Week 16 Reflection for Every Sunday Game: Zac Stacy, Pierre Garcon, Dennis Allen, more

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Carolina Panthers 17, New Orleans Saints 13

I did an in-depth analysis of the game this morning, and it was a great one between these two rivals that went right down the wire. With the Panthers victory that came off of a remarkable game-winning reception from Domenik Hixon, they still have a chance at locking up a playoff bye. Neither quarterback played well in this defensive struggle that featured a mini-monsoon in the second half, but both QBs were able to make plays when needed after the offensive lines shook-off awful first-halfs. The most pivotal one-on-one matchup in this game was Greg Hardy vs. rookie left tackle Terron Armstead, who surrendered three sacks and four QB hits to Hardy (Armstead also had two false start penalties). Luke Kuechly had an incredible 24 tackles and caught an easy interception from Drew Brees, and both he and Thomas Davis continue to play at a high level. They are both great sideline-to-sideline linebackers who were great against the run and in coverage (Davis had a beautiful pick and made some awesome tackles on pass D against Pierre Thomas), and the two instinctive leaders give the Panthers a lot of flexibility schematically. Sean McDermott managed to outduel Sean Payton, who did whatever he could to beat Kuechly and the Panthers D.

New York Giants 23, Detroit Lions 20

The Detroit Lions are out of the playoffs following yesterday’s shocking, overtime defeat, and it’s time for Jim Schwartz to get his walking papers. This was an embarrassing and inexcusable performance from the Lions, and Schwartz was thoroughly out-coached in this one. Calvin Johnson‘s limited game due to knee and ankle injuries isn’t a viable excuse for Schwartz to point to, because the Lions outplayed their opponents but didn’t win due to bad play-calling and a lack of discipline. The Lions are going to be sitting at home in January, and Schwartz shares most of the blame (others like Matthew Stafford deserved to be blamed for their roles in the collapse). At least Joique Bell can hold his head high in defeat, as he had a fantastic game through the air and on the ground.

Arizona Cardinals 17, Seattle Seahawks 10

The Arizona Cardinals kept their playoff hopes alive by upsetting the Seattle Seahawks, and they took advantage of some shaky pass protection for Russell Wilson that spawned from star left tackle Russell Okung‘s injury. The Seahawks can only hope that Okung’s toe injury isn’t serious, because they absolutely can’t afford for him to be out during the playoffs; Wilson needs him healthy. Carson Palmer had a dreadful game with four interceptions against the Legion of Boom, but the Cardinals won by controlling the ball, making timely plays, and getting less penalty yards. This one could have gone either way, but the playoff darkhorses in the NFC West will live to see another day. The Cards deserve more national attention, because there is still a chance that they knock out the San Francisco 49ers from the playoffs in wild fashion. We’ll see.

Pittsburgh Steelers 38, Green Bay Packers 31

This bad-weather game between two of the NFL’s most storied franchises was all about the rookie running backs, and both players delivered. Hopefully Eddie Lacy‘s aggravated ankle injury isn’t serious, because the Packers can’t afford to lose him for next week’s huge game against the Chicago Bears (it will decide a playoff spot) or a playoff run. Lacy is far too important, and he’s been a beast all season long. He was a beast yesterday, too, with two rushing touchdowns and an average of 5.6 yards per carry on 15 carries. Le’Veon Bell carried the Steelers offense with 124 rushing yards and a TD in an excellent performance, but I think the difference in this close game was the quarterbacks. Matt Flynn had a QB Rating under 70, whereas Ben Roethlisberger had another solid outing and continues to make throws in big spots.

San Diego Chargers 26, Oakland Raiders 13

Dennis Allen’s fate in Oakland is still in flux, and it’s going to be decided by the Raiders evaluation of his performances this week and in next week’s game against an even tougher opponent in the Denver Broncos (Allen’s old team). While the Raiders fell to their bitter in-state rivals yesterday, not too much can be gleaned when it comes to Allen’s status. The Raiders are just 4-11, but they also have one of the league’s worst rosters. I mean, have you seen some of the players they are starting on defense? If anything, Reggie McKenzie is the problem here and not Dennis Allen; he deserves at least one more year. I mean, most experts projected the Raiders as like a one or two-win team before the season, so four wins isn’t that bad when you contextualize things.

New England Patriots 41, Baltimore Ravens

Did anyone really think that the New England Patriots would be worse on the road? A surprising majority of experts selected the Baltimore Ravens to win this game, but T-Sizzle’s team was all sizzle and no steak (Suggs brought the steak, though, with a sack, an additional QB hit, and an additional tackle for loss). It was a disappointing game for the Ravens and for most NFL fans, since we were hoping and expecting a close one between these two teams that love to hate each other. Joe Flacco was ineffective and clearly hobbled by his knee sprain, and he even fell in front of an open field on an attempt to scramble. Tom Brady was efficient and the Patriots were solid on the ground, but the same can’t be said for the Ravens, who were probably mystified by Logan Ryan‘s big game. Ryan has the makings of a stud, and Devin McCourty defended two passes before going down with an injury. But despite the embarrassment of a 34-point loss to the Patriots, I don’t think this result was as bad as the Dolphins shutout loss to the Bills. The Ravens are still very much in it, but the Chargers got a leg up by taking care of business against Oakland.

Philadelphia Eagles 54, Chicago Bears 11

The Chicago Bears defense has been awful all year long, but they took their ineptitude to new heights in front of a national audience. Knowing that they could have locked up the NFC North by beating the Philadelphia Eagles following losses by the Packers and Lions, the Bears simply curled up and died. Nick Foles made mincemeat out of the Bears secondary with an 84% completion percentage, and elite running back duo LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown made roadkill out of the Bears horrible run defense (even Lance Briggs couldn’t save them) with 100-yard games each. There’s a lot of criticism fired at Jay Cutler for his subpar play in the loss, but the defense is a much, much bigger problem than Cutler, and it’s been a much bigger problem than Cutler for the entire year. Injuries to the likes of Charles Tillman and Henry Melton have played a big role, but the Bears personnel isn’t good enough either; they weren’t good on D even when Tillman was healthy. The Bears have a lot of questions to answer, and Matt Forte wasn’t even able to get anything going on the ground yesterday. Next week’s game against the Packers decides everything, so they can’t afford to come up lame for a second straight week.

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Topics: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Notes And Analysis, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins

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  • Chris Schroeder

    As a Raiders fan. Just Wondering why Reggie Mcenzie in your option is the problem?

    Rm’s job was to clean house and clear up the dead cap money, and in 2 years he has done just that. Understand that the 2014 season will be the first year of the rebuilding faze. Not this year or last. This year was for purposes of evaluation only, hence the plethora of 1 year contracts. There is no hot seat for DA or RM. This was the plan all along. the Raiders in 2014 will have an additional 70 mil and all the draft picks. They will be stacked with depth and talent across the board. It they don’t make the playoffs in 2014, or especially 2015 I will be shocked.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      I agree with you, and thanks for reminding me about McKenzie’s terrific cap management. My point was that you might as well blame McKenzie more than Allen if you are going to blame anyone at all, because you can’t blame the head coach of a rebuilding team. The Raiders were never supposed to compete this season, so there’s no point in firing anyone; totally agree with you. My point, however, is that the Raiders have personnel issues, which normally point to the GM. But in the Raiders case, of course, this is an exception to that rule. Why? As you said, McKenzie’s job was to fix up the cap and get the Raiders ship righted for the future.

      Great comments and points, Chris, and I should have done a better job of phrasing that point in the post. Quick question for you, since I love crowd-sourcing draft opinions. What would the Raiders “dream” draft look like?

      • guido

        If you look at every game there is only a small number of games where the Raiders were truly outplayed. Majority of games were lost in the 4th when you need a big playmaker that the Raiders don’t have. All I asked this year was to be competitive and I think for the most part they were

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          I agree with your assessment of the Raiders season. Coming into this year, I thought the Raiders would be the league’s worst team. Whoops. But I wasn’t the only one, and I think Mark Davis and the organization should be happy that Allen was able to turn this into a competitive squad; there really isn’t a good reason to fire him. I mean, if you are grading a Raiders head coach on the organization’s lack of success, then you might as well fire everyone, since you can’t truly point fingers when a team is rebuilding and just aiming to be competitive and find pieces.

          Could you imagine Clowney and Houston at DE? Perfect combo, and I’ve always loved Houston’s ability to make an impact as a pass rusher and run defender- can’t overlook his run D.

        • Chris Schroeder

          Not just the 2014 draft class of the Oakland Raiders but free agency as well will be a true testament to Reggie McKenzie’s ability and direction. People are so quick to point out a few flaws he made in his decisions like Tyler Wilson or Matt Flynn, but they overlook the diamonds in the rough like undrafted free-agent Rod Streeter who almost has 1000 yards receiving this year during the midst of a quarterback controversy, or undrafted free agent Matt McGloin who took the starting role right out of Terrel Pryor’s hands because of his ability to make the big plays, or how about Andre Holmes who bounced around practice squads for different teams and all of a sudden looks like the next Randy Moss with that one-handed catch thrown by a undrafted rookie free-agent quarterback. I think Reggie McKenzie has done a fantastic job considering all aspects and I am very excited to see what he puts together for next year.

          • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

            RE: Wilson, you are always going to miss on players, especially QBs you take later on. And is Wilson really a “miss”? I hope nobody expected much out of him in the first place. Can’t blame McKenzie for that. This offseason is pivotal for him and the Raiders, though, and hopefully they can make some smart signings to help the defensive side of the ball. Also, as I said before, Jennings > McFadden.

  • sd_woodturner

    your coverage of the Oakland San Diego game made no mention that San Diego participated. All Oakland. Where was the balanced reporting?
    Just curious.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      If I mentioned every team, player, etc. in this piece, then I would have been writing that piece all day. Give me a break, man. Besides, what did you want me to say about the Chargers? That they took care of business against their rivals, extracted revenge, and took full advantage of the Dolphins and Ravens flopping?

      And don’t worry, I;m not biased against your Chargers at all, so there’s no biased reporting here. I mean, I’ve been staunchly on the “Philip Rivers is a fully legit MVP candidate side” all year long and have even had him above Peyton at points. Just because I didn’t mention the Chargers doesn’t mean I’m biased, it just means that I wanted to focus on speaking about the Raiders, especially since the Chargers win wasn’t as notable as the Allen talk.

      • sd_woodturner

        fair enough Joe. My point was that after reading all the other stories on team pairings, you pretty much covered both sides, except for the Chargers. A simple sentence as you did above would make a lot of San Diegans happier.
        Your insight is exemplary and I enjoy following your writing.

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          Hey, sorry if it sounded like I was snapping at you, but the thought of not covering all the bases etc. eats at me. I feel bad for not writing enough about the Chargers, but it’s just so tough to find something to say about every team and wrap it up into one post that doesn’t ramble too much. I actually tried to stick one sentence in there in the game talking about the Patriots and Ravens (briefly touched on how the Chargers actually took care of their business haha), but I can see why you would be upset that you came to a post thinking you would see insight on the Chargers and ended up with Raiders talk. I’ll try to do a better job next time, but it’s difficult to get to everything.

          I understand your criticisms, and I always take advice seriously and try to implement in the future; it will only make me better.

          Thanks a ton for the kind words about my writing, and it definitely means a lot to me. In fact, getting praise and appreciation from readers is one of the most enjoyable things about writing, because it’s all about interacting with fans, learning more about the game, and trying to share that passion with others.

          I hope you have a happy holiday season (don’t want to assume that you celebrate Christmas, but I wish you a very merry one if you do), and never be afraid to disagree with me or criticize my work in a constructive manner. That’s all you did, and I unfortunately took your initial comment the wrong way (I think the “balanced reporting” phrase got to me, haha).

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