Week 13 is almost finished and the number of teams that will head to the playoffs is narrowing down. Sunday’s games revealed who’s competing for a playoff spot heading into December and who’s securing draft space early. It’s time to discuss who or what took positive steps toward a playoff run and who’s in a bigger hole on the first Sunday of December.
Winners: Lions Interim Coach Darrell Bevell
In his first game as a head coach, Bevell did something previous coach Matt Patricia couldn’t do in almost three seasons: beat the Chicago Bears.
The Lions offense played a great game, scoring five touchdowns with a balanced running and passing attack. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 402 yards and led a comeback with under 2:30 remaining in the game. The Lions defense gave up 30 points to a woeful Bears offense, but they forced a critical turnover under two minutes to play.
Detroit may have won their last game of the season and Darrell Bevell might not return as head coach or offensive coordinator, but it’s clear he wasn’t a problem when Patricia was in charge. That will land him a better job in the offseason.
The Cleveland Browns offense played one of their best games this season, and it starts with the quarterback. Mayfield played like he did his rookie season, throwing the ball aggressive and confident. When the first half ended, Cleveland led by a whopping 31 points against a Tennessee team that ran over Indianapolis their last game.
Mayfield’s four touchdowns showed audiences how good he can be. His second touchdown to Kendall Lamm proved he’s reading open receivers and the field better in short yardage situations. His third score to Donovan Peoples-Jones shows head coach Kevin Stefanski trusts Mayfield to lead when opponents keep games within ten points.
The Browns have three solid wins over playoff contending teams and can trust their quarterback to deliver when it matters. They’ll put up a fight in the playoffs.
Anyone tuned into CBS’s telecast of the Eagles-Packers watched Philadelphia’s starting quarterback Carson Wentz struggle for almost three quarters. Coach Doug Pederson’s Eagles resemble fellow coordinator Matt Nagy’s Chicago Bears on offense; bad offensive line, can’t run the ball and the quarterbacks are hit so much they can’t make fast reads. Jalen Hurts is a breath of fresh air for the Eagles offense.
Hurts sparked an Eagles comeback against the Packers in the fourth quarter yesterday. If it wasn’t for Packer’s runningback Aaron Jones’ spectacular 77 yard touchdown run, the Eagles might have extended the game to overtime.
Audiences saw Hurts used as a gadget player, someone who creates or runs non-quarterback plays to extend offensive possessions. After a real performance in one half by the rookie, Doug Pederson (more on him later) has a decision to make on who starts next week.
Let’s be honest on the New York Jets. They’re 0-12 not because the players are useless no-names, they’re 0-12 because Adam Gase is a complete stumblebum who can’t coach or develop players. This team was on a decline before he got the job in 2019.
If you watched the Jets within the last three weeks, you know the more Gase isn’t involved with the offense, the better they are. Gase’s job is to make sure this failure of an organization clinches the number one pick to draft Lawrence.
There are good pieces on offense to use once Lawrence comes in. The offensive line was built from the inside to out, especially on the left side with Mekhi Becton and Cameron Clark. Josh Adams and La’Mical Perine have shown they can be used regularly to set a tempo early in games. Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Braxton Barrios and Denzel Mims are a good quartet of receivers, even if they need to further development with a good head coach.
Once the Jets secure the number one pick in the draft, find a head coach with a working brain and draft Trevor Lawrence, we’ll be having a positive conversation about the Jets heading into the 2021 season.
Losers: Brian Schottenheimer, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks Offense
What an atrocious game-plan by the Seahawks offense. Russell Wilson looked like a middle-round draft pick. Wilson’s MVP campaign is officially done as the Seahawks took a horrendous home loss to the New York Giants.
Wilson was sacked five times, but the offensive line wasn’t the main problem. Wilson couldn’t hit open receivers (taking an intentional grounding penalty in the middle of the game), couldn’t read a field (never saw a wide open six foot Freddie Swain at one point), took five sacks trying to spin out of a New York pass rush that was effective because he couldn’t read the field, and turned the ball over twice in both second and third quarters.
Opposing defenses are locked in as Seattle throws the ball downfield. This change creates more opportunities for the offense to target the middle of the defense and potentially take more time off the clock. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has yet to take advantage of this and adapt his scheme. The tight-ends aren’t used enough, the runningbacks aren’t carrying the ball to control rhythm on drives, and receivers like Tyler Lockett (who narrowly escaped serious injuries yesterday) have disappeared without reason.
Seattle’s only home loss of the season is due to the offense having its worst game in the Russell Wilson era. The defense is much improved as the Giants scored 17 points with under 200 yards passing given up, but the loss drops them from the second seed and division leader to fifth seed in the NFC and second place behind the Los Angeles Rams. That’s maddening.
Houston Texans Offense
DeShaun Watson desperately needed Will Fuller V yesterday and it showed. Watson took five sacks against an aggressive Indianapolis defensive line, including a safety that gave the Colts a six point lead in the fourth quarter.
Watson threw one interception and 341 yards, but with his main targets being Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen, that won’t be enough for Houston to go downfield and create deep-pass plays. Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has a lot to look at these next few weeks, because running the ball can only do so much before opponents start to play seven men at the line or all-out rush the quarterback.
It’s understandable Pederson’s choice of starting quarterback Carson Wentz the past month came in part with the awful division the Eagles are in, Wentz’s contract, and injuries on offense. The latter hasn’t been an issue the past three weeks, and Wentz still can’t read a field or throw the ball away under pressure.
Pederson should’ve made a change after the Giants split the series. Philadelphia lost by five and six points in their previous two games and trailed by 20 before Wentz was benched. The Giants have the tie-breaker and look to be the hot team in the NFC East ready for a playoff run.
If the Eagles don’t make the playoffs this year, it’s because head coach Doug Pederson left his starter in too long and put the right quarterback into the starting role when it didn’t matter.
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team dealt with a flex game featuring an undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers team. They got additional rest after blowing out the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but they’ll be playing behind the rest of December in return.
The New York Giants win in Seattle wasn’t just bad for the Seahawks, it’s bad for the Football Team’s playoff chances since the Giants have the tie-breaker in the division. The Giants could lose one of their last four games and Washington would have to win the rest of theirs in order to tie a team that swept them.
Head coach Ron Rivera was brought in to change the culture top to bottom and he’ll do that this decade, but losing the divisional race this way is a bitter pill to swallow.