NFL on Sling: Giants Eye Playoff Berth; Steelers Battle Ravens for AFC North; Broncos Fighting to Stay Alive; Cowboys Seek 1st Round Bye; 8 Playoff Spots Still Up for Grabs
New York Giants (10-4) vs Philadelphia Eagles (5-9)
8:25pm ET Thursday on NBC
Don’t look now, but the New York Football Giants have the second-best record in the NFC after riding another big defensive effort to victory. On Sunday the Giants beat the Lions 17-6, as the defense forced 2 turnovers and allowed just a pair of field goals, and Eli Manning completed 20 of 28 for 201 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs, including one that Odell Beckham Jr clearly let bounce off the ground, but was still ruled a catch. The Giants’ offense remains suspect, but with OBJ on the field, they are a threat to score at a moment’s notice, and their defense is peaking at just the right time, thanks to the emergence of Landon Collins, and the return to form on Jason Pierre-Paul. A win by the Giants and they clinch a playoff spot, a loss and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
The Philadelphia PD responded Sunday to reports that the Wentz Wagon was found up on cinder blocks in a back alley following a 27-26 Eagles loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, as QB Carson Wentz’s pass to Jordan Matthews on a 2-point conversion attempts with 4 seconds on the clock was off the mark. It was the Eagles’ fifth straight defeat, and the seventh straight game in which Wentz failed to throw more touchdowns than interceptions. Since starting the season 3-0 with 5 TDs and 0 INTS, Wentz has gone 2-9 with 8 TDs and 13 INTs. But it’s not all his fault, as the defense has gone from allowing 9 points and 274 yards per game during the first 3 games, to allowing 24.7 points and 363 yards per game. Who knows what happened during that Week 4 bye that Philly had, but it really put the whammy on them.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) vs Houston Texans (8-6)
8:25pm ET Saturday on NFL Network
The Bungles hit a season low on Sunday, gaining just 222 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers en route to a 24-20 loss during which they blew a 17-3 2nd quarter lead. Andy Dalton had completed 10 of 15 in building that lead, but completed just 6 of 12 the rest of the way, and in the 2nd half the Bengals could go nowhere, gaining 38 yards over four possessions, as the Steelers’ Chris Boswell kicked them to death with 5 field goals in a 30-minute span. The Bengals haven’t been over .500 since a Week 1 win against the Jets, and won’t be again until next season at the earliest. There is good news, however, as wide receiver AJ Green is expected back in action after missing 4 games.
After going through a 3-game losing streak that nearly derailed their season, the Houston Texans have won their last two and now find themselves in the driver’s seat in the AFC South by dint of having the tiebreaker over the Titans thanks to a Week 4 win against them. Perhaps as exciting as last week’s 21-20 win over the Jaguars was the benching of QB Brock Osweiler, who got yanked in the 2nd quarter after throwing his second interception of the day, yielding to Tom Savage, who completed 23 of 36 for 260 yards in leading his team back from a 13-0 deficit. But the win came with a price as running back Lamar Miller (1,073 yards and 5 TDs on 268 carries) left the game with an ankle injury, but not before scoring the winning TD in the waning minutes. However, when asked about his status for the game against the Bengals, he responded “Of course, I’ll be out there.“ Houston’s still awaiting word on tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, their #2 receiver, who missed last game with a concussion, but Savage has already been named this week’s starter.
1pm Saturday on FOX
Minnesota Vikings (7-7) vs Green Bay Packers (8-6)
Washington Redskins (7-6-1) Chicago Bears (3-11)
Atlanta Falcons (9-5) vs Carolina Panthers (6-8)
4:25pm Saturday on FOX
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) vs New Orleans Saints (6-8)
Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) vs Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)
San Francisco 49er (1-13) vs Los Angeles Rams (4-10)
Baltimore Ravens (8-6) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)
4:30pm ET Sunday on NFL Network
The Ravens very nearly let one slip away on Sunday, as they needed a Carson Wentz incompletion on a 2-point conversion attempt to seal a 27-26 victory. It would’ve been a heartbreaking loss for Baltimore, who had gone up 27-17 early in the 4th quarter on a 16-yard touchdown run by Kenneth Dixon. QB Joe Flacco continues to be the very definition of average (64.6% completion rate, 3,788 yards, 19 TDs, 13 INTs), but the Ravens still play great defense and so they’re in the hunt. A win against the Steelers would put the two teams in a tie at 9-6, with the Ravens taking 1st place by dint of being 2-0 against Pittsburgh.
But for now, Big Ben, Bell, and Brown have bullied their way back atop the AFC North with a 5-game winning streak, the most recent victory coming against the Bengals, 24-20. The Steelers fell behind 17-3 in the 2nd quarter, before their defense took over and shut down Cincy in the 2nd half. Roethlisberger & Co. had trouble finding the end zone, but finally got there midway through the 4th quarter, to score the go-ahead TD. In the meantime, they were able just enough yardage to get within range for Chris Boswell, who kicked field goals of 49, 49, 40, 49 and 30 yards. A win for the Steelers would clinch the AFC North, a loss could, at least temporarily, knock them out of the playoff picture.
Denver Broncos (8-6) vs Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)
8:30pm ET Sunday on NBC
The Denver Broncos haven’t been eliminated, but they’ve played their way out of the playoff picture for now with a second straight loss, this one to the New England Patriots. It was an old school, cold weather grind-it-out battle, with the Pats carrying the ball 39 times for just 136 yards, and Tom Brady completing 16 of 32 for 188 yards, as the Broncos’ D did their job in limiting the Pats to a single TD. Broncos QB Trevor Siemian connected on 25 of 40 for 282 yards, but threw a red zone pick to start the 2nd quarter, setting up New England’s lone TD, and he got sacked 4 times for a total loss of 31 yards. But it was Denver wide receiver/punt returner Jordan Norwood who most likely punched a hole in his bedroom wall after the game, as he muffed a punt after the Pats had gone 3-and-out on the opening possession, and then fumbled after a 12-yard reception on what proved to be Denver’s last play from scrimmage. Tensions were high in the Denver locker room following the game, and a fight broke out between the offense and the defense, but they’d better settle their differences, because they can’t afford another loss. A win for Denver keeps them within striking distance, a loss combined with a Miami win and the Broncos are eliminated.
The Chiefs have another chance to clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win over the Broncos, after blowing their chance to do so this past weekend with a 19-17 loss to the Titans. The Chiefs went into the 4th quarter with a 17-7 lead, but but they twice went 3-and-out, gaining a grand total of 22 yards in the final 15 minutes, while Marcus Mariota and the Titans managed a field goal, an 88-yard TD drive, and a game-winning field goal as the clock wound down to seal the victory. Alex Smith was all but useless in the icy conditions, completing 15 of 28 for 163 yards and an interception, and though rookie Tyreek Hill managed to run 68 yards for a TD on the Chiefs’ second play from scrimmage, he didn’t touch the ball again all day. Why? It’s a puzzle, especially given that he’s scored twice as many TDs as anyone else on the team.
Detroit Lions (9-5) vs Dallas Cowboys (12-2)
8:30pm ET Monday on ESPN
The Lions hold a 1-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North, but find themselves in a rather precarious position of having to play the best team in the NFC this week, the Cowboys, and the hottest team in the NFC next week, the Packers – there’s not a lot of margin for error. Certainly not the kinds of errors that killed them against the Giants last week, as Detroit’s Zach Zenner fumbled 4 yards short of the goal line early in the 2nd quarter, and then Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off a Matthew Stafford pass on the Giants’ 3, in a game the Lions lost 17-6, but easily could’ve won. If Detroit wins and the Packers lose, Detroit clinches the NFC North.
The Cowboys survived a scare last week, needing three 4th-quarter field goals to defeat the Buccaneers 26-20. It was a much needed win coming on the heels of their second loss of the season to the Giants, as both their rookie sensations bounced back big time. Dak Prescott completed 32 of 36 for 279 yards, while Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 23 times for 159 yards and a touchdown. The TD was Elliott’s 13th of the year, and set a Cowboys rookie record for running backs, though it also cost his team a 15-yard penalty when he marked the occasion by jumping into the giant Salvation Army kettle. The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East and a 1st round bye with a Giants loss on Thursday, or by beating the Lions.