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 Games From Week 14
Miami Dolphins 34 – New England Patriots 33
The Patriots entered the game with the chance to clinch the division. And for the first 59 minutes and 53 seconds, it looked like Tom Brady and company would do just that. But then this happened:
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) December 10, 2018
The Patriots still have the upper hand in the division, obviously, while the Dolphins are on the outside looking in for the playoffs right now. But the Patriots have failed to look like their dominant selves all season – I predicted them to win the Super Bowl this year – so losing in this fashion could have an impact.
Chicago Bears 15 – Los Angeles Rams 9
We’re almost a month removed from the Rams-Chiefs thriller where the Rams scored 54 points and looked unstoppable. They needed those 54 points to win that game, but I’m sure they wish that their defense would have been a little more stingy to prepare them for games like this against the Bears. Last week, they scored 30 against the Lions, so everyone probably thought that they were okay. The Bears have a top defense, but the Rams were no slouch either, so there was potential for a defensive struggle when the teams met for this one.
I don’t think anyone expected Jared Goff to throw four interceptions. Or for former MVP candidate Todd Gurley to be held to 25 yards on the ground (and another 30 receiving yards). The Rams loss, coupled with the Saints win, moved the Rams out of the top spot in the conference for the first time all season, and as it stands now, the NFC Championship will go through New Orleans instead of Los Angeles. The Rams should recover, with two of their final three games against the Cardinals and 49ers, but the Saints also have it pretty easy with two games against the reeling Panthers in their final three.
Week 15 Game of the Week
Thursday Night Football doesn’t typically boast the best game of the week, but this week is an exception. The Los Angeles Chargers travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that could help determine the AFC West and one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs. The Chargers lost the first time these teams met, way back in Week 1 before we really knew that the Chargers would be this good. A win against the Chiefs in the rematch won’t elevate them to the top of the division – the Chiefs would still win the tiebreaker based on division record – but it would give them an advantage should the Chiefs stumble elsewhere over the final two games of the season.
The Chiefs have won a couple of close games since that barn burner with the Rams. including giving up 33 points to a Raiders team fighting for the #1 overall pick. They close out the season against the same Raiders – albeit at home this time – after what should be a very tough matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle next week. A win against the Chargers tonight all but ensures they will win the division and clinch a top seed in the AFC, allowing them to possibly rest up for the playoffs in that Week 17 game against the Raiders.
NFL Playoff Picture
With three weeks to go in the season, here’s how the playoffs would look if they started today:
1. x-Kansas City Chiefs (West) – 11-2
2. New England Patriots (East) – 9-4
3. Houston Texans (South) – 9-4
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (North) – 7-5-1
5. Los Angeles Chargers (WC #1) – 10-3
6. Baltimore Ravens (WC #2) – 7-6
In the hunt: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, and Tennessee Titans (7-6), Denver Broncos (6-7), and Cleveland Browns (5-7-1)
1. z-New Orleans Saints (South) – 11-2
2. z- Los Angeles Rams (West) – 11-2
3. Chicago Bears (North) – 9-4
4. Dallas Cowboys (East) – 8-5
5. Seattle Seahawks (WC #1) – 8-5
6. Minnesota Vikings (WC #2) – 6-6-1
In the hunt: Philadelphia Eagles, Washington, & Carolina Panthers (6-7); Green Bay Packers (5-7-1), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8)
Note: z- clinched division; x- clinched playoff berth
2019 NFL 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 13 games), so my numbers will be slightly different from what might be elsewhere.
|1||San Francisco 49ers||3-10||0.529|
|5||New York Jets||4-9||0.502|
|8||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||5-8||0.500|
|10||New York Giants||5-8||0.505|
|12||Green Bay Packers||5-7-1||0.481|
Until next time…