Monday, December 4, 2006 Updated: December 7, 8:51 AM ET
Playoffs coming into focus
By DJ Gallo Page 2
Once December rolls around, each game on the NFL schedule is judged solely on how it impacts the race for the postseason. So let's take look at how this week's action affected the playoffs.
We're pretty sure Michael Jenkins and the Falcons receiving corps lead the NFL in passes defensed.
Falcons 24, Redskins 14
Michael Vick and the Falcons revived their fading playoff hopes with a tough road win against the Redskins. I think Atlanta can continue to improve if Jim Mora ever takes my advice and deploys his receivers as defensive backs. Just think how many balls those guys would bat out of the air. Atlanta's pass defense would become the league's best with Michael Jenkins, Roddy White and friends back there swatting everything to the ground with their paddle-like hands.
Bears 23, Vikings 13
Another horrendous performance by Rex Grossman 34 yards passing, three interceptions gives him five awful games out of his last seven. That's finally some consistency from him, and consistency is exactly what many have said Grossman needs for Chicago to win in the playoffs. So I can only assume that Bears fans are ecstatic about their starting quarterback right now.
Titans 20, Colts 17
Following Indianapolis' loss to Dallas two weeks ago, countless talking heads argued that losing was beneficial to the Colts' long-term success. So, following that logic, another loss should be doubly beneficial. Heck, if the Colts can lose all of their remaining games (and still make the postseason), they'll be absolutely unstoppable in the playoffs.
Saints 34, 49ers 10
New Orleans embarrassed San Francisco to maintain its lead in the NFC South, but the story here was the continuation of Reggie Bush's disappointing rookie year. Sure, he had four touchdowns. But they were from only 1, 8, 5 and 10 yards. Why couldn't he break any of them for yardages longer than that? I mean, come on a 1-yard touchdown? He could get only one measly yard on that play? Pathetic.
Steelers 20, Buccaneers 3
Winners of three of their past four games, the Steelers are primed to finish the regular season strongly just like last season when they got hot and rolled to a Super Bowl title. Only this season they're going to roll right out of the area in the draft where they can get a player who will really help them in 2007.
Texans 23, Raiders 14
Think this game, like the one above, has little bearing on the playoff race? Oh, man, how wrong you are. What is a playoff race without teams that serve as spoilers? Well, the Raiders boosted their spoiler résumé here by falling to 2-10 a record so bad they could really shock someone with a win in the last four weeks. The Texans? They stupidly improved to 4-8, making it less likely a good team will completely overlook them.
The ladies are positively defenseless against the charm of Bill Belichick.
Patriots 28, Lions 21
New England very nearly lost to the Detroit Lions. At home. But of course the Patriots are fine heading into the playoffs. It would be wrong to question them in any way. Anyone who looks past the Pats is simply falling into Bill Belichick's trap. Underestimate him at your own risk, but all you will see is a loss. And your wife in his arms.
Jets 38, Packers 10
The Jets kept their playoff hopes alive by moving to 7-5 with a resounding win over the Packers. Knocking off Brett Favre on a cold day at Lambeau Field has to be great for the confidence of a young Jets team, even though many of their players aren't old enough to remember when it was an accomplishment to beat Favre on a cold day at Lambeau Field.
Cardinals 34, Rams 20
St. Louis committed 126 yards in penalties and lost at home by two touchdowns to one of the league's worst teams to fall to 5-7. But on the bright side, losing allows the Rams to keep pace with many of the NFC's other "playoff-quality" teams.
Browns 31, Chiefs 28 (OT)
Kansas City dominated most of the game but let a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead slip away, despite knocking Cleveland starter Charlie Frye out of the game. Let that be a lesson to other teams with playoff hopes who play the Browns: Whatever you do, make sure Charlie Frye stays in the game. Do not tackle him, do not sack him, do not even rush him when he drops back to pass. Just sit back and wait for him to throw. Everything else will fall into place.
Chargers 24, Bills 21
The Chargers stayed in contention for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC by squeaking past an improving Bills team. Unfortunately, though, San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman returned from his steroid suspension yesterday, and in the past four weeks he has been transformed into a 138-pound asthmatic. Plus, the phantom supplement tainter could strike again at any time. So that could be a problem for the Chargers going forward.
Bengals 13, Ravens 7
Baltimore's offense, impressive this season only in that it's no longer quarterbacked by Kyle Boller, was very nearly shut out by the Bengals on Thursday night. That's right, the Bengals a team whose defense takes the field solely to stop the opponent from scoring long enough for Cincinnati's offense to get a quick drink of water and to allow Chris Henry a few minutes to consult with his attorneys. So six years after winning their Super Bowl, the Ravens better hope that defense still wins championships. And I mean defense and absolutely nothing else.
Jaguars 24, Dolphins 10
The inconsistent Jaguars dominated the Dolphins to stay in playoff contention at 7-5, while Miami fell to 5-7 and saw its playoff hopes take a fatal blow. Also taking a fatal blow was the growing hope among Dolphins fans that Joey Harrington is the "second coming." He's not. Well, I guess maybe he is to a degree. But unfortunately, it's just the second coming of Joey Harrington.
Cowboys 23, Giants 20
The Cowboys knocked off the Giants and put a stranglehold on first place in the NFC East even though Tony Romo didn't play particularly well. A few more ugly performances like that from Romo and not only will Dallas lose, but he'll find himself linked to Ashlee Simpson instead of Jessica Simpson.
Seahawks 23, Broncos 20
Seattle took down Jay Cutler and the Broncos Sunday night in Denver, and I think the Seahawks are now clearly the team to beat in the playoffs. How could they not be? They beat Jay Cutler. The Jay Cutler. The Jay Cutler who is already one of the greatest quarterbacks ever based on everything I read and heard about him over the past week. For instance, did you know that he throws the ball through windows? Well, he does. And I don't mean like when you or I threw a ball through a window when we were younger and had to replace it with our allowance money. Although he probably does that, too. I bet his neighbors don't even make him replace the window because they're simply honored to have their window broken by Jay Cutler, NFL quarterback extraordinaire.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN the Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" will be in stores soon.