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How we saw NFL Week 15

The Dolphins finally win; a bunch of bad weather games.

14 down, 5 to go.

I thought there were actually some interesting storylines coming out of this week's games, other than just the GTE's quest for perfection. So I'll talk about the GTE and then I'll yap about some other players, teams and issues that deserve attention in the National Football League.

Greatest Team Ever has blinders on

While seemingly everyone else was predicting 70-0, I bet on the Jets to cover. I think fans and the media made a lot out of "revenge;" but at the end of the day, neither this team nor its coach cared a lick about that. I think they've gotten into the sideshow a bit (see Anthony Smith last week), but I don't buy that they cared about this one. And I don't think they'll care about one for the rest of their incredible run. Just win the game, whether it's by 3 or 30. That's it. Just win.

WINLESS NO MORE: The highlight of a rather desultory Week 15 was Miami’s 22-16 overtime win against Baltimore that gave the Dolphins their first win of the season after 13 losses.

Miami won when Greg Camarillo took a short pass and turned it into a 64-yard touchdown, a series after Baltimore’s Matt Stover missed a 44-yard field goal. The Dolphins’ players, coaches and fans celebrated like they had just clinched a playoff spot. It was easy to be happy for them – in the annals of all-time bad teams, the Fins really aren’t that crappy. They have lost six games this season by three points.

"It was like watching one of those plays in slow motion, and it's the Super Bowl and the miraculous catch and all those things," Miami defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said of the winning score. "It was up there like that for us. Maybe not for everybody else, but for us it was up there with all those great catches.”

And win they did. It's comical to hear people say that this game now proves they're not the greatest ever. lol. Um, they won a game in absolutely crappy conditions by two scores; and they won it in a completely different way than they've won any of their other games. How that doesn't show what a great team they are is beyond me, but the haters persist.

So that's where Kelley Washington has been. The wide receiver brought in as the fourth piece of the improved receiving corps has been working on blocking punts. There isn't a better type of game to get a blocked punt in than those grind-'em-out games where both teams are struggling to break 250 yards. The wide receiver's stats on the season: 0 catches, 1 blocked punt. Like I said, finding different ways to win games: That's greatness.

Homefield advantage

When the Patriots beat the Colts six weeks ago, my only fear was that the Colts and subpar teams like them would thrive in the snow and bad weather of Foxboro in January. While you always want to play in front of your own crowd, watching the Pats' passing game suffer because of the rain and wind definitely reminded me that the weather can equalize a lot, even when one team is far superior to another.

The guarantee

A certain someone guaranteed me two weeks ago that the Steelers would beat the Jaguars (of course, he's the same person who keeps diminishing the Patriots' acheivements). So much for that. Part of it is the injury to Santonio Holmes. When your playmaker is running and cutting at 80%, that's the difference between a 20-yard reception and an incomplete pass; and that difference can be the difference in the game. I've hated the Steelers for years (even if they've been the GTE's bitch for 10 years), but I feel more pity for them now than anything else. They shoudl be better than they're playing.

The last team I'd want to be playing on right now

The Baltimore Ravens. For so many reasons. Two weeks ago they blow a lead against the GTE in the last minute of the game, allowing the Pats to keep the ball after being stopped on two fourth downs (the third one the Pats saved themselves on). Then they get run over by the team that once played in Baltimore. Then they blow a 10-point lead and become the first team to lose to the Dolphins this season. Then you've got Brian Billick and the entire offensive coaching staff who have blown a couple games themselves and should all be fired. Then you have Ray Lewis and a couple other neanderthals on the defense who's mouths make better plays than they do these days. I'd rather have to listen to the NFL Network game crew than play on the Ravens, at this point.

Boredom

How bored were sports writers and fans with the games this weekend? So bored they've resorted to blaming the Cowboys' loss on Jessica Simpson. The same happened last week when many of the same people were saying how the Steelers' Anthony Smith somehow won his game against the GTE. I just don't buy much of this nonsense that surrounds games. Sure, you have teams and players who play a certain way because of something that happened to them leading up to the game. But for every guarantee that goes wrong, and for every starlet who somehow loses games for her boyfriend you have Brett Favre playing his ass off after his father dies; and I don't think Giselle Bundchen or the birth of Tom Brady's child have exactly undermined his play this season.

For the Ravens, 4-10 and losers of eight in a row, it was maybe the most embarrassing loss in since they moved to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1995. "Eight losses in a row -- I think everything stinks at this point, whether it's the Dolphins or whether we were playing Missouri," center Mike Flynn said. The way the Ravens are playing, Missouri would be a six-point favorite.

COLLAPSE: It is hard to believe that two weeks ago, the Ravens outplayed the New England Patriots and had the game won until collapsing in the final minute. Since then they have been demolished by the Colts (falling behind 30-0 in the second quarter) and being the first team to lose to the Dolphins; quite a fall for a team that finished 13-3 last year.

HANGOVER: Pittsburgh got run over 29-22 by Jacksonville, handing the Steelers’ their first home loss of the season. The Steelers are also the fifth consecutive team to lose the week after playing the Patriots (following the Colts, Bills, Eagles and Ravens). It seems as if teams expend a lot trying to beat the Pats and aren’t ready the following week.

SMART PLAY OF THE YEAR: With the Philadelphia Eagles nursing a 10-6 lead at Dallas, running back Brian Westbrook broke clear and easily would have scored a touchdown to put the 10-point underdog Eagles a 17-6 lead with two minutes left. But Westbrook deliberately slid and was down at the 1. He did this since Dallas had no timeouts left and Philly was able to run out the clock by taking three knees. It was a superb play – had he scored, Dallas would have needed two scores to tie but at least would have had a higher chance than the Eagles fumbling on a kneel-down.

"It was brilliant," Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said. "He used that Villanova education and transferred it to the football field."

There is one group of fans hating Westbrook, though – anyone who had him on their fantasy football team and needed the six points a touchdown would have gotten them. I doubt Westbrook was thinking about the fantasy implications.

THE JESSICA SIMPSON JINX: Why did Dallas QB Tony Romo stink? See our blog.

PATS UNIMPRESSIVE, BUT WIN: The Patriots ran their record to 14-0 with a lackluster 20-10 win over the hapless Jets. The Pats scored two touchdowns – on an interception return and on a 2-yard drive after a blocked punt. Maybe there is some truth that the Pats’ high-powered passing game is not built for bad weather (it was windy, cold and wet all day). Tom Brady looked ordinary and did not throw a touchdown pass for the first game all year. They were lucky they were playing a team with such an inept offense.

A thread on a Patriots message board echoed this: “After watching the Baltimore and now this game it is clear that our home field advantage could be a bad thing for the playoffs. All I can hope for is that the weather isn't foul for any of our playoff games. The reality is this team isn't built like our old teams and if we go up against a team with a decent offense strongly supported by the run we will really have our hands full. Watching the Ravens and now this game, it is clear our offense get out of sorts in bad weather. I mean we really only have come up with 3 Offensive points in the 3rd quarter and we are only being helped by the fact that the Jets offense is horrible. Please Playoffs, no wind, rain or snow.”

New England has now struggled in four of its last six games. At least it has stopped (with one Outsports exception) the utter nonsense that this is “the greatest team ever.” Hardly.

BRADY’S RECORD CHASE: Brady has thrown 45 touchdown passes, five short of breaking Peyton Manning’s 2004 record. One note: Manning threw his 49 in 15 games, having sat all but one series in the season finale. Brady catches a huge break next week when the 1-13 Dolphins visit. If the weather is halfway decent, look for Brady to throw and throw and throw; he might get five in that game alone.

NO MO’ SNOW: Snow games are fun to watch … for about five minutes. Then you realize neither team can play at its best and the result seems somehow unsatisfying. That’s how it felt watching Cleveland freeze out Buffalo, 8-0, the first such final score in the NFL since 1929 when the Chicago Cardinals defeated the Minneapolis Red Jackets. Neither team could pass worth a darn because of the strong winds and blowing snow. At least the 9-5 Browns, on the verge of the playoffs, had fun.

"When you're a kid, you dream of playing in a game like this," said Browns wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, who grew up in Ohio. "Today was the Turkey Bowl or the Christmas Bowl in the backyard when you're wiping snow out of your eyes.”

Buffalo was not as thrilled. "It was like something on the Discovery Channel about the North Pole," said Bills rookie running back Marshawn Lynch, who grew up in California.

HISTORIC: With their 21-14 win at Oakland, the Indianapolis Colts moved to 12-2; the Colts are the first team in history to win 12 or more games in five consecutive seasons. This team remains the greatest threat to the Patriots.

LACK OF DRAMA: With two weeks left in the season, seven of the eight divisions have been clinched, with the only drama being in the AFC North, where Pittsburgh and Cleveland are tied at 9-5. The four byes are also settled – the Patriots and Colts in the AFC and the Packers and Cowboys in the NFC. Other than the wild card spots, there will not be a lot of meaningful games down the stretch.