Week 16 Takeaways: Wentz’s Masterpiece and a Dallas Dud

Plus, Dak misses the mark and Amari disappears, Lamar Jackson toys with Cleveland, Michael Thomas catches everything, Daniel Jones cooks, Duck Hodges melts down, Bill Callahan chickens out, and the Bengals are (picking) No. 1! All part of a wild penultimate week of the NFL regular season.
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Carson Wentz in win over Cowboys

Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 16 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Carson Wentz and a Philly Masterpiece: Wentz has taken a ton of heat in 2019 (part expectations created by the contract, part lots of people who don’t watch games closely enough to understand them throwing out lazy criticisms). Wentz is working with a receiving corps that’s untalented, young and mistake-prone to the point of being completely unreliable. To be able to manufacture just enough offense each of the past three weeks is what a franchise quarterback does. He had 40 dropbacks on Sunday, finishing with 313 passing yards, one sack taken and no turnovers.

Michael Thomas Catches Everything: Everything as in an NFL single-season record 145 catches.

Lamar’s Ball Placement: This is an awkward arrangement of moving bodies, and exceptional that Jackson—under duress—still manages to put it where only his target can catch it.

Nyheim Hines’ Daily Double: If you need one person to return your punts this holiday season, Colts scatback Nyheim Hines is your man. Two punt-return TDs on Sunday—no one has done that since Reggie Bush in 2008.

Derek Carr Gets Some Love: I mean, sheesh, the guy has had a good year while surrounded by underwhelming talent, and he gets booed and pelted after the final game in Oakland in large part because of a blown call. Nice to see him getting some adoration from the fans in Los Angeles—he is, after all, the quarterback of the most popular team in L.A.

Jared Cook Up the Seam: He had a long catch-and-run TD on a crosser, but this is where he’s a difference-maker for the Saints (and this has been Drew Brees’s favorite throw for, literally, decades).

The Early Promise of Daniel Jones: Jones returned to the lineup and put up 352 yards with five touchdowns and no turnovers against a Washington defense that’s been game in 2019. Jones needs to become more urgent in the pocket—a far easier habit to correct than the other end of the spectrum (known in the medical community as “Blaine Gabbert disease”)—because his turnovers are often a result of holding onto the ball too loose and for too long. But anyone pushing the “do the Giants pull a Cardinals and draft another first-round QB?” narrative has a fundamental misunderstanding of quarterbacking. Jones is in a good place in terms of development.

Bad Teams Play Exciting Games: It doesn’t mean it’s good football (though the Giants undoubtedly have their quarterback of the future in Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins had the best performance of his rookie year). But with Giants-Washington and Bengals-Dolphins, you had evenly matched teams and aggressive (except for Bill Callahan) coaches, leading to close games.

Chris Boswell, Even If It Is a Year Too Late: He quietly had one of the best bounce-back years you’ll ever see from a kicker. A year ago, as everything broke wrong for a good Steelers team, he went 13-for-20 on field goals (6-for-11 from 40 and beyond) and missed five PATs. This year, as everything breaks right for a not-so-good Steelers team, he’s 28-for-30 (10-for-12 from 40 and beyond) and perfect on PATs.

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Regrets

An Unforgivable Dud From the Dallas Offense: Dak Prescott was scattershot all day in Philly. And when he was on-target, his receivers were drop-prone. Ultimately, the Cowboys offense couldn’t take advantage of a weak group of cornerbacks in a do-or-die game. They’re probably going to figure out a way to extend Prescott and Amari Cooper, but after watching what transpired on Sunday, that can’t give you much peace of mind.

Amari Cooper Goes Invisible (Again): The Cowboys are at their best when he’s a big factor. The offense often doesn’t do anything when Cooper doesn’t do anything. On Sunday, Dak Prescott’s accuracy was an issue, but it was another dud on the road for Cooper, against a team with glaring weaknesses in the secondary. Perhaps fittingly, he was on the sideline for the Cowboys' final offensive play.

The Legend of Duck Hodges: The Endening: And boy, was it ugly for the Pittsburgh folk hero. Hodges looked like an undrafted rookie from Samford the past two weeks, which makes sense considering he’s an undrafted rookie from Samford. He was game after re-replacing and injured Mason Rudolph late, but he’s a long way from being a starting-caliber quarterback. In a combined six quarters against the Bills and Jets, Hodges averaged 5.4 yards per attempt and threw six interceptions.

Another Browns Meltdown: Surely, the Haslams don’t have the appetite for firing another first-year coach. But the Browns—especially the offense—have looked so unprepared, the game plans so half-baked, the in-game management so full of mistakes . . . the process has truly matched the results in 2019.

Bill Callahan Goes Down a Coward: A meaningless game for an interim coach, the young quarterback already sidelined by an injury, Callahan watched Washington backup Case Keenum lead a touchdown drive in the final minute to pull within a point, and then . . . kicked the PAT!?!?! Daniel Jones took it down the field on the first possession of overtime and won the game, giving Callahan precisely what he deserved.

That Nashville Turf: It looks like an ice rink far too often. Someone get the Wizard of Sod over to Nissan Stadium.

I Don’t Know About These Seahawks, Man: Granted, next Sunday night, when they host the 49ers, is the one that really matters, but getting outclassed at home by the Cardinals could end up costing them the 1-seed if they get that Week 17 win. Overall, this is an 11-win team with a total point differential of +12 on the year and inexplicable outlier numbers in red-zone efficiency, takeaways (32 takeaways despite no pass rush!) and opponent kicking. Chris Carson, the centerpiece of the run game that’s the foundation of their offense, left on Sunday, and they're down to their fourth running back. Does this team really belong in the NFC’s upper echelon?

It Would’ve Been a Day for Derrick Henry: The Titans made do without him, but protecting a lead over the Saints for the first 35 minutes of the game, it would have been nice to have Henry in there grinding down the New Orleans defense.

Lions-Broncos in the Running for Most Poorly Officiated Game of 2019: If you like extended delays in the form of conferences and reviews that end up leading to the wrong call anyway, this was your dream game.

What Is Bless Austin Doing?: With nine seconds left in the first half, no timeouts and the ball at the Jets’ 29, it was pretty clear that the Steelers would be taking a shot at the end zone. By all looks it was supposed to be a Cover-3 look for the Jets (and considering Austin was benched to start the second half, it probably was), yet there was Austin, trailing a wide-open Diontae Johnson into the end zone.

Dwayne Haskins’ Bum Ankle: It was a shame, because an afternoon against that Giants defense was serving as a nice confidence-builder for the rookie.

Zac Taylor and Brian Flores Go From Opposing Each Other in the Super Bowl: To coaching a December game in front of 18 fans in Miami.

People Who Root for Draft Position: Are lame. Sorry. You only get 16 games a year. Root for your team to win. (They’re probably going to screw up the draft anyway.)

Dan Snyder’s Personal Touch: To be clear, team medical staff had already told Dwayne Haskins not to return to the game. But any owner weighing in on gameday personnel decisions is a terrible idea. And when it’s the owner who seems to have nothing but terrible ideas . . .

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Vernon Butler Earns This Ejection: It starts with yanking Mark Glowinski to the ground by the facemask, a penalty but not ejection-worthy.

Then I guess he lost track of who’s who, because Jack Doyle is just lying there wondering what’s going on and Butler just socks him in the face, like Butler is Flanders and Doyle is Lenny:

Butler also had a message for the Indy crowd on the way out: “Peace Among Worlds.”

This Truly Obscene Gesture by Odell Beckham Jr.: Thank goodness that, in another case of wonderful judgment by a person whose only role in the sport is to judge things properly, this was flagged as a 15-yard penalty. For those of us who saw it, the healing process can now begin.

Lamar Hands Out a Metaphorical Swirly:

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Jason Garrett’s Fate Almost Sealed: The Giants did almost knock off the Eagles in Philly two weeks ago, and if they can finish the job this time (and the Cowboys can beat Washington at home) Dallas still gets into the postseason. If not, Sunday alone was legitimate cause for Jerry Jones to start the coaching search.

Which AFC Division Champ Wants to Spoil Someone’s Season?: The Steelers need it to be the Texans. The Titans have the tiebreak over Pittsburgh, which means the Titans will get the 6-seed in the AFC unless, in Week 17, the Texans (with nothing to play for) beat Tennessee and the Steelers beat the Ravens (who also have nothing to play for).

Banged Up Ravens: They have three weeks to get well, but Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith all left the game in Cleveland.

What Is the Future of the Steelers at Quarterback?: Obviously it will be Ben Roethlisberger as long as he’s anywhere near healthy, but he’s going to be 38 and coming off elbow surgery when next season starts, and neither Mason Rudolph nor Duck Hodges have looked like more than far-down-the-depth-chart guys. Do they dip into the 2020 draft QB class?

Get Well Soon, Cam: As long as he’s (relatively) healthy, there’s no logical reason he shouldn’t be the Panthers’ starter in 2020.

Joe Burrow Will Be a Bengal: Congratulations! Or, congratulations? Cincinnati’s loss in Miami clinched the No. 1 pick. The good news is that they’ll get 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams in the lineup next year, and Zac Taylor runs a fine system. The bad news is most everything else, but worry about that later.

Chargers Bid Farewell to the Soccer Stadium: It was an emotional day, like a Sarah McLachlan song for the season-ticket holders. Both of them.

A Reminder: Players and coaches don’t tank; front offices do. No one coaching or playing for the Dolphins or Bengals was trying to lose games this season. Rather, the front offices of those teams intentionally constructed teams that made it difficult to win (or, at least Miami’s did).

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