The New Orleans-Seattle matchup provided all of us football heads with a Power Rankings rarity: No. 1 vs. No. 2. But it might as well have been No. 1 vs. No. 32 -- come to think of it, Wade Phillips' defense might have given the 12th Man more of a challenge than the Saints did. As a matter of fact, those Texans did give the 9-3 Patriots all they could handle down in Houston, part of a string of Week 13 contests that went down to the wire.
What a weird season 2013 has been. Glennon > Brees > Kaepernick? Or not.
This was in response to the risk I took in predicting the Saints would win in my weekly picks column. Seahawks fans certainly have had their share of pain, Alyx, and that goes all the way back to the Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg days. Things sure are on the up and up now.
@Harrison_NFL Hey Harrison - I've read the book - Don't write an article that Smaug will take the Hobbit. Baggins wins.â BradBlosser (@HawksandSkittle) December 3, 2013
I'll try not to screw that pick up like I did Saints-Seahawks. Although, if Bilbo fumbles at any point, I'm sure Bill Belichick will have him standing on the sidelines in street clothes. Or spying. Too soon?
It's never too soon to rank the rest of the member clubs. We know Seattle is No. 1, but take a look at the rest. Feel free to share your thoughts, or pain, at the usual place ... @Harrison_NFL.
Let the dissension commence ...
(Note: Arrows reflect change in standings from last week's Power Rankings.)
What a statement game for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks, who dominated Monday night from stem to stern. David Lee Roth circa 1982 -- in all of his spastic glory -- couldn't compete with the Seattle head coach. Telling you right now, the only team that would have a chance to beat Carroll's squad in Seattle is Carolina -- and even that might be a stretch.
John Fox rejoins the fold this week. Jack Del Rio will go back to solely running the defense, which certainly has had its struggles, giving up 892 yards and 62 points in Denver's last two games. That group -- particularly the secondary, and particularly in the tackling department -- must right the ship if the Broncos are to make hay in the postseason. Of course, is there a better elixir than hosting the Tennessee Titans? Fitzmagic was anything but in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Look out for Carolina, everybody. The Panthers did what good teams are supposed to do: take care of lesser opposition at home. Beating the Bucs by three touchdowns certainly qualifies. The Panthers' defense is going to make them a tough out. I don't care if the opposition is Seattle, New Orleans or West Canaan, Carolina is going to represent a formidable challenge, because it doesn't rely on a high-risk, 60-throws-per-game offense to win. Oh, and before we go -- nice fourth-and-goal call, coach. #RiverboatRon
Those were some pretty big kicks by Stephen Gostkowski on Sunday at Reliant. The veteran booted it from 53 yards out twice to deliver a win. New England stuck with its bevy of backs, while Tom Brady looked for Rob Gronkowski over and over. There's no question this is a different team with Gronk healthy. In other news, Stevan Ridley looked like he was dividing 695 by 36,525 on the sideline. Nice street clothes. #dontfumble
It's one thing to
lose a game in Seattle. It's wholly another to get beat play after play while failing to communicate or operate with any sense of urgency and looking completely lost on your assignments.
The Saints' secondary proved that New Orleans has almost no hope of winning a Super Bowl this season. That was as bad a performance as we've seen from a back seven. At one point, it looked as though Russell Wilson was simply told to seek out Malcolm Jenkins and let fly. What a butt-kicking.
Exciting game at Arrowhead, and one
Chiefs rookie CB
Marcus Cooper would probably like to forget. You don't want
Peyton Manning literally
While Cooper was getting burned, the Chiefs' offense showed for the second consecutive week that it could do some burning of its own, putting up 452 yards after posting 395 yards and 38 points versus the Chargers in Week 12. That kind of thing can be a confidence-builder come playoff time.
The Bengals moved a step closer to the AFC North crown and a home playoff game. With the Chiefs' loss, and Cincinnati's ownership of the tiebreaker over New England, the possibility of moving into the 2-hole becomes a very real one. The Bengals' remaining sked: vs. Colts, at Steelers, vs. Vikings, vs. Ravens. There is no reason Cincinnati can't finish 12-4 or 11-5. Oh, and by the way, Mark McLemore was our favorite 2-hole hitter. You're welcome.
How about those
First win in 10 years on what has become their own holiday. So what's next? Well,
thanks to the leg of Blair Walsh, perhaps the NFC North. Detroit is a game up on Chicago, and also owns the head-to-head advantage by virtue of a regular-season sweep.
Really, things couldn't have gone better for the Lions in Week 13. I mean, when Kevin Ogletree is making one-handed catches in the end zone for you, it's your NFL week.
Nice to see the Cowboys giving their quarterback support with some semblance of a ground game. Dallas ran the ball 30 times for 144 yards, with Lance Dunbar providing a cup of the kind of explosiveness that DeMarco Murray does not. Cowboys fans like Murray, but there is no denying the punch Dunbar gave this team. Unfortunately, Dunbar will miss the rest of the year with a left knee injury.
Old St. Nick is at it again. We asked earlier in the season, in this very space, why Nick Foles couldn't be the guy -- and I was viewed as a crazy person for suggesting Foles get every opportunity to supplant Michael Vick. That said, no one, including yours truly, imagined him scoring 21 total touchdowns with just one turnover (a fumble) this season. For a second-year pro to attempt nearly 200 passes without giving up an interception is incredible.
Huge win in New York for a
Dolphins squad that refuses to go away. Keep in mind how often and blatantly this football team was written off after
a Monday night loss to the Bucs -- and, of course, in the wake of
Miami is in a dogfight with Baltimore and San Diego for the AFC's sixth playoff seed. The Dolphins lost to the Ravens in Week 5 but did beat the Chargers in Week 11. Next up: the Steelers, and an opportunity to essentially eliminate one of their competitors for that spot.
Marc Trestman kicked on second down, but he's not the first coach to ever do it. The bottom line is,
Robbie Gould almost always makes that kick. Obviously, the
Bears really couldn't afford to lose
Sunday in Minnesota. It was a road game, but the
Vikings were there for the taking, especially with
Matt Cassel having to come in off the bench.
That said, Alshon Jeffery made the catch of the day, if not the year. How about his season? Talk about all over the map. Consider his weekly yardage totals since Week 5: 218, 27, 105, 60, 114, 83, 42, and 249.
Big win for the still-viable
Ravens. For all their problems -- the exodus of veteran players, losing Dennis Pitta to injury, not being able to run the football -- they've quietly hung in there in both the AFC North and AFC wild-card races.
Thursday night's matchup with the Steelers was a classic slugfest, but John Harbaugh's group made the plays when it needed to. This was especially true of the very unit that Harbaugh used to specialize in: special teams. By the way, who's a better kicker than Justin Tucker? Noooooobody.
The season might have slipped away from the Chargers at Qualcomm. With losses to Miami and Tennessee, San Diego owns exactly zero tiebreakers against combatants for that sixth playoff seed in the AFC. And with a 3-6 conference record, the Bolts aren't sitting too pretty in that tiebreaker area, either. Looking back on the season, the Week 9 loss in Washington might have been the most disappointing. Considering the way Washington is currently playing, blowing it in overtime against that team might have been checkmate for Mike McCoy's first foray in SoCal.
Tennessee gave Indy all it could handle. But then, that's always the problem with the Titans -- they do just enough to get their fan base pumped ... before letting everyone down like another "Hangover" sequel. Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled mightily, while Chris Johnson still can't get going. He came in averaging 3.8 yards per carry -- and gained exactly 3.8 yards per carry on Sunday. The Titans can't play this brand of football for another year. Johnson isn't finding the 2009 magic again. Ever.
The loss in Baltimore probably deep-sixed the Steelers' wild-card hopes, considering they still have to play the Dolphins, Bengals and Packers (who will likely be WITH Aaron Rodgers). That said, Ben Roethlisberger led a couple of tremendous drives to put Pittsburgh in position Thursday night to tie things up. It sure would be nice for him if he didn't have to hit Emmanuel Sanders exactly in the numbers for Sanders to make a play. The receiver has been thrown to 94 times -- and has just 54 catches to show for it. Hmmmm.
Say this about the Giants: They don't fold their tents. Nor do they take their football and go home. Big Blue might ultimately be going nowhere, but to come back from 14-zip, on the road, after playing like crap, in a season they'll be lucky to finish at 7-9? That says much about Tom Coughlin and the character in the Mara family's organization.
The box score won't shoot you straight when it comes to
Rams-Niners. The final numbers were actually pretty close. Then you rewatch the NFC West battle
on Game Rewind and see that, other than a 10-play, 92-yard drive in garbage time, St. Louis couldn't accomplish anything offensively. In fact, 192 of the
Rams' 312 total yards came in the fourth quarter.
It was nice to see third-round draft pick Stedman Bailey finally get involved. Everyone knows wide receiver has been the Achilles' heel of the Rams' offense for years. If Tavon Austin's former West Virginia teammate can take a step forward, maybe this position group won't be the weak link. Let's see how December plays out.
How much longer must Jets fans suffer in watching their team's Headless Horseman offense? This organization hasn't had a good quarterback since Chad Pennington was playing. As frustrating as Pennington's career was, at least the frustrations stemmed from unfortunate injuries. Problems like a lack of composure and preparedness, sitting for GQ photo shoots and throwing the ball up for grabs are all of recent vintage. We wholeheartedly agree with Rex Ryan, who said he felt sorry for the fans who had to endure that beatdown on Sunday.
Josh Gordon is simply unreal. Remember the talk of the Redskins acquiring him? Just think: The NFL has been around for 93 years, keeping passing stats for 83 of those, and yet no one -- not Jerry Rice, not Don Hutson, not Lance Alworth, not Randy Moss, not even T.O. -- has gone for two bills in back-to-back games like Gordon. Shoot, Brian Brennan never did it, either.
Win, lose or draw, we can't help but be impressed by
Matt McGloin. To those of you who point out that McGloin wasn't drafted, we would be remiss if we didn't remind you of
the quarterback who beat him Thursday evening, and what
that player's draft cachet was like. (Hint: Though he was
on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week, he was originally evaluated about as highly as McGloin.)
McGloin wasn't spectacular in Dallas, but he gave his receivers chances to make plays on the ball, and he managed the game very well. Is he going to wow you like Terrelle Pryor? No. Is Pryor just good enough to get you beat? Yes.
What a shame that the
dropped another game they could've had. What was not a shame, however, was the way the 1-2 punch in the backfield finally produced.
C.J. Spiller was awesome, rushing for 149 yards on 15 carries, while
Fred Jackson put up 78 yards from scrimmage and scored twice.
This was the way it was always supposed to work for the 4-8 Bills. Spiller wasn't supposed to get dinged up and then all but disappear, EJ Manuel wasn't supposed to miss four games, and a bunch of other bad things weren't supposed to happen. And oh yeah, they weren't supposed to be "the 4-8 Bills."
The only thing worse than the 15-yard facemask penalty by
Rhett Ellison that wiped
Blair Walsh's would-be winning kick off the board Sunday had to be
Matt Cassel's apparent mustache. That thing looks like it belongs in a mini truck.
But we digress. Heckuva win by the Vikings, who didn't let adversity rule the day. Of course, that's easy to do when Adrian Peterson runs the rock 35 times for 211 yards.
It's time for the
Buccaneers to start evaluating everyone on the roster if they are to compete in the NFC South in 2014. New Orleans, which has the best quarterback in the division, is clearly still a force, Carolina is full of studs on defense and Atlanta will win a lot more than three games next year. Thus, Tampa must find out what it has now.
For the most part, Mike Glennon has acquitted himself well, putting together a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13:5 with a 90.3 passer rating -- though those numbers drop to 7:4 and 78.4 when a blitz is on. Thing is, those latter numbers will improve as the game slows down for him; i.e., this is totally normal. We like Glennon thus far. Whether he is the long-term answer is another question entirely.
Can't say we blame
Redskins fans if they threw a bottle of their favorite libation and a
Patrick Ramsey bobblehead
through their flatscreen
Can a group of receivers perform more poorly? Pierre Garcon dropped a perfect pass on the last drive, then allowed the ball to get ripped right out of his hands a few plays later. Logan Paulsen dropped a pass during that final stanza, as well. @nflukhank posed the question: Who was the Redskins' last playmaking receiver? The answer: Art Monk.
Give Gus Bradley a two-toned helmet full of credit. The Jaguars have won their past three road games and three out of four overall, with their only loss coming against the imposing Arizona Cardinals. Considering this group lost each of its first eight games by double digits, the recent stretch represents a tremendous accomplishment. Speaking of tremendous, how about the Henne-to-Shorts connection that iced the victory in Cleveland? Henne to Shorts ... that just sounds legendary.
Who was that wearing No. 84 in red and black and making plays in Toronto? Absent for much of the season -- even though he's been on the field -- Roddy White sure reintroduced himself. Heading into the matchup with the Bills, White had not recorded more than four catches or crossed the 50-yard barrier in any game this season. On Sunday, White went off like it was 2010, notching 10 catches for 143 yards -- just 66 yards shy of his combined total from eight previous games. Good riddance to Atlanta's five-game skid. #riseup
Any folks wondering if the head coach in Houston had lost the locker room
got their answer Sunday. The
Texans played inspired football, ultimately bested by a
Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the most clutch kickers of the past decade.
You'll hear much talk about Gary Kubiak's future over the next few weeks. His fate is far less sealed than you'd imagine.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.