Detroit on pace to go 0-16; Philly steps up; Packers fall down; Cowboys collapse

By Cyd Zeigler jr.

Trivia question for you. Only one team has beaten three teams that lead their division outright. Who is it? Answer at the end.

The Steelers. Every time I’ve watched the Steelers, I have left the game scratching my head wondering how they won the game. Same thing this weekend. It’s possible that I have picked the Steelers to lose or be on “upset alert” every week this season. I just haven’t thought they’re very good. Instead, they just keep winning. They do remind me of the Patriots back in 2001 and 2003. No one expected much from them, and they often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the final minutes of games. Just like the Steelers are doing this year.

By Jim Buzinski

The schizoid Eagles: Philadelphia went into the Meadowlands to play the 11-1 New York Giants and came out with a convincing 20-14 win that was more dominant than the final score indicated. This is the same Eagles team that three weeks ago tied the one-win Bengals in one of the worst-played games in memory, and saw quarterback Donovan McNabb benched in the process.

The Giants, who looked like the league’s best team going in, gained only 211 yards against the Eagles, 70 of them on a basically meaningless drive to end the game. In contrast, the Eagles got 24 first downs, converted 66% of their third downs and held the ball for 34 minutes. McNabb was solid, his second winning outing since being benched. At 7-5-1, the Eagles are still in the playoff chase, which shows how unpredictable this season is; it wouldn’t shock me to see them lose to 4-9 Cleveland next week.

Creeping up on O-fer. The newly calculated chance that the Lions go 0-16? 43%. Remember, the Dolphins got to 0-13 last season, but the Ravens came to town and they got their lone win. In two weeks, Detroit hosts the Saints, which is their last good shot of not going O-fer. I can’t see them winning at Indy or even at Green Bay.

Trivia answer: The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3), the Arizona Cardinals (8-5) and the New York Giants (11-2). The Jets beat the Cardinals, Titans, Pats and Dolphins, but two of those wins are against teams that don’t lead their division outright.

My Top Five.

1) Tennessee Titans. A solid win at home. The playoffs will run through Nashville.

2) Carolina Panthers. They’ve been in my top five since the start of the season, and No. 2 for much of it. On Monday night, America saw why.

3) New York Giants. I still think they are a very good team that plays very well together. But there are now two games in which they simply fell asleep at the wheel.

4) Pittsburgh Steelers. They may be headed for a first-round loss, but they are playing so well and winning games at the end. I’m starting to think Roethlisberger is the most underrated player in the league.

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The defense’s performance on Monday night was an anomaly against a team that wanted desperately to win.

“I’m totally shocked, but then again, I’m not,” wrote Joe in Philly on our Discussion Board. “The Eagles have done this before — waste opportunity after opportunity week after week, and then do things right like they did today.”

0-16 watch: Detroit kept it close, but still lost to Minnesota, 20-16, to drop to 0-13. The Lions have an excellent shot to be the first team to go winless in a 16-game season. The Lions should lose big next week at Indianapolis, then play 7-6 New Orleans the following week before closing at 5-8 Green Bay. They will be underdogs in all three games and I don’t see them winning any of them. In an unpredictable NFL season it’s nice to know there is one team you can count on.

Little-known record: The Indianapolis Colts (35-3 winners against Cincinnati) have allowed only four touchdown passes this season. The record is five, set by the Miami Dolphins defense in the 1970s in a 14-game season.

Done in Green Bay: The Packers (5-8) lost to the Houston Texans (6-7), 24-21, on a last-play field goal. It was Green Bay’s fifth loss in six games and, once again, the defense was at fault. The Packers have allowed 110 points the past three weeks and for the second week in a row allowed a drive in the final two minutes at home to beat them. The Packers had pinned Houston on its own 3-yard line with 1:49 to play, but the Texans made it look easy at they drove 75 yards to set up Kris Brown’s 40-yarder.

None of the Packers’ woes can be traced to the decision to let Brett Favre leave. Aaron Rodgers has played well and with any kind of defensive help, the Packers would be in the thick of the playoff race.

Malapropos master: You can always tell the quality of the game based on who the announcers are. Any CBS game that has Don Criqui usually pits two crappy teams or one expected to be a blowout. Sunday, Criqui called the Titans’ 28-9 win over Cleveland and had one of his typical huh? comments. After Titans quarterback Kerry Collins threw an interception, Criqui said the pass was thrown by “Collinsworth. Cris. Kerry Collins.” Whoever.