The NFL playoff race is very interesting for both conferences. The Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles both came away with victories Sunday, as the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Detroit Lions.
Updated NFC Playoff Picture after Week 13— Cream City Central (@CreamCityCtral) December 6, 2021
1) Cardinals (10-2)
2) Packers (9-3)
3) Buccaneers (9-3)
4) Cowboys (8-4)
5) Rams (8-4)
6) Football Team (6-6)
7) 49ers (6-6)
If it ended today ⬇️
AZ = BYE
SF @ GB
WAS @ TB
LAR @ DAL#NFL | #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/mMwzHUtCkE
The AFC is just as exciting, with so many good teams in contention.
Let’s dive into the winners and losers of the week.
The Detroit Lions
They did it! The 2021 Detroit Lions will not follow the harrowing footsteps of the 2017 Cleveland Browns or the 2008 Detroit Lions, as Dan Campbell, Jared Goff, and the Lions defeated the Minnesota Vikings 29-27 on a LAST-SECOND touchdown pass to rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown on fourth-and-2 as the time expired.
St. Brown finds the soft spot between the cornerback and the safety and Goff finds him for the win. The Vikings previously scored a touchdown to Justin Jefferson with 1:50 left in the game. Goff led a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in the touchdown to St. Brown. Both the Lions and the Vikings have experienced several close losses this season. The Lions hurt the Vikings chances at the Wild Card, and the Vikings end up giving the Lions their first win of the season.
Yeah, I know...it’s against the Jets. However, Minshew looked good on Sunday. He finished the game 20 of 25 for 242 yards and two passing touchdowns, both to tight end Dallas Goedert. The tight end had his best game of the season with a six-catch, 105-yard, game. Minshew played well, and the Eagles should feel comfortable with his abilities if Jalen Hurts gets hurt for an extended period of time.
MINSHEW DIME ON A PARACHUTE pic.twitter.com/9YYTxT7Ta1— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 5, 2021
Fun fact. Gardner Minshew is living in former Eagle Vince Papale’s house in Philly. Gardner and Vince’s son Vinny work out in the offseason— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 5, 2021
That’s also a fun fact from John Clark; one that is not surprising since Minshew fits the bill for a Dos Equis advertisement. Hurts missed this game with an ankle injury, but should be fine after the BYE week. This is still Hurts locker room and he’s the starting quarterback, but Minshew Mania will be available if anything were to happen to Hurts.
In typical AFC North fashion, the Steelers and Ravens had a defensive battle till about midway through the 4th quarter. With the score 13-12, Baltimore, Ben Roethlisberger led an 11-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a Diontae Johnson touchdown, his second of the day. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens received the ball with less than two minutes left but they drove all the way down the field against the Steelers and scored with 12 seconds left in the game. Instead of kicking the field goal and taking the game to overtime, the Ravens were aggressive and went for two on the road to effectively end the Steelers season and secure their place at the top of the AFC.
Lamar Jackson missed Mark Andrews by a hair as the Steelers maintained their playoff hopes. For now, the Ravens loss allows the Patriots, who play the Bills on Monday, to be the number one seed in the AFC. There is still a lot of football left as the AFC continues to fluctuate by the week.
Let me be clear, Tom Brady is a winner every week; or at least it seems that way. Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich’s game plan was to allow Brady to throw early and often. Brady finished with 51 pass attempts, 38 completions, and 368 yards for 4 touchdowns and an interception. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for two touchdowns, Leonard Fournette for one, and Cameron Brate for another, while also finding Chris Godwin for an amazing 15 catches for 143 yards.
The Buccaneers only rushed 17 times in this game. The Buccaneers knew how to exploit the Falcons defense. We saw how the Buccaneers defeated the Colts last week with four touchdowns for Leonard Fournette. This offense can defeat teams in a variety of ways, and they will look to be a problem for other NFC teams in a few weeks.
Seattle’s second-half defense
The Seattle Seahawks have one of the worst defensive units in football, but they played very well in the second half of their 30-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Seahawk tight end Gerald Everett did everything in his power to give the 49ers a chance with two fumbles, one at the Seahawk goal line towards the end of the game which gave Jimmy Garoppolo a chance to win the football game.
The Seahawks special teams scored the first touchdown of the game with a 73-yard fake punt Travis Homer touchdown rush, and then they forced a Travis Benjamin fumble to start the second half. Gerald Evereett, again, dropped a potential touchdown that ended intercepted, but the Seahawk defense recorded a safety.
Looks like a facemask, but it wasn’t called. The safety tied the score at 23, and Seattle’s Quandre Diggs intercepted Garoppolo on the 49ers next drive. Seattle forced a three and out, and a four and out on the next two drives before the Everett fumble. Garoppolo did a great job leading a 12-play, 95-yard drive that ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal. Seattle’s defense bent, but didn’t break and they were the primary reason for the spoiling victory over their bitter rivals.
The Giants head coach stated after the game that he “saw a lot of things that are moving in the right direction.” This has been one of Judge’s signature phrases after far too many losses this season. What is the exact direction he’s referring to? I, too, appreciate the Giants always competing, but the execution on offense needs to improve, which Judge acknowledged.
My criticisms of Judge aren’t because of the post-game press conference, rather it’s what the coach does, or fails to do, far too often while managing the game. It’s another game, and more frustrating timeouts that make me scratch my head. The Giants called a timeout at the end of the first quarter with the play clock seemingly synced to the game clock.
The second timeout in the third quarter was very peculiar. In a game of field position, Judge spent the second half timeout on a second-and-23 after a sack; on the very next play out of the timeout, Glennon was sacked again. Judge’s use of timeouts this season is, to be kind, less than ideal.
Another aspect of Judge’s coaching that’s criticized often is the uber-conservative nature. There are instances where being conservative is the move, but, more often than not the Giants lean too conservative. Down by four on the road with a backup quarterback, Judge decided to punt the ball with 5:03 left in the third quarter from the Miami 46-yard line on a fourth-and-2. The punt sailed into the end zone.
NYG decided to punt to MIA from the MIA 46 on 4th & 2 with 5:03 remaining in the 3rd while losing 6 to 10.— Surrender Index (@surrender_index) December 5, 2021
With a Surrender Index of 20.87, this punt ranks at the 98th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2021 season, and the 96th percentile of all punts since 1999.
This isn’t the first time the Surrender Index had a Judge punt decision in the 95th percentile of what they deem “cowardly” since 1999. Football is a results-oriented business and Judge claims he sees progress, but the progress isn’t resulting in many victories.
The Vikings are coached by defensive-minded Mike Zimmer, but the injuries to Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr was too much to stop one of the worst offenses in the league without their star running back D’Andre Swift. The Vikings allowed the 14-play drive mentioned earlier at the end of the game, and quarterback Jared Goff had his best game of the season. A 25 of 41, 296-yard, three-touchdown performance.
The defense surrendered far too much space to Amon-Ra St. Brown on the final play of the game. St. Brown had his best game of the season as well; he caught 10 of 12 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown. Divisional games are usually tough (looks towards the Texans against the Colts) but the Vikings losing puts them into a more difficult position to make the playoffs.
We don’t expect the Texans to do much of anything. They’re easily one of the worst rosters in the NFL, but getting shut out 31-0 at home against the Indianapolis Colts is a low point. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw an interception to open the game and it was all downhill after that; Taylor was eventually benched for rookie Davis Mills.
Houston’s offense had less than 20 minutes of possession in the game, and less than 150-yards of offense. The Colts are a great team, but the Texans were so flat from start to finish. Houston is in the conversation for the top pick in the draft. If they keep playing this way, and the Lions steal another win, they could earn it.