Welcome to NFL Week 16

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

Ken Fidlin, Dan Bilicki and Randall the Handle look ahead to Week 16 in the NFL, and look back at the week that was:

1. The Packers’ first loss: Letdown? Or relief?

After 19 consecutive victories — six last season, including the Super Bowl, and 13 this year — the Packers finally tasted defeat Sunday against an unlikely opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs. Will this loss leave a mark or will the veteran Packers quickly move on from the distraction of their pursuit of perfection? “I think the most disappointing thing is losing a game like this, this late in the season when you’re getting ready to make a run at the playoffs,” guard T.J. Lang said. “A big key to our team last year winning the Super Bowl is we got hot late in the year and we kept going throughout the playoffs. You never want to take a step back this late.”

2. Will the Indianapolis Colts actually cut Peyton Manning?

Heresy, you say? Well, as much as Manning has meant to the Colts franchise since they drafted him first overall in 1998, at some point reality has to prevail. With the worst record in the NFL, the Colts have a rare chance to draft an heir to the Manning throne, probably Andrew Luck, from Stanford. Manning will be 36 in March and is coming off career-threatening neck surgery. If the Colts bring him back, they will have to pick up Manning’s $28 million option without knowing if he is capable of playing. It’s either that or release him.

3. Are the Lions really going to make the playoffs?

Nothing in life is certain, but the Lions are all but assured of a post-season berth. At 9-5, they could even lose their final two games and still have a reasonable chance at a wildcard. Detroit, which just three years ago became the only team to lose all 16 games in a season, has not appeared in the playoffs since 1999 and has not won a playoff game since 1991. That 1991 win, a 38-6 rout of the Dallas Cowboys, represents their one and only playoff victory since 1957, when they won their last of four NFL championships.

4. Will Drew Brees surpass Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record?

It’s not “will” but “when.” At 4,780 yards, Brees is just 304 yards shy of Marino’s 27-year-old record of 5,084 yards. Since Brees is averaging 341 yards a game, it’s reasonable to assume it will happen Monday night when the Saints host division rival Atlanta. Earlier this season, Brees torched the Falcons for 322 yards and two TDs in a 23-20 overtime win in Atlanta. If, for some reason, Brees doesn’t get the record on Monday, he will surely get it done in Week 17 against the 19th-ranked Carolina pass defence.

5. What if all four AFC West teams finish at 8-8?

With two games left for everybody, Denver is at 8-6, San Diego and Oakland at 7-7, Kansas City at 6-8. This week, San Diego plays at Detroit, Oakland is at K.C. and Denver is at Buffalo. So, for the sake of argument, San Diego beats Detroit, K.C beats Oakland and (now you really have to suspend belief), Buffalo beats Denver. In week 17, 7-8 K.C. would play at 8-7 Denver while 8-7 San Diego plays at 7-8 Oakland. If K.C. and Oakland win those games, you have four identical 8-8 records. In that scenario, the division champion would be (wait for the drum roll) the Kansas City Chiefs.

HYPE WE’RE BUYING

Jim Harbaugh as coach of the year? Who else? Nobody saw this coming when Harbaugh jumped from Stanford to take over the Niners. He has taken a rookie-laden lineup with a supposed journeyman QB in Alex Smith and turned them into a team that nobody wants to play against.

HYPE WE’RE NOT

The Patriots may have solved the Tebow conundrum Sunday by forcing him to stay in the pocket and try to beat them with his substandard arm. But this is still the same porous Patriots’ defence that sits dead last in the league in yardage and will be the team’s Achilles heel come playoff time.

STOCK RISING

John Skelton, Cardinals

While the Cardinals might not yet be willing to turn their back on starter Kevin Kolb, Skelton, when filling in for Kolb, has become a reliable gamer, every bit as dramatic as Tim Tebow has been in Denver. He’s won four of his five starts, all of them in dramatic fashion.

STOCK FALLING

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers

In 2010, Freeman threw 25 TD passes and was picked off just six times. In 2011, with his team plummeting like a stone, Freeman has thrown for 13 TDs and had 18 picked. Saturday against the Cowboys, Freeman looked dazed and confused, unable to pull the trigger until it was too late.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay

This seat isn’t just hot. It is in flames. The Bucs lost their eighth game in a row to the Cowboys and looked utterly rudderless in the process. Bucs’ players talked of going to bat for their coach but when push came to shove, they had no appetite for the fight. Whether he survives through the last two games or not, Morris is now officially toxic.

SAY WHAT?

“We showed today that we’re not ready to go to the playoffs and make a push. We’ve got to get better and we only have two or three weeks to do it. If we don’t, then we’ll be sitting home.”

— Broncos corner Champ Bailey

DAN BILICKI’S FANTASY MATCH-UPS

DREAM MATCHUP

New England vs. Miami

The Patriots have one of the league’s hottest offences, having scored at least 31 points in each of their past six games — all wins. They also crushed the Dolphins back in Week 1, with Tom Brady throwing for 517 yards and four TDs. Don’t expect 500+ yards again playing in the cold, but the Pats’ passing game should again be one of the week’s best.

NIGHTMARE TIME

Cleveland at Baltimore

Don’t expect the poor Browns to move the ball up and down the field against the Ravens like the surging Chargers did on Sunday night. Even if Colt McCoy comes back from a concussion, this is still a very weak offence. When these two teams met three weeks ago, the Ravens held the Browns to 3.5 yards per carry and a meagre 4.8 yards per pass attempt.

RANDALL’S RANTS

1. It is always fascinating to us that NFL teams, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, cannot find coaches or assistants or even better, a designated gambler that understands when to go for the 2-point convert. A prime example was in the Raiders’ horrendous loss to the Lions on Sunday. Oakland had its share of physical miscues but it’s the mental mistakes that hurt most. With just over 7:00 minutes to play and Oakland having scored a touchdown to put them up by 12, the convert awaited. Coach Hue Jackson opted for the single-point convert. Why? Someone tells us why? Why? Why?? If you miss the 2-pointer, you’re up 12. If you make it, you’re up 14. If you make the almost automatic 1-pointer, you’re up 13. Isn’t 12 the same as 13? Two touchdowns beat you at 12 or 13. And it did. And it looks good on them.

2. Some consider Denver’s John Fox to be a solid and capable coach. Oh, is that so? Then why would he have a player standing at his own 10-yard line with :03 left to the half to return a punt? The result was a fumble that led to a gift field goal. Why have anyone back there at all?

3. While Tim Tebow was being schooled by New England’s Tom Brady in the Patriots’ 41-23 pasting of Denver, Kansas City’s Kyle Orton (formerly of the Broncos) was celebrating his team’s 19-14 upset win over the previously unbeaten Packers. For some reason, Kyle Orton was vilified from the day he arrived in Denver. Yes, it’s only one game but gimme Orton over Tebow any day.

4. Unless he’s selling ice-cream, can someone please tell Seattle head coach Pete Carroll to stop wearing white pants in mid-December?


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