Week 14 Judgements: Ryan, Falcons fluttering at wrong time of season

by | Senior NFL Columnist

1. Consider that a wake-up call, Atlanta. I know, the Falcons were bound to lose sooner or later, and so it's sooner. Big deal, right? Well, it could be. The measure of this team is not how it plays this season; it's how it plays in a postseason where Matt Ryan is 0-3, and, no offense, Matt, but you better pick up the pace. Over his last four games, Ryan has four touchdowns and seven interceptions, and has been positively underwhelming in three of those starts, including Sunday's loss to Carolina. This is a defining season for Ryan and the Falcons, and it will be defined by the playoffs. Ryan should be peaking for the postseason, not coasting into it, and, yes, Atlanta, that should be a concern.

2. The Baltimore Ravens are beaten by a 37-year-old third-string quarterback one week and a 24-year-old rookie second-stringer the next, and talk about blowing the layup. All the Ravens had to do was win one of those two games, and the AFC North is theirs.

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3. I don't care what sort of condition Ray Lewis is in. Baltimore needs something, anything, to perk up a leaking defense.

4. What's that about the NFC Least? Every team in the division won. Yep, it was 4-0, while the AFC North -- a division some people were pumping as the best out there was 1-3, with the one victory by last-place Cleveland.

5. It's OK to exhale, Washington. That MRI on RG3 told him what he already suspected -- that he doesn't have a torn knee ligament.

6. Now you know why the Redskins drafted two quarterbacks. Somehow, I can't envision Rex Grossman leading that last-minute comeback.

7. Dallas must have some fight left. At least that's what the people who overheard Jerry Jones and Jay Ratliff told me.

8. No, the New York Jets are not out of the playoff picture. Repeat, the New York Jets are NOT out of the playoff picture, and it has nothing to do with how well they're playing and everything to do with how poorly their opponents are. They knocked off Arizona last week and Jacksonville on Sunday, two of the worst teams in the game, and now look at what's ahead: Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo -- bottom feeders with a combined record of 14-25. Yes, Rex Ryan, there is a Santa Claus.

9. When you look at that Jets' schedule, it's easier to understand why Ryan stayed with Mark Sanchez. He not only ends the season with four stiffs; entering Sunday, three of them had pass defenses in the bottom third of the league, with Buffalo (13th) the exception. So you run the table, your quarterback pads his numbers and, voila, just like that, there go the questions about Mark Sanchez.

10. Memo to Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt: Go ahead and fine the entire team for that performance. Talk about disgraceful.

11. This is how bad it's gotten in Arizona: The Cardinals had one less turnover Sunday than New England has this year. Honest.

12. Just a hunch, but Giants rookie David Wilson is out of Tom Coughlin's doghouse.

13. Nope, I don't like Chicago's chances of pulling out of its tailspin, and not just because of Jay Cutler's neck injury but because of the Bears' next opponent. It's Green Bay, and the Packers won seven of their last eight vs. Chicago, including one earlier this season.

14. Now we find out about Colin Kaepernick and Jim Harbaugh's decision to make him a starter. His next two games are in New England and Seattle, where the home teams lose about as often as it snows in San Diego.

15. For the record, that was Andrew Luck's sixth fourth-quarter comeback victory, the most for a rookie since the league merger in 1970. When you're comparing stats with Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, remember to include that one.

16. Imagine what would've happened if cornerback Brandon Browner had played for Seattle. The Seahawks might've had 16 takeaways.

17. The Jets tried to reacquire Braylon Edwards? Seriously? Now I know there needs to be a front-office shakeup.

18. I'm with Bill Cowher. There should be a two-game suspension for DUIs. Something, anything, to stop this nonsense.

19. The Bills lose another tough one, and one question: What in the world is C.J. Spiller doing touching the ball eight times? Someone? Anyone?

20. So Philadelphia may have cost itself a couple of draft spots with that victory. The Eagles may have found a quarterback in Nick Foles. It wasn't just his game-winning touchdown that was extraordinary; it was a play preceding it that made it possible -- a 22-yard dart to Jason Avant that put the Eagles in business at the Tampa Bay 1.

You make the call

Last week I asked my Twitter followers who wins the Comeback Player of the Year -- Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson -- and most of you opted for a split decision. No, I don't think that happens, but here's what you had to say:

1. Cory Garbolinksy@corygarbo -- "A share between the two. Both are truly amazing recovering from injuries. Yes, AP's is more common, but not that fast!"

2. Kevin Ashcraft@kevinashcraft -- "Might be a cop-out response, but I could see them splitting it. Both equally dominant. I could also add (Jamaal) Charles."

3. JGWalton@tuvaorbust -- "Looks like MVP may get MVP. Give Peterson CPOY. Or like MVP 2003 -- split both."

4. Brian Hendrich@Brian Hendrich -- "What AP has done is incredible, but I'd still go with Manning."

5. Renee Minnemeyer@ReneeMinnemeyer -- "Peterson. Never been done before. Came back from injury in beyond record time. His position uses body more and punished more."

6. Sean Huddleston@ Hudd007 -- "Isn't it obvious whowins? Mannterson."

7. BMe12@ JackOfSports -- "Manning, easily. He had to "come back" from more a lot more than just an injury."

8. Joseph@TheBoredGuy --"Manning. Peterson missed very little time last year. Great comeback, but Manning missed entire year."

9. Outsiders Podcast@ChiefsOutsiders -- "I'm a Chiefs' fan and hate the Broncos. Having said that ... Peyton Manning."

10. Bruce Hall@brucehallsports -- "Boy, that is an absolutely impossible call, and it's not like the voting will be EXACTLY a tie. They're both great stories."

Five things I like

1. A game ball to San Diego coach Norv Turner. It's been a long season for the beleaguered Turner, who is expected to be fired when it's over. But it was one wonderful afternoon in Pittsburgh where the Chargers hadn't won a regular-season game in 14 tries ... until Sunday. Consider that a rebuttal to critics who charged that Turner's team quit on him.

2. Aldon Smith's Defensive-Player-of-the-Year candidacy. Almost no one outside the 415 area code talks about the guy. It's all J.J. Watt and Von Miller, but you might want to start paying attention. With 19.5 sacks, Smith not only has the 49ers' single-season record, but he's only four sacks shy of the NFL record, too.

3. The New York Jets' defense. Their last two opponents are a combined 2-for-31 on third downs. OK, so it was Arizona and Jacksonville. Last time I checked, they were still in the NFL.

4. Green Bay over Detroit when the game's in Wisconsin. Yep, that was the 21st straight victory for the Packers at home, a streak that goes back to 1992 when the Lions lost in Milwaukee. Next time, Detroit, spare yourself the air fare and just mail in the L.

5. The Bengals observing a moment of silence for Jerry Brown. Brown wasn't their player, but he was a victim of yet another tragedy involving an NFL player. At some point, someone will get the idea that driving and alcohol don't mix.

Five things I don't

1. Baltimore's Joe Flacco in the third quarter. He was 1 for 2 for 3 yards, with an interception and a fumble. I'm no math major, but I don't think that's good.

2. Anything about Arizona's offense. Offense? Did I say offense? That's being kind. The Cardinals have done nothing the past two weeks, committing more turnovers (9) than they scored points (6). Hard to believe this is a team that won its first four -- including a defeat of New England in Foxborough.

3. Matt Ryan's MVP campaign. It's all but out of business. Granted, he's 11-2, but he also hit the wall, with three of his last four games little more than ordinary. Once upon a time Ryan was Peyton Manning's biggest threat; now Andrew Luck and RG3 could get more votes. Honest.

4. Matt Stafford's delivery. Every time I watch him throw I swear he must have Brian Fuentes, Darren O'Day or Clay Rapada working on his mechanics. Memo to Matt: Submarines are for the U.S. Navy, not you.

5. The crowd count at next week's Kansas City-Oakland game. Let's see, it's Christmas season, we're in a recession and two of the game's worst teams meet for little more than draft position. Once it was the Maytag repair man who was the loneliest guy in town; now, it may be the people manning the turnstiles at O.co Coliseum, a stadium not named for next weekend's anticipated attendance.

Five guys who have some 'splaining to do

1. Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker. He committed several costly mistakes in the Titans' latest loss, but none more damaging than a horrendous throw from his end zone that turned into a 3-yard interception return for an Indianapolis touchdown. Maybe I should ask offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains this question, but what in the world were you doing making that throw, Jake?

2. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. He has nine interceptions the past three weeks, all of them losses. He had 14 all of last season and only three in his last seven starts. He also has one touchdown pass the past two weeks. Jason Pierre-Paul was right; Brees was "easier" to defend than RG3.

3. Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He says he's still paying for that Thanksgiving incident of a year ago, and enough already. The tape does not lie. Suh's latest move was to rough up Aaron Rodgers Sunday night, drawing a 15-yard personal foul that led to a third-quarter Green Bay touchdown. The more I watch this guy, the more I wonder if he'll ever get it.

4. NFL vice president of officiating Carl Johnson. I'm sorry, but the officiating stinks this year. Plus, I want an explanation of just how there can be offensive pass interference and defensive pass interference on two players going for one ball. It happened in the Saints-Giants game, but I don't know how. I've never seen it before. Take it away, Carl.

5. Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan said he wasn't going to do much talking this season, and too bad he didn't follow his own advice. It was Ryan who wandered on to the field in Cincinnati to demand a holding penalty against the Bengals' Andre Smith. Instead, it was Ryan who drew the flag, a 15-yarder for unsportsmanlike conduct. Ryan caught a break when the Cowboys won on a last-second field goal, but, please, no more outbursts. The Cowboys can't afford them.

Just asking but ...

 Anyone have the number of Mike Rozier's tailor?

 What's going on with Drew Brees?

 Do the Bears make the playoffs?

 Can the Giants hold off Washington?

 Can Seattle catch San Francisco in the NFC West?

Numbers to remember

0-5 -- Tennessee at Lucas Oil Stadium
3 -- Games this season where a rookie quarterback threw the winning touchdown pass with no time left
5 -- Bryce Brown first-half yardage
6 -- Cincinnati touchdowns on opening drives
6 -- Margin of victory in Philadelphia's four victories
7 -- Stevie Brown interceptions
10 -- Tampa Bay punts
47 -- Games this season decided where the winning points were scored in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime

My top five

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

My bottom five

32. Jacksonville
31. Kansas City
30. Oakland
29. Arizona
28. Tennessee

Next weekend's three best games

N.Y. Giants at Atlanta ... Now we find out how serious a Super Bowl threat Atlanta is.

Denver at Baltimore ... Time for Ravens to stop the bleeding.

San Francisco at New England ... A Super Bowl preview?


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