Week 11 Judgements: Seahawks hold NFC edge

Clark Judge, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


It's time to start thinking about home-field advantage, mostly because it could decide who wins the NFC.
Neither Seattle nor New Orleans, the best two teams in the NFC, has a home loss.
In fact, the Saints haven't lost in their last 14 home games with Sean Payton on the sideline, and the Seahawks are 13-0 at home with Russell Wilson as their starting quarterback.
Follow the bread crumbs, people: Whoever gets the home-field advantage wins the NFC, and it could be determined Dec. 2. That's when the Saints and Seahawks meet in -- yep, Seattle.
Advantage: Seahawks.

2. Imagine the irony of the Saints' making it to Super Bowl XLVIII in Roger Goodell's backyard.
3. Finally, someone has a pulse in the NFC East, and would Chip Kelly please step forward? Dallas isn't the team to beat here anymore; Kelly's Eagles are.
4. The big winner in that Detroit-Pittsburgh game wasn't the Steelers. It was Chicago, which moved into a tie for first in the NFC North with Detroit ... despite not having Jay Cutler and star linebacker Lance Briggs. Green Bay made out OK, too, even though it lost again. What it didn't do was lose another game to Detroit, and hurry back, Aaron Rodgers. Your team can't win without you.
5. The New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks is in a contract year, but not a contract drive. He becomes an unrestricted free agent next March, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out what the Giants' next move is. Nothing. Hicks hasn't scored in 13 straight games.
6. Peyton Manning didn't win the game Sunday night. The Broncos' offensive line did. It kept Kansas City -- a team that entered Sunday with an NFL-high 36 sacks -- off their star quarterback, with Manning not sacked all evening. Dropped eight times in the previous three games and bothered by a high-ankle sprain, Manning had to wonder: How do I survive a furious Kansas City pass rush? We just found out. There wasn't one.
7. Here's how good Nick Foles has been: That 104.3 passer rating vs. Washington was his second-worst since taking over as the Eagles' starter this season.
8. And that, folks, is why Pittsburgh has no interest in moving Ben Roethlisberger.
9. Nope, that's no misprint. Those are the Arizona Cardinals tied with San Francisco at 6-4. Only now comes the hard part, with the rest of their schedule looking like this: Indianapolis; at Philadelphia; St. Louis; at Tennessee; at Seattle; San Francisco -- or three division leaders and the defending NFC champions.
10. Bet Tony Gonzalez is overjoyed that he returned to the Atlanta Falcons, instead of retirement, for this.
11. If Detroit makes the playoffs, look for Calvin Johnson to get MVP votes. No, that doesn't mean he squeezes Peyton Manning. What it does mean is that Johnson is what makes Detroit go, and Sunday's game was the proof: He had six catches for 179 yards and two TDs in a first half when Detroit led 27-20. He had zilch of everything in the second half where the Lions did not score.
12. Maybe Miami should petition the NFL for a change in divisions ... like anywhere in the West. Since 2000 the Dolphins hosted the AFC and NFC West 21 times and are 17-4 against them -- winning the last five and 10 of the past 11.
13. Stop if you've heard this before: Denver won another at home (Manning is 13-1 in regular-season play there since joining the Broncos) and is tied for first in the AFC West. But now we find out about the Broncos: Four of their next six games are on the road, including the next two at New England and at Kansas City.
14. The Giants are on a four-game roll, and that's great. But when people wonder how they got off the mat, the answer is simple: Quarterbacks. No, not theirs; the quarterbacks of their opponents. The Giants defeated, in order, Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor and Scott Tolzien -- a group that includes three third-stringers -- and, OK, so Barkley had to play because the Giants knocked Michael Vick out of the game. Nevertheless, the record speaks for itself, with opposing quarterbacks the past month throwing for no touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 52.5.
15. Just a hunch, but Scott Pioli isn't on the field with NBC's Bob Costas if Sunday's Denver-Kansas City game is in Arrowhead Stadium.
16. There's something other than Derek Jeter's age that has people in New York concerned about the number 39. It's the total number of turnovers by New York's starting quarterbacks. The Jets' Geno Smith has 20; Eli Manning has 19, and New Yorkers aren't stupid. They know you can't win that way.
17. I like the Jets' addition of Ed Reed ... if he can play quarterback.
18. I don't care if USC interviewed Jack Del Rio. The Trojans should make interim coach Ed Orgeron permanent coach. Last time I checked they were 5-1 with him (including 5-0 in the Pac-12) and just knocked off Stanford. Moreover, they cracked the BCS Top 25 this week at No. 23. The Trojans responded to Orgeron. It's time USC recognizes it.
19. Stick a fork in Washington. The Redskins are done. Now the question: Is Mike Shanahan? He has a year left on his contract, but he's 24-34 in his four seasons. That, plus the dodgy play of quarterback Robert Griffin III since returning from a serious knee injury, make Shanahan vulnerable.
20. It's one game, but that should be enough to convince Oakland to keep Matt McGloin as its quarterback. Reason: He has something Terrelle Pryor does not -- an arm.

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. The Dec. 1 night game between Washington and the Giants isn't being flexed out -- but it is unfathomable why that one remains in primetime. The Redskins should be 3-8 after next week's loss to San Francisco, and the Giants are 4-6. The most logical switcheroo was a repeat of Denver at Kansas City, Part Deux, except NBC just had that matchup and has Peyton Manning on the network again this week at New England.

2. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith isn't the answer ... especially in games following Jets' victories. He's 0-5 after victories, with one touchdown pass, 12 interceptions and three fumbles. If this were Mark Sanchez, the New York media would skewer him. Smith deserves the same treatment.

3. Gary Kubiak doesn't see Case Keenum as the Texans' future quarterback. How else do you explain his pulling Keenum in the third period? It makes no sense, especially when your season is toast. We know what Schaub is all about. Keenum? Not so much. So play him. Kubiak said he wasn't confident Keenum was the best fit for the offense given the team's second-half adjustments.

4. The Philadelphia Eagles' defense is as good as its offense. It hasn't allowed more than 21 points since September. The Eagles allowed an average of 27.5 points per start in its first four.

5. Don't get cute on Pittsburgh. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz missed the memo, trying a fake field goal from the Steelers' 10 when he had a fourth-and-5 and a 27-23 second-half lead. The play misfired, Pittsburgh regained the ball, then drove it 97 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Schwartz later said he didn't regret the move, adding, "They made the play; we didn't." That pretty much sums it up. It was a gutsy decision -- Schwartz also said no one could accuse him of being scared -- but it wasn't smart. In and of itself, it didn't cost the Lions the game. The Lions' offense in the second half did, and too many missed tackles on defense didn't help.

JUST ASKING BUT ...
When does Atlanta win another game?

Who knew fourth-stringer Bobby Rainey was the bell-cow running back the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed?

What did Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau say to his defense at halftime?

Who wins the NFC North?

Who's the bigger disappointment -- Houston or Atlanta?

FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO

1. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. What in the world was that last pass? You don't throw a Hail Mary with 32 seconds left. I understand he was under pressure, but if you're going to throw the ball away, throw it out of the end zone ... not up for grabs. Horrible.

2. Houston coach Gary Kubiak. When he made the switch to Case Keenum he said he wanted someone to give him a spark. Well, Keenum did it even though he didn't win. And that's the point here: Houston is playing for next year, not this season. So let the guy play, and see what you have. Instead, Kubiak subbed Matt Schaub in the third quarter, and my only question is: Huh? You know what Schaub can do, which is why Keenum was in the lineup in the first place. Going back to Schaub now makes no sense.

3. Atlanta coach Mike Smith. I understand he has injuries, but what has happened. This is a team that was yards away from the Super Bowl last year. Now, it stinks, with no sign of a victory anywhere on the horizon.

4. San Francisco's Kassim Osgood. He's been a top special-teams player for years. So how does an accomplished veterain like Osgood miss Darren Sproles' signal of a fair catch? It wasn't just a stupid mistake. It was a costly one, launching the Saints to their game-winning drive.

5. Cleveland special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. One punt was partially blocked, leading to a Cincinnati touchdown. Another was snuffed and returned for a TD. That's two scores on two mistakes, and, OK, so the second was the first complete block in franchise history since a November, 1993, game vs. the Houston Oilers. And so linebacker Barkevious Mingo accepted responsibility for the gaffe, saying he blew a block. It still comes back to Tabor and a scheme that didn't work as it should.

NUMBERS THAT MAY MEAN SOMETHING

0 -- Calvin Johnson second-half catches Sunday at Pittsburgh

3 -- Defensive touchdowns in the Cleveland-Cincinnati game

3 -- Straight games where Tampa Bay has 140 or more yards rushing

4 -- Net passing yards for Washington in the first half

11-2 -- The record of home teams Sunday

2-4 -- Colin Kaepernick's record vs. winning teams

16 -- Tony Gonzalez seasons with at least 50 catches in each, joining only Jerry Rice (17)

19 -- Four-touchdown passing games in the NFL this season

22 -- Combined first downs for 49ers in last two games, fewest in consecutive contests
for San Francisco since 2010

31 -- Second-quarter points for Cincinnati, a franchise record

Minus-85 -- The New York Jets' point differential

267 -- Matt Stafford second-quarter passing yards

NEXT WEEKEND'S THREE BEST GAMES

Indianapolis @ Arizona
Dallas @ N.Y. Giants
Denver @ New England

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