Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Approaching The NFL's Final Four

The New York Jets have become the New York Jets again - the personification of laughable incompetence.

The NFL is now entering the final four weeks of its 2016 season, and there are still some playoff races to be determined, so we look ahead to Week 14.

Some bad play has hurt quite a few teams and Week 13's blooper reel is worth a gander.

Chiefs over Raiders - The Chiefs back in Week Four looked like a developing trainwreck the way they got destroyed by the Pittsburgh Steelers; now they are a juggernaut after winning on - of all things - a pick-Two.   They beat the Raiders in Oakland already and so aren't afraid of the Raiders in KC.

Titans over Broncos - On paper this doesn't look like a favorable matchup for the Titans coming off their bye as they get the 8-4 Broncos, a team that's won four of five previous meetings with the Titans as a Tennessee team.   The Broncos defense remains stout, albeit not as good as advertised as shown by the four losses (even with that the Broncos are sixth in fewest points allowed), and this is Marcus Mariota's first meeting with the Broncos.   One area that may be an advantage for the Titans is the Broncos run defense is allowing 4.2 yards per carry, with the Titans averaging 4.8 YPC and Mariota's redzone efficiency and ability to look off opponent defenses will certainly be tested with an opponent in Trevor Siemian who has won a lot of games but really hasn't shown advancement in his game as the season has gone on.

Dolphins over Cardinals - The Cardinals stopped the bleeding with their win over the Skins, but have to travel to a Miami team that's smarting from getting humiliated by the Ravens and is lightyears better than anyone thought they'd be, especially with regard to Ryan Tannehill's play versus an aging Carson Palmer.

Vikings over Jaguars -  The regression of Blake Bortles has been stunning and disheartening given the progress people thought was there in 2015; with that progress clearly illusory the Jaguars have plunged into yet another losing season, with a winning season no closer to this organization than it was before the season started.   The Vikings are reeling and need this win a lot more than the out-of-it Jaguars do.

Bengals over Browns -  The hopelessness of the Browns doesn't require any elaboration, and the Bengals finally began to turn things around in embarrassing the Eagles last week.

Steelers over Bills - The Bills now appear to be falling out of contention with another Rex Ryan promise unfulfilled as they get a Steelers team that got a big win last week.  

Colts over Texans  - It's now clear Brock Osweiler was a mistake, as the more he plays the worse he seems to get; it's also clear Andrew Luck showed something we thought he didn't have with his first win over an AFC opponent since 2012 (and first over the NY Jets).   It's also clear that Bill O'Brien is not capable of grooming quarterbacks, having failed to groom one to any kind of legitimate extent in his time in Houston.

Eagles over Redskins - The Eagles now appear eliminated from playoff contention, but the Redskins now appear to be sliding out of contention and the Eagles want momentum, and can get it in spoiling someone else's playoff hopes.

Buccaneers over Saints - The Saints are falling apart and Drew Brees can no longer be considered an elite quarterback.   The Bucs meanwhile are now on a legitimate surge - all the way to the division lead - and Jameis Winston more and more is developing into the real deal.  

Panthers over Chargers - The Chargers blew it yet again.   Needing to lead a comeback, Philip Rivers threw another killer INT.   Like his former Chargers teammate Drew Brees, Rivers simply is not elite and never will be again; if anything both are net liabilities for their teams.    The Chargers now have to go to Carolina, itself fighting ineptitude and what appears to be a looming disciplinary issue after Cam Newton was benched for the opening play at Seattle.   In a battle of bad teams that should be good, look for the Panthers to salvage some pride. 

Lions over Bears  -  Matt Barkley is now Bears starter and his passer rating, touchdown to INT ratio, and completion percentage are the worst of the three starters the Bears have fielded.   The Bears now have to go to a surging Lions team that - believe it or not - now looks like a team that can win at least one playoff game.    They of course have to get through the remaining four games first.

49ers over NY Jets  -  Right now one wonders if Blaine Gabbert will start after Colin Kaepernick completed one pass at Chicago and the Niners celebrated what they thought was a touchdown and got penalized for the laughably protracted celebration.  But if the Niners are the worst team in the NFC the Jets may actually be worse than the Browns in the AFC after their atrocious performance against the Colts.    They appeared to quit against the Colts long before the fourth quarter and have huge salary issues with utter failure by most of their big name players.  

Seahawks over Packers - The Packers won last week but their dismal performance against Russell Wilson gives the Seahawks an edge despite not winning in four of their road games.   The Packers remain the ultimate frontrunning fraud and didn't exactly acquit themselves all that hotly against the Texans.

Falcons over Rams -  The Falcons are faltering again but get a dismal Rams team whose starting quarterback in just a few games looks like a failure; Jared Goff has shown no competent reading of the field and seemingly no ability to establish any command of the quarterbacking position. 

Cowboys over NY Giants - The Giants have had a strong season but losing to the Steelers comes at the worst possible time with the Cowboys - unbeaten since losing to the Giants in Week One - looking for payback in Metlife Stadium, and where in 2015's Metlife match honorary Giants captains actors Peter Hermann, Mariska Hargitay, and their little angel August proved a good luck charm for the Gints, that mojo doesn't look effective against Dakota Prescott and company.  

2014's playoff shootout remains the signature game between the Patriots and the Ravens

Patriots over Ravens - Much discussion has been made downing the Patriots defense for ostensible poor performance against quality opponents, ignoring the Patriots are 3-1 against such opponents so far and giving up 31 points to the Seahawks is not terribly impressive in today's game; that particular game came down to a surprising failure by the Patriots goalline offense.   The Patriots are now working with a different offensive setup with Gronkowski on IR but showed some depth in the offense and some physicality against a Rams team starting to make cheap hits and face a deadly but still erratic Joe Flacco.    Flacco's erraticism shows in that the Miami win was just the third time the Ravens scored over 25 points this year and the Patriots are plus-nine in turnover differential compared to the Ravens coming in - Flacco by himself has eleven INTs compared to New England's combined eight turnovers.  With all that expect points to pile up.

The countdown begins.......

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