NFL Week 15 Contenders and Pretenders
With Week 15 of the 2011 NFL season coming to a close and the playoff race heating up, let's look at this week's contenders and pretenders.
This week was chock-full of upsets and surprises, and the playoff race gets very interesting from here on out.
Which teams on the bubble still have a shot at the playoffs?
Contender: New York Jets
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Despite the New York Jets' embarrassing 45-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (where was this team earlier in the year?), they are still in the best position to slip into the playoffs with the second AFC wild-card berth.
Shonn Greene continues to run hard, but Mark Sanchez and the defense need to get it going over these next two weeks against the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins. Even if they split those two games, they should still be able to make the playoffs.
Contender: Detroit Lions
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They helped themselves immensely with a 28-27 comeback win over the Oakland Raiders today. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh returned in dramatic fashion after a two-game suspension, blocking a 65-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to seal the win.
Detroit has not played as well lately as they were playing in the beginning of the season, but the dramatic win could fuel a nice finish to the season.
Contender: Arizona Cardinals
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The Arizona Cardinals found a way to win yet again this week and have lost just once since October 30th, and if they win out, they still have a shot at the playoffs with some help.
The Cards play the Bengals and the Seahawks to finish out the season, and while that's not a cakewalk, they have beaten the 49ers, Cowboys and Eagles in recent weeks on top of a season sweep of the Rams.
This week's 20-17 overtime win over the Browns kept their hopes alive, and Cincinnati and Seattle are both beatable.
Pretender: New York Giants
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After the Giants slipped to 6-6 and every game became a must-win, they started by beating the Cowboys in dramatic fashion to keep their hopes alive.
But with this week's surprising 23-10 loss to the Washington Redskins, the Giants are all but eliminated from the playoffs. They would have to win their final two games to have a chance, and with the Jets and the Cowboys still on the schedule, they don't have much chance of winning both.
Eli Manning's fantastic season looks like it will end short of the playoffs.
Pretender: Tennessee Titans
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I never thought Tennessee was going to make the playoffs, but this week's loss to the previously-winless Indianapolis Colts basically ends all hope.
The Titans couldn't get anything going offensively, and their run defense was gashed by Colts' running back Donald Brown.
Pretender: Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders have lost three straight and now sit at 7-7, with games against the suddenly-hot Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers left.
The Raiders are a young team that looks to have a pretty bright future, but this is likely not a playoff year for them. Their loss to the Detroit Lions this week all but sealed that fate.
Pretender: Seattle Seahawks
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The Seattle Seahawks have been on a hot streak lately and sit at 7-7, but their remaining schedule is the major reason why I have listed them as pretenders.
Running back Marshawn Lynch is playing like a Pro Bowler and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has been more steady as of late, but the bottom line is the Seahawks would have to beat the 49ers and the Cardinals to close out the season, and that does not seem like much of a possibility.
San Francisco's defense matches up well with Seattle's run-oriented offense, and the Cardinals have been on fire just like the Seahawks lately. I'd be surprised if they were able to win both of those.