Chops316 Monday Morning Quarterback: 2019 Week 17
The seventeenth and final Sunday of the 2019 NFL regular season is in the books so here are the different thoughts and opinions I have on various things I witnessed this past weekend. Finally the regular season has ended as we prepare for playoff football. Some teams really helped their chances to win it all while a few others blew it. All I know is I'll be happy if I can finally watch a Super Bowl that doesn't feature a certain team from the Northeast. Keep your fingers crossed!
Just remember I am a Dallas Cowboys fan and I'm extremely biased. And disgusted these days. Of course I'll feel better when Jerry announces Dallas is finally moving on from Jason Garrett. What are you waiting for old man? We aren't getting any younger!
Feel free to agree or disagree about anything mentioned here. All comments are welcome.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
There was a great game at Cowboys Stadium this past weekend. No, not the Cowboys/Redskins clash. I’m talking about the Cotton Bowl Classic on Saturday where the Penn State Nittany Lions ran all over the Memphis Tigers to the tune of 396 rushing yards in their 53-39 victory. Penn State finishes the season with an 11-2 record and big hopes that they can win the Big 10 next year. We are Penn State!
Oh yea, there was a NFL game on Sunday. The Cowboys crushed the Skins 47-16 in a game that didn’t really matter. Dallas needed help from Philly to squeak out a division title and they didn’t get it. Good. This team doesn’t deserve a playoff berth.
The Skins stink, hence their 3-13 record, and were missing several of their “better” players on Sunday. So in a game that really meant nothing the Cowboys lit them up to remind their fans what this team is capable of, but rarely delivers.
QB Dak Prescott had a big day (23/33, 303 yards, 4 TDs) to cap off a breakout season for himself. He finished the season with 4,902 passing yards and 30 TDs. WR Michael Gallup (5 catches, 98 yards, 3 TDs) was his favorite target. RB Zeke Elliott piled up the yards (18 carries, 122 yards, 1 TD and 1 TD catch) before surrendering rushing duties to backup RB Tony Pollard. The Cowboys offense put on a show against a Redskins defense that was depleted and probably just begging for the game to end so they could put this season behind them.
So a season that started off with so much hope ends with an 8-8 record. The bright spot for Cowboys fans is the Jason Garrett era is officially over. Jerry doesn’t have to fire him, his contract has expired. Hallelujah! Unless of course Jones re-signs him. No, even Jerry can’t be that crazy. Can he? Dear God let’s hope not. Garrett’s legacy in Dallas will be guiding a lot of talented football players to very mediocre records. 9 seasons at the helm and three playoff berths with only two postseason victories. Woof.
Showdown in Seattle
The Sunday night game determined the first, second, third and fifth seeds in the NFC. Now that is a game with serious playoff implications! And both teams lived up to the hype as the 49ers topped the Seahawks 26-21 in a game that was literally decided by one inch.
The Niners key to success on offense is balance between rushing and passing. QB Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient with his throws (18/22, 285 yards) and as a team the Niners rushed for 128 yards with 3 TDs on 24 carries. Now that is some balanced playcalling.
The Seahawks like to run a balanced offense as well, but decimating injuries to their RBs forced them to put the ball in QB Russell Wilson’s hands. Wilson threw 40 passes with decent success (25 completions, 233 yards, 2 TDs) and carried the rock 8 times for 29 yards. He surprisingly got help in the ground game from fourth (!) string RB Travis Homer (10 carries, 62 yards) and the recently coaxed out of retirement Marshawn Lynch (12 carries, 34 yards, 1 TD).
San Fran held a 13-0 lead at halftime and Seattle couldn’t do squat with the ball in the first half. The Seahawks righted the ship on offense in the second half to make it a close game. Of course it wouldn’t be a big game in the NFC without some controversial officiating.
Down by 5 points with a little over two minutes left on the clock, Seattle took possession of the ball on their own 27 yard line. They drove down to the 49ers 1 yard line with seconds left in the game. A delay of game penalty knocked them back 5 yards so without any timeouts left Seattle was forced to throw.
On third down Seattle TE Jacob Hollister was absolutely mugged by San Fran LB Fred Warner in the endzone and was forced to watch Wilson’s pass go sailing right by him. A proper pass interference call would have given the Seahawks the ball back on the one with a first down and ten seconds left on the clock. Instead the officials stood there with their thumbs up their asses.
Even worse the play wasn’t even reviewed. Hmm, weren’t new rules put into place to prevent this very play from happening after last year’s debacle in the NFC title game? Typical NFL officiating, with all the technology available to them they still can’t make a call that was obvious to millions of people sitting at home correctly.
Facing a do or die 4th and goal with ten seconds left, Wilson hit Hollister with a pass but he was tackled one inch short of the goal line. Game over. The Niners claimed the #1 seed in the NFC and the Seahawks dropped to #5.
The Niners get a bye in the first round and the luxury of waiting to see who will have to travel to Santa Clara to play them in the Divisional round.
Seattle ends up with a Wild Card and will have to win three road games to reach the Super Bowl. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing Seahawks fans. Seattle was 4-4 at home this season but 7-1 on the road. On Wild Card weekend they’ll travel to Philadelphia to face an injury-depleted Eagles squad. The Seahawks beat the Eagles 17-9 in Philly earlier this season.
Taking Care of Business
The final Sunday of the NFL season is normally full of pivotal matchups to determine playoff teams or playoff seeds and this year’s Week 17 was no different. Some teams stepped up to the plate to claim their spot while others fell flat on their face.
The Tennessee Titans playoff hopes were real easy to figure out: win and they were in. And win they did as they defeated the Texans 35-14. The win gave them a 9-7 record for the fourth consecutive season but this year that was good enough to claim the #6 seed in the AFC.
Houston had already won the AFC South and claimed the #4 seed so they rested many starters. Titans RB Derrick Henry took full advantage by running the ball down their throat: 32 carries, 211 yards, 3 TDs. With 1540 yards for the season Henry led the NFL in rushing. The Titans will travel to New England to face the Patriots on Wild Card weekend. Go Titans!
The Chiefs defeated the Chargers 31-21 and combined with a loss by a certain team that plays near Boston were able to move up to the #2 seed in the AFC. They now have a first round bye and a guaranteed home game in the Divisional round.
The Chiefs are a little more dangerous this year. Last year they relied heavily on QB Patrick Mahomes to win, but this season are playing more like a complete team. Sunday was a perfect example. Mahomes had a very quiet game (16/25, 174 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) yet KC still won handily. RB Damien Williams (12 carries, 124 yards, 2 TDs) picked up the slack on offense and the team’s defensive play has improved greatly since the beginning of the season.
The Packers seemed to sleepwalk through the first half but woke up in time to beat the Lions 23-20 and take the #2 seed in the NFC. The Packers get a first round bye and at least one home game at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
QB Aaron Rodgers looked like absolute crap in the first half, missing open receivers all over the field. He put it together in the second half to end up with a good game (27/55, 323 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) with support from RB Aaron Jones: 25 carries, 100 yards. The Packers finish the season with a 13-3 record, but if you have seen them play they don’t look like a 13 win team. Still nobody wants to face Rodgers at Green Bay in January.
The Saints thrashed the Panthers 42-10 to finish with a 13-3 record and the #3 seed in the NFC. With victories by San Francisco and Green Bay the Saints weren’t able to improve their seed but still showed they are playoff ready with the big win. They will face the Vikings in New Orleans in first round action. Top to bottom the Saints are probably the best team in the NFC, but New Orleans is in trouble without home field advantage. They are practically unbeatable at home during the playoffs under head coach Sean Payton, but are just a .500 team on the road.
The Eagles beat the Giants 34-17 to win the NFC East and claim the #4 seed in the NFC. It pains me to say this but I have to congratulate Philly for being able to finish the year strong in light of numerous injuries that have just gutted the team. The Eagles are riding a four-game winning streak heading into the playoffs, but all four wins came against the rest of the dreck in the NFC East.
The Eagles last non-NFC East win came against the Bears all the way back on November 3. Uh oh. They will “welcome” the Seahawks into Philly in the first round.
Falling Flat on their Face
Of course not every team took care of business this week. With so much on the line some teams fell flat on their face.
The Patriots haven’t looked nearly as dominant this season as years past, but still could have wrapped up the #2 seed in the AFC on Sunday. All they had to do was win a home game against the suck-at-tanking-but-still-not-very-good Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins had not won in New England since 2008 when Brady was out for the season with injury.
Well this year the Fitzmagic was running high as the Dolphins defeated the Patriots 27-24 in Foxborough. Hahaha! Sorry two days later and I’m still laughing. Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (28/41, 320 yards, 1 TD) and WR DeVante Parker (8 catches, 137 yards) were essentially a two-man show that the vaunted New England defense could find no answer to stop.
The Dolphins defense finished the season ranked 32nd, dead last in the NFL. Still the Patriots struggled to put up points. QB Tom Brady continues to look old on the field and had a completely forgettable game: 16/29, 221 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. Part of the problem is he has no targets to throw to and the other part is he misses a lot of throws the rare times his guys are open.
This was a huge loss for the Patriots. With the win by Kansas City, the Pats fell to the #3 seed in the AFC. No bye week and two road games if they want to win the AFC. Even worse they have to host a red-hot Titans team on Wild Card weekend. I’m not going to declare the Patriots dynasty over because I’m not sure when Belichick’s pact with the devil expires, but there is definitely blood in the water.
The Steelers had to beat the Ravens backups to keep their playoff hopes alive, but failed with a 28-10 loss. The Ravens benched nearly all their regulars and still defeated the Steelers easily. The Steelers finish the season 8-8 but shouldn’t feel too bad about that. They battled back to a .500 record despite key injuries and a 1-4 start.
The Raiders needed a lot of help to grab a playoff slot, but foremost they had to win on Sunday against Denver. Never mind, they dropped the ball with a 16-15 loss to the Broncos. The Raiders dropped five out of their last six contests to finish with a 7-9 record. After Week 11 the Raiders were in the driver’s seat for a Wild Card spot. Hell they were only a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. How fitting they blew it as they prepare to abandon Oakland.
The day after the regular season ends is known as “Black Monday” in the NFL since it’s the day the axe usually falls on several head coaches. With two coaches already canned (Ron Rivera in Carolina and Jay Gruden in Washington) and one who’s contract expired (my least favorite red head Jason Garrett in Dallas), the day was fairly quiet by NFL standards.
Two head coaches were shown the door: the Browns Freddie Kitchens and the Giants Pat Shurmur. I was surprised a few more didn’t join them.
Under normal circumstances I think it is unfair to fire a head coach after one season. You’re not really giving the guy a shot to show what he can do. Yet I have to agree with Cleveland letting Kitchens go. After spending half a season as an offensive coordinator in 2018 the Browns rushed Kitchens into the top job. He look overwhelmed from the start. He made a lot of bad game time decisions and Cleveland was one of the most undisciplined teams in the league. After all the preseason hype, which was clearly unwarranted, finishing with a 6-9 record was a huge disappointment.
Pat Shurmur spent two seasons as the Giants head coach and leaves with a 9-23 record, 4-12 in 2019. He was doomed from the start. He took over during a rebuild that shows the Giants front office doesn’t know what they are doing. Top talent like Odell Beckham Jr. was shipped out and most of the guys who were brought in didn’t deliver. Last season Shurmur had to deal with the steep decline of Eli Manning. This season he had to work with rookie QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley was injured for half the year.
I really thought Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn and Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone would have got the axe as well, but it looks like both are going to keep their jobs. I wouldn’t keep them. The Falcons have a roster capable of making the playoffs but have failed in each of the past two seasons. A late season surge moved their record to 7-9 and I guess that was enough to convince the front office to keep Quinn, yet to me it is unwise to forget their 1-7 start. Marrone led the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC title game, but has gone 11-21 since. Jacksonville is regressing and needs a fresh start.
A couple of weeks ago Detroit announced Matt Patricia would be brought back for 2020. Why? Oh I forgot. They are the Lions. Sure the injury to QB Matt Stafford this year hurt them, but they were floundering before Stafford was hurt. Patricia is supposed to be the defensive wizard yet the defense has gotten worse under his watch, finishing 26th in the league this season. Patricia is going to get another shot anyway despite his 9-22-1 record as head coach.
Around the League
No team had a more fitting play to end their season than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After blowing a 6 point lead in the fourth quarter, the Bucs headed to overtime against the Falcons. Tampa won the toss and received the kick. On their first overtime play, QB Jameis Winston threw a pick-six to Atlanta LB Deion Jones and the Bucs lost 28-22.
The INT was Winston’s 30th of the season. It was also his seventh pick-six of the year to set a new NFL record. Congrats! Sure Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and threw 33 TD passes, but he is a turnover machine. On top of his 30 INTs he also lost 12 fumbles. 42 turnovers in one season. Wow. Winston has been in the NFL for 5 seasons, he isn’t going to change. Time for Tampa to move on.
The Ravens rested their regulars in Week 17 yet were still able to break the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season. Baltimore finished the year with 3,296 rushing yards, topping the old mark of 3,165 rushing yards set by the 1978 New England Patriots. What really makes the Ravens unique is their top ground gainer is QB Lamar Jackson, whose 1,206 rushing yards is a new NFL record for QBs in one season. In case you are wondering, Tom Brady has rushed for 1,037 yards total in his 19 year career.
The Redskins were the first team to fire their head coach in 2019 and now they are the first team to hire a new coach. It is reported Ron Rivera has signed a 5 year contract to take the job. Rivera is a good coach but the Skins front office makes the abilities of their head coach moot. However Washington did take a step in the right direction by firing team President Bruce Allen. The Skins have had a 61-107 record since giving Allen the top job in 2010.
Last week the Saints brought WR and all-around head case Antonio Brown in for a workout. Apparently the Saints asked Brown not to show up with an entourage. So of course Brown came out with his trainers, a nutritionist, a camera crew and who knows what else. No surprise New Orleans declined to sign him. Now Brown is claiming the workout was a publicity stunt by the Saints. Sure, who wouldn’t want their franchise associated with this nut.
Every week as I watch NFL games I have to listen to announcers go on and on about the use of analytics in football. Give me a break. You don’t need analytics to know whether it is a wise move to go for it on fourth down or whether it is better to go for two instead of kicking an extra point. All you need is good old fashion common football sense. The good head coaches don’t need to hear the numbers, they know what their teams and opponents are capable of and can read the situations as they come up.
Besides, in football the numbers can lie to you. The Cowboys outscored the opposition this season by 113 points and finished 8-8. The Seahawks outscored their opponents by seven points and finished 11-5. Analyze that.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see the playoffs start. Lots of good teams this year and we should be treated to some great games. Baltimore is clearly the top team in the league right now, yet the best team doesn't always win. I'm going to try to bang out a playoff prediction post before Saturday. Last year I predicted a Saints/Chargers Super Bowl with the Saints coming out on top. Whoops. And no, I swear I wasn't smoking crack at the time.
Let me know your thoughts on Week 17.