– Matt Magill
This was a game the Chiefs were supposed to lose. Coming off an emotional win against a tough divisional opponent last week, playing on the road in a hostile environment against a division leader with one of the best offenses in the league in Atlanta. Anyone would have understood if Andy Reid’s bunch dropped this game. Instead, through the sheer will of their defense, the Chiefs prevailed once again. Oakland may be the division winner in the stacked AFC West, but Kansas City is the team that no one wants to play once the playoffs start.
Apparently, the Lions don’t always need to come back in the fourth quarter to win. They made Drew Brees look pedestrian all day and held the Saints to 13 points at home. The Lions are for real.
The Patriots beat the Rams. I’m not surprised, are you surprised? The Rams are just awful.
The Broncos beat the Jaguars, even with Paxton Lynch at quarterback throwing for 100 yards. Luckily, he was opposed by human turnover machine in Blake Bortles. The Broncos do not have an easy road to the playoffs this last month, but if they do get in they will certainly be battle-tested.
The Packers got back to .500 by feasting on the Texans who, despite a slight second half resurgence, had no one in Wisconsin on the edge of their seat.
The Eagles continued to just fall apart as the Bengals came in and dropped a season high 32 points on a Philly defense that was supposed to be good this year under Jim Schwartz, and actually lived up to that promise for a month.
Miami was on a roll…until they ran into the Ravens who actually found their offense.
I think it’s safe to say that the Colin Kaepernick is actually pretty good this year narrative can be put to bed now. The Bears, behind their running back of the future in Jordan Howard just dominated the Niners.
Buffalo had it. They could taste the win…then they just gave it away. Yes, the Raiders have a great offense this year, but the Bills defense should have been able to avoid the embarrassment of giving up 38 points. Buffalo looks like it’s going another year without a playoff appearance.
The Steelers showed what happens when the Giants play an actual decent team. I don’t think the Giants are good, but when they are feasting on the Bengals, Browns, Bears and Eagles all right in a row, it will sure look like they are. The big test is next week at home against the Cowboys.
Arizona won’t be making the playoffs this year, but after dropping their second in a row, it’s looking like neither will the Redskins. Kirk Cousins played well, but the Washington defense didn’t really show up. I’m sure they’re glad they paid all that money to Josh Norman.
The Bucs are not going to have an easy road to the playoffs, but they have consistently shown week in and week out that they are a team that will go down swinging. They are set up to be the class of their division for years to come as well. The Chargers are just full of bad luck. I don’t think Mike McCoy is going to get fired because of the way they played this year, but his leash will be short moving forward.
As I suspected in my preview, the Panthers have no heart. With four winnable games left on their schedule, they could finish with a modicum of respect, but it doesn’t feel like this team is capable of that. Benching Cam for a dress-code violation was the right decision, and if it leads to Rivera losing his job, he will be picked up in a heartbeat (Jacksonville could use some hard-nosed discipline, as could Indianapolis).
The Jets played the Colts on Monday night, and none of us won.
Rising like a Viagra binge:
The Bucs are still making magic happen, but how about the Lions? I had Caldwell pegged for the unemployment line early in the season, but he has the boys from Detroit playing some really good football. At 8-4 and firmly in control of the division (and the #3 seed if the NFC South keeps beating up on itself) they are sitting pretty right now. With a closing schedule that involves the Bears, Giants, Cowboys and Packers, they can’t let their guard down though.
Sinking faster than the Titanic:
The Texans were never a good team to begin with, but with three straight losses, they are finally living up to that reputation. Luckily they are in the AFC South, but Tennessee had to love what they were watching on their bye last week as the Texans were dropped to 6-6.
Coaches on the hot seat:
Okay, lists are easier, let’s go to a list:
Bradley – Jaguars – 99% gone
Pagano – Colts – 90% gone
Lewis – Bengals – 80% gone
Fisher – Rams – 50% gone – this is attributed only to the contract extension, not to anything Fisher has done.
McCoy – Chargers – 50% gone
McCarthy – Packers – 25% gone
Bowles – Jets– 25% gone
Rivera – Panthers – 25% gone
Pederson – Eagles – 10% gone
Kelly – 49ers – 10% gone
A quick word on the Cowboys:
I’m an unabashed Cowboys fan, have been since my youth and the time of the “triplets”. So I would like to say something about the worst-run team in the NFL this side of Cleveland.
Dallas should have lost to the Vikings, plain and simple. The offensive line played probably their worst game this season, if not in the last few years. Between penalties and just being unable to handle their individual assignments, they played like they only had a day or two to rest between games, aside from the full week they did have (thanks to playing on Thanksgiving the week before). Dak played like a rookie beyond the first quarter, and Zeke was unable to really break loose (again, having a large part to do with the offensive line playing so poorly). The defense stiffened at the end, but nearly gave the whole thing away. Brandon Carr went from having a nice bounce-back season to being a huge liability on the outside, and should be benched when and if Claiborne can make it back on the field. He may go down as the biggest defensive bust Dallas has ever acquired once all is said and done.
Through all that, the Cowboys were not only able to eke out a win, but thanks to the Redskins loss on Sunday, they were able to lock up a playoff spot. This game made me terrified of the rest of the Dallas schedule (Giants, Bucs, Lions, before what will probably be a meaningless game against Philly in week seventeen) as they are facing some dominant offensive players and some pretty good defenses. Could Dallas lose the next four, back into the playoffs and lose in the wildcard round to a team that beat them a week or two earlier? Absolutely. Could they roll through the next four weeks on their way to a title game with the Seahawks? That’s possible too. Despite an 11-1 record, it’s too early to tell with this team. Will they turn back into a pumpkin before they reach the playoffs or after?