NFL Review: Week 14

Week 14 was a wild one. A number of blowouts, and a number of incredible attempted comebacks, meant a highly entertaining Sunday of action, capped with a crazy Sunday Night game. We had a number of hugely impactful cross-conference matchups, which have turned some teams’ playoff outlook on their heads. So… We’re gonna do something a little different this week: Start with the Quick Hits, and then take a look at the both Conferences and where we find ourselves in the race for the playoffs. With four games to go, I think it’s about the right time to take a serious look at the lay of the land, and try to establish who’s looking good for a Wildcard spot, and who is in dire need of some wins. I have gone through all the remaining fixtures and predicted where I see the wins going, and I’ll give you my predicted final standings for each conference below. Let’s start with the Quick Hits, then talk about the absolute chaos that is the AFC playoff picture…

Quick Hits

  • Josh Allen deserved better than the outcome he got on Sunday afternoon. A heroic effort to drag the Buffalo Bills back from a 21 point deficit against the defending SuperBowl Champions, but it just fell short, with the inevitable TB12 walk off TD pass coming to Breshad Perriman. I love Allen, and I have no idea how he (and the Bills) are somehow only 7-6 and fighting just to make it back into the playoffs this season. REALLY hope his injury (that saw him leave the stadium in a walking boot) is a minor one.
  • Speaking of an AFC quarterback who deserved better on Sunday afternoon… I give you Joe Burrow. Head Coach Zac Taylor made some HIGHLY questionable decisions and yet Burrow and his star rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase were able to drag the Bengals back into it against the 49ers, even taking the lead in OT before San Francisco broke their hearts. Cincinnati are having a great season… and yet still feel very precariously positioned in the playoff race, with some TOUGH games still to play. Gutted for Burrow.
  • George Kittle is a monster and is attempting to drag the 49ers into the playoffs on his own.
  • Similarly to Josh Allen, REALLY hope for the Baltimore Ravens’ sake that Lamar Jackson’s ankle injury isn’t serious either. Tyler Huntley did a good job in relief, and the Ravens – as you would expect – showed enough grit to give the Browns a scare late on.
  • Good for Cleveland though… if they can get rolling… they COULD still win this division! Myles Garrett… incredible.
  • The Chiefs are all the way back. Don’t stand on their logo.
  • Justin Herbert straight up destroyed the New York Giants. That long bomb to Jalen Guyton? One of the throws of the season. I really hope the Chargers get into the playoffs; they deserve it.
  • Micah Parsons has catapulted himself into the Defensive Player of the Year discussion. He appears to have Defensive Rookie of the Year already sewn up… could he clean sweep!? The Cowboys keep rolling. Their defense, coupled with the wide range of offensive weapons at Dak’s disposal, make them a terrifying prospect in the playoffs.
  • Alvin Kamara still has it. Maybe Taysom Hill does too? Play a wildcat system and only run the ball in New Orleans? It could work…
  • The Urban Meyer experiment was always going to be… interesting. It appears to have failed miserably and yet the Jaguars appear to be intent on sticking with Meyer in the offseason. Strange. I don’t know that calling your assistant coaches “losers” is a great way to build chemistry and raise morale… but who am I to judge? All I really want is to see Trevor Lawrence smiling and winning football games again. 
  • The Sunday Night game was electric from start to finish… but did anyone ever really think it wasn’t going to end with Aaron Rodgers standing tall?! Special word to both Jakeem Grant and Khalil Herbert who made a number of big plays for the Bears to even have a chance in this game… but Matt Nagy saying he was having fun at halftime was one of the worst interviews ever given in NFL history. Lambeau Field was having fun by the end of it. The Packers had an atrocious night on special teams and still won by 15. Davante Adams is impossible to cover. Aaron Rodgers owns Chicago. Rinse and repeat.

AFC Playoff Picture

If my calculations are correct… Just next week we could realistically be looking at a situation where SIX (yes, 6) AFC will have a record of 8-6, with the Steelers at 7-6-1, and the Dolphins & Broncos at 7-7… this is going to be CARNAGE. Admittedly, in that situation I have the Colts beating the Patriots and the Titans losing to the Steelers… but those aren’t exactly implausible outcomes, especially with how unpredictable the rest of this season has been.

ALL of the Divisions are still in-play, though it does appear now that it would take a significant New England collapse for either Miami or Buffalo to usurp them for the division title. I can dream though, right? The Colts are chasing the Titans down, but would need the injury bug that is striking Vrabel’s guys to help them if they’re going to usurp Tennessee and win the AFC South. Reports were circulating this week that Derrick Henry could be back before the playoffs, which further pours water on that particular fire as far as Indy is concerned. Unfortunately for the Colts, they would need to go 4-0 (including beating the Patriots and the Cardinals) if they’re going to make it in without help. As I have it, I think Cincinatti can help the Colts leapfrog the Lamar-less Ravens.

Obviously the Chiefs and the Chargers have risen to the top of the AFC West, even though the stench of the Broncos offense is hanging around in the picture too somehow… That said, I’m certain the Bengals will beat the Broncos next weekend and all-but end Denver’s interest in the postseason. However, I now have the Chiefs as the eventual number 1 overall seed in the AFC, but the Chargers getting in too.

The AFC North is the wildcard. Literally ALL FOUR teams could still make the playoffs. Their head-to-head matchups are always toss ups… It’s almost impossible to call. I’m leaning on the Browns because of Nick Chubb’s penchant for late season rushing heroics, and the way Myles Garrett is playing right now.

AFC Playoff Prediction:

1 Chiefs 13-4

2 Titans 11-6

3 Bills (Dependant on Josh Allen being healthy to play) 11-6

4 Browns (Dependant on Lamar’s injury in Baltimore) 11-6

5 Patriots 11-6

6 Chargers 11-6

7 Colts 10-7

8 Bengals 9-8

9 Ravens 9-8

10 Dolphins 8-9

NFC Playoff Picture

The NFC, thankfully, is a far more straightforward picture. We have 4 fairly clear cut division winners (Cardinals, Bucs, Packers, Cowboys), plus the Rams – who are just too good to not find their way into the 5 seed spot – who are all pretty much set in stone as being “in” the Playoffs. I will say, the Buccaneers feel slightly fortunate to have as many wins as they do. As good as they undoubtedly are, there have been some close shaves (think of last night, plus week 1 vs the Cowboys) that could very well have been losses, and probably should have been. That said, I think the Buccaneers, Cardinals (who are still being underrated by the way…), and the Packers (who are legit) are the clear 1/2/3 seed in the NFC. Dallas has a chance to push for one of those, and could control the destiny of the number 1 overall seed when they host the Cardinals in a few weeks.

The 6th and 7th seeds however, are wide open. The Vikings can keep themselves very much in the race by winning in Chicago next Monday night, just as the 49ers put their stamp down with their big win in Cincinatti this weekend. The Niners have the Falcons and Texans still to play, which should be two more wins and help them secure at worst a record of 9-8… That MIGHT not be enough, so they may need a win vs either Tennessee or LA to secure their spot in the postseason… not that Jimmy G deserves one! Unfortunately for the aforementioned Vikings though… I’m not convinced they’re going to be able to get many more wins beyond Chicago to keep them in the race. Kirk Cousins can’t be trusted, but maybe Dalvin Cook can drag them back into the playoff picture?! Beyond them, the Seahawks are somehow only one game back now after Russ appears to have refound himself, plus Washington are now on the brink following that Cowboys loss and the entry of Terry McLaurin into the Concussion Protocol. Philadelphia are circling, with Jalen Hurts (or Gardner Minshew?!) both looking like they could string a few more wins together vs the NFC East and get into the big dance.

NFC Playoff Prediction:

1 Cardinals 14-3

2 Buccaneers 14-3

3 Packers 14-3

4 Cowboys 12-5

5 Rams 11-6

6 49ers 10-7

7 Eagles 9-8

8 Seahawks 9-8

9 Saints 8-9

10 Vikings 8-9

(Sidenote – I look forward to these predictions falling apart as soon as next Sunday!)

MNF Prediction: (Season Record: 8-8)

I’ve well and truly butchered my good start to the season picking these primetime games… I was comfortably above .500 and yet – after the TRAVESTY of the “3 Pass Game” last Monday… The Patriots have sent me back to the midpoint, ahead of a reeeeally difficult one to call tonight.

It’s an NFC West Showdown as the current number 1 team in the NFL – the Arizona Cardinals – host Matthew Stafford and his LA Rams team. Sean McVay has assembled the closest thing to the Avengers we’ve ever seen in the NFL. Miller, Donald and Ramsey on the defense… Stafford, Kupp and Beckham on the offense… plus MANY other pieces besides them… It’s an incredible group of talent. And yet, it hasn’t really clicked recently! The loss of Robert Woods has been felt hard, plus Darrell Henderson may miss tonight’s game with Covid, asking Sony Michel to step up in his place. The Rams dismantled the hapless Jaguars last week, but face a much tougher task in this Arizona Cardinals team tonight. Last time these two got together, the Cardinals handled the Rams with ease and really put their SuperBowl credentials forward. 

I continue to be confused as to why people are not talking about Kliff Kingsbury in the Coach of the Year discussion and why the Cardinals are not getting the respect they deserve. This is an Arizona team who nobody believed in pre-season, who were the bookies’ outsiders and picked to finish 4th in their own division, who are currently the BEST TEAM IN THE NFL by record. That’s incredible. Kyler Murray looked superb in his return to action last weekend against the Bears, and if DeAndre Hopkins can be back to 100% the sky is the limit for this team. Chase Edmonds will be back to mix things up with James Conner in the backfield tonight, and this Cardinals defense is legit too. Sure, the Rams need the win more… but I believe in Arizona.

Official Prediction: Arizona Cardinals.

Week 15 Preview

Finally… We’re done with Bye weeks. We’ll be back to a full complement of teams and games this coming week, and we even get the highly entertaining additional Saturday night games for the next couple of weekends too! Thursday night should be electric with the Chiefs and the Chargers kicking things off, before the Saturday double-header of Raiders vs Browns (must-win for Cleveland) and Patriots vs Colts (must-win for Indy). On Sunday, the headlines will be written in Steelers vs Titans, and Packers vs Ravens, before a slightly disappointing Sunday and Monday slate with Saints vs Buccaneers & Vikings vs Bears… yikes. Anyway, don’t take any football for granted. Only 4 regular season weeks left… Stay tough, stick together. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter & Instagram, come chat and tell me why my playoff predictions are completely wrong. I’m sure you’ll be right. Cheers.

Callum Squires