Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, DeAndre Hopkins, Derrick Henry, Devlin Hodges, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, Joe Mixon, Marlon Mack, Mason Rudolph, Mike Tomlin, New York Jets, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ross Tucker, Ryan Finley, Ryan Tannehill, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Ty Hilton, Tyler Boyd, Will Fuller
With the three Thanksgiving games coming up tomorrow there is a feast of prime-time football for everyone to enjoy so let’s take a look at the run up to week thirteen as we near the final quarter of the season.
What I Saw
On Thursday night we saw a close divisional game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans where the Texans were able to eek out a win. This was not a spectacular game but a tough tense one where the Texans were able to bounce back from their heavy defeat against the Ravens the week before by stepping up their defensive performance and making enough plays on offence with receivers Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins working well as a tandem. The Texans do look a different team when they have both of these receivers fit, but the Colts were as competitive as they have been all season, getting more out of their offence than I feared because of their injuries, but in the end a couple of drops by TY Hilton cost them the game. This was Hilton’s first game back after several weeks out with a calf injury, but he wasn’t using that as an excuse and the backups to Marlon Mack (out with a broken hand) ran the ball well enough but the Colts fell short in the end. Still, the Colts are not out of the race for the AFC South but with the Titans catching them up with another win this week the race for this division could get very interesting. I’m not sold on the Texans being the ultimate winners even if they have a game lead for now.
On Sunday the Cincinnati Bengals welcomed their local rivals, and even led the game for a while but in the end fell to the all too familiar loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a close 10-16 game. The Steelers didn’t look that great doing it as whilst their defence played well, holding the Bengals offence to multiple three and out drives as Ryan Finley never looked comfortable, it took a change in quarterback to spark enough offence for the Steelers to win but more about that in a moment. For the Bengals, Tyler Boyd made some great catches and Joe Mixon showed flashes in the run game but they couldn’t move the ball consistently. The Bengals defence has looked stouter over the last couple of weeks but that doesn’t really matter if you regularly can’t even get to twenty points and the Bengals have barely managed that this season. The desperation for a win is clearly growing as the Bengals are going back to Andy Dalton this week, and with a game against the Dolphins, two against the Browns, and the Jets visiting this weekend they will be hoping to break their duck somewhere. As for the Steelers, they are comfortable in this kind of defensive game as they are not prone to the long touchdown concession the Bengals are, and when Mason Rudolph was struggling Mike Tomlin made the switch to Devlin Hodges in game who promptly threw for the seventy-nine yard touchdown play that did enough for the Steelers to maintain a push for a wildcard spot. They probably need to win three or four games and have results go their way to be in with a shot but they are at least still alive in the chase.
I was planning to watch the Patriots take on the Cowboys, but given the weather in New England I made the switch to watch the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to face the Tennessee Titan’s and it was a curious watch. It was nip and tuck until the third quarter with both teams moving the ball but struggling to maintain drives yet the four point deficit at half time was the closest the Jaguars would get after the Titans opening touchdown. A twenty-eight-point explosion in the third quarter sealed the game for the Titans with Derrick Henry breaking out for the type of monster game that he has proved multiple times he is capable of but we don’t always see. Henry finished the game with one hundred and fifty nine yards, with a seventy-four yard long touchdown run very much being the highlight. The Titans have now won four of their last five games since switching to Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback and you begin to wonder where they might be if they had made the switch earlier. It is strange to think that the Jaguars were in the AFC championship game two seasons ago and have a Super Bowl winning quarterback but don’t look great, and you begin to wonder what changes await in the off-season for a coaching staff and front-office who have never been able to repeat their first year of success.
The final game I watched this was the incredible looking matchup of the Green Bay Packers visiting the San Francisco 49ers that turned into a romp for the 49ers. I was worried about the extra half point in the picks competition because of how good Aaron Rodgers is, which turns out to have been no problem at all for the 49ers. Their defence smothered the Packers, holding them to under two hundred yards total offence and Rodgers could only throw for one hundred and eighteen yards. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but fumbled the ball away whilst being sacked and couldn’t get comfortable all game. The 49ers defence limited Rodgers ability to bide time in the pocket, which so few teams have managed to do but this enabled then to get five sacks and numerous hits whilst Fred Warner racked up eleven solo tackles at the heart of the defence. I don’t think the Packers are suddenly a bad team, but there appears to be a gap between the 49ers and the rest of the top teams in the NFC that does still include the Packers. What this game did do was increase my respect yet again for the 49ers defence, who are still second in the league by DVOA to the Patriots’ defence but whilst there is 6.6% between the 49ers and Patriots, there is 14.9% back to the third place Steelers. I knew the 49ers were playing well on this side of the ball, but seeing them play together is really impressive and I can’t wait to see them go against the Ravens next week.
What I Heard
The headlines from the weekend focussed a lot on the fall out of the ugly game between the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys, where the weather hampered both teams but the Patriots adapted whilst the Cowboys did not and with Jerry Jones criticising Jason Garrett the speculation about his job security has started up again. There are plenty of valid criticisms of both Garrett’s game management and his game planning but after a number of years without change, the talent of the current Cowboy’s roster seems to giving a Jones a different impression of the job Garrett is doing. Everything with he Cowboys get over-covered, and this is hardly the first time that rumours have started but it is beginning to look like a change is finally coming for one of the longest tenured head coaches in the league.
The other thing that leaps to mind was Ross Tucker commenting on how quietly the Buffalo Bills have gone 8-3 this season. That said they do get a chance this Thanksgiving Thursday to put on a good showing for the nation as they take on the Dallas Cowboys and I’m definitely looking forward to the chance to watch them again.
What I Think
This week felt like an odd one, there were one or two results that I just didn’t see coming, several blow outs, a couple of weather affected games, but not a lot of games grabbed the attention with how one sided the match ups actually played out. I can’t wait to se the Raven take on the 49ers this and the Vikings take on the Seahawks this weekend. I don’t know how I feel about the Bengals’ game against the Jets yet.
What I Know
That this is one of the highlight weeks of the season, where I can get to see an extra two games in a wee and four without knowing the scores (the joys of catching up in the UK) and so I’m determined to sit back and enjoy the games as much as I can.
What I Hope
I hope that whether your watching round work, taking a day off, or are in the States and celebrating the day, that you have a good one!