For the most part, the outcome of the NFL week 14 was expected. As we inch closer to the playoffs, it is becoming clear who are Super Bowl contenders and which teams are better left behind in the regular season.
NFC Thursday Night Football Matchups
Los Angeles Rams v. New England Patriots (AFC) (24-3 Rams)
If you had shown me the outcome of this game a year ago, I would have said you were crazy, but with Tom Brady, ex-quarterback, now no longer a part of the Patriots, the team is definitely struggling. It is fair to say that Cam Newton, Brady’s replacement, is not living up to Brady’s legacy on the team. The Patriot’s relatively poor defensive game, combined with Jared Goff’s (Rams quarterback) and Cam Akers’ (Rams running back) efficient passing strategies, led the Rams to get three touchdowns and a field goal. Newton managed to get intercepted once, as did Goff, but Newton’s interception resulted in a touchdown for the Rams. New England’s run game was pretty good, but each time they got close to scoring, they failed and it resulted in a turnover. It is definitely fair to say that this was not Newton’s best game, especially since Coach Bill Belichick benched him at the end of the fourth quarter and sent in Jarrett Stidham, New England’s backup quarterback. While the Patriots have a fairly slim chance of making it to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, the Rams are currently tied with the Seahawks for the NFC West title. If Goff continues to play as he did in this game against the 0-12 Jets next week (yes, they have not won a single game), then the Rams will clinch a spot in the playoffs.
NFC Sunday Night Football Matchups
Houston Texans (AFC) vs. Chicago Bears – 36-7 Bears
With this game, the Bears were able to break their six-game losing streak and defeat the 4-9 Texans. While the Bears were on a losing streak, the outcome of this game was not very surprising. The Texans have practically one of the worst-rated defenses in the entire NFL, so it is not a surprise that Mitchel Trubisky (Chicago quarterback) combined with the rest of his offense, was able to score as many times as he did. The Texans did have a few really great offensive runs, but it was ultimately not enough to match up to the Bears. After four quarters, the Bears scored four touchdowns, two field goals, and a safety, whereas the Texans scored only a touchdown in the second quarter. The Texan’s Sunday loss has taken them out of the running to make it to the playoffs, a massive upset for the team and fans around the country. The Bears still have a chance of making it, but in order to do so, they must win their next three games; this is going to be difficult, especially because they have to play the 10-3 Green Bay Packers in a few weeks.
Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Giants – 26-7 Cardinals
This game was an upset for many Giants fans, as it ended their four-game winning streak. Arizona overall had a strong defense, including five sacks by linebacker Haason Reddick, and was able to get two short touchdowns and four field goals. This game proved to be tough on Daniel Jones (New York quarterback), who was sacked six times, before leaving the game. He was later replaced by Colt McCoy. While the New York Football Giants scored only once, they can thank Albany Academy’s own, Dion Lewis, for the touchdown in the third quarter. The Cardinals currently hold a wild card spot, and with a win next week against the Eagles, they will be able to clinch this playoff spot. The Giants still have a chance of making it to the playoffs, but they must play really well in these upcoming three weeks, which after their performance in week 14, can definitely not be guaranteed. They currently are only one win behind the Washington Football team in the NFC East, so they also still have a chance of taking the division title.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 26-14 Buccaneers
This game was relatively uneventful and had the expected outcome. Tom Brady, the previously mentioned ex-quarterback of the Patriots and current quarterback of the Buccaneers, threw two touchdown passes, one of which was to Rob Gronkowski, also an ex-tight end for the Patriots. The duo is not as strong now with Tampa Bay as they were in New England, especially due to Gronkowski’s off-year, but they are slowly working their way back to how they used to play. The Vikings scored two touchdowns, making a two-point conversion on one and missing the field goal on the other, resulting in a total of 14 points. Although the Buccaneers have not made the playoffs yet, based on their performance as of late, they have a high chance of making it in the next few weeks. The Vikings at this point are still in it as well, but their chances are not as high and need a lot of different things to fall into place in order to secure a playoff spot.
Denver Broncos (AFC) vs. Carolina Panthers – 32-27 Broncos
The Denver Broncos have their quarterback, Drew Lock, to thank for this one. He successfully threw two long touchdown passes (something that he has been criticized for attempting too much in the past), but this time it worked out in his favor. The Panthers played a good game too but were hurt significantly by a large number of penalties in Denver’s favor. Despite this, the Panthers still managed to get three touchdowns and two field goals, but this was not enough to beat the Broncos. Although the Broncos won, their chances to make the playoffs are very slim. In order to get a spot, they must win their remaining three games, but several other teams must lose their games. The Panthers’ chances are virtually zero at this point.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals (AFC) – 30-7 Cowboys
This game went exactly as expected. Although the Cowboys have not been playing their best season, the Bengals have definitely been doing worse. Dallas quarterback, Andy Dalton, threw two touchdown passes and Aldon Smith, defensive end for the Cowboys, managed to score a touchdown on a 78-yard fumble return. While the Cowboys had an exciting win to add to their then 3-9 record, the Bengals, yet again, had another upset. This season has been rough for the Bengals, as they lost their quarterback Joe Burrow very early on in the season. Many hoped that drafting Burrow would provide the team with the support they needed to improve, but this did not end up happening, as Burrow is out for the remainder of the season. At this point in time, both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs and will have to wait until next season to get their chance.
Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions – 31-24 Packers
There were no surprises here. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay quarterback) led his 10-3 team to victory on Sunday, officially taking the NFC North. Rogers managed to throw three touchdown passes and run one himself. The Lions did not have a terrible loss, but their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, did take a serious rib injury relatively early into the game. Although he tried to play for a while on and off, he eventually had to leave the game, and the Lions subbed in Chase Daniels. Detroit played a decent game, but Rogers and the Packers eventually outperformed. The Green Bay Packers officially have a spot in the 2020 playoffs, but in order for the Lions to make it to the playoffs at this point, they must win their three remaining games. This isn’t impossible, but it is highly unlikely that it will happen.
New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles – 24-21 Eagles
Out of all of the week 14 matchups, the results of this one were the most surprising. Drew Brees (New Orleans quarterback) has definitely had a successful season, but the Eagles were able to outplay him this week. Much of the Eagle’s success can be attributed to their quarterback, Jalen Hurts. The Eagles had previously been on a four-game losing streak with their old quarterback, Carson Wentz, and last week, the coach finally made the tough decision to bench Wentz and start Hurts, a newly drafted rookie. This turned out to be a wise decision, as the team managed to score three touchdowns and a field goal. The Saints started to pull through at the end of the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown and placing them only three points behind the Eagles, but they ran out of time, giving the victory to Philadelphia. This loss, though hurt New Orleans’ record a bit, did not affect their path to the playoffs, as they already have clinched their spot. New Orleans remains first in the NFC South and the chances of it staying that way are relatively high. Philadelphia, on the other hand, must win at least two of their three upcoming games (a few other teams must lose their games as well) in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs, but this might not be as impossible as previously thought. With Hurts playing quarterback, this could possibly be accomplished.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Chargers (AFC) – 20-17 Chargers
This game could have gone either way, but Los Angeles ended up pulling through in the end for the win. While both teams played decently, Justin Herbert (Chargers quarterback) was able to throw two touchdown passes and the team was able to kick two field goals. Atlanta’s strong point is their kicker, Younghoe Koo, who is currently rated as one of, if not the best kicker in all of the NFL. Unfortunately, they were only able to use him three times, which was not enough to help them catch up to Los Angeles. Regardless of the outcome of this game, however, both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs and currently sit at the bottom of their divisions.
Washington Football Team vs. 49ers – 23-15 WFT
In a regular year, this would not have happened, but this really isn’t a regular year. The week prior, Washington defeated the then 11-0 Pittsburgh Steelers, giving the Washington Football Team the momentum they needed to continue their path to the playoffs. Washington’s win can be attributed to two things: an impressive defensive line and a weakened 49ers roster. The WFT’s star player, rookie Chase Young, can take a large amount of the credit for the success, as he had numerous tackles and managed to score the team a touchdown. This win also partially came from the fact that a large amount of San Francisco’s roster is injured. At this point in time, at least five of the team’s main players are injured, and their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garpapolo is out for the entire season. This does not take away from Washington’s win, however, as they played hard and deserved their success. The Washington Football team currently sits at the top of the NFC East, but the New York Giants are only one game behind. If they win two more games out of their remaining three, the WFT will be able to claim a spot in the playoffs. While it is impossible at this point for San Francisco to win their division (they are currently at the bottom of the NFC West), similar to the WFT, they can gain a spot in the playoffs with two more wins. Based on how the 49ers have been playing so far, this is not very likely to happen.