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Well, it is slightly odd that the Baltimore Ravens have finished two games since last week’s post and I am sure that it is a relief to get back to winning ways as they try move on from the Covid-19 outbreak and drag themselves back into playoff contention. The games are coming think and fast as the last week thirteen game took place last night and we have a Thursday night game tomorrow with what looks to be a good matchup of the New England Patriots visiting the LA Rams.

So before we get too distracted by week fourteen let’s cast our eyes back over the previous week as the last quarter of the season starts tomorrow.

What I Saw

Week thirteen started on Sunday and the first game I watched was the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Miami Dolphins in what was very much a game of two halves that the Dolphins ultimately won 19-7. Perhaps the most surprising thing was that the Bengals went into half time with a 7-6 lead that was built off the back of a seventy-two-yard touchdown catch where most of the work was done by Tyler Boyd and this single play was not only not all the points the Bengals would score, but represented 37% of their passing yards for the day, which rises into 46% of passing production once you figure in the thirty-seven yards they lost on six sacks. This was also a surprisingly chippy game between the two teams with multiple ejections, but I can’t help but feel that as much as Dan thought that Brian Flores had read the riot act to the team at half-time, I think Flore might actually have channelled his inner Alex Ferguson and simply left it to, ‘Lads, it’s the Bengals,’ and left. The Dolphins look to be maintaining their push for the play-offs and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing how they will hold up against the Chiefs next week. As for the Bengals, I think there needs to something more radical than a high pick offensive lineman to sort this mess out, but I don’t know if we’re going to get it even though this is the fifth straight losing season and I see no evidence that Zac Taylor is going to add to his current total of four career wins this season.

I then jumped into the late Sunday games to watch the New York Giants play the Seattle Seahawks in a low scoring but interesting game that at halftime saw the Seahawks lead 5-0 but ultimately, they would lose 17-12. The Giants deserve full credit for this road win as their defence did an impressive job of containing Russell Wilson, whilst a career day that saw Wayne Gallman rush for over one-hundred-yards for the first time in his NFL carreer helped the Giants’ offence to score enough points in the third quarter to take and keep the lead. The Giants are a flawed team, but they still won this game with journeyman backup Colt McCoy barely passing one-hundred passing yards and I think they have found something in Joe Judge. Only time will tell if he can build the Giants back into a franchise that wins regularly and I still have questions about Jason Garrett as an offensive coordinator, but Judge has already proved he is willing to get involved having made a change in the offensive line room when he wasn’t happy with the performance there so I am looking forward to seeing how they develop in the coming years. As for the Seahawks, this game is a setback and they have lost four out of their seven games since their week six bye, but their fate is very much still in their own hands, although they will need to find some consistent form from somewhere with Washington, the Rams and 49ers on the schedule after the Jets next week.

The last game I watched from week thirteen was the Buffalo Bills playing the San Francisco 49ers at their temporary home in Glendale Arizona. It’s interesting to see a division rival open up their stadium for the 49ers, particularly as the Cardinals are hosting the 49ers on Boxing day so the 49ers will be pretty used to the environment by that point. However, this was the first game of the three the 49ers will play in Arizona this year and it started with the Bills driving all the way to the 49ers one-yard line before a failed fourth and one saw the 49ers takeover on downs and drive all the way to the Bills one-yard line, before they too failed to score. Things took a further strange turn when a bad snap saw the Bills immediately turn the ball over straight back to the 49ers, but after two failures from the three yard line, the 49ers’ backup quarterback Nick Mullens (starting his sixth game of the season) threw a short pass to Brandon Aiyuk to finally open the scoring in the last minute of the first quarter. However, the Bills struck back with seventeen straight points of their own to take a lead they never relinquished through the rest of the game. Given all the things that the 49ers have had to deal with this season it is actually a credit to the 49ers that they have been as competitive as they have this season. Meanwhile, this was a return to form for Josh Allen who made some ridiculous throws in this game as the Bills maintained their lead over the chasing Dolphins in the AFC East. It feels like the competition for that divisions going to run to the final week, which could get interesting given the Bills are hosting the Dolphins in week seventeen.

What I Heard

There has been plenty of discussion about coaching this week, particularly in relation to Gregg Williams’ strange call of a cover-0 blitz whilst his defence was trying to protect a lead with seconds left on the clock. There is no defending the decision, which led to the Raiders’ game winning touchdown and cost Williams his job when he was fired on Monday. As much as losing may well help the Jets in the long run as they continue to be in pole position to draft Trevor Lawrence, there is no way Williams made that play call with the draft in mind. This staff surely must know they will be looking for jobs in the new year and no one wants a season like the 2020 Jets on their record so if you hear people suggesting the loss was deliberate, do not take them seriously.

What I Think

There is not time to do a full examination of the problems at the Jets, but clearly there are not many problems being fixed this season. A young quarterback is a good place to start in theory for a franchise, but as I can attest from a fan’s perspective, it is not a magic panacea for all of a franchise’s ills and it’s not like the Jets don’t already have a numebr three overall pick playing quarterback in Sam Darnold. It is also not often that a team that has consistently lost in recent seasons can just turn it around with the addition of a promising young quarterback, just look at the actual number of wins that the Chargers or Bengals have this season.

What I Know

In this strange period where time is both dragging on and slipping through our fingers, we are starting the last quarter of the season with the Bengals absolutely out of the play-off but possibly in position to bag a really good offensive line player if there is one worthy of that high a draft pick. We know that the New Orleans saints and Kansas City Chiefs have already booked their place in the playoffs and that once again the ’72 Dolphins have cracked open their celebratory champagne as they remain for another year the only ever unbeaten NFL team.

What I Hope

This week has been a long one already so what I am really hoping for is some good contests and that the Dolphins keep pushing for the play-offs. One of the TWF teams has to do well this season and it certainly isn’t going to be the Bengals.

Another week where I pick up three games on Dan in the picks competition would be nice too…