Week # 15 Covid surge plays havoc with the schedule.
The Buccaneers, who lead the league in scoring, got blanked for the first time since 2012. Shut out, shut down, scoreless, and seemingly without a clue as offensive stars fell by the wayside during this South Division rivalry.
I said about a week ago that the upcoming game against the Saints would be one of the toughest games remaining on the Bucs’ schedule. The New Orleans saints always get up to play the Buccaneers. The Bucs seem to get outplayed and outcoached in the majority of the two teams’ meetings. Last season, the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl but were swept by the team’s most hated division rival. Fast Forward to now: it’s Deja Vu.
The Cardinals losing to the Lions wasn’t much of a surprise to me. The red birds haven’t looked the same since Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins got injured. Their return had not ignited the same fire as they had come out earlier this season. The Chargers absolutely should have won their matchup with the Chiefs, but coaching decisions prevented them from doing so.
Let’s get started with The Aftermath.
Chiefs @ Chargers (34-28 OT)
I’ve been talking about the rise of the Chargers (8-6) and the Colts a lot lately. Thursday night, the Chargers showed everyone that they can compete with the best in the AFC. If the coaching staff had taken the field goals instead of going for it on fourth down four times, they would have beaten the Chiefs (10-4) for all their home crowd to have witnessed and reveled in. This game also showed that the Chiefs aren’t so unbeatable. They should feel very lucky to have not taken the “L” in this one because they were outplayed the whole entire game. Both teams are still cemented into the postseason; unless the Chargers completely fall apart and lose out.
Patriots @ Colts (17-27)
The Colts (8-6) stepped up for their biggest win of the season so far by taking down and cooling off the red hot (9-5) Patriots. Running back, Jonathan Taylor shredded the Patriots on 29 carries for 170 yards on the ground. Carson Wentz was less than average, going 5 of 12 for 54 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. As long as Taylor is healthy, the Colts are a force in the AFC. If Taylor goes down and it’s left to Wentz to make it all happen, you can forget it. Wentz has had some good games this season, but he’s just not the consistent answer at quarterback that playoff teams must have to be a well-rounded force in postseason play. The Patriots hadn’t lost a game since dropping one in overtime to the Cowboys in week six. Week #15 saw the two best teams in the AFC get outplayed and exposed. Both of these teams, like the ones above, are pretty much cemented into the postseason; unless the Colts lose out.
Panthers @ Bills (14-31)
Is there really anyone left that believes that Cam Newton has anything more than a few and far between good games left in him? His days of being consistently good are well behind him, and that was obvious when the Panthers (5-9) first let him go. The Bills (8-6) are 2-3 in their last five but are far more talented than the Panthers (5-9). This game went as expected, with the more dominant Bills easily winning the game. The Bills control their own destiny, and right now, it’s looking up for the hoofed-footed ones. Josh Allen went 19 of 34 for 210 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception during the win.
Cardinals @ Lions (12-30)
If you have been paying any attention to the Cardinals (10-4) this season, you would know that since Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins have been back in the lineup, the team just hasn’t been the same as it was when the Cards owned the best record in the NFL. I guess you could say that the House of Cards has come down. While it’s true that Dan Campbell’s Lions (2-11-1) were pumped for the upset and that their quarterback Jared Goff was playing lights out football, they are still the Lions and still very beatable. This was still a ten-win team, playing a two-win team. The Cardinals have no excuses for losing this game, other than — they just are not what they appeared to be earlier in the season. I honestly don’t see them making it past their first playoff game this postseason, but I could be wrong. Time will tell the tale.
Cowboys @ Giants (21-6)
If not for the (4-10) Giants’ defense playing some pretty good football, this one could have been a lot uglier than it was. These are two teams are heading in opposite directions. The lone offensive bright spot for the Giants was the rookie quarterback Jake Fromm from UGA. He came in and marched the team down the field after ex-Buccaneer Mike Glennon threw his third interception of the game. The Cowboys (10-4) continue to be nothing nice on defense and are loaded with stars. Dallas continues to put themselves in a better position heading into the playoffs, especially with the Bucs losing this week. Tony Pollard led the Cowboys in rushing, going 74 yards on 12 attempts, while Dak Prescott finished 28 of 37 for 217 yards with one touchdown and didn’t turn the ball over once. Saquon Barkley had 15 carries but was outrushed by Devontae Booker 74 to 50 yards, with 7 fewer carries. Clearly, Barkley has returned to earth after his big rookie season due to being hampered by injuries. Ever since; he has struggled to put up any kind of consistently good numbers for the Giants.
Titans @ Steelers (13-19)
You just never can tell which Steelers (7-6-1) team is going to show up to play on any given Sunday; the team that tied the Lions in Pittsburgh or the team that just defeated the South Division-leading Titans (9-5). It looks like the tie with Detroit is going to end up helping them, as opposed to dragging them down if they can keep winning. I called their season over a week or two ago, and I stand by that. The Steelers have the Chiefs, Browns, and Ravens still to play, and I can’t really see them winning more than one of those; then again, the Steelers have found their way to the postseason before in tough times. The Titans don’t have an easy road either; they play the 49ers, the red-hot Dolphins, and end their season with the lowly Texans. Only the Texans’ game is a given, so It’s possible that they finish 10-7. I believe that the Colts have a very good chance of taking that division in the final three weeks. They have the Cardinals, Raiders, and Jaguars left to play. They would probably have to win out, considering that in a tie situation with the Titans, Tennessee would win in that situation. The Cardinals have become a very beatable team, so it’s very possible for the Colts to sweep their last three. Stay tuned. It’s starting to get very interesting.
Bengals @ Broncos (15-10)
The Bengals (8-6) have taken over first place in the AFC North Division after holding out and outlasting the Broncos (7-7). If they intend to stay there, then they are going to have to win at least two of their last three. That will be a tall order with the Ravens, Chiefs, and Browns left to go. They control their own destiny, so they can blame no one else but themselves if they fall short. The Broncos are one of four teams at 7-7 in the AFC (Steelers are 7-6-1). The last three weeks will decide it. Stay tuned.
Packers @ Ravens (31-30)
The Packers (11-3) got the benefit of what was probably a bad decision by head coach John Harbaugh when the Ravens (8-6) went for two and the win, very late in the 4th quarter. They didn’t get the two, so game over; Packers win by one. It ended a furious Ravens’ comeback that fell just short. Green Bay is the number one seed in the NFL now. The Ravens are the 9th seed moving forward.
Saints @ Buccaneers (9-0)
For whatever reason, the Saints (7-7) play harder against the Bucs (10-4) than anyone else: be it the division rivalry or just general dislike. The coaching staff of the Saints always seem to have the right game plan to take down the Bucs. Another thing, in my opinion, is what the Saints seem to be trying to do to the Bucs is put their star players out with injury. The shot to the knee of Chris Godwin resulted in a torn ACL and the end of Godwin’s season. To me, it appeared to be targeting. At this point, tackling a receiver low may be legal but is still seen as a dirty move by most. The Saints are one of three 7-7 teams still battling to make the postseason. They have the Dolphins, Panthers, and Falcons left to play. They have already lost to both the panthers and Falcons, and the Dolphins are playing extremely well, but the Saints aren’t out of it yet, but they may have to win out to make it in. The Bucs are setting themselves up for playoff road games as they have fallen to the sixth seed overall in the NFL. The Cowboys and Packers have all ranked ahead of them. The Bucs could be in line to improve that situation with a soft finishing schedule of the Panthers, Jets, and the Panthers again. If they don’t finish 13-4 on the season, it will be a surprise.
Washington @ Eagles (17-27)
Washington’s (6-8) post-season aspirations took a major hit in Philly on Tuesday going down in flames 27-17. The Eagles (7-7) went with Jalen Hurtz, and it paid off to the tune of 296 yards passing, one touchdown, and one interception. Hurtz added 38 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. They have a shot if they can win out. Washington had to go with Garrett Gilbert, just signed the day before at quarterback. Gilbert threw no interceptions but also threw no touchdowns. Scratch Washington out of postseason play.
Seahawks @ Rams (10-20)
The Rams (10-4) kept pace with the playoff pack and improved their position overall. Cooper Kupp, again, showed why he leads the NFL in receiving stats, reeling in nine receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams have a rough final three, playing the Vikings, Ravens, and 49ers. It’s very possible that the NFC West ends up with three teams making the playoffs. Stay tuned.
My ranking of the top 14 teams in the NFL
1. Packers – They remain at the top spot until they lose.
2. Cowboys – They take the Patriots spot from them
3. Rams – They take a big jump
4. Patriots – They drop after a loss
5. Chiefs – They didn’t lose their game with the Chargers, but they should have. Had the Chargers kicked field goals instead of going for it on 4th down four times, different result.
6. Buccaneers – They drop three spots with the shutout by the Saints on their own home field.
7. Chargers – Even with the loss, this team is getting better and should have beat the Chiefs had their coach taken field goals instead of going for it four times.
8. Cardinals – I have them ranked a lot lower than their actual rank because I am not impressed with this group, sorry Cards fans. They are several star players away from being for real.
9. Colts – As long as Taylor is healthy: they are formidable.
10. Ravens – They may be a spot or two better than this, but they need to beat a good team to prove it to me.
11. 49ers – They are peaking at the right time to make it into the postseason.
12. Bengals – Still a team with a lot of talent, but a tough finish to their schedule.
13. Bills – Another team loaded with talent but underachieving
14. Titans – They need Henry back something fierce. This team is wilting at the end. They are extremely lucky they won so many early on, with him still healthy. Colts can take the division from them if they stumble again and Indy wins out.
- On the rise and not out yet – Eagles, Steelers, Dolphins (LONGSHOT)
- Played themselves out – Browns, Vikings, Broncos