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Week 15 thoughts: Loss gives Packers chance to gear up for title run

by | CBS Sports
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1. Green Bay -- Nobody should be surprised that the Packers are disappointed in losing to the Chiefs. Who wouldn't be if you had a chance at an undefeated season? But this might very well be a blessing in disguise. The loss will allow Green Bay to rest up, both mentally and physically, as they prepare for another title run. There is no doubt in my mind the Patriots were tired from staying perfect by the time the made it to Super Bowl XLII. The Pack won't make that mistake now. I look for them to play out the game against Chicago on Christmas and rest the starters against Detroit to close the season. I would even suggest that Aaron Rodgers not play at all against the Lions.  

2. Kansas City -- The Chiefs pulled off a great upset against the previously unbeaten Packers. Romeo Crennel has a calming influence that helped in what was not an easy situation. The easiest thing Crennel did for this game was to have Kyle Orton take over at quarterback. Kansas City took the chance on its season not being over when they claimed Orton off waivers from Denver. The former Bronco was efficient under center, completing 23 of 31 passes for 299 yards. Just imagine if the Bears had been able to claim him. There is absolutely no doubt he'll get some serious looks for jobs around the league next season.

Kansas City used aggressive play calling to keep a lackluster Green Bay defense on the field. The Chiefs succeeded with this plan, keeping their offense on the field for only 36 minutes against the defending champs. Their defense also did a solid job in disrupting the time of the Packers' wide receivers just enough to keep Aaron Rodgers from connecting.  

3. Carolina -- You might not believe it, but the Panthers have the makings of being one of next year's best teams. Carolina uses two separate systems on offense -- college read option and pro style -- that forces defenses to come up with a plan to stop both, which is easier said than done. Defenses can use an eight-man front to stuff the run, but leaves itself exposed to pass plays. That tends to happen with Cam Newton under center. He had another good day running the ball, gaining 55 yards on seven carries. But you can't help but wonder how long he'll be an effective runner without getting injured.  

4. Indianapolis -- Congratulations to Jim Caldwell and the Colts for beating the Titans to get their first victory of the season. Indianapolis has played extremely hard this season, losing six games by no more than eight points. They've had to focus more on the running game this season, which has seen Donald Brown gain 4.0 yards per carry for the season. Brown also lit up Tennessee's defense for 161 yards on 16 carries and one brilliant 80-yard touchdown dash. I wouldn't be shocked if this team wins at least one more game this season. Regardless of winning another game this season, Caldwell should be retained as the Colts' head coach.  

5. Houston -- The Texans lost their first game as AFC South champs to the Panthers. It was also their first game without Wade Phillips running the defense. Could this just been a simple letdown spot for Houston? I don't buy into that thinking. What I do buy into is the fact that the Texans turned the ball over three times. Carolina converted those turnovers into a pair of touchdowns and a missed field goal. Houston will need T.J. Yates to be more accurate to clean up those issues on the attack. It also wouldn't hurt to get Andre Johnson back out on the field before the playoffs begin.

6. Miami -- Todd Bowles, like Romeo Crennel, took over as an interim coach this week. But in Bowles' case, the players were surprised that Tony Sparano was fired earlier in the week. The Dolphins played hard under Sparano, but that doesn't mean much if you don't bring home a victory. Bowles told me he told the team he wanted them to stay mentally and physically tough for their final three games of the season -- all against AFC East foes. Miami responded well with its victory against the Bills. Reggie Bush posted a career-high with 203 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown.

This is a great opportunity that was a long time coming for Bowles. We had him in Washington as an undrafted free agent out of Temple. He wound up as our starting free safety. He basically was our coach on the field, barking out plays as the game progressed. He'll make the most of this chance and will be a head coach somewhere in the NFL.

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7. Philadelphia -- The Eagles looked like the team everyone expected they would be this year against the Jets. Their offense was explosive with Michael Vick being a force through the air, while LeSean McCoy continues his career year. Brent Celek was instrumental in this victory; he exploited the Jets' secondary for 156 yards and a touchdown on only five catches. Justin Babin also came up huge for Philadelphia, sacking Mark Sanchez three times, bringing his season total to 18. With the victory, the Eagles keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They'll take on the Cowboys next week in a matchup that is crucial for all parties. Philadelphia has already beaten Dallas 34-7 once this year and can easily pull a similar result in Week 16.  

8. Denver -- I can't say for sure, but the Broncos might not have been ready for the type of pressure they faced against the Patriots. There is no doubt they practiced properly and were prepared for the game itself. The pressure of a big game this late in the year appeared to be too much for Denver's young players. The Broncos were way too aggressive at the end of the first half. A prime example is when the Broncos were on their own 13 and decided to throw the ball instead of running the clock out. Their defense held on the ensuing Patriots drive, but a muffed punt turned into three points for the Pats because of questionable play-calling. It was a good wake-up call for Tim Tebow and his team, but not the result they wanted.

9. Detroit -- With their victory against the Raiders, the Lions clinched their first winning record since 1999. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson sparkled in the victory. Stafford passed for 391 yards and four touchdowns, while Johnson caught nine passes for 214 yards and two of those scores.

Detroit's path to the playoffs might look difficult with the Chargers coming to Ford Field next week and at Green Bay for the finale, but looks are deceiving. San Diego will be a tough battle, but the Lions play well at home. And the Packers will no doubt be looking to rest up in the season finale now that they've suffered their first loss of the year.

10. Dallas -- The good news for the Cowboys is that they're in first place in the NFC East after the Giants lost to the Redskins. The bad news is that they might have to win out to get that division crown. Dallas will take on Philadelphia and New York to close out the season. Both teams have strong passing games that can expose a suspect secondary. The Cowboys can counter that issue on defense if Tony Romo doesn't turn over the ball. Of course, he just might hand it off to Sammy Morris. Look for the former Patriot to give Felix Jones a spell as the season comes to a close. Those fresh legs will be very important late in games from here on out.  

More thoughts on Week 15:  

1. Free Agents -- There might have been more one-year contracts this season than ever before in the NFL. I believe that has a lot to do with the abundance of free agents and a low cap number of $121.3 million. And there might be even more next season. If teams do offer extensions, the players will have to think hard before turning down those deals, because I don't believe they'll get anything of worth on the open market.  

2. Sam Hurd -- The NFL told me that multiple sources confirmed that Sam Hurd never turned over a list of players to federal authorities in their preliminary investigations.  

3. Colt McCoy -- The league didn't find any evidence to suggest that Cleveland's medical staff failed to handle Colt McCoy properly against the Steelers in Week 14. In fact, the Browns sent two players to the locker room earlier with concussion symptoms. The NFL has told me that the next step in player safety is to have a medical person watch every game so they could explain how the hit happened to doctors. Where they'll be stationed -- field or press box -- has yet to be determined. I don't anticipate a neutral neurosurgeon on the sidelines since it isn't being seriously considered in the league office. The reason behind that isn't due to medical incompetence, rather because the hit wasn't seen by the doctors.  

4. Tim Tebow -- I've studied the film on every ball Tebow has thrown and found a big trend. He runs or throws on the move going to his left four times as much as he does to the right. He completes 50 percent of his passes heading left, but only 20 percent heading the opposite way. You can be certain that opponents know this information and will try to keep him in the pocket.

5. Shahid Khan -- Here are a few thoughts from the new owner of the Jaguars when I recently spoke to him.

I asked him what he knew about his newly purchased team and he believes they have a good defense but need to develop Blaine Gabbert and get him some better targets.

He is more interested in finding a coach who has a passion for the game and won't hire his friends to work with him. His major focus is getting a coach who is known for developing young quarterbacks.

Khan has learned from other owners he should run the Jags like he runs his businesses -- hire the best folks in all departments and let them do their jobs.

He will evaluate the organization after he hires a coach and president. It's the most important thing for him to do, since they'll be running the club.

He is committed to making it work in Jacksonville, and I believe him. He says he'll aggressively push sales for the team and get the attendance up.

6. Jacksonville -- Current owner Wayne Weaver has put certain assurances in place that Khan will keep the Jags in Jacksonville for the near future. One such assurance is that if the team moves to Los Angeles in the next five years, Khan will donate $25 million to Weaver's favorite charity. While this is a great move, it doesn't cover if the team is moved to another city. What will really keep the Jaguars in North Florida is a massive buyout on their stadium lease and a vote of the owners to approve any relocation. The fans and city must step up and support this team. They cannot and will not survive if they fail to draw a crowd.  

7. Coaching search -- I mentioned on The NFL Today that Jeff Fisher will be interviewed for the Dolphins head coaching job. There's no doubt he'll be the big name out there in the offseason. He'll be an ideal fit for a few teams given he likes a strong run game and a solid defense with smart assistants, much like Denver's John Fox. However, I don't see Fisher taking a pay cut like Fox did to get the job with the Broncos.

Charley Casserly can be followed on Twitter @CasserlyCBS

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