MANY TEAMS CLOSING IN ON NFL PLAYOFFS

The two National Football League franchises from the Lone Star State found out first hand Sunday what it takes to be a playoff-bound team.

The Dallas Cowboys went to Green Bay and discovered why the Packers are so good in the month of December.

The two teams played the entire game in a rainstorm and unseasonably warm temperatures, which is very unusual at this time of the year in Green Bay. But the Packers are accustomed to using bad winter weather conditions to assist in their late-season success year-in and year-out.

Actually the Cowboys got a huge break with the temperature in the 50’s when it generally is 20-30 degrees lower in December.

But the warm weather didn’t help the Cowboys’ offense, which was nearly non-existent and made easy 28-7 winners out of the Packers.

The victory solidified Green Bay’s (9-4) hold on first place in the NFC North Division where they lead the Minnesota Vikings (8-5) with three games remaining while the Cowboys (4-8) just about ran up the white flag in the NFC East Division.

Things don’t look nearly as weak for the Houston Texans, although their 6-7 record doesn’t look much better as far as qualifying for the NFL playoffs is concerned.

But the Texans are in a unique position because their lousy record in the AFC South Division is actually tied for being the best mark in that division with Indianapolis thanks mainly to the injury of the Colts’ starting quarterback Andrew Luck.

The Texans found out that defending Super Bowl champion New England can still operate efficiently against an inferior opponent despite having a laundry list of starting players out with injuries.

The Patriots’ defense, which is far from being notorious in the eyes of the rest of the league, sacked Texans’ quarterback Brian Hoyer five times. He left the game with a possible concussion as his team managed just two field goals and lost 27-6 in the nationally-televised fame on NBC Sunday night.

In order for Houston to reach the NFL playoffs the Texans will have to do something they’ve never done in their franchise history– beat the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday. Whoever wins this huge contest will have sole possession for first place in the AFC South Division with just two games remaining.

And it appears that both teams have opponents with losing records and should win out if they can win on Sunday. The Texans play at Tennessee and finish the season at home against Jacksonville while Indianapolis finishes at Miami and at home against Tennessee.

One of the main topics of conversation on ESPN’s “First Take” Monday was the fact both commentators agreed that the New England Patriots could get to the Super Bowl this year on Tom Brady’s arm and Brandon Bolden at running back.

But they added that more of their injured starters would have to return to action if the Patriots were to play Carolina or even the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 50.

Both agreed that although Carolina looks almost unbeatable, the Seahawks have been playing the best football in the NFC the last four games.

They also pointed out that Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson is having a monstrous year and in the past four games has had a 138 quarterback rating, has thrown for 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Skip Bayless added that if “The Beast” (Marshawn Lynch) returns from his stomach ailment, Seattle would be doubly hard to beat in the playoffs.

But because of Seattle’s five early losses, the best the Seahawks can do is get an NFC wild card berth, for which they are front-runners  along with Kansas City going into the last three weeks of the season.

Thus far, only Carolina has clinched a division championship (NFC South) and Arizona (NFC West) is assured of a playoff berth.

Cincinnati should win the AFC North but received a huge setback when quarterback Andy Dalton broke his right thumb in the Bengals’ 33-20 loss to Pittsburgh Sunday and will probably miss the rest of the season and maybe even the playoffs.

Denver is the front-runner for the AFC West, but Kansas City is rapidly gaining ground after winning their seventh straight game Sunday. The Chiefs, Pittsburgh and the surprising New York Jets are competing for the two AFC wild cards.

Washington, Philadelphia and the New York Giants are all in the running for the NFC East title, despite having losing records. The Cowboys at 4-9 are barely mathematically alive.

KWICKIES…The rumor around the Southland Conference is that my McNeese State Cowboys might be looking for a new head football coach with Matt Viator being courted by several larger universities. Word has it that Louisiana-Monroe is the front-runner and wants Viator badly as their new coach, who guided the Cowboys through the regular season undefeated. Viator reportedly is making somewhere in the vicinity of $160,000 as the Cowboys head man with the Monroe school offering somewhere in the $300,000 range.

And while on the subject of college football, it’s hard to believe that the first of the 41 bowls kicks off Saturday afternoon. In fact there are five post-season events scheduled for Saturday—New Mexico, Las Vegas, Camellia, Cure and New Orleans bowls.

Georgia Bulldog fans are upset that Beaumont Central outstanding running back Devwah Whaley changed his mind an un-committed to play for the Bulldogs after Head
Coach Mark Richt left for The University of Miami. I can’t blame the youngster, who is rated as the third-best high school running back in the nation, because nothing will be like it was presented by Richt and his staff, who probably won’t be there either next fall.

The Lamar Cardinals men’s basketball team’s brief three-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Sunday when the Virginia Tech Hokies brought them back to Earth 88-53. Playing big-time schools like that can only make the Cards (5-4) better for Southland Conference play that begins in a couple of weeks.

The Houston Astros got the fire-balling reliever they’ve been looking for when they obtained 25-year-old closer Ken Giles from the Philadelphia Phillies. But Giles didn’t come cheap as the Astros gave up their 2013 No. 1 pick Mark Appel, and three other right-handed pitchers Vince Velasquez, Thomas Eschelman and Harold Arauz plus lefty hurler Brett Oberholzer. Houston also picked up shortstop Jonathan Arauz. The ‘Stroes are probably not through dealing, either.

Tennessee Titans’ rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first player in NFL history with 250 yards passing (268), three or more touchdown passes (3) and 100 or more yards rushing (112) in the same game.

JUST BETWEEN US…Good luck to the West Orange-Stark Mustangs in their quest for their third state championship in school history when the meet the undefeated Celina Bobcats 4 p.m. Friday in beautiful NRG Stadium in Houston. The Mustangs have rolled past five straight playoff opponents but are meeting a team in Celina that already has won eight state championships. I look for our ‘Stangs to win with their Chain-Gang defense, 20-16.