Another wild NFL weekend is in the books with the usual mix of upsets, blowouts, refereeing clangers and kicking ineptitude. Get the lowdown on yesterday’s games with our below snapshots from a busy Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks 35 – 6 Baltimore Ravens
- Thomas Rawls has been playing well and it is a terrible blow for him to suffer a season ending ankle injury. Don’t expect Seattle to miss a beat however as Marshawn Lynch is due to return to health before the real work begins in January.
- Someone please remind the Seahawks passing game that they are supposed to be ‘limited’ and the weak link of the team. Russell Wilson has thrown 11 TDs the last 3 weeks with a composite QB rating of 148.2!
- For Baltimore the offseason can’t come quickly enough. Down to their 3rd QB with Matt Schaub unable to go the Ravens were unable to find the end-zone and particularly struggled to run the ball against an improving Seattle front.
Atlanta Falcons 0 – 38 Carolina Panthers
- This was a beat-down of epic proportions as Carolina re-affirmed their status as the no1 team in football right now racing to 13-0 on the year against the hapless Falcons. Atlanta were embarrassed in every phase of the game and offered no challenge for a vastly superior Panthers team.
- Another week and another step towards league MVP for Cam Newton with another 3 TDs on 15 of 21 passing over 3 quarters. Newton and the Panthers were so good on the day that we got to see Derek Anderson for a full quarter!
- What has gone wrong with the Atlanta offense? Through the first 2 months of the season Kyle Shanahans unit was running through everyone and Devonta Freeman was a legitimate MVP candidate. Since then they have become a turnover prone unit with seemingly no playmakers outside of Julio Jones. Shanahan’s status as a hot HC candidate this offseason is quickly losing its lustre.
Washington Redskins 24 – 21 Chicago Bears
- The Redskins retain their place at the top of the NFC by virtue of their superior Conference record over the Philadelphia Eagles following their first win on the road this season. They beat a Chicago Bears unit that have struggled to come out on top in close games this year.
- We mentioned last week that Robbie Gould was a man under pressure and he will not have helped his cause this week missing a game tying FG attempt late in the game. While he is likely to remain in place the remainder of the season (why change when you have nothing to play for) he could very well be looking for work this offseason.
- Kirk Cousins continues to justify Jay Grudens faith in him, putting in a solid 300 yard 1 TD 1 pick performance. Continued play at this level from Cousins will likely lead his team to the playoffs and earn himself a big check in Free Agency this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers 33 – 20 Cincinnati Bengals
- Prior to this week Cincinnati was among the healthiest teams in the entire league having avoided the injury bug this season. They got bitten by it pretty hard this week. With early reports suggesting Andy Dalton has a broken bone in his throwing hand that could side-line him for the year, the Bengals will have to rally around the untested AJ McCarron as they look for that elusive, first, postseason victory of the Marv Lewis era.
- The Steelers offense was slowed a little from their recent rate by the stout Bengal defense, who managed to limit Pittsburgh to more FGs than they would have liked, but the array of weapons they have meant keeping them quiet was a near impossible task.
- Cincinnati will be pleased to have the post-season eliminated 49ers and Ravens left on their schedule which should see them able to overcome the loss of Dalton and win the division. For Pittsburgh, next week’s game versus the Denver Broncos could well determine whether postseason football is possible in Steeler City as they are locked in a 3 way tie for a wildcard with the surging New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers 10 – 24 Cleveland Browns
- Cleveland hurt themselves in the battle for the first pick in the 2016 draft by beating a 49ers team that had shown improvement the last few weeks. Sacking Blaine Gabbert a whopping 9 times in the game Cleveland’s defense ensured that Johnny Manziel didn’t have to try and win the game on his own.
- Manziel turned in a solid performance throwing for 270 yards on 21 of 31 attempts with 1 TD and an interception. While not setting the world on fire and showing he is the future of the Browns organisation at the QB position Manziel did enough to keep alive the narrative that he should have started sooner in the year.
- The strong showing against the Cardinals and last week’s win over the Chicago Bears has 49ers fans expectant of a win in this game, something that has been rare this season. Unfortunately, this 9ers team has shown this year that if there is one talent they have it is the ability to play down to the level of their opponent and this loss cements their position at the bottom of the NFC West standings.
Indianapolis Colts 16 – 51 Jacksonville Jaguars
- Could Jacksonville win the AFC South? In snapping the 17 game AFC South win streak of the Colts the Jaguars now sit just 1 game back in the division. It would be an incredible achievement for this young team that just a month ago looked more likely to be a candidate for the no1 pick than the postseason.
- Come back Andrew, all is forgiven! It is amazing that just 2 weeks ago commentators were beginning to question whether Matt Hasselbeck should remain the starting QB when Luck returned to health. Following recent results it is fair to assume that we can park that kind of talk.
- Blake Bortles and the Jaguar offense is on fire, moving into the top 10 in the league in scoring. Given the youth on that offense Jags fans have to be excited to see the continued growth of the unit and optimistic that success could soon return the northern Florida.
San Diego Chargers 3 – 10 Kansas City Chiefs
- It was in no way pretty but the Kansas City Chiefs extended their win streak to 7 games outlasting the Chargers in a ‘game for the purists’ that was largely lacking in offensive production.
- While it is true that they have faced premium defences, scoring just 3 points for the 3rd time in the last 4 games is the type of return that gets coaches fired. Any coach of a team that hits double digit losses with 3 weeks remaining on the season will find the seat underneath them beginning to feel rather warm and this is true for Mike McCoy.
- It had to happen sometime and finally, Alex Smith threw an interception, a franchise record 312 passing attempts since the last one. Kansas City continue to play relatively turnover free football and with a strong defensive unit continuing to dominate teams could be a tough out for teams if they make it to the post-season.
Tennessee Titans 8 – 30 New York Jets
- Seen as a stopgap solution when he was brought to the Meadowlands, Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to stake his claim as the Jets QB for next season and beyond with another multi TD, no turnover, performance. For the season Fitzpatrick now has thrown a career high 25 TDs and his chemistry with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker is a big reason the Jets sit at 8-5 on the year.
- Whether this high level New York is currently playing at will be enough to bring post-season play back to New Jersey is currently tough to call. Stuck in a 3 way tie with the surging Chiefs and Steelers the Jets will likely need to win out (including taking down the Patriots in wk. 16) to ensure their place in the Wild Card round.
- What happened to the Titans offense? One week after putting up 42 points Tennessee’s sole score in this game was on a – phenomenal – trick play pass to Marcus Mariota. The Titans particularly struggled to run the ball yielding a paltry 24 yards on 13 carries. The paucity of talent across the entire roster lends credence to reports out of Tennessee that General Manager Ruston Webster could be in trouble.
Buffalo Bills 20 – 23 Philadelphia Eagles
- It will be another year without January football in Buffalo who absolutely had to win this game to keep pace in the AFC wild-card race with the loss putting them 2 games behind with just 3 remaining.
- It does appear that the NFC East title race is going down to the wire, with Philadelphia scheduled to play de-facto elimination games against the Redskins in week 16 and Giants in week 17.
- Fletcher Cox is quietly having possibly the best season of any interior defensive lineman not named Arron Donald at one point throwing down LeSean McCoy for a 10 yard loss. Cox should ensure he keeps a bag packed as an invitation to the Pro Bowl should be coming his way.
Detroit Lions 14 – 21 St Louis Rams
- Todd Gurley is still playing. You would have been forgiven for forgetting the former Georgia tailback given his lack of production the least few weeks but he responded against the Lions with 140 rushing yards and 2TDs on 16 carries. New offensive coordinator Rob Boras was wise to feature the rookie back in his game plan.
- The ‘clear-out bounce’ seems to be over in Detroit as the impetus they seemingly gained from the mid-season organisational shuffle has dissolved and the team has reverted to the poor performances of the early season. At this point, it would appear that Jim Caldwell’s days as the Head Coach in the Motor City are coming to an end.
- The future is less clear for Jeff Fisher and his staff as the Rams again showed glimpses of a team whose talent level suggests they should be pushing for playoff football. With a .500 season the best they can hope for it will be interesting to see what direction Stan Kroenke chooses to go in the offseason.
New Orleans Saints 24 – 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- The Bucs chances of sneaking into the post-season may have evaporated with the loss putting them 2 games behind both Minnesota and Seattle in the WildCard race with just 3 games remaining. Tampa Bay were unable to get much going offensively despite facing the leagues worst defense.
- Drew Brees continued his improved play of late and part of this game had many fans nostalgic as he connected with Marques Colston for a pair of TD passes. With Brees’ future in New Orleans far from certain beyond this season, fans will do well to cherish his performances in the next few weeks.
- Jameis Winston was unable to pull of the late game heroics he is associated with but was again efficient and turnover free as his development as an NFL QB continues. Another good draft in 2016 could see the Winston led Buccaneers challenging in the NFC next season.
Oakland Raiders 15 – 12 Denver Broncos
- Are the Broncos in danger of being caught by the Chiefs in the AFC West division race? Holding a 2 game lead over a Kansas City squad with a tiebreaker edge over them, Denver travel to Pittsburgh to face a red hot Steelers team before a crunch showdown with Cincinnati that will have huge playoff seeding implications.
- Khalil Mack has perhaps been criminally underrated by the mainstream media while being an analyst favourite since being drafted. That could change following a 5 sack outing that should propel him into the national consciousness. Mack now has a league leading 14 sacks on the season.
- Glad there was an explanation for the Raiders strange decision to go for 2 points following their 4th quarter TD that put them up by 3 points. Simply kicking the PAT would have meant Denver needed a touchdown on their following drive whereas the failed 2pt try meant a FG would tie the game. It later transpired that Oaklands Long Snapper, Jon Condo, had suffered an injury when recovering a muffed punt by Emmanuel Sanders meaning a kick could not be attempted.
Dallas Cowboys 7 – 28 Green Bay Packers
- Can we finally put to bed talk of the Cowboys making the postseason? Please? Falling to 4-9 on the year and with an anaemic offense unable to put points on the board it is well past time that Cowboys fans and the media stop kidding themselves about January appearances.
- Mike McCarthy’s decision to resume play-calling duties didn’t seem to have as positive an effect on the Green Bay offense as he would have hope. Green Bay struggled to move the ball for most of the game and it was only because of a tiring Dallas defense that the Packers were able to pull away at the end of the game.
- Based on current form and records the NFC playoff field is virtually set following this week with Green Bay looking fairly secure in the 3 seed. Minnesota look certain to secure the 6 seed meaning that the week 17 matchup between the clubs will be a dress rehearsal for a playoff game the following week.
New England Patriots 27 – 6 Houston Texans
- And just like that, the AFC Playoffs once again go through Foxborough. Losses by Denver and Cincinnati mean that the Patriots reclaim the no1 seed in the AFC following their fairly straightforward win over the Texans whose only route to the postseason now looks to be as winners of the AFC South.
- Both teams will be hopeful that injuries sustained by key contributors turn out to be minor as we head into the stretch run. For Houston, losing Bryan Hoyer again could put paid to playoff hopes, but regardless whether it is Hoyer or Yates under center next week, the OL has to perform better if they are to have any chance. Patriots fans will be hoping that LeGarrette Blounts hip injury is minor as the offense struggled to move the ball in the 2nd half when his hard running was gone from the line-up. Defensively, losing Devin McCourty for any period of time could be catastrophic to a pass defense that will need all the help it can get should they come across Pittsburgh in January.
- This game showed glimpses of what Houston was hoping for when they drafted JaDaveon Clowney 1st overall in the 2014 draft. With extra attention being paid to JJ Watt (1 hand or 2 he is still going to draw double teams), Clowney was able to take advantage of one on one matchups and sack Tom Brady twice. If his injury problems are behind him, a full offseason programme, could see Clowney primed for a breakout season in 2016 and cause offensive coordinators to lose plenty of sleep working out how to block both him and Watt.