T.G.I.M.! #182

Looking back at a great weekend of football while previewing the week ahead in sports.

James LeBeauby James LeBeau

With Christmas on the horizon in little over a week, this is the perfect time to step back and enjoy the escapism that sports can give us in this most stressful time of year. Whether your sport is basketball, football or even badminton, just having the ability to get lost from the rigors of everyday life, even for a little bit, is a gift that can be immeasurable.

So this week, as you finish your shopping in preparation for the big day, make sure to keep an eye out for a game or two to guide you through the de-stressing that is necessary after facing the holiday crowds.

Looking Back

Ravens Continue Fall

With the Denver Broncos 34-17 manhandling of the Baltimore Ravens, the once run away team of the AFC North now finds themselves having to work even harder to take the division crown. With three straight losses, the Baltimore Ravens find themselves only one game up on the Cincinnati Bengals with just two games remaining; one of them against the Bengals. The change at offensive coordinator did little good as the Ravens offense failed to provide any spark when the game mattered.

For the Broncos, the win marked the first time that the team has won at Baltimore; a milestone that was meaningful to the Denver team.

"Pat Bowlen has owned the team for 29 years and has averaged 10 wins a season, but it's the first time he's won in this building," Broncos coach John Fox said. "I was proud to see that for him."

Packers Wins NFC North

After starting the season at 2-3, the Green Bay Packers have righted the ship and claimed the NFC North crown with a 21-13 win over rival Chicago Bears. Lead by three touchdown receptions by James Jones and two sacks by Clay Mathews, the Packers systematically out played their rivals to get the much needed win and to clinch the division.

The loss for the Bears leaves them in the mix for the wild card while at the same time disappointed for not being able to obtain their division winning goal.

"You don't want to lose to your rival year in and year out. It's not a rival. It's a domination," Bears QB Jay Cutler said. "We've got to find a way, but that's in the past. Arizona's up next, we've just got to focus on that."

Redskins Take Over First in NFC East

No Robert Griffin III, no problem for the Washington Redskins, who traveled to Cleveland and took care of business with a 38-21 win over the Browns. With the victory and a loss by the New York Giants, the Redskins now find themselves in first place in the NFC East. With RGIII set to return next week, the immediate future of the proud Washington franchise looks to be in good shape as they eye the postseason.

"We're in first place in our division now, and it was a great business trip for us," Griffin said. "I got healthier by not playing, we won the game and put ourselves in position to control our own destiny."

Looking Ahead

(NBA) Brooklyn at New York: 7 pm ESPN Wednesday-The Battle of bragging rights in New York continues in epic fashion as the Nets and the Knicks square off in this latest episode of basketball Nirvana. Both teams are looking to make some noise this season and both have all the tools needed to do so.

(NBA) Miami at Dallas: 9:30 pm TNT Thursday-In a rematch of one of the best recent NBA Finals, the Miami Heat are going to be looking for a little payback against the team that stopped them from winning two straight championships.

(NFL) Atlanta at Detroit: 8:30 pm ESPN Saturday-The Atlanta Falcons continue to get their ducks in order for a postseason run. With an early Thursday night game, the team will have some much needed rest afterward.

(NFL) Cincinnati at Pittsburgh: 1 pm CBS Sunday-In a game that could very well decide the fate of some key pieces of the AFC playoff picture, the Cincinnati Bengals can secure a spot as well as eliminate the Steelers from contention with a win.

(NFL) NY Giants at Baltimore: 4:25 pm FOX Sunday-Losers of three straight, the Baltimore Ravens are looking to hold off the Cincinnati Bengals in their race for a division crown. The Giants on the other hand are looking to take back the lead in their division and hold off the surging Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.

James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.