1. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.
There might not be a more enjoyable three-and-a-half hours of football than what we experienced from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET yesterday. A winter storm pounding the mid-Atlantic and rust belt areas gave us snowy conditions in five different games — including enough snow on the ground between the Lions and Eagles to build a snowman for every player on the team.
For a game whose most historic moments often revolved around dramatic weather conditions, snow has become a novelty in today’s NFL. That’s why afternoons like what we experienced yesterday where seemingly every game we turned to had players trudging through the white stuff was something that we should all appreciate.
The Super Bowl is 55 days from today. We can only hope that yesterday’s games are foreshadowing as to what we can expect in New York on Feburary 2nd.
2. Wild Weather Didn’t Dampen Scoring.
The weather outside might have been frightful, but that didn’t stop the offenses from dominating. An NFL record 90 touchdowns were scored in Week 14. While the flood of offense led to some exciting finishes, the combination of slippery fields and the league’s effort to increase offense have made defenses look downright bad. For the first time ever, I can confidently say that more offense isn’t necessarily a better thing.
3. Baltimore Survives, But Should We Really Believe Them?
The best finish of the day was in Baltimore. Despite icy conditions mixed with snow, the Vikings and Ravens launched fireworks during the 4th quarter where both teams combined to score 6 touchdowns (including 5 in the final 2:05). A Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Marlon Brown with four seconds to go gave Baltimore the 29-26 victory.
At 7-6, the Ravens are the current holders of the final playoff spot in the AFC. But this team feels like anything but a franchise that should have the ability to defend their Super Bowl title. Even in light of his late game heroics, Flacco completed just over 50% of his passes and tossed three critical interceptions which let the Vikings hand around in a game where they lost Adrian Peterson in the first half.
If the Ravens make the playoffs, they’re going to earn it. Baltimore faces 2 of its final 3 on the road where they have won just once this season. The combined record of their final three opponents is 26-14. Therefore, while the Ravens might be in the driver’s seat currently, expect them to be left in the dust by the time we’re making our playoff predictions.
4. Are The Bengals The Strongest Team In The AFC?
With three weeks to go, the top teams in the AFC all have their weaknesses. The Broncos can’t play defense and lack the “clutch” gene. The Patriots have the intangibles that the Broncos want, but are losing players by the minute. The Chiefs are inexperienced and are too reliant on turnovers.
So, would you believe that the Cincinnati Bengals are the most complete team in the AFC?
After taking down the Colts yesterday, the Bengals sit at 9-4 and are well in control of the AFC North division. They’re one game out of a potential first round bye. Andy Dalton is improving and the offense has developed additional weapons on offense not named A.J. Green as the season has progressed. Furthermore, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard have formed a “thunder and lightning” running attack that makes the rest of the league envious. Past performance be damned, this year’s Bengals might be for real.
5. It’s Time To Close The Book On Mike Shanahan In Washington.
He drafted the quarterback of the future. He got them to the playoffs last year. But it’s time for Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins to part ways.
The evidence has been mounting for months. It’s apparent that there is inherent tension between Shanahan and Robert Griffin III. However, the story took a new twist on Sunday when it was reported that Shanahan cleaned out his office prior to last January’s wildcard game against the Seahawks. The reason? Shanahan didn’t approve of the relationship between owner Daniel Synder and Griffin and Snyder’s preferential treatment of Griffin.
I have my issues with Griffin. Despite attempting to portray himself as a happy-go-lucky, All-American quarterback, I find his schtick tiring and fake. I don’t doubt that Snyder treats Griffin differently than he does other players. The franchise mortgaged three first-round picks on Griffin. The same can’t be said for Shanahan and it’s a bet that he’s going to lose every time.
Washington currently sits at 3-10. If it weren’t for two 4th quarter comebacks, this team would be 1-12. Although I wouldn’t call the Redskins to be a “rebuilding” franchise, it’s certainly time for them to reload with a new head coach for 2014.
6. Josh Gordon Is The Most Dominant Player In The NFL Right Now.
With all due respect to Calvin Johnson, one player has emerged in recent weeks to assume the title of “Most Dominant Player in the NFL.” His name is Josh Gordon.
The Browns wide receiver has been on an absolute tear over the last month. During Cleveland’s last four games, Gordon has 36 catches for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns. No other wide receiver comes even close to Gordon over that span. Despite missing the first two games of the season, Gordon has over 1,200 yards on the season and is currently third in receiving yards on the season. He is most assuredly a top 6-7 wide receiver for your fantasy draft next season and will likely warrant being drafted in the top 3 rounds.
7. A 43-Year Old Record Finally Falls.
Tom Dempsey’s record for a 63-yard field goal had stood since 1970. Others have tied it along the way, but it was one of the few records that stood the test of time in the NFL. That was until Sunday when Matt Prater drilled a 64-yard field goal at the end of the first half in the mile high thin air of Denver. While the fact that the kick happened in Denver may cause some to place an asterisk next to Prater’s new record, a 64-yard kick is damn impressive no matter the place. Kudos to Prater on breaking a record that many had tried before, but never succeeded.
8. Don’t Count San Francisco Out Just Yet.
The 49ers issued a reminder on Sunday that they actually played in the Super Bowl last season. In a season where they have been glossed over by many due to the success of Seattle, the 49ers edged out a 19-17 victory over their division counterparts on Sunday reminding everybody that they still actually exist in the NFC.
Colin Kaepernick is still a major concern as he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing for the 9th game this season and threw just one touchdown pass. But San Francisco’s defense continues to be understated as they shut down Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense. The 49ers have allowed more than 20 points in just two of their games this season. At 9-4, San Francisco will likely have to go on the road to face the NFC East or NFC North Winner. However, Sunday was a nice reminder that Jim Harbaugh’s squad is going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
9. Chip Kelly For Coach Of The Year?
Apparently all Chip Kelly needed was time. The Eagles were hampered by the wet snow in Philadelphia on Sunday, but gutted out a 34-20 come from behind victory against the Lions to win their third straight at home and fifth straight overall. Philadelphia is now 8-5 and placed the pressure firmly upon the shoulders of the Cowboys heading into tonight’s game against the Bears to keep pace in the NFC East.
As winners of five straight, it’s not too early to start giving Kelly some consideration for NFL Coach of the Year. His primary competition is likely to be the guy whom he replaced, Andy Reid, who has righted the ship in Kansas City. But with fewer star players, and major inconsistencies at quarterback, Kelly has arguably done more with less in the City of Brotherly Love. If the Eagles end up winning the NFC East, Kelly’s success merits consideration to be named the top coach of the year.
10. Arizona Is Lying In The Weeds.
The Arizona Cardinals are the most unassuming 8-5 team in NFL history. After yet another ho-hum win against the Rams on Sunday, the Cardinals kept pace with their competitors and sit just one game out of a wildcard spot in the NFC. Although the apparent loss of Tyronn Matthieu to a torn ACL could be a major loss, the Cardinals are going to be a tough out for anybody over the final three weeks of the season.
If the team from the desert is going to make the playoffs, they’ll have earned it. The final two weeks of the season include games at Seattle and a final home game against the 49ers in what could be a de facto battle for the final seed in the NFC. If you think that the only good football being played out west is in Seattle and San Francisco, then you’re wrong.