Call it clinching day. In the aftermath of week 13, four teams had secured playoff berths.
New England, Atlanta and Denver all clinched division titles, while Houston secured a playoff berth.
Of course, the specific mechanics of clinching do not rest solely on your won-lost record – the Texans, who share the best record in football with Atlanta, are proof enough of that, as they have not yet clinched their division (that will come soon enough – they still play the Colts twice), but there’s not a whole lot to be read in to the fact that Denver and New England are in while, for example, Green Bay, Baltimore and San Francisco are not yet.
Expect more clinchings to occur in the coming weeks, but also expect that the final playoff spots won’t be decided until the season’s final week. There’s simply too many teams in the mix for it not to.
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I thought I understood Jim Harbaugh’s logic in going with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Even though Alex Smith had put up good numbers, the 49ers’ offense wasn’t an attacking offense with Smith, and perhaps it would be under Kaepernick.
Well, guess not. Under Alex Smith, the rule of thumb was that if you stopped Frank Gore, you stopped the Niners.
Guess what the Rams did this week? Gore had 58 yards on 23 carries (2.5 yards per carry), so despite Kaepernick’s 208 yards passing on 21 for 32 and 84 rushing yards on 9 carries, the Niners offense managed just 13 points. Stop Frank Gore. Stop San Francisco. Period.
This Week’s Sucked And Won: Arian Foster, RB (HOU). Foster wasn’t exactly terrible, but for him, he was. He gained 38 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown and a fumble. Like I said, for him, that’s pretty bad.
At some point in the future, you may hear this referred to as the week Andrew Luck really turned the corner. He did lead a two touchdown comeback, including the winning score with no time left, but his overall numbers, 24-54, 391 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 70.8 rating, weren’t exactly the world’s greatest.
And he did it against Detroit, an average at best defensive team, who are going nowhere this year. Instead, how about this being the week Russell Wilson helped his team turn the corner.
Seattle had only won one road game all year, but behind Wilson, they beat the Bears and their top notch defense, in a game the Bears desperately needed, and look at what Wilson did against them: 23-37, 293 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 104.9 passer rating and, oh yeah, 9 carries for 71 yards on the ground too.
Shocking Realization of the Week: Only four teams have an SOV (strength of victory) rating of .500 or better: Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia & Jacksonville. Go figure.
Hey, remember Vontze Burfict, the Arizona State linebacker who, at one point, was contending with Luke Kuechly to be the first linebacker taken in the draft, until his stock fell and fell and fell and fell.
In fact, it fell so much that he went from potential first round pick to not being drafted at all. But as we all know, being drafted or not doesn’t exclude you from the NFL.
Burfict signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, and he’s starting for them. He had 76 tackles and 1 sack coming into Sunday, and while he’s not setting the world on fire, he’s a starter in the NFL, which is more than you can say for many 1st round draft picks.
This Week’s Great But Lost: We have a tie this week: Cam Newton, QB (CAR) and Adrian Peterson, RB (MIN). AP had a typical AP day. 210 yards on 21 carries. OK, maybe a little better than typical, but the guy’s just amazing. This may be the best post-surgery season anyone’s ever had in the NFL.
And Cam? He went 15-27 for 232 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, good for a 121.2 passer rating. He also gained 78 yards on 7 carries. Naturally, it wasn’t enough, but sadly it rarely is for the Panthers.
There’s a reason Baltimore/Pittsburgh is currently the NFL’s premier rivalry. Actually, there’s lots of reasons, but one of them is unpredictability.
Baltimore hadn’t lost a game at home where it held a 10 point lead in 8 years. Yet, the Steelers, with Charlie Batch under center, no less, overcame a 13-3 second quarter deficit to win a 23-20 thriller and forestall the Ravens’ clinching the AFC North.
Thursday Pick: Denver (-12) @Oakland (5Dimes)
I know how dreadful the Raiders are, believe me. I also believe that with Peyton Manning, the Broncos are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But I just can’t see giving these kind of points on the road in an AFC West rivalry game. In these teams’ first meeting, Oakland got stomped 37-6. While there has been little evidence that this team has any pride, I can’t believe they will go out in front of their home fans in a nationally televised game and not do, at least, a LITTLE better. I’ll take the 12 points.
Denver Broncos 34 Oakland Raiders 23
SPOKEN WORD PERFORMANCE
“Guys are confused. A lot of hugs, a lot of tears, a lot of guys saying, ‘I love you’ and meaning it.” – Chiefs C Ryan Lilja, on the mood in the Kansas City locker room in the wake of the Jovan Belcher tragedy.
“At halftime, I wanted to trade him.” – Colts QB coach Clyde Christensen, on Andrew Luck’s dreadful first half against the Lions, which he overcame to lead to the Colts to a fourth quarter victory.
“I think the perception was, well, we might’ve caught them on a bad day.” – Rams’ coach Jeff Fisher referring to reactions following the Rams’ tie of the 49ers several weeks ago. St. Louis came out and beat San Francisco 16-13 in OT this week.
“I felt like coming out here and seeing what type of day it was, we were gonna have to run the ball. I told CJ, ‘Expect the ball a lot today’.” – Bills RB Fred Jackson, on the weather conditions for the Bills’ game with the Jaguars. Buffalo attempted its fewest passes in a game in six years.
“Doug Free can’t block a soul unless he’s holding…yea I’m talking Ish on IR! Lol” – Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn, via Twitter, during the Eagles/Cowboys Sunday night game.
“Any time you’re the only person to ever do something, it’s crazy.” – Texans DL JJ Watt, on becoming the first player in NFL history to record 15 sacks and 15 pass break ups in one season.
“The only people that thought we could win were the people in Pittsburgh and the people in this locker room.” – Steelers S Ryan Clark, on Pittsburgh’s improbable victory over the Ravens with 3rd string QB Charlie Batch at the helm.