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In Case You Missed It. NFL Week 15 Recap

A crazy NFL Sunday was headlined by the undefeated Packers losing and the totally defeated Colts winning. The Eagles remain alive, the Patriots end Tebow-mania, and the Ravens, Jets, and Giants collapse in embarrassing fashion.

Week Two Headlines

No headlines this week. I’m on vacation. Just the bare bones recap.

Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)

1. Packers – I’m going to refrain from overreacting to one loss. However, if the Packers can’t protect Aaron Rodgers, if the receivers can’t overcome a chronic case of the dropsies, and the defense can’t tighten down just a little bit; Green Bay could find itself in some trouble come playoff time when the Saints come rolling through Lambeau. Regardless of how good an offense is, there’s at least one game ever year that the defense must win itself. Sunday was that game for the Packers. The defense obviously failed.
2. Patriots – It started badly for the Patriots as Tim Tebow and the Broncos ran the football at will, but it was just a matter of time before Tom Brady’s competitiveness took over. Ever notice how Brady is at his best when he’s written off or ignored? That’s the guy I want as my quarterback. Play of the game: Brady took a thundering out-of-nowhere hit on a 4th quarter sack. Some quarterbacks don’t walk off the field after that hit, others need extra time to stand up. Not Brady. Brady got up, huddled the offense, and carried on as if he just converted another 1st down. That’s the kind of stuff that sends a message. To both sidelines.
3. Saints – The Ravens may have peaked. The Texans need a healthy Andre Johnson. The Steelers are still underwhelming. Thus, the Saints move all the way to number three. Looking at the NFC Playoff field, there are only two teams capable of derailing the Saints. The Packers for obvious reasons, and the Eagles, if they get in. Why? Because the Eagles can score and they have the pass rush to get after Brees. I’m not saying they’d win, simply that they’d have a chance. It doesn’t matter, though, the Eagles are still a prayer and a dream away.
4. Steelers – With Houston and Baltimore losing on Sunday, the Steelers now control their own destiny for the AFC’s top seed. I haven’t been all that impressed with the Steelers this season, but home field advantage throughout the playoffs would make them the obvious favorites to win the AFC.
5. 49ers – After what we saw from the Ravens last night, I can’t reasonably include them in our top five. I don’t care if they just beat the 49ers a few weeks ago. San Francisco’s Monday night game against Pittsburgh got a lot bigger after Sunday’s events. As mentioned earlier, the Steelers can now win the AFC North and the top seed in the conference, and the 49ers still have an outside chance at the NFC’s top seed. More importantly, though, the 49ers need a win to stay tied with the Saints. The 49ers own the tiebreaker, so if they win out, they get that first round bye and would most likely host New Orleans. Hosting New Orleans on grass is a huge advantage to visiting the Superdome. I was undecided in my Friday picks about this one. I’m going with the 49ers.
(Last Week: GB, NE, BAL, HOU, PITT)

Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)

28. Bears – Right now, with Caleb Hanie at quarterback, you’d be hard pressed to find five teams worse than the Chicago Bears. Hanie was so bad on Sunday (another 3 INTs), the Chicago defense essentially gave up. I’d just like to say how brilliant Lovie Smith and the Bears look for not bringing in Donovan McNabb. Whew. Dodged a bullet there. Seriously, the Bears would have been getting a motivated, proven McNabb. Sure, he wouldn’t have know the offense, or been able to lead the Bears to victory in a shootout, but he would have at least given them a chance. Hanie’s committed more than three turnovers in each of his starts. The Bears never had a chance.
29.
Buccaneers – I’m not sure what Raheem Morris considers “quitting,” but whatever his team did on Saturday night looked an awful lot like it. It’s been somewhat entertaining watching Morris squirm and beg for his job. Every chance he gets he talks about his team not giving up and playing hard, etc, etc. We’re not blind, Raheem. They’ve quit. 
30. Jaguars
– Best of luck to the new coach in Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert looks like he’ll need some extensive grooming before he’s a capable backup. Good thing they dumped David Garrard before the season.
31.
Rams – I’m not sure where the Rams go from here. They entered 2011 as a young, up-and-coming squad that was supposed to compete for the NFC West title. Now, their franchise QB doesn’t look so “franchise-esque,” the coach is likely gone, and the offense lacks playmakers at nearly every position. At least the Cardinals and Albert Pujols… oh, wait.
32. Colts
– The Colts are no longer a historically awful team, just another really bad one. In addition to getting their first win of the season, the Colts embarrassed a division rival at the same time. With a loss to the Bengals earlier in the season, it would take a miracle for the Titans to sneak into the playoffs.
(Last Week: KC, TB, CLE, STL, IND)

Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)

Eagles – The Redskins win over the Giants on Sunday was perhaps the most unlikely event on the Eagles’ wish list for a far-fetched playoff berth. The resurgent Birds are still a long, long shot, but there’s reason to hope. The Eagles are rolling behind a vicious, and I mean vicious, pass rush. If there’s one thing that pushes Tony Romo into choke mode, it’s a relentless pass rush. Additionally, the Giants and Jets are both struggling and in desperate need of a win next week. Considering the Giants defense is horrendous and the Jets have an adequate secondary, I like the Jets chances. That’s enough to keep the Eagles alive going into the season’s final week. In 2008, the Eagles snuck in on the last day with a blowout win over Dallas and a shocking Oakland victory over Tampa Bay. I’m just saying.

Chiefs – Anyone else think the Kansas City Chiefs were sick of playing for Todd Haley? If I’m a KC fan, I’m excited for next season. The Chiefs defense is clearly capable of being of the NFL’s top ten units. Healthy returns of Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, and Matt Cassel, combined with a new head coach should propel the Chiefs right back into the playoff mix next season. (Yes, technically, the Chiefs are still alive this year.)

Lions – It pains me to say this, but the Lions will be in the NFC Playoffs despite a rough stretch in the middle of their season. Thanks to consecutive, by-the-skin-of-their-teeth victories over the Vikings and Raiders, the Lions will represent Detroit in the playoffs for the first time since the Barry Sanders era. In fact, the Lions could even be a real threat in the first round of the NFC playoffs (unless the Saints don’t catch the 49ers and land at #3. In that case, Detroit is D O N E). Detroit fell just short against the 49ers, has already beaten the Cowboys and should have at least a 50-50 chance against the Giants or Eagles (if they were to win the NFC East) if the Falcons were to unexpectedly collapse.

Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)

Ravens – The Ravens are now at the mercy of the Steelers. Considering Baltimore finished 2-0 against Pittsburgh and is currently undefeated in the AFC North, that’s not something you’d expect to hear. But it’s fact. The Ravens inconsistency and lack of offense have finally caught up to them. Sunday’s loss propably cost Baltimore the AFC’s top seed and could even drop them to 5th heading into the playoffs. That means traveling to Denver or Houston. So much for bringing Baltimore a home playoff game.

Giants/Jets – Take your pick. Both need a win next week to keep their dying playoff hopes alive. Fittingly, they face each other in the battle of massive underachievers. I thought the Jets abandoned the ground and pound approach too early against the Eagles. A 14-0 deficit is a big hole, but not one that is insurmountable, especially that early in the game. As for the Giants, the defense couldn’t get a stop when needed, wide receivers kept dropping passes, and Eli Manning got antsy and tried to do too much.

Raiders – Oakland had a golden opportunity to climb its way back into the AFC West race. You’d think knowing the Patriots were dominating the Broncos would motivate the Raiders to finish strong and force a tie atop the division. Instead, Oakland blew a 13 point lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and now needs all sorts of a help to win the division and make the playoffs. What may hurt worse; with the Jets loss in Philadelphia, the Raiders would have moved into a three way tie with the Bengals and Jets for the final AFC Wildcard spot. But then again, these are the Raiders we’re talking about.

Fantasy Nightmare Football update of the week…
  • I picked the most important week of the year to produce my lowest scoring output. I hate fantasy football. (Remind me of this when I sign up for a handful of leagues next year. Thanks.)

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