Well, we at Tiebreaker.com also figured a team from Los Angeles would be playing in this year’s Super Bowl. Of course, we never suspected in might be the Chargers. In honor of John Hadl, we welcome the Bolts to the top of our AFC power rankings.
Los Angeles Chargers
Not since Dan Fouts played catch with Kellen Winslow and Charlie Joiner has a Chargers team been this much fun to watch. But the Bolts are getting it done in a different way, with a little more grind. They actually beat Kansas City without Keenan Allen (mostly), Melvin Gordon or Austin Eckler. Their four-game winning streak has been most impressive and with a little luck – beginning on Saturday against Baltimore – they might even win the AFC West and take the No. 1 overall seed.
Kansas City Chiefs
The home loss to the Chargers was most disappointing, wasn’t it Chiefs fans? A win would have put the boys into the saddle for homefield in the AFC playoffs and everyone could have started to plan the tailgate parties. But now it’s going to take some work, especially as it relates to finding the ground support to aid Pat Mahomes’ air attacks. Balance, boys. Don’t lose your balance.
We can’t repeat this enough: The Texans started the season 0-3 and if they can beat the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars over the next two weeks, they will earn a first-round bye. Incredible. Still, they looked a little stale last week in New York against the Jets and remember, Deshaun Watson has been sacked 52 times this season. We feel it’s only appropriate to point that out.
New England Patriots
We all expected the Pats to be belching fire in Pittsburgh after the way they lost the week before in Miami. Instead, they just burped up another one and are now 3-5 on the road this season. The Pats are going to win the AFC East – eventually. And they will win the division every year until the NFL lines up more than Pop Warner teams to compete with them. But win the Super Bowl this season? Nope.
Here is the running back timeline: Le’Veon Bell didn’t want to play, so James Conner took his place. Conner is going to the Pro Bowl, but now he is hurt. So Jaylen Samuels comes in and rips off 172 yards on 21 touches to pierce the Pats. That’s depth. But you know what, all of that wouldn’t have mattered had the Steelers not snapped out of it on Sunday. As it is, they have only a ½-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North. But that’s better than the alternative.
Since Lamar Jackson became their QB five weeks ago, the stock market has crashed. Just a joke, we wanted to see if you were paying attention. Truth is, the Ravens are rolling, the first team since the 1976 Steelers to gain at least 190 yards rushing in five straight weeks. They lead the league with 66 rushing first downs and have 28 runs of at least 10 yards. If they eventually pass the Steelers, you can bet it will because they have the stronger kick down the stretch.
We would like to file a complaint with the league on behalf of Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. Can someone please explain how the NFL’s leading tackler, who had another 11 in last week’s shutout of the Dallas Cowboys, who is 22 ahead of everyone else, was not chosen for the Pro Bowl? Get me the commissioner, this is ridiculous. The New York Giants are forewarned. Leonard is so angry he said he wants to make 40 tackles this weekend. Poor Eli.
The Titans have won three straight and that’s going to make for a dandy finish to the AFC Wild Card race. Tennessee, the Colts and the Ravens are all 8-6 and only one is going to go because either the Chargers or Chiefs have the other locked up. The Titans finish up with home games against Washington and the Colts and they say fortune favors the brave. It’s a nice time to have a defense capable of holding Giants rookie Saquon Barkley to 56 yards.
We are downright giddy about the Browns. They have won four of five and are 6-7-1 after winning just one game over the last two seasons. That’s a growth spurt worthy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Baker Mayfield continues impose his will on his teammates. But he is also composed under pressure. Only Drew Brees has a better QB rating when operating in the red zone. There’s only thing we’d like to say. Thank interim coach Gregg Williams for his service, but please don’t give him the job. Google the 2001 Buffalo Bills.
Here is the Dolphins season in a nutshell: Two weeks ago, Kenyan Drake burst into the NFL’s video vault forever by being the last leg of the 52-yard Fintastic Finish that beat the Patriots. That gave him a team-leading nine TDs this season. In 2017, no league back gained more rushing yards in December than he did. So on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Frank Gore injures himself in the first half and coach Adam Gase calls on. …Kalen Ballage. Drake gets one carry for six yards and the Fish lose 41-17. You can’t make it up, folks.
Let’s put it this way, Broncos fans. You have rookie halfback Phillip Lindsay, who has 991 yards and his going to the Pro Bowl. You have linebacker Bradley Chubb who needs only three sacks to break Jevon Kearse’s league sack record for rookies (14 in 1999). But you also have a team that has followed a three-game winning streak (which included the Chargers and Steelers) with a two-game losing streak to the San Francisco 49ers and Browns. And 6-8 sounds so sullen.
We assigned our crack research staff at Tiebreaker.com the task of finding something positive to say about the Bengals. It’s report begins with: “Well, they beat the Oakland Raiders last week.” Unfortunately, that’s where the report also ends. A team that’s 1-5 since Oct. 28, that’s missing its QB, its best receiver and any semblance of a defense, is going to have to look somewhere else for its encouragement this weekend at Cleveland. Sorry, we can’t help you.
Kudos to the Bills for beating the Detroit Lions last week to end the slow bleed caused by consecutive losses to the Dolphins and New York Jets. We admire the Bills, even though they are 31st in points (15.4), 31st in average yards (293.4) and 31st in passing yards (168.7). It’s tough playing your home games in Orchard Park, N.Y., where they call the wind Elbert Dubenion (1,139 rushing yards in 1964) in the midst of winter’s chill. The grazing buffalo will always be one the league’s great helmet insignias.
New York Jets
So what do you do on Sunday if you’re a Jets fan? Do you do some last-minute Christmas shopping at the Paramus Park Mall, or do you schlep out to MetLife Stadium to see your team play the Green Bay Packers knowing Aaron Rodgers may not start? It’s a tough choice, but you might want to say so long to Todd Bowles. Then again, there’s a great coal fire pizza place at the mall right next to Macy’s. What to do?
Excuse us, we’re still chuckling about last week’s loss to the Washington Redskins, who were down to their fourth quarterback, Josh Johnson, who was actually behind Mark Sanchez on the depth chart two weeks ago. We noticed defensive lineman Calais Campbell said this week he and his teammates would be “playing for their jobs” at Miami and at Houston as the season ends. You think so?
As we mentioned earlier, the Raiders lost to the Bengals last weekend and are now 3-11. This troubles us because Derek Carr has actually had a marvelous season. Did you know he hasn’t thrown an interception since Oct. 7 and has 2,056 yards and 12 TDs passes since? But this obviously is not good enough for Jon Gruden because he signed Nathan Peterman this week, whose QB rating with the Bills this season (30.7) is the lowest in the league among hurlers with at least 50 attempts. Oakland, smarten up. These guys can’t leave town fast enough.