NFL Week 15: Losing is the new winning

Open the door for opportunity when it comes knocking. At least, that’s what smart people do. And there was lots of knock-knock-knocking on the playoff’s door this weekend. Alas, many teams heard the knockin’ but didn’t go in. And now that I’ve used up my knocking analogies, let me decode that for everyone.

The Broncos lost at home on Thursday to the Chargers. San Diego made the current AFC Super Bowl favorites look, well, human. Plus, its offensive juggernaut aside, Denver’s defense has some MAJOR issues. Anywho…. because the Broncos lost, and they held the overall number one seed in the AFC playoffs, that opened the door for second seed New England to move up to number one….

But the Patriots took on the feisty Dolphins in Miami, who were also fighting for a playoff spot. Since the Pats weren’t playing at home, the yellow flags weren’t flying in their favor (you know, like phantom pass interference calls at critical moments at the end of a game, obsolete tuck rules or those elusive extra downs…. hypothetically speaking, of course). A fourth down pass by Tom Brady with seconds remaining was picked off by a Miami defender in the endzone. Unfortunately, there were no New England receivers in the area, otherwise the refs would have certainly found something to flag the Dolphins for (nope, I’m not bitter, not me), so the Pats went down at the hands of their division rival. That means, with Denver and New England both losing, that opened the door for third-seed Cincinnati to move up into one of the first-round bye slots….

And the Steelers put the kibosh on any kind of Bengals win rather quickly, roughing up their division foe in an extremely physical game. Cincinnati is the Jeckyl and Hyde of the NFL – one week they look like world beaters, taking down the likes of playoff-bound Indianapolis, and the next week they look shell shocked, like they did in Pittsburgh Sunday night.

So as a result of all the losing, none of the seeds changed in the AFC. That’s right, zilcho. Not even Miami’s win moved them up to number 6, since Baltimore won and held on to the sixth and final playoff slot. That’s a whole lotta work for nothin’, right?

On the other side of the ocean in the NFC (I know the AFC and NFC aren’t divided by the sea, but doesn’t it feel like each is its own continent or something?), the battle for the North division got serious as Chicago, victorious over Cleveland, overtook the division lead and corresponding playoff seed that goes with it, while former division leader Detroit fell in Baltimore Monday night. It was a crushing loss for Detroit, causing many to question Matthew Stafford’s ability to lead the team to the Promised Land.

The Bears, on the other hand, welcomed back quarterback Jay Cutler, who didn’t look great, but did just enough to win. Chicago’s receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Of course, when you’re six and half feet tall and weigh over 200 pounds, you’re gonna be pretty hard to stop – especially given that many safeties tend to be a lot smaller. You could be all over these guys like a rat on cheese and they’d still be open.

Also this weekend:

– If 28 is old, then I’m a walking artifact.

A few days prior to the matchup against the Lions on Monday, Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam heaped all kinds of praise on Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, calling him athletic and unstoppable. Then he followed it up with this: “He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be.” Old. Megatron is 28. Wow, what a dinosaur. Elam is just a young whippersnapper, a fresh-out-of-the-box 22. After the Ravens won, Elam thought better of his statement, saying he “didn’t mean it that way.” Well, I’m no expert at reading between the lines, but even if I were, I don’t know if I’d be able to take “he’s pretty old” any other way than… he’s pretty old. Elam said he meant no disrespect and just wanted to win. Ah, those darn crazy kids! They think they know everything!

– This is why you don’t make promises you can’t keep.

A car dealership near Seattle ran a promotion promising 12 winners $35,000 each if the Seahawks shut out the Giants. Well, guess what happened on Sunday? Eli Manning showed up, threw 5 picks, took a bow and left the stadium with zero points.

Yup, that there’s a shut out. And now the dealer has to cough up $420,000. Luckily for the dealership, it won’t have to fork over all the money because it took out a $7,000 insurance policy. One of the dealer’s owners whined, “We’re a car dealership. We’re not used to doing something like this.” Then why did you offer the promotion in the first place? He even went on to say that they never expected they’d actually be giving away the money. Really? I could understand offering the promotion if you’re saying JACKSONVILLE needs to shut out another team, but Seattle’s defense is the cream of the NFL crop – their chances of shutting out a team seem significantly higher than average. Why risk it? Perhaps this is a case of band-wagon jumping gone horribly wrong.

– My one and only fantasy football rant this year starts now.

After losing my matchup last weekend, I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to contend with fantasy football playoffs. My team was crap. Auto draft handed me Trent Richardson and CJ Spiller as my two top running backs at the beginning of the year, and with Colin Kaepernick as my quarterback, it just went downhill from there. The only dependable player on my roster, week in and week out, was my kicker. A KICKER! Even with AJ Green, DeSean Jackson and Eric Decker at receiver, I seemed to always pick the wrong weeks to play these guys (like the week I sat Decker – after playing him two weeks straight, of course – when he scored 4 TDs). I was so over my team and my roster, but my own sister, my very own flesh and blood, burst my bubble when she informed me we have consolation playoffs in the league. Yes, I’m the league commissioner and set the whole thing up, but still was surprised by the consolation playoffs. Great. So now I get to participate in the Tournament of Losers. Tell me, how do you know if you’re the top loser? By beating all the other losers or by losing to all the other losers?

With two weeks remaining in the season, the simplified playoff situation plays out like this: in the AFC, Denver, Indy and KC have all clinched a playoff spot. New England (at Baltimore) clinches with a win, while Cincy (vs. Minnesota), Baltimore (vs. New England) and Miami (at Buffalo) can each clinch with a win plus help, depending on who wins and loses out of that threesome. Bubble teams San Diego (vs. Oakland) and Pittsburgh (at Green Bay) need wins and a lot of help.

In the NFC, only Seattle has clinched a playoff spot. New Orleans (at Carolina), Carolina and San Francisco (vs. Atlanta) can all clinch with a win. Philadelphia and Chicago face off on Sunday night in Philly, and both have the chance to clinch with a win plus help. Bubble teams Arizona (at Seattle), Green Bay (vs. Pittsburgh), Detroit (vs. the Giants) and Dallas (at Washington) need wins and a lot of help.

Also – don’t tune in to the NFL Network tonight – there’s no Thursday game this week. Well, of course you can feel free to tune in to the NFL Network and watch one of its analysis or top ten shows – I certainly can’t tell you what to do. It’s your cable bill. Anyway, use this opportunity to finish shopping, baking, wrapping, whatever it is you have to do to finalize your holiday prep. And if you somehow manage to finish up everything on your list in the course of the 3 hours it would take to play this game, you are a super hero. Please, come to my house and help me with my tasks! Um, but only if you’re not creepy.

Until next week, my friends, Merry Christmas and enjoy the games!