There were a handful of upsets in Week 14, but for the most part, chalk held up. The teams that were expected to win, and also contend in the playoffs, held serve during the final week of byes in the 2022 season.
Of the six teams that had the week off — quite a roadblock for those with fantasy playoffs starting next week — none were surefire bets to make the playoffs. The best team with the week off was Taylor Heinicke’s 7-5-1 Washington Commanders.
However, there weren’t nearly as many marquee matchups this week as there were in Week 13. Looking at the schedule it would have been reasonable to assume that the top NFL teams would be able to get through the second week of December without much trouble.
But it didn’t turn out that way.
Sure Brock Purdy and Co. walloped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Philadelphia Eagles, again, proved to be as good as their one-loss record implies, but some teams had to struggle. A handful of teams that will be in the tournament come mid-January had to quickly swerve to avoid a Week 14 intruder into their lane.
When the team that’s two games ahead of you in the division — a team that you’ll be hosting on Christmas Eve — defeats a common division rival by 26 points, on the road, losing to the worst team in the NFL doesn’t quite send the desired holiday message. Especially when that team with future No. 1 overall draft pick fairies dancing in the heads of executives is rotating starting quarterbacks like a 1990s college football team.
Yet, the Houston Texans led the Dallas Cowboys for nearly the entire second half.
The Cowboys got stuffed on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line in the third quarter, turned the ball over in the fourth, and this three-loss team did not score a touchdown, at home, against the Texans for more than 42 minutes of game time. A fourth loss appeared imminent when Dak Prescott threw that interception in the fourth quarter that put the Texans in an immediate goal-to-go situation.
The fine that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott received for their Week 13 Salvation Army bucket celebration goes to charity, so maybe some holiday magic came their way because the Cowboys stuffed the Texans on fourth-and-1. They then skated their way down the field to a touchdown in the hurry-up offense, and finished the day at 10-3, with one of the most unencouraging victories of the season.
For those who have spent even a half hour watching the Denver Broncos after Week 1, there was no reason to expect anything surprising from their first 2022 matchup against the Chiefs, except for Nathaniel Hackett possibly getting fired.
The best team in the AFC was going up against a team that hadn’t scored 25 points once this season, and had only broken the 20-point barrier twice. For most of the first half, the game went even worse than the most dejected Broncos, and delirious Chiefs fan, would have imagined. With just under five minutes remaining in the second quarter, Willie Gay went Spiderman on Russell Wilson when he batted a pass into the air, secured the interception, and sprinted for a touchdown. That play, and the subsequent extra point, put the Chiefs up 27-0.
At this point, a reasonable belief would be that someone in Broncos public relations was working on a statement to tell the world that the team was parting ways with Hackett. Denver’s next drive was an uninspiring four-and-out. Then, with three minutes remaining in the quarter, Patrick Mahomes threw an interception.
The Broncos would go on to score a touchdown. Then on the next drive, Mahomes threw another interception. The Broncos scored another touchdown and went into halftime down 27-14.
A screen pass from Wilson to Marlon Mack went for a 66-yard score on the Broncos’ opening second-half drive, and there must have been some radioactive fumes coming from global warming melting Rocky Mountain ice caps because this matchup was now a one-score game. If Wilson didn’t end up in concussion protocol, the Chiefs could’ve easily lost. They even went three and out on the next drive, and Mahomes threw a third interception after the Broncos reduced the deficit to 34-28.
Yes, the Chiefs still have the best record in the AFC, but if they have plans of winning the franchise’s third Super Bowl, Week 14 can’t happen again.
If there is a bet that can be placed on what game will be flexed into the Week 18 Sunday Night Football season finale, the only logical one is Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens. It’s very likely that the AFC North title will be on the line that day.
While the Ravens have a much easier schedule for the next three weeks, who knows when Lamar Jackson will return to the lineup. On Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Jackson may not be behind center again for the Ravens until Christmas Eve.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers having won three out of their last four games, and playing their rival Ravens at home, Kenny Pickett appeared to have a good chance to get a win against Ravens backup QB Tyler Huntley. That was until Pickett got dropped on the back of his head early in the first quarter. He tried to return but lasted only three more plays before Mitch Trubisky had to take over.
Trubisky would go on to throw three interceptions. Combine that with the return of J.K. Dobbins to the backfield, and it looked like the Ravens were going to be able to breathe easier than expected this week.
That was until Huntley went into concussion protocol after a hit in the third quarter. Undrafted rookie free agent, Anthony Brown, had to finish the day for the Ravens. Fortunately, for him, Trubisky threw a third pick on the drive before Brown took the field, and on the drive after, the Ravens’ special teams blocked a field-goal attempt.
The Ravens are on the road against the Cleveland Browns in Week 15. With a giant question mark on who will be behind center that day while the Bengals will be taking on the sputtering Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Week 18 Ravens vs. Bengals is going to be a doozy.