Week 12: Review


Just when you think you know the NFL…


Yes the NFL continued its predictable habit of being wholly unpredictable, so let’s take a look.

New Orleans Saints 17 Atlanta Falcons 13

A much improved Falcons team in this game, but still not good enough to get the win against the super bowl contenders, New Orleans. Matt Ryan managed a reasonably mistake free game and the loss here can probably be put on the Defence, who failed to stop the Saints running down the clock late in the game. Brees played his usual near perfect game and Graham got his usual 100 yards. The Falcons almost seem to have got it together, but still lack any potency in the end zone and the Defence struggles to create pressure. The Saints have a difficult schedule ahead and could lose their position at the top of the NFC South after 2 very important games against the inform Carolina Panthers.

New York Jets 3 Baltimore Ravens 19

It is almost a year since the butt fumble incident and it feels like the Jets wanted to celebrate it by demonstrating some of the worst QB play we’ll see this year. Yes, the good Geno, bad Geno run is over and has been replaced by bad Geno, really bad Geno. Whilst watching this game you can see that the Ravens are very beatable, but the Jets were far too concerned about beating themselves. Geno demonstrated some of the worst decision making I’ve seen from a QB and on the rare occasion a ball would reach its target, the Receiver would more often than not promptly drop the ball. I think if you were to ask who the Jets would rather have, bad Geno or a butt fumbling Sanchez, you would probably find it is the latter. The run game did no favours for the Jets either as neither Powell nor Ivory seemed to be able to get anything going. The Ravens continued to demonstrate an inability to run the ball and relied almost solely on field goals to take the victory, with the exception of one truly amazing touchdown pass from Flacco to Jones. What’s scary about this game is, the Jets were still in the wild card playoff spot until the Titans beat the Raiders and the league want to extend the play offs by another 2 spots. Now the Ravens are back in the playoff hunt with a 5-6 record…yup I know. Before I finish this though I should mention how well both Defences played and it was a shame the Offences didn’t play to the high standards set by these units.

Pittsburgh Steelers  27 Cleveland Browns 11

A Steelers win here has made next week’s Thanksgiving game against the Ravens very interesting as they both go into it with a 5-6 record and a chance to make the play offs…yup, I know…still. The Steelers however have hit decent form and have gained 5 wins after starting the season 0-4, which could bode well for them making a playoff push and could even possible challenge the Bengals for the division. The big push has come from Roethlisberger who had a fire lit underneath him amidst rumours of him wanting a trade away from the team that he has hoisted the Lombardi 2 twice with. Despite Roethlisberger leading the charge, he has been greatly helped by his elite Receiving Corp of Sanders and Brown, who are looking every bit as good as any Receiver tandem in the league. The Browns must have come to 2 conclusions. 1) They can’t win anything with Weeden. 2) They somehow can’t keep him off the field. For a team that was considered to have one of the best O-lines in the league, they really do struggle to keep their QB vertical. Joe Haden played his usual brilliant game with exception of getting burned on 1 very important play where Brown took it in  for a TD. Weirdly both teams are somehow still in the playoff mix, with the Steelers chances being marginally more realistic. One thing is for certain. The AFC North is not what it used to be.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Detroit Lions 21

Much like the AFC North, the NFC North is also lacking in teams who look like they want to win. The Bucs however look like they have found the magic formula. Is it possible Schiano was right? Have they done  enough to keep the ex-Rutgers Head Coach in a job? I don’t think I can answer the first question, but there is a very good chance Schiano will still be with this team next season, barring any foul play being proven from the Freeman incident. The major difference between the 2 teams here that are remarkably similar was balance. As Glennon never really over stretched himself and kept the plays balanced between run and throw, Stafford took it upon himself to single-handedly try and win the game and managed to throw 4 interceptions in the process. Where the Lions did attempt some balance was how the ball was spread around through the air as Stafford managed to hit Burleson a couple of times for some big gains. It was the Bucs however that took control of this game and took advantage of a Matt Stafford who was in the mood to make some mistakes, which would ultimately prove the difference. The Bucs are almost certainly out of playoff contention but can probably make a pretty good estimate of what they have in a number of their players for next season’s campaign. Will Schiano be there? I actually think he might be and at that point we will see if the Bucs can truly improve. The Lions are somehow still in the running for the NFC North, a division no one seems to want to win. If they do make the play offs, much like the Bears in the same division, it probably won’t be long before they’re heading home.

Minnesota Vikings 26 Green Bay Packers  26

A TIE!!! Seriously though, I love the reaction of fans to a tie. It has seemingly happened a lot recently and yet it still seems like a new concept to a lot of people. That being said, this is a perfect demonstration of how bad the NFC North is at moment and more specifically, how much the Packers miss Rodgers. Flynn however seemed to slot back in to his old role pretty well after Tolzien failed to get much done. Flynn led a 16 point come back in the 4th Quarter which led the team to overtime. For the Vikings Ponder made some questionable decisions and was more often than not saved by some decent play from Adrian Peterson who got over some recent poor form in this game. Despite some poor play over the last few games, the Green Bay Packers are still in with a shot at the NFC North, which is unbelievable. If they get Rodgers back then there is every chance they can still make a playoff run.

Jacksonville Jaguars 13 Houston Texans 6

I think it is fair to say that this is the on the field low point of the Texans season as they fall to allow the Jags to pick up a second win. The difference in this game? Ability to stop the run. The Jags, have it. The Texans, don’t. MJD managed a return to form in this one that we haven’t seen in at least a season’s worth of play. Henne took the role of game manager and did a fine job of not turning the ball over. The Jags Defence also stepped up in this one and managed one of their best games all season. The Texans are a real mess and could be at least a season a way from a return to form. Keenum struggled and could have given Houston the excuse they seem to want,  to bring Schaub back in. One thing is for certain. There is every chance that neither will be starting for the Texans next season.

San Diego Chargers 41 Kansas City Chiefs 38

The San Diego Super Chargers! Everything about this game is not what we were expecting. For starters it was fairly improbable that the Chargers after some poor form recently would go into the fearsome Arrowhead stadium and take a win in a shootout against one of the best Defences in the league. Secondly it’s not in Alex Smith’s nature to keep up with Rivers and put 38 points up against a good Chargers team. When the dust settled on this one though the winner was the team that made marginally less mistakes which was the Chargers and more specifically Rivers who played the kind of game we’ve always known he’s capable of.  Matthews and Woodhead seem like a great 1, 2 punch at Running Back Keenan Allen continues to look exceptionally impressive at Receiver. Performances like this haven’t been rare for the Chargers but unfortunately they have gone hand in hand with some silly losses, they are however in as good a position as ever to make a play off push. The Chiefs didn’t lose any ground thanks to the Broncos going down against the Pats, which in turn has made the AFC very interesting.

Carolina Panthers 20 Miami Dolphins 16

If you weren’t sure, the Panthers are for real. That being said it took almost the whole game for Cam Newton to get going.  When he did get going he was nothing short of clutch and managed to convert late in the game on a 4th and 10 on his own 20 yard line. The Panther Defence continued to look great, but was subjected to the good fortune that teams on epic win streaks seem to exude. For starters the Dolphins created an easy turn over when the Dolphins Receivers refused to believe a play had finished and repeatedly bobbled the ball in the air, only have the Panthers take the pick. Then Kuechly for the second week in a row got away with another obvious pass interference call. The Dolphins will have every right to feel hard done by in this one. For starters it looks like Tannehill and Wallace have found their rhythm (yes it is as simple as Wallace running in a straight line really fast) and the Defence for the most part kept Cam quiet. But teams on these streaks find ways to win and now look very dangerous pushing for not just a Wild Card, but with 2 games left against the Saints could push for the Division.

Chicago Bears 21 St Louis Rams 42

The Bears Defence is a mess. I could stop there but that wouldn’t be doing the Rams justice who managed to make light work of a poor Bears D in a scrappy win. For me the main talking point of this game was the Officiating. For starters the Rams got called for a completely legal hit on Bears QB Josh McCown, making me wonder, exactly where can you hit a QB nowadays? Previously in the game the Officials didn’t whistle a dead play and the players rightly carried on playing which lead to a breakout of violence and involved the Long Brothers scrapping it out for their respective teams. But the game should be remembered for some very clever Offensive play from the Rams and finally witnessing Tavon Austin living up to his potential. When you look at what this game is, it is pretty scary. One of the worst teams in the NFC West against one of the best in the NFC North and it wasn’t close between the 2. Some positives for the Bears though, as Cutler comes back this week, but it’s really not the Offence that’s the problem.

Indianapolis Colts 11 Arizona Cardinals 40

The Colts managed to beat the Niners and the Seahawks. But can’t beat the Cardinals or the Rams in the NFC West. Whilst a portion of the blame can go on Reggie Wayne being out, he didn’t play Defence, which is where the obvious deficiencies are beginning to show. Aside from the inability to stop Palmer connecting with Floyd and Fitzgerald who were all on fire in this game, the Colts are struggling to run the ball and Richardson ran for his usual 2 yards per carry. Along with a poor Defence and Run game, Andrew Luck could do very little keep up with a balanced Cardinals attack and struggled to beat a fantastic Arizona Defence. The Cards continue to make the case for a playoff spot and probably should be on everyone’s “hot teams”, list. The Colts will probably take the AFC South by default but will no doubt struggle to make head way in the Play offs.

Tennessee Titans 23  Oakland Raiders 19

This game inadvertently became the battle for the 6th Playoff position and the Titans took control in closely fought game that once again came down to a last second drive for the Titans. McGloin continued to fight his case for the Raiders starting job but the fairy tale story didn’t have an ending to match in this game. Jennings played great at Running Back again in the absence of the injured Darren McFadden. But the Defence couldn’t do enough to stop an in form Ryan Fitzpatrick who took control of this game and proved they can win games without Locker. As a result of the win for the Titans here, they are now in the driving seat for the final Play-off spot. Whether it finishes up this way remains to be seen and I guess we’ll see if they can get some consistency going, one thing is for certain though. This Titans team is exceptionally talented and will no doubt be staring down the barrel of success over the coming years.

Dallas Cowboys 24 New York Giants 21

The Cowboys managed to hold strong in this one despite making some silly mistakes and take the win with a last minute field goal. The story of this game is the same as the story of the season for these 2 teams. Both teams made mistakes. Both teams made some ridiculous plays and in the end it was Cowboys highly potent Offence that took their team to victory and ended a 4 game win streak for the G-men. But the important question is, can either of these teams topple the Eagles, who have taken control of this Division and on a bit of a hot streak themselves. The Giants season is pretty much over, when the season does end they need to take a long hard look at their Line backing Corp and look at bringing some talent in. Another season like this and there could be some front office changes to the team that won 2 Super bowls.

Denver Broncos 31 New England Patriots 34

The big game and proof that there is no real no. 1 team in the AFC, but instead the situation is…fluid.  So what did we learn from this. Well for starters, no matter how many times I defend him, no matter how often I band around that he is the greatest of all time, Manning struggles to close the big games which is a serious worry for the Patriots. Brady clearly has no such problem as he led a 21 pt. comeback against a Broncos Defence that has not struggled to stop some of the top Defences in the league. The comeback pushed the game to overtime, at which point New England won with a Field Goal. The Broncos Defence had done an exceptional job of putting pressure on the Patriots early on but struggled to keep it up late in the game. So I guess what we learned is, you should never count the Patriots out, which to be fair is something we already knew. But as a result of this game, we really can’t count them out of the race for the Super bowl and they could possibly be the best team in the Conference.

So aside from the Monday game, which I shall include in the Power Rankings, That’s the week in a nutshell. Next week more craziness from a sport that leaves us all scratching our heads.