Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler were both injured late in their games Sunday. Thankfully, early signs point toward both men escaping serious damage. A healthy RG3 would spell trouble for a slumping Chicago Bears team.
We could wind up looking back at Washington Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins' two completions and two-point conversion against the Baltimore Ravens as the turning point in the NFC playoff race. The Redskins had only six points in their previous eight offensive drives, but the Cousins/Griffin combo platter put up eight points when it mattered most to force overtime. Cousins kept the Redskins alive, and now RG3 has three more weeks to finish the job.
The rise of the Redskins could result in a surprise NFC team like the Bears slipping right out of the playoffs. Seattle doesn't look ready to fall apart, but Chicago's slide threatens to continue next week against the Green Bay Packers. The Bears lost another four players to injury Sunday.
Even if Cutler is on the field, Chicago has a lot to be worried about.
So you're saying there's a chance
1. It was like watching the bizarro Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Their defense, pushed around all day, made all the key stops in the final 20 minutes of the game. Tony Romo made all the right decisions, and the offense managed the clock beautifully.
2. Adrian Peterson told SI.com's Peter King he's not going for 2,000 rushing yards. He's aiming for Eric Dickerson's all-time single season record of 2,105. After 154 yards against the Chicago Bears, anyone want to bet against him? (Peterson has to average 168 over the next three weeks. So it will be tough.)
4. The St. Louis Rams have a long way to go, but they have reached .500 after winning in the final minute in Buffalo. We're entering Week 15. This is notable.
5. The Cleveland Browns have not officially been eliminated from playoff contention at 5-8. They are 5-3 in the last eight games. Pat Shurmur is making himself harder to fire. It reminds me so much of when Cleveland won four straight games to save Eric Mangini's job after a front-office change.
6. I refused to stick a fork in the New York Jets after their embarrassing Thanksgiving Day game because I looked at their schedule and foresaw them winning a few games and reaching a week where people say: "Hey, the Jets aren't out of it."
That week has arrived. They are one game out of a wild-card spot.
1. Andy Dalton misses a few wide-open throws and makes a few bad decisions every week. The Bengals had so many chances to put the Cowboys away and they couldn't get it done. A few key drops from A.J. Green also hurt. This is a good Bengals team overall, but I still think Dalton gets in the way at times. So does Marvin Lewis' conservative "play not to lose" style.
2. The Steelers' stink bomb at home against the Chargers is hard to understand. That loss erased a chance to build a lead in the playoff race, but they remain in decent shape. Their game in Week 16 against the Bengals will probably decide the AFC's No. 6 seed.
3. Baltimore is such an uneven team. Their offense started out great, then stalled. Their defense did a lot of good things after an awful first quarter against RG3, but couldn't get a stop when it needed to at the end of the fourth quarter. They have an uphill battle to get a bye now.
They're real and spectacular
1. We haven't quite fully bought into the Indianapolis Colts because they do things like fall behind by 13 points in the second half at home against bad teams like the Tennessee Titans. But they always come back. Indy essentially made the playoffs with this win. It's been an incredible ride. I'm pumped to watch Andrew Luck in the playoffs.
2. Cam Newton has averaged over eight yards per attempt for four straight weeks. He has eight passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, 286 rushing yards, and no interceptions over that span. I believe in you, Cam! (Deion Sanders voice.)
3. So the Giants are either ready to go on a late-season run or they are in their usual second-half swoon. It all depends on what week you decide to write about them.
4. Pete Carroll certainly relished dropping a 50-burger on the division rival Arizona Cardinals, in a shutout to boot. I'd be a little worried about a letdown on the road next week in Buffalo, but the Seahawks sure seem to be peaking at the right time.
5. The Green Bay Packers are rounding into form with so many of their stars on the shelf. Despite all the injuries, they still have a realistic chance to get a bye in the NFC playoffs. When the Packers fell behind 14-0, did anyone watching the game doubt they would climb back in it, much less win going away?
I have been hard on the Atlanta Falcons all season. They don't play or look like a true No. 1 seed. Sunday's convincing loss in Carolina was overdue, but let's not get carried away. It happens. I'm more interested to see how Atlanta responds next week against the Giants.
Some panic is acceptable
1. Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey was absolutely grilled after the team's loss to the St. Louis Rams for not using C.J. Spiller, his poor game management skills, and the team's lack of fight. It feels like the end is near.
2. Tampa Bay's playoff hopes are all but cooked after their home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa is competitive enough to play almost any team tight, but this is what happens when you let every game come down to the final two minutes.
3. The New Orleans Saints tricked us all when they got to 5-5, but they struggled in big spots all year. They have faced seven teams currently with a winning record, going 1-6 in those games. It wasn't all about the defense during this latest three-game slide.@greggrosenthal.