Another incredible week in the NFL was loaded with pulsating moments and potential statements.
Here, Schein Nine-style, are some sizzling takes on Week 16 and how all the excitement from the recent past ties into the very near future.
1) Belichick's season among his best
I reference that 2007 campaign because I think his coaching job this season is even better. Really.
Three of New England's five best players this year (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Rob Gronkowski) are on injured reserve -- and the Patriots keep on keeping on. They are flawed and depleted, yet they continue to win.
Consider what transpired in Sunday's matchup with the Ravens, a team that had long had the Pats' number. Baltimore was on a four-game winning streak, having shown off its championship mettle just one week earlier in a win against the Detroit Lions. New England, meanwhile, hardly resembled New England in its Week 15 loss to the Miami Dolphins. And yet, the Patriots bludgeoned the Ravens in Baltimore, 41-7.
There is no "elite" team in the AFC. It would be foolish to count out the NFL's best coach and the league's most clutch quarterback. What Belichick and Tom Brady have accomplished this season is remarkable.
2) Panthers on the prowl
Rivera's team plays hard and is ready for any challenge, as the Panthersshowed once again by beating the Saints on Sunday. And though Newton, frankly, struggled mightily in what was arguably one of his worst games of the season, he saved his best for a pulsating final drive. That's clutch; that says something.
3) Romo showed how much he matters
4) Say goodbye to Schwartz
Aaron Rodgers has missed a large portion of the season for the Green Bay Packers, as did Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears. The Detroit Lions had a huge advantage in the NFC North -- and they blew it. In fittingly maddening and logic-defying fashion, the Lions lost at home to the otherwise defunct New York Giants -- the kind of outcome that has become the norm for the Jim Schwartz era. Detroit is undisciplined and prone to self-induced mistakes (the 104 penalties accepted against them ties them for eighth-most in the league).
Last year, we described how the Lions spiraled under Schwartz. The collapse this season, with the playoffs at their fingertips, was worse.
The Detroit fan base deserves a fresh start and a team it can be proud of.
5) Feeling sleepless in Seattle?
I think a physical team that knows the 'Hawks well -- such as the San Francisco 49ers -- could beat them in the playoffs, even in Seattle.
6) Arizona rising
7) Can Colts keep this up?
I thought the Colts' 23-7 away win over Kansas City was stunning. The Chiefs seemed to be peaking at the right time, while Indy hadn't been itself since Reggie Wayne was hurt. But the Colts prevailed -- and actually ran the ball. Indy has a star quarterback in Andrew Luck and is well-coached under Chuck Pagano.
Peyton Manning set the record for touchdown passes in a season with his 51st scoring toss on Sunday. He is the deodorant for the Denver Broncos' defense.
Let's not overthink this. Manning is the 2013 NFL MVP. It's not even up for debate.