A weekend full of football scheduled around the holidays, what could be better! Which teams saw Santa this weekend and which had the Grinch come visit?
Check out my stock up and down report from Week 16.
The Bengals are the best team in the AFC heading into the final two weeks of the season. They have won seven straight games, including a win against the Chiefs. The Bengals offense looks unstoppable with Joe Burrow throwing darts around the field. What has made their offense better this season is they’ve relied far less on the 50/50 pass down the sidelines for their explosive pass options. Instead, Burrow is leading a passing attack that is more methodical with the ability for their playmakers to create once the ball is in their hands. The Bengals pair their offense with a stout defense that’s sitting just outside the top 10 in efficiency. However, they are superb in the second half of games and are able to clamp down on the opposing offense when it matters most. The best “thing” the Bengals do is they don’t make mistakes. They do not turn the ball over much. They do not make mental mistakes. They do not have blown coverages on defense. There’s quality to not losing games and letting your opponent make those mistakes.
It’s a Christmas miracle. The Green Bay Packers, left for dead just three weeks ago after their eighth loss of the season, are currently within striking distance for a wild card berth. The Packers have won three in a row, beating the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday for an impressive sixth win of the season. With the Lions, Giants and Seahawks losing, that win on Sunday puts the Packers just a game back for the final wild-card spot with two home games left to finish the season.
The Packers have gotten to this point with an ease in the schedule before the Miami game, including topping the Rams with Baker Mayfield. However, Sunday’s win is one of those that propel teams to the postseason. The Packers looked destined for a loss late in the second quarter. They were down 10. Their offense was so disjointed. Aaron Rodgers couldn’t find open receivers, and when he did, someone dropped it. The run game was hit or miss. The defense was getting gashed by the Dolphins offense and hadn’t gotten a stop all game. However, the Packers forced a fumble near halftime, turned that into three points and didn’t look back. They scored to open the second half, forced three Tua Tagovailoa interceptions and won the game by six points. The Packers need some help in front of them, but they are back in the hunt.
‘This was special’ — Aaron Rodgers discusses Packers’ win
Aaron Rodgers speaks with Pam Oliver about the Green Bay Packers win that keeps his team in the playoff hunt.
In what feels like a rare occurrence, the Cowboys won a game they were supposed to win. The Dallas hosted the Eagles missing star quarterback Jalen Hurts and Dallas needed this game to prove they are a contender in the NFC. Dak Prescott threw an early interception, then settled in for an outstanding performance against a good Eagles defense, finishing 27 of 35 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys run game added over 100 yards as well.
The Cowboys defense has regressed some and didn’t play particularly well against Philadelphia. It would worry me in the playoffs. What the Cowboys did was force turnovers, with three of those being Eagles fumbles. The most important part of this win was the confidence it will give the Cowboys heading into the postseason. They are almost locked into the five seed and will travel to the NFC South winner for wild card weekend knowing they have already beaten the NFC’s one seed. That’s powerful.
Dak Prescott throws for three TDs as Cowboys edge past Eagles in thriller
Dak Prescott brought his A-game as he threw for 347 yards and three TDs in the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Quarterbacks Wilson
Zach Wilson of the Jets and Russell Wilson of the Broncos are the two worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Both got benched this weekend and both should not play another down this season. Zach Wilson clearly has regressed in this second season, which is hard to do considering he wasn’t that good as a rookie. Russell Wilson has completely combusted this season, and the Broncos trade for him is looking like one of the worst in league history. What both have in common is it appears they are not popular in the locker room, which makes their situation much worse.
Players understand some of their teammates aren’t good. But if you’re bad, you better be likable, otherwise everyone will tune you out. And if you’re bad, you better take accountability. Players can live with poor players who take accountability and work to improve. Are we seeing that with either Wilson? Both of these quarterbacks need to sit down for the rest of the 2022 season, take a mental rest and prepare for 2023.
Just when America starts to heap well-deserved praise on the Lions, they turn into the Lions. The Lions entered their contest in Carolina against the Panthers with six wins in seven games. They beat the Packers, Giants, Jaguars, Vikings and Jets. Quality opponents and quality wins. Then came Sunday, when the Panthers kicked their butts 37-23, and the game didn’t feel even close to a 14-point difference. The Panthers, led by Sam Darnold, had 570 yards on offense. The Panthers had two running backs gain over 100 yards. The Panthers defense did not allow the Lions to rush the ball effectively and made it difficult for Jared Goff to get comfortable in the pocket. This loss hurts the Lions’ playoff chances because their competition for a wild-card spot all also lost. If the Lions had won, they’d be in control of their destiny. Now they have to win and get help, not the best spot to be in.
Panthers accumulate 320 rushing yards in victory over Lions
The Carolina Panthers made a statement, rushing for 320 yards and three TD in a 37-23 victory over the Detroit Lions.
The Dolphins were 8-3 and the darlings of the NFL after eleven weeks. There was talk of the Dolphins winning the division and being able to challenge for the AFC title. Tua was getting MVP discussion. Tyreek Hill was on track to win offensive player of the year. One month later and the Dolphins are fighting for the playoffs after four straight losses. It’s not the losses that worry me. They are 8-7 and probably where you’d expect them to be after 15 games with a new coach, new roster pieces unproven quarterback. It’s how they are losing that is the worry.
Tua has returned to the quarterback most of us believed him to be. He’s very good within the structure of the offense, but outside of that, he’s going to struggle. He’s not seeing the defense as well in the last month and his three interceptions in the second half against the Packers cost his team the game. There’s no solution either. It’s basic things. Overthrows and not reading coverages. He’s got to improve at these things quickly or the team isn’t making the playoffs.
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Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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