It was a monumental Thanksgiving Day weekend slate of games in the NFL.
Here is what caught my eye as we began the stretch run to the playoffs with big shows on Thursday and Sunday night.
Ravens win heavyweight clash
It was a true heavyweight fight between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and I genuinely believe these teams could meet again in the Super Bowl in Miami. This was a true showing of the NFL’s elite on Sunday night as the Ravens emerged as 20-17 winners.
Lamar Jackson was sensational at times as he rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth time this season. But there were also wins for the 49ers and their defense at various times in this hard-hitting contest played in terrible weather conditions.
Ultimately, this game came down to a few key plays here and there. In particular, the Niners failed on a fourth quarter fourth down gamble while the Ravens made their one and set up Justin Tucker’s 49-yard field goal to win it as time ran out. There was little to separate these sides and a re-match would be welcomed in early February.
No room for error in San Francisco
Suddenly, the 10-2 Niners have very little room for error and next on their slate is a trip to the New Orleans Saints in Week 14. The team that still merits consideration as the best in the NFL could yet end up in the NFC playoffs as the number five seed.
Will Cousins break his MNF duck?
Kirk Cousins is enjoying arguably his best season in the NFL but there is one individual feat he’ll be keen to tick off on Monday.
San Francisco still have to play Seattle in Week 17 and might need to produce a tough win on the road to take their division and secure a first-round playoff bye. There was no shame in the way they lost to Baltimore on Sunday evening, but it has not made life easy for San Francisco down the stretch.
No quick fix for New England’s attack
Tom Brady flits between anger and despondency on the sideline and the New England Patriots look to be in the kind of offensive funk that is going to be hard to break out of come playoff time in January.
Sunday night’s 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans was worse than the final scoreline would suggest, particularly from the offensive side of the ball when it comes to the Patriots. With the deadline having now passed for Rob Gronkowski to make some miracle comeback from retirement, Brady is going to need to figure it out with what he has.
Only a fool would bet against Bill Belichick and Brady figuring out some kind of way to paper over the cracks, but it does feel like this offense is going to be a season-long problem in New England. Pundits have been saying all year that they will get it sorted and here they are heading into Week 14 with a wealth of problems… still.
Titans keep surging
Ryan Tannehill has certainly lit a fire under the Tennessee Titans and he is earning genuine consideration to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2020. The Titans have won five of their last six since Tannehill stepped in for the ineffective Marcus Mariota.
But there are many stars in the Tennessee show, not least powerhouse running back Derrick Henry who is built like a defensive end yet runs like a receiver. Henry rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s 31-17 win over Indianapolis and he has gained 1,725 rushing yards in his last 16 NFL games.
Tennessee’s defense is also playing very well and the secondary is talented and capable of pouncing for an interception at any moment.
Steelers end Cleveland dream team talk
We should have known better. Offseason ‘Dream Team’ talk can be a dangerous thing and the Cleveland Browns hype train never really got started in 2019. We bought in on Sky Sports by showing the Browns in Week 1 as they got hammered by the Titans.
And it feels like this team has lurched from one disappointing performance to another. Sunday was no different. The Browns jumped out to a 10-0 lead over a fierce rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they couldn’t keep it going and failed to seal the deal. Pittsburgh won a key divisional game 20-13, sealing the victory with a late Joe Haden interception against his old team.
The Browns have loaded up with star talent, but mostly at headline positions… quarterback, running back, receiver etc. Their offensive line has been poor, their coaching questionable and their discipline non-existent. This lost season has been one of the most disappointing in the league this year and a far cry from the high hopes of the summer.
Who wants to win the NFC Least?
Sorry, that title should have said ‘NFC East’ but the first label might be more appropriate. The Dallas Cowboys fell to a horrible defeat at home to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving Day and even though that opened the door for the Philadelphia Eagles, Doug Pederson’s men could not defeat the Miami Dolphins.