NFC Week 17 in Review
NFC Week 18 In Review
Saturday Night Football
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas continued its dominance over the NFC East again last Saturday night as they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 51-26. Garner Minshew got the start for the Eagles due to a lingering ankle sprain of Jalen Hurts. He was more than serviceable in the start as he led the opening drive for a touchdown for Philadelphia. Unfortunately for them, this was the only lead they had all game.
Dak Prescott led the charge for Dallas all game and started with their opening drive touchdown in response to Philly’s opening drive touchdown. Prescott was near flawless as he threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cowboys even scored on every possession they had in the first half. At half, the Cowboys were up 30-17 thanks to four Dak Prescott passing touchdowns.
At this point, it seemed like Cowboys were going to run away with the game. The 3rd quarter, however, slowed down considerably as the Cowboys had to punt on their first possession. Philadelphia took advantage of their first stop of the game as they took a near seven-minute drive to get a field goal, which cut the lead to 30-20. Dallas responded with a long drive of their own as they took six and a half minutes to go get a touchdown to start off the 4th quarter.
That touchdown extended the Cowboy lead to 17, which was basically the nail in the coffin for the Eagles. Gardner Minshew was unable to produce a score the next drive, which the Cowboys took advantage of for yet another touchdown. With the score at 44-20 in the 4th quarter, the towel had pretty much been thrown in.
The game finished unceremoniously as Dallas coasted to victory. The Cowboys, NFC East Champions, will have a home playoff game next weekend against the 49ers. One can only hope, for their sake, that they don’t play similarly to their recent playoff experiences. Dallas is a slight favorite going into the game, but that is probably something Cowboy fans are not too excited to see.
Philadelphia also made the postseason at 9-8 as the 7 seed. They go on the road to face the defending Super Bowl Champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Eagles are a major road underdog, and I fully expect that Tom Brady will want to exercise his playoff demons against the Eagles in a big way.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Despite already clinching the number one seed in the NFC, Green Bay did not rest their starters. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were both on the field for the first snap of the game, which was a shock to many.
Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a score on the first drive of the game, to no one’s surprise. After that first score, the Lions were stout on defense and only allowed six more points in the first half. As has been the case for most of the season, the Lions fought hard and were the more gritty team. Going into halftime, they had the lead 17-13 thanks to two passing touchdowns (Goff: 1, Kennedy: 1).
After halftime, Green Bay pulled the majority of their starters, including Aaron Rodgers. Detroit’s starters against Green Bay’s backups turned out to be a pretty good matchup in the second half. Jordan Love was feast or famine in the second half as he turned the ball over three times with two interceptions and one fumble. The Lions were able to put 10 points on the board off of these turnovers, which they desperately needed to come out on top.
The second half started off with a Lions’ three and out followed up by a Green Bay fumble, which was recovered by Detroit. The very next play Jared Goff struck Brock Wright for a 36-yard touchdown connection. Up 24-13, it was clear that one team was playing for pride and the other was just getting reps for their backups.
Detroit was able to hold the lead for the rest of the game, and intercepted Jordan Love on what could have been the game tying touchdown drive. In all, congrats Lions on beating your division “rival” in a game that was meaningless to them.
The Lions improved to 3-13-1 and have the second pick in the draft. They could really go in any direction with this pick, but what is certain is that the Lions are getting better. They covered the spread in the majority of their games, and have looked like a much more competitive football team this year than in years past.
Green Bay will be resting up this weekend as the await the results of Wild Card Weekend. Hopefully they don’t make it to the NFC Championship just to lose again.
Washington Football Team @ New York Giants
Neither of these teams had any playoff aspirations, so I’m not really sure who even watched this game. If you did, you would have noticed that there was a strange playcall from the Giants offense on 3rd and 9 deep inside their own territory. Instead of passing the ball, or even running with a running back, the Giants decided to run a quarterback sneak.
“I kept thinking we hit rock bottom and each week it got worse.” said Giants owner John Mara
If that quote and the decision to run a quarterback sneak on 3rd and 9 don’t describe how abysmal the 2021-22 campaign for the Giants was, I don’t know what will.
Jake Fromm started again for the Giants, and again he was less than impressive. Less than 50% completions, barely over 100 yards passing, and a 1-2 touchdown to interception ratio will simply not cut it. His poor play spilled over into the Giants offense as a whole as they didn’t
score until the 4th quarter, but by then they were down two scores. Don’t count on the Giants scoring twice.
New York fell to 4-13 and fired Joe Judge. So, was the loss really even a loss if they got rid of this guy? The Giants also have to replace their GM as Dave Gettleman retired, although he was likely to be fired anyway. Early word out of New York is that they will hire a GM first and that person will go find a head coach. The main question for that coach going into the offseason is whether or not they believe Daniel Jones is the long-term answer at quarterback. If the new coach has any chance of staying around more than a season or two, his immediate answer should be a resounding “no”. The Giants have the 5th overall pick and need to find a better answer than Daniel Jones at quarterback. With their selection being so early, don’t be surprised if both Corral and Pickett are there for the taking.
Washington didn’t really have anything to play for, but even if they tried hard enough they were not going to lose this game. The win improved their record to 7-10, and they have something to build on for next year. Antonio Gibson was solid as he rushed for 146 yards and a score. Terry McLaurin also had a decent game as he caught four balls for 93 yards.
The Football Team has the 11th pick in the draft, and they need a franchise quarterback desperately. The potential addition of Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett could turn the nameless team into a playoff team in the first year under their new quarterback.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
This was yet another game that had no playoff implications, but nonetheless it was a divisional game. Despite not having any playoff implications, both of these coaches were on the hot seat before the game. So, both had something to play for.
Andy Dalton started again for the Bears, which at this point is probably the better move so they can protect Justin Fields’ future. Dalton was not bad in his start, but he turned the ball over twice with two interceptions. Unfortunately, one of those was returned for a touchdown.
Chicago owned the first half as they held the Vikings scoreless until Minnesota made a last second field goal to cut the lead to 14-3. In the second half, Kirk Cousins must have seen Jesus or something because he randomly started going nuts. He ended the game with 250 passing yards and three touchdowns. One of those came on the first drive of the second half. Cousins topped off a nice drive with a 44-yard pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a touchdown.
A few drives later, Cousins connected with Justin Jefferson for a 45-yard score to tie the game at 17. After a defensive stop, Minnesota scored another touchdown in the air to K.J. Osborn. The next drive Andy Dalton threw a pick-six to Patrick Peterson which pretty much sealed the game at 31-17.
The loss for the Bears ended their season at 6-11, which was enough for Coach Nagy and GM Ryan Pace to be fired. This was a long time coming as the Bears had been underperforming for
the past few seasons. With a solid young quarterback in Justin Fields, a new coaching scheme could be the perfect marriage for what can turn around this franchise.
The win for the Vikings was not enough to save Mike Zimmer’s job, as well as their GM. Minnesota already has a solid offensive unit in place, but their defense needs work. If the Vikings are able to build their defense to what we know it to usually be, they will be right back in the thick of the playoffs in no time.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
If this NFC West rivalry didn’t mean enough already, what was at stake this weekend would make an intraconference game as meaningful as a playoff game. San Francisco desperately needed a win to get into the playoffs as a loss and a New Orleans win would bounce them from the postseason. Los Angeles needed a win in order to clinch the NFC West.
Early on, the Rams looked like they were a Super Bowl caliber team. The defense was on fire and the offense began to pick it up in the second quarter. As a Saints fan, I was very pleased to see that the Rams went up 17-0. Matt Stafford and Tyler Higbee were clicking as they connected for two second quarter touchdowns to extend their early field goal lead to 17 points.
San Francisco got their first points of the half on a field goal as time expired in the second quarter. Going into the second half, the 49ers had to make a major change in order to have a shot at making the playoffs as New Orleans was taking care of Atlanta at the time.
The spark they needed was answered as San Francisco took the opening drive of the second half in for a touchdown thanks to a Deebo Samuel 16-yard rushing score. After a defensive stop on the ensuing drive, San Francisco went down and scored the game tying touchdown march topped off by a Deebo Samuel passing touchdown to former Vol Jauan Jennings.
At this point, San Francisco had all the momentum. Matt Stafford didn’t make things any better as he immediately threw an interception after San Francisco tied the game. The Niners were unable to convert on this opportunity as they went three and out. A couple of possessions later, the Rams broke the momentum as they scored a touchdown with just two and a half minutes to go thanks to the reliable Cooper Kupp.
Having Jimmy Garoppolo in the two-minute drill to save your season is usually not recommended, but in this instance, San Francisco struck gold. Jauan Jennings scored again with 26 seconds to go in the game. After the kickoff, Los Angeles decided to run out the clock to force the game into overtime.
San Francisco won the coin toss and drove down the field taking seven minutes to score a field goal. With just one stop, the 49ers would be on their way to the postseason. Matt Stafford was
off the mark for the entire drive, and on a deep pass intended for Odell, Stafford was intercepted to end the game.
Despite the loss, the Rams still won the NFC West. They have a home playoff game this weekend against the Cardinals, which should be one of the best games of the weekend. These two split the season series, so this winner take all game three might define the future of who will control the division.
San Francisco’s win clinched their playoff spot. They go on the road to face the Dallas Cowboys in a classic matchup that will likely make your dad happy to see it again. Although Dallas is a slight home favorite, they could just as easily lose this game with their recent playoff luck.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina’s bad end to the season just got worse as they were blown out by the much better team in this contest. Tampa Bay beat Carolina senseless in this 41-17 blowout, which was in reality a playoff tune up.
Tom Brady played outstanding as he threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Although he didn’t score, Rob Gronkowski had a great game with seven receptions for 137 yards. If Tampa gets the Brady to Gronk connection they had in New England, the Bucs should have no problem coasting past the Eagles.
Again, the Buccaneers started slow in this one. Carolina scored the only points of the first quarter on their first drive of the game. They took a slow and methodical drive that totaled seven and a half minutes, which ended up in a touchdown. Sam Darnold didn’t look like the inadequate quarterback he has been for the vast majority of his career on this drive as he ended it with a passing touchdown to Chuba Hubbard. That drive was pretty much the bright spot for Carolina as things just got worse as the game went on.
It took a while, but Tampa finally found the end zone with two minutes to go in the first half. Tom Brady spread the ball beautifully on the drive, and it rolled over into the second half as he led the Bucs down for another touchdown on the first drive of the second half. Now up 17-7, one could assume that the Panthers didn’t have it in them to muster a comeback.
Although the Panthers did try to comeback, the Buccaneers are just too good for them. The game ended in a blowout, just like we had expected.
Carolina fell to 5-12, and finished the season 2-12. The management for the Panthers has already come out and said they were not going to fire Matt Rhule. As a Saints fan, this is music to my ears. The Panthers have the 6th overall pick and need to decide whether or not they will stick with Sam Darnold long-term. With Matt Corral and Kenny Pickett both likely to be
available at this point, Carolina would be stupid to take neither of them. At least if they do plan to keep Sam Darnold, then Carolina would be best suited to trade back.
Tampa Bay improved to 13-4 and are looking hot at the right time. A familiar foe for Tom Brady in the postseason will be paying him a visit in Tampa as they are matched up with the Philadelphia Eagles. While Philly may give them a run for their money, I would be shocked if Tampa Bay was unable to win this game.
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
Arizona needed a win and a Los Angeles loss in order to win the NFC West. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they got neither. Russell Wilson, Rashaad Penny, and Tyler Lockett tore through the Cardinal defense all game. Wilson, perhaps playing his last game for the Seahawks, balled out. He threw for 238 yards and three touchdown passes. Penny had perhaps the best game of the trio as he rushed for 190 yards and a score. Lockett, Wilson’s top target, racked in 98 yards receiving and two scores. On the other hand, James Conner was Arizona’s best player as he scored once in the air and once on the ground.
On the second play from scrimmage, Seattle fumbled the ball. Arizona picked up the ball and ran it in for a scoop and score to start the game. It looked as if Arizona was bound to win this game, but boy were they wrong. Seattle responded to the adversity by going 75 yards in just five plays topped off with a Russell Wilson 43-yard bomb score to Tyler Lockett.
The teams traded punts after the Seattle score, giving Arizona the ball on just their second drive of the game midway through the first quarter. 19 plays, 66 yards, and 10:41 of gametime later, the Cardinals scored a field goal to regain the lead. Seattle responded with a solid drive that ended with another Lockett receiving touchdown. Penalties destroyed the next drive for Arizona, giving Seattle another chance to score before halftime. That is exactly what they were able to do as they scored a field goal to extend their lead to 17-10.
Arizona began to wake up in the second half as they scored a touchdown on the opening drive thanks to James Conner. Russell Wilson made his sole big mistake of the game after this as he was intercepted for what was just one yard away from being a pick-six. James Conner got in for another score. A few drives later, the Seattle offense began to heat up. They scored on three straight drives leading them to a 38-30 win.
The win capped off the poor season for the Seahawks at 7-10. The Seahawks, unfortunately, do not have a first-round draft pick. However, should Russell Wilson decide that he wants out of Seattle, perhaps the Seahawks could jump back into the first round and find their quarterback replacement.
Arizona’s loss simply should not have happened. They are much better than the Seahawks, and they made mistakes that allowed Seattle to win the contest. Regardless, they have no time to worry about the loss as they have to go on the road to play another divisional rival in the Los
Angeles Rams. Although they are slight underdogs, don’t be surprised if Matt Stafford gives the Arizona offense a bone and a chance to win the game.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
The New Orleans defense owned Atlanta in this one. I got to see this game in person, and to say I left happy is to say the least about it. The Saints and the Falcons is secretly one of the best rivalries in the league. Last Sunday was no different. New Orleans needed a win and a San Francisco loss to advance into the postseason.
The game started out great for the Saints as they went marching into the end zone for the first time on an opening drive this season. A good mix of Alvin Kamara and short to intermediate passes was the perfect mix for success for New Orleans as the drive ended with an 18-yard reception by Adam Trautman.
Atlanta scored the next six points on two field goals from Younghoe Koo. 7-6 was the closest Atlanta would get to winning the game as New Orleans drove down the field, even with Taysom Hill getting injured during the drive, for a touchdown. Trevor Siemian was not outstanding, but he was serviceable. He threw for two touchdowns in the game, and the first coming for the second score of the game to TreQuan Smith to give the Saints a 14-6 lead.
New Orleans must have been motivated to play great defense in honor of Taysom because the first play of the next drive for the Falcons resulted in an interception caught by rookie Cornerback Paulson Adebo in Odell-like fashion. The Saints added a field goal after that to go up 17-6 with just over a minute left in the first half.
The Falcons’ next possession didn’t go much better than the prior one as the fumbled the ball in their own territory, setting up the Saints to score another touchdown before halftime. New Orleans was able to convert on this opportunity as Siemian found Juwan Johnson for a five-yard score. Going into halftime, New Orleans held the lead 24-6.
Unlike Atlanta, New Orleans was actually able to hold on to a large halftime lead as the defense continued to play strong while the offense played like they were trying to run out the clock from the beginning of the second half.
The Saints were able to best their rivals 30-20, and were awaiting the final from Los Angeles to determine their playoff fate. Unfortunately, Matt Stafford sold the game and the Saints were eliminated from the postseason. After being relocated at the beginning of the season, Jameis’ torn ACL, a multitude of COVID cases throughout the season, and no Michael Thomas for the entire season, the Saints still pulled out a winning record. So, there is that to be proud of. However, does anyone really care about that if you miss the playoffs?
New Orleans holds the 18th pick in the first round and need a playmaker wide receiver desperately. If you would have asked me a week ago, I would have said Jameson Williams should be their target no question. Since then, he has torn his ACL in the national championship
game. Now, the Saints should go after Chris Olave. Imagine this offense: Jameis Winston, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave, and Taysom Hill. That paired along with an already outstanding defense should put the Saints back into the postseason next year with no problem. What would make things really interesting is if Russell Wilson somehow finds his way to the Big Easy for next season.
As for Atlanta, they dropped to 7-10 and have the 8th pick in the draft. The decision on whether or not they will stick with Matt Ryan will decide the course of this year’s draft for the Falcons. Should they decide to get rid of Matt Ryan, Corral or Pickett would fit right into this usually high flying offense.