Monday, December 17, 2007
NFL Highway, Week 15
There was rain, snow, and sunshine on the NFL highway this weekend. Some more teams were eliminated from playoff contention, a major upset occurred, and a big storm in the northeast affected some games. It’s time to put on the snow tires and head down the NFL highway.
Something not-so-funny happened on the way to home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys lost. The Philadelphia Eagles sucked it up and beat the Cowboys, 10-6. Tony Romo injured his thumb in the third quarter, but played in pain for the rest of the game. The Cowboys could only manage two Nick Folk field goals. The margin would have been wider, but the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook shunned a sure touchdown to down the ball on the one yard line, allowing the Eagles to run out the clock and not give Dallas the ball. Fantasy owners everywhere were cursing or cheering that move. The Cowboys must win the next two games at Carolina and at Washington to avoid a possible playoff trip to Green Bay.
In the Thursday night NFL Network game, sugar and spice were nice for the Houston Texans. Well, not sugar, but Sage was. Sage Rosenfels ran for one touchdown and threw for two more in a 31-13 win over the Denver Broncos. The Texans are now 7-7, and are two wins away from their first winning season. Of course, they go to Indianapolis next week, so forget about the winning season. Nonetheless, the Texans no longer stink.
In the City by the Bay, the San Francisco 49ers rode the arm and legs of third-team quarterback Shaun Hill to a 20-13 win over the clueless Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were supposed to be pretty good. Instead, they’ve imploded.
There will be no winless team in the NFL this year. The Miami Dolphins finally broke into the win column with a 22-16 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Cleo Lemon threw for 315 yards and a 64-yard touchdown pass to Greg Camarillo to win the game in overtime. The Dolphins showed a lot of pride in coming back from a 13-3 deficit. The Ravens have now lost eight in a row. Both teams look to be on the clock early in the upcoming draft.
Carolina started Matt Moore at QB, the fourth person to fill that role this year. It worked for them, as the Panthers shocked the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks, 13-10. As bad as the Panthers have looked at times, they have six wins this season. The Seahawks are simply trying to keep from getting injured before their first playoff game.
It was a winter wonderland in Cleveland on Sunday. A blizzard moved in from Lake Erie, covering the field and bringing 30 mph winds with it. The field was covered to the point where the officials needed help in finding the 50-yard line. In this game, the first team to score would win. That was the Browns, who used two field goals and a safety to win 8-0. I love watching games played in the snow. That is, on TV in the comfort of my home.
The same storm later hit Pittsburgh, where the Jacksonville Jaguars looked like the cold-weather team in defeating the Steelers, 29-22. The game was played in blowing snow, but they were not blizzard-like conditions like in Cleveland. Instead, it was played on a mixture of snow, mud, and grass. The Steelers find themselves tied for first place in the AFC North with Cleveland at 9-5. The Steelers, however, have the tiebreaker with two wins over the Browns.
The Kansas City Chiefs are officially bad. They slipped to 4-10 with their seventh loss in a row, losing 26-17 to the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs will have a pretty good pick in the first round of next year’s draft. The Titans kept their slim playoff hopes alive at 8-6.
The anticipated blizzard in New England turned into rain. The Patriots played as ugly as the weather, but had enough to beat the New York Jets, 20-10. After the game, Pats coach Bill Belichick shook hands with former protégé and Jets coach Eric Mangini, he of Spygate fame. The Pats now need only two wins for an undefeated season.
Don’t look now, but those are the New Orleans Saints over your shoulder. The Saints got back to 7-7 with a 31-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Drew Brees continues to be the real deal in the Big Easy, throwing for 315 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Saints. Kurt Warner threw three touchdown passes for the Cardinals, who await the return of Matt Leinart next season.
The Brett Favre legend continues. The gunslinger threw two touchdown passes for Green Bay on Sunday, and the Packers handled the St. Louis Rams, 33-14. The Packers clinched a first round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Rams helped their draft position in a forgettable season.
Believe it or not, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had never returned a kickoff for a touchdown in their 32-year history. That changed on Sunday, as Micheal Spurlock returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. The Bucs went on to roll over the hapless Atlanta Falcons, 37-3. The Falcons need help everywhere. The Bucs move toward the playoffs as NFC South champions.
The Indianapolis Colts earned a working vacation on Sunday, defeating the scrappy Oakland Raiders 21-14. The Colts earned the AFC South title and the second seed in the AFC playoffs. Indianapolis has now also won 12 games in a season for an unprecedented five years in a row. The Colts have two meaningless games remaining, followed by a bye week.
If they weren’t already, the Detroit Lions are officially done. The Lions lost their seventh consecutive game in grand style. The San Diego Chargers hung half a hundred on Detroit, winning 51-14. LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles each rushed for two touchdowns for the Chargers. San Diego has clinched the AFC West championship at 9-5. They simply need to win their remaining two games to sew up the #3 playoff spot in the AFC.
The Washington Redskins are like disco in the 70’s: just stayin’ alive. The Redskins went to New York for the Sunday Night extravaganza and handled the New York Football Giants, 22-10. The Redskins also find themselves at 7-7 with slight playoff hopes. The Giants still appear locked into the first NFC wild-card spot at 9-5.