Do not expect the last-minute victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday to take the heat off Tony Romo or the Dallas Cowboys. But there is a path to relief right around the corner.
For the third straight season, the Cowboys have a chance to win the division in the finale.
And for the third straight year it's the Sunday night game, which could be a problem: Because what we learned the past two years about Romo and the Cowboys is they can't close the deal the 17th week of the season.
In fact, in losses to Washington last year and the Giants the year before Romo produced five turnovers and no wins. He failed in the 2008 finale, too, when he had a chance to put Dallas in the playoffs and lost 44-6 in Philadelphia. He is 1-6 in "elimination games" Week 17 or later, including the playoffs.
This is no replay: it's a repeat chance at Romo redemption.
--2. Let's make this simple: Win, and Jason Garrett gets a stay of execution from Jerry Jones as Cowboys head coach. Lose, and Garrett not only blows the division again, he loses his job.
--3. Say goodnight to New Orleans. The Saints probably make the playoffs, but almost surely as a wildcard, which means they're dead meat because they stink on the road. They're 3-5 away from the Superdome and unbeaten at home, which is why Sunday's loss to Carolina was a crusher.
There are far-fetched scenarios in which New Orleans jumps all the way to the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
But if the Saints make the playoffs as the last team in as expected, they're one-and-done.
--4. Talk about hitting the wall: Not only is Drew Brees 0-3 in his last three road starts; he had three TD passes, four interceptions and 11 sacks in those games.
--5. The Arizona Cardinals just gave the rest of the NFC hope. Seattle was perceived as the Land of the Loss, where no visitor shall exit with a victory. Only the Cardinals just did ... not with Carson Palmer, but with defense. Keep that in mind if Carolina makes the trip to the upper Northwest.
--6. Just a hunch, but Coach of the Year comes down to Ron Rivera vs. Bruce Arians, with Andy Reid a distant third. For the record, Arians -- who was last year's Coach of the Year -- beat Rivera earlier this year.
--7. Adios, Jim Schwartz. He just lost his ninth straight in December and January.
--8. When the Miami Dolphins dissect what went wrong this season, they can start here: They lost twice to a backup quarterback, Thad Lewis of the Buffalo Bills.
--9. "Way to finish strong at home," Jets' owner Woody Johnson tweeted after Sunday's defeat of Cleveland. Question: Was that a message to Rex Ryan or the team?
--10. No matter what happens next week in Miami, Ryan looks like toast. Yes, he improved on his 2012 record with little or nothing on offense, but he didn't reach the playoffs. More important, he has a year left on his contract and wasn't hired by GM John Idzik. And that's a big problem.
--11. If life were fair, Arizona would make the playoffs. The Cards won seven of their last eight, including defeats of division leaders Indianapolis and Seattle. OK, so they're still alive and play San Francisco at home next week where the Cards haven't lost since an Oct. 17 defeat by Seattle. But they're still a long shot. Too bad, too. They're far better than anyone the NFC North will offer.
--12. If and when San Diego misses the playoffs, the Bolts have only themselves to blame. So they did get hot down the stretch. Big deal. They're always hot down the stretch. They buried themselves with earlier losses to Oakland, Tennessee, Houston and Washington -- opponents with a combined record of 15-45.
--13. Let's make it simple and mail the MVP award to Peyton Manning.
--14. If I'm Andy Reid, I'm concerned. It's not just that the Chiefs are a wildcard, which puts them on the road for the playoffs. It's that they probably meet Indianapolis again, and this time in Indianapolis. So what? So the Colts just drilled K.C. at Arrowhead, where the Chiefs are supposed to be tough to beat, and are 12-3 at home with Andrew Luck -- including defeats this season of Denver and Seattle.
--15. Here's another concern for the Chiefs: The pass rush. Where in the name of Tamba Hali did it go? The Chiefs have one or no sacks in seven of their last eight starts. Worse, they have nine ... total ... after putting up 35 in the first seven games.
--16. If Tennessee's Mike Munchak is back for another season -- and his chances are slim -- he can thank a schedule that finishes with Jacksonville and Houston, a combined 6-24.
--17. Cincinnati hasn't won a playoff game since 1991, including an 0-4 record under Marvin Lewis, but that should change soon because the Bengals have at least one game at home. If you hadn't noticed, home is where Andy Dalton is unbeaten this season, where he has 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. On the road, he's 3-4, with 13 TDs and 11 picks, and now you know why it was so important for the Bengals to win their division.
--18. Let's hear it for New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin. He's not exactly known for taking chances, yet that's exactly what he did when he left Eli Manning and the offense on the field in overtime on fourth-and-7 at the Detroit 42. And why not?
He had nothing to lose other than another game in a lost season. Manning completed the pass, the Giants won and Coughlin looks like a genius.