A Fan’s Notes from the Twelfth and Thirteenth Week of the NFL Regular Season.
The road to the Super Bowl is long, winding through 17 weeks of the regular season (R), and then a narrowed field navigates a month-long playoff tournament. Every team imagines they are on their way to Houston, host to this year’s Super Bowl . . .
Dak: Test-Pilot Leader
With four weeks left in the regular season, the dream playoff match-ups are shaping up as Oakland vs. New England in the AFC, and Dallas vs. Seattle in the NFC. A playoff game pitting quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson against each other would be fascinating, since their styles are so similar. No play is over for either of them until they decide it’s over–they have those test-pilot nerves, along with extreme mobility, to keep pressing options even as things fall apart around them.
Prescott’s leadership stood out as Dallas won in successive Thursday games. On Thanksgiving at home, Dallas came out firing on all cylinders as their first drive went for a touchdown with no negative plays. Prescott led the second scoring drive with a combination of toughness and touch, stiff-arming a defender on a quarterback run and then completing a pass to a receiver who tip-toed near the sidelines at the goal line. Prescott later ran in another touchdown, and Dallas held on to beat a resurgent Washington team, 31-26.
The following Thursday at Minnesota, Prescott again took control of the game, this time with about ten minutes left in the first half. After the first two plays of the drive resulted in 3rd & 13, Prescott kept the ball for one of those test-pilot runs–he had to go airborne or he would have come up short of the first down. Then he lofted a rainbow pass to Dez Bryant that set up a touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott did what he needed to do, got his play-makers involved, and showed that while this may be his first year in the NFL, you can’t consider him a rookie anymore. Dallas hung on to win their 11th straight, 17-15, and have already clinched a playoff berth.
A Three-Way Tie for the Lead in Mediocrity
The Houston Texans lost their third game in a row on Sunday (at Green Bay, 21-13), while the Indianapolis Colts embarrassed the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, 41-10. The Tennessee Titans had their bye week, and find themselves tied with Houston and Indianapolis at the “top” of the mediocre AFC South division, where three of the four teams are 6-6.
Houston just can’t score enough points to win NFL games. Their average of 17.3 points per game is 28th in the 32-team league, and they’ve scored the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league. The Texans’ rushing conundrum stood out in the Green Bay game: while the team averaged a decent 4.6 yards per carry, workhorse running back Lamar Miller only averaged only 1.6 yards on 14 carries. The Texans’ play-calling is puzzling, seeming to mistake the speedy Miller with legendary Packer back Jim Taylor and sending him on forlorn-hope missions into the middle of the line. The line, racked with injuries, is not playing well, and the play-calling is predictable.
Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler had one of his better games, even in the snowy conditions at Lambeau Field, distributing his passes pretty evenly between tight ends and wide receivers, and avoiding any interceptions. But he was sacked twice, and his receivers don’t seem to be getting open down the field, leading to a short-yardage passing game that rarely stretches the field.
Indianapolis, playing a day later in prime-time at New York, blew up the Jets. Andrew Luck threw for four touchdowns. Houston plays the Colts next week in Indianapolis, where the Texans have only won once in 14 contests. The Colts average almost 26 points per game, and it doesn’t seem likely that the Texans’ “Dinky Toys” offense will be able to keep up. If Indy wins, they could find themselves alone atop the AFCS division, since Tennessee is unlikely to beat Denver.
The Good News!
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