*Disclaimer: This article only considers the games played through Monday Night Football, so anything we may learn from the Tuesday game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens won’t be considered.
Welcome to week 13 in the NFL y’all.
It’s late in the season, but I’d like to welcome you to a new feature I’ll be bringing you every week for the remainder of the NFL season. It doesn’t have a fancy name, but you can feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments. What it does have is the three things we learned from this last slate of games, and three things to watch for next week. For this week we look at how some winning teams lost and some losing teams won. Technically the Jets and Jaguars still won while losing, but they almost lost by almost winning.
Shall we start?
3 Things We’ve Learned
1.) It’s Harder to Go 0-16 Than You’d Think
As a life-long fan of the Cleveland Browns, I know what losing does to a person. Seeing your team post a winless record for four months to finish 0-16 hurts. I understand it’s mentally difficult for the players and coaches to stack up loss after loss, week after week, and it’s hard on the fans to watch it happen.
For the New York Jets franchise and fanbase, they’re learning just that as they attempt the third winless season in NFL history, and the first of this new decade. The reason that it’s so hard to lose every game is because you can’t come out and directly show that you’re trying to lose every game. Why? Because that’d be fixing games. The NFL would never allow that right? (Seriously, I’m asking.)
After scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter to take a 28-24 lead against the Raiders, and just four seconds left on the clock, the Jets looked like they just might pick up their first win of the year. Then, as if they knew that the Jaguars (1-11) were playing the Vikings tight, Gregg Williams put his job on the line and sent nearly a full blitz at Derek Carr. Carr made the read on the blitz then made the connection deep on a toss to rookie receiver Henry Ruggs. The Jets lost the game, and Williams lost his job Monday morning. The Jaguars lost too, so at least the Jets are still in first for last.
Consider Derek Carr among those surprised with the Jets’ all-out blitz call 😅 pic.twitter.com/Z5GSusCT4I
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 7, 2020
2.) Any Given Sunday
The Raiders and Vikings almost learned it, and the Seattle Seahawks (8-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) definitely did. Interestingly enough, the latter two teams learned their lessons against the late-blooming NFC East leaders in the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team, respectively.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life came from one of my favorite childhood movies, The Little Giants, when Rick Moranis’ taught his “little Giants” and an entire generation that everyone is beatable, even if just once. That’s what makes sports great, and that’s what keeps fans coming back when their team sucks. This weekend was one for the little guys, the overlooked franchises had their time in the spotlight, and while they didn’t all win, they all made this weekend that much more fun.
3.) Cam Newton Still Has It… Kinda
Few NFL storylines were harder to watch this offseason than Cam Newton’s free agency. After the Panthers released Cam in March, there were a number of teams that everyone felt could use the services of a former Rookie of the Year and league MVP.
On an obvious “prove it” contract, Cam and Josh McDaniels are starting to get comfortable with each other, a good sign for Cam’s future. It hasn’t been pretty, by any stretch, and there are concerns about his passing game, but the Patriots (6-6) have won four of their last five games, the latest being a 45-0 embarrassment of the Chargers. Newton scored three touchdowns, two rushing and one passing, with 69 yards in the air and 48 on the ground.
With the Bills and Dolphins fighting for the division, the odds of the Patriots making the postseason are slim-to-none. If the Patriots have solved their post-Tom Brady quarterback conundrum, one year out of contention may be worth it. And Cam? He has 11 rushing TDs this season, the most since he was a rookie when he had 14. There’s four more games to go, but Cam may be getting comfortable in New England. I hear Brady’s house is still on the market.
3 Things To Look Watch for Next Week
1.) Division Races
As of this moment, only two divisions are all but clinched, and that’s the AFC West by the Chiefs and the NFC South by the Saints. Pittsburgh’s loss opens up a small window for the Browns, and sets the stage for a must-see deciding game when the two play in Week 17. The NFC East is getting entertaining after nobody seemed to want to win early in the season, it’s still anyone’s game. Green Bay should take the NFC North and there are ties for first in the NFC West and AFC South.
Every game but two has playoff implications next weekend, so lots of meaningful football in December. Feel free to skip on Falcons @ Chargers and Broncos @ Panthers.
2.) Lasting COVID Effects on Lamar
COVID-19 is one of the biggest factors this season, and the lasting effects on players who have recovered from the virus still aren’t known. The game tonight against the Cowboys will be Lamar Jackson’s first game since the Raven’s overtime loss to the Titans on November 22nd, and he’ll have a short week before playing against the Browns in Cleveland next Monday Night. Will his body be recovered enough for the cold weather off Lake Erie to allow him to play his style? It could be a major factor in an important division game… If the NFL doesn’t reschedule it for Baltimore.
3.) Were They Sleeping in Seattle?
It was a pretty bad look for the Seattle Seahawks to fall to the Giants on their home turf at Lumen Field, their first home loss of the season. Maybe they simply slept on their opponent and fell for the trap game against a New York team that was starting Colt McCoy under center and picked up his first win as a starter in seven years. If that’s simply all it was, then they’d better wake up this weekend, because another New York team is coming to town, and falling to the Jets would be unforgivable.
The Jets will be sporting a new look without Gregg Williams running the defense, though it’s sure to be some version of it that’s likely dialed back on the blitzing, and probably trying not to win this game either. The Seahawks need a win to stay up with the Rams who they’re tied with for first place in the NFC West. Say it with me everyone – “It’s a trap!”
Is there something you’re watching for this weekend that I missed? Was there something from Week 13 that should’ve made the cut here? Let me know on Twitter @JarkClonas.
Photo by: Larry Maurer / Wikimedia Commons