Consistent. Dominant. Clutch.
“I don’t shy away. I can’t be afraid to excel,” Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson told ESPN’s Lisa Salters in an interview that aired prior to Monday night’s critical clash with the New Orleans Saints.
“There’s big opportunities and I always want to be clutch. Being consistent, being dominant and being clutch. That’s how I want to play the game of football.”
With Wilson at the helm, the 2013 Seahawks are just that.
Last night’s huge win over Drew Brees and the Saints gave Wilson his 22nd win, tying him with Ben Roethlisberger for the most victories by a quarterback in his first two seasons, including 14 wins in games played in Seattle.
In those 14 wins at home, the Seahawks have outscored opponents by an average of 18.5 points while Wilson has thrown for 29 touchdowns and just six interceptions, completing more than 65 percent of his passes.
And with the 34-7 trouncing of the Saints on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks have become the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff spot and are in the driver’s seat to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC throughout the post-season.
If that’s not consistent, dominant and clutch, I don’t know what is.
If the Seahawks have problems at cornerback, coach Pete Carroll did a fantastic job of masking it on Monday night. Seattle became the first team in 44 games to hold Drew Brees under 200 yards passing Combine the Seahawks dominant defence with the way Russell Wilson and the offence can wear teams down with long, punishing drives, and it’s hard not to call Seattle the Super Bowl favourites.
The Broncos got off to a slow start in Kansas City, but thanks to 21-straight second-half points — all from Peyton Manning-to-Eric Decker touchdowns — Denver now has a one-game lead in the AFC West and a tight hold on the top seed in the AFC. It’s seems all but inevitable that Manning will break the record for TD passes in a season with 41 with 16 quarters of regular season football left to play.
The Panthers recorded their franchise-best eighth straight win, routing the Bucs by doing what they do best: running the offence through Cam Newton and playing stout defence. Newton accounted for all three of Carolina’s touchdowns while the defence held Tampa to just 206 total yards. The victory sets up a huge game against the Saints next Sunday for the NFC South lead.
With Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen healthy, this offence has completely transformed. Add in the stellar play of Julian ‘Minitron’ Edelman and Tom Brady’s options are just becoming more plentiful. Unfortunately, the Pats defence had one of its worst games this season against the lowly Texans, a point that should concern Bill Belichick heading into the home stretch.
As good as this team is in New Orleans, the Saints struggle mightily on the road and that can no longer be ignored with the chances of home-field advantage through the playoffs all but gone. The Saints have outscored opponents 199-95 at home but have been outscored 135-113 in six games on the road, half of which were losses. If Sean Payton can’t improve his team’s play away from the Superdome, the Saints are doomed.
For the second straight game, Colin Kaepernick posted a quarterback rating of 111 or better and the 49ers look to be rolling again, taking care of a tough Rams team fairly easily. San Francisco was able to jump over the Cardinals and now controls its own playoff destiny.
This is a completely different team from the one we saw start 9-0 and it all comes down to defence. With three straight losses, Kansas City has allowed more than 400 yards in four straight games and only three sacks in those contests. This has forced the offence into shootouts and while Alex Smith is playing some of his best football right now, it’s something the Chiefs are not built for.
Coming off the bye the Bengals needed a win in San Diego to keep the Ravens at bay in the AFC North. Cincinnati’s offence wasn’t necessarily dynamic but hit the Chargers with a balanced attack while the defence created a key turnover that led to the game-winning touchdown from A.J. Green. That’s the best recipe for the Bengals: keep it simple and play within your means.
Tony Romo’s incredible run in November continued on Thanksgiving, as the Cowboys’ quarterback is now 6-1 on the holiday and 16-1 in November for his career. But Dallas isn’t out of the woods yet with the Eagles hot on their trail in the NFC East. Knowing the Cowboys, the division title will come down to the Week 17 matchup against Philly.
Behind the mistake-free play of Nick Foles, who leads the league with a 125.2 quarterback rating, the Eagles have won four straight and remain in the NFC East race. Foles deserves much of the credit, but Philadelphia’s vast improvement on defence, most notably in the pass rush, has been the key aspect of the team’s resurgence.
The Lions may have blown out the Packers for their first Thanksgiving win in a decade, but it didn’t look good early. Turnovers continue to be a major problem for Matthew Stafford and boneheaded mistakes are holding this team from its true potential. Detroit does, however, have the most ferocious defensive line in the NFL.
Despite a key victory over the Titans on Sunday, this team is in all kinds of trouble. Since the loss of Reggie Wayne for the season, Andrew Luck has only thrown for 250 yards once and is averaging 160 yards through the air over his last two games. To boot, the running game is basically non-existent despite improved play from Donald Brown. Any playoff matchup looks like a bad one right now for the Colts.
Carson Palmer and the Cardinals got it going late in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 17-point third-quarter deficit. It was a tough loss for Arizona, who fell behind the 49ers in the NFC West and dropped to eighth in the conference. The Cards now face a crucial final month, with three of their last four games being division matchups.
The Ravens made it interesting by allowing Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers back into Thursday night’s game, but were able to hold them off for the win. With Joe Flacco and the defence playing better, Baltimore has to be considered the favourite to hold onto the sixth seed in the AFC.
Despite a scandal and a rash of major injuries, the Dolphins have been able to keep their heads above water in the AFC. Sunday’s win might have been the best of the season thus far for Miami, who completely dominated the Jets in New York. The Dolphins still have wild card life after putting up more than 450 yards on offence while the defence held the Jets’ struggling attack to just 177 yards total.
ESPN’s Mike Wilbon said it best on ‘Pardon The Interruption’ Monday: Marc Trestman is coaching scared. That’s exactly what he was doing when he opted to go for a kick to win the game on second down in overtime rather than running two more plays. Robbie Gould missed the kick and now the Bears are at a greater risk of missing the playoffs.
The Chargers did a good job defensively against the Bengals, but completely gaffed on the play that would end up being the winning touchdown from A.J. Green, who was left wide open in the end zone. That just can’t happen. It’s plays like this that have marred San Diego’s season and will keep them on the outside looking in.
If the failed two-point conversion didn’t take the wind out of the sails of the Steelers, the numerous injuries they suffered on offence during that final drive sure did. Despite outstanding play from Big Ben, Pittsburgh needs to win out and get help for a shot at the playoffs. Also, Mike Tomlin should be fined be the NFL, but all of this losing a draft pick talk is just silly. Unless intent can be proven, it’s only a penalty and therefore a fine.
After a couple of blowout victories, the Rams were held in check by the 49ers and it had everything to do with not making big plays. The Rams have thrived off the big play as of late but Tavon Austin was bottled up by San Francisco and the defence got only one takeaway after creating eight in the last two games.
While the running game isn’t quite there yet, this team is getting closer to playing Giants football every week. Eli Manning was almost perfect, minus an errant interception, while the defence has gotten back to what it does best: rushing the quarterback. If Justin Tuck’s play on Sunday continues into the next four weeks, New York will be a tough out for any team.
In Week 12 Ryan Fitzpatrick displayed exactly why the Buffalo Bills signed him to $59-million deal. This week the Harvard grad showed why the Bills released him in the off-season. Fitzpatrick’s four turnovers handed the Colts a win and effectively ended Tennessee’s hopes of a playoff appearance. There are big questions at quarterback in Nashville.
Just when you think the Jets have hit rock bottom, they come out with one of their most disappointing outings this year. The defence had its worst game of the season while Geno Smith was yanked, but not before he racked up an 8.3 quarterback rating. But don’t worry Jets fans, Smith is getting the nod for next week’s game against the Raiders and he can’t get much worse. Can he?
The Bills defence got roasted by Matt Ryan and the Falcons in Toronto on Sunday, but that wasn’t what cost them the game. An uncharacteristic fumble by Stevie Johnson in Atlanta territory effectively ended the game and Buffalo’s slim post-season dreams. The Bills are now 1-5 in their games north of the border.
While this may seem like the same old Raiders, head coach Dennis Allen has his group competing every week with an undrafted rookie quarterback in Matt McGloin and a group of misfits on defence. If this team can find consistency at quarterback, expect Oakland to make more strides next season.
If anyone still thought the Packers could be relevant without Aaron Rodgers under centre before Thursday, Matt Flynn put the debate to rest. With Eddie Lacy and the running game stagnant against the Lions, Green Bay’s offence was as ineffective as it’s been in recent memory. Even if Rodgers gets back before the end of the season, it’s best this team just puts 2013 behind it.
The Buccaneers three-game win streak came to a screaming halt against the NFL’s hottest team, a loss in which rookie Mike Glennon and Tampa’s defence came crashing down to earth. Glennon and company could get nothing going against the Panthers’ top-ranked defence while the Bucs’ D had no answer for Cam Newton. Tampa has a long way to go to compete with a team like Carolina.
Gus Bradley has done an admirable job with this team over the last month. With limited talent, the Jags have recommitted to the running game and vastly improved their defensive play. Jacksonville has allowed just 271 rushing yards over the last four games and has seven takeaways in that span after recording just eight in the first half of the season.
Snapping a five-game losing streak has got to feel good for a team that had aspirations of the Super Bowl in September. Matt Ryan and the offence operated well in Toronto, putting up only their third 100-plus rushing game of the season, while the defence gave up some big plays but created a key turnover late in the game to get the win. A positive in a mostly forgettable season for Atlanta.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Vikings starter Christian Ponder left the game injured and Matt Cassel entered the game in relief. Despite Sunday’s overtime win, that statement sums up the Vikings season. While Adrian Peterson became the third fastest NFL player to reach 10,000 rushing yards, the story in Minnesota continues to revolve around the quarterback position. Luckily, this year’s draft has plenty of options in the top five.
Speaking of quarterback issues…with the likes of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, the Browns have put together the core of what will eventually be a dangerous passing game. But without a legitimate quarterback, it will be impossible. The Browns projected starter in Week 14 against the Patriots? Trick-shot QB Alex Tanney.
There’s no doubt the officials made a mistake with the down call at the end of this game, the NFL admitted just that, but the Redskins lost the game, not the referees. Washington had two chances at a conversion on that drive; one pass was dropped while the other Pierre Garcon just allowed to be ripped out of his hands. All year the Redskins have been hurting themselves and that continued Sunday night.
C’mon Antonio Smith, why would the Patriots cheat against a team that hasn’t won in more than two months? Now engulfed in a franchise-record 10-game losing skid, the Texans latest lost may sting the most. Houston had plenty of opportunities to put away the Patriots but couldn’t pull the trigger, something that plagued the Texans even when the team was 2-0.