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Monday, December 9, 2019

15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 16

Matt Ryan

The playoffs are nearly upon us, and the tension really cranked up during Week 16 of the NFL season. Teams are getting into situations where they must win or they will be eliminated. That opens the door for a whole lot of success — or a whole lot of disappointment.

Here is a look at 15 big letdowns from the penultimate week of the 2017 NFL season.

Detroit Lions

The Lions absolutely needed help to get into the playoffs. Either Atlanta or Carolina had to lose out, and even that wouldn’t be enough — several permutations involved Dallas or Seattle running the table. The one thing the Lions could control was winning a pair of extremely winnable games — at home against an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team in Week 17, and first, away against a Cincinnati Bengals team that is playing out the string.

It’s impossible to make sense of what happened to the Lions here. The Bengals have been getting blown out lately, but Matthew Stafford wasn’t very good at all. The defense failed to get off the field when they needed to and was repeatedly gashed by Giovani Bernard. Jim Caldwell let a potential game-changing catch go unchallenged, but more importantly, the Lions were an undisciplined mess. The end of the game featured a myriad of avoidable penalties, and frankly, Marvin Lewis’ players looked like they wanted it more than the team that had everything to play for. Caldwell may pay with his job. The players will pay by watching the playoffs at home, having left plenty on the field.

Dallas Cowboys’ offense

This was it. The Cowboys had waited weeks for Ezekiel Elliott’s triumphant return, and amazingly, he came back to find Dallas still in the thick of the playoff picture. They didn’t control their own destiny, but with Elliott back, this was a different team — one that could do what they needed to do to at least give themselves a chance at the playoffs.

Or not.

The Cowboy offense was putrid. Elliott wasn’t the problem as he rushed for 97 yards on 24 carries, but Dak Prescott was awful. He threw for just 182 yards and two interceptions as the Dallas offensive line let him get hit time and time again to the tune of four sacks. Dan Bailey missed two key field goals — the sort he usually makes. As a whole, the Cowboys turned it over three times. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan inexplicably shied away from Elliott in goal-line situations despite the fact that he was easily the most effective option. None of it made sense. But when it was over, all that waiting was for naught, as the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention.

Atlanta Falcons’ offense

In a huge game for the Falcons, the offense simply did not turn up. Some of it was down to luck — this Matt Ryan interception, for instance, was a total and complete fluke. That said, outside of Julio Jones, nobody had a good day. Devonta Freeman will be singled out, but Tevin Coleman didn’t offer much and Ryan himself couldn’t jumpstart a big offensive run. The New Orleans defense deserves credit, but this is a performance the Falcons will want to forget as quickly as possible.

Everyone involved in the Patriots-Bills replay fiasco

At some point one has to cut through the nonsense that makes up the NFL rule book and just figure out what a catch is. Kelvin Benjamin’s play during Buffalo’s loss to New England was a catch. The officials on the field called it a catch. Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, both officials turned analysts, thought it was a catch. It seems as though the only people who didn’t were the only people whose opinions mattered — the replay officials. Buffalo lost a critical touchdown as a result, back when the game was actually close. Something has to change at some point, because this stuff just doesn’t make sense anymore.

Matt Forte, RB, Jets

Losing a fumble in the red zone is a good way to get yourself benched, and that’s exactly what happened to Forte on Sunday. His first half turnover was pretty much the end of his day as he clearly lost the trust of the Jets’ coaching staff. He wasn’t exactly doing much before that, either. He totaled 19 yards on eight carries, making it three weeks in a row he’s been held below 50 rushing yards. This was just an ugly one for him, and the turnover stands out even more in a game where the Jets managed just seven points and couldn’t afford mistakes in scoring situations.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

The Falcons had a good chance to get back into their huge divisional game with the New Orleans Saints in the third quarter before Freeman blew it. Following a Deion Jones interception and return, the Falcons had a first-and-goal at the Saints’ 2-yard line. Freeman picked up a yard on his first carry, and then he lost a fumble on his next. The Falcons should have turned that into seven points but wound up with none instead. Then at the start of the fourth quarter, Freeman was unable to punch in a 4th-and-goal from the 1-foot line and got stuffed. He also took two important penalties to cap off a day to forget.

Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers

It was a second straight bad week for Funchess, and both of the games came against vulnerable defenses. The Tampa Bay secondary hasn’t been good, but not only was Funchess not catching much, he wasn’t even being looked at. Receiving just four targets against the Buccaneers will come as a huge disappointment. Injury was an issue, but Cam Newton simply wasn’t looking his way on a day that Carolina really had their share of struggles on offense.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns

Gordon’s season is ending with a whimper, not a bang. The wide receiver had just two catches on Sunday, as he and DeShone Kizer never looked like they were on the same wavelength. Hopes were high for Gordon as he performed very well initially upon returning to action following his lengthy suspension, but this was his worst game of the season by some distance. He’d probably be better off with a better quarterback, but ultimately, he didn’t have much to offer here.

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers

Tampa Bay nearly knocked off Carolina on Sunday, but it would have happened in spite of several major Winston mistakes. While he threw for 367 yards and a touchdown, he was once again reckless with the football, taking six sacks and fumbling it away three times. The last fumble more or less ended the game with less than thirty seconds to go, and he didn’t seem to believe Carolina had recovered, leading to an embarrassing sideline meltdown. Maturity and ball control are two major questions that still plague Winston, and Sunday will do little to settle either concern.

Brett Hundley, QB, Packers

Sure, the conditions Saturday at Lambeau Field were not too pleasant and did not make for an easy playing environment. Even Case Keenum struggled more than he has nearly all season. But Brett Hundley was incredibly bad in Saturday’s game. The Packers were shutout at home for the second time this season. Hundley was 17 of 40 for just 130 yards and two interceptions. He could hardly complete a pass beyond 10 yards. He constantly overthrew his receivers. He made some incredibly bad decisions with the ball, which played a role in the team going 0-for-4 on fourth downs.

Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense

The Jaguars have built their successful season on the back of a strong defense, but for whatever reason, that fell apart on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Three interceptions from the offense didn’t help, but San Francisco posted 44 points and 369 total yards against the vaunted unit. Things started badly with players getting into fights on the sideline and didn’t really improve from there — which is not what you want to see with the playoffs looming.

DeShone Kizer, QB, Browns

Maybe Kizer will eventually be good enough to be a starting quarterback in this league. Maybe he’ll get it and find the answer and become a capable player. It hasn’t happened yet, though, and it might never happen with the Browns. Kizer went a putrid 18-for-36 with 182 yards and two interceptions here, struggling all day to connect with his weapons. He and Josh Gordon never looked to be on the same page. With the loss, Cleveland clinched the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, which may spell the end of Kizer’s status as the Browns’ would-be franchise quarterback.

New York Giants’ offense

Nobody is really expecting great things from the Giants anymore, but this Arizona team isn’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. They were on Sunday, though, pitching their first shutout in 25 years — not that that will sit well with New York. Eli Manning threw two picks, the team had a total of 43 rushing yards, and they had just 12 first downs in total. This team needs a total and complete rethink starting as soon as possible.

Miami Dolphins wide receivers

It was not a good one for Kenny Stills or Jarvis Landry. Both players were responsible for key fumbles, while Stills had a drop-filled, error-prone afternoon. Landry not only committed a major turnover, but he was seen on the sideline having a heated exchange with coach Adam Gase. It’s probably long past time for him to leave Miami. Neither had truly awful statlines, but their contributions were few and far between as the Dolphins limp to the finish line.

Brock Osweiler, QB, Broncos

It’s safe to say the game against the Indianapolis Colts was another false dawn for Osweiler. He threw for 193 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception in a bad loss to the Washington Redskins, and he also lost a fumble in this one. He is not the answer, and surely everyone watching the Broncos knows it now. As long as Paxton Lynch is healthy, he probably won’t even hold on to his starting job as Denver closes out the season.



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