15 Things We Learned in Week 15 | December 19, 2012
Let me start by saying that Week 15 was my least favourite week of the season so far. I was expecting plenty of tight games and teams Play Off chances hanging in the balance. Instead, we got more blow outs than a (joke deleted for legal reasons).
Teams like the Giants, Bucs, Lions, Chargers and Ravens just didn’t show up. Even Scott Hanson sounded bored for most of the evening, and Hanson is a man who gets excited by touch backs. At around 8:45 UK time, they cut over to the Georgia Dome and one of the McCowns was in at quarterback. Nothing says “nothing to report” more than the sight of a McCown on a football field. I couldn’t even find solace in Sports Personality of the Year on BBC1, as I wanted to vote for Laura Trott and she wasn’t even on the short list!
To add to the misery, I was in a terrible mood, having had a largely sleepless Saturday night on a friend’s sofa and had already started Week 15 by watching my Eagles lose in farcical fashion to the Bengals on TNF. What’s more, the only game of any consequence in the Sunday late slot was the Cowboys game with the Steelers- my two least favourite franchises. By 11pm I’d had enough and traipsed off to bed. To round off a rubbish week 15, I awoke on Monday to discover I’d missed a thrilling conclusion in Dallas and a stinking SNF game.
Plus, I’ve got to find 15 talking points form the round of fixtures. These are going to be short and not very sweet!
1. QB Controversy Over in San Francisco
“Colin Fever” (copyright me…last week) returned with a vengeance, as Mr Kaepernick and his silly tattoos had a night to remember in New England. Kaepernick threw for 4 touchdowns as the Niners surprised many people by out dueling Brady and co. There was a nervous spell as Brady dragged the Pats back into the game late on, but Kaepernick throw his 4th touchdown, Bill Belichik made another bizarre 4th down call and everyone could breathe again. It is a fantastic game, and if it acted as a Superbowl preview (I’m saying it didn’t we’re in for a treat in February.
2. Maybe the Redskins aren’t a One Man Team
RGII may have lost some Rookie of the Year votes on Sunday, despite not even putting a helmet on. For weeks, we’ve been praising the successor to RGII and crediting him with reviving the Redskins flat lining season. Well, maybe there’s more to it then Mr Griffin. Kirk Cousins came in for the injured RGII and led the Skins to a pretty comfortable win over an inform Cleveland side. The Washington defence looked strong, Alfred Morris carried on his great season and the receivers continued to make some big plays. Momentum is vital at this stage of the season, and the Skins have it in droves – with or without their 1st choice QB!
(NB – I just used the phrase “in form Browns”. I’ve looked back through the archives and this is the first time this phrase has been used in an NFL story for around ten years)
3. AP is MVP..surely
Take Brady out of New England and they’d still probably win the East, likewise Manning in Denver. Take Watt out of Houston and they’d still have a great D. But take Peterson out of Minnesota and you’re looking at a 2-14 side. Christian Ponder actually had a reasonable game this week, his numbers were mediocre but he didn’t turn the ball over and scored a rushing touchdown of his own. When you’ve got Adrian Peterson in your team that can often be enough. Peterson started slowly this week, but exploded on the Rams with an 82 yard TD run and proceeded to ruin St Louis’ Play Off hopes with an all action display. It often appears as if Peterson stops running on his turns, rather than the oppositions. “12 yards? Yeah, that’ll do for this run”. Thanks to Peterson, the Vikings are still firmly in the Play Off hunt, surely a run-first team can’t go all the way? Probably not, but AP will have a good try regardless!
4. The Ravens have “One & Done” Written All over Them
Poor Ray Rice, he must have been delighted to have seen Cam Cameron shown the door. Finally, he’d get some more carries and the chance to carry the Ravens on his shoulders. But, wait, what’s this? Another OC who thinks Joe Flacco can be that franchise carrier. Jim Caldwell may well change his plan pretty quickly, but for know a Flacco heavy offence isn’t pulling up many tress. In fact the longest play conjured up by Flacco this week went 98 yards in the wrong direction. The sight of Flacco tracking down Chris Harris in the forlorn hope of tackling the Cornerback served as a fitting snapshot of the game, and perhaps the Ravens season.
5. Pittsburgh did a Dallas!
The enthralling encounter between the Steelers and Cowboys was ultimately decided by a interception thrown by a QB from deep within his own half. Only for a change, it wasn’t Dallas and Tony Romo who were throwing a December game away ineptly. Step forward Big Ben and the Steelers. Roethlisberger had another inconsistent outing this week; he showed amazing composure to find Heath Miller for a TD after spending an eternity (i.e. 10 seconds) in the pocket whilst Cowboys buzzed around him, but his OT pass to Mike Wallace was read by Brandon Carr and that effectively ended the game.
Is it just me, or do all of the Cowboys victories seem to end with a Dan Bailey Field Goal?
6. Henne Time is Over
Having deservedly earned the right to show the Jags why he can be there 2013 starter, Chad Henne has spent the last 3 weeks showing the Jags why he shouldn’t be their 2013 starter. After 10 points at home to the Jets, the Jags followed up with just 3 in Miami. Henne wasn’t terrible against his former team, but he was stopped 3 times on 4th down red zone attempts as Jacksonville failed to muster a TD. After a superb start to his Jags career, Henne has stalled somewhat. Maybe the Blaine Gabbert era isn’t quite over just yet!
7. Mind Numbing Football
The last MNF game of the season proved to be a desperately dull affair, and I was watching it condensed on Gamepass! I can only imagine the agony endured by people who stayed up all night watching this turgid encounter. Jake Locker wasn’t great, but at least he took care of the ball and made some significant gains on the ground (including the game winning TD). Mark Sanchez was once again awful, especially when the Jets had to force the game late on. 4 interceptions means a massive headache for Rex Ryan. Stay with Sanchez, give Tebow a try or maybe even see what Greg McElroy can do. Being the Jets, there’s bound to be a surprise in store this week.
8. Green Bay need a New Kicker
58% isn’t a great completion percentage for a QB, for a kicker it’s abysmal. After 2 more shanks on Sunday, Mason Crosby is now 17 from 29 for the season. Play Off games are often tight affairs and coaches need a kicker they can rely on. Mike McCarthy’s decision to go for it on 4th down twice this week, showed he has lost some faith in Crosby. Changing a kicker mid season can be risky, but it seems to have gone well in Washington. Kai Forbath hasn’t missed since he joined the Redskins. Talking of which, maybe McCarthy should give Billy Cundiff or Nate Kaeding a call? Then again maybe not.
9. Chicago could miss out
Remember a few weeks ago when many people (including me) were declaring the Bears as there Superbowl pick? The defence were putting together a season for the ages, whilst Cutler, Forte, Marshall were performing to a high level on offence. Hmm, so much for that theory. Chicago look spent – Cutler is turning the ball over far too much, admittedly he’s probably scared of getting killed behind a dire O line and the D are giving up far too many big plays. Brian Urlacher is a big miss, but the rot was setting in before he got injured. The likes of Charles Tillman and Major Wright are just not making the plays that seemed so common place earlier in the season. The only saving grace is that their 2 remaining fixtures are against the Cardinals and Lions. If they can’t get 2 wins from those games, then Lovie Smith may be joining the coaching carousal.
10. The Falcons make a Statement
It’s hard to find fault with Atlanta’s display at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Matt Ryan was almost perfect, the running game looked better, the receivers made big plays and the D had a shut out. If the Falcons can’t win in the PlayOffs this season, then they may be cursed for eternity! The Giants on the other hand, managed to go from 50 to 0 in 7 days and have come back to the pack in the East. One more performance like this and they can forget about a return to the Superbowl
11. The Seahawks are Hot!
The Jags took punter Bryan Angerer in the 3rd round of the Draft, a few picks later the Seahawks took Russell Wilson. I wonder who’s happier?
Wilson is performing at a level that few expected. This week he unleashed a new weapon in his armoury - the read option. It proved to be far too much for the Bills D, who let Wilson in for a score three times in the first half. Add to that, a 10+ average from Marshwn Lynch, some more big catches from Sidney Rice and 2 picks of Ryan Fitzpatrick (Ok, everyone does that!). Seattle are the hottest team in the league at present, they even had time to unveil a fake punt routine long after the game had been decided. It may have been running up the score, but I doubt if Pete Carroll will be losing much sleep this week.
12. Defensive Player of the Year is Sewn Up
JJ Watt had 3 sacks on Sunday. It’s what he does. He also has an uncanny knack for swatting footballs, tackling anything that moves and generally making opposition offences lives a misery. The Houston offence is strong, but Watt is the difference maker. Wins over the Vikings and Colts will ensure 1st seed status for the Texans. 2 home wins from the Superbowl. Maybe 6 Watt sacks from the Superbowl?!
13. 2013 Could Be a Great Year for the Panthers
Cam Newton is playing like Can Newton v2011, Luke Kuechly is a strong contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Steve Smith still gets it done and this is a young team moving in the right direction. They had 6 sacks of Philip Rivers on Sunday, as well as recovering 2 fumbles and generally giving the Chargers QB a day to forget. The Panthers were expected to break out this year, but Newton and co had a slow start. Expectations will be high next season and maybe this time Carolina can live up to them.
14. 6 Wins Can Represent a Good Season
Hands up who thought Miami would win 6 games this season? Most peoples pick for 32nd spot, haven’t had a stellar year but they have made significant progress. Ryan Tannehill is showing signs of being the franchise QB for years to come, whilst the Defense have had a largely solid year. If the Dolphins can bring in a couple more offensive playmakers in the Draft and Free Agency they could be a force next time out. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic in Miami.
15. Ryan Lindlay Has Won a Game in the NFL
I have nothing to add.
Star of the Week – Drew Brees: 5 picks one week, 4 TDs the next. Brees has had a good season overall, but this week he needed a strong showing to show that last week in Atlanta was a blip. 26/39, 4 TDs and 307 yards = job done.
Flop of the Week – Josh Freeman: The Bucs lingering play off hopes were extinguished, partly thanks to the worst day of Freeman’s season. In truth Freeman has had a strong year, but his performance in New Orleans was a shocker. 4 interceptions plus a lost fumble is poor against anyone, but against the worst D in the NFL it was unforgivable. Freeman could do with a Bresesque bounceback this week.
Highlight of the Week – Award retired for one week due to writer’s bad mood.
Let’s hope week 16 is better!