Playoff Picture Updates

This weeks games helped clarify the playoff scene a good bit so I am going to quickly update where things stand.

AFC

The Pats, Broncos and Texans have all won their divisions and are jockeying for the 2 first round byes.  The Ravens, meanwhile, are guaranteed a playoff spot despite losing 3 straight games, thanks to the awfulness that is the rest of the AFC right now.  The wild card spots belong to the Colts and Bengals and the Bengals still have a chance to steal the division crown from Baltimore with a week 17 match-up against them.  The Steelers are still alive but would have to beat the Bengals this week to put themselves in real contention.  The Dolphins, at 6-8, technically still have a pulse, but would have to win out vs the Bills and Pats and hope that the Bengals lose to the Steelers and Ravens and then the Steelers also lose to the Browns.  Mark Sanchez finally eliminated the Jets from playoff contention last night.

NFC

In the NFC the Falcons have all but locked up the top seed and won their division weeks ago.  After back to back 50 point games, no one wants to play the Seahawks right now and the Niners-Seahawks match-up this week could not only determine that division, but could give the winner the 2nd first round bye thanks to both teams having head-to-head wins over Green Bay, the third division winner and third seed right now.  The NFC East, exciting as always, has 3 teams who all control their playoff destinies.  The Redskins currently lead the division with the Cowboys 2nd and the Giants 3rd.  Thanks to tie-breakers, if the Giants win out vs the Ravens and Eagles, they will be in the playoffs as at least a wild card team.  The Cowboys face the tough Saints this week and the Redskins travel up the road to Philadelphia.  If both teams win this week, then they will be playing head-to-head for the division title week 17 in Washington.  Giants fans will be cheering for them to lose to get back into the division conversation.  The final wild card spot is completely up for grabs still with the Giants, Cowboys, Bears and Vikings all sitting at 8-6.  The Vikings have the hardest road playing the Texans and Packers the next two weeks, the Bears have it much easier, getting the Cards and Lions.  Finally, similar to the Dolphins, the Rams, at 6-7-1 are technically capable of making the playoffs but it would require an awful lot of dominoes to fall their way.

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The Playoff Push

With 3 weeks left on the NFL schedule, I think my team is officially out of it, but there are a lot of playoff spots up for grabs and a lot of team still in contention.  I’m going to give a quick rundown of what the playoff picture looks like.

 

AFC:

The Pats, Texans and Broncos are all locked into the playoffs and appear to be the top 3 seeds.  The Colts have a strong hold on the top Wild Card spot, as one win will all but guarantee them a spot in the playoffs.  Their final three games include a game versus lowly Kansas City but also two versus the Texans.  With that in mind, if the Colts win out and Houston also drops to Minnesota, the Colts can actually win the AFC South as well.

The final 2 playoff spots look to come out of the AFC North.  The Ravens can and should win the division, but with their final three games coming vs Denver, vs the Giants and at Cincinnati, it won’t be easy for them.  For Pittsburgh to overtake them for the division, they need to win out at Dallas, vs Cincinnati and vs Cleveland and hope for the Ravens to lose 2 games, one of which has to be the Cincinnati game.  The Bengals on the other hand need to beat Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hope the Ravens drop to Denver and the Giants and then they will be playing for the division title in vs Baltimore at home in week 17.

The last Wild Card spot meanwhile looks to belong to either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati who each need two wins in order to clinch.  Their week 16 match-up will eliminate one team’s playoff hopes.  If things go really strangely, the Jets can actually still find a way into the playoffs but they need to win at Tennessee, vs San Diego and at Buffalo and hope a lot of other cards fall.

 

NFC:

The Falcons are the only team guaranteed a playoff spot at this point and after them it is a bit of a mess.

West – The 49ers finish their season at New England, at Seattle and vs Arizona, so by no means can they be considered a favorite for their division at this point.  Seattle meanwhile plays at Buffalo, has the home game vs San Fran then stays home vs the Rams.  It looks like the match-up in Seattle could determine the division and if Seattle wins out, they could even contend for a first round bye as they have the head to head tiebreaker over Green Bay thanks to a controversial win.  San Fransisco also holds the head to head tie breaker over the Packers for home field advantage.

North – The Packers play the Bears this weekend and if the Packers win, they win the NFC North.  If the Bears can win this game, however, they put themselves and even Minnesota back in the division hunt with the Vikings playing the Packers in week 17.

East – The hot and cold Giants hold their fate in their own hands, but with games at Atlanta, at Baltimore and vs Philadelphia, it won’t be easy for them, as winning two out of three games still doesn’t guarantee them the division.  The injury to RG3 could be costly to the Redskins if he indeed misses time, which I don’t see how he doesn’t.  But Washington plays at Cleveland, at Philadelphia and vs Dallas and if the Giants drop just one game and the Skins can win out, they win the division thanks to a better division record than the Giants.  Dallas meanwhile, needs to win out vs Pittsburgh, vs New Orleans and at Washington and they too will have a shot to overtake the Giants if they lose a game, based on division record.

If the Giants, Packers and Niners can win their divisions, the Bears and Seahawks will be in the drivers seat for the two wild card spots.  If one of them slips, the week 17 match-up between the Redskins and Cowboys could put one of them in the playoffs even if the Giants do hang on to the division.  The Vikings are still in the race for a wild card spot as well.

 

 

This week a couple losses can end the playoff chances for many teams and can clarify the playoff picture.  However things could go the other way and the cards could all fall in place for a very interesting final two weeks.  I know I’ll be doing my best to follow it all.

Greg McElory

Going back to school full-time has kept me much busier that I anticipated.  One of the great things about being a Sport Management major, however, is that it is literally my homework to talk about sports everyday and often some interesting discussions come up.  Yesterday the quarterback situation for the New York Jets was brought up and I stated that I felt Greg McElory deserved the chance to start and could potentially be a good player.  He did after all win a Texas 5A state title, was named Texas 5A player of the year, then followed that by later winning a BCS National Championship game while at Alabama.  (He also had a 3.85 GPA and graduated in 3 years with a degree in business marketing so he is a very intelligent young man).  Where I drew so heated debated was when I followed that with the addition that I feel bad for him though because he probably played on a more talented team in college than the one the Jets currently have.

 

I decided I had to break it down to see just how talented the Alabama roster was in the time Greg played there and then to compare it to the current (and by that I mean injuries included so I was not counting Revis or Holmes when I said this) New York Jets roster.  To gauge talent I will primarily use the round the players were drafted into the NFL or the round where they are currently projected to be drafted in 2013.  This is the only way to provide any true metric of comparison of physical talent.

 

Running Backs:  The Jets currently feature former 3rd round pick Shonn Green and 4th round pick Bilal Powell in their backfield.  The Crimson Tide, in McElory’s years as a starter, featured Heisman Winner and 1st round pick (28th overall pick) Mark Ingram and Heisman Finalist, Doak Walker award winner and 1st round pick (3rd overall) Trent Richardson.  Glen Coffee (3rd round pick) and Eddie Lacy (potential 1st round pick) also lined up in the back field in McElory’s time in Alabama.

Decision:  Alabama by a land slide here.

 

Receivers:  The Jets starters at wide receiver right now are Stephen Hill and Jeremey Kerley, selected in the 2nd and 5th round respectively.  The reserves are 5th round pick Clyde Gates and former 7th round pick Chaz Schilens.  At Tight End the Jets also have former 1st rounder (30th overall pick) Dustin Keller.  While McElory was at Alabama his primary target was Julio Jones, drafted 6th overall in 2011.  His other wide outs were Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks, both of whom were signed as undrafted free agents following the 2012 draft.

Decision:  While Julio Jones is clearly the most talented of the bunch, the upside of Hill and Kerley coupled with the better depth and the talent of Keller gives the Jets the advantage here.

 

Offensive Line:  The Jets feature 2 1st round picks on their offensive line in D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, selected 4th and 29th overall.  The starters alongside them are 6th round pick Matt Slauson and undrafted players Brandon Moore and Austin Howard.  Their key reserve is currently Vlad Ducasse, a 2nd round pick.  For the Crimson Tide, tackle James Carpenter was selected 26th overall in 2011 and Andre Smith was selected 6th overall in 2009.  At center, Antoine Caldwell was a 3rd round pick, as was guard Mike Johnson.  In the 2013 draft, Chase Warmack and Barrett Jones are both projected to be drafted in the 1st round and DJ Fluker is currently a 1st-2nd round prospect.

Decision:  Alabama has pumped out some strong offensive linemen lately and I give them the advantage here.

 

Defensive Line:  Both teams run a 3-4 which makes this even easier.  The Jets starters are Muhammad Wilkerson, a 1st round pick (30th overall), Sione Po’uha, a 3rd round pick and Mike DeVito, an undrafted player.  Their key reserves are Quinton Coples who was selected 16th overall this past year and Kendrick Ellis, a former 3rd rounder.  In McElory’s time at ‘Bama, he saw Marcell Dareus, the 3rd overall pick in 2011, Terrence Cody, a 2nd round pick, Josh Chapman, taken in the 5th round, Brandon Deaderick a 7th round pick,  and Lorenzo Washington, an undrafted free agent in the NFL.

Decision:  I have to give the Jets a slight edge here as 2 1st’s and 2 3rd’s is just a bit better than 3rd overall, early 2nd, 5th and 7th.  Its close though.

 

Linebackers:  The Jets lineup with Bryan Thomas (1st round, 22nd overall), Bart Scott (an undrafted player although also a Pro-Bowler), David Harris (2nd round) and Calvin Pace (1st round, 18th overall).  Their best reserve is 3rd round rookie Demario Davis.  For the Crimson Tide a starting set of linebackers would include Courtney Upshaw (2nd round, 35th overall), Donte’ Hightower (1st round, 25th overall), Rolando McClain (1st round, 8th overall) and CJ Mosley (projected 1st round pick in 2013).  Their top reserve would be projected 2nd or 3rd round pick Nico Johnson.

Decision:  This one is close if you give credit to Bart Scott as a Pro Bowler but I am looking at talent level as of right now, and with 38 years of combined wear and tear, the Jets ‘backers are old compared to the ridiculous talent from Alabama.  Alabama wins.

 

Defensive Backs:  The Jets starters are a pair of first rounders in Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson, selected 19th and 29th overall respectively.  Their reserves are Ellis Lankster, a 7th rounder and Aaron Berry, an undrafted player.  At Safety they use former 1st rounder LaRon Landry (6th overall), 3rd rounder Eric Smith and 6th rounder Yeremiah Bell.  The also have 6th round rookie Josh Bush.  Alabama on the other hand has sent 1st rounders Kareem Jackson (20th overall) and ‘Dre Kirkpatrick (17th overall) to the NFL along with 2nd round pick Javier Arenas.  Dee Millner is expected to go early in this years 1st round as well.  5th round pick DeQuan Menzie would round out the corners.  At Safety the Crimson Tide featured 1st round pick Mark Barron (7th overall) and 3rd round pick Rashad Johnson.

Decision:  In terms of pure talent and volume of it, this is another big win for Alabama.

 

 

Final Tally:  Alabama featured superior running back, a better offensive line, has an impressively talented young group of linebackers and boatloads of talent and depth in the secondary.  While the Jets wide receivers aren’t impressive yet, their depth gives them the edge as does their slightly deeper defensive line rotation.

 

 

Summary:  While the argument that top college teams can beat weak NFL teams is always rampant, I simply chose to compare the talent level of the Alabama team that Greg McElory played on versus the current New York Jets team that he probably deserves to be the quarterback of.  It is my opinion, based on the research presented above, that McElory did in fact play with better talent in Tuscaloosa than that with which he won the game last Sunday.