Best: Despite my doubts, the Cincinnati Bengals looked like a playoff team this week. They looked like they could compete with the best of teams. The stats speak for themselves. Burrow completed 37 of 46 for 4 TDs and 525 yards, the most yards ever in franchise history and the 4th most in NFL history. Receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’mar Chase combined for 319 yards and 2 TDs. Tyler Boyd also had a 68-yd touchdown reception. The offense has finally started clicking, and just in time. It was an aerial assault in Baltimore, yet again. In his two games against the Ravens this year, Burrow has thrown for 941 yards, 7 touchdowns, and has a 131.1 passer rating. An incredible performance against a tough, well-coached division opponent, and he is only in year 2 of his career. The Bengals defense was also dominant, specifically Trey Hendrickson, who deserves his own column. Hendrickson set the franchise record in sacks with 14. He has recorded at least 0.5 sack in 11 straight games. Possibly one of the best free agent pick-ups of last year. Cincinnati looks like they got a steal. After this week, we know the Bengals ceiling is high, but their floor is really low. They have played some truly awful games this year. That’s a lot of middle ground for this team to disappoint in the post season, but if they play half as good as in January, this team could be dangerous.
Worst: Once again the Panthers make this list, and not in the good way. Hey Matt Rhule, why are you playing 2 awful quarterbacks interchangeably like you think it will work eventually? It’s not working. You are not Sean Payton. It barely worked for him and he had a future HoFer in Drew Brees starting and Taysom Hill coming in to be his gadget player. You have 2016 RG3 at quarterback and Mitch Trubisky as your gadget. You seemingly would switch QBs at random, never letting either of them develop a rhythm. The combination of Cam Newton and Sam Darnold yielded just 206 net passing yards 0 touchdowns and an interception, with 63 of those yards coming on a blown coverage to Shi Smith. So take away that pass and they have 143 passing yards. Rhule is about to finish his 2nd season as HC of the Carolina Panthers, and has a record of 10-21. His offense is ranked 29th in yds/game, 29th in passing yds/game, 19th in rushing yds/game and 26th in pts/game. His defense has been the strength of this team but it hasn’t been enough. Stats don’t always show the true picture, that’s why I displayed his coaching ability, or lack thereof. Yeah, this was all Joe Brady’s fault. Brady was just the scapegoat for Rhule in an attempt to save him face. I expect Matt Rhule will be one of the few blindside firings on this years Black Monday. But, if he somehow gets a shot at a third season, I’m calling it. Rhule will be the first HC fired in the 2022 NFL season.
Best: The Jags/Jets game was one of the most entertaining games of the season. Not in the sense that it was an important game that would shake the standings in the post season, but more in the sense that you never knew what amazingly bizarre play would happen next. Neither team has anything to play for this year other than draft position but I guess no one told the players. They played their butts off and it was amazing because each team stumbled and tripped and failed their way through the entire game. These two teams seemed like they were trying to outdo the other on crazy ways to score a touchdown. This game had a 52 yard TD run by Zach Wilson, where it looked like multiple Jags defenders kinda gave up. The Jets then had their PAT blocked. On the Jags next drive, Trevor Lawrence fumbled lunging towards the goal line, causing the ball to roll into the endzone, where the right guard Will Richardson Jr. jumped on it for a TD. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, there was a 103 yard return for a TD by Braxton Berrios. In the second half, the Jets would go for it on 4th and goal, and Zach Wilson found Connor McDermott for a TD on a tackle eligible! This game was never boring. This was one of my favorite games to watch all year. Who would’ve thought? Jags and Jets fans, your season may be awful and full of disappointment, but your team finally gave you something to watch.
Worst: The Cardinals were handed their 3rd loss in a row, falling to 10-5 after starting the season 8-1. Maybe we were all fooled by there early success, because the cardinals we’ve seen these past few weeks look nothing like the team we saw to start the season. Remember when Kyler Murray was an MVP candidate? Yeah, that’s out of the equation now. This team went from having a multiple game lead in the competition for the #1 seed, to being the 5th seed and looking at a much tougher road to the Super Bowl. After the abysmal performance last week against Detroit, where they lost by 3 scores, people started to wonder if they were pretenders. I think we have our answer now. You could chalk that game up to a trap game, every great team has had one of those this year, Kansas City, Tampa, Buffalo, Tennessee, the Rams. But their loss to the Colts was the last bit of evidence we needed. The Colts were without most of their offensive line, Quenton Nelson, Mark Glowinski, and Ryan Kelly, with Erik Fischer and Jack Doyle leaving early due to injuries. They were also without their best player on the defensive side of the ball, Darius Leonard. They should have won this game. The Cardinals are officially the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers. They started out hot and looked unstoppable, albeit with some valid concerns about the sustainability of their success, similar to the Steelers, to dropping multiple winnable games in the final stretch to lose their homefield advantage in the postseason. How did the 2020 Steelers season end again? Oh, yeah. A blowout loss to a division rival in the Wildcard Round. Could that be the fate of the Arizona Cardinals?
Best: The Dallas Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and they might be the scariest team in the league after that dominating performance over Washington. The defense has proven that they can win them games if the offense is in a slump, but when the offense is clicking, you get games like Sunday night. The Dallas Cowboys scored more points in the 1st half than any other team scored in an entire game this week. It was a massacre. At least the Ravens put up a fight wit a third string QB. What’s Washington’s excuse? Similar to the Jags/Jets game, Dallas kept finding new ways to score TDs. They scored on a blocked punt, Demarcus Lawrence took an interception to the house, and Cooper Rush came in late to close the game and threw a TD pass to offensive tackle Terrance Steele, giving us another big man touchdown this week! I’m excited to see this team compete in the playoffs. NFC beware, these Cowboys are on a roll.
Worst: Yet another reason why the Chargers are frauds. I picked the Texans this week because I had a feeling this would be the outcome. There’s not much to say about this game other than this proves that the Chargers still need another year or two and several more key players to their roster before they are ready to make a legitimate push in the AFC. Herbert has the ability to take over games and win on his own, but he also has too many games like this week. Imagine going toe-to-toe with Mahomes one week and the next week getting outplayed by Davis Mills. If Herbert can clean up the 4-5 sloppy games a year he has, then he can be considered a true franchise QB. Until then he’s regulated to the group that is good but not good enough. You know the group, Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins. Those quarterbacks. His record this year accurately reflects his play, 8-7, an average QB.