FOX sports betting analyst
Alright, football fans, the 17 weeks of the NFL season are almost at an end. With one week left to determine multiple playoff seeds, from the top of both conferences to the No. 7 seeds, what did I like or dislike about the weekend? Here is my stock report for week 17.
NFC Playoff Image
The NFC playoff picture is clear. Eagles, 49ers or Cowboys can be the one seed at best, with Eagles and Cowboys at five seeds at worst. The Vikings are locked into the second or third seed, with the Bucs winning the NFC South and locking up the four seed. After the Giants dominated the Colts, they clinched a wild card spot and the sixth seed. Brian Daboll and the rest of the Giants coaching staff deserve awards for their work this season. Remember, the week before the season started, when the Giants GM asked the Big Blue fan base not to hold their own this season against the new front office because their talent level wasn’t competitive enough ? However, the Giants are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
After the Packers, Lions and Seahawks defeated their opponents on Sunday, all three teams are 8-8 heading into Week 18. Just a month ago, I was among the chorus of people speculating that the Packers should bench Aaron Rodgers to see a month of Jordan Love. Now, they are one win away from the postseason. The Packers host the Lions and own the tiebreaker against the Seahawks. They win on Sunday and are the seventh seed. If the Packers don’t win, the Seahawks are on deck. The Lions have an uphill battle to secure the final wild card spot. They need a road win over the Packers, plus an upset of the Rams in Seattle. While only one of these teams will finish the season in the playoffs, they all deserve a tip of the hat for their seasons. The Lions and Seahawks are in rebuilds/reigns. He didn’t expect them to be here. And while the Packers were heavy favorites to win the NFC North, their ability to keep fighting this season after three poor months is commendable.
Quarters of defense in which we stopped believing
I mentioned the remarkable turnaround the Packers have seen this season after starting 4-8. Many people, myself included, counted on Aaron Rodgers and openly debated whether or not it was time to bench him. The Packers are now one win away from the playoffs.
I don’t think Mac Jones is a good quarterback. However, he’s playing with an offense led by Matt Patricia, who wasn’t even good at coaching the defense, which is the side of the ball he’s coached his entire career. The Patriots don’t have the best weapons for Jones. However, after Patriots fans were booing him and openly calling for Bailey Zappe to return to the lineup as Jones’ replacement at quarterback, the Patriots are one win away from making the playoffs in back-to-back years. Jones is part of that success.
Tom Brady has been a lesser version of himself this season. It hasn’t looked so comfortable in the pocket. He has failed more pitches than ever before. He looks unhappy. However, when the Bucs needed him most, he played his best game of the season. In the Bucs’ walk-off game against the Panthers on Sunday, Brady was 34-for-45 for 432 yards and three touchdowns. The Bucs played their best ball of the season in the second half and have won the division in back-to-back years, a first in franchise history.
Tom Brady scores FOUR touchdowns as Buccaneers clinch NFC South
Tom Brady had a field day in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 30-24 win over the Carolina Panthers.
NFL draft hopefuls light it up
It’s never too early to look ahead to the NFL draft, and the top two quarterback prospects, who will likely be selected in the top five, will show up this weekend at the CFP. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the 2021 Heisman winner, was terrific against the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday. It is clear that he has all the goods. His arm talent is visible. Its mobility is special. Its balance is best in class. However, NFL general managers will be concerned about his size. He’s under six feet and 200 pounds. There’s a bad history of quarterbacks in his size range having the kind of success you’d expect from a first-round draft pick. However, it’s hard to deny that he has all the tangibles you’d want in a first-round pick.
Ohio State’s CJ Stroud saved his best game for the best defense he’s faced in two seasons as the starting quarterback. Stroud was electric using his legs to create plays, both passing and running. He was the best he looked using all his physical features. At times, he seemed hesitant to play that way and I think it hurt his draft profile. However, scouts will now have to add that end game to the puzzle and not overthink Stroud like scouts did fellow Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Fields finished his final season at Ohio State as the second-best quarterback coming out of college, but was dropped throughout the draft process. I hope the talent evaluators in these NFL buildings don’t make the same mistake. Stroud is the second best quarterback in this draft.
Good news, Vikings fans. The team is still a perfect 11-0 in one-goal games this season. That’s the only positive to take from the Vikings’ stinker of a performance in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Packers won 41-17, and the score was only that close because the Packers pulled their starters after going up 41-3. The Packers scored on defense, special teams, along with three offensive touchdowns. I don’t know how the last month of the season should give the Vikings confidence come playoff time. They are currently 25th in overall team efficiency. There is nothing they do particularly well. They lost to the Cowboys, needed a 33-point comeback to beat the Colts, a 61-yard field goal to beat the Giants, and then the Packers lost. I don’t know why you would believe in them in the postseason.
The Eagles most likely have the one seed in the NFC, a bye week, and will be the favorite to make the Super Bowl. However, the vibes don’t feel right in Philadelphia right now. Jalen Hurts, who was the MVP favorite just two weeks ago, missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury. The Eagles didn’t miss him much in the first game, but they sure did miss him Sunday against the Saints. They are 0-2 in these two games. The Eagles are without right tackle Lane Johnson, a huge bummer for this offense. That’s one step short of losing a quarterback. He is a team leader and a great player. Josh Sweat left the game today with a neck injury that thankfully doesn’t look too serious.
Beyond the injury concerns, the defense hasn’t played that well lately, and that should be a concern. The Cowboys did what they wanted two weekends ago and the Saints, who are not an offensive apparatus, were able to control the pace of this game with their offense.
Marshon Lattimore seals Eagles win with clutch INT
The Saints held the Eagles to just 313 total yards and Marshon Lattimore’s pick-6 late in the fourth quarter sealed the win.
Now, the Eagles just need a win against the Giants next weekend for that No. 1 seed and everything is looking good. However, two weeks ago it looked like they had an easy path to the seed. Now it’s less easy, and I don’t like the vibrations.
Kansas City Chiefs special equipment
Not good, and it will cost the Chiefs a playoff game. For years, the Chiefs had outstanding special teams. It was something they could count on to succeed. Those days are over. It’s a big responsibility. The Chiefs can’t find someone who just takes a point without either cushioning it or twisting it back to the opposition. Among the many reasons the Chiefs lost to the Colts earlier this season was a botched punt that led to a rushing Indy touchdown. They added two more shutouts, one against the Rams and the 49ers. And then Sunday, a fumble on a punt return gave the Broncos’ dead offense a short field to convert a rushing touchdown. The Chiefs just need someone to catch the football, hand it off to the official and then let Patrick Mahomes go to work.
The Chiefs also enjoy an unreliable place kicker right now, with Harrison Butker well below his career average for field goals made. Butker has also missed three extra points, and those always seem to be a problem for him. Those are points the Chiefs can’t afford to lose in a playoff contest.
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Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his freshman year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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