One thing we know for sure: The NFC playoff bracket will not feature a team with a losing record. (The New Orleans Saints can breathe a big sigh of relief.) The two wildcard teams each have 8 wins, and the 7-win East-leading Giants have to play the 7-win Cowboys in Week 17, which eliminates the only possiblity of back-to-back 7-9 playoff improbabilities.
That said, outside of the Giants' thrilling win, several other teams improved their stock after an overall down week for the conference in Week 13. Let's dive in.
Giants, Eagles won. Redskins, Cowboys lost.
Regular season games don't come much better, or end more embarrassingly, than the Giants' 37-34 triumph over Jason Garrett and his field goal kicker. While football psychics will point to the previous week's loss to Green Bay as the seed, Giants fans will point to this week's comeback win as the turning point of their season. That is, unless they choke.
But that's not something Giants fans can control. Andy Furman of UltimateNYG.com borrows pigskin philosophy from Bill Walsh while looking ahead.
The final score of a football game is decided, on average, according to the following percentages: 20 percent is due to luck, such as a referee's bad call, a tricky bounce of the ball, or some other happenstance. I accepted the fact that I couldn't control that 20 percent of each game. However, the rest of it- 80 percent- could be under my control with comprehensive planning and preparation.
Bill Walsh wasn't a genius. He just knew where to place his attention.
Meanwhile, it's possible that Andy Reid could get the Eagles to eight wins. I'm kind of rooting for it to happen, because it will make Philly fans even more outraged that they can't rage at their coach for having a losing season.
Falcons, Saints won. Panthers, Bucs lost.
Nobody's making much noise in the NFC South, unless you count the demolition trucks lining up outside One Bucs Place. This is a shame, because suddenly three of these teams are playing some very good football, including one that has been all but wiped off the national radar: the Atlanta Falcons. Their thrilling comeback win over the Carolina Panthers got swept under the rug of the rest of the NFL's action, because (1) Tim Tebow didn't play in that game, (2) Neither the Cowboys or Giants played in that game, and (3) TIM TEEEEEBOOOOOOOOOW!
Even those who get paid to cover the NFL, and actually do a fair job of it, acknowledged as much.
@JasonLaCanfora: Forgot to mention this sooner but Matt Ryan was pretty special in the second half. Huge comeback for ATL.
There was your lone major media mention of Ryan's game on Twitter. One tweet by a guy who works for the NFL.
Fortunately, 320 yards passing and four touchdowns, including two to Julio Jones in the fourth quarter, were enough to get Ryan named the NFC's offensive player of the week, at least. More importantly, the win launched Atlanta into the sixth playoff spot, ahead of the stumbling Chicago Bears. (Who lost to ...)
Packers, Lions won. Bears, Vikings lost.
Pity the Chicago Bears. This season, which looked brilliant, then awful, then surprisingly good again, has rapidly gone down the drain. And what's worse, there's no help on the way. Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber lurched around the field against the Denver Broncos, but did everything they could to build a small enough lead to enable yet another round of nationwide Tebowing.
You can say it's a statement on Donovan McNabb that the Bears haven't bothered to call him, but Devin Hester says there's a stronger reason why it wouldn't be a good idea:
“It’s going to be tough right now to pick up a quarterback that hasn’t played in the Mike Martz offense,” Hester said. “This is a difficult offense to run, so as far as a quarterback who hasn’t played in the offense, right now it’s going to be a waste of time.”
This is your best receiver talking, with a few weeks left and a real chance of grabbing a playoff spot. "Waste of time." (Mr. Martz, the Detroit Lions would like to send you something nice. Are you a whiskey or a bourbon man?)
Seahawks, Cardinals won. Rams, 49ers lost.
The 49ers already clinched, that's the old news. Here's the shocker of the week: both the Seahawks (with Tarvaris Jackson) and Cardinals (with John Skelton) are still alive in the playoff hunt. In fact, both could post winning records, if they win out. Skelton coming in in relief of Kevin Kolb makes for great copy ($30 million is good money for a backup QB), but Seattle's improbable rise is a more complex and impressive thing. Especially when you consider what they're working with at their core:
With RG John Moffitt, RT James Carpenter, and now LT Russell Okung all on injured reserve, the O-line currently consists of Paul McQuistan at LT, Robert Gallery at LG, Max Unger at C, Lemuel Jeanpierre at RG, and Breno Giacomini at RT.
McQuistan still has yet to make me anything more than nervous, but the solid play of Giacomini and Jeanpierre (the latter in limited snaps as an injury replacement) is a testament to the quality of the team's depth along the o-line, something that was sorely missing under Jim Mora and Tim Ruskell.