Nothing is crueler than seeing a loved one cling to life while they're clearly in pain and with no hope of recovery, but that's what's taking place in the AFC, where the Texans are the only team officially eliminated from the playoffs. Why are we giving Bills and Raiders fans hope? They've never needed it before, and they certainly don't need it now.
Indianapolis 28, Cincinnati 42
Time of Death: After falling behind early, the Colts looked like they could make things interesting with about 10 minutes to play, when they cut the score to 21-35 and forced the Bengals into a quick punt. That was the closest it would get, as Indianapolis went three-and-out on the next possession.
Cause of Death: For the sixth straight game, the Colts got off to an extremely slow start, heading to the locker room down 14-0. In those six games, Indianapolis has scored a mere 24 total first-half points -- last in the league -- and the Colts haven't scored a touchdown in the first half since Oct. 20.
Atlanta 21, Green Bay 22
Time of Death: Having watched Matt Bryant leave a 52-yard field goal attempt short minutes earlier, the Falcons decided to keep him on the sideline on fourth-and-5 from the Green Bay 33. Unfortunately, Tony Gonzalez couldn't make the catch, continuing the streak of Bad Things Happening To Tony Gonzalez (assuming you don't count being handsome and a lock for the Hall of Fame).
Cause of Death: Matt Flynn is not a quarterback; I know this because he has been behind Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin, Jeff Tuel and Scott Tolzien on various depth charts this season. And yet, against Atlanta's secondary, Flynn went 10-for-12 for 131 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Seven of the quarterbacks the Falcons have faced this year have averaged 8 yards per pass attempt or better. Some of those quarterbacks are really talented. One of them is Matt Flynn.
Cleveland 26, New England 27
Time of Death: Well ...
... yeah. That's not an ideal call with 35 seconds left, but if you're rooting for the Browns, you gave up on ideal decades ago.
Cause of Death: Tempting as it is to just show that penalty again, it's not the officials' fault that Cleveland let the Patriots score on every one of their last five possessions. And this wasn't the case of the offense leaving the defense high and dry -- four of those drives started inside the New England 30, and the Browns defense had only allowed 17 other scoring drives that long all season.
Oakland 27, New York Jets 37
Time of Death: Chris Ivory's 15-yard touchdown run with about nine minutes to play gave the Jets a three-score lead, leaving them the only New York City team still in the playoff hunt, as you no doubt predicted this summer.
Cause of Death: The Jets got a strong performance from their special teams unit, which blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, pinned Oakland at its own 2-yard line with an angled punt, and didn't allow the Raiders to start any drive beyond their 28-yard line (the only drive that did was because of a Geno Smith pick).
Detroit 20, Philadelphia 34
Time of Death: Detroit managed to recover Matt Stafford's first four fumbles, but not the fifth. The Eagles called six straight run plays, ate up over four minutes and scored a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Cause of Death: Perhaps it was due to the garbage truck loads of snow falling from the sky, but the Lions ran the ball way more on first down than they usually do -- 16 times to only six passes. Their first-down ratio on the season had been a much more even 1.2 rushes for every pass before this game, and shifting the balance didn't work for the Lions, who only averaged 2.44 yards on their first-down runs.
Pittsburgh 28, Miami 34
Time of Death: The Steelers came thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to completing a multiple lateral play as time expired that would have given them the win. The sideline, of course, was the problem, because the NFL fates have a sense of humor, even if Roger Goodell does not.
Cause of Death: Miami ran all over Pittsburgh in the second half, picking up 105 yards and a touchdown on 15 attempts. In the second halves of the four games before this, Pittsburgh had only allowed 155 rushing yards and no scores. The Steelers are now on the cusp of their first losing season since 2003, needing to beat the division-leading Bengals, the Packers in Lambeau and the Clevel ... OK, just those first two teams.
Buffalo 6, Tampa Bay 27
Cause of Death: In 40 dropbacks, EJ Manuel had one completion for negative yardage, threw 15 incomplete passes, was intercepted four times and took seven sacks. EJ Manuel did not have a good time in Tampa. EJ Manuel would like to go to Key West, or maybe Cocoa Beach, the next time the Bills plan a vacation in Florida.
Washington 10, Kansas City 45
Time of Death: Pick one of the four touchdowns Kansas City scored before Washington got on the board. Any one of them will work.
Cause of Death: Last week, I blamed Washington's loss on an inability to run the ball with any consistency, but Chris Mottram (rightly) thought I should have pointed the finger at the defense. Let me correct that mistake here -- the Washington defense was awful in this game, giving up 14 plays that gained at least 10 yards. The unit now leads the league in that category, with 197 double-digit yard plays allowed, and is giving up 8.5 yards per passing attempt, which would be the worst average since the 2008 0-16 Detroit Lions.
Minnesota 26, Baltimore 29
Time of Death: You'd think a four-point lead with less than a minute to play would be safe, but not from Joe "The Vanilla Terminator" Flacco, who led an 80-yard drive that ended in a game-winning throw to Marlon Brown with nine seconds left. (Please don't call him that. I'm sorry I even thought it.)
Cause of Death: The Vikings held Baltimore to 163 offensive yards in the first three quarters ... and then gave up 162 yards in the fourth. Only the Lions have given up more fourth-quarter touchdowns than Minnesota this year, and hopefully no Vikings fans are reading this, because that means you haven't gouged your own eyes out yet.
Tennessee 28, Denver 51
Time of Death: Both teams traded touchdowns through the first half, but Tennessee blinked first early in the second, as Denver turned a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception into a scoring drive and a 13-point lead.
Cause of Death: This season, there have been 13 games in which an AFC quarterback has thrown at least four touchdowns. Peyton Manning has seven of them, and is up to 45 touchdowns this year, while the entire AFC South has just 65.
St. Louis 10, Arizona 30
Cause of Death: Carson Palmer completed 84.38 percent of his passes against the Rams, the highest total of his career, and St. Louis only sacked Palmer once. With this loss, the Rams have now had 10 straight seasons without a winning record. The only team with a longer active streak? Oakland, who's now on non-winning season 11.
New York Giants 14, San Diego 37
Time of Death: To come back from a 24-point halftime deficit, the Giants were going to need to hold the Chargers near scoreless in the second half. They failed to meet that goal on San Diego's first drive, an11-play, five-minute plus march that ended in a Ryan Mathews touchdown.
Cause of Death: Eli Manning and the offense couldn't put the Giants back in this game from the bench, which is where they watched a lot of this game as the Chargers held the ball for 13 more minutes. They did so thanks to four drives of 10 plays or more; San Diego now has 31 such drives this year, tops in the NFL.
Seattle 17, San Francisco 19
Time of Death: Seattle still had a chance when it got the ball back with 26 seconds left, but San Francisco's Eric Wright picked off Russell Wilson's first deep pass to seal the win for the Niners.
Cause of Death: Through the first half, Wilson was having a solid game against the 49ers, going 8-for-11 for 144 yards and a touchdown. That changed significantly in the second half, when San Francisco held Wilson to 7-for-14 and 55 yards -- well below Wilson's 8.4 yards per attempt in the third and fourth quarters this season.
Carolina 13, New Orleans 31
Cause of Death: The Panthers brought one of the league's best pass defenses into the Superdome -- second in passing touchdowns allowed, second in sacks, second in interceptions and sixth in yards per pass allowed through Week 13 -- and Drew Brees burned it to cinders in the first half with three touchdowns, 8.7 yards per pass attempt and only four incompletions. The lesson: do not bring valuables to New Orleans. They will be taken from you and the police will do nothing.
Dallas 28, Chicago 45
Time of Death: This is just unfair, Alshon Jeffery.
Cause of Death: Bad news -- after letting Josh McCown throw for 348 yards, the Cowboys are well on track to become the fourth team in NFL history to allow 4,700 passing yards in a season and have a real shot at becoming the first to give up 4,800. Good news -- two of the other three (the 2011 Packers and 2011 Patriots) made the playoffs, because apparently defense is stupid.