There weren't any major "upsets," per se, in Sunday afternoon's games. For the most part, teams that were supposed to win won, and teams that were supposed to lose lost.
But it would be a misnomer to say things played out predictably.
Because in a number of contests, it wasn't so much the outcome, but the margin that made the games remarkable.
Let's look at a few games—all of which, conveniently, had playoff implications—that made us say "hmmmm" this afternoon.
Atlanta Falcons 34, New York Giants 0
A Vegas prop bet I wish I had made: "A team from New York will lose 34-0 and it won't be the Jets." The odds would be weighed down by a potential stinker from Buffalo (update: the Bills are on the board!), but still...
I think we all just assumed that the Giants would be OK. "This is what they do," we told ourselves. "They'll be fine come playoff time." But what if this team is seriously, fatally flawed?
They certainly looked so today, booting away a must-win game with missed chance after missed chance. Time after time, the G-Men (more aptly named the G-Boys) surged into Atlanta territory, and time after time they came away empty.
With the Redskins scoring yet another impressive victory, the Giants have now relinquished their lead in the NFC East. Now they find themselves clinging onto playoff hope by the slimmest of margins. Late results pending, they could be in a four-way deadlock for the final NFC Wild-Card spot, along with Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago.
With a tough road game at Baltimore next weekend, and a Philly team that would love—I repeat, love—to spoil the Giants' season looming in Week 17, the G-Men are officially on life support.
The Falcons, meanwhile, relieved themselves of some (admittedly deserved) public opprobrium. They looked sharp from start to finish, and showed the rest of the conference that visiting Atlanta is, in fact, something they should fear in January.
The Giants, getting a modest 1.5 points, were this week's third-most-selected team in the LVH Supercontest. That speaks volumes about how much respect Atlanta has lost from the public.
On Sunday the Falcons earned it back—and then some.
Minnesota Vikings 36, St. Louis Rams 22
Both teams had playoff hope coming into the week. But you got the feeling only one was for real, and the other was probably a fraud. We just didn't know which was which.
Well, folks—I think we got our answer.
The Vikings looked good today in St. Louis, taking it to a Rams team that usually plays well at home. Specifically, Adrian Peterson exceeded his own lofty standards, rushing for 212 yards on 24 carries, further solidifying his season as one of the greatest in NFL history.
*Quick sidebar: If Minnesota makes the playoffs and Peterson's not the MVP, there's something very, very wrong with the system. I don't care what Peyton Manning's done in Denver. This is Peterson's award to lose...right?
Anyway, it wasn't so much surprising that the Vikings beat St. Louis, it was surprising how they won. Peterson broke open a 7-7 game with an 82-yard touchdown run, and from there, the Vikings rattled off 26 consecutive points.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, it was 36-7, and the Rams' feeble last-ditch efforts only served to make the score look closer than it really was.
Games at Houston and versus Green Bay (who could potentially be resting players) still loom, so the road certainly won't be easy. But I, for one, won't be betting against Peterson any time soon.
Denver Broncos 34, Baltimore Ravens 17
Another one of the most popular picks in the LVH Supercontest, it wasn't necessarily surprising to see the Broncos win in Baltimore. It wasn't even surprising to see them win convincingly in Baltimore.
It was surprising to see them win that convincingly in Baltimore.
Denver punked the Ravens from start to finish this afternoon—like St. Louis, Baltimore padded the stats late to make it look closer than it was. Heading into the fourth, Peyton Manning and Co. had a 31-3 lead.
The Ravens' deficiencies have been well-documented and not exaggerated. The offense is just as bad as we thought it was—if not worse—and the firing of Cam Cameron didn't exactly seem to light a fire under their butts.
Much ado has been made about the Bears' and Giants' collapses in the NFC, but the Ravens have yet to clinch a spot in their own right.
As mentioned earlier, they play a pivotal game against the Giants next Sunday, then finish with a road game at Cincinnati. They may not be favored in either contest, and two losses would drop them to 9-7 and leave them far from assured of a playoff berth. Not that they'd ever root for the Steelers, anyway, but Ravens fans better cross their fingers and pray for Dallas to win today.
Denver, meanwhile, continues to dispatch any and all opponents in its path. This was the first good team the Broncos have played since Week 9 (depending on whether you even consider Baltimore good at this point), and they passed the test with flying colors.
Honorable Mention: New Orleans Saints 41, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0
Easy to figure that Tampa would quit after losing to the hapless Eagles.
Hard to figure they'd get shut out by a defense as bad as the Saints'.
What a mess.