Wow, let’s hear it for the NFL league office for allowing players to wear custom painted cleats this past week. Nothing shows support of a cause like 53 grown men wearing different cleats. I suppose it helps artists who prefer using shoes as their preferred medium.
The other big news was this was the week the Cleveland Browns found a way not to lose. Unfortunately, they do not get any more bye weeks this year so we can expect them to continue their imitation of being a professional football team next weekend.
Dallas 17 – Minnesota 15
Okay, the NFL finally appears set to end their Thursday Night Football fiasco next year, but until then, we get to see two tired teams play a game in the middle of the week simply because it beats going Christmas shopping at the mall with the wife and kids.
The Vikings lost when they were unable to convert a two point conversion at the end of the game and because the officials were unable to see a reason to drag this affair into over time. Why else would they overlook the blow to the head quarterback Sam Bradford took? I say the NFL office should give this crew of zebras a pay raise for their wisdom. The fans saw enough and the officials get paid the same whether or not the game goes into overtime.
Cincinnati 32 – Philadelphia 14
Neither of these teams are headed to the playoffs, but for the Bengals, they at least showed up to play. The Eagles season began with such high hopes, but when your rookie starting quarterback has to throw 60 passes in a meaningless game, it’s time to question the head coach. Were all their running backs injured? Is learning to hand off the football more difficult to learn than to throw a pass?
Detroit 28 – New Orleans 13
With the win, the Lions now have a two game division lead over the sinking Vikings and erratic Packers with just four to play. Add to that, the Lions margin of victory was their largest of the season so they may actually be on track to be a playoff threat.
As for New Orleans, they are just an average team, even with Drew Brees at quarterback. Worse, they seem committed to remaining this way rather than cutting ties with Brees via a trade as part of a much needed rebuilding plan. While they are at it, they may also want to let Sean Peyton go.
Green Bay 21 – Houston 13
It seems like every week the Texans lose to a team that ends up having the same record as them, but no shot at the playoffs, while Houston remains in first place. Neither the Packers or Texans are worthy of being in the playoffs this year, but the cold hard truth is, Houston will likely make the post season with a .500 record and the Packers could get hot and miss out with 9 or 10 wins. However, Green Bay has yet to show they can run off a nice stretch of victories and since they do not get to play Houston every week, they are also liable to finish at .500.
Denver 20 – Jacksonville 10
I suppose Bronco fans have to be pretty happy. Not only did their team win with rookie Paxton Lynch filling in at quarterback, the Dolphins lost so now Denver has a much better shot at the playoffs. Despite this good news, unless the rest of Denver’s opponents drink too much of Vonn Miller’s new wine before each game, they’re going to struggle offensively. This team is not as solid as the one that won last year’s Super Bowl.
New England 26 – Los Angeles 10
Tom Brady became the all time winningest quarterback in NFL history while the Rams rewarded their head coach and general manager with contract extensions for churning out another losing team. New England will have to face the rest of the season without Rob Gronkowski, but as long as Tom Brady remains healthy, they will be a handful for anyone in the post season.
New England simply will not tolerate mediocrity, let alone reward it with contract extensions, which is why they continue to win while Los Angeles fans can only hope the Chargers find a way to bring winning to LA.
* Editor’s Note: The blowout of the Rams by the Patriots was getting so lopsided the network broadcasting the game, Fox, switched to the Detroit Lions-New Orleans Saints game shortly before the first half ended in Foxborough. Whether it was decision by the league or the network is unknown, but many fans — and anger-filled ex-fans in St. Louis — were unhappy with the decision. As one unhappy ex-Rams fan tweeted: “Fox just flexed away from the Rams game in the Midwest (sic). Who is St Louis going to hate-watch now?”
Kansas City 29 – Atlanta 28
The Falcons have no reason to sleep well this next week. This loss clearly shows them as a step up from mediocrity, but a long ways away from being a juggernaut. Chiefs safety Eric Berry ran back one interception for a touchdown and then ripped out the hearts of the Falcons by picking off a two point conversion and running it back for the two points needed to win.
This was another perfect example of how good teams will fight hard and find a way to win (throw in a 55 yard TD off a fake punt) when average teams will fight hard and find a way to lose.
Chicago 26 – San Francisco 6
This game was tailor made for a Forty-Niner win. Bears starting QB Jay Cutler was out, 49er QB Colin Kaepernick was red hot, and San Francisco’s defense was much improved. Then Kaepernick announces he is going to declare for free agency when the season ends and goes out and completes one of five passes before getting yanked for Blane Gabbert in the final quarter.
This move was a statement move by coach Chip Kelly who the team announced is going to return next season no matter what happens over the final month. Then again, another week like this and he may just see the artificial grass is greener in Oregon.
Baltimore 38 – Miami 6
Finally, a game in which the Ravens play like the perennial playoff team we have grown accustomed to. Joe Flacco looked like we expect and not like Joe Kapp. The offense and defense played complete games against a hot and hopefully playoff bound Dolphins to send a message they are readying themselves for a post season run.
Meanwhile, with four weeks left in the season, there is no promise the Dolphins stay hot. In fact, they may well be lucky to win another game if this game was any indication of things to come.
Oakland 38 – Buffalo 24
I feel sorry for any team that has to play Oakland in the playoffs. This team seems immune to any obstacle as Buffalo found out when the Raiders came back from 15 down in the second half to rattle off 29 unanswered points.
At 10-2, they are tied with New England for the best conference record and if I am the Patriots, I don’t want to have to travel to the Black Hole to advance to the Super Bowl. Buffalo, which teased their fans with playoff potential earlier in the season have fallen into the middle of the pack and will need to win out just to have a shot at post season play.
Tampa Bay 28 – San Diego 21
The NFC South has become a two-way fight between the Buccaneers and Falcons, both of which have looked close to brilliant at times and then at others times look putrid.
This week, the Bucs played a difficult San Diego Chargers team on the road and managed to score the game’s final eleven points for their seventh victory, good enough to move into a first place tie with Atlanta. San Diego just can’t finish games this year and they only have themselves to blame. Like the Saints, this team may want to see what they can get for their starting quarterback, Phillip Rivers, because they are mired in mediocrity. Maybe a move 90 miles north is all that is needed, but I have to think more than a change in zip code is in order.
Arizona 31 – Washington 23
Arizona has nothing but their pride to play for this month while Washington has a playoff birth to fight for which is why this result is one of the more surprising ones of the week. Maybe with rumors swirling about Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians stepping down at season’s end was enough to light a fire under a horribly under achieving team.
There’s something to be said about playing for your future employment. Still, this does not explain why the Redskins, with everything to play for, allowed this game, and maybe their chance at the playoffs, to get away from them.
They may have to win out just to be a wild card team. If they do, they will then have to win four on the road to be champions. Anyone thinking that will happen after Sunday may need to get their head checked.
Pittsburgh 24 – New York Giants 14
There’s no shame losing to Pittsburgh at this time of year on the road, but if the Giants want to be considered a threat for a deep playoff run, this is not the way to go about it. Pittsburgh just could not afford to lose this game while the Giants will consider themselves fortunate that the Vikings, Falcons, and Redskins all lost. For now, the post season is still theirs to lose while the Steelers will have to fight it out with Baltimore for the AFC North title.
Seattle 40 – Carolina 7
I was surprised last year by Carolina’s dominant run to the Super Bowl. I never thought they had it in them and thought they had the wrong guy, Cam Newton, playing quarterback. I was wrong last year, but any idea of this team becoming a perennial playoff power now seems more like a pipe dream with their most recent performance. They’re so mental, I am not even sure I can give as much credit to having to play Seattle on national TV as a reason for their 40-7 stink fest.
Newton knows he is the team’s leader and yet sets a poor example. To get benched, even for just one play, because he failed to follow the simplest team rule, albeit a lame one, failing to wear a tie on the plane flight, is a big deal. It tells me he is either an immature brat who thinks rules do not apply to him (does anyone think Bill Parcells would have done this to Lawrence Taylor?), or he is trying to use his leverage as the team’s star to run off a coach he wants to see gone.
One play, one interception does not sound like much, but you do not start off a game like this in Seattle and think you will right your ship and sail toward a victory.
Carolina is in tatters. Something is going on inside that locker room that is going to lead to a big change this off season and since the fans purchase more Cam Newton game jerseys than they do Coach Rivera ties, I would not be surprised to see a coaching change when the dust settles.
As for Seattle, how do you evaluate this team when their opponent failed to show up? They played well after a terrible week 12 performance, but now they have lost star safety Earl Thomas to a broken leg. He is the type of leader that plays and practices by example, much like Ronnie Lott did in his day. His teammates will step up and play their hearts out because they know they have to answer to him once he returns next year. In other words, he is the type of leader the Panthers could use at the quarterback position.
Monday Night Prediction
Logic says this is a no brainer. Indianapolis has everything to play for, basically first place in the AFC South, while the Jets have already crashed and burned. But this is the NFL of 2016 and let’s face it, no one wants to win the AFC South, even if all it will take is an eight win season, while the Jets can only dream of a year where they win half their games.
Now, throw in the fact this is a Monday Night game which means it is liable to stink more than dirty laundry that set around too long, I see no reason why the Colts win, with or without Andrew Luck.
New York 12, Indianapolis 9.
Did I mention it will be decided on the last play in overtime about four and a half hours after kickoff?
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UPDATE: James was close on the Jets score, but the game was a blowout: 41-10, Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes, three to Dwayne Allen. Robert Turbin rushed for one TD.
Jets quarterbacks Bryce Petty and Ryan Fitzpatrick combined for 214 yards passing with one TD and three interceptions.
Something to to ponder: in the 2014 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns passed on Fresno State QB Derek Carr to pick Johnny Manziel. The Raiders made Carr the 36th pick of the draft, in the second round. Now he leads arguably the best team in the NFL right now.
Top photo: The Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott handing off to Ezekiel Elliott, who now leads the NFL in rushing,
the first rookie to do so since 1999 (YouTube Screen shot)
James Moore is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching and currently runs his own personal training business, In Home Jim, in Hemet, CA. Jim’s writings are often the end result of his thoughts mulled over while riding his bike for hours on end.