Yes, Cleveland, there is a Santa Claus and he wears lightning bolts. The Mistake by the Lake can finally call themselves winners after beating the soon to be Los Angeles Chargers 20-17. Not even San Diego fans were willing to buy the $6.00 seats being offered to see their team play once more before moving to Los Angeles. Why would they? They left Qualcomm last week for Raiders fans so why fly across the country to be insulted one more time by a team whose owner now can’t find a local 99 cent store to let his team get snacks in let alone find a way to fund a new stadium.
The fall out from the Chargers loss will be felt for a long time. Besides losing their city, their coach will be gone, if he isn’t already by the time this article runs, Phillip Rivers is likely to be gone as will just about any other player on that squad over the age of 30.
In seven months time, Los Angeles will have what it was trying to avoid all along, two expansion teams that if combined together couldn’t scratch their butts let alone win a game against a decent opponent. Karma can be a bitch.
It is safe to say by the time these two semi-pro teams move into a new state of the art stadium, there will be no worries of major traffic jams in the South and because no one will be stupid enough to pay to see what will be two smoldering piles of refuse playing America’s game.
As for Cleveland, this is just the start of something. Next year, they are liable to win two games if they play both the Chargers and Rams. Maybe they can add San Francisco to the schedule and move to the AFC South where they would then be a threat to win their division. Oh, and forget about drafting another quarterback. It’s only fitting that a city that hosts the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continue to play musical quarterbacks. It keeps opponents guessing.
Even better for the Browns, they still hold the top draft position thanks to San Francisco being dumb enough to go for two points and then win in their game against the Rams. This just shows us all the Niners are too cheap to want the top pick, otherwise, they go for one and tell their long snapper to snap the ball to Riverside and lose the game. Now, they own two wins against the Rams and none against real teams. Maybe they should move south as well.
Cleveland’s 20-17 win over San Diego was not the only big news in the NFL this past weekend so lets look at the rest of the games and see where things stand with one week left in the season.
Philadelphia 24 – New York Giants 19
The Giants handed over the NFC East to Dallas with their Thursday night loss to the reeling Eagles. No one expected the Giants to win the division at this point of the season, but no one also thought they’d drop a game to Philadelphia either. Thanks to Eli Manning tossing out interceptions like Santa handing out toys at the mall, the Eagles got to enjoy an early Christmas while the Giants have to wonder if they are as big a threat to teams in January as we thought they were a few weeks ago.
Washington 41 – Chicago 21
Matt Barkley answered an important question in this game: can he complete a pass? The answer is a resounding yes, as long as they are wearing an opponent’s jersey. His five interceptions helped keep Washington’s slim playoff hopes alive while giving Chicago the hope they will be the next team to replace the Browns as the Great Lakes” next great mistake.
At what point does Bear coach John Fox realize maybe passing the ball is a pointless endeavor? If he was really smart, he’d realize he is not coming back next year so why not give his offense a Christmas gift and just tell Barkley to take a knee after each snap?
Green Bay 38 – Minnesota 25
Green Bay has their wish, a week 17 showdown with the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North after Aaron Rogers and Jordy Nelson ripped apart the Vikings defense. Perhaps the Vikings would have been better off just not making the trip after their plane skidded off the runway upon landing in Wisconsin. It just got worse after that. With the loss, they are now free to consume all the eggnog they can handle in order to forget the nightmare their season turned into. With one more win next week, Aaron Rogers will earn a new nickname, Nostradamus, after he predicted the Pack would win their final six games and land in the playoffs.
Miami 34 – Buffalo 31
Miami continues its winning ways with a come from behind overtime win over the Bills. Is this team resilient or just lucky now that they have won two straight with back up quarterback Matt Moore at the helm? They have now won nine of their last ten games and seem to be able to stay in games with an offense built around the running of Jay Ajai. However, is a defense that gives up 31 points to the Bills good enough to make a deep playoff run? Next week might be a good test if Bill Belichick decides to play his regulars in the season’s final game.
New England 41 – New York Jets 3
Poor Jets coach Todd Bowls. First he has to contend with rumors of his impending firing, then he is hospitalized in the middle of the week, and finally, he is let out in time to lead his team to a slaughter at the hands of the New England Patriots. I am not sure how this game went the distance. If it were a boxing match, the Jets coaches would have thrown in the towel before halftime.
To think that these two organizations participate in the same sport in the same professional league just shows us the NFL is nowhere near parity. Heck, this Jets team has won three more games than the Browns and still got throttled by a team they play twice a year. They should pack up and move to Los Angeles where they’d fit in perfectly.
Jacksonville 38 – Tennessee 17
To think, just two weeks ago the Tennessee Titans were looking like a playoff team and now they look like a bunch of misfits, but then when your star quarterback, Marcus Mariota leaves with a broken leg, it’s bound to suck the wind from your sails.
Jacksonville’s win should not be a big surprise no matter who played quarterback for the other side. Other than San Diego, they have probably blown more late leads than anyone else in the league.
Now that they are looking for a new head coach, the players must have decided they are the next ones on the chopping block and decided to finish what they started. Unfortunately for Tennessee, it meant being the Grinch that eliminated them from the playoffs. I am betting next year, the Titans will be everyone’s surprise pick to do what Oakland has done this year. For now, they have one more game left before they can start putting the finishing touches to what could be a good team for years to come.
Atlanta 33 – Carolina 16
The Falcons enjoyed another MVP type of performance from quarterback Matt Ryan while the Carolina Panthers saw last year’s MVP, Cam Newton, play more like a high school JV quarterback. It shows you just how these two franchises have flip-flopped this past year. Carolina looks nothing near the Super Bowl team they were a year ago and worse, they may not have hit rock bottom.
This is going to be a long off-season for this team. Newton has shown he is not an elite level quarterback who can keep his struggling team in games. You can say what you want about their defense and other players, but Newton folded this year under the label of super star quarterback, something Matt Ryan has yet to do.
San Francisco 22 – Los Angeles 21
I can understand wanting to avoid over time in a game that has no purpose. With a late touchdown, it makes sense to go for two, especially on the road. However, when you know Cleveland has finally won and if you finish in a two-way tie with them at season’s end you are assured the top pick in the draft, you make sure you botch the extra point. Instead, San Francisco wins and ends up losing in the process. There is a saying, “Stats are for losers,” and this game was filled with nothing but losers. The biggest bunch were Forty-Niners fans who now know their team has no desire to ever be great again.
New Orleans 31 – Tampa Bay 24
Just go back and read what I wrote about Tennessee’s loss. Tampa Bay can start working on next year.
Oakland 33 – Indianapolis 25
The game giveth, and the game taketh and in this game it took plenty from the Raiders despite their victory. If you asked every Raider fan would they give up home field advantage to have a healthy Derek Carr for the playoffs instead of a division title and a Carr with a broken leg, well, I think you know their answer.
Now, Oakland has to win the AFC West and hope with a bye week, relatively easy second round opponent, and a surgically repaired Carr, they might make it with him at the helm for an AFC title game. Otherwise, their dream season just had its heart and soul ripped from it.
Arizona 34 – Seattle 31
This game will hurt Seattle all off-season unless Atlanta loses next week and Seattle can find a way to stop the bleeding. After losing on a late field goal, Seattle now falls behind the Falcons for the second seed in the NFC playoffs and will now have a far more challenging path to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks have been unable to stop the pass since they lost safety Earl Thomas, now they may have to go without their other star safety Cam Chancellor who left the game with an ankle injury. They also lost wide receiver Tyler Lockett with a leg injury. Without an offensive line to protect Russell Wilson and no pass defense, Seattle looks to simply be the beneficiaries of playing in the NFC West. They have a lot of work ahead of them in the off-season. Heck, they have a lot of work just to be ready for next week.
Houston 12 – Cincinnati 10
With the win, the Houston Texans secured a spot in the playoffs, but with it, they proved their offensive struggles involve more than Brock Osweiller. New starting quarterback Tom Savage proved to be just as mediocre, although with a much cheaper price tag. With just a combined six points between these two teams through three quarters, they lit up the score board for all of 16 4th quarter points. This game had all of the excitement of a front yard nativity scene and is bound to be one NFL gift any fan wishes they could return.
Pittsburgh 31 – Baltimore 27
This game showed why this is the best rivalry by far in the NFL. With the Ravens needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and the Steelers needing it to win the AFC North, this was a playoff game. When Antonio Brown managed to reach the football across the goal line with nine seconds left and secure a Steeler win, football fans everywhere got to see why Pittsburgh is set for a deep run in January.
This is a team that does not get rattled when pressured. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger may not be the best quarterback in the NFL, but no team has a physically and mentally tougher player leading them than Pittsburgh. He also has one of the league’s best running backs in Le’Veon Bell and best receivers in Brown, all of whom seem to have a knack for rising up to the occasion.
Now that Baltimore will miss out on the playoffs, their off season could get interesting with there being talk of John Harbaugh either being canned or wanting out. Whoever coaches this team next year will need a much better season out of Joe Flacco than Harbaugh got if they want to keep pace with Pittsburgh.
Kansas City 33 – Denver 10
The AFC playoffs will be a bloodbath. No one will get out of it unscathed, not when a team like the Chiefs possibly being nothing more than a wild card team. They absolutely dismantled the defending Super Bowl champs who really are not that different than last year. Denver showed they were fortunate in their timing with a title last year because other than the change at the quarterback position this season, this team is still built around their defense like last year.
However, their defense has grown tired trying to hold opponents to under two scores a game just to have a shot to win. It is in dire need of an offensive overhaul which is why you can expect John Elway to go after the likes of Tony Romo, Drew Brees, or Phillip Rivers in the off season. If he doesn’t, the Bronco’s may need two locker rooms, one just for the offense so they don’t have to hear the grumblings of their defense.
As for the Chiefs, they may still come out on top of the AFC West if Oakland can’t win without Derek Carr. This would give Kansas City the number two seed and an even better shot at earning a trip to the Super Bowl. How good are the Chiefs? Well, they not only have a stellar defense, they have a bad ass security force to call on as well. Just ask a certain drunk fan who thought he would test it out.
Monday Night Prediction
It would be easy to see Dallas going through the motions in this game knowing they have already wrapped up the division title. It would also be easy to see Detroit play with a sense of urgency knowing they can no longer afford to lose any more this year, especially with Green Bay left to play in their season finale. However, this is a Cowboy team with little experience at playoff level football and this game will be a good time to get use to it knowing the importance it has for the Lions. Besides, can you see Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott doing anything less than thriving in the limelight of a nationally televised game?
Dallas 31 – Detroit 17
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Editor’s Update: This was a game in which Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott did shine in the limelight, along with Dez Bryant, who not only caught two passes for touchdowns, he threw a pass for a TD (to Jason Witten) — when the Cowboys were firmly in the lead. It was a trick play that had Prescott toss the ball to Bryant, who looked like he would run the usual reverse. Instead, after the defenders began to collapse to stop his run, he stopped and threw the ball to Witten.
The Lions didn’t lay down and the game was close for most of three quarters, but as the fourth quarter opened it was clear the Detroit defense had been worn down by the Dallas offense, led by Prescott and Elliott.
It was the interception of a Matthew Stafford pass in the third quarter by J.J. Wilcox — when the game was tied at 21 — that turned the tide of the game. It set up a 1-yard Elliott TD run, giving Dallas the lead, which it kept until the end of the game.
This was a Monday Night Football game worth watching.
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UPDATE, DEC. 28: Derek Carr, injured QB for the Oakland Raiders, said he will try to be ready for Super Bowl LI if his team gets there. February 5, 2017: That’s just over five weeks.
Top photo: Santa Claus delivers the first of two missed field goals for the Cleveland Browns (YouTube)