This week’s Handshakes are in honor of Ken Lisk.
Adrian Peterson, in pursuit of Eric Dickerson: Through six games, Adrian Peterson was already doing better than expected coming off a torn ACL and MCL less than ten months earlier. He had 499 rushing yards and was averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Since then, though, he has been nothing short of incredible. Over the last eight games, Peterson is averaging 164 rushing yards a game. He has 1,313 yards in half of a season.
The pursuit of Eric Dickerson seemed unlikely a month ago, but it has continued. Now, I think it is more likely than not that he gets there, even though expecting almost any running back to get 294 rushing yards in a two game stretch is optimistic. Peterson has had at least 100 rushing yards in eight straight games. In only two of the last eight has he failed to get at least 150 yards. Peterson has been incredible, and I’m not betting against him at this point.
Chase for the #1 and #2 Seeds: Atlanta and Houston were destroyed last week, but held on to their position as the top seed in their respective conferences with wins over playoff challengers this week. In the NFC, the Falcons just need one win to get the top seed. They are guaranteed a bye with a loss by either SF or GB.
San Francisco and Green Bay are in a two way chase for the other spot, with Seattle having an outside chance. San Francisco needs to win out to insure a bye. A loss at Seattle this week opens the door for Green Bay to win out and claim a bye. Seattle would need to beat San Francisco and St. Louis, and then have the 49ers lose to the Cardinals, and the Packers to lose a game to get a bye.
In the AFC, Denver now moves in front of New England. Houston needs a win to clinch a bye. Denver can now win out and claim the other, while New England would need Denver to lose and/or Houston to lose twice. Baltimore is technically still eligible as well if there were a three-way tie at 11-5.
The Giants are Collapsing, But Do We Still Believe in Them and Doubt Atlanta? The Giants are now 8-6. They got into the playoffs at 9-7 last year and made a run, but past performance is no indication of future results. New York was just shut out by Atlanta, the first shutout of the Giants since Carolina did it in the wildcard round in January of 2006. My stance on Atlanta is still that they are among the top tier, but I would not rate them as the best team (too many close wins where they did not look good recently). If they are the home team throughout the playoffs, though, they have as good a chance at anyone in the NFC. (I would probably favor the NFC West Champ and Green Bay head to head, slightly, but as we saw Sunday, Atlanta can win those).
New York, meanwhile, still does control their own fate for a wildcard spot. Two wins and they are in. They do not control it for the division title again. The Giants don’t seem to mind road games though, unless we just disregard yesterday.
Playoff Fortunes Up in Washington, Dallas, Cincinnati: Washington and Dallas are now a win each in week 16 from setting up a showdown in the finale for the NFC East. Both now know that if they win out, they are in. Cincinnati is a win against Pittsburgh away (and one Jets loss) from clinching a playoff spot. They are a win next week and a Baltimore loss to the Giants away from playing for the division title as well.
Bengals and Steelers in a showdown, with Jets having an outside chance in AFC: Four spots in the AFC are decided, with Baltimore now getting in despite the three game losing streak, as they can finish no worse than 2nd in the AFC North and hold the tiebreaker over the Jets.
Indianapolis has not officially clinched, but does so with one more win, either over the worst team in the league (Kansas City) or at home against Houston in what may be a meaningless game for the Texans. The Colts still can get in without winning anymore also. One more Jets loss would basically do it. The scenarios where Indy doesn’t make it at 9-7: (1) The Bengals win out to win AFC North, Ravens and Jets finish at 9-7; (2) Pittsburgh and Cincinnati both finish at 9-7, and Colts lose SOV to both (currently up in the air) after all three are tied on conference record and common games; (3) Steelers or Bengals finish 2nd in AFC North at 9-7, Jets finish at 9-7, and Colts lose SOV to Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.
So the last spot likely comes down to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. If the Bengals win on the road this week, they eliminate Pittsburgh. That, combined with any Jets loss would officially clinch the playoff spot for the Bengals. If Pittsburgh wins at home, they would hold the tiebreaker over Cincinnati, and get a playoff spot with a win over Cleveland, and either one Colts win or one Jets loss. (Pittsburgh can also get in with a 3-way tie with NYJ and IND at 9-7, if they hold the currently undecided SOV tiebreaker over the Colts).
The Jets? They must win out. Then, they need to not finish in a two way tie with Pittsburgh (or Baltimore for that matter) at 9-7 for the final spot. Miami is technically alive at 6-8 as well, but needs every result to go their way to create a massive tie at 8-8 between Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and themselves for the last spot.
Bears in Trouble, Vikings Need Lots of Help, Giants Still in Charge for Now: The Seattle Seahawks are one win away from clinching a playoff spot. The Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys are all in with two more wins as well (though Dallas and Washington cannot both get there). That means that Minnesota and Chicago need help now.
Minnesota would hold the tiebreaker over Chicago if they win out. The Vikings would still need for either the NFC East runner up to finish with fewer than 10 wins, or Seattle to lose both games. That means a Giants loss, or for both Dallas and Washington to lose a game. Chicago is stuck behind Minnesota, so they need a Vikings loss in addition to those same things happening in the other divisions.
FOURTH AND ONE LOG
1. Near the end of 3rd quarter, the Bears went, converted, but it was nullified by a penalty when Alshon Jeffery was called for offensive pass interference. The Bears then kicked a field goal.
2. In the early fourth quarter, the Packers took the points on 4th and 1 at the CHI 24. Of course, Mason Crosby missed. Up 8 with less than a minute left, the Packers took a delay of game and punted, pinning Chicago on the final drive.
3. At the start of the 2nd quarter, San Francisco went at the NE 24, Kaepernick fumbled, and they turned it over on downs.
4. New England went on 4th and 1 from the goal line at the start of the fourth quarter, with Tom Brady scoring on a QB sneak to make it 31-17.
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Related: Knowshon Moreno Hurdled Ed Reed [GIF]
Related: Trent Richardson Carried Five Redskins into the End Zone on This Touchdown Run[GIF]
Related: Buccaneers Player Adam Hayward Shoved Assistant Coach Brian Cox
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[photo via USA Today Sports Images]