The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are the betting line favorites to reach the Super Bowl in New York this February. And though I’ve been skeptical of each team’s status, both Denver and Seattle showed why the smart money likes them so much. In showcase games, the Broncos won on the road in Kansas City and the Seahawks blasted New Orleans on Monday Night to highlight the results of NFL Week 13.
Denver 35 Kansas City 28: A lot of attention has been rightfully given to the inability of Kansas City to pressure Peyton Manning in each of the two games these teams have played in the last three weeks. No sacks and not even a QB hit is not the way to beat any quarterback, much less one of the all-time greats.
But the Chiefs will presumably get their defense healthy by the time a potential Round 3 takes place in January, especially outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. If I’m Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid, I’m more worried that Monte Ball ran through my defense for 117 yards.
And if I’m Broncos coach John Fox watching from my hospital bed recovering from heart surgery, my ticker feels a lot better after watching two straight weeks of great running from two different backs. Ball’s game follows up Knowshon Moreno’s big night last Sunday in New England.
Seattle 34 New Orleans 7: This game was ugly from the start, as an early Seattle defensive touchdown set the tone, helped build a 17-0 lead and it never got close. There was inclimate weather, as the rain pounded Century Field, but that’s hardly surprising and eventually New Orleans will have to find a way to win in a climate like this if they want to win the Super Bowl.
Russell Wilson was completely undisturbed by the elements, going 22/30 for 310 yards, all while playing his usual high-efficiency mistake-free football. The one good thing New Orleans can take away from this is that they did contain Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle running game. But the pursuit of the top seed in the NFC is realistically over for Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Now the Saints have to focus on holding off Carolina to win the NFC South and get a first-round bye.
Speaking of which, the teams jousting with Denver and Seattle/New Orleans for playoff position won against the league’s lower tier…
New England 34 Houston 31: The Patriots definitely had a letdown after the Denver game last week, and trailed 17-7 at half. Tom Brady opened up, finishing with 371 pass yards. Rob Gronkowski had a big day, with 127 of those yards, and a nice shoestring catch for a touchdown. Bill Belichick wasn’t happy after the game and I understand why a coach feels that way. But given what New England had done last week, I think this is one of the games you just say “To hell with it, we won.”
Carolina 27 Tampa Bay 6: Carolina’s defense was locked in again, shutting down the Tampa Bay running game and overcoming a couple interceptions thrown by Cam Newton. The Panther quarterback had an otherwise good day, 18/29 for 263 yards, but the mistakes will outweigh all of that if this repeats itself in the big games ahead. But in the spirit of what I wrote about the Patriots, “to hell with it, they won by three touchdowns.” New Orleans is up next for Carolina.
In the world of teams angling for division titles and home playoff games, while looking unlikely to get first-round byes, there were six big games in NFL Week 13…
Detroit 40 Green Bay 10: The Lions feasted on the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers to start off Thanksgiving Day. This result is an indictment of the entire Packer operation. It’s one thing to suffer because your franchise quarterback is out. It’s quite another to completely go in the tank, a circumstance that tells you we’ve given the rest of the team way too much credit. As for the Lions, if they commit four turnovers against a legitimate opponent, they’re finished.
Minnesota 23 Chicago 20 (OT): For the second straight week, the Vikings go into overtime and play almost a full fifth quarter, winning it with less than two minutes to go. Chicago should have won the game earlier, but head coach Marc Trestman inexplicably tried a 47-yard field goal on second down, which missed.
Trestman’s refusal to trust Josh McCown–who went 23/36 for 355 yards and no interceptions put his team a game back of Detroit in the NFC North. And the Bears’ lousy rush defense was easy picking for Adrian Peterson, who had a 211-yard game.
Dallas 31 Oakland 24: I must have eaten too much, because by the late afternoon game on Thanksgiving this is what I saw–the Dallas Cowboys ran the football and stopped the run. They played mistake-free and let the opponent beat themselves with double-digit penalties. Tony Romo was efficient–23/32–but not spectacular, getting 225 yards. And Dallas kept their poise after falling behind and took the game over in the second half. That’s what I saw, but given that this is the Cowboys, I had to be in a turkey coma and dreamt the whole thing, right?
Philadelphia 24 Arizona 21: Defensively, the Cardinals did what they had to do in stopping LeSean McCoy and the run and sacking Nick Foles five times. But Foles didn’t make any mistakes, while Carson Palmer did, throwing a couple interceptions. Philadelphia’s own defense got to Palmer five times, they built up a 24-7 lead and then hung on, keeping pace with Dallas in the NFC East.
Indianapolis 22 Tennessee 14: Indy didn’t play very well–the protection for Andrew Luck was poor, allowing five sacks and the result was inefficiency from Luck in the passing game, at 17/32. But they got big plays–Luck made his completions go for 200 yards, and the defense was in ballhawk mode, picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick three times. The win all but locks up the AFC South for the Colts, who have a three-game lead, plus tiebreakers.
Cincinnati 17 San Diego 10: Clutch road win for the Bengals, who stayed two games in front in the AFC North. BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball 20 times for 92 yards and helped Cincy get a hard-fought win.
In the race for the wild-card berths, three more games were significant…
Baltimore 22 Pittsburgh 20: It was a basically even game, with the difference between the Ravens’ stopping a two-point conversion with a minute to go that sealed the win. Neither team ran the ball, while Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco had good games, though Flacco was a little more effective getting it downfield, especially to Torrey Smith.
The game was marred by Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin stepping near the field of play to interfere with a potential punt return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones. Tomlin will draw a hefty fine, as he should, and the league avoided embarrassment for the lack of a penalty on the field when Baltimore won in spite of it.
Miami 23 NY Jets 3: The Dolphins win the battle of teams trying to get to 6-6 and keep up with Baltimore in the packed race for the final AFC playoff berth. New York is collapsing and the horrid play of Geno Smith, benched for Matt Simms is a huge reason. But don’t overlook the sudden failure of the Jets’ defense, which allowed Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill to pick them apart for 328 yards.
San Francisco 23 St. Louis 13: Was this Colin Kaepernick’s moment to re-assert himself as a rising star? Playing against a good defense that took away the usually potent San Francisco running game, Kaepernick went 19/28 for 275 yards and no mistakes. After a year in which he’s struggled–and unlike RG3 in Washington, Kaepernick isn’t recovering from injury and has a great supporting cast–the 49er quarterback might be helping his team peak at the right time.
The NFL Week 13 slate is rounded out with three games that only diehard fans of each team could possibly have cared about…
NY Giants 24 Washington 17: I’m one of those diehards and this defeat was positively soul-crushing for the Redskins–or at least for me. There were at least five dropped passes where balls hit receivers in the hands, including a huge pass to Fred Davis that would have put Washington about the New York 30 with enough time in the final two minutes to go tie it up. There were stupid penalties. Lest this just turn into a rant for myself, let’s salute Justin Tuck, who had four sacks, all in the second half.
Atlanta 34 Buffalo 31 (OT): Two big turnovers by Buffalo, one late in the fourth quarter and the other in overtime, cost them a chance to win. It ruined a big day from C.J. Spiller who ran for 149 yards in front of the Toronto crowd, the one game a year where Buffalo takes a home date north of the border.
Jacksonville 32 Cleveland 28: Break up the Jaguars! Jacksonville now has three wins on the season after pundits were speculating they might go 0-16, and the remaining schedule offers chances for at least a couple more. Cleveland’s three turnovers waste a monster day from receiver Josh Gordon, who caught 10 passes for 261 yards.