Last Week 13-3
Well if this past week told us anything, that sometimes in the NFL we can be surprised every now and then with a spectacular play, a record setting kick, a blizzard snow bowl, or a lead change of 5 times in a span of 120 minutes that makes one ponder for a moment to allow ourselves to be inspired by the individual feats, even though we have been slugging through a season of predicable teams and their outcomes, bad officiating with eyebrow raising calls, and the NFL becoming as contrived as Miley Cyrus, but all of that goes away when we bare witness to such performances of players, who actually are playing with heart. Then to cap off the week, the Bears winning on Ditka's night and the retiring of number 89 then it doesn't get better for true football fans. So when we speak of "Heart as a Lonely hunter, we are merely metaphorically speaking of those special players metal fortitudes in who go into their solitary dialogues to put it all on the line game in and game out, no matter what their overall teams disposition may be. It takes a special type of player to consistently play with heart, passion, and reckless abandonment until the last whistle is blown. Last weeks games was something that we as fans have not seen in a long time, and have to admit it was refreshing to see exciting football again.
The Bears game itself is a truer representation of what it is like to play with heart, add some Sam Spencer music and then we start to see what old time classic football is all about.
Matt Prate's 64 yard field goal to break Tom Dempsey's record was sure icing on the cake to also becoming second in the league in scoring. Payton Mannings 397 yard performance who methodically threw the ball to various receivers all day, and now on pace to set even more records is truly amazing.
No question that Phillip Rivers is having one of his best seasons ever, and with Kennan Allen, and Danny Woodhead as the supporting cast, then it is conceivable to say that they can make the play-offs this year. Lets not get ahead of ourselves though, going into Denver, a division match-up, and the way Payton Manning is playing this season, this game becomes stacked against the Chargers. When you consider their secondary can't defend the pass if their lives depended on it, then it is easy to assume Manning will carve them up silly. Plead no contest and punt on 1st down and then you might see that the Chargers best option at this point are not many. Broncos
The Redskins @ The Falcons
If you consider that there were 90 touch downs scored in last weeks games, and the Redskins scored only one of them, also giving up 300 yards in returns on special teams, then you begin to see there is more to this story than just the Shannihan speculation of whether or not he will be coaching the Redskins next season, or if his relationship with RGIII is strained. Of course none of this matters when you consider the Redskins problems on the field take into account the real possibility that RGIII will be benched for the rest of the season in favor of Kurt Cousins, the situation goes from almost predicable to a messed up parody with loos wigs on mushrooms. It's not pretty by any stretch. Oh and another story line that is worth noting about how terrible the offensive line has been playing when they are 2nd in the league in rushing has got to add to the already boiling chaos. Also the analogy Eric Allen used in his post game analysis as in 8-year-old whores to 36 year olds was the strangest thing I heard when talking about the Redskins locker room. Then the Atlanta Falcons, coming home, after losing by one point, can be considered a victory of sorts and they should be happy that they don't have to go back to GreenBay, and the season is almost over. Falcons
The Bears @ The Browns
Josh Gordons game continues on a trajaectory that is beginning to look like overkill, and truly is becoming a superstar in the making. Also kudos to Cleveland for staying with the Patriots, and almost pulling off the upset in last weeks match up. But horse shoes and hand grenades, well ok you get the idea, although using this analogy I admit is weak, but I am not sure what is better, if being thrown a hand grenade or wishing your enemies a life sentence to Flint Michigan is antiseptic for a season most Browns fans want to forget. Lets not forget the Bears now have some Mojo, and a recipe or having goals of never having to punt on each possession then the logic in a twisted sort of way, that things will take care of itself is starting to work. Considering Josh McCown completed 75% of his throws, 27-36 for 348 yards against the Cowboys is completely inexplicable to say in the least.
Playing in the frigid cold, the amazing catch by Jeffery, and annihilating the Dallas Cowboys on National TV all so we can see Jerry Jones get smaller, now that is inspiring, and on second thought I think I might have to adopt the Bears as my second favorite team! Also did anybody see Brandon Marshall's hit on Sean Lee when McCown was picking up the first down? A thing of beauty for sure! This will be a close game, but the Bears will find a way to win and stay alive for the post season. Bears
Now that Gary Kubiak is gone, the new era for the Texans will begin, just not this season. The Colts need to win at home in order to keep pace with the playoff ramifications that will be favorable to their discourse, and they looked like a team that had some things to build on from last week. However that being said, this could be one of those games in some strange way that Indy ends up losing and becomes the upset of the week, only because the Texans are actually a much better team, and now that Kubiak is gone, somehow a dark cloud has just been removed, giving inspiration to players to put in a solid game to have fun once again. On second thought, Wade Philipps is the interim coach, and well he might just lull everyone to sleep before we could see any evidence of excitement let alone a real game that was played. Also to note, another egregious error by the same officiating team that robbed the Redskins prior also committed against the Colts. Are you kidding me? This officiating should be canned and sentenced to a firing squad at the same time! Colts
The Patriots @ The Dolphins
Yes pretty boy Tom Brady is right, no one should feel sorry for the Patriots, and Gronkowski's injury was brutal to watch, not to mention an unfortunate event. The other story no one has paid homage to was the Miami -Pittsburgh game, and there are several reasons for pointing this one out. 1. Miami won a game in Pittsburgh, in December. 2. The play of Ryan Tannehill 3. Miami's defense is playing sneaky good.
I will designate this game as my throw away for the week and make a bold prediction that New England Wilts in the Humid Climate of Florida. Also their defense is missing some major pieces, and if it were not for a guy named Brady this team would have been done a long time ago. I think the Gronkowski injury is going to seriously limit the Patriots options. Also add to the fact a victory over a leading divisional opponent will definitely get people talking about the Dolphins again. Miami
After the Blizzard bowl, the holiday feeling and football has a distinct familiarity to that time of the season, also throw in flight cancellations and being holed up in some obscure hotel with limited channels on the TV is as good it is going to get for Vikings fans, whose team was in a crazy game of their own. Adrian Petersen, complained about the officiating, but it didn't matter, he wasn't in the contest, and may not be available next week either. The Eagles are now in sole possession of first place in their division, and after breaking Philadelphia's single game rushing record LeSean (shady) McCoy's effort of 217 yards on 29 carries was fun to watch, as the opposition were like bowling pins on sleds or women in high hells running in gravel.
Going up to Minnesota to take on the Vikings should be like hanging the job wanted sign in the stadium windows, or a good reprieve from the snow for McCoy and company to be burning on all cylinders. Eagles
The Seahawks proved that it took a last minute play, or a bad misplay from either winning it or as it happened by a field goal with no time left to losing. Now they are on the road to face the Giants. The Seahawks and the 49ers game is what we should have expected, and had that game been played in Seattle, the difference is the home field. The Giants suffered not only the ending of their playoff season, but humiliation from the fans who some were displaying pictures of Barbie doll cut outs with Eli's face on the front to remind him of his draft day snub. Can you imagine if he had done that to Buffalo? Not a good game and as long as Manning is playing in the NFL, and any future scheduled games to play the Chargers in San Diego, chances are that he will never win there. The Giants now are playing for pride and role of spoiler, but it won't matter, because this Giants team is not even in the same class as the Seahawks, and chances are there will be detractors who will be harping that Seattle is in a trap game, they don't play well on the road, blah, blah, blah, I beg to differ! This is a chance for Seattle to all but lock up the NFL 1st seed, and being the last road game in the regular season, there is no reason to expect a let down. I highly doubt the loss to San Francisco is going to affect the Seahawks and will be looking to take care of business. Seahawks
49ers @ The Buccaneers
To the laymen, this game would represent an opportunity for the Buccaneers to prove they belong in the same league as the 49ers. Being at home, (Their last home game of the season) and coming off a dominant performance of the Bills, has instilled some confidence in a young team looking to finish strong. The case can be made when considering the mentioned tangibles, but then again, the 49er's defense is playing for keeps and is back to form. It is hard to imagine that Mike Glennon, a rookie quarter back who has been shaky and struggled at times against Buffalo will have a break out game, enough to pull off an upset. Well I guess it is possible, but this has to be one of those odds of say 50 to 1 that they do such a thing. 49ers
The Bills @ The Jaguars
If there ever were an opportunity for EJ Manuel to get that 1st road win of the season this game would be it. After a horrible performance against Tampa this past Sunday, there are more questions than answers surrounding this team, and mind you theories to boot as to why they would be so bad, especially when considering a 80 yard run by Bobby Rainey against a defense that has been playing well and above expectations all season long, then remaining questions still are lingering if the Bills are improving or regressing. Now the Bills find themselves in a similar environment, (Hot, Humid, swampy) but now playing the Jaguars, winners of their last four, and yes folks, they are still alive in the playoff hunt. How? I don't know, but mathematically they are still alive for now, and have nothing to lose. Oh, and lets not mention Paul Posluszny's quiet season of strength so far. Buffalo on the other hand is playing for something, but what, it is hard to figure out at this point, and not sure what team will show up this week. It could be they are just going through the motions at this point, as opposites to Jacksonville, who are having fun and just playing football. Jaguars
Kansas City found their long lost brother and now seemed to be poised to make a run for the long haul. In last Sunday's match-up with the Redskins, all three aspects of their game contributed for a dominating performance. The Raiders, now at home, always seem to play the Chiefs tough, a divisional match-up that does not favor them, but still, looking back on this series, and this has always been entertaining football to say in the least. Aside from that, the Raiders look like they have made some improvements, but Dennis Allen playing Tyrell Pryor last week in the beginning series, was rather an amateur move on his part, something that is often done in the college ranks and had most people scratching their heads. (This is what it looks like to the casual observer; things that make me go Hmmmm?) If Kansas City finishes out their season and go 13-3, New England loses, then there is a good chance Kansas could win the second seed in the AFC if a number of variables play out. Still the prospect of facing Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs is not something on everyone's wish list. The Chiefs
Ok we get it, Panthers go to New Orleans and play a Saints team who were previously embarrassed the week prior, so this was a game ripen for the picking. On further reflection, expecting the Panthers to come out with a win was a tall order, still they had a chance but instead lose, essentially ending their 8 game win streak. That being said, like all good teams returning home, is a chance to regroup and to put things in proper perspective, and get ready to face a Geno Smith Jets team that has been a disjointed lot all season long. Considering the Panthers Defense, Cam Newton at home, and a will to get to the finish line to keep pace with the playoff seeding's and the Saints, then you can see the storyline here. Expecting an upset by the Jets is like asking Antonio Cromartie to remember the names of his 9 children from 8 different mothers, in five different states, oh and four of them are the same age. Panthers
The Packers @ The Cowboys
The biggest question entering this game for the Packers, is whether or not Aaron Rogers will be healthy enough to play. I say don't bet on it, and with only 3 games remaining and a schedule that is a game in Dallas, a final home game against Pittsburgh and a final road game to Chicago and those chances of reaching the playoffs diminish quite significantly. Dallas learned two things from the Chicago debacle: A) They can run the ball B) Their defense sucks, but on a consolatory note Jason Witten has to be the best TE in the game today, and it is such a waste that his talent has to be used on this sorry team. At least they have Tony Romo and are playing at home, and they do have that going for them. But anybody including the over inflated ego of Jerry Jones who thinks that Dallas has a chance this year to compete for the playoffs is truly not being honest with themselves. Jerry Jones should just fire himself as it is clear he has replaced Al Davis for the most dubius owner GM tandem in the modern football era, of course not excluding a close 2nd by a one Dan Synder. Not sure what to like here, Greenbay more effectively to be able to move the ball against the worst defense, and or a Dallas team that still couldn't score against the other worst defense when they played against Chicago. Greenbay's defense is starting to show signs of life, but they barely beat Atlanta, and historically have not played well in Dallas. This game could be a lot closer than people think, Not so sure of those who think this is an automatic win for Dallas, as Greenbay is going to play all out with their season on the line. Tony Romo seems to be the model of consistently average. He has yet to lead the Cowboys to a playoff win in his time as a Dallas' starter, but could this be the year? He signed a 7-year contract worth 119.5 million just this past March has many wondering just how smart Jerry Jones is. Cowboys
The Cardinals Margin of error has just gotten smaller considering the remaining games on their schedule is built as a showdown in the final home game against the 49ers, and this game represents one in which they need to take care of business to stay pace with their division nemesis's, or in other words this game is just as important. It doesn't get any easier for the Cardinals either as they have to travel next week to Seattle, so hoping to win 2 out of the next 3 has to be an attainable goal. Titans on the other hand, are actually a better team than what they have been showing this season, and losing Jake Locker earlier in the season took whatever confidence this team was feeling at the time and turned it into something of a loathing nature awaiting for its eventual end. What is surprising is that they are still 2nd in the AFC south and still have a chance to make the playoffs, but thinking in those terms seems to be a long time ago. Cardinals
The Saints @ The Rams
The first point made when talking about the Saints and the Rams match-up, is that this could be a trap game for the Saints and that they are suspect on the road. Perhaps if they didn't have Drew Brees, then I might be inclined to believe that, but lets get real here, The Rams are not Seattle, and The Saints are not the Colts. See where I am going with this? Saints
The Bengals @ The Steelers
The Bengals hit the road to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Are the Steelers due for anymore sideline karma? One can never know after last weeks finish of what could have been rival to the immaculate reception had Antonio's Browns foot not stepped out of bounds. It all started as a crazy ball play of laterals which in a sense is an epitaph for the Steelers season. The Steelers run game is horrible, and their defense is a former shadow of itself, and the only reason there is hope for the Steelers is the play of Roethlisberger. The Bengals on the other hand have struggled in the past on the road against Pittsburgh, and if they don't play down to the Steelers level then they should be able put a handle on a team less talented. Clearly this is an opportunity for the Bengals to put some distance between their other rivalries in the conference, and get closer to sewing up the division title. Bengals
Another crazy game involving the Ravens and The Vikings this past Sunday, was certainly a heart stopper. There were 5 touchdowns scored in a span of 125 seconds, 6 lead changes and Flacco throwing a touchdown with four seconds left to play to Marion Brown to seal the win had to be a nail biter for Raven fans. Considering the Ravens games this season in which eight of them were decided by 3 or fewer points in which four of them they have won, then you begin to see a pattern developing here. Ravens haven't played well against NFC North teams. If they can barely beat Minnesota at home, then how do they beat Detroit at their place? Well, if Detroit keeps turning the football over, then I guess the argument can be made The Ravens will find a way to win, and the Lions will find a way to lose. Especially if you consider last weeks performance in Jeremy Ross who had 243 return yards, more than the total Detroit offense,(228 yds) and yes their game in Philidelphia is a game they soon forget. Although the other question remains about Detroit's 4th quarter let downs, and will this put Shwartz on the hot seat? Ravens