The Chargers maintained their playoff spot for another week after a come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Ravens and their Jimmy Smith-less secondary. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
It’s hard to imagine the Chargers having much in the way of playoff hopes if they had lost in Baltimore. With remaining home games against New England and Denver followed by visits to San Francisco and Kansas City, getting a win over Baltimore was crucial. A 2-2 finish to the season, while daunting, is reasonably possible. 10-6 likely gets them into the postseason. A 3-1 run to close the 2014 campaign would have been nearly impossible. Credit Philip Rivers for a season-saving victory featuring a 21 point 4th quarter to erase a 10 point Baltimore lead.
Jimmy Smith’s absence is killing the Baltimore Ravens. Since Smith went down in late October, Baltimore is 2-2, beating the dreadful Titans and struggling Saints but losing to the Steelers and Chargers. In those two losses, Baltimore surrendered 9 TD passes. For perspective, the Raven defense allowed 7 passing touchdowns TOTAL through the first eight weeks of the 2014 season. In the four games since Smith went down, they’ve allowed 13. If you’re bad at math, that’s nearly double the touchdowns in half the time. So yeh, Baltimore is struggling right now. On the bright side, Baltimore’s remaining schedule features the Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans and Browns. Or, as John Harbaugh probably calls them; a blessing from God. They rank as the 22nd, 28th, 23rd, and 13th passing offenses in the NFL, respectively.
I wasn’t as impressed by the Packers – Patriots game as most. While there were no turnovers, too many big plays were missed. It also felt like the Packers dominated that game and the Patriots were fortunate to have a chance. I was pleased with the intensity, though. The game clearly meant more to both teams than just another regular season outing. They fought as if they had something to prove despite being considered the two best teams in the NFL. While I understand the Super Bowl preview narrative, I’m holding off for right now. We’ve seen both teams breakdown in the playoffs over the past three years. As long as the Broncos and Seahawks remain in the playoffs, I think it’ll take a mammoth effort to eliminate them from the tournament, especially the Seahawks. Speaking of…
Seattle has officially found itself and that’s really bad news for the NFC. Despite a rough start, the defense has settled in as the NFL’s top defense. The offense is back to being a conservative, grinding bully instead of the explosive, aggressive unit it tried to be early in the year with Percy Harvin. Of all the NFC contenders outside of the Seahawks, only the 49ers and Lions own a dominant defense. As we witnessed last week, San Francisco’s offense is incapable of scoring and will likely miss the playoffs. If you trust the Lions in the playoffs against Seattle then please call me, I’ll gladly take your bet. As the cliché goes, defenses win in January. If Green Bay played in a dome maybe I’d be less concerned but they play in conditions more favorable to a dominant defense than an all-world quarterback. If Seattle successfully wrestles the NFC West from the Cardinals (probable at this point), I have a hard time believing they won’t be the NFC champions again.
What a big win for the Eagles last week. Not only did they embarrass and dominate the Cowboys on national TV in front of a holiday audience, but they also stole the game many credited to Dallas in the race for the NFC East. Now the Eagles own the upper hand and the advantage of playing what could be the decisive game at home. With that said, I’m not putting too much stock in Philadelphia’ s win. Thursday games after a short week are always fluky. Furthermore, I thought Dallas and Jason Garrett foolishly played right into the Eagles hand. The Eagles couldn’t generate a pass rush for the entire 1st half. When the Eagles can’t pressure the quarterback, the secondary is often overmatched and exposed. Dallas’ best drive of the game came off a deep ball to Dez Bryant. Why they didn’t attack the Eagles deep downfield with more frequency… or at all… was a mystery to me. Sure, the Dallas run game is a monster and had moderate success most of the game, but it didn’t produce points. Keeping Chip Kelly’s offense off the field isn’t enough. You have to score points, because even if you limit Philly’s opportunities, they’ll likely still take advantage of the ones given to them.
Sadly, the Eagles are still haunted by red zone issues. While Dallas never really threatened in the 2nd half, the game would have been over earlier had the Eagles offense not bogged down in the red zone… again. When you can’t run the ball in the red zone this is what happens. I also thought Kelly got too concerned with the clock on those two red zone opportunities late in the 1st half. While worrying about the clock was the smart move, it’s not who Chip Kelly is. Better or worse, Kelly is a pedal to the metal guy, and he’s darn good at it. I’d rather him be true to his style in those situations than try to play conservative, smart coach.
I couldn’t figure out why Jason Kelce wasn’t awkwardly standing behind Shady McCoy during his postgame interview like the rest of the Eagles offensive line. Then I learned why:
— Jason Kelce (@Jkelce) November 28, 2014
My Power Rankings after Week 13:
1. Green Bay
2. New England
7. Kansas City
10. San Diego
I didn’t exactly praise Ryan Fitzpatrick’s return in my Week 13 picks, so naturally he threw for 6 touchdowns and over 350 yards. Obviously, I have no powers to jinx anyone in any sport. However, Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton and Jay Cutler all went down the pooper immediately after I showered them with praise. Now Fitzpatrick does this after a light-hearted ribbing. (…thinking…) Yeh, Mark Sanchez is a putz. Can’t believe he’s still in the NFL. On the other hand, Russell Wilson is a great QB. I wouldn’t trade that guy for anyone in the league, not even Aaron Rodgers. (Let’s hope this works…)
The NFC South will boil down to the Falcons and Saints. Advantage New Orleans. Drew Brees finally played his first mistake-free game of the 2014 season and he did so without targeting Jimmy Graham a single time. Whether Brees can play mistake free for more than one outing remains to be seen, but know this: After New Orleans wins the division, they’re going to defeat whichever Wildcard team travels to the Big Easy on Wildcard Weekend. Why? Because that team will likely be the Cardinals, Lions or Cowboys. The Cardinals can’t score, I don’t trust the Lions, and the Cowboys defense is about 50% worse than when they beat the Saints two months ago.
I called the AFC North overrated last week and it did not disappoint, going 1-3 this past week with its only victory coming against the 2-9 (now 2-10) Buccaneers… and barely, too.
Before enjoying the following quote from Patrick Peterson, please review Julio Jones’ day against Peterson: 12 targets, 10 receptions, 189 yards and a TD. I watched most of the game. Whenever Atlanta needed a big play, the ball went to Julio Jones. And 83% of the time Atlanta found success against the self-proclaimed best corner in the game.
Patrick Peterson earlier in wk: I’m the best corner in the league, I want the team’s No. 1 receiver, period. Julio Jones: 9 rec, 173 yds TD
— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) November 30, 2014
Tom Brady has long been my favorite NFL star because of his passion. I grew up with Mr. Happy Donovan McNabb so I’m always a sucker whenever a superstar in any sport shows some emotion. Bravo, Brady.
MVP: Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Runner Up: Tre Mason.
Not on the ballot: Panthers punt team.