The Patriots prove their AFC Supremacy, the Giants are finally done, and familiar faces are back in contention in the AFC North. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Goodness gracious there’s going to be some fun times in the Wildcard chase over the next month. There are currently five teams in the NFC within a game of the final spot and EIGHT teams within a game of the final spot in the AFC. For those keeping track, 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams are in the playoff hunt. Even more shocking: Houston and Atlanta are two of the seven teams not in contention. Though it’s been a season short on greatness, at least we have parity and suspense.
New England Patriots
Another comeback victory for the Patriots and yet another reason to believe there’s no one in the AFC that can take out Bill Belichick’s scrappy bunch. On a related note, I declared this weeks ago.
The Western Conference
You want breathtaking suspense, competitive action, and violence? Screw the NFL. Go watch the NBA’s Western Conference. So many good teams. So much disdain. I watch and/or record two to three games a night. It’s like the NBA Playoffs five months early. Merry Christmas to me.
A statement win by the Panthers Sunday. They’ve proven they can beat the NFL’s elite. Sunday they proved they could win even on an off day. Good teams win when everything goes well. Great teams win despite everything going wrong. Cam Newton struggled for most of the day, the defense was a little off, the coaching was conservative at times, and the whole team was in a national spotlight hangover. And still they won.
Green Bay Packers
The rest of the NFC North went winless Sunday, a HUGE plus for the Packers as they remain within striking distance despite the absence of Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, the Packers were also winless…
Green Bay Packers
A tie is certainly better than a loss, so the Packers can’t be too devastated. On the other hand, a win would have put Green Bay in a tie for the division. Better yet, a win would have given Green Bay the freedom to rest Aaron Rodgers another week. [Note: I think the Packers should wait until after Thanksgiving to bring Rodgers back anyway. Those ten extra days will go a long way in repairing that collarbone injury. One game back with four to play is easy to make up with a healthy Rodgers under center.]
Well balanced and well-coached teams still compete and often win without their top quarterbacks. Look at the Eagles, Titans, Rams, and Bears. The Packers are a complete mess without Rodgers. McCarthy isn’t a good coach. He’s a bad one riding the coattails of an elite quarterback.
I miss football as a sport decided by the 22 players on the field. Why must we allow officials to control every aspect of every play? It’s football. People are going to get hurt. The flag thrown on the hit on Tony Romo that nullified a crucial Dallas fumble was absolutely the right call according to the rule, but the rule itself is stupid. It was stupid when it saved Drew Brees last week, too. Requiring massive mammals to run full speed and control where their limbs make contact with another moving massive mammal is ludicrous. Quarterbacks are football players, too. If they don’t want to be smacked in the head from time to time, they can forfeit the fattest contracts in the game and go punt or kick. Pansies.
That heat on Cincinnati’s tail just got a lot hotter Sunday after both the Ravens and Steelers won to remain two games behind the division leading Bengals. It’s one thing to have teams chasing you. It’s a whole different story when those two teams have the pedigree and success of the Ravens and Steelers. The Bengals can prove they’re worthy of the crown by taking both teams down in December.
I’m of the minority who believes yesterday’s outcome in MetLife Stadium was not beneficial to the Eagles. As an Eagles fan, I wanted New York to win. Here’s why:
1. The Giants stink. Sure, they won four straight and have a resume full of late season surges that led to deep postseason runs, but that’s just not this team. Eli Manning doesn’t have it this year. The defense is a shell of its former self.
2. The Eagles split with the Giants. This would have come in handy in a tiebreaking situation considering the Eagles currently own the division record tiebreaker. A division loss for Dallas would also have been huge.
3. Dallas’ remaining schedule isn’t that tough. It’s certainly easier than the Eagles’. A Cowboys loss Sunday would have been helpful for Philadelphia because Dallas may not lose too much more this season.
4. I know Philadelphia is raving about how good the Eagles are, but let’s be honest; the Eagles haven’t done anything to prove they’re a playoff team. Their current three game run has come against the Raiders, the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, and the Redskins. Beating crappy teams doesn’t mean you’re good. It simply means you don’t suck. The Eagles remaining schedule pits them against four playoff contenders in five weeks. The Eagles ONLY win this season against a playoff contender came against the Packers, who, again, were without their MVP.
Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine Dallas finishing worse than 3-2 and the Eagles finishing any better than 3-2, which would have to include a win over Dallas. That would leave both teams at 9-7, and unless the Redskins pull off a miracle and beat Dallas, the Cowboys would win the NFC East thanks to their 5-1 division record. Again, I think people are underestimating how big Dallas’ win in New York was for their playoff hopes and how crippling it was to the Eagles’.
Poor guy can’t catch a break. The NBA and more specifically, the Eastern Conference, are 90% more exciting when Derrick Rose is healthy and doing his thing. To miss him for yet another season is awful for fans, the Bulls, and of course, the hardworking Rose. In a league full of best friend yuppies that want to be Hollywood stars, Rose wanted only to win. I stared at my TV for a solid 15 minutes when Rose was helped off the bench last Friday.
Kansas City Chiefs
While it was pleasant seeing the Chiefs score, injuries to Tambi Hali and Justin Houston cannot be overcome. KC’s only shot in the playoffs is their defense. Without Hali and Houston, that defense isn’t the same. As soon as Houston and Hali went out the Chiefs pass rush died and the Chargers moved the football at will. Also, kudos to Andy Reid for bringing Quintin Demps back into the fold. He was San Diego’s MVP.
For cheering for the Rams defense all afternoon and celebrating when they scored late against the Bears only to realize I completely forgot to move them off my fantasy team bench. Every week I get closer to quitting fantasy football forever.
Let’s put “the NFC East is the worst division” storyline to bed once and for all. The AFC South is atrocious. Even the Colts are a bad team that occasionally suffers from a case of greatness. Speaking off…
Sorry, Andrew Luck and Indy, but you can’t fall behind by multiple scores in four straight weeks and be considered a legitimate contender. One of the weirdest outcomes of a weird season: The Colts scored a total of 61 points against the 49ers and Seahawks and won both games. The Colts scored a total of 19 points against the Rams and Cardinals and lost both games… by a combined 59 points.
Peyton Manning still can’t win big games in cold weather, even WITH a dominant and punishing run game. That’s bad, bad news for Denver. Manning’s noodle arm isn’t comforting, either.
They’re the ultimate “find a way to lose” team. It’s amazing how many ways they find to blow winnable games.
The food stinks, the houses you visit stank like said food, and Wendy’s is closed.
Young QB Rankings
(Let’s face it, the biggest story/stories driving the league right now is the play of young quarterbacks. Since it’s such a big deal, I’ll be sure to rank the top seven after each week starting right now. There are no real criteria other than they must be within their first five years in the league.)
1. Russell Wilson – A well-earned rest for the king of the NFL’s next generation.
2. Cam Newton – Aaawwwe shhoooot, Cam Newton in the house! A brilliant game against the Patriots followed up by a clutch 4th quarter on the road has Newton leapfrogging two spots.
3. Robert Griffin III – He whined all week and blamed everyone but himself. Time to prove you’re good enough to point fingers, Griffin.
4. Andrew Luck – Luck’s last three games; 2 TD, 4 INT, 2 embarrassing defeats.
5. Colin Kaepernick – At least Kaepernick isn’t a baby who passes blame like RGTurd.
(Space is to emphasize the guys above are on a different level than the ones below.)
6. Nick Foles – I probably should have put Foles above Kaepernick but I don’t want to jinx anything.
7. Mike Glennon – I put Jake Locker here once. He got injured. Case Keenum was here, too. His NFL career died rather quickly. Glennon looks to be a keeper.