Alright folks, week 17 is done and playoffs are just around the corner. Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs! A system where teams actually compete to see who is really the best? Unheard of. Well, now it is time to take a look at who is headed to the playoffs, who is headed home, and some lineman who is headed to Hawaii for some weird bowling tournament that the players do every year. Follow after the jump to find out who you should be watching on TV on Sunday.
Since they are not going to be headed into the postseason, let's first talk about the players who performed on teams whose season's are now over. First up, Richie Brockel and the Panthers...
Carolina ended their season with a disappointing 45-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Maybe some of the Panthers players took solace in the fact that the Saints are red hot and setting records. Maybe. Richie ended his first NFL season having started three games and had three receptions for 13 yards to go along with three carries for 12 yards and a touchdown. I think we all remember that sweet looking play...
via www.sportsgeekery.com. (Click on the picture for the .gif)
Richie has fit well into the hybrid #3 TE/FB spot, and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Panthers bring him back this offseason, as he had a one year deal and is now an unrestricted free agent.
The Cardinals ended their season with a win against the hapless Seahawks. Coming away with a record of 8-8, the Cardinals will be looking to build on this year by continuing to run the ball more, finding a quarterback who can sling it to Larry Fitzgerald, and not going on six game losing streaks. Overall, Daryn had a good year on an offensive line filled with question marks. According to ESPN writer Mike Sando, a good enough season to warrant a 2011 All-NFC West Offense nod, beating out Mike Iupati of the 49ers. Yeah, the former Idaho Vandal. But Mike must have known something like that would happen the minute a Boise State alumni playing the same position came into his division. Happens every time.
Daryn started all 16 games this season for the Cardinals and will most definitely be back next season, as he will be entering the second year of his five year, $27.5 million contract.
Jeron Johnson, DB, Seattle Seahawks
Jeron was inactive for most of the season, but did play in eight games, weeks 1-7 with a bye, and weeks 11-12. In those eight games, he logged six special teams tackles. As he was an undrafted free agent and on a one year deal with the Seahawks, he is going to need to continue to develop to start to see playing time on defense, but according to this SB Nation article, Pete Carroll and Seattle may just bring him back to do that so the team grows more at the safety spot. It will all depend on what happens in free agency and the draft.
What a year for Quintin Mikell. After coming to the Rams via Free Agency this season, he is already leading the team in tackles-made-by-players-not-named-James-Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis is some sort of superhuman, and has almost as many tackles as Mikell and Darian Stewart, the numbers two and three guys in tackles. For his season stats, he finished with 91 tackles, a sack, five forced fumbles, and two interceptions. He feels guilty about the teams losing season this year. I know that a season, winning or losing, is a team effort, but I would be hard pressed to say that any of the Rams problems stemmed from the free safety position that Mikell had locked down all year. Here is a quote from Turf Show Times, the Rams SB Nation blog, on how Mikell has performed this year
Mikell has come in and played up to expectations for the Rams. He has been one of the few guys on defense that create turnovers. He has 5 forced fumbles this season and 2 INTs. His knowledge of the defense and his leadership has been very valuable for the Rams young players. Some might think he should be in the "keys" section, but with the basic certainty that the Rams will be running a new defensive system next season, I don't think his value is as high. He was brought in and paid handsomely because he fits what Spags wants in a safety. No matter what system the Rams switch to, you can bet that Mikell will be a starter.
Looks like things are still looking good for Quintin's future with the Rams.
Legedu Naanee was one of the more polarizing players that Boise has in the NFL this season. Panthers fans were high on him coming into the season, hoping he could fulfill his potential and be a good to great receiver. Midway through the season, he was frustrating. The last half of the season though, Legedu showed why Carolina brought him in, and was solidifying himself as a good receiver alongside Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. Here is a quote from Cat Scratch Reader, the Panthers SB Nation blog,
Although some will disagree with me here, Naanee has been much better in the second half of the season. This has been his highest statistical year (40 rec, 439 yds, 1 TD) and he also hasn't committed a single turnover. I realize he hasn't been Mr. Clutch, but I don't really think he's hurt this team as it continues to grow. Naanee's fate will be determined by the return of Gettis and further development of our other guys. He holds more value than AE at this point. If he's cheap, I say keep him!
If he keeps his production at a high level and with further tutelage of Steve Smith, he will be a number two receiver for the Panthers next year and could become a number one later on in his career.
Not much news for Austin this week, as he has now served his first game of the four game suspension. He finished his rookie season with 27 receptions for 256 yards and no touchdowns to go along with his duties of returning 15 punts for 139 yards. Look for continued development in the Rams offense and for him to make a return next year from suspension.
The Cowboys missed the playoffs this year, helped along by the poor play of Scandrick in last weeks loss to the Giants that knocked them out of contention. Rainier Sabin of Dallas News sums up Orlando's season in his article "Should the Cowboy's have buyer's remorse after extending CB Scandrick's contract?". Certainly seems like they are due at least an apology or something.
via ia.media-imdb.com. "Orlando: I figured if I played well, I'd renegotiate and get more money. Jerry Jones (played by Adam Sandler): If you didn't play well, could we renegotiate and pay you less?"
Wilson was named the Jets Most Improved Player by ESPN's Rich Cimini. It is certainly a deserved award after the subpar rookie season. He started six games this season, the same as last, but tacked on 20 more tackles to finish with 41, along with two interceptions. Here's what one commenter had to say about Wilson's year:
I think his performance has been seriously underrated. As a nickel corner that gets little help behind him (and when he did it was help from safeties who suck in coverage), I’d defy you to find me a better one this year. And remember that this was only his second year.
Jets fans are embracing the growth the Kyle has had so far, and it looks like he is headed in the right direction with the help that he is getting from Darrel Revis. Look for another improved year next year and possibly a step into the number two cornerback spot, depending on what happens this offseason with Antonio Cromartie.
Winston injured his hamstring in the season closing Bears win against the Vikings. It looked like he was going to be getting more playing time because of injuries that left the Bears with three healthy safeties before the game, but his chance to prove himself on the field was cut short. Because his activation was due to injuries at both of the safety positions, I expect him to be a practice squad player next year as he was most of this year. Winston finished the season with eight tackles.
Bronco teams in the playoffs: Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints
It's playoff time for Chris Carr, Ryan Clady, Korey Hall, and Titus Young. Who will have the biggest impact for their respective teams this postseason? Only time and a Magic 8 Ball can tell...
The Ravens finished off their regular season at 12-4 and with the number two seed in the AFC. That means that they have a first round bye and home field advantage with either the Texans or the Bengals in playoff week two. The Ravens have won when the Texans visited Baltimore back in week six, 29-14, but Chris was injured and did not play. In week 11, Chris was injured against the Bengals, but the Ravens managed a 31-24 victory. In the one game against the two teams that the Ravens could be playing next week that Chris actually played in, week 17's 24-16 win over the Fighting Gingers of Cincinnati, Chris logged three tackles and two passes defended coming off of the bench. He will continue to add solid depth for the Ravens secondary that has had its fare share of injuries this season.
Ryan Clady has been the cornerstone of the Denver Broncos offensive line for the past four years. He has started every game of his career so far, and Broncos fans have had little to complain about. This season, Clady has protected for two very different quarterbacks, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. The Broncos backed their way into the playoffs on a three game losing streak. Tebow has started to struggle with turnovers and the defense has not been playing at the high level that is was during the rest of the season. Clady was also honored with a first alternate spot in the pro bowl last week, so we will see if they end up needing him in Hawaii.
This week, the Broncos have a tough challenge ahead of them, facing off against the Steelers. Ryan in particular will have his hands full, as James Harrison will be making his return to rush the passer. The Steelers are well built to stop the offensive attack of the Broncos. If they are not able to put points up on the board, it will be a long day for Denver.
With the Saints gearing up for their playoff game against Detroit, Korey will look to continue what he has done well this season, which is contribute on special teams. He has five special teams tackles this season so far, which has been his area of expertise all season. Coach Sean Payton gave Korey a special teams game ball earlier this season, and he will continue to challenge Jed Collins for a starting spot next year after spending this season proving himself on the special teams. With Jed playing poorly in a few games earlier this season, it will be interesting to see if Korey earns the starting fullback spot.
Titus finished the regular season strong with two touchdown grabs against Green Bay, to add to his season total, bringing it to six touchdowns and 607 yards on 47 receptions. Titus has a very bright future (thanks, hummerofdoom) for himself in Detroit, and he has the possibly the best receiver in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, to show him how to be a professional. Here's what Lions receivers coach had to say on young in a recent article,
"He came in here hot," Jefferson said. "When I say hot, I mean he's got juice. He's like that horse in the stable that's kicking and ready to get out. What you got to do is you got to harness that. You don't want him to ever lose that, but you got to harness it as a coach. I saw it early on, I got to teach him how to harness it, and if I don't, he'll get loose."
Sounds like the Titus I remember. The Lions are playing against the red hot Saints this week, and they will certainly be challenged to keep up with Drew Brees. If the Lions manage to slow him down at all though, I think that Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Titus Young might be able to pull off a surprise victory.
Good luck to all the Broncos in the playoffs. What are the chances that the two teams playing in the Super Bowl will be playing with Titus or Korey and either Chris or Ryan on the other side? Again, time will tell.