Anyone whose been reading my stuff over lo these past 4 NFL seasons, knows that at the end of the season I zero in on the teams that are in the playoff race, mercifully rolling the credits on the Raider-esque squads who are waiting for another horrible season to end. Now in Week 13, it's that time of year again.
1. NY GIANTS 10-1
Last- W at Arizona 37-29; Week 13- at Washington
That the Giants went out to the desert, without their most dangerous weapon Brandon Jacobs, and still won relatively easily has brought into focus that the NFC is a two horse race between the Giants and the Cowboys, and everyone else is a pretender. They were also missing Plaxico Burress for that Cardinals game, and will be for the forseeable future, because Plaxico Burress got shot on Friday night. Can you release somebody for getting shot in da club 2 days before a game? If not, you should be able to. It is really amazing how the Giants keep shedding all these players, some of them boobs like Jeremy Shockey and now Plaxico Burress, some of them a little too me-first like Tiki Barber, and some of them pretty much OK guys like Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora and Brandon Jacobs, and yet they just keep getting better and better and better. When did Tom Coughlin get kidnapped by the pod people and become the best coach in the NFL? Because he is, you all realize that right?
2. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 8-3
Last- W at Detroit 38-20; Week 13- v. New Orleans
Remember earlier this year when we all kept hearing about how the balance of power in the league had shifted to the NFC and dur dee dur dee dur. Well, here we are entering the home stretch of the season, and the #2 team in the NFC is a team that has an offense comprised almost entirely of guys who were B and C listers 7 years ago. Jeff Garcia, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Antonio Bryant? This is an 8-3 team? I guess with a defense like Tampa's, yes, this year it is. Their mission down the stretch will be to win the NFC South and get a first round bye. To do that, they will probably need to beat the Saints today. In Week 1, the Saints beat the Bucs 24-20, thanks in large part to Reggie Bush having 8 catches for 112 yards. Bush will be playing this week for the first time in a long time, trying to stop the Bucs from running their home record to 6-0 this year.
3. ARIZONA CARDINALS 7-5
Week 12- L v. NY Giants 29-37; Week 13- L at Philadelphia 20-48
It's really just the same old Cardinals. Suspect defense, complete inability to run the ball. The only difference is the NFC West is so much worse this year and may be the worst division since the NFL went to the 8 division format in 2002, making it the worst division ever. They are going to make the playoffs, and get a home game, by default, but it says here that they are going to be one and done once they get there.
4. CHICAGO BEARS 6-5
Last- W at St. Louis 27-3; Week 13- at Minnesota
The Bears took care of business in a gimme game against the Rams last week. This week, they play their most important game of the year. They have a primetime showdown with a Vikings team they beat 48-41 at Soldier Field earlier this year. That would have been a Vikings win had Gus Frerotte not been picked off 4 times. The last big divisional test ended in a 37-3 castration at Lambeau for the Bears, they'll have to be a lot better tonight.
5. CAROLINA PANTHERS 8-3
Last- L at Atlanta 28-45; Week 13- at Green Bay
For one quarter in Atlanta last week they couldn't get a first down or offer anything more than non-violent resistance on defense. They fell behind 17-0 to the Falcons before coming back to close within a field goal only to lose by 17. This despite getting a 100 yard rushing game from DeAngelo Williams and 168 receiving yards from Steve Smith. Now the Panthers find themselves in a first place tie with Tampa, and have to go up to Lambeau to face a Packers team who needs to win really badly.
6. DALLAS COWBOYS 8-4
Week 12- W v. San Francisco 35-22; Week 13- W v. Seattle 34-9
Everybody happy now? Romo is back and the Cowboys look like the juggernaut we all know they can be. Yes, back to back home games against NFC West weaklings were by design made to get the Cowboys back on a roll, but if you are looking at teams you definitely do not want to play in the postseason right now, the Giants are 1 and the Cowboys are 2. Of course, the Cowboys do get Cubby like yips in the postseason, and their ineptness during the Brad Johnson-Brooks Bollinger era insures that they are going to probably have to win 3 road games to get to the Super Bowl, so there's still a good chance they will come up short again.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
- The Redskins broke a 2 game losing streak last week with an uninspiring 20-17 win in Seattle. Things are going to be considerably more difficult this week when they face the Giants at home. Meeting #1 against the Giants came in the season opener, and the Skins generated barely any offense. Me, I was cruising along the Na' Pali coast of Kauai while that game was going on, and I guarantee I did not care. There were a fleet of dolphins swimming about 50 miles an hour alongside the hull of the boat, and life just will not get any better than it was that day.
-The Falcons picked up a win over Carolina last week that is going to keep them in the playoff picture for a while. They still trail both Carolina and Tampa by a game each, and a loss to Carolina would have put them at 0-3 against those teams and probably would have ended things. They now have back to back road games against San Diego and New Orleans, two teams with barely flickering playoff hopes.
- The Packers and Vikings both will have to win the NFC North to make the playoffs. Green Bay fell a game off the pace after getting embarrassed on Monday Night against New Orleans in a 51-29 loss that probably could have been 100-29 had the Saints felt inclined to make it so. Minnesota has won 3 of their last 4, including a 30-12 walkover in Jacksonville last week. They play the Bears on Sunday Night this week. A loss puts them essentially 2 games behind the Bears, because it will be their second loss to Chicago this year.
1. TENNESSEE TITANS 11-1
Week 12- L v. NY Jets 13-34; Week 13- W at Detroit 47-10
Consider the Titans armor chinked. The Week 12 game against the Jets was a matchup of the two best teams in the AFC, on the Titans home field. The Titans got killed. Their super powers are the ability to run the ball and stop the run, and the Jets green uniforms may as well have been made of kryptonite, because the Titans couldn't do either against them. The Jets rolled up an unthinkable 196 rushing yards against them, and the Titans could manage only 45 yards on 11 carries. The Titans still have the best record in the AFC, and in the league, but that game showed me that in reality they are at best the #3 team in the league behind both the New York teams.
2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS 8-3
Week 12- W v. Cincinnati 27-10; Week 13- at New England
Because there are sooo many bad teams in the NFL this year, if you can field a team of 11 guys who all run in the right direction you have a pretty good chance of having a decent record. The Steelers have definitely been a benificiary of that. This week though, they are going to have to beat a good team and they are going to have to do it away from home after having 3 straight home games. They need to prove something to me, and they'll have a chance to do it this afternoon.
3. NY JETS 8-3
Week 12- W at Tennessee 34-13; Week 13- v. Denver
Does everybody realize that the way it looks right now we are going to have a Giants-Jets Super Bowl? A Giants-Jets Super Bowl that Brett Favre is playing in? Is there ANY way at this point that the NFL does not pay off all its officiating crews to make sure this happens? I mean, when a possible alternative is Tampa Bay vs. Tennessee?? Come on.
4. DENVER BRONCOS 6-5
Week 12- L v. Oakland 10-31; Week 13- at NY Jets
Just when the Broncos start to look like a worthy playoff team by virtue of beating the Falcons on the road, they go and get blown out, at home, by the RAIDERS!? By Ashley Lelie?!?! By Darren McFadden and his voodoo cursed toe? You almost have to pull for the Chargers to get their shit together and win this division. On another note, regarding the Raiders, I had a dream this weekend where I was working for the Raiders, and met Al Davis. In the dream, Al Davis was just a prince of a guy, and he bought me a black on black ensemble so I would fit in on the sideline during the games. I doubt Al Davis is like this in real life. There is also something seriously wrong when I am dreaming of Al Davis.
5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 7-4
Week 12- W at San Diego 23-20; Week 13- at Cleveland
Make it 4 wins in a row for the Colts. Not against cupcakes either. 3 of those wins have come against New England, Pittsburgh, and San Diego. Adam Vinatieri drilled a 51 yard field goal to cap off a 1 minute dril that was an absolute work of art to win it for the Colts. They go back on the road this week where they get to face Derek Anderson and his magical 15 of 40 arm. One note of caution though, the Colts are going to be without their center, Jeff Saturday. Teams tend to go a little goofy when their offensive line gets messed up, see Jaguars, Jacksonville for more details.
6. BALTIMORE RAVENS 7-4
Week 12- W v. Philadelphia 36-7; Week 13- at Cincinnati
The Ravens' 36-7 clobbering of the Eagles shall live on forever in my heart as the game that saw Donovan McNabb benched, and bundled up like an Eskimo on the bench, yawning. Yes, I know Donovan "silenced his critics" with the Thanksgiving win over the Cardinals. I will never be silenced in my criticism of McNabb though. I had about 10 schadenfreudegasms watching this game. As for the Ravens, they are just playing Baltimore Ravens football as good as it can be played right now. That's usually good for a playoff berth and a quick exit, but it beats the alternative.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
- The Patriots would be out of the playoffs if they started today based on conference record tiebreaker. At this stage of the game that dosn't mean a whole lot. They are riding high right now on the crest of the return of weekly 400 yard passing performances, and now we have 20 minute pregame show segments devoted to wondering if the Patriots are better off with Matt Cassel as their quarterback than they are with Tom Brady. We'll see what Matty Magic does with Pittsburgh's D this week before we consider that silliness.
The Dolphins and Bills both lurk a game out of the final playoff spot. The Dolphins had a lot of air let out of their blowholes when they dropped a big showdown at home against the Pats last week. They visit the healing waters of the Edward Jones Dome this week though, and could get back even with New England with a little help from the Steelers. The Bills broke a 4 game losing streak by thumping the Chiefs 54-31 last week. They have another game they should win this week when the Niners come to Orchard Park, but really, are there any games that a team that has lost 5 out of 7 games should win? Doesn't that mean they are just bad?
So that's where we stand heading into Week 13's Sunday action. It's a great time of year where the focus begins to move from Fantasy silliness to the actual action on the field, enjoy the games!