A whole lot to be cheerful about
The 13th week of NFL action gave us a whole lot to be cheerful about around the league. The individual play we saw from the likes of Phillip Lindsay and Aaron Donald was pretty darn awesome.
From a team-wide perspective, the Houston Texans earned their ninth consecutive victory while the New England Patriots made a major statement in a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
On the other side of the ledger, Mike McCarthy was given the boot from Green Bay following an humiliating loss to Arizona. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers declawed themselves in a loss to Tampa Bay.
These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 13 NFL action.
Steelers embarrass themselves in second half
For a while there on Sunday Night Football, it sure looked like Pittsburgh would rebound after last week’s lost to the Denver Broncos. The team was up against the Los Angeles Chargers, 23-7, at the half. Los Angeles had no answer for the Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown connection. Then, something changed. Failing to make any halftime adjustments, Mike Tomlin oversaw a meltdown of epic proportions. Los Angeles scored 26 of the 33 points in the second half — ultimately seeing the game tied at 30 late in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Pittsburgh’s defense failed to stop a game-winning drive by Philip Rivers and Co. And with the Chargers looking to attempt a 39-yard field goal, Pittsburgh jumped offside on three consecutive plays. The first one initially resulted in a missed kick. The second one was blocked. But on the third try, Michael Badgley nailed it from 29 yards out to give Los Angeles the 33-30 win. This was one ugly loss for Pittsburgh, and it might have wide-ranging playoff ramifications.
Eli Manning is done, it’s over
The New York Giants’ 30-27 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday did nothing more than change draft positioning for the rebuilding team. Sure it was a solid overall performance from the team’s defense against Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel. But that does nothing to change the narrative in New Jersey. Eli Manning’s tenure as the Giants’ starter should now be complete.
The two-time Super Bowl winner was so bad in the first half that fans were calling for him to be benched in favor of rookie Kyle Lauletta. He ultimately completed 19-of-35 passes for 170 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the win. If it weren’t for a pick-six from Alec Ogletree and a touchdown pass by Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants would have lost again. Manning is done. He should be relegated to backup duties for the remainder of this season with New York moving on from the quarterback following the 2018 campaign.
Baker Mayfield plays like…a rookie
This rookie No. 1 pick played poorly in the first half against a dominant Texans team. He ended the first two quarters having put up less than 50 passing yards with three interceptions. It was by far the worst performance of Mayfield’s rookie season.
The good news? Mayfield picked it up big time in the second half, throwing for north of 300 yards with a touchdown in the 29-13 defeat. That’s a great sign for the Browns. Most rookies would let a bad early-game performance snowball. That wasn’t the case for Mayfield. Instead, it was this Antonio Callaway fumble and other miscues on offense that prevented Cleveland from making this a game. Even then, Mayfield more than showed he has the toughness to succeed in today’s NFL.
Patriots make major statement in home win
The two-time defending AFC champs had to step up and show that they’re still the class of the conference Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. That’s exactly what we saw from Tom Brady and Co. in what was a commanding 24-10 win over another Super Bowl contender.
Brady himself didn’t need to do a whole lot of work. Instead, it was New England’s defense and rushing attack that made the major different here. Running back James White went for 118 total yards. Meanwhile, rookie Sony Michel added 63 yards on the ground. Defensively, New England picked off Kirk Cousins two times and yielded less than 300 total yards of offense. It’s this type of statement win late in the season that fans have become accustomed to. And with questions about New England’s status as a contender, the team came up big time here.
Sans Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs are in trouble
Kansas City might have come away with a win in its first game after releasing Kareem Hunt. But it was not the dominating performance that we’ve become accustomed to from this team through the first three quarters of the season. Primarily, Kansas City’s defense continued to give up big play after big play. This time, it came against a two-win Raiders team that’s been downright terrible on the season.
The Chiefs allowed Derek Carr to complete 29-of-38 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Meanwhile, Oakland’s injury-plagued rushing attack went for 6.1 yards per attempt. Now that the Chiefs are without what was one of their best players, we’re concerned that this team has cratered. If so, it will leave the door open for other AFC contenders moving forward. Sunday’s 40-33 win over Oakland was the latest example of this.
It’s time to respect one Phillip Lindsay
An undrafted rookie out of Colorado, no one really expected much from this running back. He had to earn a roster spot during camp and in the preseason. He had to beat out a better-known rookie in Royce Freeman. When all of this happened, we finally got an inkling about just how good the 5-foot-8, 190-pound ball carrier can be. He entered Sunday’s action having put up nearly 1,000 total yards and seven touchdowns at a clip of 5.8 yards per rush.
Lindsay was back up to his old tricks against a bad Bengals defense. He recorded a whopping 157 yards on 19 attempts. That included a touchdown run of 65 yards and another from six yards out. It was this tremendous display that sent Denver to its third consecutive win, keeping the .500 team alive in the AFC Playoff race. It’s time to put some respect behind Lindsay’s name.
Aaron Donald is a bad, bad man
While his Los Angeles Rams’ offense struggled at times Sunday in Detroit, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year guaranteed Los Angeles would remain atop the NFC with an 11-1 record heading into Week 14. Donald was absolutely brilliant against the Lions, racking up four quarterback hits, four tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
That forced fumble came in the fourth quarter when it was still a one-score game and led immediately to a Todd Gurley touchdown to put the game away. Donald has now racked up an absurd 16.5 sacks and could challenge for the single-season record. Despite all the fanfare surrounding Gurley and Jared Goff, Donald remains the Rams’ best player. And it’s not really that close.
Texans might be the class of the AFC
Having started the season out with three consecutive losses, no one could have envisioned the Texans would be where they are heading into Week 14. Houston pretty much dominated a lesser Cleveland Browns team at home Sunday, winning by the score of 29-13. It was a brilliant display from the team’s defense, as this unit forced four turnovers in the win. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson did what he needed to do on offense to help Houston to its ninth consecutive victory.
Bill O’Brien’s squad is clearly the most-dangerous team in the AFC right now. Solid quarterback play coupled with a renewed rushing attack and a ball-hawking defense has Houston thinking Super Bowl. And at this point, we wouldn’t put it past this team.
Panthers are officially declawed
It’s pretty clear that Cam Newton was dealing with an arm injury Sunday against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The former league MVP completed just 28-of-41 passes for 300 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in the 24-17 loss. But more than that, it’s also pretty clear that these Panthers are toast.
Losers of three consecutive heading into Sunday’s game, the Panthers couldn’t do anything to stem the tide. They allowed Jameis Winston to complete 20-of-30 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns in a mistake-free performance. Meanwhile, Carolina turned the ball over four times and committed 100-plus yards of penalties. At 6-6 on the season, these Panthers are done.
49ers are NFL’s worst team
It was rather apparent during last week’s blowout loss against a bad Buccaneers squad that these 49ers have regressed a ton as the season moved on. But Sunday’s blowout 43-16 loss to the division-rival Seattle Seahawks tells us a story of a team that simply lacks competitive fire.
Turnovers on offense and special teams is what doomed this bottom-feeding squad in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. Meanwhile, inexcusable penalties on defense and a disastrous scheme on that side of the ball did this squad in. This season simply can’t end soon enough for Kyle Shanahan and Co. That’s the sad reality of the situation for a team that entered 2018 with playoff aspirations. The only question here is whether San Francisco will hold off other bad teams for the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Mike McCarthy era ends with a whimper
We can blame Mike McCarthy for not having his Packers ready to play. We can blame Aaron Rodgers for playing poorly against a two-win team. Whoever deserves most of the blame in Green Bay, these Packers absolutely humiliated themselves in a 20-17 loss to the Cardinals at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
There’s absolutely no reason to believe that the Packers can even think about the playoffs at 4-7-1 on the season. It’s in this that McCarthy himself was given the boot mere hours after his now-former Packers team fell to the Cardinals. It’s a rare in-season move from a team that’s still mathematically alive in the playoffs. But based on Green Bay’s regression and McCarthy’s own struggles coaching, it was certainly time for him to be fired. The Packers now look to the final four games with their eyes clearly set on what the future will bring following what has been a lost 2018 campaign.