The Schein Nine

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Aaron Rodgers flummoxed, Johnny Manziel inept in wild week

When we look back on the 2014 NFL season, Week 15 will serve as the perfect snapshot of a wild, wacky, wonderful campaign.

There were many head-scratching moments, a bevy of hard-to-fathom results. A week that proves, in this league, reality truly is stranger than fiction. It's Monday morning and I still can't believe everything that went down.

With that in mind, here are the storylines that left me with a wry grin, uttering five familiar words when it comes to the National Football League: You can't make this up.

1) The Bills extinguish the red-hot Packers

You could, theoretically, wrap your brain around the idea that the single best front seven in the NFL would frustrate Aaron Rodgers. But you would've expected the league's best QB -- and, arguably, best team -- to find a way to win. Not quite. Buffalo earned a huge 21-13 victory.

Rodgers finished an unfathomable 17-for-42 for 185 yards and zero touchdowns -- and he nearly doubled his 2014 interception total by throwing a pair of picks to some backup defensive back named Bacarri Rambo. Really. Bacarri Rambo was a thorn in the Packers' side. Rodgers was off all game, in uncharacteristic fashion. He deserves blame. But how about the plethora of drops by his receivers? Jordy Nelson failed to come up with what should've been a sure-fire 94-yard touchdown that would've given Green Bay the lead late in the third quarter.

Of course, the Bills deserve all the credit in the world for shutting down an offense that averaged 40.2 points per contest over a five-game winning streak. Mario Williams put an exclamation point on the thunderous Buffalo win when he plowed through the Green Bay offensive line and forced a fumble into the end zone, resulting in a dagger of a safety. The Bills are legit, and Doug Marrone has done a fantastic job this year. Imagine if they had a quarterback ...

Meanwhile, Green Bay -- a team many thought had established itself as a true juggernaut in the NFC -- now sits in second place in the NFC North, thanks to a divisional bout that took place a few hundred miles west of Buffalo ...

2) Detroit survives Minnesota, taking advantage of Viking mistakes

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer might smash the projector while watching film of this 16-14 loss in Detroit.

Where shall we start?

Blair Walsh missed a field-goal attempt on Minnesota's opening drive. OK, it was a 53-yarder -- not unforgivable. Unfortunately, three quarters later, Walsh had a *26-yarder* blocked. (Remember, Minnesota lost by two points ...)

On the Vikings' next possession after the blocked field goal, Cordarrelle Patterson provided an electrifying 51-yard kickoff return, putting Minnesota at midfield with under four minutes remaining and Detroit clinging to a two-point lead. On the ensuing play, Vladimir Ducasse was called for holding, dropping the Vikings 10 yards back -- and the drive immediately fizzled.

Then, in the Vikes' desperation drive with under a minute remaining, they took their sweet time. Teddy Bridgewater was guilty of committing a crucial delay-of-game penalty, and Walsh ended up missing a would-be game-winner from 68 yards away.

The Lions were flat. Matthew Stafford was stuck in the mud. Detroit was ripe to be knocked off. Credit the defense for making plays and showcasing its toughness.

But Minnesota flat-out blew it. Having a chip-shot field-goal attempt blocked, committing inexplicable penalties -- no, you can't make that up.

3) Johnny Inept

So much for the Johnny Football spark in Cleveland.

With Brian Hoyer having thrown seven interceptions (against zero touchdown passes) in his past three starts, the Browns made a highly anticipated switch at quarterback. The hope was that Johnny Manziel would provide a boost, bringing some of the sizzle he routinely displayed on the collegiate level.

Instead, the rookie was served a big fat helping of humble pie in a 30-0 beatdown by the Cincinnati Bengals. Manziel looked completely out of whack, managing a grand total of just 80 yards passing. The Bengals, sick of Manziel mania, stoned the neophyte in his first NFL start, causing him to throw twougly interceptions.

I thought Cleveland would win. I thought Manziel would make a play or two. Instead, he was worse than Hoyer. Certainly didn't see that coming.

4) The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is done as we know it

The San Francisco 49ers, who made each of the past three NFC title games, have officially been eliminated from postseason play. Surprising -- and relatively sad.

San Francisco went out with a whimper in Seattle, which means we won't get to see another playoff installment of Niners-'Hawks, which had become my personal favorite en vogue rivalry, one built on pure hatred. The players, coaches, organizations and fans all loathed each other. And the animosity was always fueled by the highly successful and highly cantankerous Jim Harbaugh. Of course, Harbaugh's divisive personality is apparently what will lead to his divorce with the Niners.

Harbaugh has been so successful in San Francisco, and his games against Pete Carroll's Seahawks have been epic. The offseason back-and-forth always added to the fun. But as a highly disappointing season winds down in San Francisco, I don't need a tweet from Trent Baalke's daughter to tell me that it's almost certainly over.

Maybe the Niners can bounce back, but this rivalry will never be the same. That bums me out. It just happened so abruptly.

5) Having said that ... This chapter of the rivalry was marred by a bad call

The roughing-the-passer call on Nick Moody was wretched and game-changing. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were rightly incredulous in the broadcast booth. Rules expert Mike Pereira couldn't believe it. The errant call came after a third-and-5 incompletion at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass to Paul Richardson. If Moody hadn't been flagged for simply playing football, the drive would've resulted in a field goal. Instead, the Seahawks got seven points and a crucial two-possession lead.

On Monday morning, NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino told "NFL AM" the obvious: The 49ers got hosed.

"Moody's head is up, he hits with more of the side and the facemask to the body of the quarterback, and in our review, with the ability to look at it in slow motion, it's not a foul," Blandino said.

Harbaugh's last stand tainted by overprotection of the position he spent 14 NFL seasons playing -- that's some kind of poetic injustice.

6) Dallas returns the favor in Philadelphia

At the 11:42 mark of the second quarter in Philly on Sunday night, Mark Sanchez threw a 5-yard pass. This was pretty significant, as it brought the Eagles' offensive output for the game back up to zero yards. The Cowboys, meanwhile, already had 21 points.

You can't make that up.

Just two weeks after the Eagles stormed into Dallas and embarrassed the home team on Thanksgiving Day, the 'Boys went into Philly and secured a 38-27 win to reclaim first place in the NFC East. Philly, which botched the opening kickoff in mind-numbing fashion, came roaring back to take a 24-21 lead midway through the third quarter, but Dallas showed off its 2014 toughness -- a resiliency that's been omnipresent all season long. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and the rest of the 'Boys never flinched, just like when they overcame adversity in prior wins over the Rams, Texans, Seahawksand Giants.

There's a reason we keep saying Mark Sanchez will hold Philly back. He's not a good, accurate, reliable quarterback. And if you believed those shilling for him, well, that's on you. You had to see this coming.

7) Carolina, despite logging a six-game skid, could repeat in NFC South

Still can't believe I'm typing that sentence. After last season's 12-4 breakthrough, the Panthers have significantly underachieved. I mean, they went eight weeks without winning a game. Yet, after sneaking past the two-win Bucs, 19-17, here they are, right in the thick of the division race. In fact, if the Saints lose Monday night in Chicago, the Panthers will be alone in first place, with full control of their playoff destiny. Seriously, I shudder as I write this.

In related wacky news, Derek Anderson is 2-0 as a starter in 2014 (both wins coming against Tampa Bay). With Cam Newton sidelined after a scary car accident, Anderson rocked steady with 277 passing yards and a touchdown. At one point in the first quarter, Anderson capped off an 8-yard first-down scamper with a signature Cam celebration. No, I wasn't prepared for those fleet feet.

8) The top seed in the NFC is quarterbacked by ... Ryan Lindley?

Lindley once participated in the single worst display of quarterbacking I've ever seen in an NFL game. In early December of 2012, Lindley and the Cards went 0-for-15 on third down as Arizona lost to the Jets, 7-6, in a game where Mark Sanchez was benched for Greg McElroy, who is now out of the league.

Ah, memories.

Yet, there was Lindley, cut by 'Zona in the preseason, making key throws to put the Cardinals in field-goal range and help beat the Rams on Thursday night. This is wild!

Carson Palmer is done for the year. Drew Stanton sprained his knee on Thursday and could miss the rest of the regular season, setting the stage for Lindley.

But then again, there's a reason the Cardinals are 11-3. They have the best general manager-coach combination in the NFL with Steve Keim and Bruce Arians. They have dealt with major injuries and adversity all year. Nothing fazes them. Their depth, confidence and toughness cannot be overstated.

And all of that will be tested yet again this coming Sunday night, as the Seahawks visit the desert with the No. 1 seed on the line. And even knowing Lindley will be under center, we shouldn't underestimate these Cards, who've seemingly cornered the market on "You can't make this up" in 2014.

9) Jets lose -- by winning

Jets-Titans was the single best worst game ever. The teams were so bad, so inept, it was all rather entertaining. From muffed kicks to drops, from wretched quarterback play (a Charlie Whitehurst sighting!) to wild end-of-game laterals, this game had it all -- including a brawl.

And of course, the Jets ended up as the loser, despite their (appropriately odd) 16-11 win.

The Jets and Titans are in the quarterback business -- and Marcus Mariota promises to be the ultimate prize.

Nobody expected the Jets to be this bad this season. But once they were, fans hoped they'd completely flame out and secure the No. 1 overall pick. After winning its third game of the season, though, Gang Green might not even wind up with a top-five selection. That's how bad the bottom of the NFL is. That's how costly this win was for whoever's in charge of this franchise next year.

No, you can't make this up.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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