Time to do the Ickey Shuffle, Bengals fans!
Cincinnati getting their first win over the Jets was the biggest upset of the week, but let’s not forget about Washington taking down Carolina and DeVante Parker and the Dolphins driving a stake into the hearts of Eagles fans. Throw in the fun Turkey Day slate and the other marquee games, Week 13 showed us a lot. With so many choices, it was hard to pick this week’s takeaways, but I think these are the most important ones going forward.
1. THE PATRIOTS OFFENSE IS OFFICIALLY A CONCERN
I’ll take “Things to Regret Saying by February” for $600, Alex!
It feels like we do the same song and dance every season with the Patriots, but this year feels different. New England lost their second game of the season Sunday night, falling to Houston 28-22. Tom Brady’s stats don’t look terrible on the surface, but much of his 326 yards came while the Pats played catch-up in the fourth quarter. His stats in the past three games have been ugly as well. His receiving corps is very underwhelming, but this type of inaccuracy is stunning to see from the greatest of all-time.
Credit to Deshaun Watson for getting a statement win and showing out against the league’s best defense. This win firmly puts them in the driver’s seat for the AFC South title despite Tennessee’s win. For me, this was more about the Patriots and their struggles offensively, and it will be interesting to see if they can get back on track against Kansas City next weekend.
2. RAVENS ARE THE NEW KINGS OF THE NFL
The most highly anticipated game of the season, San Francisco battled Baltimore in a possible Super Bowl preview. Both teams dealt with terrible weather throughout the day, but that simply meant both of their elite running attacks would be on full display. In the end, Justin Tucker’s time-expiring field goal handed the Ravens not only the 20-17 victory but the #1 seed in the AFC. Lamar Jackson was sensational once more, rushing for over 100 yards including this ankle-breaking cut on K’Waun Williams. The 49ers utilized their running game effectively as well, totaling 174 total yards with Raheem Mostert operating as the bell-cow. The unfortunate reality for San Francisco is they are in the NFC, and despite their superb record, they could easily fall to the #5th seed if Seattle keeps winning. Nonetheless, these two squads put forth an exciting performance that didn’t leave fans disappointed.
The Ravens will travel to Buffalo next week to take on the piping-hot Bills (more on that coming soon), while the Niners have another doozy when they take on the Saints in New Orleans. A possible NFC Championship preview? Perhaps.
3. A EULOGY FOR THE 2019 CLEVELAND BROWNS
Oh, Cleveland. Such expectations you possessed before the season began. Baker Mayfield in year 2, the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., an improved defense, Freddie Kitchens at the helm. It was difficult to see any lack of success, yet here we are.
In my last picks preview article, I called this game against Cleveland and Pittsburgh a loser-leaves-town match, and that exactly how I feel. The Browns blew an early 10-0 lead and wound up giving up twenty unanswered points to Pittsburgh in a 20-13 loss. That has been the story of the Browns this season. They’re like the pseudo-Mariota-led Titans where once they do take a somewhat sizable lead, you know they’re going to blow it. That fact falls on Freddie Kitchens, who I will be floored if he’s the head honcho next season. Devlin Hodges didn’t play great in his second start, but it was the Steelers’ excellent defense that sacked Baker five times and tossed the game-winning interception to Joe Haden on the last drive. The Steelers defensive line led by Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, Bud Dupree, and T.J. Watt rivals that of San Francisco’s and will be a tough matchup for anyone in the playoffs. Mike Tomlin will certainly get some coach of the year votes as well with the job he has done with this banged-up roster.
The Browns will need to win out to make the playoffs at this point, and that starts with a home game against Cincinnati. The Steelers travel to Arizona in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII.
4. TIP OF THE CAP TO BUFFALO
Something crazy happened on Thanksgiving Day. It wasn’t just me falling into a massive food coma. At approximately 8:30 P.M., I decided to stop underestimating the Buffalo Bills.
This is a team that I haven’t been much fond of, as I’m not a big Josh Allen fan and I felt their offense was going to be too inconsistent for a playoff run. Let me tell you guys how wrong I am. Allen put forth the game of his life at Jerry World, beating the struggling Cowboys 26-15. The second-year signal-caller from Wyoming has been on a tear lately, only throwing one pick in his last seven games. The major area of his weaknesses has been compromised, and I have to tip my cap to him. The thing with this Buffalo team is that every single week, they play their tails off. Sean McDermott has always been a good coach, and the front office led by general manager Brandon Beane built a roster that is gleaming with success. The Bills have one of the best fanbases in the league, and now that they are a near-certain lock for postseason play, it will be exhilarating to see the Bills Mafia show out this winter.
I can talk about how disappointing the Cowboys have been this season, and how Jason Garrett’s seat is scolding hot, but they are talked about more than enough. So here’s to the Buffalo Bills. I was very wrong about this team, and I’m happy to see their success and will be watching to see how far they can go.
5. WEEK 14 HOT SEAT TRACKER
Going back to last week’s edition of the Hot Seat Tracker, not much has changed. The biggest change is the near-lock that Freddie Kitchens will be out in Cleveland, but how did the other coaches fair?
Bill Callahan has won two games in a row for Washington, but I don’t see him being the long-term answer. The other six coaches who were listed all lost this week, so we’re up to eight possible openings. This week, I’ve decided to rank these jobs best to worst. I’m factoring in the roster, ownership, cap space, and location. Here we go:
1. DALLAS (It goes without saying that being the head coach of the most profitable major sports organization in the United States is at the cream of the crop)
2. NEW YORK (Even if Dave Gettleman is still on board, this is a legacy job for any coach. They have tons of young players and draft picks as well)
3. CLEVELAND (Working with the Haslams may seem unappealing, but this roster certainly isn’t)
4. CAROLINA (A lot of possible directions to go with this team, and a bevy of good young players on both sides of the ball)
5. ATLANTA (The lack of 2020 cap space hurts their ranking, but a great owner and location helps them out)
6. JACKSONVILLE (Great to be in Florida year-round, but an odd roster coupled with a QB controversy will give pause to some candidates)
7. DETROIT (Whoever they hire should get a 2-year deal because that’s the longest leash they’ll have)
8. WASHINGTON (Fun offensive nucleus, but working for Dan Snyder sounds about as fun as a prostate exam)
TNF PICK: DALLAS COWBOYS (6-6) [-3.0] vs. CHICAGO BEARS (6-6)
Are we really going to witness an 8-8 Dallas team in the playoffs over a 10-6 Rams squad? It’s a possibility.
Even with the Eagles’ horrific loss against Miami, Dallas needs to win this one just to get their momentum back. This Bears defense has been playing great lately, and they’ll get Akiem Hicks back this week. The Trubisky factor remains a concern for Chicago despite his wonderful performance against the Lions. Playing in the cold at Soldier Field is no easy task for any team, but I like the Cowboys to find success in the intermediate passing game against Chicago. Feeding Zeke will be difficult against this front seven, but Dak completing simple throws will be the key to getting back in the win column.
THE PICK: Cowboys (-3.0)