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Absolutely everything you need to know about Week 15 in the NFL

WEEI
December 17, 2018 - 9:00 am

By JOHN ANDERSEN

It took me a week to get out of bed after the 2016 election was stolen from Hillary Clinton, but this Patriots loss may have all of New England bedridden for weeks. Plenty of time to catch up on this weekend’s occurrences in the Millionaire Boys Club League.

Here’s everything you need to know about Week 15 in the NFL:

TNF: Chargers 29, Chiefs 28

Patrick Mahomes may have jumped the shark with all this southpaw, no-look, nonchalant brouhaha that clearly wasn’t any more effective than throwing the ball the normal way was. Mahomes actually made the most of what LA’s defense gave him, which was mostly inside the 15-yard range. It’s not that Mahomes struggled to push the ball as far down the field as he’s used to, it’s that he didn’t try to because the plays weren’t there-- which is actually a good thing for such a young QB. When the throws were there Mahomes made them, even hitting Tyreek Hill directly in the blind spot between the eyes 35 yards downfield in the end zone. Mahomes’ senior counterpart Philip Rivers had a more mercurial game than his stats indicate. Both of Rivers’ picks were certainly on him and twice more he threw up ducks that should’ve been intercepted but weren’t. Despite a lackluster running game and an injury that sidelined Keenan Allen the entire second half, Rivers made the plays when he needed to and brought the Chargers back from a 14-point deficit, utilizing second-year receiver Mike Williams (no relation to the previous two Mike Williams’ the NFL has employed in the past ten years) to the actualization of Williams’ abilities. The officiating in this game was a major talking point throughout, as it was quite frankly atrocious. A facemask called against LA on Mahomes should’ve been offsetting as Mahomes concurrently committed an egregious intentional grounding that was not called. One side judge called pass interference if the wind blew the wrong way while the other side of the field welcomed pass interference with open arms and starry eyes. The Chargers shouldn’t have had to go for two and win the game with four seconds left, but the officiating put them in the position to do so. LA’s loss to the Broncos a few weeks ago gives the Chiefs the tiebreaker in the NFC West, but the Chargers and Chiefs both sit at 11-3 as Kansas City heads to Seattle next week.

Steelers 17, Patriots 10

At least nobody died. (Mass state PD confirmed they completed a wellness check on Jerry Thornton.)

It seemed like a signature Patriots slow start, as the Steelers revised last week’s game plan of putting a linebacker on Keenan Allen and instead put no one on Chris Hogan as Tom Brady completed a 63-yard touchdown pass to Hogan. It seemed like the Patriots would be fine on offense, but the Hogan play turned out to be a false harbinger for the remainder of the game, which featured dropped passes, errant throws, sacks, and Tom Brady throwing the ball away, except directly to Joe Haden. The Steelers doubled Gronk all game, which evidently didn’t open up the field for anyone else. The Patriots’ offense didn’t need to do much to win this game as the Steelers’ offense had its own struggles, turning the ball over twice and relying more on the lack of awareness from JC Jackson and Jason McCourty than actually completing passes within their system, but even that small threshold for success was too much. Part of this was keeping Brady off the field-- Steelers rookie Jaylen Samuels rushed 17 times for 142 yards-- but an abysmal 3-of-10 on third down and 14 (!!!!) penalties had a little something to do with it too. The Steelers hold on to the AFC North for another week, while the Patriots are now the Sultans of Cede, essentially handing the No. 1 seed to the Chiefs (or Chargers) and the No. 2 to the Texans, at least for the time being.

Bears 24, Packers 17

There was a final spark this week as the Packers sat at 5-7-1, a faint light in the distance, what Douglas Adams would describe as a man having lost an argument turning and shouting, "...and another thing!” as the lingering exclamations of, “the Packers will make the playoffs” seeped in this week. Despite having, “his guys,” back in the lineup, Aaron Rodgers was still visibly not on the same page as anyone outside of Davante Adams. Even Randall Cobb and Rodgers had quite a few miscommunications that led to incompletions. The lack of communication ended the Packers’ season today, as they have two meaningless games against likewise eliminated teams in the Jets and Lions to close out the season. Meanwhile, the Bears clinched the NFC North and actually have a chance at a first-round bye now that the Rams are stringing together L’s like they’re the Panthers. Both the Rams and Bears face the upset hero 49ers, while the Bears have a rematch with the Vikings to end the season.

49ers 23, Seahawks 20

Kyle Shanahan created Nick Mullens in a lab. It’s the only explanation. Mullens is talented enough and has sufficient cajones to make a few good throws each game that will cause some friction between jaws and the earth, but also requires just the right amount of game planning to satisfy Shanahan’s passion for play action. He’s the perfect QB for Shanahan. Sometimes in a relationship, neither person is perfect, but they’re perfect for each other (or they’re not, which has lead to some of the greatest music ever written). Mullens is almost reminiscent of some of those musicians-- Mayer, ‘90s Weezer, Ariana Grande-- as his ability to deliver bangers while the world falls apart around him has lit up the charts. Mullens’ 20-of-29 for 275 is even deceiving, as there were multiple dropped passes on the final drive. However, Mullens did have a brutal miss to a wide-open George Kittle that was one of six incompletions to Kittle. San Francisco’s offense benefited from the play of their defense, as some of their recent draft picks on the defensive line, namely DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas had huge games disrupting Seattle’s offense. The upset doesn’t change much for Seattle’s playoff situation, still holding onto the five seed, but an injury to Chris Carson adds to that of Rashaad Penny, and the run-first scheme that’s gotten them to 8-6 may be in jeopardy.

(SNF) Eagles 30, Rams 23

It’s December, that means Nick Foles come crashing through the wall Kool-Aid Man style just in time to throw a few bombs to Alshon Jeffery with Carson Wentz’ reckless abandon yet Drew Brees’ precision mashed into one insanely awkward looking, out-of-place accountant playing QB for the Eagles. Foles finished with 270 yards and only seven incompletions, but the Eagles also squeezed 111 yards out of their committee of running backs. It’s taken a while, but Jim Schwartz was finally able to get something out of the Looney Tune DBs playing for the Eagles, although Avonte Maddox’ recorded an interception in his return from injury. Speaking of which, either Jared Goff finally got that date with Halle Berry or he’s got the yips, as Goff was throwing darts with a blindfold on all game. The only effective method of ball movement through the air came via check-downs to Todd Gurley, who led all Rams players in receiving yards. The Eagles somehow managed to all but eliminate Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh through means of double teams, screens and rollouts, opening up the airways for Foles. The Rams now find themselves in danger of losing the two seed to the Bears, who sit a game back with the tiebreaker. Luckily for LA it’ll be the Cardinals and 49ers to close out the regular season, but that’s a hot San Francisco team that’ll be looking to play spoiler in Week 17. Meanwhile, Patriots fans find themselves rooting for the Eagles for the first time since “Invincible,” except this time it’s Nick Foles and not Mark Wahlberg. If the Eagles can beat the Texans next week then the Patriots can regain the two seed in the AFC.

Browns 17, Broncos 16

At one point in this game the score was 17-13, Browns. Knowing that and knowing the final score, one can deduce that the Broncos had to have kicked a field goal in order to get to point B. This happened with 4:35 on the clock, was on a 4th-and-6 after an intentional delay of game (so any hypothetical attempt would’ve occurred as a 4th-and-1), from Cleveland’s six-yard line. This isn’t as asinine as Dan Quinn’s infamous field goal to willingly still be losing the game with three minutes left against the 49ers in 2015, but especially with their playoff hopes on the line--as well as the employment statuses of the entire coaching staff-- it’s a rather foolish move. To make matters worse, on the ensuing drive Denver OC Bill Musgrave displayed a gross lack of understanding of Gregg Williams’ defensive philosophy: no matter where you are, what you’re doing or who you’re with...blitz the sh*t out of the quarterback. On 4th-and-10, Denver’s final gasp, Musgrave called a play in which every single route was a deep developer and kept no extra blockers, putting Case Keenum at the mercy of a screeching Jabrill Peppers right up the gut, which in its plural form is what John Elway and the Broncos have lacked for the past three seasons.

Colts 23, Cowboys 0

Dak Prescott can have an identical game to the game he had one week ago and you wouldn’t know just by looking at his stats. Last week he threw for 455 yards, riding Amari Cooper to victory, and this week he barely broke 200 yards, threw a pick and was shutout and had roughly the same performance. The accuracy issues were still there, but the performance of his supporting cast was not, and that equals zero points. Dallas’ former linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, now heading Indy’s defensive unit, had an iron vice on all aspects of Dallas’ offense, utilizing Denico Autry and Margus Hunt to disrupt Zeke Elliott early enough that he never recovered. Dallas uses the run to set up the pass, not the other way around, which has a little something to do with their 4-of-12 on third down and overall abysmal offensive day. On the other side, Andrew Luck is the chameleon QB, taking whatever form he has to given the situation. This game saw Marlon Mack take the reigns of the offense, while Luck sat back and made difficult throws against one of the league’s best defenses despite being consistently under pressure. The different ways the Colts can win make them a legitimate threat in the AFC-- that is if they can build on their 8-6 record and snag the six seed in what’s going to be an interesting final couple of weeks in the AFC.

Titans 17, Giants 0

Silence from Mike Francesa today on Twitter as the Eli Manning he’s defended with the conviction of a city-appointed lawyer put on a performance only a devil’s advocate would dare defend. Sure, Odell Beckham was out and the Titans are one of the league’s premier run defenses, but Eli’s poor passing day despite actually having decent pass protection for once happened regardless of OBJ’s presence. The game being in Eli’s hands without the threat of Saquon Barkley, who could only muster 31 yards on 14 carries, is akin to an iPhone being put in Kanye West’s hands within a month of an album drop. Passes will be fired off, with no regard to quality or human decency. The Titans continued to ride Derrick Henry the way every little kid imagines they can ride their small dog, paper sword drawn and paper crown drooping down the side of their head. The unleashing of Henry is happening at the right time, as the Titans need to win out to get to 10-6 just to have a chance at the six seed in the AFC, as they currently sit behind the Colts and Ravens in the standings due to tiebreakers.

Vikings 41, Dolphins 17

The anti-DeFilippo propaganda campaign continues in Minnesota as Mike Zimmer pointed out post-game how easy it is to win when the offense gets five or six yards per play. Zimmer is about a week away from building a DeFilippo statue just to tip off local media to A. its existence and B. the convenient crowd of Minnesotans dressed in a suspicious amount of purple heading for it with pitchforks and sledgehammers. The next day a suspicious amount of DeFilippo character-attack pieces appear in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune and the Duluth News Tribune by authors such as “Alvin Cook” and “Mikey I-Formation” exposing that DeFilippo uses Zimmer’s Netflix account and the like. They’ll fail to mention that the Vikings almost blew this one after the run game they got going did not translate to a passing attack, but in itself was enough to complement the defense’s NINE sacks on Ryan Tannehill. Getting a run game going against the Dolphins shouldn’t warrant a slandering of John DeFilippo, as the defense is what won this one for the Vikings.

Ravens 20, Buccaneers 12

Jameis Winston turned in a vintage Winston performance in Baltimore and certainly didn’t do anything to help the crab crisis currently crippling Maryland’s crustacean industry. The only altruism Winston engaged in his trip up north was to the Ravens defense, doing the thing where he gives them the ball, or at least tries to. Winston had one interception and a few more where his donations were unaccepted. This game was within a score partly due to Mike Evans’ big-play ability, recording 121 of Tampa’s 157 receiving yards, and also because Peyton Barber performed like a back that gets 20 touches a game. Nothing mind blowing, only 87 total yards, but notable against a defense like Baltimore’s. Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards resumed their Scorched Earth campaign, but Jackson also had an efficient day passing for once. Jackson’s 14-of-23 for 131 yards doesn’t look as good as it should given some drops, including an appalling one from John Brown on an impressive tight-window throw from Jackson down the field. The Ravens are in the driver’s seat for their own playoff hopes with the Colts and Titans waiting for them to slip up, which may easily happen next Saturday against the Chargers.

Texans 29, Jets 22

Information I thought was accurate: the Jets don’t have much of a pass rush (or a defense). The Texans don’t have a great offensive line. Sam Darnold is extremely inaccurate. All of these statements are generally accurate but generally weren’t in this game. The Texans can thank DeAndre Hopkins for their scoring, as DeShaun Watson went to Hopkins over and over again in an attempt to alleviate the lack of production from Lamar Miller. New York’s pass rush wasn’t great, judging by Watson’s dicing of their defense through the air, but they did get enough stops to make this game as close as it was. Sam Darnold capitalized on this on offense, turning in possibly his best game of the season. Darnold had some impressive pre-snap reads, on one play glancing over at JJ Watt as New York’s backup right tackle entered the game. Darnold immediately rolled to his left as his offensive line didn’t really block anyone, turned his shoulder upfield and put the ball down the left sideline to Robby Anderson in a spot only Anderson could get it.

LINE OF DEMARCATION: THE FOLLOWING GAMES ARE MEANINGLESS WITH NO IMPLICATIONS:

Redskins 16, Jaguars 13

Okay, technically the Redskins are 7-7 and could make the playoffs but...no. Unless...unless Josh Johnson did what he did today and was extremely careful with the ball as his defense shut down the opposing offense, then maybe there’s a chance. But Washington doesn’t play Cody Kessler again this season, instead it’ll be Marcus Mariota and Nick Foles the next two weeks. It would be quite the miracle for Washington to snag the six seed, as it would likely involve them winning out and the Vikings or Seahawks losing a game or two.

Bills 14, Lions 13

Buffalo’s defense, Jerry Hughes in particular, once again dominated, but will likely carry the “Buffalo” stigma into the offseason.

Bills undrafted, rookie WR Robert Foster went over 100 yards receiving.

Half of Buffalo’s running backs were inactive, and the other half went down with injuries.

Bengals 30, Raiders 16

Joe Mixon. Mixon had no choice but to take over the game, as Jeff Driskel is still living up to the hype and Tyler Boyd went down with an injury, joining AJ Green on Cincinnati’s DL. Mixon ended the day with 129 yards on 27 attempts.

Cincinnati’s underperforming defensive line had a great game against a Raiders offensive line that has both one of the NFL’s best lineman in Gabe Jackson and one of its worst in Kolton Miller.

Falcons 40, Cardinals 14

The Cardinals’ offensive line continued their expedition of submission. Josh Rosen, once again, had no time to attack a lackluster defense.

Julio Jones went down with an injury and didn’t play most of the second half, although the Falcons had a big league so it was likely precautionary.

Tevin Coleman rushed for 145 yards on only 11 attempts. I’m no mathematician, but that’s roughly a lot yards per attempt.

MNF: Panthers @ Saints 8:15pm (ESPN & Westwood One)

Written under duress by John Andersen, award-winning NFL journalist who has written books on CJ Spillman and Chad Hall...maybe. You can follow John on Twitter @JohnWEEI.

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