Week after week, I have tried to analyze the closing football week, and figure out what I learned. Being educated is all about taking in what you see or hear, processing it, remembering it, and knowing how and when to use it in the future. As of late, this task has been easy, because I have learned from the lessons from early in the season. Or at least I thought I had. I was buried this week. Game after game, I watched as teams played completely out of character, destroying my record for the week. After going 8-8, WHAT I THINK I LEARNED FROM WEEK 15 is that many of the playoff-bound teams have developed “DOWN” SYNDROM at the end of the season. I do not intend to poke fun or take lightly the seriousness of the true illness, but what I mean is many of these teams PLAYED DOWN to their competition this week.

Victims of “DOWN” SYNDROM:

It has been easy to pick against any and every opponent of the Packers this year. Green Bay has been terrorizing on offense, regardless of who they are facing. So, of course, this would be the week that they go out and play like a sandlot football team, against the Kansas City Chiefs. Even if the Chiefs had Jamal Charles and Matt Cassel healthy and playing, I wouldn’t have picked them to win. Every team that has faced the Packers this year has to be scratching their heads about this one. Kansas City is coming off a week where they fired their Head Coach, and brought in a new Quarterback. I believe the Packers thought they would be unmotivated and distracted. I can imagine them taking last week’s practice lightly, expecting to easily rout the Chiefs.

Many don’t realize it, but before Sunday’s loss, Houston was the # 2 seed in the AFC. That is worth a “BYE” week, and at least one home game in the playoffs. That’s huge! For now, that has all been squandered by a lack-luster performance against the Carolina Panthers. Sure, Carolina is a young, strong team, but regardless of how well T.J. Yates (or whoever ends up at QB for Houston), there is never a good reason to take the game out of Arian Foster’s hands. Even if you are down big and have to rely solely on the passing game, he is still the most dangerous option on the team, as long as Andre Johnson is on the injury list.

Remember three weeks ago when we were saying that Dallas killed their hopes of winning the East when they lost to Dallas? Remember how we were saying New York had the easier schedule to finish out the season? That all seemed accurate, until the Giants decided to play down to the Redskins on Sunday. This didn’t even look like the same running game from the previous two weeks, Eli and his receiving core definitely looked like a completely different group, and their defense was non-existent. Before the weekend, this team controlled their own destiny. And in one pitiful performance, they went from being the 4-seed in the NFC to being on the outside looking in. At the beginning of the season we thought the NFC East would have 2, possibly 3, teams make the playoffs. Now it looks like the team that wins the division will be the only one getting in.

Just as the Texans did, the Ravens blew a big opportunity on Sunday. Before the game, they were the # 1 seed in the AFC, which means a “BYE” week, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have defeated their entire division, including Pittsburgh twice (in convincing fashion). San Diego has always had a high-powered offense, but Baltimore is supposed to have one of the best defenses. Maybe they were content once they heard they had a playoff birth locked up. Luckily for them, Pittsburgh looked even worse on Monday night.

Don’t get me wrong, the Jets are still in the playoff picture. But on Saturday night the Jets were in the 5th spot for the AFC playoff race. Today, they are tied for the last spot, with some tough games remaining. Philadelphia’s offense is probably the fastest, most dynamic group in the league. They looked on Sunday how we though they would the entire season. But they were going up against what is supposed to be the best defense in the league. So, something had to give. I never expected the Jets to GIVE that much. With two weeks left in the season, you want to be one of the teams that controls your own destiny. Coach Rex Ryan has been criticized this season for not having his team fully prepared, and it looked like a valid argument on Sunday.


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