Updated: Feb 3
*This week only: The Greatest Story on Turf will be talking about the Storylines coming out of the games.
16. Cardinals vs. Broncos
A Mid Off
This was a tough game to watch. It didn't mean anything for either team and there were significant injuries on both sides. Broncos didn't have Russell Wilson or Courtland Sutton. The Cardinals didn't have Kyler Murray. Then, Colt McCoy got hurt. The third-string QB came in. The Broncos got their first win in a long time, but it was against a third-string QB. Aside from the stats the Broncos players racked up individually, this game didn't move the needle.
For the Cardinals, it was slightly more meaningful. The Cardinals have extended Kyler Murray, Kliff Kingsbury, and Steve Keim's contracts. After extending the contract of the quarterback, head coach, and GM, you would think the team would be in a great position. However, it's quite the opposite. The highlight of this trinity has been getting blown out by the Rams in Round One of the playoffs. We aren't sure if Kyler is elite. We aren't sure if Keim has put together a good enough team. We aren't sure if Kliff is actually a good coach. It seems like the Cardinals end up in the same position every year. If the Cardinals want to win a Super Bowl anytime soon, they need to look real hard at those three guys, and find out who is for real and who is a fraud.
Predicted: Broncos; Winner: Broncos
15. Saints vs. Falcons
Standard NFC South
The Falcons rolled out Desmond Ridder and went as well as you would expect against the Saints. The Saints cruised through the game, putting up 21 points on the Falcons. The final score looks close, but it wasn't. The Saints were in the lead the entire time. What does this mean for the NFC South? Who knows because it seems like nobody wants to win this division.
Predicted: Saints; Winner: Saints
14. Steelers vs. Panthers
D'Onta Foreman may have killed Fantasy Managers chances in the playoffs, but the Panthers still have a chance to make the playoffs despite losing to the Steelers. The Panthers are just one game out and they control their own fate. However, if the Panthers are going to make a playoff push, their run game and defense have to be a lot better than it was against the Steelers.
The Steelers have pulled out another victory and they did it with Mitch Trubisky at the helm. They are just two games away from preserving Mike Tomlin's winning season record and giving themselves a shot at making the playoffs. The Steelers defense reappeared against the Panthers. The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage. They weren't just making tackles for a loss and sacks. They were ripping at the ball as well. The Steelers are hungry. If they keep playing like this, they may just get their just desserts.
Predicted: Panthers; Winner: Steelers
13. Titans vs. Chargers
What Goes Around Comes Around
The Titans looked like they would easily make the playoffs by running away with their division while the Chargers seemed to be on the road to missing the playoffs again. However, now, the Chargers have gotten their receivers back, the defense has made some massive improvement, and their stock is rising. They are on the bubble of the playoffs. They just got another win to charge their playoff push. However, they did make some mistakes and turned the ball over. Plus, they weren't able to score many points on the Titans defense, which is a little worrisome. Despite all this, they made the big plays in the big moments and secured the win.
The Titans are falling down as the Chargers are climbing up. Now, the Titans are just one game ahead of the Jaguars. Will they be able to hang onto their playoff spot through the next few games? The Titans may be leading their division and on track to play in the playoffs again, but they don't seem like a team that can get past the First Round. The Titans secondary is vulnerable and their offense doesn't have a knockout punch. Derrick Henry is effective, but he is not the trump card he once was.
Predicted:Chargers; Winner: Chargers
12. Commanders vs. Giants
Maybe It's the Refs
The Commanders and the Giants played another tight game. Last time they played a tight game and went to overtime, the game ended up being a tie. This time, the Giants won, but what was the difference? The refs made too much of a difference here. The Commanders were down by a touchdown and an extra two points. The ref wiped a tying touchdown off the board because of an illegal formation call that the ref analyst on the commentary team said he would not have called. Then, the refs swallowed their whistles on an obvious pass interference in the end zone. That's how the game ended. The Commanders lost by one score and the Giants move a little closer to clinching a playoff spot.
The Giants should feel good about the emergence of their number three overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. He wrecked the game and was the player most responsible for the Giants win. The Giants have a dominant defensive end, a stingy defense, and a gutsy QB catching fire late in the season. Where have we seen this before?
The Commanders shouldn't be too discouraged. They battled hard. Yes, the Commanders made some mistakes, but they battled hard and might have won if a few calls had gone their way. They are still in the playoffs. They just need to play keep away with the rest of the NFC.
Predicted: Commanders; Winner: Giants
11. Browns vs. Ravens
The Browns are rolling. They have won two of their last three games. The one they lost was to the defending AFC Champions. Also, many people have questioned if Deshaun Watson was worth his contract. He has been rusty. However, he is getting better and better each week. His QB coach said he needs three weeks to get back in the swing of things and I believe him. The Browns look like a team that is better than what their record says.
The Ravens, on the other hand, looked horrendous. When the Ravens couldn't knock the opposing starting QB out of the game and had to play in a normal game script, they scored three points all game. They are clearly not even close to the same team when Lamar Jackson is gone. Unlike the 49ers, who have continued with a seventh round QB, the Ravens don't have many great offensive weapons for Tyler Huntley to lean on. Lamar is the key to unlocking the Ravens offense. Even Lamar is limited from doing all he could by the Ravens personnel. The Ravens are trending toward missing the playoffs again.
Predicted: Browns; Winner: Browns
10. Bears vs. Eagles
This seemed like a no-brainer. The Bears defense has been horrible, and Justin Fields has no help. The Eagles defense is great, and their Qb is the leading MVP candidate. Obviously, the 12-1 Eagles are going 13-1, and they did. However, the Bears made the Eagles sweat much more than I thought they would. Hurts had multiple turnovers to the Bear's defense, while Fields had zero turnovers. The Bears only ended up losing by five, and I have to wonder if better teams will see something about the Eagles that the Bears were able to exploit and use it against the Eagles.
The Bears should be very excited about what the Bears could do next year. They are going to have a great draft spot and tons of money and cap space to acquire players to build a Super Bowl-caliber team. However, I gotta say it looks like the Bears are tanking. In two critical moments, the Bears made boneheaded decisions. When their drive stalled on the thirty, they decided to punt rather than kick. They trusted giving the ball back to Hurts more than Santos making a field goal. Then on a critical third down, the Bears went cover zero, and Jalen Hurts ran untouched to the endzone. It's frustrating to think the Bears would throw away a chance at a statement victory like that.
Predicted: Eagles; Winner: Eagles
9. Rams vs. Packers
Bigger and Baker
The Rams have become relevant again with Baker Mayfield. He had the comeback win over the Raiders, but he came back to Earth against the Packers. The Packers won. It wasn't particularly close. However, I will say that Baker had a decent showing. Watching the game, I don't think anyone would say the Rams lost because of Baker. The Rams just aren't very good. However, at least Baker has given Rams fans a reason to watch.
The Packers side of this game was very interesting. The Packers boat raced the Rams pretty easily. Now, they are sitting at 6-8 and there is some chatter that the Packers could make a playoff push. If they win out, they will have a chance. Winning out is definitely not out of the question. Although if the Packers want to win out, they should note how well the game went when they depended on their running backs.
Predicted: Packers; Winner: Packers
8. Chiefs vs. Texans
Wake Up Call
There has been a lot of chatter about firing the Texans coach, Lovie Smith, but Lovie is the third coach for the Texans in as many years. It's clearly not a coaching problem. It's a talent problem, which is the GM's job, and nobody is talking about him losing his job. Also, I don't see how you could watch the Texans nearly beat the Chiefs and Cowboys and think that they won't get better when more talent is added to the roster. Lovie has his team ready to play and they are competing every game, no matter who is out there. It reminds me a lot of Dan Campbell's Lions last year. The Texans fans and organization need to be patient.
The Chiefs should be shooting up in their beds in a cold sweat. They almost just lost to the worst team in the league. They are supposed to be Super Bowl front-runners. The Texans probably would have beaten the Chiefs if Davis Mills had any type of ball security. The Chiefs defense is not very good. Also, like I've been saying every week, when Travis Kelce isn't on point, this offense looks mortal. In this game, he was alright. He had zero touchdowns, but over 100 yards. You can see that reflected in the result. His stat line is mixed and so was the result of the game. The Chiefs won, but barely in overtime to the worst team in the league. The Chiefs have been very lucky the last few weeks. They lost to the Bengals. Then, they almost lost to Russell Wilson and the Broncos, but then Wilson got hurt before he could finish the job. Now, the Chiefs are going to overtime with the Texans and winning by the skin of their teeth. I think it might have done the Chiefs some good to lose to one of these lesser teams to wake them up so they can adjust for playoff football.
Predicted: Chiefs; Winner: Chiefs
7. 49ers vs. Seahawks
The Real Deal?
Brock Purdy faced his third test on Thursday. He proved he could come in a game and win when nobody saw him coming. He proved he could start a whole game and win. Now, he proved he can win when the defense has tape on him. He wasn't amazing against the Seahawks. The second half was rough for Purdy, but he has proved he can play. I'm not going to doubt him unless he takes a significant step back. Also, the 49ers have a chance to reach their ultimate goal as well. The 49ers defense may not have the numbers yet, but it feels like a historic all-world defense is on the field when you watch them play.
The Seahawks lost a crucial game, but they played pretty well against the 49ers. They are right on the edge of the playoffs. As a fan of the NFL, I hope they make it. After the season they have had, it would feel wrong if they didn't end up being a playoff team. They have that signature scavenger energy that has been a staple of Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. They never feel out of any game. Even though they fly under the radar, they are a pretty dangerous team. I know there are no moral victories in the NFL, but the Seahawks only lost by one score. I don't think anyone lost faith in the Seahawks after that performance.
Predicted: 49ers; Winner: 49ers
6. Bills vs. Dolphins
On the Path to Greatness
The Bills won another tight game. While it's tempting to criticize them for having such tight games, I can't. The Bills last four out of five wins have been close games. A big criticism of the Bills has been that they can't win close games, and they have done that. All of the Bills losses were close games, where they lost by two or three points. The Bills have become more diverse since their two-game losing streak. They run more and they have become a smarter football team. Plus, they are the number one seed in the AFC. It doesn't look how some fans thought it would, but the Bills are very much on track to win the Super Bowl. The Bills have always had the knockout punch. However, you can't just depend on knocking every team out. The Bills have become better situationally. The Bills can come back from a deficit, and they win close or blow teams out. The Bills are the cerebral monsters of the NFL. Plus, it's looking like the playoffs will go through Buffalo so the rest of the NFL better watch out.
The Dolphins played better than they did in the Chargers game, but, once again, they were outcoached. Mike McDaniel struggled on third and short over and over again. They only converted 37 percent of their third downs and only ran 37 percent of the time compared to the 62 percent pass rate. The Dolphins ran ten times the entire second half despite the fact that running backs were doing great. The Dolphins give up on the run game way too easily. Raheem Mostert had 121 yards on the ground. Salvon Ahmed had 43 yards and a touchdown. Plus, the team was averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Also, the Dolphins short passing game was less present than it should have been. Mike McDaniel needs to adjust fast if they want to remain in the playoffs. Additionally, once they get in, it only gets harder.
Predicted: Dolphins; Winner: Bills
5. Bengals vs. Bucs
How Far Are You From the Super Bowl?
The Bucs are miles away from their Super Bowl form. Because of that Super Bowl and all of Tom Brady's success, nobody wants to call him out. Everyone wants to blame the new head coach. However, Tom was terrible in this game. The Bucs had a 17 to 0 lead and they gave it back. Tom let the defense down. He threw picks and fumbled. It was awful. Easily his worst game of the year. Also, another thing people don't talk about is how Tom's tampering and fake retirement has effected the team. In year two of Tom Brady's contract with the Bucs, players were taking pay cuts because they believed in Brady and what they were doing. The season didn't end up with a Super Bowl, but they got pretty close and played well.
This season there have been quite a few changes for the Bucs. Bruce Arians mysteriously moves up to upper management when Tom comes back. Rob Gronkowski retired, but was looking at playing with the Bengals instead the Bucs. Ndamukong Suh went to the Eagles to win another Super Bowl. Cole Beasley came to play with Tom and retired, then unretired to play with the Bills. Alex Cappa went to the Bengals. Ryan Jensen got hurt. Also worth noting, Antonio Brown is gone and suddenly seems pretty pissed with Brady. It could just be an AB thing or it could be a symptom of a larger problem.
Tom just doesn't seem dialed in this year. He goes to weddings instead practice and the team has a losing record. He's undermining his coaches by changing the game plan and it's not working at all. Despite Tom retiring and unretiring, tampering with the Dolphins, planning to leave the Bucs, and the Bucs having a losing record, they still have a chance to win the division and contend. However, will making the playoffs even matter with the way this team is playing?
The Bengals, on the other hand, are dialed in and focused. They overcame a 17-0 deficit. They seem exactly like the Bengals team that made it to the Super Bowl last year, except they are more experienced, stronger, and wiser. The Bengals could do a lot of damage in the playoffs.
Predicted: Bengals; Winner: Bengals
4. Lions vs. Jets
The Lions and the Jets are fun teams to watch because they are both reformed trash cans. For years they have been the bums of the league, but now they are both serious contenders. Both teams have built explosive offenses and stout defenses. The Jets were a little better on defense and the Lions were a little better on offense. So this was an interesting matchup to watch. In the end, the Lions won. They have now gone from 1-6 to 7-7. It's an incredible turnaround. Dan Campbell seems to be the coach we all hoped he was. Now, if the Lions can get two more wins, they could get back to the playoffs for the first time in a long time. You can't help but root for Detroit.
The Jets lost after a missed field goal to end the game and made their playoff road harder. However, Zach Wilson may have saved his career with this game. He looked like the Zach Wilson that the Jets thought they were getting. He was mobile and able to escape would-be tacklers. He was accurate and he made many explosive plays down the field. The coach has a real conundrum on his hands. Which QB should he go with? Honestly, I'm not sure. But I will say one thing, Zach isn't a rookie anymore. If Wilson gets the reins back, he needs to step up. He shouldn't need Mike White to keep coming in and stealing the spotlight to make him play better. Zach needs to stoke that fire internally and maintain this level of play throughout the season.
Predicted: Jets; Winner: Lions
3. Cowboys vs. Jaguars
They Are at It Again
The Cowboys had a scare last week against the Texans, but everybody said it wasn't a big deal and they said the Cowboys should be commended for their comeback. Not me though. I said that the Cowboys would pay for their mistakes if they play like that against better teams. What happened in the very next game? The Cowboys defense gave up 40 points to the Jaguars and Dak Prescott threw multiple interceptions. Now, the Cowboys are farther back in the hunt for the one seed. They were so focused on the Eagles that they looked past their opponents. Micah Parsons is doing a podcast about the Eagles when they haven't even caught up to the Vikings. The Cowboys are a playoff team, but they have given us no indication that this year will be any different from every other year.
The Jaguars have really come alive in the second half of the season. I have to give credit to Doug Pederson, who knows how to dig a team out of a hole and win. Also, the GM did a great job getting weapons and building a defense. Additionally, Trevor Lawrence has broken out. Jaguars fans should be very excited right now. The Jaguars are building something special.
Predicted: Cowboys; Winner: Jaguars
2. Raiders vs. Patriots
Let's just get to it. The Jakobi Meyers throwback at the end of the game was one of the worst plays of all time. The Patriots have been doing well all game. Then, the players decided they know better than the future Hall of Fame coach, and they try to make something happen instead of just going down and going to overtime. Meyers runs backwards with the ball and then tries to throw it to Mac Jones, who had nobody around him to lateral it to. However, that wasn't a problem because the ball never made it to Mac Jones. In fact, it was taken out of the air by Chandler Jones and then taken back to the house for a game winning touchdown.
The Patriots need to decide what they want their future to look like. They lost Tom Brady because of Belichick and things deteriorated without him. Defensive coach Matt Patricia is calling offensive plays. The team isn't built well. The once scary team mostly just beats up on weaker teams. One of the reasons this game even got to a tie was that Belichick's defense gave up a long TD to the Raiders. The defense isn't as good as it used to be, the players aren't as sharp or as situationally aware, and the Patriots haven't felt like a true contender in years. Sooner or later, the Patriots organization has to decide if they want to continue on like this.
The Raiders deserve some credit too. They demonstrated the Raiders signature moxy against the Patriots. When the Patriots beat up on the Raiders, they hung in the fight and kept fighting until they got their opening. Then, they landed a knockout punch.
The Patriots took away Davante Adams. So, the Patriots showed they could get it done with other guys. However, I will say Josh McDaniels could have tried harder to scheme Adams open. He will need to do that in the future because the Raiders need their best receiver in the biggest moments. Nevertheless, the Raiders found a way to just win, baby. Revenge game achieved.
Predicted: Patriots; Winner: Raiders
1. Colts vs. Vikings
Not Going to Lie, They Had Us in the First Half
The Colts and Vikings might have just had the best game of the year. The Vikings went down 33-0 in the first half. It looked like it would be one of those games again. However, the Vikings showed grit and determination never before seen in the NFL when they made the biggest comeback in NFL history and won the game 39-36 in overtime. Unlike the Cowboys, who made a comeback on the worst team in the league after playing with their food, the Vikings actually came back on a team that stood a chance at resisting.
Everyone on the team deserves credit for this win. The defense deserves credit for holding the Colts to three points in the second half after giving up 33 points in the first half. The offense deserves credit for roaring back and scoring 36 points after being shut out. The special teams unit deserves credit for rallying from that blocked punt touchdown, pinning the Colts back against their own endzone multiple times, and winning the game with the final field goal. The coach deserves credit for keeping his team together and making that comeback. It's not great that the Vikings found themselves in this predicament, but it says a lot about this 11-3 Vikings team that they rallied.
For the Colts, this was an epic failure. It's the verified biggest choke job in the history of the NFL. Many people were ready to laugh at the pushback on the Jeff Saturday hire after they beat the same Raiders team that lost to Baker Mayfield after one day of practice. However, I wonder if those same people have been satisfied with Saturday's performance since then. The Eagles came back and beat the Colts, the Steelers outsmarted the Colts, the Cowboys delivered one of the biggest blowouts of the year to the Colts, and now the Colts have given up the biggest comeback in history to the Vikings. Things are getting worse and worse for the Colts each week.
Predicted: Vikings; Winner: Vikings