NFL Week 14 Recap: AFCmageddon Fallout, NFC Seedings and Both Grudens

patriots defense

It takes a mammoth story to knock the NFL out of the lead spot on Monday morning news cycles, but that’s exactly what the college football playoff standings did yesterday. So I guess in a sense the new playoff format has already paid off because of the headlines and attention it’s grabbing. But I feel like any debate over which is the better brand of football, college or the pros, is over. Say what you want about this year’s NFC South tragedy or any other year when a 7-9 or 8-8 team makes the playoffs, but at least we all know the rules and parameters for getting into the postseason ahead of time (and we know it’s 100% based on the actual game results). You just can’t have a legitimate sports league and champion when you make rules up as you go along (and possibly reward schools with playoff berths because of things other than their on-field performance).

The college football selection show was one of only two things that took my attention ever-so-slightly off of football on Sunday. The other was “Eaten Alive.”

A TV show that promised a live human would be consumed by an anaconda, “Eaten Alive” probably should have been called “If, after days of wandering through the Amazon to find the perfect snake to eat me alive, I do in fact find that perfect snake (that might not even exist in the first place), then I will indeed be Eaten Alive…but only if the snake follows my arbitrary rules of not breaking my arms & legs, which could have been better protected if I didn’t refuse the armor that my team wanted to put on me…THEN I WILL BE EATEN ALIVE…for all of six minutes out of a 2-hour TV show.”

Needless to say, I’ll probably pass on the next show that promises a man will be eaten by a dangerous predator.

On the AFC

While AFCmageddon didn’t totally disappoint this past weekend, the results for many of the AFC teams precluded next week from having very many exciting matchups. For example:

  • The Dolphins at Patriots is no longer interesting because Miami lost to Baltimore, dropping them three games behind New England.
  • The Texans at Colts is no longer interesting because Indy pulled out a ridiculous comeback in Cleveland that kept them two games ahead of Houston.
  • And with Cleveland blowing that home game, it makes their game against Cincy in week 15 much less interesting, as the Browns would need some miracles over the final three weeks to win the North.
  • In the West, the Broncos’ win combined with San Diego’s loss allows Denver to lose their upcoming matchup without any repercussion in the division standings.

In all my gambling losses over these first 14 weeks of the season, I’ve learned only one thing: Stay the F away from the AFC North. It’s probably been a detriment to gamblers that this division got to face the entire NFC South this year because those games have artificially inflated how decent the North looks.

The AFC North has a .821 win percentage against the NFC South (everyone’s favorite sacrificial lamb). Against everyone else? It drops to a .526 win percentage. Not great unless you can play the trash of the NFC every game.

Also consider: Cincy had won five of its last six games, including three on the road. They had gotten some key guys healthy in the last few weeks. On Sunday they couldn’t stay within 20 points of Pittsburgh, a team that really hasn’t played well on the road this year and lost to New Orleans AT HOME just a week earlier. Baltimore lost at home to San Diego in week 13 and lost more defensive starters before their road game in Miami on Sunday. Of course they held Miami to 13 points. What I’m saying is…the AFC North is the definition of stayaway. It’s the least predictable division in the NFL.

On the NFC

What people are most excited about after week 13 is the race for the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs, specifically who will have home field if the dream matchup of Seattle vs Green Bay happens. If Arizona fades like many are expecting, we’d basically have three teams vying for the top spot: Green Bay (10-3), Seattle (9-4), and the winner of the NFC East. Philadelphia (9-4) or Dallas (9-4).

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Eagles win the East (since they’re hosting the game against Dallas this coming weekend). If the season were to end with a three-way tie, the Seahawks would win the tiebreaker because they beat both Green Bay and Philadelphia. And even if it’s a two-way tie between Seattle and the Packers, the ‘Hawks would still take the #1 seed. But here’s why you can R-E-L-A-X again, Packer fans: Your team already has a one-game lead over Seattle and their final three games are at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay and home against Detroit. They should win all three of those games.

And if these two teams do matchup in a key January game, regardless of where it’s played, I think Seattle wins because Green Bay has never shown any sign of beating this Seattle team when its defense is at full strength.

And Back to the AFC

I know I’m jumping around a lot here, but one more note on this past week’s Indianapolis over Cleveland game. Has any game this season been more responsible for some very important implications? With that loss by Cleveland, the Johnny Manziel Era starts, Brian Hoyer will be on a different team in 2015, the Browns are effectively out of the playoffs and the Texans are more or less in that same boat (due to Indy winning and remaining two games up on them with three to play). A lot was decided when Cleveland blew that game.

The Grudens

I’m reading more and more that Jay Gruden could be one-and-done in Washington as the head coach. Let me go on record as saying that should absolutely NOT happen. I loved the way he called out RG3 to the media a couple weeks ago because it needed to happen. It seemed to me like a last-ditch effort to get through to a player who doesn’t want to listen. I gained a lot of respect for Gruden after that press conference. RG3 should be the one leaving the team after the season. But I do wonder if the amount of dysfunction across the board on this team will lead to a deep cleaning of the roster and the coaching staff. They might decide to remove anyone associated with the stink of 2014…coach, quarterbacks (all of them), coordinators…it’s almost like they should do a full reset, you know? Maybe change their branding even?

As for my favorite announcer quote of the week, it was all the glowing things that Jon Gruden said about Steven Jackson on Monday night. I can’t pick just one. It wasn’t like he said semi-logical things like, “Jackson’s been struggling for a little while now, but he’s had some nice games lately.” Instead he said outlandish things like, “In this Atlanta offense, if you can get good blocking from your offensive line, Steven Jackson will take care of the rest.” If you only listened to Gruden’s comments about Jackson and didn’t pay attention to football otherwise, you’d assume Jackson’s leading the league in rushing and might be the greatest runner in football history.

Why the Patriots are Finally Different

As a big time New England homer, I typically predict the Patriots to win the Super Bowl every year based on the logic of Tom Brady & Bill Belichick, and not much more. This year’s different. In their past five games, they’ve limited offenses led by Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers to 16.6 points per game. For the season, those teams are averaging 27.3 points per game. And this run for the Pats’ defense coincided with two significant personnel losses, Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones. Mayo’s out for the year, but Jones may be back as soon as this week. For the first time in many years, this New England defense might just carry the team to the promised land (assuming the referees allow Brandon Browner to make clean hits without throwing a flag, which is still to be determined).

Week 15 picks coming on Thursday.

NFL Week 9 Recap: When Blowouts Ruin the Weekend


Consider week 9 our payment to the football gods for all those random Sundays when the schedule looks pathetic, but we get the random excitement when Oakland takes San Diego to the wire, or Carolina & Cincinnati exchange haymakers over five quarters, or the Cowboys go into Seattle and stun everyone with a road win.

Make no mistake about it, week 9 was the worst slate of football games we’ve seen in a long time. Think about our expectations versus what actually took place.


  • Six legitimately enticing matchups featuring playoff-hopeful teams facing off against each other in all of them.
    1. New Orleans @ Carolina
    2. Arizona @ Dallas
    3. Philadelphia @ Houston
    4. San Diego @ Miami
    5. Denver @ New England
    6. Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
  • The largest point spread in that group was Denver favored by 3.5 over New England. These games were supposed to be close, the kind of games you expect in November among teams jockeying for playoff position.

What actually took place:

  • manure
  •  Yes. That is a steaming pile of manure. Here’s what officially happened:
    1. New Orleans beat Carolina by 18
    2. Arizona beat Dallas by 11
    3. Philadelphia beat Houston by 10 (throw in the Nick Foles & DeMeco Ryans injuries for Philly fans to feel even worse about this weekend)
    4. Miami beat San Diego’s corpses by 37
    5. New England beat Denver by 22
    6. Pittsburgh beat Baltimore by 20
  • And just in case all those games were a total bust, we had what I thought was going to be a sneaky good Monday Night game. Why did I think this? Because the Giants just had two weeks to rest while the Colts were getting absolutely demolished by the Steelers two weekends ago. But nope, that had to be an unwatchable blowout too. Not only were the six marquee matchups duds, but all the nationally-televised games were huge misses too.
  • I’m thinking the NFL owes us some once-in-a-lifetime miraculous level of football in week 10.

Any time someone brings up the possibility that sports leagues fix their games as a NEGATIVE, just point to week 9 of the 2014 NFL season as your counterpoint. Think of all the amazing things the NFL could have done with this past weekend’s games if only the people who run the league were corrupt…

Overall only four of 13 games didn’t end in an absolute blowout. I’m moving on from week 9, burying it deep in the middle of that dung pile.

Let’s spend the rest of our time together checking in on my preseason picks for how the playoffs will unfold (with an assist to guest blogger Neil as I’ll forage through his picks too and see how right or wrong we both were). My loyal readers know I try to be accountable about preseason predictions. Let’s see what we’ve got.

Ross’ Preseason Playoff Prediction

  • AFC
    1. New England
    2. San Diego
    3. Pittsburgh
    4. Indianapolis
    5. Denver
    6. Miami
  • NFC
    1. New Orleans
    2. Seattle
    3. Philadelphia
    4. Chicago
    5. Green Bay
    6. Tampa Bay

Ross’s Thoughts Upon Seeing That Prediction

  • If we focus on the AFC, I actually look pretty good so far. Yes, having San Diego usurping the Broncos in the West seems foolish now, but only three weeks ago the Chargers were 5-1 and there was hope for that exact scenario to play out. The Pittsburgh and Miami predictions were pretty bold calls, and I gotta pat myself on the back because both of those teams look solid and are right in the mix through nine weeks.
  • In that prediction blog, I’ve got the Patriots beating the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. Fast forward to today…I don’t hate that at all. Absolutely it still looks like Patriots/Broncos is the best bet for our AFC title game matchup, but I would never bet against the Steelers if they simply make it to January.
  • And now for the carnage…the NFC. In my defense, did anyone have the Cardinals, Cowboys or Lions even making the playoffs? My sense is this conference will continue to operate in a chaotic state through week 17. But picking the Bears and (especially) the Bucs to make the playoffs really jump off the screen. There’s a chance two of my projected playoff teams finish as the two worst teams in the entire conference!
  • In that preseason blog, I had Philly beating New Orleans to get to the Super Bowl. Not only does a Mark Sanchez-led Eagles team feel like a lock to miss the playoffs, but the Saints as the #1 seed in the NFC might already be a mathematical impossibility.
  • My only chance to look halfway decent is if the Patriots go on to win the Super Bowl, but even then it’ll look like a homer pick.

Neil’s Preseason Playoff Prediction

  • AFC
    1. New England
    2. Denver
    3. Houston
    4. Pittsburgh
    5. San Diego
    6. Cincinnati
  • NFC
    1. New Orleans
    2. Seattle
    3. Green Bay
    4. NY Giants
    5. Chicago
    6. Philadelphia

Ross’s Thoughts On Neil’s Prediction

  • Neil’s AFC predictions are pretty well intact, especially because he didn’t mess with Denver & San Diego like I did. Where he misses wildly is projecting the Texans to win the AFC South. You’ll notice the Colts are nowhere on Neil’s AFC playoff bracket. The reality is that the Colts could have the division clinched by week 13.
  • Neil goes on to pick the Broncos over Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Neil’s debilitating conservatism might serve him well when it comes to the AFC. Barring any more major injuries from either team, it really is tough to think any other AFC opponent will jump up and eliminate the Patriots or Broncos before they try to eliminate each other.
  • Like me, Neil seems to have two NFC teams that are pretty much out of contention, the Bears and Giants. And like me, Neil has the Saints as the #1 seed and Seahawks as the #2 seed. While both are still plenty capable of making the playoffs, it doesn’t seem like either will be getting a bye unless this conference completely collapses on itself.
  • Neil goes with the Saints over the Packers in the NFC Championship and then a Saints Super Bowl win over the Broncos.

Lessons learned from this exercise? Neil and I probably just as good as every other football prognosticator when it comes to predicting in September how a 12-team tournament will play out in January after 32 teams have spent 17 weeks trying to kill each other.

It’s the NFL. It’s unpredictable. It’s chaotic. It’s frustrating as hell sometimes. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

But can someone from the league office please step up and be a little shady and underhanded for once and simply fix a few games to ensure week 9 of 2014 never ever happens again?

Thank you.

Week 10 picks coming on Thursday.