Week 13 Review, TNF Preview

Posted: 12/10/2015 by levcohen in Football

Another week, another layer of separation between the league’s clear top eight teams and everyone else. Those eight teams are the Panthers, the Cardinals, the Bengals, the Seahawks, the Chiefs, the Patriots, the Broncos, and the Steelers. Of those teams, six reside in the AFC, and will hopefully compose the AFC’s entire playoff field. The Steelers still have some work to do to get in, but their 45-10 demolishing of the Colts definitely reminded me that they belong in the top quarter of the league, which is so much better than all the mediocre teams below. I’m eliminating the Raiders after their home loss against Kansas City, as they’re now two games out of a playoff spot with four to go and have the third toughest schedule to close out the season. Of the 18 teams I haven’t eliminated, 12 will make the playoffs, although the Buccaneers have a fighter’s chance to be the second team uncrossed off this season after Kansas City. Two more eliminations will come from the dreadful NFC East (Philly, New York, Washington), and another from the AFC South (Houston or Indianapolis), which leaves three. Right now, my guess is that the Falcons, Bills, and Jets will miss out, leaving a playoff field of the eight I mentioned above along with the NFC East winner, the AFC South winner, and Green Bay and Minnesota, the two flummoxing 8-4 NFC North teams.

Eliminated teams: Chicago, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Dallas, Baltimore, San Diego, St. Louis, New Orleans, Miami, Oakland

  • Remind me why we ever (ever!) doubted the Seahawks??? They always turn it around in the second half of the season, and guess what? They might be the best team in football. They just demolished the Vikings in Minnesota, and while the division is probably out of reach with the Cardinals holding serve at 10-2, they’ll likely have an easy game against an NFC East team in round one. And once they get to round two, watch out. Russell Wilson is playing amazingly right now, and he’s suddenly leading a high-powered offense that still has the benefit of playing with one of the best defenses in football.
  • What the heck has happened to Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons? Through five weeks, the Falcons were 5-0 and averaging 32.4 points per game as Ryan had a sub-90 passer rating just one. Since then, the Falcons are 1-6, as Ryan has gone over a 90 passer rating three times and the team has averaged 16.7 points a game. The worst thing is that their schedule has been really easy in that stretch. With two games against Carolina in the final four, I don’t see the Falcons winning more than eight games this year. So much for Dan Quinn winning Coach of the Year.
  • Those Steelers? Yeah, really good. I’m talking specifically about their passing game. In the last four weeks, since Ben Roethlisberger became himself again after missing time with a knee injury, they’ve scored at least 30 points every week, going 3-1 in that span. Without Le’Veon Bell, running back De’Angelo Williams has been playing well, but most of the onus has been on Big Ben. His response? 383 passing yards per game in the last four, with 43 attempts per game. He has a plethora of weapons in the passing game, led of course by the incredible Antonio Brown and supported by Martavis Bryant (who, by the way, is going to be a top-five receiver within a couple of years), Marcus Wheaton, and Williams, who’s caught 12 balls for 119 yards these last two weeks. This is a really high-powered offense, one nobody is going to want to face come playoff time.
  • If the 42-39 Tennessee win over Jacksonville is at all a harbinger of things to come, the AFC South might be getting better pretty quickly in the coming years. Andrew Luck will return to the elite ranks next year, while the Texans will still have J.J. Watt and not much else. But if Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles can play like they did on Sunday consistently, the Titans and Jaguars have legitimate things to look forward to, too.
  • The Rams have to have quit on their season. The last four weeks, they’ve lost to the Bears by 24, the Ravens by three, the Bengals by 24, and the Cardinals by 24. Actually, they haven’t quit on their season… they just have no offense. Teams know what to do against the Rams now; stack the box with eight or nine guys, keeping Todd Gurley in check and begging Nick Foles to beat them. The result? The awful Foles has averaged 39 attempts per game in his last three, and hasn’t averaged more than six yards per attempt since week eight. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. The Sam Bradford trade didn’t look great from Philadelphia’s point of view for a while, but considering how poorly Foles has played, maybe it was the right move after all.

10-6 straight up… 109-69
6-9-1 against the spread… 85-84-9
10-6 over/under… 88-86-6

Upset picks:
1-3… 21-25

Lock of the Week:
1-0… 10-3

Minnesota Vikings (8-4, 9-3) at Arizona Cardinals (10-2, 7-5):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 10
Over/under: 46.5
My prediction: This is a bummer. Less than a week ago, I was really excited for this game. But then three of Minnesota’s best defensive players (Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith) got injured, and the Vikings were absolutely obliterated by the Seahawks. I mean totally and completely destroyed. It was unwatchable. Meanwhile, the Cardinals beat the Rams in St. Louis 27-3, and it wasn’t even that close. They have a great passing game with Carson Palmer throwing to Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown, and David Johnson looks like a good replacement for the injured Chris Johnson. These teams are simply heading in the opposite directions. Is there any reason to take the Vikings to win the game? Maybe Adrian Peterson has a huge game, but I can’t really see it. On the other hand, they are 5-1 against the spread as a road team while the Cardinals are just 2-3 against the spread at home. But that isn’t enough for me to take the clearly inferior team coming off a punishing home loss. Cardinals win 27-14.
Cardinals cover
Under

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