There's only 4 weeks remaining and a few things have become clear to me. No one wants the Wild Card spots in the NFC since they all lost this week, the Bills, Lions, maybe even Bengals weren't nearly as good as their early records seemed to indicate, the NFC West and Dolphins weren't nearly as bad as their early records seemed to indicate, and the NFL putting Tim Tebow on the cover of their first magazine was about as predictable as Lindsey Lohan going back to rehab.
Vince Young's first pass of the game was intercepted, his last pass attempt was intercepted, and in between he was intercepted two more times, including one that was returned 77 yards for a TD by David Hawthorne to seal the win for the Seahawks. "He was expecting (LeSean McCoy) to be open and he wasn't," Hawthorne said. Kind of like Joe Theisman was expecting Lawrence Taylor to be blocked and he wasn't. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Seahawks crushed any slim playoff hopes the Eagles still had while managing to keep their own playoff hopes on life support. They're still the same playoff hopes they had before, just more like a tomato.
Jets 34, Redskins 19
Do you have a QB who's lost some of their confidence? Is your team questioning its ability to play football after being manhandled by your hated rivals and losing in the final minute to a team led by Tebow? Do you need to inject them with a boost of confidence and help your QB regain some of his swagger? Well have we got the cure for you. Introducing Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins. Grossman's play will have your defense feeling they can conquer the world. We guarantee at least two Grossman turnovers and if watching him complete only 19 of his 46 passes doesn't leave your secondary pounding their chests and running around the field like airplanes, nothing will. As for your QB, nothing provides a bigger ego boost than going into the 4th down 13-16 and then putting up 21 points against a defense that's thinking, "Why try? Grossman will just blow it anyways." Yes, your team's confidence will never be higher so schedule your game today. (Rex Grossman and the Washington Redskins do not guarantee future success. Actual results may vary.)
Tebows 35, Vikings 32
OK, time for some deep insight. It doesn't always look pretty but Tim Tebow knows how to win. He's a winner who wins. He wins when he wins and wins when he doesn't win because he knows how to win and is a winner who will, in the end, get the win. He's a winning winner who wins. Alright already! We get it! If I hear one more sports commentator talk about how Tebow just finds ways to win I'm going to punch my TV. Well...I'm not really going to punch my TV since it cost me a lot of money, but I'll seriously consider it. Tebow threw for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns, Willis McGahee ran for 111 yards and a TD and once again the Broncos came from behind in the closing minutes to...well you know what happened. And what does Broncos coach John Fox think of Tebow? "The one thing I will say is the guy wins." So I've heard.
What do you do if your starting QB is having accuracy issues, you're playing in wet sloppy conditions, and the team you're playing against is the Browns? The answer's simple. Hand off again and again to Ray Rice and then hand off a little more to Ricky Williams. Rice and Williams combined to carry the ball 45 times for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns. "They just flat out whupped us up front," said Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. "They embarrassed us. It was a slap in the face." It looked like more than just a slap in the face to me. Jim Caviezel didn't get beat up nearly as badly in "The Passion of the Christ" as you guys did.
Titans 23, Bills 17
It took a while but Chris Johnson is finally performing at the level the Titans hoped for when they made him the highest paid RB in the NFL, and just in time to give their playoff hopes a boost. In his first eight games of the season Johnson topped the century mark only one time. He's now done it three times in their last four games, including 153 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Bills, and the Titans have won all three of those games. Meanwhile, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is still looking for his first win since he signed his big deal and the Bills, who started the year 5-2, are suddenly only 1 game up on the Dolphins in the battle to see who ends up in the cellar of the AFC East. Early money is on the Bills.
I wish I could say this was a great defensive battle, but the truth is it was really a display of offensive ineptitude. The only TD came on a 37-yard Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half and that was only caught because the pass, which was thrown over the heads of every Chiefs receiver, was batted back toward Dexter McCluster by Brian Urlacher. Tyler Palko threw for only 157 yards but he also didn't throw any interceptions after having thrown 6 in his previous two games. As for the Bears the news just keeps getting worse when they lost star RB Matt Forte to a sprained right knee and had to rely more on Caleb Hannie. Anyone want to guess what happened? Hannie threw 3 interceptions and was sacked 7 times by a Chiefs defense that had only 13 sacks coming into the game, but the Bears keep on insisting they're not going to go after any of the free agent quarterbacks out there. It's kind of like the drunk at the bar who keeps insisting he's OK to drive home and then proceeds to wrap his fender around a tree.
Raiders 14, Dolphins 34
Where were these Dolphins at the start of the year? Would they be a playoff threat if they had managed to win a couple of their close losses earlier in the season? Has the Dolphins recent run of success been enough to save Tony Sporano's job? Does anyone outside Miami even care about the answer to any of those questions? Reggie Bush ran for 100 yards and a TD, Matt Moore threw for 162 yards and a TD while also scoring on a 6-yard QB keeper, while the Dolphins defense kept the Raiders scoreless for 3 quarters. The loss means the Raiders are no longer in first place in the AFC West since the Broncos hold the tiebreaker. If the Broncos end up winning the division I might start thinking there's something to this whole praying thing afterall.
When does a win feel like a loss? It's when you take a 31-3 lead into the 4th quarter but then give up 21 unanswered points and need to recover two onside kicks just to hold on for the win. If there are moral victories would this be an immoral loss? Dan Orlovsky took over for the ineffective Curtis Painter and completed 30 of his 37 passes for 353 yards and 2 touchdowns while almost leading the comeback. But you know what they say, "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." Which is stupid since it also counts in darts, curling, bocce, and shuffleboard, and of course grenades still work even if they don't land in the guy's pocket. That's the whole point of an explosive weapon. The Colts can feel good knowing they outgained one of the best teams in the league 437-362, while the Pats should give serious consideration about abandoning their new 3-3-5 defensive scheme. "We almost had a big win today," said Peyton Manning. Well, you know what they say about almost? It only counts in horseshoes, darts, curling, bocce, and shuffleboard, and shouldn't count in grenades since that's not a game where a score is kept.
Bengals 7, Steelers 35
The Bengals had 80 yards in penalties, gave up 28 points, and allowed a 60-yard punt return for a TD, and that was just in the first half. They're now 0-3 against the Steelers and Ravens this year and after this whooping (do people still say that?) they were reminded they're not yet in the same category of those two teams. Then again, they're not in the same category as the Browns either so they do have something positive going for them. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 2 touchdowns, Rashard Mendenhall ran in two more, and the Steelers defense made Andy Dalton look like a rookie as they held him to only 11 completions for 135 yards. "It's just embarrassing," said Bengals defensive back Chris Crocker. "When they're beating you so bad that their fans leave, that's just a bad feeling." But that's better than beating you so bad your fans are leaving. That is, of course, assuming your fans showed up in the first place.
The Panthers and Bucs are both sitting at 4-8 but they seem to be teams heading in opposite directions. It was the second straight win for the Panthers, both on the road, while the Bucs have now gone 1-7 over their last 8 games. Cam Newton did it all, throwing for 204 yards and a TD and scored 3 more touchdowns running the ball giving him 13 rushing touchdowns on the year, the most every in a single season by a QB. About the only thing he wasn't doing on offense was catching passes. Oh wait, I guess he did have a 27-yard reception. As for the Bucs, they decided simply wearing their throwback creamsicle jersey wasn't enough. They also wanted to play like one of those error prone teams from the 70's. "I can take getting beat by a better football team. I wish they were," said Bucs coach Raheem Morris. "The foolish things that happened in that game are unacceptable." Now Raheem, do you really want to be creating bulletin board material for the other team when you still have to play them again at their place? I can't wait to see who's the better team that week.
It's too bad defensive coordinators aren't eligible for coach of the year honors because if they were I'd give serious consideration to Wade Phillips. Well, that's also assuming I were a voter, which I'm not. The Texans have lost their starting QB, backup QB, and best WR two separate times, not to mention perhaps their best defensive player, yet they're tied with the best record in the AFC at 9-3. Don't forget, this is a franchise that's never finished with more than 9 wins and has yet to make their first playoff appearance. Rookie QB T.J. Yates did just enough throwing for 188 yards and a TD while Arian Foster ran for 111 yards and a TD to help the Texans top the Falcons. If the Falcons had won they would have put themselves in a great position to make the playoffs, but since they lost they're...I guess still in a great position to make the playoffs since the Bears, Lions, and Giants all seem to be falling apart.
Lions 17, Saints 31
Who knew when Lions coach Jim Schwartz lost his mind in handshake-gate that he was foreshadowing what was going to happen with his team in the weeks to come. Stomping on a guys arm to get suspended two games, punching an opposing player in front of the ref on a 3rd-and-1 near the goal line to make it 3rd-and-16, and actually pushing an official were just some of the "I've completely lost my mind" mistakes the Lions committed that contributed to their loss Sunday night. Drew Brees threw for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns to drop the Lions to 7-5 after starting the year 5-0. "We lost to the Saints, but we beat ourselves today," said Schwartz. "We cannot afford to be selfish and put the team at risk of taking points off the board and there was way too much of that today." Pot, say hello to the kettle.
Packers 38, Giants 35
The Giants tied it up with 58 seconds to play but that was around 40 seconds more than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers would need. In no time at all the Packers were at the Giants 29-yard line and the game ended on a chip-shot FG. But it didn't end without some controversy. On one play the Giants thought they had a TD when Eli Manning found Jake Ballard for a 20-yard TD. It was called incomplete and after a challenge by Tom Coughlin the play was upheld. Since the play happened on 3rd down the Giants had to settle for a FG. Yet if you look at a still photo of the play it does look like Ballard just got his knee down. They don't look at photos when reviewing plays and it was really hard to tell when watching it, but it just adds that much more salt in the wound of a team that's fighting for their playoff lives. You might as well tell a 6-year old kid who's parents are getting divorced, "Oh by the way, Santa Clause isn't real either."
The Cowboys are proving it doesn't matter how many different ways you've found to lose a game, you can always find a new one. As time ran out in a tie game Dan Bailey's 49-yard FG sailed through the uprights to give the Cowboys the win. Unfortunately Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had taken a timeout so the kick didn't count. Predictably Bailey's next kick fell short. I'm guessing icing your own kicker isn't a strategy that's going to catch on. LaRod Stephens-Howling took a short pass from Kevin Kolb in OT and ran it all the way in for a 52-yard TD and the Cards won. Even the Cardinals seemed unable to explain the bizarre manner of the Cowboys loss. "There's just something about the Cowboys," Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts said. "I don't know." I'm not sure anyone does but it sure is funny to watch.
It took almost two months but the Chargers and Philip Rivers finally got a win. That other QB who's name I can't quite remember off hand has had six wins over that same span of time. Rivers threw for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns to blowout the Jags in interim head coach Mel Tucker's debut. "We stayed on course despite what we've been through these last six weeks," said Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. "That we were able to get a win tonight speaks volumes for this team." It speaks volumes to me as well. It tells me you couldn't get a win until you played a team that just fired their head coach, had been sold to a new owner, and were without their top three cornerbacks, Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, and Will Middleton, as well as losing safety Dwight Lowery, and defensive end John Chick. Not exactly like beating the Ravens.
The 49ers won by 26 points in a shutout but some fans were still not happy with the win. It's almost like someone in middle class America calling up someone in a third world country and complaining about only having 2 cars and basic cable.