NFL Week 12 Winners and Losers

Week 12 is almost finished and audiences are narrowing down what teams will head to the playoffs. Sunday’s games revealed who’s competing for a playoff spot heading into December and who’s ready for the offseason. It’s time to discuss who or what took positive steps toward a playoff run and who’s in a bigger hole on the last Sunday of November.

Winners: Eric Bieniemy and the Kansas City Offense

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has one of his best staffs ever, and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is sure to get interviews after the season. It’s hard to ignore him if you’re upper management in any NFL franchise.

The Tampa Bay defense is respected as announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo said in yesterday’s game. Chiefs quarterback and star of the league Patrick Mahomes made sure to exploit Tampa’s man coverage scheme, throwing to Tyreek Hill early in the game and not letting up. Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns; 269 of those yards and all three touchdowns went to Hill.

Bieniemy got the rest of the offense involved after a 17 point first quarter. The Chiefs ran the ball 20 times and Mahomes completed passes to seven different receivers. While Travis Kelce is the second best pass catcher on the team, Sammy Watkins eased back into the offense and Demarcus Robinson fits as a second wide-out option. Despite Pittsburgh’s 10-0 record, the Chiefs are the team to beat in not just the AFC, but the NFL with how their offense is ahead of everyone else.

Tennessee Titans

If any analyst or fan told you two weeks ago after the Indianapolis Colts dominated in Nashville that the Titans would grab the division lead, you’d be shocked.

The second round of Titans and Colts thrilled in the first half as the first five possessions produced touchdowns. The Titans lead after the first half 35-14 and didn’t look back. They embarrassed Philip Rivers and the Colts offense in the third quarter alone, prompting head coach Frank Reich to pull Rivers and put last year’s starter Jacoby Brissett in.

Bruising runningback Derrick Henry had a rivalry record 178 yards rushing with three touchdowns. On 27 carries, he averaged over six yards a carry against a top five defense. Take some of the injuries out for the Colts, it’s still impressive after they played each other two weeks ago. Receivers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis are locks for the franchise. Two years ago, this franchise couldn’t find a reliable receiver. Now they have two.

Head coach Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith got the Titans to the AFC Championship last year. This team looks better than they did during that run, something the stacked conference should keep an eye on. The Steelers and Chiefs are the top two teams, but Tennessee will have a bigger part to play in who represents the AFC in the Super Bowl this year.

Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams

Last night was a divisional game the Packers had to win. They didn’t just play perfect football. They set records.

The Green Bay Packers become the first team in their rivalry over the Chicago Bears to win 100 games. That’s around 14% of their all-time wins. Future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns in three quarters of play. The “elite” Bears defense had eight hurries, but never hit or sacked him. Rodgers became the 11th quarterback in NFL history to throw for 50,000 yards and is the second youngest quarterback to accomplish this (Ben Roethlisberger is the youngest to). The Packers lead everyone else by three games in the NFC North, and are clear favorites to win the division.

Davante Adams broke some franchise and league records too. Adams is the fastest Packer receiver to reach 500 receptions in the franchise, surpassing icon Sterling Sharpe in his 95th game. He’s the fifth Packer receiver to reach this milestone. Green Bay’s twitter feed added this morning that Adams is the first NFL receiver to post 60+ receptions, 700+ receiving yards and 9+ touchdowns in his first seven games of the season.

The iconic franchise added a cherry on top: accomplishing this on prime time national television. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Jeremy Chinn

Pretty sure 75% of NFL fans and analysts didn’t know who Chinn was until Minnesota’s offensive debacles yesterday. He was taken in the late second round in this year’s draft, so we’ll hear more about him. However, he’s in the record books his rookie season.

Jeremy Chinn did something no defensive player has done in not just the 21st century, but since 1948: he returned two fumbles for touchdowns. If you don’t think that’s impressive, he did that in eight seconds, on back-to-back plays.

These two touchdowns put the Carolina Panthers in the lead before Minnesota scored on their last offensive possession of the game. The game turned 180 degrees and forced the Vikings to throw the ball much of the second half. Chinn is now the third player in league history to accomplish this feat, and probably did it the fastest.

Losers: Anthony Lynn

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn has mismanaged a lot of games the past year and a half. This one may be one of his worst, even if they didn’t have a lead during the game.

Lynn mismanaged a critical last offensive possession. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert completed a Hail Mary pass to Buffalo’s four yard line. The Chargers should’ve spiked the ball to stop the clock, but chose three plays before the game ended. These were the last three plays they ran:

  • Austin Ekeler one yard run with 24 seconds left, almost 40 seconds after the Hail Mary reception by Tyron Johnson
  • Incomplete pass for Mike Williams
  • Herbert’s run for -2 yards on a quarterback sneak

There was one minute left on the clock before those three plays. At 3-8, this game could determine if Lynn returns next season.

Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich

There’s no doubt these two coaches are great with their work on offenses and how to handle their teams. There is a problem with use of their runningbacks, regularly forcing quarterback Tom Brady to throw the ball early in games.

Kansas City led 17-0 after the first quarter in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers offense punted on all their possessions in the quarter, and that’s because Tom Brady threw the ball two of every three downs. The Buccaneers ran the ball 12 times (minus Brady’s one yard loss, and he doesn’t run much) for 76 yards. That’s over six yards a carry, and Kansas City’s defense struggles to stop the run.

This isn’t the first time either. While penalties cost Tampa a win against Chicago in October, they ran the ball well with Ronald Jones. Later in that game, the coaches decided passing was the better option. That resulted in holding penalties, Tom Brady being sacked, and turnovers. Ronald Jones had just under a dozen carries, averaging over seven yards. It’s time to stop berating Brady in a new scheme and criticize these two coaches for failing to gameplan against playoff caliber opponents.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have shown up in big games against teams who could make deep playoff runs. They’ve played down to their competition against teams who struggle, and that goes on head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Seattle’s second game against Arizona was their best performance against a skilled offense all season, and the Cardinals didn’t look ready to sweep them. It happens, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A week and a half later, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph put a good game plan together against a Patriots offense that’s running the ball more to ease pressure off Cam Newton. Newton had one of his worst performances yesterday, throwing for 84 yards and two interceptions.

The Cardinals can point fingers at the referees for bad penalties on New England’s last drive, and they should because the outcome could be different. However, kicker Zane Gonzalez missed what could have been a game winning field goal before the Patriots got the ball back. If the Patriots tied, the Cardinals had a chance to win in overtime. That’s the difference.

Don’t put all the blame on Gonzalez either. Murray threw for 170 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Coaching cost the Cardinals a win, and they’re further back in the playoff standings because of it.

Whoever watched even half of the New Orleans-Denver game

Emergency quarterback Kendall Hinton did what he could with no practice reps a day and a half before Sunday. The Denver offense wasn’t a factor for almost the entire game. Look past the Saints’ 31 points, and Taysom Hill wasn’t good either. The two quarterbacks combined didn’t even throw 100 yards or a touchdown.

It’s good New Orleans won by 28, but there should be questions about Taysom Hill starting all of December. Thankfully both sides scored. Let’s hope no one has to watch a game like this the rest of the season.


NFL Week 12 Thanksgiving Day Picks

The NFL postseason is inching closer to January, and more teams are competing for division leads and wildcard spots. Thanksgiving Day Football will feature two games (it was originally three, but the Baltimore Ravens- Pittsburgh Steelers game was moved because of multiple players testing positive for COVID-19) where at least one team has playoff hopes. Who will take the next step/s into locking up playoff births this Thursday?

Houston Texans (3-7) v. Detroit Lions (4-6)

Surprising Sunday for both these teams. Houston beat a desperate New England squad while Detroit was shutout by a second string offense. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s injured hand may be worse than we thought, but the offense as a whole needs to show improvement especially in the running game.

This is one of the last easy games Detroit has on their schedule. A team second to last running the ball shouldn’t win two games in one week. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is a great player but he can’t do it all…right?

Prediction: Lions win 24-20

Washington Football Team (3-7) v. Dallas Cowboys (3-7)

Washington crushed Dallas in the first meeting, winning by 22 and knocked out Andy Dalton close to a month with a concussion. The only change Washington has is at quarterback with Alex Smith, who’s playing better and faces the easiest defense he’s seen this season. Good thing Dallas beat the Vikings Sunday.

Prediction: Football Team wins 28-13

Week 11 Picks: 6-8

Overall Season Record: 106-52

NFL Week 11 Winners and Losers

Week eleven is almost finished and audiences have better ideas of which teams will head to the playoffs. Sunday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race before this coming Thursday and who’s ready for the offseason. Longer postseason runs or trading up for the draft are the main focuses around the league. It’s time to discuss who or what stood out, positively and negatively on the fourth Sunday of November.

Winners: Andy Dalton

Dalton’s last game against the Washington Football Team in late October was terrible. A month later, he returned to lead a Dallas team that scored two touchdowns in three games (that first Washington game included).

The Cowboys played the Minnesota Vikings at the right time; on the road, after a bye week, against an opponent who played last Monday night. They led 16-7 at halftime, and 16-14 after the third quarter. Dalton was a big reason why.

The backup quarterback threw for three touchdowns, 203 yards and an interception, but was sacked once. It’s encouraging for the offensive line after two quarterbacks were knocked out because of minimum protection.

Dallas plays an important divisional game Thursday against a nasty Washington defensive line. Even if they lose, Dalton’s performance yesterday keeps them in the NFC East race.

Gus Bradley

The Los Angeles Chargers won by six points, but the score doesn’t indicate how well they played. The special teams gifted the Jets six points with another punt blocked. The defense had to show up for a win especially in the second half. They got more than that.

Trailing 6-0, cornerback Tevaughn Campbell intercepted Joe Flacco and ran uncontested for a touchdown. Michael Badgley’s extra point gave the Chargers their first lead of the game, and they didn’t trail again. Although Joe Flacco was sacked once, he threw for just over 200 yards the whole game.

Bradley faces the most pressure on the Chargers coaching staff. His defense has given up multiple leads and is one of the reasons Los Angeles is last in the AFC West. Yesterday the Chargers shut down the Jets’s final possession. Unlike the Broncos, the Jets didn’t tie the game at the end and then win. That’s how Los Angeles should close games.

Indianapolis Colts

I said a few months ago the Colts would be an interesting team to watch in November. They’ve lived up to the hype, coming back from a 14 point deficit to steal a win from the Green Bay Packers in overtime. Philip Rivers’ health raises concerns, but the whole team is stepping up.

Matt Eberflus’ defense is top three in the league, anchored by a great front seven. The Colts’ running game looks solid, even without starter Marlon Mack. They have more half-time adjustments than last year, which contributes to quality wins over Green Bay and Tennessee.

Indianapolis can solidify their division lead against a Titans team with offensive line injuries and continuous, sloppy defense. The Colts exposed both their first meeting, and this time they have the home game. The AFC should take this team seriously.

Taysom Hill

The Saints defense stepped up when needed most, but Hill deserves credit for why the Saints offense looked good in that second half.

The numbers aren’t pretty, but Hill didn’t turn the ball over to a Falcons defense that’s improved since coach Dan Quinn was fired. The dynamic play-maker ran for two touchdowns and had some deep throws Saints fans and audiences hadn’t seen Drew Brees attempt in three years.

Coach Sean Payton knows Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston will succeed the injured Drew Brees after this season, and even if the former isn’t the solution (he is 30 years old), he bought more time to lead the Saints into December.

Losers: Whatever offense the Bengals assemble the rest of this season

Even in a dreadful NFC East, this team would be dead last without playmakers Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon on offense. They’re in the AFC North, a division where the other three teams might make the playoffs. They have games against two of those teams left on their schedule.

Everyone is fixated on the season ending injuries to first overall pick Joe Burrow. The Bengals won’t play nor look the same without him even next season. Lost in this news is runningback Joe Mixon was placed on injured reserve late Friday night. This definitely contributed to Burrow getting injured yesterday because there’s no formidable running game to ease pressure off the star QB. It’s possible Mixon doesn’t come back for the rest of the season knowing the Bengals have no playoff chances.

Backup quarterback Ryan Finley threw for 30 yards in a quarter and a half of play. Washington’s defense is a big reason why, but those kinds of numbers averaged through four quarters won’t get this team any wins the rest of the season especially with the number of playoff caliber teams left on their schedule. Good news is Cincinnati can use a top draft pick on an offensive lineman in next year’s draft.

Jake Luton and the Jaguars Offense

Might as well throw Jacksonville’s offense in here since they bottomed out against Pittsburgh. Luton, who didn’t tear any leg muscles, looked horrendous against an undefeated Steelers team.

Luton’s been a solid option for the Jaguars since Gardner Minshew II went out with a finger injury. Yesterday he was the reason Jacksonville lost. He threw four interceptions, and the Steelers turned those turnovers into points. You can’t win games scoring three points, and you won’t come close when you commit four turnovers.

Head coach Doug Marrone doesn’t know who will start next Sunday. It’s easy to understand after the offense put up under 300 yards. The Jaguars play wild-card contenders in Cleveland and Minnesota next. They better figure out something by Friday.

Philadelphia Eagles

The current division leader of the abhorrent NFC East took a painful loss to the Browns in Cleveland yesterday. Quarterback Carson Wentz struggles on simple completions, and the offensive line, which is at it’s healthiest, still can’t protect their quarterback.

Wentz was sacked five times and threw two interceptions, one of which was an uncontested return touchdown that broke a scoreless tie in the first half. The hits, pressure and sacks piled on the former second overall pick to the point where he’s struggling to read the field and overthrows open receivers. The offense is wasting one of the defense’s better years. That’s a shame considering how the Eagles could win their division before December.

Unlike the Eagles, the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys won yesterday, inching towards Philadelphia’s first place lead. Those teams play Thanksgiving and analytics say someone will win that game. If the Eagles can’t get back in first place, this game Sunday was the turning point.

Sam Ficken

Strange how two points can change the outcome of a game. Of the 32 starting kickers in the league, Ficken faces more pressure week-to-week because of how bad the New York Jets offense is. One mistake could add another loss for the only winless team in the league.

Ficken missed an extra point after the Jet’s scored a quick touchdown early in the first quarter. He missed another with 22 seconds left in the third quarter after Frank Gore’s one yard touchdown run. The Jets could’ve been down 10 instead of 12.

They could’ve been down by six instead of eight by their last offensive possession. The Jets are the worst team in recent memory for many reasons, but a six point deficit versus an eight point deficit are different. Offenses can do more down by six than by eight such as taking more time and finding better plays. That’s how Denver beat Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Jets quarterback Joe Flacco faced all out blitzes the final drive, throwing the ball away three out of four times. A couple of runs gaining critical yards would’ve helped ease pressure off of him.

Kickers face a lot of pressure, and a lot of it isn’t fair. Sometimes you need every point possible when the offense disappears.

NFL Week 10 Winners and Losers

Week ten is finished and audiences have better ideas of which teams will head to the playoffs. Sunday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race before Thanksgiving and who’s ready for the offseason. Longer postseason runs or trading up for the draft are the main focuses around the league. It’s time to discuss who or what stood out, positively and negatively on the third Sunday of November.

Winners: Los Angeles Rams

That loss to Miami will stand out for the rest of the season because of coaching, but the Rams were gifted during their bye week with Arizona and Seattle losing, setting up an important NFC West showdown in their home stadium against Seattle. The Rams used their bye week well, defensively having one of their best games of the season.

The Rams defense intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson twice (both were from Darius Williams) and sacked him six times. Wilson’s worst games are usually against the Rams defense, shown in previous years as Aaron Donald controls the line of scrimmage. The offense looked better than their loss to Miami. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for over 300 yards, but didn’t have to score when his runningbacks ran for all three touchdowns.

The Rams are tied with the Cardinals, a team they have yet to play, for first place in the NFC West. Four of the next five games will be hard for Los Angeles, which makes this first win in their division crucial to their playoff push.

David Gettleman, Joe Judge and Daniel Jones

NFL analysts and fans want the New York Giants to dump general manager David Gettleman for his strange draft selections, coaching hires and free agent signings. There are good reasons why he should go, but that probably won’t happen for another season.

We’re starting to see what Gettleman put together, and it’s not a bad product. In the Week 10 picks, I said Giants coach Joe Judge couldn’t close games out, because the Giants blew several leads this season. A recent example was their Thursday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field a few weeks ago. The Giants soundly beat the Eagles the second time around in the Meadowlands Sunday, winning 27-17. Philadelphia looked unprepared and Carson Wentz was sacked three times even with a healthier offensive line protecting him.

Daniel Jones rightfully faces questions about improvement his second year with star runningback Saquon Barkley out for the season. The two game winning streak and a half game out of first place in the awful NFC East is a great response.

The Giants will have a week off to rest and prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals. Their schedule still has three teams vying for division titles, but for the first time this season, the Giants organization can feel good with what they put together.

DeAndre Hopkins

The Hopkins trade from Houston to Arizona couldn’t have been better for both Arizona or Hopkins. Both are having seasons to remember and have advanced in every facet. He’s a big reason the Cardinals have a real shot at winning the NFC West.

Hopkins had another 100 yard performance against a confident Buffalo Bills defense. He had 7 catches for 127 yards, but what everyone will remember is his “Hail Murray” catch in the endzone triple covered to give the Cardinals a 32-30 win.

To show the audience how much of a bumbler former Houston Texans (more on them later) head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien is, here’s what he traded away this offseason. Through nine games, Hopkins has had:

  • 67 catches for over 860 yards, averaging almost 96 yards per game
  • an average of 42 yards-after-catch
  • an average 13 yards per catch
  • one touchdown and four first-downs per game

DeAndre Hopkins has a great chance to become the third wide receiver with 2,000 yards in a single season. He’s having a historic year.

Florida Franchise Records

If your favorite team is in the Sunshine State, you had some memorable moments on Sunday.

While the Jacksonville Jaguars lost a close game in Green Bay, Keelan Cole had a game to remember. His 91 yard punt return got Jacksonville their first touchdown of the game. He set a franchise record for longest touchdown return.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plastered the Panthers much of the second half after their embarrassing Sunday night loss. Ronald Jones’ 192 yard performance on 23 carries was everything they needed, including his franchise record 98 yard touchdown run. It’s not just the longest scoring run for the franchise, it’s the longest offensive play in Buccaneers history. He may be their most important player they need week-to-week not named Tom Brady.

Last but not least, the Miami Dolphins are 3-0 under Tua Tagovailoa, a rookie quarterback who has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions. When was the last time this happened for Miami? They finally have a quarterback to build an offense around.

Losers: The Houston Texans Offense

Without quarterback DeShaun Watson, the Texans offense would be a candidate for worst offense in the NFL, and that says a lot considering the New York Jets and Chicago Bears try to outdo each other every week to win that category. Their running game is second to last (88 yards/game), even though they traded for runningback David Johnson.

Sunday’s game in Cleveland was awful for both them and the Browns offense to move the ball, but Houston’s errors resulted in a loss. The Texans were the first team to get inside the five yard line and didn’t score a point. Randall Cobb dropped a would-be touchdown and Watson was stuffed on a 4th and goal run. The weather was bad, but easy points were there. Houston lost 10-7.

This is where the DeAndre Hopkins trade to Arizona cost Houston another win. Hopkins can play even through the worst weather scenarios and take pressure off Watson when he’s facing blitz packages. Randall Cobb, who dropped the touchdown in the first half, led the team with 41 yards receiving. It’ll be a long month and a half for interim coach Romeo Crennel.

Seattle Seahawks

November has been a nightmare to Pete Carroll’s Seahawks. We knew their schedule after the bye looked rough especially the first five games. Great teams find ways to work through it, and they look like a team overmatched by winning opponents.

There’s a lot of blame to go around the last two games. The Buffalo Bills punched them in the mouth early and didn’t let up the week before. Those games happen, and offensive errors are easy traps when you’re down double digit points. Sunday’s loss to the Rams was bad in every aspect. The two glaring mistakes were Russell Wilson’s first interception when he should have run for at least a first down and Pete Carroll’s head-scratching decision to punt on fourth and inches.

Seattle is now in a three-way tie for first place with the Rams and Cardinals in a stacked NFC West. Russell Wilson still is an MVP candidate, but the losses of Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde in the running game stand out. Wilson now leads that category by two yards over Carson. Plus, he’s been sacked 11 times and intercepted four times in two games.

There couldn’t be a more pivotal Thursday night home game for the Seahawks this week. While their defense has fresh players they didn’t have against the Cardinals their first game, the coaches and the offense have a lot to fix in order for Seattle to win the division.

Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine

If Seattle’s secondary is the joke of the passing game, Green Bay’s front seven is the joke of the running game. Analysts and fans expected Green Bay to blow out Jacksonville with not only the Packers offense, but also rookie quarterback Jake Luton and the Jaguars’ offense not being a factor in North Wisconsin. They were wrong.

Rookie runningback James Robinson had a great game for the Jaguars, running for 109 yards on 23 carries. Jacksonville led for a few minutes in the fourth quarter until Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown to Davante Adams to erase that.

Since Green Bay’s bye, they’ve given up three 100 yard rushing performances. The two games they didn’t were against a depleted 49ers offense and the second worst running game in the league with Houston. Teams combined have almost more rushing yards than the whole Packers team, and score more running the ball than Green Bay is.

This is a problem defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has no answer for. It’s a weakness teams like Tennessee and Philadelphia could exploit to control game tempo when December rolls around. The Packers are the top team in the NFC like Seattle was with their defensive errors and could face a similar situation.

Buffalo Bills fans

Buffalo had their highlight win of the season dominating a red-hot Seahawks offense and scored the most points on the Pete Carroll coached team in a decade. The Bills were the superior team against Arizona, and then lost the lead in the third quarter. Stefon Diggs scored a touchdown with 34 seconds left in the game, giving the lead back to Buffalo.

The Bills also accomplished the near impossible, intercepting a pass All-Pro and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t catch. What happened after both of these?

Arizona scored both possessions after. DeAndre Hopkins had the game winning touchdown and the Cardinals are in a tie for first place, while Miami is a half game back of Buffalo in the AFC East. Another kick to the collective jewels for the Bills fanbase. Ouch.

NFL Week 10 Picks

The NFL postseason is inching closer to January, and more teams are competing for division leads and wildcard spots. Who will take the next step/s into locking up playoff births?

Indianapolis Colts (5-3) v. Tennessee Titans (6-2)

The first of two meetings in three weeks between these two teams, this will get physical and tense. Both teams want to win not just the series but the division. The Titans and Colts have good offensive lines, but Tennessee can control the tempo on offense better. Since both teams played Sunday, expect the running games to be the pivotal factor in who wins.

Prediction: Titans win 30-28

Houston Texans (2-6) v. Cleveland Browns (5-3)

Cleveland’s bye week came at the right time, and runningback Nick Chubb returning cancels the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. Expect quarterback Baker Mayfield to have a bounce-back performance.

Prediction: Browns win 28-14

Washington Football Team (2-6) v. Detroit Lions (3-5)

Kenny Golladay may not play again for Detroit, and Matthew Stafford looks doubtful. The Football Team’s offense is awful. They couldn’t score over 24 points against the Giants in either of their two meetings. Detroit’s offense can make plays and run the ball better.

Prediction: Lions win 20-13

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) v. Green Bay Packers (6-2)

One of the few games Green Bay could relax and coast through since the Jaguars are imploding and couldn’t beat the Texans in two tries. Despite the opponent and more than a week off, the Packers need to win in order to stay the number one seed in the NFC.

Prediction: Packers win 35-21

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4-1) v. New York Giants (2-7)

The Eagles barely beat New York a few Thursday nights ago, but more of the offensive line is back and that helps Carson Wentz read the field longer. Giants coach Joe Judge can’t help his team close out games.

Prediction: Eagles win 24-21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) v. Carolina Panthers (3-6)

Another injury to runningback Christian McCaffrey again puts the load on Teddy Bridgewater, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing playing a Tampa defense that was embarrassed last Sunday night. Tom Brady took a personal loss to Drew Brees, so he might play some of his best football for the rest of the year.

Prediction: Buccaneers win 38-20

Denver Broncos (3-5) v. Las Vegas Raiders (5-3)

Denver has an awful second-half schedule and lost a winnable game in Atlanta last Sunday. Raiders can’t play close games with menial opponents, divisional or not.

Prediction: Raiders win 24-20

Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) v. Miami Dolphins (5-3)

Brian Flores’ Dolphins find ways to win while Anthony Lynn’s scrambling for wins that the Chargers keep giving away. Tua Tagovailoa may not need a stellar game, but Miami should capitalize on Charger mistakes.

Prediction: Dolphins win 27-24

Buffalo Bills (7-2) v. Arizona Cardinals (5-3)

It’s hard to get a read on both teams. Buffalo wins ugly, but had their best win last week against Seattle. Arizona should be 7-2, but took ugly losses to teams trying to stay alive for the playoffs. What tips the scales are the Cardinals matching up well against quality opponents, followed by better offensive depth.

Prediction: Cardinals win 37-33

Seattle Seahawks (6-2) v. Los Angeles Rams (5-3)

A fun NFC West matchup will get gritty for both offensive and defensive lines, but the secondaries highlight who could win. The team who had a week off can pull off one of their best wins this season.

Upset Prediction of the Week: Rams win 40-34

San Francisco 49ers (4-5) v. New Orleans Saints (6-2)

The 49ers were gifted more than a week off after two blowout losses. They’re rewarded by traveling to New Orleans, playing a Saints team with Michael Thomas back at full health. Ouch.

Prediction: Saints win 28-17

Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) v. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-0)

The best defensive line in football against the worst offensive line in the AFC makes this a lock for Pittsburgh. Zac Taylor should pull quarterback Joe Burrow if this becomes a blowout to avoid injuries.

Prediction: Steelers win 35-20

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) v. New England Patriots (3-5)

The Patriots barely beat the Jets on a Monday night and face a deep running game featuring the reigning NFL MVP. This could get ugly early. NBC made a mistake not flexing this game.

Prediction: Ravens win 42-21

Minnesota Vikings (3-5) v. Chicago Bears (5-4)

The Vikings have two quality division wins and can pick up a third against an opponent who’s in ruins on offense. The Bears take a lot of unnecessary penalties and struggle with the running game on both ends of the ball. There’s more confidence Mike Zimmer can out-coach Matt Nagy.

Prediction: Vikings win 20-14

Week 9 Picks: 8-5

Overall record: 89-41

NFL Week 8 Winners and Losers

Week eight is nearly finished and audiences have a better collective picture of which teams will head to the playoffs. Most of yesterday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race for an additional month and who’s packing up and getting ready for the offseason. Half the league needs to use the trade deadline to their benefit and fill in some gaps to make longer postseason runs or trade up for the draft. Without further ado, it’s time to discuss who or what stood out yesterday, positively and negatively on the first week of November.

Winners: Offensive Rookie Debuts

There aren’t many rookies on offense making debuts half-way into the 2020 season, but the ones who did, made plays when needed and look to have expanded roles later in November and December.

Tua Tagovailoa and DeeJay Dallas contributed to important wins for their teams even if there weren’t breathtaking stats. Tagovailoa threw only 93 yards, but his first career throwing touchdown went to DeVante Parker to tie the Los Angeles Rams at seven. The Dolphins didn’t trail again, and the defense forced four turnovers from the Rams’ offense (more on them later).

DeeJay Dallas started his first NFL game since fellow runningbacks Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were out for Seattle. Dallas didn’t run for over 50 yards, but he scored twice. One was a run cementing Seattle’s double digit win over San Francisco, and the other on a critical third and goal throw from Russell Wilson.

You don’t need big numbers to have an impact. Both Dallas and Tagovailoa will be fun to watch years from now, but their teams got exactly what was needed in their debuts.

D.K. Metcalf

Calvin Johnson was considered to be the scariest wide receiver to suit up for an NFL team in the last 15 years. Johnson has nothing on the Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf, now in his second season. Last week Metcalf showed his hustle chasing down one of the best safeties in the modern NFL on an interception return. Arizona’s cornerbacks kept him quiet most of last Sunday, so he sent a message to San Francisco and the league yesterday, notching a career day with 12 catches for 161 yards. Russell Wilson had 100 yards thrown to receivers outside of Metcalf. Both the touchdowns he caught showed both his out-of-this-world athleticism and size advantages.

In the highlights, I took notice and appreciated Mark Schlereth breaking down Metcalf’s two yard touchdown grab as he played inside and not far out from the offensive line. Seattle finally figured how to not just give D.K. one-on-one matchups which favor him, but how to use their second year star in different formations. All the other receivers on the opposite end, especially Tyler Lockett, will press defenses harder and make scoring opportunities better for Seattle’s offense. This may cause a team like the Arizona Cardinals, who contained Metcalf most of the past three games to adjust for their next rivalry game in Seattle.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings appeared to be sellers during their bye week, shortly before playoff chances were eliminated. Of course, the NFL can change week to week. Minnesota picked up a needed and certainly unexpected win against the best team in their division.

Dalvin Cook scored 24 of the 28 points, and the defense contained Aaron Rodgers the second half in Lambeau field, a place where Rodgers typically excels later in games. Quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t turn the ball over, throwing for enough yards and one touchdown.

The coaches used the bye week how they should have especially since they did a horrible job planning against Atlanta the week prior. Chicago and Detroit lost to playoff caliber teams, so the Vikings aren’t done yet.

Drew Lock

It’s possible Lock needed to get some rhythm and didn’t have any the past two weeks. He also may not have fully recovered from his shoulder injury. Either way, he can play and when possible, elevate unknown receivers.

Runningback Phillip Lindsay got the Denver Broncos their first touchdown in the third quarter. The Los Angeles Chargers added nine points to their seven point lead after, trying to keep a comfortable lead against a division rival.

Lock came alive after the first touchdown. He threw three touchdowns after Lindsay scored, including the game winner to KJ Hamler with one second left. While he threw for 248 yards, Lock spread the ball to seven different receivers. Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam combined had four catches, but they had two of the three touchdowns. This is one of many reasons the Broncos want Drew Lock to be their starter for the next few years.

Losers: Sean McVay

There’s no way Los Angeles should’ve lost to Miami. Kenny Albert’s broadcasting team talked during pre-game about how McVay intended to beat the Dolphins running the ball on offense. Analysts knew it too, which is why many picked them to win in South Florida. The Rams pummeled an awful Bears team last Monday, so it made sense to give the offense an easier time Sunday running the ball, controlling the clock and tempo, and head home. That didn’t happen.

Turnovers, special teams and failing to hold a seven point lead was part of the unpleasant surprise. It happens to the best teams. Quarterback Jared Goff didn’t need to throw the ball 61 times. That contributed to four turnovers, three the Dolphins turned into touchdowns. The Rams didn’t score again until five minutes into the fourth quarter.

The runningbacks didn’t put up bad numbers either. Outside of receiver Robert Woods’ two runs, all runningbacks averaged a 3.9 yards per carry. Even when the Rams were down 28-10, they could’ve controlled tempo knowing Tua Tagovailoa didn’t crack 100 yards passing. That’s on coaching, especially since Seattle won and Arizona had a bye week. It’s harder making a playoff push when you’re in third place and not second.

Javon Wims

When Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson fought, that was personal for many reasons. Andre Johnson has a great reputation, but with a known agitator he faced twice a year, it made some sense especially seeing the plays before that fight.

Javon Wims was neither playing a divisional opponent nor was he well-known around the league. He’s known now but for all the wrong reasons.

It doesn’t matter what the reasons were for him punching C.J. Gardner-Johnson were–twice. Starting fights leads to ejections and costs teams needed players, especially playing teams vying for the playoffs.

Last Monday when the Rams and Bears faced off, play-by-play announcer Steve Levy talked on how the locker room voted wide receiver Anthony Miller for the Most Likely to be Late for a Meeting Award. Miller and Gardner-Johnson were going at it the possession before Wims started the fight. All the questions on play-calling and who to start at quarterback are valid, but so is self-discipline and accountability. These problems aren’t all football related but they must be fixed now.

Buffalo Bills

It’s safe to wonder if the Bills are a threat to anyone in the AFC when playoffs start in January (hopefully). The only game the Bills have won by double digit points was against the New York Jets the first week of the season. While they’re 2-2 in their last two games, they’ve looked awful and should be 0-4.

The New England Patriots played well in the second half in Buffalo, losing at the end because of a Cam Newton fumble deep in Bills territory. Buffalo shouldn’t have won by causing a turnover at the end. The Bills have weapons and somehow can’t run the ball to close out games. That’s a red flag and partially explains why they’re winning close games.

They’ve struggled the past two weeks against two teams in their division who lack talent on both offense and defense, putting up less than 45 points in those two combined games. The Titans and Chiefs were expected hurdles for the Bills, but struggling in your own depleted division is a problem. Those issues won’t go away with Seattle and Arizona next on their schedule.

That awful punting and onside kick plan the Dallas Cowboys had late in the fourth quarter.

At least Dan Orlovsky running out of bounds in his own end zone looked accidental. The fact this play was on purpose for a 50/50 chance to receive an onside kick (which Dallas didn’t recover) makes this a nomination for worst play of the month, year, decade and 21st century. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth threw shade. It is THAT bad.