Football

NFL Week 13: What we learned

A look at an emerging offensive most valuable player of the year candidate, and which teams have the toughest and easiest remaining schedules.
Jacksonville wouldn't be leading their division, and might not even be in the playoff picture, were it not for the impressive play of Maurice Jones-Drew. ((Joe Powell/Associated Press))

Quarterbacks have ruled the roost when it's come to the most recent offensive MVP awards, and it seemed that would be the case again this year through about 10 weeks.

Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning all figured heavily in the speculation. Manning has taken himself out of the running with this interception-fest over the past three weeks, and it's hard to see Rivers in the mix if San Diego doesn't make the playoffs.

Win big or go home?

The following are the top and bottom five margin of victory averages of NFL teams currently .500 or better. Also included is the team's strength of schedule heading into this season. The top five provide further evidence on how confounding the AFC West can be.

TEAM SOS AVG WIN MARGIN
San Diego  29th 18.8 
Oakland 16th 17.1
Green Bay 22nd 16.6 
N.Y. Giants    7th 15.9 
Seattle   29th 13.7

The following are the lowest average margins. Perhaps surprisingly, the list includes three current division leaders. 

TEAM SOS AVG WIN MARGIN
Tampa Bay  25h  7 
Miami   16th  8 
Chicago  14th 8.2
Jacksonville   5th 8.6 
Atlanta   20th 9.1 

Brady's obviously still a possibility. He's on pace for 3,900 passing yards, well shy of his previous two full seasons, but not exactly shabby either.

How about a non-quarterback candidate you might not have considered?

Jacksonville has won seven games, and Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for over 100 in five of them. He's run for 98 and 84 yards in the other two victories. Last week, he rushed for 113 as the Jaguars led late in the Meadowlands but couldn't hold off the New York Giants.

It's pretty clear from the margin of victory sidebar that Jones-Drew hasn't been accumulating meaningless yards late in one-sided ball games, and also that Jacksonville didn't get off light when it came to strength of schedule.

Jones-Drew has accounted for 36 per cent of his team's offensive yards, and may be in the process of saving Jack Del Rio's job.

He has 1,177 rushing yards, and while the Jaguars have been throwing to him a bit less than in the past, he's added 282 receiving yards. His amazing 75-yard screen pass rumble against Cleveland in Week 11 essentially won that game late for Jacksonville.

Playoff picture

Baltimore and Pittsburgh switch places, and you can do likewise with the Jets and New England if the Patriots win on Monday night.

The Falcons are just one game up on New Orleans, but it's also worth noting that two of Atlanta's remaining games come against Carolina.

Green Bay is essentially tied with the Giants for the last spot in the NFC. The Packers end the season with home games against the Giants and Chicago.

Hot seat power rankings

A mix of who will go and who should go. Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis is good as gone and his team played hard on Sunday, so we'll give him a reprieve.

Has any big picture decision by Mike Shanahan — from quarterback to backfield to defensive scheme — been the right one?

 Coach  Team
 Gary Kubiak  Houston
 Josh McDaniels  Denver
 John Fox  Carolina
 Jeff Fisher  Tennessee
 Mike Shanahan  Washington

AFC

  • 1. New York Jets
  • 2. Pittsburgh
  • 3. Kansas City
  • 4. Jacksonville
  • WC: New England, Baltimore

NFC

  • 1. Atlanta
  • 2. Chicago
  • 3. Philadelphia
  • 4. St. Louis (tiebreaker over Seattle)
  • WC: New Orleans, N.Y. Giants

Show of strength

The following is a look at the strength of schedule for the final four games of the season, with the winning percentage of the team's opposition shown.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took some hard shots on Sunday night, but Pittsburgh's remaining schedule on paper isn't imposing. ((Larry French/Getty Images))

For some brevity's sake, we only looked at the 19 teams who are currently .500 or over.

The five toughest schedules belong to Chicago (opponents are .667 overall), New Orleans (.646), Green Bay (.583) and St. Louis and Seattle (both .563).

The five weakest belong to Atlanta and San Diego (.354), Pittsburgh (.361), and Baltimore and Philadelphia both (.437).

Looking ahead

Here are some of the more intriguing NFL matchups in Week 14:

Kansas City (8-4) at San Diego (6-6): Simply put, San Diego's season, as they've already lost once to the Chiefs.

Oakland (6-6) at Jacksonville (7-5): With the Colts playing Thursday in Tennessee, the Jaguars will know exactly where they stand. The Raiders venture to an unfriendly dimension. Not Jacksonville per se, but the Eastern time zone. Oakland has been tattooed a combined 73-16 in their other two 1 p.m. ET starts this season.

New England (9-2) at Chicago (9-3): Anyone for some Super Bowl XX nostalgia? The Bears squeaked by Detroit for the second time this season and appear due for a loss after five consecutive wins. But New England's only two losses as of Dec. 5 have come on the road.

St. Louis (6-6) at New Orleans (9-3): The Rams are technically ahead of Seattle, but maybe for only one more week. While the Seahawks have a winnable game on tap in San Francisco, St. Louis will try to win in the Superdome.

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