NFL Sports

NFL Week Sixteen Wrap-Up: The Introduction to the Opposite Sketches

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by Ryan Meehan

In the eighties, children’s entertainment was much more sadistic than it is today.  CGI and soft plots dominate an industry that most would agree was quite horrifying at times.  Probably the most bizarre example of the medium at the time was a Canadian show on Nickelodeon called “You Can’t Do That on Television”.  Light years from the kind of children’s programming that you see on this network nowadays, this show was straight fucked.  They actually had a recurring sketch where kids were tied to a pole and narrowly escaped execution by firing squad.  Most of the kids that appeared on this show ended up with irreversible psychological problems or becoming Alanis Morissette (I still haven’t decided which one is worse) and it’s not shocking to see why because it was a dark program.  One of the more popular series of sketches on the show was where a cast member would mention that something was going in an unusually positive direction, and that revelation would be what was called “The Introduction to the Opposites”.   What would follow would be a set of somehow even more disturbing skits where nothing was as it seemed.  I immediately though of this when I realized the Eagles had just blown their shot at a playoff spot by losing to the Redskins.  Could this be a preview of how backwards the playoffs might end up?  While a lot of the year has been chalk reflections of standard expectations, is it possible that once we get into the postseason everything will be flipped on its heads?  It’s not bloody likely, but then again maybe that’s what’s in the burger.  Either way it made for great viewing whether it could be done on television or not, so let’s take a look at what went down in week sixteen of the 2014 NFL season.
Jaguars 21, Titans 13      
The Titans have lost to the Jaguars and the Jets in a span of five days.  This was their ninth loss in a row, and while a lot of people talk about purposely tanking games to get a higher draft pick I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.  I really think that the Titans are actually this bad, and there’s nothing they can do to make themselves better this year.  How else would you explain losing by eight to a guy whose first name is Blake and went 13 for 26 with a QBR of 47.2?  These two teams are so disgustingly conservative that not a single turnover was forced in this game.  Tennessee needs a running back like Bob Dylan needs vocal lessons, and the Jaguars are a mess all around but they still somehow won this game despite punting seven times.  I’m pretty impressed that I was actually able to come up with a whole paragraph for this game, because from what I understand it won’t be on ESPN Classic any time soon.
Redskins 27, Eagles 24   
I have to be honest here, I am a little bit stunned.  After losing at home to the Dallas Cowboys in a must-win game after mushroom stamping the same team just two and a half weeks earlier in their own building, Philadelphia faced an absolutely-must-win situation on Saturday and totally blew it.  Good teams don’t let the third quarter go to waste, and the Eagles were outscored 14-0 in that quadrant.  As much as I enjoy the hell out of good trolling, I thought DeSean Jackson trolling the Eagles after this win was a little silly.  Dude…you’re on a fucking 4-11 team, and with your reputation the way it is a legitimate chance that you might never play in another playoff game the rest of your career.  For a guy with such a big mouth and not such a large frame, he’s about one ankle injury away from a lifetime of speaking engagements and I don’t feel sorry for him one bit.  You want to talk about bounties?  Shit…Due to the results of this game, the Detroit Lions are now in the postseason.  That’s fine with me, because Matthew Stafford deserves it more than Mark Sanchez does.
Chargers 38, 49ers 35   
Wow.  I’m about to say some things here that a lot of people may mistake as being condescending and preachy, but please hear me out.  The 49ers were up 21-0 in the second quarter of this game.  I don’t really care who you’re playing, losing after seeing a stat like that is unacceptable.  Tom Brady could be on the opposing sidelines cutting promos for Ugg Boots between drives and with the kind of roster Harbaugh had this year it shouldn’t even matter.  But it kind of sums up the way the entire season has gone for San Francisco.  I have a theory that suggests that the was the best game that the 49ers could have played.  If they had tanked or not been listening to their coach, that’s one thing.  But I don’t think that’s what happened – Much like the Titans with out the atrocious roster – The Niners were giving it their all because they had nothing to lose, and they STILL lost.  They’re now 7-8, which means they cannot finish above .500.  With the expectations for this season being sky high, a lot of people devoted plenty of media time to the 49ers, and as it turned out they haven’t deserved most of it.  That’s why until further notice, the San Francisco 49ers have to earn all of that attention back.  I’m convinced it’s more than just confusion between the players and the coaching staff, I’m worried this may be a very serious problem that goes much deeper than that.  So in order for us to devote three page Sports Illustrated articles and seven minute segments on NFL Live to “What’s wrong with the San Francisco 49ers?” that team is going to win enough games for the football watching populace to care.  If the San Diego Chargers don’t end up making the playoffs I’ve already made my peace with that, but Rivers converting on two consecutive fourth downs was tough as nails.  It’s just a shame that he can’t put enough games like that together in order to host some playoff games.
Texans 25, Ravens 13  
Speaking of teams that are figuratively blowing it, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens might have to have their jaws replaced after this one because they lost ground against the Steelers big on Sunday.  This was a crucial game for the Ravens, because the Texans have been disappointing this year and because almost everybody knew that the Steelers were going to take out the Chiefs.  They also had a clear shot here because the Texans were starting Case Keenum, who was up in a tree sawing branches when he got the call from Houston a week and a half ago.  After pulling ahead 16-0 by halftime, the Texans’ defense has Flacco begging for mercy in a game that the Ravens should have been able to win under this kind of pressure.  I realize that Joe Boredom has one of the best playoff records in the Super Bowl era, but he’s got to get there for that stat to matter in any given year and lately that hasn’t been happening.  This is precisely when the Ravens won Super Bowl 47, I wasn’t worried about it having any lasting effect on the league.  I knew it was an off year for the NFL, and I knew it wouldn’t happen again.
Panthers 17, Browns 13    
Remember early on in the season when I said that the tie game earlier on in the year was going to be important when it came to the playoff chances of the Bengals and the Panthers?  Well it appears as if I was right, because at the moment the leaders of the AFC North and the NFC South were both involved in that contest.  The Browns are out of the playoff race, but many would argue that they haven’t been in it for well over a month anyway.  Carolina on the other hand scraped by just enough to match up against Atlanta in the final week of the season for NFC South mediocrity…I mean supremacy.  (Really I mean mediocrity)  I don’t have a whole lot to say about this game, other than we’ll see if it really matters next week.
Lions 20, Bears 14   
You can paint a zebra orange, but you’re still going to be able to see its stripes.  The Chicago Bears are one very overpainted zebra, and this was a bad match-up all around.  Jimmy Clausen looked very average in this game, not much of a step up from Smokin’ Jay Cutler.  He didn’t look much worse than Matthew Stafford, who has the Lions winning ugly as of late.  Now that they are in the playoffs, it’s got me wondering how well they are going to play against great teams.  It looks like we may find out the answer to that query next week when they play the Packers in Green Bay.
Packers 20, Buccaneers 3    
Tampa Bay was held to a single field goal in this one, although it’s not a shock for any defense who is facing Tampa to look like the Steel Curtain of the late seventies.  Eddie Lacy pretty much owned this game, which was a smart game plan on Mike McCarthy’s part.  He knew damn well that team wasn’t going to lose two games in a row to teams who won’t be advancing once next Sunday is over, and his confidence in his running game allowed him to protect Aaron Rodgers for next week’s showdown against the Lions.  Tampa is now 2-13, and should be in good position to snag a top three draft pick if they continue to fail.  But as we all know if you’re this far ahead in the season and know damn well you aren’t going anywhere, failure is the first step to next year’s success.  Green Bay could have easily scored 37 in this one, but they didn’t need to so they played it smart.  That’s the mark of a team who is already successful.
Steelers 20, Chiefs 12    
The Steelers had a great Sunday:  Cleveland lost, the Ravens bit it, and they were able to hold the hardly explosive Chiefs offense to zero touchdowns which is becoming a pretty regular occurrence.  The Chiefs have still not had a wide receiver score a touchdown this year, so you can understand why I am overjoyed that after next week we won’t be seeing any more of them.  Pittsburgh has a great defense and sacked Alex Smith six times, but he has nobody to throw to – Anytime Kansas City can’t run, they are screwed.  The Steelers are still really stepping up on that side of the ball, and if Roethlisberger can get hot here at the end of the year you never know what he might be able to pull off.
Dolphins 37, Vikings 35   
Ryan Tannehill threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns, with only one interception in 47 attempts.  I think most Dolphins fans would take that ratio on any given Sunday.  That’s not bad if you can’t run the ball, which Miami can’t do outside of Lamar Miller.  The Vikings aren’t a complete team yet because although Teddy Bridgewater has been much better than expected, a lot of their scoring comes in clusters and the rest of their production is sparse.  In other words their brilliance is very short lived, as evidenced by the fact that they scored 15 points in in 11 seconds.  Miami’s special teams would prove to be the difference maker in this one, forcing a fumble on one occasion and the game winning blocked punt that resulted in a safety.  They say that you need to win the game in all three phases for a reason, and this was a perfect example.
Patriots 17, Jets 16  
There’s late season games that are too close for comfort, and then there was this game.  Belichick really has a way of letting the rest of the league he’s got them under his thumb.  The Patriots would come back and win this game in this manner, and the Jets would blow it in the same fashion.  This a complete mental trick that anybody who is playing the Patriots can easily fall for.  The offense tests the waters of your defense to see what is going to work on any given day.  Then said trial and error period allows their opponent to take a brief lead, and right when that opponent thinks they can take off with the game whoever has been videotaping their practices sneaks up behind them and zaps them with a tazer.  Of course that’s an analogy, but the way Coach B does business on the field is just as sneaky and the Patriots are masterful at this technique.  There was a “questionable” spot on a key play late in this game which gave New England a first down, but everybody in the league should know that the Patriots are going to get those kinds of calls as that’s what keeps the league going.  Especially against the Jets, a franchise whom time is quickly forgetting exists.  New England will play the Bills at home next Sunday, and if they win they will have home field advantage throughout the postseason.
Falcons 30, Saints 14   
Whilst I once thought this to be an embarrassment a few short weeks away from being corrected, I switched sides on this one and wanted the winner of this division to have the worst record possible.  Although Carolina beat the Browns, I got half of my wish because the Saints have become invisible inside of their own home stadium.  Drew Brees had two interceptions in this one, and I am starting to really question whether or not he has enough pieces around him to make the playoffs again with this franchise.  He’ll be 36 in three weeks which isn’t quite reason to hang it up as others have been able to make it work for much longer, but at the same time he hasn’t had the same goods to work with that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had.  As for the Falcons Matt Ryan didn’t back down and neither did Julio Jones, as they both went for 300 plus and 100 plus yards days respectively.  Most importantly Atlanta looked like the team they are capable of being, now all they need to do is create the illusion that they really are that team for another week because it doesn’t matter who they play in the first round – they are going to get crushed.
Giants 37, Rams 27  
Checking in from the “This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever” department, the New York Giants somehow defeated the St. Louis Rams in Missouri on Sunday.  Eli Manning threw for 3 TDs, 391 yards, and had a 148.8 passer rating.  He also had no interceptions against what I would consider to be a pretty solid pass defense.  It’s pretty clear that the Giants have found a clear number one wideout in Odell Beckham.  No matter how healthy Victor Cruz looks when he comes back, he’s a slot receiver and Beckham is now their big play guy.  That is if he’s not getting kicked in the head and thrown to the ground well after the play is over, something that happened repeatedly  on Sunday.  He doesn’t seem like a hotshot to me, it just seems like the catches he is making happen to look acrobatic.  I’m not sure why they went out of their way to single him out, but I thought it was dirty play and I honestly believe that the Rams are capable of much better than that.
Raiders 26, Bills 24     
My brain hurts.  How in the world did the Bills go from taking out a seemingly unstoppable Aaron Rodgers to losing to the Raiders in under eight days?  Sure they were picked off twice but to be honest, even I didn’t think Kyle Orton would get to throw for two interceptions because I wasn’t sure that the passing game would be so much of Buffalo’s gameplan to start off.  The Bills had only 13 yards on the ground, and we all know that’s not their recipe for success.  Now they’ll have to look to play spoiler against the Patriots in Massachusetts, and that’s not going to be as easy as it types.  And I don’t even think it types that easily.
Cowboys 42, Colts 7   
Indianapolis had already won the AFC South and will get to host a playoff game, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to give it their all here.  That said, they could have at least showed up and made it a game.  This was hard to do once Andrew Luck had thrown two early interceptions, which caused the Colts to put in Matt Hasselbeck – I had to be honest with you, I though he had passed away – and that didn’t work.  Tony Romo’s stat line was a clinic in efficiency:  He was 18 for 20 with four touchdowns on just 218 yards, as the Dallas Cowboys deservedly clinched the NFC East in vicious form.  But while DeMarco Murray could be an MVP candidate, Dez Bryant had certainly made that same case for himself.  As for the Colts, the knock on that team was that they had a lot of holes that Andrew Luck’s passing skills have been able to hide.  But time is running out, and I have a feeling he’s a few short weeks from being exposed.
Seahawks 35, Cardinals 6  
Yeah, Arizona is not the least bit for real anymore.  They are depressing to watch in the red zone…unless they are playing the Seattle Seahawks and then it’s just hilarious.  What’s even weirder is that the Seahawks were penalized mercilessly in this game and they still won by almost thirty points.  That defense is going to shine against anybody who doesn’t pass the bullshit test, and over the last month the Cardinals are writing the manual for that at the moment.  Ryan Lindley went 18/44 with a QBR of 14.8, and once again Arizona failed to smell the end zone.  At least I think that’s what happens:  They’re ranked number one in the league when it comes to mailing it in inside the 15 yard line, and I’d like to take this space to say congrats to Chandler Catanzaro for nailing home a 32-yard blast to provide the best highlights of the night for the greater South Mountain region.  Russell Wilson threw for 339 yards, a stat that I didn’t need to check for once.  Marshawn Lynch, man…this guy was on one Sunday night.  Seattle won the rushing battle 267 to 29, and they are just a much better football team right now.  While the NFC South has our back against the wall screaming for justice, we should have no beef with the way that the NFC West should pan out.  The Introduction to the Opposites would start a week early if Arizona beat San Francisco on Sunday and then the Seahawks lost to the Rams.  And at this point?  Wouldn’t shock me a bit – I’ve seen it all now.  All you need to know about who will succeed out of these two teams in the playoffs is what music the producers of NBC’s Sunday Night Football used to segue into commercial when each of these two teams scored:  When the Seattle Seahawks scored, they played Nirvana or Soundgarden.  When the Cardinals scored, they played “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms.  Who do you trust come January?  There’s your answer.
Bengals 37, Broncos 28    
At some point if Denver is going to want to have a chance, they are going to have to be able to play good defense all the way through.  Spasms of genius are only going to go so far if he has to play Tom Brady again, and there are other AFC teams that can get up in their grill and disrespect them.  One of those teams is Cincinnati, but it’s unclear if they can put together 37 point games standing on the other side of the field from Peyton Manning at a repeated pace.  The Bengals are only as real as this week, but this week they looked awfully damn good.  Four picks is boss no matter who you are playing, so credit to the 25th ranked rushing defense in the league for holding out enough to allow the rest of them to swarm.  Look, Denver had a lot of 3 and outs late.  Manning said it himself.  The one thing I think is his biggest weakness as well as a strength is the fact that he knows exactly where his faults lie.  Overcoming them is a completely different story, and overcoming those faults have been the result of a couple of playoff losses.  Some of them weren’t his fault in Indianapolis, but when his defense is playing no better than those old Indy teams that made him run for his life from his own team it’s going to be very difficult to get away with multiple interceptions.  Let alone four of them, which was the 100% cause of failure this game.  I wish the best to Denver – trust me I really do – it just feels fishy.  It feels 35-28 Ravens AFC Divisional Playoff 2013 weird.  Here again, I wish them the best but I don’t trust them at all.
Fun Fact:  Peyton Manning turned the ball over four times, and yet still converted five of twelve third downs.  So Cincinnati is not all there yet, and although they created several turnovers there are certain things I don’t feel comfortable with them being something other than another first round exit.  Let’s worry about them being better than the Broncos altogether when they need to be.
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