NFC East is Washington’s to Lose
A week ago, the Giants seemed like the best all-around team in the NFC East and the frontrunners for the division title. Then, they laid a gigantic egg against the Cardinals in what was as inept of an offensive performance as we’ve seen all year. The Giants’ path to the playoffs is suddenly cloudy given their remaining schedule, which includes games against the Browns and Ravens.
Offensively, the Football Team that plays in Washington has had the edge over the Giants with Alex Smith leading the way at quarterback. Washington’s offense has not just been serviceable, but it’s actually been pretty good since Smith took over. Entering Week 14, they had been averaging almost 28 points per game. Hopefully for Washington, Smith’s strained right leg won’t force him to miss any time. It might not matter with the way that defense has been playing behind Chase Young. Young was all over the field on Sunday, finishing with a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble-return TD.
Young is not just a special physical talent, although you could certainly see his ability on the below touchdown:
That’s pretty good speed for someone his size, wouldn’t you say? Young has paired that physical ability with good instincts and play-recognition skills as well as a great motor. Below, you can see him dissect a WR screen and then chase down wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk to make the tackle.
And here he is dropping out into coverage on the very next play. As soon as he saw the left tackle turn his attention away from him, Young attacked the quarterback.
Sometimes, pass rushers aren’t able to get to the QB, so they have to get their hands up and obstruct throwing lanes, like Young did on this play:
He can do it all, which makes it difficult for offenses to account for Young or try to remove him from the game with scheme. You can try to run the ball away from him, but he’s always capable of chasing down the play from behind and wreaking havoc:
The Football Team might have the upper hand right now, but don’t count out the Eagles just yet. Rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts had a stellar debut against a Saints Defense that has been one of the very best in the NFL this season. He provided a needed spark with 167 yards passing and 106 yards rushing, adding a running element that Carson Wentz doesn’t really have. If the Eagles can beat the Cardinals and Cowboys in their next two games, we might be headed for a Week 17 play-in game between the Eagles and Washington.
How They Have to Play to Win:
The Rams have significantly increased their “12” personnel (1 RB, 2 TE) usage over the last 2 weeks. If you remember, it was 2 weeks ago that we questioned whether or not the Rams can trust Jared Goff. Goff is a complementary quarterback who needs the system to work to be effective. There is nothing wrong with that. And over the last two weeks, this is how Sean McVay has attacked: Bigger personnel, more reliance on Cam Akers and the run game (50 carries in 2 games), and play-action (which they’ve always used). The best chance L.A. has to win is for Goff to limit the turnovers and let the defense do its thing.
The Buccaneers seemed to reset their offense as well on Sunday. Prior to their Week 13 bye, Tampa was throwing the ball almost 64% of the time, the 5th highest rate in the NFL. On Sunday, they ran the ball 23 times and called 23 passes. That’s the balance Bruce Arians has been speaking about lately. Tampa doesn’t need to be completely 50/50 balanced for the rest of the season. But increasing their usage of the running game will help protect Brady and set up more opportunities off of play-action.
Is the Seahawks Defense Back?
Since getting thumped in a Week 9 loss to the Bills, Seattle’s Defense has allowed just 16.2 points per game over their last 5 games. You can question the level of offensive competition (Rams, Cardinals, Eagles, Giants, Jets), but there’s no question that they are playing much better. Much of that is due to the return of Jamal Adams, who leads the Seahawks in sacks (8.5) and set a single-season record for sacks by a defensive back (in just 9 games). He is also currently tied for the lead in tackles for loss by a defensive back. Adams provides flexibility for this defense. He has made an impact against the run, rushing the passer, and in coverage. The Seahawks Defense is completely different with him healthy and in the lineup.
Another Blueprint for Stopping the Chiefs?
As is quickly becoming a weekly tradition in the NFL, if Kansas City doesn’t score 40 points, we need to look at the defensive gameplan as if it is a blueprint for stopping the Chiefs. I have a ton of respect for Brian Flores and the Dolphins Defense. They are the real deal. That said, the Chiefs racked up 448 yards and 7.3 yards per play (They lead the league with 6.6 yards per play this season, for context).
Patrick Mahomes did throw 3 interceptions and was sacked 3 times. However, most of those mistakes were self-inflicted. His first two interceptions came on a screen (where he didn’t see a defender who had fallen down) and a dump off where he lost his feet and just missed his receiver. His 3rd interception was underthrown from a clean pocket.
On one sack, Mahomes was out of the pocket and should have thrown the ball away but didn’t. Another came on a 3rd down where Mahomes had 2 quick underneath throws open but didn’t take them. Simply put, this was a relatively bad game for Mahomes (the first of his career?). He still threw for 393 yards and the Chiefs Offense scored 24 points.
The Bills are the 2nd Best Team in the AFC
Josh Allen has been getting a lot of attention lately, and it’s well deserved. But how about the difference Stefon Diggs has made for the Bills Offense? Diggs leads the NFL with 100 receptions after back-to-back 10-catch nights against the 49ers and Steelers. Pittsburgh had no answer for him in the middle of the field on Sunday.
The Bills Defense is also an element of this team to keep an eye on. After struggling for much of the season, they are starting to look like the unit that led Buffalo to the playoffs in 2019. On Sunday, they held the Steelers to just 224 total yards and forced 2 critical turnovers, including a pick-6. If that defense continues to gel, the Bills will be the top threat to the Chiefs in the AFC.
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