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When I started this “COUCH SPORTS EXPERT” journey, the NFL was all I had. This season is now entering its final stage, and I mppust reflect on what I’ve learned from Week 17. It’s usually hard to judge any of the games in the final week, because the majority of the teams have nothing to play for. This season was different. Out of all the teams who were guaranteed a playoff spot, only the Green Bay Packers could be completely comfortable in their playoff seeding. All other teams had to go out and PLAY. I could easily attach a theme on this week, and break down the teams that support my argument, but that would be lazy. Since this is the last time we will be discussing all except 16 teams this season, I will skip the theme, and go through each division.

Here is WHAT I THINK I LEARNED FROM THE NFL IN WEEK 17:

AFC NORTH (Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns)
• 2011 is the season that Baltimore officially got over the “Pittsburgh” hump. They are placing the game in RAY RICE’s hands, instead of JOE FLACCO’s.
•Pittsburgh is still a very tough out. They may be getting old, but Big Ben has young, quick receivers, and that defense is still dangerous.
•The Bengals are my “shocker” team of the season. After starting the 2011 season by dropping their “big name” players, they have been a tough, disciplined team all season long. It’s good to see Coach Marvin Lewis rewarded for it.

AFC EAST (New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills)
• I think we’re officially back to the days where New England is the only team worth watching in this division.
• Once again, the Jets go out and prove that they are more concerned about preparing for the media, rather than preparing for the GAME.
• Miami has alot to hang its hat on. They have played good football to end this season. Who would’ve ever thought Reggie Bush would play better with Miami’s offense than he did with New Orlean’s offense?

AFC SOUTH (Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts)
• Houston has finally won the South, but their division title will always have an asterisk by it. It is worth mentioning that they also lost their star QB this season.
• Like the AFC East, this division has seemingly gone back to its old ways of having one good, and one decent, team in the division.
• Decision time for the Colts organization. Stick with the greatest Architect of the QB position, or trust a young phenom. I say draft Luck, put the pressure on Peyton Manning to impress you, and trade one for more pieces.

AFC WEST (Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs)
• Tebow’s attitude is very infectious, so he will always be very likeable. BUT he is not a quarterback that can lead a team and win. If you look at their win streak, it came against other mediocre teams.
• San Diego does what they always do. They have a great offense (on paper), but never live up to their potential.
• This season we got back to talking about the Raiders. They have been strong all season. But good teams know how to win under pressure. Oakland played its must pressure-packed game yesterday and showed many flaws in defeat.

NFC NORTH (Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings)
• Green Bay sat some key players in a meaningless game (to them) and they still go out and put up 45 points. It’s scary to think about what they can do in full force. I think they reestablished themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.
• Detroit definitely has some work to do on defense, but their offense is scary. You better be ready for a shoot out against this team.
• The Vikings-Bears final game has an ironic, horror movie ending. They end their season against one another, and both teams will spend their off-season agonizing about injuries to the faces of their franchise. (Adrian Peterson and Brian Urlacher)

AFC EAST (New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles)
• Once again, Eli Manning goes into a must-win, high profile game, and plays like a LEGEND. The last two weeks are exactly why when I made my list of the Top 8 current NFL QB’s, he made the list. He looked like vintage Brett Favre out there, scrambling around and slinging the ball. No one is really talking about it now, but I would not want to face this team in the playoffs.
• Another season where the Dallas Cowboys can’t own up to the expectations set at the beginning of the season. I must admit that they probably go in to every season with more expectations put on them than any other team. But even when they have their fate in hand, they find a way to blow it.
• Philadelphia was supposed to be a Super Bowl team this year. Their season was an utter failure. But if the last quarter of their season is any indication of how they will look in 2012, NFL BEWARE.
• Same old Washington

NFC SOUTH (New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
• In my opinion, the Saints have the best QB in the league. They are strong on every side of the ball, and look like they may never lose again.
• Atlanta is a very tough team, when they want to be. When this team sticks to the run, and allows QB Matt Ryan to work from there…..they are one of the best offenses in the league.
• Carolina has a BRIGHT future behind Rookie phenom Cam Newton. Now they need to find a sensational player on defense to give him some help.
• There are some drastic, well-deserved changes coming in Tampa. As a fan, I’m happy about it!

NFC WEST (San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks)
• We’re still not talking about San Fran as much as we should be, but it’s good to see them get back to their winning ways.
• Rams fans- is Sam Bradford still worth the HIGHEST QB CONTRACT (at the time he signed it) IN NFL HISTORY?

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