NFL Review: Week 15

Look… okay… I’m not going to sugar-coat it: that was a brutal sunday of NFL Football. Whilst fantasy managers all around the world will bemoan the under-performance of some star names, and the injuries suffered by others, many others will note the lack of quality matchups, and the severe impact that Covid-19 has had throughout the league.

I can understand why (from a business point of view) the NFL can’t do mass postponements in the way that the Premier League can. Shorter season, blockade of SuperBowl weekend in February that can’t be delayed or moved back… but nobody wants to see – respectfully – Nick Mullens quarterbacking for the Browns on Monday with both Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum unable to play due to being on the Covid list.

The NFL is in a weird place right now, but even with all the adversity noted above, there are a few key headlines from Sunday we need to touch on, starting with Vegas’ two favourites for the MVP award, and my pre-season tip who suffered a horrific blow to his chances yesterday. We’re talking Brady, Rodgers & Murray.

The New Orleans Shutout

Credit: ESPN

When there are ZERO touchdowns scored in the Sunday Night Football game, you can guarantee that I hated every second of it. Well, almost every second. The general outcome and seeing Tom Brady lose his mind with both the Saints sideline and a Microsoft Surface tablet (bet you their stock took a hit today!) was thoroughly entertaining, but “defense wins championships” is one of my least favourite sayings of all time… so I hated much of this.

The Saints were without Head Coach Sean Payton – he, another ruled out on the Covid list – but they turned in a defensive domination for the ages, shutting down the Buccaneers #1 ranked scoring offense, and shutting out Tom Brady for the first time in 15 years. Yep, FIFTEEN YEARS ago was the last time a Tom Brady-led offense scored zero points in an NFL game. Almost unheard of.

Tampa are gonna have everything crossed that the injuries suffered by Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette aren’t serious. Ronald Jones can handle the RB duties fairly comfortably, but losing those two all-Pro receivers is hard to recover from, even with Antonio Brown due back next week. Gronk was held in check too. It was a masterful defensive performance from New Orleans to send Bruce Arians back to the drawing board.

BUT… That’s not to say the Saints were perfect. I largely blame them for how boring this game was to watch. Taysom Hill wasn’t good. Alvin Kamara wasn’t great either! Marquez Callaway made a number of big plays whenever the Saints needed a downfield play, but Brett Maher was the only Saint to score any points… which tells you part of the story. This Saints team have threatened to be good all year, but have been hampered by injuries and inconsistency.

If Jameis Winston had stayed healthy you would probably see the Saints at the front of the Wildcard chasing pack. Instead, they’re towards the back, but after a win like this who’s to say they couldn’t go on a run? Next week’s Monday Night Football game against the Dolphins (we’ll get to them later) is now a huuuuuge game for both these teams who are trying to sneak into Wildcard contention. Could Taysom take the Saints back to the postseason? I think it’ll be a step too far in all likelihood, but winning games like this on the road helps to justify his exorbitant contract that it feels like he renews every six months. Good for New Orleans. Tampa Bay needs to hope the injuries aren’t severe. This game should be erased from all viewer’s memories asap.

Ravens Fall Short To The Packers

Credit: Nick Wass (Associated Press)

Conversely, this game should live LONG in the memories of viewers. What a treat. This was – on paper – the standout game of the Sunday slate and boy did it deliver. Even with Lamar Jackson out, the Ravens gave this their all and came within one play of knocking off the now NFC-leading Green Bay Packers. Tyler Huntley… take a bow son. A great performance from the man they call “Snoop”: Two passing TDs, two 4th quarter rushing TDs… Huntley did an incredibly accurate impression of Lamar Jackson and shows just why John Harbaugh has him on the roster.

The Ravens are still very much in the thick of the race for the AFC North, but with a tough schedule still to play, you wonder how much regret Harbaugh might have at the end of the season over the two failed 2pt conversions they have in the last 3 weeks. The Steelers two weeks ago, and now the Packers yesterday. Both times they targeted Mark Andrews – who himself was incredible yesterday, and seems to be finalising his leap into the Elite Tight End category, joining messers Waller, Kittle & Kelce – but both passes were incomplete. I love Harbaugh rolling the dice – you have to admire the guts – but there is a loud argument that if the Ravens had kicked the extra point and won in OT both times… they’d now be in a FAR stronger position for the playoff race. Lots of what if’s…

And the only reasons we’re not talking about why Tyler Huntley is a hero today are a fantastic defensive play by Darnell Savage to deny the 2pt Conversion… and the reigning, defending, undisputed MVP of the National Football League… Aaron Rodgers (Shahtaht Pat McAfee). How many times can we run out of words to describe the excellence of Rodgers? Another 3 TD passes, which now leaves him tied for the All-Time Green Bay Packer record with his predecessor, Brett Favre. Anyone think he might enjoy breaking that on Xmas Day against the Browns… At Lambeau Field? That’ll be a moment in NFL history.

Rodgers may have some detractors – myself included in all honesty – for how he handled the “vaccination status” issue this season, but without a shadow of a doubt he’s playing the best football of his career right now, and has been for the last couple of years. He’s surgical, picking apart coverages with his scalpel-like throws, gaining chunk after chunk to Davante Adams, and yesterday’s favourite target Marquez Valdes-Scantling, which is still a top 5 NFL player name for the record. Superb.

Sure, they stumbled a bit towards the end of the game, but their defense stiffened when needed, as it has almost all this season. The former Achilles’ heel of the Packers now feels like a strength, and I haven’t even mentioned the two-headed monster of Jones and Dillon in the backfield to pound the ball down your throat. The Packers are rolling, and it feels like the road to the SuperBowl is going to run through Titletown once more.

Detroit Derails Arizona

Credit: Raj Mehta (USA Today Sports)

Oh Kyler. Oh Kliff. You’re making me sad now. Where has it all gone wrong? From the NFL’s final undefeated team a mere 7 weeks ago, to 3-4 in their next 7 and a 10-4 overall record that has seen them drop from 1st in the NFC to 4th with two losses in 6 days. Losing to the Rams (an in-division foe, with a genius Head Coach, star-studded defense, and an arsenal of offensive weapons) you can understand.

But… losing to the Detroit Lions… who have only won ONE other game all season long… BY 18 POINTS… what are we DOING!? Am I annoyed that I have a lot of Kyler Murray shares in Fantasy this season and he’s almost single-handedly ruined my chances of winning this week? Maybe. Almost definitely. But I’ve also been loud and proud that the Cardinals – and more specifically Kliff Kingsbury – can be trusted to win the NFC West (the toughest division in the NFL) and now that is all of a sudden in some jeopardy.

If the Rams beat the Seahawks on Tuesday night they’ll move level with Arizona atop those standings, and the Cardinals still have to face the Colts (on Christmas Day), the Cowboys (the Monday night following) and the Seahawks who could still be fighting for a wildcard spot in Week 18. It’s gotten tense all of a sudden in Arizona. Obviously the loss of DeAndre Hopkins is huge, but I thought the addition of Chase Edmonds back to the fold might help out. The Cardinals were lethargic defensively, allowing the Lions to dominate the time of possession early on, and making crucial stops when they needed them. 

Let me fairly give credit where it’s due: Detroit, Jared Goff, Dan Campbell… congratulations. You thoroughly deserve this and I really hope you get a couple more wins before the season is over. The post-game speech that Campbell gave – it’s on the Lions’ Twitter account, go check it out – was brilliant, and shows that despite the slump they went through, this team loves their Head Coach and are playing all-out for him.

Shoutout Craig Reynolds and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Two players with different paths to successes with the Lions, but it’s nice to see them both flourishing right now. Detroit has enough positive momentum to feel good about where the Dan Campbell Revolution is heading. It’ll be a few years yet before anyone in that organisation can start thinking about knocking off the Packers for the division title, but they’re building something, that’s for sure.

Arizona need to bounce back asap to avoid their season falling apart. Good thing they only have to face… oh… Jonathan Taylor and the Colts next weekend… Yeah, that sucks.

Quick Hits

Credit: Sky Sports
  • WHAT a game on Thursday Night. The Chiefs fought and fought and Travis Kelce delivered. One of the best Tight End receiving performances you could ever hope to see. Are we on course for a repeat of SuperBowl 1? Chiefs vs Packers?!
  • DON’T THINK I FORGOT ABOUT YOU PATRIOTS FANS! The Colts have life after yet another insane Jonathan Taylor performance. I started this whole thing talking about 3 potential MVPs… Should Taylor not be in the mix too?! Sure, he’s not a QB… but he doesn’t HAVE to be! JT has been unreal for Indy and is single-handedly dragging them into contention in both the wildcard playoff race AND the AFC South crown as the Titans keep stumbling. New England now faces a “winner-take-all” matchup with the Bills next weekend. I think you might have to throw the ball more than 3 times this time, Bill. 
  • Sidenote – Carson Wentz is going to ruin this season for the Colts at some point… I can just feel it. Ugh. 
  • Josh Allen and the Bills did their part. Buffalo got back to winning ways and set up the AFC Title-Bowl next weekend very nicely.
  • WATCH OUT EVERYONE. THE DOLPHINS ARE COMING. Back to .500 before Xmas. Miami are rolling and, despite limping a little bit to this win vs the NY Jets, Tua and his boys are RIGHT in the thick of the Wildcard Race.
  • No Urban Meyer. Same old Jaguars. Shoutout Brandin Cooks. He deserves better than this Texans team. Good for Houston getting a win. Good for the Jaguars’ draft stock taking the loss.
  • The Cowboys handled the Giants with remarkable ease. Mike Glennon is not the guy. Dallas’ defense is legit and is leading them towards the top of the NFC Standings. 
  • Joe Haden saved the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season with that tackle. Tennessee completely and utterly blew this game, and the Titans are so injury ravaged that Ryan Tannehill has almost nobody to throw to. Anybody else start Julio Jones in fantasy playoffs? Just me? Right… ugh. The Steelers just about remain alive in the playoff race, but despite his RUSHING TD, I don’t think Big Ben is going to have enough to get them over the line.
  • Joe Burrow and the Bengals got a gritty win in Denver. Hope Teddy Bridgewater is okay. The Broncos are finally put to rest in the playoff picture with this loss. The Bengals grind on and still have a great chance of winning the AFC North.
  • The 49ers continue to run all over opponents. Deebo Samuel is somehow unstoppable out of the backfield. The Falcons are awful. Sorry Matt Ryan.

MNF (& TuesNF!) Prediction: (Season Record: 8-9)

By my count, I’m now 1-6 in my last seven predictions, which basically makes me the Jacksonville Jaguars of giving out Primetime tips… not ideal. Anyhow, I’ve fired our coach – he kept kicking me and calling me a loser, it was weird – and we’re back with a vengeance with FOUR games on this slate. Thanks to Covid postponements, we’ve got double headers on both Monday and Tuesday… I’m still convinced the NFL will eventually permanently expand it’s schedule to include additional days outside Thursday, Sunday and Monday… Tuesday might be the best bet to not upset the High-School or College football crowds…

Anyway, predictions… It’s hard to gauge the impact that Covid will have on these game beyond the obvious, headline-grabbing aforementioned Baker Mayfield situation. As I write this, the Browns have got a couple of defensive pieces back for today’s game, but look set to be without Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, against a reeling Raiders team. If the Browns win, they’re #1 in the AFC North. Gotta have it. We also have the traditional Monday night game of Vikings vs Bears, and the Tuesday Covid-rearranged double-header of Seahawks vs Rams and Eagles vs Washington Football Team.

Could say a lot, but let’s keep it simple. 

Official Predictions: 

Browns – Must have for Cleveland, Chubb runs them to victory.

Bears – Weird game. Can’t trust Cousins in primetime. Nagy tries to keep his job with a win here.

Eagles – Hurts or Minshew… it shouldn’t matter. Eagles are the better team. No Heinicke for Washington… Fly Eagles Fly.

Seahawks – Upset alert! Since Russ got healthy… the Seahawks look good. A Covid-hangover ensues for the Rams. Seahawks keep their very slim playoff hopes alive with a win.

Week 16 Preview

Credit: Jared Wickerham (Getty Images)

Football on Christmas. Ahhhhh it’s beautiful. We start however with the Titans and the 49ers on Thursday Night Football, which might be the quickest game ever in NFL history. Run, run, run, and more run. Then, Xmas Present: Browns @ Packers and Colts @ Cardinals on Christmas Day itself. Sunday dawns with some massive matchups including, but not limited to: Bills x Patriots, Bengals x Ravens, Steelers x Chiefs, & Washington x Cowboys. Rivalries and good teams EVERYWHERE. Let’s go.

Monday Night? Saints x Dolphins. Please Tua. Please just win. Please let Jaylen Waddle be back healthy. Well – finally – that’s it! Thank you as always for taking the time to read my ramblings. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Have a wonderful Xmas and see you next Sunday! Stay safe and stay healthy. Cheers.

Callum Squires