Judgements 14: Why it's still not an "all-clear" for Chiefs in AFC playoffs
After what happened Sunday, the inescapable conclusion is that Kansas City will be home for the playoffs, winning that all-important home-field advantage.
Maybe. OK, probably. But it's no dead-bolt cinch.
Yes, the Chiefs are in control of the AFC … for now. But stay tuned. They play the red-hot Chargers Thursday, and the Bolts not only have won nine of their last ten but leading rusher and scorer Melvin Gordon is expected back after missing the past two weeks.
Of course, the game’s in Arrowhead, where the Chiefs haven’t lost. So that’s a plus. And so is this: They own the Bolts, winning their last nine against them – including the season opener.
And after that? Well, after that it’s Seattle in Seattle, and, guaranteed, the Seahawks will pose as many problems for Patrick Mahomes & Co. as Baltimore did Sunday.
So, let’s say Kansas City loses to the Chargers AND Seattle. Then what? Well, then L.A. could win the AFC West, meaning … meaning the team that today looks like a virtual lock to gain home-field advantage for the playoffs would go in as --- you got it – a wild card.
SCORE TWO FOR THE SAINTS
New Orleans clinched the NFC South with a come-from-behind defeat of Tampa Bay Sunday, but that wasn't its biggest victory. The Bears'15-6 defeat of the L.A. Rams Sunday night was.
That's because it pulled the Saints even with L.A. in the all-important race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Except it didn't. Even though the two have the same 11-2 record, the Saints hold the tiebreaker, thanks to a defeat of L.A. earlier this season.
And that's big for two reasons: 1) It means they don't have to play in the Coliseum, where the Rams haven't lost this season and 2) it would keep them at the Superdome, where the Saints almost never lose.
No need to remind the Rams. They got drilled 45-35 there last month.
BIG BEN HAS A HOUSE OF HORRORS, TOO
We all know that Miami (the city, not the Dolphins) is Tom Brady’s Kryptonite. He’s 7-10 there, with the Patriots losing five of their last six.
But look what’s happened to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in Oakland. Nothing, that's what. He’s 0-4 there, with the Raiders the only AFC team he hasn’t beaten on the road.
And I mean EVER. And that's an accomplishment considering that his losses are to Raiders' teams that were 2-14, 4-12, 4-12 and 2-10.
Of course, don't blame Sunday’s flat tire on Big Ben. Not his fault. Not even close. In fact, he’s the guy who tried to resuscitate a club that kept finding ways to screw things up and that now is limping to the finish.
And he almost succeeded.
But, in the end, he suffered the same fate in Oakland as Brady did in Miami – a last-gasp loss that falls on his defense. Neither had enough of it. The Patriots couldn’t tackle, and the Steelers couldn’t cover. And now … well, now Pittsburgh’s in deep kimchi. Their next game is against New England. And after that, it’s New Orleans … in New Orleans.
- Don’t tell me about Tom Brady’s inexplicable sack at the end of the first half or Stephen Gostkowski’s missed kicks. What sabotaged New England is what kept the Patriots from winning Super Bowl LII and what will keep them from getting to Super Bowl LIII. Defense.
- And while we’re on the subject … why make Rob Gronkowski your deep safety on first-and-69 … unless you think Ryan Tannehill can throw a 70-yard Hail Mary. If nothing else, the Pats should’ve armed Gronk with a tuba.
- Maybe Baltimore’s Eric Weddle is right and the Ravens “can play with anyone and beat anyone,” but they may never get that chance. They have games left vs. the Bucs, Chargers and Browns.
- BTW, that makes Ryan Tannehill 9-0 in his last nine starts at home.
- And that, people, is why Dallas didn’t mind spending a first-round draft pick on Amari Cooper. Since he arrived, the Cowboys are 5-1 and Jason Garrett’s career is off life support.
- How good is the Bears' defense? This good: That was the first time in Sean McVay's 29 games as a head coach that his Rams failed to score a touchdown.
- I'll be honest: I now believe the Bears are a bigger threat to New Orleans (if there is one) than the Rams, and the reason is simple: Defense. You saw what the Cowboys did to Drew Brees a week-and-a-half ago. Chicago is more complete on that side of the ball. They can pressure the pocket and cover in the back end, and the envelope please: The Bears' 25 interceptions this season are more than their last three seasons combined (24).
- Book it: Washington doesn’t win another game. I know, Jay Gruden has a ready alibi: Injuries, especially to his quarterbacks. But I don’t see how he survives after this year.
- That’s four games this season where Pittsburgh had outcomes decided in the last 20 seconds, with the Steelers 1-3. Keep that in mind if/when they fail to reach the playoffs.
- Note to Green Bay’s Joe Philbin: Next time, wait at least 1:30 before spending your two challenges.
- Say goodnight to defending Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia, and not because of Sunday’s loss but because of what’s next: The Rams and Houston. The Eagles' Kamu Grugier-Hill had it all wrong. It wasn't the Cowboys who choked. It was the Eagles … but not Sunday. This season.
- Todd Gurley didn't make much of an impact Sunday night, but he was dead solid perfect with his assessment of the Rams. Asked what went wrong, he said, "Everything. We played like s**t." Yeah, I'd say that about sums it up.
- When’s the last time you heard this: The entire AFC North lost … except for Cleveland.
- Gregg Williams is 3-2 in his first five games with the Browns. It took his predecessor, Hue Jackson, 40 to win three.
- Yes, the Cowboys can make a deep run in the playoffs for the first time in forever, but not if Dak Prescott doesn't clean up the turnovers. He has 12 fumbles this year, losing six.
- No question, that was one bodacious throw by Mahomes on fourth-and-9 with just under two minutes left, but tell me: How do you explain covering the fastest guy on the field (Tyreek Hill) with … a linebacker? Answer: You can’t.
- Back page of Monday's New York Post has a photo of Saquon Barkley with the headline … "The Bark Knight." Love it.
- Mark Sanchez’s passer rating: 10.7. Just sayin.’
- Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is 3-1 … and was this close to going 4-0. But he leaves injured in OT, and, sorry, that’s what happens when you have a quarterback who plays more like a running back. So is this: Fumbles. Jackson has eight for the year and six in his four starts.
- The more I read about the league’s Kareem Hunt "investigation" the more I wonder how long Bozo has been running NFL security.
- I just heard another guy on TV refer to this season as Cam Newton’s “best ever.” Time out. Enough's enough. He was the league MVP in 2015. He’s 6-7 today and in the midst of a five-game slide. Better change the subject.
- Guess the Saints weren’t so stupid after all for practicing last week with a wet ball. Following a downpour in Tampa, they went on a 25-0 run to erase a 14-3 lead and win the NFC South.
- There are holes galore in the Kansas City defense, but you won't find them in Chris Jones. He has sacks in each of nine straight starts, a single-season NFL record.
- Next up on Pay-Per Vew: Jameis Winston vs. Ryan Jensen.
- Jon Gruden gets my Coach-of-the-Year vote. He’s the only guy out there who can put TWO teams in the playoffs (Chicago and Dallas).
FIVE THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
- The Chargers have 10 victories for the first time since 2009.
- Amari Cooper leads all receivers with 642 yards receiving since Week 9, his first with the Cowboys.
- Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception in 368 consecutive attempts, breaking Tom Brady’s league record of 358.
- Julio Jones just became the first player ever to produce five consecutive 1,400-yard seasons.
- Oakland’s Derek Carr hasn’t thrown an interception in eight straight games. In fact, he’s thrown 261 consecutive passes without a pick.
THE SUNDAY OMG
With Sunday’s 78-yard run, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley (or, the "Bark Knight," as he was called on the back page of Monday's New York Post) has four touchdown runs of 50 or more yards this season. The Giants had three over their previous 10 years.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTE
“They made some great plays today. They made one more than we did. That’s the way it goes.” – New England quarterback Tom Brady on the Dolphins’ “Fin-tastic” finish.
SUNDAY’S BIGGEST WINNER
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS. They just moved a half-game ahead of the Rams for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, and that's big, big, big. Their last three games are vs. Carolina (twice) and Pittsburgh, two clubs that are fading down the stretch**.**
SUNDAY’S BIGGEST LOSER
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. They lost more than a game. They may have lost the season. Sure, they’re going to win their division and make the playoffs again. And they may reach the conference championship game again. But they’re a longshot to host it, and, yes, as a matter of fact, that is a big deal. Why? Because they haven’t lost at home and are 3-4 on the road.