Week 14 Recap - Mahomes survives Miami to push for #1 seed
Week 14 is almost in the books, and we’re hurtling towards the playoffs, with the “In The Hunt” graphics becoming simultaneously more complex and simple at the same time. The Packers and Chiefs both had good weeks, with defeats for the Saints and Steelers changing the 1 seed picture completely. Derrick Henry continued his potential MVP candidate season, with another 200 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground for the Titans, and the Cardinals and Seahawks got back on track in their attempts to chase down the Rams atop the NFC West. AND – to top it all off – we’ve got a huge Monday Night matchup tonight. Let’s get into it.
More Chiefs Success In Miami
10 months on from their crowning as the best team in Football, KC returned to Miami seeking to put pressure on Pittsburgh in that number 1 seed spot. It didn’t go entirely their own way; Mahomes threw more INTs against Miami than in the rest of the season combined. Sure, there were some deflections – it wasn’t like any of them were egregiously bad throws – but it was still a surprise. Miami started well and burst into a 10-0 lead, but this Chiefs team is just so god damn explosive.
The Dolphins had defended superbly, and yet trailed 14-10 at the half… huh!? The Legion of Zoom took over with Tyreek Hill catching the deep pass from Mahomes, and MeCole Hardman finally flashing his talent on a punt return TD. However, give Tua and the Fins credit. They hung in, they toughed it out, and they refused to quit. It would have been easy to cave, but Miami will take solace from dragging themselves back and making it a one possession game late.
The Chiefs left Miami with another championship, just like they did after the SuperBowl in February; this time, it was the AFC West crown. Somehow, Kansas City appears to be a more complete team this time around. They really don’t appear to have any obvious flaws. I hate to sound predictable, but it looks like another Chiefs win this year as well. Obviously, anything can happen, but I can’t see anyone beating Kansas City right now, barring injuries or Mahomes suddenly deciding to become Mark Sanchez overnight.
For Miami, their next two games are season defining. Facing the 6-7 Patriots, and the 7-6 Raiders, you have to get two wins if you want to make the Playoffs. Tua has come a long way in a short time. The argument COULD be made that he really showed what he’s capable of yesterday, in that he was able to drag his team back into a game that looked lost vs the best team in Football. Mike Gesicki put on another clinic at Tight End, and you wonder if he and Tua could develop a Kelce-Mahomes style partnership as the years progress.
Defensively, Miami are the only team with a takeaway in every game this season, and forced Mahomes into more mistakes yesterday than he’s made all year. They forced him to take a 30-yard sack! That’s insane. I don’t think he’ll win it, but PLEASE keep Brian Flores’ name in the Coach of the Year discussion. He and this defense really deserve that playoff berth. You just wonder if the offense can avoid being Belichick-ed next week… Here’s hoping.
Jalen Deeply Hurts The Saints
The Philadelphia Eagles… FINALLY woke up. It might still be too late for Philly to push for a playoff spot – considering the outrageous and disgusting Washington win without an offensive touchdown – but Jalen Hurts’ first start in green has to be considered a significant success. Miles Sanders even woke up, and the Eagles had TWO 100 yard rushers against one of the best run defenses in the league. I certainly didn’t see this coming. But maybe the Quarterback change was everything they needed…
Hurts – a star at both Alabama & Oklahoma – has had to wait for his chance to be incorporated into the Eagles’ offense in a big way, but he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He showed poise, intelligence and generally looked like more than a rookie in his first start, excluding the fumble which ALMOST let the Saints back in late on. Philly may well still fall short of the NFC East crown this year, but will have a huge role in deciding who gets it, when you consider they face Washington in Week 17. Doug Pederson may not have all the answers right now, but Jalen Hurts has at least provided some modicum of stability, in that he is clearly their starter at QB moving forward.
The Saints are a bit of a conundrum. They have EVERYTHING they need to win a Super Bowl… but is Taysom going to be able to lead them there? Probably not. Drew Brees is scheduled to return in either week 15 or 16… but will he be fully healthy? You feel like New Orleans really need that #1 seed and the bye to give themselves the rest and recuperation they need. And – unfortunately for them – with this defeat, the Packers have just popped their heads out of the bunker and are looking VERY intently at getting their own week off.
With Kamara and Thomas, the Saints will have a chance to win any game, but will need a reliable QB to get the ball to them both. Taysom’s been good up to this point, but did struggle yesterday as the Eagles’ pass rush appeared to stress and influence him. I still think this Saints team will be there or thereabouts when it matters most, but right now it’s hard to see anything other than a Packers/Saints NFC Title game for the right to face Kansas City in Tampa in early February. And if it is that, right now, I’m taking the Pack.
Bills Mafia Celebrate Big Sunday Night Win
Sunday Night Football was a tale of two halves. The first half was a dour (if you like points) defensive stalemate, with both quarterbacks struggling to find their targets consistently. The second half was Buffalo’s statement of the season. And – in truth – it was that early QB inconsistency that led to the big game-changing play right before half time. Ben Roethlisberger accidentally hit Taron Johnson for the Pick 6, which gave the Bills the unlikely half-time lead.
It was that spark – and Sean McDermott’s half-time adjustments – that let Josh Allen come alive, repeatedly finding Stefon Diggs on the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Diggs is having a career year, and that trade with Minnesota, who ended up procuring Justin Jefferson with the pick they acquired, is one of the rare occasions of a win-win trade in the NFL. Nobody lost. The Bills have become the most formidable of AFC East (likely) Champions. I really wish Buffalo fans had been able to be in the stadium last night to celebrate this victory accordingly. Normality can’t return soon enough.
Pittsburgh, surprisingly for an 11-2 team, seem to be in the midst of an identity crisis. Diontae Johnson appears to have forgotten where his hands are attached to his body. The run game with James Conner has become ineffective. Roethlisberger is undeniably getting a little bit older… I love Mike Tomlin, but I don’t see this Pittsburgh team as a SuperBowl contender. The defense has taken a hit with the Bud Dupree and Joe Haden injuries, but the steamrolling Steelers definitely appear to have fallen by the wayside, and Kansas City is poised to sweep in and steal that #1 seed and the Bye.
- Okay Colts, I see you. I’ve been on record saying I don’t believe in them (and I still don’t), but dispatching Las Vegas like this has to be noted.
- The Raiders are now in a dogfight to make the playoffs. They’re gonna need to beat the Dolphins and hope for some serious slippage from the Ravens.
- Also, Josh Jacobs… C’mon man. Trolling Fantasy Football players… it’s just unnecessary. I fully understand that NFL players get lots of unwarranted abuse based on Fantasy Football, but surely it’s better to engage positively with the fanbase, rather than try and alienate them?
- Derrick Henry’s big contract extension looks like the smartest move anyone in the NFL made in the off season. It’s GREAT to see a team properly support a lead back and build their offense around him. Running Back Committees are the bane of my existence. 2000 yard watch for King Henry.
- Washington found a way to win without an offense again. It’s ugly, and I don’t like it at all, but give credit to Ron Rivera and Chase Young. Lord knows nobody on that offense deserved any yesterday.
- The Chargers and Falcons was every bit the shitshow it was supposed to be. Neither team seems capable of winning a normal game. Anthony Lynn failing to get a field goal kicked before half time was special levels of incompetent. Good for Justin Herbert to bounce back from the Patriots embarrassment with a win.
- Sidenote – those blue Chargers uniforms are my favourite in the whole league. Absolutely beautiful.
- The Packers clinch the NFC North, and Matt LaFleur becomes the first Packers’ head coach to win 10 games in his first two seasons. The Packers appear to be peaking at the right time.
- FEED. CHRIS. CARSON. I know he’s coming back from injury, but he is special. Seahawks got back on track, but need to ride their workhorse to secure their playoff spot.
- Welcome back Kyler. Nice to see you again. DHop too. Those two could blow up on any given day. Cardinals push themselves back into Wildcard contention.
- Daniel Jones, you should not have played. He was clearly not 100%. The Giants now need other team to do them favours to enable them to usurp Washington in the NFC East.
- Andy Dalton got his revenge. Good for him. Cowboys are better than 4-9. You do wonder how different this whole season would have been without the Dak injury.
- TB12 finally hit a deep ball. That’s it.
- Dan Bailey, I’m sorry, but best wishes in your future endeavours.
Monday Night Football Prediction (Season Record: 15-4)
I’m buzzing for this game. The Browns have the chance to avenge their opening day defeat to Baltimore, and really put themselves securely in the playoffs. The Ravens need to continue their dominance over Cleveland, and hope Lamar rediscovers some MVP form to push them into the playoff picture. Baker hasn’t had the best of time against the fearsome Ravens’ defense in previous matchups, but this Browns team is a different animal right now.
I think Cleveland have found the right formula to drag themselves to success. Run, run, run and run. Chubb and Hunt can be the two workhorses to push the Browns playoff agenda this year. Kevin Stefanski has done a superb job, and this is an acid test for him up against a coach as good as Harbaugh. The Ravens have a pretty comfortable run in (Jaguars, Giants, Bengals) and that will probably vault them into the Wildcard round. Tonight, however, I think this is the coronation of the Browns as a legitimate threat and a team to fear. Browns to win.
Week 15 Preview
This is the point of the season where things get really bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m so excited for all the drama of the playoff picture being built, but on the other hand you realise we’re really near the end of the regular season and getting close to the off season and dreaming of the NFL’s return in September…
But let’s stay positive. Week 15’s slate brings us THE marquee matchup of the regular season. Saints vs Chiefs. It will be ELECTRIC. Should be such a good game. Beyond that, weirdly the Washington vs Seahawks game has become a huge game in the NFC playoff standing, and the Dolphins have the chance to fully bury the New England Patriots and push themselves into the playoffs. Really looking forward to those 3. With everything else that’s happened this year, you have to expect some utter madness before this season is done. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram, come say hi. Stay safe, say healthy, stay sane. I know it’s not easy right now.
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.