When Eric Decker scored the game-winning touchdown for the Jets over the Patriots then leapt into the stands spreading his legs and being mobbed and touched by mostly male fans, it shows that football really has its homoerotic aspects. The fans looked like they were in love, or at least lust. Winning really can be as enjoyable as sex, as research shows.
Decker twice won Outsports King of the Hardwood contest, voted on by gay fans as the hottest athlete in sports, and I've always been a fan since he tweeted out his congratulations for the award. He's had a great season in tandem with Brandon Marshall and the Jets will make the playoffs if they beat the Bills in Buffalo. That's no easy task with Rex Ryan wanting nothing more than to knock off the team that fired him, but few had the Jets (10-5) as a playoff contender this season.
Decker's overtime touchdown gave the Jets and their playoff chances a huge boost on an NFL Sunday that left me scratching my head over which teams were really that good heading into the final week of the season. The Panthers, Patriots, Steelers, Packers and Seahawks all lost, and only the Packers were underdogs.
So who's looking good and who's not among the top teams:
Patriots (12-3). If they beat Miami, they get home field, which makes them the AFC favorite. But this has been a below-average team of late, going 2-3 since starting 10-0. Most of this is due to a rash of injuries. I had no problem with Bill Belichick kicking off to start OT, but he certainly didn't expect the Jets to drive 80 yards with ease. Tom Brady gets hit way too much and the wrong matchup in their first playoff game (someone like the Jets or Chiefs) could make it a one-and-done season for the champs.
Bengals (11-3) or Broncos (10-4). These two play tonight and the winner still has a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. The Bengals also earn at least a bye with a win tonight while Denver gets a bye with two wins. Both have great defenses but both also have backup quarterbacks. Winning in the playoffs with A.J. McCarron or Brock Osweiler doesn't inspire confidence, though the Bengals hope Andy Dalton is back and healthy come the playoffs. I sense Peyton Manning is done in Denver, so it's going to be Brock or bust.
Texans (8-7). Houston wins the division by beating the Jaguars next week (or if Cincinnati beats Denver on Monday) and would be the No. 4 seed, but it's hard to get excited by the words "Brandon Weeden" and "playoffs" in the same sentence. This team has a happy-to-be-there vibe. The Colts (7-8) can also win the division with a win and a Texans loss but it involves a combination of other things happening that make it highly unlikely.
Chiefs (10-4). They certainly are hot, with nine straight wins. Seven of them, though, have come against teams with losing records and the other two — Steelers and Broncos — come with an asterisk. Ben Roethisberger missed the game for the Steelers and Peyton Manning should have been in a walking cast and not on the field for the Broncos. I have no idea how the Chiefs will do against an actual playoff team, though they may get lucky and play a Texans teams they already beat.
Jets (10-5). The Jets have won five straight and look dangerous right now. They could be the "Team No One Wants to Face™" in the playoffs. However, the Jets have a huge obstacle ahead — a likely must-win at Buffalo and their old coach Rex Ryan. The Bills won in New York earlier this season and Ryan would like nothing else than to knock out the team that fired him. I am still waiting for Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw a pick at the worst possible time; it would be very Jets-like.
Steelers (9-6). What an ugly loss to the Ravens and one that will haunt the Steelers all offseason if they miss the playoffs. They need to beat the Browns and hope the Jets lose to the Bills or the Broncos lose twice. This team plays flat against bad teams and is now 3-8 in their last 11 against sub-.500 teams, so a win over the 3-12 Browns is no gimme. If the Steelers miss the playoffs, that would be the third time in five years and would waste an offense this season that has been mostly unstoppable.
Panthers (14-1). I am glad they lost to Atlanta and won't go unbeaten since this is not a historic team. Seven of their wins have been by eight or less points, meaning they've had some breaks and they've had a cupcake schedule. They are still a Super Bowl contender but might draw a bad first game matchup in the playoffs against a team like the Seahawks. The Panthers are banged up and remind me of the 15-1 Packers on 2011, who had a glass jaw and went one and done in the playoffs.
Cardinals (13-2). This is the best team in football right now. The Cards have won nine straight and are dominating good teams (38-8 over the Packers on Sunday). They haven't played tomato cans either, with wins over the playoff-bound Packers, Vikings, Seahawks and Bengals. I just hope Carson Palmer can stay healthy since this team is fun to watch.
Packers or Vikings (both 10-5). The winner of their Week 17 game wins the division, the loser is wild card. The Vikings can't beat good teams, going 1-4 against likely playoff teams. The Packers are a mess, having gone 4-5 since starting 6-0, with one of those being the Hail Mary miracle at Detroit. Without a line and pedestrian receivers, Aaron Rodgers is trying to do it all himself. It's hard to see either of these teams doing much playoff damage.
Washington (8-7). The Washington NFL franchise is lucky to play in a garbage division with a garbage schedule. Their last three games against good teams — Jets, Patriots and Panthers — were double-digit losses. Washington gets my vote for the team most likely to lose its first playoff game.
Seahawks (9-6). Seattle looked dominant until laying an egg at home against the Rams. The two-time defending NFC champs are dangerous, but they will almost certainly play all their playoff games on the road, a huge disadvantage. With no running game unless Marshawn Lynch comes back, the Hawks will go as far as Russell Wilson will take them. A divisional matchup at Carolina would be a war; four of their last five games against each other have been decided by five or fewer points.
Hot player of the week: Zach Erzt, Eagles tight end. Dave Kopay and I were watching the Eagles-Washington game on Saturday and hit the pause button every time Ertz was shown. It's easy to see why:
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