8. Philip Rivers completed more passes (23-39) than Jason Campbell attempted (10-16), but his Chargers still lost 28-13 to the Raiders. The outcome, combined with Kansas City’s win over Denver, pretty much handed the division to the Chiefs. Somehow, the Chargers couldn’t stop the run, giving up 251 yards on an astonishing 52 attempts. When you can’t slow it down and the ratio is 52:16, you’re not reacting right. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush each came up just shy of 100 yards (97 and 95, respectively) while those two and Campbell all found the end zone on the ground. The Chiefs now have a two game edge with four games left. Anything is possible, since they do face the Raiders and Chargers once a piece, but they should be able to coast home.
9. The Bengals, now 2-10, nearly gave an early holiday present to the playoff contenders in the NFC when they fought back from a 20-6 deficit to take a 30-27 lead on the Saints with 4:25 remaining. Then, they went into meltdown mode. New Orleans had a 4th-and-2 at the Cincinnati 7-yardline with :34 left. After a timeout, New Orleans came back to the line of scrimmage and Brees used a hard count twice hoping to draw someone offsides. It didn’t work, and with 10 or so seconds left on the play clock, Brees pulled a Peyton Manning, waving his arms around before coming back to the line of scrimmage. One last attempt at the hard count worked. Pat Simms jumped, handing the Saints a first down and they scored on the next play, a 3-yard strike from Brees to Marques Colston. I’ve never in my life seen someone fall for the old hard count trick in that spot, and it couldn’t have hurt more for a number of playoff teams in the NFC. The Bengals went on to bungle their last possession, taking over with :22 and one timeout left, down four. They opened with a screen play to Brian Leonard, which moved the chains and took the clock to :13. Then they didn’t take a timeout. You couldn’t get everyone to the line from a screen play in under 10 seconds in a best case scenario, but in Carson Palmer and Marvin Lewis’s world, this wasn’t the right spot for their last timeout. They finally called it at the line of scrimmage with 8 seconds left. On the next play, Palmer took a sack, the one thing he couldn’t do, and the Saints escaped with the win. Apparently Andy Reid isn’t the only coach who struggles with late game situations. It’s definitely much easier to make the right calls from home, without the pressure, but still, this one was pretty bad.
10. Thursday Night Football should be even less important or entertaining from here on out, so if you’ve survived this far without NFL Network, you’re good until the offseason. This week, the 6-6 Colts visit the 5-7 Titans, and while Peyton Manning’s bunch is only one game back of Jacksonville, they’ve lost three in a row so there’s not a lot of buildup for this one. Factor in that the Titans have looked awful in losing five straight, and you can live without seeing this one. From there it’s all downhill with 4-8 San Francisco visiting 6-6 San Diego and 1-11 Carolina traveling to play 9-3 Pittsburgh. NFL Network does also have a Saturday night game on Christmas Day between Dallas and Arizona, which won’t have any real implications, but may be of interest to Eagles fans just to root against the Cowboys.