Even in a week where 14 of the 16 NFL games looked like possible clunkers when you checked out the schedule in advance, we still got more than our share of entertainment.
The overarching theme to week 15 is something like “Nobody makes their move” or “Absolutely no part of the playoff cluster fuck gets settled.”
- Denver controlled its own destiny for the #1 seed in the AFC going into its Thursday night home game against the 6-7 Chargers. The Broncos had won 14 of its 15 home games by more than 16 points per game on average in the Peyton Manning era. They proceeded to get handled by San Diego in their final home game of 2013.
- The Patriots held the torch of “AFC team that can control its own destiny for #1 in the conference” for all of 40 hours. New England’s very winnable loss in Miami meant that at least for the moment they were no longer in control of their own destiny for the #2 seed. And they technically don’t even have the division locked up. They could land in any of the six AFC playoff slots. But if Cincinnati were to lose on Sunday night…
- And that’s exactly what Cincy did. Handed the rare Patriots and Broncos combo loss, the Bengals couldn’t even muster up the competitiveness to give a good effort against the a hated rival…all while sitting on the chance to leapfrog New England in the AFC standings. The Bengals are probably limited to the either the 2, 3 or 4 seed in the AFC now.
- I famously picked against Kansas City and Indianapolis under the premise that neither team had much of anything to play for at this point. They proceeded to win their games by 25 and 22 points, respectively. But more importantly, Kansas City and Denver now have identical 11-3 records. Should Denver slip up in the next two weeks, the Chiefs would take AFC West pole position and be looking at a top seed.
- Next week the Patriots are at 7-6 Baltimore and the Chiefs host 9-5 Indianapolis. The Broncos get to play a road game at 2-12 Houston while the Bengals host 4-9-1 Minnesota. Advantage to Denver and Cincy.
- The only AFC contender that did anything significant this week was Miami beating the Patriots. A ton of pressure on Baltimore to get the road win in Detroit on Monday night to keep pace with the Dolphins for the #6 seed.
- Over in the NFC another team that I didn’t think would get up for their game was Seattle. All they did was shut out the Giants 23-0 at the Meadowlands. In my defense, I couldn’t possibly have factored five Eli interceptions into my prediction. I should have factored in about three interceptions because that’s what we’ve come to expect from the 2013 version of Eli. But five?? Anyway, Seattle has a stranglehold on the #1 seed in the NFC with two home games remaining and a two game lead over the next closest team.
- Looking at that two-horse race in the South, the Saints’ ugly kinda-sorta no-show in St. Louis put Carolina in the driver’s seat for the #2 seed in the conference. If the Panthers can handle New Orleans in Carolina next week, they’ll likely get that first round bye while the Saints play at the NFC North or East winner.
- The top of the NFC standings is calm and orderly compared to the middle and bottom of that bracket.
- In the NFC East, there are two teams vying for the division title, and they both suffered depressing losses on Sunday. Philly got its ass kicked by Minnesota (the Vikings came into the game as the 22nd ranked Team Offense according to Football Outsiders. They dropped 48 on the Eagles). Dallas suffered such an incredible meltdown that Jerry Jones would be totally justified firing the entire team and coaching staff even though they’re still right in the playoff hunt. The Cowboys were up 23 at halftime and still had a 12-point lead with less than eight minutes to go in the 4th. Of course two Tony Romo 4th quarter interceptions contributed to the meltdown in a big way.
- And in the NFC North, there are three teams vying for the division title, and two of them already won this week with the Lions still to play on Monday night. The Bears are 8-6 and have Jay Cutler back. The Packers are 7-6-1 and I’d be shocked if Aaron Rodgers didn’t return for their week 16 game against Pittsburgh. And if the 7-6 Lions win on Monday, they’ll be in the driver’s seat with final games against the Giants and the Vikings (translation: two definite wins if you truly are a playoff team).
- If the Lions lose on Monday, we could be seeing Green Bay at Chicago in week 17 for the title (with the loser missing out on the playoffs entirely). That would be an incredible game.
- Nothing to report in the NFC wildcard race because Carolina, San Francisco and Arizona all won. That keeps the Panthers and 49ers in the lead for the two playoff spots, but the Cardinals lurk just one game back.
- If Carolina loses to New Orleans next week, the Panthers’ final game of the season at Atlanta becomes extremely intriguing. Carolina losing these final two games would mean both the 49ers and Cardinals getting into the playoffs as long as they each win one of their final two games (9ers host Atlanta in week 16, and Arizona gets the 9ers at home in week 17, when San Francisco might not be playing for anything).
- Crazy that a team like Carolina could finish as the #2 seed, a wildcard team or out of the playoffs entirely. No clarity at all for having played 14 games already.
- It feels weird that only four teams have locked up playoff spots at this point in the season. Even weirder…only one team has clinched its division (Indy).
But that goes along well with the really friggen strange season we’ve seen. You’re not getting any more of a recap today because, well…..I just went 2-12-1 against the fucking spread. That’s why. My girlfriend (the one who isn’t sure if domes are heated or not and last watched a full football game when Ted Johnson was still employed by the Patriots) just ripped off an 8-6-1 week against the spread, and I fall to the rockiest of rock bottoms with 2-12-1??? I hate this so much. And I’ll probably not even bother including my picks for the week 16 preview. Julie seems to have the bets worth backing.
Julie’s picks coming up on Thursday. Enjoy Baltimore’s Last Stand vs Detroit’s Last Stand later tonight.