2016 Season: Super Bowl LI Prediction

Super Bowl LIThe biggest game of the year is upon us and the ultimate question everybody has is: who will win?

The Patriots are appearing in a record 7th Super Bowl while this will be the Falcons’ second ever.  Each has ridden a great offense and opportunistic defense to get to the dance and now that they are here it will probably come down to which “D” can make the crucial stand when it needs to.  The Patriots boast the #1 scoring defense in the league while the Falcons have the #1 scoring offense.  When opponents hold Atlanta to less than 30 points this year, they are 5-1 against them.  On the flip side, when the Falcons score 30+, they are 10-0 on the season (including playoffs).  The Patriots will be doing everything they can to slow down the Atlanta attack by attempting to shut down Julio Jones.  I can see them having a little success with this, but he will certainly have his moments.  The one matchup that is even more intriguing than Jones vs. the New England secondary is Matt Patricia’s 2nd ranked run defense against Kyle Shanahan’s 9th ranked rushing offense.  It might sound funny, but if the Falcons are to win the Super Bowl, they will have to rely on their running game to make way as well as a couple of big plays from the defense.  Tom Brady and the Pats are not turning the ball over so it will be hard for Atlanta to rely on that.  In the end I think that New England can move the ball better and take care of it.  Matt Ryan has had an incredible season and I think he will have a great game.  I can see this being the first ever Super Bowl to go into overtime (for a bold prediction).  When it gets down to it, Tom Terrific will get the job done.  Also, I feel obligated to roll with the Pats here since I did pick them to win it all back in August and I foolishly picked against them a week ago.  We are due for a good game in the playoffs and I don’t think the Super Bowl will let us down.  I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds!

Final: New England 32, Atlanta 26 (OT)

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2016 Season: Championship Round Preview

Championship Sunday, or the Final Four if you will.  The Packers and Falcons will do battle for their claim to the top spot in the NFC while the Steelers and Patriots square off in Foxboro for that same right in the AFC.  These are four very capable offenses so points could fly this weekend.  Here are my predictions.

Championship Sunday

Last Week: 3-1

Playoffs: 7-1

Sunday, January 22nd, 3:05 e.t.

#4 Green Bay Packers (12-6) @ #2 Atlanta Falcons (12-5)

The Packers and Falcons are two of the hottest offenses in the league right now and neither defense is all that great against the passing game.  Atlanta has had some good fortune lately against bad offenses making it seem like they’ve righted the ship but I don’t see them getting enough pressure on Aaron Rodgers to effect his game.  Despite injuries I see Green Bay going on to the Super Bowl continuing their hot streak.

Green Bay 33, Atlanta 30

Sunday, January 22nd, 6:40 e.t.

#4 Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) @ New England Patriots (15-2)

The Steelers, much like Green Bay, have been on quite a roll lately but so have the Patriots.  New England is simply doing what it always does and that is taking care of business against weaker teams.  Pittsburgh is finding itself on offense and they have been strong running with LeVeon Bell lately.  Also, the Steelers have enough weapons on offense to expose the New England defense, something that some of the inferior teams with lesser quarterbacks may not have been able to do.  I see the Steelers taking the win and meeting Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh 29, New England 25

Enjoy the two fantastic matchups this weekend.  I will be back on soon with my Super Bowl prediction!

2016 Season: Divisional Round Preview

The Wild Card round has come and gone and four undeserving teams were written off in embarrassing contests.  There should be some good games this time around though as the final eight teams give it a go over the weekend.  Who will be moving on to the championship game?  Find out with my picks!

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Playoff Record: 4-0

Saturday, January 14th, 4:35 e.t.

#3 Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1) @ #2 Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

This could be a good game.  The last time these two teams met was Week 6 in a contest that went down to the wire.  The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in the divisional round of the 2012 season.  There is an excellent chance that this one will end in thrilling fashion.  I am not very high on Seattle’s offense right now, so they will have to rely on their good defense.  Unfortunately there is a big difference between playing at home against an inconsistent Lions’ offense and on the road against the best attack in football.  I see the Falcons doing enough with the ball in their hands to win the game.

Atlanta 32, Seattle 27

Saturday, January 14th, 8:15 e.t.

#4 Houston Texans (10-7) @ #1 New England Patriots (14-2)

The Texans lucked out by facing a depleted Raiders team at home last week, but let’s face it… they are one of the five teams that made it into the playoffs that were not deserving.  The defense may play well here, but I don’t think they will be able to hold the New England offense down to the point where their own can keep up.  This was a 27-0 drubbing in Week 3 with Jacoby Brissett in at QB.  Tom Brady > Jacoby Brissett.

New England 38, Houston 14

Sunday, January 15th, 4:40 e.t.

#4 Green Bay Packers (11-6) @ #1 Dallas Cowboys (13-3)

The Packers looked darn good from the middle of the second quarter on last week against the Giants and were able to slaughter the G-Men at home.  This week they will hit the road against a Cowboy team that beat them in Lambeau 30-16 earlier this season.  However, this time the Pack will have playoff experienced veterans and coaches to rely on versus a team filled with youngsters who have never been there before.  Also, I’m not sure that having (essentially) two weeks off for Dallas is a good thing against a hot Green Bay team.  I like the Packers to continue rolling with their offense in Big D.

Green Bay 31, Dallas 21

Sunday, January 15th, 8:20 e.t.

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)

This game was pushed back to 8:20 due to inclement weather conditions, which is good news for the Chiefs because the Steelers are more accustomed to playing in the snow/elements than they would be.  The last time these two teams faced off this year it didn’t end so well for Kansas City.  This go-round, however, sees them as the hosting team and that makes this contest that much tougher to choose.  I really want to go with the Steelers here because they are such a hot team, but the Kansas City offense is starting to become a force.  Their defense might have what it takes to slow the Pittsburgh offense and keep them in the game.  Could be one of the best playoff games this season.

Kansas City 23, Pittsburgh 20

Enjoy the games!  I will hop back on next week with my Championship Round predictions.

2016 Season: Wild Card Weekend Preview

At last, we have arrived with the playoffs.  This wild card weekend will feature four teams who have recently won Super Bowls over the past decade; that is half for those of you counting at home, two teams who have never won a Super Bowl, and two who are hoping to return to relevancy.  Cooky things can happen in the first round of the NFL’s post season, and I am here to try to sniff them out.  Here are my picks for the Wild Card round.

Eli Mannings

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 144-105

Saturday, January 7th, 4:35 e.t.

#5 Oakland Raiders (12-4) @ #4 Houston Texans (9-7)

We get our traditional Texans game to kick off the playoffs, and this matchup will feature Connor Cook versus Brock Osweiler.  Consider that battle a wash.  When determining the outcome of this game we have to look elsewhere, and I really like what Houston brings on defense against a rookie QB  At home, look for the Texans to take out the Raiders and put an end to their once very promising season.

Houston 24, Oakland 13

Saturday, January 7th, 8:15 e.t.

#6 Detroit Lions (9-7) @ #3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

The big story coming into this game is how the Seahawks have not been playing good football lately and that is uncharacteristic of them.  I can see them turning things around a bit in this contest.  At home in front of an always rowdy crowd, the defense could be swarming.  It will be on the offense in future games for the ‘Hawks, but I think their “D” will be enough to slow down an inconsistent Lions’ offense and earn them the win.

Seattle 27, Detroit 10

Sunday, January 8th, 1:05 e.t.

#6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

The Steelers come into this game tied with the Patriots for having the longest winning streak in football (seven straight games).  They seem to be peaking at the right time and that feels like bad news for a Miami team that sort of backed its way into the playoffs.  You get the feeling that there are only three true Super Bowl contenders in the AFC, and Pittsburgh is one of them.  No way do they drop this game at home.

Pittsburgh 40, Miami 20

Sunday, January 8th, 4:40 e.t.

#5 New York Giants (11-5) @ #4 Green Bay Packers (10-6)

This weekend’s best game will be saved for last, and it is fitting that it will feature two teams with storied pasts and two former Super Bowl winning QBs.  The Giants are the sexy pick for this one because the last two times they won it all, they had to go into Green Bay and knock off a heavily favored Packer team and they did it.  There were a lot of experienced players and coaches then, and that is not the case now.  The Packers could be “that team” going forward and I think they get the job done at home with their defense playing much better and the Giants offense still struggling to score points.

Green Bay 21, New York 16

Hope you all have a good weekend and a great time watching the games.  I’ll be back next week with my Divisional Round predictions.

 

Week 17 Recap: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

Final: New York 19, Washington 10

Giants Redskins Football
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie finished the game with two picks.

In a game where the Washington Redskins desperately needed a win, it was the Giants who showed up in a big way and took the victory.  New York rode its defense as it has for the majority of the season and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was able to come away with the game-winning interception late in the fourth quarter to bring the Giants their eleventh win of the season.  Perhaps most surprisingly is that Big Blue kept most of their starters in for a majority of the game instead of resting them for the playoffs.  Speaking of the post-season, the Redskins are now eliminated from the dance and will have to stew in the bile of a crushing defeat until the 2017 season kicks off.

Washington’s offense was, for the most part, handled by the Giants defense.  They had just six first downs through the first three quarters and 4/12 on third down throughout the game.  Kirk Cousins was not great, but also not completely terrible.  He did not see some open receivers and was a little off on some of the throws.  There was plenty of pressure on him throughout the game accounting for some of this.  He was under duress when he floated the game-ending interception to Rodgers-Cromartie late in the fourth quarter and the throw was a bit behind the intended receiver as a result.  The offensive line was poor in this game and did nothing to bolster any kind of a rushing attack until late in the game when they began pulling their guards on sweep plays.  Again, Cousins did not receive optimal protection either and he had trouble getting the ball to open receivers since the New York secondary was in lock-down mode, even after Janoris Jenkins was pulled.  Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed were the standouts on offense for Washington.  Reed was a favorite target and did get open a bit underneath while Garcon was the man who converted a 3rd and 17 later in the fourth quarter that lead to a game-tying touchdown to Reed on the next play.  The lack of a running game is what ended up killing the ‘Skins shot at a postseason berth here because they were unable to find any kind of balance that would keep the offense unpredictable.

Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins in action from Week 17.

The flip side to the story was how well the Giants’ defense played on the road.  They received huge performances from a lot of their men.  First of all, it was quite a bit surprising to see how much man-to-man coverage that they rolled out.  Washington normally thrives in these situations and they were unable to do so here.  The secondary was outstanding.  Eli Apple had one of his better efforts of the year, but it was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who was making all of the splash plays on the back end with two picks (he also nearly blocked a PAT in the fourth quarter as well).  Up front for Big Blue, Damon Harrison was a monster and probably the best player from the New York defense in this contest.  He accounted for a couple of hurries and run stops as well as a sack.  He did a beautiful job sniffing out a screen pass by the Redskins that did have some promise with blockers out front in the final frame.  Keenan Robinson showed a lot with some solid form tackling and a nice sideline to sideline presence.  The Giants “D” was terrific and deserves a ton of credit for keeping the explosive Washington offense at bay.

The New York offense was not overly impressive here, but they were able to do some nice things, starting with a great effort running the ball.  This game resembled what the Giants were back in 2008 with a fantastic defensive performance coupled with a dominant running game.  Paul Perkins turned in the first 100+ yard rushing game for the G-Men on the season and did a lot of the dirty work behind the left side of the offensive line and Ereck Flowers, who had a nice game despite being flagged for yet another holding penalty.  Eli Manning did underthrow a few of his passes, but his waning arm strength did not look to be an issue late in the game when he hooked up with Tavarres King for a 44-yard gain that lead to the go-ahead and eventual game winning field goal.  The New York receivers were easily able to get open early in the game against some pretty soft zone coverage.  Josh Norman did follow Odell Beckham Jr. around for most of the game while OBJ was in there and while he did not let up an explosive play, Beckham did get the better of him quite a few times with good routes.  The Giants did fall into a bad lull in the second half offensively after they were so good in the first couple of quarters and this was mainly due to the fact that they were not able to run the ball with as much success.  When the ground game was cranking, New York was able to move the ball up and down the field, but the Redskins did catch on to this and once they shut the rushing attack down it was tough sledding for the #5 seeded team.  Going into the playoffs the Giants will have to be sure to address this spot because the offense yet again did not put up a lot of points.  Six of them came on the final play of the game when Trevin Wade picked up a loose ball and walked it into the end zone.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning made the plays he had to in the Giants’ 19-10 win over Washington.

Defensively for Washington, the team was pushed around a bit early on but they eventually got their bearings straight and were able to contain the Giants’ attack.  In the second half they really stacked the box and began to load the left side of the formation to cut down on the rushing attack that was pretty successful at the open.  The Redskins’ secondary was not great but was also very conservative and more concerned with guarding against the big play.  They did a good job with this until the aforementioned 44-yard completion to King.  Greg Toler was not too good in coverage, but Brashaud Breeland was, someone who had stepped his play up considerably over the final weeks of the season.  Also, as a side nugget, Mason Foster was everywhere in this game getting in on 17 tackles, 15 solo.  Ryan Kerrigan did leave the game with an injury in the first quarter and there was certainly a lack of a pass rush after he did exit.  All and all, the Redskin defense has nothing to be ashamed of in this game, they were not the reason why the team will be missing the playoffs at 8-7-1 following this heartbreaking loss.

The Giants will now hit the road and play the winner of the NFC North on the road in the wild card round.  Their offensive woes will need to be overcome if this team is going to make one of their runs towards the Super Bowl, but they certainly have the defense to keep them in many of the games they may be playing.  For the Redskins, this is a crusher.  Kirk Cousins had a great opportunity to lead his team down the field for the win and a playoff berth in the waning seconds, but was unable to do so and that is going to be a big black mark on their 2016 season.  He did end up throwing for nearly 5,000 yards this year and that alone could land him a big contract, but it is going to be tough to overlook the failure that was this game for the Redskins.  Their offense let them down when they needed a win the most.

Jordan Reed
Jordan Reed celebrates after his fourth quarter touchdown against the Giants.

The Skinny:

  • The Washington Redskins are eliminated from playoff contention with this loss.  A win would have earned them the #6 seed.
  • Washington could not run the ball for the majority of this game and only managed one rushing first down throughout the entirety of the contest.
  • The Redskins defense did a good job limiting the explosive plays and keeping the ball in front of them, but unfortunately they did not receive much help from their offense come the end of the game.
  • The New York defense was great yet again as they intercepted Kirk Cousins twice and held the Redskins to 4/12 on third down.  Washington was tops in the league when it came to not going three and out and the Giants forced them to do just that five times.
  • For the first time this year, the Giants offense had a 100+ yard rusher in Paul Perkins who has come on lately and is looking like he could be the lead back heading into the playoffs and next season.
  • The Giant offense is still very much a work in progress as the team managed only 13 points on that side of the ball.  Their game became predictable and easy to shut down in the second half and could be a problem come playoff time.

2016 Season: Week 17 Preview

It is the end of the road for 20 teams after this week, and with the AFC all sealed up team-wise there is only seeding left to determine.  For the NFC, however, there is a lot to sort through still as the Packers, Lions, Buccaneers, and Redskins will all be fighting for the final two spots in the playoffs.  It should be exciting.  For the final time in the regular season, here are my picks.

Antonio Brown

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 135-100

Sunday, January 1st, 1:00 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (8-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)

The Ravens fought hard but the Steelers stole a win and the AFC North away from them last week at Heinz Field in the final seconds.  Now Baltimore hits the road with a bad taste in their mouth.  That could mean motivation, but now this team has nothing to play for and I think they will come out deflated and the Bengals can take advantage of this playing at home.

Cincinnati 20, Baltimore 14

Cleveland Browns (1-14) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)

Cleveland finally has a win this year, and it took them 15 games to get it.  That was a good thing too because if they didn’t win that game this one wasn’t a great bet for them.  Although the Steelers essentially have nothing to play for, I think they will go out and get the “W” because that is the Mike Tomlin way.  Call this a warm-up game before they host Miami next week.

Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 9

Houston Texans (9-6) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7)

The Titans were stabbed multiple times in the chest last week losing their quarterback Marcus Mariota and their season all in one day.  This game could have been for all of the marbles, but instead it is a rather meaningless affair with everything decided between these two squads.  Still, with a decent defense and an offense that has shown a bit of a shriek with Tom Savage at the helm, I see the Texans walking away from this game with the season sweep.

Houston 29, Tennessee 17

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-8)

The Colts were finding somewhat of a rhythm on defense until they headed out to Oakland and got hammered.  This week should provide them with a good bounce-back opportunity against a Jacksonville team that is very inconsistent across the way.  Their defense should keep them in this one though but I certainly like Indy’s offense over the Jaguars’.

Indianapolis 22, Jacksonville 17

Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)

The Panthers, and specifically Cam Newton, have been a mess this year as the 2015 MVP is completing just 45% of his passes over the past month.  On the road against a Tampa Bay team that needs to have this one seems like a tall task, but I’m smelling an upset.  Doug Martin will not be in this game due to a drug suspension and that could take some wind out from behind Tampa’s sails.

Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 22

Chicago Bears (3-12) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

Matt Barkley showed us all that he is still Matt Barkley when he threw five picks against the Redskins last week.  Sure, the Bears were in come from behind mode and he had to force the issue a bit but it doesn’t change the fact that he can be reckless with the football.  On the road against a Viking defense that has been humbled lately, I like Minnesota to bounce back and play well.  Their offense has been watchable lately, even against some decent defenses.

Minnesota 18, Chicago 13

Dallas Cowboys (13-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)

The Eagles looked like a different team with Lane Johnson in at right tackle and their defense played the prototypical bend but don’t break style last week against the Giants.  The Cowboys ride into town having nothing at all to play for.  Jason Garrett won’t be resting his starters, but at the same time there won’t be a huge sense of urgency.  Playing at home, I think the Iggles can drop a NFC East foe for the second straight week.

Philadelphia 27, Dallas 17

Buffalo Bills (7-8) @ New York Jets (4-11)

Rex Ryan was shown the door Tuesday and now it will be Anthony Lynn taking over as head coach.  Remember when this guy was the running back coach at the beginning of the year?  Funny how he’s been on the rise while the only thing the Bills do well is run the ball.  The Jets can stop the run, but I just don’t think their offense has enough firepower to hold off the stampeded from Buffalo.

Buffalo 20, New York 10

New England Patriots (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5)

The Patriots and Dolphins are headed to the playoffs and in this game Miami won’t have anything to play for since they are locked in at the #5 seed.  New England, however, will have the #1 seed in their sights as a win will bring that to them.  Matt Moore has been solid in relief of Ryan Tannehill, but I don’t see him standing up to Tom Brady.  I also think the Pats will be able to run the ball against the ‘Phins which won’t bode well for the home team.

New England 35, Miami 21

Sunday, January 1st, 4:25 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10)

A Chiefs win and a Raiders loss will bring the AFC West crown to Kansas City so they should be playing with a lot of heart on Sunday.  This KC team can be scary because they have a suddenly explosive and playoff level offense to pair with their opportunistic defense.  The Chargers will likely be playing for the final time in San Diego on Sunday so they should be fired up, but I don’t like the mistakes their offense is prone to making and that prevents me from picking them here.

Kansas City 31, San Diego 24

Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11)

The Cardinals shocked the world and clipped the Seahawks for the first time at home last week and will finish their season on the road against a Rams team that struggles to break 10 points most weeks.  David Johnson has his eyes set on breaking 100 scrimmage yards for each game in the 2016 season here also, and I think he will.  Arizona’s offense has gotten up off the mat over the last few weeks while the Rams continue to be stuck in neutral.

Arizona 31, Los Angeles 13

New Orleans Saints (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5)

I was going to pick the Saints in an upset here, but this is a different Falcon team that is winning all of the games they should be when they have to.  They have a shot at reeling in the #2 seed, and I don’t think they will pass up that chance at home against the Saints who have nothing to play for besides spoiler.  Their defense has regressed some and that is not good news facing the best offense in football.

Atlanta 38, New Orleans 28

Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ Denver Broncos (8-7)

On the road in Denver with Mr. Matt McGloin doing his thing under center, it is tough to see the Raiders walking away with a win, but I think this Bronco team is in a horrible funk right now.  Their offense has been atrocious the last couple of weeks, and the defense has seemingly given up at times.  With noting to play for, don’t be surprised if they come out flat, even against a backup QB.

Oakland 23, Denver 12

New York Giants (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1)

The Giants were able to move the ball against the Eagles, but three Eli Manning interceptions doomed the G-Men on the road.  Now they will be facing one of the better offenses in the league this week.  If Kirk Cousins passes for more than 370 yards, he will have a 5,000 yard season believe it or not.  I don’t think it will happen, but I do see Washington playing a good game and scoring some points against a Giant team that has still been showing struggles keeping up on offense.

Washington 26, New York 18

Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (2-13)

The Seahawks did have a minor hiccup last week at home against the Cardinals, but they will get an easy game on the road against the 49ers who can’t beat anybody outside of the Rams this year.  I think that Seattle will keep it held back on offense and try to win this game with their “D”.  They should get that running game cranking against a team that has been horrible in that department as well.

Seattle 24, San Francisco 13

Sunday, January 1st, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6)

This game could be a loser goes home scenario in addition to a battle for the NFC North title.  Ford Field should be rocking early, but I don’t think they will be late because this Packer storm is coming on strong and each week they are looking more and more like the 2010 team that won it all.  Aaron Rodgers has fought his way back into the MVP conversation and after seeing the bad effort put forth out of Detroits’ defense on Monday night, I don’t have much confidence in them being able to get the job done with all the marbles on the line.

Power Pick of the Week: Green Bay 34, Detroit 21

Week 17 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (13-2): Arizona over Los Angeles

Upset of the Week: Carolina over Tampa Bay

Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Defensive Player of the Week: Khalil Mack, LB, Raiders

Rookie of the Week: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

Best Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Colts

Best Running Back: LeGarrette Blount, Patriots

Week 16 Recap: San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns

Final: Cleveland 20, San Diego 17

Jamar Taylor
Jamar Taylor celebrates after his interception of Philip Rivers on 12/24/16.

Call it a Christmas miracle, perhaps, but the Cleveland Browns erase their names from one of the most embarrassing feats in pro sports by getting off the schnide and grabbing their first win of the season.  They did it at home against an injury riddled Charger team, but it was a good win for them nonetheless and there were flashes as to why Browns fans can try to find hope moving forward.

The defense was the main reason why Cleveland won this game.  The secondary was not too terrific, but Jamar Taylor was able to make some plays in coverage.  Joe Haden, hobbled, was not great and eventually exited the game in the second quarter after getting fried up top by Travis Benjamin on the first play of the game.  The real star in the secondary was Truman Williams.  He plastered to his receivers and made some nice PBUs.  Christian Kirksey, who is the best player on defense next to Jamie Collins, made some plays as well, getting his nose in on nine tackles, six unassisted.  Emmanuel Ogbah, who is blossoming into a fine young player, was doing the dirty work and drawing a lot of doubles.  The Browns defensively, under Ray Horton, threw the kitchen sink at San Diego.  They rolled zones, blitzed, packed the box and did a great job stopping the run.  This was the biggest reason why they finally picked up a win is because the “D” held its own and was not just bullied by the opposing running game.  Yes, the Chargers were essentially down to their third and fourth string running backs in Kenneth Farrow and Ronnie Hillman, but they had little room to run at all as the Brownies did a nice job clogging the running lanes and tackling.  This was their best tackling effort all year.

Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers threw two touchdowns and was picked off once in the loss to Cleveland.

Offensively, the Browns were not all that good up front.  They allowed their starter Robert Griffin III to get battered all game long and he ended up getting knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to a concussion.  The Chargers racked up eight sacks on the Browns’ quarterbacks in this game and the Cleveland O-line was flat out bullied for a majority of the game.  Luckily they were able to run the ball with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.  The line did a nice enough job blocking on those efforts, especially the right side behind Johnathan Cooper and Austin Pasztor.  The Browns have been getting blown out a lot lately, but early in the season they were competitive in most of their games.  The reason behind this was because they were able to run the ball.  They got back to that blueprint and it paid off for them.  RGIII used his legs on read options and was able to hit slants off of play actions looking, at times, like he did his rookie season under Kyle Shanahan.  Working with Hue Jackson in the future could net some exciting results.  Terrelle Pryor was really neutralized by Casey Heyward, but Andrew Hawkins uncovered a bit and was the best receiver for Cleveland.  While this offensive output was nothing too impressive, the Browns did have a decent balance to their game and they did not turn the ball over.

The San Diego defense came into this game being the only team in the league who had created a takeaway in every game this year, but that streak came to an end.  Cleveland did a good job taking care of the ball and the Chargers really did not come close to forcing an error.  The defense, in fact, contributed to the march of the Browns’ offense at times with pass interference penalties.  Casey Hayward got off to a rough start against Terrelle Pryor, but he turned his fortunes around and kept him bottled up.  Joey Bosa was unblockable on the interior as he bulled his way into a pair of sacks and five tackles, further campaigning for his Defensive Rookie of the Year crown.  The best player that San Diego had to offer was Denzel Perryman, although he was dinged up multiple times on the afternoon and had to leave the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.  While he was in there, he flew around the field.  He made a couple of hard hits and would really slow the ball carriers often, allowing other teammates to make their tackles.  Jatavius Brown was the leading tackler for the Bolts with nine.

San "D"iego
Two of the stars on San Diego’s defense in this contest were Casey Hayward and Joey Bosa.

The Chargers offense was not great.  Obviously they had two missed field goals late in the game, which is not something that can be pinned on the “O”, but they did allow the game to get into those situations.  On the first play of the game, Philip Rivers heaved the ball down the field to Travis Benjamin for a 50-yard gainer and the drive ended with seven points on an Antonio Gates one yard touchdown.  After that drive, San Diego managed only 10 points.  Rivers was under heavy pressure all day.  He was not officially sacked, but he did get flagged for intentional grounding once and had to throw the ball away on a couple of other occasions.  He poorly underthrew a ball in the second quarter to Antonio Gates and it was intercepted by Jamar Taylor.  His play was not great but that was a product of the poor protection up front.  It was a flat out bad effort by the offensive line.  They were not able to make any lanes for Kenneth Farrow and Ronnie Hillman to run through after the first quarter and were very bad in handling the many blitzes that the Browns brought at them.  The absence of King Dunlap at left tackle was missed as the Chargers were not able to anchor down Rivers’ blind side.

The hero of the game had to be Jamie Meter who blocked the first of two Josh Lambo field goals in the fourth quarter.  He plowed his way past the line and into the lane of the kick and swatted it away.  Then, Lambo missed a 45-yarder on a bingo-attempt when the team had to march out the kicking unit in under 15 seconds without a timeout.  If those kicks were made, we would possibly be singing a different tune after this one.

So the Browns finally won one.  It came at a good time because their probability of picking up that initial “W” in Week 17 on the road in Pittsburgh were not going to be very high.  The defense played much better and Cleveland ran the ball and these two things were a huge factor in determining the outcome.  For the Chargers, they have fallen a long way ever since dropping that game to the Buccaneers and can blame a lot of it on injuries.  However, the offensive line has been a problem for years and it does not look like it is getting any better.  This will certainly be an area for them to target in free agency and in the draft.  The Bolts will finish up their season at home against the Chiefs in what will likely be the teams last game in San Diego.

Isaiah Crowell
Isaiah Crowell in action from 12/24/26.

The Skinny:

  • Cleveland was able to run the ball and stop the run, out-gaining the Chargers on the ground 124-34.
  • The Browns blitzed a lot in this game, and their coverage on the back end held up pretty well.  Their defense did their best work of the season in the tackling department.
  • Robert Griffin III was sacked six times in this game and was knocked out with a concussion.  Cody Kessler was fine in relief of him, but did not have to do a whole lot with a lead at his disposal.
  • Josh Lambo misses two fourth quarter field goals and the Chargers commit 9 penalties for 92 yards and turn it over once, heavily factoring into this ugly loss.
  • Antonio Gates ties Tony Gonzalez for the most touchdowns by a tight end all time.  He now has 111 in his great career.
  • For the first time this season, the Chargers failed to create a turnover in a game as the Browns did a good job protecting the ball and controlling the time of possession.

In this blog I will preview all NFL games and provide some weekly thoughts.