It's winter. 'Tis the season for defense, right? Not exactly. Over the last two weeks, there have been 1,703 points scored in the NFL, which happens to be the most in a two-week span in history, according to the league. Last week, 13 teams scored 30 or more points and five of them lost. Of those 13 teams, six scored 35 or more points, including two that scored more than 40. It doesn't seem to matter whether the games are indoors or outdoors, in warm or cold, teams are just rolling up the points. Kansas City and Oakland put up a combined 87 points last week playing in 64-degree weather in the East Bay, while Chicago and Cleveland put up 69 points in 25-degree weather off Lake Erie. There are a couple teams that haven't warmed up to the season, such as the New York Giants, who were shut out, and the Houston Texans, who managed just a field goal, in losses last week. But as the season nears its finish and playoff jockeying continues, the teams that put big numbers on the board are going to be moving on to the postseason. With storms headed for the Midwest and beyond, maybe we're in for a lot more end zone snow angels.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a chance to lead his team to an 11th division title -- he already holds the NFL mark with 10 -- and all it will take is a victory at Baltimore. Coming off a tough loss in Miami in which Brady couldn't pull off a last-minute comeback, New England's hopes for home-field advantage throughout would be all but dead with a loss to the Ravens. However, if it wins and improves to 11-4, it'll still have a chance. Denver (11-3) and Kansas City (11-3) are still battling it out for the AFC West, but the Chiefs would lose the tiebreaker and need the Broncos to lose once. So do the Patriots, who hold a tiebreaker edge over the Broncos for home-field advantage. In the NFC, Seattle (12-2) would clinch home field with a victory over Arizona or a San Francisco loss. New Orleans (10-4) can clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye with a victory over Carolina (10-4). So far, Denver, Seattle, Indianapolis and Kansas City are in the playoffs. New England, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago all have a shot to clinch this weekend.
Now that the Detroit Lions have tripped over themselves again, the division would seem to be down to the Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers. The Bears can clinch the title with a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a Packers loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Detroit Lions loss to the New York Giants, making the Packers-Bears game at Soldier Field in Week 17 meaningless. As long as the Packers win, they'll be playing for the division next Sunday. If the Bears and Packers lose and Detroit beats the Giants, the Lions would be in the driver's seat, needing a victory over Minnesota in the final week to clinch the title. More easily put, the Bears and Packers control their destinies. Detroit needs help.
GAME OF THE WEEK
CHICAGO BEARS (8-6) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-6)
When: 8:30 p.m. EST on Sunday.
Key injuries: Bears -- LB Lance Briggs (shoulder) is questionable. Eagles -- S Colt Anderson (knee) and S Kurt Coleman (hamstring) are out.
Player to watch: Eagles running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 1,850 yards from scrimmage and 1,343 rushing yards. However, he has failed to break 100 yards in three of his last four games.
Recent history: The Bears have won four of the past five, including a 30-24 decision in 2011 in which Jay Cutler threw for five touchdowns.
Key statistic: Bears wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (1,265) and Brandon Marshall (1,185) have combined for the most receiving yards of any two receivers in the NFL this year.
Bottom line: The expected return of Briggs to the Bears defense will mean a lot, but how much of an impact it will have on its awful run defense is anybody's guess. Briggs is the heart and soul of the unit, but he hasn't played since Week 7 and there's sure to be some rust. The Eagles got away from their run game against Minnesota, handing the ball to McCoy just eight times. You can be sure he's going to touch it a lot more after an 18-point loss. Quarterback Nick Foles has great numbers -- he leads the NFL with a 117.0 passer rating -- and threw for a career-high 428 yards last week. But Foles isn't the centerpiece of the offense, McCoy is, and Eagles coach Chip Kelly seemed to forget that last week. The Bears have Jay Cutler back and after a show start against Cleveland he warmed up and got the job done. The Eagles can be difficult to read on defense and Cutler has to avoid the bad interceptions he's prone to throwing if the Bears are going to pull this one out. No one can cover Jeffery and Marshall all day, so the best defense of the Bears is to get in Cutler's face.
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