Late edition. All apologies for the delay, folks.
Jacksonville Juggernauts, Houston Horrors
If somebody were to have tapped you on the shoulder in August and said something to the effect of “The Jaguars will be riding a four-game winning streak come December, have a better record than the Houston Texans, and that the Texans would have been out of playoff contention since November”, you might have felt an urge to direct them to the nearest psychological treatment center.
I guess we’re all crazy, because all of that has happened and I still can’t wrap my head around any of it. You’re looking at the same Texans team with the same weapons that have threatened to take the AFC for years, suddenly lined up for the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Injuries have played a part, for sure, but that’s the tip of the melting iceberg of Houston.
The Jaguars, on the other hand, seem to be pointed in the right direction. At least, that’s what people will say, without realizing that teams that get hot at the end of a bad season are usually doing so for reasons such as:
-Playing for jobs (coaches and players included)
-The lack of quality opposition (The Jaguars have beaten nobody of consequence this year)
-They’re still the Jacksonville Jaguars
That last statement can be summed up by their aging halfback, their quarterback situation, and a defense that features nobody.
Still, they’ve got heart. Jerry Jones would be proud.
The Snowglobe Game and MNF Make Divisional Races Fascinating
Anyone who got to watch the Eagles-Lions playing in conditions that closely resembled the end of that Old Spice commercial with Wes Welker in a snowglobe (in a dollar store) saw one of the most enjoyable games of 2013. They also saw the Lions continue to fumble with the idea that, with the rest of their division vulnerable, they have a great chance to win the NFC North. Like dangling a carrot in front of a carnivore.
The next night, the Bears took it to the Cowboys in a way only the Cowboys could let happen, allowing Chicago to score on every offensive possession besides their last (which involved kneeling to kill the clock and the game).
The Bears and the Eagles are taking their divisional races seriously. The Lions and the Cowboys are lost children in a mall looking for their parents.
Oh, and the Packers won, too. If Aaron Rodgers can get back, they just might have a chance. So long as the Bears put Jay Cutler back on the field, of course.
Bengals Give Colts A Taste Of Their Playoff Future
I’m not sold on either team, regardless of the outcome of this game, but I do know this much; Indianapolis isn’t ready for a postseason run. No amount of come-from-behind heroics is going to matter when the team they’re facing is simply better in all three phases. Any team the Colts end up playing in the postseason (beyond whomever ends up with the final wildcard spot, at least) will be superior to them.
Same goes for the Bengals.
Speaking Of That Last Wild Card Spot…
The Dolphins can’t win without putting me on the edge of cardiac arrest. Antonio Brown was one step away from pulling off one of the most amazing (or amazingly depressing, if you’re a Dolphins fan) comebacks in NFL history. But the call was right (for a change), and the Dolphins are keeping pace.
Of course, the Ravens need to lose a game or two if Miami has a chance at the playoffs. They hold the tiebreaker over the Fins having beaten them earlier in the season, and really aren’t playing any better or worse than Miami are right now. That back and forth and back again win over Minnesota was straight out of the Dolphins’ playbook of how to win a football game. It’s going to be an exciting three weeks watching these two teams try to one-up each others bouts of ineptitude and moments of flawless execution.
The AFC’s Top Three Dominate…Oh Wait…
The Broncos just had their way with the Titans. It wasn’t a surprise.
The Chiefs just had their way with the Redskins. It wasn’t a surprise, but it has to give them a much-needed boost of confidence going forward.
The Patriots just…almost lost to the Browns. At home. In the process, they lost Tom Brady’s best offensive weapon for the rest of the year (Gronkowski is now damaged goods, and I wouldn’t expect to see him playing for the Patriots again in his career). There were some questionable calls that went in New England’s favor, but this was most likely retribution for the calls that gave the Panthers a win over them earlier in the year.
The Broncos and Chiefs are looking up. The Patriots are looking and not liking what they’re seeing.
The Games That Don’t Matter
The Jets beat the Raiders. Fantasy players everywhere cursed the name of Michael Fabiano, who has insisted that fantasy players simply play any defense the Jets are facing on a weekly basis. Good call, genius. One I would have made too. Meh.
The Buccaneers beat the pants off of the Bills. They’ll need those pants back; it gets awfully chilly in Buffalo this time of year.
The Chargers reminded us of how inept the New York Football Midgets are right now. San Diego still has a legitimate chance at making the playoffs, but plenty has to go their way while they continue to win. They’re playing the Broncos tomorrow night. Don’t expect a miracle.
The NFC’s Best Are Humbled. Or They’re Vindicated. One Of Those.
Amazing to me that, after San Fransisco pulled a big win out against the Seahawks, most notable pundits still think Seattle is invincible. Any given Sunday, geniuses.
Meanwhile, the Panthers, no doubt the story of the year in the NFC, were beat to a pulp by the Saints, no doubt the real story of the year in the NFC.
While not exactly in the same class, the Cardinals continue to win, even if the Rams don’t exactly qualify as a measuring stick for greatness. Regardless, they could do some damage come playoff time. By damage, I mean Carson Palmer’s interception ratio spiking.
QB Of The Week: Drew Brees. Plenty of QBs had a solid week, but how many did it against the vaunted #1 defense in football?
RB Of The Week: LeSean McCoy. I’m still not sure how he was making those cuts in a half foot of snow. Barry Sanders part II.
WR Of The Week: Keenan Allen. This guy is going to be something special. He already is, to be honest. Phillip Rivers is no longer writing Vincent Jackson “I Miss You” cards.
Offensive Line Of The Week: Philadelphia Eagles. McCoy was running from the second level of the Lions’ defense by default, as the Eagles’ front five (their interior in particular) absolutely dominated Nndamukong Suh (I saw him kick the Eagles center, and I don’t care if nobody else did) and the overrated Lions defensive line.
Defensive Performance Of The Week: San Fransisco 49ers. They’re every bit as good as Seattle’s defense, and I would like to think they proved that this week.
Goat Of The Week: Mike Shanahan. Unless you’re living under a rock, you should be aware of all the reasons why this is a clear-cut pick. If not, get out from under your rock. The weather is fine.
Coaching Performance Of The Week: Sean Payton. When he and Drew Brees get to scheming in the Superdome, who honestly has a chance?
Will Peyton Manning Tie Tom Brady’s Record by throwing 5 TDs against the Chargers? It could happen.
Will the Seahawks and 49ers, both traveling across the country, be upset by lesser teams? It could happen.
Can my Dolphins beat the dreaded Patriots? It will happen.
Packers at Cowboys should be interesting. Nothing like two train wrecks meeting head-on.
Bengals and Steelers is going to be a grudge match, one I expect the Steelers to win. The way of the Bungles cannot be explained, it can only be witnessed in sheer confusion.
Monday night provides perhaps the best matchup of the week, as the Ravens will have to fight hard to keep their playoff hopes alive against a Detroit team that seems to play their best football in their dome. Who’s stopping Calvin Johnson?
Answer: Matthew Stafford.
I haven’t been this excited about the Dolphins since Tom Brady was rehabbing a torn ACL.
I haven’t been this puzzled by Texas since the fiasco In Waco.
I haven’t been this happy with a season of football since 2012.
What can I say? I love the game, even when the matchups are meaningless to playoff contention. Every game is a possibility for great things.
Don’t miss any of them.