Sunday’s Week 13 action was a little less dramatic than the last few weeks of football. Nonetheless the results still had a critical impact on the playoff outlook, moving into the final month of the season.
Player of the Day: The man of the day was Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots’ quarterback now holds the record for most wins by a starting quarterback (201) in both the regular and post-season, eclipsing the previous mark of rival, Peyton Manning. Among an immense catalogue of achievements, this surely ranks as one of his most impressive accolades, for a guy driven and motivated by competition.
Brady and the Pats were far from perfect against a disappointing Rams team, but they never looked under threat at all against LA and rookie quarterback, Jared Goff. The Rams continue to be a seriously underwhelming franchise and the news of Jeff Fisher’s contract extension will hardly inspire greater faith among the media or the Rams’ fan base.
The Baltimore/Miami clash had playoff implications written all over it. Regrettably only one side turned up to play football. Ravens’ quarterback, Joe Flacco had his best outing for 2016 unloading 381 passing yards and 4 touchdowns on the Dolphins’ defense. The win ensures Baltimore remain in the lead of the AFC North (Pittsburgh shares the same record, but the Ravens carry the tie-breaker), and move a step ahead of Miami in the wildcard race. For the Dolphins, after six super impressive weeks, Sunday’s performance was hugely disappointing. Both sides of the ball struggled enormously and they’ve now fallen a game behind the 6th seeded Denver Broncos.
The Chicago Bears surprised many onlookers with a strong running game performance that led to an impressive victory against a hapless 49ers team. The 49ers and in particular Colin Kaepernick had shown indications of improvement over the last month, but all that work came undone spectacularly as Kaepernick threw for only 4 yards before being pulled for Blaine Gabbert. This performance probably puts to bed any chance of Kaepernick remaining a chance of retaining the starting job in 2017.
The Bengals put in arguably their strongest performance of the season in a 32-14 demolition of the Eagles. Andy Dalton flourished for the first time without star wideout, AJ Green, as he threw for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nine different receivers made receptions as Dalton spread the ball around to compensate for the loss of Green and running back Giovanni Bernard. Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ offense still struggle to move the ball downfield when not in garbage time. Considering their tough schedule down the stretch, the Eagles will be looking to 2017 and improving their array of pass catchers to help Carson Wentz.
A snowy Lambeau Field set the perfect scene for a second straight Packers victory over a fading Houston Texans. The Packers’ defense had a strong showing, limiting the Texans to only 13 points and 202 yards through the air. Houston’s ground game was also barely visible, Lamar Miller had 14 carries for only 22 yards. Aaron Rodgers was solid once again, and his evening was highlighted by 32 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Jordy Nelson. Both teams now sit at 6-6, but are trending in two completely different directions.
Game Of The Day: Kansas City continued on their impressive form, coming from their thrilling overtime victory in Denver last week, with a crazy win in the Georgia Dome, against the Falcons. Chiefs’ safety was the star of the game with two enormous interceptions. Berry had a pick-six late in the first half to give the Chiefs their first lead of the game. Then after a Falcons’ touchdown drive that gave them a 1-point, offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan opted for a two-point conversion, searching for 3 point lead. The ensuing play went horribly wrong, Ryan threw an endzone interception, to the man of the moment, Eric Berry. He promptly returned it 102 yards to make it 29-28, Kansas City. Game. Set. Match.
The Broncos’ championship defense returned with a vengeance against a hapless Jaguars side. Scores were relatively close for the greater part of the match, until a 51 yard pick-six from cornerback Bradley Roby ensured the game was Denver’s. With starter Trevor Simeon inactive, first rounder Paxton Lynch was given his 2nd career start. Lynch wasn’t given a whole lot to do, and didn’t achieve a whole lot either. He went 12/24 for 104 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 turnovers.
The Detroit Lions continue to be the surprise packets of the year. Defeating a Saints team in their own dome is no easy task, but the Lions did it, comfortably outplaying the Saints in all facets of the game. The Lions kept Drew Brees in check for the overwhelming majority of the game, intercepting the star quarterback three times. On the other side, Matthew Stafford continued his strong level of play, with a 70% completion rate, 340 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 66 yard strike to Golden Tate. The Lions now hold a two-game lead in the NFC North, whilst the Saints definitely won’t be competing come January.
After an early scare, the Oakland Raiders maintained their impressive record and continue to sit with the number 1 seed in the AFC. Down 24-9, the Raiders piled on the points in the second half to runaway winners, 38-24. Derek Carr made multiple key throws down the stretch and the Raiders’ running game returned with Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard averaging 4.1 and 5.9 ypc respectively.When running back, LeSean McCoy has 191 yards from scrimmage and the Bills still lose, there has to be serious questions asked of the defense.
The Cardinals’ post season hopes ended last week in Atlanta, but to their credit they bounced back well and put in arguably their strongest performance of the season against the Redskins. Once again David Johnson was the star, gaining 175 yards from scrimmage with a pair of touchdowns. Carson Palmer had one his stronger performances, 300 yards through the air and 3 touchdowns. For the Redskins, their second straight defeat pushes them out of a playoff spot for now. Kirk Cousins was held in check by an impressive Cardinals’ defense, and now they’ll need to respond next week in Philadelphia if they’re to stay in contact with the playoff field.
The New York Giants’ six-game winning streak came to an end with a convincing defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Once again the Giants’ offense struggled to move and score points, and was certainly not helped by a terrible Eli Manning pick on the Pittsburgh 2-yard line in the second quarter. The Steelers clearly felt comfortable about their defenses ability to limit the Giants’ offense, Le’Veon Bell spent most of the second half running the football and denying the Giants time with the football. Antonio Brown made yet another spectacular touchdown catch in the back of the endzone, despite the attention and close coverage of Giants’ corner, Janoris Jenkins.
The Buccaneers’ November revival continued as they formally ended the season of the luckless San Diego Chargers. In typical Chargers fashion the game came down to the final possession, and in even more typical Chargers fashion it ended on a Philip Rivers interception. Jameis Winston had another solid game, but was still held reasonably in-check by a highly underrated Chargers’ defense. With Washington’s loss to Arizona, the Buccaneers are now sitting in the 6th seed position, with a reasonable final schedule of games to come.
Sunday Night Football: One of the most highly anticipated clashes of the year, Panthers at Seahawks, when the schedule was released has been dampened somewhat by Carolina’s disappointing year. And yet again, the Panthers were completely outclassed by a more dominant opponent. Head Coach, Ron Rivera, made the stunning call to bench Cam Newton for the first play of the game for a dress code issue. On that very play, backup quarterback Derek Anderson rolled out of the pocket to his right, threw a short pass to fullback Mike Tolbert in the flat, that promptly bounced of his hands and into those of a Seahawks’ defender. That basically summed up the game and the season for the Panthers in a nutshell.
Monday Night Football: The Indianapolis Colts moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the AFC South, after a thrashing of the helpless or perhaps the hopeless New York Jets. Andrew Luck tore a lazy and disinterested Jets’ defense apart, going, 22-28 for 278 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dwayne Allen had 3 touchdowns for the night, two of which saw him standing alone in the endzone, with not a single defender within cooee. The Ryan Fitzpatrick era has also surely come to an end, after a diabolical first half performance. Bryce Petty played through the second half, and yet it appears inevitable that the Jets will need to utilize one of their early round picks for a quarterback come April’s draft.