NFL Week Seventeen After Action Report (AAR)

Upsets galore means an unlikely playoff picture has emerged. The Bengals upended the Ravens which means the Bills are in for the first time since 1999, the Titans squeaked by the Jaguars as Blake Bortles continued to unravel, and the Falcons beat the Panthers keeping their Super Bowl hopes alive (but not really). Let’s get into the After Action Report for NFL Week Seventeen.

Brad’s Picks

Well, I finished the season falling flat on my face for two weeks and ceding the picks crown to Chris, but the games I picked this week were all decided in the final minute so I won’t beat myself up too badly. And if indeed it was my kiss of death that ushered the Ravens out of a postseason appearance, I can sleep well knowing the good deed I did for Buffalo fans.

New Orleans Saints (11-4) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11); Line: Saints by 7.5

Prediction: Saints 27, Buccaneers 20

Outcome: Saints 24, Buccaneers 31

Did they cover? No

Did the team Brad picked surrender the losing score with less than 45 seconds left on the game clock? Yes

For much of the game on Sunday it looked like the Saints expected the Bucs to give up, but the NFL’s most disappointing team in 2017 showed that it wanted to enter the offseason on a high note. Tampa Bay gashed the New Orleans defense to the tune of 455 total yards and didn’t let three INTs by Jameis Winston derail them in a surprisingly exciting, come from behind Week 17 victory at home. The highlight reel will show that the Bucs scored twice in the last 2:36 to secure the upset, but the real story was a pair of unheralded receivers each notching a 100-yard day as the Bucs converted an astonishing 13 of 18 third downs. Tampa Bay finished the season in the bottom quarter of the league in rushing yards, but was just eight yards behind New England for the most passing yards in the league, a stat that goes a long way in explaining why Dirk Koetter will be back as the head coach next year. Congrats to the Bucs for not going winless in the division in 2017!

The Saints backed into an NFC South division championship with the loss because the Falcons knocked off the Panthers at home. Having already clinched a playoff spot, one has to wonder how highly New Orleans prioritized a victory on Sunday. I’m not saying they “let” this happen, but they likely saw a third showdown with Carolina looming for Wild Card weekend and held back just a little. Defeating the same team three times in one season is no easy feat, but the Saints will be a solid favorite on Sunday afternoon and, as I wrote yesterday, they are the #4 favorite to win the Super Bowl according to the book makers.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-6); Line: Ravens by 10.5

Prediction: Bengals 13, Ravens 23

Outcome: Bengals 31, Ravens 27

Did they cover? No

Did the team Brad picked surrender the losing score with less than 45 seconds left on the game clock? Yes

When you’re a double-digit favorite playing at home with a playoff spot on the line against a team that has nothing to play for and a lame duck coach, you simply HAVE to win that game no matter what. The Ravens started slow and let the Bengals hang around before finally losing by allowing a 49-yard touchdown reception on 4th & 12 with 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Bengals finished the season by ending the playoff hopes of the Lions and Ravens in consecutive weeks which was probably the deciding factor in the Bengals organization signing him to a brand new two-year contract in a stunning move today. Seems like the players never quit on Coach Lewis which really is a testament to how they feel about him.

The Ravens have to be extremely disappointed with their 9-7 record after finishing in the top ten in the league in scoring offense and scoring defense—the only team to do so and miss the playoffs (Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, New England). Despite the Week 17 failings, the near future looks quite bright in Baltimore. The emergence of Alex Collins has solidified the run game and Joe Flacco started all 16 games which was in doubt in the offseason. Winning nine games with the 4th worst passing offense in football was no small feat so acquiring a game-changing wide receiver could drastically alter their outlook.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) @ Denver Broncos (5-10); Line: Broncos by 3

Prediction: Chiefs 10, Broncos 20

Outcome: Chiefs 27, Broncos 24

Did they cover? No

Did the team Brad picked surrender the losing score with less than 45 seconds left on the game clock? Yes

Coming into Sunday’s road tilt with the Broncos, the Chiefs had locked up the #4 slot in the AFC by winning the West and really had nothing to play for. They seemed to demonstrate their indifference by handing the ball to rookie QB Patrick Mahomes and resting Alex Smith, but when they found themselves with a chance to win late, they did everything they could to secure the victory at Mile High. After Sunday backup Tyler Bray’s mistakes let Denver back into the game, Andy Reid reinserted Mahomes who led the team to a game-winning field goal as time expired. Put simply, KC cared more about this game than I expected them to and Denver did the same sort of things that doomed their 2017 season. The good news for the Broncos is that they got a chance to evaluate their QBs—none of whom look like the answer—and the 2018 draft has a good selection.

Kansas City closes the season the way they started it: on a winning streak. There are probably easier ways to get to 10-6 and a division title than by sandwiching seven games of bad football between a 5-game winning streak and a 4-game winning streak, but the ultimate goal is still technically within reach so it doesn’t really matter at this point. In the Wild Card round the Chiefs will be an 8 or 9-point favorite against the Titans at Arrowhead and I expect them to handle a Tennessee team that is still trying to figure out its identity. Barring a Bills upset in Jacksonville, the Chiefs would travel to Foxboro in the divisional round for a rematch of the 2017 opener which the Chiefs won, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. I’ll close by congratulating Kareem Hunt for becoming the second straight rookie running back to lead the NFL in rushing. After entering Week 17 trailing both LeVeon Bell and Todd Gurley, who were healthy scratches for their respective teams, Hunt carried the ball one time for 35 yards and overtook both players to clinch the rushing title. Well done, rook!

Week Seventeen Accuracy: 0-3

Overall Accuracy: 27-16

Chris’s Picks

Carolina Panthers (11-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (9-6); Line Falcons by 4

Prediction: Panthers 21, Falcons 24

Outcome: Panthers 10, Falcons 22

Did they cover? Yes

This one played out pretty much as expected and it’s why the Panthers just aren’t that scary to me considering the talent that’s made it into the post-season. I told you Cam Newton has struggled to throw the ball this season and that proved true again this weekend. The former MVP was 14 of 34 for only 180 yards and one touchdown. He gave up three interceptions and fumbled the ball twice in a disastrous performance. He did have 59 yards on 11 carries, but as I had expected, the Falcons were able to use their speed to negate any big run potential from Newton and they also managed to keep the deceptively agile quarterback out of the end zone. The Falcons run defense also managed to stifle the rest of the Panthers ground attack allowing only 87 yards in four quarters of play.

The Falcons won but there are still some misfiring weapons on this squad, namely Tevin Coleman. The yin to Devonta Freeman’s yang, Coleman only notched 23 yards on 11 carries and two receptions for 14 yards through the air. His lack of production should be a troubling sign for a Falcon’s team that has lost its shine since last season. Matt Ryan’s decreased efficiency should also be troubling for Dan Quinn because making a deep run in the post-season means playing football with very few mistakes and that’s not happening right now.

Buffalo Bills (8-7) @ Miami Dolphins (6-9); Line: Bills by 2.5

Prediction: Bills 24, Dolphins 14

Outcome: Bills 22, Dolphins 16

Did they cover? Yes

This one wasn’t as close as the score suggests. The Bills had this contest well in hand for pretty much four quarters with the Dolphins making a rather half-hearted attempt late in the game to notch a late score. The Bills were victorious primarily because of their defense but Tyrod Taylor was decent and turnover free. David Fales, however, managed to throw an interception while relieving Jay Cutler and as we’ve seen in weeks past, losing the turnover battle generally means losing the game.

This win means the Buffalo Bills have officially made the playoffs this year, the first time since 1999 that they have done so, and generally speaking, Kenyan Drake looked decent throughout for Miami but he received no help from the rest of the running backs on the team. I’m more interested in how this underdog team performs next week against a quality opponent versus how they were able to bully the laughable Dolphins this weekend.

One thing to note for the Dolphins, Smokin’ Jay Cutler probably isn’t long on the roster, so where does he go next? Back to the booth? The man wants to play football but I’m not sure anyone wants him to play football on their roster at this point.

Oakland Raiders (6-9) @ Los Angeles Chargers (8-7); Line: Chargers by 9

Prediction: Raiders 17, Chargers 24

Outcome: Raiders 10, Chargers 30

Did they cover? Yes

The score in this one was tighter than previously anticipated but I was more or less correct in my prediction. I thought the Chargers might have a shot if they could stop playing down to their opponents’ level. Derek Carr posted rather pedestrian stats in this match up and and continued to struggle as he has all season long. For the Chargers, Melvin Gordon pulled in 93 yards on just 17 carries, while Philip Rivers was efficient and effective with 387 yards on the day and three touchdowns against no interceptions. In my picks this week I mentioned Keenan Allen performing well, his consistency representing a refreshing change of pace for the usually up and down offense fielded by the Chargers.

Inconsistency continues to plague this Raiders team as quarterback Derek Carr struggles  to protect the ball in crucial moments after giving up an interception and a lost fumble. Amari Cooper made himself accessible to Carr as he caught 115 yards on just three receptions and Marshawn Lynch also had a big day with 101 yards on 19 attempts. Unfortunately, neither effort was enough to propel the Raiders into contention with the Chargers. Jack Del Rio has already gone down for the Raiders wasted season, and it will be interesting to see if rumors of Jon Gruden rejoining the Silver and Black comes to fruition. Gruden’s an offensive-minded coach and that might be just what Derek Carr and Amari Cooper need to jump start them next season.

Finally, despite winning, the Chargers are unfortunately out of contention for the playoffs because of the Cincinnati comeback over Baltimore, which means the Bills are in. Congratulations to Kyle Williams!

Week Seventeen Accuracy: 3-0
Overall Accuracy: 28-16

Danny’s Picks

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7); Line: Titans by 3

Prediction: Jaguars 21, Titans 17

Outcome: Jaguars 10, Titans 15

Did they cover? Yes

The Titans are a maddening team. They managed to snag a playoff spot despite a -22 turnover differential. They did so with strong defense which limited the Jags to only 230 yards and forced four turnovers. I think the most important take away from this game is that neither the Jaguars nor the Titans can be expected to do much this post season. While both teams have the type of defense that can spur a championship run, the quarterbacks at the helm are not trustworthy. Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota are both capable of putting together a string of big games, but more often than not they turn in mediocre performances.

San Francisco 49ers (5-10) @ Los Angeles Rams (11-4); Line: 49ers by 3

Prediction: 49ers 28, Rams 10

Outcome: 49ers 34, Rams 13

Did they cover? Yes

Again, I don’t know that I should even bother writing about this game. The Rams conceded defeat a week before they even took the field and the 49ers continued their hot streak behind the arm of Jimmy GQ. Garoppolo threw for two TDs and Carlos Hyde averaged six yards per carry as the Niners coasted to the win. Garoppolo did throw two picks, something he has not done much of during this late season run. The Niners achieved a moral victory on Sunday and it will be interesting to see how they handle the offseason and if they will put themselves in a position to fight for the division next year.

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (13-2); Line: ‘Boys by 2.5

Prediction: Cowboys 14, Eagles 17

Outcome: Cowboys 6, Eagles 0

Did they cover? Yes

This was as ugly as they come. The Eagles offense looked putrid for the second week in row. Nick Foles threw only 11 passes before he sat in favor of Nate Sudfeld. The Eagles missed an opportunity to try and develop a rhythm with Foles at QB, but opted to play it safe and sit several of their starters after a couple of drives. Dak Prescott continued to struggle failing to throw for 200 yards for the second straight week. Dak’s performance down the stretch has to be concerning to Cowboys fans. If the Cowboys are going to compete for a playoff spot next year, Prescott will have to play better. They can count on Ezekiel Elliott for all 16 games next year, but he won’t be enough to right that offense. The Eagles will have a couple more weeks before they have to worry about next year. If Nick Foles can get hot, the Eagles have a chance in a wide-open NFC, but from what I’ve seen that seems unlikely.

Week Seventeen Accuracy: 1-2
Overall Accuracy: 24-15

SportsIntel Combined Total for Season Since Week Four (We generally pick three games a piece, per week): 79-47
Correct Pick Percentage: 62.70%
FiveThirtyEight’s ELO (Every contest this season except 50/50 matchups):  163-89
Correct Pick Percentage: 64.7%
Microsoft’s Cortana (Every contest this season except 50/50 matchups): 170-86
Correct Pick Percentage: 66.4%