Yesterday’s slate of games looked incredibly enticing, and Sunday didn’t disappoint football fans. There were plenty of storylines going into yesterday’s games, and there are just as many storylines to take out of those games. Below are some rambling thoughts and reflections from each game.
Buffalo Bills 19, Miami Dolphins 0
The Dolphins can take solace that the New England Patriots absolutely pounded the Baltimore Ravens, but they were shutout in embarrassing fashion by the Bills yesterday. I still think the Dolphins are the best of the teams vying for the final playoff spot in the AFC, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors with that lackluster showing. There is little doubt that the Dolphins offensive line is absolutely pathetic, and they were at their worst on Sunday. Ryan Tannehill is the most-sacked QB in the league, and the Dolphins allowed seven more sacks. Tannehill usually does a fantastic job of overcoming pressure in his face, but there was just too much of it yesterday. The run blocking was once again horrible, and the Dolphins OL is just wasting Lamar Miller‘s talents. It all starts up front, and the Dolphins lost so badly up front that they weren’t able to score any points; chalk that up as an incredibly embarrassing performance.
New York Jets 24, Cleveland Browns 13
Geno Smith and Jason Campbell seemed to flip performances yesterday, and that was definitely the difference between these two teams. While Smith was calm and composed, Campbell was erratic with two interceptions and a horrendous average of 4.5 yards per attempt. Josh Gordon was targeted 16 times, but he could only come away with six catches. Of course, Gordon made the most of his six receptions with 97 receiving yards in total.
Cincinnati Bengals 42, Minnesota Vikings 14
This is why you can’t trust Matt Cassel. Against a more than competent defense, Cassel threw three interceptions, averaged just 4.1 yards per attempt, and simply did nothing positive against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings were forced to scrap the running game early in the second half, as the Vikings wisely pulled Adrian Peterson from the game after they realized that he was just too hurt to do anything. Toby Gerhart aggravated a hamstring injury very early in the game, and the Vikings were pretty much doomed in this game.
Andy Dalton is one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks around, but he definitely knows how to feast against awful secondaries. The Vikings have some of the worst corners in the NFL, and Dalton took full advantage on 27-38 passing for 366 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. How many yards did he average per attempt? Only 9.6. He needed to be great, too, since the Bengals only averaged 2.2 yards per carry on the ground.
Indianapolis Colts 23, Kansas City Chiefs 7
In my preview of this week’s games, I stated that Andrew Luck would need to have an incredible performance in order for the Colts to knock-off the Chiefs and their dominant defense. Well Luck was solid, but the Colts really won this game by taking advantage of the Chiefs wide receivers, which might be the worst in the NFL. Dwayne Bowe is not a No. 1 WR in this league, and Donnie Avery definitely isn’t a starting-caliber receiver. The Chiefs pass-catchers struggled to get open against a Colts secondary that is clearly better with solid veteran Greg Toler finally health, and Alex Smith suffered the consequences. Smith is a decent quarterback, but he’s not good enough to overcome bad receivers around him. The Chiefs did a great job of containing T.Y. Hilton, but Donald Brown had 110 yards from scrimmage and two TDs on just 12 touches, and that was the difference. And yet, the Colts still gave Trent Richardson 16 carries compared to ten for Brown. Go figure. (By the way, Brown had 7.9 yards per carry, whereas T-Rich plodded for just 2.7 per pop.)
St. Louis Rams 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13
It’s always interesting to watch the St. Louis Rams play, because they overcome Kellen Clemens‘s limitations at quarterback by playing old-school football. They pound the opposition to submission with excellent rushing from Zac Stacy, who had 33 carries in a gritty performance. Stacy’s yards per carry averages will be poor by virtue of the lack of respect Clemens commands from defenses (more men come into the box to sell out against the run) and the fact that the Rams run it so much, so it’s best to evaluate Stacy on how he runs instead of how efficiently he runs. This was a gritty game, and the Rams don’t lose games like this, especially when they record seven sacks. They have the game’s best defensive line and arguably the game’s best pass rusher, and they know it. Robert Quinn had three more sacks yesterday to add to his DPOY candidacy, and he could very well earn another Player of the Week award from us.
Dallas Cowboys 24, Washington Redskins 23
There’s a lot of talk of rifts among players and coaches in the Dallas Cowboys organization, and there’s also plenty of talk about Jason Garrett‘s job security. Following last week’s debacle against the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys nearly blew one against their arch rivals. The Washington Redskins are in more turmoil than the Cowboys, but they only lost 24-23. The big three of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant were excellent as usual, but the Redskins stayed in it by controlling the clock with Alfred Morris. It’s amazing how much of an impact Pierre Garcon and Morris make, because they both nearly gave the Redskins this one.
Tennessee Titans 20, Jacksonville Jaguars 16
With Cecil Shorts on the IR with a groin injury, I thought Chad Henne would have an awful game against Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty. But Henne was actually OK and helped keep the Jaguars in it. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the Jaguars running game, which was left wanting. Maurice Jones-Drew was able to play as a game-time decision, but he was only able to average 3.5 yards per attempt. No. 2 back Jordan Todman was even worse with just six yards on six carries, and he was a massive fantasy dud on fantasy football’s biggest stage after his huge Week 15 performance. The Titans, on the other hand, had loads of success on the ground with 90-yard rushing days from both Chris Johnson and backup Shonn Greene. Gold stars go to Nate Washington for six receptions, 117 yards and a TD on just eight targets and Derrick Morgan for three QB hits.
Denver Broncos 37, Houston Texans 13
Peyton Manning absolutely destroyed an overmatched Houston Texans defense, and he had four touchdowns without a pick. The Texans secondary is in shambles thanks to horrible safety play, and a good sign of poor coverage from the safeties against the Broncos is when Eric Decker goes off for a big game, because that means he burned people and had mis-matches deep. Decker was targeted a monstrous 17 times and came away with ten receptions, 131 yards, two touchdowns, and likely helped swing the balance in fantasy championships. Meanwhile, Andre Johnson was targeted 13 times, but he only had four catches for 63 yards. On the bright side, Johnson now has 103 receptions on the season and has five straight seasons with 100+ catches. And on the J.J. Watt watch, the best defensive player in the game quietly added two QB hits in the blowout loss.