Monday, December 12, 2016

NFL 2016-17 Week 14 Review

What an interesting weekend in football this was! Some big games with playoff ramifications, some divisional showdowns, and some generally good and impressive performances throughout. The two top seeds in both conferences, the Raiders and the Cowboys, both lost road games to divisional opponents that assured they were swept, and prevented them from essentially clinching the division - officially, in the case of the Cowboys.

So, let's take a look at the weekend that was:

Thursday Night Football - Kansas City 21, Oakland 13 - The Raiders lost their mojo, at least for one week. The Chiefs were just too tough, and especially in Arrowhead, although they gave Oakland a chance. The Chiefs did not play their best game, and the Raiders certainly had some opportunities. Yet, with one explosive second quarter, KC managed to outplay Oakland and take control of the game, and they never relinquished that control, riding it all the way to a victory that, by virtue of their owning the tie-break, effectively puts them in position to win the division outright with three weeks remaining. KC controls their own destiny, while Oakland now has to hope that the Chiefs lose somewhere along the line, and they they continue to win.

Washington 27, Philadelphia 22 - In a very real sense, the Eagles last hopes for qualifying for the playoffs rested on this game. They absolutely needed to beat their division rivals to have any hopes of staying in the race. In a back and forth contest, however, Washington ultimately made enough of the plays at key moments to secure an impressive divisional road win, and to maintain their chances for earning a playoff berth. For Philly, this solidifies that their collapse following the surprising 3-0 start was closer to the mark on how they should be defined this season. A disappointing loss for them, a huge win for Washington.

Houston 22, Indianapolis 17 - After a season of glaring weaknesses while playing on the road, the Texans went into Indianapolis and were able to produce probably their biggest victory on the season. This was a win that allows them to control their  own destiny, as they would be the division winners if the season ended today. However, that showdown in Tennessee on the final week now looms large for them, as it seems likely that the winner will take all in that contest. Still, this was an impressive win for Houston.

Detroit 20, Chicago 17 - The Lions looked strong early on, but Chicago battled back and made a game of this, as the momentum swung back and forth between these two teams. The Bears were trying desperately to play spoiler, as a loss could have proved disastrous for Detroit. However, the Lions have continued to win the close games in the end this season, and they did it again yesterday in this one, earning a surprisingly tough victory to raise their record up to 9-4, and they now hold a two game lead over both the Vikings and the Packers in the division, with only three games left. Still, the division title is not secure, because Detroit's remaining schedule is tough, and the Packers and, to a lesser extent, the Vikings, have both been coming on strong as of late.

Miami 26, Arizona 23 - Even though these teams are in different conferences, they both absolutely needed to win this game in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Cardinals looked like they were getting dominated for much of the contest, although they came roaring back and tied it late. Yet, Miami managed to get the field goal to secure the win that they absolutely need to stay in the AFC playoff picture, although Tennehill's injury, which knock him out for the year, is an obvious source of major concern in southern Florida. As for the Cardinals, this loss cements just how disappointing this season has been, as they went from one of the Super Bowl favorites before the season started, to basically being eliminated from any chance at the playoffs with this loss, with still three games to go.

Tennessee 13, Denver 10 - One of yesterday's numerous tough, low-scoring affairs. This one featured the reeling defending Super Bowl champions, and one of the strong young teams that have been enjoying incredible success this season.  Yes, Tennessee has gone from one of the consistently worse teams in the league, to one of the most improved and impressive this season. As for Denver, their title defense season, which started off incredibly well, has steadily grown worse and worse. This loss puts their hopes for even qualifying for the playoffs, in order to even have a shot at defending their title, in jeopardy. The Broncos lost this game in a surprising way, as usually, tough, defensive battles are their forte. But the Titans managed to win, and with Indy's loss yesterday, Tennessee finds itself in a first place tie with the Texans, with three games to go.

Carolina 28, San Diego 16 - Indeed, this has been a tremendously disappointing and disheartening season for the Panthers, last year's NFC Champs and Super Bowl favorites following a dominant 15-1 season. Still, Carolina is at least showing pride in winning games like this against San Diego, where they relied on an early lead that they managed to hold onto for the win.

Pittsburgh 27, Buffalo 20 - Pittsburgh remained hot, earning their fourth straight win and, at least for now, taking sole possession of first place in the AFC North. The Steelers earned a tough win in inclimate weather conditions up in Buffalo, while the loss for the Bills effectively ends what hopes they had of ending their playoff drought that stretches back to 1999. It is the longest active drought in the league, but it will have to last at least one year longer, as this loss ends it for them.

Minnesota 25, Jacksonville 16 - The Vikings stay alive with a tough road win at Jacksonville. The Jaguars looked better than their 2-11 record would suggest, although in the end, they just could not come up with the goods, and had to watch Minnesota rally and come up with the answers at the end to clinch the win. The Vikings are tied with the Packers for second place in the NFC North, although they are two behind Detroit for the division.

Cincinnati 23, Cleveland 10 - The Bengals added yet more woe to their cross state rivals, as the Browns lose again, and are running out of time and opportunities to avoid the dubious winless season. Cincy took a commanding lead early, and Cleveland simply was not able to mount a serious comeback. it probably will not be enough for the Bengals to seriously contend for a playoff spot, although it helps to make the season look respectable. As for Cleveland and their fans, they surely just want this season to end by this point. Just horrible!

NY Jets 23, San Francisco 17 (OT) - The Jets likely were wondering what was happening, after they fell behind 14-0 after just a couple of minutes of play. I will admit to turning the game off at this point in disgust, just thinking that this was the same old Jets. Just like them to allow a team with an 11-game losing steak entering this game to look good and end their streak against Gang Green. Yes, San Francisco looked very impressive early on, and looked quite decent still throughout the first half. But then, the Jets battled their way back, slowly but surely, and it seemed that they really came alive in the second half, wearing the 49ers down, and forcing the game into overtime. Once there, the running game, which really hurt San Francisco, put the final nail in the coffin when

Tampa Bay 16, New Orleans 11 - The Bucs just keep rolling, although this was far from a pretty game. Essentially, Tampa Bay outlasted New Orleans in a tough, mostly defensive game. This was a low-scoring affair, indeed! This marked Tampa Bay's fifth straight win, which I believe now ranks as the longest active winning streak in the league, and it inches them closer to a playoff spot and, possibly, the division title, if they can manage to beat out Atlanta! As for the Saints, they fought hard, but this loss pretty much ended what slim hopes they still had.

Atlanta 42, Los Angeles 14 - How embarrassing is it that the Rams not only got humiliated at home before their fans, but that the game was not even as close as the final score of 42-14 would suggest? The Falcons came out swinging, needing the win, and they left no doubt, completely dismantling the Rams and taking a commanding 42-0 lead, before essentially sitting on their lead the rest of the way, and allowing the Rams a couple of garbage time touchdowns to make it look somewhat more respectable. A pathetic game for the Rams, while a  very impressive, dominant performance by Atlanta.

Green Bay 38, Seattle 10 - It seems safe to say that the Pack is back! Yes, Green Bay completely dismantled the Seahawks at frigid Lambeau Field yesterday, taking an early, commanding lead, and simply never letting up. The Seahawks looked uncharacteristically flat on both offense and defense, and just never seemed to have an answer to so much as slow the Packers down. Green Bay has now won three games in a row, and is right back into playoff contention, while the Seahawks, still almost assured of the NFC West Division title, do not look nearly as formidable as they had for the vast majority of this season. 

Sunday Night Football - NY Giants 10, Dallas 7 - The Giants absolutely needed to win this contest to keep their divisional playoff hopes alive, and even possibly to keep their playoff chances intact. If they lost this one, then they would have dropped two games in a row, and would be getting cold at exactly the wrong time. Instead, the beat Dallas at home to complete the season sweep, and have assured a winning record on the season. Plus, they remain one of the better fourth quarter teams this season, after this was their albatross throughout last season. This was a surprisingly low-scoring affair by both teams, although the Giants came back from a 7-0 deficit against the hottest team in the league to hang on and win in this tough divisional contest. 

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