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Winners, Losers & Wannabes – NFL Week 14

Shady McCoy was too much for the Detroit Lions. Even mother nature couldn’t slow him down. Three reasons why Snow Bowl was huge for the Eagles.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Winners

Philadelphia Eagles
What a huge, Huge, HUGE win for the Eagles. As far as I’m concerned, here are three reasons Sunday’s Snow Bowl win was so significant.
1. While I never thought the Eagles were a soft team, I considered them a finesse team, one that wouldn’t win a big game by overpowering anyone. Sunday convinced me otherwise. After nearly three quarters of looking like the finesse team I believed them to be, the Eagles bullied the Detroit Lions at the line of scrimmage for the final 20 minutes, dropping 34 points and racking up ungodly amounts of yards despite over a half foot of snow. Finesse teams don’t and can’t do that. Only power football teams win games when snow is accumulating at nearly three inches per hour. I’ve been skeptical all season about the Eagles as a playoff team because I didn’t think their style would translate to wins in the postseason grind. Sunday’s win proved otherwise.
2. Beating Detroit was a great lift to the Eagles’ playoff chances, but beating Detroit and combining it with a Packers’ win was icing on the cake. Had Green Bay lost, Aaron Rodgers would almost definitely be shut down for the season. Since Green Bay won AND Detroit lost, the NFC North is again completely up for grabs. Why does this matter to the Eagles? Because the Eagles can’t end in a tie with Dallas, even if they beat the Cowboys in Week 17. Dallas won’t lose to the Redskins, so based on a 5-1 division record, Dallas would get the NFC East title in any situation ending in a tie. Green Bay traveling to Dallas WITH Aaron Rodgers lowers Dallas’ chances of winning by at least 30%. With their victory over Detroit, the Eagles gave new life to the Packers and presented more challenges to the Cowboys. Yahtzee!
3. My cousin and I decided early in the 4th quarter that Sunday’s Snow Bowl felt like more than just a regular season game between conference opponents. The atmosphere, the old school vibe, the conditions; they all made it feel like the game would sway someone’s season. This young Eagles team may have come of age Sunday. They shouldn’t have won that game. Chip Kelly’s offense is built to do a lot of things, but winning in six inches of snow is not one of them. That was obvious as the Eagles slipped and tripped over themselves for nearly three full quarters. To transition to our fathers’ brand of “line up and beat the man in front of you” style of football and do so convincly spoke volumes about the mentality of this team and Kelly’s coaching. Nick Foles never looked rattled. Not once. Players didn’t get frustrated and give in to the conditions. Even DeSean Jackson kept battling. Sunday was the most fun I’ve had watching an Eagles game since Michael Vick’s breakout season of 2010. The standings will only reflect a single “W” from Sunday’s outcome, but it felt like so much more.

Cincinnati Bengals
Speaking of relentless, this Bengals team has overcome a plethora of key injuries and they simply keep winning. For a while there it looked as if they’d take over the AFC’s 2nd seed until the Patriots mounted yet another 2nd half comeback. Regardless, a win next Sunday over the Steelers should clinch the AFC North, unless you think the Ravens can finish 3-0 against the Lions (away), Patriots, and Bengals (away).

Indianapolis Colts
Congrats, you won the pitiful AFC South despite losing three of your last five.

Green Bay Packers
As noted above, Sunday’s win over Atlanta combined with Detroit’s loss gave the Packers new life in the NFC North. Tiebreakers are irrelevant here as the Packers have that glaring tie on their record. If they can win out, my guess is they win the division. Of course, all this depends on Aaron Rodgers actually returning and playing somewhere near 90%.

Paul Walker
He and the Fast and Furious franchise will always have a place in my movie vault. My wife and I’s first official movie date came in June 2001, where we saw the original Fast and Furious.

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers finally got the signature win they’ve been look for since, oh, I don’t know, Week 2? More importantly, their victory Sunday kept them out of the NFC Wildcard minefield, where the Eagles (and possibly Cowboys depending on tonight) would own better conference records.

Snow
A great football weekend for snow. Every game where snow was involved was absolute madness. It was spectacular. Except in Washington D.C., where Robert Griffin III’s cloud of suck overpowered the happiness of snow.

New England Patriots
If you’re keeping track, that’s three consecutive come-from-behind victories in three weeks. Yes, the pass interference call on the final drive was bogus, but was there really any doubt the Patriots would score anyway? Regardless, I’d bet the Patriots would trade a loss to the Browns for Rob Gronkowski. New England’s offense isn’t nearly as potent without Gronk.

Peyton Manning’s Arm
“See??!!? I still work in cold weather.”

Pittsburgh Steelers
I don’t care if they didn’t win. The Steelers pulled off two of the most exciting plays of the season. First, they nearly returned a miss field goal for a touchdown at the close of the 1st half thanks to multiple laterals and running sideways. Then, they nearly won the game a la Stanford/Cal. Unfortunately; Antonio Brown inexplicably stepped out of bounds with no one between him and the end zone. I applaud the effort. It was exciting. Also, I hate you because Miami will likely hit the over for their season win total.

Kansas City Chiefs
Given the distance between Kansas City and the rest of the AFC Wildcard contenders, Andy Reid should have a few weeks to get his defense healthy.

My Fantasy Team
After backing into the playoffs by losing four straight and five of six, Drew Brees carried my decrepit roster to the semifinals, where I can at least try to win back my entry fee.

Baltimore Ravens
What’s the deal with Baltimore? Has a defending Super Bowl champion ever been so inept at closing out victories at home? Miraculously, the Ravens are winners of three in a row and four of five and control their own destiny for the final AFC playoff spot.

Roy Halladay
Thanks for the playoff no hitter. If Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and [insert any name from the 2010 or 2011 Phillies] could hit, you’d probably have a ring. Or two.

Losers

Kobe Bryant
The Lakers were 40% less fun with Kobe back. It’s only one game, but Xavier Henry didn’t play enough and the ball movement wasn’t there. I was bored.

Carolina Panthers
No worries, Carolina. So you probably lost the chance to get that two seed in the NFC. No big deal. The last three Super Bowl champions were Wildcard teams.

Wes Welker
That’s two concussions in a matter of three weeks and who knows how many in his NFL career. He should just retire this week, right?

The NFL
Hitting receivers low is the new rave in the NFL and its causing significant lower body injuries. Rob Gronkowski’s knee was just the latest victim. Many have blamed the NFL’s rule changes for the increase in shots to players’ knees, but that’s not totally true. The real issue isn’t the rule changes. After all, it makes sense to protect heads over knees. The problem is with the enforcement of the rules to protect players from head shots. Too many times we see a clean, vicious, shoulder to upper body hit flagged as a blow to an opponent’s head. THIS is what is forcing defenders to aim for knees. If the NFL could enforce its own rules correctly, defenders would gladly aim for the shoulders and chest of receivers. Unfortunately, incompetent officials assume any bone-crushing hit is of the illegal variety. It’s amazing how many ways the NFL continues to ruin its product.

The NFL, take two
And then there’s this: http://espn.go.com/new-york/nfl/story/_/id/10109826/no-tailgating-parties-super-bowl-stadium Seriously, are they trying to ruin everything fun about football?

Detroit Lions
I didn’t understand why the Lions didn’t force the football to Calvin Johnson. Nick Foles even said in his postgame press conference that playing in the snow was all about throwing the football up and hoping your guy goes and makes a play. Calvin Johnson is the ULTIMATE go and make a play guy. Obviously, I was glad to see the Lions not go to him, but it was surprising nonetheless.

Wannabes

Chris Johnson
Word on the street (ProFootballTalk) is that you’ll be on the street soon. I’ll always remember you as Exhibit A when it comes to NFL teams not breaking the bank for running backs. Thank you. Your legacy will live forever.

Matt Ryan
If Ryan is truly an elite franchise quarterback, there’s absolutely no way his Falcons can be 3-10. No way. Mike Glennon has won four games with the Buccaneers. Minnesota has won three games with a variety of incompetence under center. Even Jacksonville has surpassed Atlanta’s win total behind the strong arm of… Chad Henne.

Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals played well on Sunday. Sadly, the 49ers’ win over Seattle may have sealed Arizona’s playoff fate. They’re best hope at making the playoffs was Philly winning the East and leapfrogging the 49ers.

Jim Schwartz
Never fails. Good ‘ol Jim Schwartz is a bad coach of a good football team.

San Diego Chargers
I know I put them here every week, but I’m still amazed every time I look at their schedule. Wins over the Eagles, Cowboys, Colts, and Chiefs. Losses to the Texans, Titans, Raiders, and Redskins. That’ll cause some horrific nightmares in the offseason.

Mike Glennon
9/25 for 90 yards is not a good day. Even in a win.

Seattle Mariners
Have fun paying Robinson Cano until my toddler is in junior high. In fairness to the Mariners, ten year deals to players in their 30s have been overwhelmingly successful in the past. Just ask the Yankees and Angels.

Florida State
Winning the ACC doesn’t prepare you for the SEC. The reign of the powerful Southeastern Conference will continue.

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 – Though not great, Sunday was another solid outing from Wilson.
2. Andrew Luck – Had the best day of the group Sunday. Unfortunately, the Colts still lost. In fairness to Luck, though, his four touchdowns were divided between guys named Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill. So yeah, Luck’s supporting cast isn’t the greatest.
3. Cam Newton – Sunday night proved Newton needs receiver help. And some improved pocket presence probably wouldn’t hurt either.
4. Nick Foles – Foles handled the snow beautifully. Never tried to do too much. This feels like a lasting relationship.
5. Colin Kaepernick – He was good enough to get the win.
6. Ryan Tannehill – After leading Miami to a win in Pittsburgh in what amounted to a playoff game for both teams, I felt it necessary to bring the south beach bomber back into the fold.
417. Robert Griffin III – Still staring down receivers. At least he’s consistent.

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