In these weekly previews, I’ll highlight the results that I found shocking from the previous week, as well as preview the game I am most looking forward to from the weekend ahead. As we get later into the season, I may add some other sections to this, including playoff positioning and a look forward to the upcoming draft.
The Top Game From Week 13
Los Angeles Chargers 33 – Pittsburgh Steelers 30
We highlighted this one last week as one of the Games of the Week. It was one of the few games last week to live up to the pre-game hype, even if the result was different than expected (Pittsburgh was favored by 3.5 heading into the game).
Pittsburgh led 23-7 at halftime and seemed to be in control over the upstart Chargers, and led 23-15 at the end of the third quarter. The Chargers tied it up with a punt return for touchdown by Desmond King a few minutes into the third quarter, but the Steelers tied it up at 30 with 4:10 to go in the game. After the subsequent kickoff, potential MVP Philip Rivers held onto the ball for the remainder of the game, moving the Chargers into field goal territory with seconds left on the play.
On the first field goal attempt – from 39 yards – the kick was missed to the right, only for the Steelers to be called offside. The second kick – from 34 yards after the penalty – appeared to have been blocked, only to have the Steelers called for yet another offsides penalty. Finally, from 29 yards, Chargers kicker nailed the winning field goal with no time left on the clock, seemingly exorcising the kicking demons that have plagued the Chargers in recent season.
The win moved the Chargers to within one game of the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost one of their dynamic playmakers prior to the weekend after Kareem Hunt was dismissed from the team. The two teams will play next Thursday in Kansas City in a game that could determine the AFC West, as well as a first round bye in the playoffs. The Steelers, on the other hand, fell to 1/2 game in front of the Ravens in the battle for the AFC North, and the teams have already played both head-to-head games this season. The Steelers also have a fairly difficult schedule down the stretch, with games against New England and New Orleans among the last four.
Week 14 Game of the Week
We have a full slate of games every week from now on, and there will be at least a couple each week that will directly impact the playoff picture. I’ll talk briefly about a couple here.
The Los Angeles Rams have already clinched the NFC West, but they face off against the Chicago Bears this week in a game that could clinch a first round bye. Meanwhile, the Bears remain 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Vikings after both clubs last week (to the New York Giants and Patriots, respectively), and should have Mitch Trubisky back under center. After this week, the Bears will face the disappointing Packers and the 49ers before ending the season in Minnesota, so I’m sure they’d like to get through this one with that 1.5 game lead intact.
The Vikings will be in Seattle trying to improve their wildcard position, with the Seattle Seahawks doing the same. The best the Seahawks can do is the 5th seed now that the Rams have clinched, and they could prove a difficult foe in the Wild Card Round in the playoffs.
A couple of divisional matchups also caught my eye. The Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles with a one game lead over the defending Super Bowl champs. They also won their earlier matchup this season, so another victory here would pretty much lock up the NFC East for the Cowboys (Washington’s chances diminished greatly when Alex Smith broke his leg). And in the other conference’s East division, the Patriots can lock up their umpteenth division title in a game in Miami against the Dolphins.
With each team having played at least eight games on the season, we’ll use the space to update the playoff picture each week. Here’s how it currently stands:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (West) – 10-2
2. New England Patriots (East) – 9-3
3. Houston Texans (South) – 9-3
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (North) – 7-4-1
5. Los Angeles Chargers (WC #1) – 9-3
6. Baltimore Ravens (WC #2) – 7-5
In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos (6-6)
1. x- Los Angeles Rams (West) – 11-1
2. New Orleans Saints (South) – 10-2
3. Chicago Bears (North) – 8-4
4. Dallas Cowboys (East) – 7-5
5. Seattle Seahawks (WC #1) – 7-5
6. Minnesota Vikings (WC #2) – 6-5-1
In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles, Washington, & Carolina Panthers (6-6)
Preliminary Draft Order
Since the NFL is all done with byes, this space will no cover the current draft order as it stands, or at least as close as I can figure based on SOS tiebreakers. We’ll go through the 20 teams that aren’t currently in playoff position.
Note: I have calculated strength of schedule for the team’s entire season’s worth of opponents (instead of just through the first 11 games), so my numbers will be slightly different from what might be elsewhere.
|1||San Francisco 49ers||2-10||0.526|
|3||New York Jets||3-9||0.503|
|7||New York Giants||4-8||0.510|
|10||Green Bay Packers||4-7-1||0.479|
|12||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-7||0.505|
Until next time…