NFL Review: Week 13

On the surface, the Week 13 slate looked… a bit underwhelming, and some might argue it proved to be that way. However, there were a handful of truly incredible moments that were more than enough to excite us fans on Sunday afternoon. Sunday Night Football may have been a snooze fest of long, pointless, points-less drives, but the afternoon games gave us some great tidbits to review here and now. We HAVE to start… in Detroit, Michigan.

Finally... Victory In Detroit

Credit: Getty Images

They did it. Somehow, unbelievably, the Detroit Lions managed to win a game. Dan Campbell has WON in Detroit. Will they ever win again? Who knows. Let’s live in the present. Forget the future for now. The Lions will not be going entirely defeated.

Now the Vikings’ coverage on Amon-Ra St. Brown on the winning play was atrocious to say the least, but I defy anybody who isn’t a Minnesota fan to not be happy for both Jared Goff and Dan Campbell. All those fakes they ran against the Rams? Repeatedly blowing games they appeared to have a chance in? They have tried everything over the past few weeks to get their first win, and it looked like they were going to blow it AGAIN when Goff fumbled (whilst inexplicably going for it on 4th and 1 inside their own 30 yard line) late on in the 4th quarter. The Vikings took advantage and despite missing Dalvin Cook and losing Adam Thielen early on, they found themselves fighting back from a 20-6 deficit to take the lead with a shade under 2 minutes to play.

Shoutout Alexander Mattison who again proves to be a valiant stand-in for the injured Cook. Mattison and Tony Pollard in Dallas are surely two players teams will go after and try to have as lead-backs when they become available next. Also, I can’t not mention Justin Jefferson: 11 catches, 182 yards, and a TD. Superb. It’s a REAL shame that his QB and defense continually let him down. Minnesota should have walked this game to victory. They did not.

But, we have to give so much credit to both Dan Campbell and Jared Goff. Both remained poised, which is not a word often used to describe anybody in the Lions organisation, and crafted a sub-2 minute drive, with no timeouts, to get the walk-off win. Unbelievable. Goff has been fairly criticised this season, for not playing at the level a former number 1 overall pick should be, with that even coming from his aforementioned head coach at times.

That potential tension made the celebrations after the winning play all the more enjoyable. Goff leaping into Campbell’s arms like a very expensive salmon into the arms of the Grizzly Bear that Campbell truly is. I wonder if Goff will find longevity of employment in Detroit, but Campbell is building a rough and tough team. You can’t tell me the Lions aren’t better than the Texans, Jets & Jaguars. They absolutely are.

I guess the question now is… do we stop at 1 win and make sure we have the first overall pick in the draft? It’s probably the smart thing to do if you’re the Lions… but… this is the Lions… I’m elated for Detroit. Enjoy your win. You’ve waited long enough.

Steelers Give Their Season Life-Support

Credit: Justin Berl (Assoicated Press)

And now for something completely different.

Let me start by saying this… I LOVED the decision to go for 2 by John Harbaugh. I absolutely adored it. How about that for ballsy? Hell yeah we’re gonna trust our offense and go for it, on the road, against a rival we hate, to try and walk it off. Did it work? Not quite. Is he going to receive criticism for the failure? Absolutely. Should he? Not in a million years. Harbaugh believed in his offense and he should be praised for that.

I was utterly convinced they would convert, and win the game, and were it not for TJ Watt being a wrecking ball they would have. Watt put just enough pressure on Lamar Jackson to affect the throw to Mark Andrews, which went off his fingertips and incomplete. A heartbreaker for Baltimore, but one they could afford with the lead they had atop the division.

The big question for the Ravens coming out of this one is on the injury front. Harbaugh cited the injury to Marlon Humphrey as one reason they decided to go for the win, rather than play for overtime. When you have Lamar Jackson and the weapons he has around him, I think that’s the right call. Sure, maybe you get a stop on defense and Justin Tucker wins the game for you in OT… but maybe not. I applaud the courage to go for the win there. We need more of that kind of excitement in the NFL… not less.

The Ravens can brush this off by looking forward to another clash with the Cleveland Browns next week, but they themselves still have some mammoth games to come with the Rams and Packers still to play. 

One the other sideline, Mike Tomlin has to have felt elated. After a really tough week, when he needed it most, his team stepped up. Big Ben – who has been a shadow of his usual self this season – made the TD throws they needed to Diontae Johnson. Pat Freiermuth caught the 2pt conversion. Big Pressly Harvin dropped a punt out of bounds right at the 1 yard line. TJ Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and the defense made the stop to end the Ravens dreams of the walk-off win.

The Steelers still have some pieces and still harbour hopes of one last playoff run for Roethlisberger. For this to become reality… Pittsburgh is going to have to go on one hell of a run, starting with this week’s Thursday night game against the Vikings… They then face the Titans, Chiefs, Browns and… yup… the Ravens again in Week 18. I mean… that’s a horrible run to be needing 4+ wins from… But stranger things have happened.

If any coach can drag this squad to the playoffs, it’s Mike Tomlin. He wants to keep his record of never having had a losing season. Who knows… maybe that tie against the Lions is what will ensure they finish at .500 this year? Or… maybe… they sneak into the AFC Playoffs as the 7 seed? A massive shot in the arm for the Yinzers.

Quick Hits

Credit: USA Today Sports
  • One quick note from Thursday night… Is Tony Pollard the best running back in Dallas? I think he might be… Zeke on the hot seat?!
  • The Chargers bounced back in some style ey? I thought they would win this game against the Bengals, but I didn’t expect them to be up 24-0 before anyone blinked! Now yes, they tried to give the game back to Cincy, with Ekeler uncharacteristically fumbling twice, but the Bolts did enough to get their win. They’ve still got the Texans & Giants to play, and their 3 division foes, so the playoff hopes are well and truly alive for BOTH teams in LA.
  • For the Bengals, this hurts. The inconsistency is still there, and they have a gauntlet of fixtures to end the season. Sadly, despite all the positives, it feels like Burrow’s boys won’t be in the postseason this year.
  • Miami! We back up! Ridiculously, the Dolphins became the 2nd team in NFL history to lose 7 straight, then win 5 straight. Such a weird streak. Tua and Jaylen Waddle were connecting all day, and Mike Gesicki continues to make circus catches. Imagine if the Dolphins had just won the games they were supposed to earlier in the season? As it is, they’re back in the hunt, but will need to beat at least one of the Patriots and Titans if they want to sneak into the playoffs.
  • The Giants started Mike Glennon. Their performance was not a surprise.
  • Welcome back Kyler Murray! The Cardinals rediscovered their offensive firework arsenal and Kyler finally got back into the endzone (twice!) as a rusher. The Cards continue to be the team to beat in the NFC. Show them the respect they deserve.
  • The Bears are dead and Andy Dalton is not the guy. Sorry Chicago.
  • The Buccaneers are starting to look scary. Gronk looks back to his best. Godwin had 15 catches. And… of course… Tom Brady is ageless. They have all but wrapped up the NFC South.
  • The Falcons put up a better fight than I thought they would, but they were no match for Tampa Bay. Really feels like the Matt Ryan era is coming to a close…
  • Minshew Mania baby! Gardner has been waiting for his moment and oh boy, did he deliver! The Eagles recover their positive momentum, even without Jalen Hurts. I have Philly as a sneaky dark horse for the NFC’s 7 seed.
  • I guess the best thing you can say for the Jets is that they had a bit more offensive success than in previous weeks. Get back to the drafting board and rebuild stronger.
  • The Colts might be the sneaky AFC dark horse that nobody wants to play in January. Weirdly, for a “dome team,” they’re tailor-made for cold weather snow football. Jonathan Taylor won’t win MVP – because he’s not a Quarterback – but he’s making a damn good push for it. Obviously the Texans are an embarrassment, but the Colts handled them nicely. Gotta beat the team in front of you. Indy has a Bye next week and then a massive game against the Patriots in Week 15.
  • Just to reiterate… the Texans are an EMBARRASSMENT. A very intriguing offseason awaits in Houston.
  • I am happy to see Odell Beckham Jr. smiling and enjoying his football again. I am also cheering for the Rams to lose in Round 1 of the playoffs. They’re so “all-in” I have to cheer against them. The Rams hammered the Jaguars, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. Cooper Kupp continues to be unbelievably good.
  • The Jaguars continue to be unbelievably bad. Have they managed to ruin one of the greatest college quarterbacks we’ve ever seen!? Pray for T-Law that they draft well this summer…
  • Listen… Credit to Ron Rivera. He is making magic with a team that has no right to be winning these games. The Washington Football Team are well and truly “In the Hunt” for an NFC playoff berth thanks to Taylor Heinicke’s moxie, and Antonio Gibson’s tough sledding against the Raiders. On a day where Terry McLaurin was held in check, Gibson stepped up and led the way. Washington will need a couple of big wins down the stretch, but they’re very much alive.
  • The Raiders are so weird. How do you beat the Cowboys but lose to Washington? I don’t know… I feel like they need the summer to reset, and yet they could still be a playoff team if they switch things on here towards the end of the season! It’s wild out west.
  • Speaking of west, it seems the Seahawks have finally woken up! Unfortunately, it’s 6 weeks too late, but Seattle finally allowed Russell Wilson to open things up, and surprise surprise they got a win. Lockett and Metcalf were targeted early and often and created enough plays down the field to knock off a surging 49ers team. Far too late for a playoff push, but at least they’re celebrating today.
  • George Kittle is a MONSTER. 9 catches, 181 yards, 2 TDs… and a LOSS?! Heartbreaking. He deserves better. He also deserves a better QB. I think this will (and should be) Jimmy G’s last in San Fran. The Trey Lance era can’t come soon enough. Also, Elijah Mitchell… superstar!? I think so.
  • Usually I would write an extended paragraph or two about the Sunday Night game… but this one was so weird and so snoozy for so long I couldn’t bring myself to do so. The Chiefs continued their “re-ascension” to the top of the AFC. The Chiefs’ Defense is carrying them right now. Very strange.
  • Shoutout Javonte Williams. He’s a budding star in this league. The Broncos desperately need to give him a QB in the backfield to help him out. Teddy Bridgewater can’t be that guy.

MNF Prediction: (Season Record: 8-7)

Credit: Adrian Kraus (Associated Press)

Well, I have well and truly butchered my “well over .500” lead that I had merely a month ago, with a slew of consecutive bad picks (Giants, Seahawks) and Thanksgiving going completely differently to how I foresaw it. And that brings me to a game I really don’t want to pick… tonight. The Bills hosting the Patriots.

This game is mammoth in terms of the seedings and standings for the rest of the season. If New England goes into Buffalo and wins, you have to say they look like the front-runners for the #1 seed in the AFC, when just about 6 weeks ago many people (myself included) were writing them off as playoff contenders. But that was before Mac Jones and this patriots offense really turned it on. 6 straight wins have vaulted them up the standings and right back into the nightmares of all football fans not from the greater Boston area. They’re not allowed another dynasty. It’s not fair. They didn’t even want to draft Mac in the first place! Ugh.

Anyway, our potential saviours from the horrible Patriots empire are the lowly Buffalo Bills, who scrapped their way to the AFC Title game last season, and looked set to make a repeat run this time round, especially when they knocked off the Chiefs at Arrowhead early in the year. But a few close losses and a surprise one against the Jaguars of all people have halted the Josh Allen steam train from getting up to speed. The Bills need this one to get right back in the thick of things and try to make it back to back AFC East crowns.

Obviously, I’m an idiot for picking against Belichick in a big-time, must-win game, but what do you want? I’m a weak man and I refuse to cheer for the Pats unless absolutely necessary. Go, go, Buffalo.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills

Week 14 Preview

Week 14 sees the final 4 teams have their Bye as the Colts, Dolphins, Eagles & Patriots all take a breather. Good for them. We start in Minnesota as the embarrassed Vikings look to rectify their… ship… against the rejuvenated Steelers. Big Ben on a short week? Not ideal. Thielen and Cook both out? Maybe Pittsburgh can get some momentum rolling. After all, remember the simple equation that “Kirk Cousins + Primetime game = unmitigated disaster” more often than not.

On Sunday, we’ve got some tasty ones. Browns vs Ravens II is the pick of the early window, but Bills vs Buccaneers & 49ers vs Bengals will provide some definite excitement in the later slot. Sunday Night Football promises to be a massacre because it’s Aaron Rodgers and the Packers welcoming the Chicago Bears to Lambeau Field. That ain’t gonna be pretty… and then Monday Night is a blockbuster NFC West matchup as the LA Rams head to the desert to face your Number 1 seed in the entire NFL… the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s go. That one promises fireworks, so you know it’ll be a dour defensive battle…

But we’ll enjoy it nonetheless. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter & Instagram. Come say hey. Have a great week people. Stay safe & healthy. Cheers.

Callum Squires