NFL Week 13 Recap: 5 Things I Think
1- The AFC West has become a race to the bottom, but somebody has to win
It feels like we’ve mostly been paying attention to the NFC playoff race over the past few weeks, probably because it features more and better teams. While we were ignoring a woeful AFC, however, some interesting story lines have developed. Suddenly the once-dominant Chiefs find themselves in an unthinkable three-way tie for first in the AFC West. While the wheels have completely come off in KC (and Denver, since we’re talking AFC West), the Raiders and Chargers have cobbled together some less-than-horrible football. Winning the division will be the only playoff ticket here as a wild card berth from this division seems unlikely. It’s hard to imagine any of these teams getting to 10 wins which is probably going to be the cutoff as the AFC South runner up (Titans or Jags) will probably get there as may . . .
2- The team I said I didn’t want to write about again in 2017, the Baltimore Ravens
By dominating the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday, Baltimore won its third straight and leapt into the AFC’s final playoff spot. The defense has been methodical (we all know about the three shutouts so far this season), but it’s the recent strides of the offense that’s been a surprise. The Ravens don’t play pretty football, but they benefit from a soft final four games where they’ll be favorites in three (@ Cleveland, vs. Indy, vs. Cincy) after taking on the hated Steelers on SNF in Week 14—a game that suddenly doesn’t seem like a horrible prime time watch. Cornerback Jimmy Smith was lost for the season on Sunday with a strange torn Achilles/PED suspension combo, but Baltimore will be fine as long as Joe Flacco keeps snacking on Ws!
3- From the playoff-bound, we transition to the head coach-less
Part of this is technically a Monday item since it was today that the New York Giants announced that they had fired their coach and GM after a listless performance against the Oakland Raiders in which Eli Manning carried the hell out of a clipboard. Geno Smith led the offense to just 265 total yards, but you have to think the Giants kinda already knew what they had there. Chris outlined the lunacy of this situation in picking this contest (a pick he crushed, by the way). McAdoo was wrong and he paid with his job. Just a year after going 11-5 in his debut year as a head coach, he fails to make it through the entire season with an organization that has virtually no history of this kind of shake up during the regular season. When Eli starts for the Giants next week his 210 start streak will be history and that’s an embarrassment. The Giants probably should have fired McAdoo before he got on the plane ride home from the West Coast.
4- And now to a team that might be headed in the right direction
I’m talking about the feel-good 49ers, who have won two of three and are undefeated with Handsome Jimmy Garropolo as their starting QB! Ok, San Fran isn’t out of the woods yet, but they went on the road to Chicago and upset the Bears (just like Chris said). Jimmy played pretty well limiting mistakes and controlling the clock to the tune of a 17 minute advantage in time of possession, but the twofold story was the dominance of the 49ers defense, which allowed just 165 total yards, and former Bears kicker Robbie Gould who was perfect on the day and accounted for all his team’s points in the 15-14 win. Obviously you can’t go back and replay the season, but I want to remind everyone that this team had a five week stretch where it lost five times by a TOTAL of 13 points, literally the unluckiest streak in league history. With some high selections in next year’s draft, they might not be too far away from competing. (Of course, good luck playing Wilson and Goff twice a year for the foreseeable future.)
5- Flaring tempers, lingering grudges, and poor sportsmanship
I’m not one to get outraged about this stuff because, in the end, it really is just a game, but I saw some troubling behavior on the field this week. Admittedly the shenanigans I’m talking about today aren’t related to wide receivers fighting defensive backs which at least represents a change from recent weeks, but it’s a bad look for a bunch of “professionals.” My three offenders of the week in order of least serious to most serious:
Petty: Miami Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase. The former Broncos assistant has been holding a grudge against Denver GM John Elway for years because he feels like Elway didn’t do enough to help him get a head coaching gig. With his team up 33-9 in the fourth quarter, Coach Gase called for an onside kick ostensibly to embarrass his former boss and run up the score. Gase has since claimed that he was sending a message to his team that you always have to keep your foot on the pedal, but we all know that’s bogus. This was a petty act in a meaningless game between two bad football teams and, while no written rule was violated, it was a classless move and smacks of poor sportsmanship.
Stupid but funny: Kansas City Chiefs Cornerback Marcus Peters. In a moment of sheer frustration in the fourth quarter of an embarrassingly bad defensive performance by his team, Peters picked up a penalty flag off the playing surface and launched it into the stands. Hilariously he assumed he had been ejected from the game and bolted for the locker room only to find out that he had not been tossed. Peters returned to the field and played the remainder of the game with no socks on, perhaps further evidence that he straight up lost his mind. As Danny Kelly of The Ringer wrote, the entire sequence was just amazing to behold.
Completely unacceptable: New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski. Gronk played very well as the Patriots cruised to an easy win over the Buffalo Bills, but he’s extremely lucky not to have been ejected for an egregious cheap shot. As Bills defensive back Tre’Davious White lay facedown on the sideline after intercepting a pass intended for the Pats’ TE, Gronk went all WWE dropping a forearm on the back of his head and concussing him. The attack (not a hit) took place well after the whistle and was clearly done out of malice. Gronkowski has since been suspended one game which I think is an absolutely travesty. If Danny Trevathan’s hit on a defenseless receiver warranted a two game suspension (later reduced to one on appeal), that has to be the absolute minimum for Gronk who deliberate hit a downed player in the back of the head long after the play was over. I guess the league will just never get it right when it comes to justice for the Patriots.