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Winners, Losers & Wannabes – NFL Week 15

Tony Romo and the Cowboys did it again. Another late collapse against a beatable opponent has the Cowboys’ clinging to life. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Week 15 was wild. Since the day belonged to those who lost, we’re switching up the order this week and recognizing the plethora of Week 15 losers first. Congrats to all those who contributed to a week full of choke jobs. Also, I wrote this post while still emotional from Sunday’s events. And I’m not apologizing for it.

Losers

Dallas Cowboys
It’s 26-3 at halftime. The Cowboys are rolling. Aaron Rodgers is coming to grips with not playing a meaningful football game until the fall of 2014. Eagles fans are sulking over a blown game in Minnesota. Then BAM!
Jason Garrett stops running the football, Tony Romo starts doing Tony Romo things and Matt Flynn reminded the NFL why he once got $26 million from the Seattle Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers now has Super Bowl aspirations. The Eagles got a stay of execution from the natives, and the Cowboys face yet another week of backlash and scrutiny.
You can blame Romo all you want. Sure, he squeezes grapes in the 4th quarters of tight games, but he wasn’t the reason Dallas lost Sunday. Jason Garrett held that honor. Even Andy Reid thought Garrett was throwing the ball too much with a double digit 2nd half lead. Maybe if DeMarco Murray averaged 9.4 yards per carry instead of a measly 7.4 Garrett would have run the football more. Or MAYBE HE’S JUST AN ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE FOOTBALL COACH!
This is why I love the Cowboys. Romo is a mess in tight games: He’s not going anywhere. Jason Garrett was a buffoon Sunday and had the balls to throw Romo and his offensive coordinator under the bus afterwards: He’ll be back next year because Jerry Jones guaranteed it. The Cowboys roster is a disaster and their cap looks like a seven year-old has been at the helm: Jerry Jones isn’t going anywhere. The Cowboys are dysfunctional from the top down and nothing is going to change. You keep doing you, Cowboys.

Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia media wrote about the 2010 Vikings fiasco. Pathetic blogs like this one did as well. Even Chip Kelly brought it up to the team. And still, the Eagles crapped the bed.
Last week I believed the Eagles were a legitimate playoff team. They’re not. They’re just another inconsistent team benefitting from a truly horrible division. And let’s stop with the “happy to be here” crap. That only works if the team is overachieving. This Eagles team is not overachieving. They’ve shown what they’re capable of being. Don’t tell me I have to expect less. Of course they’re not going to beat the elite teams in the league, but I’m not going to simply write off a loss to a 3-9-1 football team WITHOUT its best player and only true offensive threat because the Eagles weren’t supposed to compete for the playoffs. No thanks. Oh yeah, did I mention the opponent also started a 3rd string running back and a backup QB? Screw 8-6 and happy to be here. The Eagles underachieved Sunday and they deserve all the vitriol coming their way.
DeSean Jackson was great Sunday except when he lazily watched a Viking pick off a pass right in front of him. Nick Foles had brilliant numbers but looked aloof and disinterested for long stretches. The defense was atrocious, incapable of limiting the NFL’s 22nd passing attack while allowing the great Matt Cassel to complete 74% of his attempts. And let’s not forget about the offensive wizard Chip Kelly. I thought it was brilliant of Kelly to ignore the ground game. LeSean McCoy rushing for over 200 yards in a snowstorm was obviously a fluke. No need to give him the football more than eight times yesterday. Why not drop Foles back to throw 52 times? 52 to 13 is a run/pass ratio that would even send Andy Reid into cardiac arrest. The game was never far enough out of reach to justify ignoring the ground game. So good job, Chip. You may be an offensive wizard but Sunday you looked liked an overmatched and outcoached Oompa Loompa.
Whether or not we expected 8-6 after 15 weeks is irrelevant. All that matters now is the Eagles had a chance to burry the Cowboys and came up small. Way small. Underachievers are underachievers, regardless of expectations.

New Orleans Saints
Let’s give a hand to the softest team in the NFL. Even when they go indoors on the road, the Saints crawl into the fetal position and stay there until the final whistle. Drew Brees was beyond awful. He threw two horrible picks within his first seven attempts. New Orleans never recovered. A win would have all but clinched the NFC South and the NFC’s 2nd seed. All New Orleans would’ve needed was to win one of its final two games. Now, a loss next week to an angry Panther team in Charlotte would give Carolina the upper hand and more than likely, the NFC’s 2nd seed. (Assuming the Panthers would then beat Atlanta in Week 17.) Maybe this is who the Saints really are this year. I mean, they barely beat Atlanta and Tampa Bay on the road (17-13 and 16-14, respectively.) They lost to the Jets and Patriots and were clobbered by the Seahawks and Rams. This actually gives me some hope as an Eagles fan. After New Orleans loses in Carolina next week (it’s a lock now), it’s possible the Saints will be traveling to meet the NFC East champion. If it’s below freezing, there’s no way the Saints will be as potent as they are inside their precious little dome.

The Top Three Seeds in the AFC
The Broncos fell at home as the defense was shredded. The loss gave Kansas City a sliver of hope at still winning the division. It also gave the Patriots a golden opportunity to take over the AFC’s top seed, which they blew along with a 4th quarter lead in Miami.
I feel bad for the Patriots. They’re so neutered by injuries right now that Tom Brady targeted two guys 33 times Sunday. In other words, “This is all we got. Try to stop it.” Credit the Patriots for battling a tough Miami team and coming within a dropped touchdown (one that Gronk would have caught) of another come-from-behind victory. Sunday’s defeat could have been even more devastating had the Bengals shown up for the 1st half Sunday night. By no-showing the first 30 minutes, the Bengals likely cost themselves the AFC’s 2nd seed and possibly even the AFC North. Baltimore is coming. They only needed one Cincinnati slip up and they got it Sunday night. The Ravens now control their own destiny in the AFC North.

New York Giants
Shut out at home. Well done. Has a two-time Super Bowl champion ever given its fan base less than this Giants team?

NBA Sunday Schedule
The NBA needs a premiere Sunday night matchup. It doesn’t have to be nationally televised. Just put a nice matchup on the schedule for 8PM so I have something to watch when the NFL nightcap goes south. I was stranded last night during the 2nd half of the Steelers game because the NBA games were over and I had little interest in the Steelers running out the clock in front of a half-empty stadium. I actually caught my first episode of Duck Dynasty. (Really? That’s the most watched cable TV program?)

Washington Redskins
Seven turnovers is an impressive feat. Nearly winning an NFL game despite seven turnovers is equally impressive.

Arizona Cardinals
Poor Arizona. They keep winning and boast a better record than 11 other NFC teams. And they still won’t make the playoffs because both the 49ers and Panthers keep winning. Remember when we wanted to take away the NFC West’s automatic playoff spot? Four years later they deserve three and will only get two.

Winners

Green Bay Packers
If Aaron Rodgers is finally able to return, the Packers could be in business as an NFC dark horse. BUT FIRST they need some help from the Ravens tonight. Let’s just pretend the Lions lose and the Packers win out to win the division. That puts them at 9-6-1. The NFC East champion could be 10-6, 9-7, or (gulp) 8-8. If Green Bay can get that 3rd seed and host San Francisco they could be in business. A win over the 49ers would then send them to New Orleans. I’ll take Aaron Rodgers over Drew Brees in a shootout every day of the week and 74 times on Sunday. That would put the NFC title game in Seattle or Green Bay (I’m giving the Panthers a 30% chance of taking out the Seahawks). Of all the quarterbacks in the NFC, I give Aaron Rodgers the best shot at beating Seattle in Seattle. He did it last year despite being sacked eight times in one half (the refs cheated the Packers and gave Seattle the W). This year, Green Bay has Eddie Lacy, and Randall Cobb could even return before the playoffs, too. I’m all in on the Packers right now. I should settle down.

Chicago Bears
A gutsy win in Cleveland. They’ll likely need to win out to hold onto the NFC North. If I’m the Bears, I’m not feeling too good about my chances given that the Chicago defense surrenders four touchdowns per game and the Eagles and Packers are on deck. Then again, after watching Greg Jennings and the Vikings torch the Eagles secondary, it’s possible Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall surpass the 500 yard plateau.

Houston Texans
Keep you’re eye on that prize. You’re one week away from a 14 game losing streak and that top overall pick. You’ve come this far. Don’t blow it now.

Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill was great. If the Dolphins had a more reliable ground game I’d have hope for them in the postseason. You know, if they even get there.

San Diego Chargers
What a game by the Chargers. I’ve only given this 12 seconds of thought, but the Chargers may have been the most impressive team of Week 15.

Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were a close second but I can’t get behind the 31 points surrendered to the Raiders. While being a Wildcard team is never ideal, the Chiefs can’t be too upset with their current draw; at a lousy Colts team, then with a with a win they’d travel to face the depleted Patriots. Andy Reid knows how to win on the road in the postseason.

Jamaal Charles
It’s like Andy Reid brought Brian Westbrook out of retirement, except he came back bigger, stronger, faster, and with longer hair.

Carolina Panthers
That was a business win by the Panthers. They comfortably handled a desperate Jets team. Even though Ron Rivera cost me a cover by foolishly passing on a field goal early in the 2nd half, I thought the Panthers navigated a bad team sandwiched between two monster games perfectly. I like this team in the postseason.

Tim Duncan
Two 20 and 10s this week, an awesomely hilarious dance/stretch routine, shooting well over 50% since his early season slump, and all at the age of 37. He’s the best. Ever.

Philadelphia 76ers
As I said before, the victory over the Heat in the opener was all I needed from the 76ers this year. 1-9 over their last ten is exactly what this season is about.

Wannabes

Philadelphia Eagles
Sorry, it just felt right.

Jacksonville Jaguars
It was a good run. Jacksonville’s hopes for a four game win streak faded with Chad Henne’s 4th quarter red zone interception.

Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have blown so many games this year. I so wanted them to blow another one Sunday night. If Cincinnati could have converted that two point conversion early in the 4th quarter I think the Steelers would have self combusted.

NFC East
0-4 Sunday. Looks like the Least is making a run at the AFC South for the worst division in football.

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 – When the opposing QB throws five interceptions, you don’t have to do much to win.
2. Andrew Luck – I get bored watching Luck. I’m not even sure why. He’s too good to be boring.
3. Cam Newton – An efficient and composed effort from Newton against a solid Jets defense. Still, Newton takes too many sacks. He may have Ben Roethlisberger syndrome.
4. Nick Foles – What I would have said to Nicky early in the 2nd half; “Get your head out of your a**. It’s not a hat.”
5. Colin Kaepernick – Kaepernick continues to be solid under center. Regardless, did you know Kaepernick hasn’t come within 125 yards of his opening week performance?
6. Ryan Tannehill – Had the best day of the group. Tannehill showed flashes early in the season and then faded. It appears he’s back. His last three games; 800+ yards, 65%, 8 TD, 2INT, 3-0 record.
417. Robert Griffin III – He was a good teammate on the sideline Sunday. At least he’s not a jerk.

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