I see the Kansas City haters are out in full force. For the first time in 2013, the Chiefs took one on the chin, losing to Peyton Manning and the best offense in football, 27-17. Call me an apologist, but I really don’t see how this game unveiled KC as frauds.
Just look at the numbers. Denver was held to 27 points (season low), and Peyton Manning finished with 323 passing yards (30 below average) and a single touchdown pass (season low). You can say I cherry picked the stats if you’d like, but the fact of the matter is Kansas City played against the NFL’s top ranked offense as good or better than any other team has, and they belong in the conversation of upper crest teams this year.
Let’s get to the rest of the quick hits.
- Sticking with the Denver-Kansas City game, the one thing that can’t be overlooked about the Chiefs is their lack of pass rush. KC didn’t get a single sack in the game, and Manning was as clean while shaking hands as he was during the Star Spangled Banner. For a team leading the NFL sacks, you’d expect them to be able to at least knock down a quarterback fresh off an ankle injury. Also, it’s worth noting that the 27 scored by the Broncos was the first time this season the Chiefs allowed greater than 17 points.
- As for the Broncos, they came out and got the job done, plain and simple. Montee Ball stepped up in the running and passing games, finishing with 2 TD runs and looking a lot better in pass protection than he did early in the year. Because the pass protection lapses were a big reason for his lack of playing time early in the season, perhaps we’ll see more of a split between him and Knowshon Moreno from here on. That being said, Moreno still looked a lot better running the ball.
- Right before that game was the other game of the week, 49ers @ Saints. It was the first time San Fran returned to the Superdome since the Super Bowl, and it ended in a similar fashion. If you look at the stats it’s really surprising that New Orleans was the team in comeback mode throughout the 4th Quarter. The 49ers didn’t even muster 200 yards of offense, while the Saints had more than 400. The Niners are great at turning takeaways into points, though, and that’s what had them in position to win before Garrett Hartley redeemed himself. The kicker had missed four of his last six tries before hitting the game tying and game winning kicks on back-to-back drives.
- The San Francisco loss means a 3-1/2 game cushion in the NFC West for 10-1 Seattle after the Seahawks blew out the Vikings. You might as well hand them the division title now. The only thing up in the air if if they or 8-2 New Orleans will have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. None of Pete Carroll’s players put up jaw dropping numbers against Minnesota, and they still scored 41 points. The biggest factor for them was the return of possible game changer, Percy Harvin, whose one handed catch could be a sign of things to come.
- The Bears kept pace in the NFC playoff race in a game that started at 1:00 EST and ended after 6:00. Not only were they off the field for a couple hours because of the strong storms rolling through, the game with the Ravens also went to Overtime. It can’t be overstated how important a decent back up quarterback can be in this league. Josh McCown has come out and done everything Chicago has asked of him, and he’s won games to keep them in the playoff hunt.
- Meanwhile, Green Bay hasn’t had such luck. The Packers got 300 yards from Scott Tolzien, but three interceptions were costly in a loss at the Giants. I really don’t pin either of the last two losses on the former practice squad QB though. To me, the brunt of the blame should fall on the Green Bay defense. The Dom Capers group has always allowed yards, but they’ve been able to bail themselves out by creating turnovers. Well, guess who’s 28th in takeaways and last in interceptions? The same Packers team that only took one ball from the Giants, the soup kitchen of turnovers. The defense has to get better, or Green Bay won’t stand a chance to make the playoffs.
- By the way, the pick six by Jason Pierre-Paul? Such an impressive play. The defensive end who’s been injured most of the year just plucked a throw toward the flat out of the air at the line of scrimmage, taking it to the house with ease. And if you didn’t notice, the G-Men are rolling. After starting 0-6, New York is now 4-6.
- Detroit started the day leading the NFC North alone, but they ended it back in a tie with Chicago because of a strong effort by the Steelers. Pittsburgh came out firing in the rain with Ben Roethlisberger connecting with Antonio Brown for a couple early touchdowns. Then, after weathering the storm of Calvin Johnson’s 179-yard 1st Half, the Steelers dominated down the stretch to improve themselves to 4-6.
- They won’t be catching the Bengals any time soon, though. Cincinnati got a horrendous effort from Andy Dalton Sunday, but a blocked punt touchdown and fumble recovery score on back-to-back possessions sent Cincinnati to a win over Cleveland and a dominant 2-1/2 game advantage in the division. For the Browns, there were bright spots, but most of them came in the first quarter before the collapse. Joe Haden on AJ Green though was pure domination. Green was held to one catch for seven yards, breaking a stretch of five straight 100-yard performances.
- The Eagles were proclaimed dead a few weeks ago, but look who’s in first place at 6-5. Philadelphia is thriving under Nick Foles, and the defense has improved greatly since their early season shoot outs. Foles has yet to throw an interception, which is interesting because it was a bone headed pick thrown by Robert Griffin III that clinched the game for Philly. RGIII did get the Skins back in the game with two other TD drives, but that play trumps the rest. Either way, the Eagles are looking strong, and with a Week 17 game at Dallas it could be the third straight year (and third different opponent) the Cowboys play for the division title or nothing to finish the regular season.
- The AFC didn’t offer too much in intriguing match ups this week, but the Thursday nighter was big for Indianapolis. The Colts have put themselves in big holes three straight weeks now, but they dug out of it, erasing a 17-6 halftime deficit for a 30-27 win. It was big for Indy because if Tennessee had won the division lead would be just a single game. Instead, the Colts have regained control in the South.
- The Jets’ yo-yo trip through the schedule continues. Through 10 games, New York has now alternated wins and losses every week, sitting at 5-5 after being blown out by EJ Manuel and the Bills. Geno Smith was putrid, going 8-23 for 103 yards 3 interceptions, but shockingly enough they’re still the last Wild Card in the AFC. On the other hand, Manuel looked right at home, finishing 20-28 for 245 yds and a pair of scoring strikes.
- The Chargers are proving to be the same San Diego team we’ve always known, even with Norv Turner out of the picture. A loss to Miami puts San Diego at 4-6, a game worse than the 5-5 turmoil riddled Dolphins. It seemed like Miami was headed for the tank after losing to Tampa Bay last week, but they stepped up and stayed in the AFC playoff picture.
- It was another week and another embarrassing loss for the Texans. Houston was playing an Oakland team without QB Terrelle Pryor or RB Darren McFadden, so what happens? Back up QB Matt McGloin, in his first career start, throws 3 TD passes, and RB Rashad Jennings goes for 150 yards and another score. Houston is a nightmare right now, and the return of Matt Schaub certainly didn’t help.
- The Buccaneers are playing their way out of the depths of the NFC, to a small extent at least. Tampa Bay just dominated Atlanta, showing signs of life and getting 163 rushing yards from Bobby Rainey. Rainey was the 4th string back for Tampa a few weeks ago, and now he’s running over the Falcons just like everyone else seems to be. What’s happening to Atlanta? I can’t for the life of me figure it out.
- The Bucs might be headed north, but the Jaguars got pushed back down after getting their first win a week ago. Arizona improved to 6-4, and Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards and a pair of TDs to beat Jacksonville. The Cardinals surprisingly are the 7th seed in the NFC right now, losing out to San Francisco on a tiebreaker.