What did we see in Week 15? We were reminded once again that it's hard to beat a team twice in one season. It was time for one of the longest ugly streaks in league history to come to an end. A backup player looked better than the starter. A team can be minutes away from a blowout win and fall apart. Week 15 was full of interesting storylines and it reminded all of us that NFL may stand for the National Fake-You-Out League.
Here are some observations from a crazy day:
1. Vick and Jackson
The last time a home team let a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter slip away was 1985, when the Eagles led the Vikings 23-0 and lost 28-23. Well, it happened again, but this time, as everyone knows, the Eagles were on the good end of the experience. Twenty-eight points in the fourth quarter by Philadelphia is a team record, but the more I watch Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, the more I think lots of records will fall in the City of Brotherly Love over the next few years.
Instead of joining the "witch hunt" directed at the Giants, I prefer to look at the dynamic duo in green. Vick withstood a tremendous amount of Giants pressure to win this game. He was sacked three times, hit 11 times, was just 6 of 10 for 33 yards in the first half and looked like he wasn't going to finish the game. But he came alive and rushed for 130 yards, threw for 242 yards and produced four touchdowns. He has to be in the conversation for MVP. The last three drives of the game for the Eagles accounted for 215 yards and Vick was part of every yard either as a runner or passer.
As for his sidekick, Jackson in his short career has been a Giant killer. In the last four games against the Giants, he has made four plays that combined for 251 yards and four touchdowns -- a 72-yard punt return, a 65-yard punt return, and touchdown receptions of 54 and 60 yards. This Eagles team may be tough to stop on its way to a Super Bowl, especially in an indoor stadium like Atlanta or New Orleans.
2. Shanahan's decision
When Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb last week, there was an outcry that an injustice had been done. Rex Grossman? No one in the offseason would think about spending money on guys like Grossman. No one really thought he was much more of a camp guy, someone who'd be good to have in practice because he has worked with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in the past.
Keep in mind, the Redskins gave away a second- and a fourth-round pick for McNabb and redid his contract not too long ago with a cool $3.5 million bonus. No one wanted the McNabb experiment to work more than Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen. Even though the Redskins lost to the Cowboys, they did get a four-touchdown performance from Grossman, which really has to make you stop and think that Shanahan knew what he was doing -- or at least was justified in "taking a look" at his other options with an eye on 2011.
3. Uglier than I thought
I never really wanted to see another division champion in the playoffs with an 8-8 record. We didn't really know how good we had it last year when all eight division winners had at least 10 wins. It wasn't too long into this season that it started looking as if an 8-8 champion would prevail in the NFC West. It is now clear that a 7-9 division champion is a possibility. The NFC West as a division is 6-24 on the road and all four teams still have one road game each. This is going to be embarrassing to the NFL if a teams such as Tampa Bay or Green Bay miss the playoffs with 10 wins.
4. Not much changed
The NFC playoff picture didn't change much this week because the teams in the No. 5 (New Orleans), No. 6 (N.Y. Giants), No. 7 (Tampa Bay), and No. 8 (Green Bay) slots all lost -- and that means all of them are still in the same spot heading into Week 16. The top four teams in the NFC playoff picture still remain Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, and -- believe it or not -- St. Louis.
5. Inexperience is costly
So many teams have inexperienced quarterbacks in the No. 2 slot and as soon as the starter goes down with an injury, things can get ugly. Matt Cassel missed last week after his appendectomy and the Chiefs' offense disappeared. He returned 11 days after surgery and led his team to a win. My advice to Kansas City: Get a better backup next season.
The Packers are on a two-game losing streak with Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. Matt Flynn played better Sunday night in New England, but looked lost at the end of the game. Teams with inexperienced backup signal callers are going to have to find ways to get these guys more playing time during the season. Looking back at the Packers' schedule, one has to wonder if it wouldn't have made sense to let Flynn see more game action during lopsided wins over Buffalo (34-7), Dallas (45-7), or San Francisco (34-16).
6. Revenge in the rematch
Heading into Week 15, I reminded all the followers of the NFL that sweeping a division opponent is very tough. I expected at least five of the eight rematch games to be won by the loser of the first game. With one rematch game left to play on Monday night, we already have five wins by the loser of the first game. Cincinnati, Dallas, Indianapolis, Buffalo and Tennessee all learned from their mistakes and pulled out series splits. Keep this trend in mind when the playoffs start and teams get another chance at a team that beat them earlier in the year. If the season ended today, both first-round NFC playoff games (Giants-Bears, Saints-Rams) would be rematches.