2018 NFL Week 14
I don’t often write during an NFL game, but here we are. It’s Thursday evening, I’m sitting at the desk in my home office, which also doubles as our dining table, and in the background, I can hear what sounds like a discouraging experience.
The Titans and Jaguars are facing off in a Thursday night matchup, and judging from the unenthusiastic voices of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the action on the field leaves nothing to be desired. A quick glance? Yep, the Titans are leading 7-2 and the Jaguars just got stuffed at the 1-yard line on fourth down.
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And yes, there was a safety. Not a cool safety, like Calais Campbell breaking through the line and bringing the quarterback down in the end zone. No, sir. Instead, Titans rookie returner Cameron Batson had the ball go right through his arms, off his knee and straight backwards to the 1-yard line. And instead of just falling on it and letting his offense try to dig out of a hole, he picked up the ball, retreated a bit into the end zone and was quickly swarmed.
Hoo boy, this is going to be a rough experience. The league has actually put forth some interesting Thursday football this season, but anyone who looked at this potential matchup back when the schedule came out could have predicted the unwatchable stinkbomb this one is rapidly turning into.
Wait … wait. Oh, wow. I take it all back. Derrick Henry just uncorked a 99-yard touchdown run. I have no idea how he did that, as it seemed like at least three or four Jaguars defenders had a shot at bringing him down and somehow, he kept his feet and reached the end zone. He’s just the second player in NFL history – the other was Tony Dorsett – to run for a 99-yard touchdown. And this is the NFL’s 99th season. That’s kinda creepy.
Whoops, and the Titans just missed the extra point. Aikman said the 15 combined points in this game so far were more than he was anticipating coming in. Couldn’t agree with you more there, Troy.
Whatever, I’m not sticking around to see the end of this. I’d rather watch Friends for the 4,000th time on Netflix than watch Cody Kessler take a sack or Marcus Mariota run for four yards on 3rd-and-6. That Chandler is a real hoot.
NFL’S TOP 10
1) Rams – They might be in the top spot, but anyone who actually watched their win over the Lions would be concerned. Jared Goff didn’t look sharp at all, and while Todd Gurley put up some nice numbers, it took a couple big defensive plays for the Rams to salt away the victory. I’m not saying every game needs to be a masterpiece, but they can’t afford to start this slowly on Sunday night vs. the Bears. More on that later.
2) Patriots – Forget about Tom Brady for a minute. People are fretting over his falling statistics, when if you actually look at the numbers, they’re still fine. What’s been impressive is how this defense has come together at just the right time as their competition in the AFC suddenly seems wobbly. If they get homefield advantage in the playoffs, it’s back to the Super Bowl for the Patriots. They haven’t lost there this season.
3) Saints – There’s no doubt this team is anxious to get back on the field and erase the memory of the week 13 disaster against the Cowboys. Here’s the run: They’re playing on the road against Tampa, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be rainy. It’s a cliché, but this smells of a trap game at just the worst time if they want to stay in contention for the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
4) Chiefs – Not really going to address the situation surrounding Kareem Hunt as there are people much smarter than I who are more qualified to speak intelligently about it. Needless to say, striking a woman is bad and the Chiefs did the right thing by cutting him loose. Here’s hoping the players in that locker room can keep it together and focus on what they control, which is their play on the field.
5) Chargers – Was that Sunday night win more about the Chargers pulling together a tough road win or the Steelers shooting themselves in the foot at home? You know what? It doesn’t matter. The Bolts are standing in a strong spot as they head down the stretch, but two of their final four games should be a challenge.
6) Texans – Some people are jerks, it’s just a fact of life. And those jerks are people who might ask, “who have the Texans really beaten?” What jerks, right? I mean, they DID beat the Cowboys back on Oct. 7, before Dallas traded for Amari Cooper. And since? They’ve beaten the Bills, Jaguars, Dolphins, Broncos, Redskins (when Alex Smith broke his leg), the Titans and the Browns. Huh. But hey, you play the teams on your schedule and nine wins in a row is nine wins. No matter what jerks say. Definitely not me.
7) Steelers – My Super Bowl pick has fallen into an annoying habit of beating themselves. And now James Conner is hurt, which means the Steelers will be even more reliant on their passing game, which already leads the NFL in attempts. Let’s go, guys. Get it together.
8) Cowboys – The Bears have a better record, but I just like where Dallas is at right now. Which is funny, because I couldn’t wait to bury them just a few weeks ago. Football is a fickle beast.
9) Bears – Mitchell Trubisky is supposed to make his return for Sunday’s night showdown vs. the Rams at Soldier Field. Or maybe not. The Bears are still being annoyingly coy about it, but this is likely just a bit of gamesmanship.
10) Seahawks – You can make the argument the Ravens deserve to be here and it’s true, they are riding a nice little winning streak. However, I’m taking Russell Wilson over Lamar Jackson any day.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Size adjustment: The Chiefs signed hefty WR Kelvin Benjamin, who was dumped by the Bills this week. Maybe he can put on 20 more pounds and play nose tackle.
Now he learns: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says his team loves to run the ball often because “it’s the best way to not screw it up.” Insert hacky Super Bowl joke here. I still say he made the right call by throwing the ball. Russell should have made a better throw.
Staying put: Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has decided he won’t leave to become the next head coach at Georgia Tech. Good. I can’t put my finger on why, but I just had a problem envisioning him in that job. Then again, I couldn’t imagine Lovie Smith coaching Illinois, but here we are. And he even has a sweet beard now.
Awkward: Most people who have been laid off know that the company usually makes you leave right away and will send you your personal items later. However, that wasn’t the case for Mike McCarthy, who was fired after the Packers’ embarrassing loss to the Cardinals. But he was allowed to return to the facility and even given the chance to speak to the players and the coaching staff. And he was given a standing ovation. Was Aaron Rodgers clapping? Asking for a friend …
I beg to differ: Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale says Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is like Joe Montana. Sure, maybe in the sense of showing wisdom beyond his years, etc. But Montana NEVER had the arm strength of Mahomes.
Woohoo: The Patriots pulled Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski off the injury report. So, not only are they playing better, they’re getting healthier. I like to believe there’s a god, but I have my doubts sometimes.
WHAT TO WATCH IN WEEK 14
Panthers at Browns: Can Cam Newton pull it together? If the Panthers have any prayer of reaching the postseason, now’s the time to play better as they can’t afford another loss. And of course, you should tune in for Baker Mayfield.
Ravens at Chiefs: Huge playoff implications in this one. It’s not going to be easy for young rookie quarterback to get through an important game on the road, but thankfully, Lamar Jackson is facing the Chiefs defense, so he’ll be able to make some plays. This one is going to come down to Baltimore’s defense. Let’s see if the aforementioned Mr. Martindale is cooking up something special in between compliments of Patrick Mahomes.
Patriots at Dolphins: Remember, the Patriots have suffered inexplicable losses in Miami over the years. And Miami isn’t just trying to play spoiler, they’re treading water in the AFC playoff race. This could be very interesting.
Saints at Buccaneers: On paper, New Orleans should roll. But weather will be a factor. Upset special potential here.
Colts at Texans: More playoff implications. You’re hearing it here first: The Colts will shake off their 6-0 loss to the Jaguars last week (I know … wth) and end the Texans’ winning streak.
Eagles at Cowboys: NFC East deliciousness. Philly is a little bit cocky after two straight wins. But Dallas’ defense should be able to bottle up the Eagles offense, which seems devoid of playmakers. Going with the Cowboys to win this one close.
Rams at Bears: I really want to pick the upset here, because the Rams are due for a stinkbomb this season, but I can’t. This game should be close, and the Rams offense will not reach 30 points, but L.A. should leave Soldier Field with a W.
Vikings at Seahawks: This is a perfect game for the Seahawks to play at home. The Vikings have a precision offense and that will be thrown off by the crowd at CenturyLink Field. Look for a Seattle victory and an eventual playoff berth.
By the way … Titans running back Derrick Henry has rushed for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in this game so far, and I’m still not turning it on.
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.