Just when you think you know a thing or two...not so fast, my friend! Week 15 of the NFL season had a few upsets along the way, some of which have major implications for the NFL post-season schedule....and the Draft order. Studs & Duds this week serves as my homage to the upsets. Did your team pull out an unexpected victory? Congratulations! (Maybe...but maybe not.)
STUD - Good Ol' Saint Nick (Foles)
Ho, ho, ho! Nicky Six has Birds fans singing a new tune this morning: something about the playoffs? The legend of Nick Foles will never die in the city of Philadelphia for his Super Bowl run with the team last year. And shame on Vegas for not seeing the oncoming train.
The Rams entered Sunday night's contest as nearly two touchdown favorites against the struggling Super Bowl champs, who would be without star QB Carson Wentz and had to travel out west for the big game.
No Carson? No problem. The Eagles stormed out of a tied half (13-13) and ran up 17 points courtesy of some boneheaded plays by QB Jared Goff and the rest of the Rams.
Foles didn't do anything exceptional in this game but he did exactly what he did last year: he came off the bench to provide relief in Los Angeles and secured a vital win for the Eagles. 'Tis the season!
DUD - San Francisco's bid for Nick Bosa
"iF yOu ThINk ThE 49eRs ShOUlD inTeNtIoNaLLy LoSe YoU aRe aN iDiOt"
Yes. I too believe meaningless wins in December should be celebrated, particularly when the best football player in this year's upcoming NFL Draft, which just so happens do be a desperate need, is in the balance.
Coach Kyle Shanahan's record in two years with the 49ers before December: 3-19
Coach Kyle Shanahan's record in two years with the 49ers in December: 7-1
You want to win football games? That's fine. Win your football games. But it's a hard pill for me, as a draft guy, to swallow when you've clearly got your hands full rebuilding a roster and you win what amount to trivial football games late in the season to leap from the top pick to a fringe top 8-10 pick.
Moral victories are not the pathway to success in the NFL. So Coach Shanahan's team would be wise to either play every game like it's December or accept their roster needs some blue chip players.
STUD - Philip Rivers
Could this be the year? Do we have Rivers on the John Elway plan? It certainly feels like magic is in the air after the Chargers' stunning comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead this past Thursday.
Rivers is playing great football and although the difference in his arm vs. Patrick Mahomes' was evident on Thursday Night, this old dog still has some tricks up his sleeve.
Take the 4th down throw on the game winning drive. Holy cow. Rivers managed to illustrate the finer points of NFL quarterback play all in one fell swoop. There was the clutch favor. Accounting for pressure. Throwing into the smallest of windows with much needed anticipation.
For all the glory Mahomes (rightfully) gets for his no look passes and throwing around defenders, the sheer magnitude and precision of Rivers' 4th down toss makes it the biggest throw I've seen all year. It damn well could shift the entire balance of the AFC by the time the season wraps.
DUD - The Los Angeles Rams' clock management skills
Bruh. What on Earth?
The Eagles missed a 52-yard field goal with just over a minute left in the game last night, leading 30-23. Rad. Let's get weird and make some free football for the people.
Except...well...the Rams forgot how to stop the clock. TE Gerald Everett and RB Todd Gurley both passed on opportunities to step out of bounds on the team's last gasp effort.
The road to the Super Bowl now squarely runs through New Orleans...the Saints own a head to head tiebreaker with the Rams and own a half-game in the standings...pending what happens tonight vs. Carolina.
STUDs - Sashi Brown's 2017 first round haul
I talked over the weekend about how Cleveland's 17-16 win over the Broncos served as a great national showcase for Sashi Brown's good draft with the Browns. 2016's class was...well...awful. Drafting Corey Coleman and Emmanuel Ogbah within the first 32 selections hurt.
But DE Myles Garrett, S Jabrill Peppers and TE David Njoku look like centerpieces of the roster this season. And Peppers' big plays helped Cleveland nail down it's 6th win of the season against the Broncos on Saturday night.
No one is calling for Sashi Brown to have a job back...but his "Process" in Cleveland was always going to play out this way. The team was always going to be worse before it got better. But Sashi shattered the status quo of 4-12 and with it brought enough ammo, good players and future assets to bring hope of a legitimate contender.
With John Dorsey working atop that foundation, look out.
DUD - Patriots' Road Performances in 2018
The Patriots lost another road game this week, this time to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 17-10. Now...I am not dumb enough to assert that this Patriots' dynasty is over. But it should be noted that New England is scoring at it's lowest rate (26.7) since 2009.
Can we think about that? Just like...really let that sink in. It's been almost a decade of top-3 scoring offense in the NFL and no season with more than 4 regular season wins. The Pats last missed the playoffs without Tom Brady in 2008 and in the 10 years since they've won the AFC East 10 times, won two Super Bowls, lost two more, lost in three AFC Championship games, lost in the Divisional Round once, lost in the Wild Card round once and then whatever happens this year.
Y'all really can't complain about anything at all.
But anywho: the Pats are punchless this year away from Foxboro. With losses to Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee, Miami and Pittsburgh away from home, New England faces a daunting task in the AFC seeding.
The good news? They have home games left against the Bills and Jets. No pressure, Houston.