by Ryan Meehan
My favorite story from week fifteen would have to be when FOX Sports reported on Friday that former New York Giants backup and chili cheese fries enthusiast Jared Lorenzen sent out some Tweets tagging the Arizona Cardinals and informing them that he could get down to playing weight. When I told my father this, his first response was “Define ‘playing weight’” and I thought that was a really good point. Look, I know this won’t materialize but it’s a great story and I so want for it to be true. It’s not totally out of the question, as some of the other names being tossed around to show up in Glendale and save the day are pretty unlikely choices as well. I’m sorry, but 43 year old Kurt Warner is not leaving his cushy job at the NFL Network to come out of retirement only to become paralyzed three plays in. Thankfully there was a lot that did happen between the stripes, and this is what went down in week fifteen in the 2014 NFL season.
Cardinals 12, Rams 6
I was wrong about this one – I expected the Rams to come out strong at home after two very solid defensive shutouts. And for the most part their defense still played well, just not well enough to win. What really got me here is how this must have felt for the fans. I don’t know about you, but if I paid as much as some of these NFL franchises are charging for a ticket to some of these games I’d be furious if I didn’t see a single touchdown scored. Keep in mind that this is me talking, a guy who wants JJ Watt to win the MVP award and is obsessed with defense to no end. Things got even worse for the Arizona Cardinals in this one, as Drew Stanton left the game with a knee injury. This means that the guy who started the season third on the depth chart at that position – Ryan Lindley – will now likely be the starter from here on out. So basically barring a Tom Brady-like out of nowhere story, the Cardinals are headed up shit creek and that waterway is well above flood stage at the moment. I honestly can’t think of any other team in recent memory that was in first place at 11-3 and in a worse position than Arizona currently is. They’d better hope they get a bye, because with as shaky as that offense has looked that’s the only way they are getting out of the first round.
Bills 21, Packers 13
I have to hand it to the Bills…they have virtually nothing to play for anymore and they just stuffed the best quarterback in the league. Sure they are still in the playoff hunt, but let’s get real they probably won’t get in. They are certainly playing like a team that should though, and their defense is running mad game on the rest of the league. Buffalo is the real deal. They can run the ball very well, which matches their defense perfectly when it comes to operating the pace of the game. Additionally, every single one of their losses have come against teams who are .500 or better. New England rules that division and probably will as long as Tom Brady puts a uniform on, but if I had to pick one team out of that foursome that might end up becoming heir to the throne I’d have to take Buffalo over Miami. As for Green Bay, it’s not all Rodgers’ fault they lost this game. One of his picks was a total tip drill pick, and Jordy Nelson dropped a sure touchdown pass which rarely ever happens. Green Bay’s offensive line struggles at times, and that has been sort of indirectly swept under the rug because Aaron is having an MVP caliber season. Their defense is making some pretty stupid mistakes as far as penalties go, and right now I don’t think that they could take a team like Seattle if they run into them in the playoffs.
Ravens 20, Jaguars 12
Although not an uncommon take, it’s my own personal opinion that the Jacksonville Jaguars need to formulate some sort of plan that results in them finding the fucking end zone. Josh Scobee has to be the most exhausted player in the NFL, and he only takes the field in special teams situations. I’ve expressed that I don’t think the Ravens are a particularly exciting football team, and their offense has really struggled to put up “elite team” numbers. And that’s exactly why they aren’t one. They are now 9-5, but they’re stuck in third place because of how disturbingly good that division is this year. I like Justin Forsett, but he couldn’t even put up 50 yards on sixteen carries and that should worry people who are fans of Baltimore. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about this other than if the Ravens win out there is the mathematical possibility that they finish 11-5 and miss the postseason. So if you needed anymore proof that the the current playoff structure is in dire need of an overhaul, there you go.
Bengals 30, Browns 0
I usually don’t buy into the “healthy losses” argument, however as much as I hate to say it I believe that in the long run Johnny Football needed an ass whooping like this. It’s better to have it happen now than down the road where it will really count, and it will sting for a little bit since it did come at the hands of the Bengals. Speaking of which, how bad were the Browns today if Andy Dalton only threw for 117 yards and they still lost 30-0? That stat just blows my mind. I get that they had 244 yards on the ground, but still I would have expected a much better day from Captain Gingerballs if all I saw from that game was the score. (Jeremy Hill is a beast though…) Another thing that pisses me off about this game is the fact that anybody listens to anything Josh Gordon says. All I hear about this guy is that he has this amazing talent and how he’s going to be an elite receiver right before our eyes, and I just don’t see it. He’s an above average wideout who has a affection for smoking a ton of dope, and there are legions of wide receivers who are out of the league who fit that description. I still hate this tie nonsense, because right now that’s the only thing that’s keeping the Bengals in first place. I’m not entirely sure they deserve it, but they have the running game to make as believe that they do…for now.
Panthers 19, Buccaneers 17
After a car accident that could have very well killed Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the team went ahead and handed the keys to the 4-8-1 but somehow still in the playoff race castle over to one Derek Anderson. To be brutally honest with you, I had thought that Derek was out of the league by now. Living in Western Illinois I don’t know much about the Carolina Panthers’ depth chart, but what I do know is Anderson was one of the many failed starters for the Browns. They barely walked away from this game with a victory, but as the saying close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. They probably actually don’t say that, but to be honest with you it did fulfill a purpose by taking up space in a write-up about a game that I couldn’t care less about.
Lions 16, Vikings 14
Detroit should have played a better home game, but like I said last week the Vikings have played some good football and Teddy Bridgewater is really starting to come into his own although he had two picks in this one. This whole thing about the Ndamokung Sug contract negotiations is starting to become a distraction, but the rest of that team is still playing good enough to sneak out of games like this with a win. Minnesota didn’t score a single point in the final forty minutes, and only had 76 yards rushing on the day. The Lions advance to 10-4, and leapfrogged Green Bay into first place as at the moment they have the better head to head record. We’ll see if that changes when they head to Lambeau in two weeks.
Colts 17, Texans 10
The Colts clinched a division that we all knew they were going to win anyway with a victory over the Texans, and even though it was not the typical offensive showing that we expected from them their defense played well. Ryan Fitzpatrick left this game with a broken leg, which is sort of an accurate representation of how this year has gone for the Texans. The Colts bother me a little bit, because they aren’t really elite just yet. The defense is spotty at times, and there were a lot of missed blocks in this contest. They have a great quarterback but he can’t do everything, and if they don’t start running the ball better (which isn’t easy to do if Trent Richardson is your number two guy) they don’t have a chance in hell at winning a playoff game. I have no ending for this, so I will just pass the word that Indianapolis didn’t have a single receiver over fifty yards in this game. Lot to fix before that showdown with Dallas next week.
Chiefs 31, Raiders 13
Previously on First Order Historians, I had made some pretty strong assessments of the fact that the Chiefs struggled to score anything north of 30 save the New England game. They proved me wrong on Sunday when they took out the Raiders, who have not won a single road game this season. Alex Smith went 18 for 30 with two touchdowns, and probably appreciates you referring to him as a “game manager” even though it drives Dwayne Bowe crazy. To Smith’s credit he did have four receivers finish this game with over 50 yards, so that’s impressive and lets me know that when Jamaal Charles isn’t touching the ball at least they’re spreading it around. Let’s not kid ourselves – the Raiders are playing for draft picks, and Jameis Winston is going to look comfortable as hell in an Oakland uniform.
Patriots 41, Dolphins 13
Yeah, I knew this one was going to be bad. I knew that the Patriots weren’t going to let up in any way, as Bill Belichick is rarely swept by a team in the regular season. Miami won the first match-up between these two teams in week one 33-20, but a season opener does not a season make. Bill had the high beams on in this one, and Tom Brady was fantastic. Of course what happened here was Belichick was showing a team that isn’t familiar with how to pace their season which games are important and when those games take place. There was absolutely no way they were going to lose this rematch, especially not at home against the Dolphins. Miami has a lot of off-season adjustments to make for sure, but it also appears that they need to be worried about Buffalo’s doing for a while. For a team that had a good looking young QB, the Dolphins might actually be in a lot of trouble here shortly. They’re about one 3-13 season from having to start from scratch again, and to be honest it wouldn’t shock me if that happened.
Giants 24, Redskins 13
The New York Giants have made it clear that their go to guy in the red zone is going to be Odell Beckham from here on out. He had twelve receptions and three touchdowns, a performance that we could have really used the entire month of November. Eli looked slick as well, and even Robert Griffin looked better than some of the abysmal performances he’s given as of late. Both of these teams are in a rough predicament: Neither one is going to make the playoffs for a while, they are well aware that division is going to belong to either Dallas or Philadelphia for at least the next half of a decade. The Giants are at a turning point with regards to their coaching staff, and the Redskins may blow the whole tugboat up and hopefully Dan Snyder will forget he’s standing in it when that happens.
Steelers 27, Falcons 20
Once again the Steelers pull out another key road win, and once again an NFC South team loses at home. If you’re keeping score this is the fifth road win for the Steelers this season, and the ninth loss overall for Atlanta who desperately needed this victory. Roethlisberger threw for 360 yards, but in an interesting twist didn’t throw a single interception or a touchdown. Antonio Brown had 10 receptions for 123 yards, proving once again that he is Big Ben’s favorite target. The Steelers are now 9-5 and in second place, and in damn good shape here given the remainder of Cincinnati’s schedule. I’ll address why in the week sixteen preview piece, but for the moment I’d like to talk about how yet another NFC South loss has cheapened the product. I discussed this on Sunday, and here again Atlanta blows another home game that they had to have. I would say “I know they are better than this”, but I’m not quite sure that’s the case. Their D line is still really poor, and they can’t run the ball. Jacquizz Rodgers and his whopping total of eight rushing touchdowns since he entered the league back in 2011 are simply not going to cut it.
Broncos 22, Chargers 10
I realize that both Buffalo and San Diego have good defenses, but something just doesn’t feel right about Denver the past couple of weeks. The big play potential is still there, but over the past two games it seems the Broncos have lacked the explosiveness that allows those big plays to happen consistently and consecutively. They have been able to rely on CJ Anderson to run the ball effectively, so that has helped. However right now they seem to me like they are closer to being mentioned in the same sentence as the Colts as opposed to the Patriots. They still have that “elite team” feel to them, so it’s not as if they will completely sink from the discussion or even drop out of the race to a bye week. The Chargers seemed to struggle here again this week, but they’ve had to play Denver and New England two weeks in a row so it hasn’t been easy. They definitely aren’t elite, and they have two games remaining at 8-6 in San Francisco and Kansas City that they could easily win if they hunker down and bust ass. But if they don’t, they could easily end up finishing .500 and become forgettable.
Jets 16, Titans 11
This game is living proof that when it counts Rex Ryan can’t win football games, and when it couldn’t possibly matter any less he becomes George Halas. Either way he’s gone at the end of this season so he doesn’t care about the franchise’s future, because if he would have he’d have tanked this game so the Jets can get a higher draft pick in April. There was a huge fight in the this game which was totally awesome, but then they got back to playing football again which totally sucked. There were no highlights – unless you consider Geno Smith getting called for intentional grounding in his own end zone resulting in a safety a highlight, which for the record I don’t. The stats from this game are too depressing to even type, and there’s nothing really funny to say here because both of these squads are miserable football teams.
Seahawks 17, 49ers 7
Look, Russell Wilson is never going to be Joe Montana. It’s just not who he is, and that’s fine because the Seattle Seahawks don’t need him to be. Last week Seattle won a huge road game, something that doubters of their abilities cited as being a roadblock to repeating as Super Bowl Champions. This week they fell behind early and were able to come back to regain control of the game, something that those same doubters of their abilities believed they could not do. This year’s Seahawks are looking an awful lot like last year’s Seahawks, and that’s good news for all of those 12s who are primed to host another playoff run. The 49ers have scored more than 17 points just once in their last 7 games. It happened against the Saints, and if you take that game out of the picture their last seven games they have only averaged just seven and a third measly points per Sunday. That’s disturbing coming from a team that many of us (including myself) thought had the potential to go all the way, and who is now eliminated from playoff contention. We know Harbaugh is gone, but I’m kind of wondering which player will be the first to jump ship. I’m guessing that between Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, somebody isn’t happy about the amount of touches they’re getting and it could very well be both of them.
Cowboys 38, Eagles 27
I have to admit I did not see this coming. After the Eagles decimated the Cowboys in their own stadium Thanksgiving Day, I figured getting them at home would be a slam dunk. But they ended up falling behind early, and although they caught up shortly thereafter it was never really enough to take control of the game. Fumbling the opening kickoff was something that essentially gave the ball to the Cowboys at the beginning of both halves, and those kinds of mistakes would haunt Philly the rest of the game. Every great team has a solid running game on which they can rely…I am not sure that Dallas is a great team, but I’m starting to buy it because I really don’t have any other choice. Do teams that are 10-4 have the potential to be a great team with a roster such as the Cowboys have? Yup. Do great teams win big road games against division rivals late in the year? Affirmative as well. Do great teams have road victories like that count towards a 7-0 record away from their own stadium with two weeks remaining? You bet your sweet ass they do. After the game, Al Michaels mentioned that Nick Foles was getting an MRI Monday morning. You think? I’m surprised he didn’t head to the hospital after that last Sanchez pick, and although both recent losses have come against two high quality teams they’ve still dropped three in a row. Thankfully for them they have the Redskins and the Giants over the next two weeks so those should be easy wins, but depending on what happens in the NFC West and the NFC North (DET/ARZ) it may be too late.
Saints 31, Bears 15
Not much to see here. No offense out of the Bears whatsoever in the first 45 minutes of this game, but then again what did you expect? Also, Jon Gruden as a broadcaster isn’t making any sort of sense at all for ESPN when there are a ton of guys available to fill that color slot who will tell it like it is. This is something he actually said during Monday Night’s broadcast: “The Chicago Bears knew what they were getting into when they signed Jay Cutler…” No they didn’t, they took a gamble on him just like any franchise does on any player. It’s not like Jerry Jones could see the future when he drafted Troy Aikman: He could have been just as bad as he was good. I know I’ve given the Saints defense a world of grief, but it is impressive that they were able to record seven sacks in this one even though it was against a terrible offensive line. New Orleans advances to first place heading into the showdown of mediocrity against Atlanta next week.
Marketing note from Monday Night Football No. 1: The Monday Night Football Week 16 spot advertising the Broncos/Bengals game with “Run Through the Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival was awesome. It’s about time they used a good song in one of those.
Marketing note from Monday Night Football No. 2: Whoever at AutoTrader.com decided it would be a fantastic idea to design a spot where a guy in a vehicle who is trying to outrun the cops is using their mobile app should never be able to work in advertising again and should probably be shot just on principle. Now is probably not a good time to be promoting resisting arrest on any level.
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