In one violent motion, Jeremy Mincey drove Matt Leinart into the ground. Leinart would walk off the field unassisted, but news that broke later in the day confirmed what Houston Texans fans feared most: Leinart would be out for the season. Now down to third-string caliber signal-callers, a dark cloud looms over Houston. At one point the AFC South’s presumptive favorites, can the Texans persevere and grab a playoff birth for the first time in franchise history? If Tebow is Jesus, would that make the whole Texans squad Job?
Looking at their remaining schedule and the team’s strengths, Houston appears ready to endure such a blow. Houston has two advantages in its court: a decent enough schedule and one of football’s best defenses. Every one of Houston’s final five games is winnable: Atlanta, at Cincinnati, at Carolina, Indianapolis and at Tennessee. The Texans will have to lean heavily on a great defensive unit and their two-pronged running attack from here on out, something that has brought them success for much of the season. Losing Leinart is a setback, but the Texans are too good to miss out on the playoffs again.
The New York Jets also made a statement win, eking past the Buffalo Bills 28-24. A particularly ignorant Stevie Johnson touchdown celebration, one which flat-out mocked Jets wideout Plaxico Burress’s legal troubles, seemed to motivate New York. Mark Sanchez led his team with four touchdown passes, including the game-winner with one minute to go. A team with a perpetual target on its back thanks in large part to a loud, confident swagger, New York is still very much alive in the playoff hunt.
Speaking of the Jets’ playoff chances, they nearly took a drastic turn for the worse when the aforementioned Stevie Johnson cut across the middle of the field with not a New York defender in arms’ reach of making a play. Karma reared its ugly head once again for Johnson as he dropped a perfect pass which hit him square in the hands in the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Winning the AFC East is probably out of the question, but a wild card berth is still a possibility for Rex Ryan’s squad. With only one out of five games left against an opponent above .500 (a week 16 matchup against the Giants), the 6-5 Jets seem to control their own playoff destiny. Given their penchant for winning late into the season, seeing Gang Green in the playoffs should surprise no one.
— Like the South, the AFC West should feature a different divisional winner from last year as Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos and Carson Palmer’s Oakland Raiders continue to win. As has been the trend of late, Tebow led the Broncos to victory, this time with the help of Willis McGahee, who rushed for 117 yards on 23 touches. Tebow’s style of play is predictable, but defenses can’t seem to do anything about it; December match-ups with Chicago and New England should provide a much clearer picture of how legitimate Timmy is.
— Denver’s primary threat seems to be the Oakland Raiders, currently riding a three game winning streak. Led by a rejuvenated-looking Carson Palmer and running back Michael Bush, the Raiders look as good as we’ve seen them in years; the infusion of a healthy Darren McFadden will only fortify their offense. Whatever happens from this point forward, look for the champion of the West to be a new face.
— Chris Johnson is obviously tired of the talk about his 2011 fall off. He silenced those claims for at least one week by putting up his best performance of the season (23 carries, 190 yards). That Week 17 match up against Houston could alter the playoff picture.
— The Browns Jerome Simpson with a flop even Vlade Divac would have to stand and applaud. Not sure how a performance of this nature can be so bad yet so great all at the same time.
— Tom Brady and his band of brothers put on an offensive clinic in Philly, all but putting any hopes of the Eagles making a playoff push obsolete. Now, in an ironic twist of fate, the team which appeared to have so potential heading into the season will have even more controversy about the future of some of its key contributors once the offseason begins.
— If you’re squeamish, don’t click play to watch the video above of former Giant and current analyst Micheal Strahan showing off “the football finger,” ladies and gents.
— Don’t look now, but the Bengals are right in the thick of things with this playoff picture (one of the better stories of the 2011 season).
— Cam Newton and the Panthers move to 3-8 at the expense of the now 0-11 Indianapolis Colts. At this point, it may be safe to say Indy wrapped up the “Suck For Luck” campaign. When Tins suggested Indy tank the season, I don’t think he meant possibly go 0-16.
— Fantasy owners of Beanie Wells nationwide jumped for joy as the running back tallied 228 yards on 27 carries against divisional foe St. Louis.
— The Redskins overcame a 17-7 fourth quarter deficit to finally get back on the good side of the scoreboard with their 20-17 victory over the hapless Seahawks.
— Atlanta stays in arms reach of New Orleans after defeating Minnesota 24-14. How badly do you think Mike Smith wants that overtime fourth down call back from a few weeks ago.
— Not only did Nick Novak miss the game winning field goal in overtime, but the Chargers kicker was so nervous he couldn’t even make it back to the locker room to take a piss. What’s funny is the cameraman who clearly knew what Novak was doing but kept filming anyway.