Johnny’s Drama and Sussing out the Playoff Picture: NFL Week 15 Recap

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A wild and crazy Week 15 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the deflation of Johnny Football, the updated playoff picture, expectations for the Seahawks, expanding coach’s challenges, what it’s like rooting for a good team, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Derek: I expect you have some venting to do. Go!

Will: I am sorry to disappoint, but I can’t even vent after the Browns’ 30-0 loss to Cincinnati. It was truly depressing. It depressed my energy, enthusiasm, and — at least briefly — my interest in football in general. I couldn’t bear to watch another game on Sunday after attending the whatever-the-opposite-of-coronation-is of Johnny Manziel.

The difference in enthusiasm pre- and post-game was as pronounced as I have ever seen in Cleveland. There were Johnny detractors in attendance, sure, but the vast majority of the crowd was ready to be excited by the kid. Then the game started, and virtually nothing good happened. Johnny was lost, the offense was a mess, Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert got hurt, and Jeremy Hill became a rhinoceros.

We were all strapped into the Johnnycoaster, ready for the twists and turns, but the operator forgot to turn the darn thing on. We were left sitting there trying to manufacture excitement, but our energies were sapped after hours of unrewarded screaming. I generally frown upon those who leave games early, no matter the score, but I sympathized with those who filed out early in the fourth quarter. I wrote about the sad post-game walk from the stadium back to the parking lot at Waiting For Next Year.

The Browns’ stadium is infamously known as the Factory of Sadness. Unfortunately, it is one of the few still cooking in Cleveland.

Derek: The Bengals seemingly couldn’t wait to do Manziel’s money sign at every opportunity. Is stealing another player’s celebration cool or lame?

Will: I’m not sure I’d call it cool, but I have no problem with it. If you’re bold enough to have a signature celebration, then you’re necessarily giving your opponents the right to mock it. It reminds me of WCW vs. nWo Revenge, when rotating the joystick 360 degrees did your opponent’s taunt. It’s the epitome of adding insult to injury. If you’re winning, you don’t have to worry about it.

Or so I’ve heard.

Derek: How do you see the AFC North quagmire unfolding?

Will: My urge is to shout I DON’T CARE now that the Browns are out of it, but that wouldn’t be very sporting, now would it? I shall endeavor to suppress my emotion and provide actual insight into the matter.

I can’t see the Bengals making the playoffs. They were marvelous against the Browns Sunday, but playing Johnny in his first career start is the exact opposite of a high-pressure playoff situation. Andy Dalton is an excellent quarterback—when he’s handing off. Good teams, like Cincinnati’s Week 16 opponent, the Denver Broncos, will force him to throw, and that spells doom for the Bengals.

I envision both the Steelers and Ravens making it into the tournament. I don’t know which will win the division, and I don’t especially care. It’s obviously better to play at home, but we’ve seen too many road winners to think that it is the be-all end-all. Ugh.

Who do you see getting the wildcard spots in the AFC? Right now, all three of the top AFC North teams would make it into the playoffs, but intradivisional matchups make that an unlikely proposition. Buffalo, Kansas City, and San Diego are all 8-6, with Miami and Houston lingering at 7-7.

Derek: After using ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine to carelessly pick the rest of the games this year, my two AFC wild card teams are … the Chargers and the Ravens! The Bengals just miss as they lose each of their final two games, while the Chargers snag the sixth seed after beating San Francisco and Kansas City to earn a visit to the AFC North Steelers.

Granted, this scenario would require the Chargers to win two straight road games. I think they can handle the 49ers since they don’t really have a home-field advantage and their season is over. Winning in Arrowhead in Week 17 would be a little tricky. If we change the outcome of that game, then the Bengals would get the sixth seed.

Screw it. Let’s just post the whole thing! Here’s how the playoffs will shake out using my careless picks:


#1 New England (13-3), #2 Denver (13-3)

#6 San Diego (10-6) @ #3 Pittsburgh (11-5)

#5 Baltimore (11-5) @ #4 Indianapolis (11-5)


#1 Seattle (12-4), #2 Green Bay (12-4)

#6 Detroit (11-5) @ #3 Dallas (12-4)

#5 Arizona (12-4) @ #4 Atlanta (7-9)

I immediately noticed Denver and Dallas in the Thanksgiving Bowl, and 12-4 Arizona traveling to 7-9 Atlanta. That sucks. Though this scenario involves Dallas winning out, which would mean they would be undefeated in December. That doesn’t seem right. Or is it? Is it time for us to admit that the Cowboys are good?

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Will: I’m still very cautious. This bizarre good spell for the Cowboys is like if Enron re-entered the stock market this year. Even if the price rose and the forecasts were promising, you wouldn’t invest, would you?

That said, maybe this is the year to buy in on the Cowboys. I’m not saying they’ll be in the Super Bowl or anything, as that idea is enough to give me vertigo, but maybe this is the year that they come through and make the playoffs. This is as much an indictment of the NFC East as a credit to Dallas’ footballing ways. The Giants suck, Washington sucks, and the Eagles have Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

The Cowboys lead Philly by a game, and they can lock up a division title with two more wins; they’re home against Indianapolis and then visit Washington. But during that same stretch, the Eagles play Washington and the Giants. Assuming Philadelphia wins both, and Dallas will have to handle Washington to make it in.

Crap. I see how this is going to play out.

I’ve asked over the past few weeks how you feel about the Seahawks re-ascending to power in the NFC. Now that they’ve won four straight, allowing just 27 points in that time, how are your expectations calibrated? Will anything other than a return to the Super Bowl be a disappointment? Tell me what it feels like to support a good team, but bear in mind that it will be like explaining a painting to a blind man.

Derek: I’m cautiously optimistic. I will say that if the Seahawks do manage to secure the NFC’s top seed, then yes, anything less than a return to the Super Bowl will be disappointing. To secure the top seed, the Seahawks pretty much just have to beat Ryan Lindley and Shaun Hill.

The only scenario in which Seattle wouldn’t get the top seed after winning out is if Dallas also wins out and there are no other 12-4 teams (besides Arizona) in the NFC. Dallas would get the top seed since they beat Seattle earlier this year. But if there’s a three-way tie at 12-4 (Green Bay and Detroit being the candidates) Seattle would get the top seed because the tiebreaker would shift to win percentage in conference games.

I suppose I owe the Buffalo Bills my gratitude. Before they beat Green Bay on Sunday, it seemed likely that the Packers would own the top seed. I’d have a hard time expecting the Seahawks to go into Green Bay and win. The Bills may have taken that off the table.

AP Photo/The Buffalo News, Harry Schull, Jr.

Harry Schull, Jr./AP Photo/The Buffalo News,

So, yeah, I guess I would be disappointed by anything less than a trip to the Super Bowl, seeing as I’ll be disappointed if the Seahawks can’t beat Ryan Lindley and Shaun Hill to (probably) get the top seed. It feels weird saying that.

Which brings me to your question about cheering for a good team. It’s strange, because at this time last year they had never won a Super Bowl, and I was wondering if I’d ever see them get any closer than Super Bowl XL. I have more experience with them being mediocre or bad than them being really good, so it’s really weird that I now find myself in a spot where I’m disappointed if the Seahawks fall short of a Super Bowl trip.

I guess I’m just trying to enjoy it. It can all disappear so quickly. Just look at the 49ers (Heh). There won’t be as much cap space after Russell gets his huge deal, and Pete Carroll is somehow the second oldest coach in the league. Just three years ago I was looking at mock drafts at this time. I’m just trying not to take it for granted.

Sticking with the Seahawks, they got a break against the 49ers when they were the beneficiaries of one of the worst roughing the passer calls I’ve ever seen. Do you think these types of calls should be reviewable?

Will: My first thought is yes. The refs should do all they can not to screw up, and reviewing bang-bang calls like that would help maintain a uniform interpretation of the rule. Uniformity ostensibly means fairness, and fairness should be paramount in an organization dedicated to selling cheap beer crowning the best team.

But man, that’s gotta be another ten minutes tacked on to every game. We already have timeouts and delays for every change of possession and scoring play and groin scratch, and I can’t bear the thought of more stoppages. I’m being a wildly selfish fan here, but I prefer expediting my football watching experience to getting the calls right more often. The clumsy review process makes the refs seem incompetent even when they get it right, and I just don’t have the patience.

Or maybe I’m just surly from the Browns loss. Let’s move on to Gentlemen of the Week. Who’ve you got?

Derek: I’m going with Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. Sure, he ripped Jay Cutler anonymously, but he was man enough to apologize for it. He also had the playoff aspirations of the New Orleans Saints and my fantasy football opponents in mind as he orchestrated a lethargic and terrible offensive performance on Monday night. Kudos to you, Aaron Kromer.

AP Images

AP Images

Will: Screw it, I pick Johnny. Historic performances are gentlemanly, no matter how dubious the reason. We remember Alexander Hamilton for being more than the Secretary of the Treasury, right?

Derek: Let’s move on to our Most Hungover Fan Bases. Sadly, I’m going to have to go with the supporters of the Cleveland Browns. Did you read what Will wrote for Waiting For Next Year yet? Look at this:

I often try to find the bright spot in the dark Cleveland sports sky, but this Browns loss leaves me unable to do so. There was just nothing—nothing!—that indicated anything positive.

Them’s drinkin’ words. And there are several other quotes that also qualify. Is there any disagreement?

Will: No disagreement whatsoever, but I shall choose a different fan base for variety’s sake. Staying in the Midwest, I choose Bears fans. Between Jay Cutler, the aforementioned Aaron Kromer, and every other shoddy football matter along Lake Michigan, I imagine that the Windy City faithful were tipping back more than a few Monday night.

But it sure has been a warm winter. Enjoy it while you can, Chicago.

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