Welcome to the Week 14 NFL Recap! So many things happened this past week that I could a couple of paragraphs about each game. However, at this point of the season each team and each game isn’t created equally so for this week I am going to give my in-depth opinion on what I believe are the eight biggest storylines instead. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Now let’s take a look at what happened this past week:
How I Did With My Week 14 NFL Predications:
- Arizona 23, Minnesota 20: (1-0)
- Carolina 38, Atlanta 0: (2-0)
- Philadelphia 23, Buffalo: (2-1)
- Washington 24, Chicago 21: (2-2)
- Pittsburgh 33, Cincinnati 20: (3-2)
- Cleveland 24, San Francisco 10: (3-3)
- Louis 21, Detroit 14: (3-4)
- New York Jets 30, Tennessee 8: (4-4)
- Jacksonville 51, Indianapolis 16: (4-5)
- Kansas City 10, San Diego 3 (5-5)
- New Orleans 24, Tampa Bay 17: (5-6)
- Seattle 35, Baltimore 6: (6-6)
- Oakland 15, Denver 12: (6-7)
- Green Bay 28, Dallas 7: (7-7)
- New England 27, Houston 6: (8-7)
- New York Giants 31, Miami 24: (9-7)
Week 14 Record: 9-7
Season Record: 127-81 (.611)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2
8 Biggest Storylines After Week 14:
- 2015 Bengals = 2014 Cardinals: I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of weeks that I actually felt bad for the New England Patriots because I believe no team should ever have to suffer what happened to the Arizona Cardinals last year in terms of sustaining so many key injuries. Unfortunately the Cincinnati Bengals are now living the 2014 Cardinals’ nightmare with the recent injury to Andy Dalton. The parallels are uncanny: both were teams who were good the year before but seemed to take it to another level and suddenly found themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL, yet everyone doubted that the teams were as good as their record stated. Both teams used the doubt to fuel their motivation only to lose their quarterback who was in the midst of having a career year. Both teams were loaded at every other position so the idea of the team still succeeding with a backup quarterback was plausible enough that the team and their fans still held out hope. Well we know how it played out in Arizona, and the same ending looks to be coming Cincinnati’s way. While there is still a chance Dalton could return for the playoffs, there’s no guarantee he plays at the same level he did earlier in the season. I hope I’m wrong as I don’t want any team to go through that kind of heartbreak, but I’ve seen this movie.
- Peyton Manning Vs. Brock Osweiler Is Becoming A Lose-Lose Situation: I’ve seen enough of Brock Osweiler to make this statement: it doesn’t matter who Denver starts at quarterback during the playoffs as the Broncos will only go as far as the defense can drag them. While Osweiler did lead an offense that scored 30 points in a win over the Patriots, the Broncos have only managed a total of 29 points the past two weeks against two defenses (Chargers and Raiders) that each average 25 points allowed per game. Of course, Manning has been a turnover machine as he still leads the NFL in interceptions (17) by three despite not playing the last three games. However, the biggest reason the Broncos can’t win in this situation is the fact that they have to commit to one quarterback. Regardless of whom the Broncos chose, unless they win the Super Bowl they will be criticized for choosing the wrong quarterback when their season ends.
- The Panthers Deserve More Respect: I’ve always been a fan of the underdog or the team that doesn’t get the respect it deserves (how do you think I became an Arizona Cardinals fan?). So while I do think the Cardinals have good shot at making the Super Bowl, neither they nor the “red-hot” Seahawks should be favorited over the Panthers in the NFC. I can’t remember a team getting less credit for being undefeated as these Panthers. What does this team need to do to prove to the public that its a dangerous football team? Worries of this team not having enough offensive firepower should have been quelled weeks ago when this team started rolling off 30-point games. Also, let’s not forget that the offense has proven they can win games when the defense is having an off day (Remember when the Saints posted 38 points?). The remarks about an easy schedule are a little overexaggerated considering that by the end of the season the Panthers could hold wins over three division champions (the AFC South champ, the NFC North champ if it’s Green Bay, and the NFC East champ unless they lose to New York and the Giants win that division) as well as a huge comeback win in Seattle.
- Undefeated Or Not, Cam Newton Should Be The Favorite For MVP: I also feel that Cam Newton isn’t getting the respect he deserves, with most people saying Newton is only the favorite because you need to give MVP to the quarterback of an undefeated team. While I admit that quite a bit of his campaign is based on leading an undefeated team, people are acting like he’s just the game-manager of a juggernaut. His passing yards may not be on par with Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, but Newton has thrown 28 touchdowns this season without playing a single down with his best wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Newton has also rushed for 480 yards and has scored seven rushing touchdowns, which means he’s in the top ten of both passing touchdowns (tied for fourth) and rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth). There’s also the huge strides he has made as a pocket passer and the fact he has conducted quite a few game-winning drives. He basically is the Panthers offense, which makes him sounds very valuable to me.
- The Cardinals DO Have Weaknesses, But They Aren’t Fatal: These Arizona Cardinals are a great team. I fully believe this team has what it takes to win Super Bowl 50. However, the idea that this team doesn’t have any weaknesses is a little overblown. Anyone who watched the Cardinals “closer-than-it-should-have-been” win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night could point out the key areas where the Cardinals could cost themselves in the playoffs. On offense this group can score from anywhere on the field but weirdly enough has a tendency to stall when they get in the redzone, trading touchdowns for field goals more often than you’d expect from the number one offense. On defense the Cardinals’ defensive line specializes more in run-stopping, which means that they rely on blitzes to create an effective pass rush. This type of play style has led to a lot of forced turnovers but has also left the defense vulnerable to certain plays such as the screen pass or slant routes over the middle in areas where the blitzers would usually cover. Any combination of those weaknesses will likely be the reason if the Cardinals don’t win the Super Bowl but the Cards have proven they can win even with these disadvantages. It will take fantastic execution of a fantastic gameplan to beat Arizona, but even then the Cardinals have shown that these weaknesses aren’t 100% fatal.
- The NFC East Is More Inconsistent Than Terrible: With two divisions likely to produce champions without winning records, it makes sense that we would compare the AFC South and the NFC East and discuss which division is worse. My take is not only is the AFC South worse, but the NFC East isn’t terrible but instead just fields four very inconsistent teams. The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys have plausible reasons behind their inconsistencies: the Redskins play 10x better at home than they do on the road and the Cowboys have been good with Tony Romo and bad without him. However, I wish the best of luck to anyone brave enough to find the reasons behind the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles’ inconsistencies. The Giants treat each fourth quarter like a mad lib, making sure something unique and weird happens every single game, while the Eagles produce three-week spans where they give up 45 points each to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions only to find themselves up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Patriots in New England the following week. With how unpredictable this division is I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I was the fifth seed in the NFC.
- Seattle’s Offense Is Great But Its Defense Is Not As Good As You Think: I do believe that the Seahawks are one of the favorites in the NFC and they have a realistic chance to make their third straight Super Bowl. However, these aren’t the same Seahawks of the past two years. They may have the same players but this is a team that will go as far as Russell Wilson’s career-best run will lead them. It’s understandable to think the Legion Of Boom is back to playing like their old self again, as they rank sixth in passing yards allowed per game (225) but let’s take a closer look at the quarterbacks they have faced and how many yards they threw during those games. In order, the quarterbacks the Seahawks faced were Nick Foles (297), Aaron Rodgers (249), Jimmy Clausen (63), Matthew Stafford (203), Andy Dalton (331), Cam Newton (269), Colin Kaepernick (124), Matt Cassel (97), Carson Palmer (363), Blaine Gabbert (264), Ben Roethlisberger (456), Teddy Bridgewater (118), and Jimmy Clausen Act 2 (274). That equals out to allowing 199.9 passing yards in their eight wins and allowing 301.8 passing yards in their five losses. That’s right: when teams have beaten the Seahawks this season they’ve done it by throwing on their defense. The argument that they are playing better during their four-game winning streak isn’t true either. Sure they basically shoved Bridgewater into a locker, but that doesn’t counteract the fact they gave up 250+ passing yards to Gabbert and Clausen and gave up 456 yards to Roethlisberger, who didn’t even play the whole game. The Seahawks are talented enough to win in the postseason but they’ll likely have to win shootouts.
- Jacksonville’s Missed Opportunity: Nobody batted an eye when the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans in back-to-back weeks. I bet even Jaguars’ fans said something along the lines of “oh well I guess we are out of the race for the AFC South title. Didn’t really matter as there’s no way we were going to catch up with the Colts and the Texans anyway.” Now as week 15 rolls around, the Jaguars are retroactively grieving those two losses as just one win against those two terrible teams would have Jacksonville tied for the division lead and a win over both of them would have given the Jaguars a one-game division lead with three weeks to go. Take one look at both the Colts and the Texans and what you see are two teams that are battling for the chance to get utterly destroyed by Kansas City, Pittsburgh or the New York Jets in the first round of the playoffs. While the Jaguars probably wouldn’t win that game either, there’s no doubt that the game would at least be more enjoyable with Blake Bortles flinging the ball around to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.