NFL

NFL AM: Week To Week League

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What Goes Down, Must Come Up?

It’s been said numerous times that the NFL is a “week-to-week league.”  It’s not who you play, it’s when you play them and there were plenty of teams that had remarkable turnarounds in Week 12.

After dropping six straight games and finding themselves as five-point underdogs to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the San Diego Chargers made the trek east and played like a team that was in playoff contention in their 31-25 victory over the Jags.

“It has been tough over the past six weeks, but it says a lot about this team and the character of this team for us to continue to believe,” Chargers future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates, who had four catches for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns said. “We came in here in a hostile environment despite all the things we’ve been through during the past month, month and a half. I’m just happy to be part of something special and hopefully we will get this thing turned around.”

The Chargers are still too far gone for any realistic chance at a playoff spot, but they’re relishing the role of spoiler.

“It would be nice to be competing for the playoffs, but that’s not our situation,” Chargers wide receiver Stevie Johnson said after catching a team-high seven passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile in New York, the Jets jumpstarted their postseason hopes after losing two straight games with a 38-20 demolition of the Miami Dolphins.  After turnover prone quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdowns and four interceptions over the past two Jets’ losses, the Harvard alum completed 22 of 37 throws, for 277 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers in the New York victory.

“The theme in the locker room before the game was let’s go out there and have some fun,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not a whole lot of fun to not play well and to lose and all that stuff. Let’s just go out there loose and have some fun and see what happens and I thought that’s what we did today.”

In Washington, D.C., the hometown Redskins put behind them their 44-16 steamrolling by the Carolina Panthers last week and took down the New York Giants, 20-14, for a share of first place in the NFC East.

Regardless of whether you agree with head coach Jay Gruden’s decisions on quarterbacks and lineups, Washington has been one of the bigger surprises of the 2015 NFL season as they went from last place to playing competitive football.

Veteran safety Dashon Goldson organized a team-only meeting Saturday evening to clear the air.

“Everybody got stuff of their chest. How they were feeling. What they thought about the team and where we’re at and what we need to do to progress,” Goldson said. “We’re just so much up and down.”

Teams are up and down every week in this league, as the standings show 13 of the 32 teams within one game of .500.  Still, the biggest surprise was how flat the team’s that lost were.  The Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants each had plenty to gain with victories, and now the two Florida teams season has ended for all practical purposes.

“We talk about we’re out there, we want to be our best,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said. “We weren’t our best today. There were far too many plays that were left out there so that part’s unacceptable.”

NFC Least, Amirite?

As referenced above, the Washington Redskins took down the New York Giants, 20-14, to better their record to 5-6 which gives them a share of first place.

“We’re just in the driver’s seat right now,” Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher said. “We’ve just got to continue winning games and driving the car — right into the playoffs.”

Yes, 5-6 gives the Redskins a share of first place.

Through most of the season, the AFC South was the laughingstock of the league, as some suggested that a 6-10 record might garner a division crown and subsequent home playoff game.

One month has changed everything as the Indianapolis Colts are currently riding a three-game winning streak and the Houston Texans have won four straight to tie for the South lead with…identical 6-5 records.

Meanwhile, after getting blasted on Thanksgiving by the once 0-7 Detroit Lions (the last team to get a win this season), the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves just one game out of first place.  Even the 3-8 Dallas Cowboys, who lost Tony Romo for the season have a glimmer of hope…until they look at the depth chart and see that Matt Cassel will be starting at quarterback for them the rest of the way.

The NFC East is anybody’s division, and this could be the second straight year we see a sub-.500 team in the postseason (2014: Carolina- 7-8-1).

The NFL promotes parity, but what we’re seeing is more mediocrity.  There shouldn’t be any new rule that states that a team must be .500 or better to gain entry into the postseason, but this could be a really good time to change seeding and allow teams with better records to play home games, even if they didn’t win a lousy division.

Big Injuries To Fantasy Stars

The Seattle Seahawks pre-draft trade that sent center Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints for Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham has looked worse and worse every week.

It can’t look much worse than it does now.

After beginning the Seahawks 39-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers with four catches for 75 yards, Graham appeared to bend his right knee the wrong way on an overthrown Russell Wilson pass in the end zone.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that Graham had torn his patellar tendon which will require surgery and end the talented tight end’s 2015 season.

Seattle now has their work cut out for them if they’re going to make any kind of playoff run without their best target in the passing game.

Meanwhile in Jacksonville, Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns hit his head on the ground while trying to make a sliding catch and needed the assistance of a cart to leave the field.

Hurns was motionless on the ground for a few minutes before the cart came out and an eery silence hovered over the crowd.

“It was, you know, and he got knocked down and didn’t move right away,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said when asked if it was a scary moment. “I know when I was out there he had some movement so I think that was a relief but I think the responsive part to hear that before I came in here was great.”

Even the Chargers players were disturbed by the injury.

“You compete hard, but you never want to see that,” San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers said to Football Insiders.  “We’re a fraternity out here and every player cares for one another.  You never want to see anyone get hurt.”

“He’s one of our guys from ‘The U’,” Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman told Football Insiders.  “He’s a brother out there.”

The good news for Hurns is that he did have movement in his extremities and he was able to tweet after the game.

 


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.