The Eagles clinched their division but lost their quarterback. The Patriots looked totally incompetent against the Dolphins. The Packers set up a dramatic Aaron Rodgers comeback in Week 15. The Bills won in the driving snow. And though no football game is QB vs. QB, Blake Bortles still beat – and outplayed in every way – Russell Wilson. WTF? Things continue to get super weird in the NFL as we approach the postseason, and I for one am not complaining. Let’s get it on.
Biggest Winner – Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons got a 20-17 win over New Orleans in one of the best Thursday Night Football games in recent memory. A game that many saw as a shootout coming in proved to be a grit-‘n-grind affair, with the two defenses playing the starring roles. Atlanta was thrilled to welcome back Devonta Freeman who put the offense on his back to the tune of 91 yards and a touchdown. Matt Ryan threw three interceptions in the span of four passes (yes you read that right) and looked uncomfortable all night long, but he managed to lead the offense to a game-tying touchdown drive with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, and the game-winning field goal with just under four minutes. The Falcons keep their playoff hopes alive at 8-5, clinging to the #6 seed with three games to play.
Biggest Loser – New England Patriots
New England got caught in a classic trap game and lost to the Miami Dolphins 27-20. Bill Belichick and crew must have been look ahead to a Week 15 match-up versus Pittsburgh, because they certainly weren’t looking at what was happening with their offense. Their defense – for that matter – didn’t play any better, allowing haver-of-resting-bitch-face Jay Cutler to have his way with the entire region of New England to the tune of 263 yards and three tuddies. The Pats can still secure the #1 seed by beating the Steelers next week, but if they lose, they are in danger of losing a first-round bye to the sneaky 9-4 Jaguars.
Rookie Watch – Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
They finally let Mitch throw the damn ball, and look what happens! The young QB led Chicago to a 33-7 romp on the road at Cincinnati for just their fourth win of the season. He went 25-for-32 (78%) for 271 yards and one TD, against zero turnovers. The kid out of North Carolina is making a strong case to be the Bears QB of the future. He’s sporting a respectable QB rating of 80 on the year, and doing it with barely any receiving talent on the outside.
Sleeper Awakens – Rod Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Though he carried the football just six times on Sunday, Smith went ham. He went for 160 total yards on the day, mercilessly slicing through the gutless Giants defense for two TDs, including an 81-yard catch and run. The third year man out of Ohio State enjoyed a career day in Ezekiel Elliott’s penultimate game of absence, potentially setting him up for some fantasy relevance next week at the Raiders.
Dominating Performance – Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
There were tons of great options in this slot for Week 14, but it would be boring to just put Antonio Brown here every week, right? Howard ripped off an impressive 155 total yards, averaging 6.4 per rush. He scored on two different scampers, showing both shimmy and shove. He’s about as versatile a back as they come in the NFL, and young Trubisky is lucky to have such a stellar backfield mate to rely on as he cuts his teeth. Shouts to Chicago’s third down back Tarik Cohen, who went for 80 yards himself.
Most Devastating Injury – Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
What a blow for Philly. Wentz goes down with a torn ACL, and now the Eagles must turn to Nick Foles. They already have the NFC East clinched, and hold the #1 seed in the conference, so this feels particularly gutting. The young star QB has played his ginger buns off this year, and so this is the clear choice. There were a slew of other injuries that change the landscape of the 2017 season: Saints wunderkind Alvin Kamara exited with a concussion, Bobby Wagner of Seattle hurt his hamstring, Titans blindside protector Taylor Lewan is going for an MRI on his back, and Vikings tackle Riley Reiff was seen in a walking boot. And that’s just on the playoff-bound teams. Let’s not forget about the one, the only, Nathan Peterman.
Existential pain. Existential pain and a heart torn asunder are just two of the things that Browns head coach Hue Jackson appeared to be suffering from as he watched Davante Adams dance through what’s allegedly an NFL secondary, giving the Packers a 27-21 win over the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland now sits at 0-13, with a winless year looking more and more likely. They blew a 14-point lead on Sunday, which isn’t all that surprising save for the fact that they ever had a 14-point lead to begin with.
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