Two weeks ago, it appeared the Kansas City Chiefs would be the most thankful in the NFL. But less than a week before the country dines on turkey and all the trimmings, the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals made their case for postseason play and will enjoy a meal that will be extra savory.
Other teams like the Jets, Giants and Texans, however, continue to be plagued with inconsistency and ineffectiveness. In the face of crushing defeats and with the season winding down, it appears these teams have already begun to make their offseason vacation plans.
Here's What Else We Learned:
Patriots Amazing Second Half, Special Teams Blunder Fuels Comeback Win Over Broncos: Don't let the Broncos OT gaffe make you forget what the Pats overcame this week. Make no mistake, New England did two things against the Broncos that no other team has been able to this season - they pressured Peyton Manning and his recievers consistently. Even though they were down 24-0 at the half, the problem was more Denver RB Knowshon Moreno, who ran for over 100 yards through two quarters of action. Scoring 31 second half points after Tom Brady got both Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski involved, the Patriots largely shut down the mighty Broncos offense and let the world know that they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender in a stunning 34-31 win.
Rivers Drowns Chiefs For Second Straight Loss: This was the exact game Philip Rivers needed to have. With 392 yards passing and three TDs, San Diego's offense was beyond super-powered. Injuries to Tamba Hali and Justin Houston seriously hurt the now 9-2 Chiefs, who have to deal with the dangerous Broncos next week.
Rams Offense Shows Up Again in Rout of Bears: Tavon Austin is a speed demon. After a 65-yard TD run that got the Rams on the scoreboard in the first quarter, the team never looked back in a 42-21 win. With the lead, the Rams held on defensively, in spite of giving up 352 yards passing from Bears backup QB Josh McCown, in for the injured Jake Cutler. Now 5-6, the Rams playoff hopes aren't quite deceased.
Steelers, Big Ben Coming Back to Life?: If Ben Roethlisberger doesn't want to be on the Steelers, he sure does a terrible job of showing it on the field. With a two-TD, 217-yard performance from Big Ben and a solid game from their defensive line (65 yards rushing allowed), Pittsburgh got back into the playoff hunt in a 27-11 win over the ailing Browns.
Cowboys Saddle Up and Sneak Past Giants: All those Tony Romo haters in Dallas will have to be silent this week. In a 250 yards passing and two-TD performance, Romo led Dallas down the field in the fourth quarter and helped set up the game-winning Dan Bailey FG in a 24-21 win. Big Blue had their moments though. Eli Manning threw two TDs and didn't throw an interception in a game for only the third time this season. Andre Brown added 127 yards on the ground for the Giants. With the win, Dallas is now tied with the Eagles for the top spot in the NFC East.
Luck Has None Against Cardinals: The second-year Colts QB threw for for a career low 163 yards and added a pick-six in an ugly 40-11 loss to the Cardinals. Thanks to a weak AFC South, the Colts are still saddled firmly in first place, but with plenty of tough teams in the conference, you have to wonder how deep Indianapolis can ride into the postseason. The loss was also their second by 30 or more points in the last three weeks.
Texans Their Own Biggest Loser: The Jaguars scored on their first drive against the spiraling Texans and never looked back. Maurice Jones-Drew added a season high 84 rushing yards and the Texans offense never got going. Texans QB Case Keenum was decent, finding eight different receivers, but stingy coverage cut off the big play. Keenum was limited to just 169 yards passing and no TDs. Without a win since September, the Texans have no more excuses. The loss also extended the team's skid to nine games, a new franchise record.
Fourth Down and Cam Newton Ain't Nothin' to Mess With: On his own 20-yard line, with a fourth and 10 and a potential loss staring him in the eye, Cam Newton marched the Panthers down the field and connected with TE Greg Olson for a one-yard score with just 43 seconds left to play to lead Carolina to a wild 20-16 win over the Dolphins. Their seventh consecutive win, the Panthers, who recently took down the Patriots, are the real deal.