NFL Week 14

NFL Week 14: Good, bad and ugly

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Week 14 brought us more exciting action, blown calls, and big performances. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Behind a rookie third string quarterback Devlin "Duck" Hodges, the Pittsburgh Steelers are now 8-5 after their 23-17 win over the Cardinals and are the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture. But most of the credit to how the Steelers have maintained their level of success goes to head coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin has been the Steelers head coach for 13 years now and has not had a losing record. This season is perhaps his best coaching job and he should be coach of the year.

-Props to Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan for becoming the 10th passer in NFL history and second fastest to amass 50,000 passing yards. At 4-9, the Falcons are in full-blown draft preparation mode with their playoff chances long down the drain. However, when history is made, we should all appreciate it. Ryan has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league for years now and may have cemented his Hall of Fame bid.

-The Titans have been on a roll lately. They've won four in a row and are on the verge of making the playoffs. While the switch to Ryan Tannehill from Marcus Mariota at quarterback will be credited with the bulk of the success of their turnaround, running back Derrick Henry should get some as well. In that win streak, Henry has 599 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns. His 103 yards in their 42-21 win over the Raiders was his lowest output of the streak.

The Bad

-Bucs quarterback Jameis WInston could be the first quarterback in NFL history to lead the league passing yards, touchdowns...and interceptions. He's currently second, tied for second, and first respectively in those three categories. He's having an awesomely terrible season.

-I mentioned earlier how the Steelers beat the Cardinals earlier, I didn't mention a key play that led them to that win. Early in the 4th quarter down by 10, Cardinals' rookie quarter back Kyler Murray had a 4th&2 on the Steelers' six yard line. He more than likely could've run for a 1st down, but instead opted for a pass that was picked off by Steelers' outside linebacker T.J. Watt. here's to hoping Murray will learn from his rookie mistakes.

-The refs have made tons of poor calls this season. Another contender for the most egregious was a personal foul on Ravens' safety Earl Thomas. He was flagged after a teammate pushed him causing him to fall over Bills' quarterback Josh Allen. Sometimes, there's judgement needed when making certain calls. The refs should've known and seen the circumstances here and swallowed the whistle. Good thing it didn't cost the Ravens the game.

The Ugly

-The 49ers beat the Saints in one of the year's best games so far. However, they lost three key starters: center Weston Richburg is done for the year with a torn patellar tendon, while outside linebacker Dee Ford and corner Richard Sherman are out multiple weeks with hamstring injuries. For a team currently in control of the top spot in the NFC, these injuries couldn't have come at a worse time.

-The Patriots have long been seen as cheaters who've mostly skated away from significant punishment. They even had Spygate 2.0 come up this week, but it lasted maybe an hour or so and was simply a mixup. However, they had three calls go against them in their 23-16 loss to the Chiefs: a fumble return for a touchdown that was blown dead, a potential touchdown taken off the board after being wrongly ruled out of bounds, and a blatant pass interference not called. The funniest part: seeing all the Northeastern media cry for them after they routinely tell others to shut up for the same thing.

-In a scene reminiscent of the band being on the field during an early 80s Cal-Stanford game, the Rams' cheerleaders and mascot had to be told to exit the field of play just before halftime of their game versus the Seahawks. Not sure who's at fault here, but this should never happen in an NFL game. There's a guy on the sideline with a spotter and their job is to enter the field of play when there's a commercial timeout and leave when it's over. They have gloves and a vest to signal everyone that needs to know when play should be stopped and started. Perhaps the Rams' cheerleaders should pay better attention.

If we were to judge the Super Bowl contenders like books in a spades game, I'd say the NFC has three (49ers, Saints, Seahawks) and a strong possible (Packers); while the AFC has one (Ravens) and three possibles (Chiefs, Patriots, Bills). While some may laugh at the Bills being a possible, I'd argue to look at their defense. Some may also think the Seahawks and/or Packers aren't true contenders, but they have players at the ultimate position that'll always keep them in the conversation. While the Saints may have lost a shootout at home to the 49ers, that game was so close, it's hard to say one should be considered a strong favorite over the other. The Ravens have arguably the league MVP, a playoff ready run game, and a salty defense that'll keep them as the favorite until proven otherwise. These last three weeks of the regular season will serve as a playoff audition. It may also serve as a peacock ceremony for those that are in but want to flex their muscle and jockey for positioning. Either way, we have meaningful football left in the regular season.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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