If I still have an ounce of emotion moving forward after witnessing the Browns give up that walkoff kick six to the Ravens, it’s buried underneath all the shame of being a Cleveland fan. On the bright side, Detroit’s loss on a Hail Mary on Thursday was equally as brutal.
I’m still devastated about Scott Weiland passing away. As a Stone Temple Pilots fan, I really liked his voice, and STP is one of my most listened to bands. Such a tragic loss. #RIP
On a much lighter note, it’s the beginning of December, which means the playoff race will be tight in the AFC and NFC. As such, this week’s Primetime games include must win scenarios for certain teams. Without further delay, I present previews for Indianapolis vs. Pittsburgh and Dallas Vs. Washington.
Sunday Night Preview: Matt Hasselbeck’s Revenge
In Super Bowl XL, the Pittsburgh Steelers prevailed over the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Detroit to earn 1 of 2 Super Bowl rings from the 2000s’ (2008). The game is known as one of the most controversially officiated games in NFL history, leading to criticism from many media outlets who felt the refs hurt Seattle’s chances.
Which brings us to today. Matt Hasselbeck QB’d that 2005 Seattle team, and he’s back to relevance (somewhat) as the temporary starter for the Colts in place of an injured Andrew Luck. Appropriately, he faces the Steelers again, this time in Pittsburgh. The stake is also crucial, as both teams are fighting for a playoff spot despite facing injuries on both sides of the ball.
A lot has been made over how the Colts are suddenly doing better than any of us could have imagined without Luck, and I think I have an explanation on why that is. It’s been noted Hasselbeck gets the ball out a lot quicker than Luck does, and the offense has played safer compared to the more gunslinger-esque offense we’re used to seeing under Luck. And incredibly, it’s held up, with Hasselbeck playing well enough for the Colts to stay alive in the AFC playoff race.
On the other side, the Steelers, coincidentally coming off a loss to Hasselbeck’s old team, are one of the best offenses in the league, with Ben Roethlisberger having one of the finest seasons of his future Hall of Fame career. His 11-9 TD-INT ratio doesn’t look great at first, but he’s been way better than these indicate. He’s excelling on the deep ball, leads 2015 in yards per game (334.7), and has excelled with his decision making despite battling injuries throughout the entire year. QBR agrees, and he ranks 3rd this year (72.8).
Behind Ben (he’s assumed to play after a concussion suffered against SEA) are the dynamic receiving duo of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, as well as DeAngelo Williams, who has done a fantastic job filling in for Le’Veon Bell after he got knocked out for the season. Marcus Wheaton is coming off a high profile game, to the shock of everyone. Together, the offense has continued its excellence with Ben at QB, but the play calling has killed them at points (Mike Tomlin kicking a field goal at the goal line down by 5 last week).
Both defenses aren’t that great either, and Ben decimated the Colts last year when he had perhaps the finest game of his career in a historic performance. Not much has really changed, and God forbid Vontae Davis is an elite corner.
With a healthy Ben, I expect a Steelers victory. Pittsburgh has to test the Colts deep and balance it out with Williams’ rush attack. The Colts must take advantage of the short pass game against a rebuilding defense in order to have a chance at this game. There’s not much for me to say other than that.
Monday Night Preview: Playoffs???? You Like That????
Another primetime game featuring the NFC East. It seems like they’re on all the time.
Before making this article, I checked every primetime game from this season, and indeed, NFC East teams are involved in primetime games a total of 19 times. See the chart below for further details.
(Yes, Minnesota only has 2 primetime games this year. Guess the return of Adrian Peterson wasn’t much of a promise).
The Cowboys are tied with the Patriots for the most primetime appearances with 6, and can you blame them? Expectations were huge for Dallas this season, but Tony Romo, coming off a mistake riddled and injury-plagued performance against the Panthers, broke the same clavicle he injured earlier in the year, and his season is over (screw the “We’re saving him until the playoffs” crap from Jerry Jones). Inevitably, with their best player out for the season, Dallas’ is reaching its twilight.
As such, this preview will focus almost entirely on the Redskins. They’re in first place 5-6 in the worst division in the NFL, but that’s better than what they did in 2013 and 2014. With the entire division imploding, the Skins have reaped the benefits ahead of the other 3 teams in the NFC East.
I’d be cautious on buying Kirk Cousins’ stock though. His stats in the last five games certainly look solid (71.3 CMP% for 1,367 yards, 273 yards per game, 10 TD, 2 INT, and a 111.5 passer rating), but I haven’t been the slightest bit impressed. Obviously, there’s some good throws in his highlight reel, but Cousins is merely putting these stats up against a weak schedule. In those five recent games, he’s faced teams including Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and New York Giants. All 3 of those teams have bad defenses, and when Cousins faced a real defense in the Panthers and Patriots, he struggled.
It doesn’t help that Cousins got a lot of yards from dumpoffs to Matt Jones in that stretch, as well as benefitting from a multitude of dropped interceptions. Cousins is doing system-esque stuff, relying on short passes and players around him to make big yards after the catch. Jay Gruden, as stubborn as he is about RGIII, has done a great job getting the most out of a limited QB in Cousins, while benefitting from some cakewalk matchups as well.
Since coming back from injury, DeSean Jackson has excelled as the Skins’ slot receiver, and helps coming against a mediocre-at-best Cowboys defense. With Romo out for the season, the likelihood of getting more chances from a Matt Cassel led offense increases. Washington must use the short passing game to their advantage, while constantly pressuring Cassel on defense and forcing him to beat them deep. Dallas’ run game without DeMarco Murray has been anything but consistent (the same can be said for him), so Darren McFadden leading the way sends mixed feelings.
This is game that can go two ways; Washington winning by a lot, or winning by a little. Either way, I see an awful matchup on paper with the Redskins winning. I’m sure DC fans will like that though.