The Bills blow a golden chance to knock off the Steelers; Falcons continue home streak; Bears frustrate Vick, Eagles; Chargers roll Colts; hot player of the week and two players really go after each other.

By Jim Buzinski

How I saw Week 12 in the NFL:

Drop dead: It’s not a stretch to call Buffalo the best 2-9 team in memory. The Bills’ last four losses have been by three points each, three of them in overtime. But 2-9 teams are that for a reason as we saw in Sunday’s 19-16 overtime loss to Pittsburgh.

On the Bills’ second OT drive, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a perfect deep pass to the end zone to Steve Johnson. The ball hit him in stride in the hands with the nearest defender a few yards away, a catch that should be made 100% of the time in the NFL. Of course, being a Bill, Johnson dropped it. The Bills punted, and the Steelers then marched down for the game-winning field goal.

The Steelers are 8-3 but they are lucky that Johnson dropped the pass. And just as lucky in their Week 7 23-22 win at Miami, where the officials screwed the Dolphins by not seeing a Steelers’ fumble in the end zone recovered by Miami. This is the 2010 NFL – some teams eke out wins while others find new ways to lose.

Hot player of the week: Dez Bryant

Home cooking: Atlanta (9-2) beat Green Bay (7-4) on a last-second field goal, another clutch home win for the Falcons. Atlanta has the best record in the NFC after winning its fifth in a row. It also gives QB Matt Ryan a 19-1 home record as a Falcon. The bad news for Atlanta is that they have three straight road games prior to a showdown at home with New Orleans. If the Falcons can go 2-1 in their road stretch (at Tampa, Carolina and Seattle), they will face the Saints Dec. 27 no worse than tied for first in the NFC West.

For the Packers, meanwhile, the loss showed their Achilles heel – a lousy running game. With Ryan Grant gone for the season, the Packers repeatedly struggle to run the ball and this causes them to have to pass in obvious run situations like third and 1. Against the Falcons, Aaron Rodgers led the team in rushing, with nearly twice as many yards as Brandon Jackson. That’s not good since Rodgers is a quarterback and Jackson (allegedly) the team’s best running back. Being one dimensional could really kill Green Bay down the stretch.

Ugh: I keep writing each week about how bad the NFC West is, but it’s hard to avoid. Seattle and St. Louis are 5-6 … and tied for first. I am hoping the Rams make it since I have been very impressed with rookie QB Sam Bradford, a star in the making if he stays healthy and the Rams surround him with better skill players.

Back to Earth: The Eagles (7-4), the “it” team in the NFL heading into Week 12, got a dose of reality after being pushed around 31-26 by the Bears (8-3). Jay Cutler (four TDs) outplayed Michael Vick as the Bears ran out to a 31-13 lead. The Eagles were really crippled in the secondary and Cutler exploited it. Vick played well but was harassed by the terrific Bears front and sacked four times. He also suffered his first interception of the season and his first loss this season in a game he started and finished.

The Bears have looked like a weak “good” team but they were clearly better than the Eagles on Sunday. They also lead the NFC North by a game over the Packers. The Packers and Bears play each other, in addition to each facing both the Jets (9-2) and Patriots (9-2), so that division is anybody’s call.

Hot player of the week: Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys has been one bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season. He’s also beautifully built at 6-2, 217 pounds. It’s a shame some guys don’t get to play shirtless.

Blah, blah, blah: I never have figured out what use Tony Siragusa has as the third man in Fox games. He roams the sidelines and offers what are supposed to be pertinent observations. Instead, he is a master of stating the obvious and take up air time. In the Bears-Eagles game, he told us that “big plays” can kill a team. Really? I never would have thought that. On a Bears interception, he told us that the Bears were “trying for the Pick Six.” So that’s why the interceptor kept running with the ball?

Charged up: Don’t look now, but the scariest team is the San Diego Chargers (6-5), winners of four in a row, including Sunday’s 36-14 rout at Indianapolis. I don’t see the Chargers losing again this regular season, which means they win the AFC West. They play their next three at home (Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco) before closing at Cincinnati and Denver. The game against the Chiefs (7-4) in two weeks is pretty much for the division and I think the Chargers will crush them. Of course, once the playoffs come all bets are off since the Chargers have an entertaining history of postseason choking.

On the other side, the prognosis for the Colts (6-5) looks grim. It was their worst loss since 2006 and worst home loss since 1997. It assured them of not winning 12 games for the first time since 2002. Injuries and a garbage offensive line have made their running game a joke and the result is a one-dimensional offense. That one dimension did not play well Sunday — Peyton Manning threw four interceptions as he was harassed and hit all night and made some poor decisions. I can’t remember the Colts look so out of sync, especially at home.

Manning had two picks returned for scores by the Chargers, though the second was the result of a horrible non-pass interference call that allowed Chargers safety Eric Weddle to drag Reggie Wayne down and step in front of the pass. No matter – even had PI been called, it would have been hard to see the Colts winning since the Chargers totally controlled the line of scrimmage. In the Colts’ last three losses, Manning has thrown nine interceptions.

The only bright spot for Indy is that they remain tied for the division lead with Jacksonville. The downside is that they have zero margin of error and probably need to win out to reach the playoffs. It’s quite a fall from a team that was chasing perfection in 2009. All four teams in the AFC South are within a game of the lead, making for a wild final five games.

Actually, they might as well give the AFC South crown to San Diego. By beating the Colts, the Chargers swept all four AFC South opponents this season.

In this corner… : You usually don’t see players really going after each other after plays; usually it’s just a shove or a push in a guy’s face. But Cortland Finnegan of Tennessee and Andre Johnson of Houston took it took a new level. At one point in their scuffle (video here), Finnegan rips off Johnson’s helmet and Johnson makes like Manny Pacquiao with several shots to the head. Both were ejected, and fines and maybe suspensions are coming.

Finnegan has openly bragged about wanting to be the dirtiest player in the league and he seemed to be the instigator during the game, which caused Johnson to go off. It’s odd, since Johnson is known as being one of the softer-spoken players in the league. He was contrite after:

“I would like to apologize to the organization, our owner, my teammates,” he said. “What happened out there wasn’t me. I just lost my cool and I wish I could take back what happened, but I can’t. I’m pretty sure I’ll be disciplined for it, I’ll have to deal with it from there.”