After some normalcy the previous week, the NFL got a little wonky again in Week 12. The Jets punked the Raiders, a Ryan Tannehill-led Titans squad dropped 42 on Jacksonville, and the Redskins finally won a game and proceeded to literally lose their quarterback.
This entire year has seen some crazy results, and Week 13 shouldn’t be any different. With three Turkey Day games, all of which are mediocre, and no more byes, it’s the homestretch for a lot of teams. There were a lot of highly touted games on tap this week, so let’s take a look at a few of them and also debut a new segment for the rest of the year!
1. IF YOU NEEDED ANY CONFIRMATION ABOUT SAN FRAN…
A game that was flexed to Sunday night due to the massive playoff implications at stake, the Packers traveled to San Francisco to take on Kyle Shanahan’s juggernaut. In what was an absolute shellacking from the very first Green Bay drive when Aaron Rodgers lost a fumble, the 49ers defense took over in a 37-8 victory. Robert Saleh, the Niners’ defensive coordinator, is certainly going to get love as a head coaching candidate this offseason for the work he has done. This ferocious pass rush of San Francisco made the Packers’ offense miserable all day, only giving up 198 total yards and sacking Rodgers five times.
What I find insane about this game is that San Francisco, for dropping 38 points, didn’t have an offensive explosion. What they did do, was move the ball down the field with chunk plays. Green Bay ran 25 more plays than the Niners, but the home team averaged 7.5 yards per play while Matt LaFleur’s visitors only averaged 2.7. Even when San Francisco isn’t dominating time of possession, they make the most of their opportunities. It’s a big reason why they’re in the driver’s seat for the NFC’s first seed.
Next week we have a potential Super Bowl preview when the 49ers travel to Baltimore and take on the Ravens. Green Bay will have a more than solid opportunity to get right against an awful Giants team.
2. A COACHING MISMATCH IN FULL DISPLAY
The Sunday afternoon battle between America’s two least favorite teams saw the expected winner and favorite New England Patriots squeak out a 13-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The weather was terrible out, so an offensive explosion wasn’t in the works. This Patriots defense showed out, however, holding the #1 ranked offense in the NFL to no touchdowns. This game wasn’t about the defense of the Patriots or lack-of offense from Dallas. It was all Belichick vs. Garrett.
Where Belichick played a very conservative game and was able to get first downs when needed, Jason Garrett’s performance was so bad he was called out by Jerry Jones after the game. That’ll put you on the hot seat! – more on that coming up. Dallas was 2 of 13 on third down, made several abominable special teams choices, and for some reason kicked a field goal down 7 in the #4th quarter in Pats’ territory. I mean… there is conservative and then there is playing scared. Cowboys fans have gotten too accustomed to that feeling over the Garrett era.
The Cowboys host Buffalo on Thanksgiving, and that game they must win. They’re in the lead for the NFC East title thanks to Philly’s play, but Jason Garrett shouldn’t feel any sort of comfort at all right now.
3. STICK A FORK IN THE EAGLES
I’ll eat some crow now because I foresaw Philadelphia with one of the best records in the NFL, and after their 17-9 loss at home to Seattle, they can nearly kiss the playoffs goodbye.
Carson Wentz left the game for a little after hurting his hand, but when he was playing he wasn’t very effective either. Wentz tossed two picks, but it’s hard to blame him with all of the wide receiver injuries this season. Throwing the ball to Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert twenty times a game isn’t going to take down a juggernaut like Seattle. As for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson didn’t play great, but it was the running game that won the game for them, especially Rashaad Penny and his 58-yard scamper of a touchdown. The Seattle defense also showed up in a big way, and that was without Jadeveon Clowney.
Philadelphia will most likely need to win out to make the playoffs, and this upcoming weekend they get the Dolphins. It’s been a highly disappointing year for Eagles fans, but there is still a sliver of hope.
4.A WIDE-OPEN AFC WILD CARD RACE
Barring injuries, New England, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Houston are all pretty much locks to make the playoffs in the AFC. The Bills may appear headed that way now, but their schedule the last five weeks will say a lot about how good they truly are. So who are the contenders? Let’s say hi to them all!:
Buffalo has the best record, but that is largely indicative of the powder puff schedule they have played so far. In their eight wins, those opponents have a combined record of 15-55 as of Sunday morning. We’ll need to see a solid performance against the Cowboys this Thursday to see if they truly have to goods to be a playoff team.
The AFC North has two contenders in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The Steelers are insanely banged up and benched Mason Rudolph against the Bengals, but a coach like Mike Tomlin will certainly always have his team ready to compete. Cleveland has been on a tear lately, and they destroyed Miami thanks to three Baker Mayfield touchdowns. Their schedule the rest of the way bodes well for their chances at a playoff spot, as they take on Cincy twice, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and a big challenge versus Baltimore.
The AFC South has another two in Indianapolis and Tennessee. The Colts are starting to reel a little bit with Jacoby Brissett’s poor play and injuries, but Tennessee has experienced a rejuvenation with Ryan Tannehill. These are two teams that wouldn’t shock anybody if they snuck in as a #6th seed, but nobody wants to see that.
Finally, the AFC West has Oakland, but they look like massive frauds after making Adam Gase and Sam Darnold look like bill Walsh and Joe Montana on Sunday. The Raiders are a fun team that has a lot of potential, but I don’t foresee a real contention for the playoffs this season.
I chose the Steelers and Browns to make the playoffs in my midseason predictions, and I’ll stick with it. Those are the two most interesting teams that could make it and their schedules are very favorable.
5. WEEK 13 HOT SEAT TRACKER
A new segment for the rest of the season, this is where we’ll keep track of the head coaches on the hot seat and their fate at the end of the year. I will update this every week based on what I’m hearing and recent results.
Last season we saw an astonishing eight head coaches fired. I don’t think we’ll reach that number this year, but we should see several coaches given the pink slip. So who are the most likely ousters?
It looks awful for an organization to fire a head coach after only one season, but there is a chance we see at least one gone. Zac Taylor should be given another year to turn the ship around in Cincinnati, Vic Fangio needs a quarterback for Denver to be successful, Adam Gase was already given a seal of approval to return from Jets owner Chris Johnson, and Freddie Kitchens has had a nice three-week stretch that has certainly helped him out. Out of this group, I would say Kitchens is the most likely to be fired if Cleveland blows it down the stretch. Redskins’ interim coach Bill Callahan will undoubtedly be replaced as well.
As of Week 13, the other teams I see making a change or close to doing so are:
JACKSONVILLE (Doug Marrone has had a poor two years since their breakout in 2017, and Shad Khan may want to bring in a new face)
DETROIT (Matt Patricia has made the Lions regress thanks to his lack of accountability, and that was before Matt Stafford got hurt)
CAROLINA (Ron Rivera is one of the most respected coaches in the game, but his lack of success recently combined with a new owner has his seat on high temperature)
ATLANTA (Dan Quinn and his defensive “expertise” has dissipated, and it would be shocking to see him return)
DALLAS (Even if Jason Garrett makes the playoffs, an early exit could lead Jerry Jones to shake up the structure of his team)
NEW YORK (With every week passing, it’s looking like Pat Shurmur will be let go)
THANKSGIVING DAY GAME PICKS
CHICAGO BEARS (5-6) [-1.0] vs. DETROIT LIONS (3-7-1)
The first of three Thanksgiving Day games, we get an NFC North showdown between the Chicago Bears and the Turkey Day-staple Detroit Lions. Both teams are basically out of the playoff picture barring some miraculous, and Matt Stafford being out really dampens the appeal of this game. Without Stafford in the game, the Lions have zero identity. Jeff Driskel is just a guy, and the defense has been bland to say that least. Mitch Trubisky actually played very well against the Giants on Sunday, but who doesn’t if we’re being honest? The Bears defense has still looked really good, so that fact compounded with a Lions team that has been nauseating to watch lately makes this selection quite easy to me.
THE PICK: Bears (-1.0)
BUFFALO BILLS (8-3) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (6-5) [-7.0]
Easily the best game on Thanksgiving, Dallas will try to avenge its loss against one AFC East team when they try and beat another in the Bills. Buffalo put forth an incredible defensive effort against Denver on Sunday, holding Brandon Allen and company to only a field goal while sacking him four times. Tre’Davious White shut down Courtland Sutton and will be tasked with shadowing Amari Cooper in this matchup. On paper, Dallas should handle this team quite easily as the Eagles did about a month ago. If there is a get-right spot for the Cowboys it’s this one. They have to be ready to play, though.
THE PICK: Cowboys (-7.0)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-2) [-7.0] vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (3-8)
The NFL schedule prognosticators surely expected this one to have a little more pizazz to it, but the Falcons defense has made that impossible. While the Falcons upset the Saints only a few weeks ago, they seem to have lost every ounce of momentum following a demoralizing loss to Tampa Bay. The Saints currently have the #2nd bye in the NFC, but losing to bad teams like Atlanta surely won’t help. Expect an aggressive game from the offense, and while it may be high-scoring, their defense should get more stops than it did against Carolina.
THE PICK: Saints (-7.0)