Joe Howell, File, Associated Press
Losing lots of games in the NFL is one thing, simply being lost in the NFL is another. And that's where this week's Pick Six is headed — to the land of the lost.
Even though 27 of the league's 32 teams remain in playoff contention entering Week 14, there's no shortage of teams in utter disarray.
Before proceeding, several subcategories:
— Lost and found: The Cowboys (4-8) and Vikings (5-7) seem to be pulling themselves together following coaching changes. Dallas is 3-1 under Jason Garrett; Minnesota 2-0 under Leslie Frazier.
— Losing but not lost: The Bills and Lions have found ways to be competitive despite 2-10 records. Buffalo has a fine QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick; Detroit has stars in rookie DL Ndamukong Suh and WR Calvin Johnson, and have played most of the season without QB Matthew Stafford.
— Lost before the season: With a lame-duck coach in John Fox, the Panthers (1-11) still have no clue who their QB is or will be in the future — rookie Jimmy Clausen is 0-6 as a starter.
The five teams out of the playoff race are the Panthers, Bills, Lions, Bengals and Broncos.
And now, lost in the NFL:
— Redskins (5-7): New coach, new quarterback, new defense, BIG problem in Albert Haynesworth. The one-time star DL has disrupted a team that showed promise when the season started. He is now suspended for the rest of the season for "conduct detrimental to the team." In a nutshell, he skipped offseason workouts, boycotted mandatory minicamp, needed 10 days to pass a conditioning test, resisted a change to a 3-4 defensive scheme, and then became a part-time player. Result? Playoffs all but eliminated, and team's $100 million investment down the drain. And by the way, QB Donovan McNabb has not been a shining light, either.
— Broncos (3-9): Ex-coach Josh McDaniels single-handedly guided the Broncos into utter chaos. He got rid of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis, shockingly drafted Tim Tebow in the first round this year, lost lots of games (17 of his last 22) as fans stayed home, and then got snagged in a videotaping scandal. Proud owner Pat Bowlen fired McDaniel this week, saying "I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed."
— Colts (6-6): A year ago, Peyton & Co. clinched the AFC South in Week 11 at 11-0. The Colts have incredibly lost three in a row, four of their last five and trail the first-place Jaguars by a game in the division. A playoff berth is still possible, but four-time league MVP Manning is frustrated and pressing. Blame it on bad pass routes, poor pass protection and a nonexistent running game, but Manning has thrown an unheard of 11 interceptions in the last three games. "I think everybody feels a sense of urgency ... feels the challenge, and hopefully we can respond," Manning said.
— Titans (5-7): Look for big changes next year with the team in free-fall mode with five straight losses. The Titans opened 5-2 and had the NFL's top-scoring offense (and top rusher Chris Johnson), but have been lost after a series of event that included: Vince Young's histrionics after a season-ending thumb injury, the acquisition of Randy Moss, the offensive coordinator's cancer diagnosis, and cornerback Cortland Finnegan's brawl with Andre Johnson. All the tumult has put coach Jeff Fisher's job in jeopardy, too. He looked worn out after last week's loss to the Jaguars. "We need to win the next game, period. That's it," he said. It's Colts at Titans on Thursday night.
— Cardinals (2-10): Seven losses in a row, with a matchup against the also-lost Broncos on Sunday. Replacing Kurt Warner has proven too much for team that went the Super Bowl two years ago. Derek Anderson, brought in after Matt Leinart was released, has not been the answer. He got caught smiling on the sideline at the end of a Monday night loss to the 49ers, then lost his cool when questioned about it. Now, free-agent rookie Max Hall is on injured reserve, and John Skelton — a rookie from Fordham — could get his first start. It's so bad, the Cardinals signed former Redskins third-stringer Richard Bartel. Losing key players before the season, such as WR Anquan Boldin, LB Karlos Dansby and S Antrel Rolle, didn't help, either.
— Bengals (2-10): Saddled with two WRs better at social media than winning games, last year's AFC North champions visit the Steelers on Sunday with a chance for a 10th straight loss (which would be a club record for a season). Coach Marvin Lewis didn't accept a contract extension before the season began, due to owner Mike Brown refusing to give him more authority. The way the Bengals have played, it may be a good thing Lewis kept his options open. And this from Terrell Owens, signed to join pal and fellow-WR Chad Ochocinco: "I don't know if we're getting out-coached or what the deal is."
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