With Aaron Gleeman being dispatched to Vegas to cover the MLB winter meetings last week, I've been sharing Rotoworld's Football Daily Dose duties with Mark St. Amant. I'll be up on Rotoworld's front page on Tuesday & Thursday mornings the rest of the season while St. Amant handles Wednesdays & Fridays. Here's Tuesday morning's dose:
With the obvious caveat that they were facing an overmatched Browns team, the Eagles put on a dominant performance for the third straight game since Donovan McNabb's Week 12 benching. As ESPN's Steve Young pointed out after Monday night's laugher, Philly is one of the few teams in the NFC right now that can score 30 points in a game while holding their opponent to less than two touchdowns.
Just three weeks after the epitaphs for McNabb's Eagles career and Brian Westbrook's season were being etched in stone, Andy Reid's squad is the one Wild Card candidate that no contender wants to face. If they can continue their stalwart play against a crumbling Redskins team this week, Philly will host Dallas in a possible winner-take-all final week matchup that will determine who gets into the playoffs and who stays home.
Now that the Giants are struggling to run the ball, pass protect, and gain separation in the receiving game, the NFC is up for grabs for the first time all season. Meanwhile, McNabb has directed an improved offense while completing 69 percent of his passes for 741 yards and a 7-to-1 touchdown/interception ratio. Over the same time period, Westbrook has totaled 400 yards and six touchdowns to generate a consistent ground attack. Throw in DeSean Jackson as an playmaking wild card, and Philly's offense may be in better shape than it's been since the Week 2 barn-burner at Dallas. Even better, their defense has almost completely shut down opposing passing games while remaining strong against the run. As improbable as it seemed on Thanksgiving Day, the Eagles are a legit contender in the NFC.
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The AFC, on the other hand, presents a team going in the opposite direction. Following their one-point loss to the Texans, Tennessee is in danger of backing into the playoffs on the heels of three straight losses. Not only will the Titans be without their All-Pro caliber defensive line tag-team of Albert Haynesworth (sprained MCL) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (minor groin surgery), there are also whispers that the team will rest some of their key players the next two weeks against the 11-3 Steelers and 10-4 Colts.
Coach Jeff Fisher told SI's Peter King earlier in the year that he would not sit his players down the stretch, but he could be waffling. Still, we remain skeptical that Fisher will employ the overly passive "resting" strategy with AFC homefield advantage on the line. The 2007 Giants created a blueprint for riding momentum into the playoffs, and the Titans aren't likely to spit in the face of both common sense and conventional wisdom by mailing it in against the top two AFC contenders in Weeks 16 and 17.
Fisher is one of the best coaches in the NFL, but the flippancy he sported throughout the Texans game is disconcerting. It wasn't just the crucial late-game decision to eschew the long Rob Bironas field goal attempt in favor of the low percentage deep ball. The greater issue was the complete abandonment of the team's running game while continuing to put the ball in an erratic Kerry Collins' hands despite trailing by less than a touchdown. It was almost as if he was willing Collins to prove to him, to his team, and to the NFL that the journeyman passer could carry the Titans to victory if defenses insist on stacking the box with eight or nine defenders. Fisher desperately wanted to show the AFC that his team is not afraid to throw the ball. The problem is, Collins just isn't good enough. Fisher gambled -- and lost big.
Now the Titans are riding a sketchy quarterback, an injury-ravaged defense, and the probability of a demoralizing three-game losing streak into the playoffs. The stars had been aligned in favor of Tennessee for the first three months of the season, but it's quite possible that their once-indomitable coach is letting the season slip away down the stretch.
Two-Minute Drill: Long-time Chiefs President/GM Carl Peterson resigned (or more likely forced out), but Herm Edwards remains employed … As does Bills coach Dick Jauron, after signing a three-year contract extension following Sunday's error-filled loss to the Jets … Tarvaris Jackson, fresh off a four-touchdown performance, will start against Atlanta in Week 16 … Jon Gruden plans to name a starting QB by Wednesday, and he's hoping it's Jeff Garcia … The Lions will stick with Dan Orlovsky for another week … Coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't believe that Anquan Boldin's mid-season head injury is affecting his play, but he does worry that Boldin is being overused in the offense … Broncos waived would-be RB sleeper Cory Boyd … Fellow Bronco Selvin Young could be left out of the offense after losing a key fumble against Carolina … LaMont Jordan played a season-high 16 snaps against the Raiders … Titans owner Bud Adams still considers Vince Young the quarterback of the future … Bucs DE Greg White has officially changed his first name to "Stylez" in a nod to the 1985 Micheal J. Fox classic, Teen Wolf. Next step: van surfing.
Red Zone: According to coach Tom Coughlin, Brandon Jacobs (knee) is uncertain to practice Wednesday. NBC's Andrea Kramer reported Sunday night that the "tentative plan" was for Jacobs to play in the NFC clash of the titans against the Panthers … Tony Dungy expects both Joseph Addai and Bob Sanders to return Thursday against the Jags … One half of the Vikings' Williams Wall, Pat, will miss the rest of the regular season and possibly the playoffs with a broken right scapula … Coach Jim Haslett revealed that Steven Jackson did not suffer a concussion against the Seahawks, so he's likely to avoid the injury report this week … Santana Moss did suffer a concussion, but the team anticipates him being fine for Week 16 … Jason Campbell is dealing with an elbow injury but is expected to practice Wednesday … Though Jason Witten has a slightly sprained ankle, the Cowboys don't foresee him missing any game time … WR Roy Williams is fighting plantar fascia, which is almost certainly limiting his production … Chargers WR Malcom Floyd was hospitalized with a collapsed lung, but he has a chance to play in Week 16 … Matt Hasselbeck is expected to miss a third straight week with back troubles … … After a disappointing season, Bills rookie WR James Hardy tore his ACL in Week 15.