What a week in the NFL this weekend!
There were three games played in the snow yesterday so far as I could tell. The biggest, and most obvious one, was in Philly, where the Eagles overcame a two touchdown deficit to earn a huge victory over the Detroit Lions, who missed an opportunity to remain solidly ahead of the Bears, who will be playing tonight, as well as the Packers, who managed to stay in the NFC North race by earning a tight victory at home over the struggling Atlanta Falcons.
The game tonight between the Bears and the Cowboys will be of great interest to both the Eagles and the Lions, because they are both in very tight races against the participants in the Monday Night Football match-up. The Eagles, by virtue of winning, shot ahead of the Cowboys, at least for now, pending the result of tonight's game. Should Dallas lose, the Eagles took a huge step towards possibly securing the division title.
Should the Bears lose, the Lions would remain atop the NFC North division, but only by default, as the NFC North now seems to be giving the NFC East division a serious run for the worst division in the league. The Detroit Lions, who still lead this division, have lost three of the last four, and their overall record of 7-6 is hardly stellar. The Green Bay Packers, who it must be pointed out still remain without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, are only a half a game behind Detroit, but they had gone over a month since their last victory, going 0-4-1 during their last five games. Still, they have a shot, and even a real shot, at winning the division title. And the Chicago bears, like the Lions, have also lost three of their last four. Even if they lose tonight against Dallas, they still have a shot at the division title, although they would then be in third place with a 6-7 record.
Such is the sorry state of things in the NFC North presently.
The Eagles, in the meantime, have put together a string of five consecutive victories, and have raised their record in the process to a fairly impressive 8-5. The Cowboys have not been quite as impressive as of late, yet are 7-5. With a victory tonight against Chicago, they would keep pace with the Eagles, and every indication suggests that this divisional race will be settled in the final week of the regular season, when the two teams meet, in what looks to be a huge match-up, potentially.
There was one huge meeting yesterday, with huge ramifications for the playoff picture and divisional race. That would be the big Sunday Night Football showdown between the visiting Carolina Panthers, who were sporting an eight game winning streak of their own, and the New Orleans Saints. Both teams entered the game with a record of 9-3.
The game itself was a letdown. The Saints just completely dominated, from start to finish, and the Panthers were never really in it. Their incredible defense looked subpar, allowing (more than) thirty points for the first time all season. It was a costly loss for Carolina, although the two teams meet again in a couple of weeks - this time at Carolina.
The Bengals have been quite impressive this season, and this is largely the result of an undefeated record at home. That stellar record looked to receive a strong test yesterday when Indianapolis came to town, but the Colts really were not up to the challenge, and the Bengals won a big game, moving solidly ahead of the Colts, at least for now, as they seem to be headed towards that number three spot in the AFC playoff picture. Don't forget, the Bengals also actually beat the Patriots, so if New England should happen to lose, and the Bengals and Pats end up with the same record, the Bengals, and not the Patriots, would earn that second seed in the AFC, by virtue of the tie-breaker! Not an insignificant fact to bear in mind!
Speaking of New England, they almost did lose a shocker yesterday. They were hosting the lowly Browns, but were down by no less than 12 points with just over a minute left in the game. Usually, that means that the game is over.
Not yesterday, as the Patriots, most improbably, pulled off a come from behind victory for the ages. They managed to get the immediate touchdown to pull within five, as Brady found Edelman in the end zone. But then, the Pats recovered an onside kick, and got another chance to pull it off. Thirty seconds after Brady found Edelman for a TD,, he found Danny Amendola for the winning score, to shock the Cleveland Browns, handing them their fourth loss in a row.
New England still has hopes of possibly being the number one seed, but it needs Denver to lose a game. That certainly did not happen yesterday, as Peyton Manning and the Broncos rediscovered their earlier season form, scoring 51 points, and routing Tennessee in the process. Manning threw 39 completions in 59 attempts for 397 yards and 4 touchdowns. Denver is undefeated at home, and they will host San Diego next weekend, before finishing off their 2013 regular season with games at Houston and Oakland. A 14-2 record seems well within their reach, and would be enough to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, come what may with the rest of the teams in the AFC during the regular season.
The Baltimore Ravens hosted the Minnesota Vikings in one of the snow games yesterday. The Ravens have not been nearly as solid as they were last season, when they won the championship. But they have been solid at home, losing only to the Green Bay Packers (who, it should be noted, had a healthy Aaron Rodgers at the time). But Baltimore almost blew this game, as the Vikings just about pulled off an improbably road upset that would perhaps effectively knocked the Ravens right out of the playoffs. Instead, both teams absolutely exploded for points in the final two minutes of play, combing for 36 points and five touchdowns. The Ravens finally secured the win with a touchdown from Flacco to Marlon Brown with four seconds left on the clock, to secure the come from behind win.
This allowed the Ravens to keep pace with the Miami Dolphins, who won a very impressive road victory in the other snow game yesterday. Miami was outplaying the Steelers for much of the day, but Pittsburgh appeared to have scored a touchdown on a miracle, rugby-style play that was reminiscent of the famous Cal U victory in the 1980's, when they scored a touchdown with the band marching on the field, apparently having assumed the game to be over. But wide receiver Antonio Brown, who ended up with the ball last and made it all the way to the end zone, much to the euphoria of the home crowd, had actually stepped out of bounds, and the incredible, heart stopping miracle play finish for Pittsburgh became instead a play that secured victory, and an appreciative exhale, from the Miami Dolphins, who cleared the field quickly, perhaps afraid that the decision might be reversed.
The Jets earned a solid 37-27 win over the Raiders, keeping their flickering playoff hopes alive. The Chargers also kept their hopes alive by blowing out the Giants, and effectively ending their playoff hopes in the process, with a 37-14 win. The Giants, under Eli Manning, simply seem incapable of beating the Chargers. Kansas City ended their three game slide by absolutely crushing Washington on the road. Arizona blew out the Rams, 30-10, to keep their playoff hopes alive, while San Francisco handed Seattle only their second defeat of the season, 19-17. Finally, Tampa Bay blew out Buffalo at home, 27-6.