NFL Week 14

NFL Week 14: Good, bad and ugly

Steelers Official Twitter

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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images.

After a "qualifying round" of playoffs, the actual Stanley Cup playoffs are here. In a weird hockey world that saw two 12 seeds win in round one and the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference finish last in the round robin and get a four seed, things appear wide open. The lower seeds may actually have a bit of an advantage at the beginning of these series, as they have already gone through an actual elimination round, while the top four seeds played a less intense round robin. As teams still adjust to a long layoff, more upsets could be in order. It should be fun. Here is a look at the matchups:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Philadelphia Flyers (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)

The Flyers were dominant in the round-robin phase and look very much like a team that can make a deep run. Montreal was the lowest seed in the qualifying tournament, but stunned Pittsburgh, and were the better team throughout the series. Philly, however, is playing much better hockey than their Pennsylvania counterparts. The Canadiens will need a big effort from goalie Carey Price, who is capable of stealing games. Young Flyers goalie Carter Hart was outstanding in the two round-robin games he played and is an emerging star. Philly has more talent, but a goalie like Price can win a series.

Prediction: Flyers in 5.

Tampa Bay Lightning (2) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)

Tampa is as talented a group as you will find in the NHL. They have depth on all lines, terrific defensemen and an elite goalie. Yet they have a checkered playoff past. Last season, they were dominant in the regular season and looked like a Cup lock. They were promptly swept out of the first round by the Jackets. Columbus outplayed a similarly talented team in Toronto in round one and are a tough matchup. Can the Lightning be struck down twice? Absolutely.

Prediction: Jackets in 7.

Washington Capitals (3) vs. New York Islanders (6)

The Caps still have Alex Ovechkin and a recent Stanley Cup, and have to be considered a contender against whoever they play. But the Isles play terrific defense, grind you down and get just enough scoring to win games. Plus they have the coach who won the Cup with the Caps, Barry Trotz, which gives them another edge. The Isles are a long shot Cup contender and could pull off the upset.

Prediction: Islanders in 7.

Boston Bruins (4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (5)

The Bruins were the best team in the league in the regular season, but played flat in the round robin, winding up with a fourth seed. It seems a little unfair that they dominated all year but three games determined their fate, but that's life. By now they should have figured things out again and should be able to advance. They are a tricky team, because if they play as poorly as they did last week, Carolina could knock them out. But the Bruins should get better the deeper they get in the playoffs. The Hurricanes have a rising star in Andrei Svechnikov, who had a hat trick in the first round against the Rangers. The Bruins, however, are deeper, more talented and have the more tested and reliable goalie in Tukka Rask.

Prediction: Bruins in 5.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Las Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (8)

The Golden Knights were impressive in the round-robin, and looked like they did not miss a beat from the break. They were on a 8-2 run before the Rona interruption and swept the three seeding games since. But the Blackhawks are a scary matchup. They dominated Edmonton in the play-in round, winning 3-1 despite being the last team to qualify. They are young and shaky on defense, but still have proven Cup winners like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. It would be foolish to count them out, but the Oilers were a much better matchup for the Hawks. If Crawford dominates in net, they have a fighting chance. But the Knights are on a different level right now.

Prediction: Las Vegas in 6.

Colorado Avalanche (2) vs. Arizona Coyotes (7)

This might be one of the more intriguing matchups of this round. The Avs look like a Cup contender, and Nathan MacKinnon is an MVP candidate and might be one of the most underappreciated superstars in the league. The Coyotes, however, are going to be a tough out. Goalie Darcy Kempner faced a ton of shots against the Predators and held up well. He will have to do the same here. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel provide top end forward play, and Arizona matches up OK here. The Avs should win, but don't be shocked if they are pushed hard.

Prediction: Avs in 6.

Dallas Stars (3) vs. Calgary Flames (6)

Dallas is an interesting team. The Stars have Stanley Cup-level talent, but they struggle to score at times, which could be a problem in a seven-game series. They play strong D and have great goaltending, but have issues with quicker teams, which bodes well for Calgary. The Flames are also a bit of an enigma, but they seem built for the playoffs. They have two young American-born stars in Johnny Gaudreu and Matthew Tkachuk, solid depth up front and on the back end and can hold their own with most teams. Cam Talbot is the key, however. If he can consistently man the goal the way he did in the series win over Winnipeg, they have a big shot. He finished off the series with a 31-save shutout.

Prediction: Flames in 7.

St. Louis Blues (4) vs. Vancouver Canucks (5)

The defending champs were not very good in the round-robin, hence the four seed. But it will probably work out; the Canucks are an easier matchup than what they would have faced with Calgary as a 3 seed. Vancouver is an interesting young team. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are two up and coming stars, but the rest of the lineup is bolstered by gritty vets. Defensemen Quinn Hughes is another young star in the making. Goalie Jacob Markstrom was solid against Minnesota, but he will need to be better in this round. The Canucks could have made a run against Dallas, but hard to see them beating the champs.

Prediction: Blues in 6.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome