Can I get a playoff spot for Christmas?

December 25, 2009

Well, here we go.

This season is ending a bit different than I would have anticipated. The prospect that both Jacksonville and Miami could make the playoffs this year is a pleasant surprise – and a way to help make up for the disappointment of the worst Bucs season in 18 years.

The reality, however, is that it will take a bit of a Christmas miracle for both teams to find a way into the playoffs.

Both are two of six AFC teams with identical 7-7 records fighting for the wild card spots that right now belong to the 8-6 Broncos and 8-6 Ravens.

There is an opening there for either one of the Florida teams, but it will take a lot of doing, including taking care of business down the final stretch of the season. And that’s where I have guarded optimism.

Jacksonville’s next two games are on the road against New England and Cleveland. Ouch. How about that land of Sunshine team? Two straight games in very cold and hostile locations. New England has yet to clinch a playoff spot so the Jaguars won’t get any favors from the Patriots who are undefeated at home so far this year. Even the hometown newspaper concedes it may be a tough feat for the Jags to win this game. Key point – If Peyton Manning torched the Jaguars for four touchdowns last week, how well will Tom Brady fare? The Browns are obviously a bit of an easier opponent to worry about, but Cleveland has actually been playing better in the last couple of games.

Miami’s final stretch isn’t much better, although the team gets both of its final games at home in Land Shark Stadium. The Dolphins square off this weekend against a Houston Texans team trying hard to save head coach Gary Kubiak’s job and get a playoff berth. Then the Dolphins close out the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2009 Super Bowl champs. The only thing going with the Fins in that game is if the Steelers lose this weekend to the Ravens then their season is probably over and they will have little to play for in the final week of the regular season.

Of course neither game will be a gimme for the Fins. I’m not sure the Fins offense can keep up with the Texans offense, while Pittsburgh has actually turned into a passing team that features a tough good quarterback.

So how about it Santa? How about a playoff berth for one of the Florida teams? You don’t even have to put it under the tree.

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Pro Bowl choices are few this year

November 14, 2009

(UPDATE – The news that Ronnie Brown is out for the rest of the season alters this list tremendously.)

The NFL has opened up its 2010 Pro Bowl voting, but unfortunately it looks like there probably won’t be a lot of players attending the contest in Miami who hail from Florida teams.

When two of your three NFL teams stumble through the season it’s hard to expect that they will beat out the talents of other 29 teams in the league.

But here’s some players who I believe deserve serious Pro Bowl consideration.

Maurice Jones-Drew: Ok, so I was sort of wrong about Mojo. He has had a great season stats wise as the feature running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He leads the league with 11 rushing TDs and is third in the AFC in rushing yards. This may not be surprising since Mojo is basically the only good thing going on with the Jags offense. But while I was wrong about whether or not Mojo could handle a full-time load – I also predicted that he couldn’t turn around the fortunes of the Jaguars. And that has turned out to be dead on.

Ronnie Brown: If the Miami Dolphins make the playoffs again this season it will of course be due primarily to Brown. He is the heart and soul of the Dolphins offense whether he’s running the Wildcat or taking the handoff from Chad Henne. He is 7th in the AFC in rushing, but that’s because he is dividing his rushes with Ricky Williams (who is also having a pretty decent season).

Jason Taylor: After a one-year exile with the Redskins, Taylor has been a welcome addition to the Dolphins defense. The 35-year-old veteran has already has 5 and a half sacks for the season and has forced two fumbles.

Aqib Talib: Talib has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has five interceptions on the year, which ties him for third in the entire NFL.

Beyond these four players, there are a handful of others who I think you could make an argument for, including Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Sims-Walker, a 2nd year pro, has helped out the Jags much more than their acquisition of Torry Holt. Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud has had a solid season as well and ranks 8th in the league with 68 tackles. Ruud also has an interception. Ted Ginn Jr. deserves some consideration because of his kick-returning skills, but we’ll have to see whether or not his 2 tds against the N.Y. Jets was a one-week wonder. Right now he’s not even on the Pro Bowl ballot as a returner.


Draft Day 1: Fins surprise, Jags solid and the Bucs still don’t get it

April 26, 2009

After the first day of the NFL draft I think the verdict is this:

* Bill Parcells and the crew at Miami made a couple of expected picks, such as strengthening the defense with Illinois CB Vontae Davis and Utah CB Sean Smith. There was a little bit of concern expressed by the draftniks that Davis could have an attitude problem. But there is agreement that Davis could be a great addition to the defense.

More surprising was the selection of West Virginia QB Pat White in the second round. White is tremendously gifted, but after watching him it’s clear that he is a longshot to be an everyday quarterback. But he could obviously run the Wildcat offense effectively and could give defenses fits since he can throw the ball a bit better than Ronnie Brown. My only other thought, however, is I wonder whether he would have slipped down the board another round. They may have taken White too high.

Grade for the Dolphins: B-

* Jacksonville had really done very little to help itself during the off-season coming into the draft. They signed a deal with Maurice Jones-Drew that I still think they will come to regret and they brought in Torry Holt, who has been a great receiver but is now 32 years old and you wonder how much he’s got left in him.

But on the first day of the draft the Jaguars did exactly what they needed to do: Get help on the offensive line. There was no way that Jones-Drew can even hope to succeed if the Jags did not address that critical need. They got two big bodies in OT Eugene Monroe from Virginia and OT Eben Britton from Arizona. Solid picks, good decisions.

Grade for the Jaguars: A

* Do the people running the Bucs now even understand how the NFL works? After acting as if their quarterback situation was acceptable (which it’s not) – they signed Byron Leftwich as a backup and on draft day they TRADE UP to get QB Josh Freeman from Kansas State.

This is yet another sign that this franchise has no interest in trying to win this upcoming season. Freeman could be a great talent – and new coach Raheem Morris knows him well – but everyone admits he’s not ready to start. What the heck is the point of that? Tampa Bay now has a parcel of quarterbacks and yet none of them is capable of making the Bucs a winner.

The Bucs refuse to ante up to go after Jay Cutler yet they tacitly admit through their acquisitions of Leftwich and now Freeman that they need a QB.

Bucs fans it’s going be a long, long 2009 season. This team just keeps headed in the wrong direction.

Grade for the Bucs: D


Last minute Pro Bowl ballot box stuffing

December 8, 2008
Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Sports Addict Gary Fineout

Just to remind you: Football fans have until noon on Tuesday to submit their ballot for the 2009 NFL Pro Bowl. You can go here to cast your electronic ballot.

May I make a few last minute suggestions at stuffing the ballot box:

QB: Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins. Pennington has played a pivotal role in helping the Dolphins rebound from last year’s horrific season. But did you know he’s actually got more passing yards right now that Matt Cassel, who had back to back 400-yard games? Did you know he’s ranked fifth in completion percentage, or that right now he’s got a higher quarterback rating than the two guys with Manning in their last name? But it boils down to this: If the Dolphins make the playoffs it will have a lot to do with Pennington.

K: Matt Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bryant has been incredibly reliable for the Bucs and has missed just four field goals out of 32 attempts. He’s also fourth in the NFL in scoring.

OLB: Joey Porter, Miami Dolphins. Hey, he should get in for backing up his smack talk about Matt Cassel. But Porter also leads the league with an amazing 16.5 sacks. He’s a quarterback wrecking machine and the core of the Dolphins defense.

CB: Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville Jaguars. Yeah, the Jags season hasn’t been sensational but Mathis has four picks this season, including two he returned back for touchdowns.