The 2019 NFL season is rapidly coming to a close, and Week 15 lent us excitement in a multitude of ways. Eli Manning won in what was his last likely home game for the Giants, the Raiders choked in their final home game at Oakland (fans weren’t happy, to say the least), and the Browns just discovered that Freddie Kitchens needs to be shipped to Siberia.
With all of that being said, there was a lot to take away from this week so here are the most prominent reflections of Week 15, plus a little hot seat update.
1. WHO’S YOUR DADDY, TENNESSEE?
The game of the week for Week 15 was the matchup between Houston and Tennessee for the AFC South lead. The game did not disappoint, and despite some ugly turnovers by both squads in the first quarter, it was the visiting Texans who reclaimed their first place stature in a 24-21 win.
After a poor first quarter, Deshaun Watson got hot in the second, hitting wide receiver Kenny Stills with two touchdown passes to give the Texans the 14-0 lead heading into halftime. The Titans got a score back in the third, and stud wide receiver A.J. Brown tied things up at 14 in the first two minutes of the fourth. Unfortunately for Mike Vrabel’s squad, both sides of the ball for Tennessee couldn’t hold up, as they gave up ten consecutive points and failed to score again until it was too late in the fourth. Credit to Houston for stepping up, especially on defense, following their embarrassing loss to Denver last week.
While these two teams will meet again in Week 17, things aren’t looking so hot for the Titans. They have the Saints and Houston left on their schedule, while the Texans can clinch the division next week if they take care of the Bucs on Saturday. It’s a tough blow for this team, and it makes you wonder where they would be if they started Ryan Tannehill the entire year.
2. AN NFC EAST CULMINATION IS APPROACHING
Both the Eagles and Cowboys won this past week, improving to 7-7 on the year ahead of their Week 16 matchup that will almost certainly determine the division winner.
The Eagles once again didn’t win impressively, as their defense allowed Redskins’ rookie Dwayne Haskins to have the best game of his young career. The Eagles are also incredibly banged-up at wide receiver, and outside of Miles Sanders (who had a special day) and the tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, his options were very thin. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they were down 27-24 and Wentz went to rookie wideout Greg Ward Jr., who caught five passes on the closing drive and the game-winning touchdown.
Dallas’ performance was much more dominant, as they destroyed the Rams 44-21 and put their playoff hopes on life support in the process. While Dak played a clean game and threw for two touchdowns, it was the Cowboys’ rushing attack that looked otherworldly. Rookie Tony Pollard ran for 131 yards and a score, while Zeke ran for another 117 and two trips to the end-zone himself. Speaking of running, Dallas only gave up 22 total rushing yards throughout the whole game. Their offensive line played incredible as well, allowing zero sacks on Prescott. So in a nutshell, this was a dominant performance from a team that needed one ever so badly.
Can Dallas replicate that success on the road next week, or will Philly be able to squeak out another victory? We shall wait and see.
3. LATE GAME INSANITY CAUSES NINERS UPSET
If it wasn’t for the brutal Oakland choke against Jacksonville, then this game for San Francisco would top that list.
Kyle Shanahan had worried his team would suffer a victory hangover following their barn-burning win against New Orleans last week, and that’s exactly what happened. The Falcons kept the game close throughout, and on the last drive of the game, Matt Ryan found Julio Jones for the game winning-touchdown to propel the Falcons to a 29-22 win. The 49ers looked mediocre for most of the day, dropping a lot of passes and losing two fumbles that proved to be crucial. Outside of George Kittle ad Raheem Mostert, nobody else really stepped up today. The Falcons, on the other hand, are now 5-9 with wins over two of the best NFC teams. Go figure.
This loss could prove pivotal in the NFC playoff picture, as now Seattle is the #1 seed and San Fran falls to #5. Shanahan will need to make sure his team is motivated next week against the Rams, or their stock could fall quickly.
4. THE JAMEIS WINSTON QUESTION
The Buccaneers kept rolling on Sunday, easily defeating the dreadful Lions 38-17 behind a masterful performance from Jameis Winston. The former Florida State gunslinger became the first quarterback in NFL history with consecutive 450-yard games and added another four passing touchdowns. Already without Mike Evans for the year, the Bucs may have also lost Chris Godwin to a hamstring injury during this game. Winston keeps chugging along, but Bruce Arians and the Bucs have a tough decision going forward. What is Jameis’ future in Tampa Bay?
Despite the high yardage games and touchdowns, he is the most turnover-prone player in the league. He got his weekly INT out of the way within the games first eight minutes, but now has 24 on the year. Looking at the Tampa Bay schedule, his turnovers have cost his team at least two victories, the opening against San Francisco and the London game against Carolina. The Bucs could be 9-5 right now, and still in the playoff hunt. Winston has also failed to show any improvement from his bad habits. He still scrambles too much, takes some of the worst sacks you will ever see and will take unnecessary risks.
At the same time, he has some of the best arm talent in the league and when he does make smart decisions, he truly looks like a top-5 quarterback. I fully expect Jameis to be franchise-tagged so Arians can have one more shot. If he can cut down on his mistakes, and the Bucs defense improves even more, this will be a sneaky playoff-caliber team in 2020.
5. WEEK 16 COACHING SEARCH
Another week, and despite some of the coaches on the hot seat pulling out victories (Shurmur, Quinn, Marrone, Garrett), nothing has really changed. Next week I will be making my final predictions on who gets fired and who stays, but I figured this week let’s look at some of the top candidates for these future openings and how they can be successful head coaches:
Urban Meyer (One of the best college coaches of all-time, Meyer appears interested to get back in the NFL after taking a year off)
Lincoln Riley (An young-offensive mastermind, he could depart Oklahoma following the playoff and get a massive payday)
Mike McCarthy (The former Packers’ coach wants back in the league badly, and Cleveland had a bevy of interest in him last year)
Ron Rivera (Despite being fired by Carolina this year, the defensive-minded coach would bring a passion and intensity to whatever next team he lead)
Robert Saleh (The 49ers’ DC has had a remarkable season, and a team would be intrigued by making the young, energetic coach their leader)
Greg Roman (Forget Lamar Jackson. The current Ravens OC has coached career seasons out of Tyrod Taylor, Colin Kaepernick, and Alex Smith)
Eric Bienemy (The Chiefs OC has obviously had a lot of success, and there are reports Washington is very interested)
Kris Richard (Dallas’ DC would be a perfect replacement in Arlington if Jason Garrett isn’t brought back)
Matt Eberflus (Despite the disappointing year, the Colts DC has done a stellar job with the talent he has)
George Edwards (Not the most popular name, but the long-time Vikings DC has been fantastic throughout his tenure in Minnesota)