Week 15 Judgements: After loss, Packers have plenty to worry about

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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1. I know it's only one loss, but Green Bay should be concerned. The Packers' defense hasn't improved, with Kyle Orton (Kyle Orton? ) shredding it with big plays down the middle and finding tight ends open all afternoon. I always wondered what would happen if Aaron Rodgers wasn't en fuego. Now we know. But a lost game is not a big deal. Losing players is, and Green Bay just subtracted two tackles -- with Derek Sherrod lost for the season. Yeah, it's one game, but that one game proved that Green Bay and its 31st-ranked defense is no lock for the Super Bowl.

2. One more thing to concern the Packers: When they absolutely, positively had to make a stop on Kansas City's last series they could not. Everyone knew Kansas City would run, yet the Packers allowed gains of 6, 7, 4 and 15 before Orton took a knee. That's not going to cut it in the playoffs, guys.

3. I don't know what Green Bay has in mind down the stretch, but I have a suggestion: Win next week, then sit Rodgers. There is no way I want him playing against Ndamukong Suh in the season finale.

4. Guess that makes Romeo Crennel the early favorite to make it as the Chiefs' permanent head coach. I know, I'd want an offensive guy to work with Matt Cassel, too, but Crennel and GM Scott Pioli were together in New England and, unlike Todd Haley and Pioli, get along well. My question: Let's say Crennel gets the job. Would Josh McDaniels agree to serve as his offensive coordinator? Then we'd have the perfect fit. Former Patriots everywhere, including the OC who coached Cassel in New England.

5. Caleb Hanie ... Kyle Orton. Now, Chicago, you know why the Bears wanted to re-claim Orton.

6. Next weekend's Giants-Jets game as The Battle for New York. It's more like The Battle for Survival, with the loser out of the playoff picture. "I think it will be a wake-up call," said Giants' defensive lineman Justin Tuck. Maybe. But for whom? Based on what I saw Sunday it doesn't matter if either of these two makes it.

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7. Trust me, nobody wants Philadelphia in the playoffs ... not the way the Eagles played the last two weeks. But if they finish in a tie with the Giants and Cowboys at 8-8 they're in. First, of course, they must beat Dallas ... but then they already have. They won 34-7 in their best performance of the season ... until Sunday.

8. When Oakland looks back at where this season went awry, it can blame a defense that allowed Detroit to drive 98 yards in seven plays in the last two minutes. Oh, yeah, and also its failure to cover Calvin Johnson. Seems like stopping him might've been a good idea.

9. Quietly, Pete Carroll is building a foundation for future success in Seattle ... with the foundation on defense. The Seahawks have won five of their last six and look what happened in those victories -- not much of anything by their opponents. In fact, no one put up more than 17 points, with the Seahawks their opponents 145-65 in those five victories. Oh, yeah, one other thing: Seattle has 30 or more points in each of its last three games ... and that's with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.

10. If Baltimore fails to win the AFC North, it's in trouble in January. Reason: It must hit the road again, and all of its losses this year are there. Yep, the Ravens are 7-0 at home and 3-4 on the road.

11. I like what Atlanta's doing, too, but it won't matter. The Falcons will be a wild-card team, which means they'll have to go on the road in the playoffs ... and I don't trust them there. Three of their five losses are there. Moreover, Matt Ryan has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the road; he's 14-5 at home. 12. Just a hunch, but I think the chances of Ben Roethlisberger playing Monday night just went up. Like way up.

13. The MVP race just got a little tighter, with Drew Brees and Tom Brady squeezing Rodgers at the top.

14. I'll give you two reasons why Bill Cowher won't be interested in Miami: 1) He wants to go where there's stable ownership and 2) he wants to go where there's a franchise quarterback. The Dolphins have neither.

15. Let's see, his team commits a raft of turnovers, a zillion penalties, surrendered 30 points in four of its last five starts, lost its last eight and was blown out by Jacksonville. So tell me again why Tampa Bay keeps Raheem Morris?

FIVE THINGS I LIKE

1. Dan Orlovsky ending the Colts' winless streak. OK, so he had help from the defense and Donald Brown. Still, he gets the win, and here's why I like it: Orlovsky was the guy who quarterbacked that 0-16 Detroit club in 2008. No longer will he be Dan Oh, as in Zero.

2. Jeremy Maclin's block on LeSean McCoy's last score. Maclin didn't take out one defender; he took out two. Watch the tape. He sets up a wall with his first block, then steps into Brodney Pool to make sure McCoy is home safe. Nice.

3. Tamba Hali's motor. The Chiefs' defensive end was non-stop all day vs. left tackle Marshall Newhouse, producing a career-best three sacks and putting serious heat on Aaron Rodgers all afternoon.

4. Philip Rivers in December. He's 23-2. Better yet, look what he's done the last three weeks. He has seven touchdown passes, no interceptions and three victories and never, ever, ever, looked better this season than Sunday night. Let's just put it this way: He's been so good I haven't heard anyone talk about that injury he's supposed to be hiding.

5. Detroit's Calvin Johnson making big plays when it mattered. Look at that last Lions' drive. Johnson was responsible for 75 of the Lions' 98 yards. He also drew a pass-interference penalty. Just when we ask what's wrong with the guy we get a game like this. What's wrong with him? Nothing.

FIVE THINGS I DON'T

1. Christian Ponder and the Minnesota passing attack. There's a reason Vikings' fans were booing in the second half, and, yeah, it has something to do with the Vikes taking net yards passing into the fourth quarter. Somewhere, Brett Favre likes it just where he is.

2. Kansas City's math. The Chiefs were caught with 12 men on the field when Matt Crosby missed his first field goal. They had 12 on the field again one quarter later and survived only when coach Romeo Crennel took a timeout, saving them another penalty. Then they had to call another timeout prior to a punt ... this time because they had 10 guys on the field. What about counting to 11 is so hard to understand?

3. That "quad-related injury" to New England defensive end Andre Carter. Reports say it will require surgery, and that's not good for a defense that leaks like a sieve. Carter is the Pats' best pass rusher, and they need him to keep opponents from running the 7-on-7 drills that buried them in Pittsburgh in October.

4. The Jets' playoff hopes. If the Giants don't get them this week, Miami will in the season finale. That game is in Miami, and in case you haven't noticed, the Jets are 2-5 on the road. Mark Sanchez had it right when he described the Jets' loss to Philadelphia as "terrible football." If there's any solace, it's this: I saw the same football played by the Jets' next opponent. They both stunk Sunday.

5. Tennessee's decision to stick with Matt Hasselbeck. He was hurt, and he wasn't playing well. Yet coach Mike Munchak didn't bench him until it was too late. Munchak defended his decision to keep Jake Locker on the sidelines, saying, "We just weren't playing very well on the offensive side of the ball." Well, yeah, but that's the point.

FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE SOME 'SPLAINING TO DO

1. N.Y. Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. He dropped a sure touchdown pass after losing the ball in the sun, a gaffe that started things rolling south for Big Blue. The ball was perfectly thrown, and a catch would've put the Giants in front 7-3. As it was, they never dug themselves out of the ditch. "Can't control the sun," Nicks said.

2. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. He should've challenged tight end Leonard Pope's catch and run to the Packers' 2 ... but he didn't. Pope fumbled the ball, and it rolled through the end zone. It probably would've been ruled a touchback if McCarthy appealed ... but he didn't, keeping the flag in his pocket after reaching for it.

3. Houston running back Arian Foster. He fumbled for the third time in four games and was benched by Gary Kubiak. Smart. The Texans can't afford turnovers in the playoffs, so maybe, just maybe, this gets the message through to Foster. Let's face it, Houston needs the guy to win. What they don't need are unnecessary fumbles.

4. Chicago quarterback Caleb Hanie. He throws the interception that turns into a go-ahead touchdown, a pass that looked remarkably similar to an interception he threw in last year's conference championship game, with Green Bay's B.J. Raji returning it for a TD. He also threw four interceptions, bringing his total to nine in four starts. Jay Cutler had seven in 10.

5. Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. The Ravens are built on one of the league's best defenses, but that defense failed to make the trip to San Diego. The Ravens couldn't pressure the pocket, couldn't cover the deep ball, couldn't tackle and couldn't make key stops. In short, the Ravens weren't the Ravens.

JUST ASKING ...

 Why should the Giants or the Jets make the playoffs?

 Where have these Chargers been?

 The Packers' loss -- good or bad thing in the long run?

 Could someone put out an APB on Baltimore's defense?

 An aberration or wake-up call for Houston?

NUMBERS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE

0 -- San Diego punts against the Ravens
2 -- Juqua Parker fumble returns for touchdowns this season
7 -- Yards Kansas City gained on 13 plays inside the Green Bay 5
16 -- Kansas City touchdowns this season
19 -- Combined penalties in the Detroit-Oakland game
28 -- Straight games with a Washington turnover
133 -- Yards rushing for Denver in the first 10 minutes
203 -- Yards rushing by Reggie Bush, a career high
2009 -- Last time San Diego allowed a touchdown on an opening series

MY TOP FIVE

1. Green Bay 2. New Orleans
3. Pittsburgh
4. New England
5. San Francisco

MY BOTTOM FIVE

32. Indianapolis
31. St. Louis
30. Minnesota
29. Tampa Bay
28. Cleveland

NEXT WEEKEND'S TOP THREE GAMES

N.Y. Giants at N.Y. Jets ... The Grinch steals someone's Christmas.

San Diego at Detroit ... Bolts try to win one in Eastern Time Zone.

Philadelphia at Dallas ... Eagles not out of playoff picture yet.

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