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Case of the Mondays: ‘Skins Catch a Break
by Ricky Dimon - 12/10/2012

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Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III

For one fleeting moment, it looked like our nation’s capital was going to be saddled with a case of the Mondays that would be the standard by which all past, present, and future cases of Mondays would be judged.

With the Redskins already trailing Baltimore 28-20 in the final minutes, RGIII suffered what looked like a serious leg injury. Instead of an unmitigated disaster, Kirk Cousins led the team to a critical comeback win and the MRI mercifully came back negative.

Others were not so fortunate (all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag):

AFC North. Hey, at least the Cleveland Browns won! But let’s talk sense now; it was a disastrous Sunday for the AFC North. Its hopes of snagging both AFC wild card spots (which rest with the Bengals and Steelers) are all but gone, there’s a sudden possibility that it won’t land either wild card spot, and the Ravens — who once had ideas for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs — are on the outside looking in for a first-round bye.

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The way those three teams lost in Week 14 is even more discouraging. Cincinnati squandered a nine-point lead in the final seven minutes at home to Dallas, Baltimore blew a last-minute, eight-point advantage at Washington against a backup quarterback, and Pittsburgh got blown out in its own Heinz Field by 4-8 San Diego. Coming up, the Bengals are -3 favorites at Philadelphia and the Steelers are +1 underdogs at Dallas in a crucial showdown for both teams.

Jay Cutler. Cutler doesn’t exactly throw himself around the football field to the tune of RGIII, but he still can’t avoid the injury bug. Smokin’ Jay Cutler wasn’t so smokin’ on Sunday, throwing two picks before leaving in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 21-7 at Minnesota (the Vikings eventually won, 21-14). Chicago has lost four of its last five, plummeting from serious NFC No. 1 seed contender to the brink of the playoffs. The spread for a Week 15 battle vs. Green Bay in Soldier Field is currently off due to Cutler’s status.

Detroit Lions. Last week, the Lions became the first team in NFL history to lose three straight games after leading in the final two minutes of regulation. On Sunday, they tied an NFL record by losing their third consecutive game after leading by 10 points or more. Detroit went into the snowy-but-not-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and seized a quick 14-0 advantage only to go down 27-20 to its NFC North rival. Not that the Lions had any realistic chance, but their fifth consecutive setback officially eliminated them from postseason contention.

Division races. As recently as the conclusion of Week 9, the Giants had the second-largest division lead in the entire NFL behind Atlanta in the NFC South. Five weeks later, the NFC East is the only division in the league that is truly up for grabs. Atlanta, Denver, and New England have clinched, Houston will follow shortly, Green Bay is pulling away, Baltimore is having the AFC North handed to it, and San Francisco leads Seattle by two games in the loss column. The NFC West and most wild card chases have a chance to become interesting, but those annual end-of-season playoff scenarios may not be quite as confounding as usual come Weeks 16 and 17.

Trent Steelman. Steelman was a four-year starter at quarterback for Army. He won more games than any Army signal-caller in the last 15 years and finished his career ranked in the top five in school history in total yards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Steelman, however, never beat Navy. The Cadets had a golden chance on Saturday but gave up a go-ahead touchdown on Navy’s final drive to trail 17-13. It ended in cruel fashion, as a miscommunication on an option handoff between Steelman and running back Larry Dixon resulted in a loss-clinching fumble. While the final image of Army’s season was a disconsolate Steelman stumbling off the field, Navy has a bowl game in its immediate future. The odds for the Dec. 29 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between the Midshipmen and Arizona State have not yet been set.

Austin Etherington. Losing Etherington for the season won’t affect Indiana’s odds to win the National Championship, but it certainly doesn’t help. And being forced to watch from the sidelines during what promises to be a memorable Hoosier season has to be a tough pill to swallow for the sophomore forward, who sustained a fractured kneecap in last weekend’s 100-68 win over Central Connecticut State. Etherington had been averaging nine minutes per game in the Hoosiers’ last four prior to the injury. Indiana is the favorite, at +400, to win it all.

Miami Heat. Rarely is a team in dire straits when it stands at 13-5. But in the Heat’s case, these are extenuating circumstances. Not only are they the defending champions and the favorites to win it again, but their two most recent losses have also been especially uninspiring. After falling at Washington, which currently owns the league’s worst record at 2-15, Miami got crushed at home by the Knicks last Thursday, 112-92. First place in the Southeast Division is at stake at home vs. the Hawks on Monday. The Heat are -7.5 favorites.

Los Angeles Lakers. Mike Brown may not have been the solution, but it looks like he wasn’t the problem, either. The Lakers have lost two in a row, four of their last five, and seven of their last 10. Two of their last four setbacks have come at home to Orlando and Utah. If the playoffs began today, the Lakers would be on the golf course, sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference. Dwight Howard has missed 115 free throws in 21 games this season. Ray Allen has missed 115 free throws since Feb. 2, 2007. L.A. has plunged to +350 to win the West and +700 to win the NBA Championship.

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