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Vick giving chase to Brady

Maybe we should hold off on anointing Tom Brady the NFL's Most Valuable Player for the moment.

The New England Patriots' quarterback is certainly the favorite for the award, but Philadelphia's Michael Vick has made this a compelling two-man race.

His tour-de-force performance (242 passing yards, 138 rushing yards and four total touchdowns) in the Eagles' spellbinding, 38-31 come-from-behind win at the New York Giants on Sunday was the stuff legends, and MVPs, are made of.

Vick hasn't played the full season. He missed a couple of games with a rib injury. But that's the only knock on his candidacy.

He has put the young Eagles on his back by delivering one did-you-see-that play after another to lift them to victory. Yes, DeSean Jackson's 65-yard punt return as time expired won the game Sunday, but he doesn't get a shot to be the hero if Vick hadn't used his arm and still dazzling feet to overcome a 21-point deficit.

The Eagles (10-4) might be good without Vick, but the reason they're atop the NFC East and a Super Bowl contender is because they have him.

Obviously, you can make the same argument for Brady, who has guided the Patriots (12-2) to a share of the best record in the NFL. But Vick has done it in a more spectacular fashion during one of the most remarkable comeback stories in league history.

So let's wait until all the MVP votes are tabulated. While Brady might have the lead in the polls, Vick has made this race too close to call.

Meanwhile, the battle for playoff positioning continued over the weekend. Here's a look back at Week 15:

>Giant meltdown

It's one thing to blow a 21-point lead. But in seven minutes? In the fourth quarter? At home?

The Giants should have been able to close the deal after taking a 31-10 lead against the Eagles. Instead, the G-men saw the Eagles pulling off a stunning comeback, a second Miracle of the Meadowlands, if you will.

While it was a great rally by the Eagles, it was a terrible meltdown by the Giants, who were done in by self-inflicted wounds.

First of all, how could they not anticipate the Eagles attempting an onsides kick after cutting the deficit to 31-17? When the Eagles scored again to get within a touchdown, the Giants got too conservative on offense and had to give the ball back to Vick and company.

It's understandable that Giants coach Tom Coughlin ripped punter Matt Dodge for kicking the ball to Jackson instead of out of bounds, as instructed, on the final play. But Coughlin should have directed some of his anger at the guys on the punt coverage team for allowing Jackson to run through them without laying a glove on him. Even worse, Jackson muffed the punt and still had time to pick it up without a single Giant defender in position to tackle him.

By coughing up this game, the Giants (9-5) have basically handed the NFC East title to the Eagles, who swept the regular-season series. The question is, can the Giants recover from the debacle? They can wrap up a wild card berth by winning next week at Green Bay, which also needs the win to stay in the postseason hunt, and at Washington. To win the division, they need the Eagles to lose at home to the Vikings and the Cowboys.


>Flying under the radar

For a team that shares the best record in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons (12-2) don't seem to be getting a lot of attention. Not that they mind, but it's about time they got some love because you might be seeing a lot of them in the postseason.

They need to win one of their last two games to clinch home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs. They host AFC South rival and defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans (9-4) next Monday night at the Georgia Dome, where quarterback Matt Ryan is 19-1 as a starter.

The Falcons have all the elements you want in a Super Bowl contender. On offense, they have a sensational quarterback in Ryan, a physical running game led by Michael Turner and a quality passing attack with All-Pros Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez the primary receiving targets. Defensively, they can get after the quarterback and force turnovers.

The Falcons also have an outstanding coach in Mike Smith; neither he nor his staff gets the national attention or credit they deserve.


>Missed opportunity

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers went into Sunday with a chance to make statements on the road. Instead, both went home bitterly disappointed.

With a chance to clinch their first AFC South title, the Jaguars (8-6) lost in Indianapolis, 34-24. It was a setback on two fronts. For one, it gave the Colts (8-6) control of their own destiny. If they win the last two games (at Oakland and home against Tennessee), they win the division.

The Jaguars, on the other hand, are on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned. Winning the division is their only realistic chance, so they have to capture their final two games (home against Washington and at Houston), and then hope the Colts drop at least one.

Meanwhile, the Packers came within 15 yards of a momentum-building victory at New England. But bad clock management by quarterback Matt Flynn helped the Patriots survive, 31-27.

Flynn started because Aaron Rodgers was out due to a concussion from last week, but Flynn played well and kept the Packers in the game most of the night by controlling the clock and keeping Brady off the field. But Flynn's inexperience proved costly as he wasted several seconds trying to get the play from the sideline. He then got sacked and fumbled as time expired.

If the season ended today, the Packers (8-6) wouldn't be in the playoffs.


>Jets end two streaks

After two straight demoralizing losses to AFC East opponents, the New York Jets were expected to continue their slide in Pittsburgh, where they had lost seven straight since the 1970 merger. But the Jets bounced back in a big way with a gutsy, 22-17 win.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had played poorly in the Jets' last two losses, ran for a touchdown and drove the team to a go-ahead field goal. He threw for only 170 yards, but was sacked just once by the Steelers' blitzing defense. Most important, he didn't turn the ball over for the first time in nine games.

The Jets (10-4) still have a shot at the playoffs and an outside chance at the AFC East title. They are two games behind the Patriots. Winning at Chicago on Sunday and beating the Bills at home would help the Jets' cause but they need the Bills to beat the Patriots on Sunday to have a shot at the division title.


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