NFL Week 17 good, bad and ugly: The future looks bright

Matt Stafford showed some pride. Detroit Lions

The good weather (regular season) has come to an end, and winter (the playoffs) has come. Week 17 was set to be kind of ho hum in terms of excitement. But it’s NFL football, so it hardly ever disappoints.

The Good

-Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers ended their season 9-7 after a 30-10 win over the Oakland Raiders. Rivers threw for 387 yards and three touchdowns. After starting 0-4, they finished strong and gave the Kansas City Chiefs a run for the division title. They have a positive outlook heading into next season. Hopefully the fans in Los Angeles will grow to appreciate how exciting this team is.

-While the Chiefs may have almost lost the division, they managed to keep hold of it and were able to rest players. Starting quarterback Alex Smith sat while backup Patrick Mahomes showed why the team traded up to get him. Going 22 of 35 for 281 yards (one interception) was good for his first game action. While Smith will lead the charge into the playoffs, Mahomes will be the future, and it looks pretty bright.

-Somebody must’ve forgotten to tell Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford that they had nothing to play for against the Green Bay Packers. Stafford led the Lions to a 35-11 victory by throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns. The new contract is well-deserved in my opinion. He seems to have gotten better after Calvin Johnson retired.

The Bad

-The Seattle Seahawks lost to the Arizona Cardinals 26-24 after kicker Blair Walsh missed a go ahead field goal from 48 yards out. Contributing to that loss was another penalty-filled game (eight for 100 yards). They have seemed to have imploded as of late. The blow-up between Earl Thmoas and Bobby Wagner couple weeks ago, then Thomas openly asking Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett about becoming a Cowboy may have spelled the end for their run. Oh, and the Los Angeles Rams have taken their crown in the NFC West.

-The Baltimore Ravens pissed away a chance at the playoffs by losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 31-27. The hapless Bengals were being led by a lame duck coach in Marvin Lewis after announcing he would be leaving the team at season’s end. Sure, this was a division rival, but more was expected with a playoff spot on the line. The play in which Chris Moore bobbled the catch that was eventually intercepted was a microcosm of the Ravens season.

-The Washington Redskins didn’t have anything to play for against the awful New York Giants except pride. Evidently, their pride wasn’t enough because they lost 18-10. The score wasn;t indicative of their performance. They only managed 197 yards, turned the ball over three times and surrendered 260 yards rushing. Add to this that it may be Kirk Cousins’ final season in D.C., Daniel Snyder may hitting the reset button…again.

The Ugly

- Cleveland Browns receiver Corey Coleman dropped a pass that not only would have converted a key fourth down, but also could have turned into a game winning touchdown drive. The loss dropped the Factory of Sadness to 0-16 on the season. They’re the third team in league’s modern era to end their season without a win. Hopefully they can use the 1st and 4th overall picks to improve this moribund franchise.

-The Dallas Cowboys managed a paltry six points in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, who secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC, were resting players for the most part and weren’t expected to put up much of a fight. Ezekiel Elliot managed to rush for 103 yards, which was the only bright spot in this baseball score of a football game. Cowboy fans need to be worried about this team heading into next season.

-“Black Monday” got started early as the Raiders fired Jack Del Rio, and Indianapolis Colts fired Chuck Pagano. There are going to be more firings and parting of the ways coming. The fact that these guys were fired within hours (or minutes) means they could have been let go earlier because the decision was evidently made long before today’s games.

Week 17 saw some good games, and some milestones. Colts running back Frank Gore became only the fifth man to eclipse the 14,000 yard mark rushing. New Orleans Saints’ running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram became the first pair of running backs on same team to both gain over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a season. There were even some performances by guys in mop up duty that give teams hope for the future, namely Jameis Winston leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a game-winning drive over the Saints one week after throwing another temper tantrum on the field. Perhaps the thing I liked most was the all out effort I saw from a lot of these guys. Whether playing for another contract, trying to hit incentives, or just balling out of sheer pride and love of the game, I appreciated that the most.

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.

Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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