NFL Week Eight Runaround: The NFC Playoff Race
The bad news is that it won’t matter.
The way the Patriots and Colts are playing, it's virtually a sure thing that the winner of Super Bowl XLII will hail from the AFC.
That said, they’ll still need someone to play—and there are many options in the anemic NFC.
The next few months should see some compelling playoff chases. All four division titles are up for grabs, and all four look to go down to the wire.
In the NFC East, the Cowboys and Giants are neck-and-neck—separated by a single game, with a head-to-head matchup looming in two weeks. The Redskins are very much alive in the playoff hunt, too, but they look to be Wild Card contenders unless New York or Dallas falters.
The NFC North is Packers and Lions territory. The division leaders haven't met yet this year, but they face off to end the season. That one could be for the division title—but don’t forget about the defending NFC champion Bears, who are still within striking distance.
The Buccaneers seemed to be the favorites in the NFC South, but they've stumbled and opened the door for the Panthers and Saints. Even the Falcons have a shot at this point.
Then there’s the poor NFC West. It should be safe to assume that the division champion will be the Cardinals or Seahawks—but considering the winless Rams are only four games back, anything could happen.
The NFL’s goal is for teams to be in the playoff race every year, and the league has certainly succeeded in the NFC. So many teams are still alive that the remaining nine weeks should be very interesting.
Then again, nine weeks is a long time, and if the NFC is good at anything, it would be disappointment.
Someone’s going to be a Super Bowl runner-up, assuming anyone wants it.
Team of the Week: Detroit Lions
Jon Kitna’s bold prediction looks downright prophetic, especially after Detroit finished off a season sweep of the Bears on Sunday.
The Lions' surprising start is unusual because they're winning with defense and discipline—not with big offensive numbers. Some might argue that winning alone is the most unusual thing going on in Motown.
Detroit still has to play Green Bay twice, plus Dallas and San Diego in back-to-back December dates. 10-6 might be hard to come by, but the Lions have proved that they'll certainly be in the thick of things at the end of the year.
Bad Team of the Week: Houston Texans
Although their Sunday loss was to the improving Chargers, the Texans are bad. The 35-10 result marked their third straight defeat, and fifth in six games.
The only win in that span was against the winless Dolphins.
Mario Williams hype? Gone. Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson? Shelved. Gary Kubiak for Coach of the Year? Not so much.
Houston has undone its 2-0 start and fallen from playoff contention to the bottom of the AFC South. At least that's a spot they know how to keep.
Kevan Lee’s Beverage of the Week: 7-Up
As the first drink to enjoy return status on my weekly beverage roll-call, 7-Up must be pretty special—and considering the way I waxed poetic about a soda that holds a nearly spiritual place in my life, I'm obviously a big fan.
In case you missed my riff several weeks ago, let me sum it up this way: I'm convinced that when I meet God face-to-face, he will be drinking 7-Up.
Nap of the Week: Cancelled
I tried to nap during the first quarter of Patriots-Redskins, but then the Patriots scored and I was too excited to sleep.
I swear, it was like I was eight years old and someone had just told me we were going to Disneyland.
Most Misleading Stat: LenDale White, 133 yards rushing
White’s 100-yard game might be a sign of things to come, but it could also be a lone highlight in a season of adequacy.
I’m leaning toward the latter.
White splits carries with multiple backs and started the season out of shape, and the Titans' reliance on him was a product of the unreliable Vince Young. When Young gets healthy, the offense will change—and so will White’s role.
LenDale looked better than expected on Sunday, but don’t count on seeing his name near the top of the rushing charts anytime soon.
Painfully True Stat: Jeff Garcia, 3 INTs
The Buccaneers simply cannot win when Garcia turns the ball over.
Last week, his two fumbles were largely responsible for a loss to the Lions. This week, Aaron Glenn returned one of his INTs for a touchdown, and the Bucs lost by one.
Garcia has done a good job of protecting the ball for the most part—and if he continues to do so, Tampa Bay will be all right.
If he doesn’t, the Buccaneers will be in trouble.
Premature MVP Ballot
1. Tom Brady: He now has as many rushing touchdowns as Larry Johnson.
2. Peyton Manning: The Colts are undefeated, so he’ll keep this spot until at least next week.
3. Jon Kitna: Third on my ballot; first on God’s.
Weekly Super Bowl Prediction: Patriots vs. Redskins
Do you think Mike Vrabel can do the halftime show?
For more, visit www.kevanlee.com.
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