Week 14: Review.
After this weekend’s NFL activities there are 2 things that spring to mind. 1) SNOW!!!!!!! 2) That this truly has to be a sport sent to us from a higher power, there is no other explanation for how this sport can be so good and on Sunday afternoon I drop to my knees and shout ‘THANK YOU FOOTBALL GODS!!!’ Ahem, Game Reviews.
Houston Texans 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 27
So as predicted at the start of the season, The Texans lose a game that gets Kubiak fired and are bottom of the NFL pile in terms of wins…no? OK so 6 games ago we all thought the Jags would be in the playoff hunt? No, I guess we didn’t see that coming either. The Jags have started to look like a team that don’t like losing. They’ve stopped that nasty habit of only playing well for a chunk of the game and seem to refuse to let their foot off the gas. Ace Sanders is beginning to look a little interesting, someone who I mentioned a lot in pre-season. Henne isn’t playing great but he’s not making the silly mistakes and is definitely looking better as a decision maker. Jones-Drew seems to have found a new lease of life and will provide 1 of 2 things for this Jags team, either a great fit player for next season or a high end draft pick. I would be doing them a great injustice if I didn’t mention the Jags Defence who continue to improve with every game, which is particularly scary when you see how young they are. The play off push is beyond them, but with a new QB this team could be very good next year. For the Texans they have huge problems. For starters in this game they seemed determined to break the record for most penalties in a game and gave up a staggering 177 yards with 14 penalty calls. In my opinion, all of their problems evolve from the coaching. They have serious talent in pretty much every area and cannot afford to give up over a field and a half of penalties. Schaub and Keenum did enough to put them out of a job next season and pretty much did identically badly. For next season the Texans have already started making the changes and have fired Kubiak. I really don’t think they need to change a great deal about the actual team, but they need confidence and they need it fast.
Minnesota Vikings 26 Baltimore Ravens 29
Whilst not having the best season, the Vikings have been involved in some truly great games this year. For starters, the snow made for a pretty interesting addition for this game and probably accounted for a few missed tackles, but it didn’t stop both QB’s coming out throwing. Minnesota didn’t have a lot of choice after Peterson went down early in the game they relied on Cassel making plays through the air, which for the most part didn’t work. But the difference makers here were Cordarelle Patterson and backup Running Back Toby Gerhart, who continues to work well in the absence of the future Hall of Famer. Patterson is a great prospect for the future and almost seems like a more reliable Percy Harvin. At one point he actually put an ankle breaker on a Ravens corner. For the Ravens, Flacco came out slinging and at times we saw why he got his big pay day. In the absence of a run game Flacco put the team and even bust out a 22 yard run. But the problem remains, that this season he’s throwing far too many interceptions and it nearly lost him the game. But the real winners of this game were the neutral fans. This game was 7-6 up until the third quarter. Yup that means the team scored a combined 42 points in the 4th… and 2 touchdowns in the last minute. If you only have 15 minutes to convince someone to watch the NFL make them watch the end of this game.
Indianapolis Colts 28 Cincinnati Bengals 42
The Colts continue to give themselves insurmountable odds to win games by going down by 14 points and not scoring in the first half. Indy really needs to find a way to come into a game all guns blazing or it will be a very short trip into the off season. Luck continues to play at a magical level despite having one of the worst O lines in the league. Luck in my eyes is still the best young QB in the league but doesn’t get the credit because he’s not on the Seahawks. The Colts will need to look at improving their O line in the Off Season if they are ever to get anything out of Richardson, a player who they traded a first round pick for. The Defence continues to be an issue too, with only Mathis seemingly showing up. I should however give a shout out to Sergio Brown, who is playing at a different lever for the Special Teams and downed 2 punts at the 5 yard line. With the amount of holes on this Colts team it could be a while before we see a marked improvement and they could be in for a couple of rough seasons. That being said they have done enough to make the Play offs, but it could be a very short trip. Not a great deal to say about the Bengals that I haven’t already said. It boils down to this. If Dalton plays well, they could do very well in the play offs. The team is exceptionally talented and needs to do all it can to avoid being the next Texans.
Cleveland Browns 26 New England Patriots 27
A blow out we all said. New England by a long way we all said. Well we were wrong. What we realized was how much difference having a decent QB makes to this team and nearly won the game if not for some bad luck on an onside kick, they probably would have. The truth is Jason Campbell is a much better QB than Brandon Weeden and should be considered as permanent starter as he put the team on his back and gave them a big lead that should have seen them take the win. The Browns should be encouraged heading into the Off Season. With the core of a great team and seemingly endless draft picks, this team could be a challenger for the future. One thing they won’t have to look for is a Tight end and a no. 1 Receiver as Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon continue to look outstanding. The Patriots seemed to continue their trend of winning games narrowly and whilst it has worked in the season it is a concern for the Post Season. The loss here was left till the very last minute and they had to rely on recovering a risky onside kick to win it. However a win is a win and what the Patriots are doing with this many injuries is valiant. Speaking of injuries… This win didn’t come without paying a high cost. Gronk went down in this game and looks like he might be done for a while with a torn ACL. Whilst clearly an exceptionally tough player he does put himself in harm’s way which has resulted in him receiving a ridiculous amount of injuries. This Patriots team is ridiculously beaten up, but I still think they are a good shout for the Superbowl. Why? Bill Belichick, who seems to be able to amazing things with very little.
Oakland Raiders 27 New York Jets 37
Two teams that will be doing some serious reshuffling in the Off Season in this one. Let’s start with the Raiders. The problem with Oaklands QB situation is, they are both good enough to start, but they are not good enough to put the team on the back and lead this team to a winning season. So come the end of the season this needs to be addressed. So they have QB issues, but they don’t compare to their Running Back issues as they seem to be seriously lacking a no. 1. Another issue they’ll need to address in the Off Season. All of this is behind a bad O line…which, as you probably guessed will be another focal point for this team at the close of the season. That’s a lot of issues and probably too many to deal with in one season, so we should be expecting yet another rebuilding year for this team. The Jets have issues too. In the next 4 games they need to figure out what it is they have in Geno Smith. Is he good enough to eventually be an out and out starter or is he destined to be leaving the league. The Jets need to get better at Receiver too and for the past 3 seasons have been crying out for a no. 1. On Defence they will be looking at that Secondary and deciding if Milliner was another wasted draft pick and if Cromartie still has something left in the tank. Whatever happens, these teams will no doubt be entering yet another rebuilding year and both front offices will have to decide if these are the Head Coaches to take them to the next level.
Detroit Lions 20 Philadelphia Eagles 34
To be honest I most of this game was based on hear say thanks to the snow being too thick to actually see what was going on. The game came down to who could run the ball the best and that was LeSean McCoy who carved through the snow like a snow plough and broke the Eagles single game rushing record. It took a blizzard for Foles to throw his first interception, but to be honest it was always going to happen. For the Lions, Johnson managed to somehow have a decent game, even with Stafford having an understandable off season. What this game proved was the Eagles find ways to win no matter what the conditions or who they are up against and now look set to make the play offs. If they do reach the play offs you can expect them to maybe win at least one and I don’t think this team has reached its full potential yet. The Lions stuttered and the Bears and Packers took advantage and maybe a little momentum. Regardless I would be very surprised if any NFC North team makes it past one game, with the exception of the Packers if Rodgers makes it back in time. What this game really brought was a lot of memories of easily the weekend of the season. We will be seeing pictures of this game for years to come.
Miami Dolphins 34 Pittsburgh Steelers 28
Another close game here between 2 of the inform teams and once again, in the snow. Yes ‘snow’, is the word of the day and probably the biggest performer. What was really shocking about this game though is that Miami were the team that took the result. It was close though and if it wasn’t for Brown stepping out of bounds in the Steelers final play of the game, we could have seen easily the best ending of the season, with the Steelers putting together a number of successful laterals. For the Steelers it was another solid game for Big Ben as he continues to hook up with his crop of exceptional young Receivers. On Defence Polamalu showed shades of the Player we had seen in the past. He had one interception and if not for a couple of bad drops could have had several more. This Steelers team has somehow managed to turn around a very bad season and are still very much in the playoff hunt. If they can take the performance away from this and the last game and not the result they can possibly push to win their last few games. Will this be enough to put them into the play offs? Probably not, but it is encouraging for what they can do next season and is probably enough to see Tomlin still in a job next season. For the ‘Phins it is another great result for a team that despite having troubles earlier in the season can be considered a legitimate playoff team. Tannehill continues to get hit too much but also continues to make plays, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for. What’s really noticeable about this one is the Dolphins still finding a way to win without going to Wallace on the deep routes. The Dolphins are very good and look set to take a hot streak to the Play offs.
Buffalo Bills 6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
This is the kind of result Bills fans have become far too used to in recent years and is evidence that despite a strong start and to a certain extent strong middle, this team has reverted back to the side that just don’t look like they want to win games. This week even Spiller looked lack lustre and Fred Jackson couldn’t get near his usual 40 yards. EJ Manuel should be showing the Bills that they were right to have faith in him, but instead looks like a player they might struggle to trust. The Defence was really no different and despite my pick for Rookie of the year: Kiko Alonso being the top tackler, he really didn’t look that great. This result is proof that the Bills might have a half decent side, but they really need to start instilling a different mentality into them. The Bucs seem to have found the formula which is both good news for Schiano and for the team that will hopefully use this form to make a decent start next year. Bobby Rainey stands out in this one and did a great job at picking apart the Bills Defence. For the Bucs Defence Lavonte David had a stand out game as he led the team for tackles, got a sack and picked up 2 interceptions. This team should start to feel encouraged by recent results and as previously stated, hopefully use this momentum to make a strong start next year.
Kansas City Chiefs 45 Washington 10
Oh dear Washington. The team is just a mess now and they look to make a slow finish to the season. But that’s good right they now get an early first round pick…which they immediately give to the Rams thanks to trading up in the 2012 draft to pick up RGIII…who will now sit on the bench for the rest of the season. If this game was a one off it wouldn’t be too bad, but the Redskins have been consistently awful and Shanahan will surely be fighting for his job at the end of the season. The Chiefs however have had some bad luck with results but have been playing at an exceptional level. In this one they finally get the result they deserve. Alex Smith tales strides in every game as a leader and did a great job in this game. But the real difference was the special teams, who have consistently impressed, but finally took their place in the lime light in this one. If Dave Toub is not offered a Head Coaches job at the end of this season. I would be VERY surprised. Now I think I might be on board a little bit with this Chiefs team. They just seem more dynamic in pretty much every area than they did on their long win run. I still don’t think they win the Superbowl, but make no mistake; the future is bright for the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons 21 Green Bay Packers 22
To the Falcons this meant pretty much nothing. To the Packers this result and the Lions result gives them a glimmer of hope to make the play offs. The Packers didn’t play well, that there is no doubt about but they got the win. If they can get Rodgers back and make the Play offs, they stand as much chance as any team of making the Superbowl. Eddie Lacy continues to be the stand out player for this team and has handled being put in this difficult position pretty well for a Rookie. The Falcons just need to see what they’ve got. Players like Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers may find themselves on another team after having the opportunity to step up and impress and not taking full advantage of it. Make no mistake this team have a lot to deal with in the Off-season, but there is a good chance that they might improve and contest for a Playoff spot next season. But it will involve a LOT of work.
Tennessee Titans 28 Denver Broncos 51
So this was my pick for an upset and it would have been very hard to have got this more wrong. In my defence the Titans started strong and even took the lead. But come the 2nd half the Broncos/Manning took control and took the opportunity to destroy the Titans. The Titans though are pretty close and in my opinion are a decent QB short of being a playoff team. The rumour is that Cutler will leave the Bears at the end of the season and join the Titans, which would solve a lot of problems. On Defence I still really like their Secondary despite getting torched in this one. The Titans now need to spend the rest of the season figuring out what they’ve got and what they still need. But top of the list is probably QB. The Broncos continue to look ridiculously good and must be nearly everyone’s favourite for the Superbowl. Manning went out of his way to prove a point in this game, that he could play perfectly fine in cold weather and in this game he left us with no doubt. The Defence still looks great as well, despite only needing to be good enough to make sure Manning can outscore them. This team is set for the play offs and will probably make a very strong run. But I’ve still got the Pats for the Super Bowl.
St Louis Rams 10 Arizona Cardinals 30
It is criminal that these teams will end 3 and 4 in a division when they are both probably good enough to lead most Divisions. For the Cards the Offence came out all guns blazing. Palmer continued to play reasonably mistake free and we are beginning to witness how good Larry Fitzgerald is when he has a decent QB behind him. Ellington looks set to be the no. 1 RB for the Cards in years to come and even Mendenhall has picked up his game. All of this surely has something to do with whatever magic he brings to a team. For starters using arguably the best Defensive Player (Peterson), on the Offence seemed to work really well and made use of his ability as a Kick Returner. If this Cards team doesn’t make the Play Offs this year, you can be pretty certain that they cause a stir next year and are even probably good enough to challenge the Seahawks and Niners for position. The Rams too are pretty close and will be happy to know that Washington look set to give them a pretty decent first round pick. The shine has worn off Keenum and the difference between this good team and a lot of great teams is a decent QB. It almost seems a shame that the season will be over soon as we begin to finally watch Austin become the player we were promised, but truthfully I would keep an eye on him next year. He looks set for an epic team. It is unfortunate that this team will finish 4th in this Division, but I suppose someone has to finish last and they are the worst team in the Division. Which is not to say that they are even close to bad.
New York Giants 14 San Diego Chargers 37
After weeks of decent play the Giants foot looks like it might have slipped off the gas pedal a little and saw them lose to an up and down Chargers team, that were unfortunately on the up in this one. Eli received his usual chorus of boos which didn’t remotely affect him… he still threw his usual couple of interceptions. Eli can’t take the whole blame for this result however and unfortunately for the Giants this was a team effort. The problem the Giants will have when the season ends is figuring out what has stopped this team from winning. If they were to ask my opinion (and they probably wont), a complete overhaul at Line backer is required as well as an out and out no. 1 RB. All in all though this is a lost season for the Giants and it’s very possible they could be about to enter a rebuilding year. The Chargers have taken over from the Jets as being the up and down team of the NFL. Rivers however has been consistently excellent and has forged a great connection with possible Rookie of the Year: Keenen Allen. Ryan Matthews has hit some form too and more importantly stayed healthy. Whilst not completely out of a playoff spot, it is unlikely and they going up against the Broncos in Thursday night football, when according to the ‘one good game, one bad’, rule, they are due a loss, could see them pretty much eliminated this week. They do however have a very good team to build on for the future and in my opinion have the best draft class of the year.
Seattle Seahawks 17 San Francisco 19
Whilst the Seahawks have all but sealed the no. 1 spot of the play offs, this will have been a must win in their heads, as they went up against the Niners in what has become one of the best rivalries in the NFL. So how did the Niners win this one? Coaching. The Niners forced the Seahawks to play the way the Niners wanted to play. Low scoring and heavily reliant on who controlled the clock. Which was the Niners. The Niners ate up 6 minutes at the end of the game, giving the Seahawks virtually no chance to come back. Whilst the Seahawks are still probably the favourites to win the NFC (and rightly so), there are some issues with this team that will come as serious concerns. I’m going to start with MVP Candidate, Russell Wilson (yup I rolled my eyes). He was given the last play of the game to win it and whilst the odds were heavily stacked against him, the throw was awful. For starters he didn’t seem to be able to get the power behind it throw it deep and as a result lost accuracy. To be honest the whole play seemed panicked. Next time you want to consider him one of the best, just think. Would Rodgers do that? The Hawks have to worry about how little control they had in this game, which could prove fatal in the Off Season. For the Niners, Gore was handed the keys to the Offence and did a great job at moving the chains and eating up the clock. The Defence looks like the best in the league and made Wilson look distinctly ordinary. This team could be hitting form at the right time and will prove to be a formidable force in the play offs.
Carolina Panthers 13 New Orleans Saints 31
For the Panthers it felt like it had all been building up to this and unfortunately it finished with their exceptional win streak coming to an end. So what was the difference? Well for the Saints, Drew Brees took a national TV opportunity to prove that he is still every bit as good as anyone in the league and put on a master class for young Newton. The Saints Defence also showed up and did a great job of keeping this dynamic Panthers Offence very quiet. Cam Newton was the big difference in this game, as he had an uncharacteristic quiet game, that could see the Panthers miss out on the play offs. The truth of the matter is, this Offence is only as good as Cam Newton and in this one he wasn’t great. I still think both teams make the Play Offs and both could even cause a stir. But at the same time, both teams could be leaving early for losing out to a silly mistake.
Dallas Cowboys 28 Chicago Bears 45
A game of pure Offence here as the Cowboys made their chances slimmer and the Bears massively improved theirs. The Bears looked fantastic on Offence with Alshon Jeffrey looking as good as any Receiver in the league. McCown also had a great game and in recent games has played so well that there is a legitimate chance he may have stolen Jay Cutlers job. But the Defence still looks very beatable, particularly in the run game and is the difference between a potential playoff team and a potential Super bowl team. This Bears team looks pretty good to make the play offs, but unless they improve their Defence, it will be a short trip. The Cowboys had a good game on Offence, but somehow managed to be worse on Defence than the Bears, which will be the reason they don’t even come close to the Play Offs and could very well cost a few coaching jobs. Worryingly for the Bears, Demarco Murray continued the long stretch of Running Backs getting over 100 yards against the Bears. This will be a very serious problem if this team does make the Play Offs and the likes of Marshawn Lynch, will single handedly tear this team apart.
And that’s the week Reviews. Next up. Power Rankings.