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QB Injuries Make Patriots Decided Favorites In AFC

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Pats Road Keeps Getting Easier

The biggest story of yesterday’s NFL action was the injury to Oakland Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr.

In the team’s 33-25 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Carr was sacked in the fourth quarter and ended up breaking his fibula, ending his season and in all actuality ending the postseason hopes prematurely for the Raiders, who were cruising toward a first-round bye.

“I’m very disappointed with myself because it was my guy who got him,” said Raiders offensive tackle Donald Penn.  “I’ve been great all year and I was engaged with my guy and I took a step and my foot slipped from under me.  I wish I could have that play back….I’m just mad at myself, I’ve never got a quarterback hurt in my entire career.”

The win moved Oakland to 12-3, and they close the season in Denver against the Broncos, who at this point need to win out and get some help to make the postseason.

Matt McGloin is the Raiders backup quarterback and although he’s functional, that team is built on explosive plays from the passing game and he’s not going to be a suitable fill-in for a league MVP candidate like Carr.

“It obviously is a blow,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “That’s what teams do; teams have to find a way to pick up and move on. We’ll rally around the next guy as best we can. That’s what you do.”

Looking forward, this could be the easiest postseason road that the New England Patriots have ever faced.  With last night’s Houston Texans 12-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, the six-team postseason field is all but set, and the only quarterback who can reasonably win a shootout with Tom Brady in New England is Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger…and there’s a chance that he might not even get in.

The other quarterbacks line up like this:  McGloin, Alex Smith, Tom Savage (or Brock Osweiler), Matt Moore, Trevor Siemian and possibly Joe Flacco.

Outside of Roethlisberger, Flacco is the only quarterback that gives anyone a “puncher’s chance” against the Pats.  The two teams squared off a few weeks ago and it wasn’t particularly close.

New England just routed the New York Jets on Saturday, 41-3, and they seem to be peaking at the right time.  They sit above the rest of the AFC with a 13-2 record and seemingly every potential postseason matchup seem to be a favorable one for them.

Vikings Defy Mike Zimmer’s Game Plan

Lost in much of the hoopla over Derek Carr’s injury was a nearly unbelievable story out of Minnesota.

In the team’s 38-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Vikings players in the secondary decided to “go rogue” on head coach Mike Zimmer’s game plan, which called for cornerback Xavier Rhodes to shadow Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson.

Instead, both Rhodes and cornerback Terence Newman just stayed on their respective sides of the field.

“To be honest, I really don’t want to answer that,” Rhodes said, via The Star Tribune, then explained what happened.

“A matter of fact, forget it. We felt as a team, as players, we came together and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers,” Rhodes said. “Us as DBs felt like we could handle him. That’s how we felt as DBs that we could stay on our side and cover him. In the beginning, we’d always played against them and played our sides, so that’s what we as DBs went with.”

In the first half, Nelson caught seven passes for 145 yards with a pair of touchdowns against the defensive backs game plan.

In the second half when the DB’s did what they were supposed to, Nelson caught two passes for nine yards.

“That’s what he was supposed to do the whole game,” Zimmer said. “Someone decided they wouldn’t do that.”

Zimmer said corner Terence Newman mentioned something to him on the sideline about the change in plans.

“In the first half when Terence Newman came over and said something to me like ‘I can cover this guy, let me have him,’” Zimmer said. “I said, ‘do what you’re supposed to do.’”

Newman declined to comment on the issue saying simply, “nothing. I have no idea.”

Players purposely bailing on their head coach’s game plan is insane on any level, and even more so in the NFL.  It’s compounded when you consider that Zimmer is a respected defensive mind and one of the most respected coaches in football.

It’s not like the Vikings defense has been garbage all season.  They were completely dominant through the first five weeks of the season and they still rank fourth in the NFL in total defense.

One would think this is a “got’s to go” situation for at least a few of the guys involved.  With all of the injuries that the Vikings had, even missing the playoffs isn’t going to cost Zimmer his job.  With this sort of defiance, it’s likely a foregone conclusion that the 38-year old Newman will be gone.

Rhodes is a different story.  He’s a highly productive cornerback that is a former first-round pick.  You don’t easily replace that sort of player on a defense.

What should happen as a punishment? 

Newman should never suit up again as a Viking as the team should either make him inactive for their Week 17 game against the Chicago Bears or release him outright.

Obviously, there needs to be a meeting between Zimmer and Rhodes.  No matter what comes out of the discussion, Rhodes should be deactivated for the season finale.  If they can make nice, then he should be on the roster going forward.  If not, Minnesota should try to trade him in the offseason.  Rhodes has one year left on his deal, a fifth-year option for roughly $8 million.  There will be plenty of interest for his services.


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.