Monday, December 19, 2016

Week 15 Begins Block Party

The New York Jets and LA Rams opened Week 15 by showcasing again their utter irrelevance and the playoff race got more solid in some spots but murkier in others.

The resurgence of the Miami Dolphins advanced further as they bitchslapped the hated Jets yet again; the competitive phase of the game ended with this four-minute rampage of Miami Dolphins touchdowns.   Matt Moore filled in for injured Ryan Tannehill and the Jets made him look like a real quarterback.

The first pivot point for the playoff push came from the Titans, who clawed forward on a tundra in Kansas City needing to win out to have any shot at the playoffs.   The Titans scored a late touchdown, but Mike Mularkey nearly gagged it away on an unsuccessful two-point conversion; the Titans forced a Chiefs punt and drove to try a 53-yard field goal.

Andy Reid had lost five of his first six career meetings with the Titans, and it showed when he called a timeout on Ryan Succop's first try; given a second shot, Succop blasted the ball through.  

Tennessee's clutch win not only helped themselves it was a doubly costly affair for the Chiefs, as the Oakland Raiders clawed to a 19-16 win over the Chargers and now have a one-game lead in the AFC West.   With Kansas City's sweep of their divisional series the Raiders need to win out to get the division.

The big game was the Patriots at the Broncos with a lot of talk about Tom Brady's 2-7 record at Denver; Brady struggled at first but being Tom Brady he brushed it aside, made the plays needed to be made, and ground out the 16-3 win, securing a bye week and the AFC East; Tennessee's win over Kansas City all but secured the AFC's top seed for the Patriots while Miami's win over the Jets combined to put the Broncos on the brink of becoming the first defending Superbowl champion knocked out of the playoffs the next year since the 2013 Ravens - and with a report that Broncos players had to be separated in the locker room afterward, it further shows how shallow the Broncos truly are. 

The wildest game of the weekend and perhaps the wildest of the entire season was New Orleans' astonishing 48-41 win over the Cardinals.   

The Packers played their way back toward the playoffs despite blowing the lead to the Bears, who clearly are better with Matt Barkley than they were with Jay Cutler. 

Tennessee's win became all the more needed as the Houston Texans rallied to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 21-20; they did so by finally benching Brock Osweiler; in his stead Tom Savage took over and led the comeback.   It's now clear the Texans made a colossal mistake signing Osweiler and one senses he has played his way out of Houston despite that $72 million contract.    It was an even costlier affair for the Jaguars as coach Gus Bradley was fired after the game. 

The AFC South isn't quite out of the Indianapolis Colts' reach but they need to win out and get big-time help the next two games - especially from Denver, presently ahead of the Colts on the outside looking in for the AFC - while the Vikings' playoff hopes took a nosedive as Adrian Peterson made his return and the Vikings responded by getting crushed 34-6.

The AFC North race now faces the pivotal game Christmas day.   First the Steelers rallied to beat the Bengals, cementing Cincinnati's inability to overcome their history of failing in the clutch.

Next the Ravens escaped the Eagles when a two-point attempt at the end went wrong.   The Ravens can win the division next week, already owning a win over the Steelers. 

The grinder of a win by the Cowboys over the Buccaneers was a needed rally after their bitter loss to the Giants and inched the Cowboys closer to the top seed in the NFC, though they need one more win to secure that top seed regardless of what the NY Giants or anyone else do. 

And because we have to, the 49ers actually put up a few points but in the end were a pointless exercise as the Falcons solidified their hold on the NFC South.

So the playoff push in the NFL gets tighter and more interesting.

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