1/1/12–NFL 2011–Week 17 Recap

NFL 2011 Week 17 Recap

Happy 1/1/12.

Ok, enough small talk.

Forget New Year’s Eve. If you have a hangover, shake it off. Get up and get ready. Take the day off on January 2nd. January 1st is all business. This is the final week of the NFL 2011 Regular Season.

Normally I spend January 1st engaging in a struggle to get out of bed.

No sleeping until Noon this year. I was up by the crack of 9:50am. Kickoff was 10am.

For a man who does not drink, smoke, or do drugs, I sure know how to normally engage in sloth and lethargy to begin my year.

This epic struggle is detailed in my annual first column entitled “We can do this.”


I then realize I cannot, and go back to sleep for a couple more hours.

Yet this year I am out of bed like a laser and ready for action. Only one thing gets me out of bed on a non-work day, and that is football.

So let’s get down to the business and pleasure of football.

For those who care about the Poulon Weed Eater Bowl or the Lamasil Jock Itch Bowl or any other similar game, go find a college football blog.

It’s all about the word forever immortalized by Jim Mora: Playoffs!

Now for the serious heavy lifting, since as Bill Parcells reminds us, “This is why you lift all them weights.”

No amount of hyperbole can do it justice. The National Football League requires no hyperbole.

Here are the 2011 NFL Playoff permutations and combinations, rendered obsolete at the end of the final Sunday night game.

NFL 2011 Playoff Permutations and Combinations

For one more time this year, Week 17 brings the words of NFL Hall of Famer John Randall.


New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins–The Jets at 8-7 are fighting for their playoff lives. They need to win and hope several teams lose. Rex Ryan has seen the Jets sneak into the playoffs two straight years, but the luck may have run out. While Miami is eliminated, they have gone 5-3 since an 0-7 start. Jason Taylor is definitely playing his final regular season game, and LaDanian Tomlinson may be as well. There were so many New Yorkers living in Florida who attended that it felt like a Jets home game.

After a Jets punt, Miami soon faced 3rd and 5 at their own 39. Matt Moore hit Thomas for 8 and Thomas ran for 13 more. Moore hit Brandon Marshall for another 13. Dan Carpenter would hit a 44 yard field goal to have the Dolphins up 3-0. The Jets took over at their own 23. Mark Sanchez hit LaDanian Tomlinson for 6 and Tomlinson ran for 5. A wildcat snap went to Kerley, who went deep to Mulligan for a 41 yard gain. Tomlinson then ran for 9 and 7. After a sack, Sanchez hit Keller for 11 to set up 3rd and goal at the 1. Sanchez hit Keller for the score as the Jets led 7-3.

The defenses took over, and late in the quarter the Dolphins were at their own 21. Moore went deep, and Antonio Cromartie intercepted it at the Miami 43. The Jets went 3 and out, but would get the ball back at their own 18. On 3rd and 4 Sanche found Kerly for 30 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Miami 37, Greene gained 4. Yet on 3rd and 10 from the Miami 21, a pass to Plaxico Burress came up 2 yards short. On 4th and 2 from the Miami 13, Rex Ryan opted for the field goal and Nick Folk hit from 31 to make it 10-3 Jets.

With 32 seconds left in the half from the Miami 28, Moore was intercepted. The Jets took over at their own 45 with 25 seconds left. Yet Sanchez was intercepted right back, and Starks returned it to the Jets 40. Carpenter came in for a 58 yard field goal try as the half ended. He drilled it as a disgusted Rex Ryan saw the Jets only up 10-6 at the break.

An exchange of punts had the Dolphins at their own 6 midway through the third quarter. On 3rd and 9 Moore hit Bess for 17 and Hartline for 11. On 3rd and 3 from the Miami 42, Moore hit Anthony Fasano for just enough. On 3rd and 9 from the Miami 46, Moore hit Marshall for 10. On 3rd and 13 from the Jets 47, Moore found Marshall for 19 as the third quarter ended. Steve Slaton ran for 5, and Moore hit Bess for 6 and 5. On 3rd and 4 from the 11, Moore again went to Bess for 10. Thomas got 2 carries and got stopped both times. On 3rd and goal at the 1, , Moore hit Clay for the touchdown. This was the drive of the season. It covered 94 yards. It consumed 12 1/2 minutes. It took 21 plays. When it was all done, the Dolphins led 13-10 with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

After a touchback, Sanchez hit Kerley for 16 and Greene ran for 8 and 3. From the Jets 47, Sanchez was intercepted by Starks, who returned it 18 yards to the Jets 25. With the entire season on the line, Gang Green held on defense. Dan Carpenter hit the 40 yard field goal as the Dolphins led 16-10 midway through the fourth quarter. The Jets took over at their own 25.

On 2nd and 10, an incomplete pass was nullified by illegal contact. On 3rd and 5 from their 47, Sanche hit Plaxico Burress for 7. On 3rd and 9 from the Miami 45, Sanchez threw incomplete and again the Jets were bailed out by a roughing the passer call. Sanchez was in pain from the shot to the head but stayed in the game. Kerley ran for 16. With 3 minutes left in the game, the Jets faced 3rd and 6 at the Miami 10. Everything came down to the next play. Sanchez was intercepted by Mitchell, who returned it 55 yards to the Jets 36. The Jets had all of their timeouts. Slaton gained 5, 3, and on 3rd and 2 only got one. Dan Carpenter came on for a 44 yard field goal try. It was good, and the Dolphins led 19-10 with only 2 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

The Jets needed a miracle, and began with a 29 yard pass from Sanchez to Burress to midfield at the 2 minute warning. Sanchez hit Keller for 5, Kerley for 13, Burress for 13 more, Tomlinson for 9, and Turner for the 10 yard touchdown. The Jets were within 2, and needed to recover the onsides kick with 1:15 remaining. The onsides kick was awful and Marshall recovered it with nobody near him for Miami. Jason Taylor, despite having a fumble return for a touchdown called back, retired a winner. Miami at 6-10 finished 6-3. As for the Jets, they fell to 8-8 and are out of the playoffs. Rex Ryan talked and it was not backed up. His defense gave  up the megadrive. Sanchez was intercepted 3 times, and collapsed when it counted. The New York Post will be brutal, and so will the offseason be. 19-17 Dolphins

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans–Tennessee is fighting for its playoff life at 8-7. They need a win and losses by other teams. They face a 10-5 Houston team who is locked into the # 3 seed and has nothing to play for. However, Gary Kubiak has seen the Texans lose 2 straight, and may try to reassert itself just to right the ship. Andre Johnson returns, although he will see very limited action.

From their own 8, Matt Hasselbeck led the Titans to 3rd and 4 at the Texans 45. He then threw incomplete and Mike Munchak opted to punt. The Texans took over at their own 10 and lost 5 yards right away with a sack of TJ Yates. On 3rd and 12 from the 8, Yates hit Dreesen for 15 and Casey for 15 more. Yates hit Tate for 8 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Houston 47, Ward ran for 7 and Tate added 11. Yates hit Tate for 9. Tate ran for 5 and Ward ran for 8 and 5, with unnecessary roughness making it 1st and goal at the 4. Tate ran it in as the Texans led 7-0. After the 90 yard drive, Gary Kubiak gave Yates a clipboard and baseball cap. Fourth string quarterback Jake Delhomme…Yes, that Jake Delhomme…would take over after that. What the Texans do have a is a defense, and the return of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips from surgery provided an emotional lift.

Late in the first quarter the Titans took over at their own 28. On 3rd and 3 Matt Hasselbeck hit Nate Washington for 8. and Cook for 17. The second quarter began with the Titans at the Houston 36. Chris Johnson ran around the end for 27 yards. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 3 Hasselbeck threw incomplete. Rob Bironas hit  21 yard field goal to have the Titans within 7-3.

After an exchange of punts, Houston took over at their own 3. Jake Delhomme hit Casey for 21 and Ward ran for 15. Yet from the Houston 42, Delhomme was sacked and fumbled. Tennessee took over at the Houston 33. Hasselbeck found Cook for 25 yards, and on 3rd and goal at the 1, Hasselbeck hit Avery for the touchdown to have the Titans up 10-7.

After a touchback, Delhomme went to Andre Johnson for 16, with a personal foul on the defense adding 15 more. Delhomme found Casey for 9 more, and Neil Rackers hit a 52 yard field goal to tie the game 10-10. Tennessee took over at their 20 with 1:09 left in the half. Hasselbeck hit Cook for 13 and Johnson for 16. On 3rd and 10 from the Houston 48 with 13 seconds left in the half, Hasselbeck hit Avery for 23 yards. Bironas hit the 43 yard field goal as the Titans took a 13-10 lead into the locker rooms.

A touchback began the third quarter with the Texans taking over. Tate broke free for a 56 yard gain on the first play. Yet on the next play, offensive clipping meant 1st and 25 from the 39. Ward Gained 111 and Delhomme hit Jones for 9 to allow Rackers to hit the 37 yard field goal to tie the game 13-13. After an exchange of punts, the Titans took over at their own 23. Hasselbeck went deep to Nate Washington for a 55 yard gain. On 3rd and 3 from the 15 Hasselbeck threw incomplete, but a 33 yard Bironas field goal had the Titans back in front 16-13 midway through the third quarter.

On 2nd and 14 from their 16, Delhomme hit Casey for 21 and 15. Tate gained 8, 1, and 2 on 3rd and 1. Delhomme hit Graham for 24. On 3rd and 3 from the 4, Delhomme threw incomplete. After 12 plays and 7 1/2 minutes, a 22 yard Rackers field goal tied the game 16-16 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Each team punted twice, and with 7 minutes left in regulation the Titans took over at  their own 44. On 3rd and 9, Hasselbeck found Johnson for just enough and Avery for 21 more. Haselbeck then threw a floater to the end zone and Nate Washington came down with it to have the Titans up 23-16 with 4 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

After a touchback, Delhomme hit Johnson for a 40 yard gain. A sack of Delhomme meant 4th and 20 from midfield. With 3 minutes left and all 3 timeouts, Gary Kubiak decided to punt. From the Titans 14, Johnson gained 3 and 2. The critical 3rd and 5  saw Harper gain 12 yards as the Texans took their last timeout. Another carry took it to the 2 minute warning. A couple more runs would take it down to less than 30 seconds, and possibly run out the clock. The Texans needed a miracle. They got one. Hall got the carry, got blasted, and fumbled. The Texans recovered at the Tennessee 36 with 1:49 remaining. They had life. Now it was up to Delhomme.

Delhomme hit Jones for 20, Tate for 5, Joel Dreesen for 2, and on 3rd and 3 from the 9, Casey for 4. Delhomme spiked the clock with 26 seconds to play. With 19 seconds left, on 3rd and goal at the 5, Delhomme found Johnson for the touchdown. Now Gary Kubiak had a choice to make. Under normal circumstances, no coach in his right mind would go for the 2 point conversion. You kick the extra point and go to overtime. Yet this was a meaningless game for the Texans.

Kubiak did not want to drag the game out and risk injury. So he made the decision one would make in preseason. He went for 2 as the entire Titans season hung in the balance. From the 2, a false start moved the ball to back to the 7. Kubiak again decided to go for 2. With the ballgame on the line, and Delhomme in the shotgun, the ball was snapped over his head. A mad scramble meant a failed conversion. The onsides kick failed, and the game was over. The Texans lost their last 3 games to finish 10-6. They are the # 3 seed. As for the 9-7 Titans, they would not know until the late games were played if they were going to the playoffs. If they get the # 6 seed, they come right back to Houston for a rematch next week. Yet when the results of the other games came in, Tennessee lost the tiebreaker to Cincinnati. Denver made the playoffs at 8-8 while the 9-7 Titans did not. That is the NFL. 23-22 Titans

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers–Both teams have clinched playoff spots. The 14-1 Packers have home field throughout the playoffs. The 10-5 Lions are a wildcard. The could fall from the 5 seed to the 6 seed, and Jim Schwartz will have to decide of that matters. The 5 seed would avoid Green Bay longer in the playoffs, but keeping players healthy may matter more. So this could feature backups on both sides.

Mike McCarthy gave Aaron Rodgers a clipboard and a nice baseball cap to wear. He had the day off, as backup Matt Flynn played the game. On 3rd and 10 from their own 37, the Packers turned it over, and the Lions took over at the Green Bay 35. Matthew Stafford did start. Smith ran for 7, and Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for 20. Stafford hit Young for the 8 yard touchdown only 2 minutes into the game to make it 7-0 Lions. On the ensuing kickoff, Lee was tackled in the end zone, but it was not a touchback. Lee fielded it at the 1 before going backward, so it was actually a safety. The Lions led 9-0 and were to get the ball back. Yet they could not take advantage and Green Bay got it back.

On 3rd and 9 from their own 33, Flynn found Finley for the needed 9. On 3rd and 6 from the Packers 46, Flynn found Jordy Nelson for 18. Ryan Grant ran for 7 and 3. On 3rd and 4 from the 20, Flynn hit Finley for 13. Yet on 3rd and goal from the 7, a pass to Kuhn only got 3. Mason Crosby hit the 22 yarder as the Packers trailed 9-3. On the next series the Lions fumbled, and the Packers took over at the Detroit 48. Grant gained 9 and Flynn hit Jones for 7 and Finley for 8. Flynn hit Nelson for 12 and again for the 7 yard touchdown as the Packers took a 10-9 lead.

In the second quarter the Lions had it at their own 40. Stafford hit Tony Scheffler for 11. Initially ruled a fumble recovery by Green Bay, Jim Schwartz successfully challenged the call and the Lions kept moving. On 4tha nd 3 from the Packers 37, Schwartz decided to go for it. Stafford hit Nate Burleson for 8 and Brandon Pettigrew for 10. On 3rd and 4 from the 13 Stafford hit Johnson for the score as the Lions led 16-10. After a touchback, Matt Flynn did his best Aaron Rodgers MVP impersonation, with plenty of help from Ryan Grant. A short pass to Grant went for an 80 yard touchdown and just like that the Packers led 17-16.

A short kickoff was fielded at the 15 by Stephan Logan. He returned it 36 yards, but fumbled it. Green Bay recovered and Jim Schwartz again challenged the ruling. He lost this one and the Lions were out of challenges. Two plays later Flynn was intercepted. From the Green Bay 38, Stafford hit Johnson for 23. The Lions had to settle for a 30 yard Jason Hanson field goal and a 19-17 lead.

With 5 minutes left in the half, Green Bay took over at their own 21. On 3rd and 4, Flynn it Finley for 16. Defensive pass interference on the next play added 21. Flynn then went deep to Nelson for a 36 yard touchdown as the Packers retook the lead 24-19. With 3 1/2 minutes left Stafford led the Lions from their own 23 to the Green Bay 21. From the 21, a pass to the end zone to Johnson was ruled out of bounds. It looked like a touchdown, but Schwartz was out of challenges. The incomplete ruling meant a 39 yard field goal try by Hanson. It was no good, and the Lions trailed 24-19 at the break.

The first half had 5 lead changes.  By the time this game was over, it would be one of the greatest games played this year, a classic for the ages, and certainly one of the best of this decades long series.

Detroit began the third quarter and soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 29. Logan gained 16 and Stafford hit Johnson for 30. On 2nd and 3 from the 18, Stafford was intercepted. Green Bay went 3 and out the Lions got it back at their own 40. Clipping meant 1st and 25 from their 25. Stafford calmly went to Pettigrew for 26 yards, Burleson for 16, and Johnson for another 16. A sack was nullified by unnecessary roughness. On 3rd and 1 from the 5, a false start was nullified by a defensive personal foul. Stafford hit Titus Young for the 2 yard touchdown as the Lions retook the lead 26-24 with the 6th lead change.

After a touchback, Matt Flynn wasted no time. He hit Nelson for 5 and 14, and then went deep to Nelson for a 58 yard touchdown as the Packers were back in front 31-26 after the 7th lead change. After a touchback, Stafford went deep to Johnson for a 41 yard gain and again for 27 more yards. On 3rd and 2 from the 5 Stafford hit Smith for the 5 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion was good as Stafford found Scheffler. The 8th lead change had the Lions up 34-31, and there were still 2 minutes left in the third quarter.

Each team would actually punt on a day when the defenses took the New Years holiday off. Green Bay then took over at their own 31 with 13 minutes left in regulation. On 3rd and 3, Detroit jumped offsides. Saine gained 5 and 10 sandwiched around defensive holding that nullified a sack. On 3rd and 8 from the 35, Flynn Hit Donald Driver, who took it all the way for the score as the Packers led 38-34 with the 9th lead change.

Each team punted again and the Lions took over at their own 7 with 5 minutes left in the game. Stafford found Pettigrew for 22 and went deep to Johnson. Defensive pass interference went for 36 yards. Stafford then hit Scheffler for 26 yards down to the 2. Offensive holding only delayed the inevitable, as Stafford hit Scheffler for the 12 yard touchdown. The 10th lead change had the Lions up 41-38 with 2:40 to play.

Green Bay began at their own 20. and Flynn hit Jones for 16 and Saine for 7 at the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and 3 from the Packers 43, Ndamokung Suh jumped offsides. On 3rd and 4 from the Detroit 46 with 1:25 to play, Flynn went deep to Jones for a 40 yard gain. The 11th lead change had the Packers up by 4, but there was still 1:13 to play. After a touchback, Stafford hit Johnson for 12, Smith for 10, and Johnson for 21. Detroit used their second timeout with 33 seconds to play from the Green Bay 37. Yet there would not be a 12 lead change as Stafford was intercepted by Shield at the 20.

The Packers improved to 15-1 for the first time in their history. They are the top seed. Detroit fell to 10-6 and the # 6 seed. They could have faced an easier road game against the woeful NFC East, but instead have to go at New Orleans. The offensive statistics in this game were mindboggling. The quarterbacks combined for 103 passing attempts, 67 completions, 11 touchdown passes, and 1000 passing yards. Stafford was 36 of 59 for 520 yards, 5 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. This was in a losing effort. Flynn went 31 of 44 for 480 yards, 6 touchdown passes, and one interception. The most passing yards and touchdowns in a single game in franchise history is not held by Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, or Bart Starr. It happened today with Matt Flynn, who now returns to the bench. On offense, Green Bay is that good. 45-41 Packers

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars–Playoffs? Are you kidding me? The 2-13 Colts play a Jaguars team that is barely better. If the Colts lose, they are assured the top pick in the 2012 Draft. Jim Caldwell has too much pride to consider this, and NFL teams do not tank games. The Colts have won 2 straight after an 0-13 start. Sometimes a pair of bad teams can come together and play a great game. This was not that game.

Jacksonville began at their own 29 and moved 70 yards in 7 minutes. On 3rd and goal at the 1, Maurice Jones-Drew was stopped. With nothing to lose, going for it on 4th and goal at the 1 saw Jones-Drew get stopped again as the goal line stand kept the game scoreless. Yet Indy went 3 and out and a shanked 29 yard punt had the Jaguars getting it back at the Indy 35. On 3rd and 2 Karim gained 3. On 3rd and 9 from the 23 Blaine Gabbert found West for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Jaguars.

That concluded the action for much of the game as the punters and field goal kickers provided the only thing resembling action. A 14 play, 6 minute drive led to a 48 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal to have the Colts within 7-3 with 12 minutes left in the half. From midfield Jacksonville fumbled and the Colts recovered at the Jaguars 36. Yet on 4th and 1 from the 27, Carter lost a yard and the Colts turned it over on downs. With 6 minutes left in the half a heavy dose of Jones-Drew moved the Jaguars from their 32 to a 3rd and 8 at the Ind 12. A pass to Mercedes Lewis came up 3 yards short as josh Scobee hit a 25 yarder to make it 10-3 Jaguars at the half. For good measure, Orlovsky was intercepted just before the half ended.

In the third quarter Orlovsky led the Colts from their 20 to 3rd and goal at the 7. Yet a pass to Austin Collie meant 4th and goal at the 2. After 13 plays and 6 minutes, Jim Caldwell opted for the field goal. It was good as the Colts trailed 10-6. From the Jacksonville 29, Jones-Drew raced for 56 yards. The drive added nothing else as a 32 yard field goal made it 13-6 Jaguars. Indy took over at their own 5. On 3rd and 6 from the 9, Orlovsky was intercepted again as the Jaguars took over at the Indy 19. They lost 10 yards and settled for a 47 yard field goal as Jacksonville led 16-6 in this hideous game. On the next series Orlovsky was hit and fumbled, which led to nothing.

Indy began the fourth quarter at their own 23 and Orlovsky led the Colts to a 3rd and 3 at the Jaguars 40. Orlovsky was sacked and fumbled again. The Jaguars took over at the Indy 46. On 3rd and 4 Gabbert hit Lewis for 12. On 3rd and 7 from the 25, a completion came up 3 yard short. Scobee hit is fourth field goal from 39 yards out as the Jaguars led 19-6 in a fast moving game that still could not end fast enough. Orlovsky would finish 27 of 40 for 264 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Gabbert finished an awful 11 of 19 for 92 yards and 1 touchdown with 0 interceptions. He managed the game, as Jones-Drew became the all time single season Jaguars rusher, surpassing Fred Taylor.

The Colts took over at their own 18 with 6 1/2 minutes left. Orlovsky hit Dallas Clark for 20, and Reggie Wayne for 14. Orlovsky then went to Austin Collie 4 straight times for 13,  7, 7, and 9. On 3rd and 1 from the 12, Orlovsky hit Collie for the touchdown. 3 1/2 minutes still remained, and the Colts were within 6. They still had 2 timeouts so Jim Caldwell decided not to go onsides. Jacksonville took over after a touchback. Indy took their last timeout as the Jaguars faced 3rd and 4 from their 26. Jones-Drew gained 5, and then 11 on the next carry as the Colts never got the ball back. The Colts at 2-14 have the top pick in the draft, and are now on the clock. They may draft Andrew Luck, but who drafts him or anyone is unknown. Nobody is safe after a 2-14 season, and Jim Irsay may get rid of Jim Caldwell, Peyton Manning, and Bill Polian. He may keep them all. Whatever happens to Jim Caldwell, he will not make a facial expression. 19-13 Jaguars.

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings–The 7-8 Bears have lost 5 straight after Jay Cutler went down to miss the playoffs. The Vikings were eliminated weeks ago, and the final insult was the terrible knee injury to Adrian peterson. Both coaches may be on the hot seat in a game where pride is all that is at stake. These teams began the season with Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler at quarterback. Christian Ponder began this game for Minnesota, while Caleb Hanie was demoted, allowing 3rd stringer Josh McCown to start for Chicago.

After a Minnesota punt, on 2nd and 8 from their own 41, McCown hit Bennett on a short pass. Bennett fumbled, and the Vikings took over just past midfield. Toby Gerhart ran for 24 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the 22, Ponder hit Percy Harvin for 11. The defense held, and a 26 yard Ryan Longwell field goal made it 3-0 Vikings. Later in the opening quarter Chicago saw Bell fumble from their own 16. Minnesota took over at the Chicago 18. Harvin did the rest, running for 12 and then the 5 yard score to make it 10-0 Vikings.

Chicago soon faced 3rd and 9 at their own 11. McCown scrambled for 28 yards and hit Sanzenbacher for 22 more. Bell added 15 and 5 more as the second quarter began. McCown went deep to Williams for the score to have the Bears within 10-7. After a touchback, Gerhart lost 5 yards. Ponder was then intercepted by Peanut Tillman, who returned it for a 22 yard touchdown. 2 touchdowns in less than 40 seconds had the Bears up 14-10 only 90 seconds into the second quarter. On the next play from scrimmage on an incompletion, Ponder was injured. The final 43 minutes should have been canceled, and a tape of the game should be destroyed. Neither team had anything to play for, and they played even worse than that. Joe Webb came in for Minnesota, as a pair of 3rd stringers gave new meaning to the term garbage time.

After an exchange of punts, Webb led Minnesota frm their 45 to a 3rd and 4 at the Chicago 20. Webb was then sacked for a 10 yard loss and the 48 yard field goal try by Longwell was blocked. Minnesota got it back with 4 minutes left in the half and Webb moved the Vikings from their 21 to 1st and 10 at the Chicago 17 at the 2 minute warning. A pair of incompletions and a 9 yard scramble by Webb meant 4th and 1 at the 8. Leslie Frazier opted for the field goal and Longwell hit the 26 yarder to have the Vikings within 14-13 at the half. The league refused to cancel the second half. The only lowlight of the third quarter was an interception of Webb that led to nothing.

Chicago took over at their own 26 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. The fourth quarter began with Chicago at the Minnesota 43. 15 plays and 7 1/2 minutes got no further than 4th and 4 at the 9. Robbie Gould hit a 27 yard field goal as the Bears led by 4 with 10 1/2 minutes remaining. The game would only get worse. With 6 minutes left, from their own 6, McCown was intercepted by Griffin. Minnesota had gift field position at the Chicago 20. 3 plays lost 3 yards, and with 5 minutes left the 41 yard field goal try was aborted when holder Kluwe fumbled the snap.

Minnesota got it back one last time at their own 6 with 1:51 left and 0 timeouts. With 40 seconds left from the Minnesota 46, Webb was intercepted by Moore to end the game and the miserable season for both teams. A lone bright spot was Jared Allen, who had 3 1/2 sacks for Minnesota to finish with 22, just a 1/2 sack behind the record Strahan set in 2001. Allen got his without any controversy over a quarterback taking a dive. After 5 straight losses the Bears got to 8-8. Both of these teams suffered devastating injuries, and that may save Leslie Frazier and Lovie Smith. It may not. 17-13 Bears

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles–This game also has no playoff possibilities. The Eagles have won 3 straight to get to 7-8 and keep the team from getting blown up. As for the Redskins, they are just a bad team. The first three quarters featured bad football by both teams.

A 22 yard shanked punt by the Redskins gave the Eagles the ball at the Washington 47. Michael Vick went deep to Captain Morgan Brent Celek for a 30 yard gain. They got nothing else as Henery made the 35 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Eagles. In the second quarter Rex Grossman was intercepted, which led to nothing. On the next series Washington moved from their 30 to 1st and 10 at the Philly 18. 3 straight incompletions was followed by a 36 yard Graham Gano field goal try that was blocked.

With 6 minutes left in the half the Eagles took over at their 35. Vick hit Maclin for 10 and 5 and Bron gained 9. Vick hit Harbor for 9 and Desean Jackson for 10. At the 2 minute warning from the 18 Vick hit Jeremy Maclin for 11 and Hall for the 7 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Eagles. Washington would move from their 20 to a 4th and 6 at the Philly 35 with 44 seconds left in the half. Mike Shanahan decided to go for it, and Grossman threw incomplete. One play from scrimmage was enough for Vick to get sacked and fumble. The Redskins had a gift at the Philly 17 with 35 seconds left in the half. With 0 timeouts, the Redskins had 3rd and goal at the 15 with 16 seconds left in the half. Grossman inexplicably threw a pass over the middle to Jabar Gaffney, who should have dropped it. The clock ran out with the Redskins 7 yards away and down 10-0 as Gano never got his field goal chance.

After a touchback to start the third quarter, Washington soon faced 3rd and 1. Grossman hit Dante Stallworth for 8. On 3rd and 1 from the Washington 46, Royster gained 3. A couple plays later Grossman hit Helu, who took the pass 47 yards for a touchdown to finally get the Redskins on the bard and within 10-7. Philly took over at their own 26. On 3rd and 8, Vick hit Avant for 16 with unnecessary roughness adding 15 more. On 3rd and 13 from the Washington 44, Vick hit Avant for 15, Maclin for 12, and Celek for 8 to set up 1st and goal at the 6. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 2 Vick threw incomplete. Walru Lite Andy Reid opted for the field goal and Henery put the Eagles up 13-7 after the 13 play, 6 1/2 minute drive.

After a touchback, 4 minutes remained in he third quarter. Grossman hit Santana Moss for 22. Royster ran for 7 and Grossman hit Paulsen for 7 more. Roughing the passer tacked on 15 more. On 3rd and 4 fromt he 23, Grossman hit Banks for 10 as the third quarter ended. Philadelphian began the fourth quarter with 3 plays gaining only 4 yards. Gano hit the 27 yarder as the Redskins were within 13-10 only 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. Yet this tight game would be a blowout before the day was done.

After a touchback, Vick hit Celek for 23. On 1st and 15 from the 38, Vick went deep t Desean Jackson for a 62 yard touchdown and a 20-10 Eagles lead. Washington would punt, and a 30 yard return had the Eagles at the Washington 35. One play later Vick was intercepted although Washington would go 3 and out. Facing 3rd and 5 from their 40, Vick went to Maclin for a 29 yard gain. Vick then hit Jackson for 7, and Lewis took an end around 20 yards. Vick hit Celek for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 27-10 Eagles with 6 minutes left in regulation.

Washington again went 3 and out as Grossman threw incomplete on 4th and 3. From the Washington 40, with 5 minutes left and the game wrapped up, Michael Vick called it a season and Mike Kafka came in the game. Kafka did not even have to raise his arm, and Lewis carried for 13, 4, 7, 2, 5, and the 9 yard touchdown to complete the scoring. The game was a microcosm of the entire Eagles season, with 3 quarters of futility and a red hot fourth quarter. The Eagles finished with 4 straight wins but the 4-8 start did them in. Walrus Lite Andy Reid will be forced to make some changes to his staff, especially regarding defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. As for the Redskins, Mike Shanahan will go shopping in the draft for a quarterback. 34-10 Eagles

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots–Buffalo has nothing to play for as a 3-0 start and 5-2 team lost 7 straight before winning last week to get to 6-9. New England at 12-3 has a clear mission. They already have a 1st round bye. If they win, they get the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs. A loss could drop them out of the top seed. This has the makings of a blowout for the home team as Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady will go for the jugular.

After a touchback Buffalo made it look easy. CJ spiller ran for 11. Then on 4th and 1 from the Patriot 43, Chan Gailey decided to punt. It was a fake, Wilson took the direct snap 6 yards. Then Ryan Fitzptrick went for the bomb, and defensive pass interference meant a 47 yard gain down to the 4. Tashard Choice took it in and The Bills led 3-0 only 3 1/2 minutes in.

New England went 3 and out and the Bills took over at their own 30. Fitzptrick went to Hagan for 22 yards and St Johnson for 8 more. On 4th and 4 from the Patriots 31, Chan Gailey this time decided to go for it. With nothing to lose, Buffalo was letting it all hang out. Fitzpatrick hit St Johnson for 9 and again for an 18 yard touchdown as the Bills led 14-0 in front of another surprised home crowd. Last week New England at home fell behind 17-0 before rallying, and would have to get interested in the game very soon.

New England would punt again, and Buffalo took over at their own 18. Fitzpatrick continued looking like the guy who started the season, hitting Chandler for 6, Nelson for 14, and Roosevelt for 21. CJ Spiller ran for 12 and then caught a 15 yard pass for the touchdown as the Bills…yes the Bills…led 21-0 still in the opening quarter.

The natural order of the NFL was restored as the Patriots began at their own 34 to start the second quarter. Ridley ran for 7 and Tom Brady hit Hernandez for 27 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Buffalo 23, Ridley gained 21. Green-Ellis took it in from the one to have the Patriots within 21-7. New England got it back at their 19. Brady hit Wes Welker for 5 and 6. On 3rd and 1 from their 39, Brady hit Hernandez for 9 and Ridley for 13. Brady then went to Hernandez for the 39 yard touchdown to get the Patriots within 21-14. With one minute left in the half the Patriots faced 3rd and 14 at the Buffalo 42. Brady was intercepted. Yet on the last play of the half Coutu missed a 45 yard field goal as Buffalo wasted the opportunity.

The third quarter had the Patriots taking over at their own 22. Hernandez ran for 19 and Ridley added 13 more. Brady hit Gronkowski for 17. The drive stalled, but Stephen Gostkowski hit a 47 yard field goal to get the Patriots within 21-17. New England got it back at their own 27 anf a short pass from Brady to Green-Ellis went for a 53 yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the 16, Brady hit Welker for 15 to set up 1st and goal at the 1. Yet Green-Ellis lost a yard and Brady was stopped. On 4th and goal at the 2, Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick opted for the 20 yard field goal as the Patriots trailed 21-20.

After a touchback, Fitzpatrick was quickly intercepted, setting up the Patriots at the Bills 25. On 3rd and 15 Brady threw incomplete, but illegal contact meant 1st and 10 again at the 25. On 3rd and 2 Brady hit Gronkowski for the 17 yard touchdown as the Patriots now had the lead. On the 2 point conversion try, Danny Woodhead ran it in and the Patriots now led 28-21 after three quarters.

Buffalo began the second quarter at their own 35 and Fitzpatrick hit Spiller for 12. On 3rd and 5 Fitzpatrick threw incomplete but illegal contact kept the drive going. Yet from the New England 32, Fitzpatrick was intercepted by McCourty, who returned it 38 yards to the Buffalo 47. A short pass from Brady to Hernandez went for 44 yards. Green-Ellis ran for the 3 yard touchdown as the Patriots led 35-21. It was a microcosm of the entire Buffalo season, a hot start followed by ice cold wintery misery. Buffalo was done, but New England was not.

Buffalo went 3 and out, and New England took over at their own 12. Brady hit Gronkowski for 19 and Green-Ellis ran for 11. On 3d and 3 from the Buffalo 38, Brady hit Hernandez for 6. On 3rd and 9 from the Buffalo 20, Brady hit Welker for 11. A 7 yard touchdown to Gronkowski made it 42-21 with 3 minutes left in the game with the 88 yard, 14 play, 7 1/2 minute drive. One play later after a touchback Fitzpatrick was intercepted again, and Moore returned it 21 yards for a touchdown to complete the scoring. Buffalo finished 6-10 while New England at 13-3 clinched home field throughout the playoffs as the AFC Top seed. Last week they fell behind by 17 and rattled off 27 straight points. This week down 21, they exploded for 49 unanswered points. Brady actually threw for 335 yards and broke Dan Marino’s passing record to finish with 5,235 yards. Yet he finished behind Drew Brees in the year of the aerial assault. Home field will have to do. 49-21 Patriots

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints–The Panthers are dangerous at 6-9, but the 12-3 Saints are fighting to get a 1st round bye. They are tied with San Francisco, but the Saints lose the tie-breaker. So they will have the # 3 seed. If they win and San Francisco loses to awful St. Louis, The Saints have the # 2 seed. This will not happen. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s passing record last week, and he could make it another 25 years or more before anyone approaches his total if he has another great game today.

After a touchback, Brees hit Marques Colston for 18 and Pierre Thomas for 22. Ivory then ran for a 35 yard touchdown and the Saints led 7-0 only 90 seconds into the game. After a touchback, Cam Newton went to Jeremy Shockey for 6 and Stewart ran for 6 more. Newton hit Steve Smith for 17 and then scrambled for 16. From the Saints 22, Williams ran for 9 and Newton hit Smith for the 12 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7. From the Saints 17, Ivory ran for 11 and 5, and Brees found Arrington for 17 to midfield. Darren Sproles ran for 11 and Brees hit Colston for 19. On 3rd and 5 from the 15, Brees hit Colston for the touchdown to make it 14-7 Saints.

Newton came right back in this pinball machine game, and the second quarter began with the Panthers at the Saints 31. Williams ran for 20 and Stewart 7 more. Yet on 2nd and 3 at the 4, Newton was intercepted in the end zone for a touchback.  Brees then led the Saints from the 20 to the Carolina 19. Yet Brees was then intercepted by Stanford at the 11, and he returned it 53 yards to the Saints 36. Olindo Mare would kick a 41 yard field goal to get the Panthers within 14-10. From the 20, Brees hit Sproles for 16 and Thomas ran for 15. Brees found Devry henderson for 17. John Kasay would connect from 43 as the Saints were back on top 17-10.

With 2:42 left in the half after a touchback, Newton hit Stewart for 11 and Shockey for 6 at the 2 minute warning. Newton then hit Smith for 20 and LaFell for 14. Stewart ran for a 29 yard touchdown and the game was tied 17-17. Yet the Panthers left 1:25 on the clock. On 3rd and 1 from their 28, Brees gained 5 and called timeout with 42 seconds left in the half. Brees hit Graham for 10 and 15 as the Saints called their last timeout with 16 seconds left in the half. Yet there would be no 60 yard field goal try as Sean Payton went for it all and Brees hit Colston for the 42 yard touchdown as the Saints led 24-17 at halftime.

The second half saw the Saints turn out the lights as their pinball machine offense kept rolling. After a Carolina punt, The Saints took over at their own 39. Ivory gained 5 and Brees hit Graham for 29 and Colston for 16. Brees fired a 19 yard touchdown to Graham and the Saints led 31-17. Carolina went 3 and out and Sproles returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to the Carolina 44. Brees hit Robert Meachem for 16. On 3rd and 3 from the 21, Brees hit Sproles for just enough. Ivory gained 8 and Henderson added 9 more. Brees hit Collins for the one yard touchdown to make it 38-17.

The Saints got it back at their own 32 and began the fourth quarter at their own 45. Sproles gained 9 and 2.  Brees went to Henderson for 31, Higgins for 4, and Sproles for the 9 yard touchdown to complete the scoring. Brees finished a lights out 28 of 35 for 389 yards, 5 touchdowns and one interception. His final yards passing total and the new NFL record is 5,476 yards. The Saints finished 13-3, but lost the tie-breaker to San Francisco. The Saints are the # 3 seed and will not have  1st round bye. This offense might not need it. 45-17 Saints

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals–Both of these teams have a ton at stake. The 11-4 Ravens are tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. The Ravens hold the tiebreaker. Baltimore with a win clinches the division and a 1st round bye. If they win and New England loses, The Ravens are the top seed. A Baltimore loss and a win by Pittsburgh, who is at Cleveland, drops the Ravens all the way to the # 5 seed. Baltimore has had to go on the road the last couple years and wants to finally have home playoff games. The Bengals are even more desperate. At 9-6 they clinch the # 6 seed with a win. If they lose, they need everyone else to lose. So basically win and in, lose and out. The Bengals began 6-2 by beating bad teams but have lost twice to Pittsburgh and once to Baltimore already.

The Ravens began the day knowing New England had won, putting the top seed out of reach. On this day Joe Flacco threw only 19 passes, completing 15 of them for only 130 yards and one touchdown. Andy Dalton was 22 of 44 for 232 without a touchdown. Neither quarterback was intercepted. This game was decided on the ground. Baltimore took over at their own 20. On 3rd and 1 Ray Rice got the yard. On the next play Rice raced for a 70 yard touchdown as the Ravens led 7-0.

Baltimore got it back at their 22. On 3rd and 1 Flacco went to Pitta for a 39 yard gain. That was enough for Billy Cundiff to hit a 42 yarder to make it 10-0 Ravens. Cincy took over at their own 29. On 3rd and 7 Dalton hit AJ Green for 18 yards to midfield and to Lee for 6 more. Unnecessary roughness added 15 yards, which was enough for Mike Nugent to hit a 46 yard field goal to get the Bengals within 10-3. in the second quarter Dalton moved the Bengals from their own 23 to a 2nd and 2 at the Baltimore 18. Yet Scott got stopped and Dalton threw incomplete. Marvin Lewis decided not to go for it and from 36 yards out, Nugent was no good. Cincy got it back at their own 29, but on 3rd and 1 Benson got stopped and had to punt. After a touchback, Baltimore took over with 5 minutes left in the half.

Williams ran for 2 and 10. On 3rd and 3 from their 39, Flacco threw incomplete. Yet defensive holding kept the drive going. On 2nd and 14 from their 40, Flacco hit Dickson for 20, with unnecessary roughness adding 15 more. On 3rd and 1 from the 10, Flacco got the yard. With 19 seconds left in the half, on the next play, Flacco hit Pitta for the score to make it 17-3 Ravens at halftime. The third quarter was defense and field position, and with 5 minutes left in the period the Bengals had the short field at the Ravens 48. Dalton hit Simpson for 10, and on 3rd and 7 went back to Simpson for 10 more. Scott then ran around the end for a 25 yard touchdown as the Bengals were within 17-10.

Baltimore went 3 and out and the Bengals took over at their own 40. On 3rd and 4 Dalton hit Hawkins for 6 as the third quarter ended. The fourth quarter saw Cedric Benson run for 6, 3, and on 3rd and 1, for 11. Dalton then threw 3 straight incompletions as the Bengals settled for a 46 yard Nugent field goal to get within 17-13 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Baltimore again went 3 and out and Dalton led the Bengals from their 20 to a 2nd and 8 t the Baltimore 43. Dalton hit Gresham, who fumbled. The Ravens recovered at their own 40. On 3rd and 1 Rice broke free again for a 51 yard touchdown to have the Ravens up 24-13 with only 5 1/2 minutes left. Yet the Bengals were resilient.

After a touchback, roughing the passer on Haloti Ngata meant 15 yards. On 3rd and 10 Dalton hit Simpson for 23. After offsides, Dalton hit Hawkins for 26 more. Yet on 3rd and 8 from the 9, Dalton scrambled for only half of it. On 4th and 4 from the 5 and needing 2 scores, Marvin Lewis opted for the field goal. Nugent hit the 23 yarder as the Bengals were down 8. They needed a stop. After a false start, Rice gained 16. Yet 3 more carries left the Ravens 4 yards short. The Bengals had one last chance from their own 20 with 1:05 left and one timeout.

Dalton immediately went to Gresham for 31 yards. On 3rd and 10 Dalton found Leonard for 16 more as the clock ticked down to 15 seconds. Rather than spike it Dalton went to the end zone incomplete. Another deep incompletion meant one final Hail Mary on 3rd and 10 from the 33 with 2 seconds left. It fell incomplete and the Ravens had the tough win.

Despite the loss to fall to 9-7, the Bengals backed into the playoffs because everybody else lost for the playoff spot nobody wanted. The Bengals finished 3-5 down the stretch, and this year went 0-4 against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. So while it is fair to call the Bengals a 1st round exit waiting to happen as the # 6 seed, they play at a very vulnerable # 3 seed in Houston. Baltimore won the AFC North at 12-4 and got the # 2 seed and the 1st round bye. If they play Pittsburgh, the game will be in Baltimore as the Ravens finally get to enjoy the playoffs with some rest rather than do it the hard way on the road. John Harbaugh saw his team do it the hard way today, but now get a few days off. Ray Rice finished with 191 yards on 24 carries with 2 long touchdowns. 24-16 Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns–Pittsburgh at 11-4 is tied for the AFC North lead, but the Steelers lose the tiebreaker. If Pittsburgh wins and Baltimore loses, Pittsburgh wins the division and the # 2 seed with the 1st round bye. If New England also loses, Pittsburgh could still be the top seed with home field throughout. Yet a Baltimore win or Pittsburgh loss has the Steelers down to the # 5 seed. Cleveland has long been eliminated, but they have been fighting hard. Ben Roethlisberger is hurt, and Mike Tomlin will have to decide if winning the division will be worth risking the entire postseason for the defending AFC Champions.

Like a typical Pittsburgh game against Cleveland, this one was ugly. Yet for fans of AFC North bruiser football, it was beautiful. By the end of the day the snow was coming down, and points were coming at a precious premium. After a Cleveland punt, Mike Tomlin decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Cleveland 32 rather than try a 50 yard field goal in tough conditions. Roethlisberger threw incomplete. On the last play of the first quarter Pittsburgh took over at the Cleveland 42. Rashard Mendenhall gained 5 yards and was injured. He did not return, and with Big Ben ailing, Pittsburgh desperately needed the 1st round bye. On 4th and 1 from the Browns 22, Tomlin went for it and Redman gained 3. Yet on 3rd and 5 from the 14, Big Ben was sacked for a 13 yard loss. Shawn Suisham missed the 45 yard field goal to keep it scoreless.

With 10 minutes left in the half the Browns took over at their own 35. Seneca Wallace hit Cameron for 15 and Peyton Hillis gained 9 and 2. On 3rd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 31, Wallace ran for 27. Yet Hillis lost 4 yards and Phil Dawson hit the 26 yarder to have the Browns up 3-0 with 6 minutes left in the half. Cleveland got it back at their own 33 with 3 minutes left in the half. On 3rd and 7 Wallace hit Cribbs for 23 at the 2 minute warning and went back to Cribbs for 14 more. 3 striaght incompletions meant a 45 yard try for Dawson, and he hit it to make it 6-0 Browns with one minute left in the half.

Pittsburgh took over at their own 28 with all 3 timeouts. Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery for 11 and Hines Ward for 7 as the Steelers took a timeout with 37 seconds left. Roethlisberger went deep to Brown for a 40 yard gain to the Cleveland 14 and called another timeout with 30 seconds left. On 3rd and 10 Big Ben hit Brown for 13 down to the one as the Steelers took their last timeout with 11 seconds left. With 0 timeouts, a run was too big a risk. Roethlisberger threw incomplete twice, and on 3rd and goal at the one, only 4 seconds remained. Tomlin had seen enough, and took no chances. Suisham hit the 19 yard field goal as the Steelers trailed 6-3 at halftime. The second half was just as brutal.

Pittsburgh began the second half at their own 23. Redman gained 6 and 15 and Clay gained 5. On 3rd and 5 just shy of midfield, Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for 12. On 3rd and 5 from the Cleveland 34, Big Ben hit Brown and Mike Wallace for a pair of 11 yard gains. The drive stopped cold and Suisham hit a 29 yarder to tie the game 6-6 after the 13 play, 5 minute drive.

Cleveland took over at their own 34. On 3rd and 2 Wallace was intercepted by Troy Polamalu, as the Steelers began at the Cleveland 43. Roethlisberger hit Ward for 9, Redman ran for 10, and Big Ben found Brown for 11. Redman ran it in from 7 yards out as with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter the end zone was finally reached to put the Steelers up 13-6.  Cleveland took over at their own 23. Wallace hit Cribbs for 11 and again for 21. Wallace then ran for 20 to set up 1st and 10 at the Pittsburgh 24. A sack of Wallace led to 4th and 1 at the 31. Fritz Shurmur had Phil Dawson come in for a 49 yard field goal. He hit it, and with 2 minute left in the third quarter the Browns were only down by 4.

Both teams went 3 and out, and Pittsbugh had the ball just past midfield. Redman fumbled, and with 13 minutes left in regulation the Browns took over at the Pittsburgh 43. On 3rd and 10 Wallace hit Massaquoi for 11. Yet 3 more plays lost 2 yards, and at this point the snow was coming down hard. With 10 minutes left in regulation, Shurmur decided against the 52 yard field goal try on 4th and 12 from the 34. He played it safe and punted.

Pittsburgh took over at their 15, and a penalty moved them back to the 8. On 3rd and 9 Big Ben threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant 10 yards and a first down. On 3rd and 7 from the 29, Roethlisberger hit Cotchery for 10. Redman then ran for 22, but fumbled. Cleveland took over at their own 39 with 6 minutes to play. Wallace hit Cribbs for 10, but then threw 3 straight incompletions. From just shy of midfield, Shurmur again decided to punt and trust his defense.

With 5 minutes left, Pittsburgh began at their own 11. On 3rd and 3 Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for 11 yards and a critical first down. Clay carried for 2 and 6 as the Browns took their final timeout followed by the 2 minute warning. At the 2 minute warning, Pittsburgh faced 3rd and 2 at their own 37. A running play takes 45 seconds off the clock. Tomlin gambled with a pass and Bi Ben fired incomplete. The Steelers punted, and the Browns had one last shot from their own 24 with 0 timeouts and 1:46 to play. Wallace hit Moore for 9 and on 3rd and 1 hit Cribbs for 2 with 54 seconds left. Wallace hit Moore for 10 and Mitchell for 19 and then spiked the ball with 22 seconds left at the Pittsburgh 36. Wallace hit Moore for 12 and spiked it again with 5 seconds left. On the final play, Wallace threw incomplete and the Steelers had survived.

Cleveland has been fighting hard but falling short. Walrus Mike Holmgren has to decide if the team needs slight tweaking or whether he should do a complete overhaul. There is no quit in the Browns, which should be enough to give Shurmur a second season. Holmgren really would not want 3 coaches in 3 seasons. As for Pittsburgh, for the second year in a row they finished 12-4 and tied with Baltimore. Yet last year Pittsburgh held the tie-breaker. This year Baltimore swept the series and won today, so it will be Pittsburgh on the road with the # 5 seed. Their biggest problem will be getting healthy at quarterback and running back in a very short amount of time. 13-9 Steelers

San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders–For more on the game of the day, go to htpp://www.justblogbaby.com

The 7-8 Chargers are eliminated, and Norvelous Norv Turner may finally be fired. The Raiders have everything to play for at 8-7. If they win and Denver loses, the Raiders win the AFC West. Denver is also 8-7 and owns the tiebreaker. If both teams finish 9-7, the Raiders could still get in as a wildcard but would need several teams to lose. The return of Denarius Moore last week was key as a touchdown bomb to him was the difference. Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford are still out with foot injuries, although Ford is going to try and go. Hue Jackson will give the mother of all speeches about Al Davis for the biggest game for the Raiders since the 2002 season.

When the game started, McFadden was still out and Ford barely played, catching 2 passes for 19 yards. He was not returning kickoffs, rendering him a non-factor. Throughout the year, the Raiders offense has had long stretches of ineptitude, and an exhausted defense would be stretched to the limit trying to bail them out. Two weeks ago at home the defense gave up a 99 yard drive as a 13 point lead became a one point loss. Last week the defense was heroic in addition to blocking two field goals in a win. They needed help from the offense, and in this game the offense got plenty right.

San Diego began at their own 20, and were soon at their own 46. Philip Rivers went for it all, and was intercepted by Matt Giordano at the 5 yard line. Michael Bush was a machine early on, running for 9, 5, 5, 8, and 5. On 3rd and 1 from their 41, Palmer gained 2. A facemask added 15 more. From the San Diego 42, Louis Murphy took an end around 27 yards. Then an unsportsmanlike conduct play on the defense meant 1st and goal at the 7. More importantly, San Diego defender Barnes was ejected. He is the best pass rusher on the Chargers. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Carson Palmer hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for the touchdown. The Raiders led 7-0, had all the momentum, and the Chargers defense had lost their composure.

Then reality set in as the Chargers still had their explosive offense. Facing 3rd and 7 from their 22, Rivers hit Malcolm Floyd for 14. Mike Tolbert gained 8 and Rivers went back to Tolbert for 13 more. On 3rd and 9 from the Chargers 38, Rivers found Antonio Gates, who broke free for the long touchdown. It would be one of several nightmarish breakdowns for the Silver and Black on defense as the game was tied 7-7 after the opening quarter.

The Raiders took over at their 19 and on 3rd and 3 Palmer hit Ausberry for 10. yet on 3rd and 9 from their 37, a pass to Boss gained only 5. The Raiders punted and the Chargers took over at their 20 after a 58 yard Shane Lechler punt. Rivers made it look easy, hitting Gates for 37 yards. Brinkley gained 10 and Rivers hit Floyd for 16 to the Oakland 14. Defensive pass interference in the end zone on Stanford Routt set up a one yard Tolbert touchdown run as the Chargers led 14-7.

After a touchback, Palmer hit Heyward-Bey for 16. On 3rd and 8 from their 42, Palmer found Murphy for 19. On 3rd and 5 from the Chargers 34, Palmer threw incomplete. Sebastian Janikowski came in for a 52 yarder, and the Polish Cannon drilled it to get the Raiders within 14-10. Yet the ensuing kickoff was the key play of the game. Goodman took the kick 5 yards deep in the end zone and returned it 105 yards for a touchdown. The Chargers led 21-10, and the Raiders were in catchup mode the rest of the day. Every time they got it to a one score game, San Diego created breathing room.

After a touchback, the Raiders had 6 minutes left in the half. Palmer hit Marcel Reece for 22 and Heyward-Bey for 14 more. Bush gained 7 and Palmer hit Ford for 7 to set up 1st and 10 at the Chargers 29. Yet on 3rd and 7 Palmer threw incomplete. Seabass hit the 44 yarder as the Raiders trailed 21-13 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half. San Diego soon faced 3rd and 3 at their own 27, and it was the Raiders using timeouts in the hope of getting the ball back. Rivers hit Floyd for 4, Patrick Crayton for 23, and Mike Tolbert for 13 to the Oakland 33. 3 straight incompletions meant a 51 yard field goal try for Nick Novak. It was good and the Chargers led 24-13.

San Diego still left the Raiders 46 seconds to work with from their own 20. A pair of San Diego penalties kept the clock stopped, and Palmer hit Heyward-Bey for 23 yards and Michael Bush for 9 as the Raiders took their last timeout with 16 seconds left in the half. An incompletion left 11 seconds on the clock, and from the Chargers 38 it was a 55 yard field goal try. In an absolutely brain dead moment in a season of them for this entire team, Palmer hit Murphy for a 6 yard completion in the field of play. Murphy would have been better off dropping it, as the clock ran out before Palmer could spike it. Seabass never got his chance to get it back to a one score game as the Chargers led 24-13 at halftime.

The Raiders began the third quarter at their own 6 due to holding on the kickoff. The 2011 Raiders were now in the NFL record books for most penalty yardage and number of penalties in a season. Michael Bush gained 5, and on the next play Al Davis had to be smiling from up above. It was not Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch for 99 yards, but it was Carson Palmer to Denarius Moore for 78 yards. In one play the Raiders went from their 11 to the Chargers 11. Yet Moore was caught, and Al Davis would not be smiling when the team that all year has had problems finishing drives again could not finish. 3 plays netted 2 yards and a 27 yard Seabass field goal had the Raiders within 24-16.

Goodman did not take the ensuing kickoff to the house again, but 37 yards to the Chargers 34 had the Chargers moving again. On 3rd and 4 Rivers hit Gates for 9 and again for 17, and then hit Floyd for 18. Rivers went to Vincent Jackson for the 13 yard touchdown as the Chargers led 31-16 midway through the third quarter. The Raiders were moving the ball well, but they were kicking field goals while the Chargers were scoring touchdowns.

The Raiders soon faced 3rd and 1 from their 29, and Bush gained 6. On 3rd and 8 from their 37, Palmer fired incomplete but the defense jumped offsides. On 3rd and 3 Palmer hit Heyward-Bey for 6. Palmer then went deep to Murphy for 28 yards and Ford for 12 more. On 1st and 10 from the 12 Bush gained 5 but again the Raiders killed themselves as offensive holding meant 1st and 20 instead of 2nd and 5 at the 7. The Raiders got no further than the 9 and after a delay of game Janikowski hit the 32 yarder. His fourth field goal had the Raiders down 31-19 after three quarters after a 6 minute, 15 play, 71 yard drive again came up short.

The Raiders had not stopped Rivers all game, and Rivers moved them from their own 28. Rivers hit Jackson for 16, and on 3rd and 1 from the Oakland 46, Brinkley gained 12, 7 and, 1. On 3rd and 2 from the Oakland 26, RIvers threw incomplete. Norv Turner opted for the field goal, but this time from 44 Novak was no good. With 11 minutes left in the game and possibly the season, the Raiders had an opening.

From their 35, the Silver and Black struck quickly. Palmer found Heyward-Bey, who plucked a near interception out of the air across the middle and got to the sideline for a 39 yard gain. 2 plays later Palmer went to the end zone to Kevin Boss. Boss caught the 22 yard touchdown and then got belted. He stayed down injured and needed help getting off the field. He did not return. The Chargers were flagged for unnecessary roughness, meaning the kickoff would be from midfield. From that spot Seabass could belt it into the upper deck of the stands. Yet with 9 1/2 minutes left Hue Jackson had other ideas.

It was not an onsides kick, but Seabass kicked it short to a soft corner. It was a free ball near the goal line. This is when all chaos ensued. Goodman picked it up, fumbled it, went back into his own end zone, tried to get out of the end zone, fumbled it again, and saw the Raiders try to recover it for a 33-31 lead. The Chargers fell on it, but the Raiders celebrated a safety. That would make it 31-28 and the Raiders would have the free kick to take the lead. Yet after a lengthy officials conference, which is never good for the Raiders, it was ruled that Goodman barely got it out of the end zone and was down by contact before it came out again. There was no safety, and the Chargers would have it inside their own 1. If the Raiders could finally get a stop they would have excellent field position.

There would be no stop. This defense gave up the 99 yard drive 2 weeks ago, although it may have been closer to 98. This was closer to 100. The Raiders scored in 3 plays to make it a one score game, and the Chargers needed only 4 plays to get it back to 2 scores. For the Raider Nation it was sickening. First Rivers hit Floyd for 19. Offensive holding on the next play meant 1st and 20 from their 10. Tolbert got the carry, and awful tackling meant a 40 yard gain to midfield. Brinkley gained 7, and on the next play Rivers found Floyd, who broke through more awful tackles for a 43 yard touchdown. San Diego led by 12 with only 7 minutes left.

Brian McCann returned the kickoff 28 yards to the Oakland 24, and Palmer kept firing. He hit Moore for 15, Brandon Myers for 11 to midfield, and Heyward-Bey for 16. On 2nd and 10 from the San Diego 34, Palmer made his only mistake of the game, and it was not his fault. Ford ran the route wrong, and Palmer was intercepted by Cason, who returned it 5 yards to the Chargers 25.

Only 4 1/2 minutes remained, and the Raiders desperately needed to force a punt. Mike Scifres had not punted the entire game. The only times the Chargers were stopped were the early interception and the missed field goal. The Raiders took their final timeout and it all came down to 3rd and 7 from the San Diego 28. One stop was the only hope with 4 minutes left. Jackson took an end around 41 yards. Jacob Hester gained 5 and 4, and defensive offsides meant the final killer first down. On 4th and 12 from the Oakland 23 with 34 seconds left, RIvers took a knee rather than risk a field goal block and return. Palmer hit Murphy for 13 and 6 more as the clock ran out.

The Raiders entered this game knowing they could not be a wildcard. Yet the division was a possibility. With several minutes left in the game it was known that Denver had lost. The division was there for the taking. The Raiders had the AFC West Title, and collapsed when it counted most. Denver, San Diego, and Oakland all finished 8-8, with the Chiefs at 7-9. Denver won the tiebreaker and the division. The Raiders were out of the playoff with their 9th straight non-winning season since the 2002 season. It was one of the most crushing defeats in team history, as they could not ride the wave of emotion the Al Davis death gave them early on. They got to 7-4, but injuries and penalties killed them with a 1-4 finish.

A normally calm Hue Jackson was angry after the game in his press conference. He told the media that he lit into the team, and that he was going to make sure major changes take place next year. In a bold statement no other Raiders coach has ever been allowed to make, Jacksons aid that he was going to take a much stronger hand next year in every phase of the organization. That may not be his call since Owner Mark Davis and Executive Amy Trask have input. Yet Jackson is now the face of the organization, and he as of now has plenty of power.

This Raiders team is very similar to the 1999 team under Jon Gruden. That team went 8-8 for the second straight year after a 4-12 campaign in 1997, and nobody knew which direction the team would turn in. Yet they seemed to be improved, and in 2000 went 12-4. The Raiders have gone 8-8 in consecutive seasons, and this is Jackson’s first year. He is fiery and angry at his team, and that is a good thing. Yet next year the death of Al Davis will not have the same emotional pull. Fire and brimstone can only last so long without the wins to back it up. This 8-8 team seems better than last year and the trend seems positive. Yet a bitter defeat means an 8 month offseason of agony. The Raiders do not have a 1st round pick in the draft this year.

Questions are swirling around Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan in his second stint with the team. As for the Chargers, Norvelous Norv Turner got revenge against his former team. Philip Rivers does not want Turner fired. Ironically, despite the loss, neither do the Raiders. General Manager AJ Smith might also be gone. After the Chargers won 13 straight times and the Raiders won 3 straight, San Diego had the last laugh. Yet neither of these teams had the tiebreaker, and the first day of 2012 ended their season on a miserable New Years Day. Both quarterbacks threw one interception, but were magnificent otherwise. Rivers was 19 of 26 for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns. Palmer, who only joined this team out of retirement a few weeks ago, was 28 of 43 for a lights out 417 yards and 2 touchdowns. Heyward-Bey caught 9 passes for 130 yards and Moore had 101 yards on only 3 receptions. It was not enough. 38-26 Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos–The Chiefs at 6-9 are eliminated, but the players badly want to win one for interim coach Romeo Crennell. Former Denver quarterback Kyle Orton comes back to Denver wanting revenge against the team who cut him earlier this year. Denver at 8-7 won 6 straight but has lost 2 straight. Tim Tebow has been a sensation running, and his throwing is improving. If Denver wins, they win the AFC West and the # 4 seed. If they lose and the Raiders win, the Broncos are automatically out. They cannot be a wildcard. Whoever one roots for, most football fans would agree that by the time this game was done, one of the worst games in NFL history had been played.

After an exchange of punts, the Chiefs took over at their own 42. They made it to the Denver 26, where Ryan Succop missed a 44 yard field goal. Kansas City got it back at their own 10. From the 21, Kyle Orton hit Dwayne Bowe for 18. On 3rd and 1 from their 48, Thomas Jones got 2. Dexter McCluster ran for 10. On 3rd and 7 from the Denver 37, McCluster ran for 16 and then for the 21 yard touchdown at the end of the first quarter to complete the 13 play, 6 1/2 minute, 90 yard drive. The Chiefs led 7-0, concluding anything resembling an offensive highlight. The final three quarters should never be spoken about again.

Denver took over in the second quarter after a touchback and 6 minutes later the Broncos faced 3rd and 4 at the Chiefs 15. Tebow scrambled around and took off like he always does, but this time after a 2 yard gain he was hit and fumbled. The Chiefs recovered. With 2:07 left in the half the Broncos took over at their 26. With 36 seconds left in the half Denver faced 3rd and 9 at the Chiefs 39. Tebow threw incomplete, and Jon Fox did not want to go for it or try a 56 yard field goal with enough time on the clock for the Chiefs to capitalize if the gamble backfired. Denver punted again and trailed 7-0 at halftime.

In the third quarter Denver moved from their 20 to 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 48. Denver would have to punt on 4th and 16, and the Chiefs fumbled it. Denver recovered at the 20. On 3rd and 5, Tebow threw incomplete and another opportunity was wasted. After a delay of game, Matt Prater hit the 38 yard field goal as Denver was within 4 points midway through the third quarter. After several punts Denver took over at their own 19 with one minute left in the third quarter. They faced a critical 3rd and 6 at the Chiefs 36. This was one day where Tebow could not scramble anywhere. He was sacked for a 9 yard loss, pushing the Broncos out of field goal range.

A god punt had the Chiefs at their own 3 with 10 1 /2 minutes left. They punted and Denver began just past midfield with 8 1/2 minutes left. They gained only 6 yards and punted again. The Chiefs were stuck at their own 11 with 6 1/2 minutes left. The Ciefs punted and Denver got it back with 4 minutes left at their own 20. On 4th and 7 with 2 1/2 minutes left, Jon Fox decided to punt and trust his defense one more time. From the Kansas City 37, Romeo Crennel took no chances. Thomas Jones lost 2 and the Broncos burned their last timeout. Jones gained nothing but the clock hit the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and 12 Jones gained 8 as the clock wound down. A good punt had the Broncos at their own 16 with 0 timeouts and one minute. This was Tebow time, and the miracle 84 yard drive was a formality.

On 3rd and 10 Tebow hit Thomas for only 9 yards, which should have kept the clock running. Yet this version of the Tebow miracle was a very questionable roughing the passer called that added 15 yards and stopped the clock. From the Denver 40, this time another 3rd and 10 had Tebow hit Thomas again for only 8. This time there were no flags. With 19 seconds left, it came down to 4th and 2 from the Denver 48. Tebow scrambled all over the place, and with 2 defenders bearing down on him, threw a prayer in the air.. Yet this Hail Mary was caught by Carr, who plays defense for the Chiefs. The interception gave the Chiefs the win as Orton got his revenge despite only going 15 for 129 for 180 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The Chiefs made a strong case for keeping interim coach Romeo Crennel.

Yet despite losing 3 straight games, there was still one more post-game miracle in this Tebowmania season. Oakland also lost at home. Oakland, Denver, and San Diego all finished 8-8, with the Chiefs at 7-9. Denver owned the tie-breaker, and at 8-8 won the AFC West with a better record than Seattle won last year. Denver hosts a wildcard game and while they are expected to get blasted, anything is possible in the Tebow era. Tebow finished a disgusting 6 of 22 for 60 yards and 0 touchdowns with the one interception at the end. Yet the running quarterback only ran 6 times for 16 yards. He was awful. Kyle Orton was criticized for winning ugly, but Tebow wins even uglier. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl this way, and the Denver defense is their main hope. John Elway had an awful rookie season in 1983 as Denver went 9-7 and got shellacked in the wildcard round. By his second year he was a superstar. Tebow never lined up behind the guard instead of the center. 7-3 Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams–This is not why they play the games. No, it is not the 1990s, but it feels like it. The 49ers are 12-3 and the Rams are 2-13. If the Rams lose and Indianapolis wins, the Rams would have the top pick in the 2012 draft. If the 49ers win, they are the # 2 seed with a 1st round bye. The top seed is out of reach, but if the 49ers lose and New Orleans wins, the 49ers would stumble to the # 3 seed. Barring one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NFL, the 49ers will have the week off.

Alex Smith led the 49ers from their own 22 to a 4th and 4 at the Rams 30. David Akers last week set the single season record for most field goals in a season with 42. This means the 49ers win ugly. Anyway, Akers missed the 48 yard kick to keep the game scoreless. From the Rams 38, Kelly Clemens hit Brandon Lloyd for 24 yards. Stephen Jackson gained 7, 10, and 3. On 3rd and 7 from the 18, Clemens scrambled all the way for the touchdown as the Rams…yes the Rams…led 7-0.

The game turned on field position, and the Rams punted from their own 5. A short punt went only 38 yards, and Smith returned it 10 yards to the Rams 33. Smith hit Hunter for 11 and Michael Crabtree for 10. On 3rd and goal from the 8 Smith scrambled and got in to tie the game 7-7 as the first quarter was ending.

The second quarter began with the Rams facing 3rd and 3 at their own 39. Steve Sp[agnuolo went to the bag of tricks and decided to have Norwood throw a pass back to Clemend. It was intercepted, and the 49ers took over at the Rams 34. Two plays later Smith hit Crabtree for a 28 yard touchdown as the 49ers led 14-7. The Rams punted and the 49ers took over at their own 33. Smith hit Vernon Davis for a 44 yard gain down to the Rams 13. A sack ended the drive but Akers hit from 36 to make it 17-7 49ers. With 3 minutes left in the half the 49ers got it back at their own 44. Hunter gained 6 and 13, and Akers hit a 42 yard field goal to have the 49ers up 20-7 at intermission.

Six minutes into the third quarter had the Rams at their own 27. Clemens hit Kendricks for 22. On 3rd and 5 from the Frisco 46, Clemens hit Lloyd for 23. A sack ended the drive but Josh Brown kicked a 49 yard field goal to get the Rams within 20-10. San Francisco soon faced 3rd and 8 from their own 20. Smith hit Crabtree for 10, and a facemask added 15 more. Smith then went deep to Vernon Davis for 34 yards. On 4th and 7 from the 14, Jim Harbaugh called for a fake field goal. It worked perfectly as David Akers threw the touchdown pass to Crabtree to have the 49ers up 27-10 after three quarters.

The Rams took over at their own 25 and began the fourth quarter at their own 41 after Clemens hit Kendricks for 13. Clemens hit Alexander for 13 more and a 3rd time for another 11. 3 straight incompletions from the 30 meant a 48 yard Josh Brown field goal as the Rams were within 27-13.

The 49ers punted, and the Rams were backed up to their own one yard line. Clemens was intercepted, and the 49ers took over at the Rams 13. Hunter gained 4, lost a yard, and on 3rd and 7 gained 9. Dixon took it in from one yard out to make it 34-13 with 6 1/2 minutes left. One of the best teams was pounding one of the worst teams in a laugher. By the end of the game nobody would be laughing.

From the Rams 31, Clemens hit Lloyd for 7 and unnecessary roughness added 15 more. Clemens hit Alexander for 12, and on 3rd and 11 from the Frisco 36, Clemens went deep to Lloyd for the touchdown with 5 minutes remaining in the game. Unnecessary roughness against the 49ers meant the onsides kick would come from midfield. It worked to perfection and the Rams recovered at the Frisco 36. Clemens went deep to Lloyd again from the same spot, and this time defensive pass interference put the ball on the one. Williams took it in for the score. 2 touchdowns in 15 seconds had the Rams within 7.

San Francisco went 3 and out the Rams took over at their own 46 with 3 1/2 minutes to play with a chance to tie the game. On 3rd and 10 Clemens hit Gibson for 21 yards. After an incompletion, Clemens was sacked and things went very bad. Clemens was injured. With Sam Bradford already out, and a valiant comeback on the line, the Rams had to bring in 3rd stringer Brandstater on 3rd and 17 from the Frisco 40. Brandstater threw incomplete twice and the 49ers finally had the win. The Rams at 2-14 do not even have the top draft pick, and they face an uncertain offseason. The 49ers at 13-3 clinched the # 2 seed and the 1st round bye. 34-27 49ers

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals–Seattle began 2-6 and Arizona 1-6. Both teams fought to get to 7-7, but then lost heartbreakers last week. At 7-8, both teams are eliminated. Yet the desire to avoid a losing season actually led to a well played game. Tarvaris Jackson and John “Red” Skelton were evenly matched. Jackson was 21 of 35 for 222 yards and one touchdown. Skelton was 22 of 40 for 271 yards and one touchdown. Neither quarterback was spectacular and neither one made a mistake. So while this could have been the toilet bowl a few weeks ago, it was upgraded to the mediocrity bowl.

Seattle punted twice and Arizona once as the Cardinals took over at their own 19. On 3rd and 3 Skelton ran for 6. Larod Stephens-Howling raced for 39 yards. On 3rd and 5 from the Seattle 24, Skelton hit Todd Heap for 22. Taylor took it in from one yard out as the Cardinals led 7-0. Seattle soon faced 3rd and 2 from their 28. Leon Washington ran for 15. On 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 46, Jackson hit Danny Baldwin for 10. Seattle began the second quarter facing 3rd and 22 from their own 44. Jackson threw incomplete, but illegal use of hands kept the drive going. Washington ran for 8 and hit Golden Tate for 23. Yet on 3rd and 5 from the 15, Jackson was sacked to kill the drive. Stephen Hauschka hit from 43 to get the Seahawks within 7-3.

One play after a touchback, Skelton hit Houser for a 21 yard gain. Yet Houser fumbled and Wright picked it up at midfield and raced 30 yards. 1st and 10 from the 11 was followed by killer offensive penalties and 3rd and 26 from the 27. Jackson was the intercepted by Marshall, who returned it 49 yards to the Seattle 38. Seattle gained 3 yards and then lost 6 to be out of field goal range. After an exchange of punts, Patrick Peterson returned one 42 yards to set up Arizona at the Seattle 31. On 3rd and 6 from the 27, Skelton hit Roberts for 8, with a personal foul adding 10 more. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 8, an offensive personal foul killed the drive. Jay Feely hit the 41 yard field goal as the Cardinals led 10-3 at the half. The half would end with Jackson being hit and fumbling.

After an Arizona punt, Seattle began the third quarter at their own 26, with a personal foul giving them 15 more yards. From the Arizona 48, Leon Washington broke free and raced al the way for the touchdown to tie the game 10-10. After a touchback, Skelton decided to try and win the median bowl by going to the one truly exceptional player on the field, all world Larry Fitzgerald. Skelton hit Fitzgerald for 9, 22, and 13, and then went to Sherman for 11 more. On 3rd and 1 from the 13, Skelton hit Heap for the touchdown to make it 17-10 Cardinals.

Jackson moved Seattle from their own 20 to a 3rd and goal at the 6 in a 6 minute drive. Jackson threw incomplete, but Hauschka came in for a routine 24 yard field goal. It was blocked as the third quarter ended. Arizona soon faced 3rd and 9 from their 21 and Skelton hit Fitzgerald for a 41 yard gain, although unnecessary roughness took away 15 of it. On the next play Seattle gave the unnecessary roughness and the 15 yards back. Roberts would run for 8 and catch a pass for 5 but the drive stalled at the Seattle 25. Feely hit the 43 yarder as the Cardinals led 20-10 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Seattle went 3 and out and Arizona soon faced 2nd and 2 at their own 41. Skeltonw as intercepted by Sherman, who returned it 33 yards to the Arizona 12. Naturally Seattle wasted the opportunity as 3 plays netted one yard. Even offsides did not help enough as Hauschka this time hit the 26 yarder to have the Seahawks within 20-13 with 9 minutes left in the game. Arizona would punt, and Seattle took over at their 39. One play was all Jackson needed to hit Lockette on a 61 yard touchdown bomb to tie the game 20-20. With 8 minutes left, whoever wanted it least would lose. The rest of the fourth quarter was all punts. With all the meaningful exciting games on the day, this was one that did not need overtime. Yet that is what happened as 0-0 turned to 10-10 and ended regulation 20-20.

Seattle won the toss, and Leon Washington took a big gamble returning the opening overtime kickoff 7 yards deep in the end zone. Yet he returned it 47 yards to the Seattle 40. Seattle ran 3 plays and lost one yard. Arizona took over at their own 19. On 3rd and 3 Skelton went to Fitzgerald for 26 and again for a one handed 8 yard acrobatic grab. on 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 39, Stephens-Howling got stopped. A field goal would be 56 yards. Many coaches would punt, but with no playoffs at stake, Ken Whisenhunt decided to go for it. Skelton gained 2. He then hit Fitzgerald for 12, and Stephens-Howling gained 8 and 7. On 2nd and goal at the 10 with 6 minutes left in overtime, Feely came in for the 28 yard field goal as nobody wanted a tie game. Feely connected, and the Cardinals won. Arizona finished 8-8. Last year Seattle won the NFC Worst at 7-9, while this year it means being sent home without a playoff spot or a bowl game. Pete Carroll can at least know USC is not going to a bowl game either, thanks to him. 23-20 Cardinals, OT

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons–The Buccaneers have lost 9 straight to fall to 4-11. Atlanta at 9-6 has clinched the wildcard. They are the # 6 seed. If they win and Detroit loses, Atlanta moves to the # 5 seed, but Mike Smith may decide that is not important. Atlanta was blasted at New Orleans on Monday Night Football by 29 points, and may take their aggression out on a Bucs team as hapless as any Tampa team since the end of the orange creamsicle pants era.  Sometimes amazing upsets happen in the NFL. This was not that game, and not why they play the games.

After a touchback, Michael Turner began the blowout by running for 26 yards. On 3rd and 11 from their 45, Matt Ryan hit Roddy White for 23 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the 28, Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for 8. On 3rd and 1 from the 11, Turner ran for 2 and 8 more. Rodgers got the last yard as 12 plays and 7 minutes meant 80 yards and a 7-0 Falcons lead. Tampa Bay went 3 and out, and the Falcons took over at their own 47. Roughing the passer added 15 yards and Turner ran for 13. Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 17 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Falcons. One play from the Bucs 17 was enough for Freeman to get intercepted by Franks. One play from the Bucs 48 was enough time for Ryan to go deep to Jones for another touchdown and a 21-0 Falcons lead.

Tampa Bay fumbled at the end of the first quarter and the Falcons took over at the Tampa Bay 30. Ryan did not even have to raise his arm as Turner ran for 14, 3, 5, 1, 3, and then on 3rd and goal at the 1 got 0. Mike Smith decided to go for it, and on 4th and goal at the 1, Turner got in to make it 28-0 Falcons. Tampa Bay soon faced 3rd and 6 from their 24. Freeman was intercepted by Lofton, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-0 Falcons. The Bucs punted, and Atlanta took over at their own 14. Turner ran for 5, and on the next play ran for an 81 yard touchdown. The Falcons led 42-0 after only 1 1/2 quarters of football.

It is one thing to lose but it is another to quit. The Bucs ended with 10 straight losses, and the team clearly quit on Raheem Morris. The Glazers probably wanted to fire him at halftime, but he made it through the entire game. The Falcons moved up to the # 5 seed at 10-6, giving them a game at the Giants rather than having to go back to the Superdome where they got throttled by 29 points last week. Matt Ryan went 6 of 9 for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns in 23 minutes of football before Chris Redman came in and played the rest of the way. Michael Turner finished with 172 yards on only 17 carries.

Tampa Bay would get on the board in the second quarter with a 2 yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Briscoe. In the the third quarter the Bucs kicked a field goal, and Chris Redman showed why he is the backup and not the starter.  A 40 yard interception return by Mack meant another touchdown. Freeman hit Briscoe in the fourth quarter from 5 yards out. 24 unanswered points was more than halfway to the greatest comeback in NFL history. It didn’t happen. Atlanta tacked on a field goal to end the scoring. The Falcons were a mostly losing organization before Mike Smith arrived. Mike Smith has given the Falcons 4 straight winning seasons and consecutive playoff appearances and playoff trips in 3 of his 4 years. He is the only Falcons coach to do that despite being the poster child for average non-descript white guy monthly men’s magazine. 45-24 Falcons

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants is the Sunday night game. This is the NFC East Showdown. Both teams are 8-7. The victor wins the NFC East and is the # 4 seed. The loser is out. Both Tom Coughlin and Jason Garrett have come under heavy criticism this year, although neither coach is expected to be fired with a loss. Tony Romo banged his hand on a helmet last week, and the swelling could really hurt him. The Giants won a 37-34 thriller 3 weeks ago in Dallas, and now Dallas has to go at the Giants, not an easy task.

Dallas punted twice and the Giants once, as Big Blue took over at their own 4. On 3rd and 9, Eli Manning hit Pascoe for 12 and Ware for 8. On 3rd and 1, Manning hit Victor Cruz on a short pass. Last week Cruz turned that into a 99 yard touchdown, and this week it was a 74 yard score followed by his Salsa dance and a 7-0 Giants lead.

Dallas punted and the Giants fumbled it, and were lucky to retain possession at their own 32. Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for 18 to midfield. On 3rd and 8 Manning found Cruz for 14. Defensive pass interference added 14 more as the Giants began the second quarter at the Dallas 16. On 3rd and 4, Manning hit Cruz for 5. Ahmad Bradshaw ran for the 5 yrd score to make it 14-0 Giants.  With 4 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Giants took over at their 20. Manning hit Hynoski for 14. Bradshaw gained 3 and then ran for 29. Manning hit Beckum for 7 at the 2 minute warning. Manning hit Hynoski for and 12 and the Bradshaw for the 10 yard score with 1 minutes left in the half as the Giants steamrolled to a 21-0 lead. Tony Romo led Dallas from their 24 to the Giants 34, but Dan Bailey missed the 52 yarder as the half expired.

The Giants punted in the third quarter, and the Cowboys were pinned at their own 6. Romo hit Robinson for 12, Jason Witten for 19, and back to Robinson for 9 to midfield. On 3rd and 2 from the Giants 37, Morris gained 3. On the next play Romo went deep to Robinson for the 34 yard touchdown to get the Cowboys within 21-7 midway through the third quarter. The Giants went 3 and out, but Tony Romo was then intercepted. The Giants took over at the Dallas 44, but Manning threw incomplete on 3rd and 1. Tom Coughlin decided to go for it and on 4th and 1 Brandon Jacobs got stuffed. Dallas moved from their 36 to a 4th and 1 at the Giants 10 one minute into the fourth quarter. Jason Garrett decided to go for it and Romo got stopped.

The Giants went 3 and out and Dez Bryant returne dit 13 yards to the Giants 41, with unnecessary roughness putting the Cowboys at the Giants 26. Romo hit Bryant for 17 and Robinson for the 6 yard touchdown as the Cowboys were within 21-14 with only 10 minutes left in regulation in front of a suddenly nervous home crowd.

The Giants offense had been dormant in the second half, and soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 28. Manning went deep to Cruz for a 44 yard gain and then went back to Cruz for 20 more to set up 1st and goal at the 8. Manning was sacked for a 10 yard loss, and on 3rd and goal at the 18 Tom Coughlin wanted to make absolutely sure the Giants got something out of this drive. Manning ran for 8 yards, and Tynes hit the critical 28 yarder to have the Giants up 24-14 with 6 minutes left.

Dallas quickly went 3 and out, and on 4th and 13 from their 19 with 5 minutes left, Jason Garrett decided to punt. A shanked 26 yarder had the Giants starting at the Dallas 45. On 3rd and 5, Manning went to Nicks for a 36 yard gain and back to Nicks for the 4 yard touchdown. Rather than run down the clock, the Giants just turned out the lights. Romo critics will call for his scalp despite going 29 of 37 for 289 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception. Manning went 24 of 33 for 346, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The Cowboys fell to 8-8 while the 9-7 Giants won the NFC West. 31-14 Giants

The playoffs are now all set.

NFC: # 6 Detroit Lions (10-6) @ # 3 New Orleans Saints (13-3)

This game is Saturday, January 7th, at 8pm EST on NBC.

# 5 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) @ # 4 New York Giants (9-7)

This game is Sunday, January 8th, at 1pm EST on FOX.

# 1 Green Bay Packers (15-1) & # 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-3) are idle

AFC: # 6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) @ # 3 Houston Texans (10-6)

This game is Saturday, January 7th, at 4:30pm EST on NBC.

# 5 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) @ # 4 Denver Broncos (8-8)

This game is Sunday, January 8th, at 4:30pm EST on CBS.

# 1 New England Patriots (13-3) & # 2 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) are idle


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