Colts, Saints are 13-0, but each have their struggles in Week 14; Randy Moss dogs it, the Cowboys collapse again and a hot bod is our hot player.
By Jim Buzinski
How I saw Week 14 of the NFL:
The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints stayed in step with each other at 13-0, though both had their struggles. It just goes to show that there are no dominant teams in the NFL.
The Colts clinched home field in the AFC playoffs with a hard-earned 28-16 win against the Denver Broncos (8-5). The Colts led 21-0 and then their offense went into a coma for 2 ½ quarters. Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, but also three interceptions. It was the Colts defense that won the game, twice stopping the Broncos in the red zone.
The Colts have now won a record 22 straight regular season games, a somewhat odd record since there was a playoff loss in the middle. More impressive is the 114 wins this decade, the most in any decade in history. In an era of parity, the Colts have also won an amazing 12-plus games in seven straight seasons.
Meanwhile, the Saints stayed perfect in less-than-impressive fashion, holding off the Falcons (6-7), 26-23. The Falcons are all banged up and played without QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner. The is the second game in a row the Saints have struggled against weak competition.
Each of the unbeatens will take a different tack the rest of the season. The Saints need to keep playing their starters, because home field is not yet secured. The Saints lead the Vikings (11-2) for the No. 1 seed, but need to win their next two, or win next week and have the Vikings lose at Carolina to stay at home for the playoffs. New Orleans has every incentive to play hard.
It's a different story for the Colts. Their first playoff game will be either Jan. 16 or 17, five weeks away. That's a long time to not have a meaningful game. Even if the Colts decided to play for 16-0, it's hard to see them keeping their edge since none of their last three games mean anything (and the players know it).
|Reggie Bush had two TDs for the Saints.|
Not that the Colts listen to me, but I would rest key defenders and play the offensive starters a good chunk of the way. Defense needs fresh playoff legs more than reps, while offense needs to stay in sync. Manning has two first-year receivers and needs to keep his timing. Against the Broncos, six Colts got dinged up enough to be helped off the field, so expect to see a lot of backups in the final three weeks.
Stud: Denver's Brandon Marshall set an NFL record with 21 catches. The Colts simply could not stop him, even when it was obvious that Kyle Orton was throwing to no one else. Marshall has made noises about leaving Denver, and I would guess 30 teams would line up for his services.
Bonehead: I saw two dumb coaching decisions in the games I watched. The first was Denver's Josh McDaniels decision to kick off rather than take the ball. Of course, the Colts promptly took the ball and scored a touchdown. Why give Peyton Manning the first possession and a chance to dictate the flow of the game?
The second bad call was New Orleans' Sean Payton calling for a fake field goal up 26-23. The pass was incomplete and this left the Falcons needing only a field goal to tie. The Saints still won, but the smart call was to kick a field goal and force the Falcons to have score a touchdown.
Dogging it: Randy Moss seems to have checked out in New England. He had only one catch in a desultory 20-10 Patriots' win against Carolina (and he fumbled the ball away after catching it). On a Tom Brady interception, it looked like Moss was half-assing it, and this caused Brady to have a sideline chat with Moss. On a slant pass later on, Moss did not go full out and the pass was incomplete.
A Panthers defensive back told the Boston Globe that Moss quit:
"We knew he was going to shut it down," cornerback Chris Gamble said. "That's what we wanted to do to him. That's what we did. He'd just give up a lot. Slow down, he's not going deep, not trying to run a route. You can tell, his body language. . . .
"I know everyone who plays against him, they can sense that. Once you get into him in the beginning of the game, he shuts it down a little bit. We know from watching film on Moss," Gamble said, "once you get him out of the game early, he's gonna shut it down."
Ouch. Moss is the NFL's most dangerous receiver but he had never shown me competitive heart. He has had only six catches the last three weeks and was sent home this week for being late for practice. For the Pats to make a playoff run, they need Moss to have his head in the game and not quit on them.
Lame: The Dallas Cowboys handed out 3-D glasses so fans could watch the Chargers-Cowboys game on the giant video screen. So, fans attending a game decided to watch it on TV instead.
Another Cowboys collapse: After losing to the Chargers, 20-17, Dallas (8-5) is now 5-10 in December since 2006. With the Saints up next, the Cowboys' playoff chances look dim. In contrast, the Chargers (10-3) have won 16 straight December games.
Hot player of the week: Reggie Bush of the Saints has not been the impact player a lot of us thought he would be after being taken No. 2 overall in 2006. Bush has been hurt a lot, but is still a dangerous player as he showed Sunday. Bush caught two TD passes, giving the Saints another weapon. The former boyfriend of Kim Kardashian has always been smoking hot, though, with one of the best bodies in football.
Pussycats: The Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) are a virtual playoff lock, needing only one win or a Ravens loss to win the AFC North. But they will enter the playoffs with an offense that scares no one. In the last six games, the Bengals have scored 17, 18, 17, 16, 23 and 10 points. In their 30-10 loss Sunday at the Vikings, the Bengals managed only 91 yards passing, averaging a mediocre 3.1 yards per pass. In they don't improve on that, Cincy will be one and done in the playoffs.
Playoff update: Since there are so many playoff permutations, especially for the wild card, I invite you to click on playoffstatus.com, a site that does an awesome job in laying out the chances of each team.