There are just five weeks left in the regular season and the best team in the league has clearly established itself, while others are scrambling to get a playoff spot. This is the time of year when one team gets ridiculously hot and goes into the playoffs on fire. The final part of the season will let us know who that team is this year.
Green Bay (7-4) def. Detroit (2-9), 34-12: Predictably, the Pack destroyed the Lions. The biggest question coming out of the game was why in the world was Matthew Stafford left in the game? He was clearly in pain, and should have been pulled after the game got out of hand.
Dallas (8-3) def. Oakland (3-8), 24-7: Another predictable Thanksgiving beatdown. Oakland had their opportunities but could not take advantage. The Cowboys are now in position to all but eliminate the Giants from playoff contention next week.
Denver (7-4) def. New York Giants (6-5), 26-6: The Giants looked pathetic in the first half. Denver controlled all of the action, and the G-Men looked like they just wanted to get out of Denver. It's time for Giants fans to accept the fact that this is just an average team that got off to a great start due to a soft schedule.
This was also a huge win for Denver. Prior to this victory, their season looked to be unraveling. Now they have the inside track to a playoff spot.
Atlanta (6-5) def. Tampa Bay (1-10), 20-17: The entire complexion of this game changed when Matt Ryan went down, but Chris Redman was able to hold everything together and get his team a much needed win. Josh Freeman played well enough to win, but Redman threw an almost perfect pass for the game winner.
Buffalo (4-7) def. Miami (5-6), 31-14: Well this was certainly unexpected. A very early turning point came when Ricky Williams threw an interception in the end zone. That seemed to give Buffalo a confidence boost that Miami could never match. This loss is a huge blow to Dolphins' playoff hopes.
Cincinnati (8-3) def. Cleveland (1-10), 16-7: Not an overly impressive victory for the Bengals, but it got the job done. This game was relatively close in the second half, but then the Bengals showed why they are where they are, and the Browns did the same.
Tennessee (5-6) def. Arizona (7-4), 20-17: When Arizona downed their last punt at the Tennessee one-yard line, I thought the game was over. Vince Young proved me wrong with an excellent drive that saw him use his arm more than he did his legs. He and Chris Johnson have gotten this team back to respectability, beating a very good Arizona team in the process.
Seattle (4-7) def. St. Louis (1-10), 27-17: All this game did was reinforce my theory that you should never trust a team that starts Kyle Boller.
Minnesota (10-1) def. Chicago (4-7), 36-10: Chicago barely put up a fight. While the Bears got into the fetal position, the Vikes continued their spectacular play, keeping pace with the perfect Saints.
New York Jets (5-6) def. Carolina (4-6), 17-6: Jake Delhomme's nightmare season continued in the Meadowlands with another forgettable performance. This loss almost certainly eliminates the Panthers for the year, while the Jets did just enough to stay in it in the AFC.
Philadelphia (7-4) def. Washington (3-8), 27-24: The Eagles were very fortunate to get out of this with a win. Washington's underrated defense did all they could to stop the big plays they gave up in their first meeting this year, and the offense played a pretty clean game, but Donovan McNabb and Co. engineered a second half drive that got them out of a slump and propelled them to the win.
Indianapolis (11-0) def. Houston (5-6), 35-27: Houston will never get to the next level if they can't shut the door. Granted they lost a lead to the Colts, but they still collapsed—and it wasn't just the defense. The offense kept giving the ball to Indy in horrible spots.
The issue for Indy is whether or not they can keep coming from behind like this. Teams better than Houston may make them pay if Indy finds itself in a similar situation.
San Diego (8-3) def. Kansas City (3-8), 43-14: This is how most expected the Chargers to play all year. As they ready themselves for the stretch run they need to dominate bad teams like this. They put on a great performance, bringing the Chiefs back down to Earth.
San Francisco (5-6) def. Jacksonville (6-5), 20-3: Great all-around performance for the Niners. San Fran picked Jacksonville apart all day, and the Jags couldn't get anything going. The Niner offense played a very crisp game with Alex Smith playing the best he's played in a while.
Baltimore (6-5) def. Pittsburgh (6-5), 20-17: This was a must-win for the Ravens considering the circumstances. They were facing a third string quarterback on a division opponent that beat them three times last season. The Steelers still almost won, but with the loss, they may need to win out to get into the playoffs.
New Orleans (11-0) def. New England (7-4), 38-17: The Saints put on an offensive clinic against a decent defense and pretty much dominated this very high profile game. At one point, the Pats cut New Orleans' lead to 24-17, and in what seemed like two minutes, the Saints pushed the lead back to 14 and the game was over.
New Orleans' defense also deserves a ton of credit. Tom Brady looked uncomfortable, and they basically eliminated Wes Welker from the game. There were times when the Pats looked lost on offense. Think about that for a little while.
Top 12 Teams (Last week's ranking)
- New Orleans Saints (1): There was a slight question as to whether or not they were the best team in the league prior to Week 12. The question was erased after their convincing win over the Pats. Next week: at Washington (3-8)
- Indianapolis Colts (2): They had to come from behind again, but the most important thing is that they won. Next week: vs. Tennessee (5-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (3): The way they completely overwhelm bad teams is amazing. Next week: at Arizona (7-4)
- Cincinnati Bengals (5): As long as they don't have a meltdown, the AFC North is theirs. Next week: vs. Detroit (2-9)
- San Diego Chargers (8): They are finally starting to play consistently. Can they keep it up against good teams? Next week: at Cleveland (1-10)
- New England Patriots (4): Looking bad against a great team is nothing to be ashamed of, but the defense looked really, really bad. Next week: at Miami (5-6)
- Arizona Cardinals (6): They played well enough to win with their backup QB in, so they don't fall very far. Next week: vs. Minnesota (10-1)
- Dallas Cowboys (9): Not an impressive performance, but this isn't the BCS so all that matters is the win. Next week: at New York Giants (6-5)
- Philadelphia Eagles (10): It's time for them to play more consistently, which will be difficult if DeSean Jackson is out for a few weeks. Next week: at Atlanta (6-5)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7): Dennis Dixon played very well, and was not the reason for the loss. They should be fine if they can get healthy in time for the Green Bay game. Next week: vs. Oakland (3-8)
- Green Bay Packers (11): They handled their business on Thanksgiving. If the offense can play the way they did against Detroit, they can beat any team. Next week: vs. Baltimore (6-5)
- Denver Broncos (NR): Their most recent win could have been a season-saving one. They finally looked like the same team that started the season at 6-0. Next week: at Kansas City (3-8)
Team to Fall Out of the Top 12
Houston Texans: The way they played in the second half was deflating. They know how to beat bad teams; now they need to figure out how to beat the great ones.
That'll do it for this week. Picks for Week 13 will be in on Thursday afternoon.