Week 14 in the NFL was wild. It contained 104 touchdowns, snowstorms, last-minute lead changes, scary injuries to mega-stars and two NFC games that could end up deciding division titles.
LeSean McCoy ran wild for 217 yards and two touchdowns. He extended his league-leading rushing total to 1,305 yards.
Before the season I asked Emmitt Smith who he thought the best all-around running back in the league was. His response: McCoy. You can’t argue with that.
Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns in what was, I think, four-degree weather in Denver. Manning has now thrown 45 touchdowns this year. He will break Tom Brady’s single-season record of 50 touchdown passes as long as he throws at least two touchdowns in each of his remaining games.
Talk about a foregone conclusion.
Speaking of historic passers, on Sunday night Drew Brees became only the fifth player in NFL history to throw for over 50,000 yards. He’s on pace to break Brett Favre’s all-time mark (71,838 yards) in five years. Brees would be 38 then, whereas Favre was 41 when he stopped playing.
Looking ahead to Week 15, it seems like a bit of a letdown. There aren’t as many compelling games as there was last week. There are a lot of teams playing other teams they’re unfamiliar with.
However this is the time of year when playoff positioning becomes clearer and separation occurs.
So let’s get to it. Here are my top five teams of Week 15.
1. Broncos (11-2)
If you don’t know by now how dominant the Broncos are, you’re either a hater or you haven’t been watching. Many say (not me) that Peyton Manning is the best quarterback of all-time. The scary thing is that at his oldest, he’s playing his best. They’ve also developed quite a running game, so good luck trying to hold them under their average of 40 points per game.
2. Seahawks (11-2)
The loss at San Francisco was more than just a hiccup, but it wasn’t more than a loss to a really good team. Seattle still holds the inside track to the top seed in the NFC. Having to win a playoff game in Seattle is about as easy as doing your taxes.
They’re going to be just fine.
3. Saints (10-3)
The Saints put up 31 points against the Panthers on Sunday night, which was the highest point total the Panthers have allowed this season. In fact, Carolina has surrendered more than 20 points in only three of their 13 games this year, so you know New Orleans is for real.
The key for the Saints will be their Week 16 match-up at Carolina, which if won by New Orleans would likely yield them the NFC South crown as well as a first-round bye.
They’re on the verge of making a serious run to the Super Bowl.
4. Patriots (10-3)
Losing Rob Gronkowski (again) is a major setback. But who are we kidding? As long as Tom Brady is New England’s quarterback and he has decent pass protection, the Patriots are always going to be near the top.
Unfortunately for the Patriots they rank 21st in pass protection and have allowed 36 sacks this year. With upcoming games against Miami (Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon), Baltimore (Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil) and Buffalo (Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus), the Patriots will need to fix their pass protection errors in a hurry.
5. Eagles (8-5)
For the record I think Nick Foles is a flash in the pan, but I think Philly has as many athletes and competitors on offense as anyone in the NFC.
If they can at least play even with most teams and utilize their incredible running game, they’re going to be a very tough out.
Another decisive edge the Eagles have over their opponents is their 6th-best turnover differential (+9). Getting turnovers is usually the No. 1 key to winning games, especially in the playoffs.
Game of the week: Bengals (9-4, 2-2) at Steelers (5-8, 2-2), Sunday December 15 at 8:30 P.M. on NBC. If the Steelers lose this game, they will be eliminated from playoff contention. It will be the first time in 14 years that they have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
Ravens playoff position: The Ravens are currently the 6th seed in the AFC. If the Ravens win their remaining three games and the Bengals also lose at Pittsburgh or versus Minnesota, Baltimore would claim the AFC North title.
Baltimore’s remaining games are all against teams that are currently leading their divisions (at Detroit, New England and Cincinnati). Those teams have a combined .667 winning percentage (26-13).