Greetings, readers. There were some interesting results that changed how the playoffs will shake out in Week 15. Let's get to the stories and then check out the latest Rankings.
We start with last Thursday's game. Cincinnati started out fairly unimpressively, but did manage to pull it out in the end, thanks to some timely turnovers and a couple decent passes from Andy Dalton. That might be a bit reductive. But it really hinged on the turnovers and the fact that the Eagles are just terrible after starting out well. Dalton is one of the rising stars among the QB's in the league, yet he's becoming underrated due to the advancement of guys like Luck, Griffin, and Wilson. Of course, the team's performance has something to do with it, too, as the Bengals are 8-6 and have lost a couple games they probably shouldn't have. That applies to just about every team in the league, though. It's that "any given Sunday" mentality.
The top teams in each conference played well and won. Of the two, Atlanta looked stronger and more consistent; they put up 34 on the Giants and didn't allow a single point. The Texans looked vulnerable for about a minute-and-a-half, but then forced Andrew Luck into some bad plays. So apparently, there is a ceiling for Luck and the Colts. It appears that they'll be a Wild Card team. For a rookie QB, that's pretty good. I was hoping they'd beat the Texans in Week 15 & 17 and take the division. Oh well. Since Atlanta and Houston are both 12-2, the top seeds are probably locked up now.
I don't think many people are surprised by Denver's recent performances. They've been on such a long winning streak that I don't expect them to lose or even play badly in the next two weeks. They'll be going into the playoffs hot, if they can keep this pace up. The good thing that helps them in this case is that their last two games look pitifully easy. So it should be a breeze, but we've seen how teams can screw that up.
Green Bay is another team that benefitted from a bad performance of the team they were facing. They played the fraudulent Bears and took the division with the win. I've been seeing some stuff about Aaron Rodgers being an MVP candidate. Not sure about all that, especially given that crapfest against the Giants a few weeks ago. But the team is looking strong.
New England almost had a great comeback and then got derailed by two plays. The first was a kickoff return; the second was the TD that won the game for San Francisco. The game was ugly for most of the first half and then devolved into a waste of time late in the second half, as the Patriots had clearly run out of gas or mojo or whatever fueled the comeback. How the special teams and defense allowed those two plays after Brady played his heart out is beyond me. But this is what happens. And the Pats are still better off than Baltimore.
Here are the Rankings for Week 15:
1.) Denver (11-3) [+1]
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Sort of, but not really. The interesting thing to see is if they can keep up the winning streak or if they give up in Week 17 to get ready for the playoffs.
2.) Green Bay (10-4) [+2]
They're getting over some injuries and Aaron Rodgers is back to playing well. Or better than at the start of the season when he didn't look great. Now that they've clinched the NFC North, they're in the running for the 2-seed. But they have to stay ahead of Seattle as well.
3.) Houston (12-2) [+2]
After a disappointing loss to New England (I wasn't disappointed, but their fans must have been), the Texans rebounded and took out the Colts. We'll see what happens in the rematch in two weeks; I don't expect a similar performance the next time around, as they'll probably be resting players in a foolish attempt to elongate their playoff lives. Despite having the top seed locked up, I don't have a lot of confidence in this team; Matt Schaub is a decent QB, of course, but compared to the others that look to be in the playoffs, including Luck, RGIII, and Wilson, he doesn't look that great.
4.) Atlanta (12-2) [+2]
While it's great to have a commanding win in the regular season, especially in December, the Falcons have a lot to prove in the playoffs. With a week off to start, the pressure will just be that much greater. Now, unlike the Texans, I think the Falcons have a damn good chance of doing something. Matt Ryan looks solid, though he too has had his problems. But it's really that defense which is stepping up at the right time. And those weapons on offense, wow.
5.) San Francisco (10-3-1) [+2]
A good win against one of the better teams in the league. Now they head up to Seattle in what is probably the deciding game in the NFC West. Colin Kaepernick hasn't been throwing it down the field as much, which will have to change in the playoffs for them to reach the Super Bowl. After all, that's why he's the starting QB and Alex Smith isn't.
6.) New England (10-4) [-5]
I'm not sure that loss really means anything. San Francisco is a good team, certainly better than much of the Pats' other comptetion. No shame in losing to a team like that, especially given the state of the Pats' secondary. But with Brady & Belichick on-board still, the expectation is Super Bowl or bust. I'm not sure if they can go through Denver to reach the Super Bowl yet.
7.) Seattle (9-5) [+1]
Consecutive weeks brought consecutive beatdowns. In both games, the Seahawks put up over 50 points. Unbelievable.
8.) Indianapolis (9-5) [-5]
So as I've alluded to previously, I'm a little disappointed by what happened on Sunday with the Colts loss. But it's ok, because they'll get a Wild Card. I think. It's looking good.
9.) Minnesota (8-6) [-]
Adrian Peterson has single-handedly brought the Vikings back into contention for a Wild Card. Unbelievable.
10.) Washington (8-6) [-]
Despite not having RGIII, Washington won a game against a team they should have beaten easily. It wasn't really that difficult, but it probably should have been a little easier. Here's hoping that RGIII comes back so we can see him screw with defenses again.
That's all for this week. See you next week.
Three Games to Watch (Week 16):
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (Sunday, CBS)
NY Giants @ Baltimore (Sunday, FOX)
San Francisco @ Seattle (Sunday, NBC)