NFL Review: Week 17
One more week to go! The playoffs are almost upon us, and Week 17 eliminated a whole host of dreamers, as Division Titles were secured, and the Wildcard picture finally came into focus. There was disappointment for the Broncos, Browns, Dolphins, Vikings & Falcons, all of whom were finally officially eliminated from the postseason. But for Cinicinnati, and for Las Vegas, huge wins pushed them right into the spotlight as their postseason dreams burn bright.
Bengals Are Kings In The North
A performance for the ages. Ja’Marr Chase restamped his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign, and earned the Bengals their first AFC North crown since 2015. Did he ruin my fantasy championship weekend by scoring 58 points against me? Am I extremely bitter about it? No comment… but I AM excited for Cincinnati. What a season. Zac Taylor! Congratulations, you managed the end of the game perfectly. You never want Mahomes to have the ball last. You can’t feel confident in that situation.
Chase’s performance was truly insane. 11-266-3TDs. What a ridiculous stat line. The 5th best performance All-Time in terms of Fantasy points. The catch on 3rd and 27 should never have been possible – how do the Chiefs not double him?? – but it’s still an amazing play. Give a lot of credit to Joe Burrow as well. He was dropping dimes all over this Chiefs defense, which had been playing very well of late. Burrow is the Prince that was Promised for this city. After the Andy Dalton era never developed into a success story, the JoeyB era looks set to be filled with a lot more success.
With a win over the Browns in Week 18, Cincy will lock up a top 3 seed in the AFC, and probably face the Colts in the Wildcard round. With Boyd, Chase & Higgins to cover, plus Mixon in the backfield, and Uzomah a useful TE, this Bengals offense can cause more than enough trouble for opposing defenses. I very much enjoyed the Bengals’ victory cigar Instagram posts after the game. They deserve some happiness.
For the Chiefs, this was an extremely costly defeat. Clearly, the Bengals are a very good team, but to have an 11 point lead at half time, and only score 3 pts in the 2nd half… That’s gotta sting. Mahomes had just 58 passing yards in the 2nd half. Huh?! How is that possible?! Credit to Cincinnati’s halftime adjustments, but Andy Reid will be concerned that with CEH out, the Bengals were able to lock in on Hill & Kelce and keep “the other guys” under control with relative ease.
Kansas City is now all but assured to finish as the 2nd seed in the AFC – the Titans have the tiebreaker over the Chiefs – unless Tennessee finds a way to lose to the Texans for the 2nd time this season… The Chiefs are still for me “the team to beat” in the AFC, but results like this show that the air of invincibility they once had has well and truly dissipated.
Raiders Stun Colts To Stay Alive
When John Gruden’s emails got leaked, you could have understood anybody who thought this might be another lost season for Las Vegas’ newest team. And yet, as the dust settles on Week 17, the Raiders are – somehow – in a one-game Playoff in Week 18, with an AFC Wildcard berth on the line. How did things go so right? Give huge credit to Rich Bisaccia, who has steadied the ship and driven this franchise into a position that very few people would have predicted once the aforementioned scandal broke.
Derek Carr has held this offense together, despite missing his favourite weapon for the better part of the last two months. Darren Waller’s absence has allowed Hunter Renfrow to truly blossom into a WR1 and he is now the key element of this Raiders offense you have to key in on. Credit to Vegas’ defense too. Taylor got his 100 yard game, but the Raiders didn’t break, holding on and hanging tough. Can the Raiders complete the fairytale and shock the Chargers next week? If Maxx Crosby can get into Justin Herbert, they have a great chance.
It’ll be interesting to see how they spin this loss for the Colts on Hard Knocks. It’s the first time all season Jonathan Taylor has rushed for 100+ yards and the Colts have failed to win… but thanks to other results around the league, their destiny remains in their own hands. Victory over the Jaguars in Week 18 (which feels like almost a foregone conclusion), and Indianapois will be back in the postseason. HBO Executives, rejoice!
Despite this loss, the Colts won’t be an easy out for anybody. Taylor is a one-man wrecking crew, and nobody is going to want to tackle him in cold January weather. It’s a weird conundrum that a dome team like the Colts are maybe the most suited to freezing outdoor weather like you might get in Buffalo, or New England. Quick aside: I absolutely loved that TY Hilton TD in this game. Give me more deflected TDs. Carson Wentz might need some more lucky breaks like that if the Colts are to go deep in the Playoffs.
- The Biggest winners yesterday? The Tennessee Titans. Vrabel’s boys handled the Miami Dolphins with ease, and all but secured the AFC’s #1 seed as a result. Derrick Henry is back practising… Somehow, despite all the injuries, and all the Covid issues, the Titans are seemingly going to have home field advantage throughout the postseason.
- Sadly, as I’ve said all along, the Dolphins loss to the Jaguars in London is the pivotal one that keeps them out of the Playoffs. Heartbreaking to win 7 in a row and not make the playoffs, but it’s a story of lack of productivity when you needed it most. Yesterday’s dud in Tennessee was eerily reminiscent of Week 17 last season in Buffalo when Tua couldn’t get going and the Fins floundered out of the Playoff race. Maybe next year!?
- Well, the NFC runs through Lambeau Field again. That’s not good news for… everyone else. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are on a tear for the ages, and with AJ Dillon pounding the ball in the backfield… Who thinks they can go into Lambeau and win in the cold? The Rams? I don’t think so. The Cowboys? Maybe. The Buccaneers?! I’m still not convinced this time around.
- Antonio Brown. What went wrong? He’s done. I think that’s safe to say. I can’t see any coach in the National Football League ever taking a chance on AB again after this latest show of histrionics. For someone as talented as he is to waste his career away like he has done over the last few seasons… It’s a shame. He’s clearly not a good human off the pitch; I hope he gets the counselling he clearly needs.
- Aside from that… Tom Brady still made magic. The Buccaneers got their 12th win of the season by completing a 4th quarter comeback over a game New York Jets team. Big congrats to Cyril Grayson for making the game winning play. Love to see unheralded guys succeed.
- The Arizona Cardinals re-found life on Sunday. Kyler Murray was back to more like what we’re accustomed to, but it was Isaiah Simmons and the defense that was the key element in dispatching Dallas at Jerry World. Kliff Kingsbury really needed this win, which keeps Arizona alive in the NFC West race. If San Francisco beats LA next weekend, and the Cardinals beat the Seahawks, then Arizona has a home playoff game.
- A weird loss for the Cowboys, who really haven’t been clicking as of late. Kellen Moore’s offense was unstoppable last week against Washington, but then lacked the spark yesterday. Is that just the higher level of defensive competition that the Cardinals posed? Maybe, but Mike McCarthy lost any hope of the #1 seed with this loss. Could the Cowboys win at Lambeau in January? …Maybe.
- Spare a thought for Michael Gallup. Made an incredible Touchdown grab for Dallas, but left with a torn ACL and is set to be a free agent in the offseason. He has the talent to be a WR1 somewhere in this league.
- The Saints kept their playoff hopes alive with a scrappy defensive win against Sam Darnold’s Panthers. You have to give huge credit to Sean Payton for (again) proving why he’s one of the best coaches in this business. He’s had 4 starting QBs this season, and they’ve won 8 games. Jameis back next year? I think so. Saints fans still have hope of a wildcard game, and with Taysom and AK41… Nobody is going to WANT to play the Saints.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown. Draft him for your fantasy team next season. We have a breakout star receiver in Detroit.
- Rashaad Penny. Do we have a breakout star in Seattle too? Depending on how healthy Chris Carson is on his return… We could have a dreaded RB Committee for the Seahawks next year.
- Also, it was nice of Russell Wilson to remember who DK Metcalf is and feeeeeed him the ball yesterday. Was that the last home game in the Wilson x Carroll era in Seattle? Feels like it may have been.
- Odell Beckham Jr. made his most important play in… years… for the Rams on Sunday, catching the game-winning TD that keeps LA on track for the NFC West crown and a home playoff game. As long as the Rams hold their nerve vs the Niners next week, they’ll lock both those up. That won’t be easy though, as San Francisco themselves need the win to get into the NFC Wildcard picture.
MNF Prediction: (Season Record: 10-12)
Our final Monday Night Football game of the Regular Season doesn’t quite have as much on the line as we previously had hoped, with results this weekend conspiring to eliminate Cleveland before they’ve even had a chance to play. But for Pittsburgh, and for Big Ben, this is one last chance to keep their playoff hopes alive.
I’m absolutely gutted for the Cleveland Browns. Covid has seemingly decimated their playoff chances, with that Baker-less loss to the Raiders 3 weeks ago now looming large as the win that gives LV a chance at stealing a wildcard spot, and the loss that guarantees the Browns won’t be back in the Postseason again this year. Cleveland has all the talent they need, a great coach, and a young roster. I urge Browns fans not to overthink things. Getting Baker out of Cleveland would be a mistake. He’s been hurt this season. Stick with him. He dragged you back from the brink of nowhere. Believe in Baker. I do.
On the Steelers side of things… This has all but been confirmed as Ben Roethlisberger’s last game at Heinz Field. If the Steelers do by some miracle sneak into the AFC Wildcard spots, they won’t host a playoff game, so this is “The Last Dance” for Giant Benjamin and his army of yellow towel wavers. Mike Tomlin is himself fighting to maintain his record of never having had a losing season in Pittsburgh. A win tonight, would secure that.
This – for me – boils down simply to the fact that the Steelers are at home, have revenge for last year’s playoff debacle on their mind, and still have a (very slim) chance at a playoff berth this year. Big Ben in primetime? The last ride? I can’t pick against him, as much as I love the Browns and know how much they’d like to spoil this party.
Official Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 18 Preview
So, it all comes down to this. The “longest” NFL Season ever, which has somehow escaped cancellations despite Covid wreaking havoc late on, will culminate in the first ever Week 18 next Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s chosen games stink of ESPN trying to get the biggest stars possible on TV, and who can blame them really. The Saturday Doubleheader starts with Chiefs at Broncos, with Mahomes and company looking to bounce back from today’s costly defeat, and give themselves a slim chance at the #1 seed in the AFC.
Then, we have the Cowboys at the Eagles, which is always a wild game with the rivalry these two teams have. Dallas has a small chance to move up in the seeding in the NFC, but really this is just a straight up rivalry game. Then, on Sunday, the Colts will secure a playoff spot with a win over the embarrassment that is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tennessee will secure the #1 seed if they can beat Houston – who did beat the Titans earlier this year.
The Bills face the Jets, and the Patriots face the Dolphins with the AFC East crown still up for grabs. In the NFC, the Saints and 49ers will compete for the final Wildcard spot. The Saints must beat the Falcons, and hope the Rams do them a favour and beat San Francisco. As previously mentioned, the Rams have a lot on the line in that game too, so that promises to be a heavyweight clash
And then – the Sunday Nightcap – the AFC West showdown which is “Win and In.” It’s a bonus playoff game. Justin Herbert and the Chargers against Derek Carr and the Raiders. It should be electric. I’ll see you back here next week to properly break down the Playoff picture and see who we think is going to be in LA for the Super Bowl in February. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come say hey. Stay safe. Cheers.
CALLUM IS FROM LONDON, BUT PLAYED COLLEGE SOCCER AT TRINITY UNIVERSITY IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, WHERE HE LEARNED NEVER TO CHEER FOR THE COWBOYS. CALLUM IS A LONG-SUFFERING DOLPHINS FAN WHO BELIEVES THE TUA HYPE. FIND HIM ON TWITTER @CALLUMJDSQUIRES