2018 NFL Week 13
The people mourning the death of old-school football can rise from their fainting couches now. All the youths are safely off their lawns and they can fall away to a restful sleep in the haze created by three yards and a cloud of dust.
Just 10 days after the Rams and Chiefs lit up the scoreboard in Los Angeles, the Cowboys and Saints got down and dirty in Dallas. There were handoffs, short completions, three-and-outs and punts!
And when the dust settled at the end, the Cowboys did the improbable and walked away with a 13-10 victory over the Saints. Yes, Dallas somehow managed to corral New Orleans’ high-powered offense in more ways than one.
The Saints came into the game having converted 46.8 percent of their third downs. They went 3 for 11 on Thursday night. They were also 11 of 12 on fourth down, and yet they were stuffed short on fourth-and-goal in the first half.
The night went down exactly the way it needed for the Cowboys to come away with the victory. They controlled time of possession, they got in Drew Brees’ face – he started the game 0-4! – and they refused to allow any big plays.
Hell, the only way the Saints were able to get any offense going was through Cowboys penalties, specifically Randy Gregory committing a personal foul against the punter and then lining up offsides on a strip-sack of Brees that would have given Dallas the ball.
And it was fitting the game was sealed when Brees, who came into the game having thrown just two interceptions all season, was picked off by Jourdain Lewis with just over 2 minutes remaining. He began looking confused and he looked no less so when time expired.
Whew. And with that, the Saints saw their 10-game winning streak come to an end, while the Cowboys grabbed a tighter grip on first place in the NFC East and will definitely be a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.
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NFL’S TOP 10
1) Rams – Well, well, well! Look who is back up top! It’s always fun when you can move up in the rankings without playing a game, and here we are. They’re rested coming off their bye week and have a very winnable game on Sunday vs. the Lions. The Saints’ loss did wonders for their hopes of securing the No. 1 overall seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. However, it’s becoming clear that starting players may not get a chance to rest down the stretch.
2) Chiefs – Another team coming off a bye with a gimme game on Sunday. Kansas City should make short work of Oakland this week and will get what could be a tricky matchup vs. the Ravens at home. This is usually the time of year where the Chiefs stumble to some head-scratching losses. They can’t afford those types of mental gaffes with the Patriots and a suddenly very competitive AFC behind them.
3) Saints – Fun fact: Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for just 63 yards rushing in their Thursday loss. And as a team, they gained a mere 176 total net yards. Intrepid NFL analyst Trent Dilfer said Sean Payton was the happiest man in the world after watching the lack of discipline in the Rams-Chiefs showdown last week. Whatever enjoyment he (might) have had over that is gone now. This loss isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a sharp reminder that they won’t just sail to the Super Bowl.
4) Patriots – In case you didn’t notice, this team is up to the No. 2 seed in the AFC and three of their five remaining games are against garbage teams from their own division. While they do play at the Steelers on Dec. 16, we’ve seen that movie before. That’s exactly the type of game New England inexplicably wins. Ugh.
5) Texans – At what point will Houston get national respect? They’re reeled off eight wins in a row, yet all people can talk about is Ben Roethlisberger’s latest criticism of his teammates.
6) Chargers – I love this stacked roster, but I love it a little less now that Melvin Gordon is dealing with a sprained knee that will keep him out at least this week. Backup Austin Ekeler has been electric, but will he be able to handle the load in Gordon’s absence? Something tells me we’re going to see Philip Rivers flinging it a whole lot more. Also, it’s a relief to have Joey Bosa back rushing the passer.
7) Steelers – Speaking of Big Ben, anyone else tired of this guy’s act? What a goon. The man throws a horrible interception that literally cost his team the game vs. the Broncos and he’s out there throwing anyone and everyone else under the bus. Bro, this latest loss was on you. Act like it.
8) Cowboys – Their offense is still remedial, but if their defense can show up like they did on Thursday night, I’m not worried about the Cowboys going forward. Being able to control tempo and get stops is crucial once January games start.
9) Bears – Hey, wasn’t it cool to see Chase Daniel actually, you know, play quarterback for once? The man has made a fortune holding a clipboard at the NFL level, so it was nice to see him earn his keep for a change, even if it was because Mitch Trubisky was out with an injury. And hey, he even won! Kudos!
10) Seahawks – Do the Vikings deserve to be here? No, Seattle has come alive and has made me a believer in Pete Carroll and John Schneider again. I shouldn’t have doubted them in the first place.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Dude, get over it: The 49ers are visiting the Seahawks this week and predictably, Richard Sherman is running his mouth. Whatever his issue with Russell Wilson is, he continuously feels the need to tell everyone how he doesn’t have a relationship with him. Then he said this, when someone asked about Wilson’s ability to extend plays. “Yeah, I’ve also seen him throw five picks in a game … You understand that he can be defended.”
Was he done? Oh, no. He went on to whine about how he was cut loose by the Seahawks after last season, even though he had just ruptured his Achilles and a smart front office most likely wouldn’t want to pay big money for a player at that stage in his career. He then added that Seattle is a “middle of the road” team.
Right on, man. That “middle of the road” team has a great chance at playoff football while you’ll be getting pedicures and making golf plans in January. Maybe you can regale the people at the salon with your tale of woe. They might actually give a crap. Just stop talking. Your bitterness isn’t becoming.
Do the right thing: The Jets have a quarterback issue in that both Sam Darnold and Josh McCown are nursing injuries heading into Sunday’s game. Look, just rule Darnold out. The offensive line is a mess and there’s no point risking your future investment. If McCown can’t go, just let third-stringer Davis Webb handle it. What difference does it make?
Bigmouth Baker: The Browns rookie quarterback isn’t shy about running his mouth. I know how he feels. When I was a 24-year-old whippersnapper, I was full of piss and vinegar. I was never afraid to let anyone know my feelings about my job or the direction of my company. Fast-forward to the present and I can’t stop cringing about those days. Baker Mayfield might be completely correct in his estimation of his former coach Hue Jackson but one day he’ll learn it would have been better to keep those thoughts to himself.
That’s just dumb: I’m starting to question John Elway’s ability to build a team. A story broke that the Broncos are working out Nathan Peterman, who recently made a name for himself as the poster boy for quarterback incompetence.
Smart move: JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a revelation for the Steelers since arriving as a rookie in 2017. He leads the team in catches and receiving yards this season, but he’s quick to give credit to Antonio Brown, who draws so much attention from defenses that it frees up teammates to make plays. He described it as being able to “eat off his plate.” Players love when their teammates share credit. Ben Roethlisberger should learn something from that.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 13
Browns at Texans: As always, Baker Mayfield is appointment television. Let’s see if he can be the one to end Houston’s winning streak.
Vikings at Patriots: All eyes will be on Kirk Cousins to finally deliver in a big game. He won’t. New England should roll to an easy win.
49ers at Seahawks: Let’s see what kind of reception the 12s give Sherman in his not-so-triumphant return to the Pacific Northwest. Wilson will most likely spend the day not throwing in his direction and will walk off the field with a win, leaving a butthurt cornerback with only his empty words.
Chargers at Steelers: Grab your popcorn as this is the sexiest matchup of the week. And on Sunday night, too. Nothing wrong with that.
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.