Judgements: When a victory feels more like a loss
When is a win not a win? When you’re the New York Jets and hoping to land Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with the first pick of the 2015 draft. By beating Tennessee, the Jets all but guaranteed they don’t draft first. In fact, if the season were to end today, Tampa Bay (2-12) would … leaving the Jets to enjoy more of those “Pro Bowl flashes” from Geno Smith.
2. That was an impressive win by Dallas, now 7-0 on the road. But now comes the hard part: Indianapolis ... at home. The Cowboys are 3-4 there; the Colts are 4-2 away from home. Plus, this isn't Mark Sanchez the Cowboys must solve. It's Andrew Luck, with a league-leading 4,492 yards passing.
3. Just a hunch, but the gap between Aaron Rodgers and DeMarco Murray for league MVP just got a little tighter.
4. Nope, I don’t worry about Green Bay, even after that stinker. The Packers finish with Detroit, and, OK, so the Lions beat them earlier this season. That was in Detroit. This one’s in Green Bay where the Packers don’t lose. Green Bay wins the NFC North; Detroit is a wild card.
5. Here’s the problem for Green Bay: Seattle. The Seahawks are surging and won’t lose again (they play at Arizona next weekend, vs. a third-string QB). Better yet, they’ll win the NFC West (see Arizona again) and gain home-field advantage for the playoffs. And that’s an issue for a Packers’ team that’s 3-4 on the road and been outscored 182-148 there, including a 36-16 blowout in Seattle.
6. Looks like Johnny Manziel’s teammates were right. The guy is “a nightmare,” and let’s just leave it at that.
7. Hello, personnel? Jimmy Haslam’s on the phone, and he has a draft question. He wants to know what Stephen Jones knew about Johnny Football that we didn’t.
8. There should be no apologies from anyone with the 49ers after their latest loss, eliminating them from the playoff picture. The team played hard for Jim Harbaugh. OK, so that's the first time it dropped its third straight under Harbaugh. Big deal. It fought to the finish. It lost because Seattle is better. Period.
9. Congratulations to the Buffalo Bills. They’re the best team in the NFC North. Honest. That’s what happens when you go 4-0 against the division.
10. For those wondering what happens when Nick Foles is ready to return to quarterback, listen to the fans at the end of Sunday's Eagles-Dallas game. That should tell you.
11. Sorry, but I'm still not convinced Peyton Manning isn’t right … and I’m not talking about his thigh or “flu-like symptoms.” He has three touchdown passes the past three weeks, for crying out loud, and he’s throwing more changeups than fast balls.
12. I’ll say it again: I’m not buying Indianapolis as a Super Bowl threat. When you’re taken to the mat … at home, no less … by an opponent that hasn’t won there and rolls out a third-string quarterback, you’re not a threat.
13. All San Diego had to do to reach the playoffs was win two of its last four. Now, it must win its last two ... period ... and do it on the road. At San Francisco. And at Kansas City. Why do the Bolts always make it tough on themselves?
14. Joe Philbin, your seat is getting warm.
15. Jake Locker is hurt? I can’t believe it.
16. If referee Jeff Triplette makes that call on RG3 in Washington, he doesn’t get out of the parking lot without an armed escort.
17. Yes, that's Carolina on top of the NFC South, and thank you, Derek Anderson. He's responsible for two of the Panthers' five wins -- both vs. Tampa Bay.
18. Maybe Mike Tomlin should get a playoff cut from New England. Since leaving Pittsburgh, running back LaGarrette Blount has 11 touchdowns in his last eight games with the Pats (including the playoffs).
19. Let’s make this simple. Washington must either change systems or change quarterbacks. RG3 cannot play in Jay Gruden’s offense.
20. Let's just say Missouri showed the Oakland Raiders. Final score: Missouri (St. Louis, Kansas City) 83, Oakland 13.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME SIZZLES
1. Buffalo LB Mario Williams. He blocks a field goal. He sacks the quarterback. He forces the fumble that results in a game-clinching safety., In short, he does it all.
2. Seattle QB Russell Wilson. With an NFL-record 34 victories and 21 home victories in his first three years at quarterback, why doesn't he get more recognition? I keep hearing about Andrew Luck, and I understand. The guy's terrific. But so is Wilson. Plus, he's won a Super Bowl.
3. Dallas WR Dez Bryant. Yeah, he's a diva, but look what he did in the biggest game of the season: Score three times and turn Bradley Fletcher into a turnstile. This is one guy who's worth the trouble.
4. Pittsburgh CB William Gay. Now you know why they call him "Big-play Willie Gay." His three interception returns for touchdowns this season are a Steelers’ record.
5. Detroit S Glover Quin. He makes his third interception in three weeks, and at just the right time. His first-half pickoff and 564-yard return work up Detroit and led the Lions to their first touchdown.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME FIZZLES
1. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. His passer rating of 34.3 not only was the lowest of his season; it was the lowest of his career. OK, so there were seven drops by his receivers – including a potential 94-yard TD by Jordy Nelson – but Rodgers did something he has not this season. He flat-out stunk.
2. Washington WR Santana Moss. I didn’t like Jeff Triplette’s call, either, but you never win by going postal on officials. Moss should’ve been tossed. And he’ll get fined, too.
3. San Diego QB Phillip Rivers. He’s one of the best closers in the game … except not this year he’s not. He produced one offensive touchdown last week and one more Sunday. Worse, he threw two fourth-quarter interceptions when the Chargers absolutely, positively had to make plays.
4. Philadelphia CB Bradley Fletcher. When he went to sleep Monday morning, my guess is that in his dreams he was still looking at the back of Dez Bryant.
5. Tennessee DT Jerrell Casey. How does he not get tossed for punching Geno Smith?
WHAT WOULD LOMBARDI DO?
You’re up by 9. Your star quarterback has gone to the locker room with … well, something. You have the ball at your 26 with a minute-and-a-half left, and your opponent has one timeout. So W.W. L. D.? Easy. Run out the clock and get into the locker room with a 9-0 lead. Apparently, John Fox missed that class when it was in session. He had Brock Osweiler – yes, Brock Osweiler – throw twice (once incomplete, then a grounding penalty) before handing the ball to C.J. Anderson for little gain. But that’s not the best part: Anderson runs out of bounds, sparing the Chargers their only timeout. You can’t make this stuff up. Bottom line: San Diego returns to produce a field goal, and what should have been a 9-0 lead becomes 9-3.
ON THE HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
Denver WR Demaryius Thomas. With Peyton Manning hurting and Ryan Clady sidelined, he still managed to produce his eighth 100-yard game ... and score on Manning's only TD pass.
New England QB Tom Brady. It wasn’t his passing that was impressive. It was his running. Yes, his running. A 17-yard first-down scramble in the third quarter not only woke up the Patriots; it marked the turning point in a quarter where New England produced 24 points.
Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The former Detroit head coach has NFC North quarterbacks figured out. In four games against Schwartz this season, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matt Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater completed 56.7 percent of their passes, with four touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 64.63. Better yet, his defense stoned Peyton Manning and Rodgers the past two weeks, holding them to zero touchdowns and four interceptions.
Dallas QB Tony Romo. Give the guy credit. He's stunk in must-win situations in the past. But he didn't stink Sunday. In fact, he was marvelous -- never better than when drove the Cowboys for a huge touchdown after Philadelphia had taken a 24-21 third-quarter lead. For the record, Romo has 18 TDs and one interception on the road this season ... the most compelling reason why Dallas is unbeaten there.
Buffalo S Baccari Rambo. He didn’t even start, entering the game for the injured Duke Williams, but look what he did once he got in: Intercepted Aaron Rodgers twice. Rodgers had three the previous 13 games.
THIS WEEK’S HALL OF FAME NOMINEE
N.Y. Giants WR Odell Beckham. In 10 games, he sets a Giants’ yardage record for rookies. There is no one … NO ONE … in this guy’s stratosphere right now.
THIS WEEK’S HALL OF FAME QUOTE
"It would have sucked if we lost." -- Baltimore LB Terrell Suggs on the Ravens' defeat of Jacksonville.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
0 – 6 – Green Bay in Buffalo
3 – T.J. Graham recoveries of fumbled punt returns in last five games
7 – Games with multiple Buffalo interceptions, most in the league
8 – Baltimore sacks of Blake Bortles
9 – Blocked punts returned for touchdowns this season
12 – Straight wins within the division for Indianapolis
12 -- Consecutive road divisional wins for Denver
24 – New England third-quarter points, a franchise record
27.3 – Johnny Manziel passer rating
1971 – The last time Buffalo had a kickoff return for a touchdown and a safety
2009 – Last time Cleveland was blanked.