A few weeks ago it looked like the San Francisco 49ers had the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs wrapped up, which would have given them a first round bye and a home game in the second round. But the New Orleans Saints have come storming back, and with three games to play both teams are tied with 10-3 records. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Tim Tebow magic; Raiders in 2nd place and falling; playoff race; Chargers can’t get it right; James Harrison suspended for illegal hit.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
It must be magic
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is by far the biggest story of the NFL season, even with the Green Bay Packers heading for an undefeated season. Like him or not, no player moves the dial like he does. Ratings goes up on television and radio when he is the topic, and CBS and NBC were fighting over the rights to televise the Broncos game against the New England Patriots this Sunday.
Everybody is trying to analyze why the Broncos continue to win week after week with a quarterback who struggles with the basics of the position. Namely the forward pass.
After winning six games in a row with Tebow as the quarterback, mostly in dramatic fashion, experts and fans have been using football logic and coming up empty on why this is working. At this point there is no logic behind any of this. It is pretty much Tebow magic.
How else would anybody explain Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber running out of bounds when his team was in a perfect position to ice the game? Or Barber’s fumble when he had a clear path to the endzone in overtime? That game was a wrap for the Bears numerous times, but yet the Broncos walked away with another victory.
The Broncos have greatly limited the turnovers since Tebow became the starter, which is one explanation for their winning streak. But against the Bears they lost the turnover battle for the first time on their winning streak, and they still won.
The Broncos defense has been playing lights out since Tebow became the starter, but a week ago they struggled against the Minnesota Vikings, giving up 32 points, but yet they won the game again.
There really is no rhyme or reason to why this team is winning. There is not one thing that jumps out as why they have become unbeatable. Some people believe it is their kicker making clutch field goals. The kicker… really? If there is a such thing as magic, it’s happening every Sunday when the Broncos play.
Tebow is like Clark Kent for most of the game. Just ordinary. He may not even be that. But when the stadium is about to burn down and one man needs to save the day, the guy becomes Superman.
Tebow was three for 16 through three quarters against the Bears. Dropped passes by Broncos wide receivers did not help him much, but he was not doing anything special either. The offense did not produce any points, but then with the game on the line the Broncos produced three consecutive scoring drives as Tebow completed 18 of 24 passes. There is no legitimate explanation for that.
The Broncos went from bottom feeders to AFC West leaders. They went from worst to first within one season. In the 31 games before Tebow became the starter the team had only one six of those games. Now they have won seven in only eight games.
Raiders get Tebowed into second place
Well, it was really the Green Bay Packers who did the Oakland Raiders in, but seeing that Tebow gets all kind of credit that he may not deserve, might as well credit him with the Raiders getting blown out two weeks in a row. It’s the Tebow magic.
The past two weeks the Raiders have not even been competitive. It is understandable to lose to the Packers, but to the Miami Dolphins the week before?
The past two weeks the Raiders have been outscored 80-30. While the Raiders are getting beat all over the field, the Broncos were Tebowing their way right by them in the AFC West standings.
This coming week the Raiders host the Detroit Lions, who need to continue winning to hold onto a wildcard spot in the NFC playoff race. If the Raiders blow this game, they can nearly kiss a playoff berth goodbye, and they may be on the verge of having another non-winning season, which they have had every year since 2003.
The Broncos host the Patriots, which should mean a loss for the Broncos. But the Raiders cannot depend on that, seeing that the Broncos continue to win games that they should not.
Any team that has not secured a playoff spot, it is time to panic. Every game is must win from here on out because there are only three games left in the season. No more time to figure it out or to work through issues. It is time to win or watch any playoff hopes disappear.
Seeing that it is crunch time, it is no surprise that the Dallas Cowboys lost a game that they had won. They had a chance to bury the New York Giants in their match up on Sunday night and in the standings, but they watched a 12-point lead slip away, and then allowed the Giants to block a game tying field goal as time expired.
The Cowboys seem to lose like the Broncos seem to win, in a blaze of glory. Well, for the Cowboys, they watch their opponent walk off the field with the glory more often than they should.
The Giants were on a four game losing streak, and the Cowboys were in a position to end their playoff hopes. When Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hit wide receiver Dez Bryant on a 50-yard touchdown with 5:41 minutes to play in the game, giving the Cowboys a 12-point lead, the Giants season was pretty much over and the Cowboys would nearly wrap up the NFC East.
But Murphy’s Law defines the Cowboys, and in key moments, what ever can go wrong will go wrong.
A pair of last minute touchdowns gave the Giants a three-point lead, but with one play left the Cowboys were attempting to send the game in overtime with a field goal attempt. No shocker, the kick was blocked, and the Cowboys lost another game that they had won.
The two teams are tied for the division lead with three games to play, and they play each other once more. The loser of the NFC East race will more than likely be out of the playoffs. As of right now both teams are 7-6, while the Atlanta Falcons are 9-5 and the Lions are 8-5.
The rest of the divisions in the NFC are wrapped up, with the San Francisco 49ers and the Packers having already clinched their divisions, and the New Orleans Saints on the verge of doing so as well. The Packers are close to locking up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and until a couple weeks ago, it looked like the 49ers had the second seed and a first round bye in their hands.
The Saints have caught fire, winning five games in a row, while the 49ers have lost two out of three games. They may find themselves a game behind the Saints after Sunday, because they play against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. Both the Saints and 49ers are 10-3, but as of right now the 49ers hold the tiebreaker because they only have one conference loss, while the Saints have three.
In the AFC, the Houston Texans have clinched the AFC South, and the New England Patriots hold a three game lead in the AFC East with three games to play. The AFC North race is a heated one, with the Baltimore Ravens tied with the Steelers with 10-3 records. The Ravens hold the tiebreaker because they swept the season series with the Steelers. The team that comes in second place will more than likely be the top wild card team.
The race for the AFC West title is still up for grabs, but the way the Broncos and Raiders are playing, it looks like the Broncos (8-5) will take home that title. The Broncos, who hold a one game lead, seem like they cannot lose, while the Raiders (7-6) look like they cannot even compete. Chances are that the second place team will not make the playoffs.
The Jets are sitting at 8-5, with the Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, and the Raiders all at 7-6. They are all battling for the final wildcard spot.
Chargers still can’t get it right
Last season the San Diego Chargers were No. 1 in the league in both offense and defense, but they missed the playoffs. This year they are the only AFC West team to outscore their opponents, having scored 25 more points on the season.
The Broncos, who are two games ahead of the Chargers and lead the division, have been outscored by 33 points by their opponents. The second place Raiders have been outscored by 64 points, and the Kansas City Chiefs have been outscored by 132 points.
The Chargers always seem to do the flashy things well, like racking up yards, but they always find a way (turnovers) to lose.
James Harrison suspended for another illegal hit
The NFL has suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison for one game for a hit that was deemed illegal, but this one may have been more about reputation than it being a helmet-to-helmet hit on a quarterback.
Usually when a quarterback tucks the ball and starts to run he is fair game to helmet-to-helmet hits. He is no longer considered a passer, but a runner. When Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy scrambled outside of the pocket and tucked the ball under his arm he was trying to run, not pass.
Harrison saw this and came up to make the hit. Just as Harrison was staring the process of making the tackle, McCoy decided to throw the ball. That did not give Harrison any time to adjust his tackle, and many believe that it should not have been an illegal hit, because McCoy gave every indication that he was a runner at the time.
If this happened to most other defenders, it might not be a finable hit because of McCoy’s actions. But Harrison has a reputation, one that he has earned, for illegal hits. The league has been trying to crack down on him for a few years now, so it is no surprise that they punished him to that degree.
Harrison has brought this on himself for his past actions, but if the league is going to punish defensive players for that type of hit, then quarterbacks should never tuck the ball when they decide to run.
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