Usually this far into the season it's easy to see who are the clear favorites to reach the Super Bowl and who have only an outside shot at best, but over the last few seasons the NFL seems to finally be getting the
parody parity they've been trying so hard for so long to get. In the 2010 season it was the Packers who went on to win the Super Bowl despite only earning the #6 seed in the NFC with a 10-6 record. In fact had the Bears beaten them at the end of the season the Packers wouldn't even have made the playoffs.
Last year it was the 9-7 Giants who went on to win it all despite being just one Tony Romo completion to a wide open Miles Austin away from watching the playoffs on their couches. Meanwhile, this season we have two 11-1 teams that keep winning but hardly in dominate fashion, and a slew of contenders that can look dominate at times but can also look downright terrible in others.
This week was no different as four division leading teams lost (Giants, Ravens, Bears, and some other team) and it's a 3 way battle in both the NFC and AFC for who will get the #2 seed and a first round bye. So what can we learn from this? Well I don't know about anyone else but I learned I really hate the Rams this season.
After fighting so hard to get back to .500 the Saints have now lost 2 in a row and unlike the past when they could blame their defense, this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of the newest member of the boy band One Direction. I don't think I could name one of their songs even if I tried and I consider myself lucky for that.
After holding a team to under 400 total yards for the first time all season last week, the Saints defense was even better in this one holding the Falcons to only 283 total yards. However Drew Brees had one of the worst games of his career and threw 5 interceptions, made a bad play that cost them a shot at a FG before the half, and had his NFL record for most consecutive games with a TD pass ended. At least he has a singing career in a boy band to fall back on if this NFL things doesn't work out.
So much for Jaguars savior Chad Henne. After playing well the last two weeks Henne looked downright horrible in this one completing just 18 of his 41 passes as well as throwing an interception. Maybe the Jaguars should take note of the Bills strategy for crappy QB play. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 9 of 17 throws mainly because the Bills were running all over the Jags gaining 232 rushing yards and averaging 5 yards per carry. This was not what Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey was hoping for in his first trip back to Buffalo after abruptly resigning as the Bills coach at the end of the 2005 season. "I don't think we gave ourselves a chance to make it a game," Mularkey said. "I thought after the last two weeks, we were really making progress." Well I believed in Santa Clause as a kid but we all have to learn the truth sometime.
Seahawks 23, Bears 17
With the Bears leading 14-10 with just over 3 minutes to play, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks on a 12 play 97-yard TD drive to take back the lead with just 24 seconds remaining. After Robbie Gould hit a 46-yard FG to tie it and send it to overtime, Wilson led the Seahawks once again on a 12 play 80-yard TD drive to win it. So after getting just 10 points in their first 7 possessions, they got 13 in their final 2. It was only the second time all season the Seahawks managed to win a game on the road. "I don't think we are a 1-5 road team," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "The football gods were with us today and they helped us out." I think I would thank Lovie Smith's questionable decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 on the 15-yard line with a 7-0 lead instead of kicking the FG. By the way, you're also not really a 5-0 home team either. You're a 4-1 home team that won a game when the football gods really did help you out by having officials on the field who seem to think all a receiver needs is a pinky on the ball in order to consider it a catch.
Vikings 14, Packers 23
Remember the Olympics and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius who is a double amputee and competes on carbon fiber legs? There was a lot of chatter that he may have on unfair advantage because of his fake legs. Of course the accusation was absurd and if someone really believed it they could always have their legs chopped off and replaced with carbon fiber ones. Hey, if men are willing to take estrogen so they can compete as women, it seems cutting off the lower part of your leg is a lot less drastic. But while I never bought into the idea Pistorius had an unfair advantage, I am starting to wonder if Adrian Peterson has one.
Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries, that's 10 yards per carry for those of you who struggle in Math, and scored a TD to give him 1446 yards and 8 TDs for the season with 4 games still to go. A while back people were accusing bike racer Fabian Cancellara of using a motor on his bike, maybe Peterson had something put into his surgically repaired knee. Or maybe he's just a freak of nature.
Despite his heroics, Christian Ponder stunk throwing for only 119 yards and was intercepted twice in the red zone by Morgan Burnett, including one in the end zone. "As we walked into the tunnel, Everson Griffen was behind me talking. He was like, ‘Why does it feel like we won? But we're leaving here with a loss,'" Peterson said. "That's the type of feeling it was. We know that it's things that we did that cost us the game." Sure, and the main thing that you did that cost you the game was drafting Christian Ponder.
After needing overtime to win their last two games the Texans forced 6 turnovers which they turned into 10 points, and sacked Jake Locker 6 times. Wait, the defense forced 6 turnovers and sacked Locker 6 times and they only won by 14 points. Well I guess it's better than having a defense that allows only 3 points in regulation and 6 points overall and still losing. Ouch, that one's going to hurt for a while.
Jamaal Charles gained 127 yards on 27 carries and Brady Quinn had probably the best game of his career completing 19 of 23 passes for 201 yards and 2 TDs. Actually, it might be the only good game of his career. It was also the first time Quinn threw a TD pass in 3 years and the 2 TDs in the game equaled the total number of TDs the Chiefs had for the entire month of November. It was a huge boost for the Chiefs after the murder suicide of linebacker Jovan Belcher. "As far as playing the game, I thought that was the best for us to do, because that's what we do," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. "We're football players and football coaches and that's what we do, we play on Sunday." You also usually lose on Sunday so it wasn't quite business as usual. As for Cam Newton, in addition to losing he just found out that Quinn is now his mom's favorite player so he can't do his Campbell's Chunky soup commercial.
After the Dolphins had cut the lead to 20-13 with 8:28 remaining, Tom Brady led the Patriots on a long clock consuming drive down to the Dolphins 2-yard line. The Patriots kicked the FG to give them a 10 point lead, leaving the Dolphins with only 1:10 on the clock and no timeouts all but sealing the win. The Patriots were also aided early on by several Dolphins mistakes. A botched punt, roughing the passer penalty, and fumble all led to the Patriots first 17 points. "Too many mistakes," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "To beat a good opponent in December, you have to play better." Wow, that should be put next to the wisdom sayings of Confucius. Here are some I thought of:
If you want to stay dry when it's raining, use an umbrella.
If your drunk and are having a hard time getting home, close one eye so you don't see double of everything.
Don't call a pitch play when you have an 8-point lead with 3 minutes remaining and your defense has yet to allow any points.
I have it on good authority that the NFL will be releasing this game as an instructional video for anyone who wants to find out what they shouldn't do while playing QB. The combined stat line for Ryan Lindley and Mark "formerly known as The Sanchize" Sanchez was: 20/52, 169 yards, 0 TDs, 4 interceptions. Oh, and there was one other QB that played, Greg McElroy, who completed 5 of 7 and threw the games only TD. Maybe you'll remember him as the guy who won a National Championship when he was at Alabama. In addition to the lone TD drive, McElroy also led a drive with 7:55 remaining that went all the way down to the Cardinals 1-yard line before kneeling on the ball to run out the clock.
"From the get-go, from the first play, it just wasn't my day," Sanchez said. In case you're wondering, Sanchez threw an interception on the first play. When asked why he made the change at QB, Rex Ryan said, "It's just something that I sensed, that I felt." He must be really thick if it took repeated 3-and-outs, and 4 turnovers, not to mention the inept play almost all season, just for him to finally sense it was time for a change. Either that or this was the first time he had a real backup QB suited up that he actually could make the switch to.
Some QB/WR tandems are so prolific their names are forever linked, Manning to Harrison, Aikman to Irvin, Montana to Rice, Young to Rice, pretty much any QB he played with to Rice. Now you can add Manning to Unrein. Sure he's a defensive lineman but he did score the first TD of the game. He also made a big play on the side of the ball he was drafted to play. With the Broncos holding a 21-10 lead late in the 3rd quarter, Unrein hit Josh Freeman as he was throwing it which resulted in a 26-yard pick-6 for Von Miller that all but ended the game. "When I got my hands on it, I felt like I only had some O-lineman in front of me," Miller said. "I felt like my odds were pretty good." And for those that are just dying to know, yes, Greg Schiano is still having his players fire off the ball when the other team is in victory formation. Unfortunately John Fox is not Tom Coughlin. Maybe the NFL can package the rematch of Schiano/Coughlin on pay-per-view.
The late game losses have gotten so bad for the Lions that their PA system now blares at the end of every game, "Wah, wah, wah, wahhhhhhh". With 8:41 remaining, the Lions kicked a FG to take a 33-21 lead. The Colts cut the lead to 33-28 with 2:39 to go, and after the Lions couldn't get one last 1st down to end it, the Colts got the ball with just over a minute and no timeouts, drove down to the Lions 14-yard line, and scored on the very last play of the game. Wah, wah, wah, wahhhhhhh.
Andrew Luck, who was intercepted 3 times, also threw for 391 yards and 4 TDs, including the game winner to Donnie Avery who caught the ball around 8-yards out and ran in untouched splitting two defenders who couldn't quite get there in time. "You always hesitate throwing the ball not in the end zone, for fear of the clock running out with a guy in bounds," Luck said. "Took the calculated risk that Donnie could get there in the end zone, and he did." And by "calculated risk" he means the defenders were so far out of position he probably could have run it in himself if he really wanted to. Of course one of the defenders wasn't even paying attention since he was reading the comics section of his newspaper thinking to himself, "Oh Ziggy, will you ever win."
Well the Chargers did have another late 4th quarter lead but the Bengals knew the Chargers are the Lions of the AFC so they'll do something to blow it. Philip Rivers turned the ball over 2 times in the final 4 minutes of the game and the Bengals were able to turn a 13-10 4th quarter deficit into a 20-13 win. The Bengals also got another good game from the running back firm of Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis who ran for 118 yards on 27 carries, while the Chargers managed only 46 yards on the ground for the entire team. Partly because they only ran the ball 11 times and 2 of those were by Rivers. "We were flat as hell the second half," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. Oh Philip, will you ever win.
Steelers 23, Ravens 20
Uhmmm...this is a typo right? That can't be the correct score. The Ravens were playing at home and they haven't lost at home all season. The Steelers were still without Ben Roethlisberger and had the 37-year old Charlie Batch at QB. So the Steelers didn't really win did they? (Rechecking the score) So I guess that is right since Joe Flacco stunk, completing less than half his passes while turning the ball over twice, and Batch actually played fairly well, throwing for 276 yards and the game tying TD midway through the 4th. "I think we missed a couple of opportunities early to really take a hold of this game even more," Flacco said. "I thought we could have put up 30 or 40 points today and we didn't. I think that's a reflection that we hurt ourselves." What's this "we" nonsense. You're the one that completed only 16 of your 34 pass attempts. I thought it was only on the road that you stunk.
I know this will surprise some people but Tony Romo is now the Cowboys all time leader in TD passes. That's right, more than Troy Aikman, more than Roger Staubach, more than...Troy Aikman. Was Danny White any good? I only remember him because he was the losing QB in the NFC Championship game with "The Catch". Romo threw for 303 yards and 3 TDs, all 3 of which either tied the game or gave them the lead.
Even with Romo's strong play the Eagles still had a chance with rookie Bryce Brown putting huge numbers for the second straight game (169 yards on 24 carries) but for the second straight game it was his fumble that cost the Eagles. Trailing 27-31 Brown was fighting for yards at mid-field but the ball was knocked out and Morris Claiborne picked it up and returned it 50-yards for the TD. "Up until that fumble, he had done a heck of a job," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He was trying to get every stinking yard he possible could." Considering he now has 3 fumbles in 2 games, maybe there's a reason he hasn't started since he was in High School.
Both these teams are bad but it looks like the Raiders are worse. Anyone see this game? I didn't but it looks like Brandon Weeden threw for a career high 364 yards and made some critical throws on a 94-yard drive late in the 4th quarter to give the Browns a 10-point lead and ultimately the win. By winning the Browns snapped a 12-game road losing streak while the Raiders can look to continue their newest tradition of trying out a new head coach every year or two.
Giants 16, Redskins 17
I don't know why, but seeing the Giants lose a tough one on the road to the Redskins kind of made me feel a little better about what happened to the 49ers. Not that much, but a little. It wasn't that long ago that the Redskins were sitting at 3-6. Now after 3 straight wins they're only 1 game out of first place. I suppose that's what happens when you get to play the other 3 teams in the NFC Least. Get it? I put an "L" in front of East and made Least. You know, because the teams in that division aren't all that good. OK, it's not original but it still works.
RG3's numbers weren't really eye popping, 13/21, 163 yards, 1 TD, but the Redskins were able to pound the ball on the ground for 203 yards and that was good enough to get the 1-point win against the They Might be Giants. Are they a dominating football team looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, or are they a band that creates quirky songs. If you've a date in Constantinople she'll be waiting in Istanbul.
49ers 13, Rams 16
After the 49ers and Rams tied a few weeks ago I compared it to kissing my sister. Meh. Well this week it looked like I was going to see what that was like again but instead she pulled back and kicked me right in the junk. That kiss didn't seem so bad by comparison.