Monday, December 10, 2007

NFL Highway, Week 14

Another week on the NFL highway brought us a titanic comeback and several teams solidifying playoff position. There are a few good teams, and a few really horrible teams. Overall, the league is surprisingly predictable. Let’s look at what happened this week.

Was there any doubt, with two minutes to go, the ball deep in Dallas territory, no timeouts, and trailing 27-21, that Tony Romo would bring the Cowboys back for a win over Detroit? Of course not. Detroit had led by as much as 27-14 before the Cowboys stormed back, using a Romo to Jason Witten touchdown pass with 18 seconds left to sneak past Detroit, 28-27. The Lions lost their fifth game in a row to fall to 6-7. The Cowboys are now 12-1. Dallas is looking like more of a team of density. Or, that’s what George McFly would call destiny. The Cowboys clinched the NFC East, and need to win two more games to clinch home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Last Thursday night, the Washington Redskins bounced back from the burial of teammate Sean Taylor to beat the Chicago Bears, 24-16. The Redskins retain a slight chance of making the playoffs, while the Bears slide to 5-8, slipping farther away from playoff contention.

There is a unwritten code in the NFL that teams will not run up the score on other teams. What goes around definitely comes around, and coaches know they could easily be on the other end of a whipping. The Buffalo Bills owned Miami for a half. That’s all they needed. The Bills led 31-7 at halftime, and cruised to a 38-17 win. The Dolphins remain on a collision course with 0-16.

The Cincinnati Bengals earned their fifth win of the year, beating the injury-riddled St. Louis Rams, 19-10. The Rams will have a high draft pick this year. The Bengals are probably playing for coach Marvin Lewis’ job during the last three weeks of the season.

The Oakland Raiders reverted to normal on Sunday, as the Green Bay Packers pounded them, 38-7. Brett Favre continues to have a career year in the Great White North.

If the Houston Texans were in the NFC South, they would be a playoff team. The Texans rode three touchdown passes from backup QB Sage Rosenfels to a 28-14 win over NFC South leader Tampa Bay. The Texans have 17 players on the injured list, and are still 6-7. Sounds like a shakeup may be in the offing in the strength and conditioning department.

There was a good team playing on Sunday in Jacksonville. It was not the Carolina Panthers. The Jaguars pounded the Panthers, 37-6. The Jags clinched one of the wild-card spots in the AFC. The Panthers will be drafting relatively early next spring in New York.

The New York Giants continue to find ways to win road games. For the second week in a row, the G-men came from behind on the road, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, 16-13, and earning bragging rights to the New Jersey Turnpike. It is looking more and more like Donovan McNabb is no longer a premier quarterback, and Eagles coach Andy Reid could be in trouble. The Giants will most likely be in the playoffs as a wild card team.

In Music City, the San Diego Chargers played like dog doo-doo for three quarters. They then rode the legs of RB LaDainian Tomlinson to come from behind and defeat the Tennessee Titans, 23-17 in overtime. If the Titans miss the playoffs, they’ll look back at this one as one they should have won. The Chargers find themselves a win away from winning the AFC West for the second year in a row, in spite of their inconsistent play this season.

There is a good team developing in Minnesota. The Vikings won their fifth game in a row on Sunday, pounding the San Francisco 49ers, 27-7. The Vikes did not need Adrian Peterson this week, as AD only rushed for three yards. Chester Taylor did the damage for Minnesota, rushing for 101 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown run. The 49ers are returning to the ranks of the woeful.

For the fourth year in a row, the Seattle Seahawks are NFC West champs. They crushed the Arizona Cardinals, 42-21. They’ll always fly under the radar playing late games in the upper corner of the country, but the Seahawks are a force to be reckoned with.

Did anyone really think the New England Patriots would play three bad games in a row? Not hardly. The Pats rode the arm of Tom Brady to a 34-13 shellacking of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It would take a major catastrophe to keep the Patriots from going 16-0. The Pats have home games with the Jets and Dolphins, and finish the season at the Meadowlands in New Jersey to play the New York Giants. 16-0 is definitely in the cards for this team.

As said earlier in the season, the Denver Broncos sometimes look like the ’07 Dolphins. Other times, they look like the ’72 Dolphins. The latter was the case on Sunday in Denver, as the Broncos beat the stuffing out of the Kansas City Chiefs, winning 41-7. The Broncos are too inconsistent to make the playoffs, but are capable of pounding teams on occasion. Brandon Marshall caught two touchdown passes for Denver.

The Cleveland Browns moved another week closer to the playoffs, with a 24-18 win over the New York Jets. Derek Anderson continued to make his case for a starting QB job in Cleveland or another city with two more touchdown passes. Next up for the Jets: a trip to Foxboro to play the Patriots. Good luck with all that.

In the Sunday night extravaganza, the Indianapolis Colts scored early and often in a 44-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The Colts led 37-7 at halftime and emptied the bench in the third quarter. The Ravens may be forced to blow their entire team up and start over. Injuries and age are catching up with them this season.

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