The Diary of an Illinois Boston Fan

NFL Week 14 Recap

If you’re a fan of great quarterback play then this was absolutely not your week.

Derek Carr, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Marcus Mariotta, Andrew Luck, and Drew Brees (all fantastic QBs and fantasy stalwarts) all produced sub-standard performances in week 14. It was like most of them forgot how to play the position for the most part. In every game, you’re likely to make a play or two but it was hard watching some of the most promising and the already elite quarterbacks struggle so mightily.

Even QBs that had “good” games still weren’t spectacular outside of Rodgers, Ryan, and Brees. Then of course you have the constants on the list of ineptitude with Bortles, Osweiler, Goff, Petty, and whatever Browns quarterback of the week was thrown on the field (for the record, it was RGIII). In a league where it’s easier to post good to great numbers, more than ever, at QB, it was incredibly difficult to stomach most of the games played. The weather is cold, the linemen are beat up, and most teams don’t have a semblance of a championship level run game. It’s that last one that generally has affected the level of parity I’ve spoken on recently.

Teams are just so — bland? I want to say boring but let’s be real, it’s football and football is still exciting even if it were two minor teams that were forced to play for us. Most offenses are now built around 60% passing, 45% running, and 5% gimmick plays that make it hard to really create a balance in scheming. If you’re mostly expected to throw then opposing defenses really have to focus on zones and man to man coverage. That’s why defenses are suddenly so much better in 2016 than we’ve seen in recent seasons…offenses are predictable for the most part.

That’s why teams like Kansas City, New England, Dallas, and Pittsburgh are a lot more fun to watch than most others. They’ve all got very astute and intricately balanced offenses. Finally, the Chiefs opened up their passing game for back to back games for the first time in the Andy Reid era. That change in game plan (and the emergence of players like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in the deep game) has made Kansas City one of the most unpredictable and frightening teams as the playoffs draw nearer. If they carry this system into next year WITH a healthy Jamaal Charles, we might see one of the more deadly offenses in league history on par with the 2004 Colts with Edgerrin James in the backfield and 2 game breakers catching the ball with one set of steady hands as the third option. The talent is there, it’s now time to show some execution.

Teams like the Patriots and Steelers have top shelf passing games that have only recently found their niche running the ball. Le’Veon Bell is back to full strength and is making a dire case for league’s best complete running back (I still give the nod to David Johnson). The Patriots, like the Steelers, still have a hall of fame quarterback at the helm but are starting to mix things up by letting their slew of RB options to tote the rock. When you can’t tell what play is coming based on the personnel, that’s when you’ve got an upper hand like no other. Dallas for most of the season was that way but in recent weeks has gone stagnant and is starting to fall into that stale category. If they can start illustrating more of their talented backs (stop giving away that it’s a pass play every time Dunbar is in, for instance) then they can get themselves out of their rut they’ve been stuck in. Their play against top 5 defenses this year haven’t been inspiring and their chances in the playoffs now have serious shadows being cast over them.

Games like Thursday night’s battle between KC and Oakland helped put some life into a lackluster week which couldn’t have had a better symbol than the Texans and Colts game. In a game that was supposed to give us a clearer picture of who the best team in the AFC South is, I feel like I’ve just got more questions.

The Texans won, sure, but are they still going to win the division? Brock Osweiler keeps making boneheaded mistakes that cost them games and the Colts still have every chance to win their last three against teams that have stumbled a bit. They’re not going to be favored against the Vikings or Raiders yet part of me still thinks they’re going to win one of the two, because of their penchant to play up to the competition, and then beat down the Jags at home. At that point it’s up to what the Titans and Texans do.

Like I said, I just don’t think Houston (really, Osweiler) has it in them (him) to hold on down the stretch. That pick six in the red zone was absolutely putrid and should have cost them the game. It feels like this game with the Jaguars is a trap, doesn’t it? After that it’s a back-on-track Cincinnati team and the feisty Titans to play spoil sport. Doesn’t really exude a brand of confidence in their abilities. It’s going to be a rough go of it down in these last 3 games for the AFC South and we can’t count out the Titans who are currently tied for the division even as their offense is as streaky as they come. We’re stuck in a parity ball of wonderment that’s a lot less wonder and a lot more dismay.

KINGS and JESTERS

KINGS

6. Jadeveon Clowney: Even though it’s clear I’m down on the Texans, Clowney is starting to round into the first overall pick that he is. He’s been given a lot more opportunities as he’s healed and with J.J. Watt out. The sack forced fumble was a signature moment for him and will go down as a Texans season highlight if they make the playoffs.

5. Vic Beasley: Holy hell, 3 sacks and a defensive touchdown in one game? Yeah, it’s the Rams. Still, the Patriots couldn’t garner that kind of success against them so let’s give Beasley the credit he deserves. He’s proving Dan Quinn right for taking him so early in the draft last year.

4. Tyreek Hill: As I’ve said plenty of times the past couple of weeks…Hill is the real deal and most important weapon for any team come playoff time. His speed helps him overcome his height disadvantage and he’s got a pair of the most underrated hands in the league. He has helped change the Chiefs into a potent downfield team.

3. Janoris Jenkins: In a low scoring battle, it’s the defense that makes the biggest play that wins. Jenkins made two of them. He smothered Dez Bryant all game, came up with a phenomenal falling interception, and forced Bryant into an awkward positioning that led to the key drop on 4th down. I don’t know if a man that got paid like him can be considered a steal but he’s still not being paid enough for the impact he’s had for these Giants.

2. Tom Brady: 400 yards and 3 touchdowns against a team that was ranked in the top 5 in both run and pass in DVOA isn’t something we should come to expect, even it’s Brady. Losing Gronk was supposed to hurt but the integration of more deep plays with Hogan and Mitchell is the reason this Patriots fan hasn’t been worried.

  1. Le’Veon Bell: Snow games typically become trench wars. In a game where everyone slips and slides, Bell was uncannily light footed and stout. He picked up nearly 300 yards of total offense and 3 scores for a Steelers team that needs him if they have real Super Bowl aspirations.

JESTERS

6. Amari Cooper: The Raiders had some serious chances on Thursday and no play was a bigger misstep than when Cooper didn’t adjust properly to a great deep ball that likely puts him in the end zone. He also had a couple of costly drops (which Raiders receiver didn’t?) that severely hindered Oakland’s divisional hopes.

5. Jared Goff: I really don’t blame Goff that much for his screw-ups…it’s really not his fault the Rams are so disorganized. I just can’t overlook 3 turnovers at home against an Atlanta defense that is still ranked in the bottom 10. His receivers did him no help again, he’s just going to be the one that takes the blame from here on out.

4. The Legion of Boom: Take one piece of them away and they’re less than average. Earl Thomas covered up plenty of mistakes made by the likes of whichever player is in their second corner slot that season and the coverage mishaps by Kam Chancellor. Losing him might hurt more than anyone else and the Seahawks might have been dealt a deadly blow with his season ending injury. Aaron Rodgers dismantled them one by one on Sunday.

3. Drew Brees: Brees has completely looked like a shell of his former self, scoring less than 25 points between these last two weeks combined and throwing 6 of his 14 interceptions as well. He came up very small again with 3 picks against a Bucs team that isn’t great but resilient. At this point, do the Saints really believe they have a chance for the playoffs? And if not, why not protect Brees and lighten his load to give themselves a better draft position?

2. Robert Griffin the Third: In his illustrious re-debut in Cleveland, RGIII was almost as bad as you can get. He couldn’t locate deep like he was known for his whole career, his mobility was shot, and he’s shaky under any sort of pressure. I was high on Cleveland and Griffin at least fighting for 7 or 8 wins. Now it looks like they’re about to go 0–16 and this team really isn’t that bad. I doubt Griffin is ever a starter in the NFL again after this season unless Hue Jackson really believes in him.

  1. Cyrus Jones: Jones was actually really solid in the passing game, which gives plenty of hope for his future on this team. He wasn’t drafted for his coverage skills just yet, though…it was his return ability. Yet, here we are with him leading the NFL in return fumbles with 4 and having made the Monday game far closer than it should have been. When you’re the primary reason for a game that should have ended 32–10 ending 30–23…you know you had a bad week.

I hope most of my readers can understand why I might be a little bit livid this week. In the Week 13 game between the Giants and Steelers, the Giants noticed that two of the game balls from the Steelers were seemingly rather under-inflated. Deflategate 2 right?

As glad as I am that it isn’t going to become that, I can’t deny that the NFL brushing it under the rug doesn’t have me driven up the freaking wall. The Patriots lost draft picks, Tom Brady for four games, and were the scrutiny of the sports landscape for 18 godforsaken months. So another team complains that maybe it was happening again and the NFL does…nothing?

Now, I want it to be understood that I actually agree with the final findings the NFL has probably made on this. You see, last year, the NFL arbitrarily recorded halftime and end of game information on ball PSI levels throughout the season. Their results were never released to the public. If they felt that they were justified in their attack on Brady and the Patriots, wouldn’t you think they’d have released any info on the PSI results. We didn’t get a peep and then after this all we hear is “the proper protocols were taken”.

I’m absolutely sure all the new proper protocols were followed to a tee to prevent any idea that anything nefarious went on. Which leads to one conclusion…the NFL found conclusive evidence they totally screwed the pooch when administering punishment against New England and now won’t outwardly admit to it, but are using some sort of subtext to let us know.

At this point all I want is an apology. To the Patriots, to Tom Brady, and to the fans. Not just New England fans but all fans for totally wasting our time as a scapegoat to have us ignore the likes of Greg Hardy abusing his girlfriend. The Patriots can’t get their first round pick back (though if they can make some BS rule up to suspend Brady for 4 games I’d bet they can do the same to give them a second first round pick this year) and they can’t replay the games this year. Just an apology, NFL owners. Not even so much Goodell anymore. It’s the owners that were sick of getting sent home with their tails between their legs, after losing again to the Patriots, that caused that nightmare situation. I’m now demanding an apology that I surely will never get.

Also, NEON GREEN JERSEYS THIS THURSDAY…enjoy.