NFL Week Fourteen After Action Report (AAR)

Injuries continue to take their toll on the National Football League as rising star Carson Wentz exits his contest with the Rams early after suffering a knee injury. Later, the Eagles confirmed the injury to be a season-ending ACL tear meaning the Eagles post-season aspirations are in jeopardy with backup Nick Foles hoping he can fill in the void left by Wentz. This weekend the Texans lost a second quarterback this season when Tom Savage suffered a concussion, a situation that also raised questions about the NFL’s concussion protocol procedure after Savage returned to the field prematurely before exiting the game a second time.

Let’s take a look at how some of the other teams fared this weekend.

Brad’s Picks

Dallas Cowboys (6-6) @ New York Giants (2-10); Line: ‘Boys by 2.5

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Giants 16

Outcome: Cowboys 30, Giants 10

Did they cover? Yes

The Cowboys covered the spread comfortably and picked up a critical road win at the expense of Big Blue. Dak was much better posting a 137 passer rating and Dez actually made a big play! The score line is a little deceptive here since it was 10-10 entering the fourth quarter, but Dallas amassed 454 yards of total offense and converted 50% of its third down attempts. Welcoming back middle linebacker Sean Lee, the Cowboys defense pulled its weight as well keeping the Giants in check all afternoon. Thanks to injuries, the Giants continue to lack offensive explosiveness getting just one play longer than 20 yards; a 35-yard reception by rookie tight end Evan Engram.

The Cowboys head to Oakland this week for a Sunday Night Football matchup that essentially amounts to a playoff elimination game (even though both teams are on the outside looking in as things currently stand). Next up for the Giants: Nick “Napoleon Dynamite” Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles!

Tennessee Titans (8-4) @ Arizona Cardinals (5-7); Line: Titans by 3

Prediction: Titans 23, Cardinals 20

Outcome: Titans 7, Cardinals 12

Did they cover? No

My apprehension in selecting the Titans was well placed as they played a lifeless, snoozer of a game losing 12-7 in the desert. Tennessee managed just 204 total yards and Marcus Mariota was outplayed by Blaine Gabbert. I mentioned the playmakers for the Titans, but Henry and Murray were ineffective in the run game and Adoree’ Jackson didn’t figure into the game plan at all. Kerwynn Williams was the unlikely workhorse for the Arizona offense carrying the ball 20 times. He was just effective enough to help Arizona dominate time of possession which was key in keeping the defense fresh. Guess I should have learned my lesson last week about picking road favorites.

Amazingly the Titans still hold a full game lead for the AFC’s top wild card slot meaning they control their playoff destiny, however they’ll need to fix a lot of things in order to navigate a tough final three weeks (@ SF, LAR, JAX). The Cardinals go to 6-7 and are really only hurting their draft position at this point. They will be an underdog again next week as they make the cross country trip to DC where the sky is falling on the 5-8 Redskins.

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2); Line: Stillers by 4.5

Prediction: Steelers 24, Ravens 20

Outcome: Steelers 39, Ravens 38

Did they cover? No

This was a hell of a game that saw Pittsburgh take its final lead with just 42 seconds left to play. I thought we were seeing that revitalized Steeler team that I wrote about as they jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but they soon slipped back into the malaise that has plagued them for stretches during the last five weeks. Historically we think of bone jarring hits and dominant defense when we talk about these AFC North rivals, but offense was the story of the day as Pittsburgh outgained the Ravens 545-413 behind Big Ben’s 3rd career 500+ yard game. Antonio Brown was essentially unstoppable prompting this piece from Chris, and the Steelers basically abandoned the run game after falling behind by 11 (they called 67 pass plays to just 15 run plays). The story for the Ravens was 2nd year running back Alex Collins who tortured the Steeler defense with 120 yards on 18 carries.

The Ravens fall to 7-6 and out of the current playoff picture, but still have a reasonable shot of getting in. They’ll be favored in each of their remaining games (@ CLE, IND, CIN) and just need the Bills—who finish their schedule with a road game in New England bookended by two games against Miami—to stumble once. Meanwhile Pittsburgh finds itself in the driver’s seat in the AFC with the Dolphins pulling off the shocking upset at home against the Patriots on MNF. The Steelers welcome the Patriots to Heinz Field on Sunday in what many will be calling an AFC Championship preview, but have a light schedule the final two weeks.

Week Fourteen Accuracy: 2-1
Overall Accuracy: 24-10

Chris’s Picks

Each of my picks seemed to reinforce my thoughts, but the outcomes came out unfavorably anyway. Let me know how dumb I am in the comments!

Minnesota Vikings (10-2) @ Carolina Panthers (8-4); Line: Vikes by 2.5

Prediction: Vikings 31, Panthers 21

Outcome: Vikings 24, Panthers 31

Did they cover? No

Case Keenum has only thrown two interceptions in the last four weeks, they both came on Sunday against the Panthers. He also lost a fumble to Luke Kuechly and company making it a three turnover affair for the usually airtight Vikings. Despite his turnovers, Keenum still made it a game with a second half comeback, before falling short in disappointing fashion. In my pick on Friday, I told you the Panthers defense needed to step up for them to win and they did. More than just the three takeovers they came up with a big stop late, after the Vikings intercepted a pass from Cam Newton and returned it to the six-yard-line.

I also mentioned Cam Newton not being in sync with his receivers and that would continue to be a struggle against this elite Vikings defense and that proved true. Newton was only able to throw for 137 yards and one touchdown in their victory. Again, don’t let the 216 yards of ground offense fool you, Jonathan Stewart did have a big day for the Panthers to the tune of 103 yards and three touchdowns, but this was Minnesota’s game to lose, and lose they did. They allowed Newton to break off a 62 yard run late in the fourth to put them in scoring distance with just two minutes to go. The eventual touchdown that followed put the Panthers up right at the end of regulation.

I still don’t believe Cam Newton’s extended runs are a sustainable way to win championships, but again, I can’t argue with the short term results. Despite his inability to throw the ball, he won the game late for this team in a close contest by outlasting the Vikings vaunted defense.

New York Jets (5-7) @ Denver Broncos (3-9); Line: Jets by 1.5

Prediction: Jets 21, Broncos 17

Outcome: Jets 0, Broncos 23

Did they cover? No

This season the Jets have made a reputation for themselves as a difficult opponent to walk over on any given week. They’ve played the Chiefs, Panthers, Falcons, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jaguars close this season, even coming out on top a time or two. Their surprise success has largely been due to inspired play from veteran quarterback Josh McCown but this weekend that came to an end.

Unfortunately, for the Jets and my prediction this week, the Broncos managed to return to form on Sunday defensively. They were stingy with their yardage allowed keeping McCown to just 46 passing yards. Constant pressure knocked McCown out of the game twice, including a third quarter clean hit that broke the poor guy’s hand. Backup Bryce Petty didn’t find much success either as he managed just 14 passing yards over the last quarter, while Von Miller and the defensive front for the Broncos was equally determined to limit any ground gains for the Jets by keeping them to only 59 rushing yards through four quarters.

I’m not ready to say the Broncos are back, and it’s too little too late for their season anyway, but Trevor Siemian was able to at least get some offense going and threw for 200 yards and a touchdown in the win as well. The goal for the Broncos moving forward against the Colts and Redskins should be to develop some consistency through their remaining games and finish strong.

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4); Line: Jags by 2.5

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Jaguars 24

Outcome: Seahawks 24, Jaguars 30

Did they cover? Yes

Since we’ve embarked on this picks column idea here at SportsIntel, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend I cannot seem to shake, that is, the Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks seem determined to prove me wrong each week. If I pick against them, magic happens. If I pick for them, they flop. After a convincing win at home last week, Seattle fell to pieces against the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road.

Some of you may be thinking, well duh, Jacksonville is great on defense! That’s true, and home-field advantage is a thing, but we’re also close to the end of the regular season and the Seahawks are still very much in a fight for a playoff spot in the crowded NFC. You do not usually see them commit so many errors at this point, especially when the game is on the line. Russell Wilson threw three interceptions in this contest and put the Seahawks down early. They trailed most of the game, and while Wilson did mount something of a comeback late, he failed to convert a pass on fourth-and-9 to keep their drive alive.

I thought Blake Bortles was going to have to make the most of his opportunities this week and he did just that. He threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, and he even got a little help from Leonard Fournette this week finally. Fournette tallied 101 yards on the ground and one touchdown. The Jaguars may not be favored against some teams when post-season play comes about, mostly because of Blake Bortles, but they’re shaping up to be a very scary team to run into for just about anyone. This is a dominant defense, and after winning six of their last seven games, the offense is picking up steam as the season comes to a close.

Week Fourteen Accuracy: 0-3
Overall Accuracy: 19-15

Danny’s Picks

Oakland Raiders (6-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-6); Line: Chiefs by 4

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Raiders 27

Outcome: Chiefs 26, Raiders 15

Did they cover? Yes

The Chiefs came out playing solid from the start and jumped out to a big lead early. The Raiders did little to put up much of a fight in this game until it was over. I believe the Chiefs are better than their record indicates, but given their recent track record, I did not anticipate that defense holding the Raiders to just 15 points. I think this was in large part because the Chiefs were able to control the ball with Kareem Hunt going over 100 yards and Alex Smith playing relatively mistake free and hitting a few big plays when it mattered. The Raiders turnovers were the nail in the coffin.

Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) @ Los Angeles Rams (9-3); Line: Iggles by 1.5

Prediction: Eagles 27, Rams 22

Outcome: Eagles 43, Rams 35

Did they cover? Yes

When I looked at the stats last week the one thing that jumped off the page at me was how poorly the Rams have defended the run this season. The Rams’ inability to stop the Eagles was in part due to their inability to stifle the run game. But this game was much more competitive in reality than it was on the stat sheet. The Eagles controlled the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game, racked up 29 first downs compared to the Rams’ 17, and had an advantage of nearly 150 total yards. They did this despite losing their MVP candidate while the game was very much still in play. My biggest doubt about the Eagles coming into Sunday was the team’s ability to handle adversity and they proved they could by holding on for the win after losing to Seattle the previous week and watching Wentz go down in the third quarter. Going forward the Rams poor showing on 3rd down (2-7) should be worrying for a team with a great offense playing at home.

Washington Redskins (5-7) @ Los Angeles Chargers (6-6); Line: Bolts by 5.5

Prediction: Chargers 24, Redskins 14

Outcome: Chargers 30, Redskins 13

Did they cover? Yes

There isn’t much to write about here. This was by far the easiest pick I’ve made in weeks. The Redskins don’t have any meaningful football left, they are missing too many starters to count, and they ran into an incredibly hot Chargers team that has its sights on a division title. Philip Rivers is by far the best quarterback in the AFC West and I think that gives his team an edge as they battle for the division title. This Saturday’s game against the Chiefs looms large.

Week Fourteen Accuracy: 3-0
Overall Accuracy: 20-10

SportsIntel Combined Total for Season Since Week Four (We generally pick three games a piece, per week): 63-35
Correct Pick Percentage: 64.29%
FiveThirtyEight’s ELO (Every contest this season except 50/50 matchups):  130-76
Correct Pick Percentage: 63.11%
Microsoft’s Cortana (Every contest this season): 136-72
Correct Pick Percentage: 65.38%