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NFL morning after: Statement Sunday — or was it?

Falcons tight end Gonzalez celebrates after a touchdown against the New York Giants in the first half at their NFL football game in Atlanta Reuters

With six different games matching up teams with winning records, yesterday was hyped by the NFL as “Statement Sunday.” And while it didn’t deliver a lot of particularly competitive games, it certainly did deliver a lot of statements: Statements about the strengths of the Falcons, Packers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys and 49ers, and statements about the weaknesses of the Giants, Bears, Ravens, Colts, Steelers and Patriots.

But the thing about statements made in the NFL in December is that they often don’t hold up in January. And I’m not so sure that the teams that made statements on Sunday are going to be the teams that continue to make statements in the playoffs. So let me go through a few of the statements that were made on Sunday, and explain which ones are true and which ones are false.

1. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC. FALSE: Yes, the Falcons can make the statement that they’re the best team in the conference, both on the strength of their 34-0 win over the Giants and on their status as the team with the best record in the NFC. But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.

2. The Giants are in danger. TRUE: The flip side of the Falcons’ blowout over the Giants is that it really did expose some serious problems with the Giants, namely that Eli Manning has been painfully inconsistent, and that injuries in the secondary have done major damage to the defense. Early in the season it looked like the NFC East would belong to the Giants, but now it’s a three-team race, and the Redskins and Cowboys actually appear to be in better shape. The good news for the Giants is that they’ll make the playoffs if they win their final two. The bad news is that the way they played on Sunday, I don’t have a lot of confidence that they’ll win their final two.

3. The Bears are in free fall and will miss the playoffs. FALSE: It’s easy to see why Bears fans are panicking, having lost five of their last six games. But Chicago’s schedule is about to get a lot easier, with trips to Arizona and Detroit. I see the Bears winning both games, finishing 10-6, and sneaking into the playoffs.

4. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC goes through Houston. TRUE: After the Texans’ disastrous loss in New England on Monday night, it would have been easy to disregard the Texans as legitimate title contenders. But the Texans clinched the AFC South with Sunday’s win over the Colts, and they’re now a win away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I think they’ll get that win against the Vikings on Sunday and ensure that if they rematch the Patriots, it will be in Houston.

5. The Broncos are the best team Peyton Manning has ever played on. TRUE: Does it sound premature to say that this year’s Broncos are better than Manning’s Super Bowl-winning 2006 team in Indianapolis? Maybe. But that team — like many of Manning’s teams in Indianapolis — had major holes on both defense and special teams that the Manning-led offense had to overcome. This Broncos team is winning every bit as much because of its defense as because of the Manning-led offense. If we could stuff these 2012 Broncos into a DeLorean and send them back in time to play any of Manning’s Indianapolis playoff teams, I’d pick these Broncos to win.

6. The Steelers blew it in overtime in Dallas and blew their postseason hopes. FALSE: The Steelers’ final two games are both at home, against the Bengals and the Browns, and if they win both they’re in the playoffs. I think Pittsburgh is going to do it.

7. New England’s Super Bowl hopes were dealt a big blow on Sunday night. FALSE: The Patriots’ loss to the 49ers probably means they’ll have to host a wild card team in the first playoff weekend, then win a couple of road games after that to get to the Super Bowl. But you know what? As much as I like the Broncos and Texans, I like the Patriots’ chances of winning at Denver and at Houston in back-to-back weeks. New England is still a formidable Super Bowl contender.

That’s where I stand on the statements NFL teams made on Sunday. And now here are my statements about the rest of Sunday’s action:

Adrian Peterson is making Eric Dickerson nervous. After his 212-yard effort on Sunday, Peterson needs to total 293 yards over the final two games of the season to break Dickerson’s NFL record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. Gaining 293 yards in two weeks isn’t easy, but it’s certainly doable for Peterson, considering that he has 366 in the last two games. In the last eight games, Peterson has rushed for 1,313 yards, a stunning yardage total that no NFL player has ever matched over an eight-game stretch of a season.

Calvin Johnson is making Jerry Rice nervous. After his 121-yard effort on Sunday, Johnson needs to total 181 yards over the final two games of the season to break Rice’s NFL record of 1,848 receiving yards in a season. Johnson tied an NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard game on Sunday, so totaling 181 yards over the next two games shouldn’t be a problem. Johnson also became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,600 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson (and unlike Peterson), he’s threatening an NFL record while playing meaningless games for a bad team.

What’s JaMarcus Russell up to these days? I ask because the Raiders chose Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL draft, leaving Johnson available for the Lions to draft second overall, and Peterson available for the Vikings to draft seventh overall. Sorry to have to bring that one up, Raiders fans.

Trent Richardson’s first touchdown run was a thing of beauty. If you love good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football, it doesn’t get much better than Richardson taking a handoff up the middle at the six-yard line, plunging into the middle and getting stacked up just as he crossed the line of scrimmage, and then simply refusing to go down as he drove forward, churning his legs and getting help from his entire offensive line while the entire Redskins’ defensive line was trying to stop him, and finally falling forward through that massive rugby scrum and into the end zone. As a rookie Richardson hasn’t been the big-play runner the Browns were hoping they’d get when they traded up to take him with the third overall pick in the draft, but he might be the toughest runner to tackle in the league.

Randall Cobb is better than you realize. Cobb had an unreal leaping catch along the sideline in the second quarter in Chicago, picking up 31 yards on third-and-six and somehow getting both feet down in bounds despite taking a hard hit just as he was grabbing the ball. Cobb has been an excellent player for the Packers since arriving last season as a second-round draft pick, but I don’t know if most fans realize just how excellent. Cobb has 2,241 combined rushing, receiving and return yards this season, and 3,857 all-purpose yards so far in his NFL career. That’s an incredible career total for a guy who’s only 22 years old.

The Seahawks are stunning. After beating the Cardinals 58-0 last week, the Seahawks beat the Bills 50-17 this week. The last NFL team to score 50 or more points in back-to-back weeks was the 1950 New York Giants, who beat the Chicago Cardinals 51-21 and then beat the Baltimore Colts 55-20 a week later. (A note of caution for Seahawks fans: Those 1950 Giants were held to just three points in a postseason loss that year.)

I guess Cam Cameron wasn’t the only problem with the Ravens’ offense. The Ravens fired Cameron as their offensive coordinator last week. So how did the offense in Baltimore do in the first game without him? Badly: The Ravens had six three-and-outs, the most of any team in the NFL all season, as they lost 34-17. On Statement Sunday, the Ravens made a statement that they’re not contenders in the AFC, and Cameron made a major statement in his absence: Don’t blame me.

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48 Responses to “NFL morning after: Statement Sunday — or was it?”
  1. logicalvoicesays says: Dec 17, 2012 7:03 AM

    Another opponent, humbled at the hands of the Washington Redskins. My tickets to New Orleans plus hotel were booked last night. As far as I’m concerned, the Redskins are going to the Superbowl. There is nobody in the conference that wants to run into this sound,disciplined football team. May god have mercy on whatever team meets us in the playoffs, especially in FedEx Field…actually, God is with the Redskins so he won’t bail you out either. Kudos to the Redskins front office…drafted the best QB since Elway in RGIII and will get draft picks relief because Kirk Cousins stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Let this be a lesson to the naysayers…we are in the RGIII Era and you have no choice but to respect this franchise and team. The only question left now is who is coming out of the AFC to lose.

  2. bleed4philly says: Dec 17, 2012 7:10 AM

    It’s time to stop defending Joe Flacco

  3. atwatercrushesokoye says: Dec 17, 2012 7:15 AM

    The difference bewtween the Broncos playing the Patriots in Denver as opposed to Foxboro is enormous! It allows Manning to run his no huddle without crowd interference and hopefully the same crowd can give a few issues to the Patriots breakneck speed. Not to mention going at that pace at altitude is a lot harder when you haven’t practiced it.

    Beating the Patriots in the playoffs won’t be easy but I certainly like the Broncos chances a lot more in Denver!

  4. gweez76 says: Dec 17, 2012 7:23 AM

    No team upgraded any one single position better than the Skins did at QB from last year to this year. True.

  5. tim2200 says: Dec 17, 2012 7:23 AM

    This is the best team Peyton Manning has ever played on?? You’re on drugs Mikey.
    In fact this Bronco team is a bit overrated. Not anywhere as good as their record indicates.
    Just beat a Raven team decimated by injuries and in free fall. In fact the Broncs have played one of the softer schedules. You’ll see come playoff time when the Broncs are one and done.

  6. surferbum01 says: Dec 17, 2012 7:26 AM

    @voiceofill-logice —-you’ll be the only ‘Skins fan in New Orleans.

  7. kane337 says: Dec 17, 2012 7:50 AM

    “But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.”

    Yea 12 – 2 is not very consistent. The Giants blew out the Packers and 49ers but lets just forget about those losses.

  8. russel5 says: Dec 17, 2012 7:54 AM

    Your Ravens stat is wrong. The Ravens had 7 3-and-outs but so did the Broncos. 6 is not the most of any team in the NFL all season.

  9. cowboyhater says: Dec 17, 2012 8:02 AM

    Coming from a real logical skins fan, trust me, we are very nervous about going into Philly next week. They will be ready to play the spoiler role, and you know they will be playing inspired football. We will get their best shot, and it will be tightly contested. One last thing….. to all the giant fans, if you have been following any of my posts, I will end it with this…… karma Mara, karma!! ……..and you know what I’m referring to.

  10. cags777 says: Dec 17, 2012 8:04 AM

    The Bears are NOT going to make the playoffs and Houston will NOT get home field advantage next week. Upsets are in the works and w/ Adrian Peterson aiming to get the single season rushing record, I expect the Vikings to squeek by Houston next week.

  11. geraldthecat says: Dec 17, 2012 8:05 AM

    I like that Denver upgrade quite a bit more than the redskin upgrade. Who was their qback last year?

  12. ebrownwareagle says: Dec 17, 2012 8:19 AM

    To all Naysayers, like it or not The Road to the Super Bowl in the NFC, goes thru ATLANTA! Swept the media darling NFC East. After we were picked to go 0-4 against them! Pundits refuse to admit they were wrong, like true Americans. Crush the Mannings. And embarrased all the “ELITE” QB’s that came to Nortside drive! and all we here is do it in the post season, YET we are still in December wiith games to play. Meanwhile, the remainder of the NFL loses or ties and gets a pass because they all have won a Super Bowl over the past 10 to 15 years! Lmao, and YALL CALL yourselves creditable.

  13. larryboodry says: Dec 17, 2012 8:19 AM

    If the Bears do finish 10-6, then maybe a playoff spot is still justified, even though it probably means one more year of Lovie.

  14. tatvin says: Dec 17, 2012 8:27 AM

    I feel bad for anyone playing at Mile High for the playoffs. Ive lived in Denver for 2 years and still get winded going up stairs

  15. shogunassasin30 says: Dec 17, 2012 8:32 AM

    Denver is NOT the same team that lost to NE and Houston a mth ago, and if Pats fans are expecting the same results in Denver (which in itself makes a big difference as opposed to in NE) then there are going to be lots of sad and angry people out there.

  16. southpaw2k says: Dec 17, 2012 8:34 AM

    There was a time when I was a Flacco defender. I truly believed he had the tools to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl, despite his performances teetering back and forth between excellent and subpar. Fourteen games into this season, he hasn’t shown the stability needed for the quarterback position to earn him a long term deal. The problem is, the Ravens have so many holes on their offensive line and across their defense that they would have to sacrifice one need to address another. Plus, what other options are there at quarterback this offseason? Philip Rivers? Please.

    Regardless of where the Ravens end up after this season, they face the most questions since John Harbaugh was hired as head coach.

  17. metalhead65 says: Dec 17, 2012 8:34 AM

    sorry but you are wrong about my bears and what would be the point of them making the playoffs and getting bounced in the first game? do not kid yourself with this hideous thing they call a offense they will not win another game or if they do get lucky all it will do is screw them out of a better draft pick.

  18. chattanola says: Dec 17, 2012 8:41 AM

    Adrian Peterson, “a stunning yardage total that no NFL player has ever matched over an eight-game stretch of a season” and done while coming off a recent serious injury. Sheer will. My vote for MVP.

    49ers are the real deal and I predict will win the NFC tho I wish it were not so.

    The Broncos/Pats will be a statement game.

  19. mitchitized says: Dec 17, 2012 8:45 AM

    Expecting the 2012 Steelers to win two games in a row, both at home, is akin to expecting Roseanne Barr to drop to a size six.

    I love my Steelers, but in 2012 I guess that’s just too much to ask.

    The better question to ask is what can be done to produce a better outcome in 2013?

  20. abe0213 says: Dec 17, 2012 8:54 AM

    You know. Being a falcons fan for years now I understand why everyone is hesitant to say the falcons are a team I’m the NFC. I know the pack and niners are a great team but everyone was looking for that game that the falcons would show everyone that they are legit. Shut out the giants the Superbowl champions.. if you ask me that was a huge statement. I know they wont get recognized until they win playoff games but come on get off the “lets hate the the falcons” wagon and start recognizing them a bit.

  21. tokyosandblaster says: Dec 17, 2012 9:00 AM

    RG3 can’t stay healthy and will wind up a backup by the end of next year: True.

  22. electionconfidential says: Dec 17, 2012 9:10 AM

    I’m really happy for Denver and Peyton Manning. Nine straight wins and no one left to play but the Chiefs and the Raiders. That means the Broncos would only have to win one playoff game before Willis McGahee is eligible to return. Of course it remains to be seen if he’ll be healthy enough, but every little bit helps.

  23. richwizl says: Dec 17, 2012 9:18 AM

    The Falcons showed they are legit yesterday, for sure; they have a good chance, especially with a high seeding. In the AFC, most believe it will come down to Denver and NE and have thought so from about six games ago. To the Broncos fans, believe me, no Pats fans think it would be an easy game to win in Denver or anywhere else. Neither team is the same as when they met earlier and a Brady/Manning showdown is always good. Patriots getting screwed in the Cardinals and Ravens games by the replacement refs is the reason your team will host the rematch. At any rate, it would be a close game, if it happens.

  24. heyguru1969 says: Dec 17, 2012 9:23 AM

    Flacco’s ego STILL didn’t allow Ray Rice to be involved in the gameplan. Sad when such talent is undercut by a QB whose opinion of himself knows no bounds, despite the results he produces. Ray Lewis would probably love to see Flacco traded to someone in the division, so he can personally let Joe know HIS opinion in 2013.

  25. vcupats says: Dec 17, 2012 9:42 AM

    I really don’t mind the Pats having to assume the underdog role and win 1 or 2 on the road to get back to the Super Bowl. Tough game last night but good comeback by Brady and Co. Would love to see SF and NE tangle again.

  26. ch1ggs says: Dec 17, 2012 10:03 AM

    New England wants no part of Denver in Denver. Just as Denver wants no part of NE in NE.

  27. dblockatl says: Dec 17, 2012 10:04 AM

    “But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.”

    Seems like pretty bullet-proof logic to me – Matt Ryan’s 33-4 record at home (including 11 straight) doesn’t seem very “consistent” to me, either.

  28. cornersss says: Dec 17, 2012 10:31 AM

    Even if Megatron breaks Rices record, Rice had 16 td’s that year, not just 5

  29. nelszz says: Dec 17, 2012 10:32 AM

    I am not a falcons fan, but my god is there any media outlet that wants to give them credit. They went 4-0 against the media darling NFC east. You bet if the score was flipped around, this morning would have been about how the giants are going to win the SB and how the falcons might as well just give up on the season. Also, you say how they don’t play consistent, even though 12-2 seems pretty damn consistent to me. They may “play down to the level of their opponents” but at least they win the games, something the packers, 49ers, bears, steelers, pats all have to say more than two times this season.

  30. jbaxt says: Dec 17, 2012 10:42 AM

    How does Scott Pioli still have a job? If he had this record in Washington, Philly, or Dallas, especially in his 4th year, this would be covered every day. Can someone, nationally, just cover it once?

  31. phillynac says: Dec 17, 2012 11:10 AM

    It is funny how people are ready to bury the Pats because of the loss last night. Let’s put it in perspective….They gave the ball away 4 times in bad weather conditions and they were missing their top offensive weapon (Gronk) and they still put 34 points on the board against the NFL’s best defense. The Broncos are feeling good right now but they aren’t on the Pats level. The Broncos are a different team than earlier in the year when NE beat them….but….the Pats are also WAY better right now and when Gronk gets back seem to be unstoppable on offense. So, for the Broncos fans who are sticking their chests out because they beat a bunch of cupcakes….be careful what you wish for! You don’t want 12 in January.

  32. bucketman9 says: Dec 17, 2012 11:49 AM

    About time someone gives Randal Cobb a little deserved attention! The guy does everything for the Packers. Behind Rodgers he is their offensive MVP. Everyone compares him to Percy Harvin (I agree), but he is actually out on the field every week.

  33. sal1117 says: Dec 17, 2012 12:05 PM

    Typical Atlanta HATER !!! Nobody likes Atlanta for whatever reason!!!

    Why, Braves, no respect, Falcons, No respect !
    Basketball team, no respect, and DO NOT DESERVE ANY, and Flames & Thrashers left town because of AWFUL ownership, leaving less respect.

    While an Atlanta fan, Mainly Hockey, Baseball, Atlanta IS THE WORST sports town in America No Doubt !

    But the Falcons are deserving more respect than shown this season !!!

  34. pats1977 says: Dec 17, 2012 12:10 PM

    So called terrific defenses, the Pats put 30 on Ravens, 42 on Texans, and 34 on 49rs with key offensive players missing all of those games.

    The Pats had a short week and exhausted a lot of energy in last week’s Monday night game against the Texans. In addition, the Pats offense is predicated on precise rout running and timing. The bad weather was a key factor why they were off at the beginning of the game. Please, saying that the Pats were able to come back due to the 49rs switching to a preventive defense is like saying the Pats defense was good last year and that’s the only reason teams were able to put up good numbers against them.

  35. borderline1988 says: Dec 17, 2012 12:23 PM

    Atlanta is playing very well, but has not proven the ability to win games in the playoffs.

    At the end of the day, GB will go to the Superbowl if their defense continues to improve. The Giants are also a threat if they make the playoffs.

    SF, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle – all excellent teams, but I just don’t trust their quarterbacks. And in today’s NFL, you need a great QB to go all the way.

    Great defenses always seem to win the first playoff game and then lose the second. Later round playoff games often go down to the wire, and defenses get tired late in the game. At that point, you need a QB who can move your team down the length of the field in the 4th quarter. Think about being in that position – would you rather have Eli Manning or Matt Ryan? Aaron Rodgers or Kapernick?

    Blowouts aside, I don’t trust Matt Ryan to perform in the 4th in a tight playoff game.

  36. steelerben says: Dec 17, 2012 12:23 PM

    Atlanta with Matt Ryan is getting the same treatment that Indianapolis with Manning did. Great regular seasons that end with missing the playoffs or (embarrassing) one and dones. No one is getting all that excited about them until they show that they can get it done in the post season. They do have holes, such as a poor running game and a secondary that doesn’t tackle well. Looking at how they match up against Green Bay or San Francisco leaves a question mark. The Pack can match them pass for pass, score for score and Clay Matthews is unblockable. The 49ers with Kaepernick at the helm are looking explosive, and there is no question that defense can shut down ANY offense.

  37. jamaltimore says: Dec 17, 2012 12:35 PM

    Baltimore is in the playoffs for the 5th time in 5 years. Joe is not elite but he’s a decent QB who will be franchised and challenged next year.

    As bad as Ravens played yesterday if Flacco scores the TD before half I think they win the game. That’s how close the NFL is and it’s a week to week league. If the Ravens win this sunday they host a playoff game and can rest all the starters against cincy.

    All big if’s right now but every fan knows all it takes is a hot team at the right time to go through the playoffs. Anything can happen so glad Bmore will still be around to see how things pan out.

    BTW, I know everyone hates on flacco and love RR but please notice that Bernard Pierce was the best running back for the ravens yesterday not ray rice. Ray is unique back but he’s not a downhill runner through the teeth of a defense yet most of the play calls yesterday appeared to be set-up that way. like joe Ray is a rhythm type runner who does not make his own holes.

  38. chawk12thman says: Dec 17, 2012 12:46 PM

    The Seahawks deserve to be included in your statement section of this report and not buried deep down in the after thought section, don’t they?

  39. oldfart49 says: Dec 17, 2012 12:51 PM

    Problem w Denver & Atlanta is that both play in gawd awful divisions. It’s like getting half the season off. Good teams no doubt, but iron sharpens iron.

  40. steviaquinn says: Dec 17, 2012 1:00 PM

    “But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently ”

    Yet the niners do? getting blown out by the giants and losing to the Rams?

    It seems you hold the Falcons to a higher standard than anyone else.The Falcons have never been blown out and have been in all their games, no other team in the NFL can say that

    If the pundits knew what they were talking about the Falcons would be 2-12. They pick against them every week even with their schedule. The problem is most dont even watch the games

  41. steviaquinn says: Dec 17, 2012 1:02 PM

    Green Bay? The officials pretty much handed them the division title. Looking at how the niners and GB have been playing , the Falcons really have to like their chances this year

  42. philrat says: Dec 17, 2012 1:02 PM

    Broncos have lost to all of the top teams they’ve played – texans, patriots, falcons – two of those games were played in denver. This isn’t the best team Manning has played on. Manning himself isn’t as good as when he played for the colts and he doesn’t have as good of receivers as his colts teams have had. Thomas is ok but he still hasn’t played as well as wayne and harrison have done with manning.

  43. flyinhyphy says: Dec 17, 2012 1:42 PM

    skins fan here….

    these penalties that theyre getting are soon going to catch up with them if they dont play more disciplined football

  44. redzonerocks says: Dec 17, 2012 2:15 PM

    “1. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC. FALSE: Yes, the Falcons can make the statement that they’re the best team in the conference, both on the strength of their 34-0 win over the Giants and on their status as the team with the best record in the NFC. But the Falcons don’t play that well consistently — let’s not forget that a week earlier, they lost by 10 to a bad Carolina team. I’d pick either the Packers or the 49ers to win at Atlanta in January.”

    You also just picked NY to beat Atlanta…how’d that work out for you?

  45. dowhatifeellike says: Dec 17, 2012 6:24 PM

    pats1977 says:
    Dec 17, 2012 12:10 PM

    So called terrific defenses, the Pats put 30 on Ravens, 42 on Texans, and 34 on 49rs with key offensive players missing all of those games.

    —–

    The Pats put up 30 on a flawed Ravens team and still lost; that doesn’t really help your case. Truth is, if they didn’t have that ability to put up points consistently they’d be terrible. The day Brady retires is the day the Pats will be fighting for third place in the division.

  46. xroyalx says: Dec 17, 2012 8:02 PM

    Rodney Harrison??? Hm mmm mmm!!!! NEXT.

  47. raiderapologist says: Dec 17, 2012 8:22 PM

    What’s JaMarcus Russell up to these days? I ask because the Raiders chose Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL draft, leaving Johnson available for the Lions to draft second overall, and Peterson available for the Vikings to draft seventh overall. Sorry to have to bring that one up, Raiders fans.
    ———–
    No worries. The Raiders probably would have ruined both of them.

  48. dlmcc1010 says: Dec 17, 2012 11:19 PM

    I really think its going to be New England against San Fran in the Super Bowl. Im not a fan of either team, I just think these are the two best teams.

    Also I think the Redskins need to be given credit for having the stones to send a huge ransom to draft RG3. That basically turned their franchise around. I dont see them making the playoffs this year but that team will continue to be tough for the next 12 years because of him

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