NFL Week 12 breakdown
Monday, November 24, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
We're at a very exciting time of the year because the playoff picture is starting to get a lot more clear. This is the time of the year to separate the wheat from the chaff, because there's a lot of teams in contention, and each team still has the chance to control their own destiny. Play well, and you can put yourself in the running for a divisional title or wildcard slot. Play poorly, and end up trying to figure out how you're going to spend your time off this winter, watching other people play for the coveted Lombardi trophy.

Teams That Helped Themselves Out. The Jets have a super easy schedule for this year, but this week's game against the 10-0 Titans was one of the last true tests they were going to have before the postseason. They passed with flying colors. And what was great about the win was that they were balanced on all sides of the ball. It wasn't just Brett Favre doing insane things to win the game by himself. The defense played great and shut down the Titans fearsome run game. The run game exploded when it had to (side note: play Leon Washington MORE, Mangini). And yes, Favre did his part, spreading the ball around and continuing to bring a sense of "Yes, We Can" to the huddle. The Jets are now in great position to win the AFC East and guarantee themselves at least one home game in the post season. As for the Titans, they're still in fine position to win their division, and truthfully, they may be better off taking a loss and nipping all the "perfect season!" talk in the bud, so they can focus on what it's going to take to win in the playoffs.

I once heard a radio announcer scream "Brett Favre is magic!" as Favre threw a huge bomb to win a game against the Broncos in OT last season. And it's true - Favre is a magician, making the seemingly impossible happen, defying odds and sometimes (it seems) even the laws of physics to pull off the big win. But if that's the case, then consider Favre's peer Peyton Manning, who can only be described as the anti-Favre. If Favre is a magician, then Manning is a scientist - he specializes in the art of the possible, the harnessing of physics and probability to find a way to win. He can effortlessly scan a defense, figure out which one it likely is, and then change the play at the line to one that gives his team the best chance of exploiting that defense. And he is unselfish - if the defense is stacked against the pass, he'll gladly call a run play and let his RB charge in for the TD. All he cares about is winning. When the Chargers drove down the field and kicked a field goal to tie, but left 1:30 on the clock, I knew the game was over. "Too much time," I muttered to myself. Why? Because no one runs the 2 minute drill better than Peyton Manning. With only 27 seconds left with 4th-and-inches, and out of field goal range, the logical call would have been to have Manning run the QB sneak to get a new set of downs. But Peyton and his coaches knew that the Chargers knew that, and would be anticipating the sneak, so they did the ballsy thing, and called for a 14 yard pass to Marvin Harrison. They were successful and that set up the game winning field goal with 2 seconds remaining. The Colts are unlikely to catch the Titans at this stage of the game (barring an epic meltdown by the Titans in the next month), but they are well-positioned to take one of the AFC wildcard slots. They have a ridiculously easy schedule coming up - Browns, Bengals, Lions, Jags and then the Titans (in Week 17, when the Titans will possibly be resting their starters).

Also in great place in the AFC wildcard hunt are the surprising Patriots, who rode a second straight 400+ yard performance by Matt Cassel to victory over the rival Miami Dolphins. I still question whether their defense and run game is good enough to carry them deep into the postseason, but for now, the Patriots are masters of their own destiny.

The Baltimore Ravens still have a great shot at the divisional title after their utter destruction of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a savage schedule ahead of them, and must win at least 75% of their games to clinch. The week 15 matchup between these two will likely determine who wins the division.

Let's talk about the Atlanta Falcons, who rebounded from their loss last week and put on a show against division rivals the Carolina Panthers. This was a huge win for the team and puts them only 1 game out of first place. More importantly, the series between the two teams is now 1-1, so Atlanta can possibly pull off the upset and take the division, if they keep playing great football (and Carolina continues playing mediocre football). Michael Turner is looking like the steal of the century for this club. Even if they don't win the division, the Dirrty Birds can still make the playoffs as a wild card.

Teams That Shot Themselves in the Foot. It doesn't look good for the Chargers, who really needed a win to take advantage of Denver's inexplicable loss to the Oakland Raiders. As it stands now, they're 2 games down with 5 games left. Denver techinically has the more difficult schedule ahead, but the Chargers need help if they're going to catch up in the division. A wild card slot is out of the question practically. Meanwhile, Denver looks like it's striving to win the division while having a sub-.500 record.

The Panthers have not been playing great ball and it caught up to them this week. The defense had no answer for the Falcons' offense. They are now tied with Tampa Bay for the divisional title.

Philly has all but crushed their playoff hopes by getting embarrassed by the Ravens. I don't know why Andy Reid decided that the Ravens defense (practically frothing at the mouth to destroy anyone in their path just to erase the taste of defeat from last week's ownage by the Giants) would be the best defense to throw an untested QB against. I know Donovan McNabb hasn't been playing great ball, but surprising Kevin Kolb by throwing him to Ray Lewis and the rest of the wolves was cruel.

Studs of the week. Matt Cassel (30/43, 415 yds, 3 TD, 1 rushing TD) is going to make a LOT of money next year. Michael Turner (117 yds, 4 TD) is awesome. Terrell Owens is NOT awesome, but his douchey-ness cannot override the fact that he had a huge day (213 yds, 1 TD). I'd wager Randy Moss still misses Tom Brady, but yesterday's game probably made him feel better than he has in a long time (125 yds, 3 TD). Ed Reed broke his own INT return for a TD record (107 yards) by intercepting Kolb in the back of the end zone and streaking 108 yards the other direction for the score. A bad day for Kurt Warner looks like this: 32/52, 351 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT. If only he had a running game to take some of the heat off.

Teams I like this week. I like the Atlanta Falcons, who continue to be a pleasant surprise, as well as the Indianapolis Colts, who aren't ready for us to write their postseason obituary just yet it seems. The Jets are starting to make a believer out of me. Right now, the Giants are just SCARY. The thought of a NY versus NY battle is starting to sound less and less crazy. The Raiders aren't a good team, but that was an honest win.

Teams I don't like this week. I don't like Arizona failing to get a run game working. I also don't like the Titans this week. The game was close going into the 4th quarter, but even then, the Titans squandered too many opportunities on offense. Kerry Collins - that wasn't your fault. Collins started 2/10 passing, but there were 5 drops during that time. I saw most of them, and those were catches they simply HAD to make - no excuse. Also, I know the Jets are good at stopping the run, but I think the Titans gave up on the run too quickly. You aren't going to win with Chris Johnson only getting 10 carries for the game. They say that offense wins games and defense wins championships. That line goes through my head a lot when I watch the Denver Broncos. I think their offense will perform just well enough for them to make the playoffs, and their defense will perform just poorly enough to ensure that they go nowhere once they make it. Lastly, I think the Eagles are going to feel like they're on the road at Dallas this Thursday when they hear the vitriol that comes out of the stands at home at Lincoln Field.
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