One of the coolest things about NFL Week 14 was the otherworldly snow-globe game between the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills. It was the first epic snow game we’ve had all year, and it was just a blast to watch.
On the flip side, the Cincinnati Bengals laid an absolute egg at home against the lowly Chicago Bears to put a cherry on top of their embarrassing 2017 season.
There were plenty of highs and lows. These are the biggest winners and losers from the action around the NFL in Week 14.
Winner: Falcons D comes up huge to fuel playoff hopes
Heading into Week 14, the Atlanta Falcons knew they’d make the playoffs if they could just win out. With four straight games against NFC South opponents, they were in control of their own destiny. Well, the first win is in the books, thanks to a very strong performance by Atlanta’s defense on a night that saw Matt Ryan throw three interceptions of his own.
One of the keys that unlocked the win was that the Saints lost Alvin Kamara early to a concussion. Without his electric playmaking abilities, New Orleans’ offense wasn’t as potent as it’s been. Drew Brees ended up throwing the ball 20 more times than the Saints ran it, and Atlanta held them to season-low totals in points, rushing yards and total yards, per NFL Research.
Though, in the end, New Orleans had a very good chance to win it. Down deep in Atlanta territory, Falcons linebacker Deion Jones made a tremendous interception (watch here) that sealed the win for the Falcons, who moved to 8-5 on the season.
Loser: Browns set new NFL mark for futility over two seasons
Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers didn’t start out well for the Cleveland Browns. One of the worst busted-coverage plays you’ll ever see led to the first touchdown of the game for the Packers (watch here), who had also pulled off a fake punt earlier on that same drive. The Browns were Brownsing. Hard.
Though, for a while it looked like Cleveland might actually pull off a stunning win, their first of the year. Josh Gordon had a huge game in his first game back in Cleveland since being reinstated, and he caught the first of three unanswered touchdowns by Cleveland, which took a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter.
As Browns fans have come to expect from the Factory of Sadness, the good times did not last. Instead, the Packers ended up pushing the game to overtime with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Then, DeShone Kizer, as is his wont, threw an awful interception in overtime that set up a third unanswered touchdown for Green Bay.
Now at 0-13, the Browns are the first team in NFL history to start two seasons in a row with 13 straight losses. That’s as bad as it gets folks.
Winner: Jonathan Stewart romps, Panthers prevail in potential postseason preview
Big players show up in big games. Carolina Panthers Jonathan Stewart fits that bill. In a huge game against the NFC’s No. 1 seed heading into Week 14, the Minnesota Vikings, Stewart went for over 100 yards for just the second time all year.
He got the game started with a tremendous 60-yard dash to pay dirt that put the Panthers up 7-0 in the first quarter (watch here).
In addition to the 103 yards on 13 carries Stewart rattled off, he scored twice more, finishing with three rushing touchdowns. Both totals were season highs for the 30-year-old running back, who came into the game with just three touchdowns on the campaign.
Loser: Not the outcome Eli Manning was hoping for
The New York Giants had the Dallas Cowboys right where they wanted them, tied up at 10 apiece early in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning hadn’t been perfect by any stretch of the imagination at this point in the game, but he had thrown a touchdown, and the Giants hadn’t turned the ball over once.
Then Dallas’ offense got some momentum going, and in response Manning and his offense fell apart completely to finish the game. Manning threw interceptions on two consecutive drives to close out the game, and just like that Dallas had a blowout win, 30-10.
It was nice to see the fans in New York giving Manning a standing ovation. He deserves it after what Ben McAdoo did prior to being fired. But in the end Manning’s performance lends credence to the idea his time in New York really is at an end. The franchise needs to move on, because Manning’s best days are clearly behind him.
Winner: Jimmy Garoppolo impressive again, 49ers win second straight game
Watching Jimmy Garoppolo the past two weeks, one almost gets the notion that having a top-flight passer makes all the difference in the world. San Francisco won its second game in a row Sunday on the road against the Houston Texans. Both wins have come on the road, which is very telling.
Even more telling is the way Garoppolo has his offense chugging along. The 49ers gained 416 yards in this game. Garoppolo passed for 334 yards, completing 20-of-33 passes while San Francisco moved the ball at will most of the game. He also threw an interception but more than made up for it in the third quarter with his first touchdown throw as the team’s starter — a very impressive play in which he rolled out away from pressure and tossed a dime (watch here).
The 49ers ended up scoring three more points in the fourth quarter to win by double digits, 26-16. It’s clear they have found their answer at quarterback, which makes the rest of the rebuild much easier in the coming seasons.
Loser: Oakland’s offense resembles an old Ford pickup
For a long time, Ford pickup trucks were represented by the acronym “Fix Or Repair Daily.” It’s one that represents Oakland’s offense this year, too. It’s a broken thing.
On Sunday in Kansas City, tied atop the AFC West with a record of 6-6, the Raiders were awful once again offensively. Derek Carr wasn’t sharp, the running game never really got going and Oakland put up a stinker of an effort in a must-win game. Carr threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions against a Chiefs pass defense that got roasted by none other than Josh McCown and the New York Jets last weekend. He completed just 24-of-41 passes and was generally out of sorts.
It’s just a continuation of what we’ve seen all year long. Whether it’s due to Oakland firing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave after last year, or a case of Carr simply regressing, he’s taken a step back. As such, so have the Raiders, who had no answers Sunday.
Winner: Eric Ebron, Golden Tate roar to life in key win for Lions
The Detroit Lions desperately needed a win to remain a legitimate contender for the playoffs, entering the weekend with a record of 6-6. Matthew Stafford wasn’t sharp and got picked off twice, and Detroit’s running game was, as usual, pretty much dead.
Golden Tate was huge. He came up with Stafford’s only touchdown pass, hauling in eight passes for 85 yards on just nine targets. But he’s a guy known for coming up big when the stakes are high.
What was truly shocking is how tight end Eric Ebron performed. Catching 10 of the 11 passes that came his way for 94 yards, Ebron was unstoppable. Coming into the game, Ebron hadn’t caught more than five passes in a game all year, and it was the first time in his entire career that he notched double-digit receptions in a single game. Though his detractors will certainly point to his fumble early and a dropped pass, Ebron’s performance was eye-opening in a positive way.
Even better, it helped the Lions win, 27-24, to maintain a shot at the postseason.
Loser: Bengals lay an egg in must-win game
The Cincinnati Bengals were almost dead already heading into NFL Week 14 with a record of 5-7. But they still had a chance of somehow sneaking into the playoffs by winning their games and hoping other teams lost.
Instead of competing hard in a must-win game, however, the Bengals got blown out.
Against the Chicago Bears.
Granted, they were missing key starters on both sides of the ball, which certainly had something to do with the outcome. But to get torched at home by a three-win team by the score of 33-7 is nothing short of a massive embarrassment.
Winner: The Brett Hundley/Davante Adams combo was pure fire
The past five weeks have been quite a roller-coaster ride for young Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley. He’s either been terrible or terrific. After last weekend’s frustrating performance against Tampa Bay, he rebounded Sunday on the road against the Cleveland Browns and had his best game of the season.
Completing 35-of-46 passes, Hundley almost couldn’t miss. He ended up throwing for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Two of them were tossed to receiver Davante Adams, who had a monster game catching 10 passes for 84 yards. Even better, he caught both the touchdown to send the game into overtime and then the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
These two young players helped the Packers stay very much relevant in the playoff race. And with Aaron Rodgers inching closer to a return, things could get VERY interesting the next few weeks.
Loser: Cam Newton lucky to have backup
This might seem like nitpicking, because Carolina did win a huge game against Minnesota. Yet not for the first time this season, the Panthers won in spite of a pretty bad performance by Cam Newton passing the ball.
Newton completed just 13-of-25 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown and one awful interception. The reason this is a big deal is that, should Carolina continue to play well as a team and gets into the playoffs, Newton cannot have these types of games. If he does, they’ll be knocked out of the postseason quickly.
And on the surface, aside from the passing game, Carolina has a championship-caliber team. So, there’s no doubt Newton needs to sharpen up his game in the next few weeks.
Winner: Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen shred toothless Bengals
We knew the Bears had a shot at winning and actually highlighted Cincinnati as a team on upset alert. The reasoning for this prediction was simple: Without Vontaze Burfict manning the middle of Cincinnati’s defense, the Bears had a good chance of running the ball at will.
And oh boy, did they.
Jordan Howard rebounded from a couple of awful games the past couple of weeks to have one of his best games of the season. He finished with 155 total yards and two rushing touchdowns, which by themselves were enough to beat the Bengals.
Tarik Cohen, the electric rookie, added 88 yards, 80 of which he gained on 12 carries. These two running backs had their way, helping the Bears win just their fourth game all season.
Loser: Buccaneers can’t stop self-inflicted wounds
There’s a good reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers keep losing games. They lost their ninth game of the season Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions, despite racking up 400 yards and 28 first downs on offense and despite forcing three turnovers of their own.
The reason? They just could not stop shooting themselves in the foot. Jameis Winston threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. Both O.J. Howard and Doug Martin lost fumbles, too, for a total of five turnovers.
That’s just not going to win games. There are reports that head coach Dirk Koetter and Winston are clashing, and at this point it seems a foregone conclusion the Bucs will have to look for a new head coach in 2018. Clearly, Koetter has lost all semblance of control, and his team’s performance is one of the biggest disappointments of the entire season.
Winner: Killer Bees went bananas against Ravens
No team in the NFL forced more turnovers than the Baltimore Ravens before Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. The Ravens also featured the No. 3-ranked scoring defense and No. 7-ranked total defense. Yet, if you were a casual observer tuning into this season for the first time Sunday night, you would have no idea they were remotely competent defensively.
The reason for this is that Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown — Pittsburgh’s Killer Bees — were unstoppable. Roethlisberger passed for 506(!) yards with two touchdowns, Bell totaled 125 yards and three touchdowns, and Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards.
All told, Pittsburgh racked up 545 yards, 31 first downs (including 12-of-18 on third downs) and 39 points. And incredibly, it was barely good enough to edge the Ravens, who had their best offensive game by far this year.
Loser: Jets ran out of fuel
What a difference a week makes. Last weekend the New York Jets couldn’t be stopped offensively. They racked up 38 points, 30 first downs and 488 total yards against the Kansas City Chiefs. Then on Sunday in Denver, Gang Green had nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing.
Credit goes to Denver’s defense, which has been pretty bad of late. It stepped up, to be sure. That said, the Jets were just terrible and probably would have struggled against any team the way they played.
Josh McCown passed for 46 yards with an interception on 6-of-12 attempts before leaving with an injury to his non-throwing hand. Bryce Petty was even worse, going 2-of-9 for 14 yards. The rushing attack couldn’t run through a cardboard box, let along an NFL defense, gaining just 59 yards on 23 carries.
It was a complete and utter collapse by New York’s offense, leading to a 23-0 blowout loss — the first shutout loss of the season for the Jets.
Winner: Dak Prescott torched the G-Men
It’s been a while since Dak Prescott had a huge passing game. He chose a great time to break out, with Dallas needing a win to get above .500 heading into the final weeks of the season.
Putting together his most complete game as a pure passer since Week 10 of last season, Prescott torched the Giants. Completing 20-of-30 passes for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, he led an offensive effort that included nary a single turnover. His final two touchdowns put the game away in the fourth quarter, and all three went for at least 20 yards, including an 81-yard to Rod Smith late in the fourth quarter.
Surely, it helps that Prescott didn’t take a single sack. The offensive line has been making gradual improvements the past few weeks, with Sunday being the best showing we’ve seen in a couple months.
Loser: Marcus Mariota and the Titans stymied in desert
We’ve been kind of waiting for this type of performance from Tennessee, which has managed to win eight games despite some very uninspiring performances this year.
Sunday in Arizona, Marcus Mariota tried to play through a knee injury and had one of the worst games of his career. The third-year quarterback completed just 16-of-31 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Both picks occurred in the second half, the second happening late in the fourth quarter, down by five points. He never saw the linebacker, who was lurking underneath coverage.
Tennessee’s powerful rushing attack was also rendered impotent. The Titans gained just 65 yards on 22 carries. The only score of the game occurred in the second quarter when Derrick Henry ran it in from six yards out. Other than that, the Titans were absolutely stymied.
Winner: Eagles win thriller, despite losing Carson Wentz
The Philadelphia Eagles are still the class of the NFC heading into the final three games of the season after beating the Los Angeles Rams, 43-35. The win also clinched the NFC East crown. There were standout performers on both sides of the ball, but in the end Philly made more big plays when it mattered, including at the end of the game with Carson Wentz already in the locker room.
Wentz appears to have suffered a torn ACL, an injury that occurred as he dove for a touchdown. Adding insult to injury, the play was called back for holding, and Wentz ended up heading into the locker room, never to return, shortly afterward. Before being injured, he was on fire passing for 291 yards with four touchdowns. But at this point it seems like his season might be over. And that’s a shame because he’s been a legitimate MVP candidate all year.
If that’s the case, then the Eagles can take some solace in the fact they did beat the Rams without Wentz. Nick Foles wasn’t stellar but did enough to hold down the fort. And when the team needed a big play, the defense came through with two fumbles, the first of which turned into the go-ahead field-goal and the second of which turned into a touchdown to seal the win as time expired.
Loser: Seahawks/Jaguars game ended on the worst possible note
The Seattle Seahawks melted down in the worst possible way at the end of Sunday evening’s game in Jacksonville. They fought hard throughout the game but were found to be wanting against one of the best teams in the AFC. Then as the Jaguars tried to end the game in victory formation, all hell broke loose.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson started a fight after Blake Bortles took a knee, and then Michael Bennett went after a Jaguars offensive lineman, too. Richardson was ejected, along with defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, then Pete Carroll got flagged for coming out onto the field. And that wasn’t even the worst part.
As Jefferson was walking off the field, he got sucked into some taunting fans, who started throwing stuff at him. He ended up almost going up into the stands to fight the fans, ending a very good game on the sourest note possible.
Winner: Kareem Hunt finally breaks out again
Alex Smith wasn’t at the top of his game Sunday. He threw no touchdowns while turning the ball over on a bad interception, but the Chiefs still had a pretty solid day offensively. The reason for this is that, for the first time since the last time the Raiders played the Chiefs, Kareem Hunt had a big game.
Hunt rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries and added 22 more yards on three receptions. It was the kind of game the Chiefs and Hunt’s fantasy owners have been dreaming about for months. Hunt hadn’t rushed for over 100 yards since Week 5, and his touchdown was the first rushing score since Week 3.
Kansas City needed this win in a bad way. Thanks to Hunt and the defense, the Chiefs improved to 7-6 to keep pace with the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers atop the AFC West with three weeks left to play.
Loser: Redskins’ D blew game in first half
The Los Angeles Chargers are hot right now. We get that. But Washington’s defense was almost invisible in the first half, after which the game was already over.
Philip Rivers passed for 256 yards with two touchdowns in that first half (highlights here), and the Chargers scored on each of their first five drives. If not for a minor miracle, the Redskins would have been scored on six times in a row before the half. The only thing that kept it from being a 30-6 game at that point was Austin Ekeler being stopped short of the goal line on the final play of the second quarter following a 33-yard dash up the middle.
In total, Los Angeles racked up 379 yards and 23 points…before halftime. That’s insane. It’s also a signal that Washington is toast. With a record of 5-8, plenty of injuries on both sides of the ball and no momentum, you can stick a fork in Jay Gruden’s club.
Winner: LeSean McCoy’s magical day dashing through the snow
New Era Field was a magical winter wonderland Sunday as the Buffalo Bills hosted the Indianapolis Colts. The pictures and video that emerged from the game were just incredible. Another thing that was incredible was how Bills running back LeSean McCoy managed to dominate on the ground playing in such slippery conditions.
Buffalo’s passing game was pretty much inert. The Bills managed just 92 total yards through the air. So for most of the game, the offense ran through McCoy. He finished with 156 yards on 32 carries and won the game for Buffalo in overtime on a 21-yard dash for glory (watch here).
Now, there are two other notable things to point out about the game. First, Frank Gore also had a huge game, rushing for 130 yards himself. Secondly, in this scribe’s humble opinion the Colts should have won. They scored a touchdown with just over a minute remaining and then converted a two-point attempt to go up by one point. Except after the play, officials threw a late flag and called offensive pass interference, which was just plain wrong.
Loser: Texans allow Tom Savage to play through another concussion
Not for the first time the past couple of years, Tom Savage played through a concussion. He was hit very hard by San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, and his head slammed onto the turf sickeningly. Even more disturbing, Savage appeared to possibly suffer a seizure right there on the ground as an immediate consequence of the brutal hit.
Unbelievably, Savage remained in the game and played another series before finally being pulled in favor of T.J. Yates. There are supposed to be measures in place to make sure this type of thing never happens in the NFL. Yet we continue to see players remain in games after suffering concussions. And this one in particular was inexcusable. Nobody on Houston’s sideline should feel good about the fact that he played after having an episode like that.
We just hope Savage is okay, because that was very scary.
Winner: Larry Fitzgerald moves up to No. 3 on all-time receiving yardage list
Larry Fitzgerald moved into the No. 4 spot on the all-time receiving yards list last weekend and needed just 27 yards to pass Randy Moss to vault up to No. 3.
The future Hall of Famer didn’t have a huge game but did enough to move past Moss this weekend. Catching five passes for 44 yards to lead the Cardinals in a defensive struggle of a game against the Tennessee Titans, he’s now in sole possession of that No. 3 spot with 15,311 yards.
We don’t see Fitzgerald playing long enough to catch the GOAT, Jerry Rice. That said, he can certainly hop up to No. 2 past Terrell Owens if he plays next season.