A weekly NFL column that heads in the opposite direction of your average pro football analysis.
1. Why is everyone so shocked the Titans have won seven out of eight? They were a 13-3 team last season and have the same nucleus. They outplayed several teams early in the season, but lost because of a few bad mistakes here and there. Yes, they lost 59-0 to the Patriots in Week 6, but that was an out-of-control snow game that taught us nothing. Since they inserted Vince Young as a starter, they've beaten a group of bad or middle-of-the road teams they should beat. Their one win over a team that currently has a winning record was over the inconsistent Cardinals. Too many people are characterizing their turnaround as miraculous, but it's not surprising if you look at how their second-half schedule panned out.
2. Why won't the media rip Mike Tomlin as much for his late onside kick as they did Bill Belichick for going for it on fourth-and-2 against the Colts? Obviously, the Steelers winning helped. Does that mean Belichick would have been off the hook if New England had held on to beat Indy, which easily could have happened? That seems hypocritical. Tomlin's mistake was actually worse regardless of the outcome. And the Pittsburgh game was more meaningful, since the Pats-Colts game only affected playoff seeding.
3. Based on recent history, the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is meaningless. The Super Bowl-winning team hasn't had the No. 1 seed in its conference since the 2003 Patriots. The Colts may go 16-0, but how can you consider them a strong favorite with all their close games? They've won eight of their 14 games by eight or fewer points and aren't reminding anyone of the 1985 Bears. In the NFC, the big question appears to be which dome - the Superdome or Metrodome? If you look at recent playoffs, does it make a huge difference?
4. Losing to the Cowboys was the best thing that could have happened to the Saints. They've been racking up more glowing headlines than impressive wins the second half of the season and could use the wake-up call as they prepare their push for the postseason.
In some ways, their fourth-quarter comeback attempt against Dallas was more impressive than their narrow wins over teams like Atlanta and Washington. In the second half, New Orleans turned on a switch and narrowed a 24-3 deficit to 24-17 before blowing a late chance to tie. Even though the Saints came up short, you had to come away from that game feeling that if New Orleans and Dallas played again in the postseason, a more urgent Saints team would have the edge.
5. A few Week 15 outcomes may have bothered fans, but will have no big-picture ramifications. Even though the Packers' loss to the Steelers was dramatic, it likely won't affect Green Bay's playoff seeding. The Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs next week, clinch the AFC North and put the bitter taste of the Chargers' loss out of their mouths. And Arizona's close win over the Lions shouldn't concern anyone, because Arizona has already proven you can take the last month of the season off and come back in January.
6. The Patriots' 17-10 win over Buffalo looked worse than most of their losses. Nevertheless, how can you sleep on them against the elite AFC teams when they manhandled the Colts for three quarters in Indy? New England has no fear of Indianapolis, and has to like the head-to-head coaching matchup against San Diego.
7. We got a first-hand look at why the Michael Vick wildcat offense isn't sustainable in Philly on Sunday. Vick bruised his thigh trying to get a first down on third-and-short. When Vick is clearly committed to the run, the defensive secondary and linebackers fly at him with all they have, dishing out the kind of punishment meant for running backs. No team would ever use a valuable quarterback in that situation over the long term.
8. What's with all the unnecessary unnecessary roughness calls? Officials made a flat-out mistake flagging the Dolphins' Greg Camarillo for a late hit in overtime against Tennessee. Although it was technically right, they were a bit over-eager throwing the flag on the Jets' Alan Faneca on their last drive against Atlanta. And it seems like officials are giving less leeway on any contact near the sideline. Don't they give offenses enough breaks?
9. As the Vikings' running game has fallen off, so has Brett Favre's production. While he has been great, there's no doubt he's been in the right place at the right time up until now. Now that the Vikes are having trouble in other aspects of the offense, Favre will look a lot less rejuvenated.
10. If you were Mike Shanahan, and had your choice of the Redskins and Cowboys, which team would you choose? Even though Wade Phillips got the big win at New Orleans, he's still a long ways from a playoff victory and he could be out if he doesn't get that. If I were Shanahan, I'd hold out for the chance to coach Tony Romo in Dallas, even if it cost him the job in Washington.