Previewing NFL Week 16

The NFL is planning six national telecasts on Christmas weekend although one of them is on NFL Prime (49ers-Cards) on Saturday. There will be a late Christmas afternoon game, three on Saturday plus the usual Sunday and Monday night games.

But one of the feature games will be the Sunday doubleheader game pitting the Rams at the Seahawks. The Seahawks are 10-4 and the Rams at 9-5, so it is a pivotal game in the NFC West and could have implications for the top seed in the NFC.

The Seahawks and Saints are a game behind the 11-3 Packers in the battle for the top seed. The Packers are playing the Titans in the Sunday night game that is critical for both teams. The Titans are tied with the Colts at 10-4 in the AFC South. The Saints are hosting the Vikings in the Christmas day game.

—In the AFC, Buffalo, which is 11-3 and figures to beat New England Monday night, appears to be the only team that could stop the Chiefs from making the Super Bowl. The 13-1 Chiefs can wrap up the top seed in the AFC with a victory over Atlanta.

—Pittsburgh, the only team ever to lose three in a row after starting out 11-0, no longer appears to be a contender. It is even danger of losing the division title to the 10-4 Browns. The Browns have an easy game against the Jets while the Steelers have a tough one against the Colts. The division title could be decided in the regular season finale when the Browns and Steelers meet in Pittsburgh.

—Tom Brady’s old team, the Patriots, won’t have a winning season but he still has a good shot at a wild card spot if his new team, the Bucs, doesn’t catch the 10-4 Saints. The Bucs are 9-5 and play Detroit on Saturday and then Atlanta in the season finale. It would be ironic to have Brady going for a playoff spot against an Atlanta team that couldn’t hold a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl against him.

—The Jets’ upset win last week over the Rams probably cost them the top pick and Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars now get the top pick if they lose to the Bears Sunday and the Colts in the season finale.

NFL Week 15 in review

Any Given Sunday is the rock upon which the NFL was built – the idea that any team can beat any other team on Any Given Sunday.

It’s only true up to a point. Only five teams that were underdogs by 17 or more have won the game. And the fifth time was Sunday when the Jets upset the Rams for their first victory to probably cost themselves a shot at drafting Trevor Lawrence.

The Jets were even a bigger underdog in Super Bowl III and upset the Colts so they have two of the five victories by teams that were underdogs by 17 or more.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, the Steelers favored by 14, lost to the Bengals, becoming the first team to start 11-0 and then lose three in a row.

The NFL loves results like these to foster the idea that Any Given Sunday is real. Even though big favorites tend to win most of the time.

—The two big upsets overshadowed the game of the week as the Chiefs rallied to beat the Saints, 32-29, in what could be a Super Bowl preview. The Chiefs are now 13-1 after going 12-4 last year and are just the ninth Super Bowl team to improve its record over the previous season. Six had the same record and 39 had a worse record. They are also trying to become the eighth team to repeat. The Steelers did it twice. The Patriots were the last team to do it at the end of the 2003-2004 seasons. If there is any question about the Chiefs, is it that they have won six games in a row by one score. They blew out the Broncos 43-16 and the Jets 35-9 before they started the string of one score victories. But there are no style points in the NFL. A win is a win and the Chiefs are very good at winning.

—What’s wrong with the Steelers? That is the big question after they suffered their third straight loss to Cincinnati following an 11-0 start. Ben Roethlisberger has admitted he’s part of the problem, saying he has to play better.

—The Patriots dynasty is over following the loss to the Dolphins that left them 6-8 and guaranteed their first non-winning season in two decades. The New York Times compared the fall of the Patriots to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. A bit of hyperbole but the Patriots managed to win six Super Bowls over that two-decade span with Tom Brady at quarterback, who took the dynasty with him when he left for Tampa Bay. Bill Belichick never developed a quarterback to replace him and years of shaky personnel moves have eroded the team. It is rebuilding time now.

—If there is an AFC team that can keep the Chiefs out of the Super Bowl, it has to be Buffalo. The Bills boosted their record to 11-3 by thrashing the Denver Broncos. A Chiefs-Bills AFC title game seems likely but the Chiefs beat the Bills 26-17 on Oct. 19. The Bills are probably a better than they were two months ago but the Chiefs still figure to be team to beat in the Super Bowl.

Previewing NFL Week 15

This is one of the strangest weeks of the season as the NFL’s teams head down the stretch.

It’s usually a time for big matchups, and one of the biggest games of the season – Chiefs at Saint —will highlight the weekend.

But it won’t be in prime time, which probably means CBS protected it. It will be the Sunday doubleheader game and CBS won’t show another late afternoon game.

But it is the only game of the weekend in which both games have winning records.

So, the Browns-Giants game was flexed to Sunday night. Steelers-Bengals will be the Monday night game.

—That doesn’t mean some of the losing teams won’t pull upsets the way the Chargers did Thursday night to all but derail the Raiders playoff hopes, but the games don’t tend to be good national attractions. For example, the NFL had two Saturday games since the college season is winding down. But Buffalo-Denver and Carolina-Green Bay didn’t figure to attract big audiences. And they will be shown only on the NFL Network and the home markets of the four teams.

—CBS has five early games with Dallas-San Francisco shown in the western half of the country. Both have losing records so the game was flexed out of Sunday night, but the networks figure Dallas is always a draw. Four other games are sharing the eastern half – Miami-New England, Houston-Indianapolis, Jacksonville-Baltimore and Detroit-Tennessee.

—Hard to believe New England is one of the teams with a losing record at 6-7. A loss to Miami will probably dash their faint wild card playoff hopes. Tom Brady took the dynasty with him when he walked out the door although it didn’t help that Bill Belichick hasn’t made many good personnel moves in recent years and the Patriots face a rebuilding program.

—Fox has five games, all with at least one team having a losing record and one (Minnesota-Chicago) pits two teams with losing records at 6-7. Tampa-Atlanta, Seattle-Washington and Chicago-Minnesota are the early games with the Jets-Rams and Eagles-Cardinals the late games. One of the teams with a losing record, Washington, is actually in first place in the NFC Least at 6-7. Assuming the Football Club loses to Seattle and the Giants lose to Cleveland, Washington and the Giants will be 6-8 and 5-9 and Dallas could creep into the race at 5-9 by beating San Francisco. One of these NFC East teams will host a playoff game and even the Eagles at 4-8-1 aren’t out of it. It is easily the worst division in football.

—The 0-13 Jets and the 1-12 Jaguars figure to lose to the Rams and Ravens so the Jets will continue to lead the Trevor Lawrence Derby.

—So even though the rest of the schedule doesn’t have compelling games, the Saints-Chiefs game with Drew Brees returning to face Patrick Mahomes will be must watch TV since it could be a Super Bowl preview. The Saints have lost on the last play in the playoffs three years in a row and are eager to show they are Super Bowlcontender while the Chiefs are going for the first repeat since New England did it in 2003-2004. Both teams are fighting for the lone top seed and only bye in each conference. The Chiefs are 12-1 with a game lead on 11-2 Pittsburgh while the Saints are tied with Green Bay at 10-3 for top NFC seed.

NFL Week 14 in review

The Chiefs moved a step closer to getting the first seed in the AFC when they rallied to beat Miami and Buffalo handed Pittsburgh its second loss.

The Chiefs are now 12-1 with a possible Super Bowl preview coming up against the Saints. Pittsburgh is 11-2 with two consecutive losses and doesn’t look like a team destined for the Super Bowl.

The Steelers are coping with injuries on defense, have problems running the ball and Big Ben is struggling. Not a formula for beating the Chiefs in the playoffs.

–The Chiefs are now 8-1 when down by 10 points with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback after the win over Miami. It shows the Chiefs are never out of it. And Mahomes is on a roll going down the stretch. He has passed for 2,309 yards the last six games, the most in any six-game streak in NFL history. Drew Brees was second with 2,276 yards in 2012-13.

–The Bills are peaking down the stretch after their victory over Pittsburgh. If they win their first two playoff games, can they go into Arrowhead and beat the Chiefs in the AFC title game. With the Steelers at two losses, the Bills at three, three teams at four losses and two at five in the AFC, the odds are the Chiefs will get the top seed, win a home playoff game and then host the AFC title game. After their game at New Orleans, they will not play another road game unless or until they go to the Super Bowl. They close the season at home against Atlanta and the Chargers.

–Ring down the curtain on the Patriot dynasty. They were eliminated from contention for the AFC East division they owned for two decades with the loss to the Rams and the Bills win. The Patriots are 5-7 and will likely miss the playoffs. And they don’t have a quarterback of the future and have a lot of holes because GM Bill belichick hasn’t done a good job of drafting for coach Bill Belichick. And for the last two decades, none of the other three teams has had an elite quarterback. Now the Bills have Josh Allen and the Dolphins have Tua with Trevor Lawrence probably heading to the Jets. How long is Belichick going to continue coaching? He should have retired when Tom Brady walked out the door.

–Speaking of Brady, Tampa Bay is now 8-5 after the win over the Vikings. The key was that the Bucs ran 26 times and Brady threw 23 times. The emphasis on the running game makes the play action passes more effective. Brady has a better chance to make the playoffs than the Patriots do.

–The Saints finally lost a game without Drew Brees to a Philadelphia team that benched Carson Wentz. The Saints had won their last eight games without Brees. The Eagles gave rookie Jalen Hurts his first start and he gave them a running threat as he rushed for 106 yards in 18 carries to help the Eagles upset the Saints. The only other quarterback to rush for 100 yards in his first start was Lamar Jackson. Hurts performances now raises questions about Wentz’ future. For now, Hurts is the quarterback.

–The Washington football team took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East at 6-7 as they upset the 49ers and the Giants had their four-game winning streak snapped by the loss to the Cardinals. With the Giants at 5-8, the Eagles at 4-8-1 and the Cowboys at 4-9, the race is still wide open in the NFC Least.

–After Baltimore won Monday night at Cleveland, road teams are 104-103-1 (neutral site game), which shows the lack has fans has diluted the home field edge.

–Baltimore not only won with a game winning 55-yard field goal by Justin Tucker but they covered the spread with a safety on the last play. The Ravens were favored by three or 3 ½, which meant the Browns would get a push or a cover. But the Browns tried several laterals on the final play and the Ravens got a safety to cover. A double loss for Browns fans.

Previewing NFL Week 14

One dynasty is apparently over and another one may be on the cusp of starting.

The Patriots lost Thursday night to the Rams, a team that was outcoached and overmatched in the recent Super Bowl loss to New England, showed the Patriots’ 45-0 thrashing of the Chargers was a mirage. The Patriots are no longer a contender.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs continue on the road to a repeat. Pittsburgh’s stunning loss to Washington opens the door for the Chiefs to get the top seed.

—The premier game of the week is the Sunday night matchup of the Bills and Steelers. Are the Bills for real? Are the Steelers not as good as their record? This game will tell us a lot.Meanwhile, the Chiefs figure to beat the Dolphins to remain the team to beat in the AFC for a Super Bowl berth.

—The Jets fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after his all-out blitz cost them the loss to the Raiders. Now they are four losses away from getting the No. 1 pick and Trevor Lawrence. They visit Seattle in what is likely to be a mismatch.

—Meanwhile, the Jaguars remain a game behind the Jets in the race for the top pick and they figure to lose to the Titans to remain entrenched in the second spot and a chance to pick Justin Fields.
–The Washington football club and Giants are tied for first place in the NFC East at 5-7 and both figure to lose to fall to 5-8. But if they both lose, it keeps the Giants on track to win the division because they have the tie break by virtue of sweeping the Washington team. Washington has the tougher task vs. San Francisco in Arizona. The Giants host the Cardinals.

—The Saints and Packers seem to have the best Super Bowl shot in the NFC and both are on the road. The Saints have the easier game at Philadelphia, which has benched Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts, while the Packers figure to beat the Lions. The Saints are 10-2 and the Packers at 9-3. It won’t matter if the Saints are looking ahead to next week’s game against the Chiefs. But given New Orleans recent playoff history, nobody will be surprised if they falter again in the playoffs and don’t make the Super Bowl.