Sorry I missed Week 15...you absolutely do not want to know how busy work has been for me lately. I am currently on my 9th consecutive day of work with no days off. Merry Fucking Christmas.
Here's a quick one sentence recap of what happened in Week 15:
The Giants lost their second in a row, this time losing to the Cowboys 20-8, the Bears kept their seasons alive by beating the Saints in OT on Thurs Night, a win they had to have as the Vikings beat up on the Cardinals on Sunday, Atlanta won a big wildcard spot showdown against the Bucs in OT, while Philly continued its late season resurgence by thumping Cleveland, Pittsburgh set up a showdown for AFC homefield in Week 16 by beating Baltimore while the Titans lost to red hot Houston, Detroit lost again to fall 0-14, as the Colts beat them to win their 6th in a row, all the AFC East hopefuls (New England, the Jets, and the Dolphins) won, while the AFC West leading Broncos failed to clinch their division because they got dusted in Carolina.
So that was Week 15 and that was a runon sentence, now on to the return of the world-renowned EIGHT IN THE BOX..covering the NFC happenings in Week 16.
1. Exactly as they are supposed to, the BCS computers matched up the top 2 teams in the NFC to decide who gets home field advantage like men, on the field.
The Giants entered this showdown against Carolina having lost two games in a row, and arterially wounded just like Plaxico Burress' leg. The running game had been unable to compensate for the loss of Burress, due in part to a knee injury to Brandon Jacobs, and in part just to plain old "disgraceful" performances, as Derrick Ward put it.
Against Carolina though, the only thing "disgraceful" about the Giants running game was the way they performed public sodomy on the Panthers defense. Ward rushed for 215 yards, and Jacobs had 87 and 3 TDs, as the Giants came from behind to beat the Panthers, who got 4 rushing TDs from DeAngelo Williams, 34-28 in OT. The loss of home field advantage was a big one for Carolina, as they are 8-0 at home this year, and 3-4 on the road.
2. On the other end of the good/suck continuum, the Lions are one game away from completing their magical 0-16 season. I thought maybe a home game against a Saints team who had nothing to play for was a good opportunity for the Lions to get that victory. But they lost 42-7, so maybe not. Next week they go to Lambeau Field to face a Packers team that has lost 5 in a row and 7 out of their last 8. I smell "flex game".
3. There may yet be hope for the Lions, though. Just look at the Falcons. Only 1 year after the Michael Vick Experience ended in him mopping floors in the joint for 40 cents and 3 cans of mackerel an hour, the Falcons have completely turned it around. They are now officially in the playoffs as a wildcard thanks to a 24-17 win in Minnesota. The Falcons entered the game ranked 29th in the league in yards per rushing attempt against, but pulled it together to hold Adrian Peterson to only 76 yards on 22 carries.
4. I am officially declaring it completely impossible to predict how the Dallas Cowboys will play from week to week. They're good, then they're bad, then they're fighting, then they love each other, then Wade Phillips is fired, then he's not, then they're going to the Super Bowl, then they are not going to the playoffs. I give up.
As Oprah would say, what I know for sure is, the Cowboys stunk it up this past Saturday night, losing the final game at Texas Stadium 33-24 because LeRon McClain and the undead Willis McGahee combined to roll up 247 rushing yards against them. I also know that they need to beat the Eagles this weekend to make the playoffs, and that Jerry Jones has said Wade Phillips will be back next year whether the Cowboys make the playoffs or not, which I also know I do not believe for a second.
A funny stat in this Ravens game was the Ravens fumbled 5 times and only lost 1 of them. Pro Football Prospectus tells us that who recovers a fumble is essentially a random outcome, so chalk some of it up to bad luck for the Cowboys. You can also chalk some of it up to Marion Barber's toe still hurting him. If I were an NFL GM, order of business #1 would be to amputate every one's toes as a prophlyactic measure.
5. The Eagles may end up being a yard short of the playoffs. Down 10-3 with 12 seconds left against the Redskins, Donovan McNabb hit Reggie Brown on the Redskins 1 yard line, Brown went airborne, but couldn't get into the end zone. The final seconds ran out, and that was it, Eagles lose, and now need to beat the Cowboys next week and get help to make the playoffs. Some sweet play selection in this game by Andy Reid, who despite all the success the Eagles had running the ball against the Giants and Browns the last two weeks, called 48 pass plays versus 14 running plays this week. The result was 3 points.
6. Entering Week 16, the Bears had a 6.25% chance of winning the NFC North. They needed the Vikings to close the season with 2 losses, and they needed to win their final 2. Exiting Week 16, that 6.25% chance has become a 25% chance. The Vikings, as you already know, lost to the Falcons, and the Bears came from behind to beat the Packers in OT on a Monday Night in Chicago so cold that the temperature had to measured in Kelvin. It took a blocked field goal as regulation expired, and a few fortunate bounces on punts, but the Bears are still alive. If they can go to Houston and beat the Texans next week, and the Vikings lose to a convalescing Giants team, the Bears will be NFC North champs at 10-6.
7. One will have to forgive the Bears and their fans if they are a little upset if the Bears finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs, while the Cardinals get in at 8-8. The Cards have been horrible since about Thanksgiving, losing 4 out of 5 and giving up 38 points per game in those 5 games. Their latest ass kicking came at the hands of the Patriots in snowy Foxboro, in a 47-7 flogging that saw the not so triumphant return of cross eyed Matt Leinart. The Cards, I will remind you, are your 2008 NFC West champs, and will open the playoffs at home in 2 weeks. And people think the BCS is jacked up.
8. So, with the Falcons having clinched 1 wildcard spot (and can still actually win the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss, but whatever, the Panthers and Falcons are both in, we know that), and the Bears and Vikings to decide the NFC North this upcoming weekend, that leaves 1 precious wildcard spot that about a million teams are fighting over. A quick rundown of the contenders:
- Dallas will be in if they beat Philadelphia. There are a whole lot of people who should be rooting for the Eagles this week, because none of these other scenarios come in to play unless the Cowboys lose.
- If Dallas loses, the next team with a clear shot is Tampa Bay. The Bucs are at home against the Raiders, so it would seem that if Dallas loses than Tampa will be in, but Tampa's lost 3 in a row, so who even knows if they can beat the Raiders anymore.
- The Bears can still sneak into the playoffs even if the Vikings win this weekend. If Dallas and Tampa both lose, and the Bears win at Houston, then the Bears get that final wildcard spot.
- And finally, the Eagles will get the final spot if they beat Dallas, Tampa loses to Oakland, and the Bears lose to Houston. When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars.
Tomorrow..8 In the Box for the AFC. I promise.