Posted 12/14/2011 at 02:42 PM
There were several wild finishes last week in the NFL and as usual one of them involved the Denver Broncos. Marion Barber will be the goat of the week despite a strong game overall as two costly miscues gave Denver a chance. The Sunday night game featured one of the most incredible finishes of the season as the Giants were down by twelve late in the fourth quarter before a stunning series of events. It was déjà vu for the Cowboys with a field goal made cancelled out by a timeout, only to see the follow-up kick missed. Both teams now sit at 7-6 and the chance of both teams making the playoffs is very slim. Philadelphia is also still hanging by a thread. If the Giants and Cowboys both go 1-2 in the final three games and the Eagles win out, Philadelphia is the NFC East champion.
Officials again factored a little too heavily in the games last week as well. There were two absolutely ridiculous calls for hits on quarterbacks in the Patriots/Redskins game, one of the more entertaining games of the week that went down to the wire. In Houston, T. J. Yates made a huge play to win the game late to steal a win for the Bengals but he wouldn’t have been in that position without a 17-yard pass interference penalty on a third and long play. In Detroit the Vikings did everything they could to hand the Lions the win and likely playoff spot with six turnovers but Minnesota was on the one-yard line in the closing seconds down six. On the final play in which Minnesota QB Joe Webb fumbled there was an egregious facemask that was not called, and Minnesota deserved another play inches from the end zone. While the Vikings are certainly out of the playoff picture it was certainly an unfair blow to teams like Chicago and Dallas that sit one game behind the Lions. Chicago has a 6-3 NFC record so they could have tiebreaker edges potentially even though it doesn’t look good right now.
Four teams have risen to 10-3 in the AFC with clear separation but either Pittsburgh or Baltimore will be forced to play as a wild card, even if both teams finish 13-3. Whichever team loses that battle will likely head to Denver in the opening round if the Broncos continue the magical run, now up a full game in the division. The Jets also built a lead in the chase for the final wild card spot but New York has three tough games remaining so nothing is set. The Titans, Raiders, and Bengals suffered big setbacks last week but going 3-0 down the stretch could be enough. Tennessee is the only team with just four conference losses so they potentially could have the edge if there is a multi-team tie at 10-6.
Even with the loss last week San Francisco still holds the #2 spot in the NFC ahead of the Saints though the 49ers have a tough game this week. New Orleans still plays Atlanta again so that could be a down to the wire race. Green Bay will clearly be the #1 seed and the Packers and 49ers have something in common, they have by far the best turnover margins in the NFL. San Francisco is +21 and Green Bay is +20. Third place is the Lions at +11 as no team in the AFC is better than +10. The Saints and the Steelers, two teams that many view as possibilities to take out the undefeated Packers both have negative turnover margins, as do the Broncos, making for the only three teams in playoff position in the negative.
Kansas City Coach Todd Haley was fired this week to start the annual coaching carousel. While the Chiefs have had some ugly numbers and Haley has not always looked like the best fit he probably deserved better. The Chiefs were an upstart 10-6 team last year winning the division and this year the run of injuries has been incredible. Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Matt Cassel have been injured on offense and Brandon Siler and Eric Berry were lost early in the season on defense. The Chiefs had awful numbers making adjustments in a 0-3 start but have gone 5-5 since, mainly being competitive through the very tough schedule that comes with a being a first place team. Best of luck, on to this week’s slate…