The Green Bay Packers surprised us all when they invited Seattle into their home last Sunday and whooped that trick for 60 minutes straight. They came out the gate rolling when Aaron Rodgers scrambled right and threw deep along the right sideline for receiver Davante Adams, who slipped past a tackler for a 66 yard touchdown to get on the board first. Receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery kept the pain train rolling on a 17 yard run after he stiff armed the soul out of Seahawks Steven Terrell, who is filling in for the injured Earl Thomas. The offense got downfield but kicker Mason Crosby missed a 51 yard field goal wide route, wasting the forearm shiver that Montgomery so beautifully displayed. But the Packers’ defense that has been criticized all season came to play in this one, and it started with an interception by safety Morgan Burnett who took advantage of the pass after the receiver he was covering fell down. Montgomery got the goal line hand off and drove his way in for a touchdown to give the Pack a 14-3 lead. The defense kept the pressure on when rookie defensive end Dean Lowry managed to sack Russell Wilson on 3rd down, halting Seattle’s drive and getting the ball back to their offense. Rodgers spread the ball around to his receivers, this time finding Jordy Nelson in the slot for a 9 yard touchdown, and it was official the Seahawks would have no chance in this one. As Seattle tried to build some momentum before the end of the half, they took a shot downfield and found cornerback Damarious Randall who intercepted the pass after cleverly baiting Wilson into thinking his receiver was open down the middle. In the beginning of the 3rd, cornerback Quinten Rollins joined the pick party, coming up with one of his own in the endzone. Randall got his second of the day after a dropped pass by a Seattle receiver went right up in the air and dropped into his hands. Despite aggravating his hamstring, Aaron Rodgers continued to manuver his way around the pocket and found Nelson again in the back of the endzone for his second TD catch of the day, increasing the score to 28-3. Crosby added a field goal and Jeff Janis pulled of a 19 yard run in the 4th to complete the blowout and improve the Packers to 7-6 on the season. They’ll need things to go their way down the stretch, but if the Packers manage to get into the playoffs they are a team that not many in the NFC would be happy to meet. They have a great chance to increase their win total this Sunday as they head to Chicago to play the Bears, who are T-Rash.
The Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed all ladies and gentlemen with them to Buffalo last week to witness the eighth wonder of the world, the flow of the century that is always timeless. His name is Le’Veon Bell and he thanked everyone for coming to the game last Sunday. We could have been anywhere in the world (like not outside in the snow)…but we were there with him. And he appreciated that. He also appreciated the Buffalo Bills’ inability to stop him has he had a career-best 236 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. He seemed to either have more legs than anyone else on the field, or his cleats came with anti-lock breaks on them because that man was mooooving, changing gears and switching directions at the drop of a dime. He scored two touchdowns in the first half and highlighted several runs where no one could bring him down. If it wasn’t for Ben Roethlisberger’s refusal to take care of the football, Bell could have eclipsed 200 yards. And that isn’t an exaggeration – Ben’s three picks could have resulted in more carriers for Bell as he appeared to get stronger as the game went on.
Bell added his third TD of the game in the 3rd quarter to give the Steelers a 21-7 lead, which was enough room to keep the Bills at bay down the stretch as they tried to complete a late comeback. Now at 8-5 the Steelers currently hold the lead of the AFC division. They will travel to Cincinnati this Sunday to face their division rival the Bengals, who are also fortunate enough to play the Browns twice a year. Even though it was a win against the Browns, the Bengals keep playing hard and will not roll over for the remaining games of the season. Andy Dalton and the offense has played well as of late, successfully moving the ball downfield without AJ Green while also establishing a solid running game with Jeremy Hill surpassing 100 yards last week. I fully expect the Bengals to play hard and make this a close game against their rival, despite them being out of playoff contention for the first time since 2010.
The Houston Texans are the one team I hate to hate. For real, they have so much potential but find a way to underachieve in games you think they should win. And as soon as you write them off and pick against them, they find a way to come up with a big win like they did last week in Indianapolis, and if my calculations are right, the Texans currently have a share of the AFC South division lead. They beat Indy with a solid run game, a stingy defense, and a reliable special teams unit. Safety Quintin Demps came up with an interception late in the 1st quarter that led to an easy field goal for kicker nick Novak to tie the game. QB Brock Osweiler threw his typical interception trying to force the ball into coverage, but the defense held and the offense got another chance. On his next 3rd down attempt, Osweiler made sure he converted the pass with his own receiver this time, finding DeAndre Hopkins to help the offense extend their drive. He completed another key 3rd down throw to tight end CJ Fiedorowicz that got the offense down to the 1 yard line, and running back Lamar Miller took it from their punching in his fourth TD of the season to give the Texans a 10-3 lead. Their defense held Indy off the scoreboard by keeping them far enough downfield that their field goal right before the half went wide left. Texans’ Nick Novak proved he can hit from distance when he nailed a 52 yard field goal to extend the Texans lead to 10 heading into half time. The defense came up with another turnover in the 3rd quarter and Jadaveon Clowney made just enough contact with Andrew Luck to force him into an errant throw that was picked off by safety Andre Hal. Novak added a 24 yard field goal to increase their lead to 16-3. But Indy found a way to answer Houston’s field goals with a touchdown and cut it to a one possession game. As Indy was threatening in the redzone, Clowney made another spectacular play by strip sacking Luck, and teammate Whitney Mercilus recovered. Big plays by CJ and Miller got Nick Novak in range again, and he added yet another field goal to give the Texans a 19-10 lead. Houston’s defense broke down in coverage allowing Indy to socre on a 35 yard touchdown pass to cut their deficit to two. But Houston again relied on Lamar Miller who carried the Texans downfield for a fifth kick from Novak, a 34 yarder to give them a five-point cushion with less than three minutes remaining. The defense came up with one more final stand at midfield, pressuring Luck into an early throw that fell incomplete, and the Texans won their 7th game of the season to get above .500. Houston will have to take care of Jacksonville this Sunday if they want to be taken seriously in this league but more importanty, if they plan to stay in the hunt for the division lead.
The Tennessee Titans are one of the biggest winners from last week as they kept pace with the AFC South division lead after beating Denver in a gutsy, low-scoring affair. It wasn’t pretty at all, but the Titans relied on their strength of running the rock to neutralize Denver’s elite pass rush and protect QB Marcus Mariota, who completed just 6 of 20 pass attempts for a mere 88 yards. One of his six completions was to tight end Delanie Walker for a 23 yard gain to get the offense into the redzone. DeMarco Murray (92 yard, TD) punched in a goal line TD to give Tennessee an early lead.
Toward the end of the 1st quarter, safety Rashad Johnson got his hand in on a carry and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Jason McCourty. It led to a 53 yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop to give the Titans a 10-0 lead. Despite their inability to make plays in the passing game, Mariota was able to make plays with his feet to avoid sacks and move the ball downfield. After Titans’ receiver Harry Douglas took a cheap shot at a Broncos defender, all hell broke loose. It was ass and elbows errry-where.
In his postgame interview, Aqib Talib said it will be on like butter popcorn the next time he sees Harry walking through the Ministry of Magic. But anyway…after the melee, Succop sneaked in another field goal to give the Titans a 13-0 lead going into the half. At the end of the 3rd, Denver managed to finally put a long drive together get inside Tennessee territory. They went for it on a 4th & goal to begin the 4th and the Titans secondary continued to pitch the shutout after forcing Trevor Siemian to throw the ball high and incomplete into the back of the endzone. Mariota and the offense struggled to pick up first downs down the stretch and punted the ball back to Denver, who finally got on the board after they were given multiple short fields. With just a three-point lead and over a minute remaining, the Titans defense was sent back on the field to win the game. The Broncos were able to move the ball to midfield and seemingly picked up a first down. But linebacker Avery Williamson got some help from Rashad Johnson and ripped the ball out of the hands of Denver’s tight end and Titans’ Damian Stafford was able to recover to hold on for the win. Now at 7-6, the young Titans find themselves battling for their division crown. They will have a tough matchup on the road next week, but a great opportunity nonetheless to prove their legitimacy against an AFC contender – the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs proved to the rest of the world that they for real after snatching the AFC West division lead from the Oakland Raiders on primetime TV last Thursday. They scored all their points in the 2nd quarter and almost tried to trick it off down the stretch. But solid defense and a good strategy by their coaching staff led them to victory. Both teams had to adjust to the extreme temperatures early on and it started when rookie Tyreek Hill tried to retrieve a punt, but the hard and slick football slipped through his hands and then through his legs and Oakland recovered in great field position. The Chiefs were able to hold the Raiders to just a field goal. On their next drive they were more aggressive, as Alex Smith completed a 39 yard pass along the right sideline to a diving Chris Conley for a 39 yard gain. They remained aggressive going for a 4th&1 inside Oakland’s 30, but Spencer Ware was stuffed and stopped short. The defense came up big on their next drive when Justin Houston and Rakeem Nunez-Roches combined to sack Derek Carr on a 3rd down to halt another Oakland drive and get the offense the ball back. The Chiefs consistently attacked the middle of Oakland’s defense and managed to march 70 yards in just 1:38. Smith connected with Hill on a 36 yard TD completion to take a 7-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter. KC’s defense bottled up Oakland’s talented offense yet again, forcing a three-and-out. The Chiefs continued to move the ball through the air at will, as Smith connected with Conley and Hill to get the offense down inside the 5. Our recently-awarded “Bad Name Baller” recipient Charcandrick West walked into the endzone for a 3 yard score to increase their lead to 14-3. Kansas City’s defense forced Oakland into another punt back to Tyreek Hill and the only thing the rookie dropped this time around was his mouth piece after he made two juke moves and was off to the races along the left side, taking it all the way in for his second return touchdown on the season. With that punt return touchdown, Tyreek Hill became the first rookie since Gale Sayers in 1965 with a touchdown on the ground, through the air, and on punt and kickoff returns in a single season. The Raiders managed to finally get on the board before the end of the half and the Chiefs found themselves still up 21-10 at the break. But right after half time, the Chiefs tried to sex it a-wayyyy in their best Solange voice. They turned the ball over twice in their next three plays – the first an interception by Smith and the second a strip-sack of Smith, both of which set Oakland up with great field position. But the defense held Oakland to another field goal after the first mishap, and they got lucky that Oakland botched the snap on their second field goal attempt and never successfully attempted the kick. After all that treachery, Kansas City still held the lead at 21-13. Their offense didn’t put any more points on the board, but their defense held strong down the stretch. As Oakland marched down field in the final minutes, the Chiefs’ defense made multiple plays in the endzone to keep the Raiders off the board, none more impressive than the deflection by Terrance Mitchell on a 4th down to give the offense the ball back in the final minute. Alex Smith took a knee for the win, improving the Chiefs to 10-3 on the season. Both the Titans and Chiefs need this game to keep pace with their respective divisional counterparts. The Titans actually remind me of a younger version of the Chiefs – both have a mobile quarterback that can make plays in and out of the pocket, a strong running game, and a play-making defense that finds ways to come through in the clutch. There’s no doubt the more experienced Chiefs will have the advantage playing this game at home where they are 5-1 this season. But the Titans are ready to prove they are ready for this moment. They have shocked a lot of people before…
Andrew Luck’s dominance over the AFC South ended last week when he and his Colts were handled by the Houston Texans. Indy had no answer for Houston’s running game, and failed to protect Andrew Luck enough for him to consistently make plays downfield. We’ve learned over the years that a pressured Luck leads to multiple turnovers, and that is exactly the formula they used to force him into two interceptions and a fumble lost that they couldn’t overcome down the stretch. They will head to the Minnesota to play inside the comfort of the Vikings’ dome. The Vikings ended their two game slide after beating the Jaguars in Jacksonville last week. It was honestly a game nobody really wanted to watch, and for good reason. It was a field goal fest until the 3rd quarter when the Jaguars scored a touchdown and actually took an 18-12 lead over Minnesota. But key plays by the rising star receiver Adam Thielen, who had his second 100+ yard game on the season, got the Vikings’ offense in range for Mike Asiata to punch in a goal line TD run to re-gain the lead. Early in the 4th quarter, Sam Bradford showed he has a little speed after breaking off a 15 yard run to get the offense into Jacksonville territory. He found Kyle Rudolph for a 3 yard pass to extend their lead to 25-16 to escape out of Jacksonville with an ugly win, which is much better than a pretty loss. Both Indy and Minnesota are teams on the outside looking into their respective division leads. Both teams would probably have to win out and get some help in order to realize their playoff dreams. But the reality of this game is: the loser will more than likely be eliminated from playoff contention.
The Detroit Lions improved to 9-4 last Sunday with just another afternoon of 4th quarter heroics of the cardiac cats, led by the real Matty Ice – Mathew Stafford. Now that game was an eye sore from start to finish. It was truly hard to watch, especially as the Lions struggled with the lowly Bears. They fell behind 3-0 late in the first quarter and went through a bit of a fright when Stafford hit his throwing hand on the helmet of a Chicago defender. He came back onto the field armed with the Michael Jackson glove, minus the glitter.
But in the 2nd quarter, Stafford starting shining on ‘em when he danced around in the pocket, evaded defenders, and threw a 48 yard bomb downfield to Smokey Robinson’s son receiver Marvin Jones, who made the catch to get the Lions’ offense inside the redzone. It led to a 29 yard field goal by Matt Prater to tie the game. Later in the second the Stafford to Jones combination proved fruitful again – this time Jones was held while the ball was in the air and attracted a pass interference penalty to give them great field position. Stafford & Company capped off a 10-play drive in just over two minutes with a 16 yard touchdown pass to the Last Dinosaur Anquan Boldin to get the offense into the endzone. That catch brought Boldin into the top-10 list for all-time receptions in NFL history, making his career worth the Hall of Fame discussion. Prater added another field goal in the 3rd quarter to extend their lead to 13-3. The Lions must have fallen asleep and assumed their ten point lead would carry them past the struggling Bears. But they were wrong – the Bears offense marched 75 yards in just four plays, and scored a touchdown to cut it to a three point game. The Lions continued to sleep through the alarm when their offense got all the way down near the goal line, but Stafford unnecessarily forced a pass into coverage on 3rd down and his ball was deflected and picked off. Detroit got the ball back later in the quarter and Stafford made another costly mistake – he threw late and inside to Boldin on an out-route, and Chicago’s corner picked him off and returned the pass 24 yards for a pick-six. The Lions were all of a sudden losing to the worst team in their division at home, late in the 4th quarter. This was no new territory for the Lions, who have had some sort of 4th quarter deficit to overcome in every single game they’ve played this season. Stafford went back to Boldin, who broke off a 23 yard reception to get the offense downfield. On 2nd and goal, Stafford dropped back to pass and back-pedaled in the pocket as ressure caved in. He eluded one defender, took off up field, broke a tackle at the goal line and ran over his own teammate Eric Ebron for a 7 yard TD to give the Lions the lead. Man, what a play! Time and time again the real Matty Ice as I’ve recently started to call him finds a way to lead his offense down the field to win the game, no matter the circumstances. He’s developed a short memory for the mistakes that usually get them in these holes – a trait you have to have with a gunslinger’s mentality. They were grateful the only way the Bears could move the ball downfield on the last drive is when their offensive lineman were holding, and they kept the Bears off the scoreboard in the final minutes to secure their fifth win in a row. This most recent comeback by Stafford marks his eighth 4th quarter comeback this season, the most by any QB in a single season in NFL history. The Lions will hope to keep their win streak alive this week as they head to the Meadowlands to face a team that just ended the longest active win streak in the NFL last Sunday.
The New York Football Giants upset everyone who claims loyalty to the Union last week when they beat America’s Team on primetime television. The Giants relied on their much-improved defense to limit big plays and get the offense the ball back every time Eli Manning decided he was in the giving holiday spirit and turned the ball over. It was a rough one for the G-Men early on after giving up a 31 yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Even later in the first, they gave Dallas the ball back after Eli dropped back to throw, his arm went forward, but his hand was full of all the promises that Donald Trump made to minorities once he’s sworn into office. That was a joke about being “empty”, folks. Come on. Stay with me. Eli fumbled the football and Dallas recovered. But luckily for Eli, his turnover didn’t do much harm because the defense came to play, and forced a turnover of their own. Cornerback Jenoris Jenkins, who was my MVP from that game, played Dallas’ Dez Bryant physically from the snap and came up with an interception after Bryant lost his footing on the route. Midway through the second quarter Eli figured it had been a solid eight minutes of game time that had passed since he last turned the ball over, so he decided he was due. He was sacked and lost the football, and the Cowboys recovered at midfield. The Giants caught a break at the end of the first half when Dallas failed to knock in a last-second field goal attempt, so after all of that excitement the Giants were down just 7-0 at the half. They were lucky that lightning struck twice for them in this game after Odell Beckham Jr misplayed a punt return that hit him in the leg, but he quickly fell on the ball to recover. The Giants went for and converted a pivotal 4th and short conversion on a pass from Eli to rookie standout Sterling Shepard, leading to the Giants first points of the game – a 39 yard field goal by Robbie Gould. The defense stepped up again toward the end of the 3rd quarter when Leon Hall came over the top to help Jenoris Jenkins defend a deep ball, and Hall picked off the pass inside the 10 yard line and returned it all the way past the 35. Two plays later, Beckham made up for his potential blunder earlier after he caught a slant pass from Eli and HOUSED that thang 61 yards for a touchdown, giving the Giants their first lead of the game. With a chance to extend their lead while marching into Dallas territory, Eli decided he wanted us to all stay up and watch this dogfight for a little longer, so he telegraphed his pass toward the left side and it was intercepted . The Cowboys were ready and primed to head downfield with a chance to finally exact revenge against their hated rival, but as soon as Dez Bryant made his first catch of the game, Jenoris Jenkins flew in and relieved Dez from his receiver duties, knocking the ball free and teammate Landon Collins recovered the fumble. Their defense suffocated the Cowboys down the stretch, preventing them from even getting close to midfield for an attempt to extend them game, completing the season sweep of the Cowboys as the only team that has beat them this year. Now at 9-4, the Giants have the confidence of a team that is willing to take on anyone in their conference come January assuming they secure a wild card spot. They will need Eli to protect the football much better this week against the Lions, who also have trouble with their quarterback and his tendency to be loose with the football. Whichever quarterback protects the football best, will leave this game victorious.
The New Orleans Saints’ playoff hopes officially ended last Sunday with a disappointing loss in Tampa Bay. We all predicted that game would be a shootout with the Saints’ top scoring offense and the Bucs’ propensity to air the ball out. But instead, we got a field goal fest (six to be exact) and only one touchdown – which wasn’t scored by New Orleans. In fact, Drew Brees hasn’t thrown a touchdown in his last TWO games. The consistent issues of this team over the last few years is evidence the franchise needs to go in a different direction and that may result in coach Sean Payton catching the Jeff Fisher special once the season finally comes to an end. The Saints’ offense has been great over the years. Historically great. But we all know defense is what wins championships, or at least gives you a shot to compete for one by making the playoffs. The Saints give up the third-most points and allow the fourth-most passing yards in the league. And in the NFC South where you play against arguably four of the league’s top-10 quarterbacks, you HAVE to find ways to stop teams from marching up and down the field at will. But before the Saints can solidify their vacation itineraries, they have to go to Arizona this Sunday to play the Cardinals, who were equally disappointing last week. They keep inventing ways to ruin the great season David Johnson is having as well as waste the victory lap of Larry Fitzgerald’s final years. For every one step they take forward, Carson Palmer throws two interceptions and sets them back. Many people around the football world picked the Cards as a Superbowl favorite but now at 5-7-1, the only thing they are predicted to have is a middle-of-the-first-round draft pick in 2017. Their loss in Miami last week started off in typical 2016 Cardinal fashion – a Carson Palmer interception. He threw a pass high and behind Larry Fitz, it was tipped up into the air and corralled by a Dolphin defender.
Miami quickly turned Palmer’s mistake into points to take a 7-0 lead. But three plays later receiver JJ Nelson was handed the ball on an end around and showed his speed, running 56 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed the extra point so the Cardinals couldn’t quite tie the game. On the ensuing drive, the Cardinals elite pass defense showed its pretty face when cornerback Marcus Cooper jumped an in-route and wrestled the ball away from the receiver for an interception. But in typical Cardinals fashion, when they get-ith, they give-ith away. The heavy rain conditions contributed to David Johnson losing both his footing and the football, and Miami was gifted another turnover. After the defense held Miami at bay, Carson returned to his treacherous ways late in the 1st quarter on a 3rd & short as he was pressured and panicked in the pocket, and threw the ball late across the middle to Fitzgerald.
Of course, it was intercepted.
The Dolphins scored again to increase their lead to 14-6. The Cardinals relied on Johnson again, who held onto the football and broke off some key runs to get Catanzaro in range for a 41 yard field goal that he ended up clanking off the right upright – no good. Luckily, he got another chance before the the half and nailed a 56 yarder to cut the score to 14-9. But in the beginning of the 3rd the Cardinals defense broke down and missed three tackles that allowed a 71 yard pass completion, leading to another Miami touchdown. Palmer finally got the offense going ealry in the 4th capping off an impressive 12-play 99 yard drive with a touchdown pass to Brittan Golden. But Catanzaro’s extra point was blocked, picked up by Miami and returned the length of the field for two points, so they still trailed 23-15. I’m starting to think Arizona should only let him kick the ball when it’s moved back to the 40 yard line…
Late in the 4th quarter the Cardinals offense showed us what they could be if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Palmer went back to Nelson and Johnson again, as Nelson caught an 8 yard TD pass from Palmer that was thrown perfectly between two defenders, and Johnson caught a quick pass on the two point conversion to suddenly tie the game. But the Dolphins backup QB marched them downfield in the rain and in the final seconds, kicked and made the game winning field goal, and the Cardinals suffered yet another heartbreak. This Saints-Cardinals matchup looks good on paper and has the potential to be a good game. But both of these teams struggle to get out of their own way, so I’ll keep this simple: if Carson Palmer doesn’t throw two interceptions, Arizona wins. But if Drew Brees finds a way to get on the scoreboard and he throws two touchdowns, the Saints win. Cheers to random predictions!
The Falcons returned to victory lane after dominating the Rams in Los Angeles last week. They scored six (6), count ‘em, SIX touchdowns. This wasn’t even a contest, so let us count the ways in which the Falcons ran up the scoreboard:
Rookie linebacker Deion Jones took a pick-six 33 yards for a score
Coleman added another 6 yard TD run…
Do NFL coaches get paid unemployment?
Vic Beasley added a 21 yard scoop-n-score
It got so bad, the Falcons brought in Matt Schaub at quarterback. I didn’t even know that dude was still in the league, let alone back in Atlanta! When I saw in the box score that he threw two incompelte passes AND two defensive touchdowns were scored in this one, I automatically thought Schaub threw two of his infamous pick-sixes. But they were scored by Atlanta, so Mr. Schaub is safe. All Hail the 6-God! Now that that’s over with, I hope y’all realize it’s going to get even worse this Sunday as the Falcons welcome the 49ers to town, who are even worse than the Rams if you can imagine that. Barring something insane happening, the Falcons better pick up their ninth win.
The New England Patriots proved once again why they have been the most successful organization over the last decade after they dismantled the Ravens on Monday night, a team many considered their best rival. Bill Belichick must have brought in Hermione Granger to devise their game plan because that shit was Magic is Might-like (Chapter 12 for the real Potter heads out there). As always, they took away their opponents’ strengths. In the Ravens’ case, that includes their run game, their special teams, and their deep passing game. After Malcom Brown and Patrick Chung tackled the Ravens’ running back in their own endzone for a safety, they were able to force the Ravens into throwing the ball more than they wanted. While facing the league’s best kicker, the Pats took a page out of Seattle’s book by having Shea McLellin leap over the line to block the field goal kick. On the defensive end, New England decided instead of trying to pressure QB Joe Flacco, they were willing to drop eight defenders into coverage, forcing the Ravens to check the ball down to shorter passes which eliminated Flacco’s ability to take his infamous deep shots downfield. The Patriots built a 23-3 lead into the 3rd quarter and were visibly running away with this one until they learned they had a traitor on board. Rookie return man Cyrus Jones who is in fact a Baltimore native, decided he couldn’t watch his hometown team go out like that. He muffed the punt and the Ravens recovered at the 3 yard line, eventually turning Cyrus’ mishap into points. The Ravens managed to cut the deficit to 23-17 and all of a sudden, the Patriots found themselves in a tight game. But that didn;t last long once Jamie Lannister AKA T.F.B. AKA Tahm da Gawd AKA Tom Brady decided he had seen enough of these three-eyed Ravens. Brady found receiver Chris Hogan butt naked down the seam ON THE VERY NEXT PLAY, and Hogan took the ball 79 yards untouched into the endzone to put the Patriots out of reach of the Ravens, who couldn’t generate enough offense or get enough stops on defense to pull off the comeback. Sitting pretty at 11-2, the Patriots take their show on the road to Denver this Sunday to play the Broncos.
The Broncos were probably the most disappointing team in the AFC last week after they were overwhelmed in Tennessee. If you woulda told the Broncos they would hold the Titans’ Marcus Mariota to just 6 of 20 for just 88 yards through the air before the game, they would take that in a heartbeat and assume they easily won the game. They wouldn’t have thought they’d give up 180 yards rushing to the Titans, who came out the gate and pounded the Broncos into a double-digit deficit. They couldn’t even win a fight after a Tennessee’s Harry Douglas cowardly dove after a Broncos’ Chris Harris’ knee, and teammate Aqib Talib went after Harris on the sideline. Talib was slung out of the pile like a misbehaving child but I fully support Talib’s actions here as it was a bush league act by Douglas that could have hurt Harris and maybe ended his career. The Broncos were down 13-0 into the 4th quarter and failed to score points on a 4th & goal. But Siemian was able to get the offense back into the redzone using his legs to extend plays and find his receivers downfield. He eventually connected with Emmanuel Sanders for a 3 yard touchdown to score their first touchdown of the game. The offense got the ball back later in the quarter and was able to put up a field goal to cut the score to 13-10, but not before Siemian hit Demaryius Thomas on a spectacular catch to give them good field positioning (Broncos Thomas catch) The Broncos’ defense was able to hold Tennessee and get Siemian and the offense the ball back, and with just over a minute-and-a-half left, they tried to orchestrate a comeback. Siemian hit tight end AJ Derby for another first down, but as Derby went to the ground he was stripped of the ball, lost it, and the Titans recovered to end any chance of a Denver comeback.
The Raiders fell from the top of the AFC to not mentioned at all after a humbling loss in Kansas City on Thursday Night Football. Their positioning in the playoff standings drastically changed, dropping from the #1 overall seed down to #5 at the wildcard spot. Now that one loss doesn’t end the Raiders’ post-season hopes by any means – they’ll still make the playoffs and could potentially win the division if the Chiefs happen to drop a game or two down the stretch. But this loss was evident (and a bit self-affirming for my own selfish reasons) that the Raiders’ style of play and their propensity to pull off comebacks late in games would end up biting them at some point. One of their biggest issues in the game was the offense’s inability to convert on 3rd downs (5 of 18). They were also without their best offensive lineman Keleche Osemele , whose absence cannot be undervalued. The Raiders were bombarded by the Chiefs in the second quarter as their offense struggled to move the ball through the air in the frigid temperatures. Kansas City exposed the middle of Oakland’s defense and had no trouble moving the ball downfield. The Raiders’ special teams’ unit gave up a 78 yard punt return that put them in a 21-3 hole. Toward the end of the 2nd quarter the Raiders finally put together a 92 yard drive including some key 3rd down conversions to get them downfield. They capped it off with a goal line TD run by Latavius Murray (102 yards, TD) to get back into the game.Right out of the 3rd quarter, Oakland’s maligned defense finally made some plays. Safety TJ Carrie jumped in front of Alex Smith’s throw, intercepting the pass and returning the football inside the Chiefs’ 20 yard line. Derek Carr threw a pass to receiver Seth Roberts in the endzone, but Roberts couldn’t come down with the ball and they had to settle for another Sebastian Janikowski field goal to cut the score to 21-13. On the very next play of KC’s drive, Khalil the Big Mack continued his great play this season by stripping Smith, and teammate Denico Autry fell on it to give the offense the ball. Now, if I would have told you Oakland would force two turnovers coming out of the half AND that they would hold KC scoreless for the rest of the game, you’d probably be willing to bet the Raiders pulled off their prototypical second-half comeback and won this game right? Well, it definitely felt like it would happen as Latavius Murray dragged Chief defenders down inside the 10 yard line for a first down. The offense failed to punch in a touchdown and had to settle for yet another Janikow—oh wait. The field goal snap went awry and punter/holder Marquette King (who is secretly one of my favorite players in the league) had to pick up the ball but couldn’t run far or fast enough to get a first down. In the 4th quarter the Raiders’ offense missed on a crucial opportunity on a 3rd & long when Carr avoided pressure, stepped up in the pocket and took a shot downfield to an open Amari Cooper, but Coop was unable to adjust to the football in time to get under it and the pass fell incomplete. Later in the 4th the Raiders were at midfield and opted to go for a 4th and short. Carr found Roberts coming across the middle who got past the marker, stayed on his feet and got the offense down inside the 25. The Raiders were faced with a 4th & 1 inside the 15 but before Carr could even snap the football, there was movement on the offensive line and they were penalized for a false start. Carr was left looking around trying to find the culprit who set their offense back, and it was none other than lineman Austin Howard looking guilty AF!
Come onnn, Austin!
As a result, the offense was backed up even further and had to rely on a prayer from Carr to Roberts – pass that ultimately fell incomplete short of the goal line. The Raiders dropped to 10-3 and watched their their six game win streak come to an abrupt end. They’ll head south to take on the Chargers who suffered a painful loss in Carolina last week. And I don’t just mean painful in the sense of “awww man we suck.” I mean painful like two of their best young stars left the game with injuries. While running back Melvin Gordon tried to recover one of QB Phillip Rivers’ five inexcusable turnovers, a Carolina lineman dove into Gordon, forcing him to fall awkwardly and reportedly injure his hip. It didn’t look good at all and Gordon was eventually carted off the field – a terrible moment for Gordon who was on pace for a Pro Bowl season in just his second year. Later in the game rookie linebacker Joey Bosa tried to hit Cam Newton and went down with an apparent neck injury. Bosa was the front runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and it will be unfortunate for both Bosa and the team for their young players to miss reps, no matter what their record is. The Chargers have been playing through key injuries for the past few years, but now short-handed, deflated, and with Phillip Rivers’ off the rails, this game will surely serve as a rebound game for Oakland as they return to favorable weather conditions to prepare for a final playoff push.