No Country for Old Men: Older, Franchise Quarterbacks in the NFL Have to Hang it Up

Cam Newton and the New England Patriots were one point away from tying the Buffalo Bills at ten points each until kicker Nick Folk missed the extra point. After that kick, the Bills played the Patriots like a playoff team and bludgeoned them.

Newton was pulled in the middle of the third quarter, throwing for 34 yards and sacked twice for 20 yards. That’s a finish of +14 yards for the reigning 2015 league MVP. Newton hasn’t looked right since he caught COVID-19, and it’s fair to ask has that affected his play.

All of this is important because Newton said at the beginning of December that he isn’t done playing and has a lot to prove. Anyone who’s watched Newton since he contracted COVID, knows he has nothing left to prove. Minus the upcoming Sunday game, Newton came back to start 14 games and was critical to the Patriots not being worse than the New York Jets. His foot injuries seem to have taken a toll, and he’s a shell of that 2015 greatness.

Bill defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (90, white) sacks Cam Newton (1, blue) in the first half of Week 16’s Monday Night game. This was one of two times Newton was sacked.

None of this is to antagonize him for clinging onto his starting spot. In fact, it’s the opposite. There are at least a half dozen starting quarterbacks holding teams back from playing at their best, and it’s time for them to retire or step down. Think about it this way; if this was a politician who served a state/country over 25 years, citizens would want a fresh face. It’s the same with sports, the only difference is sports wins championships.

Starting quarterbacks who need to retire

  • Drew Brees – Probably 95% of football fans (outside of Louisiana) agree with this one. Brees is not the same player he was even five years ago. There are valid reasons why Brees should retire. To start, he’s had issues throwing deep passes consistently. Early this season, New Orleans had the fewest yards per pass (just over five yards). It’s not much better heading into 2021. The final clue was the number of broken ribs Brees sustained mid-November against the San Francisco 49ers. With close to a dozen ribs out of place and a punctured lung, he came back a month later to play. Brees is an icon in New Orleans and a relic of the culture change he and coach Sean Payton brought to a losing franchise. That’s a problem. He’s a relic, not a quarterback who can carry a team to a championship. The Saints have to find a young quarterback in the offseason.
  • Ben Roethlisberger – The Steelers are a mess even with a comeback win against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday. In order to see where the Steelers and Roethlisberger are, watch game-tape of December 21st’s Steelers-Bengals game. Roethlisberger, who’s one of the 2004 drafted quarterbacks on this list, struggled to throw downfield. Yes, he threw well in Lucas Oil Stadium the following Sunday, but Pittsburgh was down double-digits in the second half and Indianapolis made few second half adjustments. The focus for the Steelers offense is to get the ball out of Ben’s hands at record speed, hoping his receivers catch the passes and make plays after. It’s not sustainable. Whoever the sixth seed heading into wild card weekend is, that team has the advantage of shutting down a rapid fire offense with few answers when contained. Mason Rudolph isn’t the solution long-term, so the Steelers must look in free agency and the draft for their future.
  • Philip Rivers – The other 2004 drafted quarterback is on a one year $25 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Rivers’ odd throwing motion has shown the downside of his career. He’s made efforts to get the Colts’ best receiver T.Y. Hilton the ball the past month and a half, but there may not be enough tape for general manager Chris Ballard to consider re-signing him this offseason. Along with his throwing motion, his lack of mobility outside the pocket and lack of game winning drives against playoff opponents says Rivers is likely to go within the next few years, if not after this season. Unlike the other two names above, Rivers can call it quits before he plays like a shell of his former self.
  • Cam Newton – Newton was hit a lot during his tenure in Carolina, and those hits took a toll. His lis franc injury was enough to not play a season and a half, which is why New England took a chance on him with a small contract. There aren’t many talented receivers in New England (outside of Julian Edelman) and COVID-19 possibly affected him before the Patriots played Kansas City. It’s evident he is not comfortable and nowhere near the top threat even three years ago. Despite him saying he has much to prove, there’s nothing left he has to do almost ten years in the NFL.
  • Alex Smith – the Comeback Player of the Year winner is a great story after a year and a half out of the NFL for breaking his leg and an infection right after. If we take emotions out of this, Smith is the fifth quarterback on this list who’s 35 years or older who’s been in the playoffs multiple times. The Washington Football Team needs to find a franchise quarterback, which is on the list of things the franchise faces in the upcoming years. While Smith brings stability, how can we be sure Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, or an outsider such as Mitchell Trubisky or Brandon Allen isn’t the answer if they don’t have opportunities to prove themselves?
  • Matt Ryan – Last year might have been the last good year we see from the tenured Atlanta Falcon quarterback. Despite a fantastic receiving core and a solid offensive line, Ryan has yet to throw 20 or more touchdowns this season. The Falcons are a punchline for choking games, but Ryan isn’t a game-changer like he was middle last decade. At 35, it’s best he retire before his career ends sour.
  • Matthew Stafford – The eye-opening one on here and understandably so. He has two years remaining on his contract and could get traded to a team that needs a quarterback such as New Orleans, San Francisco or Pittsburgh. Stafford’s been consistent enough to keep the Detroit Lions competitive most of the seasons he’s played. There are some things that warrant him being in this category. His injury list is longer than most starting quarterbacks. Last time he finished a season healthy, he threw 21 touchdowns. His offensive line has been better this season, but he still takes sacks he shouldn’t go down on, an issue most of his career. Adding to his decision making, consider quality play against winning teams. He can get to the playoffs, but can he take the extra step with a better roster on all three sides of the ball? At 32, we might have seen his peak since he entered the league in 2009, so it’s possible he has a steady decline.

Just how life is outside of sports, there are exceptions to the rule. 37 year old Aaron Rodgers is the front runner to not just win league MVP this season, but to lead Green Bay back to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady’s the oldest quarterback to start on any team, and he’s looking pretty good despite being 43. Brady winning six championships with no losing seasons in his NFL career is a talent we may not see from anyone else in our lifetime. Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick have accepted their 1B/backup roles, helping their teams when needed most.

Alex Smith (11, burgundy) has had a wild NFL career, and his best story is leading the Washington Football Team to a possible playoff berth. However, injuries have been a factor in his career, and there are good reasons why he should retire after this season.

It’s possible that Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers could be great backup/1B options, but there are valid questions and cases on why new quarterbacks should have a chance to start without controversy. Sam Darnold needs a coach who can teach him consistency. Mitchell Trubisky is finally thriving with an offensive coordinator who understands how to use him. Jimmy Garappolo may do well in New England since Bill Belichick knew how to get the best out of him. Sit back and ask how many talented quarterbacks are we not watching the best of week-to-week because they don’t have the chance to show it?

NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

It’s been a wild 2020. First the NBA season paused until mid-summer, then the Miami Heat went on a tear dismantling the Milwaukee Bucks and edging the Boston Celtics to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

The NBA bubble in Orlando won’t be back, yet there won’t be many fans in stadiums due to COVID-19 precautions. The season starts tonight despite these fan restrictions, so it’s time to pick which eight teams in the East have the best chance to make the playoffs.

#1 Milwaukee Bucks

This isn’t a hard one. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in professional basketball and the Bucks have a solid supporting cast. Coach Mike Budenholzer is good in the regular season (post-season is a different story). Milwaukee might lock up the first seed early since there’s enough depth to hold leads or make games competitive. The addition of point guard Jrue Holiday solidifies the Bucks holding onto their number one spot.

#2 Boston Celtics

The Toronto Raptors lost their core depth and height in free agency. As good as coach Nick Nurse is, I don’t see how the Raptors come out on top and retain the number two seed. Boston did add Tristan Thompson in the offseason, a center who has championship experience to compliment Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

Jrue Holliday (11, white) is exactly who Milwaukee needs to compliment their two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kemba Walker (8, black) looks to return for a full season and play a bigger role in Boston’s rise in the East.

The Celtics have more to work with and look to be the most complete team on paper. Even with injuries, coach Brad Stevens will find ways to keep them a top four seed.

#3 Miami Heat

Outside of teams wearing green, this may be the best team. Miami retains most of their roster from their Finals trip in September. Coach Eric Spoelstra can improve breakout role players Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. Starting center Bam Adebayo, point guard Goran Dragic and team star Jimmy Butler will be enough for this team to cement the Southeast Division.

What sets this team apart is how they can play as a whole unit, their coaching, and they match up well against dangerous teams such as Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Joel Embiid (21, blue) has to improve his game like he did in 2018 for the 76ers to go far in the playoffs, especially with Doc Rivers behind the bench. Jimmy Butler (22, red) is the star the Miami Heat needed and wanted. They’ll be the top target in the East since they were conference champions.

#4 Philadelphia 76ers

Doc Rivers is a clear upgrade from Brett Brown at head coach. Dwight Howard as the backup center behind Joel Embiid will be interesting, and shooting guard additions Danny Green and Seth Curry will make this a polar year for the Sixers.

Unfortunately for them, the Heat have shown to be a true contender as they won the East last year, taking out the top two teams of this list. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris aren’t players to win championships with, but they can take Philly far if there’s a good core who can shoot.

Despite the cons, they’re much better than all but a few teams in the East. Let’s see how long coach Doc Rivers can improve this team.

#5 Indiana Pacers

The Pacers get overlooked because of the drop-off in star talent outside of Milwaukee, but they’re a real playoff threat…if they can win a game. New coach Nate Bjorkgren needs to find ways to win when it matters especially in the playoffs.

Outside of two sweeps the past two playoff appearances, the Pacers have solid players to clinch a five or six seed. Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Justin Holiday are a good core Bjorkgren can work with early in the season. Outside of bench players Doug McDermott and Jeremy Lamb, the Pacers have to shoot better from mid-to-long range.

Indiana plays well defensively, something they have to do considering the Bucks and Celtics are the top teams who push them around. Outside their shooting issues, that should play another pivotal part of their season and in the division.

#6 Brooklyn Nets

The team everyone wants to see early and often. The Nets look to be one of the best teams to score and dominate on offense, but defensively a sieve. Coach Steve Nash will have his hands full when the Nets have to defend in close games.

Kevin Durant (in black, left) and Kyrie Irving (right) will be a fiery duo for Brooklyn this season, but will they be a factor in the playoffs?

The returns of Kevin Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving are what basketball fans want to see. Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris provide offensive flexibility and long-range scoring. However, outside of an aging DeAndre Jordan there isn’t anyone who shows they’re a defensive star.

The sky is the limit for the Nets. They could fix the defensive issues by mid-season or crash and burn. Too many questions remain that can’t be answered at once. The sixth seed is fitting since they couldn’t be any worse to start the season.

#7 Chicago Bulls

Coach Jim Boylen deservedly got the boot and was replaced by phenom Billy Donovan. That puts the Bulls and Donovan in a much better spot than the beginning of 2020. Boylen had no idea what to do with the talent in front of him.

Point guard Coby White’s trajectory looks positive going into his second season. Bulls stars Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. will be led and taught by Billy Donovan on how to improve their individual and team games. Markkanen is playing for the right coach and should have a career year.

In order for the Bulls to push back against the Bucks/make the playoffs, they have to open up the play-book on offense. Lauri Markkanen (24, black) and Zach LaVine (8, black) should show that improvement this year.

Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Denzel Valentine are good bench players who will help out and play team-first basketball. Donovan didn’t have this much talent to work with in Oklahoma City. The Bulls are ready to take the next steps with a new coach and general manager.

#8 Orlando Magic

A second team has to make the playoffs from the Southeast division…I think. The Magic or the Atlanta Hawks are the best bets to grab the last seed since Washington and Charlotte will probably sink this season. The Magic get the nod for two reasons: they’ve drafted and designed a better roster and they have playoff experience.

The Magic were thrown out of the playoffs by a championship Toronto Raptors team in 2019 and a dominant Milwaukee team in 2020. However, they grabbed one win against both of those teams. They’re not some mediocre team with no stars, they’re still developing like the Chicago Bulls are.

The good thing for Orlando is their added depth behind their starters. Michael Carter-Williams, Al-Farouq Aminu, Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba should keep the Magic in games especially against teams close to getting into the playoffs.

Magic point guard Markelle Fultz signed a three year extension this past weekend. Fultz and the Magic starting five should find ways to get back into the playoffs, even if it’s the last seed.

NFL Week 14 Winners and Losers

Week 14 is almost finished and the number of teams clinching playoff berths are narrowing down. Sunday’s games revealed who’s competing past the first two weeks in January and who’s securing a top-15 draft pick. It’s time to discuss who or what took positive steps toward a playoff run and who’s closer to elimination on the second Sunday of December.

Winners: The NFC East

It’s no secret the NFC East has been the worst division in 2020. However, if sports fans knew the division had the best record in the NFL since Week 11 (with a record of 9-6), what would they think? Thankfully, we’re witnessing a competitive finish.

The New York Giants led the division before Sunday and had a case for not just beating the Arizona Cardinals, but retaining their lead for the rest of December. They’re now looking up as they suffered a lopsided loss and the Washington Football Team beat San Francisco. The Philadelphia Eagles have a spark as Jalen Hurts led the way and upset the Saints in New Orleans. Dallas took care of business in Cincinnati, staying alive in the division race. They play the Giants the last game of the regular season.

Whoever wins the NFC East may not be over .500, but they’ll be favored wild-card weekend. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this may not be the worst division in American sports history.

Green Bay Packers

No team won or caught as many breaks like the Packers did Sunday. Matthew Stafford’s rib injury guaranteed a Packers win. The only blemish was the referees, who held both them and the Lions back missing multiple roughing the passer penalties and plays that looked inbounds.

Outside of their divisional win, the Packers are the top seed in the NFC. The Jalen Hurts-led Eagles ran all over the Saints defense and held on for a needed win in their divisional race. Green Bay was surprised by Jalen Hurts when previous starter Carson Wentz was benched last game, but they won because he played in the fourth quarter. The Saints had no answer or gameplan when he ran to extend plays.

The Packers remaining obstacle to locking up the number one seed is if they lose to the Tennessee Titans in Week 16. If they’re able to stop Derrick Henry, they’ll be a hard team to face in the playoffs, especially if they’re the only team with a week off.

Justin Herbert

The Los Angeles Chargers may be out of the playoff race, but their win over Atlanta after being shutout 45-0 is good for confidence. So was the second half rookie quarterback Justin Herbert had.

Another week will go where we hear the Atlanta Falcons choked a lead away. It’s on Matt Ryan to not turn the ball over three times throughout the game. The Chargers had all ten of the second half points, and that’s because the offense capitalized on mistakes.

Herbert threw one of his touchdowns passes to star receiver Keenan Allen to tie the game at 17 in the third quarter. After Michael Davis’ interception on Matt Ryan late in the fourth, the Chargers executed an 11 play drive in 31 seconds. That drive started at the Charger 26 yard line, and the field goal at the end was at the Falcon 25 yard line.

Time management was an issue in LA’s loss to the Bills where they squandered a minute at the end. The rookie quarterback seemed to learn from that botched drive.

Josh Allen’s case for MVP

The MVP race is between Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes at this point, but Josh Allen’s name should be thrown in. I criticized the Buffalo Bills and Allen earlier in the season for not playing superior to their opponents, which was deserved since they struggled. They’re not just 3-0 since their bye week, they’ve beaten all their opponents by ten points or more. One was against the former NFC conference champions last Monday and the other a statement game last night against Pittsburgh.

Quarterback Josh Allen is a big part of that. While the defense is clicking at the right time unlike the first half of the season, Allen is elevating the play of the offense. Last night was the first Sunday night game the Bills were featured in since the Patriots went 16-0. The franchise star threw for 238 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and took one sack against one of the best defenses in the league.

Allen stepped up behind his offensive line to extend plays or run the ball, making the right decisions throughout the second half and had his best performance in a critical AFC matchup this year. He’s yet to have a red-zone interception in his career, something no other elite level quarterback can say.

Add on his 28 touchdowns are second most in franchise history behind the legendary Jim Kelly, and his resume for MVP this year should at least be considered.

Losers: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville has been competitive in almost all of their 13 losses. They have a carousel at quarterback, and this time Gardner Minshew II gets his starting job back.

Mike Glennon had no answer against the Tennessee Titans. That feel-good story was going to end some time. Coach Doug Marrone will be fired at the end of the season, but the team still plays hard despite winning one game.

It doesn’t help that after the Jaguars lose, the New York Jets find ways to out-do them. Owner Shahid Khan and Jaguars management must be upset they can’t lock in the number one pick for next year’s draft.

The Bengals’ offensive coaches in the fourth quarter v. Dallas

If there was a good case to fire head coach Zac Taylor and his offensive staff at the end of the season, this past Sunday would be it. The Bengals lost a game they could’ve won but bad coaching in the fourth quarter cost them.

Backup quarterback Brandon Allen played well against one of the worst defenses in the league. The Cowboys got a lead early by forcing turnovers on three straight Cincinnati possessions, but couldn’t pull away. Down 20-7, the Bengals had a shot at narrowing the deficit to 6 and had all three of their timeouts.

Allen got hurt in the middle of a 16 play, 70 yard drive that ran almost seven and a half minutes off the clock. It was clear when the Bengals got deep into Dallas’ side of the field he couldn’t throw off one foot, but the Bengals coaching staff didn’t see anything wrong with that. Allen continued to be hit, limp closer to the endzone and the offensive possession grew worse. The drive ended because Taylor decided to go for 6 points instead of three, and Allen threw an uncatchable pass to Tyler Boyd out of bounds. Dallas’ next possession resulted in a Greg Zuerlein field goal and Taylor used all of his timeouts.

Whoever is coach of the Bengals next year is a lame-duck candidate at best. They’ll have a high draft pick, but this was a winnable game against a team still in the playoff race and the coaches couldn’t make a simple substitution. That’s firable.

Bill O’Brien

How good would the Texans have been this season if Bill O’Brien was fired two years ago? The former Houston head coach and general manager traded away many of the prized assets the team gained the second half of last decade. It’s hurt the team much of this season and a blowout loss to the Chicago Bears emphasized all of it.

Quarterback DeShaun Watson was sacked six times and even took a shot to his groin, staying on the sideline until the next possession. His top target was Chad Hansen, who caught seven passes for 56 yards. Hansen was activated only Friday and didn’t fully practice. The second best receiver was second string runningback Duke Johnson.

Interim coach Romeo Crennel did all he could. It’s best to deactivate Watson for the rest of the season so he doesn’t get hurt against Indianapolis or Tennessee. Watson does all he can and has the Texans at second in the league in passing. He has little help on the offensive line, one of the many mistakes O’Brien made regressing the franchise.

J.J. Watt isn’t coming back next season and Crennel, who’s in his early 70s, should retire. This is Bill O’Brien’s legacy. Hopefully he won’t be a head coach any time soon.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers had a week they’ll want to forget. Losing Monday night to an AFC East-leading Bills team is tolerable. The offense laying a dud against the Washington Football Team ended their season.

Nick Mullens is a great quarterback in garbage time, just not in critical situations. Statistically, he was better than both Washington quarterbacks. Still, he’s the reason San Francisco lost. Multiple turnovers, sacks, and a touchdown thrown only when trailing by 16 points is bad football.

The Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks all won in Week 14. That singles out the 49ers as the first team in the NFC West to be eliminated from the playoffs. With salary cap issues looming this upcoming offseason, it could be a long 2021 for San Francisco.

NFL Week 13 Winners and Losers

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.

Baker Mayfield

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.

Jalen Hurts

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.

Trevor Lawrence

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.

Doug Pederson

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.

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.