Sunday, December 11, 2016

Week 14 NFL Notes

About the only thing that made me positively happy today was that the Packers throttled the hated Seahawks 38-10, handing them their second-worst loss in the Pete Carroll era (the worst a 41-7 loss to the Giants way back in 2010). The past four games have seen the Aaron Rodgers we have been accustomed to, completing 94 of 133 passes for 1109 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 120.8 QB rating. At 7-6, the Packers still have an outside shot of winning NFC North, a road made easier by this victory. The Lions still have a two-game lead in the division with three games left, but with Matthew Stafford injuring his throwing hand and road games against the Giants and Cowboys for the Lions, if the Packers beat the Vikings (at home) and the Bears, then the match-up against the Lions in the season finale could decide the division. The one concern going forward is Rodgers’ calf injury, to go along with his hamstring injury.

As for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson had his worst game since two weeks ago against the Buccaneers; although he had a worse QB rating in that game, this game was arguably worse, throwing a personal “best” five interceptions, doubling his season total. In the last three games, Wilson has just 2 TD passes to 8 interceptions. Analysts keep telling us that the Seahawks are the most “dangerous” team in the NFC come playoff time, but they keep giving us evidence that this may not be the case, such as this game.

For the other games, a few good, but mostly bad, results:

Chiefs 21 Raiders 13 On a frozen Thursday night, Derek Carr was horrible, throwing for just 117 yards on 41 pass attempts, regardless of the excuses given afterward. Alex Smith threw for 264 yards on just 26 pass attempts, so the facts speak for themselves. The Chiefs now hold the division tiebreaker, having won both meetings between the two teams.

Jets 23 49ers 17 Colin Kaepernick was efficient in the first half as the 49ers built a 17-3 first half lead, seemingly an insurmountable one. But in the next two quarters, Kaepernick completed just 2 of 8 passes for 4 yards as Bryce Petty “heated up” and led the Jets to a 23-17 victory in overtime. Unfortunately for coach Chip Kelly of the 1-12 49ers, the Oregon Ducks have already hired their new coach.

Buccaneers 16 Saints 11 The story of this game was Drew Brees, who now for the past two games has thrown three interceptions and no touchdowns in each, wasting two reasonably good defensive performances. The offense, one of the top-ranked until these past two games, has failed to take advantage of those rare good defensive efforts. Had the Saints won these two games, a 7-6 record would leave them one game back in their division; now, they are getting ready to clinch their third straight losing season.

Falcons 42 Rams 14 The Rams’ defense didn’t really lay an egg in this one, allowing 21 points and 286 yards of total yards. Rookie Jared Goff threw two touchdowns passes—both to the other team, and a Rams fumble was returned for another. 

Steelers 27 Bills 20 Ben Roethlisberger’s three interceptions only had the effect of making this less of a blowout than it should have been. Le’Veon Bell set a team record rushing for 236 yards while scoring three touchdowns.

Titans 13 Broncos 10 Marcus Mariota was just 6 of 20 for 88 yards, which might be expected against the Broncos’ defense, but did enough early as Trevor Siemian didn’t do enough late. Again, the decision to forgo a field goal and go for it on fourth-and-short with a lot of time left on the clock cost a team dear, in this case the Broncos.

Redskins 27 Eagles 22 The Eagles left 10 points on the field after Carson Wentz—who started “hot”—was intercepted in the end zone from three yards out, and a fumbled snap aborted a field goal. Wentz also fumbled away the ball to end an otherwise impressive final minute drive to try to win the game. The Eagles have now lost 7 of 8 after a surprising start.

Dolphins 27 Cardinals 22 Cardinals’ kicker Chandler Catanzaro has received a lot of bad press for his misses, which include two missed extra point tries and a field goal attempt that hit an upright in this game. That’s five points—and that’s not taking into consideration the miss returned for two points by the Dolphins. But he did kick a 56-yard field goal in this game, and was 15 of 19 and a career .867 field goal made percentage entering into it. But when you are just a kicker, it is your misses that always seem to “count.”

Panthers 28 Chargers 16 Cam Newton had another bad game, completing just 10 of 27 passes, and looked ridiculous in his latest post-game get-up. Fortunately for him, the Chargers team was more ridiculous, turning the ball over five times. Melvin Gordon twisted his knee early in the game trying to recover a Philip Rivers fumble, leaving the game just three yards short of 1,000 yards rushing. 

Bengals 23 Browns 10 Robert Griffin III was back, and considering the season lost anyways, he decided to play favorites with fellow Baylor Bear Corey Coleman, targeting him 11 times. Coleman, whose 44 catch percentage before the game is not the highest in the league, only proved that RG3 is even less proficient than his predecessors by catching just three of those passes. Now that percentage is down to 41 percent; I don’t think RG3 helped Coleman’s job prospects next year.

Lions 20 Bears 17 Look, I know that the Lions should have won this game anyways, making it needlessly close by a Matthew Stafford interception returned for a touchdown, but doesn’t mean the officials have to make things “right” on their own. As the Bears were nearing overtime-forcing field goal position in the final minute, back-to-back holding penalties done them in. This is now the 12th game in 13 for the Lions that was decided by 7 points or fewer. This kind of luck has to be a gift from heaven, or someplace.

Vikings 25 Jaguars 16 The Jaguars actually led in this game 16-12 entering the fourth quarter, which usually means the Vikings are going to lose. But this was the Jaguars. ‘Nuff said, except that I wished the Jaguars had played with one or two fewer screws loose, to help the Packers’ cause.

Giants 10 Cowboys 7 Late in the game, Dez Bryant fumbles a ball he says shouldn’t have been ruled a catch. When the Cowboys get the ball back a minute later, his 17-yard reception on fourth down is overruled as not being a catch. These two plays served as the only ones of interest in a lackluster offensive performance by both teams, and this wasn’t the kind of “humbling” loss that the Cowboys could learn from, or for other teams to take heart from.

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