Sunday’s Week 13 NFL action answered a lot of questions that had been lingering for the first three-plus months of the season.
Were the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos as bad as the past several weeks had indicated? Was this Minnesota Vikings team equipped to go into Atlanta and defeat the defending NFC champion Falcons? Was Jimmy Garoppolo — long seen as a potential franchise quarterback — actually the future at that position in San Francisco?
Meanwhile, other questions went unanswered. There’s now a three-way tie atop the AFC West and two teams find themselves with identical 8-4 records in the AFC South. And in the NFC, the Seahawks made a major statement against Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football, raising more questions about that conference.
Here are your top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 13 NFL action.
Russell Wilson enters MVP conversation, Seahawks put NFL on notice
For the first time since Wilson’s rookie season back in 2012, Seattle entered Sunday night as home underdogs. Maybe that was the bulletin board material that Pete Carroll’s squad needed, because Seattle put on a show in front of a nationally televised audience to stay in the NFC West race.
The magician formally known as Russell Wilson completed 20-of-31 passes for 227 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had some tremendous passes mixed in between — putting Seattle in position for three touchdown-scoring drives in the 24-10 win.
Not only did this most-recent performance keep Seattle to within one game of the Rams in the NFC West, it puts Wilson firmly in the MVP conversation. He currently boasts the highest fourth quarter passer rating since Joe Montana back in 1989 and tied Eli Manning’s 2011 performance for the most fourth quarter touchdown passes (15) since 1991. Yeah, he’s good.
The Broncos truly are one of NFL’s worst teams
Even going up against a Dolphins team that had lost five consecutive games, it wasn’t a stretch to believe that Denver would have some issues in South Beach on Sunday. That’s exactly what we saw unfold. The quarterback situation continues to be unsustainable — a fact that was magnified after Trevor Siemian threw this horrible pick-six in the second quarter.
Taking over for an injured Paxton Lynch and an ineffective Brock Osweiler, Siemian completed 19-of-41 passes for 200 yards with zero scores and three interceptions in the brutal 35-9 loss.
But that wasn’t the extent of Denver’s failures in Miami on Sunday. A previously dominant Broncos defense yielded nearly 370 total yards to a Dolphins offense that had failed to put up even 200 yards three times in the past two months. That’s just not acceptable.
Denver now sits at 3-9 on the season and has lost eight consecutive games. This is truly one of the worst teams in the NFL. Period.
Saints have something special
Despite falling to the Rams last week, anyone who has paid one iota of attention to the Saints this season knew this team was really good. That came out in a big way Sunday against the Panthers in a battle for the top spot in the NFC South. Both teams stood at an impressive 8-3 heading into this important Week 13 affair. At the end of the evening, New Orleans came out on top by the score of 31-21.
It’s a game that saw running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara — both with 1,000-plus total yards heading in — combine for 248 total yards and three scores against a Panthers defense that entered Week 13 ranked in the top three against the run. It was a matchup we were watching, and the Saints won here big time.
One drive in particular comes to mind here. With New Orleans up by a touchdown in the third quarter and the team facing a third down, Ingram battered his way through three Panthers defender on a catch and run that gave the Saints a first down. Three plays later, and Kamara took it 20 yards for a touchdown to give New Orleans a two-score lead. That was pretty much it for Carolina on the day.
Now at 9-3, the Saints are one game up in the division and have completed the season sweep of their closest rival in the NFC South. These two running backs are the primary reasons why we’ve seen such a dramatic turnaround.
Patriots handle business…again
Sunday’s game against Buffalo might have started out slow. It also included Tom Brady absolutely losing his mind on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the sideline. But when all was said and done, the defending champion Patriots simply out-classed the Bills in pretty much every way possible.
Brady failed to throw a touchdown for the first time since Week 1. It mattered little. Taking advantage of what has increasingly become a disastrous Bills defensive front, New England put up 191 rushing yards in a 23-3 win. Defensively, New England held the Bills to 85 net passing yards and just one field goal. Oh, and Rob Gronkowski — the freak that he is — went off for 147 yards on nine catches before making a clown of himself.
This represents eight consecutive victories by an average of nearly 16 points. The better news here is that a previously struggling Pats defense has come alive big time. This unit is yielding an average of 10.7 points over the past six games. That’s scary for other AFC contenders heading down the stretch.
Chiefs’ implosion continues
While they struggled with a planned implosion in Detroit Sunday morning, the free-falling Kansas City Chiefs made up for it in New Jersey later in the day. Having lost five of their past six games and flailing big time on offense, that side of the ball actually came through. Alex Smith threw for 366 yards with four touchdowns. The team racked up 112 rushing yards and 31 total points.
Unfortunately, the Chiefs are just living examples of Murphy’s Law playing out in real time. What could have gone wrong Sunday against the Jets did. Mere hours after naming former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis a captain for this game, his defense went on to give up 331 passing yards to Josh McCown.
Add in 157 rushing yards and dominating performances from both Jermaine Kearse as well as Robby Anderson, and New York finished the day with nearly 500 yards of offense. The implosion came to a culmination late in the game when Pro Bowl corner Marcus Peters threw a penalty flag into the stands — drawing a penalty in and of itself. Now at 6-6 on the season, it’s readily apparent Kansas City is not the best team in the AFC West right now. It’s a stunning turnaround from just a few short weeks ago.
Eli Manning wasn’t the Giants’ problem
Insert Mr. Obvious GIF here. Any thought given to idea of Geno Smith somehow taking over New York’s sinking ship and performing better than the sidelined Eli Manning was thrown out the window early on Sunday against the Raiders.
We’re not going to sit back and rail on Smith here. We knew exactly what he was. And with no offensive line to speak of, the real Geno Smith came out in droves. The former Jets draft bust completed 21-of-34 passes for just 212 yards with one garbage-time touchdown and two lost fumbles. One of those fumbles came with his Giants potentially driving for the lead late in the second quarter.
And it seemed like head coach Ben McAdoo was running a college variation of his playbook. That won’t bode well for McAdoo’s future in New York. In the end, the Giants fell to an average Raiders squad by the score of 24-17 in an uninspiring effort for both disappointing teams.
Jimmy Garoppolo impressive in first start
The final score might have only read 15-14. San Francisco might have put up five field goals and zero touchdowns. That’s the boxscore for you. But in reality, this might have been the team’s most impressive performance since the Jim Harbaugh days. And it started with a quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo who was making his first start with the 49ers.
The Garoppolo-led 49ers offense moved the ball up and down the field to the tune of nearly 400 yards. For his part, the young quarterback completed 26-of-37 passes for nearly 300 yards. The only miscue came when receiver Louis Murphy couldn’t hold on to an otherwise perfectly thrown ball, leading to the first career interception for Garoppolo.
Even then, the young signal caller threw dart after draft at Soldier Field en route to leading the 49ers to their second win of the season. How good was he? Working with a watered-down playbook, Garoppolo completed all 14 of his passes to Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor for north of 190 yards. That’s just plain dumb. And it has fans in Northern California thinking this downtrodden team might very well have its franchise quarterback.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers can’t get out of their own way
Someone needs to teach Winston how to actually protect the football. Maybe head coach Dirk Koetter should pull a James Caan from The Program, because what we’re seeing from the struggling quarterback just isn’t going to win many football games. This horrible fumble — eventually culminating in a long touchdown for the Packers — was a prime example of this.
It wasn’t all Winston’s fault here. The quarterback was under duress the entire game, finding himself sacked a whopping seven times. Tampa Bay’s defense also allowed a previously sputtering Packers rushing attack to go off for 199 yards on 29 attempts.
With the game tied at 20 heading into overtime, Green Bay took the opening kickoff and drove it down the field 72 yards on eight plays for the game-winning touchdown. Now at 4-8 on the year, it’s readily apparent the Buccaneers are playing out the string with questions looming surrounding Winston and a roster that just has not lived up to expectations.
Another statement win for the Vikings
Sure most of the talk in the NFC has surrounded the Philadelphia Eagles. For good reason. They stood at 10-1 on the season prior to Sunday night’s loss to Seattle. But couple said loss with Minnesota’s win the very same day, and there’s definitely a race to be had in the NFC.
Heading to Atlanta to take on a red-hot Falcons squad, Minnesota imposed its will in a huge way. Case Keenum continued his absolutely brilliant play, completing all but five of his 30 attempts with two touchdowns, including a six-yard score to Kyle Rudolph to give the Vikings the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Minnesota allowed reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan to complete 16-of-29 passes en route to holding the Falcons to three field goals. Now winners of eight consecutive games, the Vikings are clearly right up there with Philadelphia as the class of the NFC. Sunday’s statement win over Atlanta clarifies this in a big way.
About the AFC West
As we mentioned above, the Raiders put up a lackluster effort in a 24-17 win over the Giants in Oakland Sunday afternoon. Despite looking like they’re closer to a last-place team than a division title contender, the Raiders now find themselves tied atop the AFC West with a 6-6 mark. That was made possible by Kansas City’s meltdown we mentioned above and the Los Angeles Chargers’ win over the hapless Cleveland Browns.
Now heading into Week 14, three teams are tied atop this division with 6-6 marks. Meanwhile, the Broncos look to be among the worst teams in the NFL at this point in the season. A division that many thought would yield two playoff teams, the AFC West is now the worst division in the NFL, and it’s not even that close.
Jaguars-Titans remain on top
Fresh off last week’s disappointing loss to Arizona, the Jaguars took advantage of a weak Colts team for the second time this season. Blake Bortles bounced back in a big way — completing 26-of-35 passes for north of 300 yards with two scores. Rookie Leonard Fournette added this touchdown run. Meanwhile, the Jags’ league-best pass defense held Jacoby Brissett to 174 yards with two interceptions in the 30-10 blowout win.
The game was a bit more competitive between Houston and Tennessee in Nashville. The Texans actually held an early 10-0 lead against the Titans before the home team got it going on offense. Marcus Mariota threw for a touchdown and ran one in to pull Tennessee ahead moving into the final stanza. That’s when impressive second-year running back Derrick Henry broke things open with a 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth to give Tennessee a hard-fought 24-13 win.
The Jaguars and Titans head into Week 14 with identical 8-4 marks. Both are in playoff positioning with what promises to be an awesome division title chase in the final four weeks of the season. In what has been a ho-hum AFC South over the past several years, it’s going to be fun to see this play out.
Carson Wentz is human
With 24 touchdowns and just three picks during Philadelphia’s nine-game winning streak heading into Sunday Night Football, this second-year signal caller was playing better than any quarterback in the NFL. That came to a screeching halt in a big way against Seattle.
As erratic as we’ve seen him throughout his young career, Wentz missed open receiver after open receiver during what was eventually a 24-10 loss to the Seahawks. Sure the numbers tell us a story of a quarterback who put up nearly 350 yards with just one interception. But Wentz left a whole bunch of plays out there in Seattle.
To error is human. We know this MVP candidate is not a robot. However, the performance we saw Sunday night lends credence to the idea that Philadelphia is in fact not in a league of its own in the NFC. Minnesota will have a say in this conference. New Orleans, Los Angeles and Seattle will, too. The aura of invincibility came to an end Sunday. Wentz’s outing magnified that to a T.
Source : https://sportsnaut.com/2017/12/top-takeaways-from-sundays-week-13-nfl-action/