Wow. Week 14 was by far the best week of the season so far. We had miracle plays, plenty of upsets, and down to the wire finished. It was everything we could have asked for, and let’s recap it with some winners and losers.
Winner: Chicago Bears (Won 15-6 vs LAR)
Does it surprise me that the Bears were able to beat the previously one-loss Rams on Sunday Night Football? No. Does it surprise me how they were able to do it? Definitely. If you would have said before the game that Mitchell Trubisky would throw for just 110 yards, three interceptions, and would compile a QB rating of 33.3, it would have seemed as if Chicago would’ve gotten blowout. Instead, the Bears defense shut down the Rams in every way possible to the point that Sean McVay had no idea what to call. Chicago allowed just 214 yards and six points. Jared Goff? Forced him to throw four interceptions and held him to a passer rating of 19.1. Todd Gurley? Held him to 28 rushing yards and 2.5 yards per carry. To be able to shut down both the passing and rushing attacks against the league’s most talented offense says something- the Bears defense can carry this team to the Super Bowl. If they continue to play this level of defense and run the ball (Chicago had 194 rushing yards) efficiently, it may not matter how Trubisky plays. They have a chance to push for a first round bye with a home game with the 5-7-1 Packers next followed by a road affair against the 3-10 49ers.
Loser: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Lost 28-14 vs NO)
It finally looked like the Bucs had figured it out. Leading the Saints 14-3 at halftime, Tampa Bay looked to be cruising towards a third straight win. It looked like Jameis Winston had finally answered the bell as the long-term answer for a quarterback for the Bucs. Then, all of a sudden, Tampa Bay decided to go back to being a disappointing team wasting a lot of talent, because that’s what they do. The Bucs offense didn’t score in the second half, and constantly went three and out. Winston had a QB rating of just 71.5 and was sacked four times. On top of Winston and the offense’s complete choke, the Bucs defense that had played so well in the first half allowed the Saints to move the ball with ease. Both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara ran right through them in the second half, while they had no answer for Michael Thomas (11 Rec 98 Yards). Special Teams was also horrible; Cairo Santos missed two field goals and Bryan Anger had a punt blocked. Add on the fact that Tampa Bay committee ten penalties, and this was a collapse in every facet of the game. It was the type of performance that proves why head coach Dirk Cotter needs to be relieved of his duties as soon as possible.
Winner: Tennessee Titans (Won 30-9 vs JAX)
On Thursday Night Football, Derrick Henry had one of the greatest, if not the greatest, performances by a running back of all time. The 24-year-old rushed for 238 yards, had four touchdowns, and averaged 14 yards a carry. He also is the second player of all time, after Tony Dorsett, to have a 99 yard rushing touchdown. In what has a disappointing season for Henry and people who drafted him in fantasy, (Let’s not talk about that) this breakout performance may have been a sign of good things to come for him down the stretch. It wasn’t just Henry’s historic performance that was impressive, the Titans defense performed at a high level once against. Tennessee held the Jags to 255 total yards and a 17% third down conversion rate, and also held Leonard Fournette to 2.6 yards per carry. They sacked Cody Kessler four times and forced him to run for his life the whole game, and showed the world on primetime that they are elite on that side of the football. Would it be preferred for Marcus Mariota to not have a QB rating of just 75.3? Yes, but that relying on Mariota isn’t how the Titans will win games. Relying on Henry and Dion Lewis and their defense limiting opposing offenses, however, is their formula to winning football games. With winnable games against the Giants and Redskins up next, Tennessee will likely be 9-6 heading into a Week 17 home date with the Colts (more on them in a second). The winner of that game may end up securing the last AFC wildcard spot.
Loser: Minnesota Vikings (Lost 21-7 at SEA)
When the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed $84 million contract, they were expecting to be one of the premier teams in football and a playoff lock around this time of the year with the Super Bowl in sight. Instead, the Vikings will be lucky if they can even get into the playoffs. Once again, it was Cousins’ poor play in a big game that cost them. Don’t let his stats fool you, (208 passing yards) Cousins had less than 100 passing yards entering the 4th quarter and missed on several reads. For example, down 6-0 in the 4th quarter on 4th and goal, Cousins ignored an open Adam Theilen to throw to a tightly covered Kyle Rudolph. The result was obvious, an incomplete pass that was the summary of the Vikings’ performance in this game and throughout the season. It’s unclear what Cousins needs to win. Dalvin Cook (4.2 yards per carry) had one of his best games of the season, he has still pro bowl receivers in Theilen and Stefon Diggs, and a defense that held Russell Wilson to 72 passing yards. Minnesota has yet to beat a team with a record over .500 this season, and despite all the talent they have, don’t seem to have the intangibles that teams like the Patriots, Chiefs, and Bears possess. Speaking of the Bears, the Vikings are now 2.5 games back in from them with three games to go. Their only chance is a wildcard spot, and while they are the front-runners to go that spot with winnable games against the Dolphins and Lions upcoming, can we even trust them at this point?
Winner: Indianapolis Colts (Won 24-21 at HOU)
Last week, the Colts looked finished. After getting shut out by the Jags, they had zero margin for error with tough games against the Texans and Cowboys upcoming if they wanted to make the payoffs as a wildcard. Well, Indianapolis made up for that embarrassing loss last week, stunning the Texans, who had won nine straight coming in. Andrew Luck was terrific as always, despite a slow start, throwing for 399 yards, two touchdowns, and compiling a 103.6 quarterback rating. The Luck-TY Hilton connection was working at its best; Hilton had 199 receiving yards. The two Colts stars have been performing like this for years, but it’s the defense that should give Colts fans hope. Indianapolis allowed a good-not great 315 total yards, but sacked Deshaun Watson five times and held Houston to under 100 yards rushing. Allowing just 21 points with Andrew Luck at quarterback will almost always get the job done, except for Week 13’s aberration. If Indianapolis can win at home against the Cowboys, and I think they can, then they’ll be set up nicely for that Week 17 showdown with the Texans. What a turnaround in one week.
Loser: Pittsburgh Steelers (Lost 24-21 at OAK)
It’s one thing when you lose to the Broncos on the road, where they’re tough to beat, or the now 10-3 Chargers, but it’s another thing to lose to the 2-10 Raiders. Not only did the Steelers lose to this team, but they lost despite the fact that Oakland was practically giving them the game with 13 penalties for 130 yards. Their season is in jeopardy, because they are, the Steelers. This is the Steelers that we all unfortunately are too familiar with. They have all the talent in the world, but are poorly coached and undisciplined. There are excuses: Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the second half with a rib injury and James Conner was out with a leg injury. Still, you don’t need to be at full strength to beat this Raiders team. After all, Nick Mullens and the 49ers of all teams beat them by 31 points! To make matters worse, Roethlisberger was cleared to come back in earlier, but head coach Mike Tomlin was scared to throw Pittsburgh off the “flow” it was in. What flow? Josh Dobbs had a quarterback rating of 12.0 in replace of Roethlisberger and the Steelers didn’t come close to scoring. As soon as Roethlsiberger came in, the Steelers scored. Imagine if Tomlin understood that a future hall of fame quarterback would help the team more than a second year quarterback who was drafted in the 4th round and barely made the team after preseason. By doing this, Tomlin put too much pressure on the defense, who eventually broke and allowed 14 fourth quarter points. Tomlin had two timeouts with Oakland inside the 5 yard line, but only used a timeout for non-clock management purposes. Roethlisberger was able to get the team into field goal range given just 15 seconds, which didn’t matter since Chris Boswell forgot how to kick a field goal, so can you imagine how easily they would’ve scored if given a full minute? The Steelers need a complete overhaul in the coaching department, with both coordinators gone as well as Tomlin. There’s too much talent on this team for them to underachieve every year. Up next, the angry Patriots. That’ll be interesting to say the least.