Crazy week in the NFL. Go watch highlights of the Vikings-Ravens finish. And then try to figure out how the Patriots gave up a TD to go down 12 to the Browns with two minutes remaining and still won. New record for a FG too, but I kinda just don’t care. Brutal week for refs, and injuries to stars like Gronk and the Honey Badger point your eye to the unintended consequences of the new policing of the game, but there’s nothing like football in the snow.
What I learned this week…..
If you liked the drive and feel of the Chip Kelly offense at highway speeds I think you’ll find it works even better in 4-wheel drive. This time in 8” of snow and driving winds, the Philadelphia Eagles posted 34 more points. By the 4:00 games I had people talking to me about how they might be able to get a bye in the NFC playoffs. Alright, one person. But still.
Losing Rob Gronkowski will hurt, big time. The offense was again potent with him in there. Now the Patriots need to see what they can [re]make of their attack without Hernandez Gronkowski Amendola Vereen Gronkowski. Next man up ain’t gonna work here, Bill. Sure wish you had kept Jake Ballard and Zac Sudfeld around now, huh? Actually, the real problem may be all the injuries on defense: In their last eight games the Patriots have given up 27, 30, 17, 31, 20, 31, 31 and 27 points. In the playoffs, those kind of figures are generally considered non-optimal. Tom Brady has been an effing magician all season long but sooner or later staking the opposition to big leads is going to bite you in the ass.
Refs. See, Browns @ Pats, Lions @ Eagles, and the Bengal game. I’m done. Complaining about bad calls has always been part of watching, but this season has been the worst, by far. At least the replacements never had a chance of getting the calls correct to begin with.
This just in…the NFC has a pretty good playoff battle heating up too. Three divisions could come down to head-to-head match-ups in coming weeks: New Orleans in Carolina Week 16 and then Philly in Dallas and Green Bay @ Chicago in Week 17. My playoff picks:
AFC 1) Denver 2) New England 3) Cincinnati 4) Indy 5) Kansas City 6) Baltimore
NFC 1) Seattle 2) New Orleans 3) Philly 4) Detroit 5) San Francisco 6) Carolina
The Good, the Bad and the Ugh
Good: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles – Single greatest performance by a Philadelphia running back. I mean you’re talking Wilbert Montgomery, Ricky Watters, Keith Byars, Charlie Garner, Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook*. But seriously, 217 yards, (148 of them in the 4th GD quarter) and 2 (more) TDs. He’s very plainly the best back in the league, which he already was before Chip anyway.
Bad: Detroit Lions – In the same conditions described above, the Lions fumbled the ball seven times and turned it over three. On Defense, they gave up 28 points. In the 4th GD quarter. Oh, and they had nine penalties for another 48 yards. Like the Eagles needed that help.
Ugh: Washington Redskins – Lambasted. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Emasculated. However you want to say it. 45-10 at home. Even to a good team, if you’re supposed to be defending a division crown, you can’t lose that bad. Dissension in the ranks? No, dissension in the officers, actually. Shanahan is feeding the flame, floating stories of his being ready to quit and threatening to bench RGIII ‘to protect him,’ basically daring the Dan to remove him, and pay him in the process. Everything we thought we knew about the Buccaneers, and then the Dolphins, is happening in the Nation’s Capital. Well, in Raljon, MD. Wherever in hell that’s supposed to be.
You gotta figure…Cleveland Browns HC Rob Chudzinski learned his lesson up in Foxboro. Surprised to be up 12-0 on the Patriots, Chud called for the 2-point conversion to make it an even 14-0 game. The run play was stuffed and the Browns ended up missing that point all afternoon. Up 19-13 they scored again on what turned out to be their final drive, but even with the extra point they were up only 13. Had Tom Brady‘s last TD to Julian Edelman been to tie the game instead of take the lead, the Browns would’ve found themselves in overtime with a chance to win. Instead, they had to try a 58 ½ yard field goal as time expired. Billy Cundiff, who has had his issues at Foxboro, was straight and true, but fell short of the crossbar, and the Browns let one slip away.
FWIW….Home teams were 14-2 this past week, the best ever. And there were 114 TDs scored this week, the most ever.
The QB whisperer…Josh McCown is having the time of his career. Since stepping in for the injured Jay Cutler, McCown has 1,809 yards and a 13-to-1 TD to INT ratio, for a passer rating of 109.8, some 20 points higher than Cutler. Is he the answer or the future in Chicago? I kind of doubt it, but you can’t unsee Alshon Jeffrey turning into a force and both Forte and Marshall having better games now than with Cutler under center. Here’s what I’d do: save the Cutler money for defense, re-sign McCown to start and try to draft a few arms. There’s no reason to think at this point McCown can’t have a resurgence of some kind. Or, I guess it should be a ‘surgence.’ Rich Gannon kind of did the same thing in Oakland way back when. His offensive coordinator? Quarterback guru Marc Trestman. Speaking of…
W2W4: Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Just kidding yea right. How about Green Bay @ Dallas – The Packers can make their Week 17 Bears game a playoff game with this win. In fact, if that happens and then the Bears beat the Eagles in Week 16, that next week’s Packers / Bears game will be for the 3-seed, something no one thought would be possible after both teams lost their starting QBs. Meanwhile, if the Cowboys win at home against the Packers, then they’ve set themselves up for a Division Title game at home against the Eagles on the final day of the season. That’s even with the Eagles winning two more before then. Damn, the NFL knows what its doing.
Locks of the Century of the Week…Basically only got one right, because I pushed the Niners game. Shouldn’t have changed picks. Oh well.
SF -5.5 @ TB First game that jumped out at me. The 49ers may very well be the 2nd best team in all of football. Tampa had been playing much better, and earlier in the season this would easily have been a 10+ point line, but I think their play of recent may be suppressing the points, so I’ll lay them in what I think should be a 6-6.5 point spread. 49ers -5.5
NO -5.5 @ STL Echo the sentiments in the paragraph above. Add to it the dome in St. Loo plays just as fast as the Superdome, and really doesn’t carry that same atmosphere as some of the Saints harder road games. Brees and Co. looked magnificent last week, and so I like them to keep it rolling and win this one by 6 or so. Fisher can gameplan a D for sure, but 31 points on the Carolina D cannot be ignored. Saints -5.5
PHL -4.5 @ MIN No Adrian Peterson. Yes, Matt Cassel. Yes, LeSean McCoy. Yes, dome and turf which means yes, DeSean Jackson. Eagles -4.5
*No, Ed, I didn’t forget Steve van Buren.
NFL Week 14
Tags: AFC Alshon Jeffrey Bears Billy Cundiff Buffalo Bills Carolina Panthers Chicago Bears Chip Kelly Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Cowboys Dallas Cowboys Denver Broncos Detroit Lions Eagles Football Foxboro Green Bay Packers Indianapolis Colts Josh McCown Julian Edelman Kansas City Chiefs LeSean McCoy Marc Trestman Miami Dolphins Mike Shanahan New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFC NFL Philadelphia Eagles Rob Chudzinski Rob Gronkowski Rob Gronkowski Injury San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks Tom Brady Washington Redskins