When Box Scores Attack: NFL Week 14 RecapPosted: December 8, 2014
A wild and crazy Week 14 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the new impending arrival of Johnny Football, the future of the Seahawks, the best move for Jim Harbaugh, the Rams trolling the Redskins, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.
Derek: I’m checking out the box score of the Colts-Browns game, and a few things are jumping out at me for the Browns. Namely, two defensive touchdowns, four turnovers forced, three sacks, 12(!) pass deflections and 13(!) QB hits. How does a team lose such a game?
Will: Brian Hoyer is how. I’ve been hesitant to throw our hometown boy under the bus, but he’s been napping behind it for a few weeks and it finally backed him over. There were at least two plays where a Browns receiver ran wide open, only for Hoyer to overthrow him by three yards. These plays happen, and throwing a thing 50 yards to a moving human isn’t easy, but they really sting when you know that that play was your team’s best shot.
The defense was brilliant. They benefited from some Colt mistakes, including missed throws from Andrew Luck and dropsies from Reggie Wayne, but they gave the Browns as good a chance as they could’ve hoped for. The unheralded middle linebackers — Chris Kirksey and Craig Robertson — look like real professional football players. Underwhelming number one pick Justin Gilbert returned an interception for a touchdown. It was wonderful
Hoyer’s ineffectiveness rendered all of that null, and all of the good feeling the Browns fan base had for him has evaporated. Playing poorly is one thing, but he has carried himself with a touch of entitlement as his seat has grown hotter.
Derek: The Browns are the last of the 7-6 AFC teams due to tiebreakers, so the postseason seems unlikely. How do you see the rest of the season playing out? There’s no way Hoyer gets back on the field unless Manziel gets hurt, right?
Will: Hoyer shouldn’t see any more playing time, but the Browns are being coy thus far. As of press time, there was a “99 percent chance” that Johnny was going to take the reins. The Browns are technically alive in the playoff hunt, but the odds of them winning out against the Bengals, Panthers, and Ravens are anorexic model thin, as are the odds of catching all the right breaks.
It all sounds and feels very sad in Browns town, but I’m trying to look on the bright side. This team was not expected to be a playoff contender, and they’ve gotten seven wins already. Joel Bitonio is a star at left guard, West and Crowell should be viable starting running backs, the defense has been terrific…oh hell, who am I kidding?
I was at the Colts game. It really hurt. It’s a bummer. Let’s move on.
Your Seahawks are on the exact opposite trajectory, having won three straight and surrendered just 20 points during those games. The rumors of Marshawn Lynch’s discontent and the defense’s demise have been forgotten. Seattle is 9-4 and closing in on a playoff bid. Has anything changed? Why do they look so darn good?
Derek: I mean, a few things have changed, but really not that much. I preached relaxation to those doubting the Seahawks when they were in their funk of losses and unimpressive wins. They were in every game they lost except the San Diego game, and I didn’t think the bad breaks would last the entire season.
From what I’ve heard, most of the national pundits and analysts are attributing the turnaround to the return of Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor. That’s true, to some extent. Those guys are studs and I’ve written about how missed they were previously. It’s reasonable to wonder if the Seahawks would not be looking as dominant if those two guys weren’t back to playing at their usual level.
I would also attribute the success to the secondary in general getting healthier, Russell Wilson breaking out of his slump, and a little luck.
First, Tharold Simon and Byron Maxwell at cornerback are the unsung returners from injury. Jeremy Lane should be back this weekend, too. They could finally be getting the secondary they thought they would have when they let Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond walk in the offseason. And, while he’s not in the secondary, the return of Max Unger at center will be huge.
Russell’s accuracy has returned! Prepare the Celebration Ham!
Yeah, sometimes his freelancing ways are a little frightening. The potential for intentional grounding is much higher than I’m comfortable with. But man, it must suck to root against him. He was succeeding in ways that must be incredibly deflating for a defense. I loved it.
As much as I’d love to say the wins are coming because of Russell and Wagner and Chancellor, I have to admit we’ve lucked out playing these specific teams at this specific time. The 49ers are imploding. The Cardinals are scraping the bottom of the depth chart. The Eagles started Mark Sanchez in a meaningful game. And, to my everlasting delight, Kansas City was the final 10 a.m. PT start time. Combine all of that, and we have the contending Seahawks back.
I sort of feel bad talking about how great the Seahawks have been after what Cleveland did on Sunday, but there are so few reasons to dismay at the moment. The final three games of the season — vs. San Francisco, at Arizona, vs. St. Louis — seem more winnable than they have all year.
I’m certainly not blowing them off. The 49ers might suddenly start caring again when they return to the scene of the NFC Championship. The Cardinals are undefeated at home, the game is on Sunday night, and they’re going to have 10 days to prepare. The Rams are doing that thing they do when they look really good at the end of the year to give their fans false hope for the next year. It won’t be a cake walk.
Yet, how realistic was the possibility of the Seahawks being the top seed in the NFC after the Chiefs game? It seems very possible now. In fact, the second seed even seems likely. Let’s just hope the Rams can’t play spoiler in Week 17.
Speaking of the Rams, what are your thoughts on their choice of captains for the Redskins game?
Will: Brilliant. What a twist of the knife. It’s fitting that the Redskins seem to have a real life curse on them. Bravo. Could the Rams have done any better?
Derek: Definitely, though not in any feasible way. Russell Wilson, Luke Kuechly, and Mike Shanahan could have also been captains. Each of the Rams’ players could have changed their jersey numbers to the pick they were selected. They could have had Mike Holmgren stand on the side with all of the players who were selected with the picks the Browns offered. The knife could always be twisted just a bit harder.
Now for the NFC West’s top story: Where do you think Jim Harbaugh should end up?
Will: Meh, wherever. I don’t follow the NFC that much, least of all the Niners. But here are my impressions of the Harbaugh era, insofar as I have them:
He came to town, and he was young and fresh and exciting. Everyone wanted to play for him. They started off great! Kaepernick looked like a franchise QB, the offensive line was a five-man bulldozer, the defense was frisky, and they went to a Super Bowl.
Then the air left the balloon. Harbaugh’s ways grew old, and the team tuned him out. Kaepernick maybe isn’t that good after all, and maybe that’s Harbaugh’s fault. Injuries hurt them, and they couldn’t recover. The Seahawks’ shining only makes it worse. And then they lost to the Raiders and everything died. Now, I guess he should go back to college, because college coaches are allowed to be a-holes.
Am I close? Where do you see him going?
Derek: Yeah, I think The Harbaugh Way might be a bit more successful in college. Those disciplinarian hardass types always are. I still think he ends up in Michigan.
This reminds me quite a bit of the Nick Saban situation. Like Alabama at the time, Michigan is a prestigious program with a great history, but they’ve had underwhelming success recently. Harbaugh’s act is wearing thin, just like Saban’s was. Both men are liars.
It’s difficult to say this without knowing what teams will have job openings, but the current candidates aren’t that appealing. The Raiders and Jets are dysfunctional and they suck. I imagine he would want better. It will certainly become more intriguing if the Giants, Falcons, Saints, Bears, or Dolphins jobs open up. The Redskins could be fun.
Harbaugh seems like an NFL mercenary. He could come in and turn things around, but his act will start to wear thin after a few years and what we see happening in San Francisco this year will start to happen. I don’t see the point in hiring a coach like that when your team is terrible. After a few drafts, everyone will be tired of him already. It’s also fair to point out that he inherited a good chunk of his talent in San Francisco. They have not drafted or developed well in the last few years. He’s not the GM, so it’s not all his fault, but I have to wonder if he’d be the best guy for a team that hopes to rebuild through the draft.
He could have absolute power in Michigan. It’s the best spot for him.
Now it’s time for our weekly NFC South note. Roddy White says making fun of the Falcons isn’t fair. Is it?
Will: My first inclination was to mock him and his team, but he’s sorta got a point, no? You play the games you play, and sure, maybe you lose most of them, but if you’re still leading your division, then everyone should just shut up because you’re destined to be a champion.
Nah, I don’t believe any of that either. The Falcons blow and everyone should rag on them forever. He doesn’t have anything close to a valid point here, does he?
Derek: I guess he’s right that it isn’t his fault or the Falcons’ fault, but come on. They’re 5-8 and in first place. We’re not supposed to make fun of that? Then there’s this:
“Don’t nobody complain when other teams do it, so why such a big deal now? It pisses me off because it’s not fair.”
That’s a crock of shit. As someone who rooted for the 7-9 NFC West Champion Seahawks in 2010, I feel pretty comfortable saying that people definitely complained when other teams did it. People complained a lot. People complain every year a bad division winner makes it over any superior teams that couldn’t make the wild card. I’m not sure why he’s acting like there’s some kind of conspiracy against the Falcons. It happens all the time, Roddy.
Let’s move on to some Gentlemen! My Gentleman of the Week is Gerald McCoy. Word is, he dislocated his knee and returned to the game. My God.
My awestruck reaction comes from personal experience. I’ve dislocated both of my knees more than once. Each time it happened, I could do something that kind of resembled walking that made me look like a zombie. I couldn’t even have gotten up to a jog if I was offered lifelong financial security. Gerald McCoy returned to play in a football game?!
Lovie Smith says it isn’t true, with PFT saying it was just a matter of semantics. Whatever. I don’t care if it was just a tiny dislocation. McCoy fought through pain, like a Gentleman. Who’s your guy?
Will: My Gentleman of the Week is Derek Carr. He went 22/28 for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns, besting Colin Kaepernick’s QB rating by 85.8 in the process. Oakland beat its cross-Bay rival and doubled its win total. Good for him and them. Break up the Raiders!
Who’s your Most Hungover Fan Base?
Derek: Lots of good choices this week. The Saints got blown out at home. The Redskins continue to suck, but I can’t pick them yet again. The 49ers are tempting, but I’m hoping it gets worse for them. Let’s go with a team at rock bottom: the Tennessee Titans.
What would you be excited about as a Titans fan? Yeah, they look to be in the driver’s seat for the number one pick, and there are some good quarterbacks at the top. It could be worse. But who is the best player on the Titans right now? Hold on …
… Michael Roos? Taylor Lewan? Delanie Walker? Jurrell Casey? It’s going to take a lot more than whoever they draft in the first round. The end of the dark times is not in sight. Who’ve you got?
Will: I’m taking San Francisco as my Most Hungover Fan Base. I imagine that a great many passionfruit martinis were sipped after that loss, and sugary drinks hit you the hardest. Good luck recovering, Niner fans. A nice shot of wheatgrass will set you right.
Derek: Here’s hoping the drinking continues through the Seahawks game on Sunday. Now, if you’ll excuse us, there’s a very important polo match we must attend. Good day.