Tuesday Afternoon Football: Week 13
After my own personal bye week for Week 12 of the NFL season, Tuesday Afternoon Football is back! Week 13 of the NFL season was full of surprises, full of craziness, and it was home to one of the most insane games of the year. The playoff races are shaping up nicely, contenders are emerging, and the pretenders are getting exposed. With that being said, let’s jump into the 13th week of the 2018 NFL season.
Cowboys Suffocate Saints, Look like NFC East Favorites:
This matchup between the streaking Dallas Cowboys and the sizzling New Orleans Saints was one of the most hyped games of the week, and it delivered, but not for the reasons that I thought it would. While I thought this game had the potential to be a competitive one, the outcome truly shocked me.
The Dallas Cowboys beat the New Orleans Saints 13-10 on Thursday night. The Cowboys defense just absolutely suffocated Drew Brees in a way that no one ever has, and they might have finally figured out how to win consistently with Dak Prescott at the helm of the offense.
Many people, including me, have been down on the offense of the Cowboys, and rightfully so. I still believe it is an average offense at best, but their defense took over against the Saints. They forced Drew Brees to complete only 18/28 passes with only one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice, and he fumbled once. The dynamic two-headed rushing attack of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined to rush for 63 yards.
The defense of the Cowboys currently ranks fifth in opponents yards per game (318.2), fourth in opponents rushing yards per game (91.2), and seventh in opponents passing yards per game (226.9). All of that is HUGE for a team that can’t win a shootout with the top-tier teams in the NFC. Their young linebacking group that is headlined by Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith is incredible, and if those two are at the forefront of their defense then they will be able to hang with anybody in the NFC.
The most important thing about this win for the Cowboys was not that they showed how elite their defense can be, or how they can beat a top-tier team like the Saints, the most important thing about this win for the Cowboys is that they now sit alone atop the NFC East. Currently at 7-5, they have a one-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys are riding a four-game winning-streak, and will be playing those Eagles during Week 14 in a game that will likely clear-up whether or not the Eagles will ever truly awaken from their Super Bowl hangover.
Like I said before, the offense for the Cowboys was mediocre, but they did enough to get the job done. That offense will remain mediocre because Dak Prescott simply isn’t a top-tier quarterback in today’s NFL. They have a great running back, Amari Cooper has been spectacular since being traded away from Jon Gruden, and they have other solid pieces all across the field. Dak is somewhat of a hindrance because he doesn’t have the superstar arm-talent that a guy like Carson Wentz has. He can manage a game like the best of them, but that can only get you so far.
Still though, I do think the Cowboys are now a near-lock to come out of the NFC East after this win, especially because of the year-long historic hangover in Philly and the incompetent management in Washington.
Now for the Saints, I don’t think there is too much to take away from this game, it was clearly just a “burn the tape” game for them. They showed that they are human, they aren’t invincible, but we already knew that. The bottom line here is that it is far better to have a game like this now instead of in the postseason.
Yeah, the Cowboys showed that with tough, physical defense the Saints offense can be slowed to a crawl, but I think they are still the team to beat in the NFC, they haven’t given me any reason to believe otherwise. Will this game hurt their overall standings in the conference? Yes, they probably won’t have the no. 1 seed, but if the higher-seed wins every game then they will have home field advantage until the conference championship.
Will this game cost Drew Brees the MVP? No, most likely not. Brees definitely is still in the conversation for the award, but the gap is definitely closer after having his worst game of the year. If the year ended today I would still have him winning the award over Patrick Mahomes II and Andrew Luck.
The Saints will continue to march along to a high seed in the playoffs, and the Dallas Cowboys have proven that they are not to be messed with. This was a great primetime matchup, and if these two teams meet in the playoffs that game should be just as entertaining.
Nine-Straight for the Texans:
The Houston Texans survived my kiss of death two weeks ago when I said that they were playing incredible football and one of my favorite teams to watch right now. I said the same thing about the Indianapolis Colts and they just lost a game to the Jaguars by a score of 6-0. Surviving my jinx was impressive enough, but they also won their ninth-straight game this week.
They beat the Cleveland Browns 29-13, and looked pretty formidable while doing it. Yeah, you can scoff at that victory because it was against the lowly Browns, but winning nine-straight games is remarkable in any sport, regardless of opponent.
The Houston Texans effectively slammed the door on the Indianapolis Colts, crushing their dreams of winning this division. This Texans team hasn’t lost a game since September 23, and they have outscored their opponents by 82 points over that span. I really like this Texans team, and think they have a chance to truly rustle some feathers when the playoffs roll around, but I do have some concerns.
First of all, since their nine-game win streak started Deshaun Watson has only thrown for more than 200 yards three times, which isn’t great. I know that they don’t have as many weapons on offense as the other teams at the top of the AFC do, but that is still an alarming stat once you see it. In fact, his stats and Dak Prescott stats are eerily similar:
Not only are their stats eerily similar, their teams also rely on a similar strategy to win: play just well enough on offense to let your defense carry the load. Their defense is currently 10th in yards per game, 15th in passing yards per game, sixth in interceptions, 10th in sacks, sixth in fumbles, and third in points per game. They have an elite defense that does more than enough to carry their mediocre offense, but that appears to have become a sustainable formula for them as no one has stopped them in nine-straight weeks.
I don’t think this team has been given enough credit for how well they have been playing this season, and they get lost in the shuffle as the top teams like the Chiefs, Rams, Saints, and Patriots have been more captivating from an offensive standpoint. That needs to change though, because this team looks like it is here to stay.
Update from the Front of the Jimmy G Hype Train:
CK Collusion QB of the Week: The Washington Redskins recently lost their quarterback for the season and potentially next year as well when Alex Smith suffered a Joe Theismann-like injury. Colt McCoy took over, and they signed Mark Sanchez to be a backup. McCoy fractured his fibula and is now out for the year as well. Sanchez, who last started in 2016 (the same year as Kaep) took over and completed 13 of 21 passes for just 100 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. If only there was a free agent quarterback who took over a team when Alex Smith got injured in 2012 and led them to a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship the next year...oh wait.
Breakout Player of the Week: Philip Lindsey of the Denver Broncos continued his incredible rookie season after going undrafted by rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries on Sunday against the Bengals. This man is a stud and looks like he will break the 1,000-yard mark next week.
Loser of the Week: The Indianapolis Colts got shut out against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, and the Jaguars only scored six points. I’m not sure who the real loser is here, the Colts (Andrew Luck’s first career shutout), or any fan who watched this game from start to finish.
Weekly MVP: Russell Wilson was incredible on Sunday, just ripping the 49ers apart while only throwing 17 passes. He went 11/17 with 185 yards and four touchdowns, I didn’t even realize a statline like that was possible. While Mahomes, Brees, and Luck have been discussed at length for the MVP award, Russell Wilson definitely deserves consideration.
The Good, the Bad, and the Odd:
The Good: The New England Patriots, who we all were very concerned about after three weeks, are now 9-3 after beating the Minnesota Vikings 24-10. The Patriots are still here folks, they are still good, the Brady-Belichick train marches along. I imagine they are going to make all of us who wrote them off after Week 3 look like idiots when they hoist the Lombardi Trophy again in February.
The Bad: Reuben Foster and Kareem Hunt were both released from their teams this week after both were accused of domestic assault. Foster was arrested for the third time in 2018 over the issue, and Hunt was featured in a video on TMZ that showed him shoving and kicking a woman. While both were released and put on the commissioner's exempt list, the Washington Redskins still picked up Reuben Foster, so that’s a great look. Foster, Hunt, and the Redskins are an embarrassment right now.
The Odd: The end of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Los Angeles Chargers game last week was WILD. I won’t break it all down for you here, but if your team manages to commit two offsides penalties on consecutive plays, allowing the Chargers to win the game with a field goal, you are going to make the list.