This is the time of year where the contenders for the Super Bowl make a charge.
They collectively lift, improve their form and start to make a run.
However this week was a week in which kickers had a shocker, and it didn’t matter if they were in the early winter weather or in a cosy dome.
Who would have thought:
When the NFL introduced the rule to move the extra point back ten yards that it would matter so much?
There was an NFL record 12 missed extra points on the weekend, bringing the season total to 46.
In 2014, there were only eight missed all year.
This bizarre stretch is personified by Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who had made 515 of 516 extra points. After missing his first EP attempt in the game against the 49ers, he has missed three of his last five.
It was great to see:
Some big plays return.
The Vikings were the benefactors of not one but two 100-yard touchdowns.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes took a Carson Palmer pick to the house, all the way from his own goal-line. Additionally, the Cardinals’ kicking game let them down again, when a short kickoff went straight to Cordarrelle Patterson, who ran it back for a score.
The Vikings’ offence needed some help and the other units delivered.
Problems resurface in Kansas City
Every coach has their flaws and clock management is Andy Reid’s. The Chiefs copped a lot of criticism in the playoffs last year for their clock management in their loss to the Patriots.
This was on display again in their upset loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Down two scores with three minutes to go, they chose to run the ball into the end zone and failed twice, losing a vital minute in the process.
Reid is a sensational coach who is just as good off the field as he is on.
However, this needs to be fixed if the Chiefs are to take the next step against more talented rosters.
That loss snapped a ten-game winning streak at Arrowhead, and was also the Chiefs’ fifth straight loss to Tampa Bay. It could impact their playoffs, as it may mean a road trip instead of a home game.
Coaches delve deep into their playbooks for some unique plays.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson handed the ball back to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and was seemingly running a reverse.
But Wilson then took off to the end zone, catching a 15-yard touchdown.
Indianapolis’ Frank Gore took a snap and lateralled to quarterback Andrew Luck, before receiving a pass back from Luck and gaining 50 yards.
Ever hear someone say the NFL is a copycat league?
Inspired by the Saints playcalling from a recent game where Coby Fleener ran a Jet Sweep at the one-yard line, the Lions dialed up the same play to their athletic big man Eric Ebron who duly scored.
No surprise that:
Jared Goff struggled in his opener.
Despite being left on the bench to learn for ten weeks, he remains a piece of the Jeff Fisher offensive puzzle that has seen many quarterbacks struggle since Steve McNair enjoyed his last fine year in 2003.
The Seahawks are the masters of getting their act together in the second half of the year.
Since 2012, they have a league-best win-loss record of 31-6 from November onwards, while Wilson’s touchdown to interception ratio of 5.0 is the best in the league. Further, his health is back and CJ Procise has taken his college form to the next level. Look out.
Anyone in doubt about whether the NFL is a passing league needs to only look at this stat.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins ripped the depleted Packers secondary apart, throwing for more than 300 yards for the 16th time. That’s a franchise record, and it has come from only 40 games.
Cousins has a fantastic supporting cast and they’re rolling.
After overcoming the Texans with some brilliant playcalling, the Raiders have managed their first four-game winning streak since 2002. That year also happens to be the last time they made the playoffs.
Done and dusted:
At the start of the season, the Bengals and the Packers were two franchises that had Super Bowl expectations. Now, they won’t make the playoffs.
Though it has been admirable that both franchises backed in their head coaches while previously under pressure, both teams now need to move on from their under-achieving ways.
The Bengals lost stars AJ Green and Gio Bernard to injuries on Sunday, with the latter’s year finished, and the former possibly facing a lengthy time on the sidelines.
Even though it is technically possible for the Bengals to still make the playoffs, it is all but over.
After five straight years of losing their first playoff game, the Bengals were all in on coach Mar Lewis at the start of this season.
Sure, Tyler Eifert’s injury was big after losing their number two and three wide receivers in free agency, yet a team that fancies itself as a contender has to be better than that.
The defence has slipped from second to 17th for points per game, despite having too much talent to be mediocre. The Bengals have played without energy this year and this must come back to the coach.
The Packers continue to lose defensive players and were forced to even play backups to their backups at cornerback and inside linebacker.
Extenuating injuries may be coach Mike McCarthy’s saving grace, but the fact is that after winning the Super Bowl in 2011 they have not returned to the big dance despite a 50-33 record in that time and having the best quarterback at their disposal.
McCarthy survived the play-calling debacle that was the nightmare NFC Championship choke in Seattle and was the benefactor of the ridiculous call on Dez Bryant that prevented a go-ahead score by Dallas. He has also enjoyed a dalliance of moving his best defender in Clay Matthews from OLB to ILB and back out again, instead of just filling the hole at ILB.
While Rodgers is still (technically) in his prime it is time to see what another coach can deliver.
Looking forward to watching:
A couple of Thanksgiving classics appear to be on offer this Friday (AEST).
Detroit and Minnesota will battle it out for the lead in the NFC North, while Washington will try to claw back Dallas’ lead in the East.
The Chiefs will also travel to Mile High on Monday (AEST) to try and stay ahead of the Broncos in the AFC West.