A week away from settling the final playoff berths, it's possible that the AFC is going to put five of the same six teams into the postseason as last year, with Kansas City taking Houston's place. The NFC, on the other hand, has a decent shot of only seeing two teams return to the playoffs, both out of the NFC West. To put it in holiday terms, the AFC is your sister, who's got her life largely in order and has purchased gifts for everyone weeks ago, while the NFC is your brother, who is wearing jeans he hasn't washed in months and trying to buy a present for your mom at the grocery store.
Miami 0, Buffalo 19
Time of Death: On Miami's first possession of the fourth quarter, Matt Moore (yes, for real) got the Dolphins out of trouble on third-and-18, finding Brian Hartline for a 50-yard gain. But nature abhors imbalance, so Moore threw a pick on the next play.
Cause of Death: In the entirety of their existence as a franchise, the Dolphins have only been held below 2 yards per play twice, in 1966 (their inaugural season) and 1980. Buffalo held Miami to 1.98 yards per play. "But," you say, "what about that 50-yard pass you just mentioned?" THAT INCLUDES THAT PLAY. WITHOUT THAT THEY ONLY HAVE 53 YARDS ON 51 PLAYS, WHICH IS BASICALLY THE EQUIVALENT OF RUNNING 51 QB SNEAKS.
Minnesota 14, Cincinnati 42
Time of Death: The Vikings were sort of hanging around through one quarter, but with about 10 minutes left in the second, Matt Cassel threw a very telegraphed pass to a very covered Greg Jennings that Vincent Rey very much ran back for a touchdown.
Cause of Death: Minnesota gave up 11 passing plays of 15 yards or longer in this game, including seven in the first half. The Bengals were only averaging 5.5 long passes a game coming in, but sure, make Andy Dalton look like a Hall of Famer. It'll be a nice memory after the Bengals lose in the first round this year.
Kansas City 7, Indianapolis 23
Time of Death: Down six at the half, Kansas City needed to come out and make a statement. So they did, as Alex Smith threw an incompletion, lost 4 yards on a fumbled snap, and then (with the help of Robert Mathis) threw an interception. Statement made!
Cause of Death: Through last week, the Chiefs led the league in turnover margin, were tied with the Colts for fewest giveaways, and had only lost the turnover battle in two games. That strength didn't turn up against Indianapolis, as Kansas City turned the ball over four times while failing to register a takeaway on defense for only the second time this season.
Tampa Bay 13, St. Louis 23
Time of Death: The Bucs drove to midfield on their first possession of the fourth quarter, but Mike Glennon fumbled the ball on a third down sack, and the Rams took advantage of the field position, scoring the last points of the game on a Greg Zuerlein field goal.
Cause of Death: About three minutes into the second quarter, Tampa faced third-and-4 from their own 26. Glennon threw a short pass to running back Bobby Rainey, who picked up four yards exactly. That was the last time the Bucs converted on third down, failing on their next nine attempts.
Cleveland 13, New York Jets 24
Time of Death: After cutting the lead to three with 10 minutes left, the Browns couldn't get a stop as the Jets drove 80 yards on 14 plays, running the clock down to 3:19 and scoring a touchdown in the process.
Cause of Death: In the spirit of balance, Cleveland split its approach on first down nearly evenly, calling 13 runs and 14 passes. The runs worked, averaging 5.77 yards a carry. The passes, didn't, as Jason Campbell went 5 of 13 for 54 yards and a sack, averaging 3.64 yards per dropback. One is torn between wanting the Browns to draft or sign a good quarterback this offseason and fearing that said quarterback will fail because he plays for the Browns.
Washington 23, Dallas 24
Time of Death: Washington had a minute to drive into field-goal range and end Dallas's season early, but Kirk Cousins missed on his last three passes, keeping the Cowboys alive in the NFC East for one more week.
Cause of Death: Because there is no statistical measure for "your field looks like a campground with a septic tank rupture," let's instead point out that Washington's defense allowed Tony Romo to complete two-thirds of his passes for more than 9 yards per attempt in the second half, including two conversions on fourth down.
New Orleans 13, Carolina 17
Time of Death: Cam Newton (who is still NOT invited to Peter King's Christmas cookie exchange) hit Domenik Hixon in the end zone with less than 30 seconds to play, putting the Panthers a win away from tying the franchise record in a season.
Cause of Death: Across the league, teams are scoring on almost 80 percent of their drives that go past the opponent's 35-yard line. The Saints had five of those drives in this game but only scored on three of them, probably because Roger Goodell hates the team and is cheating them on purpose. Probably.
Jacksonville 16, Tennessee 20
Time of Death: The Jags lost any chance of coming back when Chad Henne threw his ninth fourth-quarter interception on their last drive of the game. I, for one, will miss Henne playing on a regular basis, which is a nice way of saying please nobody else sign him as a starter.
Cause of Death: The Titans kept the Jaguars off the field -- Tennessee had 11 more minutes of possession -- by doing two things. First, they limited Jacksonville to 3 for 11 on third down conversions (including 1 for 6 in the second half), keeping the Jaguars at the bottom of the league this season with a 32.7-percent conversion rate. Second, they stopped relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick, calling 16 more runs than passes in the second half.
Houston 13, Denver 37
Time of Death: There isn't a joke here. That's how sad the Texans are this year.
Cause of Death: Houston gave up 511 yards to the Broncos, the first time the Texans let someone break 500 in a non-overtime game since Sept. 17, 2006. Their opponent? Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts ... who went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
Detroit 20, New York Giants 23
Cause of Death: With two interceptions and a fumble in this game, Detroit now has 22 turnovers from Week 10 on -- as many as the Seahawks, Eagles, Steelers, Cowboys, and Panthers have combined in that stretch. Those turnovers led to 67 points by Detroit's opponents, including 17 by the Giants. Early retirement has a lot of benefits you may not be considering, Jim Schwartz.
Seattle 10, Arizona 17
Time of Death: Down seven late, the Seahawks needed to go 74 yards to keep their home winning streak alive, but the drive ended on the first play thanks to a bizarre bounce off Doug Baldwin's arm that turned into an interception for Karlos Dansby.
Cause of Death: This was arguably Russell Wilson's worst game as a professional, as he wound up with his second-lowest completion percentage (40.74 percent), his lowest passing yardage (108 yards), and his lowest yards per passing attempt (4.0). Thus far in his career, Wilson has been a decidedly less electric quarterback against divisional opponents:
Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 38
Time of Death: The Packers drove all the way to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line on their final drive only to see their comeback attempt end with a false start and an incomplete pass.
Cause of Death: Green Bay didn't really have an answer when the Steelers decided to run the ball on first down, where Pittsburgh got 86 of their 151 rushing yards, averaging over five yards per carry. Since Nov. 1, the Packers have allowed six 100-yard rushers in eight games and, not surprisingly, are 1-4-1 in those contests.
Oakland 13, San Diego 26
Time of Death: Facing a 13-point deficit with 6:16 to go, the Raiders had to move quickly. At first, they did, getting inside the San Diego 40 in about a minute. And 14 snaps later, Oakland had turned the ball over on downs at the 6-yard line and wasted all but 59 seconds of clock.
Cause of Death: Here is a weird thing about Nick Novak, who kicked four field goals in this game -- he's the only kicker in the NFL who hasn't missed from beyond 40 yards this season, a perfect 11 of 11. (Technically, Shaun Suisham is 100 percent as well, but he's yet to try a kick from 50 or longer and that makes him a coward.)
Baltimore 7, New England 41
Cause of Death: The Ravens didn't cross midfield a single time in the first half and only averaged 2.84 yards a play. This is your reminder that Joe Flacco, the highest paid player in the NFL, does not rank in the top 10 for a single statistical category at his position.
Chicago 11, Philadelphia 54
Time of Death: At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles had 21 points and the Bears had 26 ... yards.
Cause of Death: Needing to get some stops to keep the offense in the game, the Chicago defense somehow managed to regress in the second half, forcing only two third downs and allowing Philadelphia to AVERAGE more than 10 yards per play. The NFC North is turning out like Cool Runnings, but just the last race.
Atlanta 24, San Francisco 34
Time of Death: Oh, Atlanta.
Cause of Death: The Falcons currently have the second-worst pass defense (measured by yards per attempt allowed) and the second-worst rush defense (measured by yards per carry allowed). Please remember this when they use two draft picks on tight ends and then sign Jacoby Jones.