The Patriots deliver an epic F-U to the Steelers by choking their game away, but karma hits them back. A surprisingly compelling early slate, with some huge injuries and even a snow game.
•Steelers 30, Dolphins 24. This, absurdly, turned into one of the best games of the year. Chad Henne left at halftime with an eye injury. Pat White got knocked ragdoll-limp. Then Tyler Thigpen headed two quick scores, until an inexcusable INT set up an injured Big Ben leading Pittsburgh down the field for a clock-eating drive. The Steelers just needed the Patriots to take care of business...
•Texans 34, Patriots 27. New England was up 14 in the fourth, and a win would have put Pittsburgh into the playoffs. Three scores later (and Brian Hoyer on the field for a 2-minute drill), and it's all but impossible for the Steelers to make it. It's not all roses for Belichick; Wes Welker left in the first with a knee injury. (Thanks to readers Zachary, Michael and David for the screengrab.)
•Panthers 23, Saints 10. New Orleans still has homefield advantage through the playoffs, but it sure doesn't feel like it, does it? Okay, maybe having Mark Brunell behind center and Lynell Hamilton leading the team in rushing and passing doesn't signify anything, but if ever a 13-3 team backed into the playoffs, this was it.
•Bills 30, Colts 7. In heavy snow, Peyton Manning played a quarter and left with a tie game. Then Curtis Painter went 4 of 17 for 39 yards. Terrell Owens finished off his worst full season since his rookie year with his 5th TD. Fred Jackson ran for 212 and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three TDs against an indifferent Indy defense.
•Browns 23, Jaguars 17. Derek Anderson stayed out of the way, only throwing for 7 of 11. Jerome Harrison once again topped 100 yards, but that's not too hard when they give it to you 33 times.
•Vikings 44, Giants 7. The Vikings more than doubled the Giants' yardage in this game. Hell, Brett Favre had 316 yards and three touchdown passes. Happy birthday, Eli Manning.
•Falcons 20, Buccaneers 10. Jason Snelling shows us all that Michael Turner owes a lot to that offensive line, as he springs for 127 yards. Or maybe it's just that Tampa Bay rushing defense. Raheem Morris has lined the Bucs up for a nice draft pick, but will he be around to collect?
•Bears 37, Lions 23. Jay Cutler throws for four TDs and zero INTs, completely justifying the Orton trade. Matt Forte had 124 all-purpose yards, complete justifying his first-round fantasy position. And cheer up, Lions fans: most teams would kill for a two-win improvement from last year.
•49ers 28, Rams 7. And the Rams win the Ndamukong Suh sweepstakes! I'd raise a stink about St. Louis tanking, but as one commenter pointed out, when you start Keith Null — and pull him for Kyle Boller, it doesn't seem like they have much choice in losing. Frank Gore had two scores, and fans everywhere rush to the schedule to see how in the hell the Rams won a game this year (answer: Detroit).