15 Things We Learned from NFL Week 13
The end of the road is nigh in the NFL. The home stretch approacheth.
Week 13 was eventful in a variety of ways. Some teams bid adieu to playoff hopes while others punched their ticket. There were no butt fumbles, but Colin Kaepernick provided this week's high comedy with a terrible pitch to Ted Ginn, Jr.
Football Is Just a Game
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It seems we must relearn this lesson every once in a while.
The country rose to find a horror story unfolding in Kansas City Saturday morning. Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs committed two heinous acts of violence that rocked members of his family, team and community and orphaned an infant.
Whatever your feelings on the matter might be, the incident reminded just how precious life is and how fleeting it can be, and how insignificant the game of football is in the grand scheme of things.
Kansas City Is Resilient
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Despite the terrible events that had occurred the day before, the Chiefs chose to go on and play Sunday's game against the Panthers.
Some decried the move, but it was the players' decision.
Chiefs team captains were reportedly on board with the decision. All I need to hear.
— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) December 1, 2012
It was a predictably emotional day, and Kansas City came out victorious. At the very least, it was a welcome, if brief, respite from grief (via Lindsay Jones of USA Today):
"I thought that was the best thing we could do," said Crennel who declined to discuss in detail what he saw Saturday. "If for no other reason it takes our minds off our misery for a few hours."
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Things looked grim for the Seahawks last week coming off a brutal road loss to the Dolphins and announced suspensions for their starting cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
One week later, the Seahawks playoff hopes are boosted after a gutsy performance on the road against a tough Bears defense.
St. Louis Has San Francisco's Number
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The Rams have played two gritty games against San Francisco this season, and they are undefeated against the mighty 49ers.
Last week's game was a low-scoring, ugly affair that the Rams had no business winning. A terrible pitch from Colin Kaepernick to Ted Ginn, Jr. began the unraveling, ultimately dooming a 49ers team that could not move the ball well and could not stop the Rams during crunch time.
If only the Rams could play well against teams out of the division they might be in the heat of the playoff race.
Denver Is a Super Bowl Contender
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One of the league's most complete teams resides in Colorado, and they are quietly going about their business.
After losing three of four games to some of the league's better teams—the Falcons, Texans and Patriots—the Broncos have reeled off seven wins in a row. Peyton Manning is playing at an MVP level, the defense is underrated in the top 10 and the running game is solid.
The Broncos find themselves vying for a first-round bye as a result. The way they are playing, they might not be stopped until they get to New Orleans.
Monsoons Are Overrated
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The Raiders and Browns were supposed to play in horrific conditions at the Coliseum. The joke is on the weatherman.
It did rain buckets on Sunday morning, but the skies cleared up before the game tee'd off, which made for a much better statistical day than many expected.
The Ravens Are the Worst 9-3 Team in Recent Memory
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Last week I said the Ravens were the worst 9-2 team in recent memory. Their showing against the Charlie Batch-led Steelers did little to change that perception.
The Ravens laid an egg against the Steelers at home, allowing Batch to lead his team to a comeback victory despite impersonating a statue in the backfield on many plays. Joe Flacco—who typically plays well at home—had some costly turnovers in the process, allowing Pittsburgh to hang with Baltimore long enough to beat them in the end.
Now the Ravens must fend off the Broncos and Patriots for the second bye; considering how they play on the road, they need all the rest and home field they can get.
Andrew Luck Is Special
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Andrew Luck is the first No. 1 overall pick to lead his team to eight victories in a season, and there are four games left.
He has not lit up opposing defenses like Robert Griffin III has in recent weeks, but Luck's latest exploits had him coming back from two scores down against the Lions to win the game in the fourth quarter.
It was a magnificent road comeback capped off just after another rookie did the same thing.
So Is Russell Wilson
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Perhaps more impressively, Russell Wilson led two late-game drives against the vaunted Chicago defense on the road.
Wilson was unfettered against the Bears, throwing for 293 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he did not throw any interceptions against a defense that has feasted on opposing teams' mistakes this season.
The rookie has been huge for the Seahawks, keeping them in the playoff hunt with his gutsy play. Something is wrong if Wilson is not a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Charlie Batch Can Still Play
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It was quite the beginning to Charlie Batch's birthday week.
The 37-year-old looked as spry as a 34-year-old against the Ravens, at times surveying the field with the patience of a sculptor. Despite looking like a statue himself at times, Batch made some great plays down the stretch as the Steelers reeled in the Ravens.
The hometown hero was emotional after the improbable victory, one that has the Steelers alive and well in the playoff race.
The Amazing Adrian Peterson Does It Again
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It seems like Adrian Peterson does something to amaze us all on a weekly basis.
It should have been no surprise when "All Day" took a handoff to the right, bounced off a few tackles and motored 82 yards down the sideline when it looked like he would be bottled up after eight.
Sadly, the effort was in vain; the Vikings cannot move the ball well enough outside Peterson's amazing theatrics to hang with the Packers.
The Jets Have a Quarterback Problem
We already know that Mark Sanchez is simply not very good—if you operate under the notion that he is a good NFL quarterback, I've got a bridge to sell you—but the problem goes beyond Sanchez himself.
The Jets decided to give Sanchez a big "I'm sorry" extension before this season after they swung with a mighty whiff on Peyton Manning. Right now, Sanchez is guaranteed $8.5 million for next season.
What should New York do?
The Saints Will Not Go Marching into the Playoffs
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The Saints' season was poisoned at the outset. The bounty scandal might be attributed to their 0-4 start, which had them playing catch-up in the NFC South.
New Orleans had improbably rebounded and reached .500 at 5-5, but big losses to San Francisco and nemesis Atlanta have put the team in a big hole with four games to go.
Drew Brees and Co. need to win out to have a real shot at the playoffs, but even that might not be enough. The Seahawks and Bears are going to be difficult to catch, and the Saints have a slew of other teams to deal with.
Larry Fitzgerald Is a Sad Man
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Ryan Lindley out Mark Sanchez'd Mark Sanchez this week, one week after throwing four interceptions. When will Larry Fitzgerald's time in quarterback purgatory end?
— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) December 2, 2012
Sadly, he might be past his prime before the Cardinals have a good quarterback again. Maybe a receiver-needy team will give up some high draft picks for him.
Aldon Smith Continues His Record Hunt
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Aldon Smith is on a tear.
The pass-rushing specialist has been creeping up on the all-time record ever since he netted 5.5 sacks against the Bears a few weeks ago. Smith is now five sacks shy of tying the all-time record set by Michael Strahan after registering a sack against the Rams.
Perhaps more impressively, Smith broke Reggie White's record for most sacks in the first two years of a career with four games to go this season. Smith now has 31.5, and he could put it out of reach in the coming weeks.