In the NFC, the playoff picture is finally starting to come into focus. Meanwhile, the AFC playoff picture is looking as jumbled as ever with the Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, and Jaguars all very much in the hunt for a wild card berth and the Steelers, Texans, and Titans all hanging on by the smallest of threads.
Cleveland (2-11) def. Pittsburgh (6-7), 13-6: As the end of the decade approaches, this has to go down as one of the most pathetic Steelers performances of the time period. They looked like they thought they could just show up and beat the Browns, and that falls on Mike Tomlin and his staff.
For the fifth consecutive week, the Steelers managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
New Orleans (13-0) def. Atlanta (6-7), 26-23: The Saints continue to find different ways to win. They haven't really blown a team out since the first five or six weeks of the season, but they keep finding ways to stay undefeated. The Falcons rebounded nicely from the awful performance against Philly, but they couldn't stop the Saints when they had to.
Green Bay (9-4) def. Chicago (5-8), 21-14: It's time for people to stop proclaiming Jay Cutler as the next great quarterback. Yes, he can throw you back into a game, but more often than not he will throw you out of one. Chicago had the Packers on the ropes and then Cutler made a horrible decision that all but ended the game.
Green Bay has gotten on a very nice roll, which is essential for a playoff team during this time of the year.
Indianapolis (13-0) def. Denver (8-5), 28-16: Before this game I would have guessed that if Brandon Marshall had 21 catches for 200 yards and Peyton Manning turned the ball over three times, the Broncos would have won. However, like all great teams, Indy got the win without playing their best ball. Marshall went off, but it takes more than one player to beat this team.
Minnesota (11-2) def. Cincinnati (9-4), 30-10: Minnesota just bullied the Bengals all game. Cincy was never able to string anything together on offense, and they couldn't stop the Vikes on defense. After a shaky performance in Arizona, the Vikings are right back on track.
New England (8-5) def. Carolina (5-8), 20-10: New England took longer to put Carolina away than I thought they would, but this game was all about Randy Moss. He had just one catch and some have said that he quit. I don't know if he quit nor do I think it will end up being a problem, but he can't let it happen again. The Pats are already underperforming and they don't need too many more problems.
New York Jets (7-6) def. Tampa Bay (1-12), 26-3: Kellen Clemens was awful, but the Jets' running game and defense dominated the inept Buccaneers, keeping them in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Miami (7-6) def. Jacksonville (7-6), 14-10: Not a pretty game at all, but this is how the Dolphins win games. Tony Sparano has made this team tough in his short stint and it shows in close, important games like this. The Jags can't afford to lose another game, which means they will have to ride Maurice Jones-Drew to the finish line.
Baltimore (7-6) def. Detroit (2-11), 48-3: I refuse to believe that the Lions or Daunte Culpepper are as bad as they looked in Baltimore.
Houston (6-7) def. Seattle (5-8), 34-7: These aren't the Seahawks who went to Super Bowl XL; they don't have the firepower to overcome the kind of start they had in this game. This game makes you wonder why Houston doesn't play like this more often.
Tennessee (6-7) def. St. Louis (1-12), 47-7: The Titans did what they needed to do with the only newsworthy item being Vince Young's injury. He's day-to-day though, so they should be fine.
Washington (4-9) def. Oakland (4-9), 34-14: Washington has been playing really well over the last month, and as a result, they can have a huge impact on how the NFC East ends up. Oakland collapsed when Bruce Gradkowski went down. JaMarcus Russell once again showed that he is not a good NFL quarterback and that the Raiders would be better off without him.
That may seem like an overreaction after two losses to two good teams, but he refuses to acknowledge the fact that he can't get his team to win in December. They aren't falling apart late in games like they have the past few years, which means these losses fall on the coaches.
The Chargers are on another planet right now. They are tearing the league up, but the question now becomes whether or not they can sustain it in the playoffs.
Philadelphia (9-4) def. New York Giants (7-6), 45-38: Speaking of being on another level, DeSean Jackson is starting to fall into a category with Dante Hall (in 2003) and Devin Hester as far as making big plays. The consistency with which he breaks plays open is amazing. It also further exposed how bad the Giants' secondary is and how far their defense has fallen.
San Francisco (6-7) def. Arizona (8-5), 24-9: You can't expect to win when you turn the ball over seven times. The 49ers defense was all over the field, harassing Warner & Co. all game long. Despite the loss, Arizona still controls their fate and Larry Fitzgerald returned to the game after going down with a scary looking injury.
Top 12 Teams (Last week's ranking)
- New Orleans Saints (1): As long as they keep winning, they'll keep the top spot. Next week: vs. Dallas (8-5)
- Indianapolis Colts (2): The same goes for Indy. They'll hold onto one of the top two spots as long as they keep winning. Next week: at Jacksonville (7-6)
- San Diego Chargers (4): They always start slow, but their current winning streak is amazing. Next week: vs. Cincinnati (9-4)
- Minnesota Vikings (6): Great bounce back win against a good team. Next week: at Carolina (5-8)
- Philadelphia Eagles (7): They have problems on defense, but their offense is great enough to cover it up. However, it will become a bigger problem once they get into the playoffs. Next week: vs. San Francisco (6-7)
- Cincinnati Bengals (3): They've turned things around from last year, but they'll be out very quickly in the playoffs if they can't figure out how to beat great teams. They'll have an opportunity against the Chargers. Next week: at San Diego (10-3)
- Arizona Cardinals (5): They won't turn the ball over seven times in one game again, so they should be fine. Next week: at Detroit (2-11)
- New England Patriots (8): Something with them is not clicking right now. They need to figure out what that something is and fix it quickly. Next week: at Buffalo (5-8)
- Green Bay Packers (9): Very quietly, they have righted most of what was wrong with them during the first half of the season. Next week: at Pittsburgh (6-7)
- Dallas Cowboys (10): They are here by default because Denver lost and I don't think Miami is better. But, they are staring yet another losing December in the face heading into New Orleans. Next week: at New Orleans (13-0)
- Denver Broncos (11): They played well in the loss at Indy. Next week: vs. Oakland (4-9)
- Miami Dolphins (12): The way they win is rarely pretty, but they always seem to do it when they have to. Next week: at Tennessee (6-7)
That's all for Week 14. Week 15 picks will be ready to go on Thursday.