Well, here we are again: in a trend that has become far too common in 20-”is this stupid year over already”-17, another player in the midst of a breakout year is done for the season.
This time, it’s Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP-caliber season before tearing his ACL this week. It’s a gut punch for Eagles fans and for anyone who likes to watch a player turn into a magician for at least one play every week.
But let’s not Debbie Downer ourselves anymore than we have to. This week in the NFL wasn’t lacking for drama. Or snow. Or fezzes.
Once their Sunday Night Football comeback win over the Ravens was final, the Steelers became the first AFC team to be welcomed to the playoff party this year. The way they got there is how you’d expect: leaning heavily on their three Killer Bs, who are all putting up wowza numbers this season:
Steelers’ Killer Bs can become first trio to lead league in rush/rec/pass in single season (per Elias)— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 11, 2017
League leaders (b/f MNF)
Passing: Ben Roethlisberger (3,744)
Rushing: Le’Veon Bell (1,105)
Receiving: Antonio Brown (1,509)
In the AFC North-clinching win, Le’Veon Bell accounted for 125 total yards and three touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger hit career highs in passes completed (44) and attempted (66) and also became the first quarterback to ever record three career 500-yard games.
Of Roethlisberger’s 506 passing yards, 213 went to Antonio Brown, including this 34-yarder on third down with about a minute left in the game:
That set up a game-winning field goal from Chris Boswell — his third in as many weeks. Come to think of it, the Killer Bs trio should really be considered a quartet.
The most mesmerizing sight in the NFL this weekend was the Snowmageddon game between the Bills and Colts. There’s just something about football in the snow that turns us all into kids on (a white) Christmas.
It snowed an estimated 16 inches in Orchard Park on Sunday, and the glorious mess of the Bills’ 13-7 overtime win was what we imagine football looked like 60 years ago: 156 passing yards, 97 total carries, Adam Vinatieri (who missed two field goals!).
We could even play a little game of Where’s Waldo, but with the Colts players:
We’re not sure how much fun it’d be to play in a game Beyond the Wall, but it was the kind of lighthearted comedy we needed this week. At the very least, it deserved a Golden Globe nomination more than Will & Grace.
Carson Wentz’s injury puts him in some pretty exclusive company — one that he would rather not be in:
If Carson Wentz misses the postseason, he'll be the 22nd QB to start 13 regular season games but miss a playoff start. He'll also be the 4th in the last 2 years. https://t.co/GOC2EfACKi— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) December 11, 2017
The Eagles announced on Monday that Wentz tore his ACL in the team’s game against the Rams on Sunday. Wentz still played four more plays after he suffered the injury.
So now the Eagles, who also clinched the NFC East Sunday, will have to head to the postseason without their franchise quarterback. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that this team is in better position with Nick Foles than the Raiders were last year with third-string rookie Connor Cook.
If there’s anything that can approach the gutting number of injuries to star players this year, it’s the number of fights — and subsequent ejections — that we’ve seen this year.
The Jaguars, who are pestering their opponents on a weekly basis, caused the Seahawks to lose their cool at the end of Jacksonville’s 30-24 win. Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch, while Quinton Jefferson got tossed for fighting.
The ejections of Seahawks DL Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson brings the NFL's total to 15 in 2017, the highest total for a single season since at least 2001 and possibly longer. https://t.co/FPE3bbuLjx— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 11, 2017
The next ejection — and you know it’s coming — will be the most we’ve seen in a season in recent memory.
Andy Dalton had thrown 193 straight passes without an interception. It was the longest active streak in the @NFL.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) December 10, 2017
Even worse for Dalton was that the pick wasn’t even his fault. It bounced off A.J. Green’s hands and into the waiting arms of Bears safety Eddie Jackson. But it wasn’t a good day for Dalton overall. He completed 14 of 29 passes for 141 yards, one touchdown, and the pick. His 59.7 quarterback rating was his worst since Week 1, when he rated a 28.4.
The Bengals got their butts kicked by the Bears, but Marvin Lewis said it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Safety George Iloka disagreed. He said it was a “lack of execution, lack of effort,” less than a week after their gutting loss to the Steelers.
Whatever the reason, it was a bad day for Dalton and the Bengals.
On Sunday, Cam Newton rumbled for a critical 62 yards to put the Panthers in position to score and get a 31-24 win over the Vikings. It wasn’t his longest run of the season, though. In Week 10, Newton ran right through the Dolphins defense for a nice 69-yard gain.
With those two runs, Newton became the first quarterback in NFL history to have more than one run of 60 yards or more in a single season.
Newton is second on the team with 585 rushing yards and five touchdowns so far this season. He’s just 49 yards and a score behind the team’s leading rusher, Jonathan Stewart.
Newton hit another milestone on Sunday: He became the first NFL quarterback to wear a fez to his postgame press conference:
There’s a first time for everything, a harsh reminder for Dan Bailey against the Giants this week. The Cowboys kicker missed an extra point on Sunday. That had never happened in his career.
The rest of his day wasn’t all that great, either:
First time in Dan Bailey's career he has missed a PAT. That to go along with two missed field goals. Something is wrong.— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) December 10, 2017
Bailey sat out four games earlier this season due to a groin injury. Those were his first misses since he returned to the lineup three weeks ago. But to be fair, both kicks he missed came from 50 and 53 yards, and it was pretty windy at MetLife Stadium.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they still won 30-10 behind a career passing game from Dak Prescott.
This is only Chandler Jones’ second season with the Cardinals, but he’s already setting franchise records. With a sack against Marcus Mariota in Arizona’s win over the Titans, Jones became the first player in Cardinals history to record 14 sacks in 13 games. Jones has been the same productive player he’s always been ever since the Patriots traded him away in 2016, but this season has been his best by far:
In fact, Jones almost has as many sacks himself as the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, which has just 17. Speaking of ...
Matthew Stafford started his 109th straight game for the Lions this weekend, despite an injury to his throwing hand. Stafford had another, less distinguished streak heading into Sunday, but luckily for Stafford, this one was snapped:
Stafford had been sacked in 35 straight games.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) December 10, 2017
But for the first time in 2 years, he was kept clean on Sunday: https://t.co/bjrvlff85Y
Stafford was sacked 98 times in those 35 games. He last went an entire game without getting sacked over two years ago, in Week 10 of the 2015 season.
With a clean pocket against the Bucs, Stafford completed 36 of 44 passes for 381 yards and helped get the Lions in range for the game-winning field goal at the end.
Brett Hundley is better than Aaron Rodgers — by one measure, anyway:
After back-to-back walk-off wins, Brett Hundley has Aaron Rodgers beat in one category. pic.twitter.com/6atrfapFIW— ESPN (@espn) December 10, 2017
Hundley has twice as many overtime wins as Rodgers. And he did it over two consecutive weeks.
In Week 13, Hundley led an eight-play, 72-yard drive to get the Packers in position to beat the Buccaneers 26-20 with a rushing touchdown from Aaron Jones. On Sunday, the Packers avoided the humiliation of handing the Browns their first win. Hundley capitalized on a DeShone Kizer interception in overtime and hit Davante Adams for the game-winning touchdown.
Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks we have ever seen, has played in eight overtime games and has but one win to show for it. That came in Week 3 of this season, when the Packers broke the hearts of the other Ohio team with a 27-24 comeback win over the Bengals.
The Rams are strong in all three phases this season. But their real MVPs right now are the guys on special teams. On Sunday against the Eagles, safety Blake Countess made the most of a blocked punt, returning it 16 yards for a touchdown. It was the third blocked punt for the team this year, far outpacing the rest of the league:
The @RamsNFL have 3 blocked punts this season— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 10, 2017
The next-closest teams have 1 apiece
The Rams kicking game is legit, too. Kicker Greg Zuerlein leads the NFL in scoring with 148 points, and he could threaten LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season record of 186 points. Punter Johnny Hekker’s net average of 45.1 yards is second-best in the NFL — and it should be noted, none of his punts has been blocked.
The Seahawks were down 27-10 heading into the fourth quarter against the Jaguars. At that point, Russell Wilson had, uncharacteristically, thrown three picks. So things were not looking good for the Seahawks’ chances of staging a comeback.
They still lost, but Wilson did his best to give Seattle a shot. He tossed two touchdowns late in the game, adding to his record 17 fourth-quarter touchdowns this season:
Most 4th-Quarter Pass TD in a Season – NFL History— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 11, 2017
2017 Russell Wilson 17
2011 Eli Manning 15
The Seahawks still have three games left, and you could almost guarantee that he’ll be building on that record. Wilson’s been an MVP candidate this season with over 3,500 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
This week, Von Miller got his 90th career sack, which has rarely been matched through a player’s first seven years in the NFL:
Miller’s efforts also helped give the Broncos their first shutout win since 2005.
For a team that had been reeling, catching a 23-0 win over the Jets had to be a good feeling. The Broncos entered Sunday’s game having lost eight consecutive games.
3,500 x 10
When Philip Rivers passed the 3,500-yard passing yards mark in Sunday’s win over Washington, he joined an elite group:
Rivers has always been a prolific passer, but that hasn’t been enough to get the Chargers to the playoffs since the 2012 season. But this could be the year that changes for Rivers and the 7-6 Chargers.
Larry Fitzgerald has been moving his way up the NFL’s receiving yards chart this season. On Sunday, Fitzgerald passed one of the all-time greats:
Fitzgerald doesn’t think he compares to Moss, telling the Cardinals’ official site that “I don’t have any of those gifts that he has.” But it’s hard to argue with the numbers Fitzgerald has put up in his 14-year career: 15,311 receiving yards and 109 touchdowns.
Even if Fitzgerald does decide to play out the one-year extension he signed with the Cardinals for 2018, it would take a miracle for him to take the top spot over Jerry Rice’s 22,895 receiving yards. But besting Terrell Owens’ 15,934 career yards to move into second place? That’s attainable.
Darrelle Revis made his Chiefs debut in Week 13 against the Jets and he looked...well, like a 32-year-old who had just signed with a new team and hadn’t played a snap in almost a year.
But a week later against the Raiders, Revis looked much more comfortable in red and gold:
Per @PFF, #Chiefs CB Darrelle Revis played 56 out of 61 defensive snaps vs. the Raiders.— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) December 11, 2017
Derek Carr targeted Revis 7 times, with Revis allowing only 1 reception for 8 yards. He had 1 pass defensed and a 39.6 passer rating when throwing in his direction. pic.twitter.com/oiuialSH4n
Derek Carr’s awful outing probably helped those numbers, but allowing just a 39.6 QB rating can at least quiet the Revis Peninsula jokes this week.
The Patriots didn’t do anything well against the Dolphins on Monday night in a shocking loss. Tom Brady threw two interceptions in a regular-season game for the first time in two years, and the New England offense had seven three-and-outs. SEVEN!
Unsurprisingly, that many unsuccessful drives meant the Patriots did poorly on third down. How bad was it? Only the worst game for the team since 1991:
Patriots: 0-11 on 3rd down— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 12, 2017
1st time failing to convert a 3rd down since going 0-6 in 1991 vs Phoenix Cardinals
Tom Brady was 14 years old when that game was played pic.twitter.com/r217ViF867
And something Bill Belichick hadn’t seen from his team since he was the coach of the Browns:
New England finished the game with 248 yards of total offense, easily its worst offensive showing of the year. The previous low was 371 yards put up against the Chiefs in Week 1.
The Patriots always seem to shake off bad games on the rare occasion that they happen, so it’s probably not panic time. But whew, this was a stinker.