NFL Week 13 Observations

NFL Week 13: Good, bad and ugly

Rod Mar, seahawks.com

Week 13 in the NFL is in the books. With that, we are now 75% into the season with 25% left (I'm good at math). Here are my observations:

The Good

-The Seahawks have gone from the #5 seed to the #2 seed in the NFC. Not only did they benefit from their 37-30 win over the Vikings, but the 49ers loss to the Ravens as well. They ran for 218 yards against the Vikings which is the most rushing yards they've given up since Week 1 of the 2015 season. I was just as impressed with their dance routine touchdown celebration.

-The Miami Dolphins were thought to be "tanking for Tua" when the season started. Since then, they've won three games and are in "danger" of falling out of the top five in the draft. They managed to dash any hope the Eagles had left of salvaging their season with a 37-31 win. They also had a play of the year candidate with a fake field goal. The formation itself was weird enough, but the punter throwing a touchdown pass to the kicker was pretty cool. Kudos to Brian Flores for not letting his team flounder.

-The Steelers beat the Browns 20-13 and are currently in the #6 seed in the AFC. Despite losing Ben Roethlisberger for the season and getting rid of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, they're in the hunt. The game with the Browns was up for grabs at halftime tied at 10. That's when players say head coach Mike Tomlin drew up a new defensive game plan on the board. They credit him with saving the game. Tomlin was asked about it after the press conference and deflected the question. The class in which he carries himself and his ability to keep his team in contention year in and year out make him one of my favorite coaches. He's a coach of the year candidate in my opinion.

The Bad

-The Broncos were 3-8 and going nowhere fast when they hosted the 4-7 and underperforming Chargers. The game was tied at 20 after the Chargers kicked a field goal with 14 seconds left. After returning the kick to the 28, the Broncos were still about 40 or so yards away from field goal range. Drew Lock threw up a prayer and it was answered in the form of a pass interference call that set them up for the game winning field goal. The only good thing about this is that neither team will sniff the playoffs. Horrible ending decided by the refs.

-The Raiders may have pissed away their playoff chances with another dud of a performance. Though they outgained the Chiefs in total yards (332 to 259), they still lost 40-9. If I told you a team held the Chiefs to 259 yards and the final score was 40-9, you'd think they blew the Chiefs out. Well when you turn the ball over three times and set up the other team for easy scores, the result looks a lot different.

-The Cowboys lost 26-15 to the Bills on Thanksgiving. Despite their 6-6 record, they're still in the lead of the NFC East! The 5-7 Eagles and 3-9 Redskins still have a shot at winning the division! This division is like picking your favorite disease when looking at who you want to win it. I wish the NFL would disqualify the winner from the playoffs, or make them play one of the wildcard winners on the road.

The Ugly

-The Panthers came into their game with the Redskins with a chance to keep their playoff hopes on life support and managed to pull the plug. Not only did their once vaunted defense give up 248 yards rushing to a two win team, but their quarterback had perhaps the worse play of their season. On 4th&Goal from the three yard line with :27 left on the clock, Kyle Allen had a wide open receiver to his right. Instead, he decided to continuously drop back, got sacked for a loss of 23 yards and fumbled. And this is whom they are thinking of replacing Cam Newton with?

-Browns coach Freddie Kitchens decided to wear a "Pittsburgh started it" shirt earlier in the week of the rematch with the Steelers. The shirt was in reference to the infamous brawl at the end of their first matchup with their division rival. The Browns went on to lose 20-13 to the Steelers who were led by their third string quarterback nicknamed Duck. Kitchens wasn't a good hire to begin with and his seat should be hotter than fish grease by now given their 5-7 record.

-The Jags are now 4-8 and look like a mess after their 28-11 loss to the Bucs. They spent big money to sign quarterback Nick Foles in the offseason. Foles was hurt much of the season after the third play of the season and rookie backup Gardner Minshew took over. Foles has since come back, but was benched during the Bucs game in favor of Minshew who was named starter for the rest of the season. After all the trouble last season and the start of this season (including the trade of Jalen Ramsey), this team is a complete cluster-bleep.

Four games left in the season and no more bye weeks. It's time for teams to make their final runs into the playoffs. Buyer better beware because there are teams out there that can't sniff the playoffs and would love to play spoiler. I love seeing the teams that believe they're playoff bound get tripped up and/or eliminated by a team that'll most likely be picking in the top half of the draft. Here's when you know what your team will potentially look like in the playoffs, or what they may need to draft or sign in the offseason, or both. Either way, the stretch run is much better now that we get division games in Week 17, and there are several of those matchups that will keep us tuned in until the final whistle of the regular season.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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