NFL Week 14 Review, Week 15 Preview and Power Poll Update

Frank Gore en route to 110 yards rushing in the 49ers 19-17 win over Seattle
Frank Gore en route to 110 yards rushing in the 49ers 19-17 win over Seattle

Week 14 Review

With just three weeks of the regular season remaining, the playoff race is starting to take shape as some teams have already been eliminated, some are fighting for their postseason lives, while just three know for sure that they will still be playing football come January.  Seattle were the first to clinch a spot, doing so with their win over New Orleans in Week 13, so their 19-17 loss in San Francisco last Sunday should not concern them too much, particularly as they are still almost certain to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC.  Many pundits have been declaring that the Seahawks as unbeatable in their own stadium and have penned them in as one of the two Super Bowl teams.  While it is true that they have won all of their home fixtures in the last two seasons, it should be remembered that the second game of that streak was against the Packers in Week 3 of 2012, which they would have lost if the replacement refs had not awarded a very dubious touchdown to Seattle on the final play.  The Seahawks are undoubtedly the team to beat in the NFC, but they are not a juggernaut who will sail into the big game without any problems – Russell Wilson is only a second year quarterback and has won a total of one playoff game in his life, so it is not a given that he will be able to lead his team the two victories they need to make it to New Jersey in February.  Also, in the last nine seasons, only once has a number 1 seed ended up winning the Super Bowl (the New Orleans Saints in 2009) – the postseason has been unpredictable and being hot at the right time has been more important than dominating in the regular season – just ask the 2007 New England Patriots.

The other two teams to already be assured a playoff berth are the Denver Broncos – who will almost certainly be the number 1 seed in the AFC – after they came from behind to beat the Tennessee Titans 51-28, a tally which included another four touchdown passes by Peyton Manning – taking his total to the season to 45, five behind Tom Brady’s record – and a 64-yard field goal by Matt Prater, the longest in NFL history.  That defeat for the Titans clinched the AFC South for the Indianapolis Colts, despite their 42-28 loss in Cincinnati, which makes the Bengals the favorites for the three seed in the AFC.

LeSean McCoy was kept his cool running in the snow
LeSean McCoy was kept his cool running in the snow

Overall, Week 14 in the NFL was one of the most exciting in league history, with the 16 games including a record-breaking 104 touchdowns and the early games on Sunday combining to have numerous exciting endings – sometimes in the same fixture.  That was the case in Baltimore, where the Ravens trailed the Vikings 12-7 with just over two minutes to play, but in the final 125 seconds, the teams combined for five touchdowns and the same number of lead changes to give the home team a 29-26 victory that keeps them in prime position for a wild card spot.  In New England, the Patriots came from 19-3 down in the third quarter and 26-14 behind with just over a minute remaining to beat the Browns 27-26, thanks to an onside kick recovery and a very dubious pass interference call that cost Cleveland the game – but kept them in a good position to get a high draft pick next May.  In a very snowy Philadelphia, the Eagles moved into first place in the NFC East thanks to a 217-yard rushing day by LeSean McCoy that helped them defeat the Lions 34-20, despite two kick returns for touchdowns by Detroit’s Jeremy Ross.  That loss allowed the Bears to move into a tie at the top of the NFC North as they beat the Cowboys 45-28 on Monday night, while the Packers are a half-game back of both of them after they won for the first time this season without Aaron Rodgers, edging Atlanta 22-21 in Green Bay.

In the race for the AFC Wild Cards, the Chiefs maintained their strong grip on the 5 seed with a 45-10 victory in Washington; the Dolphins kept pace with the Ravens by beating the Steelers 34-28 in Pittsburgh, though Miami is behind Baltimore because of their head-to-head record; the Jets stayed in the race with a 37-27 win against the Raiders; and the Chargers are still alive after they prevailed 37-14 over the Giants in San Diego.  In the NFC, New Orleans look set to win the two seed as they ended the Panthers winning run by defeating them 31-13 on Sunday night; while the Cardinals remained a game behind Carolina and San Francisco in the hunt for a Wild Card as they beat the Rams, 30-10 in Arizona.  Elsewhere, the Jaguars won for the fourth time in fifth games, 27-20 against the Texans on Thursday night, a result that represented Houston’s 11th loss in a row and one that ended the tenure of head coach Gary Kubiak, who was relieved of his duties the following day; and Tampa Bay have also gone from 0-8 to 4-9, this time beating Buffalo 27-6 at home.

Power Poll Update

As always, the math behind these standings can be found on this link here

Notes on this week’s standings

  • Although the Ravens have the head-to-head edge over the Dolphins, my Power Poll suggests that Miami will end up with the 6 seed, as they are 8 places above Baltimore.
  • Despite being out of playoff contention, St. Louis ranks level with Detroit, who are currently in first place in the NFC North.  No team in that division is higher than joint 14th (Chicago).
  • Kansas City might be 10-3, but they have dropped down to 8th in the standings – a reflection that they have not beaten a team that currently has a winning record since their victory over the Eagles in Week 3.  ‘

Last week’s standings in brackets

1. (1) Denver Broncos

2. (2) Seattle Seahawks

3. (3) New Orleans Saints

4. (4) New England Patriots

5. (8) San Francisco 49ers

6. (5) Kansas City Chiefs

7. (9) Cincinnati Bengals

8. (6) Kansas City Chiefs

9. (7) Indianapolis Colts

10. (10) Arizona Cardinals

11. (12) Miami Dolphins

12. (13) Philadelphia Eagles

13. (11) Dallas Cowboys

14. (16) New York Jets

= (=18) Chicago Bears

16. (15) Detroit Lions

= (14) St. Louis Rams

18. (=18) San Diego Chargers

19. (=21) Baltimore Ravens

20. (=21) Green Bay Packers

21. (=18) Tennessee Titans

22. (25) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

23. (17) New York Giants

24. (23) Buffalo Bills

25. (24) Pittsburgh Steelers

26. (27) Cleveland Browns

= (29) Jacksonville Jaguars

28. (26) Atlanta Falcons

29. (28) Oakland Raiders

30. (32) Washington

31. (=30) Minnesota Vikings

32. (=30) Houston Texans

 

Week 15 Preview

Of the 16 fixtures in the NFL in Week 15, only two have no playoff implications – Washington’s trip to Atlanta; and the Jaguars hosting the Bills – while the Colts only have the incentive of trying to move up to the three seed when they take on the Texans in Indianapolis.  On Thursday night, the Broncos will try to hold on to top spot in the AFC when they host the Wild Card hunting Chargers; then on Sunday, the Bears need a win in Cleveland to put pressure on the Lions, who host Baltimore on Monday night; while the Packers are hoping both of them lose and they can win in Dallas, a run of results that would see Green Bay move to the top of the NFC North.  To beat the Cowboys they definitely will need Aaron Rodgers back at quarterback, but he is reportedly still suffering pain from his fractured collarbone and his status for this weekend remains uncertain.  If Dallas can win that game, they will remain in reach of the Eagles, whom they face in the final week of the season, even if Philadelphia prevails in Minnesota as the Cowboys would win a tie-breaker if the two ended up with tied records.

The 49ers have a somewhat tricky trip to the resurgent Buccaneers; a defeat for San Francisco would all but hand their division to the Seahawks, who are at the Giants on Sunday; the Chiefs can clinch a playoff place by winning in Oakland; and the Dolphins host the Patriots, a victory for New England would confirm the AFC East title, but they will be without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the season, after he tore his ACL in the game against Cleveland.  Elsewhere, the Bengals are in Pittsburgh to play the Steelers; St. Louis takes on New Orleans; the Titans face the Cardinals in Tennessee; and the Panthers will try to keep the pressure on the Saints when they play the Jets in North Carolina.

Predictions

Last week, 10-6; Season, 107-101

Home teams in bold

Broncos -10.5 over Chargers

Falcons -6.5 over Washington

Jaguars +1.5 over Bills

Bears +1.5 over Browns

Texans +6.5 over Colts

Dolphins +2.5 over Patriots

Eagles -4.5 over Vikings

Giants +6.5 over Seahawks

Buccaneers +5.5 over 49ers

Chiefs -4.5 over Raiders

Panthers -11.5 over Jets

Cowboys -6.5 over Packers

Cardinals -2.5 over Titans

Saints -5.5 over Rams

Steelers +2.5 over Bengals

Ravens +5.5 over Lions

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