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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Cristian Javier has proven he's a quality starting pitcher. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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