By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The home stretch is near! Who’s gunning for the playoffs, and who’s gunning for a good draft spot?
The Best Game No One Watched
It was a “family and friends” game, meaning, only family and friends would watch Cleveland face off against Detroit in the race for the No. 1 pick. Well, it became a game full of energy, comebacks, and a game-winning drive, as the Lions edged the Browns 38-37.
Cleveland took a huge 24-3 lead to start the game, showing an offensive firepower sorely missed the first 10 weeks of the season. Detroit, led by rookie QB Matt Stafford, climbed back, until Cleveland QB Brady Quinn led a scoring drive to make it 37-31 with under five minutes to go.
Enter Stafford, who got the team to midfield before launching a Hail Mary with less than 10 seconds to go, which was intercepted and ended the game.
A pass interference call let Detroit have one final untimed play, where a now-injured Stafford found fellow rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew for the 38-37 win.
They say it takes one play in one game to turn a team around. For Detroit, that might have been the turning point, even with Stafford unlikely to play this week against Green Bay. The Browns can take some positive in the offense that showed up, but are miles away from any signs of competitiveness.
A Bucked Bronco
A month ago, the Denver Broncos, despite all their offseason turmoil, were 6-0 and kings of the AFC West. They held a 3-and-a-half game lead over the Sand Diego Chargers. Now, as we move to Week 12, the San Diego Chargers hold a one-game lead over Denver, thanks to a five-game winning streak that culminated in a 32-3 drubbing of the Broncos on Sunday.
It was just another case of two teams changing since Denver won the first matchup.
San Diego seems to be on all cylinders, with QB Philip Rivers managing the offense, and even RB LaDainian Tomlinson having a solid performance (20 carries, 73 yards, touchdown).
Denver is falling apart at the wrong time, and three turnovers and nine penalties don’t make it any easier. The Broncos have an early game this week against the NY Giants, and have to get back on track now, or risk watching the season end before their very eyes.
Remember The Titans
I usually write this on a Monday, but due to scheduling conflicts, I got to take in the Monday night game and add it to my recaps. I picked a good week to have a scheduling conflict, as behind 151 rushing yards from Chris Johnson and 189 all-purpose yards from Vince Young, the Titans squeaked out a 20-17 victory over the Houston Texans.
The Titans, who were the source of ridicule a year removed from 13-3, have now won four straight, and while they are still a ways away from any playoff talk, now seem like they are on the right track.
Using the same method that worked last year (punishing running game, dominant defense), they no longer seem in over their heads. Against Houston, they had 228 rushing yards, and the defense had four sacks, and held Houston to 57 rushing yards.
Tennessee is clawing back, slowly but surely.
Contenders and Pretenders
The playoff picture is getting clearer, so who is in the snapshot?
The New Orleans Saints, after a few weeks of questionable football, quieted the critics with a complete performance in a 38-7 drubbing of Tampa Bay. The Saints take their perfect record against New England on Monday Night Football this coming week.
What does a 4-2 record over the last six weeks get you? For the Miami Dolphins, it’s some playoff chatter, as last years AFC East Champions beat the Carolina Panthers to get back to .500. RB Ricky Williams had three touchdowns in place of injured RB Ronnie Brown.
The Indianapolis Colts are making it happen, squeaking out another close victory, this time against the Baltimore Ravens 17-15. The Colts ran their record to 10-0, their eighth straight 10-win season, and have won 19 regular season games in a row, second only to the New England Patriots (21 wins from 2006-2008).
Pretenders come in all shapes and sizes:
Bills coach Dick Jauron was given the boot, hoping to spark something in Buffalo. Despite Terrell Owens showing up for the first time all season, the Bills still lose, 18-15 to Jacksonville. The Bills are now 3-7.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are defending Super Bowl champions, but they’re not playing like it. They lost their second straight game, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24 in overtime. They are fighting injuries, which is a contributing factor, but they need to get their act together if a repeat Super Bowl appearance is in the cards.
After starting 4-1, the Atlanta Falcons have taken a nosedive, with their latest, a 34-31 overtime loss to the New York Giants, running their record to 5-5.
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