowed the MVP race. The reason? ... The Vikings are a bonafide playoff contender.

15. So Tennessee owner Bud Adams wants an explantion for this season, huh? How about this: the Titans stink. Anyone who watched them against the Jets knows, and it starts with the quarterback (Jake Locker).

16. Maybe the Jets' strategy is to show disgruntled fans just how bad their options are without Mark Sanchez. If so, they succeeded.

17. The Jets just allowed 11 sacks, and they're supposed to be interested in Michael Vick? Vick doesn't need more punishment, and the Jets don't need another distraction.

18. I don't know, but from where I sit it looks like the entire Houston Texans team is suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

19. The Steelers are out of the playoffs, and you can't blame the play-calling this time, Big Ben. All but three of Cincinnati's points were the result of Roethlisberger interceptions -- including the game-winning field goal.

20. How appropriate that it was Reggie Wayne who caught the game-winning pass for Indianapolis.

21. Funny what happens when you put the ball in Ray Rice's hands. New offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell apparently got the message. Rice had 15 touches last weekend; he had 17 in the first half Sunday and 30 for the game.

22. If you're going to make a play for Tim Tebow you must be prepared to blow up a conventional offense and try something different, something imaginative, much as Denver did a year ago ... which means he's ideal for Jacksonville.

23. Remember when Dez Bryant said "they'd have to break my leg to keep me out?" Guess he meant it.

24. Best player who won't win one Offensive Rookie of the Year vote: Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh.

25. Best player who probably won't win one Defensive Player of the Year vote: Cincinnati defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

You make the call

The New York Jets are a disaster, and there are all sorts of suggestions for making them better. So I quizzed my Twitter followers, and here are some of their responses:

1. Roy Viola @ Roy Viola Jr.: "Hire Marc Ross to be GM. Moving expenses minimal. And football upgrade substantial. Would hate to see him leave NYG."

2. Rich Quodomine @ RDQ geography: "How about a new offensive coordinator? How about Norv Turner?"

3. Guerguin Lionel @ Samsdad15: "They should bring in both Alex Smith and (Greg) Roman."

4. Matthew Bingham @ mwb27: "Jets' 1st Xmas wish s/b total overhaul of front office. Players didn't ask 2 B overdrafted/overpaid."

5. Disable @ Disable MMi: "New GM, either (Eric) DeCosta from the Ravens or Marc Ross from the Giants."

Five things I like

1. Joe Vitt going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 23. It was the second quarter, and he was down by a touchdown. Instead of kicking a field goal -- or, perhaps, missing another -- Vitt looked at his "What Would Sean Do?" wristband and took a Payton-like risk. It paid off when Anthony Spencer jumped offsides, and the Saints gained the first. They later scored a tying TD.

2. Janoris Jenkins and the end zone. For the record, that was the fourth score of the season for the Rams' cornerback ... all in the second half of the season. Yes, Jenkins was a risk, but since coach Jeff Fisher punished him down for the first San Francisco game he's been terrific.

3. San Diego's Danario Alexander. How in the world was he not on an NFL roster until two months ago? A street free-agent, he's been far better than Robert Meachem or Eddie Royal, two of the Chargers' free-agent signings.

4. The New York Jets' defense. There is nothing wrong with this side of the ball. Look at the third-down conversions by opponents the past four weeks. There haven't been many. In fact, over that time opponents are 6-for-56 on third downs.

5. Phil Dawson on the road. All six of his field goals of 50 or more yards have come there.

Five things I don't

1. That Manning vs. Manning Super Bowl in New Orleans. Sorry, Peyton, but Lil'Brother didn't uphold his end of the deal.

2. Mike Mularkey playing it safe on fourth-and-1 at the Jacksonville 49. It was midway through the second quarter, and his Jaguars were leading 13-3. He had nothing to lose but another game. So why take the safe road? Live a little, Mike. But that's the problem. That's exactly what he does: Live a little.

3. That knee injury to the 49ers' Mario Manningham. Blame it on Colin Kaepernick for getting the pass out late. All I know is that Manningham's left knee bent in a way it's not supposed to bend, and this is a team that ... as we learned in last year's playoffs ... can't afford to sacrifice wide receivers. Not now.

4. Cincinnati on third-and-1. There was just under one minute left, and the game was tied. The Bengals needed one lousy yard, so they passed. But it wasn't a high-percentage try. Nope, it was a bomb to A.J. Green down the sideline, and it wasn't close. Cincinnati got lucky.

5. San Francisco without Justin Smith. The 49ers have the league's best defense, and I'm not talking about rankings. I'm talking about downright physical play that intimidates opponents and keeps scores down. Only they didn't keep the score down Sunday night, and, just a hunch, but Smith's absence had plenty to do with it.

Five guys who have some 'splaining to do

1. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. It's fourth-and-22 at the Pittsburgh 33, early in the third quarter. The Bengals lead by three, and Lewis could try a field goal or punt. So he goes for it. Huh? I don't understand, either."Major mistake!" tweeted Boomer Esiason. "Momentum changing decision."

2. N.Y. Giants cornerback Corey Webster. If it seemed Baltimore was targeting him it's only because it was. Once upon a time, this guy was pretty steady. Not Sunday. He stunk.

3. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. There aren't many people playing better football right now, so why does this guy continue to act like a child? This time he's flagged for bumping referee Jerome Bolger, and I don't care that he apologized afterward. He should've been tossed.

4. Kansas City offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. It's fourth-and-1. You're tied. And it's early in the fourth quarter. You have Jamaal Charles you can call on. Or you have Peyton Hillis. I mean, geez, these guys shredded Indianapolis for 352 yards ... rushing. So whom does Daboll choose? Uh-huh, Brady Quinn, and he's snuffed. Brutal.

5. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. He had eight interceptions in his first 12 starts this year; he has eight in his last two. What's going on? I'm beginning to wonder if Freeman is the guy who can be the foundation of the franchise because ... well, because he doesn't take care of the ball. He had 22 interceptions last season; he has 16 now. Not good.

Just asking but ...

 Why wasn't Cam Newton ejected for bumping an official?

 When do we start paying more attention to Marshawn Lynch?

 How critical is that decision on Richard Sherman to Seattle's playoff success?

 Is Todd Haley back next year with the Steelers?

 Could somebody put out an APB for the Giants' pass rush?

Numbers to remember

1 -- Eagles interceptions the last nine games
3 -- Touchdown runs of 80 or more yards by Jamaal Charles
3 -- Straight seasons where Drew Brees threw for 4500 yards or more, and NFL record
7 -- Green Bay sacks vs. Tennessee
8 -- Josh Freeman interceptions the past two weeks
8 -- Straight seasons where Packers won their last regular-season home game
8 -- Interceptions returned for touchdowns this season by Chicago
9 -- Career 400-yard games by Drew Brees
18 -- Career games where Wes Welker has 10 or more catches
150 -- Total points scored by the Seahawks over their last three games
352 -- Yards rushing for Chiefs
1986 -- Last time San Diego had 11 sacks in one game

My top five

1. Denver
2. Atlanta
3. New England
4. Green Bay
5. San Francisco

My bottom five

32. Kansas City
31. Jacksonville
30. Oakland
29. Philadelphia
28. Detroit

Next weekend's three best games

Green Bay at Minnesota ... Vikings fighting for survival; Pack fighting for first-round bye.

Houston at Indianapolis ... Guess that answers the question of Houston resting its starters.

Dallas at Washington ... Finally, a meaningful game in Washington that doesn't include Joe Gibbs.

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