It's pretty telling that the Cowboys can play a bad game of football and still prevail. That occurred earlier in the year when Dallas was sloppy in an overtime victory against the Eagles, and the same thing occurred in this contest.
The Cowboys made a number of mistakes throughout the evening. Ezekiel Elliott lost a fumble in the first quarter in his own territory, as Anthony Barr stripped it away. The play was overturned by replay review, but it was still an indicator that Dallas wouldn't be at its best at Minnesota. Elliott had a long run negated by a hold at the end of the first quarter. Lucky Whitehead then lost a fumble. An illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty nullified a Sam Bradford interception by Anthony Hitchens. And all of this was just in the opening half!
The mistakes continued for Dallas following intermission. Dak Prescott lost a fumble on a Brian Robison strip-sack, setting up a Minnesota field goal. Prescott then fumbled again while trying to run out the clock, but Elliott was able to recover the ball. With all of these mistakes, the Vikings hung around and even led 9-7. They forced a punt and would retain possession with a two-point advantage early in the fourth quarter. However, the tide turned when Adam Thielen muffed a punt. The Cowboys recovered, and one play later, Prescott found Dez Bryant for what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown. Minnesota would reach the end zone to cover the spread with 25 seconds remaining, but missed on the two-point conversion because right tackle Jeremiah Sirles was guilty of a false start. On the actual play, the officials missed an obvious blow to the head on Bradford.
It's a shame for the Vikings that they lost because they had a great defensive game plan against the Cowboys. Elliott was limited to 90 rushing yards for the first time since Week 2. Elliott gained 86 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, but 30 of his yards came on one attempt. He otherwise was limited to 56 yards on 19 tries. He also had a fumble overturned by replay, as mentioned. Granted, Elliott had a long burst negated by penalty, but Minnesota did a great job tackling him for minimal gains.
The Vikings also restricted Prescott to a season-low passing yardage total. Prescott went just 12-of-18 for 139 yards and a touchdown to go along with 37 rushing yards on six scrambles. He was guilty of two fumbles, one of which was lost. He still made some great plays - a 14-yard run of his on a third-and-13 set up the first touchdown - but he definitely didn't look like himself because of Minnesota's terrific defense.
Elliott's sole score went to Bryant, who caught four passes for 84 yards and the decisive touchdown. Bryant was just one of four Dallas players to catch passes. The others were Cole Beasley (2-23), Elliott (4-19) and Terrance Williams (2-13). Jason Witten didn't log a reception for the first time in 130 games, though he did recover Minnesota's last-gasp onside kick attempt at the end of the game.
Moving on to the Vikings, the defensive players have to feel extremely frustrated that their offense let them down once again. The special teams did as well, and I'll get to them later, but Bradford was underwhelming. He made some nice plays, including a third-and-16 conversion to Thielen in the early going. However, he was once again Captain Checkdown, going 32-of-45 for only 247 yards and a touchdown. That's a YPA of 5.49, which is trending into Brodie Croyle territory. He was also picked off on one occasion, but that was negated by a penalty. Bradford had some ugly checkdowns, where he tossed a 1-yard pass on third-and-6 and then hurled a 6-yard throw on third-and-18 with seven minutes remaining. Bradford had Stefon Diggs back, so there was no excuse like there happened to be on Thanksgiving. His offensive line sucked again, but there were plenty of occasions in which he had plenty of time in the pocket and didn't look downfield. He did take a couple of shots, but they weren't very successful.
Speaking of Diggs, he snatched all eight of his targets for 59 yards, but didn't find the end zone. Neither did Thielen (7-86) nor Kyle Rudolph (6-45). Jerick McKinnon (5-14) had Bradford's sole touchdown.
Speaking of McKinnon, he led the Vikings with 41 yards on nine carries. Matt Asiata (6-30) wasn't far behind. The Vikings desperately need Adrian Peterson back, but by the time he's ready to return, it could already be too late. Minnesota probably needs to win out, given that it has to finish the year with one more victory than Detroit as a result of the season sweep.
As for the Vikings' special teams, the unit effectively lost this game. The Thielen muff was absolutely crushing, while Jeff Locke's horrible punting didn't help. Locke averaged just 32 yards per punt in this contest, compared to Dallas' average of 46.2. On one occasion, he booted a net punt of only 16 yards.
Broncos 20, Jaguars 10
Paxton Lynch made his second career start for the Broncos, and many didn't think he'd be able to succeed, even against a bottom-five team like the Jaguars. Denver was favored by about six points prior to Trevor Siemian's announced injury, but the line dropped to 3.5 when it was clear that Lynch would start. The Broncos ended up winning, as Lynch prevailed against one of the league's worst teams, but it wasn't exactly the most convincing result.
In fact, the Broncos won in spite of Lynch, as Denver's defense made Blake Bortles look even worse than he already is. Thanks to the performance of the Broncos' stop unit, any quarterback could've started for the Broncos and prevailed.
Paxton Lynch completed half of his passes, going 12-of-24 for only 104 yards. Lynch was inaccurate throughout the afternoon, beginning right away when he was way wide of Emmanuel Sanders on the initial third down of the afternoon. Part of the problem happened to be poor mechanics; Lynch's footwork was awful on a pass that was way high toward Jordan Norwood on another third down. Lynch was hurt by a substantial drop by Virgil Green, but his positive throws were few and far between.
Despite this, Gary Kubiak showed an unbelievable amount of trust in Lynch, calling for passes on numerous plays while his team was attempting to run out the clock, including on a second-and-12 with 4:30 remaining, up only seven. Lynch actually scrambled twice in these instances, and he almost picked up the first down on a third-and-4.
With Lynch struggling, only two Bronco receivers accumulated more than 10 yards, which is just sad. Thomas led the way with six grabs for 61 yards, including a diving catch to put the team into field-goal range at the end of the first half. Sanders (3-28) was the recipient of numerous inaccurate passes.
Devontae Booker handled most of the workload, but didn't do much, gaining only 35 yards on 18 carries. He at least helped his fantasy owners with a touchdown on a very powerful run. Kapri Bibbs actually outgained Booker (5-49), thanks to a 24-yard burst. It's been very difficult to run on the Jaguars, so this wasn't much of a surprise.
Jacksonville's defense played well overall once again, but as is the case every week, the unit was betrayed by Bortles, who was horrendous as ever. I actually expected Bortles to throw two pick-sixes against one of the NFL's elite defenses, but he at least gave us one. It was Bortles' 11th pick-six in three years. I have Jacksonville taking Lamar Jackson in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft, which was updated this weekend.
Bortles failed to complete half of his passes, going 19-of-42 for 181 yards and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble to end the game. Bortles' first pick wasn't his fault because Allen Robinson bobbled the ball, but he was still atrocious. His mechanics were a mess, and his accuracy resembled that of a drunken dart-thrower at a bar. Bortles will not improve because he doesn't care about football as much as partying.
Robinson, meanwhile, was a mess, as he caught only three targets for 31 yards. He dropped passes and was responsible for Bortles' first interception. He was also targeted on the second pick.
The way to beat the Broncos is to pound the ball into the middle of their defense, but the Jaguars couldn't do that with Chris Ivory sidelined and T.J. Yeldon banged up. Denard Robinson actually started, but didn't do much, mustering only 53 yards on 17 carries, before leaving the game with an injury. Yeldon was mixed in, tallying 55 yards on 14 attempts. He also logged three catches for 27 receiving yards.
Lions 28, Saints 13
It seems like the public continues to believe that the Lions will falter at some point. They seemed unconvinced that the Lions could compete in New Orleans, as indicated by the fact that they were near-touchdown underdogs against a team that they had two more wins than entering the afternoon. Make it three, as this one may finally have people believing that the Lions are a legitimate playoff contender.
Matthew Stafford is mostly responsible for Detroit's surprising run, and if the Lions continue to play this way, he definitely needs to be in MVP consideration. Stafford was once again prolific in this contest, torching the Saints mercilessly throughout the afternoon. He began his day by completing 16 of his first 17 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Included in this spurt was a zipped throw to Eric Ebron on a third-and-11.
Despite Stafford's terrific passing, the Lions were only up by one score in the fourth quarter. The reason for this was that Detroit stalled too often in the red zone, settling for too many field goals. However, Stafford took care of that with a 66-yard touchdown bomb to Golden Tate to clinch the victory. The Saints sent a heavy blitz, but Stafford read it correctly and found Tate just as he was getting blasted. Tate did the rest.
Stafford finished 30-of-42 for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers could've been even better had Andre Roberts not dropped a potential long reception. Despite the easy matchup, it's still remarkable that Stafford was able to be so prolific considering that he didn't have Marvin Jones at his disposal.
With Jones out, Tate led the team in receiving by a wide margin, catching eight balls for 145 yards and a touchdown. T.J. Jones (3-49) was next, and he was nearly responsible for a Stafford interception on Detroit's initial opening drive because of a bobbled ball.
Dwayne Washington started at running back for the Lions, and he gained 21 yards on seven carries to go along with a couple of catches for 19 receiving yards. Washington was knocked out with an ankle injury, however, so Zach Zenner had to take over the tailback duties. Zenner mustered 40 yards on nine attempts.
Stafford's great passing allowed the Lions to control the clock and win the time of possession by nearly 14 minutes. As a result, Drew Brees wasn't on the field very often, and it seemed like he felt that he needed to force the issue. That was evident in the second half, which was when Brees launched all three of his interceptions. Two came in desperation time, while the other occurred when he was baited into a bad throw.
Brees disappointed his fantasy owners, going 31-of-44 for 326 yards and the three picks. The afternoon didn't begin very well when a bad snap forced an intentional-grounding penalty on a third down, and it didn't get much better after that. Brees put together some nice drives, but really didn't have much of a chance because he wasn't on the field very much.
Brandin Cooks complained during the week about not being involved enough. That changed against the Lions, as he saw a team-high nine targets. He hauled in seven of them for 73 yards, and he almost had a touchdown, but was ruled down at the 1-yard line. He was outgained only by Coby Fleener (5-86), who was guilty of two drops. Michael Thomas, meanwhile, didn't post a great stat line (4-42), but he made an amazing catch along the sideline while falling out of bounds at the end of the third quarter. The officials actually ruled it incomplete, but Sean Payton challenged and won.
With the Saints trailing throughout the entire game, Mark Ingram was given just seven carries. He turned them into 37 yards, and he also caught all five of his targets for 16 receiving yards. Ingram limped off the field in the first half, but didn't miss much action.
Packers 21, Texans 13
The Packers were "done," by most accounts two weeks ago. Following a big victory Monday night, they suddenly had new life, and now in the wake of this contest, they're back to 6-6, and they're within striking distance of one of the second wild-card spot.
Green Bay was able to prevail despite Aaron Rodgers not playing his best. Rodgers didn't struggle, or anything, but a previous version of him would've torched a Houston defense missing both J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Rodgers didn't appear to be completely 100 percent, as he sustained a leg injury in the second half of the Philadelphia contest, and that appeared to be bothering him yet again. The weather also was a factor, as this game was played in windy, snowy conditions.
Rodgers finished 20-of-30 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He also lost a fumble near the goal line in the first quarter when, according to color analyst Phil Simms, Rodgers "pulled out too quickly" when taking the snap. Rodgers could've posted better numbers had Davante Adams not dropped a long gain down the sideline in the opening half. Considering the heavy snow, however, those sorts of things were bound to happen. Rodgers' leg problem came to light when he scrambled for a first down on an 11-yard scamper in the fourth quarter and then began hobbling around.
Only two Packers saw more than four targets. The leader in that department was Jordy Nelson, who was featured heavily throughout the afternoon. Nelson caught eight of 10 balls thrown his way for 118 yards and a touchdown. Adams was the other, but he struggled. He snatched just one of his seven targets for 17 yards. As mentioned, he was responsible for a deep drop, but don't blame it all on him, as Rodgers overthrew Adams down the field in the first half.
The Packers didn't do much on the ground, as Christine Michael led the team in carries with nine, which he turned into just 19 yards, though he did pick up a fourth-down conversion in the second quarter. Ty Montgomery (6-40) was the most effective player in the backfield, but he can't shoulder a full workload. It'll be the Montgomery and Michael show down the stretch, with some Aaron Ripkowski mixed in (3-14, TD), as James Starks was benched in this contest. Starks started, but managed just one yard on four attempts before being taken out of the game.
The Texans were already horrible offensively, so it didn't help that they sustained an injury to a major player in the early going. Lamar Miller hurt his ribs and had to be taken into the locker room during the opening half. Miller managed to return, but wasn't quite himself; he managed only 22 yards on 14 carries. Miller had to share the workload with Jonathan Grimes (5-43) and Alfred Blue (5-38), both of whom had bursts of 10-plus yards, as Grimes' 14-yarder helped convert a third-and-12 in the middle of the third quarter. The Packers did a great job of bottling up Miller, but it's unclear how much more effective he would've been had he never gotten hurt.
With no sort of running game, Brock Osweiler had to do most of the work, and he actually wasn't horrible for once. Osweiler finished 22-of-35 for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Keep in mind, however, that some of this came in garbage time. Osweiler's 44-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins came at the very end. Still, Osweiler didn't turn the ball over and had to play in horrible weather conditions, so I wouldn't criticize him for this defeat.
Speaking of Hopkins, the touchdown was his first since Oct. 6, which is difficult to believe. Hopkins, however, dropped a pass, and only caught three balls for 58 yards. He was outgained by only Will Fuller (5-59). Ryan Griffin (4-35) hauled in Osweiler's other touchdown, but he was responsible for a fumble near midfield in the first quarter.
Patriots 26, Rams 10
I can't believe I was stupid enough to think that the Rams could stay within two touchdowns of the Patriots. Well, they technically did, but I mean sans the double two-point conversions. I trusted their defense to limit the Rob Gronkowski-less New England squad, and it did for the most part, restricting the Patriots to just 5.5 yards per play. However, the Los Angeles offense couldn't sustain anything, as Jared Goff looked completely lost against Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's schemes.
Belichick and Patricia came into this contest planning on confusing Goff with dealyed blitzes. It definitely worked, as the Rams' protection assignments were horrible. Goff took four sacks as a result, and he could've been brought down on numerous other occasions as a result, but was able to use his mobility to escape. That was actually the one positive to take away from Goff's performance; his ability to escape pressure on some plays was actually quite impressive.
Unfortunately for Goff, the passing left much to be desired. He failed to complete half of his throws, going 14-of-32 for only 161 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. With the heavy pressure that he saw, Goff had to dink and dunk. He tried to complete some intermediate passes, but his receivers dropped countless balls. I also wouldn't charge him with the picks either; the first was a bobble by Lance Kendricks that flew right into the arms of Malcolm Brown. The second occurred on a tipped pass when Goff's arm was hit upon the release.
The Rams set NFL offenses back half a century with this performance. The team averaged just 3.3 yards per play, and only 1.4 yards per play in the opening half. They crossed midfield for the first time with just three minutes remaining in the third quarter. More laughably, Los Angeles' first converted third down came in the middle of the fourth quarter. As someone noted on Twitter, it took Jeff Fisher five years and a trade up in the draft, but he has finally produced the worst offense in NFL history. It's sad, and it'll only get worse because of the news that broke Sunday morning. If you missed it, here's my Grade for the Rams extending Jeff Fisher.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tom Brady surpassed Peyton Manning as the NFL's all-time wins leader, clinching his 201st victory. Battling a tough defense without the services of Rob Gronkowski, Brady went 33-of-46 for 269 yards and a touchdown. He nearly threw a second score, but T.J. McDonald made a great break-up on a pass thrown to Martellus Bennett in the end zone.
Brady threw the most to Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell, who both caught eight passes for 101 and 82 yards, respectively. They were the only Patriots to accumulate more than 30 receiving yards. Chris Hogan (4-23) secured Brady's sole aerial score.
The offensive player most responsible for this victory for the Patriots was LeGarrette Blount. The big back converted a fourth-and-1 on the opening drive and actually ran in a 43-yard score on the play. He also converted a huge fourth-and-1 in the second quarter as well. Blount gained 88 yards and the touchdown on 18 carries. Dion Lewis and James White were also mixed in, getting nine and seven touches, respectively.
Getting back to the Rams, Todd Gurley managed just 38 yards on 11 carries, as he didn't have much of an opportunity to handle the ball because of the constant deficit. Gurley was guilty of a chop block on Dont'a Hightower in the second half that had the stud linebacker limping off the field.
With Tavon Austin out, only two Los Angeles players logged more than 16 receiving yards. Those were Britt (2-67) and Brian Quick (5-48), who made an amazing catch for 17 yards along the sideline, which Fisher had to challenge even though he couldn't find his red flag. Britt, meanwhile, did nothing but drop passes until he secured a garbage-time touchdown with about a minute remaining.
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6
If the playoffs were to begin prior to Week 13, Dolphins at Ravens would've been a playoff matchup. Baltimore was a mere three-point favorite, so this was expected to be a very tight affair. It was anything but, as the Ravens completely dominated this game from start to finish. They were simply way too physical for the Dolphins, beating them up in the trenches, winning at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. They were so overwhelming for Miami that this contest seemed like an MMA fighter beating up some loser hanging out in a safe space. It was that much of a disparity.
In addition to dominating the trenches, the Ravens threw all over the Dolphins. Joe Flacco came out of the tunnel ablaze, completing 11 of his first 14 attempts for 136 yards and two touchdowns. By halftime, he had racked up 258 yards and three touchdowns. Miami's back seven was absolutely pathetic, though it should be noted that Kiko Alonso sustained an injury on the second drive of the game. Alonso was able to return, but clearly wasn't himself.
Flacco finished 36-of-47 for 381 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He actually wasn't that great in the second half, as he missed on some throws. For example, he heaved the ball behind Chris Moore on a third-and-5 try. He did throw his fourth score, a 53-yarder to Breshad Perriman, but it was actually a short toss that Perriman was able to take the distance, as the bewildered Dolphins had no idea what was happening. Flacco's interception, by the way, was a sloppy throw late across his body. It was a pass a rookie typically makes, so I have no idea where that came from.
Perriman (2-59) tied Mike Wallace for second on the team in receiving, as Wallace caught six passes for 59 yards. They trailed Dennis Pitta, who hauled in nine of 11 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Pitta's only blemish was a lost fumble, which led to Miami's only points of the afternoon. Otherwise, he was great. Steve Smith, meanwhile, hauled in six passes for 53 yards. Smith made a great play on a sliding catch on a fourth-and-2 while falling out of bounds.
The Ravens ran just twice by the time they were up 14-0, but they pounded the ball late when they were running out the clock. Terrance West had the majority of the carries (10-50) and scored a touchdown, but Kenneth Dixon (6-56) actually outgained him. West also scored once aerially, as he and Dixon snatched three and four passes, respectively.
Miami, as mentioned, scored its only points following Pitta's fumble. The Dolphins simply couldn't get anything going the entire afternoon. Whenever they'd have a positive drive going, they'd either take a sack, commit a penalty or turn the ball over. They were very sloppy, and I have to imagine that Mike Pouncey's absence had something to do with it.
Still, that doesn't excuse Ryan Tannehill's poor play. Tannehill finished 29-of-40 for 226 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The completion percentage is nice, but Tannehill barely was able to get anything downfield. DeVante Parker's injury was undoubtedly a factor. Parker played, but didn't quite look like himself. One of Tannehill's picks wasn't really his fault, as Lardarius Webb made an incredible catch in the end zone on an attempt to Parker. His second interception was tipped and taken back for 53 yards by Eric Weddle. The third was underthrown in desperation time. Tannehill made horrible decisions and reads throughout the entire afternoon, as he took a major step backward after showing signs of promise during the team's winning streak.
Parker wasn't healthy, but he still rewarded his fantasy owners with a touchdown, reeling in three balls for 34 yards in the process. Jarvis Landry, meanwhile, caught a whopping 11 passes for 87 yards. Landry appeared to have issues with his cleats throughout the afternoon, as he slipped out of his breaks on numerous occasions.
Jay Ajayi was faced with a difficult matchup against Baltimore's defense, but he was still able to generate 61 yards on just 12 carries. He also had a 14-yard burst wiped out by a Laremy Tunsil hold, and he added on to his stat line with six catches for 26 receiving yards. Ajayi obviously couldn't run much because the Dolphins trailed throughout.
Bears 26, 49ers 6
This game was so miserable that the weather conditions are the most remarkable thing that can be discussed. It was snowy and windy in Chicago, and neither team could get anything going for most of the afternoon. There were no passes completed in the opening quarter; in fact, the first completion took place at the 7:30 mark in the second quarter. The conditions were so bad that the 49ers opted to punt on fourth-and-9 on Chicago's 31 at the beginning of the second frame.
The first signs of life from any team took place on a blocked punt. The 49ers appeared to score a touchdown on the return, but it was ruled that the player stepped out of bounds at the 4-yard line. However, in typical San Francisco fashion, the returner was flagged for excessive celebration for doing snow angels in the end zone, pushing the team back 15 yards. The 49ers had to settle for a field goal and took an early lead at that point, but everything went dowhill for them after that.
It didn't seem possible at the time because of the weather, but San Francisco was ultimately blown out. The Bears eventually were able to move the chains consistently, accumulating 326 net yards of offense, 211 of which came in the second half. It was all about Jordan Howard, who punished the 49ers with his great, power running. Howard gained 117 yards on 32 carries, including three touchdowns. Howard tallied 79 rushing yards following halftime.
Matt Barkley, meanwhile, went 11-of-18 for 192 yards. It wasn't anything special, but Barkley did a good job considering the weather conditions and the lack of weapons. Remarkably, his receivers didn't drop nearly as many passes as they did last week despite playing in the snow, though he did miss out on a touchdown because one of his receivers let the ball fall through his hands.
Just two Bears logged more than 19 receiving yards: Josh Bellamy (4-93) and Cameron Meredith (3-67). Marquess Wilson left the game early with a groin injury after dropping his only target.
The 49ers, meanwhile, benched Colin Kaepernick. That may seem strange at first glance because Kaepernick attempted just five passes, completing only one for four yards, but he took so many bad sacks that he didn't give his team a chance. He was also limited on the ground - six carries, 20 rushing yards - and just didn't appear to be prepared for this opponent. And that's precisely a major part of the problem with Kaepernick. He just doesn't take his professional career seriously. He's a bum, and anyone who's been paying attention to how bad he's been amid the misleading stats knows he should not be in the NFL much longer.
Blaine Gabbert stepped in for Kaepernick in the second half. He went 4-of-10 for 35 yards, which sadly was light years better than what Kaepernick was able to do. I think the 49ers should give Chistian Ponder a shot.
Kaepernick's incompetence ruined what could've been a great game by Carlos Hyde, as the 49ers' runner gained 92 yards on 20 carries. Meanwhile, Jeremy Kerley was San Francisco's leading receiver with one catch for 18 yards. Hilariously, he was the only San Francisco player who had double-digit receiving yardage.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I get that the Bengals haven't really been used to this whole winning thing this season, but can someone explain to me why they were throwing passes to offensive tackles when up by 15 in the middle of the fourth quarter? Seems kind of silly to me, but maybe the Bengals were just shocked that they were up so much. I was just as surprised.
The Eagles needed a win to keep any wild-card hopes alive, but they came out flat and the Bengals controlled this game from start to finish. The Eagles' secondary had a lot of problems with Andy Dalton and his cast of backup receivers, while Carson Wentz was overmatched. The Bengals' front seven dominated the Philadelphia offensive line all day.
The Bengals struck first as Andy Dalton led a drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Mike Nugent. Cincinnati added to its lead as a Cody Core (2-58) beat Noal Carroll down the sideline to make a 50-yard reception. Jeremy Hill (23-33-1) finished the drive off with a short touchdown run. Carson Wentz moved the ball into Cincinnati territory, but a 51-yard field goal bounced off the upright. To end the first half, Dalton led a nice drive with a third-down conversion to Rex Burkhead (8-38, 4-28), and then he got Tyler Eifert (2-25) involved with two catches, including a 13-yard touchdown pass. Nugent missed the extra point, and the Bengals took a 19-0 lead into the locker room. Dalton more over 200 yards passing, while Wentz was held to only 67 yards at intermission.
In the third quarter, Dalton continued to rip the ball through the Eagles' defense with a 44-yard pass to Brandon LaFell, who had gotten vertical on Leodis McKelvin. Dalton finshed the drive by throwing a beautiful eight-yard touchdown pass to LaFell. Philadelphia got moving as Wentz hit Paul Turner (6-80) on the run for a 41-yard gain. Wentz was hit on a following throw, by Carlos Dunlap, and the fluttering ball was intercepted by Vontaze Burfict. Dalton then used Tyler Boyd (4-66) to turn the give-away into three more points and a 29-0 lead. The Eagles finally got on the board as Zach Ertz was wide open in busted coverage for a short touchdown. Bennie Logan forced a fumble from Rex Burkhead, and Philadelphia recovered the ball. Wentz threw into a crowd of defenders, however, and after being juggled around, Shawn Williams corraled the ball for an interception. After a punt, Philadelphia had a 15-play drive that ended with a short touchdown run for Darren Sproles (7-14-1, 6-35).
The Bengals got too cute after that, throwing a pass to tackle Jake Fisher, and he fumbled the ball away to Philadelphia. The Eagles were set up close to midfield down 15 with six minutes remaining. However, Burfict made a great play to intercept Wentz and slam the door for Cincinnati.
Dalton completed 23-of-31 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns. LaFell led the Bengals in receiving with five receptions for 95 yards and a score.
Wentz was 36-of-60 for 308 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Ertz had nine receptions for 79 yards and a score.
Burfict had a tremendous game with 15 tackles and two interceptions. The Bengals' defensive line dominated the Eagles' offensive front. Carlos Dunlap was constantly making his presence felt, while Geno Atkins embarrassed Brandon Brooks on some plays. Cincinnati had five batted balls and 13 hits on the quarterback.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think teams might have to change their philosophy when it comes to going for two points at the end of the game. I'm not saying to kick the extra point, but Matt Ryan needed to make a safer throw because an interception can now be turned into a pick-two. I actually just wanted to write "pick-two."
Right off of the bat, this game had the making of a barn burner. The two teams scored on five of the first six total possessions and neither defense was getting much done. As the contest progressed though, the Chiefs got better on defense, and they were ultimately able to limit Atlanta's offense. The Falcons, however, still had a chance to win, but a crucial mistake cost them a victory.
After a touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, the Falcons lined up to go for two points. It was a sensible decision, as they were leading by a score of 28-27 at the time. On the play, Matt Ryan made a horrible error. He tossed a pass to his well-covered Atlanta tight end, and Eric Berry got his hands on it. Berry grabbed the pass and returned it all the way for two points of his own. It swung the score in favor of the Chiefs, and they were able to run the clock out on their next possession.
This result has to be disappointing for the Falcons, but the loss demonstrated a potentially fatal flaw in Dan Quinn's coaching style. Quinn has proven to be an aggressive head coach, but on Sunday, he may have gone a bit too far.
In the third quarter, the Falcons were trailing 27-16 when they came up with a fourth-and-1. The ball was on the Chiefs' 10-yard line. Quinn had plenty of time to get two scores, and his offense was doing well moving the ball into their opponent's territory. Quinn should have elected to take the points and make it a one-possession game. Instead, he had Matt Ryan try to pass for the first down, to no avail. The ball was a bit low for Devonta Freeman, who could not make the catch.
Speaking of Ryan, he put together a good performance on Sunday, but he was far from perfect. Ryan went 22-of-34 on the day for 297 yards, one touchdown and a crucial interception. Early in the contest, Ryan was extremely sharp and was able to pick apart the Kansas City defense. He was able to repeatedly locate Julio Jones on the first drive, but after that, Ryan really slowed down.
As the game went on, the Chiefs figured out ways to take Jones out. Marcus Peters was able to cover Jones relatively well, and then the stud receiver left due to an injury. After that, Ryan had to rely more on screens and gadget plays, solely because the other receivers are not too strong. Ryan was able to scramble for 23 yards on three carries though, and demonstrated a generally solid ability to evade the strong pass rush of the Chiefs.
As mentioned earlier, Jones was unsurprisingly the main target of Ryan. Jones led the team with nine targets and caught seven of them for 113 yards. He demonstrated great athleticism, and none of the Chiefs were able to cover him in the first quarter. Had he not gotten nicked up in the second half, he could have had an even better day.
Elsewhere, Taylor Gabriel (5-44) looks to have replaced Mohamed Sanu (2-26) as Ryan's preferred No. 2 option. Gabriel was highly involved in the option, and he got an opportunity to catch a couple of screen plays. He has explosive ability that Sanu does not have, and he could be worth a speculative add in fantasy. Still, do not expect much from him.
One of the best offensive weapons on the day for the Falcons was Devonta Freeman. He took 15 carries for 56 yards and managed a couple of short-yardage touchdowns. He also made a big impact in the passing game, catching four passes for 49 yards. He is definitely the lead back in the formation, but Tevin Coleman will still split carries with him. Coleman saw 12 carries and managed 49 yards. He used his physicality to break through the Chiefs' front and generally looked impressive. If Jones is forced to miss time, you can expect the team to utilize a run-heavy offense.
For the Chiefs, this was yet another huge win. After a late overtime victory against the Broncos, they came back to get a critical win over a tough team. Part of the reason for their success was the performance of Alex Smith.
Smith was as steady as ever in this contest. He went 21-of-25 for 270 yards and a touchdown. He actually displayed some decent deep accuracy and had a lot of success targeting Travis Kelce. He was able to find space in the porous Atlanta defense, and that helped the Chiefs' offense to keep moving.
Of course, Smith's performance did come with a crucial flaw. Smith had a wide open Spencer Ware off of a wheel route and threw the ball to him. However, he put it too far out in front of the back, who could not reel it in. Had he put it on target, it would have almost certainly gone for a touchdown. Smith needs to make sure that he can make the big throws. Like I said earlier, his deep accuracy was better today, but that was a pass that could have changed the outcome of the game.
Thanks to Smith's solid performance, three Chiefs receivers were able to post great days. The best performance came from Travis Kelce (8-140). The tight end was absolutely stellar and created some great mismatches for the Chiefs. By halftime, he had four catches for 99 yards, and he could have had a bigger day. Kelce should continue to be the top option for Smith moving forward.
The other top receivers were Tyreek Hill (5-53) and Albert Wilson (4-48). Hill is really emerging as a weapon in the Chiefs' offense, and he has done enough to earn a starting job even when Jeremy Maclin comes back. Hill is a must-own in dynasty formats, and he is worth adding in standard leagues as well. Wilson, meanwhile, played well, but he is too inconsistent to be considered in fantasy. He did have a nice 55-yard touchdown run on a fake punt, but he is not likely to score much week in and week out.
Spencer Ware once again was the lead back for the Chiefs. He surprisingly had some issues against the Falcons' run defense, carrying the ball 14 times for 29 yards. The line could not get a lot of push up front, and the team had more success in the passing game. Ware did catch three passes for 23 yards and a touchdown, and he could have had more if Smith had hit him on that long pass. Ware is a low-end RB1 in most formats moving forward.
Final Note: Having Justin Houston back will be great news for the Chiefs. He had another sack today, and he could post some big numbers down the stretch. Eric Berry is another player who will help the team. He had two interception returns, one for a touchdown and one for two points. The Chiefs should be in good shape on that side of the ball moving forward.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Wow. The Bills were up 24-9, and Derek Carr was getting his hand checked out. I would've bet my house, soul and Beverly Hills 90210 DVD collection that Buffalo would've covered at that point. The Bills did not, as they were outscored 29-0 from that point forward.
What an absolute collapse by the Bills. Just a few plays into the second half, it looked like they were going to run away with the game. After intermission, they jumped out to a 24-9 lead and had all the momentum. Then, the Raiders suddenly made a comeback, scoring 29 unanswered points to take control. The score would hold at 38-24 to give the Raiders their 10th win of the season.
For the Raiders, one of their best weapons continues to be Derek Carr. One of the frontrunners of the MVP race, Carr put together another solid performance on Sunday. Despite a mediocre performance in the first half, Carr finished the day with a good stat line, going 19-of-35 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. As mentioned, he was not too strong in the first half, and it looked like his banged-up finger was bothering him.
Carr was significantly more accurate after halftime. He was able to toss the two touchdowns. One was a laser to Michael Crabtree (7-74) when he got a lot of time in the pocket. Crabtree found space in the end zone, and Carr put it right on the numbers for him. The second was a nice pass to Amari Cooper (2-59). Cooper managed to get away from the defender and use his speed to get into the end zone. Both Crabtree and Cooper will be the top targets for Carr as the Raiders continue their efforts to get the No. 1 seed.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Seth Roberts seemed to be a favorite target of Carr as well. Roberts saw five targets come his way, but he only caught two of them for 18 yards. He was guilty of some rough drops.
The ground game for the Raiders today was absolutely fantastic. They appear to have figured out a strong rotation that should work moving forward.
The lead back was Latavius Murray, and he continues to impress. Murray had somewhat of a mid-season renaissance after he returned from injury, and he posted some strong numbers again in this game. Murray received 20 carries and turned them into 82 yards and two touchdowns. Murray has been able to use his strength to break through tackles at the front line, and he has been superb on the goal line. He is a high-upside RB2 going forward.
The second back of the rotation was undrafted rookie Jalen Richard. In this contest, Richard proved why so many teams were wrong to pass on his services in the 2016 NFL Draft. Richard looks fast and agile on the field, garnering nine carries and turning them into 53 yards. He showed excellent burst and could be a weapon in all facets of the game. For now, it makes sense to use him as a change-of-pace back, but he could end up in a full split with Murray if he keeps doing well.
Defensively, Khalil Mack has continued to be an absolute beast for the Raiders. He made two massive plays that impacted the outcome. In the second half, he came around the edge to hit Tyrod Taylor's arm and force a pick. That led to a touchdown. To end the game, he notched a strip sack of Taylor and recovered the fumble. It was a big-time play by the young pass-rusher.
For the Bills, this was an absolute abomination of a performance. They was in excellent position to pull off a massive upset, and they just fell flat. Blowing a huge lead is one thing, but the Bills looked absolutely terrible in the second half.
One of the culprits of this was Tyrod Taylor. The second-year starter had what might have been one of his worst performances as a pro. He went 18-of-35 for the day with 191 yards and an interception. He did run three times for 30 yards and a touchdown, but he was unable to move around as much in the pocket. Taylor had serious issues getting the ball moving and really did not do much for the team.
Part of the problem was the performance of the offensive line. Taylor was constantly under pressure from the Raiders' defense, and he was sacked four times. That is an incredibly high number for a mobile quarterback. The Bills need to do something about the right tackle position on their offensive line, as Jordan Mills just is not getting the job done. Had the offensive front been better, perhaps Taylor would have been better. There is no way of knowing.
Because of Taylor's struggles, Buffalo's receivers were unable to do much. In fact, the team's leading receiver was running back LeSean McCoy. He caught seven passes for 61 yards. Most of them were checkdowns, as Taylor had no time to get the ball downfield.
Two wide receivers posted multiple catches. Sammy Watkins (3-38) and Marquise Goodwin (4-35) were both decent, but they just did not have enough time to make plays. Charles Clay sat out today's game as he attended the birth of his child. Watkins is the only member of the Bills' passing attack who is worth owning in fantasy as of right now.
Though the passing attack sputtered, the ground game was as strong as ever. McCoy once again led the way for the team, posting 130 yards on 17 carries. He was elusive as ever, though he did give the team a scare when he briefly left due to cramps. McCoy will continue to be a top-five back in fantasy, though his touchdowns are being vultured right now.
Speaking of the vulturing, Mike Gillislee once again looked good as a backup. Gillislee saw eight carries and totaled 49 yards. The best part of his day? He scored two touchdowns. Gillislee was used in goal-line sets, as the Bills were maybe looking to avoid getting McCoy's surgically repaired finger too beat up. If you have space for a handcuff, Gillislee is a good option, as he can post double-digit points in any game he plays.
Defensively, the Bills collapsed because they were unable to cover Oakland's receivers. Buffalo's secondary has badly regressed, and it will be interesting to see what moves the organization makes in the offseason, especially since Stephon Gilmore is a free agent.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't think I'll be getting too many complaints about ranking the Giants low in my NFL Power Rankings this week. This easily could've been a shutout if Le'Veon Bell didn't fumble and the Steelers didn't allow a garbage-time touchdown.
Both of these teams came into this tilt with playoff aspirations, and despite this not being a division game, the Steelers needed to stay on pace with the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwihle, the Giants needed to win to have any chance of catching the Cowboys.
The Giants entered having won six straight, but their offense has had trouble clicking, even against subpar defenses like the Cleveland Browns last week. Those six wins also came against teams with a combined 20-46-1 record. This Steelers team was a step above New York's previous competition, and it showed.
The Steelers have grown more conservative in order to keep Ben Roethlisberger healthy. Short passes and runs to Le'Veon Bell are the motor to this offense right now, and with his ability, the Steelers are still able to move the ball without much trouble as evidenced by Bell's 182 total yards on a massive 35 touches.
Bell has now rushed for 118 or more yards in each of his last three games and is averaging 175 total yards over those games. His workload is a little concerning, but his ability to avoid big hits does help him a little, plus many of his touches come through the air, with seven receptions per game this season. Receptions usually end in less-smashed-up body parts than rushing up the middle. In this game, Bell appeared to be a magician at times, popping out of places that most backs would be planted into the ground, and the Giants' defense has been good and even showed that in this game.
The trouble for the Giants was their offense. Eli Manning continues to be erratic, showing no rhythm in this offense. He only targeted Odell Beckham Jr. once in the first half and then targeted him relentlessly in the second half, which is usually a good idea, but the Steelers knew where the ball was going, so they rushed Manning and tried to contain Beckham, which worked as Beckham caught 10-of-16 targets for 100 yards. You really want more out of those 15 second-half targets.
Bell was the motor in this one, but Ladarius Green was the field-stretcher, as he caught 6-of-11 targets for 110 yards and a touchdown. With Sammie Coates still dealing with an injured hand, the Steelers had lost their deep threat, but Green filled that role today. He had receptions of 37, 33 and 20 yards, which was for his touchdown. The receptions and yards were both highs for Green, who had been on injured reserve for much of the season. He's slowly been getting up to speed, and you could see glimpses of his speed and ability to run by linebackers over the last two games, but now we're seeing him get a larger share of snaps, which is paying off for the Steelers. If they can get Sammie Coates back and healthy, this offense could be difficult to slow.
Eli Apple played a strong game for the Giants, intercepting Roethlisberger once and recovering a Bell fumble, which then led to the Giants' first touchdown, a nice screen pass to Rashad Jennings that brought them within seven ppints in the third quarter. The Steelers quickly struck back, however, with a touchdown to Green, making it 21-7.
The Giants' defense showed up and made some key turnovers, but Manning and company couldn't move the ball when they needed to, while the Steelers just had too much firepower and were able to overcome the turnovers.
With the win, the Steelers at 7-5 remain tied with the Ravens for the lead in the AFC North, but the Ravens currently own the tiebreaker. So, the Steelers are currently out of the playoffs, while the Giants at 8-4 are three games behind the Cowboys, but New York still has the fifth seed and the current wild-card spot. But the way these two teams looked today, it sure feels like both are moving in opposite directions.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Cardinals win this week's award as the team that didn't deserve to cover. They scored a touchdown on a lost fumble, and yet were still up just one while running the clock out, but they hit a long touchdown, which seldom happens. Oh, and the Redskins outgained Arizona in yards per play despite losing their center in the third quarter.
The Cardinals are essentially eliminated from the playoffs, but they kept their slim hopes alive and played spoiler with a win over the Redskins. Washington's hopes of winning a wild-card spot were dealt a blow with this loss, but the Redskins remain in the thick of the playoff race.
Arizona moved the ball well on its opening drive with David Johnson doing the heavy lifting, and he capped the drive with a short touchdown run. A pass to Chris Thompson (2-24, 1-21) and a run from Rob Kelley got Washington moving with 40 yards on two plays, and that set up a 47-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins. Washington got the ball back, and Kirk Cousins quickly moved the ball down the field using Pierre Garcon and Ryan Grant (2-20), but the Cardinals produced a goal-line stand to limit Washington to a field goal. Just before the half, Arizona tacked on a field goal thanks to some excellent receptions by Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson. Arizona took a 10-6 lead into the locker room.
To open the third quarter, Cousins threw a beautiful 59-yard pass to DeSean Jackson (his only catch), who ran by Tyvon Branch down the middle of the field to get inside the 10-yard line. Cousins was able to dive into the end zone on third-and-goal to get the Redskins a 13-10 lead. A Trent Murphy sack led to Arizona missing a 53-yard field goal. However, Calais Campbell strip-sacked Cousins and Markus Golden returned the fumble to the Redskins' 10-yard line. Carson Palmer then fired a fastball to Michael Floyd (3-18-1) for the score and a 17-13 lead. Cousins struck back with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder (3-42-1), who beat Tony Jefferson to get wide open. Arizona responded by ripping the ball down the field quickly and scored with a 25-yard pass to Johnson. The Redskins countered with a field goal to make it 24-23 Arizona midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals went for a fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line and Johnson ripped off an 18-yard run. Palmer then hit J.J. Nelson (1-42) for a 42-yard touchdown strike just after the 2-minute warning a few plays later. With forty seconds remaining, D.J. Swearinger blitzed to force a pass off the mark, and it was picked off by Patrick Peterson to clinch the Cardinals' win.
Palmer played very well, completing 30-of-46 for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Fitzgerald continues to rewrite the record books as he totaled nine catches for 91 yards.
David Johnson was the big star for the Arizona offense with 18 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Through the air, he had nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Cousins was 21-of-37 for 271 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He added a rushing touchdown. Garcon led the Redskins in receiving with 78 yards on seven receptions.
Rob Kelley totaled 63 yards on 14 carries.
Calais Campbell had an excellent game for the Cardinals with a big-time presence at the point of attack. Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan played well for the Redskins.
Buccaneers 28, Chargers 21
I never thought I'd be typing this after the Buccaneers were blown out by the Falcons on a Thursday night, but they've been one of the most impressive teams in the NFL in recent weeks. They've had such great wins lately, triumphing in Kansas City and then upsetting the Seahawks prior to this contest. You can now add this to the list, as the Buccaneers flew out to San Diego to win their seventh game, putting them in a tie with the Falcons atop the NFC South.
It didn't look good for the Buccaneers in the early going, however. Jameis Winston forced an interception down 7-0, which Casey Hayward easily snatched out of the air. Later, when Winston was sacked in the red zone, it took Roberto Aguayo on the brink of his kicking range, and he whiffed on a 31-yard try as a result.
The Buccaneers trailed 14-7 at the half, but things started going to Tampa's way following the break. Lavonte David scored on a pick-six on a Philip Rivers pass that was tipped, and then the Buccaneers were fortunate that a potential Rivers 80-yard touchdown bomb was dropped by Travis Benjamin. Winston, meanwhile, caught fire and helped secure the victory.
Winston finished 20-of-30 for 280 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception. He shook off the early pick and was able to keep the chains moving despite not being able to throw to Mike Evans all that often. Winston torched beleaguered cornerback Craig Mager repeatedly, as Mager was atrocious in this contest.
Winston couldn't go to Evans that often because of Hayward's excellent coverage. In addition to his interception, Hayward limited Evans to three catches for 38 yards. He also drew an offensive pass interference flag on Evans in the red zone.
With Evans out of commission, Winston targeted Cameron Brate most often, as the lumbering tight end caught six of his nine targets for 86 yards and a touchdown. Freddie Martino (4-56) also outgained Evans, as he was on the field because Cecil Shorts left the game on a stretcher.
Something strange happened to Tampa's rushing attack late in the game. Doug Martin handled most of the workload throughout the afternoon, tallying 45 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, but he wasn't on the field when the Buccaneers were running out the clock late in the afternoon. Instead, it was Jacquizz Rodgers, who registered 29 yards on seven attempts. Perhaps Tampa was resting Martin, but given how important those carries were, you'd think they'd have him on the field.
The best rusher in this game was easily Melvin Gordon, who had an amazing performance in the loss. He rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, as he pounded the Tampa front with some extremely powerful runs. He was also a big factor in the passing game with four catches for a team-leading 54 receiving yards. Considering that the Chargers led for most of the game, it's irresponsible that he was given just 17 attempts.
Rivers threw 26 passes, two of which were picked off. He went 15-of-26 for 225 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the turnovers. One wasn't his fault, as it was tipped into the air. However, Rivers forced the issue on the second interception. He tried to tie the game on a deep bomb, but Keith Tandy undercut the pass. Rivers didn't have his best game, but he did have an 80-yard touchdown negated by Benjamin's drop.
Rivers' touchdowns went to Dontrelle Inman (2-49) and Tyrell Williams (2-47). They were San Diego's leaders in receiving yardage aside from Gordon. Williams clearly wasn't 100 percent, as it wasn't even know if he'd be able to suit up.
Seahawks 40, Panthers 7
Good news, bad news for the Seahawks. The good news is that they were just as dominant against the Panthers as this score indicates, as they were able to avenge their playoff loss from this past January. They're one victory closer to sealing up a postseason bye.
The bad news is that Earl Thomas sustained a cracked tibia in the second quarter on a collision with Kam Chancellor while trying to snatch an interception. Thomas was carted into the locker room where he learned his fate. He's likely out for the season, and even worse, he even tweeted that he's pondering retirement. The Seahawks have a capable backup behind Thomas in Steven Terrell, but the third-year pro isn't nearly the same sort of dominant player Thomas is. Though the Seahawks are finally healthy elsewhere, Thomas will be missed.
Thomas Rawls also suffered an injury in this contest when he was knocked out with what appeared to be a concussion, but he was later cleared for action. Rawls was incredible, breaking tackles all evening and running with an amazing burst that he didn't possess in his return last week. Rawls looked like the same runner who was an upgrade over Marshawn Lynch last year, trampling the Panthers for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Rawls has the sort of play-making ability that the Seahawks have been missing at running back the entire season, save for the couple of games in which C.J. Prosise was exploding out of the backfield.
Russell Wilson, meanwhile, is definitely completely healthy. There's no doubt about that now. He went 26-of-36 for 277 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which occurred because he didn't see Tre Boston on a third-and-21 attempt. Wilson was nearly picked early on a shovel pass into the end zone, but he was terrific otherwise. He torched Carolina's beleaguered secondary mercilessly and showed that he can scramble effectively, which was not the case earlier in the season. Wilson scrambled just thrice, but picked up 29 yards on the ground and moved around fluidly.
Wilson's sole score went to Jimmy Graham (6-63), who was one of four Seattle players to catch at least five balls. The other three were Jermaine Kearse (5-68), Doug Baldwin (7-65) and Tyler Lockett (5-63). Lockett scored a 75-yard touchdown on a run to open the second half, showcasing his blinding speed. He obviously no longer is showing the effects of his sprained MCL that weighed him down at the beginning of the year.
There was a bizarre start to this game, as Derek Anderson took the first snap instead of Cam Newton. Ron Rivera said Newton was benched for the opening play because of a wardrobe violation, whatever that means. Anderson hilariously threw an interception on his only throw, though it wasn't his fault, as his pass bounced off Mike Tolbert's hands. It only ended up costing Carolina three points, so it wasn't a huge deal.
What is a huge deal is that Newton has now failed to complete half of his passes in three consecutive games. It's impossible to completely blame Newton though, as Carolina's offensive line is a mess, with Ryan Kalil and Michael Oher both out. Still, Newton is not performing on a high level right now, and it's definitely fair to ask if his head is in the game in the wake of this wardrobe nonsense.
Newton finished 14-of-32 for only 182 yards and a touchdown. A big chunk of his yardage came on a 55-yard bomb to Ted Ginn the play after Thomas exited the game with his injury. He somehow wasn't intercepted, as he nearly threw a few picks. Thomas and Richard Sherman both dropped potential interceptions, while an apparent Newton pick was wiped out by a bogus pass interference call.
Ginn led the Panthers with 80 receiving yards and a touchdown on five catches, thanks to his aforementioned 55-yard grab against the discombobulated Seahawks, who were reeling from Thomas' injury. Only two other Carolina players logged more than 18 receiving yards: Devin Funchess (2-44) and Greg Olsen (3-30). Kelvin Benjamin saw nine targets, but hauled in just two passes for 18 yards. He was also flagged for offensive pass interference, as Sherman frustrated him throughout the entire evening.
Jonathan Stewart gained 50 yards on 11 carries, as he didn't have much of an opportunity to handle a workload because of the constant deficit. Most of Stewart's yardage came on a 29-yard burst when this game was no longer in question. He also lost a fumble in the first half, but it didn't end up costing the Panthers any points.
Colts 41, Jets 10
The Jets played their hearts out against the Patriots last week, so it was fair to wonder if they had anything left, considering that they have no playoff aspirations. I felt as though an early deficit could cause them to quit, and that's exactly what happened. Actually, it's fair to say that New York wasn't trying very hard even before this game got out of hand.
There were plenty of mistakes from the Jets in the early going. Ryan Fitzpatrick was nearly pick-sixed by T.J. Green. Quincy Enunwa dropped a pass. New York committed three personal-foul penalties in the first 20 minutes. The Jets couldn't sustain anything on offense in the first half, save for one drive.
The defense, meanwhile, looked pathetic trying to stop the Colts. The Jets left everyone open, as Andrew Luck carved up their anemic secondary. No one was even near Dwayne Allen on two of his first three touchdowns. It was absolutely pathetic.
Andrew Luck misfired on just six occasions, going 22-of-28 for 278 yards and four touchdowns. Save for one drive in the opening half, Luck was unstoppable, and he could've posted even better numbers. Luck should've had a fifth touchdown, but Jack Doyle fumbled the ball while reaching for the pylon toward the end of the second quarter, so the turnover was ruled a touchback. Luck nearly had another fifth, but T.Y. Hilton dropped a pass in the red zone. It appeared as though Hilton had a chance to score, but it wasn't quite clear. Still, the point is that despite his sterling numbers, Luck was even better than what the box score says.
Allen reeled in three of Luck's touchdowns. I mentioned that two happened because no one was even near him. The third was a beautiful back-shoulder throw from Luck. Donte Moncrief (4-26) found the end zone in the second half, while T.Y. Hilton was the team's leading receiver, snatching nine of 10 targets for 146 yards.
Frank Gore had a big night. Not because of his individual stats - he gained 79 yards on 20 carries versus a tough run defense - but because he passed Tony Dorsett on the all-time rushing leader list. Gore is now the eighth-leading rusher in NFL history. The only player ahead of him not in the Hall of Fame is Edgerrin James.
The Jets have no offensive skill players who will be in the Hall of Fame, and that includes Fitzpatrick, who may have started his final game in the NFL. Todd Bowles previously stated that the only reason he's going with Fitzpatrick over a young quarterback is because he feared losing his team. Well, his team didn't try hard, so what does it matter? Fitzpatrick sucks, and while Bryce Petty isn't very good either, he's still someone who might possibly have a future. Christian Hackenberg is the other choice, but the Jets seem content to give him a redshirt year for some strange reason.
Fitzpatrick played one half of action, going 5-of-12 for 81 yards and an interception that he fired into double coverage. Fitzpatrick was hurt by a drop, but he also could've been pick-sixed on his first drive. Fitzpatrick is a solid backup quarterback in the NFL, but he should never be a full-time starter ever again.
Petty played the entire second half and wasn't much better. He also failed to complete half his passes, going 11-of-25 for 135 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Petty was hurt by several drops from Robby Anderson, but he was also fortunate he wasn't picked off four times. He also overthrew a couple of receivers for potential scores. One of his interceptions was nearly a pick-six, as it was taken back to the 5-yard line. Petty overshot his intended receiver with a telegraphed heave into double coverage. It's clear that Petty isn't the long-term answer, so Hackenberg should start going forward.
Anderson saw a team-high 12 targets, as he caught four balls for 61 yards and a garbage-time touchdown against the backups. Petty continuously stared down Anderson and didn't bother throwing it to other receivers most of the time even though Anderson kept hurting him with drops. Brandon Marshall (4-43) was a big disappointment for his fantasy owners.
Matt Forte didn't have much of an opportunity to carry the ball because of the early deficit, as he was limited to just 25 yards on nine carries. He was more of a factor as a receiver, hauling in three passes for 54 receiving yards.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.