NFL

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NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31485256 They're just warming up They%27re+just+warming+up NFL

If San Francisco and New England live up to predictions and meet in Super Bowl XLVII, the championship game should turn out to be an epic tug-of-war between two all-around tough teams. Let's face it. San Francisco was supposed to be frozen out in the New England winter night, but instead left Foxborough with a commanding 41-34 win over the Patriots. Which QB will be the ultimate performer? Will it be Colin Kaepernick, who on Sunday threw 4 TDs as part of a 14-for-25, 216 yard performance with only one INT? Or will it be the stalwart Tom Brady, who threw a staggering 65 times Sunday, completing 36, for 443 yards, a TD and 2 INTs? These two teams could be on a collision course.

GameTrax | Recap | Scoreboard | Standings

Jared Wickerham - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/17/121612-NFL-Frank-Gore-49ers-LA-G1_20121217000948824_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/17/121612-NFL-Frank-Gore-49ers-LA-G1_20121217000948824_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31479907 Don't sleep on Seattle Don%27t+sleep+on+Seattle NFL

Seemingly since the opening kickoff of the 2012 season, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson (seen here with ball) has played third fiddle to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, failing to put up the fanfare or the stats of the top two picks in the draft, but keeping up with them in the wins column. On Sunday, it was Wilson who stood tallest among the three. While Luck lost in Houston and RG3 did not even play in Cleveland, Wilson ran for three scores, threw for another and led the Seahawks to the half-century mark for the second consecutive week. The Seahawks' 50-17 win over the Bills in Toronto also kept them in the top wild card spot (a game ahead of Griffin's Redskins) and still alive in the NFC West race.

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NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31483487 What sunset? What+sunset%3F NFL

It has become a December ritual — the Cowboys, on the verge of writing off another season, figuring out a way to win to keep hope going (or delay the inevitable). But with Sunday's 27-24 overtime win over the Steelers at home, Dallas not only kept its season afloat but actually moved into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East. So for those of you hoping to count Tony Romo & Co. out for good, looks like you'll have to wait until Week 17 — or the playoffs — to do it this season. Or is this now-three-game winning streak part of a (gulp) championship run?

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NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31483489 Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse ... Just+when+you+thought+it+couldn%27t+get+any+worse+... NFL

The Chargers follow up Week 14's stunning win at Pittsburgh with a stinker at home, getting throttled by the Panthers, 31-7. While both teams are playing out the stretch at this point, numerous reports have indicated they both may be playing for their coaches' jobs, as well. If that is the case, then Chargers head man Norv Turner (background) may want to polish up his resume. In all, QB Philip Rivers (foreground) and San Diego have lost 9 of 12 since starting the season 2-0 and will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. That is the franchise's longest drought since missing the playoffs in eight straight seasons from 1996 to 2003.

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NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31479906 Hey, why not? Hey%2C+why+not%3F NFL

Entering Sunday, this kid looked to be as good as any option the Cardinals had at QB on their roster. But a funny thing happened in Glendale in Week 15. Matthew Stafford showed up. The Detroit QB threw the league a curveball and ensured Arizona had the best QB on the field. Of course, that is a relative term as Cardinals RB Beanie Wells' 3 TDs and the solid play by the Arizona defense were the real stories on Sunday. But just for fun, let's compare the QBs: Stafford: 24-50, 246 yards, 0 TD, 3 INTs; Ryan Lindley (Arizona): 14-21, 104 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/5_20121216202516797_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/5_20121216202516797_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31483488 One of those weeks One+of+those+weeks NFL

Seemingly every season, the Raiders have at least one game in which kicker Sebastian Janikowski serves up all of Oakland's points. Thankfully for the Raiders, he did it against the lowly Chiefs. On a Sunday during which the Raiders could summon only five field goals, the Chiefs could summon only seven FIRST DOWNS. Through a combination of horrible Kansas City offense and solid Oakland defense, the Raiders shut their rivals out at home, 15-0. The good news? The 4-10 Raiders can do no worse than tie the 2-12 Chiefs in the standings at season's end. The bad news? The Chiefs almost certainly will have a better draft pick.

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Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/3_20121216202517801_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/3_20121216202517801_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31482687 Falcons slammed the doubters Falcons+slammed+the+doubters NFL

Yup, there were plentiful doubters of the Falcons, who have the NFL’s best record but a string of “meh” victories. That number of naysayers surely has dwindled after Atlanta’s 34-0 dismantling Sunday of the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants. The Falcons answered their 24-2 playoff embarrassment vs. the Giants last season in a big way, handing the G-Men their first regular-season shutout in 16 years. Atlanta won the turnover battle 3-0 and converted 9 of 13 third-down attempts. Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes and connected with eight receivers, including 36-year-old tight end Tony Gonzalez (pictured), who celebrated a TD catch in his youthful way. Now 12-2, the Falcons finally looked as good as their record.

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Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-1_20121216161402518_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-1_20121216161402518_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31481970 Redskins nailed their draft Redskins+nailed+their+draft NFL

Now, there's an understatement. First, Washington trades up to nab franchise-transforming quarterback Robert Griffin III. Then it uses a fourth-round pick to add a quality backup for RG3 in Kirk Cousins, who is a sparkling 1-0 as a starter after directing the Redskins' 38-21 victory at Cleveland on Sunday in Griffin's absence. But how about sixth-rounder Alfred Morris (pictured)? The running back had 87 yards rushing and two touchdowns to support Cousins, upping his season total to 1,322 yards rushing. He's 194 yards away from the storied franchise's single-season rushing record, held by Clinton Portis. No coincidence the Redskins have ascended to the top of the NFL East with that kind of drafting.

Highlights
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Rick Osentoski - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-6_20121216162149532_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-6_20121216162149532_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31482688 Practice makes perfect Practice+makes+perfect NFL

Earlier this season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers praised receiver James Jones for improved practice habits, noting that, "He's been getting the ball thrown his way because he's been working hard." Translation: He's where he's supposed to be on the field. That's all a rifle arm like Rodgers needs. Jones (No. 89, pictured) caught all three of Rodgers' touchdown passes Sunday as the Packers beat division rival Chicago 21-13. The Packers overcame a bevy of special-teams miscues thanks to the Rodgers-to-Jones connection, which has produced 12 TDs this season. Jones, a sixth-year pro, has set a new career high with 51 receptions this year. Mr. Rodgers continues to approve.

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Mike DiNovo - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-2_20121216161634520_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-2_20121216161634520_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31482690 AP is truly advanced AP+is+truly+advanced NFL

Adrian Peterson is a marvel. The Minnesota Vikings running back started to change Comeback Player of the Year buzz into MVP buzz in recent weeks. Then he got even better. Peterson ran for a season-high 212 yards Sunday as the Vikings defeated the Rams 36-22. Included was an 82-yard touchdown run as Peterson moved within 293 yards of Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 rushing yards. All this in the season after major knee surgery. If Peterson averages 147 yards in the final two regular-season games, the record is his. He has had at least 147 yards in five of the past six games.

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NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31481976 Ravens are getting leapfrogged Ravens+are+getting+leapfrogged NFL

Literally, and figuratively. Running back Knowshon Moreno (pictured) did it literally when he jumped over the head of All-Everything safety Ed Reed for a few extra yards in Denver's 34-17 victory Sunday. The Broncos and Patriots, meanwhile, have done it figuratively as Baltimore moves in reverse in terms of playoff seeding. Baltimore had a chance to catch Denver for postseason position again, but  Moreno's 118 yards rushing helped put an end to that and extend the Broncos' win streak to nine games. With their lead in the AFC North down to one game, the Ravens better concentrate more on who's chasing them than who they are chasing. Even that No. 4 playoff seed is no certainty now.


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Rob Carr - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-8_20121216162540546_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-8_20121216162540546_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31481968 The Saints have exhaled The+Saints+have+exhaled NFL

Bountygate isn't technically over, and the Saints remain without their head coach. But the Saints clearly took a deep breath and exhaled when former commissioner Paul Tagliabue set aside the suspensions of players disciplined by Roger Goodell. In the wake of that news, the Saints played a near-perfect game Sunday, taking apart the Buccaneers 41-0. Drew Brees had four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Those numbers were reversed for Bucs QB Josh Freeman. Lance Moore (No. 16, pictured) was one of nine Saints players to catch a pass, and the Saints are at their best when Brees is spreading the ball around. The defense, meanwhile, recorded its first shutout in 17 years. The Bucs were reduced to infighting on the sideline. On the Saints side of the field, it was nothing but good vibes.

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Bill Haber - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-5_20121216162039526_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-5_20121216162039526_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31481975 Colts fumbled their chance Colts+fumbled+their+chance NFL

The math was sound, even if the logic wasn't. The Colts came into this week with a chance to steal the AFC South title away from the Texans. Of course, they had to beat Houston twice in three weeks to do so. After the Texans' 29-17 victory Sunday, the math now matches the logic and Houston is the division champion. J.J. Watt came up huge for Houston, with three sacks, 10 tackles and a forced fumble. That second-quarter fumble (pictured being recovered by Tim Dobbins, No. 52) by running back Mewelde Moore kept Indianapolis off the scoreboard and kept the Colts on their heels. They never quite recovered, even as they made a game of it. Kind of like the standings — in shouting distance, but not a real threat to Houston.


GameTrax
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Dave Einsel - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-7_20121216162410544_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-7_20121216162410544_107_80.JPG
NFL 5 2020 What we learned in Week 15 31482692 We've seen this before We%27ve+seen+this+before NFL

Brian Billick directed the high-powered Vikings offenses of the late 1990s as a coordinator but then won a Super Bowl with one of the all-time defenses as head coach of the Ravens. Bill Belichick cut his teeth as a defensive guru but has developed the Patriots into one of the all-time great offenses. It's funny how often a coordinator with a reputation on one side of the ball winds up as a head coach that relies on the other side of the ball. That might be the case with former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin (pictured), whose Dolphins entered this week ranked 29th in total offense and 27th in scoring but 13th in scoring defense and 19th in total defense. The defense wasn't exactly challenged Sunday in a 24-3 victory over Jacksonville. The Jags are just about the worst offense in the league. Jacksonville's mistake probably was hiring an offensive coach, Mike Mularkey. Should have tried the old "opposite side of the ball" strategy.


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Wilfredo Lee - AP Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-4_20121216161902524_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2012/12/16/121612-NFL-gallery-4_20121216161902524_107_80.JPG
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