On Monday night, Dec. 14, 2015 the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins by a final score of 31-24. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was brilliant, as he completed 27 of 31 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. The dagger, was an 84-yard fourth quarter touchdown throw to wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr which broke the 24-24 tie. This was the final game played on the 14th week of the 2015 NFL season.
Though both teams came into the game with a record of 5-7, this contest did have quite an impact on the playoff picture for both Conferences. With the win, the New York Giants kept pace with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins atop the NFC East division.
Figuring out the NFC East is not an easy task. The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles appear to have the toughest route. The Giants will face the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles in their final three games. The Eagles will face Arizona and Washington before the season finale against New York. The Redskins will face the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 before finishing up with the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
As for the AFC, the Dolphins are now mathematically eliminated from the playoff race; their loss also clinched the AFC East division crown for the New England Patriots. The Patriots are the first AFC team to clinch a playoff berth and join the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals as the only teams to have secured a trip to the postseason.
The AFC South is the most closely contested division, though it is quite mediocre. The Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans sit atop the division with identical 6-7 records. They will face each other in Week 15. Indianapolis won their initial meeting in Week 5 and a second win would give them the head-to-head playoff tiebreaker over Houston and all but guarantee the division crown, if they can find a healthy starting quarterback.
There are now just three weeks of regular season NFL action left to play. As the world grows anxious with anticipation, here is a look at the latest NFL Power Rankings.
1) Last week # 1: Carolina Panthers (13-0) Just three more winnable games stand between the Panthers and regular season perfection. The big question for haed coach Ron Rivera, will be whether to rest the starters or go for the unblemished record.
2) LW # 3: Arizona Cardinals (11-2) Much to the delight of the entire team, the coaches, the front office and the fans, rookie running back David Johnson has been splendid. He has 191 yards on 41 carries over the last two games, while carrying the full-time load in the wake of injuries to running backs Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson.
3) LW # 4: Seattle Seahawks (8-5) Four straight wins and counting, but it looks like the injury bug may derail them. Having already lost tight end Jimmy Graham for the season, and with running back Marshawn Lynch still on the mend, they have now lost running back Thomas Rawls to a broken ankle.
4) LW # 6: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) There is no question as to what this hi-powered offense can do. The big question is whether or not this team will make the playoffs. They are battling the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, for one of the two Wild card spots.
5) LW # 5: New England Patriots (11-2) Good news is, tight end Rob Gronkowski is back in the lineup. Bad news is, both running back Legarrette Blount and defensive back Devin McCourty were knocked out of the game this past weekend. No team needs that 1st round playoff bye, more than the Patriots.
6) LW # 2: Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) Quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a broken thumb while making a tackle in the team’s loss Pittsburgh during Week 14. It is still unknown how long Dalton will be out. All due respect to second-year backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, but the Bengals must have the ‘Red rifle’ if they are to have a shot at a deep playoff run.
7) LW # 7: Green Bay Packers (9-4) The professionalism and resolve of this team, is beginning to make a difference. The Packers are now in the driver’s seat in the playoff race and are in great position to win the NFC North division.
8) LW # 10: Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) Seven straight wins. All of it done without the services of running back Jamaal Charles. This is special. Two or three wins in a row, might be considered luck. In reality, the injury to Charles, really seems to have galvanized the team; every player has stepped up their game.
9) LW # 8: Denver Broncos (10-3) After blowing a 12-0 halftime lead in the loss to Oakland in Week 14, all is no longer well in the mile high city. Quarterback Brock Osweiler finally lost a game, but perhaps the offensive line which allowed him to be sacked five times by the same player (Khalil Mack) was somewhat to blame.
10) LW n/a: New York Jets (8-5) As the run game goes, so go the New York Jets. Running back Chris Ivory is the real key to any long-term success the Jets may have. The defense is solid, but the offense must be able to control the tempo.
Honorable mention: Minnesota Vikings (8-5) Questionable late-game playcalling and poor late-game execution, normally spells doom. Houston Texans (6-7) If Jadeveon Clowney continues to progress, the defensive front will be awesome. Indianapolis Colts (6-7) Paging quarterback Andrew Luck; Mr. Luck, please report to the team as soon as possible. New York Giants (6-7) If the Giants do make it to the postseason, could they possibly shock the world ? Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) The framework is there, but they may be a season away.