NFL Quick Hits: Week 17
Let's go over my immediate reactions and takeaways from week 16 of the NFL season:
AFC Playoff Race
I've you've followed these, you will know I'm a Titans fan. However, looking at the AFC playoff picture objectively, you have to agree that the Titans were the best team to get that final playoff spot.
The Steelers defense is rock-solid, but holy crap, that offense. Yes the team has had several injuries, but that Steelers team had "one and done" written all over them. And yes, the Raiders technically had a chance to make the playoffs, but did you really want to see them make it, outside of seeing a team beat all those odds that they needed to make it?
The Titans deserve it, the run they went on to end the season was really only rivaled by the Ravens. The benching of Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill, while risky and a move that I was initially seeing as a season-ender, now looks like a stroke of genius. The amount of poise that Tannehill has shown, not to mention leading the league in pass rating, has been astounding.
Derrick Henry has emerged as possibly the best back in the league (more on that later), AJ Brown has emerged as the best deep threat in the league (more on that later), and the defense, while not a team that purely stops points, has playmakers on defense that can both force turnovers and score off them.
This team is an extremely tough out, and with the Patriots shocking loss to Miami reinforcing the fact that New England is not wha they used to be, the Titans do in fact have a real chance at going to Foxboro and winning.
Not saying for sure they will win, but you are lying if you think the Titans don't have a good shot at winning.
NFC Playoff Race
The Eagles are not the best team in the world, and they certainly don't deserve to host a playoff game, but they are far more deserving than the Cowboys, especially after Dallas effectively self-sabotaged with one of the league's most talented rosters.
I'm also not buying this false narrative that Carson Wentz is not legit. There's a bit of a double standard with Wentz. He's similar to Russell Wilson in that there are lots of times where they literally have to carry their teams to victory.
When Wilson loses, it's because he cannot do it on his own. However, when Wentz loses, it's all his fault (which is extra stupid given that the injury bug wiped out all his weapons this year).
Another narrative I don't buy is the Packers having a real shot at the Super Bowl. They are the most misleading team in the league.
Look at their record, and you'll think that this team has a shot, but if you've watched any of their games, you will be relieved that they juuuuuuust missed out on having the advantage of playing at home throughout the playoffs. As it is, I'm still annoyed that they will have a first round bye...
Aaron Rodgers has looked... meh for the past month. The defense scares no one. They can't adapt to games. They execute the first 15 plays of their gameplan well most of the time, but if that doesn't build them a lead, they have an extremely tough time getting back in the game. That works against the bottomfeeders of the league. It doesn't work in the playoffs.
In fact, it barely even worked against the weaker teams. The Packers have two wins over the Lions this year, but did not lead a single second in either game. Let that sink in...
30 For 30
What if I told you a quarterback had the most absurd stat line in history this year.
Jameis Winston aka Turnovers Served Fresh Daily finished the season with 5,109 yards (leads league), 33 touchdown (second in league), and 30 interception (leads league).
33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. That's one of the most mind-boggling things I've ever seen.
I've never seen an NFL player that swings the pendulum that much. He'll put up yards in massive chunks, and then at least a few times a game make three to four of the stupidest, most bone-headed throws you'll ever see.
Offensive Player of the Week: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry is a throwback player with modern-day talent. Sunday's 32-carry, 211-yard, three-touchdown performance in a crucial game versus the Texans emphasized that.
This was the Titans biggest game of the season. Win and in. Last year, the Titans wilted in the exact same situation, but Henry took over the game, and straight up bullied the Texans defense.
Part of the reason he is so successful is the emergence of the team's passing game. The team is still run-centric, but with Ryan Tannehill and AJ Brown firing on all cylinders, it keeps defenses honest.
Henry is a tractor trailer of a man, standing 6'3" and weighing 247 pounds, he looks more like a tight end than a running back. This allows him to be a (no pun intended) titan between the tackles.
However if you get him out in space and on a straight line, he can't be caught. I've never seen anyone that big with that kind of speed.
A free agent once the season is done, the Titans need to lock him down. Yes, there is quite a bit of tread on the tires from both Tennessee and his college days at Alabama, but he is a talent thee Titans cannot afford to let go.
Runners Up: Joe Mixon (26 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns vs. Browns), Dak Prescott (23/33 for 303 yards and four touchdowns vs. Redskins), Boston Scott (19 carries for 54 yards and three touchdowns, four catches for 84 yards vs. Giants), Devante Parker (Eight catches for 137 yards vs. Patriots), Breshad Perriman (Five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown vs. Falcons), AJ Brown (Four catches for 124 yards and touchdown vs. Texans)
Defensive Player of the Week: Deion Jones, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Deion Jones did not rack up humongous numbers, but the plays he made directly resulted in points for his team, which is probably the best thing you can do as a defensive player.
First, he recovered a fumble that resulted in a field goal to put the Falcons up 10-0.
Later in overtime, he returned a Jameis Winston interception to the house to end the game. Yes, it was on yet another head-scratching Jameis Winston throw, but still.
There's tackles and other stats, but when you are directly contributing to the box score on defense, that's a huge win.
Runners Up: Carlos Dunlap (2.5 sacks, forced fumble vs. Browns), Shaquil Barrett (Six tackles, three sacks vs Falcons), Montez Sweat (two sacks, forced fumble vs. Cowboys), Darius Phillips (Two interceptions vs. Browns), AJ Klein (Six tackles, pick-six vs. Panthers), Eric Rowe (Five tackles, pick-six vs. Patriots), Budda Baker (13 tackles, one sack vs. Seahawks)
Rookie of the Week: AJ Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
The Titans have never had any truly great wide receivers. Players like Derek Mason, Kevin Dyson, Ernest Givens, and Haywood Jeffries made their mark, but they were never truly great.
I don't want to get too far ahead, but AJ Brown has a good chance to change all of that.
His Ole Miss college teammate DK Metcalf received more of the draft buzz following his frankly absurd draft combine performance, but Brown had much better production and honestly is just as imposing physically.
He finished the year tops in yards per target and juuuuuuust behind Mike Williams in yards per reception, with 20.2.
Against the Texans, he racked up 124 yards on just four receptions. That's 31 yards per catch for those of you keeping track at home.
Look at this catch on a 47-yard bomb. Double coverage. Fast approaching the side line. I mean??
The fix is 100 percent in if Brown does not win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Runners Up: Montez Sweat (two sacks, forced fumble vs. Cowboys), Gardner Minshew (27/39 for 295 yards and three touchdowns), David Montgomery (23 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown vs. Vikings), Benny Snell Jr. (18 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown vs. Ravens), Devin Bush (13 tackles vs. Ravens), Duke Williams (Six catches for 108 yards vs. Jets), Maxx Crosby (Five tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced fumble vs. Broncos), DK Metcalf (Six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown vs. 49ers)
Best Uni Matchup of the Week: New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills
Lots of great divisional matchups this week. This one takes the cake for me.
The Jets new uniforms have grown on me. Well, not the black alternate.
The thing with New York though is that they need the correct opponent for it to look good. for every Bills game, we have the Ravens game.
Runners Up: Steelers vs. Ravens, Packers vs. Lions, Redskins vs. Cowboys, Eagles vs. Giants, 49ers vs. Seahawks
Most Barfy Uni Matchup of the Week: None
Honestly, I had no issue with any uniform matchup this week. That's the benefit of having all conference matchups in the final week.
Most conference foes have uniforms that at the very least do not stink.
I would say if anything, teams like the Bengals, Cardinals, Jaguars, Panthers, and Buccaneers are in dire need of an overhaul, but none of their matchups look bad.
I like to think of that as the NFL's Christmas present to everyone...
*All stats are from ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted