This Week in: The NFL – Week 15 2012

For the second week in a row, an NFL team observe a moment of silence for the death of a teammate
Once again, an NFL team observe a moment of silence for the death of a teammate

For the second successive week, the NFL was struck by tragedy on Saturday, when Jerry Brown, a member of the Dallas Cowboys practice squad member was killed in a one car crash, being driven by his friend and teammate, Josh Brent.  Reports have suggested that Brent was driving drunk, which if true means that he will be facing legal consequences to his actions, though they are unlikely to match the guilt and grief the nose tackle must be now feeling.  News stories since the incident have focused on the need for increased awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence, but I find it impossible for a 25-year-old (as Brent is) in 2012 not to know the risks associated with alcohol use, rather he chose to believe he would be okay.  The family of friends of Jerry Brown, the Cowboys and Josh Brent must live with the tragic results this decision brought; however, to try to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road requires not just an increase in penalties for those who break the law, but also a societal shift where young people refraining from alcohol in bars and clubs are met with admiration, not pressure from their peers.

Dallas, as the Chiefs had done the week before, still took the field for their game on Sunday, in a matchup against the Bengals in Cincinnati, with both teams still harboring postseason ambitions.  A fourth quarter touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant, followed by a Dan Bailey field goal as time expired, helped the Cowboys come from behind to win 20-19 and keep them in contention for the playoffs.  With a 7-6 record, Dallas are a game behind the Giants, who demolished the Saints, 52-27, in the NFC East; as are the Washington Redskins, who overcame an injury to their rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III, to beat the Baltimore Ravens 31-28 in overtime, with another first year QB, Kirk Cousins, leading the game-tying and winning drives.  Philadelphia made it four victories out of four in the division – with all but the Giants securing their successes with a score on the final play – as they stunted the Buccaneers hopes of playing in January, with a 23-21 win in Tampa Bay, ending the Eagles run of eight consecutive losses.

The Packers took control of the NFC North with a 27-20 win over the Lions on Sunday night, after the Bears had fallen in Minnesota, 21-14, earlier in the day.  Green Bay’s victory came after a shaky start, as they were 14-3 down against Detroit, who were driving down the field with the chance to open up an 18 point lead, only for QB Matthew Stafford to fumble the ball, which Mike Daniels recovered and returned for a touchdown – closing the gap to four and completely altering the momentum of the game.  A 27 yard run from Aaron Rodgers and another rushing touchdown from DuJuan Harris ensured that the Packers maintained their dominance over the Lions at Lambeau Field – the last time Detroit won there was in 1991, so long ago that Brett Favre had not yet played his first game for Green Bay.

In the NFC West, the 49ers beat the Dolphins 27-13 in San Francisco, a victory that was ensured by a 50 yard touchdown run by quarterback Colin Kaepernick with just over two minutes remaining; the Rams had a road win over the Bills, 15-12; and the Seahawks racked up 58 points, while keeping the Cardinals off the scoreboard in Seattle, sending Arizona to their 9th straight loss, after they opened the season 4-0.  The other matchup in the conference saw the Falcons beaten for just the second time this season, 30-20 against the Panthers, though Atlanta are still strong favourites to secure the number 1 seed in the NFC.

Meanwhile in the AFC, with Baltimore and Cincinnati both losing, the Steelers had an opportunity to strengthen their position in both the division and wild card races, but they were unable to do so as they fell at home to San Diego, 34-24; meaning the only team in the AFC North to emerge from Week 14 with a victory were the Cleveland Browns, who beat the Kansas City Chiefs 30-7.  After being 20-7 down at half-time, the Colts once again came from behind, this time to defeat the Titans, 27-23; giving Andrew Luck his sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season, the most ever for a rookie quarterback.  Indianapolis can actually win the AFC South should they go 3-0 in their final three games, as two of them are against the Houston Texans, who lost to the Patriots, 42-14 on Monday night.  In related news to the tragic death of Jerry Brown – Donte Stallworth, who in 2009 served just 24 days in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter while driving under the influence, scored the fourth of the Patriots’ six touchdowns.

The other games last weekend saw the Broncos beat the Raiders, 26-13; while the Chiefs maintained their slim playoff chances with a 17-10 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville.  This week’s matchups see the Falcons play the Giants in Atlanta, the team that knocked them out of the postseason last January; Green Bay will secure the NFC North title if they can win in Chicago; two in-form teams meet in Cleveland, as the Browns take on the Redskins, though Washington is still waiting to see if RGIII will be available; and the 49ers face the Patriots at Foxboro.  Baltimore can tie up their division, but must beat the Denver Broncos, who have won eight in a row; the Texans and Colts meet in Houston for the first of their two encounters over the next three weeks; the Saints – who discovered the bans on four of their players for the bounty scandal were overturned this week – host the Buccaneers; there is an all-Florida encounter in Miami between the Jaguars and Dolphins; the Rams entertain the Vikings; and Cincinnati travels to Philadelphia for Thursday night’s matchup.  Seattle will continue their push for a playoff place when they face the Bills, a game which is being played in Toronto; the Steelers and Cowboys fixture in Dallas will end the hopes of one of those teams of playing in January; either the Lions or Cardinals will snap their losing their streak as they face off in Arizona; the Chiefs are in Oakland; San Diego has a home fixture against the Panthers; and Monday Night Football sees the Titans play the Jets in Tennessee.

Predictions

Last week, 7-9; Season, 108-99

Home teams in bold

Eagles +3.5 over Bengals

Falcons -1.5 over Giants

Bears +2.5 over Packers

Browns -1.5 over Redskins

Vikings +2.5 over Rams

Jaguars +7.5 over Dolphins

Saints -3.5 over Buccaneers

Ravens +2.5 over Broncos

Texans -7.5 over Colts

Bills +5.5 over Seahawks (in Toronto)

Lions -5.5 over Cardinals

Chargers -2.5 over Panthers

Cowboys +1.5 over Steelers

Raiders -2.5 over Chiefs

49ers +5.5 over Patriots

Titans -1.5 over Jets

 

 

 

 

 

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