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Week 17 Takeaways: Burrow’s Bengals Win the North in Style, Cards Provide the D in Big D

Plus, Ja’Marr Chase runs wild, Odell Beckham Jr.’s difference-making day, Wentz and Tua fail to deliver, Russ’s (probable) swan song in Seattle, and much more!

Welcome to the Week 17 edition of the Sunday FreakOut, where we react and overreact to everything that happened in the Sunday afternoon games. For the full Sunday roundup podcast-style, be sure to subscribe to The MMQB Podcast, in your feed every Monday morning…

Before we begin the usual nonsense, I wrote about Antonio Brown separately. You can read it here. Now, the aforementioned nonsense…

Things That Made Me Giddy

The Ballad of Nameless Joe Burrow: He’s played as well as any quarterback in football over the past two months, and on Sunday he went shot-for-shot with Patrick Mahomes and came away with the win. I can not stress how impressive it is for a second-year quarterback to play out of empty sets as often as Burrow does. He carved up a red-hot Chiefs defense and clinched the AFC North in style. (And apparently his name plate got ripped off at some point.)

Ja’Marr Chase After the Catch: The first one is incredible. The second one is also incredible but will be noticed less because it was a nine-yard gain and not a touchdown.

The Bisaccia Raiders: For the second straight week they lost the turnover battle 2–0, and for the second straight week they won anyway, and this time it was on the road against a quality opponent in Indy. Vegas has withstood an almost unfathomable run of off-field incidents, and yet, 17 weeks into the season, they’re still in it.

Herbert and the Chargers Leave No Doubt: One week after a dud in Houston, and toward the end of a season during which they simply let inferior opponents hang around too often, the Chargers got back on track on Sunday against a stubborn division rival. The questions surrounding this run defense will persist—the Broncos were not going to air it out with Drew Lock under center—but Brandon Staley's defense very much kept the Denver run game in check while the offense did their thing like they usually do.

Vance Joseph to the Rescue: The Cardinals offense got by sprinkling in some big plays (including an early double move on Trevon Diggs) and got some help from a fake-punt conversion. But it was Vance Joseph’s variety of zone looks that led Arizona to the upset in Dallas. It was the kind of performance the Cardinals needed to get back on track. (And it was the kind of performance that should catch the attention of any team on the lookout for a new head coach.)

More Good Than Bad From Isaiah Simmons: He was still uneven out there, but the second-year linebacker had the play of the game forcing a Dak Prescott fumble and was generally a pain in Prescott’s butt in coverage.

Holy Cow, Odell Beckham Jr.’s Hands: He followed this up with the game-winning touchdown, but on a must-have fourth down, these hands, on a ball with this velocity, with a defender hanging off of him… it’s just a monster catch.

Russell Wilson’s (Likely) Seattle Swan Song: Beating the Tim Boyle Lions in a meaningless Week 17 game is probably not a fitting way to go out. But it was at least good to see Wilson put up some gaudy numbers in the form of four TDs.


Regrets

Ruled Down by Contact on the Field: Which is unfortunate, because it was a fumble. But it's also silly that sky judge can't just come in and ask for a review without the coach challenge mechanism coming into play. But, hey, that's what the competition committee gave us, and when have they ever been wrong. Or decades behind the times. (But also, this is a matter of millimeters between Chase Edmunds' knee and the turf and the Cowboys lost this game for many, many, many other reasons.)

Stop It, Carson Wentz: His most positive play of the game was also his most ill-advised throw, a second-reaction jump-ball heave into double coverage that ended up bouncing off defenders and into T.Y. Hilton’s arms. Wentz played poorly on Sunday, and more concerning is he continued to make poor decisions when forced to play off-schedule. He was very good in the Christmas night win in Arizona, but aside from that his play over the past month has made it very difficult for Frank Reich to trust him.

Matthew Stafford, Sloppy Again: He put together the drive they needed late, but he once again allowed a safety to read him like a book for an easy pick-six. Things were ultimately far too interesting for the Rams in Baltimore.

Jalen Ramsey Punches Taylor Rapp: Huh. It seems like this one didn’t get the amount of attention you’d expect.

Shotgun on Fourth-and-Inches at the Goal Line: I’d put my life in Joe Burrow’s hands right now, but those shotgun formations on the goal line limit your options in an obnoxious way. And the Bengals did it twice in the final minute of a tie game. It was upsetting to watch.

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Daniel Sorensen in Coverage: He’s a useable player as a Jamal Adams-style designated blitzer, but Sorensen continues to be an issue on the back end for the Chiefs. On the 69-yard touchdown to Ja’Marr Chase early in the second half, Joe Burrow indeed used his eyes effectively, but playing a 2-deep look Sorensen can’t abandon his deep-half responsibility when Chase is on that side of the field.

Injuries on the Chiefs O-Line: They lost Orlando Brown Jr. and Lucas Niang on Sunday. It wasn’t a disaster, but it will test their depth in a way that they... don’t really want tested again.

Zach Wilson With the Very Sad Fourth-and-2 Sneak: There’s no issue with the Jets trying to seal the game on a fourth-and-short—even after they didn’t make it they were still forcing the Bucs to drive most of the field, for a touchdown, in less than two minutes, with no time outs. But Wilson tried to sneak his was for the two yards, and it was immediately clear he would not come within, oh, about five yards of a line to gain.

Why Is Matt Ryan Taunting Anyone Down Two Touchdowns?: He started trash-talking Bills safety Jordan Poyer after what he thought was a touchdown run that would have cut the Bills' lead to one possession. But instead Ryan was ruled short of the goal line and picked up a 15-yard taunting penalty, backing Atlanta up and all but ending the drive.

Everything About Tua Tagovailoa’s Day: I’m not sure what else there is to say. Trying to work around Tagovailoa’s limitations, the Dolphins have been running an offense that is not suited to the NFL. They were fortunate to get a run of games on the schedule in which they didn’t need an NFL offense to win (among the quarterbacks they faced during their winning streak were Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Mike Glennon and Ian Book). There’s a portion of the fanbase that’s rightly upset with the pursuit of Deshaun Watson considering the sexual-misconduct lawsuits he’s currently facing, but Tagovailoa has done little to show he’s the quarterback of the present, let alone the quarterback of the future, in Miami.

Mike Glennon Revenge Game: A Giants team that trailed by multiple possessions for most of the game in Chicago, and eventually lost by 26 points, called 39 runs against 16 passes on Sunday. (Glennon completed three passes for positive yardage and took four sacks as the Giants amassed –10 net passing yards.)

FedExField: In a way it’s funny, people falling down and all. Until you consider Jalen Hurts and all these people’s lives were endangered.


Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Jonathan Ward Tops David Tyree: On the fake punt, with the helmet catch using someone else’s helmet. The only way to top that is to trap the ball between your helmet and another player’s helmet, and I think it’s unlikely we’ll see that. At least not between now and the end of the regular season.


What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Garoppolo Is the Guy in San Francisco (for the Rest of This Season): If there were any thoughts of a Trey Lance offense catching opponents off-guard down the stretch, you can probably scrap them now. Lance still might be a very good quarterback in a few years (I’m a believer!), but Sunday was another rocky, off-rhythm performance, one he could only get away with because of the quality of opponent. Kyle Shanahan’s offense works more than well enough when the quarterback operating it is playing within structure, and right now that’s not the level Lance is at.

Ja’Marr Chase Is Your Rightful Rookie of the Year: And Jaylen Waddle is the runner-up. With all due respect to Mac Jones, who had a solid year but did not define his team’s offense the way those two receivers did.

Does Anyone Want to Play for Joe Judge?: Their quarterback is out, but this team looks completely disinterested in playing organized football right now. There are worse rosters staying competitive at the moment (Houston and the crosstown Jets, for instance). The other team that isn’t (Jacksonville) already fired their head coach.

Watch NFL games online all season long with fuboTV: Start with a 7-day free trial!

Apologies Rohan, But This Dolphins Team Was Never for Real: Unless they were going to petition the league to have Ian Book start for the opposing team in every game from here on in. And let’s be honest, such a petition would be unlikely to succeed.

Ben Vs. Cleveland, One Last Time: In all likelihood, Monday night will mark the final matchup between Ben Roethlisberger and the Browns, against whom Big Ben is 25-3-1 in his career. Legend has it, he left upper-deckers in all the toilets at FirstEnergy Stadium, and then Baker Mayfield found them when he started living there. At least that’s the ad I’d write up for that series if Progressive ever asked me for ideas. Which they won’t. Because all my ideas are toilet-related. Anyway, a win Monday would provide some vague, narrative-based symbolism for the Browns.

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