2018 NFL Conference Championship Reactions

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Super Bowl 52 will be held almost 13 years to the day of the game that got Tom Brady his 3rd ring. Now he goes for an NFL record of 6 against the same Philadelphia Eagles. The odds are heavily in the Patriots’ favor, but it’s not that simple. If you take a look at a break down of these Conference Championships, you may not be alone in thinking that we have a really exciting Super Bowl ahead of us. Let’s take a look at how we got here.

Patriots punish Jaguars 24-20

It seems like no one outside of the New England area wants the Patriots to succeed anymore. Those of you who were pulling for the Jags slowly got your hopes up, but you had to know that Brady wasn’t about to just lie down. Perhaps the greatest clutch performer of all time, Brady scored back-to-back touchdowns in the 4th quarter to put the Jags away and move on to his 8th Super Bowl.

The Jags’ defense held the potent Patriots’ offense in check for 3/4 of the game, and their offense was even clicking pretty significantly. However, in the end the Pats’ victory still fit the routine mold pretty well: a slow start, a resurgence to get back into the game, and a death knell in the 4th quarter.

I was not particularly impressed by either team. I knew Bill Belichick would ask for the ball on the toss and then fail to score a touchdown. I knew the Jags would answer and get a lead on the Pats. I knew that, ultimately, New England would wake up and put Jacksonville away, but it just took them a little longer in this one. I guess that’s a testament to how good that Jaguar defense is.

Now, I want to say something about referees. As those close to me can attest, I have never blamed them for a result of any game. I don’t think they are biased in any way besides maybe from a little emotion from the home crowd. Every team has had calls go for and against them in big moments, and the loser will always whine about it. Stop it.

The refs are doing the best they can to make the correct calls. I’ve also always said that if a team puts themselves in a position to have the game decided by a ref’s whistle, it’s their own fault. In the game last Sunday, I didn’t see anything unusual about the calls. While the penalties were certainly lopsided, don’t be so quick to accuse the refs. Maybe, just maybe, the experienced Patriots team is way more disciplined than the young Jaguars team. Maybe.

New England is going to Minneapolis to either write the next chapter in this dynasty, or have the media in hysterics if they lose, thus perhaps ending the Patriots’ reign. In any case, there is no doubt this has been one of the most successful eras in the history of the NFL. With a laundry list of different experiences on and off the field during this hectic time in the season, the Patriots will have a huge leg up in the season’s final game.

Eagles annihilate Vikings 38-7

It was more than just win or go home for the Vikings, and unfortunately for Skol Nation, they will have an Eagles emblem painted on their own home turf. Ouch. After a perfect start to the game that saw Case Keenum march down the field and put up 7 points with ease, Philly put up 38 straight points to send them to the Super Bowl in astounding fashion.

Philadelphia got it done on both sides of the ball. Nick Foles was a superman on Sunday as he threw for 350+ yards and 3 long touchdown dimes. The defense held up their end of the bargain too, as they buckled down after the opening drive touchdown by stopping the Vikings on multiple 4th down tries. All and all it was a dominating performance by the Eagles.

The question is, do we trust that it will continue into the Super Bowl? My answer has been upgraded to a maybe. They shut down a really good Falcons offense two weeks ago, and they shut out the Vikings for the game’s final 55 minutes. Now, the Patriots’ offense is obviously better than the Vikings’, but they have similar strengths.

The Eagles have proven that their pass defense is at least legitimate, as their defensive backs have done a great job of wreaking havoc on some athletic receivers. Matt Ryan and Case Keenum are no Tom Brady, but the Eagles have a full two weeks to scout the legend. I think if the defense can hold the Patriots to roughly 3 touchdowns, they’ve got a shot.

The story beyond the Eagles defense moving forward is Foles. He’s coming off of the greatest game of his life with a chance to cement his name in NFL history as the man who potentially ended the great Tom Brady’s reign. He’s had enough time with his offense to build chemistry, so now it’s all about a good game plan and better execution.

What this game showed is that the Eagles have a chance. The Vikings had every tool to win that game, and the Eagles obliterated them. Since Wentz’s injury, Philly has become accustomed to playing the underdog role and coming out on top, so why not do it one more time?

 

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2018 NFL Divisional Round Reactions

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Case Keenum’s face says it all… what an amazing weekend for football fans! The Eagles took exception to being the underdog on Saturday, the Patriots flexed their playoff muscle again, the Jaguars proved they are a force to be reckoned with, and the Vikings… well, you know. Let’s take a look at a more thorough breakdown of all the action.

Eagles eviscerate Falcons 15-10

I know ‘eviscerate’ is a pretty gruesome word for a 5-point game, but I haven’t gotten to use it all year so give me a break. Everything was going right for the Falcons from the beginning. A turnover on the second play from scrimmage resulting in points, a good stop followed by a solid second drive, and even when the Eagles scored, they were unable to convert the PAT. Even though the Falcons only had a 10-9 lead at the half, I just had that feeling that they we’re going to break through against an inconsistent defense… but it never happened.

The Eagles defense held its ground and stopped each Falcon attack. While not forcing any turnovers of their own, their linebacker dominance never let Atlanta formulate any momentum. Meanwhile, Nick Foles wasn’t really leading the offense to any success, as they only mustered two field goals in the second half. It turned out to be more than enough as the Falcons’ final 14-play, 74-yard drive came up 6 yards short. On 4th and goal, Julio Jones let the ball slip through his fingertips and thus ended the Falcons’ season.

So what’s next? The Falcons’ journey for revenge ends short, and they only have themselves to blame. They have one of the most potent offenses in the league and were only able to come up with a measly two scores in 60 minutes against an average defense at best. It’s back to the drawing board for 2018, and the NFC South isn’t getting any easier.

The Eagles can celebrate all they want.. they proved Vegas wrong. However, they’ve got a game to play on Sunday. The Vikings are coming to town off one of the best finishes in NFL history, and the Eagles are underdogs again. I can’t imagine another offensive showing like the one we just saw will get it done twice, but if the defense can play the same, then 15 will be plenty. That said, I still cannot trust Philly with Foles at the helm, but who am I to doubt the #1 team in the NFC?

Patriots pummel Titans 35-14

You didn’t miss much if you were busy on Saturday night. Basically, the Titans sandwiched the Pats’ 35 points with two touchdowns of their own. Through years of watching New England, I’ve found 3 things: 1. Bill Belichick always gets the ball first, always. 2. More often than not, the Patriots fail to score on their opening drive… leading me to believe Belichick does indeed have a flaw. 3. The Patriots always give their haters false hope by falling behind in the first quarter before eviscerating their opponents. (That’s 3 eviscerates in one article!) (4!)

Nobody really gave the Titans a chance in this one. They did a great job by stopping New England’s first drive and countering with a methodical score of their own. Unfortunately, by breaking the 0-0 tie, they woke up the AFC’s best team and the Titans just didn’t have any answers for the Pats’ diverse offense. It also doesn’t help matters when the comparably average defense gets 8 sacks on a mobile quarterback.

The loss is very troubling for Tennessee. Despite a very successful season that saw an upset of an AFC West powerhouse, the measuring stick against New England shows just how far off they are from being contenders. They will have the 25th pick in the draft to show for it, and while that is barely immediate starter value, they should be able to find help on the defensive end. It remains to be seen just how long the Titans will hang in the playoff picture, but I think there are teams with much more potential behind them.. for now, that is.

The reigning champs and everyone’s favorite to do it again march on to their 7th straight Conference Championship. The sheer dominance of that stat alone is incredible. Beyond that, Tom Brady is going for his 6th Super Bowl ring, which would not only tie the most Super Bowls as a franchise for the Patriots, but surely vault Brady into immortality status. I know I’m getting ahead of myself. He still has a very tough task ahead of him by facing the #1 passing defense in the country. So is it another notch in the record books or the beginning of the end of his career?

Jaguars stun Steelers 45-42

I don’t think anything went according to plan in this game. From the Jaguars’ stellar defense to their awful offense, this had all the makings to be a “first to 20 wins” type of game. While I guess it was, it was not in the manner we expected. A 97-point game kept fans glued to their seats as Pittsburgh kept hanging in there, poised for a breakthrough from any Jacksonville mistake.

Unfortunately for the Steelers’ faithful, it never happened. The Jags kept their foot on the gas with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon as they piled on touchdown after touchdown on the ground. Make no mistake, Blake Bortles was still as bad as ever, but “Blitzburgh” (as they should no longer be known) couldn’t wrap up the young backs.

Now they will have all offseason to think about it as most of the veteran team will return for 2018. Ben Roethlisberger will hold off retirement for at least another year, and Le’Veon Bell looks like he’s going to get slapped with the franchise tag once again. With Big Ben’s long-term future uncertain, they should look to get his successor in the draft. Anything else just adds depth to a really impressive roster. The Jags just had their number this year.

So what does Jacksonville need to do to pull off the upset? I’ll get to that in my predictions later this week, but it definitely includes keeping a strong run game. Everyone knows Bortles is still bad as he has done nothing to help his team besides give the ball to someone else. The defense just let up the most points they have all season, and the Patriots’ offense is just as good as Pittsburgh’s. If they want to come into Gillette Stadium and keep their season alive, they’ve got to put their nose to the grindstone and really want it. Nothing is going to be easy when the Patriots are involved.

Vikings plunder Eagles 29-24

By now you’ve seen the heroics of Kai Forbath, then Will Lutz, and ultimately Stefon Diggs. I needn’t explain the ending of this game, and if you missed it, do yourself a favor and catch the highlights ASAP. When the dust cleared, the Vikings emerged as NFC favorites to try to dethrone the Patriots.

Although I picked against them, I said the key was composure, and the Vikings had plenty of it. After jumping out to a 17-0 lead at the half, Minnesota watched as the Saints methodically cut into their lead before unlimitedly surpassing it in the final moments. Did the Vikings panic? Not even a little. Despite collapsing from the emotional high of the potential game-winning field goal, Minnesota’s prayers were answered when a rookie safety failed to recognize the game situation, and Diggs did the rest.

This never-say-die attitude bodes well for the Super Bowl hosts as they drive to a hostile environment in Philadelphia. There, they face an overachieving team like themselves with a resurging quarterback at the helm of someone else’s team. Who’s got the guts to stay alive and play in February? I’ll let you know later this week.

For the Saints, the loss is obviously a tough pill to swallow. It doesn’t get worse than thinking you’re a game away from taking back the NFC Championship, just to see the chance narrowly evade your grasp.. literally. They don’t have much to improve upon this offseason either. In a difficult NFC South, I’d imagine they’ll try to strengthen their defense and build some depth. I still think the Saints and the Steelers were the most well-built teams this year, but one off day can end it all. Better luck next season, but Skol Vikings.

2018 NFL Wild Card Reactions

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A wild Wild Card Weekend enthralled sports fans last week, as we saw two Saturday upsets and two Sunday thrillers. While each game was unique in its own right, they all give us a clearer picture of how the rest of the NFL playoffs will shake out. Let’s take a look at what happened in the first round of the postseason.

Titans down Chiefs 22-21

I cannot give enough credit to Marcus Mariota and the Titans after this one. In what looked like it was going to be a blowout from the opening kickoff, Alex Smith and the Chiefs stormed out to a 21-3 advantage before halftime. As we now know, that would be the last points they would score.

The turning point was when Smith’s favorite target, Travis Kelce, was ruled out with a  concussion in the second quarter, and while KC was able to put a late 1st half drive together, they were simply never the same. There’s no explanation for what happened in Tennessee’s road locker room at halftime. Mariota and Derrick Henry just hit another gear, and began to torch a Chiefs defense that couldn’t find their footing in the second half. Mariota’s stats weren’t even that impressive, but Henry stepped up as the workhorse for the Titans’ backfield with 156 yards and a score on the ground.

After a terribly unlucky play for KC that resulted in the Titans’ first touchdown, the unease and anxiety around Arrowhead Stadium spread and slowly but surely, the Titans took the lead without enough time for the Chiefs to put the nail in the coffin. In the end, it’s Kansas City’s 7th straight home playoff loss, which is staggering when you consider how big of an advantage having the rabid Chiefs fans usually is. It’s going to be a long offseason for the AFC’s predominant 3rd best team.

For the Titans, they have some great momentum and confidence on both sides of the ball after a very balanced and smart 2nd half performance. They will need every bit of energy and luck as they head to Foxborough for their Divisional Round matchup against the Patriots. I counted them out before, but I guess it takes more than statistics to knock out the Titans.

Falcons double up on Rams 26-13

I should have known better than to show such disrespect to the reigning NFC champions. After watching the game on Saturday, it was clear just how valuable previous playoff experience is. While the young L.A. offense somewhat struggled under the bright lights of the playoffs, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman were as composed as they were on Week 1.

Even as a 6 seed, the Falcons appeared as the favorites as their defense made stop after stop on Jared Goff. Todd Gurley had a respectable 101-yard game, but that still wasn’t enough to slip by Atlanta. In fact, the Rams actually outgained the Falcons in yards, but it was their inability to find the end zone and prevent turnovers that cost them. Both of those problems can easily be attributed to youth, so if they can compete in an increasingly difficult NFC West division next year, I have full confidence they can make some noise in 2019.

Deion Jones is fast becoming one of the premier linebackers in the NFL. As a casual viewer of every team across the league, I continue to hear Jones’s name mentioned in Falcons’ broadcasts. More often than not, it’s because of his brilliant reads and smart plays in crunch time that seal the victories for Atlanta. Watch out for this man.

Anyway, the Falcons are the first team in NFL history to actually open as the favorites against the 1 seed despite being the the worst rank in the NFC. It’s hard to question it when you take into account their dominant performance in L.A., their veteran leadership and composure, and the fact that the Eagles’ MVP QB will not be playing. If you think this Falcons win was a fluke, think again.

Jaguars escape Bills 10-3

I knew it would be low scoring, but maybe not this low scoring. The Jaguars’ unbelievable defense was on full display on Sunday as they held the Bills to a lone first half field goal. Obviously, the Jags didn’t fare much better against Buffalo’s D, but one touchdown was enough to slip into the next round.

There’s not much to analyze so I’ll jump right into the previews. The Jags defense is superb, but their offense is equally horrible. The Bills defense can be tough on the run at times, but they’re not really a playoff-caliber secondary. Blake Bortles is not fit to be a playoff quarterback, and he is lucky that he drew such an easy matchup against Tyrod Taylor.

The Steelers may have their problems scoring next week, but the Jags seem like they would struggle even in a scrimmage. I mean, credit where credit is due.  Defense wins championships, and there is no question that Jacksonville’s is elite.  But when they have to try to hold their opponent to single digits just to win… now we’re crossing a line. Bortles has the weight of Florida on his shoulders, and he has to deliver for the Jaguars to ever be considered legitimate contenders.

For the Bills, it was a historic run and there isn’t much to be ashamed about. They have a lot to improve upon on both sides of the ball, and they have the 21st and 22nd picks to do it. I would be shocked to see Taylor lock down the starting role between now and April, so I’m expecting the Bills to get another QB and a DB in the draft to try and stay a spot back of the Pats in the AFC East.

Saints shrug off Panthers 31-26

For the third time this season, the Panthers fell victim to the Saints. It’s an underrated yet monumental feat to sweep a team like that in one year, especially when they are as good as Carolina is, but New Orleans will be rewarded with a trip to Minnesota to try and knock off the Super Bowl’s hosts.

It wasn’t easy though. Carolina continued to pressure the Saints with a balanced attack that had them on the plus side of the 50 for most of the game. Unfortunately for the Panthers, most of those drives resulted in just field goals, as New Orleans bended but refused to break. In the end, if just one of those kicks was a touchdown, Carolina’s season might not be over.

The Saints did a great job of that aforementioned “bend don’t break” mentality on defense, and they were just as good with the ball. For the most part, they played conservatively and took care of the ball against a hungry Panthers defense. They took shots downfield to spread out the secondary, and gashed the D-line with runs from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. They were fortunate with an 80-yard deep ball from Drew Brees to Ted Ginn. Combine all of that, and you get a recipe for postseason success.

By far the best game of next week will be the Saints-Vikings clash. They both have similar amounts of playoff experience as of late, but the Vikings haven’t been this good in a long time. I wonder if rest will be a positive or a negative for the home team, as it’s always nice to keep an offense in sync with continuous play. The Saints have that advantage as they go into next week, but the Vikings have the extra preparation. It should be fun.

NFL Week 16 Reactions

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Week 16 brought a lot of intrigue and a lot of excitement for football fans over the holiday weekend. With a few more division titles and the Wild Card picture clearing up, there’s just one day left of the regular season. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at how we got to this point.

 

Ravens hold off Colts 23-16

The Colts put up a fight against the playoff-seeking Ravens, but in the end everyone wins. The Colts are the favorites for the #3 pick in the draft in April, and another loss could move them up a spot. For the Ravens, a win at 4:25 (sorry Harbaugh), will lock them into the #5 seed this postseason. While a lot of people see this team as a threat, all I see is a good defense and a good enough offense. That won’t make it very far in January, so next week is their chance to show everyone how they play when it’s all on the line.

 

Vikings shut out Packers 16-0

It’s abundantly clear that the Packers couldn’t care less about the rest of their season, and why should they? With their playoff hopes dashed and Aaron Rodgers on IR, it’s no wonder they looked so lazy. However, the Vikings are breathing down the Eagles’ necks in the race for the best team in the NFC. It remains to be seen how many starters will suit up next week, but an all-around get-it-done performance against their division rival went a long way.

 

Redskins skin Broncos 27-11

Kirk Cousins is playing with house money as he will be a UFA after next week. As the most coveted free agent QB, Cousins will continue to try to add value to his name this offseason. Personally, I think he’s a great guy that can lead a team of stars around him… but he isn’t one. If your team wants him, make sure that it’s the last piece keeping you from the playoffs. So, is it ironic that the Broncos would be a perfect fit?

 

Panthers escape Buccaneers 22-19

It was an ugly day at home for Carolina, but no one’s complaining after the hard-fought victory. The question is if this gritty performance against one of the worst teams in the NFL is indicative of things to come, or if the Panthers were looking ahead to a titan clash with the Falcons next week. Time will tell. In the meantime, the Panthers are going to the playoffs with a chance at the division title.

 

Bears beat Browns 20-3

In a pedestrian game without much on the line, Mitch Trubisky and the Bears were in firm control throughout the game as they got a momentum-building win for next year. Unfortunately for the Browns, the loss drops them to 0-15 and in danger of becoming the worst team in NFL history. With the #1 pick already going to Cleveland, they can play with nothing to lose against a cautious Steeler team next week. But will that even be enough?

 

Bengals bludgeon Lions 26-17

The Bengals surprisingly came to play against a Lions team that needed to win way more than Cincinnati did. The victory doesn’t mean much, but they have a chance to spoil the Ravens’ season as well next week. With the Lions’ season now over, there isn’t much reason to try to watch their duel with the Packers next week either.

 

Chiefs miff Dolphins 29-13

Kansas City has officially clinched the wild AFC West and the #4 seed in the playoffs. With their immediate future decided, they have already announced that they will bench their key players next week to keep them rested for a crucial clash in the Wild Card round. With their win streak at three, I think it’s extremely important momentum-wise for KC to roll into the playoffs with a win, but obviously health is priority #1.

 

Patriots pound Bills 37-16

The Bills held their own for 45 minutes, but a 21-point finish by the Pats put this thing away and locked up a 1st Round bye for the AFC East champs. The loss was expected from Buffalo, but now they need some help to squeak into the postseason. Hopefully another controversial touchdown reversal and a gutting loss to their rivals doesn’t deter the Bills from taking care of business against the Dolphins next week.

 

Saints smother Falcons 23-13

No one said it would be easy, but New Orleans got the job done on Sunday as they move one step closer to clinching the NFC South. Currently in a tie with the Panthers, the Saints need a win against Tampa Bay to seal their spot in the top 4. For the Falcons, they still own the 6 seed over the Seahawks for the time being, but they need to pull it together and upset the Panthers next Sunday to lock in their spot in January.

 

Rams ruin Titans 27-23

It took some heart and guts, but the Rams were able to hang on and clinch the NFC West on Sunday. Todd Gurley put a stamp on his MVP campaign with an additional 276 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rookie coach Sean McVay has a chance to win Coach of the Year. It was quite a ride for Los Angles this year, and it’s not about to end.

Unfortunately for Tennessee, the loss puts them on the hot seat for their final game against the Jaguars. Luckily, the Jags don’t have much to play for, so maybe the Titans can snap their 3-game skid and win at the most crucial time of the year. With a final loss, the Titans might go down as one of the biggest collapses in NFL history. That’s a lot on the line.

 

Chargers trump Jets 14-7

This one meant even less than the Browns-Bears game. Both teams are stuck in the middle of the road between a medium draft pick and no playoff birth. And before you say it, I know the Chargers are still in the hunt if they can win their final game, but that’s far from a sure thing. Of course, stranger things have happened.

 

49ers stun Jaguars (and me) 44-33

I keep doubting him, and he keeps pulling through. Jimmy Garoppolo is 4-0 with San Francisco and showing no signs of slowing down. The undefeated QB’s latest victim was the Jags, who were once seeking a 1st Round bye. With the upset, they’re locked into the 3 seed and will play in the opening weekend of the playoffs. Worse things can happen to a team I guess, but it can’t feel good to be upended by the 49ers at this stage in the season.

 

Seahawks eliminate Cowboys 21-12

I don’t know if the Cowboys felt a sense of security with Ezekiel Elliott and were lulled into complacency, or if the Seahawks’ defense was just that dominate, but in any event, Dallas is done for the season. The Seahawks aren’t in yet, as they need a win and a Falcons loss to get into the postseason, but it’s better to have a shot than to be playing for scraps next weekend.

 

Cardinals blank Giants 23-0

The “sneaky Giants” I mentioned never showed up as the cracks widen in New York. With so much internal strife and off the field issues, there is almost reason to be fearful that it will leak into next year. Hopefully a new coach, a high draft pick, and some healthy stars can make for a quick turnaround for the Giants.

 

Steelers slaughter Texans 34-6

It was a Merry Christmas indeed for Steelers fans as there was little to be upset about during the thumping of Houston. The win locks Pittsburgh into the Divisional round, and more importantly, gives Antonio Brown an extra week to recover from his calf injury. If the Steelers are at full strength in the playoffs, they have got to be favored among the very best in the NFL to win the Super Bowl.

 

Eagles edge Raiders 19-10

First, the offense thrived with Nick Foles. Then, the defense made up for a lack of offense last weekend. So, which Philly team will show up next week against the Cowboys in a pretty important game? Hopefully, they can find a balance as they get ready for a playoff run and try to bring the passionate Eagles fans their first Lombardi trophy.

NFL Week 15 Reactions

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With only two weeks remaining, the playoff picture is starting to clear up. The Patriots, the Jaguars, and the Vikings each clinched their respective divisions, the Eagles locked up the NFC without Carson Wentz, and more than a few bubbles got popped. Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the NFL as the season winds down.

 

Broncos buck Colts 25-13

This game really didn’t matter much. Good on the Broncos for winning two straight and their first on the road, but at 5-9 Denver is in a tough situation as they move up in the standings. If nothing else, maybe the recent uptick will give Broncos’ fans some hope for next season.

For the Colts, their 5th straight loss drops them to 3-11. With two harder games ahead, Indy will more than likely lock up a top 3 pick in April’s draft. As the season finishes up, it’s important to get some experience for the young stars and try different schemes. With Chuck Pagano on the hot seat, see what works best and find a coach to best fit that scheme.

 

Lions maul Bears 20-10

Matthew Stafford didn’t unload on the Bears exactly as I was expecting, but he got the job done. That’s a testament to Chicago’s solid defense that can probably be largely ignored come the draft, as their needs will be giving Mitch Trubisky some more weapons to throw to as he develops into a better quarterback.

Detroit still has an uphill battle to reach the playoffs, but that’s more than a lot of teams can say. In order to get in, they will need to beat both the Packers and the Bengals, whilst hoping that the Falcons fall to both of their divisional opponents. Never say never, but Detroit is going to need a lot of luck to get that final playoff spot.

 

Chiefs crush Chargers 30-13

Not only were the Chargers crushed on the scoreboard, but the loss drops them to 7-7 and a far cry from the last playoff spot. In order to squeak in, they’ll have to pass not one, not two, but three 8-6 teams over the final two weeks. It’s a long road ahead, so L.A. fans will probably be cheering for just the Rams in January.

After a horrible skid, the Chiefs are back to 8-6 and in control of the AFC West. The back-to-back wins come at a perfect times as the intensity ramps up for the postseason. In order to stay strong, it’s important to keep the foot on the gas and ride the momentum into a duel in the Wild Card round.

 

Bills survive Dolphins 24-16

The Dolphins followed up their impressive performance against the Patriots with a far less exciting offensive showing. The Bills’ defense is as tough as any, and if they are to hang on to the final playoff spot, they will need to rely on it to stop the Patriots and the Dolphins once again. There’s no margin for error as the Ravens will likely win out and take the 6 seed if the Bills stumble.

 

Ravens beat Browns 27-10

There’s not much to say here. The Browns are still as bad as ever and the Ravens got the job done to keep pace with the Bills in the Wild Card race. Again, I don’t presume they’ll have much trouble beating the Colts and the Bengals at home, so lock in Baltimore as the frontrunner for the final postseason bid.

 

Vikings breeze by Bengals 34-7

There is arguably no team in the NFL playing with less enthusiasm than Cincinnati. After another self-inflicted loss to the Steelers, the Bengals have played as well as a high school team since. They were no match for the red-hot Vikings who look like serious Super Bowl contenders, and they probably won’t look any better as they shuffle with their heads hung for the rest of the season.

Yes, the Vikings look awesome. Even though the Eagles have the conference clinched, Minnesota is in line to lock up the #2 seed and a 1st round bye in the playoffs. Time will tell if the extra rest hurts them, but right now a Vikings-Rams rematch might give us our Super Bowl favorite.

 

Saints shake Jets 31-19

Credit to the Jets for hanging with one of the top dogs in the NFC, but they just didn’t quite have the star power that New Orleans has to pull off the upset. They can take solace in the fact that they have 5 wins, which is more than almost anybody could have expected during the preseason. With every solid performance they turn in, the better 2018 should treat New York.

Meanwhile, the Saints got a mini-wake up call that they need to be on top of their game with seeding and the NFC South itself still very much up for grabs. New Orleans was very lucky to win as comfortably as they did despite giving up 3 turnovers in sloppy fashion. Look for them to buckle down in a pivotal battle with Atlanta this weekend.

 

Eagles escape Giants 34-29

Here’s the thing. The Eagles appear to be just fine with Nick Foles. Yeah, I know it was a dangerously close victory, but Foles’ offense put up 34. He’s fine. The defense might have phoned it in a bit against a poor Giants offense, but the bottom line is that Philly shouldn’t be in too much trouble with the #1 seed in the NFC.

 

Redskins corral Cardinals 20-15

It was a tight, albeit meaningless, game in Fedex Field on Sunday. Blaine Gabbert and Kirk Cousins went punch for punch, but in the end Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t quite hang on to a 4th down pass and sealed their fate. Both Arizona’s and Washington’s seasons are all but over, so it’s just up to those pending free agents to play for some extra cash in the offseason as they’re stuck with a mid-round pick in the draft anyway.

 

Panthers eliminate Packers 31-24

As I predicted, Cam Newton and the Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers’ return to action. In doing so, Green Bay was eliminated from playoff contention and the Packers took the precautionary measure of sending Rodgers back to the Injury Reserved list. It’s obviously very scary how much the Packers rely on #12, so we’ll see how they rebound in their final two meaningless games.

Carolina’s final two games are anything but meaningless. Trapped in the thick of the NFC South battle, the Panthers should have an easy time disposing of the Buccaneers before locking horns with the Falcons. Again, with no margin for error at this point in the season, it’s important to stay focused down the stretch and keep their fate in their own hands.

 

Jaguars jolt Texans 45-7

I had little doubt that the Jaguars would roll on Sunday, but this dominant victory came from out of nowhere.  Their suffocating defense is playing as well as ever, and if they’re a threat to score 45, there is no question that they are one of the best teams in the NFL. Don’t sleep on Jacksonville.

 

Rams skin Seahawks 42-7

Just when you think the Seahawks are making a surge up the standings they get blasted by the Rams. Todd Gurley ripped Seattle apart with 3 touchdowns and over 150 yards in just over a half of play in the rout in CenturyLink Field. The 12th Man couldn’t help the Seahawks on Sunday, and it might be the last we hear of Seattle this season.

The loss drops the ‘Hawks a game behind the Falcons, and they don’t own the tiebreaker. So, it’ll take victories against the Cowboys and the Cardinals along with Atlanta losing out plus a Detroit loss to get them in the playoffs. As hard as that was to say, it’s still easier said than done.. but not impossible….

 

49ers topple Titans 25-23

The question for San Fran is, why didn’t they get Jimmy Garoppolo sooner? The man is 3-0 and single-handedly taking the 49ers further and further away from a top draft pick. While I am impressed with his record, Garoppolo’s stats tell a different story. He’s a mere average quarterback on a very bad team. I think he’ll be great one day, but for now, it’s Robbie Gould’s toe that’s winning ball games.

The Titans drop another to the 49ers and the sky is falling in Tennessee. Just two weeks ago they were poised to steal the AFC South, but now they are on the brink of total collapse. With two of the hottest teams in the NFL to go on the schedule, the Titans are staring 8-8 right in the face which would mean a heartbreaking playoff exclusion.

 

Patriots steal from Steelers 27-24

The play that everyone’s talking about is that Jesse James no-catch. Pittsburgh survived a lot of clutch time mistakes up to that point, including failing to adapt to Tom Brady continuously targeting a mismatched Rob Gronkowski. The Steelers got bailed out by Juju Smith-Schuster’s unbelievable catch-and-run, but Ben Roethlisberger’s aggressiveness on the last play might have cost the Steelers the #1 seed in the AFC.

But about that catch. In the rule book, the officials were right. Despite firmly grabbing the ball with two hands, bringing it into his chest, dropping his knee to the ground, extending the ball past the goal line, James did not maintain control as it hit the ground.. no catch. Bullshit. Change the rule. I don’t know that the “eye test” can be legislature, but anyone who saw that play should know James caught that ball before making a football move by extending it after gaining control. The Steelers were indeed robbed, and the implications will stretch all the way to February… and maybe NFL history was rewritten.

 

Cowboys reject Raiders 20-17

It’s all over for the Raiders after two tough calls went against them. First, the already infamous “Index Card rule” that gave the Cowboys a crucial first down (hey, maybe the “Eye Test rule” doesn’t sound so bad after all). Then, a Derek Carr fumble through the end zone gave the Cowboys the ball at the end of the game to end Oakland’s season.

I’ve never liked that fumble rule. I think it’s very unjust based on the usual circumstances after said fumble. I don’t expect anything to change, but I’d love to see the team who fumbles keep the ball, and maybe as punishment they lose a down and move back 10 yards or something. I don’t see a reason the defense should get a turnover unless they physically gain control of the ball whether it’s as an INT or a legitimate fumble recovery. In any case, the Raiders’ season is over, and the Cowboys’ will be after this weekend.

 

Falcons scared by Buccaneers 24-21

The Falcons got the much needed victory on Monday night, but it wasn’t easy. Despite countless injuries before the game, and countless more during it, the Bucs terrible defense somehow, someway, held the Falcons limitless offense to just 24 points. The 3-point loss was a HUGE victory for Tampa Bay as they proved that they are better than their record, but still get to steal a top draft pick. Great game by all.

NFL Week 13 Reactions

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Just when you think you know everything, the NFL throws a curveball. My predictions last week reflected a clear path to the finish line for bubble teams, but Week 13 gave us more questions than answers. For those worried, I was able to escape the mayhem with a 9-7 record and stay at 66% on the season. With the season 3/4 over, let’s take a look at the NFL and try to sort this whole thing out.

Cowboys crush Redskins 38-14

Not only did Dallas crush the ‘Skins on the scoreboard, but they pretty much crushed their playoff hopes too. However, I’m actually not counting out D.C. yet. At 5-7, they should be favored in their final 3 games. That leaves a 50/50 battle with the Chargers this Sunday to keep their season alive. The Redskins cannot lose again.

The Cowboys finally figured out that they’re better than Ezekiel Elliott. Let the praise rain down on Alfred Morris, but he’s not the hero. As I’ve said all along, I couldn’t care less who is standing behind Dak Prescott. When they’re running with an offensive line like Dallas’s, they are easily capable of Elliott-like games. You really shouldn’t read too much into it, and Jason Garrett needs to make sure his game plan remains the same over the final four games if they want to sneak into the postseason.

Vikings fell Falcons 14-9

If you were a doubter of this Vikings defense, Sunday’s game had to keep you quiet. They were able to keep one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL out of the end zone and limited them to just 3 field goals. While the Minnesota offense struggled a bit, Xavier Rhodes kept Julio Jones quiet, and Atlanta’s dynamic running backs were held under 100 yards combined. It’s weird to call this a domination performance when they only managed two touchdowns, but it was.

This loss really hurts for the Falcons as they fall to 3rd in the NFC South and 7th in the NFC. At 7-5, it’s abundantly clear that the the NFC race is going to be way more competitive than the AFC. Atlanta still has to play the Saints twice and the Panthers again before the season ends, so their fate is entirely in their own hands. It won’t be easy, but if the Falcons can at least beat the Panthers and Bucs, they might have a shot to win some tiebreaks at 9-7. Obviously, the easier route is to knock off the Saints, so go ahead and do that.

Patriots cash in the Bills 23-3

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who really thought the Bills had a chance. Their defense has been okay, but Tyrod Taylor and the offense are reeling with loads of coaching decision controversy. In any case, Buffalo was expected to lose this game, but I still think they can make the playoffs at 9-7. That makes next week’s bout with the Colts crucial to regain some momentum.

Nothing new with the Pats. They remain undefeated on the road as they start their final road trip and continue their 8-game winning streak. The key is not Tom Brady. While he has been excellent, the defense turned a corner. During their 2-2 start, New England’s D couldn’t hold an opponent under 20 points. During this streak, opponents haven’t been able to put up more than 17. With everything clicking, the Dolphins are bound to meet a buzzsaw on Saturday (yes, Saturday).

49ers kick Bears 15-14

As I expected, neither QB was all that impressive in this one. Jimmy Garoppolo opened his tenure with San Francisco with 293 yards and an interception, while Mitch Trubisky stayed mediocre with 102 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Howard was inexplicably bottled up for just 38 yards against a terrible 49er run defense, and if not for a punt return, the Bears wouldn’t have held the lead for as long as they did.

Robbie Gould is really the only reason San Fran has 2 wins. He scored all of his team’s points on Sunday afternoon, and is 4th in the league in FGM. The 3 kickers ahead of him have a combined team record of 29-7, so that’s not too bad for a 2-10 kicker. The 49ers have their best chance to get their 3rd win next week at the Texans before likely falling in their final 3 games.

Packers beat Buccaneers 26-20 (OT)

Listen, the Packers have a very real shot at the playoffs this year. At 6-6, they must endure the Browns before likely welcoming back Aaron Rodgers to finish off the final 3 games. I know a lot of people left them for dead when Rodgers went down, and truthfully I was on the fence, but you cannot count out Green Bay if Rodgers can come back in Week 15.

The Bucs aren’t mathematically eliminated, but they might as well be. It’s been an extremely disappointing season for my playoff dark horse as nothing has gone to plan. Jameis Winston has been wildly inconsistent, Mike Evans has been a bust, and the Tampa Bay defense is among the worst in the league. I’m sure they can’t wait for the season to be over.

Titans dump Texans 24-13

The Titans needed the W on Sunday to hang with the Jaguars. It wasn’t easy, but they got it done. Truthfully, the Titans have been very lucky as evidenced by their -16 point differential. That’s crazy because they have twice as many wins as losses despite being outscored by their opponents over the course of the season. Also, that differential was even worse before their 11-point win on Sunday. It’s stats like these that make Tennessee appear to be a pretender.

The immediate future is gloomy for Houston, but they probably don’t expect much at this point. They are riddled with injuries and luck just isn’t on their side this year. If they can lose just enough, they can steal a good draft pick and be a heavy favorite to take the AFC South crown in 2018.

Dolphins decimate Broncos 35-9

The tumultuous Denver season continues after a humiliating loss in Miami. That brings the losing streak up to 8, and it will only get worse if they fall to the Jets. It’s still hard to figure out how the defense went from the most dominating in the NFL over the past 2 years and into this season, to one made of swiss cheese. The AFC West is a mess.

John Elway’s trash is the Dolphins’ treasure as they keep their season alive and move to 5-7. Obviously, fans shouldn’t get too excited as they have to play the Patriots twice and 3 of their last 4 games are on the road. It’s highly likely that this was the Dolphins’ last win of the season, but at least it was a dominating one.

Jets beat Alex Smith 38-31

I say Alex Smith because he was absolutely phenomenal in defeat. He threw for 366 yards and 4 touchdowns with no picks to accumulate an immaculate 135.9 QBR. Not to mention the fact that the pocket passer broke away for a 70-yard run which was almost double the rest of the team’s rushing yards combined. The poor signal caller is doing everything he can to turn the Chiefs’ season around, but now he finds himself locked in a 3-way tie with the Raiders and the Chargers for the division lead. The AFC West is a mess.

The Jets did well to steal a win here, but it’s probably for nothing. It’s cool to be 5-7, but they have a difficult road ahead if they want to win out. New York has undoubtedly gathered a lot of hope for their future, so hopefully they don’t steal too many wins just to find themselves on the outside looking in anyway.

Jaguars maul Colts 30-10

Jacksonville took care of business against a pesky Colts team over the weekend to keep first place in the AFC South. I think the Jags are in total control of the division despite the constant tie, and they have a favorable schedule remaining to prove it. It’s going to be a tough one against a motivated Seahawks team next week, but it should be smooth sailing until the play-in game against Tennessee on New Year’s Eve.

The Colts have no expectations as they fight out a lost year without Andrew Luck. Facing the Jags’ suffocating defense didn’t help soothe the fans, but at this point, the more losses the better. I’m sorry to be encouraging tanking from these eliminated NFL teams, but until a better system is put in place, it’s a good strategy.

Ravens wreck Lions 44-20

If you know anything about the NFL this year, you know that the Ravens have an excruciating offense. So the surprising 44-point outburst caught a lot of people off guard. Because they are traditionally a defensive-minded team, the Sunday score was the 4th most points in Ravens history, and the highest mark since October 12, 2014. With play like this, maybe they do in fact deserve some extra games in January.

With play like this, maybe the Lions don’t deserve some extra games in January. Three weeks ago, I had the Lions as a candidate to unseat the Vikings to take the NFC North. However, after I picked Minnesota to knock them off on Thanksgiving, and seeing how the Ravens dominated them in every aspect of the game, Detroit is running out of time in a very competitive NFC Wild Card race.

Chargers defeat Browns 19-10

As this game wore on, I couldn’t help but think about the last time the Browns won a game. If you follow me, it was against none other than the Chargers. While I knew DeShone Kizer would inevitably blow it down the stretch, the possibility of their lone victory coming to the Chargers again would have been pretty ironic.

With the gutsy win, Los Angeles moves into a tie for the division lead. It’s amazing to think that they were 0-5 when the Chiefs were 5-0, but here they are tied at 6-6. The Chargers will play the Raiders and the Chiefs before the season is over, so this is anyone’s race. They all will have no one to blame but themselves for anything less than a 4 seed. The AFC West is a mess.

Raiders rip Giants 24-17

It wasn’t quite the low scoring game I thought it would be, but it wasn’t a shootout either. Before Ben McAdoo benched Eli Manning, I was going to pick New York to win it, but luckily all is now right in the world. The incompetent coach is fired along with the GM who hired him. Manning is back as the starter and will ride the rest of this forgettable season to the end before hoping for better luck next season.

Oakland had a good game on Sunday, but it was probably a little closer than they would have liked. Nevertheless, they can’t be disappointed with a tie for first place. They might have the most difficult of the three remaining schedules, but anything is possible. Again, the AFC West is a mess.

Saints sedate Panthers 31-21

The Saints bounced back from a disappointing 4th quarter against the Vikings to upend the Panthers. With the win, New Orleans takes control of the NFC South and has a chance to avenge their poor start. They look pretty good too as their weak secondary has firmed up while Drew Brees has some weight off his shoulders thanks to the success of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. A win against the Falcons next week would all but lock a spot in the top 4 of the NFC.

The loss hurts the Panthers, but they’re not dead. As the current 6 seed at 8-4, they have 2 easy and two tough games remaining. Assuming chalk holds, 10-6 is a perfectly reasonable record capable of being the 5 seed or better if the Saints stumble. So long as Carolina can put up a good showing and not let this snowball, the Panthers should be good to go.

Rams control Cardinals 32-16

The Rams’ dream season continues as they move to 9-3 and stay a game ahead of the Seahawks in the NFC West. Jared Goff led the way with two touchdowns, but it was an all-around team performance. The L.A. defense held steady to keep a struggling Arizona team on their heels on both sides of the ball. Combine it all and the Rams cruised to an easy victory as they transition to the final quarter of their season.

With Adrian Peterson and Carson Palmer both out for the Cardinals, there really isn’t much to look for. Patrick Peterson is one of my favorite cornerbacks in the league, but obviously shutting down the opposing #1 receiver isn’t going to win you a game in and of itself. I’m not expecting much improvement from the Cardinals as the season finishes up.

 

Seahawks ground Eagles 24-10

I can doubt the Seahawks all I want, but they’ve proved me wrong at home. I don’t know if it’s the 12th man or what, but Russell Wilson has his team playing inspired football down the stretch. I really don’t like their secondary or their depth, but so far so good as they’ve unseated the top team in the NFC. Next up is the stout Jaguars defense.

For the Eagles, the loss doesn’t mean much, but it puts them in a position to lose their #1 seed with another one. While they should be favored in their final 3 games, a win against the Rams next week would be huge in clinching the best spot in the NFC. We’ll see how the young quarterback Carson Wentz can respond from the disappointing performance.

Steelers gifted by Bengals (again) 23-20

Leave it to the Bungles to blow another huge lead in Paul Brown Stadium to their arch rivals. After jumping out to a 17-3 lead in 2016, the Bengals gave the game away with penalties, and they did an eerily similar thing on Monday night. This time however, it was a 17-0 lead and a franchise record 173 penalty yards.

I’m not getting into the specifics of all the embarrassing and egregious hits on defenseless receivers on both sides, so let’s just talk about the future. The Bengals have to win out with a favorable schedule to sneak in at 9-7, but they may be too late on the tiebreakers. The Steelers can clinch the division with a win against the Ravens on Sunday, but the last thing they need is another physical battle. This game was a sign of some craziness on the horizon.

 

NFL Week 12 Reactions

 

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I may be a day late, but never a dollar short. Week 12 of the NFL is in the books and the favorites continue to be on top. I hadn’t realized I chose all of the favorites except for the Cowboys over the weekend, and it amounted to a 13-3 week and a season-long 66% success rate. As teams are settling into that playoff push, we are in the midst of a crucial stretch in the campaign. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the NFL.

 

Vikings tame Lions 30-23

It was a valiant effort by the Lions to try to snap the Vikings’ 6-game winning streak on Thanksgiving, but ultimately they fell just short. With the loss, Detroit falls 3 games back of the Vikings and 1 game back from a playoff spot. While the NFC North is all but wrapped up, Matthew Stafford and the Lions still have a lot to play for as they look ahead to a pretty favorable schedule.

Minnesota can now set their sights on clinching the NFC. With 7 straight wins and a 9-2 record, Minnesota finds themselves as the 2nd best team in the NFC behind the Eagles. They will continue their difficult road trip against the Falcons and the Panthers before returning to the Midwest to face a few cupcakes. Worst case scenario, the Vikings should finish with at most 4 losses. Not too shabby.

 

Chargers shut down Cowboys 28-6

No Zeke, big problem. With Ezekiel Elliott out, Dallas has yet to eclipse double digits on the scoreboard. Dak Prescott’s struggles with the team on his shoulders has been well documented, and they’re creeping into panic mode with their season on the line this Thursday. The bitter Cowboys-Redskins rivalry is going to play a huge role in determining the NFC Wild Card race.

Speaking of Wild Card race, the Chargers surged back to 5-6 in a crippling AFC West division. Despite their 0-5 start, L.A. is incredibly very much in the playoff race with a visit from the Browns next on the docket. This is your reminder that there is still a lot of football to be played with 5 weeks left in the season.

 

Redskins stomp Giants 20-10

It might have been easy to write off the Giants, but this was still a big win for the Redskins. New York is proving that they aren’t about to be walked over in any game, and they still have a couple of wins left in them. Janoris Jenkins is playing like one of the best DBs in the league, and the Giants defense as a whole is pretty suffocating to its opponents. Their season may be over, but they have a couple shockers left in them.

Meanwhile this was a must-win for the Redskins as they now pull back to 5-6 and two games out of a Wild Card spot. So, a win against the 5-6 Cowboys would be HUGE. Not only would they would knock off their arch-rival, but at 6-6 they would finish the season with one of the easiest schedules in the league. I haven’t been this excited for two teams below .500 playing in prime time in a while.

 

Falcons “Jones” Buccaneers 34-20

I know that doesn’t make sense… but did you see Julio Jones?? My man went for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 catches. It’s the 3rd time in his career to surpass 250 yards receiving, which is 2 more than anyone else in the history of the sport. What a phenomenal talent!

The win keeps the Falcons locked into that 6 seed at 7-4. However, they probably have the toughest remaining schedule as they face the Vikings, the Saints twice, and then the Panthers. If Atlanta is going to be playing into 2018,  they are going to have to earn it. For the Bucs, just worry about that high draft pick.

 

Bengals bite Browns 30-16

As an Ohio resident, there has been a lot of local talk on Joe Mixon’s failure to pass 20 carries and 100 yards. Well, on Sunday he did both in a balanced Bengals offense. In addition, while the defense has been better, they kept the Browns out of the end zone minus one DeShone Kizer scamper.

The win keeps the Bengals’ playoff hopes alive as they move to 5-6 and one game back of their division rival Ravens. Before they can look ahead to their up-and-down schedule, they have an extra day to prepare for a crucial matchup with the Steelers on Monday. Without so much as a good showing, it’s possible to write off Cincinnati.

 

Titans overcome Colts 20-16

Marcus Mariota is in some kind of funk. Last Sunday his 52 QBR was well below a playoff quarterback’s standards. In fact, he has an average QBR of 53 since his last convincing win over 6 weeks ago (against none other than the Colts). Yes, the Titans are tied for the division lead, but if they want to win the division or make noise in the playoffs, Mariota has to backup his talented backfield.

This game was way closer than it should have been. Indianapolis dominated the game until the 4th quarter when DeMarco Murray’s 1-yard run with 6 minutes to go finally put Tennessee ahead. There’s something to be said about Indy’s toughness as they continue to play contenders close (for example, the Steelers), but in truth the contenders have no excuse to play down to their opponents like the Titans did.

 

Bills stampede Chiefs 16-10

It’s crazy to think that the Chiefs were once 5-0 and by far the best team in the league. They are the proud owners of the Eagles’ only loss, and the shameful owners of falling to 5 of their last 6 opponents. Somehow, they remain in first place thanks to the ineptitude of the rest of the division. They must figure this thing out against the Jets next week. They are too talented on all three facets of the game to be suffering like this.

For the Bills, it’s probably the opposite. LeSean McCoy isn’t having a great season, and Buffalo’s recent QB troubles have been well documented. Nevertheless, the Bills are 6-5 and tied with the Ravens for the final playoff spot. Their defense is preparing for a tough test against the Patriots to stay there before playing to pretty easy games at home. The worst case scenario should be 8-6 after Week 15.

 

Patriots punish Dolphins 35-17

Any Patriots fan will tell you that New England always inexplicably struggles with the Dolphins. However, that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Tom Brady launched 4 touchdowns despite only throwing for 227 yards. However, the duo of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead combined for 162 yards and another score. Combine it with a much improved defense, and you have a 7-game winning streak and one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

The Dolphins’ loss all but puts them out of the title picture. Their offense rivals the Ravens, Texans, and Browns among the worst in the league and their defense is only average. With a 5-game losing streak and a difficult upcoming schedule, it’ll be interesting to see if they step up, or fight for a higher draft pick.

 

Panthers escape Jets 35-27

As expected, the Panthers’ potent rushing attack was a solid matchup for a stout Jets defensive line. New York gave Cam Newton all he could handle, but a late kick return for a touchdown broke the game open and all but finished off the Jets. With the win, the Panthers move to 8-3 and join the Saints in first place of the highly competitive NFC South.

Meanwhile, the Jets fall to 4-7 and are out of the playoff race. They have exhibited an above average defense all year, and Josh McCown and Robby Anderson might have something special on offense, but it’s too soon for anything substantial. Keep in mind that they were projected to be the worst team in the NFL, so 4 wins or more this season is far above expectations. I think they’ll pick up a couple of offensive tools in the draft and be a borderline playoff contender in 2018.

 

Eagles eviscerate Bears 31-3

The score doesn’t show how lopsided this game was even with the 28-point differential. The Eagles jumped on Chicago with 3 quick touchdowns from Carson Wentz before the half, and it was cruise control from there. In fact, the Philly players could be seen playing tic-tac-toe on the sidelines.

The Eagles move up to 10-1 and remain in total control of the NFC while the Bears stay close to the top picks in the draft. Chicago fans probably shouldn’t get too excited because they blew it last year with Mitch Trubisky. Whether or not he proves me wrong over the next couple of years, there is no way the Bears should’ve taken that trade.

 

Seahawks sweep 49ers 24-13

The Seahawks swept their bitter rival in 2017, but it was closer than they probably would’ve liked. After a narrow 12-9 victory in Week 2, they were able to extend their margin to 11 in Week 12. Russell Wilson was brilliant again with 228 yards passing and a couple of TDs in the air and one on the ground.

The win quells some fears about the legitimacy of Seattle, but not by much. At the end of the day, they only beat a 1-10 San Fran team that is destined for a top-3 draft pick. A true title contender would’ve dismantled the 49ers similar to the way the Eagles handled their business. On that note, we’ll find out what the Seahawks are made of when they welcome Philly this week.

 

Raiders slip past Broncos 21-14

It was tough sledding for a while after Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib got ejected after a brawl early in the game and were then suspended for two more. Again, by my count that’s 3 equal fights and 3 different punishments. The NFL needs to write a rule on this or something because I, for one, think it’s really embarrassing when the league can’t make up their mind about these incidents.

Besides that, the Raiders were able to get 21 unanswered to open up the game before allowing 14 in the 4th quarter. The win doesn’t do much for Oakland, but it’s not the end of the line for them. For the Broncos, it’s a tough 7th-straight loss and back to Trevor Siemien for the rest of the season thanks to Paxton Lynch’s injury. Who knows what the future hold for this upside-down division.

 

Rams upend Saints 26-20

After L.A.’s collapse a week ago to the Vikings, I didn’t think they would be ready to rebound against the Saints. However, a steady diet of Jared Goff left the Rams with just 3 punts over the course of the game. You could point out their 5 FG to 2 TD ratio, but in this case, a score is a score, and the Rams are back to the #3 team in the NFC.

The Saints do fall into a tie for 3rd place in the NFC, and a tie for the NFC South lead with this loss. That is not nearly as significant as New Orleans’ next 4 weeks though. After they face the Panthers next week to decide the new NFC South leader, they have a “home and home” against the Falcons coming up. The Saints are in total control of their own destiny, and you can bet head coach Sean Payton knows that.

 

Cardinals stun Jaguars 27-24

Who would’ve thought that Blaine Gabbert was going to be the one to break through the impenetrable Jacksonville defense? Not only did the former Jaguar burn his old team, but he very well might have solidified his spot as Arizona’s quarterback for the coming years. Obviously that could change in an instant, but if he can continue to play like he did on Sunday, Gabbert’s time in the NFL will live on.

Just when you thought the Jags were going to run away with the AFC South, the loss drops them back into a tie with the Titans for the lead. The good news is that they definitely have one of the easiest schedules remaining until that New Year’s Eve clash with Tennessee. There’s a lot on the line, but the Jags can’t afford to look ahead that far just yet.

 

Steelers kick Packers 31-28

It took a Chris Boswell career-long field goal as time expired to finally put Green Bay away, as the Steelers eclipsed 30 points for the second time in a row. Ben Roethlisberger, and especially Antonio Brown, were outstanding as they connected for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns.

While the offense is starting to peak at the perfect time, the defense is equally slipping. The Packers’ offense is not the threat we’re used to seeing, and there is no way that this should’ve been close. The Steelers have a few more cakewalks at home before the season ends to prove that this was a fluke, but I’m not so sure…

 

Ravens hold off Texans 23-16

Justin Tucker won the field goal battle as both of these atrocious offenses struggled mightily. After a methodical opening drive by the Texans, followed by a couple of quick defensive stops, the “boo birds” were out early in Baltimore. Then John Harbaugh drew up a crucial fake punt to keep the Ravens in the game and spark his team to victory.

It seems weird to say that the turning point was in a 7-0 game in the 1st quarter, but the Ravens offense just looks miserable and without an elite Joe Flacco, I doubt that the Ravens will find themselves in the playoffs playing like this. Stout defense or not, playoff teams need to find a way to make it work on both sides of the ball.