Wednesday, December 9, 2015

NFL 2015-16 Week 14 Preview & Week 13 MNF Dallas-Washington Review

Another exciting Monday Night Football game last night with a truly wild finish!

It looked for most of the game like this was going to be a very dull game, even if it was close. Washington and Dallas were locked in a defensive struggle, and neither team was playing inspired ball on the offensive end.

Then, all of a sudden, the two teams exploded right at the end of the fourth quarter. Dallas tied things up with a field goal. Then Washington's DeSean Jackson made a huge screw up during a kickoff return, running backwards for a long stretch, before fumbling and giving the Cowboys an incredible opportunity with very little time left. Big mistake for Washington.

Dallas got a touchdown, but took almost no time off the clock, even though they likely could have killed a lot of the clock. Big mistake, Dallas.

Washington capitalized on this opportunity with a brilliant touchdown, with Cousins finding Jackson deep for a beautiful touchdown that seemed to redeem Jackson after his screw up.

But then, in the final seconds, Dallas managed to just get into long field goal range, and on the game's final play, the attempt split the upright, earning a victory for the Cowboys.

Suddenly, the NFC East race is locked very tight. Dallas is now at 4-8, and despite how miserable of a season they have suffered through, they are only one game out of first. The other three teams - Washington, Philadelphia, and the New York Giants, all are tied for first with 5-7 records.

There used to be a time when this division was the class of the NFL...

(TNF) Minnesota at Arizona - This was looking like the battle for the second seed in the playoffs just a week or two ago. Now, the Vikings are reeling, and unless they pull off a miracle in the desert, this should be Arizona's de facto coronation to a playoff bye, as they should have more than enough to get by Minnesota in this contest.

Buffalo at Philadelphia - What a contest! Two teams fighting for their playoff lives! The Bills have a tough, edgy defense that will give Philly fits. The Eagles managed to score a huge upset win at Foxboro, but it will take another enormous effort for them to beat Buffalo. My suspicions are that the Bills manage to win this game with a smashmouth approach.

Tennessee at NY Jets - The Titans are a young and exciting team, with a dangerous and potentially explosive offense. New York's defense will have their hands full and they had best be careful, but they should be able to take this one at home to stay atop the AFC playoff picture.

Washington at Chicago - What a huge disappointment the Bears suffered against San Francisco last weekend. Now, they have to host a dangerous Washington team that is very much in the running for not just a playoff berth, but a division title. If this were in Washington, it would be easy to pick the winner. As it is, since this is in the Windy City, it is a tough call, but I suspect another costly Chicago collapse, in a once promising season that could easily spiral out of control now.

Seattle at Baltimore - You know I am not going to pick Baltimore to beat Seattle, even with home field advantage. The Seahawks seem to have it going on right now, and the Ravens are still suffering through a long and miserable season. Seattle will come into town and make it longer, as they skate into the playoffs.

San Francisco at Cleveland - Hard to tell what will happen in this one. The 49ers got their first road win last weekend in Chi-town, and the Browns are about the worst team in the league, or at least pretty close. But then again, the Browns are destined to snap out of their funk, right? Well, maybe, but maybe not. They look about as closed to truly cursed as a team can get. I have to go with the 49ers to grind out a win here.

San Diego at Kansas City - The Chiefs get fairly easy looking game here, hosting the lowly Chargers, a team that was once considered by many to be a serious contender this season, but who have instead suffered a truly miserable season. Kansas City is a tough team playing extremely well, and Arrowhead is a tough place to have to play, especially if you are the road team from sunny southern California, and the game takes place in December. All Chiefs in this one.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville - The Jaguars are flirting with a collapse at the end of the season, while the Colts are still hoping to win the division title again. Neither team has shown as much promise as they seemed to possess earlier this season lately, but the Colts should be the obvious favorites, having better experience and, truth be told, better talent. It could be tight, but the Colts should win.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - This is a classic rivalry between two solid teams, both of whom are likely going to the playoffs. But the Bengals are playing lights out right now, and fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A win here clinches the division, so it would go a long way for allowing the Bengals to get past that stigma that they cannot win the big ones. Sure, this is not a playoff game, but it will likely feel like one, and Cincy should be able to overwhelm the Steelers with all of their weapons.

Detroit at St. Louis - The Lions were robbed of a victory last week, which would have been their fourth in a row and put them in distant competition for a playoff berth. But they lost, and neither of these teams is going anywhere this season. Still, the Lions are the hotter team, and the Rams cannot even count on home field advantage, as they have lost five in a row now. Make it six after the Lions leave town with a win.

Atlanta at Carolina - The Panthers are only the ninth team in NFL history to start off 12-0. But with each passing game, there are fewer and fewer teams that have lasted with an undefeated record. Is this the week that the Panthers lose? With a home game against a reeling Atlanta team that has not won since October? I am guessing that the Panthers will not suffer a letdown here, although they obviously still have to guard against overconfidence.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay - New Orleans almost salvaged much of their season by handing the Panthers their first loss, but then gave up that late touchdown right at the end, for just another of many losses for the Saints this season. In the meanwhile, the Bucs are solid, as they make a push for the playoffs. Plus, this is a home game for the Bucs, which will help them, even if New Orleans has been playing much better. This one should go to Tampa Bay.

Dallas at Green Bay - Rematch of last season's great playoff classic! And the Cowboys are starting to play better lately. But Lambeau Field is a tough place to play, and the Cowboys still are not all that good without Romo at the helm. The Packers are still fighting for the division, and after last week's heroics, it is hard to go against Green Bay in this contest.

Oakland at Denver - The Raiders are an improved team, and this season was going well for them. But there are just too many tough teams and tough games on their schedule, so perhaps it was bound to fall apart. Going to Denver to take on a Broncos team fighting for home field advantage is a tall order, and I doubt that the Raiders are going to have enough to overcome all of that. The Broncos defense will be stifling, and Denver should grind out another solid win.

(SNF) New England at Houston - The Patriots are struggling, and Houston is coming on strong, despite the loss in Buffalo. With a tough defense and everything to fight for, and with New England having question marks on an offense without Gronk and with a shaken up Brady, it seems that this is a golden opportunity for Houston to grab a valuable win against the defending champions.

(MNF) NY Giants at Miami - The Giants really, really need this one. So do the Dolphins, of course, although their playoff hopes are a lot slimmer and flimsier than for New York. The Giants, if they manage to build a lead, need to find the killer instinct. They let games that seemed like wins get away from them too often this season - against Dallas, Atlanta, New Orleans, New England, and the New York Jets - so you can never say that it is secure until the game really is over with the Giants. Still, they are overdue for a win, and I suspect that they will get exactly that in Miami.

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