The finish line is approaching for the 2019 NFL regular season, and the playoff picture is starting to sort itself out. Week 14 included the best game of the season so far, a massive upset in the AFC, and the quintessential Jameis Winston game.
Want some specifics? Here are five of the biggest takeaways from Week 14, all involving playoff-caliber teams (well, except maybe one).
1. PATRIOTS GET TASTE OF THEIR OWN MEDICINE
I’ll be honest, I thought New England would come out aggressive as ever in this game and stick it to Kansas City after last week’s performance. Nonetheless, the Patriots’ home win streak snapped at 21 (!!!) and the Chiefs came through with their largest win of the season 23-16. Credit Steve Spagnuolo’s defense for holding New England to only 16 points, but the argument could be made that the Pats got screwed over on several calls.
The officials for this game had a disaster night. First, they blew a Stephon Gilmore fumble-return touchdown dead. This has been one of the most frustrating mistakes in the league recently, seeing a potential game-changing play not count because the ref blew the whistle too soon. Second, they ruled this N’Keal Harry touchdown out of bounds, and Bill Belichick couldn’t even challenge it because he already used his on the Gilmore play. Lastly, Kendall Fuller got away with an egregious missed pass interference caller in the fourth quarter.
It’s hard to feel bad for the Patriots, however. This team has been the beneficiary of so many lucky and favorable calls to their advantage, the list is too long. This video could help.
Luckily for the Patriots, the rest of the season is a cakewalk, starting with the Bengals at home next week. Kansas City, who clinched the AFC West title after this win, will host a revitalized Denver team.
2. PLEASE RUN THIS BACK IN JANUARY!
After what many proclaimed as the game of the year last week between the 49ers and Ravens, San Francisco went to New Orleans and made that effort look minuscule in comparison.
In an absolute barn-burner that saw massive swings of momentum on both sides, it was the team led by Kyle Shanahan that earned a statement win over the New Orleans Saints 48-46 Sunday afternoon. Both Drew Brees and Jimmy Garoppolo had career games, including six total touchdowns for Brees. Both teams running games were neutralized for the most part, and San Francisco did an especially good job limiting the impact of Alvin Kamara. The Saints offensive line did an equally stellar job limiting the impact of the Niners’ front seven, as Brees was not sacked once. After taking a 46-45 lead late in the fourth, San Fran got the ball back and was able to set up the game-winning field goal thanks to George Kittle’s insane catch and run that could prove to be the most important play of the year. A masterful offensive performance from both sides who both showed how dangerous they will be in the postseason.
Thanks to the Seahawks losing to the Rams on Sunday night, the 49ers take back control of the NFC West. They look to further that gap when they host the Falcons next week in what should be another high-scoring affair. As for New Orleans, they welcome a struggling Indianapolis team.
3. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR JERRY?
Thursday Night Football between the Cowboys and Bears showed us a lot. That maybe, just maybe, Mitch Trubisky is starting to put things together (I’m not joking). That the Bears defense is still a problem for any team. Most importantly, that Jason Garrett is a dead-man walking.
Dallas is beyond lucky that half of the NFC East is fully incompetent, and the other 25% has been a massive letdown. In a 31-24 loss, the Cowboys feel to 6-7 yet still remain in the lead for the NFC East. It was reported on Sunday that unless Dallas goes on some miraculous playoff-run, the organization will be looking for a new coach. It’s a change that Dallas desperately needs because this truly is a Super Bowl-caliber roster. It never has and never will reach its potential pinnacle with the clapper Jason Garrett. Philly needs to win out to win the division, which includes another game against Dallas, and that seems much more plausible now because that team Thursday night looked like it plain quit.
The Rams, who are coming off an impressive performance against the Seahawks, travel to Jerry World in a game that will decide the future fortunes of both teams.
4. ANOTHER MAHOMES IN THE AFC WEST?
That title is extreme hyperbole, but Drew Lock has done nothing but impressed for Denver in his first two starts. In the biggest upset of the week, Lock led the Broncos to a 31-3 halftime lead and an eventual 38-24 victory over the Texans. The rookie signal-caller out of Missouri was absolutely lights out, throwing for 309 yards and three touchdowns while exemplary decision making and a cannon arm. The Broncos defense also showed up, specifically Kareem Jackson, who recorded 11 tackles, one pick and one touchdown against his former team. Deshaun Watson and the Texans looked out of sorts all day, turning over the ball three times and not playing a lick of defense. It’s games like this that make me feel skeptical about this Houston team, and with the Titans on one of the league’s best surges, their game this week will be massive in deciding who wins that division.
Vic Fangio’s first season hasn’t been very successful, but if Lock is the real deal, and they add a few pieces on defense and on their offensive line, this team could make noise towards the end of the season and for years to come.
5. WEEK 15 HOT SEAT TRACKER
Another week another coach is gone, as the Panthers fired Ron Rivera. As for the teams debating a coaching change, let’s see if anything changed.
I’ve already discussed the Cowboys and Jason Garrett, and that seems like a near formality at this point barring an NFC Championship Game appearance. Freddie Kitchens pulled out a close win against Cincinnati, but it wasn’t the type of performance to cool his seat. Matt Patricia may get the benefit of the doubt with Matthew Stafford’s injury, but his Detroit team played awful against Minnesota. Dan Quinn and the Falcons have shown to be better in recent weeks, but that alone shouldn’t save his job. Doug Marrone’s tenure in Jacksonville looks to be coming to an end, especially after the Jaguars joke of a performance against the Chargers. Pat Shurmur on the Giants looks like another lock to get the pink slip as well, especially after another loss to Philadelphia Monday night.
Throw in the Redskins replacing Bill Callahan, it looks like we have up to an eighth of the league once more with new coaches. Sometimes ownership makes surprise decisions (Arthur Blank has always had Quinn’s back), but many teams will be looking for a fresh start at head coach this week.
TNF PICK: NEW YORK JETS (5-8) vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-2) [-14.5]
The last Thursday Night Football game of the season is… a potential bloodbath?
It’s a shame the Jets weren’t as competitive as expected this season, or this could’ve been a sneaky interesting game. Gang Green defeated Miami Sunday afternoon, kicking a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Jets’ defense didn’t allow a touchdown to the Dolphins (seven field goals instead), but this Ravens team is a different animal. Quinnen Williams had his best game of the season last week, but he alone won’t be enough to stop Lamar Jackson. The only hope for the Jets is a nightmare, turnover-fueled mess of a matchup that they somehow come up on top of, but that’s unlikely. Big lines like this may scare some people, but the Ravens are the best team in the league right now.
THE PICK: Ravens (-14.5)