Five things to love about the NFL from the next-to-last weekend of the regular season:
One. Jerome Simpson. On ESPN Saturday night, Tom Jackson called it the most athletic thing he has ever seen. Not sure I’ll go that far, but Simpson’s way-up and way-over flip into the end zone against the Cardinals is definitely worth another look. The Bengals’ wide receiver getting over Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington on his flip was impressive enough. That Simpson stuck the landing put it, well, over the top.
Two. Jason Hanson. The former Washington State University kicker has been with the Lions for 20 seasons and he just emerged from Hanson’s has labeled “10 years of oblivion.” The Lions are heading back to the postseason after an 11-season drought that included their 0-16 effort just three years ago. Hanson contributed to the Lions’ playoff-clinching victory over the Chargers on Saturday with a 50-yard field goal and five PATs.
Three. Jerod Mayo. Is the fourth-year linebacker really worth the five-year, $48.5 million contract extension he just signed? Ask the Dolphins. All Mayo did in the Patriots’ 27-24 victory was make 13 tackles and collect two sacks. Now that’s cashing in, after cashing in.
Four. Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ QB made sure Lambeau Field will be the site of any and all postseason games for his team by passing for five touchdowns in a 35-21 win over the Bears on Sunday night. Rodgers, who has to be the league MVP, was 21 of 29 for 283 yards, and did not have an interception to go with his career-high five TD passes. It was the 10th time in 15 games that Rodgers has thrown for at least three touchdowns. Only Tom Brady (12 in 2007) and Dan Marino (10 in 1984) have done that, and each was voted the MVP.
Five. Double-thumps. Richard Seymour blocked a 49-yard field goal attempt at the end of regulation which allowed the Raiders to beat the Chiefs 16-13 in overtime, and stay in the hunt for the AFC West title heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Heath Farwell blocked a fourth-quarter punt that set up Marshawn Lynch’s go-head touchdown in a play that should have allowed the Seahawks to upset the 49ers and stay in the NFC playoff chase for another week.