By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Here come the Seahawks, and don’t say you weren’t warned. Not only have they won five of their last six, but look what’s next: Baltimore, Cleveland and St. Louis – opponents with a combined record of 10-26. I don’t care that Marshawn Lynch is sidelined … or that Jimmy Graham is finished for the season … or that the Legion of Boom isn’t the same. Nope, the Seattle Seahawks are someone nobody wants to meet in the playoffs. “I think we’ve been resilient all year,” said quarterback Russell Wilson. “It’s really showing up now.” Uh-huh, just as it did a year ago, when Seattle won nine of its last 10 regular-season games, including their last six. And we know what happened then.
2. Nobody is playing better football right now than Wilson, and the envelope, please: 11 TDs, no interceptions in his last three starts – all wins.
3. I guess that says it all about Minnesota as a legit playoff threat. The Vikings not only dropped their last two at home; they got torched by a combined score of 68-20. Every time you’re ready to believe in these guys, they belly flop. “We’re not quite as good as we think we are,” said losing coach Mike Zimmer. Agree.
4. Next up for Minnesota: Arizona … in Arizona. Put down another loss.
5. Anyone looking for a Christmas gift, go to a Panthers game and sit behind their opponent’s end zone. Sooner or later a football will appear.
6. OK, so Indianapolis got smoked, and Matt Hasselbeck finally lost. Big deal. The AFC South comes down to Indy vs. Houston, and two reasons to like the Colts: A) Andrew Luck should be back for the game, and B) the game’s in Indy, where the Colts never, ever, ever lost to Houston.
7. Somewhere, Rob Ryan feels a whole lot better. Nothing much has changed since he left as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, including the players, and that’s the problem. For the record, that was the third time in the last five games the Saints surrendered 40 or more points.
8. Go ahead and laugh, but Alex Smith should be considered an MVP candidate. Yeah, I know he’s not going to get it and won’t pull many (any) votes. But the guy hasn’t thrown an interception his last 305 passes … and that’s the difference in these guys. They’ve committed two turnovers their last six games (all wins), while opponents have 17 – including three by Oakland Sunday.
9. A more likely candidate: Carson Palmer. The Cards are surging, and Palmer is within two touchdown passes of setting a franchise record.
10. Let’s hear it for Jets’ GM Mike Maccagnan. He’s the genius who picked up Brandon Marshall for next to nothing.
11. My favorite football victory Sunday: The Portland Timbers’ 2-1 defeat of Columbus for the MLS championship. Attaboy, Merritt.
12. Here’s why that New England loss is significant: If the playoffs began today, the Patriots don’t hold home-field advantage. Worse, they dropped from first to third in the AFC playoff picture, meaning they lose a first-round bye. Now the really bad news: They just got torched for 35 straight points … by the Philadelphia Frickin’ Eagles. Rob Gronkowski, get well soon.
13. This is how bad the wide-receiver situation is in New England: The longest reception Sunday was by none other than … Tom Brady. Honest. It was a 36-yarder from receiver-turned-quarterback Danny Amendola. We don’t make ’em up, people. Rob Gronkowski, let me say this again …
14. Tom Coughlin, please stand by. Your realtor will be in touch.
15. Pittsburgh is the Seattle of the AFC: A team nobody wants to draw in the first round of the playoffs. Reason: I can tell you in three words. Vertical. Passing. Game. Nobody has more deep threats.
16. On behalf of the good people of L.A., would the NFL please tell the Rams and Chargers to stay home?
17. This loss was clearly on Coughlin. Instead of being true to himself, he thought he was Bruce Arians and passed on a sure field goal on fourth-and-2 at the Jets’ 4 midway through the fourth quarter. The Giants were up 20-10, and the move was a disaster. Eli Manning threw an interception, and the Giants blew a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth time this year.
18. Johnny Manziel won’t quarterback the Browns in 2016. Connor Cook will.
19. It doesn’t matter that Philadelphia is back in the playoff chase. The Eagles don’t belong. Neither do the Giants. For that matter, nobody in the NFC East does.
20. Mike Pettine, pick up your belongings at the front desk.
21. That was the Battle of Ohio? Looked more like Little Big Horn.
22. Just my opinion, but a loss would be good for Carolina. You don’t want to go into the playoffs with that burden of blowing an unblemished season.
23. Yo, Jeff Fisher … about that effort.
24. I’m sorry, the St. Louis Rams are unwatchable. Once upon a time, you could count on Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley for highlight reels. Not anymore. These guys have 23 points the last three starts (all losses), an average of 7.6 points per game, and have one TD the past two weeks.
25. Now, here’s what worse: Once upon a time, you could count on the Rams’ defense. Scratch that, too. For those counting at home, that was a franchise-record 524 yards Arizona just piled up … at the expense of a Jeff Fisher-coached team.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAME
San Francisco QB Blaine Gabbert. For once, he looked like the quarterback Jacksonville thought he was when the Jags made him the 10th pick of the 2011 draft. He led the 49ers in passing AND rushing, ran for one TD and threw for another – a 71-yard bomb that clinched the win in OT.
Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown. He’s the most dangerous receiver on an offense loaded with them. He did everything right Sunday except stick the landing when he celebrated his third touchdown — a punt return — by running into the goal post. Be smart, Antonio. Be smart.
N.Y. Jets WR Brandon Marshall. All the guy does is score touchdowns and put up big numbers. In 11 of his last 12 starts he has either 100 yards receiving or a score. On Sunday he had both.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson. He’s a lot better than some people think. All I know is the guy knows how to win and has the Seahawks on the verge of making the playoffs for the fourth straight year on his watch.
Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston. He not only throws the game-winning in the last two minutes; he sets it up by converting a third-and-19 with a remarkable bump-and-run quarterback rumble where he ran over and through the Atlanta defense.
Jacksonville WR Allen Robinson. Don’t blame him for another Jacksonville loss. All he did was catch 10 passes for 153 yards and three TDs.
Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor. “I think he’s legit. I think he’s real,” said coach Rex Ryan. I’ll second that. The more you see this guy the more you wonder why the Ravens didn’t get something … anything … for him.
SUNDAY’S HALL OF SHAME
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan. He makes too many mistakes and not enough big plays — a combination that has sent Atlanta stumbling, bumbling and fumbling to six losses in its last seven starts.
New England P Ryan Allen. One punt is blocked and returned for a touchdown and another is returned for a touchdown. Check, please.
Chicago PK Robbie Gould. Bad enough that he shanked a 36-yard field goal that would’ve won the game. He also blew a 40-yarder earlier.
N.Y. Giants PK Josh Brown. File this one under Robbie Gould. His missed 48-yarder in OT sends Big Blue to another loss.
Baltimore QB Matt Schaub. Yep, it’s another pick six, his seventh since 2013.
Oakland QB Derek Carr. Two interceptions lead to touchdowns and a third becomes the game-clinching score.
THIS WEEKEND’S CANTON NOMINEE
(Cam Newton photo courtesy of Carolina Panthers)
Carolina QB Cam Newton. He pushes his MVP candidacy with another magical performance, this time completing 15 straight passes and throwing for five TDs — both career firsts — as Carolina survives New Orleans and runs its record to 12-0. Don Shula, keep that champagne bottled.
SUNDAY’S HALL-OF-FAME QUOTE
“It’s the same thing every week. It can’t be something we try to fix. It’s something we either fix or go home.” – N.Y. Giants DT Cullen Jenkins.
NUMBERS ON THE WALL OF FAME
2 – DeMarco Murray yards rushing vs. Pats
4 – Blocked punts returned for Philadelphia TDs the last two seasons
5 – Blake Bortles TD passes
6 — Philip Rivers’ pick-sixes this season
20 — Brandon Browner penalties this season
29 – Carson Palmer TD passes, two shy of a Cards’ record
35 — Touchdown passes surrendered by New Orleans, five short of the NFL record
134 — DeAngelo Williams yards rushing
390 – Ryan Fitzpatrick passing yards
1974 – Last time San Francisco won a regular-season game at Soldier Field