1. The Dallas Cowboys became the first NFl team to officially clinch a playoff berth with their win over the Vikings on Thursday night, coupled with a Redskins loss. They’ll have a chance to clinch the NFC East in Week 14 with a win and run their win streak to 12 games. Dallas is now listed as at 4/1 odds to win Super Bowl 51, behind only New England.
1A: Dallas is scheduled to play four prime-time games in a row. Minnesota in Week 13, New York in Week 14, Tampa Bay in Week 15, and Detroit in Week 16.
2. The Seattle Seahawks are officially back. They dismantled Carolina last night, to the tune of 40-7 at home. Seattle has now won four out of its last five games, but lost star free safety Earl Thomas to a leg injury. Thomas is a critical part of Seattle’s vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’ secondary, and will be a difficult player to replace moving forward.
3. The team that no one is talking about? Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have their last four games, beating Kansas City on the road, San Diego on the road, and Seattle at home. Their defense is forcing turnovers at an impressive clip in the last four games, while also holding opponents to 54 points combined. Tampa Bay’s scheduled meeting against Dallas in Week 15 has been flexed into the Sunday Night prime-time slot, in what could be a meeting between two teams with lengthy winning streaks.
4. Speaking of winning streaks, the Detroit Lions continue to fly under the radar. They walked into New Orleans on Sunday and won by double digits. Not exactly an easy feat. Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to enjoy the finest season of his career, throwing for over 340 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints. Detroit holds a two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers in the NFC North.
5. And now to the mediocrity portion of this week’s column. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw his 11th career pick-six interception in yesterday’s loss to the Denver Broncos. Here’s a stat that caught my eye. Blake Bortles career wins: 10. Blake Bortles career pick-six interceptions: 11. Woof.
6. Bortles wasn’t the only quarterback who struggled mightily on Sunday. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had arguably the worst game of any quarterback in NFL history. Kaepernick threw for four yards, yes you read that right, and was benched in lieu of Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears. Granted, Kaepernick was playing in snowy conditions, and only threw five passes, but four yards is four yards. San Francisco dropped to 1-11 on the season.
7. New England and Oakland continue to roll towards the top two seeds in the AFC. Both teams won in convincing fashion on Sunday, with the latter completing a 15-point comeback to win by double digits against the Buffalo Bills. Oakland has a major divisional matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14 on Thursday night, in what should be the best Thursday night game of the 2016 NFL season.
8. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was benched for the team’s first drive against Seattle on Sunday night, for failure to abide by team rules. It was later discovered that Newton didn’t wear a tie on the flight to Seattle, which apparently is a big no-no for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. The result? Incumbent starter Derek Anderson threw an interception on the team’s very first play, which then resulted in a Seattle field goal. Yikes.
9. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won his 201st career game on Sunday, making him the winning-est quarterback in NFL history. Brady, who has stated that he wants to play well into his 40’s, will likely continue to pad this impressive statistic. Best quarterback of all-time? I certainly think so.
10. How did Los Angeles reward head coach Jeff Fisher for losing to New England by 16 points on Sunday? They gave him a two-year contract extension in one of the more puzzling moves in the 2016 NFL season. Fisher will look to finish around .500 for the 20th consecutive year…