American Football Expert & Columnist
Pick Six: The game of the year, the Jameis Winston Experience and why New England can be written off
Last Updated: 10/12/19 5:49pm
The big contests keep on coming in the NFL and Week 14 served up some real treats on Sunday night, including what was clearly the game of the year as the San Francisco 49ers recorded a breathtaking 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints.
And that's where this Pick Six will begin...
Jimmy G comes up huge for the Niners
The perception from our Sky Sports analysts in the studio on Sunday - and among many pundits and sage minds on the other side of the Atlantic - is that the San Francisco 49ers are beatable if you make Jimmy Garoppolo the one to try to beat you.
That may sound harsh on Jimmy G but I don't think it's meant as a way to suggest he is a bad quarterback. I feel it is more of a reflection on how he is still growing as a passer, while the San Francisco running game and defense is proving to be top notch week in and week out.
But Sunday night's win was a big, big moment for Garoppolo as he threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns. And he came up massive on a fourth down play with the game on the line, connecting with tight end George Kittle for a 39-yard reception to set up Robbie Gould's winning field goal as time ran out.
With the game - and massive playoff seedings - on the line, the Niners had to lean hard on their quarterback and he delivered in a big spot.
Patriots coaching around their deficiencies
The Kansas City Chiefs secured a big win at Foxboro on Sunday evening, hanging on for dear life to record a 23-16 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The game ended with Tom Brady's throw into the end zone being batted away by the Chiefs. And that one play was a clear indication that Brady is not - and has not been - playing well. First, he didn't even see an open Jakobi Meyers on the fourth down play - the receiver would definitely have picked up a first down and likely would have scored the tying touchdown.
Then Brady placed the pass to Julian Edelman too close to Kansas City's Bashaud Breeland when anything to the sideline or the front of the end zone would have been a touchdown.
Brady is struggling and this offense looks like it is running in thick mud. And that means Bill Belichick and offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels are doing the jobs of their coaching lives to keep New England in the race. We saw another blocked punt and two trick plays in which Brady threw a flea flicker touchdown to Edelman and running back James White threw a 35-yard completion.
While that coaching job is admirable, is it sustainable? I would suggest no but only time will tell when the playoffs begin. New England make a habit of making fools out of those who write them off... but I'm writing them off anyway!
The Jameis Winston Experience
There are some pretty cool theme parks in Florida. Tampa has Busch Gardens and then there are a multitude of Disney and Universal options about an hour up the I4 in Orlando. I wonder if one of those parks would consider a new roller coaster called 'The Jameis Winston Experience'?
It would definitely be a big dipper-type with multiple highs and some stomach-churning lows. That would pretty much sum up the professional football life of Winston.
We got to enjoy the full experience on Sunday as Winston tossed up three interceptions as Tampa Bay fell behind 35-31 to the playoff-chasing Indianapolis Colts. One of those interceptions was a damaging pick six in which Darius Leonard raced 80 yards to the end zone.
But Winston is unrelenting, not bothered by mistakes and kept plugging away without injured receiver Mike Evans, who left the contest with a pinged hamstring. Winston ended up throwing for a career high 456 yards and four touchdowns, including a game-winner to Breshad Perriman. He also rushed for a touchdown and Tampa have now won three in a row.
As frustrating as he can be to watch at times, I think the Bucs might end up sticking with Jameis and offering him a new deal in the offseason. Buckle up - this ride is about to get very interesting indeed.
Titans march on
The surging Tennessee Titans are becoming one of the big stories of the second half of the 2019 season and it's likely down to them and the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last playoff spot in the AFC. Or maybe it isn't?
The Titans still have to play the Houston Texans twice and could yet take the AFC South title, making them the No 4 seed in the playoffs. It is a tough end to the year for Tennessee as they also face the Saints on December 22 but they are one of the league's form teams now and should fear no opponent.
Sunday's 42-21 victory moved Tennessee one step closer to signing former backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a long-term deal. He has been sensational in leading the Titans to six wins from their last seven and never looked this good in Miami.
Tannehill threw for 391 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday and Tennessee are averaging 31.4 points per game with him at the helm. This is one of the most dangerous teams in the league with three weeks of the regular season remaining.
Ravens roll on
The Baltimore Ravens stayed at the top of the AFC playoff pile with a 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills but what struck me most in this game was how John Harbaugh's men can get the job done when their main man is not playing at a superhuman level.
Lamar Jackson was decent on Sunday as he threw three touchdown passes, but he only racked up 145 yards through the air and 40 on the ground against a very good Buffalo defense.
But what about that Ravens defense? They were sensational and reminded us they can carry this team. Baltimore sacked Josh Allen six times and created 25 quarterback pressures. That is stunning stuff.
As for the Bills, they should be credited for hanging tough with the Super Bowl favourites and they remain in decent shape for a playoff spot although their run-in is difficult - at Pittsburgh, at New England and home to the New York Jets.
Rams still alive
The Los Angeles Rams have left themselves no room for error but they remain in the NFC playoff race after back-to-back wins over the Arizona Cardinals and the conference-leading Seattle Seahawks.
Last night's 28-12 victory over Seattle was a big one as it improved the Rams to 8-5 and kept them just one game behind the Minnesota Vikings for the final playoff spot in the NFC. More on that in a moment.
There were some good moments on offense. Jared Goff made a strong start at quarterback, Todd Gurley got 27 touches of the ball and Robert Woods made some big plays, but the story of this game was a Rams defense that sacked Russell Wilson five times and intercepted him once.
The Rams have left their playoff charge late but they have a genuine shot now. They must at least match the Vikings won-lost record and then it will come down to tiebreakers. Minnesota are currently 7-3 in the NFC and the Rams are 6-3. The Rams finish with games at Dallas, at San Francisco and home to Arizona. They likely have to win them all. Minnesota would then also need to win out at the LA Chargers, home to Green Bay and Chicago. Those final two could prove problematic for the Vikes.