WhatIfSports Duel to the Death Season: Week 15 (Part 1)

With only three weeks left in the Greatest of All Time season, I’m going to run the pre-Week 15 standings below so you all can see where we’re at heading into this week’s games:

AFC East

  1. ’07 New England: 10-3 (3)
  2. ’72 Miami: 7-6 (6)
  3. ’90 Buffalo: 7-6
  4. ’68 NY Jets: 5-8

AFC North

  1. ’75 Pittsburgh: 10-3 (4)
  2. ’58 Baltimore: 6-7
  3. ’81 Cincinnati: 6-7
  4. ’64 Cleveland: 1-12

AFC South

  1. ’00 Tennessee: 12-1 (1)
  2. ’99 Jacksonville: 8-5 (5)
  3. ’91 Houston: 6-7
  4. ’06 Indianapolis: 2-11

AFC West

  1. ’79 San Diego: 12-1 (2)
  2. ’69 Kansas City: 7-6
  3. ’98 Denver: 7-6
  4. ’76 Oakland: 3-10

NFC East

  1. ’92 Dallas: 10-3 (1)
  2. ’91 Washington: 9-4 (5)
  3. ’86 NY Giants: 5-8
  4. ’60 Philadelphia: 1-12

NFC North

  1. ’62 Green Bay: 9-4 (3)
  2. ’85 Chicago: 8-5 (6)
  3. ’73 Minnesota: 4-9
  4. ’52 Detroit: 2-11

NFC South

  1. ’05 Carolina: 8-5 (4)
  2. ’02 Tampa Bay: 8-5
  3. ’09 New Orleans: 5-8
  4. ’12 Atlanta: 4-9

NFC West

  1. ’99 St. Louis: 10-3 (2)
  2. ’05 Seattle: 5-7-1
  3. ’89 San Francisco: 5-7-1
  4. ’08 Arizona: 5-8

Some notes on tiebreakers: Carolina is in the NFC South lead currently because they beat Tampa Bay back in Week 4 (they play again the final week of the season in Charlotte) and Chicago has the lead on the Bucs for the final wild-card spot because they have a better conference record…Dallas has the edge over St. Louis for home-field advantage in the NFC because they have a better conference record…Miami and Kansas City both currently have better division records than Buffalo and Denver, respectively, so the tie for the last AFC wild-card spot comes down to the Dolphins and Chiefs and the Dolphins currently have a better record than the Chiefs in common games…New England beat Pittsburgh back in Week 2, so they’re currently seeded #3 in the AFC as a result…And as far as Tennessee and San Diego are concerned, currently they’re so close in the standings that their tiebreaker goes down to such a weird, uncommon level that I’m not going to bother computing it – mainly because they play each other in Nashville in Week 16 and the tiebreaker will be slightly easier to comprehend after that. For now, I’m subjectively seeding the Titans #1.

That’s it for the tiebreaker talk. Let’s actually play this week’s games! (And by “play,” I of course mean “simulate on a computer.”)

1969 Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) 16, 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars (8-6) 3

Robert Holmes’ nine-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter proved to be all the points the Chiefs needed, as they held the Jaguars to 178 total yards and came away with an important win in Jacksonville. Neither team’s quarterback had a good day: Len Dawson went 14-of-27 for 137 yards and two interceptions (and Mike Livingston came off the bench to throw another pick for the Chiefs), but Mark Brunell could only come up with 108 yards on 29 attempts and threw two interceptions of his own in addition to being sacked four times. Otis Taylor had 67 receiving yards for Kansas City.

2005 Seattle Seahawks (6-7-1) 13, 1958 Baltimore Colts (6-8) 6

Shaun Alexander rushed for 149 yards and the game’s only touchdown on 22 attempts and the Seahawks likely ended the Colts’ playoff hopes with a seven-point win at Qwest Field. Baltimore had a chance in the waning seconds to tie the game, but Johnny Unitas’ last-ditch throw from the Seattle 16 fell incomplete. Baltimore outgained Seattle 275-230 and won the turnover battle 2-0, but could never punch the ball in the end zone and Steve Myhra’s field goal struggles continued as he missed two of his four attempts. Unitas finished 18-of-27 for 131 yards and no interceptions.

2007 New England Patriots (11-3) 24, 1972 Miami Dolphins (7-7) 21

Tom Brady went 24-of-32 for 311 yards and two touchdowns and the Patriots withstood a late Dolphins charge to come away with a road victory, a season sweep over Miami and the AFC East title all in one fell swoop. Brady threw a 64-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Faulk in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 14-3 lead and later threw a three-yard score to Ben Watson in the third to increase their lead to 24-10. The Dolphins came back in the fourth quarter, though, behind a Garo Yepremian field goal and Larry Csonka’s second touchdown run of the game which, after a successful two-point conversion, cut the Patriots’ lead to 24-21. But on Miami’s last possession, Howard Twilley fumbled the ball away at his own 41-yard line and the Patriots were able to run out the clock from there. Bob Griese played well for Miami in defeat, going 13-of-23 for 243 yards.

2006 Indianapolis Colts (3-11) 34, 1998 Denver Broncos (7-7) 21

For one of the few times this season, the Colts actually resembled the high-powered outfit that dominated the NFL’s regular seasons during the 2000s and it came at a terrible time for Denver, as the disappointing home loss dropped them a game in back of Kansas City in the wild-card race with two games to play. Peyton Manning went 16-of-27 for 260 yards and three touchdowns – two to Reggie Wayne and one to Marvin Harrison. Joseph Addai added 151 yards on 15 rushing attempts, including a long run of 58 yards. Terrell Davis continued the trend of rushers dominating the Colts’ run defense with 222 yards and three touchdowns on 23 attempts, but John Elway only went 8-of-13 for 84 yards and threw an interception.

2012 Atlanta Falcons (5-9) 33, 2005 Carolina Panthers (8-6) 7

Matt Ryan went 17-of-23 for 189 yards and two touchdowns and the Falcons shocked the Panthers in Charlotte, bringing an end to Carolina’s five-game winning streak. Michael Turner added 102 yards on 13 rushing attempts and Atlanta’s pass rush got to Jake Delhomme seven times – John Abraham contributed two of those sacks. Jonathan Babineaux also recorded a sack and picked off Delhomme.

2009 New Orleans Saints (6-8) 50, 2008 Arizona Cardinals (5-9) 43

The biggest shootout of the season was ultimately won by the home team, as Drew Brees went 21-of-29 for 387 yards and five touchdowns and the Saints outlasted the Cardinals at the Superdome. Here’s a partial list of the outstanding offensive performers from the game: Kurt Warner threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns on 36 attempts, Larry Fitzgerald had 157 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches, Edgerrin James rushed for 158 yards on 13 attempts, Reggie Bush scored three touchdowns (two on the ground, one through the air) and Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey both had over 90 yards receiving. However, it was Jonathan Vilma’s second interception of the day that ended the Cardinals’ comeback threat with under a minute to go.

1981 Cincinnati Bengals (7-7) 21, 1990 Buffalo Bills (7-7) 16

Ken Anderson threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts and the Bengals kept their playoff hopes alive while severely damaging Buffalo’s at the same time. Turk Schonert came on in relief of Anderson in the third quarter and added a touchdown throw to Steve Kreider which turned out to be the game-winner. Cris Collinsworth had 110 receiving yards on six catches and Dan Ross was the recipient of Anderson’s two touchdown tosses. Jim Kelly went 14-of-22 for 182 yards and two touchdowns but the Bills couldn’t get the ball back after scoring a touchdown with 4:31 remaining in the game.

1989 San Francisco 49ers (6-7-1) 16, 1962 Green Bay Packers (9-5) 9

In a game filled with more Hall of Famers than you could count on both hands and toes, it turned out to be Terrence Flagler of all people who scored the lone touchdown of the game and gave the 49ers their third win in a row and the Packers their third loss in a row. Joe Montana went 15-of-23 for 187 yards and an interception and Jerry Rice caught three passes for 80 yards. With under a minute left, Green Bay drove down to the 49er 9-yard-line, but Bart Starr’s 4th-down pass to Max McGee fell incomplete. The Packer running game was limited to 90 yards on 26 attempts and, as a result, the Packers could find themselves out of first place in the NFC North for the first time all season, pending the result of the Bears-Vikings game later this week.

Tomorrow: The ’99 Rams and ’02 Buccaneers meet in an important game for playoff positioning in the NFC; the ’00 Titans and ’79 Chargers try to take care of business against the ’64 Browns and ’91 Oilers, respectively, with their hugely important head-to-head matchup lingering in Week 16; the ’85 Bears try to move into first place in the NFC North against the ’73 Vikings; and the 9-4 ’91 Redskins travel to Irving to take on the 10-3 ’92 Cowboys. No biggie.


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