On the NFC Playoff Picture & Pro Bowl SelectionsPosted:Dec 29th, 2010 3:13 pm
With the Vikings registering maybe the shocker of the season on Tuesday night in Philly, the NFC playoff picture has taken on a different look. The Packers appeared to be headed for a rare playoff matchup with the Bears, but now would face the Eagles in the wildcard round. Any chance we can ensure this game is played on a Tuesday night?
First things first. The Packers need to take care of business at Lambeau and put away the Bears. The game has lost a bit of its luster, because despite all the posturing you hear over the next few days, if as expected, the Bears are locked into the #2 seed by kickoff there will be a natural emotional letdown that will change the way the players perform against the Pack. If either the Falcons (at home vs. the Panthers) or the Saints (at home against the Bucs) win their early game, the Bears are the #2 seed in the NFC before they take the field.
That's obviously a huge advantage for Green Bay as they look to nail down the final invitation to the NFC playoff party, but it sets up a tough first round game--at Philadelphia. The Eagles can and will rest a number of players on Sunday in a game that means nothing to them and comes just five days after their meltdown against the Purple. Mike Vick got hurt on the first play and felt it all night long. They'll rest him and get him healthy for the Pack.
So let's see, Green Bay at Philly. How many 4th and 26th references will we hear in the week leading up to the game? Chew on this for a second: if the Pack had taken care of business in Detroit, they'd be playing for the NFC North title on Sunday. Ouch.
Instead, their road through the playoff looks like this: upset the Eagles and you get to play the Falcons. Shock the Falcons and you play at Chicago or New Orleans. Three very tough road games--that's what you get for losing to the Lions, Dolphins and Redskins.
On the other hand, a couple of pretty good teams in the NFC will be stuck home watching the playoffs, so we'll take what we can get.
If you had asked me to name the five Packer Pro Bowlers without knowing who got selected, I would have guessed Rodgers, Sitton, Williams, Matthews and Woodson. I would have gotten three wrong. The first three were not named to the team: Clifton, Collins and Jennings were. I'm not real surprised that Sitton and Williams didn't get the nod--it usually happens the year after a player makes a big splash. If they have similar seasons in 2011, they'll be shoo-ins. As will B.J. Raji, who has has proven it the past two weeks on a national stage.
The Rodgers snub is not too hard to understand. In Vick, Brees and Ryan you have three exceptional QBs. Vick will be a top 2 MVP candidate, Brees is coming off a Super Bowl title and Matt Ryan has led the NFC's top team to four fourth quarter comebacks. Add in the fact that the games Rodgers missed coincided with players' voting and you can see why he was named first alternate. Let's hope he's busy preparing for the Super Bowl anyway. If not, one of the other three certainly will and Rodgers will end up in Hawai'i.
Remember early in the season when Clifton looked done and was nearly benched? He's come a long way since then and thank goodness. When Tauscher got hurt, Clifton's backup Bryan Bulaga moved to the right side and provided Rodgers with solid pass protection. Clifton's knees have held up and he's been solid. But a Pro Bowler? I don't think so.
Greg Jennings can thank Kurt Warner for retiring and turning Larry Fitzgerald into the invisible man. With Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson, the NFC is stacked. But Jennings came on strong after Finley's injury and the Packers offense started flying because of him.
Matthews and Collins have been terrific all season and earned their spots. Obviously Clay was a lock. Collins hasn't made as many big plays as last season, but has earned a reputation and is playing at a time where there are not a lot of great safeties in the NFC.