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NFL Week 15: A wild Sunday scrambles the playoffs

Vikings, Broncos, Packers all suffer key losses and the playoff picture is a mess; hot player of the week and dumb playing and announcing.

By Jim Buzinski
Outsports.com

How I saw Week 15 of the NFL:

The NFL continues to show that nothing is a given and that was evident again Sunday in a day that turned the playoff scenarios into one giant mess. We saw the Raiders beat the Broncos, the Steelers stun the Packers and the Panthers rout the Vikings, three results that really made the simple that much more complex. Throw in Saturday's Cowboys win over the Saints and what was expected has been turned on its head.

adrianpeterson300
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings appeared in Muscle & Fitness.

The No. 1 seeds are all but set -- the Colts (14-0) have wrapped up the AFC best record, while the Saints (13-1) need only one win or one Vikings loss to do the same in the NFC. The Chargers (11-3) would need to fall apart to not get the No. 2 seed in the AFC and the second bye.

In the NFC, the Vikings (10-3), who came into Sunday with eyes on the No. 1 seed, now have to worry about dropping to No. 3 with the Eagles (10-4) breathing down their necks. Two Eagles wins and a Vikings loss will vault Philly to the No. 2 seed, and force the suddenly stumbling Vikings to go the wild card playoff round route.

The Cardinals (9-5) have won the NFC West and seem locked into the No. 4 seed. The Packers (9-5) blew it against the Steelers, but with Seattle (5-9) up next at home, the Packers are still a wild card favorite. The Cowboys (9-5) will win the NFC East with two wins, while the Eagles (10-4) are in the playoffs, yet could wind up seeded anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6. The Giants (7-6) need to beat the Redskins (5-8) on Monday to keep hope alive.

Back to the AFC, the Patriots (9-5) all but clinched the AFC East by beating Buffalo while the Dolphins (7-7) and Jets (7-7) lost. The Patriots got their first true road win, 17-10, in a pretty dull game. The Bengals (9-5) played hard and gritty in a last-second 27-24 loss to the Chargers, days after teammate Chris Henry was killed. Yet, Cincy still wins the AFC North by beating the pathetic Chiefs (3-11), so pencil them in. The Patriots get the No. 3 seed with two more wins, which would drop Cincinnati to the No. 4 spot.

After that, it's a giant mess. The Ravens and Broncos (both 8-6) will get playoff spots with two wins, but if either stumbles, then one of six 7-7 teams could catch them. I'm not even sure the computers that power the supercollider could figure it out.

Another Favre flub?: Brett Favre suddenly looks like a 40-year-old quarterback and the Vikings have some real problems. Their defense was shredded in the fourth quarter by unknown QB Matt Moore and the Carolina Panthers, 26-7, in a game that saw Favre harassed all night and led to the Vikes' lowest point total of the season. This game was on national TV, as was the 30-17 loss two weeks ago to Arizona, in another game where Favre did not play well. Last week, the Vikings blasted the Bengals, but Favre threw for only 191 yards.

Coach Brad Childress tried to yank Favre Sunday night, even though Minnesota was leading Carolina, 7-6. This was to prevent Favre from becoming a pinata for Panthers rush demon Julius Peppers, who was abusing anybody the Vikings sent to block him.

“Brad wanted to go in a different direction. And I wanted to stay in the game,” Favre said. “It’s not 70-6, but we were up 7-6. I said I’m staying in the game. I’m playing.” Favre the drama queen strikes again.

The Vikings desperately need the No. 2 seed and the bye or it's bye-bye, since I can't see Favre playing well enough for the Vikes to win three NFC playoff games.

Another Denver collapse?: The Broncos started the season 6-0, yet are now clinging to a playoff spot after losing 20-19 at home to the Raiders and the hideous QB JeMarcus Russell. Losing to Russell is like losing a game of darts to a blind man with no arms. He is so bad that the Raiders started castoff Charlie Frye instead on Sunday and Russell got in only because Frye got hurt. Denver has now gone 2-6 after their hot start and are conjuring up thoughts of 2006 and 2008, where what seemed like a lock playoff spot slipped away late in the season.

Woof: Randy Moss did not dog it Sunday. I watched the game with Cyd and promised him I would write this. He had a great TD catch and was clearly the focus of the passing game. Despite that, the Pats offense only scored a field goal in the second half, continuing their struggles to score points in the final two quarters. The Pats can use the next two weeks to get ready for the playoffs.

Running wild: Jerome Harrison of the Cleveland Browns rushed for 286 yards, the third most in NFL history. Who? I think that stat says more about the Kansas City Chiefs' run defense than it does about Harrison.

Lame: The Browns scored 41 points, yet Brady Quinn threw for only 66 yards. That has to be a record for fewest passing yards when your team scores 40+ points.

Gloating: One of my dearest friends, Steve, lives in New Orleans with his partner, Jerry, whose family are all huge Saints fans. Steve loves the Vikings and has been besieged this year by all the Saints love in New Orleans. I wrote Steve about the Saints losing to the Cowboys on Sunday and he replied: "It was a great party as 35 Saints fans were quieted early." Steve's joy lasted less than 24 hours after his Vikings laid an egg at Carolina and lost any serious chance at the No. 1 seed.

Huh?: I always roll my eyes at some of the dumb things uttered by announcers. Dick Stockton, doing the Jets-Falcons game, had two eye-rollers. "Great play by the Eagles defense," Stockton said, confusing the Jets green with the Philly green. "They are not yet in field goal range," he said as the Falcons were driving late in the game. Only problem was that the Falcons were down four points and needed a touchdown to win.

Bonehead: The stupidest play I saw was fullback Leonard Weaver of the Eagles jawboning with a 49ers player instead of lining up in the backfield ... while the clock was running inside 15 seconds late in the first half with the Eagles at the 49ers 8 ... and the Eagles were out of timeouts. Instead of running a play to try and score a TD, Donovan McNabb had to spike the ball and settle for a field goal. Did Weaver get into Coach Andy Reid's stash of Stupid Clock Management pills?

Hot player of the week: There are a lot of hot bodies in the NFL, but maybe the best is Adrian Peterson, the Vikings running back who was showcased Sunday night against Carolina. He's 6-1, 217 pounds and looks like the proverbial Greek god. He still fumbles too much, so maybe he should carry the ball with his abs.

MVP: After this weekend, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Peyton Manning winning the MVP. Manning threw four TD passes in a win on national TV, while Drew Brees had three turnovers as the Saints lost their first game. It's really hard to make a case for anyone other than Manning this season. Brees, Favre and Philip Rivers have all had great seasons, but Manning is the best at his position on a team that is 14-0, and he has led them to seven fourth-quarter comebacks.