STORYLINES TO FOLLOW AFTER WEEK FIFTEEN
What a week this was for the NFL. They had a great game on Thursday night with the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers. Someone just needs to keep an eye on which hat Jon Gruden puts on before heading out to the field from now on. That event alone is the Raiders season in a nutshell. On Saturday the Buffalo Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and the Bills Mafia celebrated accordingly when the team plane landed back in Buffalo. Tompa Bay had another classic come back in the second half to beat the Atlanta Falcons and keep things rolling as they fight for a better playoff ranking.
The New York Jets finally win but it comes with the cost of Trevor Lawrence. It’s nice to see them not go completely defeated, but now they have to really figure what the future holds for them and Sam Darnold. What will they do with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft? Will the Jacksonville Jaguars accidentally win another game and gift, Trevor Lawrence, back to the Jets?
The Chicago Bears are almost in the playoffs and they actually have a real shot at making it after this bizarre season. If the offense can keep things rolling this way with the run game and Mitchell Trubisky taking care of the football they should have no problem beating the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then they play the Green Bay Packers who are most likely resting their starters in Week 17 meaning the Bears starters should beat the Packers backups.
This all relies on what the Arizona Cardinals do though as they currently hold the 7th seed at 8-6. They face the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams the next two weeks and if the 49ers can efficiently run the football, we can expect them to win that game. The Rams are also be fighting for the NFC West division title and will be playing their starters in Week 17 in hopes of hosting a playoff game.
Sam Darnold will play at a pro bowl level next season. Whether it is with the New York Jets or another team like the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets have some serious decisions to make this offseason and it starts at quarterback. Are they willing to give Darnold another year with more weapons around him and a better offensive line? Joe Douglas hit on his first two draft picks in 2020 and we can expect him to do it again as they hold multiple picks inside the top 35 selections of the 2021 NFL Draft. Douglas will put the right guys on this team to help them compete next season and if he gives Darnold another chance we could see a different version of the New York Jets next year.
Darnold has the talent to play quarterback in the NFL, he just needs the help from his receivers and protection from his offensive line. We have seen flashes of it, but nothing has been very consistent from this team the past two seasons. Once Douglas puts more talent on this team we will see a better version of Darnold.
The Philadelphia Eagles have something with Jalen hurts. This is his team now and it shows with the way his teammates rally around him after plays. They love the difference he brings to this team. Now the front office for the Eagles has to find a way to move on from the contract they gave Carson Wentz. This is the end for Wentz in Philly, but not his career. He will have an opportunity to be ‘the guy’ for another franchise next year. Hopefully, it’s in a locker room that will respect him and want to play with him.
Below is a look at my NFL Power Rankings after Week Fifteen.
32. NEW YORK JETS (1-13) — LAST WEEK 32
They finally did it. The New York jets surprised the world and won a game. The problem is they now miss out on a generational talent at quarterback with Trevor Lawrence. Now the fan base is wondering what the team does with the second overall pick. Do they go, quarterback, offensive line, or trade back to obtain more draft capital?
31. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (1-13) — LAST WEEK 31
The Jacksonville Jaguars are high on life this week. The New York Jets just gave the Jaguars the best Christmas gift in the world; a franchise quarterback. Trevor Lawrence is heading to Jacksonville as long as the Jaguars don’t win another game!
30. DETROIT LIONS (5-9) — LAST WEEK 27
Let’s just be honest with ourselves here. The Detroit Lions did not stand a chance this week against the Tennessee Titans. The Lions are falling apart like crazy and the Titans are only getting stronger.
29. ATLANTA FALCONS (4-10) — LAST WEEK 28
The Atlanta Falcons cannot escape the curse of having a big lead against Tom Brady. The man just has a way of coming back against this team in the second half. We cannot overlook the fact that the Falcons got a big lead on the Tampa Bay Buccanneers though. They might get the victory in week 17.
28. CINCINNATI BENGALS (3-10-1) — LAST WEEK 30
The Cincinnati Bengals are going down fighting this season. It is nice to see that fire be there for them this late in the year after the number of injuries they have been dealing with. The defense stepped up big on Monday night and the offense did their part as well to seal the win. Now they just need to finish the year with a big win against the Baltimore Ravens.
27. HOUSTON TEXANS (4-10) — LAST WEEK 26
Deshaun Watson has all the talent in the world but has no one else around him to help. The man can only do so much this season. The Texans are in serious trouble after the situation Bill O’Brien left the franchise with. They have no money, no draft picks, and injury-prone talent. It will take this team another two years before they are in the clear from what BoB did.
26. DENVER BRONCOS (5-9) — LAST WEEK 24
The Denver Broncos struggled to move the ball against the Buffalo Bills defense on Saturday and they did not do themselves any favors by fumbling the ball twice on Saturday. The Broncos are a young team and losses like this are going to happen. Take them as learning lessons and build on the weaknesses for next week.
25. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-9) — LAST WEEK 25
Justin Herbert has had back to back weeks of leading a game-winning drive for the Los Angeles Chargers. It was another good game by Herbert as he threw for over 300 yards on Thursday night. The Chargers are going to be a fun team to watch with Herbert being the guy.
24. DALLAS COWBOYS (5-10) — LAST WEEK 29
This has been an embarrassing season for the Dallas Cowboys. They picked up a nice win this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers, but just moved down four spots in the NFL Draft. The Cowboys have some serious decisions to make this offseason and in the draft. Do they go defense in the draft or do they replace their aging offensive line?
23. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-8) — LAST WEEK 21
For the first time since 2008, the New England Patriots have been eliminated from the playoffs. Bill Belichick knew this season was going to be tough because they spent so much money over the last five years making runs at the Super Bowl. They still fought in every game though and will be in a position to find a quarterback next season.
22. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-9) — LAST WEEK 22
The San Francisco 49ers are putting themselves in a position to get a quarterback for the future as they drop another game this week. The defense has been able to remain stout even with all of their injuries this season and the offense is filled with playmakers when healthy. The only thing they are missing is a real quarterback!
21. CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-10) — LAST WEEK 20
The Carolina Panthers played the Green Bay Packers closer than most would have assumed. The defense did struggle to stop the run, but their defense is young and still needs to build on the depth for their defensive line. This offense was missing Christian McCaffrey on Saturday, but at least they are in a perfect position to draft a quarterback for the future.
20. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-9-1) — LAST WEEK 23
This is Jalen Hurt’s team now. Say what you will about Carson Wentz but his time in Philadelphia is now over. The Eagles have a new sense of life as they continue to fight for the NFC East. Dough Pederson is probably wishing he would have made this change weeks ago.
19. NEW YORK GIANTS (5-9) — LAST WEEK 18
The New York Giants were too beat up to evenly compete with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. This team has shown life this late in the year though and it will be something for them to be excited about as they prepare for the draft and next season.
18. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-8) — LAST WEEK 17
Minnesota had no answer for David Montgomery on Sunday as the man ran all over them. The offense also struggled against the Bears defense and by the time they found their rhythm it was too late. The Minnesota Vikings are still in the race for a playoff spot though, so they have to bounce back quickly.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (7-7) — LAST WEEK 15
Derek Carr going down with an injury early in the game really hurt them moving forward but Marcus Mariota did his part by stepping in and keeping them in the game to eventually send it to overtime. Darren Waller is one of the best tight ends in the NFL and he proved it again with a 9 reception, 150 yard game on Thursday. The Raiders have completely fallen apart this season. They have to find a way to remain consistent from week-to-week next year.
16. CHICAGO BEARS (7-7) — LAST WEEK 19
What are the Chicago Bears? This team has found life again and a big reason is because of David Montgomery. The man has been playing on another level this last month of the season and he did so again on Sunday as he rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears have to find a way to build upon this offensive production going into next year.
15. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (6-8) — LAST WEEK 16
The Washington Football team will need Alex Smith back if they want to win the NFC East. If Smith would have been cleared play on Sunday, they could have upset the Seahawks. Luckily they are still sitting atop the division as the Giants and Eagles lost this week too.
14. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-5) — LAST WEEK 13
Tom Brady really is the GOAT. The man knows how to lead a comeback and did so once again on Sunday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are being exposed by bad teams lately and need to find a way to stay on track and play a full game of disciplined football.
13. MIAMI DOLPHINS (9-5) — LAST WEEK 14
The Miami Dolphins are so close to clinching a playoff spot this season. This defense is the real deal as they continue to force turnovers every week. Once the Dolphins have an offense to match their defense, lookout.
12. ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-6) — LAST WEEK 12
It was not the cleanest win in the NFL on Sunday but as we say, a win is a win. The Cardinals are starting to find their groove again and have inched their way back into the playoff picture. If they can end the year with a couple more wins against the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams they will head into the playoffs with a ten-win season and a good playoff ranking.
11. LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-5) — LAST WEEK 7
Are. You. Serious. The Jets. YOU LOST TO THE JETS! HOW? It does not make sense how you let a team like the New York Jets — who were trying to lose games — beat you. This is an embarrassing loss. Forget the “It is the NFL, anything can happen” talk. No. This is a Super Bowl contending team in the Los Angeles Rams and you lost to the Jets. They have two huge matchups to end the season with the Seattle Seahawks the Arizona Cardinals. They cannot afford any more losses right now.
10. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-4) — LAST WEEK 11
The Indianapolis Colts are the team to watch moving forward in the AFC. Everything is clicking for them and they will be rolling into the playoffs on fire. The defense is making plays, the offense is moving the ball downfield efficiently, and yet, it feels like no one is talking about them.
9. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-5) — LAST WEEK 10
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens had their way with Jacksonville on Sunday. They are finally starting to get their groove back and put points on the board. They have an opportunity to keep things rolling as they face the New York Giants and the Cinncanatti Bengals in the next two weeks.
8. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-3) — LAST WEEK 4
Has someone told JuJu Smith-Schuster no more dancing on the opposing team’s logo yet? This is three straight losses for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they are starting to crumble. Big Ben did not look like himself this game and the arm is looking tired. Multiple turnovers don’t help and neither does the number of injuries this team is dealing with. The Steelers are falling down a steep hill right now.
7. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-4) — LAST WEEK 5
It was clear that Drew Brees was not feeling 100% on Sunday. He was missing throws and even looked hesitant at times. The defense did all they could to contain the Kansas City Chiefs offense but after awhile it was too much. The playoffs are right around the corner, so the Saints need to get everyone back and ready to roll.
6. CLEVELAND BROWNS (10-4) — LAST WEEK 9
Well well well would you look at this. The Cleveland Browns could seriously win the AFC North. They are playing sound football and Baker Mayfield is taking care of the ball. They are dealing with some injuries to their defense, so if they do not win the north this season, they surely could next year.
5. TENNESSEE TITANS (10-4) — LAST WEEK 8
The Tennessee Titans are going to be a tough team to stop in the playoffs. The way Derrick Henry is murdering people with his stiff arm is not fair. Ryan Tannehill is playing great too and the Titans defense is stacked. They are going to be a problem once again. Don’t be surprised if the AFC Championship is a repeat of last season.
4. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-4) — LAST WEEK 6
The Seattle Seahawks have put themselves in the playoffs and for the first time in a couple of years, they may actually have their running backs healthy. They have faced a lot of adversity this season and it has primed them for a real run at the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are the real deal.
3. BUFFALO BILLS (11-3) — LAST WEEK 3
They did it! They won the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Josh Allen and this offense had it clicking on Saturday as they completely dismantled the Denver Broncos. Allen has put himself back in the MVP discussion and if he keeps this up the next couple of weeks, he might win it.
2. GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-3) — LAST WEEK 2
Aaron Rodgers did not have the best game statistically but the Green Packers proved they could win a game by running the ball. This is the Packers sending a message to the NFC by showing they can win in the air and on the ground. The Packers are going to be a problem in the playoffs this season.
1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (13-1) — LAST WEEK 1
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs had to fight till the end once again this week. The New Orleans Saints did everything they could on defense to slow down the Chiefs but it still was not enough. We know this offense is filled with weapons, but the offensive line did just enough to help the team pick up another win. Mahomes took big some shots, but the Chiefs have shown they have reliable depth along their offensive line to match up with the best defensive line in the NFL.
Week Fifteen Awards:
Offensive Player of the Week: David Montgomery | 33 touches | 162 Tot Yds | 2 TD’s
Defensive Player of the Week: Devin White| 12 Tackles | 3 Sacks
Rookie of the Week: Jalen Hurts | 24/44 | 338 Yds | 4 TD’s
Coach of the Week: Sean McDermott | The Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East for first time since 1995