American Football Expert & Columnist
NFL Pick Six: Complete-looking Texans, Packers coaching change and Patriots coaching genius
Last Updated: 03/12/18 5:52pm
Neil Reynolds picks six storylines from Week 13, including the complete-looking Houston Texans, a coaching change for the Green Bay Packers and more coaching genius from the New England Patriots...
Week 13 in the NFL featured some big results that helped to remind us which teams are ready to make a good stretch run and which ones might just be a little fraudulent.
Here are six headlines that caught my eye while sat in the Sky Sports studio on Sunday evening...
Texans look complete
Our first game on Sky Sports held all the promise of being a mouth-watering affair as Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans played host to Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns.
But the battle between two young stars at the quarterback position turned into something of a damp squib as the Texans ran out comfortable 29-13 winners. And the reason for that was because Houston are approaching the status of being a complete team and the Browns are not even close to completing their roster building yet.
Watson was outstanding at quarterback and ably supported by wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Lamar Miller. And the defense is legitimately one of the better units in the league, as they proved on Sunday with constant harassment of Mayfield that resulted in three interceptions. The Texans have now won nine in a row and will be a very tough out during the playoffs.
We say this quite often when the New England Patriots line up against another NFL team… if we measured the rosters man for man, Bill Belichick's squad regularly come up short in terms of athleticism. That might have been the case again on Sunday, but it didn't matter a jot as the Patriots recorded a 24-10 home win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Patriots are intelligent, unselfish, tough and coached, coached and coached again until they can take no more. That may make daily life a grind in New England, but it certainly helps Tom Brady and co-produce big wins on Sundays.
At every turn, it felt like the Patriots out-coached and out-smarted the Vikings. And when the players on the field didn't have the answer, Belichick would make another masterful chess move to help his guys on the field.
New England scored the first 10 points before Minnesota tied the game at 10-10 in the second half. Belichick then raised the tempo of his team and called plays at a much faster pace, limiting the Vikings substitutions on defense and snatching back momentum. The Patriots never looked back, always looked like they had a plan and there were times when the Vikings, by contrast, appeared desperate and in the midst of playing a frustrating guessing game.
End of the road for McCarthy
Sunday evening saw the Green Bay Packers fighting to save their season at home against an Arizona Cardinals team coming off a 45-10 shellacking the previous week to the Los Angeles Chargers. Surely Aaron Rodgers would have too much for a miserable Arizona team that had won just two games on the year?
Wrong! The Packers dropped to 4-7-1 on the year with a miserable and frustrating 20-17 defeat in front of their loyal, but always-demanding, fans at Lambeau Field. And that spelled the end for head coach Mike McCarthy, who was promptly fired.
I have to admit I saw this one coming. McCarthy and the Packers' management stand accused of wasting some of Aaron Rodgers' best years and I think his relationship with his star passer has been strained for some time. I feel like priority number one will be to find a true quarterback whisperer who can be more aggressive in his play-calling and get more out of the 35-year-old Rodgers. For whatever reason, McCarthy failed to do that and I think his creativity could have been greater - it felt like he was relying on Rodgers' natural ability and more is going to be needed to move the Packers forward.
Concerns for the Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons late last week as they released star running back Kareem Hunt after video emerged of him shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February.
Putting that shameful and disturbing incident to one side and concentrating purely on the field, I have other concerns about a Kansas City team that improved to 10-2 on the year with a 40-33 win over the Oakland Raiders.
It is clear the Chiefs are still going to be able to score points for fun as Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdown strikes against the Silver and Black to give him an NFL-leading 41 on the season. But the fact the Chiefs gave up 33 points to the two-win Raiders and made things much harder than necessary is a real concern and I wonder if a good defense can do a number on KC when it comes to the playoffs? That would be a real worry if I were a Chiefs fan, regardless of how exciting they have been to watch this season.
Good and bad trends
Getting hot at this time of the year is obviously good for a playoff-chasing team and we can count the likes of Houston (nine straight wins), the Baltimore Ravens (three straight) and Denver Broncos (three straight) as form teams in the AFC.
In the NFC, one of the most impressive streaking teams is the four-win Dallas Cowboys, who knocked off the high-flying New Orleans Saints in Week 13. It was not that long ago that Dallas head coach Jason Garrett was considered to be on the hot seat and in danger of losing his job. Now, his team has a real playoff look about them - how quickly things can change in the NFL.
Another serious contender emerging from the pack in the NFC is the Seattle Seahawks, who have won three straight and who are looking pretty complete themselves. Seattle can throw it all over the park with Russell Wilson, run it down your throat and play aggressive and opportunistic defense. I love what Pete Carroll has done with a relatively young and new team this year.
Panthers in trouble
By contrast, the Carolina Panthers are in trouble in the NFC as they lost for the fourth game in a row on Sunday, dropping to a 24-17 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
More worrying than the loss of form is the obvious evidence that Cam Newton is struggling through a shoulder injury. He was intercepted four times by the Bucs and was taken off the field on the final play of the game as backup Taylor Heinicke was inserted to throw the Hail Mary.
In more positive news for the Panthers, British defensive end Efe Obada was active and hungry on Sunday evening, recording his second sack of the season while also adding another tackle, a tackle for a loss, a quarterback hit and a pass batted down. Efe is continuing to grow and is developing a playmaking habit for Carolina that will serve him well down the road.
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