NFL Week 15 Notes and Observations

Dumont WalkerSenior Analyst IDecember 15, 2008

With no college football on this past weekend, I really had the opportunity to focus on the NFL. This is actually a good thing, considering that the race for the playoffs appears to be as close as I have ever seen it in both divisions.

So while watching, reading, and catching up on all things NFL, I began to jot down some notes and interesting trends that caught my eye. And now I want to pass along those notes to you, the readers, here at Walker-Sports a la Walker’s Rants style, only without the anger.

There is no dominating team in the NFL this season. The league has moved in cycles all season long. At one point or another, we have all heard the Jets, Titans, Steelers, Giants, and now the Panthers, were the team to beat.

However, every one of those teams has experienced peaks and valleys as they traveled through the season. This leaves me to believe that the race for the Super Bowl is wide open. In addition, I think there will be a dark horse team that gets hot during the playoffs and slips into the Super Bowl.

With the above statement being made, I think the two hottest teams in football are the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. If I had to pick right now, I like the Carolina Panthers over the Steelers.

Carolina’s running game is the reason I give them the nod as the team to beat. For the past month now, the Panthers have brutalized opponents with their dual-headed rushing attach. They have just gotten credit for it in the last week after the destroyed the once great Tampa Bay defense.

The Steelers are a very good team, who are playing very typical and very good Steelers football. However, they are playing in a lot of close games, which is something I typically like to see from my Super Bowl contenders.

The problem I have with the Pittsburgh Steelers is they have needed nothing short of a miracle to win their last two close games. Two weeks ago, it took a full team collapse by the Dallas Cowboys to get Pittsburgh over the hump against Dallas.

Yesterday in Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed a controversial call to get them into the endzone and deliver the win. I know that good teams win close games, but when teams start going to the fountain on a regular basis, I begin to wonder if they will have enough in the tank once the playoffs arrive.

When healthy, the Houston Texans actually are a pretty good team. However, I feel like every season they put together a late season push that makes it feel like next year is going to be their breakout year.

It kind of reminds me of how the Arizona Cardinals have been for the past few years. The only difference is that Houston plays in a stacked division, and I am not sure they can just wait around for the division to collapse around them like the Cardinals did.

The Detroit Lions are not a bad team, and it is a shame that their coach will most likely be fired this year and will never get the chance to be a head coach again. The Lions were 0-13 going into Sunday’s game and yet, they played their asses off in an effort to get the win. I love that they are still playing to win and that they have not given up on the season.

The obvious problem for the Lions is at the quarterback position where it has been a revolving door. In addition, they have no back to hand the ball off to either. Once the Detroit Lions fill those holes, they will be heading in the right direction.

It’s obvious that the Dallas Cowboys are a ticking time bomb. What has gone unnoticed is the change in their defense. Quietly, the Dallas Cowboys have become a good team on the defensive side of the ball. If it were not for the brutal schedule they are facing, I would say they are a team that could make waves in the playoffs.

The Indianapolis Colts are an interesting team to watch. They are playing some damn good football right now, but when you watch them, they are not the Colts. The chemistry and the mastery of the offense that we have come to know over the past five-plus years are no longer there. The Colts look more like a more efficient version of an NFC North team.

Nonetheless, the Indianapolis Colts are playing some good football right now. They were the last team to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition, I believe they can knock off any of the AFC West and AFC East teams. The Colts could very well be the sleeper team that I mentioned earlier.

The team that has performed the worst as of late has to be the Washington Redskins. After a 6-2 start, the 'Skins has fallen to 7-7. In addition, little has been made of the rift between running back Clinton Portis and head coach Jim Zorn.

When the season began, Zorn wanted to showcase his version of the West Coast offense, as of late the Washington Redskins appear to be running a poor man's version of Joe Gibbs' power running offense. I do not believe that Zorn is actually in danger of losing his job, but he is in danger in losing the loyalty of his players.

Teams that should be ashamed of their 2008 performance: Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints.

All five of those teams simply underachieved this season. Each has its own respective reasons for under achieving, but one would think some coaching changes may be in order for all these organizations.


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