Key Takeaways from Week 13 in the NFL
Nobody Move, The Cloudy AFC North
The Steelers might have saved their season with their 1-point victory over the Baltimore Ravens. It wasn’t looking too promising as the Ravens dominated possession in the first half, making key third downs and gaining 5 running yards with alarming regularity. If the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, the Steelers will be half a game back from all three wild card spots in addition to a half-game back from their divisional rivals the Cincinnati Bengals and the 7th seed. Pittsburgh has the quality on both sides of the ball to make some playoff noise if they can use this crazy victory as a springboard for their remaining games.
The Baltimore Ravens still hold the AFC North division lead thanks to the Bengals losing as well on Sunday, however more questions emerge for the Baltimore Ravens. TJ Watt caused Lamar Jackson all sorts of problems and they lost star cornerback Marlon Humphrey to a season ending shoulder injury. Over the last month they got beat up by the Miami Dolphins, squeaked past the Bears without Jackson and survived the Browns despite four Jackson interceptions. Whatever your thoughts on the 2-point conversion attempt at the end of the game it’s going to continue to be tricky for the Ravens, who have the second toughest remaining schedule left by their opponent's record.&nbs;
Staying in the division, the Bengals missed a big opportunity to pull even with the Ravens. Having pulled it back within one score and looking good, Joe Mixon’s fumble and Tevaughan Campbell’s 61-yard touchdown pickup completely swung momentum to LA. The Chargers sacked Burrow six times, came away with four turnovers, and stopped the Bengals on their last six possessions. The inconsistent Bengals are clinging onto the 7th seed in the AFC, with all five of their remaining opponents at .500 or better.
Though the Kansas City Chiefs won on Sunday night, their offense still looks shaky. Their defense however continues to tick along holding a resurgent Broncos to 9 points and 1 touchdown in the fourth quarter. All game they never looked out of control. As they continue to try and unlock their vaunted offense, it was interesting to see Mahomes choose not to utilise number 87 (Kelce) or 10 (Hill) enough to create mismatches. As we get closer to the playoffs I expect to see the established offensive stars of the Chiefs begin to shine.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cemented their place atop the NFC South with a convincing 30-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Tom Brady finished with 51 pass attempts, good for 368 yards and four touchdowns. The Bucs have a four game lead in their division and Tom Brady leads the NFL in touchdown passes by four. Tampa Bay and Tom Brady are rolling right now, highlighted by a three game winning streak and the return of Rob Gronkowski they look like one of the teams to beat in a top heavy NFC.
Continuing a theme, the Cardinals picked up from their bye week in pretty good shape with the return of star QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins for the final stretch of the regular season. The good health of their offensive stars is of critical importance but it was the Cardinals defense that again starred against the Chicago Bears, forcing four interceptions and sacking Bears QB Andy Dalton three times. The Cardinals showed us what they needed to in order to hold a one game lead over the NFC heavyweights, the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most important of all, Kyler Murray showed no rust and finished the game in one piece.
The Bucs and Chiefs showed us this weekend why they were pre-season favorites. The Cardinals showed us how they have become one of the more dangerous teams this year and favorites for the NFC top seed. These are three big favorites looking to get into the swing of winning as the countdown to the super bowl gets closer.
With a winning streak on par with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Miami Dolphins continue to edge into the playoff discussion on the back of 5 consecutive victories. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed 30-41 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Tagovailoa’s precision accuracy throwing slants and passes to the flat occupied the NY Giants defense which was enough when coupled with the Dolphin’s stifling defense for an ugly 20-9 victory.
With a tight 17-15 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Football Team have now won 4 games in a row and seem to be the only team moving in a positive direction for the wild card spots in the NFC. It will be difficult to continue the winning streak with 5 tough divisional matchups to come, but a week 14 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys will be a measuring stick for how well the WFT have been performing. They are currently 1-4 against teams with a winning record this year.
It may only be one game, but the Detroit Lions won for the first time this season! After many heartbreaking one score losses this year Sunday’s game winner from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown will be remembered for all the right reasons. The Lions played hard and managed to find a way to win against a Vikings team fighting to stay playoff-relevant. This win was a big step for the struggling franchise and first year coach Dan Campbell to build upon.