Week 13 Recap - Baker's Day
Week 13 is almost in the books and this one was WILD. The underdogs had a pretty good day, with the Giants causing the day’s biggest upset, and the Jaguars and Jets giving the Vikings and Raiders a bit of a scare. The big boys – Packers, Saints, Chiefs – all ground out wins, and the NFC West picture changed quite a lot. Plus MAYBE we’ve found the team that ACTUALLY wants to win the NFC East?! Crazy times indeed.
Browns Secure Winning Season As Baker Shines
We need to start a conversation. We need to start putting some respect on the Cleveland Browns’ name. Cleveland – who, don’t forget, hold the longest playoff drought in the league – are 9-3, with their only defeats coming to the undefeated Steelers, last year’s MVP Lamar Jackson & the Ravens, and the Las Vegas (only team to beat the Chiefs) Raiders.
Yesterday was a massive statement from the Browns. This victory secured their first winning season since 2007, with 38 points scored in the first half. And this was not the “bad weather” run heavy Browns we’ve seen the past month or so. This was the Baker F’n Mayfield show. With 389 yards passing and 4 Touchdowns, this was arguably Baker’s finest day in the NFL. The former Sooner has had ups and downs in Cleveland, with his charismatic and confident persona clearly rubbing some in the media the wrong way. Personally, I love him. I absolutely love him. Is he the greatest pocket passer you’ve ever seen? No. Will there be days where he looks confused and nothing seems to go his way? Occasionally, yes, but this IS the NFL. Nobody makes this look easy (except Mr. Mahomes). Baker’s got that spark about him that – whilst divisive – will always mean he’s entertaining.
I’m all in on the rollercoaster that is the Browns. I’m convinced they’ll find their way into the playoffs, and I could see them making some noise if this is the Mayfield that shows up. Sure, they cooled off a bit in the second half, but they’d done more than enough to get their biggest win of the season before half time. Kevin Stefanski might well be my pick for Coach of the Year.
For Tennessee, this loss will hurt mainly because of the manner of that first half performance. They never really got Derrick Henry going and, despite another virtuoso performance from Ryan Tannehill, couldn’t ever erase that 31 point deficit fully. But credit where it’s due – they most certainly didn’t quit, as Vrabel was quick to point out post game.
This Titans team is one stacked with weapons. Jonnu Smith was out today, but Corey Davis had another solid performance in addition to AJ Brown. Davis has long been touted as a potential breakout star and now seems to have finally found his feet in the league. The Titans are most definitely going to be a tough out come playoff time, and I still think they have enough in the tank to win the division ahead of the Colts – who were fortunate to hang on to beat the Texans yesterday.
Side note – shout out to MyCole Pruitt. I looooooove an offensive recovery fumble for a touchdown. Reminded me of that epic Andrew Luck play against the Chiefs in that crazy Wildcard game in… 2013 (yes, I had to google that). Give me more random plays like that please. Football should be fun.
Seattle Stumble As Judge Makes His Case For NFC East
Well that wasn’t in the script. The New York Giants have now won four in a row and look set to take sole possession of the NFC East – on the assumption that the Steelers are going to extend their perfect season vs Washington tonight. It’s a pretty impressive turnaround from a team that started 1-7, and did this without their franchise QB. Joe Judge is having a pretty good second half of the season. I really hope the story about him fighting his O-Line coach is true…
Anyway, Colt McCoy got the start for the G-Men and held things together pretty well. Wayne Gallman had a nice little audition to get a move somewhere and be a featured back once Saquon returns next year. New York now look poised to break into the playoff picture this year. They really need to hope Daniel Jones’ injury isn’t long term and, if they can get him back healthy, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton can definitely cause some teams some issues come January.
Seattle have significantly lost their way since Russell Wilson won the MVP in October… oh… I guess not. Don’t get me wrong – I love Russ, Pete Carroll, and the whole Seahawks team. But if you have Metcalf, Lockett and Carson at your disposal, you cannot be okay with scoring 12 points against the Giants defense. Credit to New York, they’ve been sneaky efficient defensively of late, but this was a statement against (supposedly) one of the best offenses in the league.
Shoutout Chris Carson for getting into the endzone again. I love you Chris Carson. I will value you appropriately even if the rest of this cruel world won’t. Coach Carroll, figure it out. The NFC West crown is still there to be won… but you HAVE to start by beating both the Jets and Washington in the next two weeks.
McVay's Rams Strengthen Their Grip
Sean McVay clearly heard me say that I thought the Rams were the 3rd best team in the NFC West a few weeks ago. Since then, the Rams have rediscovered their identity, and put themselves (currently) into the 3 seed spot in the NFC. Goff has calmed himself, and has begun to find Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods calmly, rather than with the early season panic we glimpsed in October. I firmly dislike Running Back committee’s, but Akers/Brown/Henderson is working for them right now, so why not ride that out?
Seattle’s surprise loss has obviously helped the Rams’ playoff case, but LA’s defense did a real number on Kyler Murray yesterday. Jalen Ramsey stood up to DeAndre Hopkins and Troy Hill sealed the win with a 4th quarter pick six. The Rams have taken their time to recover from that Patriots defeat in the Super Bowl, but they appear to have finally turned a corner. The Rams have won 3 of their last 4 and have the inconsistent Patriots and the awful Jets next up. Their final two games vs the Seahawks and the Cardinals will determine not just their destiny, but that of Seattle and Arizona as well. The NFC West race is going to be very interesting until the last.
But Arizona need to rediscover themselves quickly. Teams have made a VERY conscious effort to take the run away from Kyler in the last month or so. Of course, it makes a lot of sense for them to do so, and it’s also coincided with a 1-4 run for Arizona, taking them from 5-2 to 6-6, and that lone win came on the miraculous DeAndre Hopkins “Hail Murray” play against Buffalo.
Kyler’s personal struggles are also exemplified by the fact that after 10 rushing touchdowns in his first 9 games this season he has now failed to find the endzone in 3 straight games. Defences are challenging him to beat them through the air and recently he hasn’t been able to do that, despite the always stellar play of Hopkins. I’m still a believer in Kyler and Kingsbury, but they’re definitely still a couple of pieces away.
- Well, Doug Pederson finally went for the change, and it almost worked. The Eagles built a little mini comeback against the Packers off the back of Jalen Hurts. It could be Jalen Hurts vs Taysom Hill in Eagles vs Saints next week…
- I feel sorry for Carson Wentz, but performance-wise, you can’t argue with this decision. Is this the end of the road in Philly for Wentz?
- 400 TD Passes for Aaron Rodgers. What a player. It feels like a straight debate between Rodgers and Mahomes for MVP at this point.
- Please PAY Aaron Jones. If Green Bay don’t do it, someone will. The guy is special.
- Tua gets another win without looking spectacular. It’s interesting, because the Dolphins are winning regardless of whether it’s Tagovailoa or Fitzpatrick, but you do feel like the offense is more fluid in Fitzmagic’s hands… and yet… The Miami Dolphins are 8-4. Wild times.
- Mike Gesicki COULD become an elite Tight End in this league. I’d love to see Tua and Mike develop a Mahomes-Kelce relationship for the fins. Use him more.
- The refs who ruled that brilliant Dolphins play for the TD on 4th and Goal have ZERO sense of fun and I strongly disapprove.
- Oh New York. The Jets. You had it. You had the chance to lose Trevor Lawrence… but made the right choice!! And… as a result, the Jets have fired Gregg Williams after the egregious 0-Blitz call on 4th and Forever with the game on the line. It’s a harsh league at times.
- The Jags also briefly tried to win a game and confuse everything further. It very briefly felt like nobody actually wanted to draft Trevor Lawrence, which would be a baffling move from all these struggling franchises.
- Justin Jefferson for rookie of the year. No doubt.
- Give some credit to Taysom Hill. He has show he has more than enough to be a full time starting quarterback in this league. New Orleans keeps rolling, and looks set to claim that much coveted bye.
- Apparently the Patriots defense and special teams have decided that they still want to be in the playoffs. What a performance yesterday. They made Justin Herbert look like… a rookie.
- The Bears are an embarrassment of a franchise. Up 10 with the ball and 5 minutes left and you LOSE? Unreal.
- Mahomes on Sunday Night. He was never going to lose. Shout out the Broncos defense for keeping it close.
MNF/TNF Predictions (Season Record: 13-3)
There’s an interesting trifecta of games for us over the next two nights. I’m delighted we’ve got the 10pm U.K. time game tonight so I can watch the Steelers dismantle the Washington Football Team. I’d love for Pittsburgh to go through the season undefeated. It’s such a good story to carry into the playoffs. You wonder if they would rest people if they can secure the Bye before week 17, but who knows right now if the Chiefs will lose a game… anyway, I love everything about this Pittsburgh team, and – even with losing Bud Dupree – their defense is incredibly formidable. I don’t think Washington’s O-Line is good enough to withstand that onslaught.
Next up, the traditional Monday Night game is between the 49ers and the Bills. San Fran got a big win against the Rams last week which has kept their slim playoff hopes alive, but the Bills themselves are rolling towards an AFC East crown. I think Josh Allen will have enough to withstand a formidable Niners defensive effort. Bills for me.
Lastly, another edition of Tuesday night football. Baltimore vs Dallas. Lamar Jackson SHOULD be back and active come Tuesday night, but despite this I think Dallas will give them a real run for their money. I think the match stays close – the Cowboys ARE better than their record shows, despite the abomination on Thanksgiving – but I reckon the Ravens just about squeak out a win in the end.
Pittsburgh, Buffalo & Baltimore all to win.
Week 14 Ahead
We’re finally done with Bye Weeks and can now just focus full steam ahead on the race for the playoffs. The highlights of the week 14 slate have to be Rams-Patriots on Thursday night, plus Bills-Steelers and Browns-Ravens in the PrimeTime slots. Quietly, watch out for the Chiefs vs the Dolphins too, as one of the league’s best defences faces Mahomes and the best offense in the league. Looking forward to that one. As always, I’m @callumjdsquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come say hi. Hope you’re all doing well and staying safe. Have a good week.
CALLUM IS FROM LONDON BUT PLAYED COLLEGE SOCCER AT 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.