Saturday - Miami 34, NY Jets 13 - The Jets, once again, were pummeled before their own home fans during a nationally televised contest. This time, it was the Dolphins who pounded them into submission, as Miami looked every bit the part of a serious playoff caliber team. Miami also seems to have a pretty good quarterback at the helm, following Tannehill's season ending injury. The Dolphins looked very good on defense, and with a strong and dangerous running game, they will be a tough team to beat. They very well may be headed to the postseason in a few weeks. As for Gang Green? Well, this season, and the misery that it provided Jets fans, is mercifully coming to an end soon.
Buffalo 33, Cleveland 13 - Buffalo took care of business, and convincingly, up at Orchard Park yesterday, bullying and beating down the Browns, until they were left with an 0-14 record, and only two more chances at avoiding the dubious distinction of a winless season. Their remaining games are at home against San Diego, and a road trip to Pittsburgh. The Chargers should prove tough, but that would be Cleveland's best chance at a win, because facing a tough Steelers team in Pittsburgh, when that team will either be fighting for the playoffs, or for playoff positioning, is probably too much for this team. As for the Bills, this win was nice, but they are still on the outside, looking in, as far as the playoff picture is concerned. This game did not mark an end to Cleveland's massive losing streak, but it also will not mark an end to Buffalo's long playoff drought, either.
NY Giants 17, Detroit 6 - The Giants offense was supposed to open up and show their potential this season. And yet, they have not managed to score 30 points or more in any single game...yet. However, New York's defense looks serious, and the G-Men seem to know what to do to close out tight games in the fourth quarter. They did it again yesterday, against a team that has made last minute, come from behind victories an art form this season. In the process, the Giants are now very close to qualifying for the postseason, needing only one victory in either of their last two games to secure their spot. Plus, they still have a remote chance at winning the division, if they manage to win their remaining two games, and if Dallas loses both of their remaining two games. Those are a lot of ifs, but it is not completely out of the realm of possibility. New York needs help from the Lions themselves, though, as they will be going down to Big D next week to face the Cowboys. As for Detroit, this loss, coupled with Green Bay's win, makes the race in the NFC North a lot tighter, and most likely, the division will be decided in a winner take all showdown between the two teams on the final week of the regular season at Detroit.
Baltimore 27, Philadelphia 26 - The Ravens took care of business - barely! Following a tough loss up at New England, the Ravens had a weak opponent at home, but they were just barely able to eke out the victory. Still, that keeps them alive for a showdown at Pittsburgh next weekend, and the winner should likely take the division title. Baltimore still has a chance at the division title, and is very much still alive for the playoffs, although they very well may need to win out at the Steelers and at Cincy the rest of the way. As for the Eagles, they have managed to win only two games following that impressive 3-0 start to the season. Just another loss, in a growing list of such losses.
Indianapolis 34, Minnesota 6 - This is the game that probably definitively knocks the Vikings out of the playoff race for good. Whatever chances that Minnesota still had - and they needed some help already going into yesterday's game - the chances are so remote now, as to be virtually nonexistent. You just cannot lay an egg like the Vikings did in this game, at such a critical point in your season, and then hope that everything will be fine the rest of the way. That 5-0 start seems like it must have happened to someone else, to some other team. Indeed, in many ways, it did. As for the Colts, this was an important and necessary win, although they are still on the outside of the playoff picture, and would need some help getting in.
Tennessee 19, Kansas City 17 - Now, this was a shocking result! The Titans have been improving all season, although I was not expecting them to be quite good enough to go into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead. This huge road win keeps them very relevant in the AFC South division, as they and the Texans are tied for first place, and are set for a big showdown in a couple of weeks - most likely to decide who wins the division! As for KC, this was a huge disappointment, following that big win against Oakland. They now have to hope that the Raiders lose at least one of their remaining games in order to win the AFC West, or they will have to play the Wildcard round on the road somewhere.
Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 20 - Whatever slim chances that the Bengals had is over now, as once again, the Steelers bullied and beat them down. This probably is the poster for the kind of season the Bengals had, as it was a must win, and they came agonizingly close, only to lose. As for Pittsburgh, it is another notch in an impressive win streak, and they now have to prepare for a huge divisional showdown against Baltimore next week.
Green Bay 30, Chicago 27 - Despite having nothing riding on the game, the Bears put up a serious fight, and played impressively down the stretch, overcoming a 27-10 margin to almost pull off a huge upset, and play the part of spoilers. However, the Packers were able to just get enough done to come away with the victory, which keeps their winning streak alive, as well as their playoff hopes, which were helped by Minnesota's bad loss, and Detroit's loss to the Giants. The Packers are gearing up for that huge, winner takes all showdown at Detroit in a couple of weeks.
Houston 21, Jacksonville 20 - Wow! The Jaguars played tough in this one, and almost handed Houston a heartbreaking loss. Almost. But the Texans showed that they have a lot of fight in them, and they rallied to win, just barely. Indeed, a one point win is as narrow as it gets, although in this case, a win is a win, and the Texans will take it, as it keeps them in that first-place tie with Tennessee. An ugly win, to be sure, but an important one, nevertheless.
New Orleans 48, Arizona 41 - An entertaining shootout between two teams that have nothing left to fight for, except maybe pride. In this shootout, the Saints managed to pull off the impressive win at Arizona, outscoring the dangerous Cardinals, who seem almost to have given up on the season now. At least that might be true of their defense, which just seems to get pummeled too frequently.
Atlanta 41, San Francisco 13 - Well, you could kind of see this one coming, right? The Falcons are hot, especially at home, while the 49ers are going through a franchise long 13 game losing streak, and have not yet won a game on the road. The Falcons took care of business early and often, en route to a blowout win that now sees them alone atop the NFC South division, and very well situated for the playoffs, at least at the moment.
New England 16, Denver 3 - A crucial win for the Patriots, as they manage to clinch a seventh straight season of winning at least 12 games each year - a feat only the Colts managed from 2003-2009. In so doing, the Patriots also clinched the division title, and basically earned at least a playoff bye, as they are also closing in on home field advantage. This team has been a model of consistency for so long now, that you expect them to win these kinds of big games, but KC's loss yesterday, and Oakland's loss last week, underscores exactly just how hard that kind of consistency is to achieve, even when a Patriots team like this one makes it look easy. Impressive! Most impressive! As for Denver, they now need some serious help to make the playoffs, and it might just be out of reach for them now.
Oakland 19, San Diego 16 - The Raiders eked out yet another game, this one against the Chargers. But it was huge, as the Chiefs loss now puts the Raiders right back on top in the AFC West, and allows the Raiders to control their own destiny, in terms of taking the AFC West division. They have some tough challenges still left, but the Raiders showed what kind of substance they are made of with wins like this all season. As for San Diego, their season has been over for a long time now, and as disappointing as they must feel, they still showed a lot of fight, and that they are better than their record indicates.
Sunday Night Football - Dallas 26, Tampa Bay 20 - This was a back and forth affair, although ultimately, the Cowboys managed to win. Dallas had been more or less dominating for most of the first half, but the Buccaneers came storming back with a dominant third quarter of their own to take a 20-17 lead. They then seemed to have the momentum, but turnovers and big plays from Dallas eventually did them in. The Cowboys just needed field goals - three of them - to first tie the game, then take the lead, and then provide cushion. But it was enough to give the Cowboys yet another win, and an awesome 12-2 mark that is tied with New England for the league best. A huge win for Dallas, a potentially costly loss for the Bucs, who see their six-game winning streak come to an end.