week 15 Recap - Tua Time Ends Patriots Dynasty
Another busy weekend over, and the playoff picture is almost now more confusing than it was before. Is it really going to come to pass that an AFC team goes 11-5 and doesn’t make the playoffs?! Looks like it. Are ANY of the NFC East teams actually going to decide they want that playoff spot?! Maybe…
The Titans and Colts continue to tussle it out for the AFC South crown, and the Packers appear to have taken the lead in the race for the NFC #1 seed and bye. The Dolphins eliminated the Patriots and perhaps ended their dynasty, and Baker Mayfield continues to absolutely shred defenses late in the season. There was some great drama, and with a three day weekend of NFL to come next week, there’s gonna be a lot more in these last two weeks of the Regular Season. Let’s get into it.
Dolphins End The Patriots' Playoff Dynasty
In Miami, the playoff push continued… but not for the Patriots. The seemingly traditional late-season New England loss to the Dolphins happened again yesterday, but this was a meaningful one for the often overlooked Dolphins. I love the fact that Miami tries at least one ridiculous trick play every week, even if they keep working and then getting called back by penalty.
You’ve gotta credit that execution to Head Coach Brian Flores. Flores appears to have inherited that most useful of Belichick traits: getting more out of some players than could ever be expected. Salvon Ahmed has been a revelation, plus Matt Breida, Mack Hollins and Lynn Bowden Jr. helped carry the load yesterday. It’s an elusive trait. Mike Vrabel has it too in Tennessee. The Dolphins were without most of their major weapons (Parker, Grant, Gesicki & Gaskin), and utilising a rookie QB against a Patriots defense that usually eats those kind of pass-throwers alive.
And ironically for Tua, it was his legs and not his throwing that got the decisive touchdowns for Miami. Tagovailoa has been a bit up and down since replacing Fitz as the starter, and yet has a 6-2 record… Flores couldn’t have hoped for more. The Dolphins are in the thick of the playoff race, but will likely have to win both of their remaining games against the Raiders and… the Bills. Best case scenario for Miami is Buffalo have already locked themselves in as the 3 or 4 seed and rest players like Allen & Diggs so as to avoid injuries, but I doubt Sean McDermott is built like that. From a 1-3 start, to a 9-5 record with two weeks left, the Dolphins have to be elated with the season they’ve put together, but will perhaps look back at the silly defeat to the Broncos in Week 11 as the one that ultimately cost the Fins just their second playoff berth since 2008. The good news is, with this defense, these coaches, and a rookie QB who is starting to find his feet, there will be more to come.
For New England, it’s the end of an era. I would be lying if I said I was in any way upset to see the Patriots officially eliminated from the playoffs. Their longevity has to be respected, but that does not mean I have to LIKE them. The Cam Newton experiment has… kind of worked?! New England changed their DNA drastically and were maybe a couple of season changing plays short from being 8-6 rather than 6-8. I don’t think you could say it has failed, even if it hasn’t led to the kind of ending Belichick was hoping for.
I WOULD re-sign Cam in New England, but I’m not sure they’ll go for that. It’ll be another very interesting off season for the Pats. I still wouldn’t put it past Belichick to concoct some wild black magic trade and end up with Trevor Lawrence somehow… but surely they don’t have enough pieces to move in order to make that a reality… it looks like we could be into rebuilding mode in New England. They’ll get their opt outs back next year which’ll help, but if you really look at the AFC East, the Bills and Dolphins are trending up, and the Patriots just aren’t.
Mahomes vs Brees - First And Last time?
The Battle in New Orleans between two of the top teams in the league ended with a Chiefs win, but came at the cost of what could be a season-ending injury to rookie sensation Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Drew Brees’ return was up and down. He was VERY tentative in the first half and clearly wasn’t 100%. They struggled to connect with wide receivers all day, as the Chiefs swarmed around whichever Saint ended up with the ball in his hands. Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray did their best to drag NOLA back into the game, but it’s hard to lean on a running game against the Chiefs when you’re attempting a comeback.
If the Chiefs ARE going to be beaten in the playoffs, it’s going to require somebody (probably either the Browns or Titans) to get up early, and then run, run and run the ball to control the clock. I just don’t see how you beat the Chiefs besides that. Mahomes had some more ridiculous throws, that he makes look normal. Travis Kelce had a quieter night than usual, but still caught a (weirdly thrown) touchdown and continues to be the most reliable receiver of any kind in the league. He’s truly incredible.
The Chiefs have undeniably improved since last year, and even the loss of CEH can potentially be plugged by their acquisition of LeVeon Bell. Their depth and ability on offense is insane, and we haven’t even discussed the Legion of Zoom yet. Hill, Watkins, Robinson and Hardman all made plays yesterday, and they WILL beat you deep at least twice. You just have to hope those passes don’t go into the endzone.
I wouldn’t say this game was an all out classic, but I’m glad that in NFL History books they will be able to say there was ONE matchup between Brees and Mahomes, before Brees (probably) retires at the end of this season. Sadly for Drew, I think the #1 seed is now gone for the Saints, unless the Titans upset the Packers next week, but even then I don’t think the Saints can find enough to beat the Chiefs if they do make it to the SuperBowl. It’s Mahomes’ world, and we’re all just living in it.
Jets Finally Win… Blow NFC West Open… And Lose Lawrence
They can’t even figure out how to tank properly. Oh, New York… What is you DOING?! After flirting with a victory a couple of weeks ago against Vegas, and firing Gregg Williams for calling the all out blitz on 4th and forever that kept them in the #1 draft spot, the Jets inexplicably have travelled to LA and beaten the 9-4 Rams.
This result was greeted with rampant cheers in Jacksonville, Florida. They now stand to win the Trevor Lawrence sweepstake. Wow. You can argue that New York will still be happy with Justin Fields, but I can’t fathom anybody saying that’s a better outcome for the Jets. Adam Gase’s “hyperdrive” offense managed to just about sneak over the line, leaning on Frank Gore’s 37 year old legs to grind out the yards necessary to evade Aaron Donald’s monstrous figure.
The Rams will be kicking themselves. This must go down as Sean McVay’s worst day since the SuperBowl against New England. Cam Akers didn’t run with quite as much zest as against the Patriots last Thursday, and Goff didn’t get Cooper Kupp involved nearly enough. But let’s be fair and give the Jets some credit. Marcus Maye’s pass break up was exceptional, and Sam Darnold looked… passable?! I still think he’s out of a job in New York come Week 1 next year, but he at least doesn’t have the ignominious stain of an 0-16 season on his career record.
The Rams, who were leading the NFC West when the day began, now find themselves looking up at Seattle, with a winner-take-all matchup to come next week. That one, will be tasty. Seattle themselves had a big win over the (fraudulent) Washington Football Team. It was a tight one, but Jamal Adams finally has a playoff berth, and might even get a division title to go along with it. Russell Wilson did just enough to evade the Washington pass rush, and Seattle now fully controls their own destiny. Carson carried most of the load from the backfield, but it was Carlos Hyde who delivered the gut punch to Washington (and Carson fantasy owners, like me) with the 50 yard touchdown scamper to effectively end the game.
Washington themselves are now under a little bit of fire in the NFC East, despite the Giants and Eagles both losing. The Cowboys have slightly given themselves life, and Washington has to face the Eagles in Week 17. If Ron Rivera’s men lose his revenge game to the Panthers next week, the NFC East title and the attached playoff spot will come down to the final week. I hope it does. Largely, because I don’t want Washington ANYWHERE near the playoffs, but also for the drama of that situation playing out. The NFC East is obviously a joke this year, but I’ll argue the future can be bright with Hurts, Dak, Daniel Jones… and whoever Washington decide to go with at QB. Lord knows it should not be Dwayne Haskins.
- The Falcons man… how do you guys keep coming up with ways to lose? Up 17… against Tom Brady again… ouch. It’s a broken record. Burn it to the ground and start again Atlanta.
- Antonio Brown got his first Buccaneers TD. If he can get going, the Bucs will really have an outrageous choice of weapons.
- Sidenote, I think the Bucs might actually be not very good… Frauds? Maybe.
- Are the Texans actually The Falcons in disguise? For the 2nd time in 3 weeks, both against the Colts, the Texans found a ridiculous way to lose when it looked for all extents and purposes that they were about to score a touchdown. Poor Deshaun Watson. #FreeDeshaun!?
- Baker heard your slander and took down your names. I love it. Keep cooking Baker.
- I wish that both the Browns and the Bills had their fans for these upcoming playoff games.
- Kevin Stefanski for Coach of the Year.
- He won’t win it this year, but Josh Allen is showing enough to suggest he could be a future league MVP. Congrats to the Bills on their first AFC East crown for a quarter of a century.
- Drew Lock sucks. Move on, Denver.
- DeAndre Hopkins is still the best receiver in the league.
- Nice to have the real Kyler back. Did he just need to be facing another OU product to refind himself!?
- Jalen Hurts – you just confirmed yourself as the Eagles starter. He was so unlucky. The Eagles showed up yesterday and just fell short. Hurts threw for over 400 yards. One dimensional QB? Nope.
- Are the Cowboys still alive? The Cowboys are still alive. Can the Cowboys win the NFC East?! … I think they might.
- Please let Derrick Henry reach 2,000 rushing yards. He deserves it.
- Respect Ryan Tannehill. He’s been fantastic for Tennessee.
- The Ravens appear to be getting hot. Watch out AFC…
MNF Prediction (Season Record: 15-5)
This is probably the worst Monday night game we’ve had in a while, as Ryan Finley and the hapless Bengals face Big Ben and the Steelers. It’ll certainly be a contrast to the work of absolute art we had last week between Cleveland and Baltimore. Baker and Lamar put on the game of the season, and we follow it up with this!? How do we not flex this game out?!
Anyway, another AFC North matchup this week, and this one is just patently obvious. The Steelers are exponentially better than the Bengals – it’s really as simple as that. Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon and Tee Higgins can drag this organisation forward, but they’re gonna need investment on both the offensive line and the whole defensive. However that time is not now. The Steelers haven’t quite given up on wrestling the #1 seed in the AFC back from the Chiefs, which means they need to win out. This feels like a one-sided, low scoring blowout for Pittsburgh. Steelers to win.
Week 16 is set to be a fantastic long weekend of football. We’ve got Christmas Day NFL! Saints vs Vikings will be a nice way to relax after finishing the Turkey. And then we’ve got a Saturday triple-header including big games for the Cardinals (vs the 49ers) & the Dolphins (vs the Raiders). The Sunday slate? Only got the Seahawks vs the Rams for the NFC West crown, and the Titans vs the Packers on Sunday Night Football. That is veeeeeeery nice. I can’t wait. As ever, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram, come say hey. Have a wonderful Christmas, stay safe – whichever tier you’re in – and enjoy the games.
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.