Greetings, readers. Week 14 was an interesting one; a number of teams that looked to be locked in place or still on the upswing managed to fail miserably. Those results changed the landscape somewhat, even though the playoff seeding wasn't drastically affected. So let's get to the stories and see how everything shakes out.
As usual, we start out with last Thursday's game. Denver went into Oakland and had a relatively easy time of it, though some players (notably CB Champ Bailey) thought that it should have gone better. When a team has multiple red zone opportunities and comes away with field goals more than once (which isn't too bad, really, if you have more than four chances in the red zone), it's easy to understand some discontent. In fact, I'm sure the fans weren't too happy about a offensive team like Denver not coming away with TD's on every chance. Currently, the Broncos are 10-3 and have already clinched the AFC West. They're the 3-seed for now due to tiebreakers and Baltimore's inexplicable failure.
Sunday's most exciting game (and biggest blowout) was Seattle vs. Arizona. They capitalized on Arizona's mistakes and had a strong rushing attack headed up by Marshawn Lynch. While San Francisco appears to have a hold on the NFC West (for the moment, at least), it's not hard to see Seattle getting a Wild Card, especially since they hold head-to-head wins against a number of other NFC teams, including Chicago and Dallas.
Monday night's game was an interesting one coming in. Houston went up to New England and there was a lot of hubbub in the big city as the Texans continue their dream regular season. Unfortunately for them, both of their primetime games against good teams (Green Bay and New England) turned out quite nightmarish. New England put up 14 in the 1st quarter and went into halftime up 21-0. The beatdown was on, and it only got worse for the Texans in the second half, despite putting up two TD's. They were never in the game and even though New England wasn't at their best for a long stretch, it never seemed like there was a chance the Pats would give it up. Honestly, the result surprised me given that other teams in great positions gave it up. New England is the 2-seed at this point thanks to a head-to-head win over Denver. Now, it'd take some interesting (read: crazy) circumstances for them to move up, but if they keep winning, a first-round bye is quite likely. It would be beneficial for that to happen, of course. They're the kind of team that can handle the week off and then come off it ready to smack their opponent in the mouth.
Here are the Rankings for Week 14:
1.) New England (10-3) [+2]
A new team at the top, and one that won their way there. I probably would have elevated the Pats earlier in the season, but the Texans and Falcons just kept winning. It's not that the Pats are so much better than those two, but there's no debate necessary when it comes to their QB's...and the NFL is a QB-driven league.
2.) Denver (10-3) [+2]
While it wasn't their best game of the season, the Broncos had a solid win in Oakland. They're heading to Baltimore next. Given the makeup of the teams, it should be a defensive battle. Usually, that would be the case. But I wouldn't be surprised if things turned the other way and it was 38-31 or something like that.
3.) Indianapolis (9-4) [+2]
Another close one for the Colts with head coach Chuck Pagano in attendance. Andrew Luck just gets better and better; apparently he's learned something from the beatdown at New England a few weeks ago. Either that, or he just has a knack for winning the close ones in 2012. Still, given his pedigree and the Colts' record, it's awfully hard to dismiss this as a fluke. Also, they have their destiny in their hands, as they get two meetings with the Texans in the next three weeks.
4.) Green Bay (9-4) [+2]
It started ugly and got uglier in Jersey, but aside from that the Packers have looked about as good as one could hope for. The running game is not up to where the coaches would like, of course, but I'm not too bothered about that. It's a QB-driven league, after all, and that means that throwing the ball downfield is what ought to be happening. Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of that. Of course, on Sunday against Detroit they also needed some luck, and when Matthew Stafford inexplicably fumbled the ball in the snow, the Packers were ready and took advantage.
5.) Houston (11-2) [-4]
Sometimes I wrestle with where to put teams that just lost. Is it really "fair" or "objective" to drop the Texans four spots where they're now behind Indianapolis (who they haven't yet played) or the Packers (who they lost to)? Well, at least they didn't lose to Jacksonville or Detroit, in which case they would have dropped to the bottom. So in this case, I guess it is somewhat fair, or at least not completely unfair.
6.) Atlanta (11-2) [-4]
On the other hand, you have the Falcons, who lost to Carolina. Really, Atlanta? Really?
7.) San Francisco (9-3-1) [+1]
It's interesting that while Michael Crabtree is finally starting to flourish, Vernon Davis has virtually disappeared. They should really be 11-2, and only have themselves (and, really, Jeff Fisher) to blame.
8.) Seattle (8-5) [-]
After that decimation, there's no way that the Seahawks wouldn't be in the Rankings this week. And it's not like we lost out on anybody worthwhile.
9.) NY Giants (8-5) [-]
This marks the fourth time (!!!!) the Giants have come back into the Rankings. Can they last one more week? Or will Eli Manning do something ridiculous and stupid that gets them bounced again?
10.) Baltimore (9-4) [-3]
Speaking of getting bounced...yeesh. Now, don't get me wrong, 9-4 is a good record. Especially for this season, when mediocrity and parity have really taken hold. Can we put to rest this talk about Joe Flacco being "elite" or worth "top-5" money? Because until he actually proves that he's either one of those things, he looks extremely ridiculous. Add to that the fact that they lost to Pittsburgh (without Roethlisberger) and Washington (seriously?), and Flacco just looks worse. I hope the Ravens don't cave to Flacco's demands just because he's supposedly their guy; they could do better and probably cheaper too.
That's all for this week. See you next week.
Three Games to Watch (Week 15):
Green Bay @ Chicago (Sunday, FOX)
Denver @ Baltimore (Sunday, CBS)
San Francisco @ New England (Sunday, NBC)