ICYMI: INTs for Rodgers, Manziel; Christie's 'Boys
Aaron Rodgers' worst NFL regular-season game - two interceptions, a fumble that became an outcome-sealing safety, zero touchdown passes, only 17 completions on 42 attempts - slowed his Green Bay Packers' trot to a playoff spot.
Might have cost him some MVP votes, too.
''It wasn't my best day,'' Rodgers said, ''by any stretch of the imagination.''
Rodgers, who had three picks all season until Sunday, and his pass-dropping receivers had a rough time in a 21-13 loss at Buffalo that ended the Packers' five-game winning streak and dropped them to 10-4, the same record as Detroit in the NFC North. With Green Bay facing a bad Bucs team next week, while the Lions take on the dysfunctional Bears, that division's champion should be decided in Week 17, when Detroit is at Green Bay.
Not much else is very clear in the NFC postseason picture, although Arizona (11-3) clinched a berth when Philadelphia lost 38-27 to NFC East leader Dallas on Sunday night, and San Francisco (7-7) was eliminated from contention with its 17-7 loss to reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle. That ends the 49ers' streak of three consecutive conference title game appearances.
There's a lot more clarity - not to mention consistency - in the AFC.
New England (East), Denver (West) and Indianapolis (South) all sealed division title repeats with victories, and defending North champion Cincinnati is in first place, too.
In case you missed it, here are the other top topics after the NFL season's 15th Sunday:
JOHNNY ROOKIE: Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel received a rude welcome to the NFL in his first start, passing for only 80 yards, throwing a pair of interceptions, getting sacked three times - and being taunted with his trademark finger-rubbing ''money'' gesture - in Cleveland's 30-0 loss to Cincinnati. No one was a harsher critic of the rookie than Manziel himself, who said this about his second interception: ''Whether you're playing in a Pop Warner league or if you're 6 years old, playing in the driveway, you can't throw that ball.''
BUFFALO'S DEFENSE: The Bills have turned in back-to-back defensive gems. They held Rodgers without a TD pass one game after shutting out Denver's Peyton Manning, who had thrown for at least one score in each of his previous 51 games. Buffalo's defense, led by Mario Williams, might be the league's most underrated unit. ''We went up against a Hall of Famer last week,'' safety Aaron Williams said. ''Why couldn't we do it again this week?''
ROAD COWBOYS: Dallas led host Philadelphia 21-0 early in the second quarter, fell behind 24-21, then pulled away to improve to 7-0 on the road, with at least 30 points in each of the past six away wins. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' box, getting national TV face time while helping celebrate one of Dez Bryant's trio of TDs.
FIGHT!: For the second week in a row, a brawl broke out during an NFL game. This time, it was Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey swinging at the head of Jets quarterback Geno Smith that sparked a melee involving plenty of other players on a pair of teams that each came into the game at 2-11. Last week, the Panthers and Saints fought.
REDSKINS FOLLIES: It's always something with the Redskins, who dropped to 3-11 by losing their sixth straight, 24-13 at the Giants, in a game that hinged on a wild sequence at the end of the first half. With Washington ahead 10-7 and - after wasting time between plays, then making an odd choice to accept a penalty - Robert Griffin III appeared to score on an 8-yard touchdown run by diving into the end zone on the half's last play. But it was ruled he juggled the ball. ''It's a touchdown in every game that I've ever seen,'' RG3 said, ''but they decided that it wasn't today.'' The call prompted coach Jay Gruden and some players to charge at officials to complain; receiver Santana Moss was ejected; two penalties were enforced on the second-half kickoff; the Giants recovered an onside kick that led to a field goal. Whew.
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