The playoffs are rapidly approaching, but no team in the AFC has been able to step past the pack for the sixth seed and second wild card slot. At the moment, with an impressive 5-6 record, the Tennessee Titans hold a head to head tie breaker with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers, which has them in the lead for the last spot in the playoffs. The Thanksgiving game between Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens could, ultimately, decide the winner of the playoff race. In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers hold a head to head tiebreaker over their division rivals the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has played better of late, with a lot of credit deserved by the defense. Week 12 also marked the last week of the season during which any teams will be on a bye.
New Orleans Saints 17 - Atlanta Falcons 13
The Saints were without Darren Sproles against Atlanta, but Pierre Thomas filled in well in his absence. Thomas runs well, and can catch the ball out of the backfield, but is on a team that doesn't have the room in their offense to feature him. Against the Falcons, he rushed 10 times for 73 yards and caught 5 passes, to tie with Jimmy Graham for the team lead in receptions. Graham's 5 catches went for 100 yards and a touchdown. He picked up big yards after the catch on two of his receptions, running through, and over, would-be tacklers on both. Drew Brees spread the ball around, completing passes to 9 different receivers, en route to completing near 70 percent of his pass attempts, and throwing for two touchdowns. The Saints defense, however, carried New Orleans through this game. Cameron Jordan led both teams with 2.5 sacks, adding three tackles, while the Saints defense racked up five total sacks and forced a fumble. Matt Ryan, for Atlanta, was not able to get the ball into the end zone, but he completed more than 70 percent of his passes on the night. Harry Douglas was the Falcons' leading receiver with 9 catches for 79 yards, but Atlanta only managed one touchdown in the game. Steven Jackson scored on a one yard run to end their first drive of the night, but after the next two drives ended in field goals, the Falcons didn't score again. The Falcons' defense kept them in the game, New Orleans' field goal marked the only points scored by either team in the second half, but they couldn't force any turnovers and they only got to Brees once.
With a 2-9 record, Atlanta has been mathematically eliminated from a playoff spot. They will be playing for next season, when they will have to deal with the likely loss of Tony Gonzalez, but the return of Julio Jones and a fully healthy Roddy White. Harry Douglas has been a great find for a team that has not been able to play offense on the level they were expected to upon entering the season. Week 12 notwithstanding, the Falcons' defense will need a lot of work in order for them to be successful in 2014. New Orleans holds the second seed in the NFC, with games left against the number one seed Seattle Seahawks, and 2 games against the rival Carolina Panthers, who are gunning for the division lead.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 - Cleveland Browns 11
Josh Gordon, catching passes from two different quarterbacks throughout the game, had a huge game for Cleveland. Gordon caught 14 passes for 237 yards, but only managed one touchdown, which was the only touchdown the Browns scored on the day. Cleveland couldn't get any movement on the ground, being held to only 55 yards rushing on 16 carries, and both quarterbacks turned the ball over. Jason Campbell fumbled while being sacked, he was injured on the play and would not return. Brandon Weeden took over for Campbell and although Weeden threw the touchdown to Gordon, he also threw an interception which was returned for a touchdown and lost a fumble of his own. Cleveland's defense was unable to get Ben Roethlisberger on the ground, nor force any turnovers for Pittsburgh's offense. Le'Veon Bell rushed 23 times for only 80 yards, but the threat of the run was enough to open the field for Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown. Brown has had a great season thus far, and against the Browns he was able to catch 6 passes for 92 yard and a touchdown. Roethlisberger's second touchdown pass was caught by Emmanuel Sanders who had 5 catches for 62 yards. Midway through the fourth quarter Roethlisberger "shocked football fans" with a pooch punt, which was downed on the one yard line by Sanders. The Steelers' defense looked like the Steelers of old, if only for one week. Troy Polamalu forced fumbles and recovered one. Al Woods led the team in sacks, with two sacks, as the defense tallied five total. William Gay returned the interception for a touchdown and added a forced fumble in the game.
Cleveland ran off multiple wins in a row after a shoddy start, but they have fallen back again and are on the verge of losing the opportunity to take the final playoff spot. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron have been among the few bright spots for the Browns. Pittsburgh, however, has rebounded from a terrible start to the season, and is on the brink of winning the second wild card. The game they play against the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving should receive close attention because both teams have played better football and the winner of Thursday's game could be the winner of the sixth seed in the AFC.
Indianapolis Colts 11 - Arizona Cardinals 40
The inconsistencies of the Colts continue, while the Cardinals maintain a higher level of play. Indianapolis is sticking with Trent Richardson at running back, but Richardson has not reached the potential that was expected for him when the Browns drafted him in the first round. Donald Brown has been effective, but the Cardinals limited him to a single yard on only two carries in Week 12. Dan Herron was the leading rusher for the Colts with 33 yards on four carries. No receiver has stepped in to truly take over after the loss of Reggie Wayne to injury, and the passing game has suffered. The leading receiver for Indianapolis was Coby Fleener with 4 catches for only 55 yards. T.Y. Hilton had 5 catches himself, but he only gained 38 yards on those 5 catches. Andrew Luck hooked up with Fleener for the only touchdown Indianapolis scored in the game. The Colts sacked Carson Palmer 3 times, but they couldn't stop Michael Floyd or Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald caught both of Palmer's touchdown passes, and Floyd caught 7 passes for 104 yards. Fitzgerald's second touchdown was the product of a beautiful pass from a back stepping Palmer for 26 yards. Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington combined for 23 carries and 104 yards, with Mendenhall scoring a touchdown on a bruising 5 yard run. Arizona's defense contributed directly to the scoring when Karlos Dansby intercepted a tipped pass and returned it for a touchdown.
The Colts are still leading their division, but Tennessee is only 2 games back, although Indianapolis has the head to head tiebreaker. Arizona has clawed into playoff contention, losing the tiebreaker, at the moment, to the 49ers. Carson Palmer has looked more comfortable with the offense, and the defense has been one of the best in the NFL and seems to keep improving. Patrick Peterson does a great job in coverage against the opposing team's number one receiver week in and week out, and the Cardinal's have stopped the run consistently.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 - Detroit Lions 21
Looking to expand on a 2 game win streak, Tampa Bay went to Detroit with a match up between arguably the best wide receiver and best corner back in the NFL. Calvin Johnson vs. Darrelle Revis, was an intriguing, at worst, match up, which was derailed when Revis was injured in the first half. The Bucs didn't miss Revis as much as expected. Johnthan Banks was the cover man on Johnson the rest of the game, and even though he didn't exactly stop Calvin, Banks did come up with the game sealing interception with a minute left in the game. Tampa's defense picked off Matt Stafford 4 times, including the final INT by Banks, and a pick-six by Leonard Johnson.. They also recovered a fumble, and blocked punt, resulting in a total of 5 takeaways by the defense. Week 11's star, Bobby Rainey, was bottled up by the Detroit Lion's defense, rushing 18 times for only 35 yards. Mike Glennon, however, completed 14 of his 21 passes and threw 2 touchdowns, both to Tiquan Underwood. Underwood's second touchdown, gave the Bucs the final lead of the game, on an 85 yard pass play. The Lions were able to sack Glennon 4 times, but Stafford's interceptions, Kris Durham's fumble, and the blocked punt would be too much to overcome.
Tampa has had something of a resurgence over the past few weeks, but they are already all but eliminated from playoff contention. This can serve as a jumping off point for next season, however, and will be something to build on. The Lions are in a division that can be won by anybody, besides the Minnesota Vikings. Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers are still out, for Chicago and Green Bay, and Detroit and Chicago are tied at 6-5. Losing to a team such as the Buccaneers will not help in the race for the division, but the division winner may end up being no better than 9-7.
Minnesota Vikings 26 - Green Bay Packers 26
The Vikings and Packers recorded the first tie of the 2013 season (likely to be the only tie), in a game that saw two quarterbacks for Green Bay and Adrian Peterson run wild on the Packers' defense. Peterson rushed for 146 yards on 32 carries, with one touchdown, while the number two running back, Toby Gerhart, rushed for 91 yards on 8 carries. Christian Ponder had one of his best games of the season, completing 70 percent of his passes, for 233 yards and a touchdown, throwing zero interceptions. The man most often on the receiving end was rookie Cordarelle Patterson, with 8 receptions for 54 yards. For Green Bay, on offense, Eddie Lacy continued what has been a great rookie campaign with 25 rushes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Lacy ran hard all game, scoring his touchdown with two defenders on his back for five yards. Scott Tolzien was pulled from his third appearance (second start), early in the third quarter, in favor of Matt Flynn. While neither quarterback was particularly impressive, Flynn was able to complete only 58 percent of his passes, but he threw for 218 yards and one touchdown, with Jarrett Boykin hauling in the touchdown and James Jones pulling down 7 catches for 80 yards. Clay Matthews had 2 of the Packers' six total sacks, and the Vikings turned the ball over once on a fumble by Peterson.
Green Bay still has a legitimate shot at the division, especially if Aaron Rodgers returns to the lineup within the next week. Lacy's ability to run should only help Rodgers and the passing game, which could catapult the Packers into, and through, the playoffs in the NFC. Minnesota is preparing for next season, and if Patterson can improve on what he has done so far as a rookie, he could be the playmaking complement to Peterson that the Vikings need on offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars 13 - Houston Texans 6
Maurice Jones-Drew had his best game of the season with 14 carries for 84 yards and the only touchdown of the game. Jones-Drew has been stuck with Jacksonville for a long time without complaining, but this is the first year in which his production has dipped so drastically. Against the Texans he was able to play like his regular self, which may have been a product of Houston's inability to play good defense this season. Chad Henne completed 23 of his 32 pass attempts, with Cecil Shorts III on the receiving end most often, gaining 71 yards on 8 receptions. Jacksonville only managed the one touchdown, however, the rest of their drives ending with 2 field goals, one blocked field goal, and six punts. The Jaguars' offense was better than Houston's. The lone bright spot for the Texans on offense was Dustin Johnson, who rushed for 74 yards on 13 carries. Nobody was able to punch into the end zone, as Case Keenum went 18 of 34 for a meager 169 yards and an interception to end the game. Houston's three sacks didn't make up for the ineffectiveness of the offense, which was unable to do anything, in part because of Jacksonville's own two sacks.
A disappointing year by the Texans is coming to a close, while the Jaguars finish up what was a mostly expected season. The lack of playmakers for both teams has been the downfall, while inconsistent quarterback play has compounded the issue.
San Diego Chargers 41 - Kansas City Chiefs 38
A week after Kansas City lost their first game, they played another division game, this time against the Chargers. Early in the game, the Chiefs lost both of their standout pass rushing linebackers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston went down in the second quarter, and didn't return. San Diego's offense took advantage of the two stars of the defense being out, as Phillip Rivers threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes. Rivers' biggest touchdown of the game, came on the Chargers' final drive, when he floated a perfect pass to Seyi Ajirotutu for a 26 yard touchdown and the lead, with only 31 seconds on the clock. Danny Woodhead scored two touchdowns, turning a short pass into an 11 yard touchdown, and diving over the pile for a 3 yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Ladarius Green showed speed with a 60 yard touchdown reception, on which he outran Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis to the end zone. Kansas City had one of their best offensive games of the season, putting up 38 points. Jamaal Charles scored two touchdowns, and gained 115 yards on only 14 carries. Alex Smith threw for 3 touchdowns, including a deep pass that Donnie Avery caught for a 32 yard score, and gained 294 yards through the year, but he also threw an interception midway through the third quarter that ultimately gave San Diego one of their many leads on the day. Without Hali and Houston, Kansas City only had one sack and couldn't force any turnovers, and the Chargers picked apart a defense that hadn't allowed more than 17 points until a week ago.
The Chiefs are still the front-runners for the first wild card spot and, with the records and shoddy play of most of the teams behind them, are likely to get in easily. San Diego is fighting for their playoff lives, and have pulled themselves into the long list of teams tied at 5-6 and vying for the final playoff spot. Rivers has played well most of the year, and Ryan Mathews has been healthy for the first time in a long time.
Carolina Panthers 20 - Miami Dolphins 16
Without sack leader Charles Johnson playing, the Panthers' defense showed some vulnerability. Ryan Tannehill had enough time in the pocket for Mike Wallace to get deep down the field, and one of those plays turned into a 53 yard touchdown when Wallace ran past Captain Munnerlyn. Early in the second quarter, Munnerlyn was beaten for a 57 yard catch by Wallace, but Wallace couldn't score on that one. At the end of the game, Tannehill had Wallace open for a 60 yard touchdown, which would have likely won the game for Miami, but Wallace wasn't able to hold on. Tannehill threw for 319 yards, and threw one interception when the ball was tipped around by at least 4 different players before being caught by the Panthers' Josh Thomas. The Dolphins' running game managed only 16 yards between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, on a combined 13 carries. Carolina had four players who carried the ball at least four times, but Mike Tolbert may have had the biggest runs of the game when he was able to convert a third and short for a first down, gaining the majority of his 15 yards with Chris Clemons on his back, and a play later getting the ball to the one yard line and setting up Cam Newton's touchdown pass to Greg Olsen. Newton only completed 19 of his 38 passes for 174 yards, but the Dolphins defense was kept off-balance with the running attack and couldn't hold Carolina to fewer points. They did intercept Newton once when Nolan Carroll stepped in front of a pass intended for Brandon Lafell. Miami couldn't get a stop on a crucial fourth down play, with Carolina on their own 20. Newton completed a pass to Steve Smith, who managed to stay up and hold on to the ball, even though he got rocked by Clemons and Brent Grimes, gaining 19 yards on the drive that ultimately won the game for the Panthers.
Carolina has set themselves up in a great position for securing a spot in the playoffs, they still have two games to play against the division leading New Orleans Saints, and their defense plays well every week. When the running game is effective, it makes Newton's job in the passing game easier and opens up Steve Smith with one on one coverages. Miami still has a shot at the sixth seed in the AFC, but they haven't been able to finish games all season, and will be in trouble down the stretch if they can't score points when they need to.
Denver Broncos 31 - New England Patriots 34
Denver dominated the Patriots in the first half. Before the end of the first quarter, the Broncos defense had forced and recovered 3 fumbles, with Von Miller returning one for a touchdown. Denver converted at least a field goal on each of the three turnovers, at one point scoring twice in less than two minutes. Knowshon Moreno continued his best season thus far, rushing 37 times for 224 yards and scoring a touchdown. Moreno ran hard, read blocks well, and gained consistent yardage, until he hurt his ankle in overtime. Demaryius Thomas and the rest of the receiving corps had trouble getting open against the makeshift secondary of the Patriots. Peyton Manning, when he did throw, was under almost constant pressure and, at times, did well just to get rid of the ball. In the second half, everything unraveled for Denver as they matched the Patriots first half with three turnovers. Montee Ball fumbled, again, which has been the deterrent to him getting consistent play time all season, and Manning threw a bad interception trying to force a pass to Eric Decker. Manning was lucky later in the game when they called a pass interference on a play he threw another interception, this one by Aqib Talib. For all of Manning's difficulties, he did make a couple of picture perfect passes to tie the game at 31. In the second half, New England took advantage of the turnovers by Denver. Tom Brady ended the game with 344 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 34 of his 50 pass attempts. Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen played well, in the run and pass game, while LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley sat on the bench after each losing a fumble in the first quarter. Julian Edelman was Brady's top receiver in the game, catching 9 passes for 110 yards and two huge touchdowns. Edelman's first touchdown started with a beautiful throw by Brady, and ended with a great catch by Edelman who was shielded by the corner covering, but still managed to trap the ball against his body. Edelman's second touchdown resulted from shoddy open field tackling, and gave the Patriots their first lead of the game. In the overtime period, both teams had multiple drives and couldn't finish with points to end the game. Denver's final drive was ended when Jamie Collins knocked the ball out of Wes Welker's hands at the last second. After the Patriots failed to score on their ensuing drive, they punted and Welker was slow to give the "poison" call, warning the rest of the Broncos punt return team to get away from the ball, but by the time the ball landed, Tony Carter couldn't get out-of-the-way and the Patriots recovered the ball in field goal range. Steven Gostkowski entered the game, and hit the game winning field goal to give Denver their second loss of the season.
Denver is still the top seed in the AFC, and should end up with home field advantage, but they have less breathing room after the loss. Instead of gaining a one game lead over Kansas City before heading to Arrowhead, they remain tied with the Chiefs and have given the Patriots a shot at taking the number one seed. New England has fought through injuries and a lack of early season chemistry, to be sitting with the second seed in the AFC and the ability to run the table to retain their playoff bye week.
Chicago Bears 21 - St. Louis Rams 42
Kellen Clemens, the former New York Jets back-up quarterback, hasn't necessarily played great football for the Rams, but since the Seahawks game, he hasn't thrown an interception and the Rams are winning games. Against Chicago, who was playing without Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, and Henry Melton, Clemens continued his streak of not turning the ball over, but only completed 45 percent of his passes. The Rams offense, was led by a recently strong running game, consisting of Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham. The offensive star of the last few weeks was actually outperformed by Cunningham, who rushed for 109 yards on only 13 carries. Stacy contributed as well, with 12 carries for 87 yards and both running backs scored a touchdown. The highly coveted rookie, Tavon Austin, added a 65 yard touchdown run of his own, reversing direction after motioning into the backfield and receiving a pitch. Austin benefitted from two great blocks downfield, and his speed took care of the rest as he sprinted toward the end zone. Clemens did hook up with Jared Cook for his only passing touchdown of the game. Although St. Louis' defense allowed Brandon Marshall to catch 10 passes for 117 yards, and Josh McCown was able to complete 36 of his 47 pass attempts for 352 yards, they also forced three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception. One of the fumbles happened on the only sack of the day for the Rams, when Robert Quinn strip sacked McCown, and returned the fumble for a 31 yard touchdown. McCown did throw 2 touchdowns, one to Marshall and the other to tight end Martellus Bennett, but the turnovers were too much to overcome. Matt Forte rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries, but failed to find the end zone in the game. Chicago's defense seemed overmatched, and have not been playing very well against the run for most of the season. One of the more memorable moments of the game, and something that won't be seen very often on a football field, took place when Kyle Long became involved in a scuffle with multiple Rams players. Upon seeing the scuffle, Long's brother Chris, who is a defensive end for the Rams, sprinted from the sideline to break up the fight, pulling his brother away from his teammates and talking to him off to the side. Something for dad, former Raider Howie Long, to be proud of, after being given the day off from his Fox Football Sunday duties to watch his sons play against each other.
Chicago is still tied for first in the NFC North because no team seems very intent on taking control of the division. Each team has flaws that have yet to be fixed, for Chicago the run defense needs to be shored up and quickly. St. Louis lost their starting quarterback to injury, and turned to Kellen Clemens for the remainder of the season. Aided by a defense that has stepped up in recent weeks, which is led by previously mentioned Chris Long and Robert Quinn rushing off the end, and a running game that has decimated most of the defenses it has met, the Rams have at least pulled back into contention for a playoff spot, but it may end up being too little too late.
Dallas Cowboys 24 - New York Giants 21
The NFC East is another division in which, no team seems to truly want the division crown. The Redskins have fallen back of the pack, but no team has been fully eliminated from contention, and at the moment Dallas has the division lead at 6-5 because of the tiebreaker with Philadelphia. Against the Giants, Dallas had some serious mental breakdowns and each team committed 11 penalties on the day. Although the Cowboys were actually effective on the ground, Demarco Murray rushed 14 times for 86 yards, they relied strongly on Tony Romo and the passing game. Dez Bryant was targeted 15 times, but only came down with 9 of those targets for 102 yards and no touchdowns. Romo ultimately had an above average game, completing 23 of 38 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, both to Jason Witten, but he also threw an interception. He is being credited with a game-winning drive (the crediting of game-winning drives to quarterbacks is absurd to me), and he did perform admirably on that final drive. On that drive, however, was a play that will be largely ignored, if only because the Cowboys ultimately won the game. Bryant caught a pass over the middle for what would have been about a 20-25 yard gain, but the play was ruled incomplete after the first official called it a catch. There was a clear disagreement on the field among the referees, but they refused to send it for a booth review, even though it was in the final minute of play. The play, and subsequent ignorance of the review possibility, did not affect the outcome, but the lack of a review on a play during which the officials already didn't agree, is irresponsible. If we are going to use reviews, which I think are unnecessary and typically silly, then this was a prime example of a time to use it. Jason Garrett even called a timeout to give the referees time to get it right... Which they failed to do. Dallas would go on to get a first down on the next play with a pass to Cole Beasley, and would kick a field goal with no time on the clock to take over first place in the division. Jeff Heath, one of the Cowboys' safeties, returned a fumble for 50 yards and a touchdown, after Orlando Scandrick ripped the ball out of Victor Cruz's hands. The ball popped right into Heath's arms and he took off down the sideline for a touchdown. Dallas' defense, however, was also responsible for one of the more boneheaded plays of this NFL season. On a fourth down from the Cowboys' 27, Eli Manning threw a corner route to tight end Brandon Myers who fell while catching the ball, in the area after the catch were the linebacker in coverage on Myers (Bruce Carter) and the aforementioned Heath, but neither of them touched Myers. Both players ran past Myers, and nonchalantly turned around to trot back to the huddle, while Myers popped up off the ground and ran into the end zone. The Giants running game dominated the Cowboys defense, André Brown had 21 carries for 127 yards and Brandon Jacobs had 75 yards on 9 carries, but neither of them made it into the end zone. Manning threw one more touchdown, a four yard pass to Louis Murphy who was wide open in the back of the end zone, while completing 16 of his 30 passes for 174 yards and no interceptions. The Giants defense had 4 sacks in the game, two of them by Cullen Jenkins and the Cowboys had just two sacks, both of them by Jason Hatcher.
The NFC East is up in the air for whichever team loses the fewest games over the rest of the season, or a team that finally saddles up and takes over. The Cowboys may have the most talent, but they under achieve on a consistent basis. The Giants rebounded well after starting the season 0-6, but the faced relatively weak competition over their 4 game winning streak and may still fall to the bottom of the division.
Tennessee Titans 23 - Oakland Raiders 19
With Jake Locker out, the Titans have gone with Ryan Fitzpatrick to finish out the season. Fitzpatrick has had a mixture of success and failure in the NFL throughout his career, but he performed very well against the Raiders. Completing 30 of his 42 passes, Fitzpatrick threw for two touchdowns and 320 yards, with no turnovers. Jason Hunter and Kendall Wright both caught 6 passes and a touchdown, with 109 and 103 yards gained, respectively. Hunter's touchdown came after he caught the ball in front of two Oakland defenders and he turned them both in a circle before running past them down the sideline. Wright scored the "most important" touchdown of the game, diving into the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown to give Tennessee the lead on their final drive. After having a few weeks in a row during which Chris Johnson looked like the running back who ran for 2,000 yards what seems like eons ago, Johnson was held to only 73 yards on 20 carries. Rob Bironas rounded out the scoring for the Titans with three field goals. Although the Titans couldn't get to Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin for any sacks, they did intercept him once and recovered a fumble on special teams. McGloin played well, but was not as efficient as he had been against the Houston Texans in his first start. Finishing 19 of 32 for 260 yards and a touchdown, he also threw the interception and didn't seem to be as on target as he was a week ago. Marcel Reese, the fullback with enough speed to be a tailback, caught McGloin's lone touchdown pass with an athletic catch in the front corner of the end zone. Rashad Jennings has filled in admirably for Darren McFadden, rushing for another 73 yards this week on 16 carries, but he was not able to find the end zone. Sebastian Janikowski, who is known for his incredible leg strength, but isn't as accurate as most would hope, missed two field goals which would prove to be huge in a game Oakland lost by 4 points. The Raiders defense harassed Fitzpatrick all game, but only came away with two sacks, Nick Roach accounted for 1.5 sacks.
Tennessee is far from solidly entrenched in the final playoff spot, but they are in the lead at this point, and they still have a mathematical chance of winning the division from the floundering Colts. If Fitzpatrick can continue playing good football and the defense can keep the opposing offense from scoring, they may ultimately steal the second wild card spot. The Raiders, strangely enough, are still in contention for the playoffs, but are not likely to make that push. At 4-7 they will probably need to win out and would need a couple of losses to fall their way from other teams, but they are not as of yet being counted out of the playoffs.
New York Jets 3 - Baltimore Ravens 19
The New York Jets have been maddeningly inconsistent, or consistent, depending on how you look at it. Up until this week they had been on and off every week with wins and losses, but this week they lost their second straight to the defending Super Bowl champions. On a team that has been different every week, the majority of "experts" have resorted to focusing almost solely on the ability, or lack thereof, that the Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has. In reality, while his turnovers are clearly an issue, he isn't the only player on the Jets, nor is he the only player in every game the Jets play (including the opponent). Against the Ravens, Smith was a sub-par 9 of 22 for 127 yards and an interception. Bilal Powell had his best game in a few weeks, but he still only managed 41 yards on 11 carries, while Chris Ivory grinded out just 35 yards on 9 carries. The Ravens defense pressured Smith often, although they only ended up with 3 sacks. The pressures led to both interceptions thrown by Smith and Nick Mangold snapping the ball and hitting an in motion Greg Salas, which was recovered by Terrell Suggs. In one of the many games this week that were affected by strong winds and crazy weather, the Ravens only attempted 26 passes, of which Flacco completed 17, for 273 yards, a long touchdown, but also an interception. The touchdown, which was completed to Jacoby Jones, 4 receptions total for 103 yards, floated in the wind and dropped perfectly into Jones' hands as he ran past former teammate Ed Reed. Flacco also threw a beautiful pass to Torrey Smith on the sideline. Where there is good, however, there is also bad, and the interception thrown by Flacco looked like a terrible pass, which could have been affected by the wind or a product of miscommunication. Corey Graham came down with both of the Ravens interceptions on defense. Ray Rice's breakout against the Bears looks to have been a flash in the pan as the Jets held him to just 30 yards on 16 carries. Justin Tucker hit all four of his attempted field goals, making him 24 of 26 for the season.
As with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens have begun to play better in recent weeks and will make a serious push for the final playoff spot. Flacco has turned the ball over a few too many times, and Ray Rice has not played very well most of the season, but Rice's potential is still there and the defense has improved significantly since the beginning of the season. New York still has a chance at the playoffs, but their inconsistent play will make that difficult. Too many turnovers may ultimately doom the Jets as the season closes.
San Francisco 49ers 27 - Washington Redskins 6
San Fran has been looked down upon for most of the year because they haven't been as dominant as people were hoping they would be, but they keep winning and are in the driver's seat for the sixth playoff spot in the NFC. Against the Redskins, they faced a team that has not played well offensively, or defensively, for most of the year. Stop the run, and Washington is not likely to put up many points, and the 49ers are very good against the run. Besides hitting Robert Griffin III, hard, all night, they held the Redskins to just 100 yards on 27 carries. They recorded four sacks, two each by Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, and picked Griffin off once. On the offensive side, Colin Kaepernick had one of his better passing games of the season, completing 62 percent of his passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdowns landed in Anquan Boldin's sure hands and the other went to a wide open Vernon Davis off a play action on the goal line. San Fran rushed the ball 33 times, but they only gained 76 yards on the ground, with no touchdowns. In spite of fumbling the ball three times, they only lost one. The Redskins looked like they are in shambles. The passing game was downright bad, with Griffin completing 17 of 27 for only 127 yards and the interception. The running game ran into a brick wall, and was not able to break it down.
The 49ers are now tied with the Cardinals for the final playoff spot, but they hold the tiebreaker with one game left against Arizona. They have a balanced team with a great defense, and look to be in a great spot to hold on to that wild card. The Redskins are now 3-8 and have fallen behind even the Giants in the NFC East. Griffin hasn't looked comfortable and the defense is bad, there isn't likely a chance that they will turn it around to make a push for the playoffs.
Another week in the books and I think I'm becoming more comfortable with this whole recap thing. There will be more in-depth stories and features coming, but I still want to get used to this whole blogging thing before I just blow it up with long-winded stories. Next week will be the most difficult because there will be two extra games, but it will get done and I hope it will be even better than this week. Please register and comment, I welcome the discussion and I would like to know if there is anything people feel I'm missing in these recaps, or any stories people would like to see in addition to the recap. Thank you for reading!