In Week 13 of the 2012 NFL season, football fans watched five teams mount remarkable comebacks: the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys.
For followers of those teams, it was an exciting week. Indy put up 14 points in the final 2:39 to win 35-33 over Detroit. Dallas scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to come back and beat Philly. The Seahawks scored a late touchdown to tie the Bears in Chicago and won with a field goal in overtime. St. Louis did the same to San Francisco and Pittsburgh scored 10 late points to come back and beat Baltimore at home. Wonderful stuff.
Unless of course, you care deeply about the play of the Lions, Ravens, 49ers, Eagles and Bears. Those fans weren’t talking about great comebacks on Monday, they were grousing about dreadful collapses.
Talk all you like about Andrew Luck’s brilliance down the stretch or the Rams ability to shut down San Francisco’s latest belled cow, Colin Kaepernick, but the fact is when five teams come back, five other teams go directly into the tank. And it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Detroit, for instance, fell apart because the Lions head coach Jim Schwartz chickened out. With the score 33-28, the Lions had a third-down and five at their own 35. Now, make no mistake, with Matt Stafford at quarterback, the Lions are a passing team. However, with a minute and a half to go, Schwartz played it safe. He ran one of his two stiff-legged runningbacks off tackle for no gain. A first down and the Lions win, but by failing, it gave Luck and the Colts a chance to come back.
It was a chicken play for the coach of a 4-7 team and you knew it was going to cost the Lions. However, Schwartz made things even worse by agreeing to allow defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to go into prevent. Luck walked down the field with no timeouts and scored the winning touchdown with no time left.
It was a coaching disaster – just as it was in those four other games, albeit for different reasons – and Schwartz should have to answer for it. If the Lions had been in a legitimate playoff race and blew it the way they did, Schwartz would be on the chopping block.
Lions fans can only hope.
This week, a handful teams that haven’t collapsed this season have a chance to not only wrap up playoff berths, but also home field advantage in the process. The Houston Texans (11-1) are already in the post-season and can clinch the division and home field throughout the AFC playoffs with a win at New England in the Monday Nighter. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons (11-1) go to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers. A win for Atlanta and the Falcons wrap up the NFC South and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
However, that was an example of good teams that don’t choke. That’s not the Lions or Philly or Chicago, three teams with tough road assignments this Sunday.
And that’s not the Oakland Raiders, a marginal team with a very difficult matchup this Thursday night. The Denver Broncos head into Oakland to face the Oakland Raiders in a meaningless AFC West matchup. The Broncos (9-3) have already locked up the division and at 3-9, the Raiders are out of the playoff hunt. At the start of the season, this might have appeared to the schedule makers to be a potentially great football game. Not now. I will not miss Big Bang Theory on Thursday.
Unless, of course, the Broncos decide to collapse at the end and make this one exciting.
Last week Dr. Football was 10-6 (123-69) straight up and 8-8 (94-98) against the spread while The Coach went 11-5 (124-68) straight up and 9-7 (93-99) against the spread.
This week, as always, The Doc writes our rationalizations while The Coach burps and complains.
Let’s look at the Thursday Nighter first:
Denver Broncos (9-3) at Oakland Raiders (3-9) Line: Broncos by 10.5.
What a mismatch…in wrestling terms we have a “squash match”. The Broncos have won seven straight games and the Raiders have lost their last five. Peyton Manning had his way against the consistently horrible Raiders defense (338 yards, three TDs) as the Broncos won the first meeting 37-6 in Week 4, and he was just getting warmed up. Denver has already clinched a playoff spot but now must focus on getting a first-round bye. The Raiders will miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season. The Coach says: “There is no possible way you can make this exciting.”
THE DOC: TAKE THE BRONCOS TO WIN AND COVER.
THE COACH: TAKE THE BRONCOS TO WIN AND COVER.