Week 16 Recap -
Rodgers Closes in on MVP
Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. You work all season long, fighting through adversity, get to the penultimate week with 10 wins, and… might fail to make the playoffs?! That’s the situation for what feels like half of the AFC. Week 16 threw more dramatic fuel into the already highly dramatic bonfire that is the NFL Playoff race, and we haven’t even STARTED to discuss the NFC East yet… Wild. But in the Frozen Tundra, one man staked his final claim on the MVP trophy which he now is seemingly a shoe in to win.
Rodgers And Adams Destroy The Titans
The Aaron Rodgers’ Revenge Tour is almost complete for the Regular Season. It looks like he’s got the MVP, #1 seed in the NFC, and a bye week wrapped up nicely. Green Bay took the (very good) Tennessee Titans team apart, controlling the game from start to finish and limiting the league’s most dangerous running back at the same time. Well, fine, Derrick Henry still finished with 98 yards on the ground, but considering how we’ve seen him dominate entire games on his own this season, that’s considered a victory for Matt LaFleur and his Pack. Davante Adams was unplayable, catching 3 TDs and making the Titans secondary look foolish all game long. My commiserations if you were playing against a team with Alvin Kamara and Davante Adams in your Fantasy Championship game this weekend… ouch.
Sidenote, shoutout AJ Dillon. Lovely to see a rookie have a big break out game. He and Aaron Jones will be a great 1-2 punch if Jamaal Williams does miss more time. But I thought everyone said the Packers didn’t have enough offensive weapons?! Nonsense. The Packers do appear to me to be the team most likely to be able to give the Chiefs some grief in the SuperBowl. Certainly, Rodgers’ career deserves a 2nd Championship, but we’ll have to wait and see how the Playoff path turns out. What’s almost for sure, is that the path to the NFC Championship will run through Lambeau Field, as long as the Packers beat their nemesis – the Bears – next week. I’m sure they won’t have a problem finding motivation for that game.
For the Titans, this was probably Ryan Tannehill’s worst performance of the season, but the Titans knew they didn’t have to have this game following the Colts loss to the Steelers. Tennessee still control their own destiny. Defeat a reeling Houston Texans team next weekend and they’ll claim the AFC South crown and roll into the Playoffs as the #4 seed in the AFC. You have to believe that Derrick Henry knows he requires 233 yards to eclipse the 2000 rushing yards mark for the season. That’s a big ask, but certainly not impossible when you consider Henry already has two 200 yard games this season… and one of them was against the Texans. The story writes itself.
Seahawks Secure NFC West
Finally, and I think deservedly, the Seattle Seahawks took official ownership of the NFC West again. Seattle has had their ups and downs this season, but I think are the best coached and most talented team in that division overall. The difference having a healthy Chris Carson back has made cannot be understated. He continues to be perhaps the most underrated starting running back in the league. He’s a bruising runner who seeks and evades contact, plus a good receiver out of the backfield. If Seattle is going to make any noise in the NFC Playoffs, keeping Carson healthy is imperative.
Russ’s play was improved, carefully measuring his passes and scrambling where needed. The two TDs that won this game were masterfully crafted by Wilson, evading and improvising for the rushing TD, then dropping an absolute dime to Jacob Hollister for the clincher. Pete Caroll loved it. The Seahawks still have an outside chance of the #1 seed and a bye, but now know for sure they will have a home playoff game in January.
On the flip side… LA are now in the uncomfortable position where from being 9-4 they might lose out and fail to make the playoffs. At time of writing, there’s still no confirmation on Jared Goff’s status for next weekend. Goff is rumoured to have broken his thumb, meaning QB duties would likely fall to John Wolford – who has never thrown an NFL pass. And who are they playing?! Oh, only the Arizona Cardinals, a division rival, desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive after their inexplicable loss to the 49ers on Saturday. The Rams are in trouble. Their defense was stout all day, but they were constantly unable to break through the Seahawks and into the endzone, including one 4th and goal stop that proved pivotal. If Goff is out, you have to wonder if the Rams can bounce back and beat Arizona. Personally, my money will be on Kyler and Hopkins.
FitzMagic Does It Again
When Patrick Mahomes calls it “the best no look pass ever,” you know it’s legit. The Saturday night show in Vegas was plodding along to a fairly mediocre conclusion, following a disappointing performance from Tua Tagovailoa… and then the final four minutes were absolutely bananas. The bold decision from Brian Flores to insert Ryan Fitzpatrick into the game may have saved the Dolphins season. Flores compared it to bringing in a relief pitcher, and said he was happy doing whatever was needed to win the game. I love this. Pragmatic and efficient. Flores continues to strengthen his grip on Coach of the Year, perhaps helped by Kevin Stefanski’s mishap against the Jets yesterday… The Dolphins wrestled their destiny back into their own hands, with the help of some egregiously bad defending from the Raiders. The facemask penalty just cannot happen at that time, at that moment.
John Gruden slumps to another (probably) 8-8 season with the Raiders, who just can’t quite figure out how to be consistent enough to make the postseason. They have a talented young core, but are still missing some pieces on the defensive side. Ironically, the Dolphins are almost that in reverse. Their defense has been a revelation, but they need a couple more elite weapons around Tua to push this franchise forward. Mike Gesicki and Myles Gaskin both had big games, and have both proven themselves to be the de facto go-to guys along with Devante Parker, who they will hope to have healthy for the crunch Week 17 game against the Bills. Fitzmagic was the headline, and deservedly so, but the message hidden underneath was that these Dolphins are going to be good for a good while longer under the stewardship of Flores.
- I’m so so so sad today for the city of Cleveland and all their fans. How much bad luck does this franchise get? All of their WRs were ruled out through COVID protocols. And yes, fine, they should have run the ball better with Chubb and Hunt. Yes, it was only the Jets. But… They deserve to make the playoffs. They really do. Baker has steadily improved this season and my heart aches that he had an unfortunate fumble that might end up costing them. The Browns must beat Pittsburgh in week 17 to get in.
- RIP the Detroit Lions. Yeeeeesh.
- I’m still not sure I buy the Buccaneers as a legitimate SuperBowl contender, but their array of offensive weapons is staggering.
- Credit to the Atlanta Falcons for giving the Chiefs the toughest game they’ve had all year long. No idea how it happened, but it did!
- Kansas City finding ways to grind out a win is terrifying, because even when they have an off day they still win. Exceptional.
- Where has this Bengals team appeared from?! Joe Burrow must be feeling better by the day doing his rehab and seeing this team fight.
- Dwayne Haskins has just been released by the Washington Football Team as I put the final few words into this article. Wow.
- Carolina’s Defense showed up and showed out. Good for them.
- Andy Dalton: take a bow, son. Good for him. Good for the Cowboys. They would have STROLLED to the division title with a healthy Dak Prescott. Really hope they find a way to stop the frauds in Washington getting into the playoffs.
- Jalen Hurts will be a successful NFL quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Carson Wentz will be a successful NFL quarterback… somewhere else.
- Where was THIS Mitch Trubisky previously hiding?
- Lamar Jackson looking like his old self… The Ravens are not going to be a fun team to play in the playoffs.
- Trevor Lawrence… Welcome to Jacksonville.
MNF Prediction (Season Record: 15-6)
DISCLAIMER: This article was wrote prior to Monday Night Football. Honest!
Short and sweet here… I think this one will be tight, and the Patriots D will show up with a vengeance, as they seek to secure their contracts for next season and beyond. Josh Allen is rightly in the MVP discussion – though he will fall short to Aaron Rodgers – and he’ll win this game for Buffalo. Selfishly, I hope he scores less than 32 fantasy points (there’s a title on the line in my life tonight!), but I think the Bills win and secure themselves the 2 or 3 seed. Home playoff game in Buffalo… You just wish Bills Mafia could be there. Bills to win.
Week 17 - ESPN’s Playoff Machine
So a little bonus segment here… by way of seeing the future for next week’s games… I went to ESPN’s famed NFL Playoff Predictor, clicked my way through, and made my choices. Below are what I believe will be the final teams and seeds for the 2020 NFL Playoffs. This obviously includes my prediction for Monday Night Football (above) as if it was correct, so let’s hope so or this might all be a game off… Anyway:
1 Kansas City Chiefs Green Bay Packers
2 Buffalo Bills New Orleans Saints
3 Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks
4 Tennessee Titans Dallas Cowboys
5 Miami Dolphins Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6 Baltimore Ravens Arizona Cardinals
7 Cleveland Browns LA Rams
By way of explanation, I think the top 3 seeds in the NFC all win, which confirms Green Bay as the 1 seed, and eliminates Chicago because Arizona will beat the Goff-less Rams. Then we get to the CHAOS of the NFC East… Dallas look like the most competent of the 3 teams right now, and Jalen Hurts has made the Eagles a real team again… SO I think Dallas can handle the Giants with relative ease, especially if their defense shows up like they did yesterday. A lot will then depend on IF Alex Smith is healthy enough for Sunday Night. Even if he plays – which I think he will – I doubt he is 100%… So I feel like the Eagles will put up a significant fight, and end up gifting the playoff spot to their arch-rivals, the Cowboys, who will get to face Tom Brady in the Wildcard round.
In the AFC, we’ve got 5 teams battling for 4 spots. I think everybody wins. The Titans will beat Houston to secure the AFC South crown, and I really hope Derrick Henry get the 233+ yard game he needs to break the 2,000 yard mark for this season. The Dolphins against the Bills is the toughest match by far, but they NEED it and I think the Bills will be resting some players. Miami deserve this playoff spot, and I think they’ll end up as the 5 seed based on tie breakers.
The Browns are then the next under threat, but similar to Buffalo, I think the Steelers will rest starters at least partially too. Ironically, this COULD (not in my scenario, but it’s possible) play out in a way that makes the Browns and the Steelers face each other again on Wildcard Weekend. This – I think, will motivate Tomlin to keep his cards closer to his chest and the Browns to pick up the win needed to end their playoff drought. The Ravens have been rolling and Lamar isn’t going to lose to the Bengals. Therefore… It’s Phil Rivers and the Colts who miss out, paying the ultimate price for blowing that lead to Pittsburgh yesterday. I don’t see the Colts finding a way to lose to the Jaguars… but it’s their week 1 loss to those opponents (the Jags ONLY win of the season) that has also caused their demise this season.
We’ll review this next week to see how right (or wrong!) I was. As always, I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come chat. Have a very safe and happy New Year. Roll on 2021.
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.