Week 13: Review

What was I giving thanks for? The NFL remaining as crazy as it is…oh and Sausages. Let’s dive straight into the Thursday Thanksgiving Games…

Green Bay Packers 10 Detroit Lions 40

Imagine something you want. Okay you got that? So now imagine someone is dangling that in your face. You want to reach out and grab it, except oh your hands are tied. That is how the Packers must feel every week that Rodgers is injured. The fact of the matter is they cannot win without him. The team is just not very good. The Lions coughed up the ball no less than 4 times, but somehow the Packers only managed to score 10 points and the Defence managed to concede 40. I think whilst there were good aspects to what the Lions were doing, it is impossible to hide that they made mistakes that a team like the Seahawks would use to completely decimate them and puts emphasis on how bad the NFC North is. There is no team that comes close to challenging for a Super bowl thanks to a complete lack of consistency with every team in the Division. What is fair to say however is that the Lions are clearly the best team and are beginning to pull away from the rest of the pack. But make no mistake, if they play like they did in this game, they won’t be a playoff team for long.

Oakland Raiders 24 Dallas Cowboys 31

Turkey, Parades and the Dallas Cowboys. That’s what I think of when I think about Thanksgiving. But the Cowboys have been wildly inconsistent this season thanks in majority to a pretty awful Defence. So how did they hold up against a scrappy Raiders team led by undrafted Rookie Matt McGloin? In the first half awfully. It just seemed like the Offence could not get anything going. The Defence though started strong and forced a fumble on the one yard line. In the second half however the Cowboys found their groove and proved they could run the ball and run the ball they did. Murray ran for 3 TD’s and when he wasn’t running in scores, Dunbar was running them downfield. I think it is fairly obvious that the Cowboys weaknesses are not on Offence and Romo is having as good a season as we’ve seen. The issues seem to be almost entirely on a beaten up Defence being run by someone who seems to be struggling to get them to do anything. The Raiders obviously won’t be heading towards the play offs this season but there really is cause to be a little excited about what is happening in Oakland. The team is young and talented and in McGloin, they might just have stumbled on their QB for the future. The Defence is not without its charms either and Raiders fans should look forward to what this team will do in the future.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 22

A great game here that will be remembered for a ‘mistake’, from Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Both Roethlisberger and Flacco had great games in this one and took control of their teams. Flacco has come up against a lot of criticism of late about the crazy contract he signed in the off-season and whilst he probably isn’t worth that kind of money, Ravens fans can credit him for keeping their team in the game and as a result in contention for the play-offs, he did however receive a great deal of help from his giant speedster For Roethlisberger, the Steelers complimented him with a decent Running Back in LeVeon Bell, still though the Offence was massively in favour of passing to which Big Ben did a pretty good job, connecting with the many weapons he has at his disposal. The Ravens don’t have the luxury of a run game and Ray Rice doesn’t look remotely like the same player he used to. This is a serious problem and could see them become slightly unstuck later on in the season. Both teams played well on Defence and in this rivalry I think it is both to say the teams were tackling hard, with the standout unit being the Ravens Secondary, who are set up to make some pretty big plays and are still incredibly young. The Steelers Defence is playing well, but is definitely looking old in places and Troy Polamalu in particular looks like he might have lost a step. Both teams look much improved here after a slow start to the season. At the same time, neither team looks strong enough to mount a serious playoff challenge.

Oh you thought I wasn’t going to mention Tomlin. To me it did look like a genuine mistake. Regardless though, he needs to face some punishment. In recent years we have seen players and coaches far too eager to step across the line and we’ve now seen it affect a game. Something needs to be done about it and this could see the start of that. Also we should mention the Jets strength coach that lost his job for tripping up a kick returner. Regardless of whether it was accidental, if he is penalised, coaches will think long and hard about where there feet are and mistakes like this won’t happen again.

Chicago Bears 20 Minnesota Vikings 23

Before I start writing this, I should state that I am very aware that fellow Gentleman Duncan will be sitting chuckling to himself as he reads this but what I have to say is true. Never underestimate the importance of Kickers. The game was won on a kick after both teams had a failed field goal attempt each, the Vikings kicker eventually sent one over the bar. Even before that 2 of the most solid kickers in the league had, had good games regularly putting it through the uprights. But just as important was the tackle Blair Walsh got on Devin Hester with only seconds left of the game. Walsh was the last line of defence and did a great job of knocking the greatest ever kick returner out of bounds. To my credit, I’ve never said I dislike Kickers, all I’ve said is they have very little relevance to Fantasy Football. Any let’s have a look at the rest of the game. It really seemed like one of several NFC North games we’d seen this season where both teams were doing their best to make the most mistakes and gift the game to the other team. The Bears Defence seemed much improved at the pass rush, but could still not get to Peterson who impressively ran for over 200 yards. But for once, someone out shone Peterson and that was Alshon Jeffery who is looking like a true no. 1 Receiver, even with Brandon Marshall on the other side and the backup QB throwing to him. Speaking of which, McCown continues to play well and has surely secured a place in the NFL as he has another game throwing for over 300 yards. The Vikings QB situation is still a mess however and with Ponder looking like he might miss a game with a Concussion, Cassel gets yet another chance to try and steal the starting job. This must wind up Freeman that he isn’t even in with a shout for it. Both these teams have serious holes, but similarly look set up to make headway in future seasons.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Buffalo Bills 31

Well the Falcons have finally won a game…just in time to be eliminated from the playoff picture. That being said this win is important to the Falcons and in particular to the moral of the team. But more importantly it highlights what they’ve got at each position and who they can keep hold of when they inevitably have a mass clear out of players in the run up to next season. The problem they have with this though is fitting players in with some massive contracts, so will have to look to rebuild through the draft, which will offer a cheaper alternative than bringing in free agents. What the Falcons will have to realize is, they can’t be in win now mode any more. For the last few years they’ve been bringing in veteran players near the end of their career to try and get them over the hump, but now they need to settle down and set themselves up for the future. The Bills have suffered a major drop off after a strong start, despite having a stronger line-up now then what they started with. But the problem seems to be with the pass rush, which like last year now looks lack-lustre and seems to struggle to get any kind of pressure. That being said Rookie Linebacker Kiko Alonso still looks incredible and leads games in tackles. EJ Manuel has suffered a drop off in play of late, but I still think he looks set to be their starter for the coming years. Spiller however is the star on this Offence as he continues to look unstoppable. What I find interesting about this game, is both teams are in very different places at the moment. The Falcons are surely about to enter a rebuilding season, whereas it looks like the Bills have just had one. Meaning these 2 teams could have very different seasons next year.

Jacksonville Jaguars 32 Cleveland Browns 28

A very important game for the Jags. They proved here they can lead a team down field to win a game in the last minute. Jacksonville’s Offence has progressively begun to look better as the season has gone on, even without Justin Blackmon. Maurice Jones-Drew continues to improve after coming back from injury and now looks like the solid Running Back we had come to know over the previous years. That being said I still think he might be nearing done and the Jags could probably look at shipping him out in favour of someone through the draft. The Defence did a great job at waiting with open arms to catch the obligatory 3 picks that Weeden would throw, but worryingly allowed Josh Gordon to have a 261 yard game. Whilst there will obviously be big changes in the Jaguars camp next year, they clearly have in mind who are keepers and who’s out of a job. The worry however is that due to bad draft choices (and a lot have been BAD), they are in a constant state of rebuilding. To get out of this rut they need to improve through the draft. The Browns had a bad start to this season, got good in the middle and are finishing like the Browns we had come to know and be frustrated by. The Defence, who looked like challengers for the best in the league at the start of the season, now look less than ordinary. With that much talent invested in the D, they have to be seriously worried about what the next step is and if this unit can last a whole season without a drop off like the one they’re experiencing right now. I have no doubt that Weeden won’t be in the NFL next year. He has generally been the difference between a good Browns Offence and a bad one, despite being flattered by Gordon’s stats. Speaking of which, Gordon looks set to be a superstar in the future and the Browns should be very glad they held onto him, especially when they surround him with talent from the draft this year. Despite a bad season I still believe there is a very good team in the Browns and they could look completely different next year after using their ridiculous amount of draft picks this year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 Carolina Panthers 27

Whatever happened in this one, an impressive streak was coming to an end and it was the Bucs who lost it. That being said, I think the Bucs can take some pride in their recent performances and also take some encouragement that they do appear to be set for the future, whether Schiano keeps his job or not. Glennon didn’t have a great game and made the biggest mistake of the game by simply dropping the ball whilst receiving no pressure what so ever. The Defence folded a little under the pressure of Cam Newton showed the clear difference in talent in the NFC South. As I mentioned though, Tampa Bay can take some pride in the way they turned their season around from a train wreck to a decent opportunity to get a few wins and see what they’ve got in their team, which turns out to be quite a bit. Expect big things from this team in the future as it seems they only really need to change a few pieces. The Panthers however might be might favourite team in the league at the moment. Cam Newton has elevated this Offence to an unreal level. He has made his Receiving Corp look like one of the best in the league and whilst he still makes mistakes he has been explosive making plays through the air. There are few QB’s that could work with this Offence and make them look as good as he has. When drawing up the top QB’s in the league, his name has to be mentioned. But even when not making the plays through the air, the QB that is built like a linebacker makes plays with his legs. In my eyes, aside from Manning, he could be the best QB in the league at the moment. The Defence continues to look incredible for this team and seem to be able to make pretty much any Offence look ordinary. The real challenge will be this weekend against the Saints and we will see if this team is as good as we think they are. I think they stand a legitimate chance of winning the Super bowl and are one of few teams that could challenge the Seahawks.

Tennessee Titans 14 Indianapolis Colts 22

I don’t know how I feel about this game; in particular I don’t know how I feel about the Colts in this game. Let’s start with the Titans and we’ll come back to Indianapolis. For a team that are still in playoff contention the Titans have looked pretty poor. Chris Johnson continues to display flashes of his former self, but generally no more than that. Washington & Wright are clearly not set up to be no. 1 Receivers, which aside from QB is the biggest glaring hole on this Offence. The Defence looks pretty good not good enough to lead a team to victory without a potent Offence. Right so the Colts. Let’s start with ‘Mr Clutch’, Adam Vinatieri who in my eyes must be considered in the conversation for the greatest Kicker of all time. He was the main difference on this team and was asked to win this game for this team. My problem is with the reason he had to step up to win it, which was Andrew Luck could not get it done. Now I like Luck, I still think out of that class he will be the QB that we say is the greatest and even the great players have bad games, but it still worries you when you see performances like this. Is he surrounded by receiving talent? No, probably not. But the greats still find ways of winning, regardless of the talent surrounding them. That being said the team did win and it does put the Colts one game away from being in the play offs. A big shout out must go to Robert Mathis who is showing the form of his career and will be a major piece for this team if they are to stand any chance of winning games in the play offs. All in all a win is a win, but there are some worrying signs for this team and its future, especially without a no. 1 pick which they threw away acquiring Trent Richardson.

Miami Dolphins 23 New York Jets 3

The Miami Dolphins are dangerously close to being relevant and could be entering the playoff picture after some impressive performances of late. Ok, so this was against the Jets, who have retaken their position of NFL’s whipping boys, but never the less, a win here is important and puts them within one decent result of making it to the post season. If they make the play offs, I actually think they can win a game maybe even 2. Anyway in this game it has become obvious that they now know what to do with Mike Wallace, which as we’ve been saying here at Gridiron Gentlemen HQ since the start of the season is simply run him in a straight line as fast as he can. In general without the distraction of the Richie Incognito situation, this team seems to have found some rhythm and is beginning to look much more settled. The Defence continues to play an unreal level and will prove to be a handful for the remainder of the season. When talking about hot teams heading to the post season, I think you can now include Miami in the conversation; this team may have now played well enough to keep Philbin in a job. The Jets however are a hot mess. It seems to happen every season nowadays as the Jets get to a certain point and just implode. Geno got benched in this one which is a bad sign for him ever having an NFL career, especially with how truly awful he has been playing. Simms however came in and really didn’t do much better. But it is the Defence that is really stinking up the field and in particular the Secondary. Cromartie has lost a step and Milliner just doesn’t look like the player we were promised coming out of college. This could really be it for Rex; the Jets in my eyes could be ending the season as the worst team in the league and need to make some drastic changes.

Arizona Cardinals 21 Philadelphia Eagles 24

Cracking game here between 2 of the hot teams in the league. Whilst a lot of criticism will be given to Palmer for finally throwing a couple of picks, I think it would be fair to say that he was also the reason they were still in this game and showed improvement that he didn’t give in and have a stinker of a game, like we have seen in the past. It does help however that Palmer is surrounded by Receiving talent and leading an Offence that is probably a no. 1 Running Back away from being a legitimate contender. The Defence this season has been outstanding. Just as important is that they’re young and look set to improve even further. The Cards are in a great position for the future and are only out of a playoff spot from being in the wrong division. The Eagles look great and could be kept out of the play offs just on their early season performance. What is noticeable is how much control Foles has on the entire team. If Foles can lead a controlled burst Offence then they can eat up some clock and give their Defence a chance to come on the field fresh and dominate, which is what has been happening. When you look at it, outside the likes of Rodgers, Manning, Brees and Brady, Foles is probably the most important QB in the league. As much as I love the Cowboys, it would be a crying shame if this team didn’t make the play offs. That being said next season I think they are genuine Super Bowl contenders and are a decent Secondary away from having the most complete team in the league.

New England Patriots 34 Houston Texans 31

The Texans seem to love to take opportunities like this to tell us they are not your average 2-10 team and to be fair they are not. But the fact remains they have this record in arguably the worst division in the league meaning that no matter how close you get to winning a game, a loss is still a loss. Case Keenum is the difference between an Illusionist and a Magician, as in he makes every play look dynamic and puts on a great show, but the stats will always show an average game and I don’t believe he or Schaub can be considered a long term starter for this team. What is more shocking for a 2-10 team that is below the Jacksonville Jaguars in their division is the pure talent they have on this team. JJ Watt is the front runner for Defensive Player of the Year and Antonio Smith on the other side is no slouch. Throw in the likes of Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Ben Tate and DJ Swearinger and there should be a good team. I suppose you could argue that injuries to Cushing and Foster have set this team back and there is no doubt about it, but still do they set them back to 2-10? Some of the blame can rest on bad luck and unavoidable circumstances, such as Kubiak’s medical emergency on the side lines and all of us at Gridiron Gentlemen are glad to see him making a full recovery. But the fact of the matter is, the team that should be challenging for a playoff spot this year has not shown up which should be a serious concern for everyone involved in the Houston Texans. I can’t help but feel we might see a major reshuffle in the Off-Season.

The Patriots continue to win close games. But what does it matter. This team is currently the 2 seed in the play-off picture and they’ve done it with worse injuries than pretty much any other team in the league. Gronk and Vereen coming back has made a huge difference to this team, with the former seeming to flatter Tom Brady in a season where there is a noticeable drop off. But at the end of the day he is still Tom Brady and that does count for something. The Defence has suffered injuries that would see any other team collapse (see Bears), but still they plough on ahead and have pushed this team to not just the play offs, but I still (and have never stopped believing this), think they are the AFC’s Superbowl team and could provide a legitimate challenge to anyone coming out of the NFC. If they do it, then you have to crown Bellichick as possibly the greatest coach of all time for managing to lead this team to greatness.

St Louis Rams 13 San Francisco 49ers 23

This week we learnt that there are definitely 2 tiers to the NFC West. In the top tier we have the genuine Superbowl contenders of the Seahawks and Niners. In the lower tier we have the Rams and Cards, who are probably good enough to win most other divisions. That being said the difference was noticeable. For starters Kaepernick looks better when Crabtree is on the field, even if he doesn’t do a great deal, he takes some attention away from his favourite 2 targets in Davis and Boldin. But as stressed earlier on, a great QB makes their Receivers look good, not the other way round. At this point I say who cares. If the QB is the correct fit for the team and the system and they have a legitimate chance of winning the Super bowl, then the only reason it matters is for personal gain, which is not what this sport is all about. Despite a decent game for Kaepernick, it was the Niners Defence that made life a lot easier for this team and kept an explosive Rams team at bay in this one. The more I see Navarro Bowman, the more I think he will be remembered as one of the true great Linebackers and to have him on the same team as Patrick Willis is unbelievable. The true test of this Niners team however will be in the coming week when they tackle the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams are pretty close to being a relevant team in the coming years and should strongly consider drafting a QB in the coming draft. Stacey is their clear no. 1 Running Back and Tavon Austin looks set to improve with a full off-season with the Rams. The Defence looks amazing. Names that have been after thoughts in Rams losses are now looking like dominant players that help them win big games. The future is most definitely bright for this team; it’s just a case of if they can top the Niners and Seahawks.

Denver Broncos 35 Kansas City Chiefs 28

Whilst this will be a big loss for team that a lot of people a few weeks ago considered the best in the league (no I haven’t forgotten), there were some definite positives for this team. The biggest being Alex Smith. Smith has clearly gained a ridiculous amount of confidence from Reid and this team that the Niners managed to knock out of him, which is in part down to some poor performances from him. Now I don’t think you could call him a game manager and whilst his arm isn’t the biggest he can lead a drive with the game on the line. When watching him now, so full of confidence despite a run of 3 losses, you can tell that he is out of his shell and he is the clear leader of this team. I still don’t think this team makes the Superbowl and there are some definite glaring holes, including a no. 1 Receiver for Smith, but maybe with a year under his belt and the majority of the team in place they could be looking at a very rosy future with a young, fresh team. The future is definitely bright at Arrowhead. The weird thing about this game is, that despite winning this game and despite Manning having a 5 TD 400 yard game, I started to worry about this team…just a little. My real concern is that, some of the mistakes Manning is making will lose him games in the Play offs. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. That being said, this is a very good team in every area and even with the mistakes have what it takes to win a shootout. But put them up against the same team in the Play offs and they could lose this one.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 San Diego Chargers 10

The Bengals should be very thankful of their Defence. Without the sheer talent they have on their D, they would be dead in the water by now. The Bengals are more than likely going to the Play offs, but as in recent years I honestly don’t think they’ll win a game with Andy Dalton in charge of the Offence. When the season is over the Bengals seriously need to look at what they need to do to have playoff success and the obvious change that needs to happen is at QB. As previously stated the credit here has to go to the Bengals Defence who somehow managed to keep a very potent Chargers Offence to 10 points and more than likely, keep them out of the play offs. The Chargers didn’t play a bad game, but they just couldn’t get it into the end zone. Keenan Allen continues to look like a no. 1 Receiver and it appears the Chargers finally have a go to guy to replace Vincent Jackson who left them 2 seasons ago. The Chargers look in good shape for the future, but have to be wary that Rivers could lose his mojo at any time and that they are in a Division with 2 very good teams.

New York Giants 24 Washington 17

Whilst the Giants have managed to turn their season round, despite crazy injuries across the board, Washington cannot get anything going. When watching this game it becomes immediately obvious that the Giants Defence has definitely got their Mojo back and in particular Justin Tuck made mincemeat of Washington’s O-line. But the Offence seems to have found a little form too, whilst they are clearly not as good as the Superbowl team from a few years ago, it is obvious that they are beginning to trust each other again and despite Eli throwing a pick again, there is definitely some confidence in this team, which is helped largely by Brown being back from injury. This might be a season the Giants want to forget but they can at least use it to see where they need to improve in the future and figure out how they’ll keep up with the Eagles next year. Washington have truly imploded. There is zero confidence in any aspect of this team and there will have to be some big changes to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It just seems like Washington’s Offensive players aren’t sticking up for RGIII and if anything might blame him for their performances this season. Whether that’s fair or not, it is a big problem and they should probably look at Carolina as a model on how to improve next season.

New Orleans Saints 7 Seattle Seahawks 34

It is unavoidable to think that the Seahawks are currently the best team in the league. But do I think they win the Superbowl? I don’t think so. I just think that at that point something is bound to change. Do I think they make the Superbowl? Yes, I think there is a very good chance they do, but even to get there they need to get past a Panthers team that isn’t just hot, but completely on fire and they could prove a little too strong for the Seahawks to beat. That being said, it feels like they have everything going in their favour. The loss of Harvin is not a drastically important one and aside from that they have a lot of players back at the right time to make a push into the play offs with the massive home field advantage that they have. Wilson is worth talking about and whilst he is very good and he is the exact piece they need on this Offence, we shouldn’t be so quick to crown him as a true great. I personally think what Cam is doing is more impressive. That is not to take anything away from Wilson, but more to say. Let’s spread some of the Wilson love around the whole Seahawks team who look incredible. The balance in every area of this Offence is unreal and is a big part to why they can tear apart pretty much any team. On Defence they have been utterly dominant and made one of the games true greats, look decidedly ordinary. Whilst I hate the nickname ‘the Legion of Boom’, that secondary is unreal. They have a pro-bowler at every position and are utterly dominant. The Saints might be in trouble; with 2 games against the Panthers rapidly approaching that could see them lose the division title. Their run in is scary and they have to be concerned about what they can do against a dominant Panthers team. But whatever happens this is a young team and more specifically, a young Defence that I think could elevate them in the future to being a true contender for years to come.

Wow, that was a lot longer than I planned, but thanks for reading. Any questions hit us up on Twitter, Facebook or via E-mail.