With three weeks to go in the regular season, here's how the AFC West and NFC North landscape was shaken up this weekend and how the future might look.
During that time, they’ve won five of six and have surged from being a disappointing team to start the season to being a legitimate contender now.
That’s no surprise to football fans though if you’ve been watching them since Norv Turner got there.
They’re sitting at 7-6 right now, a game behind the Chiefs. The Chargers have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way, which includes a home game against San Francisco and then two road games at Cincinnati and at Denver.
Those are three very winnable games, and the Chargers continue to get healthier. Vincent Jackson showed flashes on Sunday of being the receiver of old, despite this being the first real game action he’s seen all season long.
Malcolm Floyd stepped up as well on Sunday in that huge divisional game as well. They were without the best tight end in the league, Antonio Gates this weekend, but it’s just a matter of pain tolerance.
You can bet as the season goes on and the playoffs inch closer for San Diego that Gates will be back in the lineup.
Oh yeah, and they just beat the team they’re chasing in the division 31-0 on Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs
If I told you that Matt Cassel was a legitimate MVP candidate this season, it wouldn’t go over too well.
That’s just too bad though, because quite frankly, he is. Before missing this week’s game against the Chargers because of an appendectomy, Cassel had thrown for 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions on the season.
This is the same guy that just played awful in Week 1 you might remember, despite the fact that the Chiefs wound up beating the Chargers. Cassel started off the season 10/22 for 68 yards with a touchdown that game.
He's clearly rebounded though and has put things together since then.
So what? Well, take a look at who the other MVP candidates were coming into this weekend. First, there was Michael Vick, who had just 15 passing touchdowns heading into Sunday.
Then there was Tom Brady, who heading into this weekend had just four more touchdowns than Cassel, although with the same amount of interceptions.
The only reason Brady pulled that far ahead anyways was because he had back to back, four touchdown performances.
This week the Chiefs were without Cassel and were forced to start Brodie Croyle. They didn’t score one point on Sunday in possibly the biggest game of the season that was absolutely essential to win.
They could have put the Chargers realistically out of the playoff race with a win, but instead the Chiefs got slaughtered.
Their upcoming schedule sees them going to St. Louis, then taking on the Titans and Raiders at home.
St. Louis is a team that believe it or not, is still leading their division with a record of (6-7). Well, it IS the NFC West after all.
I’m predicting the Rams come out and fight tough at home to steal a win, crawling themselves back to .500.
I’m guessing the Chiefs wind up losing one of the last two at home, too. I’m leaning towards predicting that the Raiders beat them, but quite frankly you can never count out the Titans because of that special running back they have in the backfield.
At (9-7), they’re not going to be able to get a Wildcard berth, ending their season.
Well, it’s not often you can say that a team is in good shape despite getting blown out at home, but that’s definitely the case here.
The best thing that happened to the Bears this weekend was something they had no control over. That would be when Aaron Rodgers got knocked out of the game with a concussion in Sunday’s game against the Lions.
When you’re relying on Matt Flynn to lead you back into the game in the fourth quarter, you’re screwed.
Sure, the Bears got blown out at home, but look at who did it to them. That was the best team in football, the New England Patriots.
If you’re thinking the Bears have any chance at winning a Super Bowl with this team, quite frankly you’re ignorant.
But as far as making the playoffs goes, they’re sitting pretty right now in the driver’s seat of the NFC North.
The Bears don’t have an easy schedule by any means, but the Packers' one is just brutal and why the Bears will wind up winning this division.
Next week Chicago heads to the Metrodome (Roof permitting), where they’ll get a matchup with the Vikings, a team that has nothing to play for anymore.
That next week they’ll take on a team that’s in a slump in the Jets at Soldier Field, before taking on the Packers at Lambeau Field to end the season.
They’re sitting at (9-4) right now after yesterday’s loss. The Vikings game is more than winnable, and the Jets game could go either way.
I see them losing to the Packers the final week of the season only because the game’s in Green Bay. That puts them realistically at 10-6 at least to end the season, with a tie in head to head matchups with the Packers.
Green Bay Packers
What do you do when the player your entire offense is built around goes out with an injury?
The answer for Mike McCarthy’s offense on Sunday was nothing.
When quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a concussion, the Packers were done, and it sure looked like they knew that.
The team fought hard to come back though in the last few minutes despite the fact that Matt Flynn was the quarterback at the time for Green Bay.
If it weren’t for a horrible play call on fourth and short, we may be sitting here praising the Packers Monday morning for their ability to come back without the face of the franchise.
That just didn’t happen though, and the Packers lost to the Lions. Getting blown out by the Patriots is better than losing to the Lions by less than a touchdown in my mind.
Say what you want, but at least the Patriots have a guy named Tom Brady under center and a defense that has gotten considerably better this year.
The Packers defense did hold up though, although they weren’t playing against the most explosive of teams on Sunday.
If your defense holds a team to seven points in a game, you can’t be expected to lose that game. Particularly when you’re taking on the Detroit Lions.
I don’t care if you’ve got me at quarterback in that game, you’re going to put some points on the board against the Lions.
I can just turn around and hand the ball off to the back every play. But wait, that’s right, the Packers lost Ryan Grant due to injury early in the year. Here we are heading into Week 15, and they’ve yet to find a decent option in the running game.
The Packers are done. They’re sitting a game behind the Bears right now in the division, who, if you’ll remember, I believe will go 10-6 to end the season.
The Packers are sitting at 8-5 right now and have a ridiculously hard schedule coming up. So, they’d have to win their next two games to have any chance of getting into the playoffs since the NFC North is simply not going to get a Wildcard berth.
They head into Foxborough next weekend to take on the Patriots on Sunday night. That’s going to be a loss, with or without Aaron Rodgers.
Week 16 the Packers have a matchup with the Giants at home. The Giants appear to be more of a playoff team than the Packers seem to be at this point.
Thankfully for the Packers this game is at home. I’m still thinking the game will be close, but in the end the Giants will put it out.
The final week of the season the Packers take on the Bears, which I see them winning.
Unfortunately, that will only put them at 9-7, which won’t be good enough to win the division or sneak in as a Wildcard.