Week 15 in the NFL had some serious hard-hitting action and playoff implications, yet still left me with one key question: can somebody please tell me what the fuck is a catch?!? Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos kicked off Week 15 with the last Thursday Night Football game of the year… Thank God. However, we have a Red Alert… Saturday Games People!!! Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots was the Game of the Year and had an unbelievable finish! Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football) went down to the wire and a fumble through the back of the end zone. The NFL Playoff Picture is taking shape and we will analyze the current state of affairs. Aight let’s get to it… NFL Week 15 Wrap-Up.
NFL WEEK 15 WRAP-UP
Post-Wentz life began for the Philadelphia Eagles… The Birds did not miss a beat as Nick Foles, aka lil Nicky Montana (24/38-237-4), made all the important throws he had to make, used the tools around him like Alshon Jeffery (4-49-1) and Zach Ertz (6-56-1), and relied upon the powerful running game of Jay Ajayi (12-49; 2-40). With the 34-29 victory over the hapless New York Football Giants (2-12), the Birds (12-2) clinched a first-round bye (more on that later).
Aaron Rodgers Returns… Movie due out in 2018. He looked shaky in the first half, missing some “easy” throws and looking very un-Rodgers like, but ring rust was to be expected (26/45-290-3-3 INTs; 6-43… thought he wasn’t gonna run McCarthy?). Even though the Green Bay Packers loss throws a monkey wrench in their playoff aspirations, what a courageous effort by Mr. Hail Mary! Speaking of returns, so did Greg Olsen (9-116-1) to the end zone. Carolina Panthers are 10-4 and tied with the New Orleans Saints atop the NFC South. Despite all of this good news, Jerry Richardson announced the Panthers will be put up for sale at the end of the year. Anyone wanna pony up some money or create a GoFundMe?
New York Jets have scored nine times (4 TDs, 5 FGs) in the final 2:00 of the 1st half in their games (2nd in NFL), which means one of two things. Either they are extremely proficient in the 2-minute drill, or teams simply feel that bad for them so they let them back in the game a bit. Kinda like the chick from a Manojob video gliding her va-jay-jay upon the dude’s shaft to completion. Michael Thomas needs to consult the GOAT (Jerry Rice in case any of you need that specified) about his footwork when catching TD receptions. The WR had TWO touchdowns called back on review. Mark Ingram beasted with 151 YFS and Saints won 31-19.
Catch or no catch? You make the call!
In the GOY between Pittsburgh and New England, Ryan Shazier was in attendance at Heinz Field, waving his terrible towel. The sentimental moment fired up the Steelers and propelled them to stand toe-to-toe with the GOAT. Appearing to have the game won on the Outlaw, Jesse James’ “non-TD catch” shown above, the Steelers passed up on a game tying FG two plays later to fake the spike and go for the win. BIG MISTAKE, as it resulted in a game ending interception, 27-24. How you thought that would fool a well-coached Patriots team is beyond me, as they practice that play a 100 times. Ben Roethlisberger (22/30-281-2) tried to explain the decision after the game: “Wasn’t a fake spike… I was yelling, ‘Clock it.’ It came from the sideline, don’t clock it, don’t clock it!” Yeah right, Big Ben… and the sex was consensual, I’m sure!
AB did make history… first player in NFL history to record 100 or more receptions in five consecutive years. How was he rewarded, you ask? An injury and MVP chants while escorted off the field (more on that below).
I expected the Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams game to be a shootout, and it was, only the Rams had an AK, while the Hawks had a prop gun firing blanks. Beast Mode is not even a strong enough term for what Todd Gurley did (21-152-3; 3-28-1); ‘Monster Among Men’ is much more accurate.
Before the Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals game began, Ian Rapoport reported Marvin Lewis is planning to part ways from the team at season’s end. Minnesota cruised to a 34-7 victory over Cincy in a game that was never close. Don’t think a soul expected it to be. The most meaningful moment of this game for me (and many others) was watching Teddy Bridgewater walk back onto a football field for the first time in 16 months. Even if it was in mop-up duty, an Indian chief tear did roll down my cheek for Teddy Touchdown… only to be followed by a Peter Griffin-like chuckle when he threw his 1st pass for an INT. Kyle Rudolph (2-17-1; Doubtful to Active) with the “Icky Shuffle” was close to being Best TD Celebration this week, but what Rudolph had in creativity, playing the Bengals, he lacked in enthusiasm.
The Best TD Celebration Award for Week 15 went down on Saturday night…
The ‘Cheetah’, Tyreek Hill, ran down a rainbow pass from the white Dak Prescott for a 64-yard TD… his fellow Kansas City Chiefs teammates welcomed him in the end zone with a NASCAR Pit Stop.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 17, 2017
Chiefs earned the top spot in the AFC West with the 30-13 victory. Turnovers were the story of the game (Los Angeles Chargers last nine games: +14 turnover differential, this game: -4).
Sunday Night Football saw two good teams in the midst of mediocre seasons do battle. Playing for their playoff lives, coach Jack Del Rio must have given a rousing pregame speech to his defense. I don’t know what the fuck he said, but the Raiders D came to play. Khalil Mack had two sacks, along with consistent pressure from the OL, and CB Sean Smith pilfered two passes by Dak Prescott (18/27-212-0; 6-32-1). On the Cowboys side of the ball, who were also playing to survive in the NFC playoff hunt, Demarcus Lawrence made life difficult for Derek Carr (21/38-171-2). However, it was the young, talented, yet unproven Cowboys secondary who impressed me the most. Michael Crabtree had 2 TDs, but was otherwise held in check (7-39); also helps that Amari Cooper missed his third straight game due to a bum ankle. Chidobe Awuzie is a player!
Marshawn Lynch (16-76) is simply a joy to watch running the football. Beastmode’s smash-mouth style gets the hairs standing on the back of one’s neck. Did you know, since 2007, Lynch has 564 missed tackles! That’s 83 more missed tackles than Adrian Peterson (481) and 152 more than LeSean McCoy (412). Amazing… ok back to the game.
Tied at 17 with 4:49 left in the 4th quarter, coach Jason Garrett made his third “Balls of Steel” 4th down call of the game with a QB sneak. The difference between a win and loss came down to a piece of paper since the 1st down could not be determined with the naked eye. What is this, fucking horseshoes… closest to the pin? I could smell the Eagles fans’ hate everywhere. Cowboys went on to a FG and a 20-17 victory. The Raiders fell to 6-8 and are all but eliminated from the AFC West crown, as well as the playoffs which we will examine in the next section. The 8-6 Cowboys are in a “three way” with the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks (who they play in Week 16); all chasing the 8-5 Atlanta Falcons… they play on Monday Night Football. Ezekiel Elliott returns this week.
NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE
Figuring out the NFL playoff picture can be compared to advanced chemistry. I will do my best to simplify as much as possible by dividing it into the three following categories: What We Know, The Possibilities and On the Fringe.
#1 Philadelphia Eagles, 12-2
#2 Minnesota Vikings, 11-3
#3 Los Angeles Rams, 10-4
#4 New Orleans Saints, 10-4
#5 Carolina Panthers, 10-4
#6 Atlanta Falcons, 8-5*
In the Hunt
Detroit Lions, 8-6; Seattle Seahawks, 8-6; Dallas Cowboys, 8-6; Green Bay Packers, 7-7
#1 New England Patriots, 11-3
#2 Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-3
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars, 10-4
#4 Kansas City Chiefs, 8-6
#5 Tennessee Titans, 8-6
#6 Buffalo Bills, 8-6
In the Hunt
Baltimore Ravens, 8-6; Los Angeles Chargers, 7-7; Oakland Raiders, 6-8; Miami Dolphins, 6-8
*Pending tonight’s Atlanta Falcons/Tampa Bay Buccaneers game (see preview below)
Here’s What We Know: Two of the six playoff spots in the NFC are spoken for, as the Eagles are the first team to have clinched a first-round bye and Vikes clinched the NFC North. In the AFC, Patriots won the AFC East with their miraculous victory over the Steelers and are currently the #1 seed. Sacksonville clinched their 1st playoff berth in a decade; Jags are alive for all three top seeds and hold the tiebreaker on Pittsburgh. Chiefs hold a one-game lead on the Chargers in the AFC West, as well as all the tiebreakers to win the division. It will be a scramble for the final three spots in the AFC (see below).
The Possibilities: I’m not gonna bore you folks with all the possible scenarios; ain’t NOBODY got time for that shit. In the NFC West, the Rams’ win in Seattle gives them command; a win or Seahawks loss will give them 1st division title since the “Greatest Show on Turf” 14 years ago! Panthers are in great shape for at worst a Wild Card birth, and will battle New Orleans for the NFC South title (not head-to-head). However, if the Falcons win out (play Saints & Panthers in Weeks 16 & 17 respectively), they could win the South. If they lose out, they could miss the playoffs!
Back to the Jags in the AFC… they will take the AFC South crown with a win or a Tennessee Titans loss. As you can see above, there is a three-way tie at 8-6 for the final two playoff spots. However, Baltimore is the only team that controls their own destiny and doesn’t need help. Enter Audubon’s Finest, Joe Flacco, and my extreme taste for sarcasm!
On the Fringe: As mentioned before, Dallas, Detroit and Seattle will all be HUGE Buccaneers’ fans tonight. The Packers are out if Atlanta wins, as no discount double check can save them, and the road for the three aforementioned teams becomes narrower. In the AFC, the Raiders and Dolphins’ losses have them riding on a wing and a prayer.
WEEK 15 KEY INJURIES
Antonio Brown (Calf): AB left for the locker room in the 1st quarter with what was originally diagnosed as a bruised calf. In probably the most convoluted injury report in all of space and time, he went from being out for the game, to a questionable return, and finally sent to hospital for further testing before game’s end.
Prognosis: Partially Torn Calf Muscle; not expected to play next week, but will play in playoffs….hmmmm. Maybe Burfict was right (sorry #SteelersNation)!
Fantasy Football Impact: This is DEVASTATING news for AB owners who are still fortunate to be playing for a Fantasy Championship. No way to replace the best WR in the game, but look no further than his teammate Martavis Bryant (4-59-1) if available in your league. Otherwise, I hope you have a deep WR bench for just such an injury!
Other Injury News
Rex Burkhead (Left Knee Injury)
James Conner (MCL Knee Injury)
Davante Adams (Concussion)
Marqise Lee (Ankle Sprain): MRI today should reveal more
Jeremy Maclin (Knee Injury)
Austin Ekeler (Broken Hand): Done for season
OT Donald Penn (Foot Injury) hasn’t missed a game in 10½ years!
OT Tyron Smith (Knee)
Joe Haden (Fibula): IA, but expected back next week
Defenders Patrick Robinson, D.J. Alexander and Leonard Williams (Concussion)
For up-to-date NFL injury news on these players and more, click here.
NOTABLE ROOKIE PERFORMANCES
Kareem Hunt (24-155-1; 7-51-1)
Christian McCaffrey (12-63-5.3 avg; 6-73-1)
Keelan Cole (7-186-1)
Jaydon Mickens (4-61-2)
Alvin Kamara (12-44; 6-45-1)
Mitchell Trubisky (31/46-314-1): Despite 3 INTs
JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-114): Also an add for AB owners if available
Elijah McGuire (4-24; 3-48-1)
Evan Engram (8-87; plus a 14-yard rush)
Wayne Gallman (8-39; 6-40)
WEEKLY STAT LEADERS (HEADING INTO MONDAY NIGHT)
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium, 8:30 EST): Aight people, I’m gonna keep this short and sweet, as I’m sure your eyes are tired by now. The Falcons are a good team and the Bucs are not! This assessment is not based on talent, as TB has plenty, but due to injury and bad luck, it has not come together for them in 2017. However, how many times have we seen the dawg play spoiler in a primetime game? The answer is MANY, MANY times.
The Bucs run game has disappointed this year, but I feel they will fair well against an Atlanta defensive unit that is ranked #30 in rush DVOA. The Falcons pass DVOA is below average (#17) so Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and company can eat there too. The Tampa D is horrible (#31 pass DVOA; #22 rush DVOA) so I expect Julio Jones, Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman (Tevin Coleman is OUT with a concussion) to perpetuate the shootout. However, Bucs win in a shocker, 31-27. Call it a hunch, or maybe it’s just hope!
Falcons -6.5 O/U 48.5 (Take the Bucs outright and the over)
Vegas Team Totals: Dirty Birds – 27.5, Bucs – 21
Fantasy Projections: Julio is your Monday Night Miracle in seasonal playoffs, while Mohamed Sanu ($6,300 on FD) is a terrific play in Mon-Sat DFS. I’d pay up for Freeman ($7,600) with Coleman sidelined. For the Bucs, if trying to save salary, take a shot on Peyton Barber for $5,300. I would say definitely lock in Winston, but an angry Mr. Rodgers is also on this slate and looking to burn down the neighborhood, even against a tough Vikings D. Primetime matchup… get your popcorn ready!