A crazy Sunday that featured eleven 1 pm games is wrapping up and the playoff picture is getting a little clearer. Here’s 5 things to take away from this today’s action.
1. The Bengals could be doomed with Andy Dalton’s thumb injury
Sunday was an absolutely horrible day for the Cincinnati Bengals on the injury front. Not only did they lose to the division-rival Steelers 33-20, but they also lost two of their best offensive players. Quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a thumb fracture on his throwing hand when tackling Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt picked off Dalton’s pass that was intended for running back Geovani Bernard. Dalton was initially ruled questionable to return to the game, but was eventually ruled out when it was announced that he had suffered a fracture in his thumb. Dalton is expected to miss the rest of the regular season a may miss the postseason as well. Dalton has never missed a start. He is seeing a specialist tomorrow.
In Dalton’s place, 2014 fifth rounder AJ McCarron of Alabama took over, going 22 for 32 for 280 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert also left the game to enter the concussion protocol and did not return to the game.
If Dalton is done for the season, the Bengals will have to continue with AJ McCarron under center. Cincinnati is still in first place in the AFC north and is competing for home field advantage, so McCarron has a tough task ahead of him. The Bengals play at San Francisco, at Denver and home against Baltimore in their final three games.
One thing for McCarron to keep in mind is that he has just as many playoff wins as Dalton does. Maybe that will take some of the pressure off of him going forward.
2. Brock Osweiler may not be the best option for the Broncos going forward
The Raiders beat the Broncos 15-12 after the Broncos led 12-0 at halftime.
Brock Osweiler has not been horrible by any means. On the season, he is 73 for 119 with 832 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and an 85.8 passer rating. Earlier today Oswiler threw for 308 yards, but did not throw any touchdowns and did not have an interception either. Denver is 3-1 in games that Osweiler has started and is now 10-3 on the season.
However, the Broncos only scored 17 points against the Chargers last week and let an Oakland team come from behind and beat them in their own stadium. Its a big divisional loss for a team that is fighting with New England and Cincinnati for a first round bye and potentially home field advantage.
With 39 year old Peyton Manning still recovering from his foot injury, the Broncos may stick with Osweiler for the rest of the regular season. But come playoff time, Gary Kubiak should strongly consider starting Manning for the playoffs. He may not be able to make all of the throws down the field anymore or run the bootlegs out of the backfield, but he is likely retiring after this season and is much more hungry to play in a Superbowl in what could be his last game. I know the Broncos want to see what they have in Osweiler, but if they want to get to the Superbowl this season the experienced veteran in Manning may be the right guy to start for the playoffs.
3. The Seahawks are still as dangerous as anyone in the NFC
Two weeks in a row now the Seahawks have gone on the road and stomped all over a team wearing a purple uniform. Last week it was the Vikings, and the Seahawks flew away with a 38-7 victory. Earlier today it was the Ravens, and the Seahawks won the battle of the birds by a score of 35-6. Russell Wilson went 23 for 32 for 292 yards and 5 touchdowns. Here is where it gets amazing: In his last 4 games, Wilson is 89 for 118 for 1,170 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. It reminds me of Joe Flacco’s 2012 playoff streak, where Flacco threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in a 4 game span, only Wilson’s streak is 5 touchdowns better.
Not only is the Seattle offense on fire, but the defense has been playing outstanding football as well recently. With their win over Baltimore they held an opponent without a touchdown for the fourth time this season and have only given up 13 points in the last 2 games after giving up 30 against the Steelers two weeks ago.
The Seahawks did lose rookie running back Thomas Rawls for the season when he suffered a broken ankle earlier today, and they played the last three quarters of the game without safety Kam Chancellor (bruised tailbone). Despite this, the Seahawks are playing probably the best football in the NFL right now along with the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Seattle may only clinch a Wild Card spot as the Arizona Cardinals are likely to win the NFC West, but whoever plays the Seahawks in the first round may not be the favorite to win despite having the home-field.
4. LeSean McCoy’s homecoming disappoints
Yes, seeing McCoy kiss the Eagles logo in the middle of the field tugged at our heartstrings. McCoy kept his word in regards to Chip Kelly, as there was no interaction between McCoy and Kelly whatsoever. And he was certainly running hard trying to prove his former coach wrong.
What made the homecoming so underwhelming was that McCoy finished with 74 rushing yards and 109 combined yards from scrimmage. He did not find the endzone once.
The Bills ended up losing 23-20 to the Eagles and now find themselves sitting at 6-7 and in 3rd place in the AFC East. After the game, McCoy was the first off the field and had “nothing to say” when reporters addressed him. I can certainly see why he had nothing to say, because he really did not do much on the field today that was worth talking about.
5. There will be some bad teams in the playoffs
Last year, the Carolina Panthers won the NFC South with a record of 7-8-1 and got to host a playoff game. This season, it looks like there could be two teams under .500 that will win their division and host a playoff game.
The two divisions in question are the NFC East and the AFC South. Here are the standings:
- Redskins (6-7)
- Eagles (6-7)
- Giants (5-7) – Play Monday night at Miami
- Cowboys (4-9)
- Colts (6-7)
- Texans (6-7)
- Jaguars (5-8)
- Titans (3-10)
The NFC East always seems to be a right-down-to-the-wire race and a team usually does not run away with the division. I think any team except Dallas can win that division. The Redskins have been hot and cold all season and a lot of their success depends on how quarterback Kirk Cousins plays. Cousins has played much better at home than on the road, but the Redskins won their first road game of the season earlier today against the Bears 24-21. The Eagles have won two straight ever since they hit a very low point when they lost to Detroit on Thanksgiving. Sam Bradford has played much better since coming back from his shoulder injury and some of the heat on Chip Kelly has gone away. The Giants can’t seem to get it together with Eli Manning throwing interceptions left and right, but they have gotten hot at the end of the season before. If they can find a way to win the division and get in the playoffs, look out for them based on what they have done in the past. With Tom Coughlin’s job potentially on the line, I think the Giants might make some noise in these last few regular season games.
As for the AFC South, who knows. Mathematically anyone except the Titans is still in it. Earlier today the Jaguars won a very commanding game over the Colts, 51-16. They are extremely inconsistent, and have trouble staying in football games, and if they are in it late they have trouble putting a game away. They should also be 4-9, but have an extra win only because the referees messed up the ending of their game against the Ravens. The Colts are beat up at the quarterback position after losing Matt Hasselbeck earlier today with a rib injury. They are still waiting for quarterback Andrew Luck to return from his lacerated kidney and torn abdomen. He is expected back either next week or week 16, but even when he has played the he has struggled and the Colts are 2-5 with Luck under center. The Texans quietly had a four game winning-streak going until it was snapped last week at the hands of the Bills, and just lost their second straight against the Patriots. Their defense will always be decent as long as JJ Watt is on the field, and they have some decent weapons on offense, particularly at wide receiver. Their downfall is they have a mediocre quarterback in Brian Hoyer so it is going to be hard for them to stay consistent and win football games.
What did you learn this week? Leave a comment below!
Thanks for reading,