For those looking ahead to February in Dallas, Week 13 in the NFL proved to be a revelation for the AFC and a confounding experience leaving a glut of potential Super Bowl suitors in the NFC. The New England Patriots set themselves apart as the best team in the AFC East and the team with the most momentum heading into the last few weeks of the NFL regular season. Meanwhile, the top six NFC teams all won, most struggling in the process.
Am I being dismissive of the resilience demonstrated by a 9-3 Pittsburgh Steelers team that beat a tough Ravens squad complete with great defense and Ben Roethlisberger playing on a broken foot? No. Am I being disrespectful of an 8-4 Kansas City Chiefs team that barely beat a Broncos franchise that fired its head coach after the game? Yes.
The Patriots 45-7 drubbing of the upstart New York Jets simply made it clear to a national audience (with basic cable) that New England will be unstoppable if they retain home field advantage. Coming into the game, the Patriots sought revenge for a loss in Week 2 over the football team that came into the Monday Night game tied for first in the division. They owned the Jets lauded defense, both through the air and on the ground. Tom Brady threw four touchdowns for the second week in a row and the Patriots defense feasted on the mistakes of a rookie quarterback folding in crunch time late in the season.
After watching this game, I have to conclude New England is bound for another division win and fans should be looking for Super Bowl tickets (really New England is being spoiled this week, first the addition of Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox and now this).
I can hardly say I have any clue who will win out in the NFC. The New York Giants let Ahmed Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs loose for 200 combined rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, despite the 31-7 win over the division-foe Redskins, I cannot help but hold this win in lesser esteem than the Patriots. The Redskins have become the forgotten team in the NFC East (despite being second from last place) whose weaknesses mirrored the Giants strength (poor run defense vs. great run offense).
Elsewhere, the Chicago Bears barely fended off the Detroit Lions, the Philadelphia Eagles had to come back from behind in the fourth quarter to beat a Texans team with no pass rush, the Green Bay Packers beat a team from the NFC West, the New Orleans Saints won on an encroachment penalty, and the Atlanta Falcons had to come back in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I am not saying come-from-behind victories are something at which to scoff. They do prove a team is never truly out of any game. But, none of these wins really made me do a double take. To be fair, none of these teams had a marquee game in which to prove themselves as the Patriots did. The only one I can identify on the Week 14 schedule is the Bears-Patriots game on Sunday afternoon. This game will finally decide whether the Bears are a great regular season team or a team with some playoff potential and show how the Patriots play a very good team on the road in the midst of their four game winning streak.