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With week fourteen in the books and me away working, I am going to give you another on the road edition that I would say will live up to the week’s action, but the game of the week was probably the game of the season and so I’m not sure anything will match up to it. Intrigued? I’ll get to the specifics in a minute.

What I Saw

The week started with a game that has had me kicking myself ever since as the Dallas Cowboys rolled into Chicago with their current brand of dysfunction and trebled down on their last two losses to the Vikings and Lions by losing to the Bears. The Cowboys actually started the game well, marching down the field on their opening possession and scoring a touchdown to take an early lead, but they surrendered this lead in the second quarter and were never able to get level again. Despite slightly out-gaining the Bears and winning the turnover battle the Cowboys fell to 6-7 but are still not out of the battle for the NFC East. I’m not sure you would exactly say that Mitchel Trubisky has turned things around, but he’s playing better and the Bears have found a better balance in the rushing attack with David Montgomery getting more carries and Trubisky using his running skills. It’s probably too late for them to get a wildcard berth given the strength of the NFC race which could see a team from the NFC hosting a wild card team with a better record, but the Bears are heading in the directio again. If you’re wondering why I’m kicking myself about this game, guess which team I backed in the picks competition…

I’ll start the Sunday games with the Cincinnati Bengals frustrating loss against the Cleveland Browns where the Bengals out-gained the Browns by one hundred and twenty yards, and up to half time looked okay on defence. However, a chronic problem in the red-zone and the Browns remembering they have two of the better running backs in the league saw a 13-14 half time deficit grow to a 19-27 defeat. There is still too much noise surrounding the Browns and both teams will feature in the what I heard segment so I’ll move on to the two match-ups I was really excited about going into the weekend.

I was really looking forward to seeing the Baltimore Ravens take on the Buffalo Bills and in particular how the Bills defence did against the Ravens’ high-flying offence. The quick answer is that for the most part the Bills did well, partly aided by an injury to Ravens tight-end Mark Andrews but they could only contained the Ravens. This is more than many have done this season, but it quickly became apparent that the problem was that the Bills’ offence couldn’t keep up as the Ravens defence caused Josh Allen too many problems. The Bills did manage a later sure after three field goals all game, but the late touchdown with two point conversion that pulled them to within seven was as close as they could get. The Bills are a good team with a tough run of games coming but still have a sound shot at a wildcard spot, but they are a step down from the elite of the AFC.  The Ravens very much look to be the elite of the AFC right now.

This is probably a bad time to admit defeat, but as glorious as I think words are, I’m not sure they can do justice to the final game I watched this week. Hidden away in the early games was the San Francisco 49ers trip to face the New Orleans Saints and we ended up with a rip roaring 48-46 win for the 49ers to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Ravens. As can be seen from the score, despite featuring the second and fourth ranked defences by DVOA going into this weekend, this was very much an offensive slug fest with two of the league’s best game callers operating at something like the height of their powers. The Saints were boosted early by the speed of Deonte Harris in the returns game, but that wasn’t really needed as Drew Brees put in a vintage performance that saw him pass for five touchdowns and nearly three-hundred and fifty yards, with Brees throwing the deep ball as well as I have seen for a while. The 49ers were able to keep up thanks to Jimmy Garoppolo have a great game passing the ball, helped by how Emmanuel Sanders had integrated into the offence since his acquisition by trade and special mention should go to George Kittle who looked more like himself in the passing game and had one of the plays of the season, carry multiple Saints players down the field with one of them holding onto his face mark for at least five yards. It’s going to be a play that turns up in all the end of season montages, particularly as it was on a fourth and two play that kept the 49ers final drive alive. Either team could have won this game, and I would love for there to be a repeat in the playoffs, where both these teams are clearly headed,

What I Heard

There have been several topics running through the media the last couple of days. There were yet more blown calls and the most maddening thing about the new pass interference review system is the seemingly arbitrary way they are applied. Then again we had another game where the refs blew the whistle early and denied a potential touchdown scoring opportunity. I don’t entirely blame the refs as the game is fiendishly hard to officiate thanks to the complicated rule book, but when the wrong penalty yardage is being called then there needs to be a rethink and clearly the NFL agree as they announced a top-down review will take place in the off-season. Let’s see what that bring…

In the continuation of familiar themes we also have a new accusation of if not cheating, then dubious behavior by the New England Patriots. Thanks to their history most people will have made up their minds quickly when it was announced that a Patriots film crew had filmed the Bengals side-line this weekend. The explanation was that this was a TV crew making a documentary about working as a scout for the Patriots, who had permission from the Browns to be there. To be honest, I’m not inclined to disbelieve the explanation and I can’t find myself able to get worked up about it. This could be as I don’t expect the Bengals to have that much success against the Patriots this week, but it feels like after the previous instances people are desperate to leap on anything and it just doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

What I Think

There was a bit of a mess surrounding the Browns again this week as Baker Mayfield spoke about Odell Beckham’s medical situation, seemingly announcing that his receiver’s sports hernia problem had been mishandled by the Brown’s medical team. Now Mayfield clarified later and I don’t think it is a huge deal, but for a player who had not taken the next step this season and important off-season is looming.

I can’t say I have particularly warmed to Mayfield’s brash style, but as much as anything I wonder about who is helping him to lead and find his way. There is no history of success at the Browns, and so how is Mayfield meant to learn how to lead a professional team given the surrounding environment? I don’t know what will happen in the off-season, but unless there is some kind of change I’m not sure if he will be able to turn things around by himself going into next season.

What I Hope

I really enjoyed the 49ers at Saints game so I hope we get more played with that kind of execution, although I would be just as happy (if not more so) to watch defensive excellence.