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Five Questions for Week 17 in the NFL

Every Tuesday I’ll take a look at the five biggest questions surrounding NFL teams for that week. With just one Sunday remaining in the 2011 regular season, this week I take a look at the “NFC East Championship Game,” as well as the other key matchups that could potentially affect the playoff picture.

New York Giants Eli Manning stands in the huddle in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins in week 15 of the NFL season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on December 18, 2011. UPI /John Angelillo

1. Cowboys or Giants?
As I’ve often written in my weekly predictions for the NFL: I wouldn’t bet this game with your money. You just don’t know what you’re going to get out of either of these teams. The Giants have the capabilities to march into New England and beat the Patriots, but they might be the worst home team in the NFL. The Cowboys are good when nobody is paying attention to them but choke when the spotlight is on. Dallas could have, and maybe should have, won the first meeting between these two teams but the Giants pulled off one of their patent 2011 fourth-quarter comebacks. When Eli Manning protects the football the G-Men usually win. But get him in one of his deer-caught-in-the-headlights modes and New York will be watching the playoffs from home next week. On the other side, Tony Romo can be just as toxic and come Sunday he’ll be playing with a bruised hand. Again, you just don’t know what you’re going to get when these teams collide. And while you might as well flip a coin when it comes to predicting who will win, at least we know this game will be highly entertaining. Strap ‘em up!

2. Ravens or Steelers?
Given the dynamics at play, this might be the most interesting question this week. Baltimore and Pittsburgh have identical 11-4 records but the Ravens have the edge because of two head-to-head wins over the Steelers. But Baltimore has also been a completely different team on the road this year than at home, and the Ravens play at Cincinnati this Sunday. The Steelers, meanwhile, will travel to Cleveland to play a sputtering Browns team that hasn’t won in five weeks. Considering the Bengals need a win to wrap up the sixth spot in the AFC, they’re going to give Baltimore everything they have. After all these weeks of Baltimore being in the driver’s seat, it would be interesting to watch the Ravens flip with the Steelers and become the No. 5 seed instead of the No. 2 seed. That would dramatically alter the playoff picture in the AFC because again, the Ravens are a much tougher team at home than they are on the road. Plus, if the Steelers clinch the No. 2 seed then Ben Roethlisberger would essentially have two weeks to rest his injured ankle before Pittsburgh played its first playoff game. This Sunday is absolutely huge for not only the top three teams in the AFC North, but also for the entire AFC playoff structure.

3. Raiders or Broncos?
The Raiders looked like they were headed for their fourth consecutive loss last Sunday before Richard Seymour got one of his big paws on Ryan Succop’s game-winning field goal attempt. Now Oakland has an opportunity to win the AFC West if it can find a way to beat San Diego and have Kansas City upset Denver. The Broncos have an “easier” path to the playoffs because the Chiefs are a more inferior team than the Chargers, but let’s not forget how indifferent San Diego can be at times. (Denver also could lose and still make the playoffs if Oakland falls as well.) With nothing to play for it wouldn’t be surprising if the Bolts rolled over and played dead for the Raiders, even though they could effectively end Oakland’s season. It wouldn’t be shocking if both Denver and Oakland won but then again, something crazy always seems to happen in the final week of the season. Thus, strap in and hang on tight…

4. Bengals, Raiders, Titans or Jets?
The sixth seed in the AFC has become the redheaded stepchild of this year’s playoffs. (My apologies to all redheaded stepchildren.) You get the sense that whichever team makes it in will be making a quick exit out of the playoffs come next week. But think about it, the Texans are the No. 3 seed and just lost to the Colts. On any given Sunday, the Bengals, Raiders, Titans or Jets could certainly upset Houston in the Wild Card round. Granted, none of those teams would fare well against the Patriots in the Divisional Round, but the key takeaway is that whoever clinches the sixth seed in the AFC has a legitimate shot of advancing to the second round. And let’s not forget how the Seahawks shocked the world by upsetting the Saints in last year’s playoffs when they were double-digit underdogs. Thus, the race for the sixth seed is more interesting then people may think. (Uh, you know, despite the fact that all of the teams competing for it are highly flawed.)

5. How will the final playoff picture look in the NFC?
Outside of the Packers, who are entrenched in the No. 1 spot, and the winner of the NFC East, which would be the No. 4 seed, the rest of the NFC playoff picture is completely unsettled. We know that it’ll be the 49ers or Saints that wrap up the No. 2 seed. Considering San Francisco is playing St. Louis this Sunday, it’ll probably be the Niners that will earn a bye week and home field advantage in the Divisional Round. But the two Wild Card spots are up for grabs, too. The Lions have a one-game edge over the Falcons, but Atlanta beat Detroit earlier this year so if the Lions lose to the Packers and the Falcons beat the Bucs then Atlanta would wrap up the No. 5 seed. That’s highly important to the Falcons, who were just crushed by the Saints on Monday night and probably aren’t ready to go back to the Superdome next week if they’re the sixth seed and New Orleans is the third seed. And then…ah, whatever. Who needs a drink after trying to figure all of this out?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 14 in the NFL

Every Sunday throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb celebrates his touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 28, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Holy facemask, Batman – why wasn’t a penalty called on linebacker DeAndre Levy when he grabbed Joe Webb’s facemask on that crazy final play in Detroit today? Granted, the game should have never come down to that play for the Lions, who were up 31-14 at one point. But how do you miss that if you’re the refs?

- Speaking of Webb – dude was fun to watch today. The Lions didn’t prepare for a running quarterback in practice this week so it’s not surprising that Webb was able to burn Detroit with his legs. But he nearly led Minnesota to the most improbable win of the day. I feel like I’m back in 2010 when Webb was starting for that perv Brett Favre.

- It’s hard to criticize the effort that Jake Locker put in today while replacing the injured Matt Hasselbeck (calf). For three and a half quarters Locker went toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and nearly willed the Titans to a huge come-from-behind victory. He flashed his athletic ability on a 6-yard touchdown run that gave the Titans a brief lead in the second half, and threw a couple beautiful passes in the fourth quarter to put his team into scoring range. That said, THROW THE BALL, KID! Anything but take a sack in that situation.

- Tim Tebow: Five fourth-quarter or overtime wins this season. That’s amazing. The guy won’t complete a pass for the first quarter and a half (although his receivers didn’t help him today), will look completely horrendous until the fourth quarter and then pull some miraculous victory out of his backside. He’s a mixture of luck, clutch play and pure disaster but Denver now owns the AFC West with three games remaining. Think about that for a second.

- What’s the big deal? So Tom Brady got yelled at. Stop the presses. He threw an ugly interception midway through the fourth quarter and it pissed off offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. Even Super Bowl MVPs deserve a tongue-lashing from time to time. Neither Brady nor O’Brien will let this dustup affect their relationship moving forward.

- Rob Gronkowski is essentially uncoverable one-one-one. Washington’s defensive backs were draped all over him on several of his catches and he/Brady still made plays. Gronk has some big-time mitts.

- I’m done doubting the Texans. That’s the grittiest team I’ve seen play in a long time. Without its top two quarterbacks, its top defensive player and its top offensive weapon, Houston just keeps plugging along. I keep waiting for the Texans to eventually come up short and it looked like they would today in Cincinnati. Then all of a sudden T.J. Yates is throwing a game-winning touchdown pass as time expires. Tim Tebow lovers may disagree but Houston is the best story of the season.

- That’s a blow that I don’t think the Bengals will be able to come back from. Wowzers. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

- If Shonn Greene continues to run as hard as he did today, the Jets will be dangerous again if/when they make the playoffs. New York’s entire success offensively revolves around its running game. It has to with Mark Sanchez at the helm.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls out the play against the Carolina Panthers during their NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina December 12, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Down 23-7 at halftime, the Falcons looked like a team that didn’t deserve to be a playoff team. They had zero urgency or energy, their offensive line looked like a complete mess and the defense couldn’t tackle a soul. Then they came out in the second half and played like the team people thought they would at the beginning of the season. Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes, including two to Julio Jones (who had a case of the drops earlier in the game) and one beautiful rainbow to rookie Jacquizz Rodgers. It appears as though the Saints will win the NFC South but the Falcons are in great shape assuming they don’t crap the bed from here on out. They have a very winnable home game against the Jaguars this week before heading to New Orleans for a rematch with the Saints and hosting the Bucs in Week 17. There’s no reason Atlanta shouldn’t get to 10 wins and secure the fifth seed in the NFC (assuming the Saints keep winning, that is). Had the Falcons lost today in Carolina, they would have been on the outside looking in. Good thing they woke up.

- All that crap the Bears talked about this week regarding the Broncos’ style of play and they go out and cough up a potential victory. That soft Tampa 2 the Bears run on defense makes it awfully easy for even a guy like Tim Tebow to complete passes with the game on the line.

- Was today’s loss to the Cardinals the product of their division-clinching win last Sunday against the Rams, or are the Niners starting to show some cracks? I think a little bit of both. Clearly San Francisco was out of whack and it wasn’t surprising that the Niners came out flat after securing a playoff berth last weekend. But they’re susceptible to the deep pass defensively, which isn’t a good sign considering San Fran could eventually play Green Bay or New Orleans in the playoffs. Starting left tackle Joe Staley was also hurt, which is a huge problem considering Alex Boone is his replacement. Hopefully for San Fran’s sake, this loss will serve as a wakeup call for the Niners.

- The Cardinals have six wins on the year and John Skelton is essentially responsible for four of them. (He didn’t start today but he essentially won the game for Arizona once Kevin Kolb was forced to leave with a head injury.) Oh those scrappy John Skelton-led Cardinals…

- I truly didn’t expect the Raiders to beat the Packers today at Lambeau but what an ugly performance by Oaktown. For entertainment sake, here’s hoping Tebowmania keeps rolling and the Broncos make the playoffs over the Raiders, who have looked completely lethargic the past two weeks.

- Whistlegate? Titans’ offensive linemen Jake Scott and Michael Roos said that a whistle was being blown in the area of the Saints’ bench late in New Orleans’ 22-17 victory in Tennessee. My question is, wouldn’t the ref on the New Orleans’ sideline hear the whistle? This story ranks right up there with “Tripgate” from last year.

- It’s amazing how Raheem Morris has gone from being one of the league’s brightest young coaches to being on the hot seat. The organization will have to figure out whether or not it wants Morris to be a lame duck in 2012 or fire him this offseason, because clearly the Bucs can’t give this guy an extension. That was an ugly performance by Morris’ Bucs in Jacksonville today.

- Somehow, the Chargers are still alive…

Green Bay Packers’ Greg Jennings fails to catch a pass while playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half during their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Hauck (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- While watching the Packers absolutely destroy the Raiders today at Lambeau, I thought to myself, “Why even have a playoff? Just hand the ‘Discount Double-Check’s’ the Lombardi.” Then Greg Jennings left the field on a cart after suffering a leg injury that obviously left him in a ton of pain. Green Bay overcame a slew of injuries to win the Super Bowl last year and the Pack certainly have enough weapons to keep terrorizing opponents on a weekly basis. But losing Jennings would be a massive blow.

- Santana Moss won’t sleep well tonight. With the Skins knocking on the door of a potential game-tying score against the Patriots in the closing minutes, he was flagged for offensive pass interference, which moved Washington back to the 15-yard-line. Then he had a Rex Grossman pass bounce off his hands and into those of linebacker Jerod Mayo, which ended the Skins’ comeback attempt. You have to hand it to Washington though. They keep fighting no matter who the opponent is.

- Just think if the Philadelphia defense played that well every week. Given how shaky the rest of the NFC East is, they’d probably be closing in on a playoff spot right now.

2011 NFL Week 14 Point Spreads & Odds

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates after the Panthers score against the Washington Redskins in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 23, 2011. Carolina won 33-20 UPI/Nell Redmond .

Four spreads of note:

Giants +3 @ Cowboys, 8:30PM ET, Sunday
This game is the ultimate crapshoot; it could play out in a variety of different ways, none of which would be surprising. But if you’re looking for value, I almost always go with the underdog when it comes to betting on NFC East teams. When NFC East teams are expected to win against an inferior opponent, for whatever reason they seem to underachieve. Examples of this include the Cowboys’ loss to the Cardinals last week, or their failed cover against the Dolphins and Redskins, respectively, in previous games. The Giants also lost to the Seahawks at home, failed to cover against the Dolphins at home, and lost the Eagles as a 6-point favorite in Week 11. On the flip side, the Giants covered and won against the Eagles (Week 2), Patriots (Week 9) and Packers (Week 13) as underdogs of seven points or more. Granted, New York was also crushed by New Orleans in Week 12 but my point is this: NFC East teams often represent value when they’re the underdog and are good fade material when they’re supposed to win. I don’t have hard data here so take this simple approach with a grain of salt. But again, from a pure value standpoint it sure seems like NFC East teams rise to the challenge when they’re the dog.

Raiders +11 @ Packers, 4:15PM ET
As I’ve written many times on this site: It’s Green Bay and then everyone else. And with how poorly Oakland played last Sunday in Miami, there will be plenty of bettors that look at the spread in this game and lay the 11 points without hesitation. But let’s keep in mind that the Raiders’ backs are against the wall here. They’re now tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West and while they play undefeated Green Bay this Sunday, the Broncos have a very winnable home game against a Jay Cutler and Matt Forte-less Chicago team. Thus, we’re probably going to see Oakland’s best effort. With the amount of injuries that the Raiders accumulated in the past month, it was only a matter of time before they suffered a letdown like they did last weekend against the Dolphins. Thus, I’m thinking they bounce back strong this Sunday and at the very least stay within 10 points of the Pack.

49ers -3.5 @ Cardinals, 4:05PM ET
This is a game you look at and you say, “49ers are only -3.5? Sign me up.” But Arizona proved last Sunday in its win over Dallas that it hasn’t given up on the season despite the fact that the playoffs remain a longshot. The Rams, on the other hand, gave up weeks ago and bettors will probably rush to the window to lay coin on a Niners team that routed St. Louis by 26 points last week. What I’m saying is that this is your classic trap game. Oddsmakers claim that they don’t lay traps for bettors but why is this game only 3.5? San Fran is 10-2 this season while Arizona is 5-7. Even with home field advantage factored in, the line still seems too low. I’m not suggested that the Cards will win outright but something tells me oddsmakers are banking on this being a field goal game either way.

Falcons -3 @ Panthers, 1:00PM ET
I wrote this in my recap of Week 13 and I’ll mention it again seeing as how it relates to this article: I don’t think there’s that wide of a gap between the Falcons and Panthers right now. On paper, Atlanta has better overall talent. But on paper, Atlanta had better overall talent than Houston and it lost 17-10 despite the fact that Andre Johnson suffered another hamstring injury in the second half and T.J. Yates started for the Texans at quarterback. The Falcons will once again be without top cornerback Brent Grimes and nickel back Kelvin Hayden, which means Dominique Franks and Chris Owens will receive plenty of looks this Sunday from Cam Newton. Given the inexperience of Franks and Owens, they become a weakness that Newton may exploit. There’s always value in a home dog and given the injuries the Falcons are currently dealing with on both sides of the ball, I’d give Carolina a long look this Sunday.

2011 NFL Week 14 Odds:

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Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 13 in the NFL

Every Sunday throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers is chased out of the pocket by New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul in the first quarter in week 13 of the NFL season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on December 4, 2011. The Packers defeated the Giants 38-35 and remain undefeated for the season at 12-0. UPI /John Angelillo

- I’ll write this every week until somebody proves they can beat them: When it comes to the power structure in the NFL, it’s the Packers and everyone else. Outside of maybe the Saints, any other team would have tried a few feeble pass attempts at the end of that game today in New York and then settled for overtime. But not Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who glided down the field in 14 seconds, got into field goal range and kicked a game-winner at the end of regulation. Teams will continue to move the ball on Green Bay’s defense but give Rodgers an inch and he’s going to take 80 yards (and six points). I’ve written this several times on this site: Ted Thompson built one hell of a team because while Rodgers is unbelievable, he has a slew of weapons at his disposal. I just don’t see how this team loses at home in the playoffs.

- Tim Tebow made some great throws today, which of course is a noteworthy because Tim Tebow rarely makes good throws. That said, he might as well have been throwing against air because Minnesota’s secondary let Denver’s receivers run wild the entire game. It was almost as if the Vikings gave Demaryius Thomas a free one-day pass to tour their defensive backfield. And boy did he take advantage of it.

- The Texans will be fine with T.J. Yates under center. He was fortunate that his biggest mistake (an interception return for touchdown by the Falcons’ Mike Peterson) was wiped out by a holding penalty on cornerback Dunta Robinson. But even if that play stood ,Yates played well enough to win. In fact, he outplayed a mistake-prone Matt Ryan. That said, with Andre Johnson scheduled to undergo an MRI on his hamstring, you have to wonder if the Texans will just be happy to make the playoffs if/when they do. They’ve played some gritty football this season but they’re going to be awfully worn out come January.

- The Giants deserve credit for showing up today after being humiliated by the Saints on Monday Night Football. But it’s startling how easy it is for offenses to move the chains on their defense. Granted, New York is dealing with a ton of injuries on that side of the ball but it took Aaron Rodgers just 14 seconds to get into field goal range for the game-winner today. Fourteen seconds! It takes me longer to speed dial my mother.

- The Raiders deserve a lot of credit for overcoming injuries on both sides of the ball in order to win three in a row coming into this week. But a big part of me wondered if they were winning with smokes and mirrors. Michael Bush has been outstanding but was the defense as really as good as it seemed or was its play a product of the offenses they were playing (i.e. San Diego, Minnesota and the Jay Cutler-less Bears)? That question may have been answered today. Miami racked up 362 yards of total offense, including 209 yards on the ground. Oakland’s run defense has been Jekyll and Hyde all year and today they were more Jekyll than Hyde. Now that they’re tied with the Broncos atop the AFC West it’ll be interesting to see how Oakland responds to this loss, especially with a trip to Green Bay coming up next week.

- How did so many teams miss Antonio Brown in the 2010 draft? It’s not like he didn’t tear it up at Central Michigan and clearly he has the speed to be an effective return man yet he lasted until the sixth round. He only made two catches today but his 45-yard catch-and-run was a display of pure speed. It’s almost unfair for defenses to that Big Ben is always able to break out of would-be tackles and throw to speedsters like Brown and Mike Wallace.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith pitches the ball out against the St. Louis Rams during their NFL football game in San Francisco, California December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- They played the Rams so take this for what it’s worth: The Niners showed today that they have more than “just” Frank Gore on offense. Alex Smith (17-of-23 for 274 yards and two touchdowns) had his best game of the season, while receivers Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams flashed a good deal of playmaking ability themselves. Given how good the defense is, if some of San Fran’s other weapons step up offensively, there’s no reason to think the Niners can’t make it to the NFC title game or beyond.

- The Falcons’ offense was completely out of sync today in Houston. Part of the reason for that was because Michael Turner was dealing with a groin injury and ran like he had four tons of cement tied to his legs. Wade Phillips’ defense also constantly harassed Matt Ryan, who wasn’t on the same page with his receivers (who kept dropping the ball). But the bigger issue is that Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey blew it by not running the no-huddle at the start of the year. It’s the offense that Ryan is most comfortable and most successful running but because the Falcons are trying to iron out kinks in live games, it’s no surprise that they sputtered against a good defense. Had Smith switched to the no-huddle months ago, the Falcons may be firing on all cylinders right now. Regardless, it’s clear that Atlanta isn’t good enough to beat the top teams in the league. They’re a classic second-tier team and I don’t see them getting over the hump this season.

- Considering Percy Harvin has been the Vikings’ entire offense the past two weeks while Adrian Peterson has been out, I don’t blame Christian Ponder for looking his way with Minnesota needing a big play with under two minutes remaining in a tied game. But in the name of Tim Tebow that was a horrible decision by Ponder on Andre Goodman’s interception. Harvin had coverage in front of him, behind him, and to the side of him. He might as well been wearing a Denver uniform he was so covered up.

- Jets, Bengals, Falcons, Lions, Bears, Giants. Nice Wild Card teams this year. Not a flaw in that group.

- Rob Gronkwoski is only 22 and he’s already the GREATEST TIGHT END TO HAVE EVER PLAYED THE GAME. Just ask his fantasy owners.

- Tyler Palko’s first career touchdown pass was even more improbable than his first career win. On a day when the 4-7 Chiefs knocked off the 7-4 Bears, Palko’s first TD as a pro came on a fluke Hail Mary to Dexter McCluster right before half. Brian Urlacher leaped into the air and batted the ball perfectly into McCluster’s hands. Who would have thought that score would be all the Chiefs needed to win?

- You heard it here first: The Panthers will beat the Falcons next Sunday in Carolina. The records say different but there’s not that big of a gap between Carolina and Atlanta right now. And with two of the Falcons’ top three corners out with injuries, Cam Newton should have a field day throwing the ball. (On a related note, that pitch-back to Newton that the Panthers ran today in their win over the Bucs was sweeeet.)

- Every team has to deal with injuries. It’s the ones that draft well and build depth through free agency that can overcome the inevitable bumps and bruises. But what’s a team to do when it losses it’s quarterback and star player in a three-week span? You almost have to feel for the Bears, who lost Matt Forte to a Grade 2 MCL sprain today. For those that watched Chicago’s loss to Kansas City, you saw a Bears team that had absolutely nothing offensively. Even though they currently own the fifth seed in the NFC, the Bears aren’t making the playoffs with a backfield tandem of Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber. It’s an unfortunate situation for a team that looked like it was postseason bound just three weeks ago.

- Following Cleveland’s loss to Baltimore, Browns coach Pat Shumur said that Peyton Hillis is dealing with an undisclosed injury and his status for Week 14 is uncertain. I’m not suggesting he’s a bad player but what team in their right mind would give Hillis a huge contract? The guy just can’t stay healthy. (Although if you’re the Browns, what choice do you have? That team has zero offense.)

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is seen on the sidelines before the Cowboys game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on September 12, 2010. The Redskins defeated the Cowboys 13-7. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

- Classic Cowboys. They scratch and claw their way up the NFC East standings and with a golden opportunity to take a two-game lead over the Giants in the division, they lose to the Cardinals while scoring only 13 points. Oh, and after Jason Garrett freezes his own placekicker. Even though New York lost to Green Bay and remains one game behind Dallas with four weeks left to play, the race in the East is far from over. As Arizona proved today, that’s a very flawed team that Jerry Jones owns.

- The fact that the Cardinals continue to fight despite the fact that they have basically nothing to play for is a credit to Ken Whistenhunt. Some were suggesting that he be fired at the start of the season but he’s clearly still the right man for the job. One strong offseason and I envision the Cards challenging the Niners in the division next year.

- The Ravens have gone run-heavy the past three games following an ugly loss to the Seahawks in which they tried to win by being aggressive through the air. That makes me wonder what John Harbaugh said to Cam Cameron the week after the Seattle loss. “Hey Cam, come on in. As you’ll see behind me, Ray Rice is standing to my left and to my right is the door. It’s up to you which one you want to use from this point forward but it will be one or the other.”

- The Bengals have been one of this year’s biggest surprises and nobody thought they’d win five games nevertheless seven. But their performance today in Pittsburgh proved just how far they have in their maturation process. Andy Dalton looked like a deer caught in the headlights and if it weren’t for A.J. Green (who at this point is clearly better than Julio Jones), Cincinnati may not have cracked 100 yards of offense. The fans in Cincinnati have suffered long enough and they deserve to watch their team in the playoffs but it’s hard to imagine the Bengals winning a postseason game on the road.

- That’s almost kind of like a win for the Colts, right? Twenty-one point dog and they lose by seven. Not bad considering.

Victim: Raiders’ McClain put gun to my head

Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain has been arrested in connection with a shooting that occurred on Wednesday evening in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama.

McClain, 23, has been charged with discharging a firearm within city limits, which is a third degree assault, as well as menacing and reckless endangerment. According to Decatur police, McClain allegedly stood over another man with a pistol and aimed it at the victim’s head. When the victim begged for his life, McClain allegedly fired a shot past the man’s ear.

The incident stemmed from a fight that occurred around 10:20 p.m. CST on Wednesday night. The victim allegedly got into a fight with a man identified as Jerradius Willingham, who was also booked in connection with the situation. During the fight, the victim sustained injuries to his head and face and was bleeding from the nose and mouth while giving his report to police officers. The victim then drove himself to the hospital following questioning.

This isn’t the only shooting incident that McClain has been involved in during the past year. In January, someone shot at the linebacker’s Chevy Tahoe and while McClain was unharmed, the police did remove one bullet from the rear hatch of his SUV. McClain was also traveling in Alabama at the time.

The Raiders selected McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft. He’s been limited this season due to an ankle injury but McClain has recorded 58 tackles thus far. He apparently missed practice on Wednesday while attending his grandfather’s funeral.

The Raiders have yet to comment on the shooting outside of to say that they are aware of the situation. McClain’s status for this Sunday’s game against the Titans is uncertain as of this writing and the NFL is currently looking into the incident. As of right now it’s hard to gauge whether or not he’ll be suspended but it’s not a stretch to say that his season may be in doubt. Losing McClain for the rest of the year would be a massive blow to an Oakland team that is currently in first place in the AFC West and is one game up on Denver in the division.

The Raiders play at Tennessee Miami this Sunday.

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