Editor's Note: Chris Mortensen offers his usual array of Top-Five Lists to summarize NFL Week 16.
I can't tell you how many coaches I've spoken with in the past two weeks who sound on the verge of collapse. Totally exhausted. The grind is almost unbearable for many of them and the stress is great. There's no offseason for any of them. But it's what they love, so they do it.
I bet Brett Favre refreshed them Monday night. His love of his father Irvin (who died suddenly Sunday evening), his love of his teammates, his love of his coaches and his love of the game is exactly what's right with everything in the NFL.
When I first heard about Irvin Favre's death, knowing how close he and Brett were, I thought there was no way the Green Bay Packers' quarterback would be able to play Monday night in Oakland. Now I wonder why I even doubted that Favre could not only do it, but that he would have one of his greatest performances of a great career.
|Brett Favre experienced victory in the midst of grief Monday night: a MNF win one day after his father's untimely death.|
When tragedy strikes, you just want to be surrounded by your family. The Packers flew in his wife Deanna, but the Packers are a big part of that family when it comes to No. 4. Favre's performance was not only extraordinary, so was that of his teammates. Some of those catches by Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson and Wesley Walls were expressions of love.
In fact, as Favre jumped into Walls open arms after one touchdown pass, Walls could only say, "I love you."
Sometimes, announcers get a little too gushy about Favre's body of work, but I understand it. It's not that he's the perfect quarterback. He knows he isn't. He throws some stinkers and makes some plays that sometimes defy the belief that he's arguably the best quarterback who ever played the game.
The reason Favre is exceptionally special -- aside from the obvious physical skills -- is that he's so real as a person, so down-home and so passionate when he's playing football that it's infectious to those who play with him and, yes, even to those who watch him.
That was a beautiful Christmas present you gave us Monday night, Brett. You mentioned something about your father -- "I know he was watching." Whether it's true or not isn't important. I can tell you this -- he'd seen it all before he left this earth. Peace.
General Impressions of Week 16...
The rest of the football weekend left me with some interesting impressions.
The Indianapolis Colts' defeat to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night was one of the worst I've seen suffered by any team. The Colts lost a precious playoff bye and they were exposed. Can they recover? I don't know. The Broncos are one of the few teams that can beat the New England Patriots in Foxborough. I don't know if it'll happen, but they can do it.
Baltimore Ravens RB Jamal Lewis has had some costly fumbles this year, but his performance against the Cleveland Browns and his record-breaking season has elevated him into my MVP circle of Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, Ray Lewis and Torry Holt.
Has any team experienced a high-and-low in the briefest of seconds as the Saints did Sunday when John Carney -- a terrific kicker and man -- missed the PAT to end the team's playoff hopes in Jacksonville?
The Detroit Lions lost a record 24th straight road game on a day the Carolina Panthers sat five starters. Is former Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg smiling somewhere?
Actually, Mornhinweg was not smiling Sunday, as the Philly assistant watched the Philadelphia Eagles suffer a defeat almost as devastating as the Colts. The Eagles lost home-field advantage and now can lose the NFC East.
Not to mention what you already know, but let's just understand what coach Bill Parcells has accomplished with the Dallas Cowboys: He has doubled Dallas' victories of the previous three seasons and he basically did it without changing out a whole lot of players.
The St. Louis Rams crushed the Cincinnati Bengals to regain home-field advantage in the NFC, and you know what that means... I'm waffling again.
Home-field advantage is a big deal when it involves a team like the Rams ... so my post-Week 16 Super Bowl predictions sway back to the Rams vs. the Patriots. Yes, I know, recent history tells us one of them may blow it. But I'm not smart enough to know which one. Here are my Top-Five lists for Week 16:
Best Games: Week 16
1. 49ers 31, Eagles 28 (OT) -- When Brian Westbrook returned a punt 81 yards for Philly's 21-14 lead in the third quarter, I knew it was over. Terrell Owens out and the 49ers come back? On the road? Yeah, right.
2. Titans 27, Texans 24 -- QB Steve McNair shot blanks until he hit the bulls-eye on his last chance. Why did that not surprise me?
3. Falcons 30, Buccaneers 28 -- A furious rally left the Bucs a two-point conversion away from staying alive in the playoff hunt only to have it batted down by Falcons DT Travis Hall.
4. Jaguars 20, Saints 19 -- You saw it. The unlikeliest play spoiled by the likeliest kick.
5. Packers 41, Raiders 7 -- The theater and the drama of Brett Favre's night overshadowed a rout.
Most Impressive in Victory
1. Broncos 31, Colts 17 -- Talk about a deceptive score. This was about as one-sided as it gets.
2. Rams 27, Bengals 10 -- The Rams now can beat you a lot of ways, including with their defense. Ask the Bengals.
3. Vikings 45, Chiefs 20 -- If the Vikes actually had home-field advantage, you'd look at 'em a lot differently.
4. Ravens 35, Browns 0 -- Nobody really wants to play Baltimore in the playoffs -- for obvious reasons.
5. Packers 41, Raiders 7 -- That was domination. And even though the Raiders have had some seriously bad moments this season, they are also the team that beat the Ravens the week before in the same stadium.
Best Performance: Quarterback
1. Brett Favre, Packers -- I guess it doesn't matter much whether he threw for 399 yards or 400. He was the best Monday night.
2. Jake Plummer, Broncos -- He started off with a disaster when the Colts returned an interception for a TD but he rallied. Big time. Threw only 17 passes, but he completed 14 for 238 yards and ran for two TDs.
3. Daunte Culpepper, Vikings -- He torched the Chiefs for three touchdowns and had a lot of fun doing it.
4. Quincy Carter, Cowboys -- Even though he got his team in the end zone only once, Carter played as well as he has all year with a 17-of-25 performance for 240 yards, and he had some timely plays with his legs.
5a. Steve McNair, Titans -- OK, we remember. Why he's a Titan, as in bigger than life.
5b. Rex Grossman, Bears -- The guy was 19-of-32 for two TDs and hit 10 different receivers as his ol' ball coach (Steve Spurrier) watched on the losing sideline. The rookie is 2-0 as a starter.
Best Performance: Receiver
1. Torry Holt, Rams -- It was another clinic as he finished with 10 catches for 124 yards. His 1,642 yards move him closer to Jerry Rice's single-season yardage record.
2. Randy Moss, Vikings -- As long as Holt is an MVP candidate, Moss should be in the discussion, too. He had two more TDs vs. the Chiefs and now has 1,576 yards on the year.
3. Todd Pinkston, Eagles -- He had his first 100-yard day as a receiver (121 yards) and made a heck of a catch for a 19-yard TD that knotted the game at 28 with 1:02 left to play in a game the Eagles lost in OT.
4. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals -- In a losing cause, the rookie caught 10 passes for 122 yards and a TD against the Seahawks.
5a. Hines Ward, Steelers -- He did it all again with 94 yards receiving and 32 rushing as the Steelers put up 40 vs. the Chargers.
5b. Drew Bennett, Titans -- All the credit is going to McNair, but he made two huge catches, including the game-winner from 24 yards out.
5c. Laveranues Coles, Redskins -- He scored twice and gave the Redskins a chance against the Bears.
5d. Javon Walker, Packers -- Walker's heart and hands didn't let Favre or the Packers down (four catches, 124 yards, two TDs).
Best Performance: Running Back (2x5=10)
1. Jamal Lewis, Ravens-- If I calculated this right, if Lewis played the Browns 16 times, his 2003 rate would put him at 4,000 yards.
2. Fred Taylor, Jaguars -- He hit for 194 yards on 34 carries and had two catches for 31 yards as the promising Jags beat the Saints.
3. Onterrio Smith, Vikings -- The rookie carried 21 times for 146 yards and three TDs in big win over the Chiefs.
4. Quentin Griffin, Broncos -- Not that there is a perfect time for Clinton Portis to get hurt, but the rookie from Oklahoma looked like the perfect AstroTurf back when he ran for 136 yards in Denver's road win at Indy.
5. Kevan Barlow, 49ers -- He ran through the Eagles for 154 yards on 30 carries. He now has 393 yards in his three game starts for the injured Garrison Hearst.
6. Anthony Thomas, Bears -- All aboard the A-Train ... this time for 141 yards on 32 carries as the Bears keep rolling.
7. Shaun Alexander, Seahawks -- The former 'Bama back kept the Seahawks alive with 135 yards on 21 carries and two TD. Just hold onto the ball, Shaun.
8. Ahman Green, Packers -- The spotlight was on Favre, but Green delivered another stellar game with 127 yards on 24 carries.
9. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers -- He had 91 yards and two TDs, but let me say this: If Tomlinson played on the Rams or Chiefs, I bet we'd be having an argument that he's the best player in football.
10. Jerome Bettis, Steelers -- As we celebrate players who do it with passion, let's give the nod to The Bus, who had 32 carries for 115 yards and surpassed the great Jim Brown for sixth place on the all-time rushing list.
1. Tony Parrish, 49ers -- Of all the Pro Bowl snubs, Parrish may have been the greatest. He had two more interceptions and a forced fumble; the second pick of Donovan McNabb handed the 49ers their OT victory.
2. Grant Wistrom, Rams -- Along with Leonard Little, Wistrom gives the Rams arguably the best pair of defensive ends in football. He enjoyed 2.5 sacks vs. the Bengals.
3. Tedy Bruschi, Patriots -- After watching Bruschi snatch another interception Saturday night vs. the Jets, I really hope he's added to the AFC Pro Bowl squad.
4. Ty Law, Patriots -- He had eight tackles and a beautiful pick in the end zone.
5a. Willie McGinest, Patriots -- It's pretty neat to see a veteran like McGinest -- who was up and down early in his career -- become such a productive player at this stage of his career. He had seven tackles, an interception and a force fumble.
5b. Mike Vrabel, Patriots -- Does anybody realize how good this guy is? He had two more sacks. Now that I think of it, can we just put all these Patriots in the Pro Bowl?
1. Mike Sherman, Packers -- He's one of the best men in the NFL that few people know about, and I have to believe he was every bit the father and coach that Brett Favre needed in a 24-hour period that challenged the senses.
2. Mike Shanahan, Broncos -- For all the nitpicking about his team the past couple of years, the job he did on the Colts should be enough to shut everyone up.
3. Bill Parcells, Cowboys -- Not that beating the Giants at home was a big deal, but the significance of 10 wins with a chance to steal the NFC East is a big deal.
4. Mike Martz, Rams -- The guy doesn't get enough credit; not that he wants any.
5a Brian Billick, Ravens -- Yes, he has wonderful talent in most of the right places, but he sure knows how to use it.
5b. Mike Tice, Vikings -- Not only won't Tice let himself be buried, he got his team to play the game of their season in a huge win over Kansas City.
5c. Dennis Erickson, 49ers -- With Terrell Owens out for the game, Erickson kept his team focused and hungry for a huge road upset in Philly.
5d. Dave Wannstedt, Dolphins -- In a short week after a disappointing home loss to the Eagles, Wannstedt took his then-still alive Dolphins and won decisively in Buffalo (20-3), where it was windy and very chilly.
Best Games: Week 17
1. Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers -- I have a feeling that this game will be tougher on Favre than Monday night, but a division title and playoff seedings ride on this game.
2. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers -- The perfect home team (Seahawks) must win on the road against the dangerous 49ers.
3. Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins -- The Eagles must win this Saturday-night game (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) or they blow the NFC East (if Dallas wins). With only a few exceptions, the Redskins have shown up most Sundays. The only problem, as I see it, is the Redskins must exploit the Eagles' rush defense.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens -- It should be terrific Sunday-night theater (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) between two rivals, two bruising teams, with the AFC North title possibly at stake for the Ravens. The Steelers have the Ravens' number and usually score a lot of points doing it.
5a. Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans -- If the Titans beat the Bucs, the Colts need this one to win the AFC South. And the Texans are a dangerous team when David Carr is at quarterback.
5b. Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints -- We will know Saturday night (after the Eagles play) just how big this one is for the Cowboys.
5c. Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals -- The Bengals need a win and a Ravens' loss Sunday night to win the AFC North.