Eagles Sleepwalk their way to a bad 24-14 loss against Vikings

Vikings CB Anotine Winfield sacks Eagles QB Michael Vick for one of his two sacks in Minnesota’s upset 24-14 win over Philadelphia in the NFL’s first Tuesday game since 1946

In a must-win situation, the Philadelphia Eagles lethargically walked through a game that was more awkward than saying, “Tuesday Night Football”.  After waiting through a somewhat lengthy 2-day postponement, due to a snowstorm that seemed worse to the NFL than others – more on this later – the Eagles were outplayed in a 24-14 home loss to a Favre-less Vikings squad that had a record of 5-9 entering the game. 

Eagles head coach Andy Reid said of his team’s poor performance and losing potential playoff rest, “We don’t deserve it after that performance. Every phase was terrible. We didn’t coach well enough. We didn’t play well enough. I’m disappointed in myself. It’s embarrassing.”

After a 2-day league mandated postponement for a snow blizzard and public safety issues that were much debated – Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell got the ire-up of the Eagles by calling the postponers “Wussies” for not playing the game in Sunday Night’s snow storm and Sportscenter led with on Sunday: “Green Bay Girl Scouts would have been selling cookies in Philly Sunday” — the 2010 NFC East Champion Eagles were flat-out “Flat”. 

The Eagles lost their opportunity to have a bye in the 2010 NFL Playoffs, they had a myriad of things go against them, many of which were their own undoing.  The Birds had too many penalties (12), forgot to run the ball (55 called passes to 16 runs), could not protect their quarterback (sacked 6 times and hit numerous other times), protected the ball poorly (3 turnovers including a fumble recovery touchdown to 1 for Minnesota) and most of all just plain “sloppy” — poor on 3rd down conversions offensively (36%) and defensively (46%).

Much to the Eagles’ chagrin, Minnesota led by former college dual threat quarterback turned part time NFL receiver and first time league starter, Joe Webb (rookie 6th Rd from UAB), brought their “A” game on a night where they were 14 ½ point underdogs.  The Vikings must have not liked staying four nights in the “bunker” like conditions of the Four Seasons Hotel as they were hungry for a win on their 2010 last appearance on the national stage (NBC “Sunday Night Football” turned to Tuesday Night). 

In a season that started out with very high expectations – missed Super Bowl by a 3-point loss in 2009 season – only to go awry – Favre Sexting allegations, roof collapsing at Metrodome, Randy Moss Trade/Waive, head coach Brad Childress firing….I can go on and on.  The Vikings decided that the NFL’s first Tuesday Night game since 1946 (New York Giants at the Boston Yanks) would serve as their Super Bowl.  Vikings DE Jared Allen said after his team’s big win, “I think this was a big win because it was a national game. We wanted to let people know that we are still here to play even though we went through a rough patch. It has been a crazy season and after the last two days and all we went through, this was a nice win.”

Interim head coach Leslie Frazier and his team must have used their time wisely at the palatial hotel by dissecting the Eagles as their game plan was spot-on.  Nine days after the Eagle’s second Miracle at the Meadowlands, there would be no magical Philly comeback this time.  Webb was able to dance around the pocket and make plays on 3rd downs like a young Randall Cunningham, All-World RB Adrian Peterson (22 rushes for 118 yards and 1 TD) was running downhill, and the Vikings beleaguered defense – have allowed 328 points in 2011 – held Philly to 14 points, while bottling-up and beating-down Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick.

Webb, making his first career start instead of Favre (concussion) looked like the veteran quarterback in the game. Peterson said of his young quarterback, “He came out and did his job and did it well”.  The youngster from UAB threw for numbers 17-26 for 195 yards and also added a rushing touchdown. But most importantly, he did not turn over the football against an Eagles defense that tried to rough him up early. 

Conversely Vick (25 of 43 (career-high for attempts), 263 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT with 63 rushing yards and 1 TD), who was named the NFC’s starting quarterback in the Pro Bowl earlier Tuesday, had to fight through a first quarter quad contusion while playing behind a porous Eagles offensive line.  MV7 basically handed the NFL’s 2010 Most Valuable Player Award to Patriots QB Tom Brady as he probably had his worst performance of the 2010 season.  Vick, on a night where no one cared that he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, was harassed into an interception and two fumbles. 

Frazier said of the challenge of playing Vick, “The more we watched tape on Michael Vick, the more he made you kind of shake in your boots a little bit because he’s making so many plays on so many people.  And we just felt like we needed to attack him and not let him attack us as much as we saw him attack other people. Our guys did a great job of executing all the things we had talked about in practice.”

The turning point of the whole game was Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield (2 sacks in the game) performing a “quadruple” with the score tied at 7-7 in the final minute of the first half.  Winfield, who looked like he was in the Birds’ backfield all night, sacked Vick, stripped the ball, recovered it on the run and sprinted untouched for 45-yard a score that left Philadelphia faithful stunned.

Frazier, who is coaching his way into losing his “interim” label, said after his team’s gratifying win, “It was a great effort by our players to battle the way that they had to all week and they showed perseverance that has become the hallmark of our team over the last few weeks. I can’t say enough about our players and the attitude they showed this week and I’m glad they were rewarded for it.”  However in the other lockerroom at the Linc there was whole different feeling in the air – remember when your high school coach would bark after a loss, “I don’t want to hear one word on the bus going home” – as Reid was disgusted.   The 12-year head coach obviously was upset by a poor effort, but he looked like a man that was going to angrily pick-up the pieces while kicking giving his team a good kick in the butt.

Because Reid – still 37-17 in the month of December for his career – knows that his Birds cannot lament over their “Terrible Tuesday” loss for too long as they have too much coming too quickly.  This young beat-up squad, who are now firmly the No. 3 seed in the NFC, must play the second leg of a 3-game stretch in a 12 or 13-day span with the Dallas Cowboys (5-10) coming in on Sunday.  Though the Cowboys’ game is basically meaningless, the Eagles (10-5) definitely should use the game to work out the kinks.  The 2010 Playoffs will be starting soon enough and more than likely the 2009 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints (11-4) or the Green Bay Packers (9-6) will be waiting on Wildcard Weekend as the conference’s sixth seed with their superstar quarterback ready to make Webb’s performance look paltry.

The Birds will now have to win three playoff games to reach the Super Bowl with more than likely 2 road games, so they have work to do. However some hope is that former SB Champs, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2007 New Giants both had to fight through the Wildcard Round before winning it all, but the Eagles are a long way from talking about Dallas and Super Bowl XLV.

My advice for the Eagles is to use this loss as motivation and then get some much-needed rest against the Cowboys before the playoffs.  But I think a disgruntled Reid has other plans for his young team. 

 Reid closed his news conference by sternly talking of resting his team for the playoffs, “We’re not good enough to do that.”

 

Lloyd Vance is an NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – WCHE Interview 122810

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance breaks-down Week 16 of the National Football League, including the New Orleans Saints defeating the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons on MNF,  in his weekly interview on the “Matt Lombardo Show” (1520 WCHE – West Chester, PA)

After a enthralling 2010 NFL Week 16 in the National Football League, including the New Orleans Saints defeating the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons on MNF, NFL Insider Lloyd Vance makes his weekly appearance on the “Matt Lombardo Show” on 1520 WCHE – West Chester, PA

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 16 Preview

 

In the Taking It to the House NFL Week 16 Preview Podcast This week teams will look to punch their tickets for the “Big Dance” as the National Football League’s 91st season prepares for the playoffs.  One game of interest will be in Cleveland as the Baltimore Ravens (10-4) face off against the Browns (WR/KR Josh Cribbs pictured)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 16 Preview

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance and Host Mark Gray give you their “Pick 6” for Week 16 including talking about teams looking to punch their tickets for the “Big Dance” as the National Football League’s 91st season prepares for the playoffs. 

 The biggest game probably will be in Atlanta as the Falcons will take-on the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in an NFC South showdown.

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 122110

In this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — The Chicago Bears not only won the 2010 NFC North Title but they also most likely ended the career of future Hall of Famer QB Brett Favre in a Monday Night Football dominating win over the Vikings at wintry TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 122110

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 15 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including breaking down the Chicago Bears came up big against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in professional football’s version of the Winter Classic at frigid TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota

2010 NFL Week 15 Remix

Philadelphia Eagles electric punt returner/receiver DeSean Jackson is Week 15’s Game Ball Winner for his dramatic game-winning punt return against the NY Giants in a huge Birds’ comeback victory

2010 NFL Week 15 Games

Thu, Dec 16 

Chargers (8-6) over Niners (5-9), 34-7..Thursday Night Football game that was a must-win for both teams…Star of the game had be WR Vincent Jackson (5 rec 112 yds, 3 TDs)..QBPhilip Rivers continues putting up big numbers…Chargers jump out to big lead and cruise home…Matthews and Tolbert both run hard in win…SD still in AFC West race, but need help from KC…Niners still alive in terrible NFC West…Niners DE Justin Smith denies intentionally shoving an official (ejected from game)…  

Sun, Dec 19

Bengals (3-11) over Browns (5-9), 19-17…In the Battle for Ohio, the Bengals win in comeback fashion…Bengals snap a 10-game losing streak…T.O limps off with left knee injury…Big game for Bengals RB Cedric Benson (31 ATT 150 yds 1 TD)…Browns’ McCoy and Watson have a strong showing in loss…Both team will be in 2011 NFL Draft’s Top Ten picks

Bills (4-10) over Dolphins (7-7), 17-14..Miami is eliminated from the playoffs after a bad home loss to BUF..Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter misses 3 FGs…Brandon Marshall has a big game (11 REC 106 yds 1 TD)..QB R. Fitzpatrick (16/26 223 yds 2 TD, 1 INT) had a solid game for Buffalo..Henne continues to be King Checkdown (33/45 276 yds 1 TD, 1 INT)…The NFL’s worst run defense basically bottled up RB’s Williams and Brown

Chiefs (9-5) over Rams (6-8), 27-13 …Chiefs are 1 win away from clinching AFC West…Big game for RB Jamaal Charles (11 ATT 126 yds 1 TD and career-long 80-yard run in the fourth quarter)…veteran RB Tom Jones contributes for KC (22 rushes for 62 yds and 1 TD, over 10000 for career)…Cassel makes a huge difference for Chiefs after coming back quick from appendix…Bradford looks like a rookie at points in loss…S-Jax runs hard, but is held to less than 70 yds rushing…KC in AFC West driver’s seat..STL still can win terrible NFC West

Colts (8-6) over Jaguars (8-6), 34-24..Big win for Colts in a back-and-forth game for the division lead..Never count out Peyton Manning (2nd game in a row w/ No INTs)…Collie has big game (8 REC 87 yds 2 TD) before leaving with 2nd concussion of the season… LB Hagler makes huge play by returning an onsides kick for a TD…Colts may have found a running game (D. Brown 14 ATT 129 yds 1 TD)…Colts D holds MJD to 46 yards rushing…If Colts win last 2 games (@Oak and Ten), they win AFC South
 
Cowboys (5-9) over Redskins (5-9), 33-30…Old-time NFL rivalry game that had a ton of points…Shanahan first benches McNabb (3rd string) and then embarasses him further by sending him out as a captain for the coin flip…Kitna continues to put up big numbers in Romo’s absence…Witten (10 rec, 140 yds, 1 TD and fastest TE  to 600 receptions) displays his Pro Bowl skills…Grossman (25/43 322 yds 4 TD, 2 INTs) puts up numbers as starter in loss…Cowboys now 4-2 under Garrett…Redskins fourth straight loss

Eagles (10-4) over Giants (9-5), 38-31…Miracle at the Meadowlands 2…Exciting 1PM game for the NFC East Lead…Giants jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead (Eli career-high 4 TDs)…Vick is the Eagles cataylst in historic win (130 rushing yds and 4 total TDs)…Philly is 8-1 in games Vick has started and finished…Eagles became 9th team in NFL history to comeback from a 21-point 4th quarter deficit …Eagles 28 fourth-quarter points set a franchise record…Manningham fumble near sidelines hurt bad…More big plays for Eagles (four plays of 30+ yards in the fourth quarter)…No Giant in sight when Eagles rookie WR Riley Cooper recovers an Akers on-side kick…Giants punter Matt Dodge doesn’t listen to Coughlin (livid after game) and punts to D-Jax with :12 seconds on the clock…DeSean Jackson becomes the first player in NFL History to end a game by scoring a Punt Return TD (fumbled punt then burst through G-Men coverage unit)..Eagles Rookie LB Chaney has huge game (16 TKLs)..Birds lead NFC East with a chance for conference 2nd seed if Chicago stumbles
 
Falcons (12-2) over Seahawks (6-8), 34-18..In the Babineaux Bowl, the Falcons used a variety of Seahawks turnovers to a win…three 3rd-quarter turnovers by QB Matt Hasselbeck, including a fumble recoverd in the end zone by Falcons DL Jonathan Babineaux for a TD…Falcons make the playoffs for the 2nd time in Ryan’s 3 years in the NFL..Falcons are 1 win away from NFC South title, NFC #1 seed, and homefield advantage in the playoffs…Possible QB Controversey in Seattle…Falcons vs. Saints in WK16…Seattle’s 8th eighth loss (all by15 points or more) but can still win NFC West by winning out

Jets (10-4) over Steelers (10-4), 22-17…Possible playoff preview game that was physical and entertaining….NYJ Brad “Slash” Smith takes the opening kickoff back for a TD..Sanchez protected the football (zero INTs) while LaDainian Tomlinson (11 rushes 49 yds) and Shonn Greene (12 rushes for 40 yards)  ran hard against Steelers D…No Polamulu (ankle) hurt the Steelers overall game….Big running day for Mendhall in the loss…Hometown kid DE Jason Taylor has a key play in the game by sacking Big Ben for a safety in the 4th qtr…Steelers clinch a playoff spot despite loss..NY Jets firmly in AFC Wildcard race while P-Burgh needs to keep winning to take AFC North over Ravens

Lions (4-10) over Buccaneers (8-6), 23-20…Overtime win that really hurts the wildcard hopeful Bucs…Lions get first road win since ’07 (26-game road losing streak)…Calvin Johnson shines again — Megatron had 9 of 10 catches for first downs and 152 yds…Poor tackling by the Bucs…Lions fueled by backup RB Maurice Morris (15 rushes for 109 yards and 1 TD)…big game for Bucs rookie RB LeGarrette Blount (15 ATT 110 yds 1 TD)

Panthers (2-12) over Cardinals (4-10), 19-12…Panthers win a game over hapless Cardinals in this week’s Toilet Bowl…Fox is out after season, but if he keeps winning the 1st overall pick may not be there either…Breaston’s fumble recovery in the end zone was Arizona’s lone TD…Fitzgerald is the youngest player in NFL history to reach 600 receptions…Two rookie QB starters as Claussen gets the better or Skelton

Raiders (7-7) over Broncos (3-11), 39-23… The Raiders stayed alive in the AFC division title race by beating Denver..Broncos rookie Tim Tebow had some good and bad plays in his starting debut (1 TD rushing and passing)…Raiders runs the ball for over 200 yards on the Broncos swiss-cheese defense..Run DMC has another big game (20 ATT 119 yds)…Raiders even have “track” speed at the fullback position..Oakland is 5-0 in the AFC West and has a shot at title if KC falters…Broncos will be looking for new head coach after season.

Ravens (10-4) over Saints (10-4), 30-24…Ravens give the champs a physical game in the cold..Ravens RB Ray Rice had a career-high 36 touches with numbers 31 carries for 153 rushing yards and TD plus 5 receptions for 80 yards and TD…Ravens responded to being challenged by veteran Ray Lewis…Saints abandon running game early and air the ball out…Possible catch of the year on Lance Moore’s acrobatic play in the corner of the endzone…Baltimore tied with Steelers, P-Burgh holds tiebreaker…Brees 5th straight 4,000-yard season…Saints vs. Falcons in WK16

Titans (6-8) over Texans (5-9), 31-17… The Texans will definitely be looking for a new DC for 2011 and maybe a new HC…Titans snap a six-game losing streak…Collins goes bombs away with WR Kenny Britt making several big plays (6 REC 128 yds 0 TD)…CJ2K finally stopped seeing 8-man fronts (24 ATT 130 yds 1 TD)…Schaub puts up big stats in another loss…Texans fall to back under .500 after two season above that mark…Finnegan and A. Johnson behave themselves as there is no Rd 2

Patriots (12-2) over Packers (8-6), 31-27…What a game in Sunday Night Football!!! Packers backup Matt Flynn accounted well for himself….Brady once again gets it done in the clutch (NFL record 292 passes without an INT)…Patriots comeback from a 4th qtr deficit to win against Rodgers-less Packers in cold Foxborough…Woodhead continues shining (9 ATT 59 yds)…Connolly rumbles 71 yards for longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history…Flynn sacked/stripped by Tully Banta-Cain and recovered by NT Vince Wilfork to end game…Patriots need 1 more win in their last two games (@Buf and Mia) to wrap everything up

Mon, Dec 20 
Bears (10-4) over Vikings (5-9), 40-14…Chicago survives the cold elements in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, to dominate the Vikings to clinch the 2010 NFC North crown…The biggest surprise was early in the game when the NFL’s version of John Wayne, Vikings QB Brett Favre, was under center for his 298th regular start instead of rookie Joe Webb…Jay Cutler (14 of 24 for 194 yards and 3 TD’s) used his big arm to go deep to Knox, Hester, and Bennett…Bears DL Wouton creams Favre on a sack and knocks the former league hero from the game with a concussion…KR Devin Hester took another one back to the house to set an NFL record for return touchdowns…With two games left, Chicago is the NFC’s #2 seed and they hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles

Breaking Down the Standing after Week 15 
2 teams — (12-2) Patriots,Falcons
6 teams — (10-4) Bears, Saints, Steelers, Eagles, NY Jets, Ravens
1 team – (9-5) Chiefs
6 teams — (8-6) Chargers, Packers, Jags, Bucs, NY Giants, Colts
2 teams — (7-7) Dolphins, Raiders
3 teams — (6-8) Seahawks, Rams, Titans
6 teams — (5-9) Vikings, Niners, Redskins, Browns, Texans, Cowboys
3 teams — (4-10) Cardinals, Lions, Bills
2 teams — (3-11) Bengals, Broncos
1 team —  (2-12) Panthers

Division Leaders

NFC

Eagles (NFC East —  1 game lead over NYG), Falcons (NFC South — 2 game lead over NO), Bears (NFC North Champs — 2- game lead over GB), Seahawks/Rams (NFC West — 1 game lead over SF), Colts/Jags (AFC South — 2 game lead over TEN; Colts Hold tiebreaker),

AFC

Steelers/Ravens (AFC North — 5 game lead over CLE; Steelers Hold tiebreaker), Patriots (AFC East — 2 game lead over NYJ),
Chiefs (AFC West — 1 game lead over SD)

Current Streaks

Winning: Falcons (8); Patriots (6); Eagles (3);
Losing: Broncos (5); Redskins (4); Texans (3)

If playoffs started today, Here would be the Seeds….
NFC — 1. ATL, 2. CHI, 3. PHI, 4. STL, 5. NO, 6. NYG/GB
AFC — 1. NE, 2. PIT, 3. KC, 4. IND, 5. BAL, 6. NYJ

How 2009 Playoff teams are fairing  — Saints (10-4), Eagles (10-4), Packers (8-6),  Vikings (5-9), Cowboys (5-9), Cardinals (4-10),
Patriots (12-2), NY Jets (10-4), Ravens (10-4), Colts (8-6), Chargers (8-6), Bengals (3-11)

Weekly Leaders

Passing
M. Schaub 325 yds, 2 TDs
R. Grossman 322 yds, 4 TDs
J. Kitna 305 yds,  2 TDs

Rushing
R. Rice  153 yds, 1 TDs
C. Benson 150 yds, 1 TDs
J. Stewart 137 yds, 0 TDs
C. Johnson 152 yds, 0 TDs
Vick  130 yds, 1 TD

Receiving
J. Witten 140 yds, 1 TDs
K. Britt  128 yds, 0 TDs

TDs
E. Manning  4 TDs
M. Vick  4 TDs
D. Brees  3 TDs

Kickers

R.Gould 16 points

D. Buehler  15 points
S. Janikowski  13 points
J. Kasay  13 points

Remaining Games for Playoff Contenders
Atl — NO,Car
Bal — @Cle,Cin
Chi — NYJ, @GB
GB — NYG, Chi
Ind — @Oak, Ten
Jac — Was, @Hou
KC — Ten, Oak
NE — @Buf, Mia
NO — @Atl, TB
NYG — @GB, @Was
NYJ — @Chi, Buf
Oak — Ind, @KC
PHI — Min, Dal
Pit — Car, @Cle
SD — @Cin, @Den
Sea — @TB, StL
SF — @StL, Ari
StL — SF, @Sea
TB — Sea, @NO

Looking Ahead to NFL Week 16

Thu, Dec 23 
CAR @ PIT  Heinz Field 8:20 PM  —- NFLN          

Sat, Dec 25  — Christmas Game
DAL @ ARI  University of Phoenix Stadium 7:30 PM  —- NFLN          

Sun, Dec 26 
DET @ MIA  Sun Life Stadium 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
SF @ STL  Edward Jones Dome 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
MIN @ PHI  Lincoln Financial Field 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
NYJ @ CHI  Soldier Field 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
NE @ BUF  Ralph Wilson Stadium 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
SEA @ TB  Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
WAS @ JAC  Jacksonville Municipal Stadium 1:00 PM  —- FOX          
TEN @ KC  Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
BAL @ CLE  Cleveland Browns Stadium 1:00 PM  —- CBS          
IND @ OAK  Oakland Coliseum 4:05 PM  —- CBS          
HOU @ DEN  Invesco Field at Mile High 4:05 PM  —- CBS          
NYG @ GB  Lambeau Field 4:15 PM  —- FOX          
SD @ CIN  Paul Brown Stadium 8:20 PM  —- NBC          

Mon, Dec 27 
NO @ ATL  Georgia Dome 8:30 PM  —- ESPN

 

Lloyd Vance is a NFL Writer for Taking It to the House , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 15 Preview

In the Taking It to the House NFL Week 15 Preview Podcast This week the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4), led by redemption quarterback Michael Vick, will travel to the New Meadowlands in search of a playoff-worthy win against the New York Giants (9-4) in a huge NFC East Battle

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast – Week 15 Preview

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance and Host Mark Gray give you their “Pick 6” for Week 15 including the Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) traveling to the New Meadowlands in search of a playoff-worthy win against the New York Giants (9-4) in a huge NFC East Battle

2010 NFL Week 15 – Power Rankings

The Tampa Bay Bucs and WR/KR Michael Spurlock will be looking to continue pushing for an NFC Wildcard spot when they host potential spoiler squad, the Detroit Lions, in Week 15

Like a thrilling Kentucky Derby race, the 2010 NFL Season has hit the final turn with cries of “And Down the Stretch, They Come” in the air.  By design or mere coincidence, “Parity” has caused almost every game in the final three weeks of this season to have playoff implications. I am calling Week 15 of the 2010 NFL season, “Time to Answer the Bell”. 

You know somewhere former NFL Commissioner Bert Bell is smiling as the phrase he coined, “Any Given Sunday” is very true in the league this season.  Though the New England Patriots have clinched a playoff berth, they still have work to do to clinch the AFC East crown and there are still 11 other playoff spots up for grabs. 

Game-Temperatures, outside of domes, are reaching frigid levels with snow in several NFL cities — last week many games were played in temperatures of 32 degrees or less including the arctic conditions for the Patriots-Bears game – but teams must continue fighting for one of the NFL’s Coveted 12 Playoff Berths. 

Currently there 18 teams with record ranging from 6-7 to 11-2 that are trying to join the Patriots in the playoffs with three weeks left in the 2010 NFL Season — actually 23 teams mathematically still have a shot so NFL Media says.  After 14 weeks of NFL play, there are still the “Have’s” (9 teams with 9 wins or more including the Patriots) and the “Have Nots” (13 teams with 5 or less wins), who are now basically finishing out the string.  But a good portion of the league is still caught in the parity-laden middle with records ranging from 8-5 to 6-7 (10 teams, which could increase by one more if you include the 5-8 Niners, who still have a shot at the NFC West title). 

So with only three regular season games remaining for all teams, there is little time left for the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” to sort themselves out before the playoffs.  Though “mathematically” there are still a lot of teams in contention for the NFL’s remaining 11 playoff spots, I believe after Week 15, the league will have a much clearer playoff picture.  I don’t know if it is by design, but the NFL schedule makers –big Thank You to Howard Katz — must have known something as several potential playoff teams will be playing each other.  This week’s key playoff match-ups include Colts vs. Jaguars, Steelers vs. NY Jets, Giants vs. Eagles, Saints vs. Ravens, Chargers vs. Niners, Packers vs. Patriots, Falcons vs. Seahawks and Chiefs vs. Rams.

  • In looking at the current NFL standings here’s the breakdown: The “Elite” – Patriots (11-2), and Falcons (11-2); The “Almost There’s” — Steelers (10-3), Saints (10-3), NY Giants (9-4) and Eagles (9-4); The “Contenders” — NY Jets (9-4), Bears (9-4), Packers (9-4), Ravens (9-4), Chiefs (8-5), and Bucs (8-5); “Stuck in the Middle” inconsistent teams, who better make their playoff push now or fall by the wayside — Colts (7-6), Chargers (7-6), Seahawks (6-7), Raiders (6-7), and Rams (6-7); The “Pretenders”, who are only a shade away from the league’s bottom rung – Redskins (5-8), Browns (5-8), Texans (5-8) Vikings (5-8), Niners (5-8), Cardinals (4-9) and Cowboys (4-9); and lastly the “Ugly” (Already preparing their 2011 NFL Draft boards) – Broncos (3-10), Lions (3-10), Bills (3-10), Bengals (2-11), and Panthers (1-12)
  • The division standings also are very tight with 3 weeks left in the regular season. Eagles/Giants (NFC East –  4 game lead over WAS), Falcons (NFC South — 1 game lead over NO), Bears (NFC North — 1 game lead over GB), Seahawks/Rams (NFC West — 1 game lead over SF), Jags (AFC South — 1 game lead over IND), Steelers (AFC North — 1 game lead over BAL), Patriots (AFC East — 2 game lead over NYJ), Chiefs (AFC West — 1 game lead over SD/OAK)
  • Let’s talk about streaks… Every team wants to get hot down the stretch, like the 2006 Eagles team (five straight wins into the playoffs).  Some teams that are streaking toward the playoffs by stringing consecutive wins together are the Falcons (7), Saints (6), Patriots (5), Steelers (4), Giants (3) and Eagles (2).  While others that have flushed their playoff hopes away with losing streaks are the Bengals (10), Panthers (7), Titans (6), Broncos (4) and Redskins (3)

Though the weather is cold in most NFL cities, the action on the gridiron has definitely heated up as teams are frantically trying to clinch division titles, home field advantage, first round byes, and playoff berths.  So buckle-up for a highly anticipated Week 15 including several marquee match-ups.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Patriots (11-2); LW1 – The Patriots must be part “Ski Patrol” as they have no problem revving up they high-octane offense in bad conditions.  After shellacking the Chicago Bears in snowy Soldier Field, Brady and Belichick are now 10-0 in the snow for their career.  Next up is another potential playoff test as New England host the suddenly struggling Green Bay Packers in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football.

2.  Falcons (11-2); LW3 – Atlanta did what you are supposed to do to bad teams, as they never gave the struggling Panthers a chance to breathe in a road blowout win in Carolina.  Quarterback Matt Ryan and his fellow offensive superstars (Turner, White, and Gonzalez) will need to focus on the frenetic Seahawks when they travel to the Northwest in Week 15.

3.  Steelers (10-3); LW6 — Led by safety Troy Polamulu, there was no chance of a trap-game as the Steelers never let the struggling Bengals gain confidence in a rainy day win.  In a potential AFC playoff match-up, Big Ben and the Steelers will hope to not be tripped-up by the “angry” visiting New York Jets.

4.  Saints (10-3); LW4 – Who Dat, Who Dat…Very quietly the defending Super Bowl champs are just going about their business by putting up win after win (5) including easily disposing the NFC West leading Rams.  In Week 15, we will learn just how ready the Saints and QB Drew Brees are for the playoffs when New Orleans travels outside of their dome to face the Baltimore Ravens.

5.  Eagles (9-4); LW6 –  I tell you what… the Eagles love playing in primetime as they are now 5-0 in evening games after outlasting NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys, on SNF.  The Birds will look for more Vick – Jackson Big Play Magic when they travel to the Meadowlands for an “All In” battle with Big Blue for the top spot in the NFC East.

6.  Ravens (9-4); LW7 – By no means was it Picasso, but the Ravens showed their resiliency in finally conquering the offensive-minded Houston Texans in overtime on Monday Night Football.  After Week 15, we will know exactly what type of team Baltimore is (Upper Echelon AFC Team or Wildcard Hanger-on) when they host the red-hot New Orleans Saints.

7.  New York Giants (9-4); LW11 – After a Lewis & Clark odyssey that saw the G-Men travel throughout the snowy Midwest, the Giants showed their resolve by running over the reeling Favre-less Vikings.  After 3 weeks of waiting, Big Blue will finally get their chance for revenge against the equally surging Eagles in a huge NFC East match-up.

8.  Jaguars (8-5); LW12 –  Looking like the re-birth of the Oklahoma Sooners’ 1980’s rushing attack (3 straight games w/ 200 rushing yards), the Jags ran up and down the field on the Raiders in a shootout win.  Everything will be on the line in WK15 when the Jaguars go searching for respect in Indy against Peyton Manning and Colts.

9.  NY Jets (9-4); LW9– What is going on with the NY Jets?  After looking like one of the NFL’s elite teams, the J-E-T-S and struggling QB Mark Sanchez “tripped” for the second straight week as the Dolphins rode their defense to a big road win.  In Week 15, it is either time to wake-up from their slumber or continue falling apart when Rex Ryan’s squad travels to Heinz Field to face the ascending Steelers.

10. Colts (7-6); LW19 – I told everyone, “Don’t count out Indy and QB Peyton Manning out just yet”.  And now they are just 3 wins away from another AFC South crown after finishing off the Texans on Thursday Night football.  I am sure Lucas Oil Stadium will be rocking when the AFC South-leading Jacksonville Jaguars and hard-runner Maurice Jones-Drew visit for a huge division battle that will have playoff implications.

11. Bears (9-4); LW5 – I was just wondering…haven’t the Bears been a bad-weather team going back to the days of George Halas roaming the sidelines.  I guess not as the Patriots grounded-up the Bears on a snowy day in the Windy City.  Sure head coach Lovie Smith’s team is still in the NFC North driver’s seat, but they will need to play with more vigor when they visit the Minnesota Vikings – playing in the University of Minnesota’s outdoor stadium – on Monday Night Football.

12. Packers (8-5); LW10 – Oh No…this team could be in a lot of trouble if QB Aaron Rodgers (2nd concussion this season) is out of the line-up for an extended amount of time.  The Lions, lead by DT N. Suh, first knocked-out Rodgers then feasted on a Packers offense led by Matt Flynn.  In a “Save Your Season” type Game, the Packers must pick-up-the-pieces when they travel to face the red-hot Patriots.

13.  Buccaneers (8-5); LW14 – This young upstart team must have nine lives, as they survived another close game.  The Bucs left the Nation’s Capital with a win after the Redskins had too many special teams’ breakdowns.  Tampa better be prepared when the upset-minded Detroit Lions come to town for an old-time NFC Central battle.

14. Chargers (7-6); LW15 – You have to wonder if it is too much, too late for San Diego.  But the Chargers put forth a dominating effort against the suddenly struggling AFC West-leading KC Chiefs.  With an eye on winning-out, the Chargers, probably sans TE Antonio Gates (foot), will look to keep winning when they host the equally desperate Niners on Thursday Night Football.

15.  Chiefs (8-5); LW113 – I always thought that Todd Haley’s squad might be overachieving a bit and it really showed in WK14.  With backup QB Brodie Croyle filling in for starter Matt Cassel (appendectomy), KC was a big turkey devoured by the hungry Chargers.  Whether Cassel, Croyle or someone else plays quarterback in Week 15, it is now or never when the Chiefs face the Rams in a “Show Me Something” game.

16.  Dolphins (7-6); LW21 – This team may have one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL, but what the ‘Phins do have is a stifling defense as shown in their gutty road win over the NY Jets.  In an effort to stay in the playoff race, the Dolphins will need to “Answer the Bell” when they host AFC Spoilers, the Buffalo Bills.

17.  Rams (6-7); LW17 – This team clearly is a great story, but WK14 showed that they are not ready to run with the Big Dogs as the Saints thumped them in the Superdome.  Despite their ugly record, the Rams can still be in the driver’s seat for the NFC West, or is it the “NFC Least”, crown with a win over the Chiefs in WK15.

18. Niners (5-8); LW25 –  San Francisco showed that they still have some fight left in them as they thumped the inconsistent Seahawks in a crucial NFC West battle.  Everything will be on the line for the Chargers and Niners when they meet in a “Loser Leaves Town” match on Thursday Night Football in Week 15.

19. Raiders (6-7); LW14 – If nothing else, you cannot tell me that the Oakland Raiders are not one of the NFL’s most entertaining teams.  The Raiders’ offensive firepower, led by QB Jason Campbell and RB Darren McFadden, was on full display in a close pinball machine loss to the Jags in WK14.  With their playoff hopes flickering, the Raiders will be in a must-win situation when they host the reeling Denver Broncos in WK15.

20. Vikings (5-8); LW16 – It was an end of an era, in Detroit of all places, as veteran QB Brett Favre (shoulder, ankle) sat out a game for the first time since 1992 (297 consecutive starts, 321 w/ playoffs).  In an unexpected Monday Nighter that was moved due to the Metrodome’s roof collapsing, the Vikings were steamrolled by the NY Giants.  In a game where the starting quarterback could be rookie Joe Webb (hamstring), Favre, or the newly-signed Patrick Ramsey, the Vikings will host the Bears on MNF with the game at University of Minnesota’s frigid TCF Bank Stadium.

21.  Seahawks (6-7); LW18 – It looks like a December Swoon is taking place in another place besides Green Bay as Pete Carroll’s team is teetering on the ropes.  In WK14, Seattle was no match for the desperate Niners.  It is “Do or Die” time for the Seahawks when they host the red-hot Atlanta Falcons in WK15.

22. Browns (5-8); LW20 –  Not even running back Peyton Hillis could overcome another bad quarterbacking effort as the Bills won the “Battle for Lake Erie” over the Dawgs.  With head coach Eric Mangini’s time in Cleveland on life-support, the Browns will face the equally putrid Cincinnati Bengals in Wk15’s Toilet Bowl.

23.  Texans (5-8); LW22 – Once again, the Texans had plenty of fight in them only to see their opponent walk away with the “W”.  The Baltimore Ravens won in overtime on Monday Night Football as the Texans realized they will be home for the playoffs again.  If nothing else, QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson can help FF players win their respective leagues by putting up some stats against the reeling Titans.

24.  Cowboys (4-9); LW23 – Dallas gave a game effort on Sunday Night Football, but the visiting Eagles had too much DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick in a big NFC East road win.  With nothing else but pride on the line, the Cowboys will try to continue building interim HC Jason Garrett’s resume when they face the hated Redskins.

25. Lions (3-10); LW26 – Finally the scrappy Lions broke through and spoiled a contender’s day as DT N. Suh led the way in a physical win over the Packers.   Led by young gunslinger QB Drew Stanton, Detroit will look to make it two in a row when they travel to Tampa in WK15.

26.  Redskins (5-8); LW24– It was another heartbreaking loss for Washington, this time to the Tampa Bay Bucs as the Redskins special teams let them down.  There is nothing left to play for but stats and pride now as the Redskins travel to Dallas in WK15.

27.  Bills (3-10); LW29 – This young team is better than some give them credit for and they proved it by beating the Bowns in the Battle for Lake Erie Bowl.  Next up is a trip to South Beach to take on the tough Miami Dolphins and NFL sack leader Cameron Wake.

28.  Titans (5-8); LW26 – Tennessee put up a good fight, but in the end the Colts outlasted them in a crucial AFC South battle on Thursday Night Football.  With the future of long-tenured head coach Jeff Fisher in doubt, the Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers, will try to win one for owner Bud Adams when they host the Texans.

29.  Cardinals (3-9); LW30 – Big deal they finally put a good game together, but remember it was against the hapless Broncos in Week 14’s Toilet Bowl.  We will see if rookie John Skelton can produce another win when the Cards  play the awful Panthers in Carolina.

30.  Broncos (3-10); LW28 –  Interim head coach Eric Studesville better get his resume ready as his team was terrible in an embarrassing loss to the Cardinals.  Now I am saying, “Why Not Put in Tebow” as the Broncos are even out of the bad AFC West race.  Next up is a pride game against the hated Raiders.

31.  Bengals (2-11); LW31 – Marvin  Lewis better enjoy his last weeks as Cincy’s head coach as his team is falling apart at the seams.  The Bengals were dominated by the Steelers in another embarassing loss.  Next up is the Battle for Ohio a.k.a the Week 15 Toilet Bowl as the Bengals take on the Browns.

32.  Panthers (1-12); LW32 – It is looking more and more like the Panthers will have the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  Lame Duck head coach John Fox’s team tried hard, but the Falcons smoked them in an NFC South mismatch.  Next up the chase for Andrew Luck continues when the Panthers host Arizona in Week 15.

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)