December 10, 2013 Leave a comment
Week 14 Review
With just three weeks of the regular season remaining, the playoff race is starting to take shape as some teams have already been eliminated, some are fighting for their postseason lives, while just three know for sure that they will still be playing football come January. Seattle were the first to clinch a spot, doing so with their win over New Orleans in Week 13, so their 19-17 loss in San Francisco last Sunday should not concern them too much, particularly as they are still almost certain to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC. Many pundits have been declaring that the Seahawks as unbeatable in their own stadium and have penned them in as one of the two Super Bowl teams. While it is true that they have won all of their home fixtures in the last two seasons, it should be remembered that the second game of that streak was against the Packers in Week 3 of 2012, which they would have lost if the replacement refs had not awarded a very dubious touchdown to Seattle on the final play. The Seahawks are undoubtedly the team to beat in the NFC, but they are not a juggernaut who will sail into the big game without any problems – Russell Wilson is only a second year quarterback and has won a total of one playoff game in his life, so it is not a given that he will be able to lead his team the two victories they need to make it to New Jersey in February. Also, in the last nine seasons, only once has a number 1 seed ended up winning the Super Bowl (the New Orleans Saints in 2009) – the postseason has been unpredictable and being hot at the right time has been more important than dominating in the regular season – just ask the 2007 New England Patriots.
The other two teams to already be assured a playoff berth are the Denver Broncos – who will almost certainly be the number 1 seed in the AFC – after they came from behind to beat the Tennessee Titans 51-28, a tally which included another four touchdown passes by Peyton Manning – taking his total to the season to 45, five behind Tom Brady’s record – and a 64-yard field goal by Matt Prater, the longest in NFL history. That defeat for the Titans clinched the AFC South for the Indianapolis Colts, despite their 42-28 loss in Cincinnati, which makes the Bengals the favorites for the three seed in the AFC.
Overall, Week 14 in the NFL was one of the most exciting in league history, with the 16 games including a record-breaking 104 touchdowns and the early games on Sunday combining to have numerous exciting endings – sometimes in the same fixture. That was the case in Baltimore, where the Ravens trailed the Vikings 12-7 with just over two minutes to play, but in the final 125 seconds, the teams combined for five touchdowns and the same number of lead changes to give the home team a 29-26 victory that keeps them in prime position for a wild card spot. In New England, the Patriots came from 19-3 down in the third quarter and 26-14 behind with just over a minute remaining to beat the Browns 27-26, thanks to an onside kick recovery and a very dubious pass interference call that cost Cleveland the game – but kept them in a good position to get a high draft pick next May. In a very snowy Philadelphia, the Eagles moved into first place in the NFC East thanks to a 217-yard rushing day by LeSean McCoy that helped them defeat the Lions 34-20, despite two kick returns for touchdowns by Detroit’s Jeremy Ross. That loss allowed the Bears to move into a tie at the top of the NFC North as they beat the Cowboys 45-28 on Monday night, while the Packers are a half-game back of both of them after they won for the first time this season without Aaron Rodgers, edging Atlanta 22-21 in Green Bay.
In the race for the AFC Wild Cards, the Chiefs maintained their strong grip on the 5 seed with a 45-10 victory in Washington; the Dolphins kept pace with the Ravens by beating the Steelers 34-28 in Pittsburgh, though Miami is behind Baltimore because of their head-to-head record; the Jets stayed in the race with a 37-27 win against the Raiders; and the Chargers are still alive after they prevailed 37-14 over the Giants in San Diego. In the NFC, New Orleans look set to win the two seed as they ended the Panthers winning run by defeating them 31-13 on Sunday night; while the Cardinals remained a game behind Carolina and San Francisco in the hunt for a Wild Card as they beat the Rams, 30-10 in Arizona. Elsewhere, the Jaguars won for the fourth time in fifth games, 27-20 against the Texans on Thursday night, a result that represented Houston’s 11th loss in a row and one that ended the tenure of head coach Gary Kubiak, who was relieved of his duties the following day; and Tampa Bay have also gone from 0-8 to 4-9, this time beating Buffalo 27-6 at home. Read more of this post