Recap – Week 14

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans

9-30 

After the game all anyone was talking about was Derrick Henry, who enjoyed the night of his life on Thursday, setting a new Titans franchise record with 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Henry joined Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett (1983) as the only players in NFL history with 99-yard touchdown runs. His came on his second of four trips to the end zone, it included ruthless stiff arms to A.J. Bouye, Leon Jacobs and Myles Jack, allowing him to tight-rope the sideline en route to the incredible score. After that he exploited the Jags defense again with TD runs of 16 and 54 yards. The home faithful were chanting his name for a chance to add a franchise-record fifth touchdown, he was finally stuffed deep into garbage time and will have to continue to chase that record.

The NFL world went wild on twitter with many players taking to the social media platform to express how it left them feeling.

Anthony Dixon was left shocked, whilst Bears RB Benny Cunningham felt it through his TV. 

Each team had a chance to wrestle control during a dramatic sequence that began with Ronnie Harrison‘s red-zone interception of Marcus Mariota late in the first period of play and ended with Henry‘s manhandling rampage in the middle of the second quarter. Titans rookie Cameron Batson then botched a punt return that resulted in a safety and Jacksonville driving down the field, who were eventually stonewalled by linebacker Rashaan Evans at the goal line.

Just five days after smothering the high-flying Colts in an impressive shutout, the allegedly rejuvenated Jaguars defense lost its discipline and sense of purpose. Their backbone just simply wasn’t there in one of the poorest displays of tackling we’ve seen from any team this year. Henry‘s 238 rushing yards now stands as the most by a player with 17 or fewer carries in NFL history.

On offense Jacksonville, who were playing with their backup QB and a patchwork offense, were simply outmanned. Cody Kessler has managed just one touchdown in eight quarters since replacing Blake Bortles. He struggled with the Tennessee third-down blitzes and doesn’t possess the arm power to pass his team back into a lopsided affair.

The Titans now see themselves move into a tie for the AFC’s No.6 playoff seed thanks to the Chiefs defeating the Ravens in OT.

 

Up Next:

Redskins v Jaguars – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Titans v Giants – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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New York Giants v Washington Redskins

40-16

It was the Redskins’ first game without either one of their quarterbacks, both suffering the same fate of a broken leg just a week apart. So in came Mark Sanchez, who had an ugly game from start to finish. The late-season addition had fans wishing he probably hadn’t started as he completed just 6 of 14 passes, had a pass tipped at the line, intercepted and returned for a touchdown, and threw another pass wide of a receiver just a few yards away, producing yet another interception. The Redskins’ defense also struggled to stop much of anything, thanks to the play of the rookie in red and white and the veteran wearing No. 10 on the other side of the field.

You have to feel for the Redskins who have had another promising season cut short by injuries. This change feels the most drastic, with Sanchez looking unfit to play and the rest of Washington following suit until he was replaced by Josh Johnson, who gave them a better chance moving forward – there’s no conceivable way he doesn’t start next week, even with his late interception, although their ceiling is dramatically low at this moment.

Eli Manning and Co. deserve credit for how they’ve rebounded in the last month. Sure they’ll be lucky to finish 8-8, but they seemed destined for 2-14 not so long ago. Manning has played well enough to earn consideration for a 2019 return and targets not named Odell Beckham have started to find some comfort within the offense. Sterling Shepard, Russell Shepard and Bennie Fowler all scored Sunday.

Saquon Barkley has all but wrapped up the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He dominated the Redskins on runs of all lengths, running over defenders for extra yards and hitting one cut and sprinting past them for a long score. His 78-yard touchdown run was an impressive display of speed, as he teased Ha Ha Clinton-Dix‘s pursuit angle simply by running past him. The running back is the main reason NY have won five games. They still need to figure things out at QB, but he’s been worth the No.2 pick.

 

Up Next:

Titans v Giants  – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Redskins v Jaguars – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

28-14 

The victory saw the Saints clinch the NFC South, marking the first time in franchise history the team have secured a division title in consecutive years. The win also improved the Saints’ record to 11-2, tied for the top seed in the playoffs. Their path to close out the season won’t be easy in the chase for the No.1 spot though. New Orleans have two divisional games against the Panthers and a Week 16 matchup with the Steelers. That said, two of their final three fixtures will be at home, where New Orleans are 5-1 on the season.

NOLA were sleep walking through the first half, totaling just 104 yards, en route to a 14-3 deficit. Their first second half possession produced an uninspiring three-and-out, then Taysom Hill happened. Hill burst through the Bucs coverage to block a punt at the 7:23 mark of the third period. That play woke his team up and they went on to score three straight touchdowns to seize control of the game.

Tampa Bay deserve praise for their spirited effort through the first half. Their defense held the powerful Saints offense in check, limiting Brees and Co. to just 3pts. Unfortunately they couldn’t carry the momentum into the second half, as Drew Brees threw a touchdown and scored on a 1-yard plunge to help the comeback.

Despite the loss, the Bucs have played inspiring football their past three games, going 2-1 in that span, under QB Jameis Winston, who threw two touchdowns on Sunday and a capable defense, which recorded an interception for a third straight game. Over that period, Tampa had seven interceptions after totaling just one through the first 10 games. With Winston and an improving D, the Bucs are in position to play spoiler in their final three games, as they face playoff hopefuls in the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys.

 

Up Next:

Saints v Panthers – Monday, December 17th (8:15pm)

Buccaneers v Ravens – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins

33-34 

The 9-4 Patriots were seven seconds away from winning their 10th straight AFC East title until the ‘Miami Miracle’ produced the most dramatic finish possible. The Patriots took a 5pt lead in the final seconds through a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The Dolphins then started with the ball on their own 31, Ryan Tannehill threw a dart to Kenny Stills who ran it 14 yards before passing off to DeVante Parker, who then thew to Kenyan Drake, who weaved his way through the shrinking and backward stumbling Pats defense on the final 52 yards of a seemingly impossible trek to the end zone, Gronk was the last man back for New England, he lost his footing and it was game over for the Patriots and another December win for Miami over their divisional rivals.

Tom Brady and his Patriots may have fallen for the second straight year in Miami, but the 41-year-old quarterback proved that humidity doesn’t hurt pliability. He connected on 27 of 43 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns and came up big later in the game when his side were doing all they could to get and stay ahead of the Dolphins. A big part of the Patriots offensive strength revolved around Brady‘s renewed connection with Rob Gronkowski. The tight end caught eight passes for 107 yards. Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon also caused problems for Miami’s defense, which was playing without their interception magnet, Xavien HowardHad it not been for a missed field goal by Gostkowski in the first half, New England would have secured their 16th straight season of double-digit wins and set a record for the most consecutive (10) seasons winning their division.

Brady achieved another remarkable career milestone, his 2-yard touchdown pass to Edelman saw him surpass Peyton Panning for the most touchdown passes, including playoffs in NFL history. The veteran now has 581 career TD passes. He wasn’t the only player on the field to etch his name into the history books though, Dolphins’ Frank Gore surpassed LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth all-time in yards from scrimmage. After his 92-yard rushing game, he now stands at 18,530 career scrimmage yards.

Tannehill performed decently despite being pressured often and being sacked by NE four times. He connected on 14 of 19 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns and survived an injury scare just before the break. Miami are now tied with the Ravens, Colts and Titans on 7-6 making the AFC wild-card race even more interesting.

 

Up Next:

Patriots v Steelers – Sunday, December 16th (4:25pm)

Dolphins v Vikings – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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Baltimore Ravens v Kansas City Chiefs

24-27 (OT)

After cruising through the first half, Kanas City QB Patrick Mahomes was stymied for the first three possessions after the break, getting battered by a Baltimore defense left, right and center, throwing for just 27 yards after the break. The signal-caller then hit the gas. The play of the game came on a fourth-and-9 with the Chiefs trailing by 7pts with 1:29 remaining. Mahomes scrambled away from the rush, threw across his body to Tyreek Hill downfield for 48 yards. The quarterback then tossed a touchdown to tie the game and used his arm to set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. He earned every piece of his 377 yards passing on the day, he was clobbered repeatedly by creative blitzes, getting hit 15 times and sacked three.

Lamar Jackson continues to makes strides as the Ravens’ starting quarterback. Once again their run game dominated for stretches, including an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, all earned on the ground. For the first time since he took over under center, the Ravens were held under 200 rushing yards, coming up just shy at 198. The rookie was up-and down passing, but found his footing in the second half. The run-game keeps Jackson in manageable down and distances. Of his 13 completions, 12 of them went for first downs or scores. Jackson, who threw two TD passes, has done enough to earn another start when Joe Flacco returns from injury.

Baltimore’s offense is much more difficult to defend when the rookie starts. However, they’ll be questions about his ability to run end-of-game drives. He was strip-sacked by Justin Houston with under 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the game tied. Only a Harrison Butker missed field goal gave the Ravens a chance in overtime. The young playmaker was also injured on the final drive. Robert Griffin III entered to throw the final two passes of the game that went incomplete. Jackson told reporters after the game that a player had landed on his ankle, but he’s fine.

The victory clinched a playoff spot for the Chiefs, who will face the LA Chargers for AFC West supremacy on Thursday night. With the Patriots’ loss they also sit in the pilot’s seat for the AFC’s No.1 seed. If they can hold onto this position for another three weeks they’ll earn home-filed advantage, which will be huge for K.C.,  playing at Arrowhead is a daunting prospect for any team.

The loss pushed the ravens into a tie for the AFC’s final wild-card spot. at 7-6 they’re tied with the Dolphins, Colts and Titans. The Ravens close out their season with games against the Bucs, Chargers and Browns, they’ll likely need at least two victories to reach the post season.

 

Up Next:

Buccaneers v Ravens – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Chargers v Chiefs – Thursday, December 13th (8:20pm)

 

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Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans

24-21 

The Colts’ offensive conundrums of the past two weeks lingered through the first quarter before Andrew Luck exploded for 223 yards in a second-quarter flurry. Unable to run the ball against J.J. Watt and without Jack Doyle and Ryan Kelly, Luck unfurled a litany of pinpoint darts to T.Y Hilton, whose speed and quickness unraveled Houston’s secondary. Hilton corralled nine passes for 199 yards. Indy desperately need Kelly back for next week’s tilt with Dallas.

Darius Leonard extended his NFL lead in tackles, racking up 12 to go with his seventh sack and a red-zone pass deflection in coverage of DeAndre HopkinsDenico Autry sacked Deshaun Watson twice, leaving him with five over the past two games.

Houston dominated the first quarter, only to find themselves unable to run the ball on offense or stop Luck on defense over the next three. After averaging 172 yards on the ground over the last six games, Houston managed just 89 on 25 carries. Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue were stonewalled by the Colts’ defensive front. Although the Texans’ nine-game winning streak came to an end, they can still enjoy a two-game lead over Indy with games remaining at the Jets, Eagles and at home to Jacksonville.

 

Up Next:

Cowboys v Colts – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Texans v Jets – Saturday, December 15th (4:30pm)

 

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Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers 

20-34 

The Packers need a win after the tumult the team endured following their boo-drenched home defeat by the Cardinals, leading to Mike McCarthy’s firing.

Aaron Rodgers spearheaded the fight, piecing together efficient drives that frustrated the injury-riddled Atlanta defense and kept the ball out of Matt Ryan‘s hands. His steady performance wasn’t anything as flashy as a $100m contract, but it worked perfectly in combination with impressive showings from Devante Adams and Randall Cobb, bolstered by Aaron Jones’ performance on the ground. Crowd pleasing tackles and hits by Blake Martinez and Clay Matthews also helped them get on their feet.

Joe Philbin had his first game in charge of Green Bay as their interim coach, he offered a look at textbook poor game management. On the opening drives he threw out the red flag twice for a pair of inconsequential plays. Worse, he lost both challenges, meaning he was out of replay redos for the remainder of the contest. Luckily his eagerness to reverse a pair of calls within the first 1:04 of the game didn’t cost them too much. He became the fastest coach in NFL history to use both of his challenges in a game.

The Falcons looked uncharacteristically bland on offense. After taking the lead on a seven-play, 75 yard drive to open the game, the Falcons fell silent. Ryan‘s season of bland then came into vivid display as they fell into an irrecoverable scoreboard spiral spurred by a missed field-goal and a 46 yard pick-six by Bashaud Breeland. A big chunk of the QB’s 262 yards on 28-of-42 passing came with the game already out of reach. With the amount of offensive weapons they have, it’s hard to fathom certain notable figures on the coaching staff won’t be gone by January.

 

Up Next:

Cardinals v Falcons – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Packers v Bears – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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Carolina Panthers v Cleveland Browns

20-26

Baker Mayfield penned another eye-popping afternoon, hitting his first seven passes for 161 yards and a touchdown with deep darts of 66 and 51 yards. The Browns hurt themselves with a missed extra point and a pair of lost fumbles by Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. It was Landry  who sparked the team with a beautiful 51-yard trick gallop to set up a fourth quarter Nick Chubb score. The Browns offense is a delight to watch for the first time in forever.

Cam Newton started well with throws of 25 yards to Curtis Samuel and 20 to Christian McCaffrey, but concerns remain. He’s still battling a shoulder injury, which was evident when he threw an awkward wobbler that fell short of Samuel  and was again relieved by backup QB Taylor Heinicke on a first-half Hail Mary attempt. Too many of his passes sailed high, including a fourth-and-goal misfire aimed at Jarius Wright in the end zone with 2:35 left in the game and the Panthers down six. Minutes later Newton returned and threw a game-ending pick.

McCaffrey scored on a pair of short runs, the second coming after Carolina recovered the Higgins fumble deep in Browns territory. The rookies also impressed on Sunday afternoon, Ian Thomas played his best game yet, whilst D.J. Moore showed off his hand strength with a few tough grabs and his elusiveness on a 40-yard catch and run.

The 6-7 Panthers remain mathematically in the race for an NFC wild-card spot, but they’re tough to take seriously when riding a five-game losing streak with two games left against the NFC South Champion Saints.

The 5-7-1 Browns would need a handful of contenders to be abducted by aliens in order to make the post season, though there’s something new filling the air for Browns fans for the first time in a long time, hope.


Up Next:

Saints v Panthers – Monday, December 17th (8:15pm)

Browns v Broncos – Saturday, December 15th (8:20pm)

 

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New York Jets v Buffalo Bills

27-23 

Sunday’s game pitted the second and third quarterbacks selected in the 2018 draft against each other. Sam Darnold threw an ugly interception trying to doo too much in the second half, whilst Josh Allen threw an even uglier one on first-and 25 when he could have easily thrown it away. Though they did both do some things well, including Allen rushing for over 100 yards and Darnold leading a game-winning touchdown drive that saw him run inside the 1 yard line. The next play, Elijah McGuire scored the go-ahead touchdown.

That drive and the Jets’ overall comeback effort in the fourth quarter, was punctuated by Darnold throws reminiscent of his best days at USC. The rookie put a beautiful ball on Robby Anderson down the sideline to get NY down to Buffalo’s 5. Earlier in the game it was his scrambling ability that produced a TD pass to Anderson to tie the game at 20-20. The signal-caller was missed during his three-game absence and games like Sunday (mistakes included and accepted) are why New York (4-9) remain hopeful on his future.

In the end it was Allen‘s mistakes that did the 4-9 Bills in. Desperate for yards, he threw a pass down the sideline and missed his intended receiver, instead landing in the hands of Trumaine Johnson. The rookie QB does make up for his passing errors by running for good chunks of yards, though that model isn’t sustainable and he’s already suffered from injury this season.

The game saw its fair share of injuries. LeSean McCoy left in the first half with a hamstring issue and returned to the sidelines in a sweatsuit. Chris Ivory left late in the game, leaving full running back duties to Marcus Murphy. Perhaps the largest injury of all was to the promising Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano who has played been the vital piece in the puzzle that is the Bills defense, leaving on the cart. On the other sideline, Darnold left early with a foot injury, though he did return to lead the Jets to a win and potentially saved his coach’s job or at least delayed his firing.

 

Up Next:

Texans v Jets – Saturday, December 15th (4:30pm)

Lions v Bills – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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Denver Broncos v San Fransisco 49ers

14-20

George Kittle dominated the first half, catching seven passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, ripping the gut out of Denver’s defense by taking short passes for long gains. He entered halftime just five yards from overtaking Shannon Sharpe‘s single-game receiving record for a tight end – and then he didn’t catch another pass for the rest of the game.

Realising Kittle was its main problem, Denver adjusted to take him away. It undercut San Francisco’s offense, which also became less aggressive for stretches of the second half. Kittle still contributed, with SF running route combinations off Kittle to get others open. A pass to Trent Taylor, which sealed the game was a great example of it, with Kittle running off a defender and leaving just one to cover Taylor, who had inside position.

On defense the Niners repeatedly pressed Case Keenum, sacking him twice and registering 15 pressures. The seemingly constant harassment of the QB left Denver in odd play-calling positions, running where they should throw and dumping it off in the flat out of a lack in confidence. Linebackers and defensive backs flew around the field, especially on third down. With a minute left in the third, Denver had converted just 1 of 9 third-down attempts. Two huge fourth-down stops in the final quarter kept them at bay.

 

Up Next:

Browns v Broncos – Saturday, December 15th (8:20pm)

Seahawks v 49ers – Sunday, December 16th (4:05pm)

 

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Cincinnati Bengals v LA Chargers

21-26 

After scoring touchdowns on their first two drives, L.A. were shut out of the end zone for the final 44 minutes, settling instead for four Michael Badgley field goals.

Behind Joe Mixon, the Bengals pulled within two points late in the fourth quarter, but an indecisive Jeff Driskel was sacked by Darius Philon on Cincy’s two-point conversion attempt and LA’s 10th victory was in the bag. This is the first time since 2009 that the Bolts have won at least 10 games. On the heels of their momentous win in Pittsburgh, Sunday’s win was a wake-up call for the slumbering Chargers, who now boast the AFC’s second-best record behind the rival Chiefs. The two AFC West foes will meet Thursday with division supremacy and play-off positioning on the line.

For the second straight week, Austin Ekeler filled in for the injured Melvin Gordon and had a stellar-bounce-back game, recording 94 total yards and a rushing touchdown on 17 touches. Ekeler suffered an apparent shoulder injury on Cincy’s onside attempt with just under two minutes remaining and looked to be in a lot if pain. It’s too early to tell if it will hinder his performance and playing time down the stretch, but on a short week, the last thing LA needs is another injury in the running back department.

 

Up Next:

Raiders v Bengals – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Chargers v Chiefs – Thursday, December 13th (8:20pm)

 

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Oakland Raiders

21-24 

Oakland entered the game with just two wins, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell by the way they played against Pittsburgh.

Ben Roethlisberger was nursing a rib injury during the second half that he suffered in the first, resulting in backup Josh Dobbs playing much of the final two quarters, but the Raiders’ effort was golden. Big Ben re-enterted the game in the fourth quarter after the Raiders went 17-14 up, he quickly led his team to retake the lead with a 1-yard TD pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster with 2:55 left. Counter-part Derek Carr responded by marching the offense down the field on a 6-play, 70-yard drive, which he capped off with a 6 yard touchdown pass to Derek Carrier with 25 seconds remaining.

The Raiders then got some outside help after allowing Smith-Schuster to take a lateral from James Washington and go 43 yards, setting up a potential game-tying field goal. Kicker Chris Boswell‘s left foot slipped as he planted and he kicked the ball low enough that the Raiders could block the attempt and seal the win to improve to 3-10 on the season.

Carr has received a lot of negative attention for his mistakes, as he should as the team’s QB, however, he more than deserves praise when he plays like he did late in the final quarter. He calmly executed through the fourth and brought the Raiders back from a 14-10 defeat with two TD passes, including the game-winner. He completed 25/34 for 322 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 122.4.


Up Next:

Patriots v Steelers – Sunday, December 16th (4:25pm)

Raiders v Bengals – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

23-29 (OT)

Amari Cooper was the hero of the afternoon for Dallas. The receiver corralled a tipped ball in overtime and took it home, his third touchdown of the day, for a victory over their division rivals. The win gives the 8-5 Cowboys a stranglehold on the NFC East with three games left to play.

Going into the break the score was a lousy 6-0 to Dallas, through a couple of field goals. The snore-fest however turned into fireworks late on, as the Cowboys and Eagles combined to score 31 fourth-quarter points to head to overtime tied at 23. After they won the coin toss, the Cowboys pounded the tired Eagles defense, milking most of the 10 minute period. Jason Garrett deserves credit for being bold enough to go for it on 4th-and-1 in field goal range to keep the ball away from Philly. The conversion led to Cooper’s game-winning performances three plays later.

The Cooper trade continues to pay dividends for the Cowboys. The Pro Bowl receiver took advantage of a beleaguered Eagles secondary, burning them for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 10 receptions. Cooper generated two big scores of 28 and 75 yards to put the Cowboys ahead in the fourth quarter. His final catch sealed the win and most likely the division. His arrival has completely transformed Dallas, he aided Dak Prescott on a day where the QB was struggling for stretches of them game. The signal-caller threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The mistakes kept Philly in a game the Cowboys were dominating everywhere but the scoreboard.

Prescott‘s best attribute is his resilient ability to bounce back from misfortunes. He threw a career-high 455 yards and completed 42 passes. Dallas mistakes – including continued red-zone woes, and three holding penalties on Tyron Smith – kept the contest close. Cooper‘s big plays extended the Cowboys’ winning streak to five.

Sunday’s loss drops Philly to 6-7, and, after failing twice to Dallas, the division figures out of reach. Whilst they are still in the hunt for a wild-card berth, with games against the Rams and Texans upcoming, the outlook is exceedingly bleak. Nothing they did for three quarters suggested they’re a team that can go on a late season run against playoff teams. Carson Wentz was all over the place for the majority of the game, tossing for just 48 first-half yards, finishing with 228 and 3TDs.

Facing a superior Cowboys defense played a big factor in the loss, but Wentz and the rest of the unit looked disjointed with inconsistent play. The offense generated just 256 yards, 16 first downs and had four 3-and-outs on the day. The furious finish to force overtime displayed promise, but like most of their season, the comeback fell short.

 

Up Next:

Eagles v Rams – Sunday, December 16th (8:20pm)

Cowboys v Colts – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals 

17-3 

The Lions are still technically in the hunt in the NFC, but they don’t look remotely close to a play-off caliber team. Matthew Stafford threw for just 101 passing yards against Arizona, his lowest career total in a game which he started and finished. With Golden, Tate, Marvin Jones and Kerryon Johnson elsewhere or injured, Detroit is suffering from a significant drain of offensive talent.

Zach Zenner led the way with 54 yards rushing and Kenny Golladay caught two balls on just four targets for five yards. They secured the win on defense with stellar secondary play, especially from Darius Slay and a good coverage at the line of scrimmage. David Johnson was targeted 10 times through the air but only ran for 12 yards on eight catches. The defining play of the game was Slay‘s third quarter pick-six, which came as a result of a poorly timed throw from Josh Rosen and one of Romeo Okwara‘s three QB hits.

Despite the victory, it was a costly afternoon for Detroit. Ezekiel Ansah and Rick Wagner both left the game early with injuries, as did Da’Shawn HandAnsah‘s aggravated shoulder injury could not only impact Detroit’s success in their last three games, but his contract situation this offseason. A dislocation, if diagnosed, would require offseason surgery, which would be a devastating setback for Ansah, who when healthy is deserving of a top pass-rusher’s compensation. Wagner was checked for a concussion and never returned.

The 3-10 Cardinals followed up their season-defining upset over the Packers with a typical snooze-fest. They mustered just three points in their own building and lost despite allowing just 10 offensive points. They reached the end zone just once and, down by 10pts, chose to kick a field goal from the 4 yard line. It’s safe to say it was a conservative call from a rookie coach in Steve Wilks. With the loss, AZ hopped the 3-10 Raiders and are now second behind the 3-10 49ers in pursuit of the top pick in next year’s draft.

 

Up Next:

Lions v Bills – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Cardinals v Falcons – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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LA Rams v Chicago Bears

6-15

In a clash between the league’s top offense and defense on Sunday night, the defense prevailed. The Bears held the world-beating Rams to just six points in prime time, complementing a stiff run defense with impeccable pass coverage for the full 60 minutes. Chicago held the Rams to a Sean McCoy era low of 214 total yards and forced a career-high four interceptions from Jared Goff.

The home side weren’t dominant by any means on the other side of the ball, Mitchell Trubisky thew three interceptions and was no better than his counterpart, but Chicago took advantage of their opportunities. The turning point came in the third when the Bears’ front seven seized the lead from a 6-6 stalemate with a safety. Trubisky responded with a nine-play touchdown drive, the lone one of the evening from either side. On the scoring play, Chicago brought in four eligible defensive linemen and threw it to the lone eligible offensive lineman, Bradley Sowell, for the score.

This defeat for the Rams was their ugliest since the end of Jeff Fisher’s era, particularly offensively. Credit should of course go to Khalil Mack, Prince Amukamara and Akiem Hicks for shuttering the Ram’s high-flying offense, however LA couldn’t get anything off the ground or on the ground for that matter. Todd Gurley, who leads the league in rushing, was held to just 28 yards on 11 carries, having just six totes through three quarters. The pressure on Goff never let up and the offense never started churning. After their first scoring drive the Rams had just one play in the red zone. It’s unnerving how, following that game against the Chiefs and the bye, LA have struggled to put together a complete offense game. Even worse for the Rams is that Sunday’s loss drops them to 11-2 and into a tie with the Saints atop the NFC Conference. Due to their loss to New Orleans earlier in the season, the Rams are now behind the Saints in the race for home-field advantage.

 

Up Next:

Eagles v Rams – Sunday, December 16th (8:20pm)

Packers v Bears – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

 

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Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks 

7-21 

It took a while for the game to get going. Nine minutes into the fourth quarter the Seahawks were up just 6-0, the Vikings had managed to cross midfield just once by that point.

Seattle’s defense followed in the footsteps of the Ravens and Bears this week, frustrating their opposing quarterback across the line of scrimmage, forcing stops with high pressure and proving that defense can still lead the way. Monday night’s defense was led by Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark and Shaquill Griffin, who helped to nearly shut out Kirk Cousins and an overwhelmed Vikings offense, holding them to just 276 total yards.

Minnesota attempted to lean on Dalvin Cook early on but he never really broke out. Then the dynamic duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen were, aside from one spectacular Diggs catch, held in check by Griffin and Tre Flowers. They lost Theilen for part of the fourth quarter after he’d hobbled to the sideline with what looked like an ankle injury, he was initially listed as questionable to return, but came back on with just over two minutes of the game remaining.

The Vikings had golden opportunities to get back into the game. They punted just once in the second half, but turned the ball over twice on downs – including at Seattle’s 1-yard line down six points when Cousins missed two wide-open options on an incomplete pass to Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. Minnesota had a 47 yard field-goal attempt blocked by Wagner and fell victim to a game-sealing strip-six in the final three minutes.

It’s the second consecutive poor performance at home for the Vikings offense, as the team fell to 0-5 against teams currently above .500. The defeat also turns the heat on Cousins, his performance didn’t look worthy of his $84m, he looked flustered in the face of Seattle’s pass rush en route to his league-worst 13th prime-time loss in 18 career attempts.

Minnesota now enter the final three weeks hanging onto the sixth seed by half a game with a divisional road test and two home games against playoff contenders upcoming. With their stacked roster that’s built to win it should be considered an organizational failure if they miss the postseason. If they continue to perform like they did on Monday night, that’s a very likely scenario. The control their own destiny now, but their chances of winning the NFC North and making its Week 17 clash with the Bears mean something are now slim to none. If Chicago beat the Packers next week, the North is theirs.

Seattle’s league-leading ground attack ran through a suddenly vulnerable Viking’s rushing defense on Monday, racking up 214 yards rushing on 42 attempts, for comparison they ran just 22 pass plays. Chris Carson (90yrds), Rashaad Penny (44yrds) and Mike Davis (22 yards) repeatedly found the outside. Russell Wilson iced the game with a fourth quarter, 40 yard scramble.

At 8-5 Seattle are all but assured a spot in the postseason. Whilst they can’t win the West, they are 1.5 games ahead of the swamp that surrounds the NFC’s sixth seed. The Seahawks end the year with one tough test, a home battle against Kansas City, sandwiched between two divisional away tilts at San Fransisco and Arizona.

 

Up Next:

Dolphins v Vikings – Sunday, December 16th (1pm)

Seahawks v 49ers – Sunday, December 16th (4:05pm)

 

 

ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN

 

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