|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
Seven weeks into the season, and there’s still no shortage of dramatic games. The Patriots barely avoided another upset. So did the Giants, for that matter. Houston took command of the AFC. San Francisco took over their division. The Wildcard situation, tight as it is, makes for a constantly shifting group of teams. With everything as volatile as its ever been, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Tuesday, October 23:
A bye week kept the Falcons undefeated, but they’re still very talented. With their ability to win close games, Atlanta will be a force against many teams.
What more needs to be said about Chicago? Their defense is by far the best in the NFL, and their offense is great as well. One could easily count the Bears among the Super Bowl favorites.
No doubt the Packers will be looking for revenge after the Giants eliminated them last season in the divisional round, but Green Bay is a lot worse this year. The G-Men have the best offense in the NFC, and Green Bay isn’t exactly known for defense. We’ve been seeing across the league this season that elite offenses no longer make up for porous defenses as they have in previous years.
Similarly, San Francisco will be looking for revenge after losing in Minnesota set them back earlier this season. Not only do they have the defense that can get after a young quarterback in Christian Ponder, but their offense, not exactly known to be powerful in the Alex Smith era, has picked up enough this season to keep up with Minnesota’s.
In hosting Baltimore, Houston really asserted themselves in the AFC. Putting up 43 points and surrendering just 13 against a team like Baltimore will do that. Certainly, Houston established themselves as the top contender from the AFC.
Speaking of Baltimore, the holes in their defense sans Ray Lewis showed themselves. Baltimore still has plenty of talent, but a blueprint like the kind Houston created really makes it difficult on a team following a tough loss like that.
The Dolphins moved up during their bye because the teams ahead of them lost, and they have a good enough conference record to hold #6. The Patriots again showed a drastic inability to close out games, which will cost them in the playoffs. Still, Tom Brady and the offense will be able to torch any defense at any time, something even the pretty good Miami defense must watch out for. And Miami’s relatively low profile rookie quarterback has only been the top passer once, and still had trouble putting up enough points against the Cardinals (24-21 loss). New England has the edge for now, but it only gets more interesting for them from there.
Both teams had their bye week after Denver scored 35 straight to get the win in San Diego. Considering San Diego blew a 24-point lead at halftime, that makes it even more impossible to bet against Peyton Manning at home.
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFL Playoffs, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers