Game Of The Week:
It wasn’t all his fault.
After all, the Cowboys defense allowed the fallen-from-grace Matt Flynn to march the struggling Packers to five straight second half touchdowns. No, it wasn’t all his fault, but Tony Romo’s two fourth quarter interceptions sure made it look like he was behind Dallas’s improbable come from ahead loss.
Romo is truly the league’s number one enigma. He puts up monster numbers season after season, but somehow he’s always got Cowboys fans looking for more come wintertime.
The Good: Romo has over three times (44) the number of career 300+ yard games than Cowboy great Troy Aikman (13), which is good for 10th all-time. He’s also #5 in all-time passer rating (96.6) and 6th in yards per attempt (8.0). He’s had 32 games with 3+ TD passes, and even after Sunday’s pair of ugly interceptions, in 2013 he’s thrown 29 TDs to only 9 INTs.
The Bad: Tony Romo has now dropped his December/January record to (13-21), and what’s even worse is that he’s (1-3) in the playoffs as a starter, and dropped three more contests where a playoff appearance was on the line. His head coach recently defended the QB by stating that teams, not players, win playoff and “win-or-go-home” type games, but this is hogwash, Tony Romo finds a way to lose when it really counts. He’s a great quarterback, but when it’s all on the line, he’s not a winner.
The Ugly: The Romo led Cowboys squandered a 26-3 halftime lead over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday en route to an embarrassing 37-36 loss at home. While his overall stat line was less indicative of an implosion (358 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) it was the fact that both of Romo’s picks came in the last three minutes of the game and both turnovers producing throws, should never have been attempted.
The Packers-Cowboys game was easily the Game of the Week and those who stuck it out and watched the whole thing were rewarded dearly.
Dallas had built a 26-3 halftime lead on 4 Dan Bailey field goals, a 1-yard DeMarco Murray scoring run, and a 25-yard Romo to Witten touchdown pass.
The ‘Boys were walking all over Green Bay and seemed to be able to run the ball at will during the first two quarters, which is why Jason Garrett’s game plan to pass, pass, pass in the second half seemed to be misaligned with Dallas’s best interests. As Matt Flynn marched his team up and down the field for score after score (Flynn threw for 4 TDs), the Cowboys continued to throw the ball again and again, keeping time on the clock and handing possession back over to Flynn and the Packers offense.
Once Green Bay had cut the deficit to 5 points at 29-24, Romo finally lit a fire under his offense and capped an 80-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. But with the Cowboys once again in the driver’s seat the Packers just kept on pushing.
With James Jones’ 3-yard scoring grab, Green Bay was back within 5 at 36-31, and with 4:17 left on the clock all the Cowboys needed to do was bust out a couple first downs and run it out. But instead, Dallas only ran the ball once in the series and Romo’s short pass to Miles Austin was intercepted over the middle, giving the ball back to the Packers in Dallas territory.
Eddie Lacy went up the middle from one yard out on the ensuing drive, and after a failed 2 point conversion Green Bay held their first lead of the game at 37-36.
With 1:31 to go, Romo would have one more chance to redeem himself and get his team within Dan Bailey’s field goal range (who had already kicked a pair of 50 yarders on the day), but after a short gain to Beasley, the Packers sealed the win with their 2nd INT in as many possessions, tying the greatest comeback in franchise history.
Performance Of The Week:
Jamaal. Charles. Went. Off.
Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 195 yards and 5 touchdowns (RECEIVING!). He took it to the house from 16, 39, 49, and 71-yards out through the air and added another 20-yards with a touchdown on the ground.
His 5 scores tied a franchise record and helped Kansas City become the 4th team ever to make the playoffs following a season with 14 or more losses. After dropping three straight, the now (11-3) Chiefs have won two straight in commanding fashion and are reasserting themselves as a potential AFC powerhouse come the post-season.
Sure, the AFC leading Broncos have taken down the Chiefs twice in 2013, but after losing to the Chargers on Thursday Night Football, it is becoming more and more clear that Denver is not the unbeatable juggernaut they looked to be during the first half of the season. After all, December’s here and Peyton Manning’s fingers are aching in the cold.
Which leads us to.
Biggest Upset Of The Week:
Upsets abound in week 15.
Miami came out on top 24-20 against their AFC East rivals New England to solidify their Wild Card chances. Pittsburgh also kept their slim (very slim) hopes alive by manhandling Cincy 30-20. Minnesota put the hurt on Philly 48-30 with their third string running back scoring on three separate occasions. New Orleans continued their road woes, falling in St. Louis 27-16, and yes, Denver lost to San Diego at home.
The Chargers were able to manage the upset through the use of ball control. Phillip Rivers kept San Diego on offense for 39 minutes, which only left 21 for Manning and the potent Broncos offense to do their stuff. Ryan Matthews was key to this strategy as he gained 127 yards on 29 attempts, grinding out yards and winding down the clock. Matthews also scored from 23-yards out.
Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen caught a pair of Rivers’ passes for scores of 10 and 19-yards. Add two Novak FGs and you’ve got a 27-20 win and a whole lot of shocked fans at Mile High Stadium.
With New England and Cincy both losing in games they were heavily favored as well, the Broncos will remain in the driver’s seat for home field advantage. However, the loss definitely showed some chinks in the once dominant team’s armor.
What To Look Forward To Next Week:
The Arizona Cardinals are (9-5) but still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race. They’ll need to come up with a huge upset at Century Link Field against a Seattle team that just came off a 23-0 shutout performance. Add to the degree of difficulty that Russell Wilson has never lost at home.
The Panthers will get a second crack at the Saints, this time at home, with their eyes set on the NFC South crown. After New Orleans easily handled Carolina in the Super Dome the division race looked all but over, but now, after losing on Sunday to the Rams, both teams are at (10-4) and with a win the Panthers can take the lead and control their own destiny.
The Colts and the Chiefs battle in what could be a preview of a potential playoff match-up.
Dallas needs a rebound victory big time as they travel to Washington to take on Kirk Cousins and the Redskins.
The Bears-Eagles game should be a high scoring affair, featuring two teams with poor defense and high hopes for winning out and heading to the playoffs.
Week 14 prediction results: (2-0) The Cardinals tried to throw this one away against the Titans, but after Arizona allowed Tennessee to score 17 points in the final three minutes of the game to tie (including the recovery of an onside kick) they buckled down and won in OT on a Jay Feeley FG 37-34.
I also called the Dolphins-Pats game, although I’ll admit that this was just as much that I wanted these results more than I used my predictive powers to foresee them.
Pick of the week: Saints 31 – 21 Panthers.
I’d like to see a changing of the guard here, but Brees and the Saints figure out how to win on the road and put up way more points than Carolina generally allows.
Upset of the week: Bills 30 – Dolphins 28.
A week after their emotional win against the Patriots, the Dolphins drop this one in bitter Buffalo cold.
“Well, we’ve always got next year.”
These are the most painful words that can be uttered by an NFL fan, perhaps only trumped by “At least we’ll get a good draft pick.”
It may be a wee bit early, but now that the Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot after going (2-14) in 2012, let’s take a sneak peak at what fans of these guaranteed losing-record teams have to look forward to in 2014.
Buffalo Bills (5-9)—Early in the season E.J. Manuel looked like the real deal, but since returning from injury he’s looked more like a rookie. C.J. Spiller is a legitimate big play threat on offense, and Buffalo is ranked #15 in total defense. With the Patriots showing fissures, the Jets still in disarray, and the Dolphins playing up-and-down, the Bills could play a factor next season in the East. However, an (8-8) season would be a victory for this long-suffering franchise.
Cleveland Browns (4-10)— I really like the Browns. Sure, four wins is really bad, but the Browns are 8th in total defense and 14th in total offense, so they really are better than their record indicates. If they can get steady QB play in 2014 and Josh Gordon stays healthy, the Browns could be the surprise team in the AFC and challenge Cincinnati for the division.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)—Considering the fact that the Jags were once considered the worst team in football, four wins is a sign of progress. Chad Henne will not be the answer under center, but we’ll see a more competitive team next season. That being said, we’re looking at more like six wins spread out over the year, and not a playoff run.
Houston Texans (2-12)—What happened? This is a team that was recently considered a contender. Houston’s success moving forward will all hinge on Matt Schaub’s confidence. If he’s able to get his groove back, so will the Texans, but if not then it will be time to cut ties and move on to a new era. Clearly this team has too much talent to lose this many games again in 2014, but the damage may be too deep for them to truly compete for the division as early as next year.
Oakland Raiders (4-10)—Now that Pryor has come back down to Earth and Matt McGloin’s beginner’s luck has run out, the Silver and Black are back to where they’ve been ever since Rich Gannon led them to the Super Bowl, and this is, without a legitimate quarterback. They probably won’t have one next season either, so expect more of the same, especially in the deep AFC West.
New York Giants (5-9)—Similar to Houston, Eli Manning needs to get back on track. He’s got more INTs this year than in any other season, and there are still two more games to go. The Giants are a team that doesn’t stay down for long. Without any real leader emerging in the NFC East, Tom Coughlin could be back in the playoffs with a ho-hum team in 2014.
Washington Redskins (3-11)—The RGIII debacle highlights a team in a tailspin. Next season will most likely see a new head coach take the helm and a whole new philosophy. Will a fully healthy RGIII fare better in 2014? Probably a little bit, but the read-option is dead and so Griffin may not be quite the superstar that we all thought he would be. He’ll have to prove he can play under adversity.
Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1)—This is a tough team to figure out, but in the topsy-turvy NFC North, they could make waves if Matt Cassel (or anyone for that matter) decides to play consistent football under center. With Adrian Peterson on your side, a few key pieces are all you really need.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)—This team will be A LOT better in 2014. With Mike Glennon getting a full off-season of preparation and all the pre-season reps, he could be the long-term answer that Josh Freeman wasn’t. Look for the Bucs to at least get to .500 next year, but possibly make waves.
Atlanta Falcons (4-10)—Last season the Falcons were one score from the Super Bowl. All the key pieces are still there. Nothing is a guarantee in the NFL, but they should be back in the hunt next season.