By Josh Hatt
The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected the NFL all year, but this week was particularly bad. The Baltimore Ravens where the hardest hit, placing 22 players on the COVID list, meaning they couldn’t play. One of those was QB Lamar Jackson, and the Ravens offence struggled without him in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday, a game that was postponed twice due to the COVID outbreak amongst the Ravens squad.
The San Francisco 49ers have also been affected, as new COVID restrictions in Santa Clara mean that they are unable to play or practice there, and will therefore play at the home of the Arizona Cardinals for the foreseeable future. And the Denver Broncos were left without a Quarterback on Sunday, as all of their players at that position were forced to isolate as they were not wearing masks. This meant that the Broncos had to call up Kendall Hinton, a man who had played a bit of QB in college but had never even played in the NFL at all!. The Broncos may have lost heavily to the Saints, but you have to respect Hinton for trying in an unprecedented situation.
Henry runs over Colts
Derrick Henry is one of the most entertaining players to watch in the league, and he showed why on Sunday as he ran all over the Indianapolis Colts to the tune of 178 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Titans cruised to a big victory which takes them to the top of the AFC South, a game ahead of the Colts, who severely missed DeForest Buckner, who was unable to play due to a positive COVID test.
The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys both suffered heavy defeats on Thanksgiving, which had big consequences for both teams. The Lions defeat proved to be the final straw for Lions ownership, who could be seen visibly upset in the press box at the teams performance. Detroit fired coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn following a disappointing season. Patricia was brought in with much fanfare from New England, but he was unable to instil a winning culture in Detroit, and fell out with numerous players and journalists due to his attitude. The reaction from many former Lion players and Lions fans on social media suggest he will not be missed in the Motor City.
Dallas meanwhile were stuffed like a Thanksgiving Turkey by Washington, and the defeat leaves them bottom of the NFC East and continues to pile the pressure on Mike McCarthy, who came under heavy criticism for some of his bizarre play calling decisions, such as going for a fake punt in his own half when only down by 4. I was not a fan of the McCarthy hire when it was made, I felt he had failed to keep up with the modern NFL in Green Bay and his failure in Dallas, whilst not entirely his fault, isn’t surprising to me.
Other talking points:
The New York Giants took first place in the NFC East with a win in Cincinnati, but it came at a price, as they lost QB Daniel Jones with a hamstring injury. The Giants hope Jones will not be out for long, but this could open the door for Washington to win the division instead.
Philadelphia’s dismal season continued, as they lost at home to Seattle, QB Carson Wentz has regressed horribly this season, making bad throws and turning the ball over far too much. The Eagles signed Wentz to a massive contract before the season, meaning it will not be easy for them to move on from Wentz. Philly will have to hope he bounces back in 2021.
Cleveland won their 8th game of the year, meaning that they will not have a losing season for the first time since 2007, and have a real chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Browns have faced criticism for only beating weak teams and struggling against bigger ones, but it’s still a step in the right direction for a team that lost all their games in 2016.
Speaking of losing all your games, that’s what the New York Jets have done this season. They look set to become the third 0-16 team in NFL history, which would leave them with a chance to grab QB Trevor Lawrence in the upcoming draft in April. The Jets will surely need a new head coach as well, and a lot of work is needed to make this team competitive. I would say the only way is up, but with the NFL likely to add an extra game next year, I guess they could go 0-17!
Kansas City’s offence exploded in Tampa, as Tyreek Hill had 203 yards and two touchdowns…in the first quarter! Tampa Bay attempted to stage a late comeback, but Tom Brady threw two interceptions, and there are rumours of a rift between him and head coach Bruce Arians. Brady hasn’t been great this year, but its reasonable to suggest that Arians is not playing entirely to his strengths, making him throw too many deep balls. It would surprise me if both men were back in Tampa next year.
Steelers stunned by Washington
The Pittsburgh Steelers were handed their first loss of the season on Monday night at the hands of Washington. Pittsburgh led by two touchdowns at half time, but a stunning comeback in the second half secured a 23-17 win for Washington. That victory leaves them at 5-7, tied for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants, who pulled off an upset of their own this week, beating Seattle away from home with their backup QB Colt McCoy, and an excellent defensive display. The Giants hold a tiebreaker over Washington by virtue of beating them twice this season, so if the Giants win all their remaining games, they will make the playoffs. However, Washington’s remaining fixtures are easier on paper, with games against the banged-up 49ers, the struggling Panthers and Eagles and the inconsistent Seahawks. The Giants face two teams in the playoff mix at home in Arizona and Cleveland, then a tricky road trip to Baltimore before finishing off at home to Dallas, a game they should win. Both teams are coming into form thanks to excellent coaching, and regardless of which one wins the division, the future looks bright for both teams for the first time in a while.
So close, and yet so far
It looked as if the New York Jets were going to get their first win of the season on Sunday, as the led the Las Vegas Raiders with just 12 seconds remaining. But then Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams inexplicably decided to send most of his players after QB Derek Carr, leaving a rookie cornerback guarding one of the fastest players in the NFL in Henry Ruggs with no one to help him. The result was predictably a touchdown catch for Ruggs which gave the Raiders victory from the jaws of defeat. The defeat was blamed on Williams, and he lost his job this week as a result. Williams is a controversial figure, stemming from the Bountygate scandal in 2012 when he offered money to New Orleans Saints players if they injured opponents on purpose. Williams is known for his aggressive approach, but it backfired horribly on Sunday. The Jets are 0-12 and with a tough fixture list remaining, it is likely they will not win a game this season, this was their best chance for sure. It does leave them with chance to draft QB Trevor Lawrence, and if the Jets can get a better coaching staff in, things could turn around for this long suffering franchise.
Baker cooks the Titans
In a big game between two teams with identical 8-3 records, Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield put on a show in the first half, throwing 4 touchdowns. The Tennessee Titans attempted a comeback in the second half, but the damage had been done. The win means Cleveland secures its first winning season since 2007 and has a real chance of the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The defeat leaves Tennessee at 8-4, but they are still in first place in the AFC South because they have a tiebreaker over Indianapolis. But they can’t afford to put in any more performances like they did in the first half in Nashville.
Other Talking Points From Week 13:
The Eagles finally benched QB Carson Wentz after another poor performance in Green Bay. Second round rookie Jalen Hurts came in and sparked a bit of life into Philly’s offence, although it wasn’t enough to win the game. Hurts is now the Eagles starting QB, and he will look to show he deserves the spot long term with a good showing in the remaining 4 games this season.
The New England Patriots handed the LA Chargers a 45-0 thrashing in their own backyard, thanks in large part to a punt return and a blocked field goal touchdown. The win keeps the Patriots playoff hopes alive, and they certainly cannot be counted out. The Chargers meanwhile certainly can be, they have endured a very disappointing year, with coach Anthony Lynn expected to lose his job at the end of the season.
The Rams claimed a big divisional win on the road in Arizona this week, with an impressive display in all facets. That win and Seattle’s surprise loss at home to the Giants means that the Rams go back to the top of the NFC West. Arizona meanwhile is struggling for form, and they face the surging Giants away from home on Sunday, in a game both sides desperately need to win.