A look back at Week 15 in the NFL:
1. The highlight of the weekend was New England’s 27-24 victory over Pittsburgh in the best game of the season and the highest rated TV game of the year. It shows the fans are still attracted to a great matchup, but the NFL doesn’t have enough good matchups and good teams this year as overall ratings decline. Even the bad things about the game – Pittsburgh’s coaching mistakes and another controversial no catch ruling — created more talk and buzz after the game. The biggest consequence about the game is that the Patriots now will win the No. 1 seed and have home field advantage in the playoffs if they win their last two. If the Steelers and Patriots wind up in the AFC title game, it will be the most hyped game of the year.
2. In a passing of the torch in the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams routed the Seattle Seahawks 42-7. The Seahawks window is now obviously closing for the Seahawks and the disappointment for the Seahawks is that they only got one Super Bowl and will be remembered for being a yard away from back-to-back Super Bowls only to throw it away with an ill-fated pass. Now the Rams window is opening for the 10-4 Rams. They have a team seemingly set for a three to five year run and we will see if they parlay that into rings. And the Seahawks will be rebuilding.
3. The NFL is often a place for broken dreams instead of storybook finishes. The idea that Aaron Rodgers could come back from a broken collarbone and get Green Bay back in the race just wasn’t realistic. Although the Packers led Carolina 14-10 at halftime, Rodgers was rusty, missed throws he usually makes and wound up throwing three picks in a 31-24 loss. The Packers then put him on IR now that they are out of the race so he doesn’t risk further injury. Rodgers injury wrecked the Packers chance of making a Super Bowl bid and showed again how injuries affect the NFL. That being said, the Packers need to get him a better supporting cast.
4. Jimmy Garoppolo has revitalized the 49ers franchise. He took over a 1-10 team and has won three in a row, including a 15-14 victory over the Bears. He didn’t get into the end zone but he led a game winning drive starting on his own seven to set up a game winning field goal. It is still a small sample size but but he has the 49ers dreaming that they got another franchise quarterback when they traded for him.
5. The Jaguars ended a 10 year playoff drought with a 45-7 rout of the Texans that clinched their first playoff berth since 2007. It capped an amazing turnaround from a 3-13 record last year. The brash Jaguars play with a swagger and are openly talking about winning the Super Bowl. But their road to the Super Bowl became a lot tougher when New England beat Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh had won, the Jaguars would have had the second seed and a first round bye. Instead, unless either New England or Pittsburgh loses one of its last two games, they will be locked into the third seed. That means they must beat the sixth seed at home in their first playoff game and then probably have to win back to back games at Pittsburgh and New England if they’re going to go to Minneapolis. That will be a daunting task.