Whole Nine Sports

NFL Week 15 Recap

NFL Recap
Trevor Finnell
Follow Trevor @ThatBankaiLife
Follow Whole Nine Sports @WholeNineSports

Don’t get me wrong, the start of the NFL season is an exciting time.  After months of buildup, and a preseason that acts more like a tease than anything, we finally get the games that truly matter.  With a full offseason behind them, teams are eager to see if the changes that they made are the ones that will get them past the barrier that keeps them from achieving greatness.  While some fail at this attempt, there are those who find success, and that leads us to where we are currently.  Eight spots in the playoffs are currently filled, and four more are left to whomever wants them, granted that their record supports it.  Truth be said, the crunch time going into the playoffs is my favorite portion of the NFL season.

Considering that the Whole Nine Podcast went through a decent amount of the NFL games from this past week, and for good reason considering that college football is down to nothing but bowl games at this point, we’re going to mix things up a bit here on the recap!  Don’t worry, we’re still going to cover our “Game of the Week,” but instead of doing a ‘Double Trouble,” we’ll take a quick look at the teams that are still jockeying for that last playoff position, and see what lies ahead and what needs to be done in order for them to play in January! 

GAME OF THE WEEK:

Falcons Pull of the Upset, Potentially Spoiling Home-Field Advantage in the Playoffs for the 49ers

49ers Falcons

Falcons’ Head Coach Dan Quinn was quoted after this game as saying, “No, I don’t want to go back to look or look too far ahead.  I just want to stay in the moment with this group of guys.”  With the Falcons being 4-2 in the second half of the season, you can’t help but wonder what is going on with this team.  We knew going into the season that the Falcons had the talent to make a run for the playoffs, let alone the NFC South.  Why it’s taken so long for this team to finally realize their potential, no one will really know, but this question is going to hang over Quinn’s head for the rest of the season, and especially during the offseason. 

When RB/KR Kenjon Barner fumbled the ball on a punt return early in the 4th quarter, which was recovered by the 49ers and lead to a touchdown and a 9-point lead, everyone figured that the game was said and done.  Next thing we know, a 75-yard touchdown drive from QB Matt Ryan, (be sure to give thanks to 49ers FS Jimmie Ward Atlanta fans, for his defensive pass interference call that put the Falcons on the 1-yard line), followed up with a field goal by San Francisco and it’s a 17-22 game with less than two minutes in the game.  Regardless of the season, and what some may say, Matt Ryan is a great QB, and there’s no denying WR Julio Jones.  All of a sudden, it’s 23-22 Falcons, and with a botched lateral on the kickoff return with no time left on the clock, the Falcons get another touchdown, because why not?

Matt Ryan

 We could go on and on about, despite this major win over the 49ers, and their 26-9 win in New Orleans over the Saints back in Week 10, how this was a true failure on many levels for the Falcons this season.  Regardless, all eyes should be on the 49ers at this point.  Call it what you will, but this team should have, in no way, allowed this game to be as close as it was.  Allowing back-to-back touchdown drives of 75 and 70 yards, late in the 4th quarter, is reason for concern, regardless of who they were playing.  Perhaps the defensive hadn’t fully recovered from the 48-46 offensive onslaught against the Saints a week prior, or maybe this is just a typical sign of a defense that is getting tired near the end of the regular season. 

Over the last three games, the 49ers defense has a 44.12% third down conversion rate allowed, which includes the 53.85% that was provided to the Falcons.  This average over the last three games is nearly 13% higher than their season average of 30.91%.  First downs per game?  The 49ers are have allowed an average of 23 over their last 3 games, up from their 16.7 for the season  Yes, I’m fully aware that the stat encompasses the game with the Saints, where defense was just a suggestion, but it also accounts for the Ravens, and their number one offense in the NFL.  By the way, the 49ers lost to them as well, but only allowed 20 points in that matchup. 

Maybe I’m trying to be way to analytical for this one, and I’m overlooking one simple fact.  Here are the three teams that the 49ers have lost to thus far in the season: Seahawks, Ravens, and Falcons.  Notice a trend here?  Maybe they can finally buck it when they close out the regular season in Seattle.  For now, it’s time to head back home for a matchup with the inconsistent Rams. 

PEERING THROUGH THE WINDOW:
WHO’S LOOKING AT A SHOT FOR PLAYOFF FOOTBALL

As mentioned, we’re going to take a look at the teams who are jockeying for position to get those final playoff spots filled and keep the Super Bowl dream alive!  I’ll also be including a spot at the end of each section on how I feel the chances are for this team to make the playoffs.  I’ll keep it easy with a 1-10 scale, 1 meaning “there’s no chance they’ll make it,” and 10 meaning “I’m 99.999% positive that they’re in!”  Also, I may bundle up a few teams who are also fighting for both a playoff spot and/or the division crown, and those teams who are mathematically still in this race, yet we all know that there’s little chance that they get there.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers

Even with the loss to the Bills this past week, which with the win, gave Buffalo their second playoff appearance over the last three seasons, the Steelers are still in the hunt, and are currently slotted for the sixth seed if the season ended today.  Give credit where it’s due, and that all belongs to Head Coach Mike Tomlin.  Through all of the injuries, this team (especially their defense as of late), is still in the running, and could very well sneak in.  Their remaining schedule is all on the road, with a visit to New York against the Jets this week, followed by a trip to Baltimore to end the season.  If they win out, they’re in, but the game with the Ravens, who’d love to play the spoiler against a rival, could spell doom.  They get some help this week as the Titans visit the Saints, but one hiccup is all it will take.  A win against the Jets and a loss by the Titans will secure the wild card for the Steelers.

Chance to make it score: 7/10

Houston Texans/Tennessee Titans

Houston Texans Tennessee Titans

After going all in on the Titans last week during my recap, I have been rewarded with what could potentially end resulting in missing the playoffs for this team.  QB Ryan Tannehill was able to find a rhythm in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to push past the visiting Texans on this day.  The loss puts the Titans a game back of the Texans in the AFC South race.  At this point, the Titans have to steal a win over the Saints in New Orleans next week, hope that the Buccaneers push past the Texans, and then win their final game on the road in Houston.  If the Texans are able to beat the Bucs, then the AFC South is theirs, regardless of the final outcome in Houston against the Titans, due to having a better winning percentage in their division. 

Chance to make it score:

Texans 8/10

Titans 5/10

Cleveland Browns/Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders Cleveland Browns
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This is why I hate math folks.  Somehow, and in some fashion, both of these teams could still make a shot into the playoffs, regardless of how unfeasible it really is.  Honestly, I don’t even think that Cleveland fans want to see this Browns team in the playoffs, but then again, I’ve been wrong before.  For the Browns to make it, they’ll need to win out while the Steelers and Titans tank their final two games to sneak in with a better conference winning percentage.  Though, with their next game against the Ravens, I don’t see this happening.  As for Oakland, they need to win on the road against the Chargers, and Broncos, while the Steelers and Titans tank their final games, and the Browns and Colts lose just one over the next two.  I’ll go ahead and call this a true longshot.

Chance to make it score: Browns 2/10

Raiders: 1/10

Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles

Dallas Cowboys Philadelphia Eagles

Someone has to win the NFC East, regardless of how bad this team may end up being.  There’s no wild card dream for either team at this point, as they have no chance in making up enough ground to catch the 10-4 Vikings, who are currently in the 6th spot, so it’s all about hosting a playoff game from here on!  Essentially, this race comes down to the game this week in Philly.  Cowboys win, the division is theirs, regardless of the week 17 outcome due to a season sweep of the Eagles.  If the Eagles win, then they’d take the division lead, and secure it with a Week 17 win over the Giants, or a Cowboys loss against the Redskins.  There’s actually a lot more to the Eagles/Cowboys scenario, mainly if the Eagles beat the Cowboys, but then lose to the Giants while Dallas beats the Redskins, but we can examine that if needed later on.

Chance to make it score:

Cowboys 6/10

Eagles 4/10

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

A quick an easy one!  Win one of their next two games, and they secure the 6th seed in the playoffs.  But why stop there?  If the Vikings beat the Packers this week, then take the win over the Bears, then all that’s needed is for the Packers to lose their final game against the Lions, and the NFC North belongs to Minnesota!  While I do believe that the Vikings could beat Green Bay, I have a harder time seeing the Lions helping out in any way, shape, or form at this point.  Regardless, I like Minnesota’s chance for the 6th seed.

Chance to make it score: Wild Card 9/10

NFC North: 4/10

Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams

Yes, what could be one of the most inconsistent teams in recent memory still has a shot at making the playoffs.  Like the Vikings, their path is pretty straightforward as well.  To snag the 6th seed, the Rams need to beat the 49ers in San Francisco, and the Cardinals at home, while the Vikings lose to both the Packers and the Bears.  With that, the better conference winning percentage will belong to the Rams, and they’ll snag the final spot in the NFC.  If they didn’t have to take a trip to play the 49ers, who are also fighting for a better playoff seed currently, then it would be a LOT more feasible to consider the Rams making it into the playoffs. 

Chance to make it score: 2/10

THE PLAYOFF FORECAST!

NFL Playoffs

Now that we’ve broken it all down, let’s break it all down on the bracket.  While the AFC has the most in regard to who could possibly get in, the NFC at this point comes down to seeding.  While the Vikings haven’t ‘officially’ secured the 6th spot, I have a difficult time in believe that they’ll fail in this venture, though I believe Green Bay will still snag the NFC North crown.  Biggest change for the AFC is the return of the Steelers, considering it’s a long shot for the Titans at this point, and the Chiefs bypassing the Patriots for the number two seed.  But how might you ask?  Wait until you reach the “Forecast” section, and you’ll soon see why. 

QUICK THOUGHTS AND NOTES FROM THE REST OF THE WEEK 15:

Melvin Gordon
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

1.  Melvin Gordon may have done himself a favor honestly by holding out and not getting that contract extension.  Not because he could earn more money, but because he may not have to play for the Chargers anymore.  No, he hasn’t helped himself at all this season, and will more than likely end up signing for much less than the $13 million a year that he was asking for prior to the start of the season, yet at this point, if it gets him out of LA and onto another team, then why not?  Their game against the Vikings showed that the Chargers have a lot to fix, especially at their QB position.  With Eli Manning potentially retiring at the end of the season, it’s also time for Philip Rivers to consider the same. Rivers is an unrestricted free agent after the season, and I see no reason as to why LA should bring him back,

Drew Brees
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

2. Final Thought: Let’s put it to rest, shall we?  Drew Brees, at least in my opinion, is one of the 10 best QBs to ever play the game.  There’s no argument to this anymore.  Brees now owns the all-time records for passing yards, passing TDs, pass completion percentage, passes completed, and owns the 3rd best QB rating in NFL history.  To me, there’s little to no reason as to why he shouldn’t be considered in the top 10, considering he has a pathway to be mentioned in the top 5.  Regardless, congrats to Brees, and his family for this new accomplishment on Monday Night. 

THURSDAY’S FORECAST GETS PUSHED TO SATURDAY!

Jameis Winston

9-4 is how I’ll end the regular season for Thursday Night picks.  Not too shabby, all things considered!  With Thursday night games now over for the remainder of the season, (you can hear the NFL Players Association jumping with joy on that thought), we now turn our eyes to Saturday.  Also, with Week 17 being played solely on Sunday, this could end up being our last forecast for the regular season, but don’t you fret just yet!  I’ll be giving forecasts for each and every playoff game when the time comes!  For now, let’s take our shot on one last forecast, and by George, we get another triple set!

BUCCANEERS 34 – TEXANS 28

BILLS 18 – PATRIOTS 15

49ERS 26 – RAMS 13

The game with the Bucs and Texans is going to turn out to be yet another classic offensive onslaught, though I don’t see it reaching the same proportions as the Saints/49ers had earlier.  In all reality, it bundles down to the higher ranked Bucs offense against the higher ranked Texans defense, though neither defense has been much to write home about.  If QB Jameis Winston has a third straight 400+ passing yards and 4 passing TD game, then I’ll put the full bet on the Bucs to take it.  Considering it will be a home game for Tampa, I’ll give them the nod and upset win over the Texans.

Patriots Bills

The 49ers shouldn’t have to many issues with the Rams in San Francisco this weekend, and this was a rather easy choice on my part, but the real buster that you may have noticed was the Patriots/Bills.  Yes, to the joy of many Bills fans, I’m taking Buffalo to score the big upset win this week.  I could care less on how the Patriots looked against the Bengals.  Again, this is the Bengals we’re talking about, and I highly doubt that any “filming’ that was done that could have allegedly been used against them played any factor into this. 

Let’s not forget that the Patriots had a rough outing against the Bills earlier this year, squeaking out a 16-10 victory, with 6 of those points coming off a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.  This will be another defensive dominated game, but for all it’s worth, I like the Bills’ chance in this one.  If they keep the turnovers to a minimum, (allowed four against the Patriots in Week 4), then they have what it takes to get past this team.  The Chiefs have already showed the world that the Patriots can be beaten at home, and I think the Bills will begin the process that will see a possible changing of the guard in the AFC East.

That being said, I don’t think the Bills will take the AFC East.  Even with a win against the Patriots, the Bills will need to win their final game against the Jets and hope that the Dolphins pull off an upset of their own against the Patriots in Week 17.  The tiebreak atop the division boils down to what’s known as ‘common games,’ and in this scenario, it’s the Browns, who beat the Bills in Week 10 but lost to the Patriots in Week 8.  Weirder things have happened in the NFL, but I feel that it’s safe to call the AFC East for the Patriots, at least for one more season.  However, this loss against the Bills, and (if) the Chiefs win out the rest of their games this season, bumps the Patriots out of the second seed, forcing them into the Wild Card round for the first time since 2009.

Comments? Complaints? Gripes? Praises? Is Eli Manning a first ballot Hall of Famer?  Hit me up!  Find me on Twitter: @ThatBankaiLife