Week 15: Review
The NFL the league where everyone is a just indifferent about making the playoffs…
San Diego Chargers 27 Denver Broncos 20
Yep, it was getting a little too predictable so the Chargers threw a Spanner in the works. I think the real concern for the Broncos in this game is that they didn’t score many points. Which is a concern for a team entering the playoffs that has heavily relied on its Offence to win games. To be fair to Manning, he didn’t play that bad and will bear the brunt of what was a colossally bad performance for the Broncos Running Backs. It’s also a concern that they only went to the run game 11 times; compared to the 41 times they put it in the air. Manning’s interception in this game will be heavily scrutinized in a league that just seems to be waiting for him to mess up and in truth it was more on his O-line then him. Despite this scare however the Broncos have to be favourites to make the Super bowl, knowing that the AFC is pretty unpredictable this year. The Chargers have hit a little form, but it could be just about too little too late to make the playoffs. Rivers in this game enjoyed a degree of balance that the Broncos didn’t have with Matthews pulling his weight and running for over 100 on nearly 30 carries. Keenan Allen continued to make his claim as a Rookie of the Year contender in this one as he caught a couple of Touchdown passes and has provided Rivers with the no. 1 Wide out, he’s been missing since Vincent Jackson decided he wanted a bigger contract and moved to the Bucs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Chargers quietly might have been the winners from last season’s draft as Fluker, Liuget, Allen and T’eo have all had outstanding seasons and puts them in a great position for futures seasons, when the Broncos will surely drop off with age. Make no mistake though this is currently the Broncos division to lose until they say otherwise.
Washington 26 Atlanta Falcons 27
Despite being ultimately an inconsequential game, it did actually turn out to be quite fun. Before we start though we should take a look at the Shanahan situation. To me it is fairly obvious he has checked out already. Putting Cousins in stinks of being a move to aggravate 1st round pick RGIII who has never been shy about his opinions within the organisation and this week said that he fully expects to be playing for a new Head Coach in 2014, which to me says it is fairly obvious who is calling the shots in Washington. So with comments like this, it seems fairly obvious that Shanahan has very little control and will probably take his talents elsewhere when Washington fire him with a big ol’ pay check. So what a great parting shot it would be to announce he was benching the starting QB, despite now being injury free. So anyway the game. The first point is Kirk Cousins played well, but not mistake free. That being said, I do admire that he seems to go about his business quietly and doesn’t appear to have rubbed any of his fellow starters up the wrong way. Perennial Defensive star London Fletcher must be looking to retirement which will create a huge hole in an already beaten up Defence. So just 1 year shy of a rebuilding year, Washington enter another rebuilding year and make no mistake, they have a lot to rebuild. One final point. That many turnovers is a real concern. Something to add to the giant list of worries.
The Falcons have similar issues to Washington and we can expect big changes to happen in Atlanta this season too. Aside from their elite QB and weapons, this could be one of the weakest teams in the league. But to create room will be difficult as they deal with an already tight salary cap. Much like London Fletcher, you would have to imagine Tony Gonzalez will be hanging his boots up, which will be another huge blow for this team. On the plus side despite seemingly taking a beating every season and the injuries finally beginning to catch up with him Steven Jackson is finally providing some production. That being said, you would think they might look to get rid of him as you would hope they look to forge a younger team. I would also think the Falcons supporting cast have to be worried about their position. Yes they have had injury issues, but so has the rest of the league. The real concern for this team has to be age. With a constant win now mentality, age hasn’t been a concern for the past few years. Now though they have to rebuild and a lot of players will be traded or released in an attempt to get young fast in what has to be a rebuilding year. So what about Mike Smith? I think he’s earned enough trust with this team to keep his job, but another year like this might be too much. Whatever way this looked at though, this was a bad year for the Falcons and should be seen as a wakeup call.
Chicago Bears 38 Cleveland Browns 31
The Bears Defence is terrible. There really is no doubt about it. Missed tackles, dropped picks, wide open Receivers are all a regular issue for this Bears Defence. There is no denying though that it has been riddled with injuries, but still this is not the Defence Bears fans have come to know and love. However the Bears are doing something I have never seen. They are outscoring teams and it’s pretty much all on Offence. Cutler came back in this one and made some mistakes. Mistakes that McCown probably wouldn’t make. That being said, he also got them back in the game in a way that I don’t think McCown would have. Whatever way you look at though, the Bears weapons are insanely talented and leading the way is Alshon Jeffrey. Alshon is the biggest reason the Bears have to be excited since Devin Hester joined the team. Not only does he make plays, but he makes them look good at the same time. Whichever way you look at it though, this team is exceptionally lucky to be in the truly awful NFC North and are currently in the driving seat for the play offs thanks mainly to the Lions with some missed opportunities and Aaron Rodgers missing a significant part of the season. With that in mind the return of Lance Briggs couldn’t have been more opportune and we could see resurgence in this teams woeful Defence.
The Browns are so close to being a good team. For starters they will be very aware they are missing a no. 1 Running Back, as they became the first team in a very long time not to reach 100 yards rushing. Jason Campbell suffered a drop off in this game, which makes me think they probably need to add a QB as well. But at Receiver they are set with Little and Gordon, they have a decent corp for the future. But with a team that is so close to being good, how can they get over that hump? Easy, they have about 14 draft picks and will find it very easy to address their needs in a lack lustre Division that could easily make way for a new super power… Yup that’s how good I think they could get.
Houston Texans 3 Indianapolis Colts 25
The Texans might be the most talented team that I’ve ever seen in the driving seat for a first round pick. For starters, it is true that Defence wins Championships and on paper this Defence is insanely good. JJ Watt continues to look like the Defensive Player of the Year and on the opposite side they have the eternally underrated Antonio Smith. But in this game, Luck carved his way through this team with ease. On Offence the talent is over flowing, with Hopkins, Martin and Johnson at Receiver and Ben Tate hitting some serious form. But in this game they scored 3 pts. So seriously you have to ask, what’s going on? Well for starters they haven’t got a solid QB which has never been more prominent than during this season and they will have to find someone in the draft, whilst trying to keep the surrounding talent intact. Secondly the coaching has been woeful. The Texans front office should seriously consider a massive change at coaching, otherwise this team will go nowhere and to be fair they’ve already started by getting rid of Kubiak. But I think they should seriously consider a complete coaching change and instil a new mentality in this team. The Texans should be Super bowl challengers with this team, not challenging for the no. 1 pick.
The Colts made some improvement in this game that makes you think; just maybe they could win a playoff game. For starters, you have to remember 3 of their wins this season have come against the Broncos, Niners and Seahawks. Secondly, this is a long shot…we could see Trent Richardson hit his form at exactly the right time and become a decent Back for the play offs, forcing people to eat an awful lot of humble pie. I for 1 refuse to believe he can become that bad, that quickly. So there is a reason to be slightly optimistic for Colts fans, oh and don’t forget they are going up against an AFC that seems to love giving up cheap wins so really, the AFC Championship is pretty much up in the air.
Buffalo Bills 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 20
The Bills were 4-9 and on a losing streak. The Jags were 4-9 and on a winning streak. So what happens? Yeah the Bills win. I still think however the Bills have some serious issues that need dealing with. There is really no denying that they’ve taken their foot off a little with some of the play we’ve seen in Buffalo. When you look at just how much talent they have as well, this is a genuine concern. Also you have to wonder whether EJ Manuel was the inspired first round pick we were beginning to think he was. Now you have to think he is a potential weak point. But it’s not all doom and gloom for this Bills team. For starters Kiko Alonso should surely be a shoe in for the Defensive Rookie of the year and Kyle Williams is having one of his best seasons. If they could get Bird, Darreus and Mario Williams to play at this level, then they should have one of the best Defences in the league.
For the Jags, it’s like they’ve been running at full speed for the past 5 weeks and finally fell over here. The truth is they need a QB who can lead them over the hump. Whilst they have been playing with Gabbert and Henne for the last few years, there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough and it’s time to move on. Add a QB into the mix here; with maybe a new Receiver and Running Back, you could have an AFC South contender here. On Defence they still look good and young, which is clearly important to what they have planned for the future. In particular we will be talking about the Jags Secondary a lot. But right now this team has to ride out the season and look forward to their future.
New England Patriots 20 Miami Dolphins 24
The Patriots season has been full of nothing but problems and yet they’re still in the driving seat for this division. Credit for this has to be given in large part to Belichick who has worked with a Patchwork Defence, a Running Game that loves to fumble and a Tom Brady who has shown signs of decline. All that being said, they couldn’t overcome the team with the hot hand in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins. Tannehill has stepped up to a level that should have him in consideration for being tipped as one of the top QB’s in the league. It feels like every week this Offence takes another step forward. The Run game has gotten a lot better since they put up 2 yards a few weeks back, Mike Wallace can certainly no longer be considered a bust and is becoming one of the most reliable Receivers in the league and Charles Clay has to be included when talking about the top Tight Ends in the league. The Defence continues to make plays and is looking as strong as any D in the league, so the question has to be asked. Can they win the Super bowl? This year…probably not, but the prediction I made last season of winning a Super bowl in the next 5 years is all of a sudden looking very good and I can’t wait to see them for a whole season with this kind of consistency. The Patriots have issues and just can’t seem to get a consistent hot streak going, which has to be a massive concern as they near the Playoffs. That being said, they’re still my pick for the AFC’s contenders for the Super bowl, simply based around what I know Belichick can do. But I have been wrong quite a bit this season.
Philadelphia Eagles 30 Minnesota Vikings 48
This game has to be a concern for the fast paced Eagles as their hot streak comes to an end against the team that I think is the most underrated in the league, even without their best player. That being said, there is very good chance they don’t go with any of the QB’s they have on their roster and look to take the next step with some fresh blood. Jennings showed up big time in this game as Cassel proved how beatable the Eagles Secondary is. The Defence has also been playing at a consistent high level at the close of the season and is keeping a lot of the better Offences in the league, pretty quiet. Surely the Vikings are kicking themselves that it took them so long to find form in a Division that would have been ripe for the taking. On the plus side the Vikings can feel quietly confident that they could prove to be one of the better NFC North teams in the future with a young potent Offence. The Eagles are still in the driving seat for the NFC East but are now posed with some concerns. For the most part the major concern has to be the Eagles Secondary is proving to be very beatable through the air and has given up some serious yardage to some bad teams. This will definitely be an issue come the play offs. They should also be concerned about how easy it is to get to the QB at times, yes Jared Allen is one of the best at his position, but he got to Foles with relative ease. On the plus side the Offence is still ridiculously potent and they go up against one of the worst in the league in the form of the Bears, which is proving to be an epic Sunday night game. The Eagles should make the Playoffs, but it looks like it might not be long before they’re heading home. That being said, the holes this team has are very repairable and they look to make waves in the future.
Arizona Cardinals 37 Tennessee Titans 34
There is an awful lot of promise in both these teams for the future and I think this score line proves how close they are. So let’s start with the Cards, who in my opinion have been quietly sneaking their way into playoff contention. Palmer somehow not only seems to have found some form, but also some luck. He still seems to be making the wayward risky passes, but somehow they don’t find their way into the Defences hands. Anyway the improvement at QB makes this whole team better. If Palmer is getting the ball to Fitzgerald then the Defence has to pay serious attention to him. Meaning Ellington, Mendenhall and Floyd can all make plays. It is unreal how loaded with weapons this team is. However there is very strong chance that Fitzgerald misses this week’s make or break game against the Seahawks which could completely change the dynamic of this team. The Titans are a QB and some experience away from being a decent team. This team is young and hungry and could look to take control of a lack lustre AFC South. The Titans Receiving corp has quietly been making their name as one of the best in the league and look set to make more plays in the future. One worry is the production of Chris Johnson and with so much being invested in him they can’t simply drop him. Instead they need to find ways of making him effective and a solid QB might be the answer to that. All in all though these are another couple of teams with a bright future.
Seattle Seahawks 23 New York Giants 0
If ever you were unsure about how good this Seahawks Defence is, this should put your mind at rest. If you didn’t have faith, Pete Carroll sure did as he pulled his starting QB with only a buffer of 23 pts. On Offence they were all business, going into the MetLife and getting it done. On Defence. They were exceptional and took full of advantage of a QB that loves throwing interceptions. When we look back at this season, the season that followed what will probably be known as the year the QB position changed, we should remember this year as the year the Defences adapted. I cannot remember how many times I’ve seen a Defensive performance that have blown my mind and that’s exactly what happened here. So Seahawks. Offence…Check, Defence…Check, what about Special Teams? They are epic. The Punter, Ryan always hems Kick Returners in, forcing the Opposing Offence to play with poor field position against a very good Defence. So that’s also a check. This team is very much ready for a Super bowl run. As for the Giants, it’s all gone wrong. Yes they’ve had injuries, but not that many, more the issue is a lack of depth at pretty much every position, something that seriously needs to be addressed in the Off Season. Eli, well he had a bad game. Give him time and he is one of the best QB’s in the league, but given very little time, then he just loves making mistakes. The Giants need to get to the Off Season as soon as possible and attempt to bolster, pretty much their entire team. In the modern game it is impossible to play without a decent Line-backer unit, which is what they’re attempting at the moment. This needs to change.
San Francisco 33 Tampa Bay 14
If I had to pick a Super bowl contender and I had only watched the last few games, my choice would be the Niners. This team has hit a hot streak at exactly the right time and look to be a decent challenger for the NFC Championship and one of few teams at the moment that could go into Century Link and take the game. Kaepernick has taken his time but finally looks like the QB we were hoping to see at the start of the season, both through the air and running the ball. His supporting cast are all excellent too. Gore is probably the most dependable back in the league. He doesn’t have 200 yard games, but he does always seem to have around 80. Vernon Davis continues to stand out and in this one ran so hard he might have brought down the Stadium when he ran into the wall, proving once again that he is no ordinary Tight End. The addition of Crabtree has affected this whole team who all of a sudden look exceptionally dangerous. On Defence they continue to light up teams with the Line-backer corp that I maintain is easily the best in the league. This team is another that is very ready for the Playoffs and set to make a splash. This team could very well be heading back to the Super bowl. It would be unfair to say that this team is the same as the start of the season, but there are definitely still some glaring holes. I personally think Schiano has done enough to keep his job and to a certain extent deservedly so. Whether Bucs fans agree with me is a different matter, but he has done some pretty impressive things whilst missing some of the more elite pieces of this team. As I said earlier though, there are some definite changes that need to be made. None more important than at QB, Glennon is good enough as an 8-8 QB, but if they want to take it to the next level, they need to make a change. Also they desperately need to tighten the belt on the mistakes. The hand off on special teams at the end of this one was epically bad and handed the Niners some extra points that could have been avoided. I do really like this team, but they seem destined to make the same mistakes in the coming season and will struggle to dislodge the Saints and the Panthers, but this sport is crazy so I guess we’ll never know.
New York Jets 20 Carolina Panthers 30
All in all a pretty good show from the Jets against one of the best Defences in the league. When the season ends the first thing I will be looking for is the first Jet to open up about what happens to Geno in those epically bad games. Could it be simply work ethic? I mean he seems pretty terrible at reading a Defence, so is it literally a lack of off the field work? Whatever it is, there is a very good chance he’s not the starter next year and I would be hard pressed to say that I would disagree with that. The Jets Defence that started so strong desperately needs work too. In particular, the Secondary needs a massive over haul. But there just seems to be bigger problems for the Jets. At the start of the season the Jets said they were giving more control to Rex Ryan. This season that seems to be a move that has given him just enough room to hang himself. So the big change we can probably expect, is a massive change with Coaching and GM staff and a complete overhaul of a team that not so long ago was regularly making Championships, but now just can’t stop making bad choices. The Panthers look set for the playoffs, with Cam in this one showing off his arm strength. But it’s the Defence who took control of this one and kept the Jets to terrible field position and their own team to decent position. I could keep gushing about how much I love this Panthers team, but we will see how good they are when the Saints play the Panthers at home, a game that really could change the layout of the play offs. One thing is for certain, they are both good enough to cause a stir.
Kansas City Chiefs 56 Oakland Raiders 31
If you want to hear our opinion on the Freaky Friday-ness of Alex Smith being Peyton Manning and Peyton Manning being Alex Smith, then you really need to download our Christmas podcast this week, but until then know this. The best thing that could have happened to the Chiefs to lose a few. It seems to have lit a fire in an Offence that is currently looking like one of the best in the league. But who is leading this resurgence? Jamaal Charles. He lines up as Running Back, he’s epic. He lines up as a Receiver. He becomes the best Receiver they have. In this game he had 5 TD’s…5. Add into this the consistency he has shown and I personally think he single handedly leads the way as the league MVP. As for the Chiefs Defence. They are still great, but they seem to have let up a little. What I think is really important is this team now seems to have the ability to win a shootout, which makes them finally in my opinion, viable Super bowl contenders. The Raiders are obviously lacking in weapons which should be a primary concern for them in the Offseason, along with getting a viable no. 1 at QB as neither Prior or McGloin are no. 1’s. The Raiders Defence are strange. They make some great plays but just can’t seem to make stops. Hence 56 pts. This team will get better, but it will definitely take some time and a lot of money, which thankfully they have.
New Orleans Saints 16 St Louis Rams 27
Why has no one learnt? You never underestimate the Rams. Never. The Rams should feel pretty proud of what they did in this game, in particular the pressure they managed to get on Drew Brees, forcing him to throw a couple of picks and just generally not get into the game. The Rams Offence is playing old school with the lack of a true no. 1 QB and running the ball down opposition’s throats, which under the power of Zac Stacy is really working. The Rams should be excited about their future; we could see an insanely competitive Division in the NFC West in the future as all 4 teams are set to have decent future seasons. Very exciting times for the Rams. The Saints need to figure out what happens in these games and figure it out fast. For starters, with some decent talented Running Backs they need more balance. Ok in this one they were behind and they needed Brees to throw, but still they need to trust Thomas and Sproles more, even if it’s just to take the pressure off a Drew Brees that will struggle against the likes of Seattle and the Niners. I think the Defence is doing a pretty good job however, considering the complete scheme change they had, this unit should only get better. But probably not soon enough for the Playoffs.
Green Bay Packers 37 Dallas Cowboys 36
I feel there is very little I can say here that hasn’t been said and then analysed over and over again, but let’s give it a go. OK so Romo is to blame for that final play. If he did call that audible, that’s on him and worse than the play, he will have caused a rift between him and DeMarco Murray. That being said we need to look at a couple if things. For starters, it wasn’t Romo’s fault that this team let the Packers, who were dead and buried back in the game. Secondly, despite being Romo’s fault, Jason Garrett should have NEVER thrown him under the bus in the Press Conference. Why? Well to me it looked cowardly and that he was trying to point the blame in every direction but towards himself. Secondly, he just criticized the player that he allowed to get a $100m dollar contract. Sorry Jason, but you will go before Tony does, with that contract. I think the finger of blame, if it is to be pointed needs to be directed at the Coaches, who can’t control their side-line, with Murray being more vocal than you’d like a Dez Bryant constantly losing his cool. I honestly don’t think they have a choice but to get rid of Garrett and also Kiffen. So what then? Well they approach the likes of a John Gruden and put Marinelli in charge of the Defence. Make that move Dallas and I assure you, you have the Playoff/Super bowl team I was so sure we’d see this year.
All of the above does a hideous injustice to a Green Bay Packers team, who deservedly fought their way back to victory. Matt Flynn should be seen as a backup, he makes mistakes, but you trust him to lead a couple of games, however there is really no denying that he stepped up and led this team to victory in this one. For me the Packers are just trying to keep themselves in the running, whilst they get their star player back, who looks set to make a return. If he comes back, and the Packers make the Playoff, we could easily have a Super bowl contender here. So credit where credit is due. Matt Flynn is keeping the Packers in the Playoff run and will deserve a round of applause from the rest of the team if they manage it, because they couldn’t have done it without him. Whatever happens, it’s looking like the last game against the Bears will be very interesting.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 30
A great game, between 2 great competitors. But what we’ll talk about is an illegal hit on a Punter. Or was it? I dunno, for me he seemed to lead with his arms, but there is no denying there was an awful lot of helmet on the hit. So it was illegal as Punters are always considered Defenceless? Yes it probably was, but really should this be the case? Huber was trying to make a play, so what are players supposed to do? As far as I’m concerned he is on the field of play and should be treated like any other Special Teamer. Either way it was a bad hit and there will be a lot of talk about Punter and Kicker Safety. Anyway the game. Roethlisberger continued to make epic plays managed to spread the ball around in a game that was controlled by Defence. Polamalu continues to light up Offences and general this Steelers team is playing with a lot of heart and to a certain extent Violence. Despite not being in the Playoff picture, this team really improved towards the end of the season and probably kept Tomlin in a job. The Bengals seem intent on losing their playoff spot with a serious drop off in play over recent weeks and what looks like a lack of attention to detail. The Bengals Special Teams in the past season have looked excellent, but in this they got destroyed, which is serious concern for the Playoffs. Dalton has played well but Running Backs, Green-Ellis and Bernard have suffered a serious drop off. In general this team seems to lack drive and if they lose a Playoff spot, expect a few sackings.
Baltimore Ravens 18 Detroit Lions 16
Jim Schwartz had the Playoffs handed to him on a plate. The Bears have no Defence, the Packers have no Rodgers and the Vikings started the season winless. So what’s the excuse for the Lions? The truth is they don’t have one. The team is exceptional. On Defence, Suh and Fairley look fantastic and like they might have grown up a bit. On Offence they have the likes of Reggie Bush, Bell and obviously Megatron. So where does the problem lie. Coaching. Some truly silly play calling could and probably cost Jim Schwartz a trip to the playoff and probably his job. Stafford didn’t help matters in this one and threw an uncharacteristic 3 interceptions. Whilst Calvin Johnson did have a good game, it is impossible to ignore the fact that he dropped some easy passes that on occasions he could have taken to the house. But what is inexcusable is not beating a team that doesn’t score a single touchdown. Much like the NFC North, this game was theirs and they lost the lead. If the Lions don’t make it to the post season, then I think we can expect some big coaching changes and it might be what they need to take that step in the right direction for what should be an amazing team.
The above being one way of looking at it, but another is what should happen. Which is me giving credit to a Kicker that scored 18 pts., with the final clutch kick being 61 yards out. Take a bow Tucker, that was a standout game. But the darker look at is that Flacco didn’t score a TD and despite recent form, this has to be a concern if they do make the play offs. The Run game remains a very serious concern and could lead to an early trip out of the Playoffs for this team. The Defence however is finally beginning to gel and could cause some serious worries for a lot of inconsistent AFC teams. The Ravens have done a great job of keeping them in contention for the Playoffs, but to me it could be a very short trip.
And that’s it. Yup, it’s a long one, but I’ve had a lot of coffee and there was a lot to say. Don’t forget to download the Christmas pod and hit us up on Twitter. Merry Christmas NFL Fans