by Peter King
The Seattle Effect.
“It’ll be interesting to see how Philadelphia comes out of the Seattle game physically,’’ said one Dallas Cowboy last week, before his team’s trip to Philadelphia for the Sunday night game. This player remembered how physically spent the Cowboys were after playing Settle earlier in the year, and said it could be a big factor in how the team recovered to play the next week. Well, maybe he is on to something. The Eagles are the eighth team in a row to lose the week after playing Seattle; Philadelphia, San Francisco, Arizona, Kansas City, the New York Giants, Oakland, Carolina and St. Louis all lost the week after playing the Seahawks. The Seattle Effect bodes well for San Diego’s playoff chances. Not only do the Chargers play San Francisco, which lost to Seattle on Sunday, but the game is on Saturday, so the Niners have one fewer day to recover from playing the Seahawks.
Why players want to play for Bruce Arians.
The Arizona coach said this to Ryan Lindley, the backup to the backup, when No. 2 quarterback Drew Stanton went down with a knee injury Thursday night at St. Louis: “I trust you. Don’t be a game manager. Be a game winner.” Lindley didn’t play particularly well—he completed four of 10 passes in the 12-6 Arizona win—but a win’s a win, especially on the road against a team with two straight shutouts coming in, and especially when the team has been so beat up with so many key players lost. With Stanton likely out for this week and two or three more with strained knee ligaments, the Cardinals seem likely to go with Lindley, and maybe with a package of plays for the rookie quarterback who is more mobile, Logan Thomas. “We’ll figure something out,’’ said Arians. “We’ll just keep on swinging, scratching out points.” Worked pretty well so far.
THE FINE FIFTEEN
1. New England (11-3). Dominating performance puts them first. Winners of nine of 10, with the narrow loss at Green Bay the only blemish. Sign of a Ridiculously Good Franchise Dept.: The Patriots won their 11th AFC East title in the past 12 seasons on Sunday. The year they didn’t win? In 2008 they tied Miami for first with an 11-5 record and lost on a tiebreaker … with Matt Cassel playing quarterback the whole season. One more thought: I bet the football hurts when Rob Gronkowski spikes it.
2. Seattle (10-4). After the Niners showed some life in the first half, the ’Hawks crushed it out of them in the last 30 minutes. For the past two seasons it appeared Seahawks-Niners was becoming a rivalry for the ages. Still might be. But the two mismatches in 2014 have pretty much killed that for now.
3. Green Bay (10-4). Not to rain on the Super Bowl parade or anything, but that was the first grim performance by Aaron Rodgers in, like, forever. Now he goes to a place that has not been good to him. At all. Green Bay at Tampa Bay on Sunday. Rodgers has played there twice, in 2008 and 2009. Lost twice. Completed 50 percent of his throws in the two games, with four touchdowns and six picks, and a 54.6 rating at the Pirate Ship. I expect a vengeful game after the Buffalo debacle.
4. Denver (11-3). Very strange for the Manning Broncos: three straight games scoring in the 20s. Good thing for the bottom line that they’ve allowed only 16, 17 and 10 in those three.
5. Arizona (11-3). It’s hard to have any more respect for the job Bruce Arians and staff have done coaching this team, and Steve Keim and staff have done in personnel management of this team. They should write a book on coping with crap. I just gave them the title! Coping With Crap: The Life and Times of the Resilient 2014 Arizona Cardinals.
6. Dallas (10-4). So much on the line in Philadelphia, and the old Cowboys would have folded after blowing the 21-0 first-half lead. The new Cowboys rallied to win a game that could have been a franchise-changer if they went down.
7. Detroit (10-4). Another touchdown catch for Golden Tate in the 16-14 win over Minnesota. Tate has been a total surprise. He’s going to end up with 100 receptions. (He has 91 now.) Imagine this: Tate has more catches per game, on average (6.5), than Calvin Johnson (5.6)—and that accounts for Johnson missing three games with injury. Divide Johnson’s 61 catches by 11, and Tate’s 91 catches by 14, and Tate’s been more productive per game.
8. Indianapolis (10-4). Colts hadn’t been held under 20 points in the past 20 games … before Sunday. Good for them it was toothless Houston on the other side of the field. Houston, lifetime, at Indianapolis: 0-13.
9. Philadelphia (9-5). Bradley Cooper sure looked sad sitting in Jeffrey Lurie’s box, his beloved Philadelphia Silverliningplaybooks down 21-7 to the Cowboys in the second quarter. Cooper was dancing in the second half, but Mark Sanchez just couldn’t make enough plays to win this one.
10. Cincinnati (9-4-1). No idea how I rate the Bengals two slots higher than Pittsburgh, which beat Cincinnati by 21 in Ohio last week. It’s just about a week-to-week coin flip right now. The Bengals had about as dominating a performance as any team in the division has had all year in the Dawg Pound.
11. Buffalo (8-6). Last two games: Buffalo 38, Denver/Green Bay 37. Composite Peyton Manning/Aaron Rodgers stat line: 31 of 62, 358 yards, no touchdowns, four interceptions, 40.9 passer rating.
12. Pittsburgh (9-5). What a play, William Gay. Even when Le’Veon Bell is held to 47 yards, as he was in Atlanta, Pittsburgh has enough from Ben Roethlisberger and a strong secondary to win.
13. Baltimore (9-5). Won four out of five. I have no idea if they’re the best team in the division, second-best or third-best. But Ravens probably have a slight schedule edge (at Houston, Cleveland at home) down the stretch.
14. Kansas City (8-6). Broke a three-game skid with a rout of the Raiders. One of the strangest stats in recent history—a team can be 8-6 in this era of football with no touchdowns caught by a wideout—has surprisingly not crippled the Chiefs, though Dwayne Bowe’s ho-hum season is a major surprise.
15. Vacant. No other team deserves to be here.