Greetings, readers! Week 13 gives me a bit of a quandary as there are only nine good teams in the NFL at this point. There would be ten, but the Giants lost to Washington on Monday night. It's not a huge deal, but it could mean something for the playoff race. Not everything, just something.
Let's start with last Thursday's game. New Orleans went into Atlanta with eyes on their non-existent playoff hopes. I say non-existent rather than another word like "waning" because they really had no chance of making the playoffs after starting 0-4. Somehow I was one of the only people to realize this fact before last Thursday. I think just about everyone (except the most ardent Saints fans, most likely) will now concede that the Saints are done in 2012. It was a nice run to get back into what seemed like contention to a lot of people, but it had to end at some point. They were done in by the bugaboo that got them off to a 0-4 start, namely Drew Brees' interception problem. Per Peter King's last MMQB column, Brees has thrown as many INT's as Blaine Gabbert & Mark Sanchez, COMBINED. In fewer attempts, no less! It's an amazing stat (and one that actually means something). Now, Atlanta didn't exactly look like world-beaters, especially since Brees gave them five drives by himself. The Falcons won by 10 when they really should have won by 30 or more. Every team in the NFL is flawed, though, even the ones up at the top.
The most exciting ending of the week came in Detroit. Indianapolis looked as though they were going to get stuffed at the end. Then on fourth down, Andrew Luck got outside the pocket and tossed the ball to Donnie Avery, who then proceeded to run it in for the game-winning TD. It was pretty amazing. At the same time, though, it was extraordinarily simple. Luck and Avery took advantage of the fact that all of the Detroit defenders were covering guys in the end zone. The D-line couldn't get enough pressure on Luck to rattle him or force a bad pick, so he went around the right side and did a typical dink-and-dunk that worked. He also ran out to block somebody, but he didn't get a chance since all his guys were covered deep and Avery was too fast to get touched, even. The Colts are now 8-4, and while they're not really in contention for the division title (unless a miracle happens), they should easily get a Wild Card.
Green Bay's win over Minnesota has the Packers at 8-4. They're in good position now, as the Bears lost in Week 13. It wasn't the greatest game; Adrian Peterson ran over the Packers all day and ended up with 210 yards. The second half belonged to Green Bay, though, as they outscored Minnesota 13-0. Aaron Rodgers may not be performing as he did last season, but he's done enough to win games recently (that pukefest against the Giants excepted, obviously). It'll be a lot better for the Packers if they get the 3-seed instead of going on the road. Now that we know that the Bears are overrated and fradulent (like we didn't know this already), the Packers have a definite chance of going far in the playoffs, assuming they get their own flaws taken care of.
New England keeps trucking along, winning division titles with relative ease. They had a bit of a tough time in Miami, meaning they didn't blow out the Dolphins with their usual glee. In fact, they only won by a touchdown. However, Tom Brady still looks like an MVP candidate and the Patriots are a possible 2-seed. This is where it gets a little complicated, as they're tied with Baltimore and Denver, and the tiebreakers can be hard to understand. Assuming the Pats end up with the second seed, they've got a good chance to go far.
Speaking of Baltimore...wow. Ever since putting 55 on Oakland, they've played like garbage. They needed 4th & 29 plus OT to beat San Diego, barely beat the Steelers without Roethlisberger, and then lost to Charlie Batch in the rematch. If that doesn't spell pathetic, I'm not sure what does. Their offense has been moribund since that Oakland game and Joe Flacco in particular has looked poor. He claimed that he was an "elite" QB before the season...I'm still waiting for him to prove that on the field. When they play bad teams at home, they're great, sure. But at all other times, they look pathetically bad. And it all starts with Flacco.
Finally, on Monday night, as mentioned above, Washington took out the Giants. Despite all the sucking-up from the announcers in the booth, Eli Manning didn't play well. Or maybe just not well enough. Either way, RGIII made the plays when needed and got some measure of revenge for losing to the Giants earlier in the season. They're now 6-6, just a game behind the Giants. They probably need some help, but considering the games remaining on the Giants' schedule, they just might have a chance to get the division.
Here are the Rankings for Week 13:
1.) Houston (11-1) [no change]
Huge game with the Pats on Monday at Gillette. Nothing more need be said.
2.) Atlanta (11-1) [no change]
Heading to Carolina...what should be a beatdown will probably be close.
3.) New England (9-3) [+2]
I wonder what the Pats feel about this week's game? I don't think it's huge for them. Not nearly as huge as it is for the Texans.
4.) Denver (9-3) [+2]
They get the Thursday night game this week, with Oakland the opponent. 10-3 sounds good.
5.) Indianapolis (8-4) [+3]
Getting an opponent fresh off a loss at home is pretty good. Let's just hope they don't blow it.
6.) Green Bay (8-4) [+4]
A pretty big game for the Packers, especially if they can keep winning.
7.) Baltimore (9-3) [-4]
A pretty big game for the Ravens, heading down to Washington to take on the Griffins. Will RGIII outplay Flacco?
8.) San Francisco (8-3-1) [-4]
Maybe I should have dropped them out entirely for losing to St. Louis. Maybe.
9.) Chicago (8-4) [-2]
Maybe I should have dropped them out entirely for losing to Seattle. Frauds.
10.) Pittsburgh (7-5) [-]
Here I thought the Steelers were done. Now Roethlisberger just might be coming back. What's going on, exactly?
That's all for this week. See you next week.
Three Games to Watch (Week 14):
Baltimore @ Washington (Sunday, CBS)
Detroit @ Green Bay (Sunday, NBC)
Houston @ New England (Monday, ESPN)